November 30, 2005
Turkey, Squash and Cabbage Stew

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Sometimes I think it would be interesting to write a cookbook. I toss around ideas with Barrett, some whacky and some intriguing. But let's be real. If I were to write a cookbook, I really only have two choices: 1001 Things To Do With A Chicken Breast or 1001 Things To Do With Leftover Turkey Meat. (Or, I suppose, it could be 2002 Things To Do With Poultry...) It's all the Critic's fault. He could eat chicken breast for dinner in one form or another pretty much every day of the week and never complain. And he has a Thing about turkeys. They have to be BIG. Last Christmas we were three adults and one milk-fed baby and still our turkey was over 8 kilos. This Thanksgiving the turkey was even larger, weighing in at a whopping 9.3 kilos (around 20 lbs). Luckily we had more guests, though two of the ten sadly had to cancel on the day due to a minor accident on the way to our place. Even if they had made it, I'm sure we still would have had a few pounds of meat leftover.

So here is a recipe for the book some day. It is inspired by Nigel Slater's 30 Minute Cookbook, which has a great section on using up leftover meat. None of his had the cabbage idea, though, so I'm claiming the recipe as my own. But without Nigel I would never have realized how truly wonderful a couple of boats of leftover gravy can be when you are making up a quick dinner.

This is so simple to make and only took about 20 minutes from start to finish. The dark meat of the turkey and the strong cabbage flavour complement each other perfectly and the odd bit of giblet from the gravy is delightful. (If you like giblets, which I do. Otherwise, you'll have to use boring old normal gravy.) And the butternut gives a nice bit of color as well as a balancing sweet touch. This was so good I ate up two big bowls of it on the evening and had the rest for lunch the next day. Be generous with the salt, however, as it seems to need it. Perhaps this is because I'm used to having a salty pork product with my cabbage usually?

Turkey, Squash and Cabbage Stew

400 grams roasted turkey meat, mostly the dark bits
200 grams cubed cooked butternut squash
1/3 a head of Savoy cabbage
1/2 cup giblet gravy (though plain can be substituted)
salt and pepper

Chop the cabbage into bite sized pieces and plunge them in a pot of salted boiling water. In the meantime, cut the turkey meat in bite-sized pieces. Put the gravy in the bottom of a high-sided frying pan and heat it until it sizzles. Add the turkey meat and squash. Add a little water so that the gravy doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and stir. Let the water reduce so that it starts to get thick again. After about ten minutes the cabbage should be tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cabbage to the frying pan and give it all a good stir. If the pan seems a bit dry, add some of the cabbage water. Taste for salt and serve in a deep bowl with a glass of red wine.

Variation: I was too lazy and too hungry to fiddle around with shallots, but next time I might try to fry some in a little butter before adding the gravy, meat and squash. I am sure they would be a great addition. However, it was pretty tasty in the original form.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 10:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
November 29, 2005
Sunchoke Salad Sandwich

Jerusalem Artichoke or sunchoke salad sandwich with parsnip and celery root chips

Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, are the roots of a sunflower-like plant that can be eaten raw, boiled, broiled, mashed, as soup, or in this case, as part of a mayonnaise-based salad mix like tuna or chicken salad.

Some people claim sunchokes taste like artichoke, but I don't see it. I think they taste like their own thing entirely - with elements of potato, nut, celery, and other flavors. And they make a great sandwich spread ingredient

If you use Vegan mayo (and I actually prefer Vegannaise to regular mayo), this recipe isn't just vegetarian - it's Vegan.

I made one mistake in assembling the sandwich, and that was not putting spinach leaves between the salad and the bread. The mayo has moisture and the sunchokes have moisture that love a nice dry place to leech into, like a slice of toasted bread.

On the plate with the sandwich is a mix of parsnips and celery root that I dosed with olive oil and herbs de provence and roasted in the oven at 425. They were tasty, but the texture wasn't quite right so that's all the recipe you get from me on the side dish for now.

Do try the sandwich, however, which was delicious and a nice change from all that carnivorous fare at Thanksgiving.

Sunchoke Salad Sandwich (makes 3)
8-12 oz. cleaned scrubbed sunchokes
1 celery rib, diced fine
1/2 red bell pepper, diced fine
1/2 small red onion, diced fine
1 cup clean baby spinach leaves
1 red tomato, sliced into 6 slices, plus top and bottom trimming
"enough" mayonnaise or Vegan substitute - about 3 tablespoons or so.
salt and pepper to taste
6 slices hearty wheat bread

Scrub the sunchokes very well. You don't have to peel them if you are sure you've removed all the dirt. I used a plastic dobie pad I'd microwaved briefly. You may peel them if you wish, but you'll need more sunchokes to make up for the loss of the mass of the peel.

Grate the sunchokes into a medium bowl. Squeeze the water out of the sunchokes with your fists after they've been grated and drain. Ok, you could wrap them in a paper towel before squeezing, but it's not nearly as satisfying as going bareback.

Add the celery, bell pepper, and onion. Mix well. Add some of the the mayonnaise and mix until the whole is thoroughly moist, but not soupy. It should look like a slightly dry tuna salad. If still to dry, continue to add mayo until it reaches the consistency you desire.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Toast bread.

Lay down a few spinach leaves on a slice of toast, just enough to protect the bread from the mayo in the salad. Spread as much as you wish of the salad (up to a 1/3 of the total) on top of the layer of spinach. Top with two slices of tomato, and 1/3 cup of spinach.

Add the second slice of bread, cut diagonally and serve. Repeat with rest of ingredients to make three sandwiches.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:00 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
November 27, 2005
The Uninvited Guests

guest.jpg

I brought back some lovely fresh spinach from the organic market last week. And as I was washing it and tearing off the occasional tough stem, I suddenly realized that there were uninvited dinner guests in the bag. Here's one of them.


What would you do? I put the leaf gently in the planter on my terrace. Yes, the winter could will probably kill the poor little fellow (and his friends). But I don't like playing God. I prefer to put them in the Great Outdoors with a little food and hope for the best.

The Critic says, "Don't they eat vegetables? Like the ones you plant out there?"

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 3:36 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack
Posts of the Week
Too Many Chefs post of the week

We all have much to be thankful for this week. If you are reading this, you obviously have access to the Internet in some form, which probably puts you in the top 5% of the world's population in terms of wealth. But money isn't everything, so we truly hope you also have a wonderful family and health to make you happy. We are truly lucky to have our families (including The Boy, who is Perfect) and the leisure to write and have wonderful feedback from our readers. So thanks for stopping by, we really do appreciate it.

