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Jan 27, 2015
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By the Book

By the Book: Alice Medrich’s Ricotta Cheesecake with Chestnut Crust

Saturday, January 24th, 2015



Alice Medrich’s new book Flavor Flours poses an intriguing question: What if wheat flour didn’t exist? Though I’ve used almond flour for baking (and engaged in a brief foray with spelt), I haven’t delved deeply into non-wheat flours before. Still, I’ve had success with Medrich’s recipes in the past, and so I thought if anyone could walk me through the technicalities of coconut flour, rice flours and others, she could.

The book is divided into eight chapters discussing everything from oat flour to buckwheat and teff. I selected a stunning-looking ricotta cheesecake with a chestnut-flour crust. Of course, on the next page (after the beautiful photos) was this note: Patience Required. “I’ve never made a cheesecake that did not improve with at least a full 24 hours, if not 48 hours, of mellowing in the fridge before serving,” Medrich writes. This supposes the baker to possesses enough will power to not touch a cheesecake staring her in the face every time she opens the refrigerator. Patience should be called for up front, along with the springform cake pan, food processor and other special equipment.




Tracking down the ingredients proved more difficult than the recipe itself. After several phone calls, my coworker wisely suggested trying DiGregorio’s Market on The Hill. After all, chestnut flour is often used in Italian desserts, she reminded me. Rice flour was an easier find; a bag of Bob’s Red Mill was quickly located at my neighborhood supermarket.

The dough for the crust comes together in a snap, though it looks much wetter than a typical tart dough. Molding it to the pan takes some work (sort of like spreading cold peanut butter), but keep at it and use a piece of plastic wrap and a water glass as Medrich suggests to get an even thickness.




My patience was first tested during the parbake. My kitchen smelled like the fire-roasted chestnuts heralded in The Christmas Song, and I had to remember I was not allowed to eat the crust prior to pouring the thick, lemon-flecked ricotta filling. Back into the oven again, and then, against my better judgement, not into my mouth but into the refrigerator.

The final product was worth every agonizing minute. The buttery crust, nearly chocolate brown after two rounds in the oven, was deeply nutty and contrasted beautifully with the rich, savory ricotta studded with slivered almonds and pine nuts. Medrich’s brilliance came through for me once again, though I must confess: We only waited 24 hours, not her prescribed 48, before slicing. Everyone has their limits, after all.




Alice Medrich’s Ricotta Cheesecake with Chestnut Crust
12 servings

For the crust:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (115 g.) chestnut flour*
¼ cup (40 g.) white rice flour or 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. (40 g.) Thai white rice flour
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. (75 g.) sugar
Scant ½ tsp. salt
9 Tbsp. (130 g.) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
3 Tbsp. (45 g.) cream cheese
1 egg yolk mixed with a pinch of salt and ½ tsp. water, for the egg wash

For the filling:
3 cups (665 g.) whole-milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup (150 g.) sugar
1 Tbsp. white rice flour
1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. chopped candied orange or lemon peel or golden raisins
2 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted
¼ cup (30 g.) pine nuts, toasted

Food processor fitted with the steel blade (optional)
9-by-3-inch springform pan or cheesecake pan with removable bottom
Baking sheet
Handheld mixer

• To make the crust by hand, put the chestnut flour, rice flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk until thoroughly blended. Add the butter chunks and cream cheese. Use a fork or the back of a large spoon to mash and mix the ingredients together until all are blended into a smooth, soft dough.
• To make the crust in a food processor, put the chestnut flour, rice flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Pulse to blend. Add the butter chunks and cream cheese. Pulse until the mixture forms a smooth, soft dough. Scrape the bowl and blend in any stray flour at the bottom of the bowl with your fingers.
• The dough may seem much softer than other tart doughs. Use the heel of your hand and then your fingers and/or a small offset spatula to spread the dough all over the bottom of the pan. Press it squarely into the corners of the pan with the side of your index finger to prevent extra thickness at the bottom edges, and press it as evenly as possible about halfway up the sides of the pan. Have patience; there is just enough dough (although you may not think so at first). If there is too much dough in one place (or hiding in the corners of the pan), pinch or scrape it off and move it elsewhere. Spread or smear it smooth with the spatula. Here’s a final trick for a perfectly even crust: Press a sheet of plastic wrap against the bottom and up the sides of the pan and lay a paper towel on top. Set a straight-sided flat-bottomed cup on the towel; press and slide the cup all over the bottom and around the sides to smooth and even the surface. Leave the plastic wrap in place. Refrigerate the pan for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight and up to 3 days.
• Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
• Peel off the plastic wrap and place the pan on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, checking after 15 to 20 minutes. If the crust has puffed up on the bottom, press it back down carefully with the back of a fork. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown with darker edges. Remove the pan from the oven but leave the oven on. Brush the bottom and sides of the crust carefully with a thin coating of the egg wash. Return the pan to the oven for 2 minutes to set the egg wash. Set the pan on a rack to cool for at least 20 minutes or until you are ready to finish the cake. The crust can be wrapped and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.
• Set the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
• To make the filling, beat the ricotta with the sugar, rice flour, and vanilla with the handheld mixer just until well blended. Beat in the eggs one by one, just until blended. Mix in the candied orange peel or raisins, the almonds, and pine nuts. Scrape the batter into the crust. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 (degree symbol) F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted about 2 inches form the edge of the pan comes out clean. The center should still be jiggly. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack before unmolding. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (48 hours is even better) before serving. Leftovers keep, covered and refrigerated, for another few days.

