Winter Archive

Thursday, November 6, 2014

sticky toffee pudding

date cake with toffee sauce 3

Prior to last month, I had spent exactly zero minutes of my life thinking about date cake, craving date cake or noting the absence of date cake in my life and/or site archives. Clearly, this was a misstep on my part, but I’d always assumed they were exceedingly sticky sweet, and also, well warm. I should just stop right here rather than confessing the latest entry in How Weird Are Deb’s Food Tastes?, I know I should, but that’s never stopped me before so here goes: I’m not very into warm, quivery desserts. Like soufflés. And oozy chocolate cakes. I basically don’t understand how I survived the 90s either. I understand if this means you cannot speak to me anymore.

dates dates dates
chopped dates

But all of this changed at a party, when, to be honest, it was getting late and I was tired from being roused awake before 6 that morning by a unnamed Kindergartener and mentally calculating how long it would take to get home in a cab vs. two subway lines and I was not craving dessert or cake in the least but I had a bite and all of this mental noise stopped, which is to say it was nothing short of a miracle, even if it hadn’t been spectacular. But it was that, too.

soaked chopped dates definitely look gross

Continued after the jump »

Monday, October 6, 2014

better chicken pot pies

better chicken pot pies

There are over 900 recipes in this site’s archives, [which is completely nuts, but also conveniently gives me an answer to the ever-present “what do you do all day?” question besides my usual, “mess around on Instagram?”] and while I’m overwhelmingly quite fond of all of them, there are ones that nag at me not necessarily because they don’t work but because they’re not, in hindsight, the “best in category” I once found them to be. Among these are the chicken pot pies I made from Ina Garten’s beloved recipe six years ago, and somewhere, my friend Ang is gasping because these are, to date, her favorite thing I’ve ever made for dinner. But I always thought they could have been better for several persnickety reasons.

making the flaky pastry lids
chilled dough, quartered

First, instead of braising the chicken in that delicious veloué sauce you’re making, Ina has us roast chicken breast until they’re fully cooked, cool them, dice them and then add them to the sauce. But why? I asked Ina, but my book didn’t answer. That’s not the only extra step. Vegetables such as carrots, peas and those persnickety pearl onions are each blanched for two minutes in water before being added to the pot pie base, which baffled me even then. Why not just cook them in that finger-licking stew, too, and let them drink up all that awesomeness? My third quibble with the recipe is that for four servings of pot pie, the soup part alone uses 12 tablespoons (that’s 3/4 cup or 170 grams; it does not include the additional cup of butter used for the four pastry lids) of butter, and guys, I think it’s been fairly well established, perhaps even 900 times, my fondness for butter, but this is just … I cannot. When I created my own anything-but-abstemious pot pie recipe a few years ago for my cookbook, my filling only need 3 1/2 tablespoons butter for four portions to give you a nice rich sauce. Finally, I’d found that the sauce didn’t thicken well but assumed I’d done something wrong. A scroll through the comments that have arrived since indicates that it’s not just me.

browning the chicken parts

Continued after the jump »

Monday, February 24, 2014

dijon and cognac beef stew

dijon and cognac beef stew

I don’t mean to shock you, I mean, I do hope you’re sitting down for this, but it turns out that when I asked my husband to choose between a caramelized cabbage dish, mushroom tacos, or a beef stew whose ante had been upped with butter, bacon, Dijon, cognac and a splash of red wine as his ideal homemade Valentine’s meal, he chose the beef stew. I could hardly believe it either. I mean, between my delivered flowers, his cufflinks and the kid’s heart-shaped candies, I might have to mix things up next year just to rage against predictability.

what you'll need
rendering the bacon fat

This isn’t just any beef stew, however. This stew is fancy. It’s luxe and lush and so intensely flavored, if you’re anything like me, after one bite you’ll forget every crock pot attempt that yielded thin broths, tough meat, weak flavor and, always, unevenly cooked vegetables (potato mush and still-rubbery carrots, sigh), or at least I did. It will an excellent consolation prize for a winter you’re totally ready to be done with, pretty as it can occasionally be.

snowy february

Continued after the jump »

Monday, February 3, 2014

fennel and blood orange salad

blood orange fennel salad with mint, hazelnuts

This salad improves winter morale. It’s for times when all of the usual charms of winter — snow that’s fallen like a cashmere blanket over the city overnight, reducing all of the usual ruckuses (trucks, sirens, deliveries and your own child’s tantrums, which you may or may not have discovered last week you could hear from a full city block away) to the decibel of thick socks padding over hardwood floors — have waned on you; when the “snow” is, in fact, two inches of gray muck, when you are convinced that it will never be warm again and when you fear the next hunt around the apartment for where the snow mittens/hats/scarves/boots were last scattered will be the end of you. Whereas most cold winter comfort foods are soft, rich, carby and white, this is everything but: brightly hued, crunchy and piercingly fresh. It cuts across everything that’s lost its charm; it will be even brighter in your social media feed than the photos of those so-called friends who have abandoned you for sandy shores and island blue skies. This salad has your back.

what you'll need
ribbons of fennel

It falls into the all too thin category of Great Winter Salads. Kurt Gutenbrunner wrote an article about his favorite ones for the New York Times in 2002 that I go back to every winter when I need a reminder that many of my favorite foods are excellent year round — cabbage, fennel, celery root, cucumbers and potatoes. I’m not surprised that this one is clearly still one of his favorites (it’s in his recent cookbook and we even spied it on the menu at Blaue Gans on Saturday night) because it’s perfectly balanced. The refreshing fennel is dressed with lemon for brightness, then tossed with blood orange segments (though I think any orange or grapefruit segment would work), toasted hazelnuts (though he calls for walnuts) and mint leaves. The dressing is just the juice from the blood oranges and olive oil and it’s all so pretty, it’s nothing short of a sun lamp beaming forth from a salad bowl.

thiny sliced fennel, dressed with lemon

Continued after the jump »

Monday, January 27, 2014

cheese blintz

cheese blintz with loose strawberry jam

Today, it’s time to correct one of the greatest oversights of the last 7.5 years on this website — sorry, no, not the grammar or excesses of commas and em-dashes, oops, there I did it again — we’re going to talk about cheese blintzes. I mean, really, what have I been waiting for? I’ve got all of the bases covered that would prequalify me for a cheese blintz proclivity: I love crêpes and Eastern European food, I’m Jewish, married to a Russian, had a deep cheese blintz addiction* when I was pregnant, and our little half-Russkie predictably cut his teeth on grandma’s homemade cheese blintzes (and Salad Olivier). And with this, I think we can isolate the real reason I’ve never made cheese blintzes for you: I don’t have to, because my mother-in-law makes them for us.

blending the crepe batter
my crepes always have funny moon shapes

But, I had an excess of farmers cheese in the fridge after I ran out of time to make these (unbearably good) Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies before the end of the year, an intense hankering for a dessert crêpe to drizzle last week’s Dulce Manna over, it’s late in the coldest January I can remember and I’ve had it just about up-to-here with kale-tinged resolutions — cheese blintzes didn’t just make sense, the situation demanded them.

crepe don't stick to each other, so stack 'em up

Continued after the jump »