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few recipes for next year's feast:


1. First off, we have a tasty twist on cranberry sauce from Viv at Seattle Bon Vivant. Her Yam recipe (posted the next day) also tempted me, but it was the unusual Quince-Pomegranate Cranberry Compote that won me over. I can see how quince would work beautifully with cranberries, giving a nice base in terms of flavor and texture and pomegranite is an inspired addition.

A. For dessert next year, you might want to ditch the pumpkin pie. (Heresy, you say? Nonesense, you must have yams or squash somewhere on the table, deal with it...) Why not take advantage of the lovely pears that are in season? Lex Culinaria gives us a tasty recipe for Poached Pears with Sticky Vanilla-Orange Cream. Okay, that is a mouthful of a recipe name but it sounds like a tasty mouthful of a dessert. I made a poached pear once, but this one is much more sophisticated.

I. After all the over-indulgence in Thanksgiving food, you might just want a nice cup of java. Or maybe you'd like a Jello ("There's always room for Jello!" as my Austrian grandmother was wont to claim.) Maybe you'd like to combine the two in a Cubed Coffee as made by Delicious Days? What a lovely way to finish your feast. Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle, cool and...coffee like...and the rhyme no longer works...

And that's the Posts of the Week. Be thankful they are over and Barrett will be back next week to guide you through the best of the food blogging community.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 2:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
November 24, 2005
Trout with brown butter and capers

trout.jpgTonight many of our readers will of course be sitting down to tables groaning with heavy delicious food. And as they waddle away from the table, they will perhaps be thinking to themselves "I wonder what's going on at Too Many Chefs?" (Okay, that is pure fantasy. I know you'll be thinking, "Where is the nearest comfortable couch or chair where I can discreetly open up my belt and hope that none of the dish-washing brigade see me?") But just in case you are checking in after a heavy meal, let me taunt you with a simple dish. A classic. One that doesn't lead to a failed liver or waddling or popped buttons. A nice little filet of trout topped with a savoury sauce of butter, wine and capers. Okay, the butter makes it a bit rich, but I'll bet it's nothing compared with Aunt Betsy's stuffing and sweet potatoes.

A quick and simple dinner for two. The fish is done in just about the amount of time it takes to cook the rice and the sauce takes only a few minutes longer.

Trout with brown butter and capers

2 filets of trout
3-4 Tbs butter
3-4 Tbs capers
1/3 cup dry white wine
a squeeze of lemon juice
2/3 cup rice
water, salt

Put the water to boil for the rice. If you want to be really elegant, turn on the oven low so that you'll have a place to keep the fish warm while you make the sauce. Once the water is boiling, toss in your rice. Put half the butter in a frying pan and heat it until it begins to froth. Let it go just barely past the frothing stage so that it is on the verge of turning brown. Toss in the fish, flesh side down. Sprinkle the capers around the edges of the fish filets. Cover and let it cook over a medium heat. Stir the rice a bit. Once the fish is cooked through check the rice. If it's done (and it probably will be unless you are using wild rice, in which case you should have started it well before the fish, let's be honest) plate the rice and fish on two plates and put them in the warm oven.

Turn up the heat under the capers and scrape up the bits of fish that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the butter and, again, let it cook until it is just starting to brown. Add the wine and let it bubble away until it is reduced by half. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper. It probably won't need salt. Pour over the fish and serve.

It's a lovely way to treat a nice piece of fish. Savoury and full of flavour. And done in less than half an hour, which is a blessing when you have to work on Thanksgiving day.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 3:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
November 23, 2005
Blogging in Real Time

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One of the advantages a cookbook has over a food blog is that you can consult it in the run-up to a holiday. For the last few days I've been scattering books around the flat, making and remaking decisions. Oyster stuffing or traditional sage and onion? (Do I dare? Do I dare?) What to do with that lovely butternut squash in the corner? Although I'll probably start cooking tomorrow night, I won't be writing about the results until after the table has been cleared, the glasses washed and everyone has gently (or heartily) belched. I don't want to give away any surprises for our 10 cherished guests. And in our case, the delay is increased further by the fact that I live in a country that doesn't recognize Thanksgiving as a holiday. So while our American readers are sitting down to a heaping plate of turkey and stuffing, I'll be slogging away at work as usual.

That makes me feel sad, knowing that I'm far away from my vast extended family on my favorite foodie holiday.

On the other hand, I have so much to be thankful for that I'm actually ashamed of myself when the sad feeling hits me. Although my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins are a couple thousand miles away, I have my new precious immediate family here. This is the first Thanksgiving for our baby, and the timing of his birth is such that I can actually look forward to feeding him some of our feast. We have enough to eat every day. We have thousands of readers who are interested in reading what we eat every day. We are very lucky. So Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I'll be thinking of you all tomorrow as I trudge to work. And I'll be thanking my lucky stars profoundly when we say grace on Saturday.

And in case you too are desperately looking for ideas for your Thanksgiving tables, read on for a list of some of our fall and holiday posts from the past. Maybe you missed one or two gems...

Barrett's Chestnut Dressing

Meg's Thanksgiving 2004 stuffing

Barrett's Stuffed Acorn Squash

Meg's Spicy Squash Soup

Barrett's Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Grandma Kehoe's Cranberry Rolls

Up next week: 1001 Things to Do With Leftover Turkey.

Until then, may your table groan with the weight of delicious dishes and your waistband be expandable and large. Bon ap'!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 2:02 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
November 22, 2005
Spicy Shrimp Stir Fry

stir fryWhen it comes to making a stir fry, I am usually pretty conservative. A former roommate of mine from England (the same corner as the Critic in fact) used to make the best ones I've ever tasted. She never used a recipe or measured anything. She just had (and still has, presumably, though I've not been invited to dinner recently) a perfect instinct for the balance of flavours. Eight years after we split up our happy bachelorette home, I'm getting close to reproducing what she did by sheer talent alone. But it's rare that I'll stray from the familiar tried and true combinations: onions or leeks, carrots, snap peas or peas, savoy cabbage, beef or pork, a red pepper.

Tonight I decided to go wild and try something completely different: shrimp. Or as she and the Critic would say, prawns. The photo of the finished product did not turn out very well I'm afraid. But the earlier photo does give you a sense of the vibrant colours that shone out from our plates tonight - orange carrots and red pepper, flecked with white ginger and garlic. They were joined by plump pink shrimp and then the finishing touch of the colour palette was added with deep green spinach. A beauty to behold and extremely tasty on a cold November night.

And, strangely for this cook, relatively healthy!