*Chestnut flour is available at DiGregorio’s Market.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan Publishing

What’s your favorite non-wheat flour to work with and why? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Flavor Flours.


By the Book: Ben Mims’ Grapefruit-Blackberry Bars

Saturday, January 17th, 2015



Breakfast is supposedly the most important meal of the day, but I’d argue that the title should really go to dessert. Ben Mims seems to agree in his new book, Sweet & Southern: Classic Desserts with a Twist, the pages of which are filled with mouthwatering recipes for cakes, pies, custards, cookies and even frozen treats to tempt us dessert advocates.

Grapefruit always seems to be an underdog in the kitchen, never getting the attention it really deserves. So when I saw Mims’ recipe for Grapefruit-Blackberry Bars, I was intrigued by its combination of fruity, sour and sweet flavors.




The cookie-like crust was an easy task, just quick mindless mixing of dry ingredients. The recipe called for a 9-by-13-inch pan, but I only had a 9-by-9-inch one available, so I made a mental note to let the bars cook a bit longer than the prescribed time. I also let it rest overnight in the refrigerator before baking the next morning while I made while I presumed would be an equally easy blackberry sauce.

However, my frugal self opted to buy an actual pomegranate instead of the $13 bottle of juice at the grocery store. Only when I returned to the Sauce office did I wonder how on earth I was going to juice a pomegranate. Squeeze each individual seed? Stick it in a blender? Maybe jam a straw in it and see if gravity could help me out? I ended up scooping the pomegranate seeds into a plastic zip-top bag, sealing it tight and whacking it until I had the entire tablespoon – yes, just a tablespoon – of juice needed for the sauce. It may not be the most professional way to do things, but it was certainly efficient (and entertaining to my audience of Sauce editors).




The grapefruit makes it appearance in the filling, a mixture of more sugar, flour, eggs, and the juice and zest of a lemon and a grapefruit. Zesting an entire grapefruit proved to be quite the arm exercise. This recipe really makes you work for every tablespoon of flavor.

I poured the filling over my cooled cookie base and drizzled the blackberry sauce over it. I took some creative liberty to create a swirly masterpiece before popping it in the oven for 45 minutes, remembering my note to add time for my pan size, then moved it to the refrigerator later.

Four agonizing hours later, the result: sweet-tart bars oozing with citrus and berry flavor. The blackberry swirls on top were a feast for the eyes, as well. My bars were quite runny in the middle – akin to a half-baked gooey butter cake – but they were delicious nonetheless. The rich crust baked beautifully and served as a textural contract to all that slippery filling. I’d recommend skipping the confectioners’ sugar and using vanilla bean ice cream as a garnish instead. Your sweet tooth will thank you.




Grapefruit-Blackberry Bars
12 to 16 servings

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3¾ cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
⅛ tsp. kosher salt
6 oz. blackberries
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. pomegranate juice
2 Tbsp. grated grapefruit zest
½ Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 large eggs
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

● Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan evenly with baking spray.
● In a bowl, beat the butter and ½ cup of the granulated sugar with a handheld mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and mix until combined.
● Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press it into the pan to cover the bottom and about halfway up the sides. (Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough and press so that hands don’t stick to the dough.) Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.
● Bake until light brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
● In a small saucepan, combine the blackberries, ¼ cup granulated sugar, the lime juice, and pomegranate juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 10 minutes.
● Remove from the heat and press through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all the juice from the berries. Let cool completely. Discard the solids.
● In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup flour (this is to prevent lumps of flour from forming in the filling), then add the grapefruit and lemon zests, grapefruit and lemon juice, and the eggs and whisk until smooth.
● Pour the filling onto the crust, then drizzle the blackberry sauce in stripes over the top. Drag a toothpick or knife through the filling and sauce to create swirls.
● Bake until the filling is just set in the middle but still slightly jiggly in the center, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours to set the filling before cutting into bars.

Reprinted with permission from Rizzoli Publishing

What’s your favorite way to use grapefruit? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Sweet & Southern.

By the Book: Marco Canora’s Roasted Asparagus and Lemon with Chunky Pesto

Saturday, January 10th, 2015


Marco Canora’s A Good Food Day is all about making healthy, tasty choices. I figured for the sake of the new year and my new 2015 figure, this would be a strong start to clean eating (at least until February).

