Friday, December 21, 2007

Dead-Simple Chocolate Walnut Fudge

This originally appeared as "15-minute Chocolate Walnut Fudge" in Cook's Illustrated, recipe by David Pazmino. I made a batch of it last year to give as gifts to the kids on my list, and it was so good and was met with such enthusiastic squealing (!) that I think I'm going to have to make it again this year...

Yield: 49 pieces

16 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Note: Don't omit the walnuts, which are crucial to the fudge's texture.

Line bottom of an 8-inch square pan with foil, leaving 1-inch overhanging at two opposite sides of pan. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Toss chocolates, baking soda and salt in medium heatproof bowl until baking soda is evenly distributed. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Set bowl over 4-quart saucepan containing 2 cups simmering water. Stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is almost fully melted and few small pieces remain, 2 to 4 minutes.

Remove bowl from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is fully melted and mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in walnuts. Transfer fudge to prepared pan and spread in even layer with spatula. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Remove fudge from pan using foil and cut into squares.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rack of Lamb Persillade

3 small or 2 large racks of lamb, frenched
Good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped garlic cloves (3 cloves)
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the racks in a roasting pan, fat side up. Rub the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast the lamb for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the parsley and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until they're both finely minced. Add the bread crumbs and lemon zest and process for a second until combined.

Take the lamb out of the oven and quickly press the parsley mixture on top of the meat. Drizzle with the melted butter and return immediately to the oven and roast for another 15 minutes.

Take the lamb out of the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes, cut in double chops, and serve.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cranberry-Orange Vodka

Raves all around when we handed out bottles of this bright, potent, flavorful stuff as presents last year. Time to make a new batch. (Recipe by Michael Chiarello)

1 pound cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
2 oranges, peels cut into 2-inch strips
1 (750-ml) bottle vodka

To serve:
1 bottle tonic water
Lime slices, for garnish

Place cranberries, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Place pan over medium heat and stir. Simmer cranberry mixture until the berries burst, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Place orange peels in a large glass container with an airtight lid, or large mason jars with lids. Pour vodka over the orange peels.

Allow the cranberry mixture to cool. Pour the cooled mixture into the glass container(s). Cover tightly and set aside for 1 week. After 1 week, strain out the cranberries and orange peels and pour mixture into a clean bottle, using a funnel. Store vodka in the refrigerator.

To serve: Pour 2 ounces of vodka mixture over ice in a tall glass and top with tonic water. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bobo's Bread Pudding

Check out this month's Sugar High Fridays roundup at

I have a student who's a pastry chef, and she sent me this outstanding bread pudding recipe today. It got me thinking about bread pudding again, in all of its permutations. In the mid '90s I was working in the kitchen at a certain restaurant in NYC; and over that holiday season we must have turned out easily a thousand of the restaurant's signature bread puddings. The "myth of authenticity" was that the bread pudding recipe had come directly from the sous chef's Italian grandmother; but after quite a lot of drinks at the bar one night, the sous chef confessed to me that it wasn't his grandmother's recipe at all. He explained that when the restaurant first opened, the chefs all agreed that they wanted bread pudding on the menu, but, as often happened, no one could agree on how they wanted it to taste. They tested and re-tested recipes without reaching any consensus, until finally the sous chef came in one day and said "this is the bread pudding you have to try -- its my grandmother's recipe." Then he handed them a plate of the exact same fabulous bread pudding he had been feeding them for weeks, and the chefs all emphatically agreed that "grandma's" recipe was the authentic version they had been searching for all along.
For me, "the sous chef's grandmother's recipe" is still the bread pudding I love most -- full of chocolate and raisins and cinnamon, and served warm in a big towering hunk of fluffy melting goodness. But this caramel apple version is fantastic too. I'll be making it for sure.

