Archive for December, 2007

31st December
written by scott

Roasted garlic can bring out great flavors in all kinds of dishes.  Roasting causes the sharp flavors of the garlic to mellow and sweeten.  To roast garlic, trim the ends off of the garlic cloves.  Create a pouch of aluminum foil, two sheets thick.  Add the garlic and 1 tsp. of  olive oil, plus a pinch of coarse salt.  Seal the pouch tightly and bake at 375°F for 30-40 minutes.  Add roasted garlic to sauces, pasta, poultry, ice cream, breakfast cereal, bottled water, facial cleansers and motor oil!

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29th December
written by scott

DSC_0007These treats are great for holiday gift bags.  Arrange a handful of bonbons with cookies and peppermint bark in a a bag for thoughtful, handcrafted gifts. 

The picture to the right shows apricot and spice bonbons rolled in crystal sugar (recipe from

23rd December
written by scott

lamb roll

You might be asking yourself, “Self, what is farmhouse nigiri?”.  That’s great, I appreciate your  inquisitive nature.  This dish combines all of the best qualities of savory, country cooking (roasted lamb, risotto, chevre and red beets) with the presentation quality and finger-foodiness of sushi.  It may sound strange, but one bite and anyone will be convinced: this is excellent. 

Makes:  2 people eat lamb with chopsticks
Total kitchen time: 45 mins

Shopping list:

  • 1/2-lb butterflied leg of lamb, trimmed
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 12 slices of proscuitto (yes, as you can see, this recipe also works with bacon.  Yum!)
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1 pat butter
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 red beet, steamed and julienned
  • 2 tbsp sharp goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • aged balsamic vinegar (for dipping)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 450F.  Heat a very heavy skillet (large enough for the lamb) with a lid over high heat.
  2. In a small pot, melt the butter into 1 tbsp of olive oil over high heat.  Add the rice and stir until you can smell a nutty aroma, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the white wine and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add half of the chicken broth.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the broth has been absorbed.  Then, add the rest and repeat.
  4. Meanwhile, salt and pepper the lamb and rub with garlic and olive oil to coat.  Sear the meat on all sides in the skillet.  Reduce heat to medium and cover.  Cook, turning once, until the lamb registers 130F, about 10 minutes.  Let the lamb rest 5 minutes, then slice into thin, bite-sized pieces.
  5. Add a spoon full or two of pan drippings from the lamb into the risotto.  Take a taste, if you like. 
  6. Lay out a slice of proscuitto.  Spread a thin, even layer of risotto on the proscuitto, not quite to the edge.  Next, sprinkle on a little bit of goat cheese and a few stick of steamed beet.  Then, add a few pieces of lamb and roll the whole thing up.  Be careful not to overstuff your rolls or they won’t hold together.
  7. Place the rolls, seam side down, on a greased baking sheet and bake until the proscuitto is slightly crispy (about 5 minutes, depending on your oven).

Serve with balsamic vinegar dipping sauce and a spoonful of risotto on the side.  These will also make great hors d’oeuvres, even without the lamb!  For kicks, insist on eating them with chopsticks.

15th December
written by scott

pot roastLet’s get one thing straight: this isn’t your aunt Mildred’s pot roast.  So, throw out any images you’ve got of dry, tough meat and bland veggies.  This is a pot roast for the twenty-first century – a tour de force for red meat.  With a bit of time (and a sprig of rosemary, hardy har har) you’ll quickly appreciate the balance and sophistication of this classic dish.

Makes: 50’s housewives horny
Total kitchen time: 3.5 hours

Shopping list:

  • 1 4-5 lb beef chuck roast
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot (optional, but I include it for good mirepoix karma)
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 1 large can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups tawny port (find it in the desert wine section of your grocery store.  Don’t spend more than $10 per bottle.)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 300F.  Pat the chuck roast dry with a paper towel.  This will help the meat brown nicely.  Salt and pepper the beef with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. In a shallow bowl, cover the porcini mushrooms with boiling water and let them sit for about 15 minutes.  Roughly chop and set aside. 
  3. On the stove, heat a large, oven-proof dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over high heat (you can adapt this recipe for a slow cooker, but a dutch oven is really ideal here).    Add the olive oil and heat until it starts to smoke.
  4. Add the beef and sear on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.  We’re not trying to cook the beef here, just to develop a delectable brown crust.  Remove the beef and let it sit on a platter until we’re ready for it again.
  5. Add the onion, celery and carrots (if you’re using ’em) and saute until they begin to brown.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and saute for another minute or so.  Your kitchen should smell really good right now.
  6. Using your bare hands, crush the tomatoes into the pot.  Be careful not to squirt tomato guts all over yourself or the police will have probable cause to search your apartment.
  7. Add the port and bring everything to a boil.  Add the beef broth and boil again. 
  8. Return the meat to the pot and nestle it as far beneath the broth and veggies as possible.  Put the lid on the pot and transfer it to the oven.
  9. Bake for 3 hours, turning once or twice to make sure everything is running smoothly. 

The meat will be so tender that it will fall apart as you plate it.  Serve atop some parmesan polenta with a big hunk of crusty bread.  Oh, and you’ll thank me the next day when you have the best leftovers of your life.

11th December
written by scott

French onion soup French Onion is my favorite broiled-cheese-topped soup.  This soup is so simple, even a caveman could make it.  And perhaps cavemen did make French Onion soup.  Though, at that time, it would have probably been Pangea Allium Soup, seeing as France wasn’t formed into a state until 843 AD and our earliest traces of the modern onion extend only to the Caananite Bronze Age.  You just got better at Trivial Pursuit.  Anyway, here’s the recipe. 