Spicy Shrimp Stir Fry (for two greedy adults and one fat cat)

450 grams cooked shrimp
2 carrots
3-400 grams fresh spinach (one large handful)
10-12 mushrooms, sliced finely
1/2 red pepper (bell) sliced in fine sticks
2-3 cayenne or espelette peppers, sliced in thin rounds
juice of half a lemon
2 Tbs ginger, minced
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
1-2 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs sunflower oil
2 tsp frozen or fresh basil
soy sauce to taste (about 1/3 cup altogether)
3/4 cup rice

Peel the shrimp and place them in a bowl. Toss a couple down to the desperate kitty at your feet if you have one. (If you are the type, you can also reserve the heads and shells and boil them in water for a nice fish stock. After an hour or so, strain the liquor and freeze it for a later fishy soup day. Make sure to label it or you'll never use it as I know from experience!) Put the peeled shrimp in a bowl and cover with lemon juice, a teaspoon of the ginger, half the garlic clove, half the sliced peppers and a glug of soy sauce.

Start some water boiling for the rice in a decent sized pot.

Peel and thinly slice the carrots and mushrooms. Put the oil in a wok or frying pan and turn up the heat. When it is hot enough that you are uncomfortable holding your hand a few inches above the pan, toss in the carrots. Add the remaining ginger and garlic and hot pepper rounds. Toss to heat evenly. Wash the spinach quickly and set it to drain. Toss the vegetables, and add the red pepper. Put the rice in the now boiling water. Continue tossing until the vegetables are nearly done. Add the shrimp with the marinade. Then add the mushrooms and toss for a few moments. Last, toss the spinach on top of the other vegetables and cover. Turn down the heat and allow the spinach to wilt.

Check the rice. If it is done, drain it. If not, turn off the flame under the vegetables until it is done. Drain the rice and toss it in the pot with the vegetables. Add the basil and one last squeeze from that lemon half. Add soy sauce to taste, but go easy on it as you can always add more at the table if need be.

From start to finish and including the peeling of the shrimp, it shouldn't take much more than half an hour. And it will be hot and full of flavour and full of vitamins to combat all the colds going around. Garlic and ginger are also reputed to have germ-killing qualities so that helps too!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 3:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
November 19, 2005
Chickpea Soup from the Archives

It's a lazy Saturday afternoon. We have a dinner party we're attending in a few hours, but right now, we're hungry. What to make?

I've been wanting to make Meg's interpretation of Jamie Oliver's interpretation of Bender's chickpea leek soup that she posted a while ago. We came home from the gym and farmer's market, and the time was right.

I had some problems at that exact moment with the recipe. I didn't have leeks for one, or garlic. I know, I know, how do you let yourself RUN OUT of garlic? But I had.

What I had on hand were some shallots and some yellow onions. So I used them for a loose interpretation of the soup. Add me to the list of interpreters in that chain I guess.

We also cut down our tarragon plant today for repotting, so I added a healthy amount of the last fresh tarragon from the container garden, along with dry rosemary and fresh parsley

Here's my improvised version of Meg's version of Jamie Oliver's version of Bender's chickpea and leek soup. It was delicious.

Easy Chickpea leek onion soup
2 spanish onions, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 cans chickpeas
4 cups vegetable stock (no chicken stock in this household)
1/2 fistful of chopped flatleaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
2 shallots, chopped coarsely
2 celery stalks, chopped medium
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
salt, pepper to taste
squeeze of lemon
parmesan to taste

Saute the onion, shallots, and leeks in the butter/olive oil until they start to soften. Drain the chickpeas. Add the stock to the pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Add the herbs, simmer for 20 minutes.

You may blend the soup or serve as is. Blended the chickpeas add to the heartiness of the stock.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 3:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Posts of the Week
Too Many Chefs post of the week

Vegas oddsmakers are laying 16-1 odds that I can't make it through this POTW without choosing a Thanksgiving-related post. Let's watch, shall we?

A. Deccanheffalump at the Cook's Cottage has picked her Top Ten Best Indian cookbooks. Cooking Indian food at home is beginning to come into its own in American homes, and one or more of these books belongs on your cookbook shelf.

1. A great post doesn't have to be long. It can be short and insanely useful like this post of Five Cooking Tips on Eat it Up Now. I'm going to need a photo of how you cut a tomato on the bias to prevent seed escape, though. I just don't get it.

I. It wouldn't be a Posts of the Week without a good recipe. How about Tiger & Strawberries' Bejing stir fried lamb and leeks? Yowza.

See? A whole pre-Thanksgiving POTW with nary a mention of cranberry dressing and turkey. It CAN be done. Now to go collect my winnings. What do you mean the tag paragraph at the end counts too? Hey! I wuz robbed.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
November 18, 2005
Salade de Mache

beef salad.jpgI'm not usually a victim of good advertising. But in November for the last few years there have appeared posters all over the metro system showing mâche, or lamb's lettuce, in creative enticing images. A teddy bear made of dark green leaves, clutched in the hands of a sleeping child. A dark green leafy football being kicked across a grey field. The advertisements do a good job of contrasting the vibrant green of the lettuce with somber tones. And so when the weather is grey and cold, the lamb's lettuce suddenly seems very appealing: full of vitamins and color and flavor.

There are a lot of nice things about lamb's lettuce. In Paris, it's cheap and sold everywhere. Just looking at it you know it's full of great vitamins and one of the articles I saw mentioned omega oils - another plus. And it's very tasty. It doesn't have the bitterness of rocket. Instead, it has a kind of buttery softness. It would be overwhelmed by too much raw garlic, but it shines with a sharp vinaigrette. It serves as a perfect backdrop for interesting salad elements.

My first thought was to make a kind of eggs-and-bacon salad. Lardons fried to a crispness with a poached egg and the the juices from the bacon serving as a basis for a nice sharp vinegar sauce.

It's also nice with smoked salmon and a crème fraîche and tarragon sauce.

And with magret de canard.

And with blue cheese.

A quick scan in the refrigerator showed I didn't have any of these ingredients. However, the leftover beef from my roast the night before was waiting for inspiration. I love cold roast beef. I almost like it better the next day than on the night I make it. Although warm food usually has more flavor than cold, I find that the opposite is true for beef for some reason. Or maybe I'm just more generous with the seasoning when it's cold?

In any case, it seemed like a providential match.

And it was. I cut the beef in thin strips and sprinkled it over the lamb's lettuce. Then I took about 75 grams of fromage des pyrénées and cut it in matchsticks and added them to the salad. I would have added some plump cherry tomatoes if I had any, but I didn't. And for the sauce I mixed a heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard with about a tablespoon red wine vinegar, a tablespoon of frozen chopped tarragon and a glug of olive oil. It was sharp and complemented both the beef and the mild cheese perfectly. And underneath it all was the tasty lamb's lettuce, a perfect backdrop.