3 eggs and 2 yolks
10 ½ oz. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
2 ½ oz. butter melted
9 oz. milk
9 oz. heavy cream
4 oz. raisins (soaked with rum or brandy at least 4 hours or overnight)
5 cups bread

(Caramel Apple mixture (optional) See below

Butter a medium baking dish
Cut the bread into cubes about 1 ½ inches big and toss with the raisins and any leftover liquor
Combine the milk and cream
Lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolks together then stir in the sugar, vanilla and spices.
Whisk the milk mixture into the eggs slowly trying not to create a lot of foam.
Whisk the melted butter into the above mixture.
Pour the custard over the bread and press down to submerge the bread.
Cover the pudding with plastic wrap and let soak overnight. You can place a dish on top of the plastic to keep the bread under the custard.
Preheat the oven to 325˚ and bake the bread pudding until it puffs up a little and is set in the center. Do not over bake it. Serve warm.

My student Susan writes:
I like to cook sugar to a caramel and pour it into the baking dish then I saute apple wedges in butter and sugar and line the bottom of the baking dish with them. If I do it this way I soak the bread in a separate container and pour it on top of the caramel and apples right before I bake it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eggplant Parmesan

3 medium-large eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
Olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 28-ounce can no-salt plum tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or as needed
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, optional.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with oil, and place in a single layer on two or more baking sheets. Bake until undersides are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes, then turn and bake until other sides are lightly browned. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add onion. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and dried oregano and sauté another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and their juices, breaking up whole tomatoes with your hands. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Add vinegar, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Into a 9-by-9-inch, 10-by-5-inch or 10-by-6-inch baking pan, spoon a small amount of tomato sauce, then add a thin scattering of parmigiano, then a single layer of eggplant. Repeat until all ingredients are used, ending with a little sauce and a sprinkling of parmigiano. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and oregano, if using, with just enough olive oil to moisten. Sprinkle on top. If desired, recipe can be made to this point and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.
4. Bake until eggplant mixture is bubbly and center is hot, 30 to 45 minutes depending on size of pan and thickness of layers. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Recipe can also be reheated.
Yield: 4 to 5 main dish servings.

Individual Apricot Souffles with Bitter Chocolate Sauce

This recipe ran in the Times last year, and I served it for dessert on New Year's Eve, as the end of a five course banquet. Completely fabulous.

10 ounces dried apricots
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons plus ½ cup sugar
4 ounces high-quality unsweetened chocolate (99 percent cacao)
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 tablespoons Tokaji aszu or grand marnier
1 teaspoon almond extract
10 large egg whites at room temperature.

1. Place apricots in a bowl, pour in just enough hot water to cover them and set aside to soak 2 hours. Brush 6 1-cup soufflé dishes or ramekins with butter and dust with 3 tablespoons sugar. Set aside on a baking sheet.

2. Melt chocolate over low heat. Stir in corn syrup and ½ cup water. Cook briefly, until well combined. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.

3. When apricots are soft and have absorbed most of the soaking water, drain and purée in a food processor. Place in a very large bowl and stir in wine and almond extract. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

4. Beat egg whites by machine, using a whisk attachment, until very softly peaked. Gradually beat in remaining ½ cup sugar until whites are very glossy, hold their shape but are not rigid. Stir one-fourth of whites into apricot mixture and fold in the rest. Divide among soufflé dishes, place in oven on baking sheet and bake about 15 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Serve, with room temperature chocolate sauce on the side.

Yield: 6 servings.

Spoonbread For Two

Bill's been asking about spoonbread again. I hadn't made it since last year, that poor guy! I imagined that I could probably cut the recipe down to yield exactly two golden brown ramekins worth, and it worked out just fine. Just ten minutes to stir together. Let it snow...

1/4c cup cornmeal
1 cup 2 % milk
Pinch of salt
Scant 1/8 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the dish and serving
1 egg, separated

**These take a much longer time in the oven than you might guess. The first batch were in for an hour and fifteen minutes and were still a little too wet inside. Next time I'm going to raise the heat to 400 degrees and see what happens. I might also try cooking them inside a bain marie. Works for souffles...

