Hello Stranger | Login | Create Account
Oct 31, 2014
Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
Email | Text-size: A | A | A

By the Book

By the Book: Cynthia Graubart’s Pork Stew with Gremolata and Island Pork Chili

Friday, October 24th, 2014



I admit, it is possible that I unjustly conflated the slow cooker with the universes of Mad Men and John Cheever’s short fiction, dismissing it out of turn. But I had a good reason – at least I think. After all, my mother is prone to finger wagging about the slow cooker’s dead usefulness in a way that makes me nod vigorously and then instantly forget the advice.

Or it could be because, by chance, I own the same vintage, seafoam-colored Rival Crock-Pot Southern Living columnist Cynthia Graubart reminisces about in her new book, Slow Cooker: Double Dinners for Two. Seeing it as a kind of culinary anachronism, I often left mine to collect dust on a shelf.

However, it’s safe to say Graubart’s undemanding slow cooking tome helps breathe new life into this bloodless style of mid-century cooking. The lushly varied recipes tap fruit flavors and invoke the colorful traditions of Thailand, France, the American Southwest and others.

Most notable is the book’s conceit. Advertising “double dinners for two,” the two-serving recipes are paired together throughout the book with the idea that they can be made simultaneously in the same slow cooker, using separate plastic liners. Each recipe is labeled A or B, with individual preparation instructions followed by simultaneous cooking instructions. The methodology behind the recipe pairings is never fully explained (one of several glaring editing quirks in the book), but it’s a damn good idea, and a good way to prepare several days’ worth of meals without fuss.

I’m a pork lover and went with a (handsomely photographed) recipe for Island Chili, using pork tenderloin and a succotash-esque mix of black beans, tomatoes, corn and mango. Since I had extra ingredients, I doubled the recipe rather than making the Pork Stew with Gremolata recipe that’s paired with it.

The preparation, as with most of the recipes in Slow Cooker, is a cinch. Dice the mango and pork tenderloin (trimming away fat and silverskin), and mix the other ingredients in a bowl with a quick stir.




Add the pork to the bottom of the slow-cooker liner, seasoning it generously with salt and pepper. Then, simply pour the other ingredients on top, cover and set the slow cooker to low.




Six hours later, it was time to tango with my equatorially inspired chili. The pork itself was cooked remarkably well, considering the minimal amount of seasoning required (the beauty of using an inherently flavorful meat). But the other ingredients felt diminished in flavor, even after extensive salting – much like the gauzy, repressed feel of 1960s suburbia itself. For starters, canned beans and tomatoes and out-of-season mangoes don’t have the zing of fresh ones, and Slow Cooker’s reliance on preserved or processed ingredients undercuts its stripped-down ingenuity. You’re better off throwing fresh produce into the pot, along with some of the “jazz-up” ingredients enumerated in the book’s introduction like soy sauce, tomato paste, Parmesan, or any other umami-boosting ingredient. Remember: slow cooking can be as improvisational as it is easy.




Cynthia Graubart’s Pork Stew with Gremolata and Island Pork Chili
2 servings each

For the Pork Stew with Gremolata:
½ lb. pork tenderloin (½ of small tenderloin), cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small onion, diced
10 baby carrots, chopped
1 14½-oz. can diced tomatoes
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup beef broth
1 clove garlic, minced or ½ tsp. bottled minced garlic
3 to 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1 tsp. bottled minced garlic

For the Island Pork Chili:
½ lb. pork tenderloin (½ of small tenderloin), cut into ½-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 14½-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
¼ cup frozen corn kernels
½ cup black beans, rinsed and drained
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
1 mango, diced, divided
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

Pork Stew with Gremolata
• Insert liner into the slow cooker, fully opening the bag and draping the excess over the sides.
• Add pork to the bottom of the liner. Season with salt and pepper.
• Top pork with onions and carrots.
• Stir together tomatoes, white wine, broth and garlic in a medium bowl. Pour over pork and vegetables.
• Top pork with rosemary sprigs.
• Reserve parsley, lemon zest and garlic to top finished dish for serving.
• Fold the top of the bag over to one side and push ingredients at bottom of liner over to create room for the second bag.
• Follow directions for the second recipe.

Island Pork Chili:
• Insert liner into the remaining space in the slow cooker, fully opening the bag and draping the excess over the sides.
• Add pork to the bottom of the liner. Season with salt and pepper.
• Stir together tomatoes, corn, black beans, cumin and chili powder in a medium bowl. Pour over pork.
• Top with half the mango.
• Fold the top of the bag over to the opposite side of the first bag and nestle the ingredients of both bags so they are sharing the space evenly.
• Reserve second half of mango and cilantro to top finished dish before serving.