It was so good I went back and finished the last of the beef and the last of the salad on a second plate.

(Note: if you don't happen to have any fromage des pyrénées in your refrigerator you could substitute a cream havarti or some other mild, creamy white cheese.)

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 11:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
November 17, 2005
Thai-influenced Tofu and Basil with Coconut Rice

Make this dish. Trust me on this one. If you like Asian flavors at all, you will like this dish.

This is not the classic Thai Basil dish you may be familiar with. It's not even Thai basil in the dish, but the same old familiar basil I've been growing all year long. The flavors are influenced by Thai coking, and it wouldn't be out of place in most Thai restaurants.

The base for the sauce is coconut milk and lime juice, a classic Southeast Asian combination. You can find coconut milk in cans in most big-city supermarkets. Check in the Asian and Latin sections of your market.

Goya sells a good can of coconut milk (which sure beats working with a tiny stool and milk bucket trying to get a new mother coconut to lactate).

Omit the nam pla if you want this to be a truly vegetarian/Vegan dish. Adding fresh peanuts or cashews to the dish would be welcome. We didn't have any at home. We have pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and probably some soynuts, but no peanuts. Go figure. If you do add the peanuts, add them near the end or just before serving so they retain their fresh taste and texture.

But seriously, go make this for dinner. After you've done the chopping and prep, this dish comes together very quickly.

Thai-influenced Tofu and Basil with Coconut Rice
1 pound firm tofu (not silken)
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon nam pla (fish sauce)
2 tablepoon soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon "Rooster" hot sauce (Huy Fong Sriracha Garlic Hot Sauce)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lime juice
2 cans coconut milk, divided
1/2 can medium grain rice (about a cup)
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 medium white or yellow onion
5 jalapenos
1 red bell pepper
6 cloves garlic
10-12 basil leaves, chopped rough
1/4 cup chopped clilantro

Place the tofu block on a plate covered several layers thick with paper towels. Place more paper towels on top of the tofu, a plate on top of the paper towels and a weight on top of the plate. You can use the cans of coconut milk if you like. Press for 30 minutes to extract much of the water from the tofu.

Meanwhile, mix up a tablespoon of the sesame oil, a tablespoon of nam pla, one tablespoon of the hot sauce, one tablespoon of the soy sauce and one tablespoon of lime juice. This will be the marinade.

slice the jalapenos into quarters lengthwise. Cut out the seeds and white membranes and discard. Cut the jalapeno quarters lengthwise into long thin strips.

Remove the seeds and membranes from the red bell pepper and cut the into 1/8" wide strips. If the pepper was a large one, cut the strips in half.

Peel and mince the garlic.

When the tofu has been pressed, cut it into strips about 1/2" x 1/8" x 1" or so, or into any shape you prefer. The more surface area you have, the more marinade will coat the strips. Place the tofu and the marinade in a bowl and stir gently to coat. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat any pieces that have drained.

In a saucepan, combine the rice and one can of coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until the milk is absorbed completely, and the rice is cooked through, about 7-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic, onion, and mushrooms and sautee for 5-7 minutes until the onions start to go translucent and the mushrooms have softened up.

Add the second can of coconut milk and 1/4 cup of lime juice to the skillet along with the red pepper, the jalapenos, the tofu with marinade, and the cliantro and basil leaves. Stir gently. Heat through (about five minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve over coconut rice.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
November 16, 2005
Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding à la Franglais

RosbifThe Critic has a rule. It's a strange rule, given the fact that we live in Paris, France. It's the ABF rule. It's invoked whenever we are deciding on a restaurant. And it stands for Anything But French. Well, he's English. And not overly open-minded. He's not entirely alone; I know a lot of English people in France who hate French food. Maybe it's a reaction to the snobbery of the French in culinary matters. Maybe it's just a reaction to feeling like you are drowning in a foreign culture. You would think that the whole "we won every military battle against you in the last 500 years" thing (which I hear about often, believe me) would assuage a bruised ego. But in fact they seem to need to reject the food anyway.

I guess it's not that surprising. Food is a very emotional issue and of course very much tied up with our cultural identity. The French refer to the English as "Rosbif" (roast beef) and the English of course call the French "frogs" because, well, they eat them and that's definitely a defining characteristic. So I usually respect the Critic's wishes and gorge on French food when we have visitors in town and he can't reasonably enforce the rule. Except for the times I sneak a French element into a theoretically English dish. Heh, heh, heh...

And this week I did so with the basic English classic Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding. With a wild mushroom and crème fraîche sauce. Actually, the way English cuisine is going these days, I could probably open a gastro-pub tomorrow.

The problem I have with the traditional roast beef is a logistical one. If you are using all the beef drippings to make your Yorkshire pudding, what do you use as a base for the gravy that is supposed to accompany both? There are many Bisto TV ads telling you exactly what to do, but I am very picky about my gravy and have never yet found a good one that was made with a stock cube or powder. Making a mushroom sauce gets you neatly out of this problem as the gravy is not relying on beef flavour alone for its success. And any beef juices that come out as the meat is resting can be added to the mushroom sauce to add a little depth.

So this post is not so much a recipe as a process, with a few tips on the side. To make a successful Beef and Yorkshire pudding, proceed as follows:

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). While it is heating, peel enough potatoes to fill a roasting pan and chop them in big chunks. Toss them with a few glugs of olive oil, sprinkle them with fresh or frozen thyme and salt. Toss in a couple small cloves of garlic if you are so inclined. Put the pan in the oven and turn to your the Yorkshire pudding.

Crack one egg into a medium bowl. Add 100 grams flour and a generous pinch of salt. Measure out 300 ml (1/2 pint) of milk and slowly add it to the egg and flour, beating vigorously as you go. Incorporate all the milk and set the bowl aside to rest. If you want a really fluffy pudding, you might want to use two eggs but I find one is enough.

I get my roast as it always comes in France - larded on the sides and tied up neatly with twine in a package. Sprinkle it with chopped fresh thyme and chopped fresh oregano. (I've recently decided to replace all my houseplants with herbal plants - safer for the boy and tastier for everyone.) Grind a little fresh pepper over the roast. Toss in a few big juicy cloves of garlic that you've smashed with a meat tenderizer.

Pour a little olive oil in the bottom of another roasting pan and put the roast in it. Place it in the oven next to the potatoes and take a break for the next 20 minutes. Feed the boy, if you have one. Toss the potatoes from time to time to get them brown on more than one side.

