December, 2013 Archive

Monday, December 30, 2013

rum campari punch

rum punch

If I were to sum up this year (which I won’t because I’m long-winded enough when describing a single day, it’s terrifying to consider what I could do with 365 of them), after I got past all of the good stuff — and really, it’s been a spectacular year, what with two book tours and several vacations and lots of awesome family time and dinner parties and and and… see, there I go! — I’d admit that at least from the vantage point of trying to relocate recipe ideas from my head to the kitchen to this computer and then onto yours, I’ve somewhat flopped and I have the photo IOUs to prove it. Would you like a tour?

blistered green beans

For example, I’ve been meaning to tell you about Blistered Green Beans ever since my cookbook went to print and I realized I’d completely forgot to include this as a recipe. It was meant to go as a quick-side to the flat roasted chicken. I’m sorry.

orange segments

Continued after the jump »

Monday, December 23, 2013

gingerbread snacking cake

gingerbread snacking cake

I have a few things to tell you about this cake today, and none of them at the outset sound terribly upbeat, but bear with me, cheer is nigh.

The first is that if you put this out in small squares, dusted with powdered sugar and in proximity to a hand-whisked bowl of lightly sweetened schlag at a packed tree-trimming party, one by one, the handsome revelers will fall upon them, take a big delighted bite, and then you might out of the corner of your eye note that cheer melting from faces into a brief pang of surprise as they realize that no, that was not a brownie, but an extremely dark and intense square of gingerbread cake. Oopsies?

what you'll need, mostly
very black molasses

The second is that yes, I know, I already have a gingerbread cake recipe on this site — what I still consider the Greatest Gingerbread of Them All — and that is still the one I make for every Christmas dinner I’m invited to. However, if there could be one bad thing about it, it would be that on a rare occasion, usually because it sat in the pan longer than it was supposed to or the baking winds were not in our favor that day, it does not like to come out of the bundt pan in one piece. Sometimes it comes out in several. Sometimes it leaves half the cake in the pan. Sometimes you’re trying to get it out of the pan a single hour before you have to be at a Christmas Eve dinner an hour twenty minutes away and you… you cry.

so many spices

Continued after the jump »

Friday, December 20, 2013

breakfast slab pie

slab pie with eggs, potato and spinach

I suspect by now that most of you are on your way to where you’re headed, physically and possibly proverbially. Maybe you have a tree to cut down or some cookies to bake. You probably have a holiday party tonight, and rooms to clean before guests arrive. You no doubt have entertaining on your brain. We do, too. We’ve had two dinner parties thus far this month, and instead of being exhausted of them, I want even more. This might be a sickness. Or maybe it’s just realistic; for the price of dinner for two out, we can easily feed 15 at home, where we don’t have to deal with pesky restaurant minimums, the constant feeling that the clock is ticking as waiters are eager to turn the table over, we can actually speak to all of our friends (the reality of most big restaurant meals is that you can only talk to the people on either side of you — at home, musical chairs and shouting across tables is acceptable and encouraged), and oh, I don’t even put shoes on. Entertaining barefoot is where it’s at, people, trust me.

creamy yukon golds
sharp cheddar

Because I have entertaining on my brain, I got to thinking about what an epic cook-a-thon many of us have headed for us in the coming days, especially with formal Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners, and what about houseguests? Is one truly expected to cook during the off hours too? It sounds… overwhelming.

wilted spinach, to squeeze out

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Friday, December 13, 2013

linzer torte

linzer torte, cut into squares

I think if you were to rank foods in order of how intimidating they are to cook, at the bottom of the list would be stuff you throw together any night of the week without a recipe, the top would be basically anything Grant Achatz has ever made and then maybe, just barely a notch below would be a dish that someone you love and respect makes so perfectly that you consider it to be “their” recipe. It feels almost wrong to make someone else’s signature dish, to meddle. It’s their thing, not yours, thus there’s clearly no way you could do it justice. I mean, sure there’s something else you could contribute to the holiday baking curriculum, maybe one of your favorites instead?

one pound of walnuts + very little flour
cutting butter into flour and spices

And this has been my feeling about linzer torte for all of the years since we first met at this url in 2006. I am lucky enough to join a high school friend for Christmas Eve dinner every year, and her mom always includes squares of incredible linzer torte in her array of Holiday Baking Wonders. Her mother is an excellent cook and baker, and the one that introduced me to Maida Heatter, from whom you should buy every book, immediately, without questioning me because her recipes are detailed without being irritatingly so, charmingly written*, and will never lead you astray. Truly. I mean, remember when she showed us how easy Dobos Torte could be to make? Dobos Torte. Imagine what she could do with a black truffle explosion!

knead the dough right in the bowl

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

eggnog florentines

pecan florentines with eggnog filling

Today, because we don’t have enough bronzed and crisp, sugary, buttery thoughts already circling our heads, we’re going to talk about two recipes in one, a thin and lacy nut-caramel cookie known as a florentine and a filling that tastes exactly like eggnog, as if either of these things alone weren’t enough reason to gallop into the kitchen with your mask, cape and sense of urgency.

the high-low pecan florentine lineup
grinding the pecans with flour and spice

Florentines are essentially nuts, usually almonds or hazelnuts, coarsely or finely chopped, that have been baked into a buttery caramel disc. They hail, like so many delicious things, from Italy although I’ve seen versions from many other places, because once you try them, you’re going to want to make them your own too. Here, in a recipe that was published last year in the Tasting Table newsletter, someone did, a chef named Aaron Vandemark or Panciuto restaurant in Hillsborough, NC, a place I’d like to go immediately to applaud him in person for his creativity. Instead of almonds or hazelnuts, he uses pecans and a touch of cinnamon. He doesn’t stop there.

ground pecans, flour, spice

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