Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiday Booze

So we've been doing an eggnog experiment, to see what booze we like best with eggnog. This post is not about that experiment.

It is instead about a serendipitous finds.

I needed a bottle of champagne. One of the receptionists at my physical therapist's office recommended me Wine Wisdom on 46th Street. They suggested I go home with Henri Goutorbe rosé, and a Balvenie 12yr Doublewood. The rosé is fantastic - dry, without becoming sawdust, with a hint of flowery goodness. That's all I'll say about that too; if you can find it, it is one of the best champagnes I've tasted.

The Balvenie 12yr Doublewood was a great find. It's silky-smooth, and not a hint of smokiness. So if you're looking to drink peat, well, perhaps this one isn't for you, but otherwise it's a great Scotch.

Here's a holiday dessert drink. I know my normal measures are in metric, but when talking about ounces and drinks, American seems to work better for me.

Combine all the ingredients in a glass. Stir well. Serve. Repeatedly as desired.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Who Says You Can Only Have Dressing at Thanksgiving?

I didn't try it until I was in my teens, but when I did, I fell in love with stuffing (in the bird) and dressing (out of the bird). I've had both in multiple forms and formats including:


  • Wonder bread cubes (hi Janet!)
  • Pre-seasoned bread cubes, which are a bit salty, even for me, and Nexx will tell you I put salt on my salt.
  • Rice, usually a mix of short grain and wild rice, which isn't rice at all.
  • Cornbread, which is not my thing. So very not my thing.
  • Stovetop out of a box. Again, a bit salty, but convenient as all get out, and if you add a few things, you can spread the salt among the other ingredients.
  • Leftover bread from that Italian place in Stamford. Fabulous food, and we ordered delivery one evening and they send us enough bread that I was easily able to fill my 9x13 baking dish.
Getting into ingredients, and I'll * the ones I've used. This year's ingredients are in blue:
  • Celery*
  • Onions*
  • Chunks of roast pork (yum!)
  • Oysters*
  • Chestnuts (not my thing)
  • Walnuts*
  • Apples* (I adore apples and onions together)
  • Hard-cooked eggs
  • Breakfast sausage--before you say "wrong kind of sausage," note that a lot of breakfast sausage has a nice measure of sage)
  • Smoked sausage* (a personal favorite)
  • Kielbasa* (bring on the garlic!)
While Nexx was trying yet another store to find us a turkey breast, I asked him to pick me up some bread. He came home with a sliced round loaf of "country bread," which was perfect. The ingredients on the package said, "wheat, yeast, salt." Not sure how sugar got left off the label to feed the yeast, but it was nice that it wasn't the first ingredient.

I spread out the slices on a baking pan on Tuesday night, put it in the oven and ignored it for 24 hours. One Wednesday, I cut it into cubes (we need a serrated knife, sweetie), but the actual creation didn't get going until the duck was in the immersion circulator.

  • Bread cubes from above
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2.5 Cups chopped onions
  • .5 pounds of kielbasa--about half a package (I wanted smoked sausage, but let Nexx have his way), chopped into .75" pieces
  • .5 pounds of shucked oysters, chopped. We had a can, and reserved half the oyster liquid
  • zest of half a lemon (I wanted a little brightness to counter the richness of the oysters)
  • 1 quart turkey stock
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter to be melted 
  • 1 egg, beaten (I'm honestly not sure this is necessary, but it seemed like a good idea).
  • 2 Tablespoons Rosemary
  • 2 shakes of garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Fines Herbes 
Saute the kielbasa over medium heat for about 5 minutes, to the point where it starts releasing fat & juices, but take out of the pan before it gets brown. 

Chop your vegetables. Put them in a bowl, no need to separate

I used our stew pot, as our biggest bowl was too small. Put in the bread cubes and the herbs in your and toss until well-mixed. Next up, the vegetables and meat, a little at at time, stirring constantly with a rubber scraper.

Add the melted butter and stir in, then add the broth one cup at a time, continually stirring until the bread cubes are damp and soft. Put in 9x13 baking pan, cover with foil. Bake at 400 F for 60 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until top is crispy. The most fun thing about dressing, to me, is the interplay of all the different textures.