When you come back, test the potatoes - they should be nearly done. Turn up the heat on the oven to 220C. (Yes, I know the usual way to cook meat is to start out with a high heat and then lower it, but the potatoes will turn into rocks if you roast them at too high a heat and the pudding would collapse into plain stodge if you baked it before the potatoes. I figure the beef is the most resilient element in this dinner so I abuse it a bit. If the meat is good you'll be fine.)

Once the oven reaches 220C (mine beeps, helpfully) remove the potatoes and cover them with tin foil to keep them warm. Depending on how rare you like your beef you have a choice here: remove to a carving board and cover with tin foil to rest or - more likely - put it in a new, smaller roasting pan and put it back in the oven. Take the pan with the meat juices and add a little animal fat to it if you have any - bacon grease or goose grease are great. In a pinch, you could add a little more olive oil. Put it in the oven empty and leave it there until the grease is hot and nearly smoking. Pour the Yorkshire pudding batter into the pan (it won't look appetizing at this point) and bake for 35-40 minutes, until it has risen nicely and is brown on top.

While the pudding is baking, you can finally start the mushroom sauce. I used a frozen mix of wild mushrooms for the first time and I have to say it worked extremely well. If you are in France, try Picard or Monoprix; if you are in the US I wouldn't be surprised if Trader Joe's has some. Melt a little butter in a frying pan and toss in a cup or so of wild mushrooms. Add one or two of the roasted garlic cloves to the pan and squish them with the back of a spoon. When the mushrooms are soft and garlicky, add half a glass of white wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Let it bubble away for a bit and then add a couple of heaping tablespoons of crème fraîche and tablespoon of fresh or frozen chopped parsley. If you like, you can also add a little stock; I poured in the juices from the resting meat. Taste for salt and pepper; it will probably need a little of each.

About five minutes before the pudding is done, carve the meat. Pile a few slices on the Englishman's plate and heap it with potatoes. Pull out the Yorkshire pudding out of the oven and add a generous slab. Slather the whole thing with mushroom sauce and serve.

Note: if I had any peas or carrots to hand I probably would have added a bit of healthy vitamins. But it was pretty tasty anyway. Vive la différence!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 2:12 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack
November 15, 2005
A Fish, a Fish, a Fishie Sandwich

Trader Joe's supermarkets cause quite a stir wherever they open. If people aren't wowed by the $1.99 wine (which cost $3.00 most places and is pretty awful), they're impressed by the huge bins of frozen food.

I prefer to buy fish fresh, but in Chicago, it's just not an option. Most fish these days is frozen at sea, and unless you're standing at the dock waiting for the fishing fleet to come in ("Hey, sailor!"), you're probably buying formerly frozen fish. Ask your fishmonger - he'll tell you.

At Trader Joe's, there's no pretense. At the store, you can hammer a nail in with your haddock, but once the fish has thawed, it's not half-bad.

I purchased some inexpensive cod filets from Joe's and decided to use them in the sandwich shown above. I'm adding a recipe to this post to demonstrate some basic 'wich-craft, but to sunmmarize - cook the fish, add some lemon and spices, slap some stuff on a bun and chow down.

I liked this sandwich quite a bit, and I'll be buying more frozen finny friends for frying in the future.

Fish Sandwich
3-4 oz. thawed cod filets
1 tablespoon olive oil (that's all, enough for two or three sandwiches)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
pinch of salt
half an avocado
french roll
2 tablespoons olive tapenade
1 small tomato, sliced

Split the french roll in half lengthwise. Leave a hinge if you can. Spread the olive tapenade on one half of the roll. I don't recommend toasting the bread for this sandwich, but you can if you want.

Cut slices in the half-avocado and remove with a spoon. Place on the non-tapenaded side of the split french roll. Lay the tomato slices on top of the tapenade.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the garlic. When the oil starts to shimmer, toss in the filet and sautee for about 3 minutes. Add half the lemon juice, then flip and sautee the other side. Just before taking out of the pan, drizzle the rest of the lemon juice on the fish and sprinkle the tarragon over it. Salt to taste, if you like.

Remove the garlic and fish to the bun, close, and eat.

Do NOT bring this sandwich to the office to reheat. No one likes anyone who nukes fish in a small shared space.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 11:56 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
November 12, 2005
Posts of the Week
Too Many Chefs post of the week

Posts of the Week would like to deny the nasty rumor that we once were employed writing rootkits for Sony. Just don't ask us about Rhino... (kidding!)

1. I'm mad, and I eat! Actually, I'm not really all that mad. In fact, I'm in a pretty good mood, really. I took a nice walk today and the leaves were turning these great colors and then I saw a movie that was pretty funny and had nice lunch and-

But I digress.

I'm Mad and I Eat is the blog that brings us some sage advice this week. We have a fresh sage plant that I've been punishing pretty hard the last few weeks. Well, it's about to get punished again as I harvest some leaves for these Sage Pecan Cheese Wafers. Here's hoping I'm Mad and I Eat (IMAIE) progresses soon to IMSMBIDBIN (I'm Merely Slightly Miffed, but I Do Believe I'll Nosh).

A. Waiter, I'll start with a Queensland Blue, followed by a bit of Kakai, then perhaps a Sweet Dumpling, and a bit of Long Island Cheese. What am I talking about? Maybe you should head to Small Farms and find out.

I. I'm a sucker for savory pies and tarts. However you'd classify b'stilla, a savory poultry pie (you might use chicken or pigeon), I'm using my Invitation to the Barbecue to look it over closely.

BONUS: But wait, we've had three posts this week. Is there room for one more? There's always room for Jello, especially Apple Fluff from the Jello files.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 10:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 11, 2005
Mushroom Chestnut Dressing


Thanksgiving is coming and that means dressing can't be far away. If we took this recipe and filled a bird with it, this would be stuffing, but as Alton Brown noted once, "Stuffing is EVIL".

Even when I was little and eating meat all the time, the turkey was only my second-favorite dish on the Turkey Day table. The undisputed champion was that casserole dish filled with dressing.

Dressing (or stuffing, if you must) is pretty simple. You need bulk, which is usually from stale bread; fat as a vehicle for the aromatics, which is provided by the butter; the aromatics themselves, which are the parsley, onion, celery, and sage; a binder, the classic role of the humble chicken egg; and a little something extra, which in this recipe is the mushrooms and the chestnuts.

Some recipes don't use eggs and some use cornbread and some- It's a pretty simple formula and you can work up a thousand variations on the theme. Here's one I created last night.