To complete the recipes:
• Each closed liner should be draping away from the other, extending over the sides of the slow cooker.
• Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
• Move two shallow serving dishes or bowls next to the slow cooker. Remove cover and using pot holders or oven mitts, carefully open each liner to and remove the solids with a slotted spoon or tongs to its own serving bowl. Still using a potholder, gather the top of the first liner, carefully lift the bag from the slow cooker and move over its serving bowl. Cut a corner off the bottom of the bag, large enough to allow the remaining contents of the bag to be released into the second bowl. Discard the liner. Repeat with the second liner.
• Allow the recipe being served to cool, and package in a resealable plastic freezer bag or freezer container. Label and freeze up to 3 months.
• Before serving, taste and season again with salt and pepper. Top Pork Stew with Gremolata with the reserved parsley, lemon zest and garlic before serving. Top Island Pork Stew with mango and cilantro before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Gibbs Smith Publishing 

What’s your go-to slow-cooker meat (or non-meat), and the three most important items to throw in with it? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Slow Cooker: Double Dinners for Two

By the Book: Michael Ruhlman’s Poached-in-a-Bag Egg Sandwich with Caramelized Onion and Roasted Red Pepper

Saturday, October 18th, 2014



I love eggs. In my opinion, few things can’t be improved with the addition of a golden runny yolk, no matter how tired the trend may be. It’s my go-to protein for breakfast (and often for dinner, too), yet Michael Ruhlman’s love for eggs makes mine look like pure indifference. In fact, the prolific culinary writer (who will visit St. Louis for a Celebrity Chef Series dinner Nov. 20) penned a cookbook entirely dedicated to this essential ingredient: Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient.

Enter the egg flowchart. To better document all the ways an egg could be used, Ruhlman created a massive diagram that breaks down its seemingly infinite preparations. Is it cooked whole or separated? In the shell or out? Are you making a batter or a dough? Whipping a meringue or binding meatballs? The flowchart is so large, it can’t even fit on a two-page spread of Egg. Instead, it comes as a 5-foot poster folded neatly in the back of the book. It’s so comprehensive (and beautiful), I wanted to frame and hang it in my kitchen for inspiration. With all the options presented in this book – from seafood roulade to marshmallows to an ale and rum flip – I chose one of my favorite egg presentations: a poached egg sandwich.

I know, egg sandwiches are not exactly earth-shattering. After all, nearly every fast-food joint around has some form of egg-sausage-cheese combo for breakfast. But few recipes highlight the natural flavor of an egg better than breakfast dishes, and the technique Ruhlman used to poach the eggs intrigued me.




Perhaps 25 percent of my poaching attempts succeed. Somehow, I manage to keep the whites tight, not puncture the yolk and transfer it to a plate with a semi-cooked center. Then, my next egg fails miserably. Ruhlman covers the traditional poaching technique, but he also shared a second, far simpler, method. Just pop the egg in a zip-close bag and let it poach without actually touching the simmering water. Though I’d heard of this method before, temperature and times varied wildly and I’d never actually attempted it. But if anyone could help me get it right, it’s Michael Ruhlman.




The process is simple enough. While the water comes to boil, add a few drops of olive oil to a sandwich-sized zip-top bag and smush the plastic to spread it around, making sure to get the oil into the corners. Then, crack the egg into a small bowl and gently slide it into the bag, working it into a corner so it looks like a mini pastry bag. Twist it closed and seal with a zip-tie (or if you happen to cook at the Sauce office, a paper clip). Plop the eggs into the simmering water, set your timer for 4 minutes and be patient. I found that occasionally turning the bags to rotate the eggs helped them poach more evenly.




When the timer rang, the eggs slipped out of the plastic and came to rest gently on top of my English muffin. Granted, they weren’t as pretty as you’d find at brunch around town – the whites were a hilarious conical shape, like my sandwich wore a hat. Still, I’ll take perfectly cooked (if awkwardly shaped) over my pot of over-boiled egg whites any day. Bring on the Benedicts!




As for the rest of the sandwich, it’s a classic but perfect combination. Always use an English muffin over toast (“… the holey crumb helps catches the yolk when you bite into it,” Ruhlman said) and add a splash of white wine vinegar to make the caramelized onions and peppers sing. Forget the sausage, cheese and bacon. When you have a perfectly oozing golden yolk and sweet caramelized onions and peppers, you don’t need anything else.




Poached-in-a-Bag Egg Sandwich with Caramelized Onion and Roasted Red Pepper
4 servings

4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 eggs
1 tsp. butter, plus more for the English muffins
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, charred black over a glam or under a broiler, then peeled and diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. red or white wine vinegar
4 English muffins

• If you wish to cook your eggs ahead of time, bring a medium pot of water to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat so that water is gently simmering; prepare an ice bath (half ice, half water). Put 1 teaspoon olive oil into each of 4 small plastic bags, then crack an egg into each bag. Twist each bag closed and secure it with a twist-tie. Lower the bags into the simmering water and cook 4 minutes. Transfer the bags to the ice bath and put the whole thing in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. At that point, return the bags to simmering water for 90 seconds to reheat before serving.
• When you’re ready to prepare the sandwiches, heat the butter over medium heat and saute the onion gently till nicely browned and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the red bell pepper to reheat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and then add the vinegar.
• Toast and butter the English muffins.
• If you haven’t made the eggs ahead of time, cook them now as described above. Divide the onion-pepper mixture among the four muffin bottoms. Place a cooked egg on each – they will slip easily out of their oiled bags. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and top with the muffin tops. Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from Little Brown and Company

What’s your favorite way to use an egg and why? Whole and fried? Separated and baked or whipped into a meringue? Scrambled into an omelet? Tell us in the comment section below for a chance to win a copy of Egg.

By the Book: Julie Richardson’s Double-Dip Caramel Cake

Saturday, October 11th, 2014



Caramel cake is one dish I’ve never successfully made. I always test new recipes since it’s my husband’s favorite dessert, but they never turn out quite right. It is my great white whale (or buffalo) of desserts. However, this cool, fall weather renewed my hope for making the perfect caramel cake, and I decided to test a version from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson (though it almost lost out to her Old Vermont burnt sugar cake with maple-cream cheese frosting.)