Next time, more oysters, but otherwise I'm very happy with this. I think Nexx is too because he's been very busy the last few minutes scarfing the leftovers.

Cheers! 

Who Says You Can Only Have Dressing at Thanksgiving?

I didn't try it until I was in my teens, but when I did, I fell in love with stuffing (in the bird) and dressing (out of the bird). I've had both in multiple forms and formats including:


  • Wonder bread cubes (hi Janet!)
  • Pre-seasoned bread cubes, which are a bit salty, even for me, and Nexx will tell you I put salt on my salt.
  • Rice, usually a mix of short grain and wild rice, which isn't rice at all.
  • Cornbread, which is not my thing. So very not my thing.
  • Stovetop out of a box. Again, a bit salty, but convenient as all get out, and if you add a few things, you can spread the salt among the other ingredients.
  • Leftover bread from that Italian place in Stamford. Fabulous food, and we ordered delivery one evening and they send us enough bread that I was easily able to fill my 9x13 baking dish.
Getting into ingredients, and I'll * the ones I've used. This year's ingredients are in blue:
  • Celery*
  • Onions*
  • Chunks of roast pork (yum!)
  • Oysters*
  • Chestnuts (not my thing)
  • Walnuts*
  • Apples* (I adore apples and onions together)
  • Hard-cooked eggs
  • Breakfast sausage--before you say "wrong kind of sausage," note that a lot of breakfast sausage has a nice measure of sage)
  • Smoked sausage* (a personal favorite)
  • Kielbasa* (bring on the garlic!)
While Nexx was trying yet another store to find us a turkey breast, I asked him to pick me up some bread. He came home with a sliced round loaf of "country bread," which was perfect. The ingredients on the package said, "wheat, yeast, salt." Not sure how sugar got left off the label to feed the yeast, but it was nice that it wasn't the first ingredient.

I spread out the slices on a baking pan on Tuesday night, put it in the oven and ignored it for 24 hours. One Wednesday, I cut it into cubes (we need a serrated knife, sweetie), but the actual creation didn't get going until the duck was in the immersion circulator.

  • Bread cubes from above
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2.5 Cups chopped onions
  • .5 pounds of kielbasa--about half a package (I wanted smoked sausage, but let Nexx have his way), chopped into .75" pieces
  • .5 pounds of shucked oysters, chopped. We had a can, and reserved half the oyster liquid
  • zest of half a lemon (I wanted a little brightness to counter the richness of the oysters)
  • 1 quart turkey stock
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter to be melted 
  • 1 egg, beaten (I'm honestly not sure this is necessary, but it seemed like a good idea).
  • 2 Tablespoons Rosemary
  • 2 shakes of garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Fines Herbes 
Saute the kielbasa over medium heat for about 5 minutes, to the point where it starts releasing fat & juices, but take out of the pan before it gets brown. 

Chop your vegetables. Put them in a bowl, no need to separate

I used our stew pot, as our biggest bowl was too small. Put in the bread cubes and the herbs in your and toss until well-mixed. Next up, the vegetables and meat, a little at at time, stirring constantly with a rubber scraper.

Add the melted butter and stir in, then add the broth one cup at a time, continually stirring until the bread cubes are damp and soft. Put in 9x13 baking pan, cover with foil. Bake at 400 F for 60 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until top is crispy. The most fun thing about dressing, to me, is the interplay of all the different textures.

Next time, more oysters, but otherwise I'm very happy with this. I think Nexx is too because he's been very busy the last few minutes scarfing the leftovers.

Cheers! 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Things That Didn't Go As Planned

So it's just two of us for Thanksgiving this year, and that means we're in no way we're going to do a whole turkey. I was going to make the turchetta. That turchetta is a fantastic recipe, and is highly recommended, especially if you're fortunate enough to, like me, have access to an immersion circulator.

What I didn't count on is the NYC-area grocers not carrying just turkey breast. We looked at Food Emporium, Fairway and the Amish Market, as well as on Amazon Prime Now and Fresh Direct. None of them had just simple turkey breast; all they had were turkey breasts prepped by their butchers somehow, but none plain.