Like most home cooks, I gravitate toward recipes that are easy and quick – and if it’s somewhat healthy, that’s a bonus. The recipe I chose, roasted asparagus and lemon with chunky pesto, was so perfect it could double as a Just Five recipe.


You start by roasting asparagus in olive oil, salt, pepper and thinly sliced lemon. Once it’s out of the oven, finish it with a pesto, sans olive oil. For me, it turned out delicious. The cheese in the pesto began to melt as soon as it was sprinkled over the asparagus, so each bite showcased every flavor: bright basil, pine nuts, lemon, cheese and the asparagus. It looked pretty too, like something I could serve to friends and family. Plus, it’s a technique that could work with a variety of vegetables, including Brussels sprouts or broccoli.


Other recipes in the book have you roast a vegetable and finish it with something to make it more of a fully realized dish, not just a side. Consider the roasted broccoli with hazelnuts and pecorino, or the roasted carrots with millet and mint-pistachio pesto, both of which sound like they’d fit into my cooking repertoire nicely. Other, more robust dishes, such as the Japanese chicken and rice soup or the wild salmon in parchment with olives, fennel and lemon, make for easy, good-for-you meals I actually want to eat.

Roasted asparagus and lemon with chunky pesto
Serves 4

1 bunch medium asparagus
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 lemon half, cut into thin slices, ½ reserved for serving
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (3-inch) chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Trim the asparagus by holding each stalk horizontally and bending until the tough, woody end snaps off. On the baking sheet, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, lemon slices, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast until the asparagus is tender and the lemon slices are lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

While the asparagus is roasting, use the tines of a fork to crumble the Parmesan into small nuggets, about 2 tablespoons total. Pile the cheese, pine nuts, and basil together on a cutting board and chop until they’re well combined but still chunky.

Transfer the roasted asparagus and lemon slices to a serving platter, add the chunky pesto, and toss together. Squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon half and top with a drizzle of olive oil.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter.

What’s your go-to healthy dish that’s not “health food”? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Marco Canora’s A Good Food Day.

By the Book: Dana Cowin’s Steak au Poivre

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015



It takes some moxie to admit one’s own shortcomings. Imagine being the editor of a preeminent food magazine and publishing a cookbook of confessions about where you’ve gone wrong in the kitchen. That’s what Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief at Food & Wine magazine, did in her Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.

“I am going to be honest: I am not a great cook,” begins Cowins in the introduction. “As the longtime editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, I’ve learned a lot about food by eating in extraordinary restaurants, tasting recipes in our test kitchen daily and talking to chefs. Yet, despite all that, there’s one culinary area in which I am not an expert: actual hands-on cooking.” But, with help from 65 estimable chefs worldwide, Cowin learns the tricks for tackling everything from soufflé to pan-roasted lobster.

As I paged through 100 recipes and learned of Cowin’s snafus with eggs, soups, seafood and more, I thought about the single-most area of cooking in which I need to improve. Without a doubt, it is meat. I’m great at making stock, which is why I hoard ham bones and chicken carcasses like a dog. But the actual meat – that scares me. I don’t want to ruin a prime cut. I’ll gladly whip up a salad, casserole, fritatta or curry while someone else tends to the meat.

As much as I would have delighted to cook Quickest Cucumber Kimchi following tips from David Chang or Pan-roasted Lobster with Red Miso and Citrus Sauce with advice from Eric Ripert, I knew I needed to face my fear. So I opened the cookbook to the meat chapter and put myself to the test with steak au poivre.

I knew that my chances for a better-tasting end result would improve drastically if I began with high-quality beef. At Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions, owner Chris Bolyard cut me 1-inch New York strip steaks from Shire Gate Farm in Owensville. He asked if I wanted bone-in or bone-out. Bone-in would give more flavor, he said. I opted out, though, because I wanted my steak au poivre to look like the photo in Cowin’s book. This column is called By the Book, after all.




While at Bolyard’s shop, I sought as much advice as possible. How long would the steaks need to come to room temperature? Let them sit out 30 minutes, 45 tops, Bolyard said, but far more important is to let the steaks rest five to 10 minutes once cooked.




The raw meat gets salted, then rolled in a pan of cracked peppercorns. Once the oil in the saucepan is smoking hot, it’s time to add the steak. Steaks cook fast, and I didn’t want to overcook and burn them. Cowin’s instructions to “let the steaks cook until the underside is nicely browned and they don’t resist when you try to flip them” was a helpful pointer.




While the meat rested, I focused on making the steak sauce, which was fun since it involves igniting cognac. I had my mise en place in order – shallots grated to a paste, Dijon, creme fraiche, lemon juice and water – so after the fire show, the sauce came together quickly. To serve, the steak is garnished with parsley and lemon zest. You can drizzle this divine sauce on the meat, but I served it on the side. Me and my meat had nowhere to hide. I tensed as I awaited the meat critique from my dinner companions. Cut. Chew. Moan. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Winner, winner, steak dinner!