The cake recipe was very different than other cake recipes I’ve seen. Normally, the first step is to cream the fat and the sugar together and then incorporate flour. In this recipe, Richardson adds the fat directly to the dry ingredients (a whopping three cups of flour to two cups of sugar!) and warns this will take coaxing and a lot of scraping. This process did take a long time, which may account for the cake’s density. It’s not an airy-fairy crumb cake. It’s pretty substantial, almost like pound cake, which isn’t a bad thing.




The double-dip element of this caramel cake is thanks to the caramel and caramel frosting on each layer. But surprisingly, it didn’t have a strong caramel taste. I wish the frosting itself had more than one cup of caramel for more intense flavor.




To be fair, the recipe does say to slice each cake layer in half to make a six-layer cake with a thin layer of caramel and frosting in between each layer. I didn’t halve them, not out of laziness, but because every time I’ve attempted this, I ruin the round. Maybe the caramel flavor would be more intense, but I doubt it.




Overall, I really liked this cake but it isn’t exactly what I’m looking for in a caramel cake. I guess my quest will just have to continue.




Julie Richardson’s Double-Dip Caramel Cake
12 to 16 servings

For the Caramel Sauce:
¼ cup water
1½ cups (10½ oz.) sugar
1½ cups heavy cream
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. fine sea salt

For the Cake:
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1½ cups (13½ oz.) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups (12 oz.) sifted cake flour
2 cups (14 oz.) sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. fine sea salt
¾ cup (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes

For the Frosting:
6 cups (1½ lbs.) sifted confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups (12 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup heavy cream

• Center an oven rack and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
• To make the caramel sauce, gently stir together the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, being careful not to splash the sides of the pot. Stop stirring and allow the sugar to boil until it is a rich amber color. To check the true color of the caramel (because it will appear much darker than it actually is), simply tilt the pot to see a thin layer of the liquid – resist the urge to stir or stick an implement into the caramel, as it may cause the caramel to crystalize. Remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly pour in ¾ cup of cream and place the saucepan back on the stove over medium heat, stirring until combined. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Reserve 1 cup of the caramel for your frosting; the rest will be used to assemble the cake. Place all of the caramel in the refrigerator to cool while the cake bakes.
• To make the cake, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, ½ cup of the sour cream, and the vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt for 1 minute at low speed. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of sour cream and blend on low speed until the batter comes together. This will take some coaxing – you will need to stop the mixer often to scrape the batter from the paddle and the bottom of the bowl. Once the mixture has come together, mix on medium-high speed for an additional 90 seconds. The batter will be thick. Add the egg mixture in thirds, mixing each third into the batter until just combined and scraping the bowl as necessary.
• Divide the batter equally among the three prepared pans (there will be approximately 1 pound 2 ounces per pan) and smooth the tops. Bake in the middle of the oven until the centers spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out just barely moist, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Flip the cakes out and lay them on a wire rack, top side up, to cool to room temperature. Leave the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake.
• Because the frosting is at its best when fresh, make it just before assembling the cake. In the bowl of a stand mixed fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the confectioners’ sugar and butter on high speed until the mixture is thick, fluffy, and light in color, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the reserved cooled cup of caramel and mix on medium speed until combined. Switch to the whisk attachment and, with the mixer running on low speed, drizzle in the ¼ cup of cream. Turn up the mixer to high speed for 1 to 2 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy.
• To assemble the cake, first give the caramel sauce a good stir. If any of the cake layers are domed, slice off the domes. (They are great to nibble on while you’re building the cake!) Remove the parchment paper circles. Cut each cake layer in half to yield six thin layers. Build this cake using the three bottom layers first, so that the three top layers constitute the top half of the cake. Place one of the bottom layers cut side up on a serving plate. Using a metal spatula, spread a very thin layer of the caramel (2 to 3 tablespoons) over the cake, then spread a thin layer (½ cup) of the frosting over the caramel. Don’t worry if some of the caramel blends into the frosting, as this just makes it all yummier. Repeat these steps with the two remaining bottom layers, followed by two top layers (all top side up), spreading each layer with caramel first, and then with frosting. Place the very top layer top side down on the cake. Apply a thin layer of frosting all over the cake to make a “crumb coat.” Place the cake in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up. Take it out and frost with the remaining frosting.
• The cake will stay fresh for up to 4 days under a cake dome at room temperature – if it lasts that long!

Reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press

What is your white whale dish, the one recipe you’ve yet to master? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Vintage Cakes.

By the Book: Gunnar Karl Gíslason’s Beer Mustard

Saturday, October 4th, 2014



It’s too bad Iceland is so far away from St. Louis. Not for easy access to the northern lights, geysers or glaciers (though they are on my bucket list), but rather, to visit Dill, the restaurant in Reykjavík run by Gunnar Gíslason, Iceland’s most celebrated contemporary chef.

Reading Gíslason’s new cookbook, North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland, it’s clear why he’s has been lauded for showcasing his Nordic country’s culinary heritage. I think it would be safe to go a step further and posit Gíslason among a class of chefs around the globe currently shaping a culinary movement called regionalism. The term is cropping up more often to mean the use of ingredients native to a particular place. As I see it, regionalism isn’t just about sourcing what is grown and raised locally, but sourcing what has always been local. Indigenous edibles certainly include what is grown or caught in the wild, and in the book, Gíslasont takes the reader on a remarkable culinary adventure through land and sea in and around his homeland.