Kate suggested we do chicken, because there were plenty of those available. I didn't want chicken for Thanksgiving, but the Amish Market had two perfectly serviceable duck breasts, so duck became the poultry du jour.

Unlike most of my recipes, I am not going to give measurements, since I don't have them. I was prepping this on Wednesday right before we went out, so time was a little constrained. The steps will be chronicled, with notes about what could've gone better as well.


  1. Take the duck breasts out of their packaging. So many people neglect this step, but I find it critical since plastics have terrible texture.
  2. Remove the fat layer, but not completely, like I did. Leave about 1/4 of it, because that's a bit critical to proper flavouring.
  3. Flip the duck over, and score the meat deeply, once or twice length-wise and about 4-6 times width-wise. Do not cut all the way through the meat, though, just about 2/3 of the way through the meat.
  4. Into the meat, rub in the following:
    1. Dried orange peels
    2. Dried sage
    3. Dried rosemary
    4. Garlic powder
    5. Salt
    6. Pepper
  5. Put the two breasts together, with more salt in the meat, and tie them together using butcher's twine.
  6. Into the bag it goes, with a bit of olive oil, fresh sage (oops, forgot this part), and a little bit of black truffle oil, and then seal it with a vacuum sealer.
At this point, the entire bag should rest in your fridge overnight.

I then cooked it for 3 hours at 57.5ºC in the immersion circulator. Afterwards, I seared the outside in my new carbon skillet using really hot avocado oil.

It was pretty good, according to Kate, but I think it could've been a lot better. I would rate my efforts a C+.

More Thanksgiving Prep: Rosemary Olive Oil rolls

This started out as an accident. Word to the wise: even if you've made a recipe before and know it pretty well, read it all the way through before you start. I'm going to get right to the ingredients of the base recipe. Thanks here go out to Beki D. who I occasionally call Mom even though she's two years older than I am.


  • 3-3.5 Cups flour (the recipe called for Gold Medal or Better for Bread flour. I used a store brand that was unbleached and unbromated)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package regular or quick active dry yeast--2.25 teaspoons (I used a package of regular)
  • 1 Cup very warm water--120-130 degrees Farenheit (use your oven thermometer)
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water
  • Cornmeal
I also added 2 Tablespoons of dried rosemary

The recipe starts with, 
  • I large bowl, mix 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast (and the rosemary). Add warm water and oil. Beat with electric mixer (I used a wooden spoon, rubber scraper, and my fingers) on low speed one minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1/2 Cup at a time to make dough easy to handle dough will be soft
Where I screwed up, was I read 3 Cups of flour. This meant I had a very dry dough on my hands. I added 2 more Tablespoons of olive oil and another Tablespoon of water and that brought it together pretty well. That got me a soft damp dough.

I followed the rest of the recipe closely, using the variant at the end to make rolls instead of loaves.


  • On lightly floured surface, knead dough about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
  • Grease large bowl with shortening or spray with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover and let rise in warm place 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours or until dough has doubled in size. (Rising time is longer than times for traditional breads, which gives the typical French bread texture.) Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.  (I go for the full two hours. If your kitchen isn't that warm, you can turn the oven on to 200 degrees F to warm it up a bit. Or start baking something else. My friend Rick, who lives in Florida told me he puts his out in his car. I can't make this shit up.)
  • Grease large cookie sheet with shortening or spray with cooking spray; sprinkle with cornmeal. 
  • Gently push fist into dough to deflate; divide in half. On lightly floured surface, roll each half into 15 x 8-inch rectangle. Roll dough up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side, to form a loaf. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Roll gently back and forth to taper ends. Place both loaves on cookie sheet. 
  •  Cut 1/4-inch-deep slashes across tops of loaves at 2-inch intervals with sharp knife. 
  • Brush loaves with cold water. Let rise uncovered in warm place about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. 
  • Heat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, mix egg white and 1 tablespoon cold water; brush over loaves. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seed. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool. 


Tips and variants

  • If you prefer a more crunchy crust to this delightful bread, spray the loaves with water right before baking and add a pan of water to the oven.