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the cornmeal into half of the milk and set aside. In a small bowl, beat the egg white until soft peaks form. Set aside. In a small pot, scald the other half of the milk and stir the cornmeal mixture into it, whisking over medium heat until the mixture has thickened, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, stir the sugar, salt and butter into the cornmeal mixture. Let cool for a few minutes and stir in the egg yolk. Gently fold in the egg white. Divide the mixture between two well buttered 8 or 6 ounce ramekins. Bake until tops are brown and crusty, and the inside is fluffy and set, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cod with Kale, White Beans and Lemon Vinaigrette

This is Bill's favorite thing that I make, and tonight we actually made it together for the first time. (Favorite quote from the sous chef: "I made zest!") No picture, sadly, because we scarfed it down hot out of the pan. Originally this was a Union Square Cafe recipe, with radicchio and celery and leeks instead of the vegetables used here. (Both versions are included below.) I made it last New Year's Eve as part of a five course meal that changed our relationship, or at least marked a deep change in it. Since this dish is now part of our New Year's tradition, we're going to start making it with black-eyed peas instead of white beans. Black-eyed peas and greens for New Year's, but still "hoity toity" enough to appease Bill's champagne tastes -- who could have imagined it? The lemon vinaigrette is now a staple in our house; bright and fresh and good on everything.

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1 T finely chopped lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 T minced garlic
1 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

Cod and Bean Salad

2 cups cooked white beans or black eyed peas (1 can)
4 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups celery thinly sliced
2 cups leek rounds (white and light green parts only) washed well, and thinly sliced
(or substitute chopped yellow onions and 2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic)
3 heads radicchio, quartered, and leaves separated and cut in half OR an equal amount of chopped fresh kale
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t ground pepper
4 6-ounce cod filets
1 T flour
1 t garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Extra parsley or cilantro for garnish

1. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar. Close and shake until emulsified. Set aside.
2. In a large saute pan, saute the vegetables in the olive oil over low heat until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Turn heat to high, add the raddichio or kale, and cook until the leaves are wilted. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and toss with the beans and 1 cup of the vinaigrette, while still warm. Season with half of the salt and pepper. Set aside.
Season cod filets with the remaining salt, pepper and garlic powder. Dredge the filets in the flour. Heat the remaining 2 T olive oil in a saute pan. Cook filets over high heat until golden, 4 - 5 minutes per side. Arrange cod on a platter on top of the warm bean salad. Spoon the remaining vinaigrette over the cod and serve, garnished with parsley or cilantro.
Serves 4

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Portobello Parmigiano

These mushrooms disappeared in the blink of an eye. Incredibly tasty.

4 portobello mushroom caps
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Tomato sauce
Monterey jack cheese, sliced thin
Grated parmesan cheese
Chopped parsley, for garnish
4 slices of toast, rubbed with a cut clove of garlic

Preheat the broiler.
Brush the mushrooms liberally with olive oil on both sides and season both sides with salt and pepper. Broil the mushrooms for about five minutes on each side, finishing gill side up. Divide the garlic among the caps and broil for another minute until the garlic is fragrant and golden. Remove from the broiler, and turn the heat down to 400 degrees. Spread a thick layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of a pyrex baking dish large enough to hold all of the mushrooms. Nestle the mushrooms into the sauce and top with the sliced cheese. Sprinkle parmesan over all, and bake until the cheese is melted and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with garlic toast to mop up the sauce.
Serves 2

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Potato Latkes

I still fill up on childhood food nostalgia every time Channukah rolls around. I made latkes tonight, but Bill, having never tasted them before and having no memories of gathering as a family to light the menorah and sing and open presents, etc, really didn't see what the big deal was. He did eat the latkes, though, with applesauce and sour cream. I'm still not sure how we're going to work this part out.