Dana Cowin’s Steak au Poivre
2 servings

1½ Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 1-inch New York strip steaks (about ½-pound each), excess fat trimmed, at room temperature
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
¼ cup cognac
2 small shallots, grated to a paste (preferably on a microplane)
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup creme fraiche
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

• Put the peppercorns on a small rimmed baking sheet and crush them with a small heavy skillet; be sure not to bash them. Season each side of the steaks generously with salt, then mop up the crushed peppercorns with both sides of the steaks.
• Heat a large heavy stainless steel skilled over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. When the oil is smoking hot, carefully place the steaks in the skillet, laying them down away from you (so that if any hot fat splatters, it splatters away from you). Let the steaks cook until the underside is nicely browned and they don’t resist when you try to flip them, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook on the second side until well browned, another 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the steaks onto their fat edges and brown them until the fat is nice and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a serving dish or dinner plates and let them rest while you make the sauce.
• Pour off and discard all but a very thin layer of fat from the skillet. Take the skillet off the heat and add the cognac. Carefully return the skillet to the heat – the alcohol should immediately burst into flames (not a bad thing!); if it doesn’t, ignite the cognac with a long match or lighter. Once the flames have subsided, lower the heat to medium, add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cooking, stirring, until the raw shallot aroma disappears, about a minute. Whisk in the mustard, creme fraiche, lemon juice and water. Season the sauce to taste with salt, and add more water if you prefer a looser consistency. Remove from the heat.
• Whisk half the parsley into the sauce and sprinkle the steaks with the remaining parsley. Season each steak with a pinch more salt and scatter the lemon zest evenly on top. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission Harper Collins Publishing

What’s your cooking resolution? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Dana Cowin’s Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.

By the Book: Charles Phan’s Hot Buttered Rhum Cider

Saturday, December 27th, 2014



Flushed and teetering slightly, I executed my final By the Book dish of the year more liberally than others, multiplying the yield by many times, swapping some ingredients, fudging others. If the writer’s occupational hazard is drinking, I’ll ration the danger by making my poison in batch form, thank you very much. Heaven forbid I drink alone.

The opportunity came to me at Sauce’s holiday party this past weekend, where my potluck contribution was a steaming jug of Hot Buttered Rhum Cider. The recipe for the festive concoction came from Charles Phan’s The Slanted Door, the cookbook inspired by his eponymously named Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco which happened to win Outstanding Restaurant honors at the 2014 James Beards.

Phan – who claims no professional culinary training – styles himself a home cook, and his recipes show it. Each dish is engineered in a straightforward single page of instructions opposite stark, colorful photography. Think uncomplicated dishes like halved lobster tossed in melted herb butter, an easy Vietnamese fisherman’s stew and a stout lineup of simple cocktails.

Mulled cider makes an amiable base for this drink, which masks (and yet is enhanced by) the flavor of the dark rum. For additional texture and richness there’s the spiced compound butter, a degenerately sugary concoction that I stopped eating with a spoon only because our party guests began to arrive. Into the drink the rest of it went, forming a soupy froth on top. The final product needed a few minutes to steep and recalibrate itself to unify the flavor. When it did, I simply left it on low for the roaring duration of the party, guests ladling steaming cupfuls for themselves throughout.





The recipe outlines the proportion for making one serving, but it’s easily scaled up as needed. I again summoned my ancient Crock-Pot from a few months ago, using it first to mull the cider with spices, then to warm the finished batch of grog. Leave cider to mull for at least an hour in the slow cooker on high.




Let the butter rest at room temperature for a few minutes so it can soften enough to cream with a fork or spoon.





The finished batch totaled approximately three quarts, the mere dregs of which remained at party’s end. The recipe is quite customizable. Leave the mulling spices in or out, add more rum or butter as your palate desires. This is holiday time, people – you get to decide. Just make sure you don’t spill any on that nice sweater.


Hot Buttered Rhum Cider
Makes 1 cocktail

1½ oz. aged Haitian Rum, preferably Barbancourt 8 year
1 Tbsp. spiced compound butter (recipe follows)
6 oz. mulled apple cider (recipe follows)
Cinnamon stick
Star anise

• To prepare this drink put the alcohol, mulled cider and compound butter into a saucepan and heat until the butter has dissolved and the drink is steaming. Pour into a 10-ounce handled heat-proof mug. Garnish by floating a disc of orange peel studded with a clove, star anise and a cinnamon stick.

Mulled Cider
• We juice apples on a hydraulic press daily for this drink. Unless you have an apple press at home, you should find the best unfiltered apple juice available. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, Philo Apple Farm Bates and Schmitt makes a good one. Add apple juice to a pot with the skin of an orange studded with the clove, cinnamon stick and star anise. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

Spiced Compound Butter
• Soften and cream 8 ounces of unsalted butter with a paddle in a mixing bowl. Slowly add 2 ounces of brown sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and allspice, a pinch of ground ginger, cloves and kosher salt. Scrape the sides to ensure that all of the spices are blended. Roll the butter into a log and wrap it in wax paper. Refrigerate.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

What’s inside those glasses you clink with family, friends and loved ones during the holidays? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Slanted Door.


