December, 2008 Archive

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

sugar-and-spice candied nuts

sweet and smoky-spicy nuts

I am, without a better way to put it, swimming in nuts.* Appalled by the price of nuts everywhere around here but insisting that it wasn’t going to keep me from baking with them, I asked my mother out in the ‘burbs — a place where people are less confident they can get away with swindling $9.99 for 1.25 cups of pecans — to see if she could do better. She came back with fifteen pounds for about $30 from Costco, five of walnuts, five of pecan and five of almonds. It is, in a word, awesome.

almonds and pecans
hot smoky paprika

And yet, despite the fact that many of my favorite recipes involve them in one way or another, I had not made even the slightest dent in the almonds and only a paltry one in the pecans as of last week, and they’re taking up a lot of space in the pantry and freezer. (I believe this is called The Costco Effect.) Obviously it was time to break out the big guns, a recipe sure to be so addictive, pounds would disappear (from the pantry, not our guts, that is) at a breakneck pace and the only thing left to do (besides sit-ups) would be to ask my mother to go back to Costco again.

sugar and spices
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Monday, December 29, 2008

pecan sandies

pecan sandies

I have this thing about… no wait, that’s not fair. I have a lot of “things” — like the one about not liking warm, oozy chocolate desserts, sugar rimmed drinks or those waxy cubes of cheese you always see at corporate catering events — but for today, let us just pretend that I have one, and that one is about passed hors d’œuvres and amuse bouches that are too cumbersome to be easily eaten, standing up at a party.

dark, toasty pecans

Party foods should come in one-bite servings. How many times have you been at a wedding’s cocktail hour and you were somehow supposed to be eating something from a plate (cue your tiny violins, please) that was way too messy to be eaten while wearing a nice dress, carrying a cocktail and mingling with distant cousins? Wouldn’t this all work a little better if things were the size they should be?

pecan sandies doughmaking holesbakedpecan sandies

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

pizza with broccoli rabe and roasted onions

broccoli rabe pizza

It’s not even January 1st yet and I’m already feeling the tug of healthier eating… or perhaps, more likely, a rejection of the butter and braise bender I’ve been on since Thanksgiving. Wait long enough to step up to the healthier plate and I think your body will do it for you; in my days off, I have only craved three things: greens, carrots and oranges. Okay, four if you count French toast from LeGrainne Cafe. But in my defense, they serve it with toasted almonds and a slice of orange and that’s healthy right? Right? [A pin drops.]

rapinipitting the olivescooked raberaab pizza, ready to bake

Well then. I think of homemade pizza as one of those perfect bridge foods, not excruciatingly unhealthy and yet it can be downright earnest if you do it right. We made Alice Waters’s Pizza with Broccoli Raab, Roasted Onion and Olives for dinner on Friday and it was delightful — chock full of greens with just enough indulgence (half a cup of cheese and a thin pizza crust) to have me vowing I would make it again, like this week, before we’d even finished our first slice.

onions roasting

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

gramercy tavern’s gingerbread

gramercy tavern's gingerbread

This is dark and sticky and chewy and heavy and spicy and a zillion other adjectives that end in y that are so overused, they border on hackneyed, but you know what? It is not this cake’s fault. It can’t help being awesome, and fragrant (our living room smells like Christmas), attention-grabbing (nobody puts it in the corner) and totally respecting of your busy schedule (because it tastes even better on days two and three than it did out of the oven).

guinnessmolassesspicesthicky, syrupy batter

It took me 32 years to make gingerbread but I got lucky on the first try with this one. It doesn’t hurt that this is from one of the only chefs I break my no-fawning-over-chefs-rule for: Claudia Fleming, back when she was at Gramercy Tavern, one of the only restaurants I break my no-restaurant-worshiping rule over. (These days, she’s at the North Fork Table & Inn, making delicious breakfast scones among other things.) Things just seem to taste better when she baked them first.

gingerbread

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

braised beef short ribs

braised short ribs

[Braised Beef Short Ribs with Potato Purée, Swiss Chard and Horseradish Cream]

The first time I made short ribs, I freaked out. Lifting their lid after a multi-hour braise just as our guests arrived for dinner, I discovered a mess. “The bones fell out! Help! Did I ruin them?” I cried just as my mother walked into the kitchen, and because she’d never made short ribs before said “I don’t know, maybe?” But then Alex’s mother swooped in and said “That’s a good thing!”

thyme-d and black peppered ribs

And so it was, so much so that going forward, short ribs instantly became my favorite dinner party meal. They require very little effort, they’re fairly inexpensive and it is really hard to mess them up. You can doctor up the braise with one or a dozen herbs or spices, you can simmer them in almost anything, from wine or beer to stock to hoisin or tomato sauce or any combination thereof but the real magic is this: you can make them in advance. Short ribs are astoundingly flexible in their cooking time and taste even better the next day. (And if all this doesn’t sell you on their genius, this article will.)

browning the ribs

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