Friday, February 12, 2016

baby back ribs & baked beans

Baby Back Ribs
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Bon Appétit

Serves 4

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika (sweet, hot or smoked, whichever variety you prefer)
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt (Diamond brand, which is very lightweight; for most others, use 1 1/4 tablespoons)
Chipotle powder or ground red pepper (cayenne) to taste
As many cranks of freshly ground black pepper as your arm is in for

4 pounds baby back pork ribs (8 racks)         
Store-bought or homemade barbecue sauce, for basting and serving

Tools: If you can find it, a wide roll of heavy-duty foil makes the racks much easier to wrap up. You’ll also want a large rack (cooking cooling sheets, so long as they’re metal and thus ovensafe, are just fine) and a large baking sheet per rack of ribs. 

Preheat oven to 275°.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the spices and seasonings. On a piece of foil large enough to wrap around your ribs, place rack of ribs, meatier side up. Sprinkle spice rub over rack, patting it on generously, including the sides. Carefully — it can help have a second person hold the foil down while you lift the rack — flip the rack of ribs back onto the foil so that they’re now meatier side down. Pat on more rub. (You will most likely have excess rub.) Tightly fold the foil to seal packets. Set a metal rack over a baking sheet and place foil-wrapped ribs on top. 

Bake ribs until very tender but not falling apart, about 2.5 hours for baby backs and 3+ hours for spareribs. Carefully unwrap ribs; pour off any juices. Let ribs cool completely. [DO AHEAD: Ribs can be baked up to 3 days ahead (the flavor will be more developed, and the cold ribs will hold together better on the grill as they heat through. Rewrap ribs in foil and chill.]

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Grill ribs, basting with barbecue sauce and turning frequently, until lacquered and charred in places and heated through, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; cut between ribs to separate. Transfer to a platter and serve with additional barbecue sauce.

Hot And Smoky Baked Beans
Adapted from Bon Appétit

6 bacon slices (We only used a few slices)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion                 
1 1/4 cups purchased barbecue sauce
3/4 cup dark beer
1/4 cup light molasses
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 to 6 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chilies (We used closer to 2 tsp.)
6 15- to 16-ounce cans Great Northern beans, drained
Chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels and drain. Transfer 2 1/2 tablespoons bacon drippings from skillet to large bowl. Finely chop bacon; add to bowl. Add onion and next 7 ingredients to bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in 4 to 6 teaspoons chipotle chilies, depending on spiciness desired. Stir in beans.

Transfer bean mixture to 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Bake uncovered until liquid bubbles and thickens slightly, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

baked ziti

Baked Ziti
Adapted from Food + Wine via Amateur Gourmet

1 pound ziti or penne
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lean ground sirloin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
One 24-ounce jar Rao's marinara sauce (I used nearly all of a 32-ounce jar, to beneficial effect)
1 cup fresh ricotta (I reduced this from 1 1/2 cups)
1 large round ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

If you’re making this ahead, don’t preheat your oven yet. If you’re making it all at once, preheat your oven to 450.

In a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is softened but not brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute just until fragrant. Add the ground sirloin, crushed red pepper and paprika, seasoning with salt. Turn the heat up to high, break up the meat with a spoon and cook until the meat is brown (and no longer pink). Add the sauce, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook—partially covered—for 5 minutes until the sauce tastes great. Set aside.

Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Cook one or two minutes less than the package says; you want it al dente. Drain the pasta and then toss the pasta in the sauce. Add the ricotta in large dollops and stir gently, leaving some clumps.

Pour half the ziti into a 9x13-inch baking dish, top with half of the mozzarella and parmesan. Repeat with the remaining ziti and cheeses. [Here’s where you can cover with foil and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake.]

When you’re ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and bake the ziti uncovered for 15 minutes, until bubbling and browned. Let the ziti rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

spinach and cheese strata

For our Christmas morning menu... 

Spinach and Cheese Strata
Adapted from Gourmet, via Smitten Kitchen 

Serves 6 to 8

1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid, and chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (1/2 lb)
6 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère (2 cups)
2 ounces finely grated parmesan (1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.

Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for eat least 8 hours or up to a day.

The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

grapefruit and pecan sheet cake

Grapefruit and Pecan Sheet Cake 
Adapted from Homesick Texan

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup Ruby Red grapefruit juice
1/2 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup roasted pecans, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons Ruby Red grapefruit zest
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons Ruby Red grapefruit juice
2 teaspoons Ruby Red grapefruit zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup roasted pecans, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease and flour a 9x13 pan or a 15x10x1-inch jellyroll pan.