Mushroom Chestnut Dressing
1 lb mushrooms
1 onion
half loaf of sourdough
6 tablespoons butter
15-20 fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup vegetable broth
4 stalks celery
1 pound chestnuts
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
3 eggs, beaten lightly
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the half-loaf of sourdough into 1/2"-3/4" cubes. Don't trim the crusts. If you have time, let it sit uncovered overnight so it goes a little stale. If you didn't do that last night and want to make this recipe tonight, place the cubes of bread in a 200 F oven for about 15 minutes until they are just dried out, but not toasted.

Cut an X on the flattest side of each chestnut. Place the chestnuts on a cookie sheet in a 400 F oven and roast for about 10-15 minutes.

While they roast, slice the celery into 1/4" wide pieces, clean and quarter the mushrooms, dice the onion, and mince the sage leaves coarsely.

When the chestnuts come out of the oven, let them cool until you are able to handle them, then peel the chestnuts. There is a hard outer shell and a thin, brittle shell that must be removed. Cut away any black spots or you might experience that "bad pistachio" taste in your dressing.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Chop up the chestnuts into 1/2" or smaller pieces.

In a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. When it starts to foam, add the onion, sage, and celery and toss to coat. Let it simmer a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms and celery and 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock. Add a generous pinch of salt. Mix well and simmer/sautee for 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms start to shrink.

Add the tarragon, oregano, parsley, black pepper, and chestnuts and mix well again.

Remove the skillet from the flame. Let cool about five minutes, then stir in the bread cubes and the eggs and mix well. Work quickly in case the mix is still hot enough to cook the eggs.

Spoon the contents of the skillet into a large casserole dish, preferably one with a lid. Dot the top with the remaining two tablespoons of butter. If the mix seems too dry, add up to 1/2 cup of vegetable stock to the casserole.

Cover and bake in a 350 F oven for 20-30 minutes.

The dressing is looser than the stuff that goes "shchlooop" out of the pan, but it's delicious. The sourdough crusts add something special to the flavor and texture.

My wife never eats to excess. Never. She ate this until she felt like she was going to pop.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:37 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
November 10, 2005
Sorry blogspot based commenters

I've blacklisted "blogspot.com" because most of the recent spam making it through the filter are for splogs (spam blogs) on blogspot.com. Don't put the phrase "blogspot.com" in your e-mail address or website or message when commenting or your comment will be blocked.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 4:05 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Favorite Food? Not me.

I was talking to my wife the Redhead the other day. She was about to take a big-deal test after studying for months, and for a celebration I offered to cook her favorite food for dinner. I asked what her absolute favorite food is and after thinking about it for a while, she couldn't answer me. I thought about it and I decided that I don't think I have a favorite food, either.

Why is this? I think if you'd asked me what my favorite food was at any point from childhood up until a couple of years ago, I probably could have told you. When I was growing up it changed from grapes to pizza to hot dogs to broccoli (yes, I actually loved broccoli when I was ten - go figure) to roast beef and potatoes to sushi to all sorts of other things. But there was always one clear favorite food that I would have gladly eaten every day of my life.

So what happened about two years ago that made me lose the ability to have a favorite food? I know exactly what happened - I started cooking instead of just reheating, and eventually started blogging about food.

Blogging about food is wonderful because it forces you to try new things. You recognize there are a few souls out there reading your ramblings and you want to please them. Trust me, no one wants to read about how to make the same dish over and over and over. You know that people want NEW and EXCITING and as a writer, you want to give people something they'll enjoy, and ideally something fresh and different from what everyone else is writing about.

So over the last 24 months or so, as I tried lentil and salmon and cabbage dishes and baked tarts and pies and bagels, my taste buds have changed. I no longer want just one dish. Or maybe its more accurate to say I want one dish every day, but what's in that dish changes frequently.

Blogging also makes you think about what you stab with a fork. It's no fun to think about the same thing again and again and again. No matter how good that piece of steak looks, by the thousandth bite (not in one sitting, I hope), it's pretty dull. Better to switch visually between bright vegetables, velvet sauces, and earthy proteins to keep your brain engaged, and the simple act of feeding yourself interesting.

Tonight, I'm hoping to make some chestnut dressing in anticipation of Thanksgiving. That's what I want. I also want something with beets in the next week, and maybe a cod or whitefish dish. Certainly I'll want some sweet dessert later on. There is no one dish I want all the time unless that dish is variety.

In the end, I made crepes with scallops for my wife and served it with the two items that come closest to being her favorite foods - a nice Belgian beer (Duvel), and a scoop of ice cream for dessert.

I kind of wanted fruit for dessert, myself.

Is losing "a favorite food" common among food bloggers? If you blog about food tell me if you still have a favorite food, and if so - what is it? Even if you don't blog, tell me about your favorite dish and think aloud about whether you could eat it every day without strangling someone.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 3:01 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
Gratuitous Cute Baby Photo

minicritic.jpg

Hm, a nice little Cheerio with a nutty aftertaste and a hint of grain...could be a little sweeter...

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 12:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
November 9, 2005
Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Gnocchi are pasta-like dumplings that are usually made with riced potatoes, but which can be made with other vegetables like butternut squash. Eggs, flour, and the vegetable ingredient are mixed with a flour, rolled into a snake and cut into small dumplings which are boiled until they are cooked through and ready to sauce.

I started this recipe with one butternut squash. I'd like to be able to tell you how much flour is in this gnocchi recipe, but I'm not sure I can. I started with 2 cups and the butternut squash just sucked it all in and laughed at me! Then I added some wheat flour, then some white, then some more wheat, then I mixed and mixed and mixed until my arm went dead. Then I mixed in some more wheat flour.

Eventually, I believe these gnocchi took in 3 1/2 - 4 cups of wheat and white flour in 2 parts wheat to 3 parts white proportion. Most recipes I've seen indicate it will take no more than 1 1/2 to 2 cups of flour to get a sticky but useful dough. I'm here to tell you - Don't believe it!

In any case, our squash reserves have dwindled and this is the last of the butternut squash we had in reserve from an early multi-squash purchasing trip. Gnocchi are a great way to use the quash and get a pasta-like dish you can serve with the simplest of sauces - butter and sage leaves.

Any left over gnocchi (and unless you're feeding the Bradys, there WILL be leftover gnocchi) can be cooled, patted dry, and put into freezer bags. When you're ready for a quick dinner later, pop them back into boiling water and a few minutes later you'll have dinner on the table.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

1 butternut squash
2-4 cups flour, mix of wheat and white in 2 parts wheat to 3 parts white proportions.
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
oil to brush the squash before roasting


Sage Butter Sauce

4 tablespoons butter
15-20 fresh sage leaves, left whole

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Halve the butternut squash lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and strings. lightly brush the cut sides of the squash with oil and roast face down on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes to an hour, until the flesh of the squash is very soft, and yields to a spoon.