For lack of materials, I dismissed trying time-honored Icelandic techniques discussed in North, such as dirt-smoking fish using a dried block of compressed hay and sheep manure. Making skyr, a traditional Icelandic yogurt, sounded interesting until I learned about Gíslason’s extensive mustard program at Dill. One of his mustard recipes calls for beer, and conveniently it’s October – high season for beer and mustard.




Gíslason’s mustard recipe is the kind that will make home cooks with a well-stocked pantry giddy as they root through shelves for mustard seeds, juniper berries and whole allspice.




It takes little skill and about 10 seconds to mix the dry mustard and mustard seeds with a bottle of beer. Gíslason’s recipe calls for arctic thyme beer or another pale ale. Were I in Iceland, I’d have hunted down some arctic thyme beer, but I’m in St. Louis, so I grabbed a can of Schlafly. Call it regionalism – or argue the definition of regionalism over a beer since you’ll have 12 hours to kill while the mustard-laden beer rests in the fridge.




Cider vinegar, juniper, allspice and thyme are the basis for a pickling solution that is brought to a boil before sugar and salt are added. The herbal brine is then combined with the beer-mustard seed mixture, transferred to a glass jar and refrigerated. Find something else to do for the next three weeks – like participating in a local pumpkin beer-drinking competition.




Home-made condiments are always a delight to have on hand. In this case, after 21 days, you’ll have a crunchy, colorful, tangy whole-grain mustard that can be the star of an impromptu meat and cheese board. All you’ll need is a local (or regional) beer to go with it.


Gunnar Karl Gíslason’s Beer Mustard
Makes about 1½ cups

1¼ cups artic thyme beer or other pale ale
1 Tbsp. dry yellow mustard
3 Tbsp. black mustard seeds
3 Tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
½ cup cider vinegar
6 juniper berries
6 whole allspice
3 Tbsp. dried artic thyme
1½ Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. sea salt

• In a bowl, stir together the beer, dry mustard and mustard seeds, mixing well. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.
• Combine the vinegar, juniper, allspice and thyme in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the mustard seed base, and mix well. Transfer to a heatproof glass jar and let cool to room temperature. Cap tightly and refrigerate for 3 weeks before using.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

What one food is not the same without mustard? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of North.

By the Book: Mark Bittman’s Chicken and Dumplings with Lots of Peas

Saturday, September 27th, 2014



You don’t argue with Mark Bittman. The longtime New York Times food columnist literally wrote the book on how to cook everything (along with more than a dozen other titles) and how he’s back with his latest culinary textbook, How to Cook Everything Fast.

Here’s Bittman’s claim: you can make just about anything – from beef stew to shrimp paella – in 45 minutes or less with a few simple adjustments. In this 1,054-page tome, breakfasts, salads, soups, stews, meat and more are all sped up, without resorting to packaged mixes or precooked, preservative-packed shortcuts.

As with most of his books in the How to Cook Everything lineage, a good 40 pages at the beginning are not focused on recipes or inspirations, but good old kitchen know-how. Never learned how to peel and slice a mango? How many pans do you actually need in your kitchen? Bittman never forgets that at the end of the day, he’s writing for the home cook and that everyone has to start somewhere. He’s even got tips for the most efficient way to organize your kitchen (if you’re Type A like that).



Unlike traditional cookbooks, Bittman insists that home cooks throw mise en place – that most revered of professional chef prep techniques – out the window. “(Mise en place) is also completely impractical when you’re working along or even have a little help. Doing all the prep ahead of time often leaves you twiddling your thumbs, waiting for food to cook,” he writes. Instead, Bittman advocates “real-time cooking,” combining ingredient prep and cooking in the most efficent order while preparing a dish. To that end, his recipes are color-coded; black text means cook, and blue text means prep while cooking. Since many dishes require bringing water to boil, simmering vegetables or occasionally stirring, it makes sense to multitask during this time. Watched pots never boil, after all.




Chicken and dumplings are a fall favorite in my family, but seldom do we take the time to actually make it at home. Simmering a chicken stew and creating our own pillowy dumplings is time-consuming and definitely not an option on a weeknight after an hour in traffic. But Bittman insisted I could get this done, from scratch, in 45 minutes or less. Challenge accepted.




Bittman employs a few time-saving tricks for the traditional chicken and dumplings recipe. First, cut the chicken up into bite-sized pieces instead of letting whole breasts and thighs poach slowly. To get that all-day simmered flavor, invest in great chicken stock or break out some of your DIY stock from the freezer.




After simmering the vegetables and the chicken until cooked through (only about five minutes, thanks to their small size), the recipe instructs you to remove them from the stock and set aside. This gives the dumplings plenty of room to puff up and steam in the liquid.




It’s tempting to skip the dumplings and use a quick box mix or frozen; don’t. These came together in a snap, and all the ingredients (flour, butter, yogurt, baking powder and baking soda) were already in my kitchen. However, pay close attention to the liquid. Bittman advises maintaining a gentle bubble, but in my zeal to be efficient, I started washing dishes and that bubble turned to boil. Thankfully, half of the puffy dumplings survived and the ones that didn’t made a wonderful thickening agent.