In a small pan on low heat, melt the butter with the Ruby Red grapefruit juice and water.

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the pecans and grapefruit zest. Pour in the melted butter, along with the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until a smooth batter is formed.

Pour the batter into the greased and floured pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, checking it at 20 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned and an inserted knife or toothpick comes out clean. (If using a jellyroll pan, it should take about 20 minutes, so check it at 15 minutes.)

As the cake cools, prepare the frosting. Cream together the cream cheese, butter, grapefruit juice, grapefruit zest, vanilla extract. Stir in the sugar and blend until smooth. Once the cake is cool to the touch (about an hour or so), frost the cake. Garnish with pecans.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

double chocolate torte

 Double Chocolate Torte
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Our Freeport Bakery Buche De Noel substitute this Christmas eve. (What it lacked in panache it made up for in chocolate/butter poundage.)

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (we used
Scharffen Berger semisweet)
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 cups fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons red currant jelly melted with 1 tablespoon water
Red currant bunches (optional)

For cake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform
pan; dust with sugar. Melt chocolate and butter in heavy large
saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Whisk
in sugar. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each
addition. Mix in vanilla and salt, then flour. Pour batter into pan.
Bake until cake just rises in center (tester inserted into center will
not come out clean), about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.
Cover; chill while making mousse.

For mousse: Melt butter in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of
simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk
yolks, 1/4 cup cream and vanilla in small bowl to blend. Gradually
whisk yolk mixture into bowl with melted butter. Whisk constantly over
simmering water until thermometer registers 150°F, about 6 minutes
(mixture may appear broken). Remove from over water; add chocolate and
stir to melt. Set aside.

Beat egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl to medium-stiff peaks.
Whisk 1/4 of beaten egg white mixture into warm chocolate mixture to
lighten. Fold in remaining egg white mixture. Pour mousse over cake in
pan; smooth top. Chill torte until mousse is set, at least 6 hours and
up to 1 day.

Run sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen torte. Release pan sides.
Transfer torte to platter. Using electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup cream in
medium bowl until peaks form. Spread whipped cream over torte. Top
whipped cream with raspberries. Brush red currant jelly mixture over
raspberries. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar. Garnish with
currants, if desired.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

flourless chocolate-walnut cookies

 I'd like to think by now I have some some grasp of the mechanics of baking. But nothing in my makeshift culinary education can account for these cookies—a handful of ingredients culled together into chewy, crackly-surfaced goodness with nothing more than confectioners' sugar and a few efficient egg whites. A better baker would devote time to unraveling their dark (and gluten-free) mysteries; I choose simply to revel in the delicious results.

Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
From François Payard

As much as I enjoyed these cookies (and appreciate their virtuous and logic-defying composition), they strike me as more of a textural revelation than a taste one. The cocoa powder + confectioner's sugar combination doesn't provide the depth of flavor of some other chocolate cookies I've made in the past. That said, I will definitely continue to experiment with this recipe, perhaps with one of these variations.

2 3/4 cups walnut halves
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and line two large-rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. (From what I've read, the parchment paper is key; do not substitute silicone baking mats.)

Spread the walnut halves on a large-rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly, then transfer the walnut halves to a work surface and coarsely chop them.

In a large bowl, whisk (or combine in an electric mixer on low speed) the confectioners’ sugar with the cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped walnuts. While whisking (or once you change the speed to medium), add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not overbeat or it will stiffen). Don't automatically add all the egg whites. You want the batter to be thick and goopy — not wet and runny. So if it's thick, goopy, and scoopable, stop there.

Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking.

Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Friday, January 25, 2013

pasta with creamy roasted carrot sauce

This pasta feels like a seasonal variation on the (much beloved, and often aseasonal) Fettuccine with Peas and Parmesan. It's extremely comforting, in the way that most pastas—particularly monochromatic pastas—are, but complex as well: fragrant with roasted garlic, onions, and thyme; creamy and sharp from the crème fraîche and parmesan; and occasionally surprising with the crunch of toasted hazelnuts.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Creamy Roasted Carrot Sauce
Adapted from Traveler's Lunchbox

Serves: 4

1 1/2 pounds carrots (about 6 large), peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 large yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 - 1 1/2 cups hot, strong vegetable or chicken broth
3-4 tablespoons crème fraîche [you could substitute sour cream or Greek yogurt]
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound whole wheat penne, farfalle or other chunky pasta, cooked according to package directions
Freshly-grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, for garnish
Chopped toasted hazelnuts, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the carrots, onion, garlic, thyme and oil together in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, then spread the mixture out on a foil-covered baking sheet in a single layer. Roast until the carrots are tender and flecked with brown, about 45 minutes, stirring a couple of times and removing the garlic early if it starts to over-brown.