By the Book: Nina Planck’s White Chicken Stroganoff with Dill

Saturday, December 20th, 2014



I love trying new recipes. I tear through food magazines and blogs (ours included), picking out new recipes that challenge me with new techniques or weird ingredients. But sometimes, it’s nice to get back to basics.

That’s the premise behind Nina Planck’s The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks. You won’t find obscure ingredients in this book; there’s no need to purchase a sous vide machine or immersion circulator. Instead, Planck calls for seasonal, fresh, simple and, most important, real food. Her recipes pair perfectly with a trip to the farmers market. Even in winter, one can find free-range chicken, beets, onions and turnips, and Planck has simple methods to coax delicious flavors from them.




I opted for a cozy winter dish whose leftovers would last through the remainder of an insanely busy holiday season. Planck puts a slight twist on a classic beef stroganoff, lightening it with shredded chicken and dill. Step one calls for poaching a whole chicken; since I was pressed for time, I poached a few chicken breasts instead.




While the chicken simmered, I prepared my remaining ingredients: onion, garlic, dill and a splash of white wine. The sauce came together quickly; simply saute onions and garlic, add the wine, shredded chicken and plenty of dill, then stir in sour cream and chicken stock and let it simmer.

I was a bit too heavy handed with the stock, so my sauce was thinner than I’d like. However, I was surprised at how nicely the dill and sour cream balanced each other. The creamy, flavorful sauce coated the egg noodles and made for a surprisingly decadent meal.




White Chicken Stroganoff with Dill
6 servings

1 large chicken
2 to 3 shallots or 1 onion
1 large bunch of dill
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
1½ cup sour cream or creme fraiche
½ to 1 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Poach the chicken (recipe follows). Drain it, reserving the stock. Reduce it further, by about half.
• Shred the chicken meat.
• Slice the shallots or slice the onion long and thin.
• Chop the dill to yield a generous cup.
• Mince the garlic or smash it in a garlic press.
• Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the shallots or onion and saute them until they are half-soft.
• Add the garlic.
• Add the wine and reduce the liquid until most of it is gone.
• Add the shredded chicken and the chopped dill, reserving a bit of dill for a garnish. Stir briefly to coat.
• Add the sour cream or creme fraiche. Stir well and thin with chicken stock to taste.
• Simmer for about 5 minutes and then let it stand.
• Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Top with the reserved dill.

My Latest Poached Chicken
4 to 6 servings

4 to 6 lb. pastured chicken
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
12 black peppercorns
1 thyme sprig
2 fresh bay leaves
olive oil

• Rinse the chicken inside and out and let it drain.
• Slice the carrots, onion and celery.
• Put the chicken, half of the vegetables and half of the aromatics in a large pot. Cover with cold water. Sometimes my pots are a bit small for a large chicken and the breast is peeking out of the water. Then I splash a little olive oil on top of the bird and either baste it with the water or turn it so the top isn’t dry or undercooked.
• Simmer the chicken, uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes. Skim off any foam.
• When the chicken is thoroughly cooked (poke it with a skewer to see that the white meat is white, not pink), lift it out. Drain the chicken over a large bowl and save the liquid.
Discard the spent aromatics and vegetables, which are just now soggy cellulose.
• When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull off the wings, legs and thighs. Tear the best meat off the legs and thighs, but without being too thorough about it. (A bone broth with some meat is a luxury.) Separate the breast from the back, leaving the breast meat on the bones. Set aside the breasts and the stripped dark meat.
• Put the back, wings, legs and thigh bones in a fresh pot with the remaining fresh vegetables and aromatics.
• Strain the poaching liquid, pour it over the bones, and simmer for at least 30 minutes and for up to 2 hours, adding more cold water if necessary.
• Drain, cool and put away the broth.

Reprinted with permission from Bloomsbury Press

What’s your back-to-basics meal? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of The Real Food Cookbook!

By the Book: Gina Homolka’s Shrimp and Grits

Saturday, December 13th, 2014



I hate winter, but I do love the holiday season. It’s a wonderful excuse to get together with your favorite people to eat and drink delicious things until you’re fit to burst. I did exactly that at my first Thanksgiving of the year (Yes, there was a first Thanksgiving. There was also a second Thanksgiving, and a third, too.), and I definitely gained five pounds after that one day.

I regret nothing, but I have unsuccessfully attempted to detox ever since. I limited myself to only whole-grain carbs; that lasted one day. I tried to sub a meal a day for green juice; that lasted two days. I even tried going vegan; that lasted one meal. So I hoped The Skinnytaste Cookbook by blogger Gina Homolka – with its light on calories, big on flavor claims – would help me stay on the straight and narrow.