The vegetables and chicken are tucked back under the dumplings along with three hefty cups of frozen peas (and in my case, chopped mushrooms by special request). Once the peas have warmed through, it’s ready to serve. The hearty stew was thick and packed with vegetables and chicken thanks to the rich stock (and, admittedly, my dumplings-turned-roux). The dumplings were amazing; light as a feather with a gentle tang from the yogurt. It was, as Bittman said, comfort in a bowl – and it all came together in 45 minutes on a Thursday night.




Chicken and Dumplings with Lots of Peas
4 servings

6 cups chicken stock
1 large onion
2 medium carrots
1 celery stalk
1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
4 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1 cup flour, plus more as needed
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
3 Tbsp. butter (keep it in the fridge)
½ cup yogurt or buttermilk
3 cups frozen peas

• Put 6 cups chicken stock in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Trim, peel and chop the onion; add it to the pot.
Trim, peel and slice the carrots and chop the celery; add them to the pot.
Chop the chicken and add it to the pot.
• Add 4 sprigs thyme, a sprinkle of salt, and lots of pepper to the pot. When it boils, adjust the heat so the mixture simmers gently but steadily. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes.
• Combine 1 cup flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1½ teaspoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon baking soda in a food processor. Cut up 3 tablespoons cold butter and add to the food processor.
• Pulse a few times to blend the butter into the flour mixture. Add ½ cup yogurt or buttermilk and pulse until the mixture just forms a ball. Sprinkle a little flour onto your cutting board, turn out the dough and knead it 10 times.
• When the chicken and vegetables are done, transfer them to a bowl with a mesh strainer or slotted spoon (fish out the thyme). Adjust the heat so the stock bubbles gently and never boils.
• Drop about 8 heaping tablespoons of biscuit dough into the stock and cover. Cook, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle bubble, until the dumplings are puffed and cooked through (a toothpick will come out clean), 12 to 15 minutes.
• Nestle the chicken and vegetables underneath the dumplings and add 3 cups frozen peas. Cook until the peas are warmed through, a minute or 2, taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

What’s your trick to speed up your cooking process? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of How to Cook Everything Fast.




By the Book: Sara Deseran’s Butternut Squash, Kale and Crunchy Pepitas Taco

Saturday, September 20th, 2014



Tacolicious is a collection of Mexican recipes with California flair taken from its namesake: Tacolicious, a Mexican restaurant in the San Francisco Bay area. There are actually four Tacolicious restaurants in California now, an impressive feat for something that started off as a farmers market stand run by Sara Deseran and her husband Joe five years ago. Her debut cookbook includes popular restaurant favorites like tacos, empanadas, salsa and cocktails. A strong love for Mexican cuisine and party-appropriate dishes are laced throughout Deseran’s writing.

As I flipped through page after page of colorful, festive Mexican dishes, I was intrigued by this seasonal recipe described as a “nontraditional taco, sweet with squash, earthy and nutty with kale, and crunchy with fried pumpkin seeds (pepitas).” I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these tacos were also vegan. A good friend of mine follow this dietary lifestyle, and I’ve realized how hard it is for her to find just about anything completely vegan-friendly at Mexican restaurants.




The recipe was fairly easy to follow, although I did deviate slightly, using ground cumin instead of cumin seeds and soaking my raw cashews for only a half hour as opposed to the full hour suggested. Deseran has the cook use a blender or hand mixer to blitz together the soaked cashews, cumin, lime juice, water and salt. The result was a zesty vegan crema that appeared like hummus in its consistency and color. Presoaking the cashews for a less time than recommended caused no issues; they blended just fine. I did feel that the completed crema was quite heavy on the lime juice, but I left it alone to see how it would taste when combined with the sweet squash and flavorful kale.




I tackled the pumpkin seeds next. I was unable to get my pepitas to “puff up and pop” as the recipe described, so after sauteing them for two or three additional minutes, I sampled a few and decided to settle for the toasted ones I had created. I seasoned them with some cayenne and salt and set them aside to focus on the filling.




I had no problems with the filling as I sauteed some onions and then tossed in some garlic, later adding in my squash and finally some chopped up kale, which needed a few extra minutes than the recipe called for before taking the filling off the stovetop.

I built my tacos with a smear of crema on the base of my tortilla before adding the squash filling, then garnished them with the pepitas and some cilantro. The tacos were visually appetizing: the bright orange squash contrasting with deep green kale, and the pepitas adding a rustic touch. They also packed a ton of flavor; the cashews and lime juice provided a creamy, tangy base for the sweet squash and earth kale, and the pepitas gave them a much-needed crunch factor.  However, I would still probably use less salt and lime juice next time.





Butternut Squash, Kale and Crunchy Pepitas Taco
4 to 6 servings

Cashew Crema
2/3 cup raw cashews
1 tsp. cumin seeds
6 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes)
¼ cup water
2 tsp. kosher salt

Pumpkin Seeds
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
¾ cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups ½-inch-diced butternut squash
1 tsp. chile powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
4 cups finely chopped kale
Corn tortillas, warmed for serving
Chopped fresh cilantro, white onion, and salsa for serving (optional)

• To make the crema, soak the raw cashews in room-temperature water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain and reserve.
• Toast the cumin in a small, dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder, let cool, and grind finely.
• In a blender, combine the cashews, cumin, lime juice, water and salt. Start the blender on the lowest speed and gradually increase to the highest speed. Blend for at least 1 minute, until a creamy consistency. Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.
• To make the pumpkin seeds, heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the pumpkin seeds and saute for about 2 minutes, taking care that they do not burn. The seeds will begin to puff up and pop. Once they appear toasted, immediately pour them into a bowl. Toss with the cayenne and salt and set aside.
• To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute more. Add the squash and saute for 6 to 7 minutes, just until the squash begins to soften. Season with the chile powder and salt.
• Add the kale and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until it begins to wilt. Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.
• Serve with the tortillas, crema, pumpkin seeds, onion, cilantro, and salsa. To assemble each taco, invite guests to spoon about ½ cup of the warm filling into a tortilla and top with some crema and pumpkin seeds. If guests want more toppings, they can finish off their tacos with onion, cilantro, and salsa.

Reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press.

Thanks to 1111 Mississippi for providing the cumin for this recipe.

What’s the most unique taco filling you ever tried? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Tacolicious by Sara Deseran.




By the Book: Todd Porter and Diane Cu’s Herb-crusted Salmon

Saturday, September 13th, 2014



Bountiful: Recipes Inspired by Our Garden is the first book from Todd Porter and Diane Cu. They started out, as so many cookbook authors do these days, with a blog: White on Rice Couple, where they share their gardening successes (and failures), recipes and their travels. Overall, Bountiful’s recipes are simple, with not too many ingredients, easy techniques and fairly healthy.




I chose to make their herb-crusted salmon, a simple pan-seared fillet covered in breadcrumbs flecked with tarragon and basil. While I like cooking fish, seafood recipes can be rather irritating, in my opinion. Fillets are never the same thickness, so an ambiguous “three minutes per side,” isn’t really useful. Thankfully, Porter and Cu provide guidelines rather than a hard-and-fast rule, suggesting four to five minutes per ½-inch thickness. Good to know, as my fillets were pretty thick and required a longer cooking time.




Unfortunately, that meant the breadcrumb coating started to burn before my fish was done. I ended up transferring the fillets to the oven to finish cooking and prevent any more burning. I also thought the dish could benefit from some sort of sauce, as the breadcrumb coating left my mouth dry. I made do with quick mixture of mayonnaise, white wine vinegar and Sriracha that provided the moisture I wanted.

It seems counterintuitive, but I don’t recommend using the very best cut of salmon for this recipe. The fish I used, a wild-caught king salmon from Bob’s Seafood, was not cheap. When I spend the money on a pretty piece of fish like that, covering up its clean flavor with a heavy breadcrumb coating makes me cringe. This recipe is best suited for a piece of salmon that can benefit from a flavorful crust.




Todd Porter and Diane Cu’s Herb-crusted Salmon
4 servings

½ cup breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 8-ounce salmon fillets, rinsed and patted dry

• In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, tarragon, basil, salt, and pepper. Pour in the butter and mix well.
• Spread the mixture evenly over both sides of the fillets.
• Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the salmon to the pan; if the fillets still have the skin on, place them skin-side down first. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip the fillets over.
• Reduce the heat to medium and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, until the fillets are cooked to your preferred doneness.
• Serve warm with braised Brussels sprouts alongside.

Reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang

What’s your favorite way to jazz up a salmon fillet? Tell us in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Bountiful!

By the Book: George Mendes’ Clams Steamed with Vinho Verde, Garlic and Cilantro

Saturday, September 6th, 2014



Chef George Mendes grew up on the East Coast, but this son of Portuguese immigrants has retained his Iberian roots – especially his culinary ties. In his cookbook My Portugal, released this month, Mendes shares stories and recipes from his family as well as from his celebrated New York City restaurant Aldea.

I loved the introductory pages, filled with Mendes’ description of Portuguese cuisine and its quintessential dishes: “Portuguese home cooking is distinguished by its gutsy soulfulness, as in a warming casserole with eggs baked right into a smoky tomato and pea stew laced with savory sausage.” By the time Mendes finished waxing poetic over everything from caldo verde (a soup of puréed potato with spicy chorizo and tender collard greens) to refogado, a Portuguese soffrito, I was ready to hop on a flight to Lisbon. Among the 125 recipes in the cookbook, I salivated most over plates of fresh seafood, which is why I opted to prepare Clams Steamed with Vinho Verde, Garlic and Cilantro.




The recipe is delightfully uncomplicated. The ingredients are few – only littleneck clams, garlic, vinho verde (my hot weather wine of choice), a bay leaf, cilantro, olive oil and salt – and the technique is simple.




If you haven’t worked with clams before, soaking them in a bath of cold saltwater is an absolute must so they release their grit. Scrubbing the clams with a brush removes any remaining residue. Sandy beaches are beautiful to look at, but they taste awful.




The clams get tossed in the saucepan with hot oil, garlic and a bay leaf. The young white wine and cilantro are added, and the kitchen begins to fill with the fabulous aroma of a delicate sauce in the making. The fun comes from watching the clams slowly open, at which point you fish them one by one out of the saucepan.

Mendes directs the cook to strain the sauce into a serving bowl before folding in the clams and a handful of fresh cilantro. After tasting the strained sauce, I decided I wanted the softened garlic and the wilted cilantro back in the bowl. Maybe it looks less elegant, but that extra flavor is just too tasty to discard, especially when the dish is served with crusty bread to mop it all up. An indication of how much I enjoyed this quick (less than 30 minutes!) dish: I tucked a copy of the recipe into my prized recipe box.