Turn off the oven, remove the squash, and let it cool. Scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl, descarding the shell of the squash.

Mash the squash in the bowl. If it's still warm, cover and let cool until it reaches room temperature.

Beat two eggs lightly. Mash the squash with a potato masher or blend it in a blender until any chunks are broken up and you have a relatively smooth puree. Add the eggs to the mashed squash and mix well.

Set out a sheet of aluminum foil on a side work surface, and put a large pot of water on to boil. You may salt the water if you like. Flour your main work surface lightly.

Add one cup of white flour to the squash and eggs and mix well. If the mix is still very loose or extremely sticky, add 2/3 cup wheat flour and mix it in. Add a little white flour then a little wheat flour until you have something like a slightly sticky dough. This may take much more flour than you think it should. I was personally very surprised, but I guess mashed butternut squash is somewhat moister than mashed potatoes.

Take a golf ball sized chunk of dough and roll it out into a snake. The snake should be a little larger around than your thumb (or about the size of my thumb). Use a butter knife (so you get a little "mashing" on the ends of the pieces) and cut 1" long gnocchi from the snake. Place them on the aluminum foil separated so they don't clump together. If you wish, you can roll the gnocchi against a fork to get the traditional marks on them, that helps them hold onto the sauce. After you've done a couple of snakes, start to cook the gnocchi while you finish forming the rest.

Once the water is boiling, toss the gnocchi into the pot. They should sink to the bottom. Give the pot one stir to keep the gnocchi from sticking together or to the bottom and wait. When the gnocchi are done, they should float up to the top where you can take them out with a slotted spoon.

Repeat with the rest of the dough until all the gnocchi are cooked.

Separate out the portion you'll eat tonight, and pat dry the rest. Lay the to-be-stored gnocchi out so they can cool. Once cooled, place them in meal-sized groups in plastic bags, and freeze for later. They should keep three to six months in the freezer, though I doubt they'll last that long.

To make the butter-sage "sauce", melt the butter in a small skillet. Once the butter starts to foam, add the sage leaves and fry them lightly until they start to crisp up. Add the gnocchi into the sauce and toss. Cook until the gnocchi are well coated and heated through and serve.

Goes well with a crisp white wine.

VARIATION: Add curry spices (tumeric, cinnamon, cumin, etc...) to the squash mix before mixing in the flour. You could alternatively add sugar and spices to make sweet gnocchi for dessert in a sweet cream and cinnamon/nutmeg sauce.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:22 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack
November 8, 2005
Blogging Etiquette 101

pressies.jpgLast night I was lucky enough to meet up with some of the stars of the food blogging world. Sam of Becks and Posh had kindly written me a few weeks ago to point out a BBC report that touched on the Queen's Birthday Party we attended in June. She mentioned she would be in Paris in November and so I asked if she would be interested in meeting up with some of the Paris bloggers. To my delight, she and Fred managed to find a small window of free time for us. And what a turn out! If you want to see a photo of the full crowd, you can check out Sam's post.

And what happens when bloggers meet? Well, first there is always that little awkward bit when you are sitting next to someone you feel you know very well through his or her writing but haven't actually met in the flesh. And then you start comparing camera equipment (Sam's SLR had me drooling). And obsessive Rachael Ray fans. And the few bad apples in the blogging world who are cynical or just plain missing the point. And the wine flows and you order another bottle.

And the part I missed? You bring PRESENTS for all your good virtual friends! I'm so annoyed with myself: why didn't I think of such a generous gesture? Instead, I sat there profiting from the wonderful generousity of the others. A prune in Armagnac from David! Fantastic Gianduia Fondante chocolates from Pim! And beautiful gem-like Michael Recchiuti chocolates from Sam!

Ah well, I'll know next time. There wasn't enough time to talk to everyone properly, but I was lucky enough to sit between Sam and Fred and monopolize their time for a while before hurrying back home to the Boy. And even more luckily for me, the rest of the crowd - Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini, Pascale of C'est moi qui l'ai fait!, David Lebovitz, Michèle of Oswego Tea, Cindy from Food Migration and Laura from Cucina Testa Rossa - live in Paris so I might not have to wait as long to see them again. And dear Pim is going to be with us in Paris for the next few months. So I am rich in friends and lucky indeed!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 1:58 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
November 7, 2005
Comments go pear apple-shaped

We're aware of and are working on the comments problem. We are hopeful it will be fixed soon.

Leave us a comment about the problem...

And we're back up and running.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 3:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 6, 2005
Posts of the Week
Too Many Chefs post of the week

Posts of the Week, Posts of the Week, it makes you laugh, it makes... uhhh... your dog speak. Where would we be without the Posts of the Week? Would we be in Belgium or just down the street? Hey, here's the Posts of the Week!

1. Kate at the Accidental Hedonist has gone off the reservation by not writing about recipes or restaurants or foodie events but going right out and actually interviewing Tom Douglas, Seattle resauranteur and author. The interview is relatively short, but very well done. Setting the bar higher...

A. I'm a big fan of confounding expectations, and Lex Culinaria gives us a great example this week of a traditionally sweet dish done savory with this Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding. Did I mention I'm also a big fan of fungus? My wife would say that explains my apartment when we met.

I. You see recipes with a long list of ingredients and strange combinations and weird preparations on many food blogs. It's nice every once in a while to read a simple recipe that covers a basic staple dish like roasted potatoes from the Rock N' Roll Kitchen. We all have to learn how to do the basics sometime, right?

And that's the Posts of the Week.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 11:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
November 4, 2005
A Casserole

casseroleEvery once in a while I get nostalgic for...I'm not sure what. School lunches? My grandmother's dinners? Something very seventies and filling: a casserole. Most of the time when I get this longing, I stick to proper dishes like lasagna or moussaka. But there are times when you just want to throw all your favorite ingredients into a deep dish and see what happens when they mingle together.

It's very filling and rarely low-calorie. It's never very pretty. But it's deeply satisfying. It has to include something starchy. It should have something gooey and cheesy. And as a nod to healthy living, it should have something vegetable in it. The casserole I made last night had all of these things. Oh yeah, and cream.

Chicken Casserole (serves two hungry pigs generously or four normal human beings. oink.)

You could omit the chicken from this casserole easily and it would still be delicious. If so, you might want to increase the amount of pasta and mushrooms.