Each recipe in the book includes the serving size, calorie count and nutritional information, which is helpful for the health-conscious. I also liked that the recipes don’t necessarily sound like diet food. Chicken enchiladas or Mongolian beef and broccoli don’t sound like diet dinners – they sound like something I want to eat. I had nearly everything I needed at home to make Homolka’s Kiss My (Shrimp and) Grits, and I was curious to see if her healthier version could stand up to a buttery favorite. Her recipe calls for ingredients with big flavors like Old Bay, bay leaf and a little bit of ham, all of which go in the sauce with the shrimp. The grits had a little added creaminess and saltiness from the single ounce of Harvati cheese.




Unsurprisingly, the limited use of fat and salt was restrictive. Only 1 teaspoon of oil to sear a whole pound of shrimp? It’s hard to get good color on them with so little fat. Also, the recipe uses ½ tablespoon of butter in for the entire four servings of grits… Let’s be honest, I use that much on a piece of toast. In the end, the dish lacked the richness one expects with shrimp and grits, but at only 311 calories per serving, it did help assuage my triple-Thanksgiving guilt.




Kiss My (Shrimp and) Grits
4 servings

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1¼ cups fat-free milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup quick-cooking grits (not instant)
½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 oz. Havarti cheese, shredded (1/3 cup)
1 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano cheese

24 (about 1 lb.) peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1½ tsp. olive oil
2 oz. lean smoked ham steak, finely chopped
¼ cup minced shallots
½ cup caned fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained (I recommend Muir Glen)
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon wedge
3 Tbsp. sliced scallions, for garnish

• For the grits: In a medium pot, combine ¼ cup water, the chicken broth, milk and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Slowly stir in the grits. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover with a fitted lid, and simmer, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent the grits from sticking to the bottom, adding more water if necessary, until smooth like cream of wheat, 28 to 30 minutes. Stir in the butter and cheeses, remove the pan from the heat, and keep warm.
• For the shrimp: Sprinkle the shrimp with Old Bay. Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and the shrimp and cook until browned, about 1 minute. Flip the shrimp and cook 1 more minute or until opaque. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.
• Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining ½ teaspoon oil and the ham. Cook until slightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the drained tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, and black pepper to taste. Increase the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens and reduces slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the shrimp and parsley, and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir well and discard the bay leaf.
• Divide the grits among 4 serving plates and spoon the shrimp and sauce over the top of each. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter Publishers

What healthy twists do you put on your favorite dishes to lighten them up at home? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook.

By the Book: Sean Brock’s Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder

Saturday, December 6th, 2014



I have a new celebrity chef crush. Ever since catching his episodes of The Mind of a Chef, Sean Brock has become my famous chef obsession. What joy, then, to have the opportunity to make a dish (four, actually) from his first cookbook, Heritage. Brock approaches heritage food and farm-to-table cooking with a sentimental, reverent curiosity and a dogged pursuit not only to cook the food of the South, but also to find the regional ingredients that give this cuisine its soul.




And what could be more soulful than a slow-roasted pork shoulder with tomato gravy and roasted Vidalia onions? And by slow-roasted, I mean slooooow-roasted. Brock required me to roast this porky goodness at 250 degrees for a whopping 14 hours. To make that happen, I painted the roast with Dijon mustard, sprinkled on his spice rub, popped it in the oven and went back to bed – but not before I took this picture to prove that, yes, I did put the roast in at 4 a.m. This is the view out my front window just after the roast went in the oven.




At about 3 p.m., I was afraid I would serve pork jerky for dinner. At 4 p.m., my oven actually shut itself off, as if to say, “Hello? I’ve been working for 12 hours, here. Why haven’t you managed to cook something in that amount of time?” I turned the tired oven back on and briefly celebrated the victory of man over machine.

To be honest, I did remove the roast an hour before I was supposed to, and I’m glad I did. It wasn’t jerky, but it hadn’t produced the pan drippings with which I was supposed to baste it. Still, the meat was moist and flavorful, but I’ve produced similar results without my oven going on strike.




I prepared the side dishes during the last few hours of cooking: roasted baby Vidalia onions, creamed corn and tomato gravy. The roasted onions are drop-dead simple – onions, oil, herbs are wrapped in foil and put in the oven. The tomato gravy was equally easy to prepare – cornmeal toasted in melted bacon fat, squished up whole tomatoes, seasoning. Boom and done.




The most amazing side by far was was the creamed corn. I’ve made creamed corn before by adding a bechamel sauce to the cooked corn, but Brock’s version calls for you to first saute half the kernals along with the shallot and garlic before adding heavy cream. Then the genius trick: that mixture is puréed in the blender and strained for a velvety smooth sauce to coat the rest of the corn. I will never make this dish the other way again. The texture and sweetness is exactly what you’d want from creamed corn. The lurid yellow may be a little off-putting to some, but trust me – it’s delicious.

Despite this marathon roasting session, I still love Sean Brock. Heritage is beautifully photographed and warmly written. The recipes are accessible for the most part and perfect for the times you want to share a bit of carefully prepared, responsibly sourced Southern food with soul.