Peel the garlic cloves and puree with the rest of the vegetables in a food processor or blender, adding as much broth as necessary to make a thick, creamy sauce. Blend in the crème fraîche to taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss with hot cooked pasta and top with a sprinkling of cheese and toasted nuts.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

christmas report

After two years, this triumvirate it close to claiming the title of official Christmas menu. It checks all the requisite boxes (presentation value + maximum deliciousness), and, more importantly, allows us to admire the technical grace with which M. can clean a lamb chop.

The Menu:
Crown Roast of Lamb with Thyme and Mustard Bread Crumbs
Homemade (and Store-Bought) Mint Sauce
Mint Orzo with Crème Fraiche
Fennel with Orange and Sambuca


Crown Roast of Lamb with Mustard and Thyme

This recipe works just as well for a single rack of lamb; just halve the quantities.

Serves 6-8

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 crown of lamb made from two 8-rib racks
2 cup fresh bread crumbs from French bread
4 tablespoons olive oil

Mix together butter, mustard, garlic and chopped thyme in small bowl to blend.

Season lamb generously with salt and pepper. Place lamb in roasting pan. Spread mustard mixture evenly over lamb. (Lamb can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead. Refrigerate uncovered.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stir bread crumbs and oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat until crumbs begin to crisp, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly. Press crumbs onto mustard coating on lamb.

Roast 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting until thermometer inserted into lamb registers 140 degrees. for medium-rare, about 40 minutes. Transfer lamb to platter; let stand 15 minutes, then serve with mint sauce.


Mint Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appétit

For the sake of tradition, we always supplement this with some of the store-bought stuff (hence the electric green jelly you see in the photo), but I prefer this more piquant version. 

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup canned beef broth
1/3 cup minced shallots
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Combine 1 cup mint, broth, shallots, vinegar and sugar in heavy small non-aluminum saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 2 hours.

Strain sauce into large glass measuring cup. Place cornstarch in same saucepan. Gradually whisk in sauce. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir until sauce thickens slightly and turns translucent, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.) Stir in remaining 2 tablespoon mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Mint Orzo
Adapted from A Man and His Meatballs, by John Lafemina

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup diced shallots
2 cups orzo
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon crème fraîche
1/4 cup chopped mint
1 tablespoon chipped flat-leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the butter, shallots, salt, and pinch of black pepper and sauté until the shallots are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the orzo, stirring constantly until it begins to turn light brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the wine and continue stirring until the alcohol smell is gone and the wine is completely absorbed, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, stirring constantly until it is absorbed. Add more stock, a little at a time, until the orzo is creamy and firm (you may not need to use all the stock). Add the crème fraîche, mint, parsley, salt and pepper and mix well. Serve immediately.


Fennel with Orange and Sambuca
Adapted from Urban Italian, by Andrew Carmellini

For my full description, see here.

Serves 4

3 fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled, halved, and sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with the flat of a knife
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup Sambuca, plus 1 tablespoon for finishing [I don't use the latter]
1/4 cup golden raisins, soaked to rehydrate for 20 minutes and soaking water reserved
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Zest of one orange
2 tablespoons toasted and seasoned breadcrumbs [see Carmellini's recipe for "Crumb's Yo!"]

Cut the tops off the fennel where the green stalks meet the white bulb. Trim the ends off the bulbs and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the outer layers and anything that’s browned, and trim away any excess stem. Cut each half into eighths. Chop the fronds and reserve.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion slices and sweat them, stirring, until they start to soften—but don’t let them brown.

Add the fennel, garlic, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the Sambuca, and cook until the liquid in the pan has evaporated, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the raisins and the raisin-soaking water, orange juice, and chicken broth. Cook, periodically turning the fennel and glazing it with liquid from the pan, until the liquid is reduced by three quarters. (It should be a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.) The liquid will thicken and the fennel will be well glazed, shiny, fattened, and softened.

Remove the pan from the heat, pick out the garlic clove, and mix in the chopped fronds and 1 tablespoon of the Sambuca (if desired). Transfer the fennel to a serving platter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and orange zest.