George Mendes’ Clams Steamed with Vinho Verde, Garlic and Cilantro
2 servings

Kosher salt to taste
12 littleneck clams
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
2 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced crosswise
1 fresh bay leaf, notches torn every ½ inch
½ cup dry white vinho verde
2 sprigs plus ½ cup sliced fresh cilantro leaves

• Fill a bowl with cold water and dissolve enough salt in it to make it taste like the ocean. Submerge the clams in the water. Let them sit for 10 minutes or until they spit out their grit. You should see sand at the bottom of the bowl. Lift out the clams and transfer to a colander. With a stiff-bristled brush, scrub them vigorously until their shells are really clean.
• Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Coat the bottom with oil and add the garlic and bay leaf. Cook, stirring continuously, until very aromatic, bubbling, and golden, about 4 minutes.
• Add the clams and toss to coat in the mixture and get a sizzle going on them. Add the vinho verde and cilantro sprigs. Cover, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until the clams start to open. The liquid should be boiling vigorously. Start pulling out the early birds that open first and transfer them to a dish. Cover the pan again and continue cooking and pulling until all the clams open. After 5 minutes more, any clams that don’t open are dead; throw them out.
• Discard the bay leaf and cilantro sprigs. Strain the sauce into a large serving bowl. Swirl in a little olive oil, then fold in the clams and sliced cilantro. Serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread.

Reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang

What is your favorite way to prepare clams? Tell us in the comment section below for a chance to win a copy of My Portugal!

By the Book: Cheryl and Griffith Day’s Sweet Potato Pie

Saturday, August 30th, 2014



Augusta, Georgia is one of three cities between Atlanta and the Atlantic Ocean that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman left untouched during The Civil War. For this, Augustans have taken eternal umbrage against the general, since Sherman deemed the city not worth his time, strategically. Another city he spared is Savannah, today one of the few showcases of antebellum architecture in the Deep South. This makes it a time capsule of Southern memory, that famous power of remembrance characteristic of the region’s writers, politicians and confidence men.

Cheryl and Griffith Day, who own Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah and published The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, believe such backward-gazing belongs to the world of baking, too. For most Southerners, chess pie likely has as much cachet as Flannery O’Connor. The Days make this clear in their modest little cookbook, full of straightforward recipes that yield workmanlike results.

At the front of the book, there’s some agreeable reminiscing about the old days and, later, more practical advice for baking successfully, including a list of essential equipment and spices to keep in the kitchen. Scattered throughout the book are short profile pages on unusual ingredients like sorghum. At Sauce, August is the month of pie, so I went with that eternal flame of Southern confectioneries: sweet potato pie.




The recipe is punctuated by several lengthy periods of baking, so it’s easy to multitask. While the sweet potatoes were baking I whipped up the crust mix and pressed it into the pan, then employed a tip mentioned in our August issue – dried beans as pie weights. Lay a sheet of foil over the top and add the beans to prebake the crust without it bubbling.




After 50 minutes in the oven, the sweet potatoes easily came apart with a fork. Leave them in the oven for an entire hour – in hindsight, they would have been even easier to work with. The sweet potato filling can be mixed and prepared while the crust is prebaking. After removing the crust from the oven, use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface of the crust.

This was about the time my hand mixer went on the fritz, and whisking by hand quickly became time-consuming. After combining the dry and wet ingredients, it’s probably wise to pulse them in a blender or food processor to avoid chunks of sweet potato in the final product. And while blackstrap molasses imparts a savoriness to the pie, it gives it a most unsavory color. This is a major drawback to the recipe; by the end, I missed the rich orange color of the sweet potatoes. The deep, caramelized flavor dimension of the molasses isn’t worth the displeasing visuals.




Again hobbled without a mixer, I came across an ingenious solution for making whipped cream: Reduce the ingredients by half and add them to a mason jar, along with a wine cork. (A splash of bourbon or Gran Marnier will give the cream a bit more depth.) Shake vigorously until the cream reaches the desired texture or until soft peaks form inside the jar. While not quite as fluffy, it works in a pinch.

Sweet Potato Pie
8 to 10 servings

1½ lbs. sweet potatoes (1 to 2 sweet potatoes), or 2 cups canned sweet potato puree
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. sorghum or blackstrap molasses
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground mace
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
1 recipe Shortcut Pie Crust made with brown sugar, prebaked (recipe follows)
1 recipe Fresh Whipped Cream (recipe follows, optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (optional)

• Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees if using whole sweet potatoes, or to 350 degrees if using canned sweet potatoes.
• If using whole sweet potatoes, wrap them in foil and bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until fork-tender. Set aside to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
• Unwrap the sweet potatoes and peel them. Measure out 2 cups of the potatoes, put them in a medium bowl, and mash with a fork until smooth. Or, if using canned sweet potatoes, put them in a medium bowl.
• Add the heavy cream, eggs and sorghum or molasses to the sweet potatoes and whisk until fully incorporated.
• In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, cardamom, cloves, mace, ginger and salt. Add the sweet potato mixture and stir until smooth.
• Pour the filling into the prebaked piecrust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling is firm around the edges but still jiggles slightly in the center when you shake it; the filling will continue to firm up as it cools. Let cool completely.
• Pile the whipped cream on top of the pie with a spatula and sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg, if desired. The pie is best served the same day, but it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Shortcut Pie Crust
Makes 1 9-inch pie crust

1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar or packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. fine sea salt
11 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

• In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Slowly drizzle in the butter and stir with a fork until the mixture looks moist and crumbly.
• Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish. You can crimp the edges decoratively or leave them rustic.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil or parchment and fill with dried beans or pie weights.
• Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool before filling.