Slow-Roasted Pork with Roasted Vidalia Onions and Tomato Gravy
12 servings

2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 bone-in pork shoulder (also called butt; about 6 lbs.), skin removed
½ cup Dijon mustard

6 baby Vidalia onions with greens attached (about 8 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves, lightly smashed and peeled
½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

Tomato Gravy
2 Tbsp. bacon fat
2 Tbsp. cornmeal, preferably Anson Mills Antebellum Fine White Cornmeal
3 cup home-canned tomatoes or canned San Marzano tomatoes
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper

For the pork: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place a rack in a roasting pan.
• Combine the brown sugar, salt, pepper and paprika in a small bowl and blend well. Using a brush, paint the top only of the pork with the mustard. Pat on the seasoning mixture. Place the pork on the rack in the pan and roast, uncovered for about 14 hours, until the meat is tender but not falling apart. Baste occasionally with the pan juices during the last hour to make glaze. Remove the pork from the oven, transfer it to a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes. Reserve the juices in the roasting pan, skimming off any fat from the top as the pork rests.
About 2 hours before the pork is done, prepare the onions: Remove the greens from the onions, slice the greens as thin as possible and reserve to use as garnish. Place the butter, thyme and garlic on a large piece of aluminum foil and top with the onions. Fold up the edges of the foil and seal to make a closed packet. Place the packet in a baking pan. Add the onions to the oven for the last 2 hours of the pork’s cooking time.
Meanwhile, for the tomato gravy: Heat the bacon fat in a large nonreactive saucepan over high heat. Stir in the cornmeal with a wooden spoon, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly until the cornmeal turns a light brown color, about 5 minutes.
• Using your hands, crush the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, then add the tomatoes and their juices to the pan and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium, bring the gravy to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is slightly thickened and the cornmeal is soft, about 10 minutes; be careful that it is not sticking or scorching. Add the salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat for up to 1 hour.
To complete: Remove the onions from the oven, carefully open the packed and cut the onions into quarters. Put the onions in a dish, baste with the liquid left inside the foil and season with the salt.
• Portion the pork by gently pulling it into large chunks with a pair of tongs. Serve with the onions, creamed corn and tomato gravy. Sprinkle the pork with the reserved onion greens.

Creamed Corn
4 servings

8 ears corn, husked
1½ Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups heavy cream
3 thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

• Cut the kernels from the corn; set aside. Using a box grater, scrape the “milk” from the cobs into a wide bowl; set aside.
• Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the corn kernels, the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots and garlic have softened considerably, about 7 minutes. Add the cream, bring to a simmer and cook stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
• Working in batches if necessary, transfer the corn mixture to a blender and blend on high until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a saucepan.
• Add the remaining corn kernels, the reserved “milk” from the cobs, the thyme and butter to the pan, bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until the creamed corn has thickened and the whole kernels are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the thyme, season with salt and white pepper and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan Publishing

Heritage celebrates traditional Southern cooking in all its glory. What was the best Southern meal you ever had and what made it so special? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Heritage.



By the Book: Jody Williams’ Omelets

Saturday, November 29th, 2014



This one time, on the Internet, I watched Jacques Pépin demonstrate the proper creation of a French omelet. It was a five-minute video tutorial, narrated by his dulcet Gallic tones, and yielded a two-egg, tri-fold beauty that all but shimmered on the plate.

I’ve been trying to replicate it ever since, with marginal success. This is partly due to Pépin‘s rigid omelet wisdom: The omelet must be cooked in butter, the eggs mixed with water, and only certain herbs used. The inside must be slightly runny. It must not betray a single streak of browning on its exterior. The times I got it all right were, suffice it to say, scarce. There’s a reason the French omelet is considered a mettle-test of any chef’s hand.

In Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, Jody Williams will guide you through preparing a French omelet on the stovetop, but she also proposes a different solution: use the oven. In her recipes and work as chef-owner of two restaurants in New York and Paris, also named Buvette, Williams excels at these kind of subtle workarounds. In fact, that subtlety in the face of the staid rigors of French cooking is likely what makes her such an interesting chef. (Meet Williams in person at the next Sauce Celebrity Chef Series event Dec. 8 at The Restaurant at The Cheshire. Details here.)

While thumbing through the cookbook, expect clean layouts and concise recipes, sometimes so intuitively written as to be confusing. But Williams’ voice shines through most every few pages in the form of small pullouts, offering deft solutions for washing basil, making crème fraiche or figuring out what to do with squeezed lemon halves (spoiler: use the remaining juice as hand sanitizer). I tested her French omelet method against Pépin’s, and though I prefer a fluffier texture than Williams’ recipe prescribes, the results were and delicious and easy to pull together.





Omelets are best made by spreading your ingredients on a cutting board beforehand so that you might add pinches or fistfuls as needed. While the oven preheated, I chopped dill, tarragon and chives and whisked eggs.