Crusty Hard Rolls: 


  • Grease large cookie sheet with shortening or spray with cooking spray; sprinkle with cornmeal. After deflating dough, divide into 12 equal parts. Shape each part into a ball; place on cookie sheet. Brush rolls with cold water. Let rise uncovered about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. 
  • Heat oven to 425°F. In small bowl, mix egg white and 1 tablespoon cold water; brush over rolls. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seed. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until brown. 12 rolls.
Where I need some work with rolls is mine were not exactly round and pretty. Taste test indicates they are a go. We won't eat all 12, so the rest will go for snacks with cheese and fruit.

Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Prep: Another Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving this year is a little different. Due to time constraints, Nexx and I aren't headed up to Massachusetts, but instead will be home, just the two of us.

I made cranberry sauce today and doing some baking tomorrow. I'm going for lemon-ginger scones, I think, and possibly some rolls. I'm not completely sure about the rolls because we've got a very rich dressing coming and do we really need them?

I'll make up my mind tomorrow.

Today's was a smaller batch, unlike my previous recipes. Inconveniently, a large package of cranberries is 12 oz, and a small one is 7 oz, so the measurements are not quite exact. 7 oz is close enough to a third of 24 (two packages).

Ingredients
  • 1 7 oz package of fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cup of sugar (I removed about 2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (about one small orange)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon bourbon (we got something called Rumble)
  • 1 Tablespoon Gran Marnier
  • juice of half the orange you zested

Preheat the oven to 350F. Rinse the cranberries in cold water and drain, but don't dry them. Pour them into a glass baking dish in one layer. Stir in sugar, zests and cinnamon until well blended--the cranberries will be coated with sugar, but you shouldn't see the spices. I use a rubber scraper for this. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and  bake for 55 minutes. After removing from the oven, stir in orange juice, bourbon, and Gran Marnier. Hide in fridge until Thanksgiving dinner.

When I talk about this recipe, I often get a surprised comment of, "You bake your cranberry sauce?" I don't think I'd have it any other way. Even with the foil, the tops of the cranberries are going to dry a touch, so you have a nice interplay of textures.

If all goes according to plan, there will be an entry about our main dish and other sides. 

Enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Variations on a theme: Split Pea Soup

I find myself in a position with a lot more time on my hands than I'd like. My day job, which was grant-funded, ran out of grant and eliminated my position. No projects, no money, no Kate. This means right now, I have two jobs: finding a new day job and staying sane. Part of staying sane is finding things to do.

I know I've made split pea soup at least twice since this post, but I can't seem to find the links to the posts. This is rather embarrassing. The good news is, the base recipe worked fine with the tweaks I remembered, and of course I tweaked it again.

The final ingredients list for 4 servings


  • 1 pound dry split split peas 
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced, then cut into half-circles. Rinse well. Rinse again.
  • 2 large carrot, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 2.5 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
  • garlic salt to taste
  • freshly ground peppercorns to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon tumeric
  • 16 oz smoked sausage, sliced to 1/2" pieces

The process was pretty much the same. Lightly heat the sausage on the bottom of your pan for about ten minutes, stirring constantly. You want it to release fat, but not get crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add your garlic and onions, if you need more fat, add a bit of butter. You could, if you had some, use duck fat, I plan to try that some time. Love the stuff, but that's for another entry.

Toss in the carrots and leeks, then add your spices. Tumeric will combine with the fat turning everything a lovely golden color. Stir every 2 minutes are so until onions are soft--you should be able to cut one in half easily with your stirring implement. I use a wooden spoon, but as you wish.

Add the broth, add the peas, stir well. Bring up to medium-high heat until it starts to bubble. Stir some more until everything looks mixed. Put the heat down to simmer.

Eat lunch. Do some laundry. Watch some Netflix. Stir once an hour. When the peas are soft, they will begin to split and you're ready for blending. I ended up simmering for several hours because Nexx was scheduled to be home late. 

I prefer my stick blender on high speed for turning the soup velvety smooth. If you have a regular blender, don't add more than 2 Cups at a time and keep a hand on the lid.

About five minutes before serving, stir in the sausage. Ladle into bowls, serve with chunks of Swiss cheese and some crusty bread.