2 chicken breasts
1 large onion
10-12 mushrooms
1-2 cloves garlic
250 g spinach, wilted and drained
250 g pasta - ribbon or shaped but probably best not spaghetti
75 (5 thick slices) Pont l'Eveque cheese
3-4 heaping Tbs Pamesan
1/3 cup crème fraîche
1/2 glass of white wine
2 tsp fresh (or frozen) chopped thyme
1 Tbs flour
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 Tbs butter

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f and begin heating water for the pasta in a large sauce pan. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta. Butter a small soufflé pan. In a large frying pan, melt the butter. Cut the chicken in bite-sized pieces and add them to the butter when it begins to froth. Chop the onion roughly and the garlic finely and add them to the chicken. Keep the heat high in order to brown the chicken and stir occasionally to brown all sides. Turn down the heat a bit and add the mushrooms, duly washed and sliced. When they are soft, sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir for a few minutes until it is all sticky. Pour in the white wine and use it to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up any brown bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. (You may want to turn up the heat a bit to get things bubbling properly.) Turn off the heat and stir in the crème fraîche. Add the thyme and taste for salt and pepper: it will probably need a good dose of each.

By now your pasta is undoubtedly done. Drain it and toss it with a little more butter and salt. Lay the pasta in the bottom of the buttered soufflé pan. Spread the spinach over the pasta. Lay the slices of cheese on the spinach. Top with the chicken and mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake in the oven for half an hour or so, until it is hot and bubbly and you are certain that cheese will have melted. If you can bear it, let it sit for ten minutes before serving so that it doesn't completely collapse on your plate. It probably will anyway, but you can try to make it look appetizing.

It will certainly smell appetizing with the garlic, onion and cheese competing for your attention. Filling, comforting and extremely tasty, it's also appetizing on your tongue. And, hey, it's got spinach so it HAS to be healthy, right?

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 1:41 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
November 3, 2005
Cucina Italiana

I have a new favorite foodie magazine and its La Cucina Italiana.

This is unusual for me, because I tend to shy away from Italian food when I cook. It's not that I don't like tomato sauces and pastas, it's just that everyone cooks a version of Italian food, and I like to be a little different. Plus, much of what we get as Americanized Italian food all tastes the same - mozarella or ricotta, some pasta, and a tomato-based sauce with garlic. Good, but it gets old.

There's some of that in this magazine, but not much. The first issue of La Cucina Italiana I purchased was the fall issue, which had more useful recipes with fall flavors in it than any magazine I'd ever purchased. We made squash and soup recipes from it, and every recipe was a winner. I was wary of recommending the magazine, however since this one issue could have easily been a fluke.

I recently picked up the Holiday issue of La Cucina Italiana, and they've done it again. Inside are recipes for sauces, main courses, and desserts that will make you eager to get in the kitchen and cook. The photography is lush, the recipes are intriguing but easy to follow, and the food delicious.

The magazine is associated with a batch of web sites - the first is a magazine-oriented site that you can search to find many, but not all, of the recipes that have been published in the magazine. The second is a beautiful Italian language portal into the culinary arts. There is a world site in English and sites in Dutch and Czech as well.

Even if you don't cook classically Italian food much, pick up this magazine and enjoy the writing and the photography, or just go to the websites and pick a few recipes to make.

Me? I'm going to make the beautiful dessert they have in this month's issue that involved candying a half an orange peel as a bowl for chopped nuts, orange sherbet, and drizzled chocolate. Sorry, it's not online yet - you'll just have to go buy the holday issue or wait until January...

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:47 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
November 2, 2005
Phyllo Chicken Triangles

chicken triangle.jpgI have to be honest, my experience with phyllo dough is pretty limited. I like it in Lebanese restaurants where they do those little rolls with cheese and chives. And I've been known to happily nosh on a piece of baklava with a strong black coffee. But it's one of those items I've never gotten round to using in my own kitchen. Most the recipes that use phyllo seem to call for things like rosewater, things that until lately have never been in my kitchen. (I actually bought a bottle a couple months ago and now am waiting for the perfect recipe to come along and call to me....)

Barrett's recipes using phyllo dough have shown me, however, that it doesn't have to be Lebanese or Egyptian to use phyllo dough. And so last week I finally decided to tackle that little food mystery for myself.

Because phyllo dough is so flaky and crisp, I usually tend to assume it's healthy. Once you start browsing the recipes, however, you are quickly disillusioned. Every single one includes the instructions "brush each sheet with butter (or oil)". Yes, there is a reason those lovely paper-thin sheets don't stick together in a stodgy mess, and it's called FAT. Given the fact that the recipe was not going to be Weight Watchers-approved, I decided to throw healthy common sense to the wind and use crème fraîche too. It was tasty.

Phyllo Chicken Triangles

2 chicken breasts
1 package of phyllo dough
1 medium leek
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
150 grams mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup crème fraîche
1 tsp tarragon
1 Tbs sesame seeds
Butter

Put a pat of butter in a frying pan and turn it up to a medium-high heat. Start cutting the chicken breasts in bite-sized pieces. When the butter beings to froth, start tossing the chicken in the pan. Once you are done chopping the chicken, wash the knife and start on the leek, cutting it in thin rings. Toss or stir the chicken from time to time to keep it from burning (though you want it to brown nicely). Add the leek and the garlic and continue on a lower heat until they are soft and sweet. Add the white wine and turn up the heat briefly to reduce. Scrape up any brown bits that may be on the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and stir in the crème fraîche and the tarragon.

Melt a few tablespoons of butter in the microwave or on the stove. To assemble the triangles, pull out a sheet or two of phyllo. I used two as I was in a hurry and the sheets were fiddly and sticking together. But in an ideal world, of course you would carefully separate each leaf. Brush half of it lengthwise with butter and fold in half so that you have a long strip of phyllo about 6-7 inches wide. Dollop a quarter of the chicken filling on one end of the dough and fold the dough over at a 90 degree angle. Brush the top with butter and fold again over the triangle. Continue buttering and folding until you have finished the dough. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Continue with the remaining three quarters of the filling.

Bake in a hot oven (200c/400f) until crispy and brown. And serve with some plain green vegetables. Your arteries will thank you.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 12:18 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
November 1, 2005
Starr Chefs

In today's Brenda Starr:

Don't tell me chefs aren't the new rock stars (or rock "Starrs" as the case may be). I guess Charlie Trotter isn't big enough to be a one-name celeb like "Emeril" or "Wolfgang" or... "Rachael".

One question - is that chef in the strip carrying two chichuahuas in his pockets as a fashion accessory or does he just believe in REALLY fresh ingredients?

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:23 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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