Makes: 2 cavemen disregard their insurance costs
Total kitchen time: 35 minutes

Shopping List:

  • 1 large sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
  • 32 oz beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 loaf fresh French bread
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel the onion and chop it into long, thin pieces.  Here’s how: cut the onion from pole to pole, through the root end.  To avoid looking dramatic and running your mascara, remove the gland at the root of the onion by cutting out a wedge.  This will abate all those tears, you sissy.  Now, lay the flat side of the onion on your cutting board so you have an onion hemisphere pointing up at you.  With the root end facing you, slice the onion in thin strips parallel with the poles.
  2. Heat a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the butter and sauté the onions until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the beef broth and bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the broth has reduced by about 25%.  This is also a good time to salt and pepper to taste.  Remember to blow on the soup, as it will be hot you idiot.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the crust off of your french bread.  Then, cut the uncrusted loaf into large cubes, about 1″.  Feed the crusts to the rats living in your walls – one of them might secretly be a gourmet chef.
  5. Toss the cubes in olive oil and lightly toast them.  I used my toaster oven on 350F for about 10 minutes, but you could do just as well in a warm skillet.  The key is to get the cubes just the slightest bit crunchy.  You don’t want croutons here, just firm bread.
  6. When you’re ready to bowl up, turn on your broiler and set the top rack about 8″ beneath the heating element.  Ladle some soup into an oven-proof bowl and top with a few cubes of French bread.  Top the whole thing off with a generous drizzle of cheese and broil until the cheese is brown and bubbly, about 30 seconds.  Use oven mitts to remove the bowls.

Enjoy on a cold, civilized evening with a bottle of wine, dippin’ bread and the fossils of fallen Neanderthals.

09th December
written by scott

Check out photos of my gingerbread house this year.  Mad props to my girlfriend Rachel for her enormous effort on this project.

 gingerbread house 3
gingerbread house 2

This gingerbread house is a replica (with artistic license) of the Queen Anne High School building in Seattle.  The original building has 86 windows on the front side alone – the gingerbread version only has 18.  This probably disqualifies us from entering the National Historic Register’s Gingerbread House/Gumdrop Nativity Competition.  Next year, perhaps we’ll try for a more accurate model.  We doubled the gingerbread and icing recipes found here to accommodate the size of the building (5 feet 17″ wide by 2 feet 10″ tall).

05th December
written by scott

lamb and port sauceThis is a delicious winter recipe, suitable as an elegant dinner for two, or scaled up and served for company.  Get creative with your lamb crusts – herbs, nuts, figs, sausage and breadcrumbs all make excellent choices.

Makes: One rack (about 8 ribs)
Total kitchen time: 45 mins

Shopping list:

  • 1 8-10 rib rack of lamb, frenched
  • 1 tbsp Herbs de Provence (rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp cherry preserves
  • 1/2 cup Tawny Port
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar
  • kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 400.  On the stovetop, heat a very heavy skillet large enough to comfortably fit the rack of lamb.
  2. Pat the rack of lamb dry with a paper towel.  Salt and pepper the meat generously.  Rub on the herbs de Provence, garlic and olive oil.
  3. Sear the rack on all sides in the skillet until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 130F, about 10 minutes.  Let stand at least 5 minutes before carving.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the cherry preserves, port and brown sugar in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce, about 5 minutes.  If necessary, salt slightly to brighten the flavor of the cherries.

You’re going to love this dinner.  As soon as you’re finished, however, you’ll wish you had doubled the recipe!

04th December
written by scott

steak frites Here’s my twist on a french classic.  The coriander and mustard provide savory, earthy notes that balance the saltiness of the blue cheese butter.  Add some julienned yam fries and a glass of Cabernet and you’ve got an unbeatable meal.

Makes: 2 enthralled Frenchmen
Total kitchen time: 45 mins

Shopping list:

  • 2 8-10 Ounce New York strip steaks
  • 2 yams, peeled (try to find evenly shaped yams)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely diced
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 5 tsp sharp blue cheese (I recommend Rogue River)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • coarse salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 and set the upper rack about 8″ from the top. 
  2. Using a mandolin or v-slicer, julienne the yams.  You’re looking for thin strips, about 1/8″.  If you don’t have a slicer, you’ll spend the next 2 hours doing this by hand.  Oh well, it’s fun, right?
  3. Toss the yams with olive oil and garlic to coat.  Salt generously and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400, tossing often to prevent burning.
  4. In a mortar and pestle or small food processor, combine the coriander seeds, mustard power, white pepper, 3 wrists of black pepper, about 1 tsp of coarse salt and about 4 tsp of olive oil.  Blend until the coriander seeds are relatively small.
  5. Coat the steaks with the coriander mixture and set aside. 
  6. Preheat a very heavy skillet over high heat.  Seroiusly, get this thing hot.  Once it is smoking (literally) add the steaks and sear each side until a delicious crust forms, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove the steaks to a plate and let them rest for 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, combine the butter, blue cheese and half of the thyme in a small bowl.  Remove the yam fries from the oven and toss with the remaining thyme. 
  8. Plate the steaks and fries.  Place a generous dollop of blue cheese butter atop the steak and watch it melt in a ballet of buttery flavor.

Pour yourself a full-bodied glass of red wine and light a few candles.  This dinner can’t be beat.