2 potatoes
1 onion
1/2 cup matzoh meal
1 egg
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying
Applesauce and sour cream for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, process the potatoes and onion until finely minced. Do not overprocess or the potatoes will be gummy. In a large bowl, combine the potato-onion mixturee with the rest of the ingredients. Heat some oil in a saute pan. Fry one test latke and taste it, making any adjustments in seasoning to the rest of the latke mixture at this point if necessary. Fry in batches, and keep the cooked latkes warm on a sheet pan layered with paper towels in the oven until all of the latkes are cooked. Serve warm with applesauce and sour cream.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Giada's Balsamic Chicken

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 to 1/3 c. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (4-pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 T lemon zest
2 T chopped fresh parsley leaves

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Combine the vinaigrette and chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove chicken from the bag and arrange the chicken pieces on a large greased baking dish. Roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 hour. If your chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Place the baking dish on a burner over medium-low heat. Whisk the chicken broth into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the baking sheet with a wooden spoon and mixing them into the broth and pan drippings. Reduce to desired thickness (I usually let it go about 10 minutes, to get very very thick).

Drizzle the pan drippings over the chicken. Scatter the lemon zest and parsley over the chicken, and serve.

Cary's Leaf Lettuce Salad with Orange, Fennel and Red Onion (with Green Olive Dressing)

This is my go-to party salad. People tend to want the details (for which I cannot take any credit), so here they are. This recipe -- Moroccan-inspired, refreshing and dead-simple -- comes out of Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's Lettuce in Your Kitchen, which is one of my favorite cookbooks by two of my favorite cooks. I've added extra spices over time, as reflected here:

For the dressing:
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup pitted and coarsely chopped green olives
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 T coriander seeds, toasted in a saute pan OR 1 T ground coriander
1 t ground cinnamon
1 T ground cumin
1 t ras al hanout (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the salad:
1 large head leaf lettuce (Bibb, Boston, red leaf, etc)washed and dried and leaves torn in half
2 seedless naval oranges, peeled and sliced horizontally into thin slices
1 medium red onion, peeld, halved, and halves very thinly sliced
1 large bulb of fennel, fronds and root end trimmed off, and rest of bulb very finely sliced lengthwise
Extra salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients, and whisk well.
In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients. Add salt and pepper. Stir the dressing well, and add just enough to moisten the ingredients. Toss well, and serve with a little extra dressing on top.
Serves 4 to 6.

White Bean and Spinach Soup

There goes the last of the last of the turkey stock. Now I'm in full-on jam-making mode for the holidays, and Thanksgiving is a already a distant dream, even just one week later. This hearty, satisfying soup -- a kind of brothy, tomato-less minestrone -- will keep us going through the snowy work week ahead. Next time I would use red beans instead of white, spinach fusilli instead of whole wheat and ham instead of turkey, just to make it prettier to look at, but the flavor doesn't need any adjustment at all. I'm baking a loaf of bread to go with the soup, and the house smells pretty great. I know this isn't a very politically correct thing for a modern gal to say, but the truth is, I'd be perfectly happy to stay home and cook for my family all day. This is what I love.

2 T olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
3-4 stalks of celery, cut into large dice, about 1 cup
1 cup carrots, cut into large dice
1/2 a large Spanish onion, cut into large dice, about 1 cup
1 quart plus 1 pint turkey stock
1 can white beans
1 cup, leftover cooked turkey, chopped into large dice
2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach, washed and julienned
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 T garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooked whole wheat fusilli or elbow macaroni
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a large pot, saute the first five ingredients until they start to soften. (I start the carrots ahead of the other vegetables so everything finishes cooking at the same time) Add the turkey stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, adding the beans and turkey, until the vegetables are cooked to the desired consistency. Add the spinach, parsley and spices and adjust for seasoning. Just before serving, add the pasta, to taste, and serve with grated cheese alongside.