After buttering the skillet and adding the eggs, I placed it all in the oven. (If your skillet has a plastic handle, be sure to wrap it in foil several times to protect it.) Allow the egg to set about 2 minutes (shake the skillet to be sure), and add any desired extras; I used Virginia ham and Grand Cru cheese. Return to the oven for the remaining cook time.





Plating the omelet requires a slight bit of finesse (see above for my best effort), but it should slide from the skillet and fold neatly. Press down gently with a fork to keep the omelet from springing open. Williams recommends a glass of wine to go with, but on a Saturday morning, a stout shot-and-a-half of espresso works just fine, too.


Makes 1 omelets

2 large eggs
Coarse salt
3 Tbsp. chopped mixed leafy herbs (I like a mix of chives, chervil and tarragon, but use whatever you like and is fresh)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Crack the eggs into a bowl and add a large pinch of salt. Vigorously whisk together and stir in two-thirds of the herb mixture. Set the egg mixture aside.
• In a small, 6-inch diameter saute pan set over medium heat, melt the butter. (If your pan is not well seasoned you may need more butter.)
• As the butter melts, tilt the pan to make sure the butter evenly coats the pan. Pour in the whisked eggs and continue cooking over medium heat until the eggs begin to set, but are not cooked through, roughly 3 minutes, keeping in mind that the eggs will continue cooking off the heat. This is the point where you can add Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter, ham and Gruyere, or goat cheese and leeks if you wish. A good omelet will have a creamy texture and remain bright yellow.
• Season with salt and pepper, and then begin to fold the omelets.
• To remove the omelets, tilt the pan toward the serving plate and gently free it with a spatula until it slides halfway onto the plate. Now fold it over onto itself to form a half-moon. Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1tablespoon herbs and an additional pinch of salt.
• Recipe Note: If you are making omelets for more than one, I suggest using your oven as I do at Buvette. It is a fast and easy way to make a beautiful omelet. Begin by melting the butter in a small pan on the stovetop as above, but when you add the eggs, transfer the pan to a 400 degree oven to continue cooking, about 5 minutes. If you wish to fill your omelet with spinach or leeks, etc., do so as soon as it sets and then return it to the oven to finish cooking. Remove and follow the instructions for plating above.


Excluding ham, cheese and peppers, what goes in your perfect omelet? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Buvette!

By the Book: Ben Towill and Phil Winser’s Leek & Peekytoe Crab Gratin

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014



Full disclosure: cooking intimidates me. My culinary skills pale when compared to my family’s kitchen queens, my mother and aunts. There’s nothing better to this starving college student than visiting a relative’s house, where there are sure to be tasty, homemade dishes waiting. It’s a nice alternative to my fallback, the $6.51 large pizza around the corner. My large Italian family gathers monthly to swap stories, celebrate birthdays and cook and consume substantial amounts of food. My “honorary Nana,” Pat, has dubbed my family’s perennial favorites “that effin’ crab dip,” as in, “Why do we always have to bring that effin’ crab dip to the party?”

Even family favorites can use an update now and then; that’s why I was excited to see a new variation on this staple in The Fat Radish: Kitchen Diaries. Co-authors and chefs Ben Towill and Phil Winser showcase recipes featured at the NYC restaurant, The Fat Radish. While meat dishes do make appearances, vegetables and seafood steal the show in this new cookbook.




The recipe was simple enough for even a hesitant college cook like me. If I could simmer leeks in a pan, I could handle this. I did find the dip a bit dry for my liking, so I added more liquid to smooth everything out. I am also a huge fan of cheese, so a few extra shreds of sharp white cheddar may have found their way into the pan. After all, when has extra cream and cheese ever been a bad thing?




Overall, this dish was impeccable. The delicate crab and leeks were aromatic, and the dip was warm and filling. A drizzle of oil olive on top and a pinch of lemon were the perfect garnish – though an extra crack of black pepper on top wouldn’t hurt, either.




Nana Pat may moan when she sees I brought yet another crab dip to our next family get together, but after one bite, I think she’ll be talking about that “effin’ good crab dip” for a long time.




Leek & Peekytoe Crab Gratin
8 servings

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and finely diced
½ cup sherry
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. cleaned crab meat (use whatever type you like)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup coarsely grated sharp white cheddar cheese
Pinch grated nutmeg
Pinch red chili flakes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Lemon wedges for serving
Toast for serving

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• Place the butter in an ovenproof skillet set over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring now and then, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the sherry, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook until the sherry is nearly evaporated, 5 minutes. Add the cream to the pan, turn the heat to low and simmer until the cream is slightly reduced, 5 minutes. Allow the cream mixture to cool. Stir the crab into the cooled cream mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
• Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, cheese, nutmeg and chili flakes. Cover the crab mixture evenly with the breadcrumb mixture and drizzle with olive oil. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the sides are bubbling, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot with lemon wedges alongside and plenty of toast.

Have you put a twist on one of your family’s classic recipes? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Fat Radish: Kitchen Diaries.

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