Fresh Whipped Cream
Makes about 3 cups

2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

• Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), whip the cream on medium speed until it starts to thicken. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until the cream holds nice soft peaks.

What twist have you added to your go-to dish from back in the day to keep it fresh? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

By the Book: Jennifer Katzinger’s Apricot Cherry Crostata

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014



I’ve always been skeptical of any recipe claiming to make dessert healthier. After all, I eat dessert as a sweet, decadent treat – a reward for my valiant attempts to eat healthy-ish all day. I initially scoffed at Jennifer Katzinger’s Honey & Oats, thinking that any baked good that didn’t allow me to use all-purpose flour or granulated sugar just wouldn’t taste the same as its original inspiration. But the more I read her cookbook, the more intrigued I was.




Honey & Oats advocates using whole grains and natural sweeteners. As a woman who thinks her bag of unbleached AP flour can conquer all baking projects (I learned the hard way it can’t be substituted for bread flour.) this was an education. Katzinger starts her book with a list of whole grains and whole-grain flour options, including the familiar rolled oats and barley to the more obscure einkorn and spelt flour. Most of Katzinger’s recipes for everything from breakfast muffins to cakes to pie crust call for some combination of the latter two flours. She’s also a proponent of natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and coconut palm sugar.




Since it’s pie month here at Sauce – and my crust-crimping skills leave something to be desired – I opted for the pie’s more rustic cousin, crostata. Katzinger packs hers with bright apricots and cherries, perfect since I’d just returned from a Michigan vacation with roughly five pounds of that sweet red fruit.




The butter almond crust called for a little more than one cup of light spelt flour, which admittedly proved tricky to hunt down in the baking aisle (Hint: top shelf, but not in an Uncle Bob’s Red Mill bag as expected). It also required almond flour and coconut palm sugar, both readily available at my local grocery.




The crostata process itself was the same as any other pie recipe; combine dry ingredients, pulse in cold butter and ice water, refrigerate and roll out on a floured surface. The most time-consuming part was peeling the apricots and pitting the cherries, all easy enough tasks. The end result was a gooey, beautifully rustic (read: messy) open-faced pie that smelled of mid-summer fruits.




My only issue was transport; Katzinger states this is the perfect dessert to take on a summer picnic, as it’s easy to pack and transport. However, after an hour in the car to a friend’s home, the crostata had spread significantly, gaining another inch or two all around. Upon serving, it looked less like a rustic pie and more like a fruit pizza. Even so, the flavors were divine. The crust was pleasantly nutty and toothsome, and the coconut palm sugar had an unexpected, molasses-like quality akin to brown sugar. Perhaps I could get used to this healthy dessert idea, especially now that there’s an open bag of spelt flour in my cupboard.




Apricot Cherry Crostata
Makes 1 13-inch crostata

8 fresh apricots
Butter Almond Dough (recipe follows) for a single-crust pie
2 Tbsp. light spelt flour
¼ cup coconut palm sugar, divided
1 cup (8 oz.) pitted, halved fresh cherries
¼ cup fruit juice-sweetened apricot preserves

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water and set it aside. Cook the apricots in the boiling water until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. With a slotted spatula, remove apricots to the bowl of ice water. After they have cooled, about 5 minutes, peel, halve, and pit them. Cut each apricot half into 3 wedges.
• Roll the dough out on a well-floured sheet of parchment paper to a 13-inch round. Slide a rimless baking sheet underneath the parchment. Combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the coconut palm sugar and sprinkle over the dough.
• Arrange the apricot slices, rounded side down, on the dough, leaving a 3-inch space around the edge. Arrange the cherries over and around the apricot slices. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of coconut palm sugar over the fruit.
• Fold 2 inches of the dough over the crostata to create a border around the fruit (the fruit should remain uncovered) and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of coconut palm sugar.
• Bake until the apricots are tender, about 50 minutes.
• In a small heavy saucepan, over low heat, warm the preserves until melted, about 5 minutes. Strain into a small bowl, then brush the strained preserves over the top of the crostata. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Butter Almond Dough
Makes 1 9-inch single-crust pie

1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. light spelt flour, or ½ cup einkorn flour and ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. light spelt flour
¼ cup almond flour
1 tsp. coconut palm sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into ¼-inch thick pieces
3 to 4 Tbsp. ice water

• In a food processor, combine the flours, coconut palm sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to blend. Evenly distribute the butter over the dry ingredients. Pulse (starting and stopping the motor) until the mixture resembles small peas, about 6 or 7 pulses, each lasting 3 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Sprinkle the ice water onto the pastry 1 tablespoon at a time, blending with a fork after each addition. The dough will be crumbly.
• Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and mound it with your hands. Form into a disc roughly 5 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours to chill and firm the dough.

Reprinted with permission from Sasquatch Books

What healthy version of an indulgence has most surprised you – for better or worse? Tell us in the comments below to win a copy of Honey & Oats.

Keep up with one or all of your favorite Sauce Magazine columns
Conceived and created by Bent Mind Creative Group, LLC 1999-2014, Bent Mind Creative Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Sauce Magazine 1820 Chouteau Ave. St. Louis, Missouri 63103.
PH: 314-772-8004 FAX: 314-241-8004