About theoldcopperpot

I am a Pasadena residential real estate broker at Compass, and love creating dishes for dinner parties I host!

I forgot to wear green

St. Patrick's Day11 Having been to Ireland a couple of times, I have an appreciation for St. Patrick and all that he did to help his people.  The interesting thing was, here in the US we all wear green on St. Patrick’s day, but in Ireland, I didn’t see much green .. only a whole lot of fluorescent.  We learned from the locals that one way of complimenting an Irish baby is to tell mom that the baby looks very “Celtic” .. loved that.  While thinking about what libations to serve with my lamb Shepherd’s Pie, I was reflecting on time spent with Curt’s Irish Uncle Brendan, wondering if he had chosen Bushmills or Jameson to celebrate.  Knowing that he’s a Catholic, he probably chose for the Jameson .. or he could have surprised me and reached for a Guinness.

In my book, there’s no better way to celebrate than gathering with friends over a good, hearty meal.  Here’s what was cookin’ in my kitchen last Sunday.

St. Patrick's Day01I feel strongly that every St. Patrick’s Day feast should begin with fresh soda bread. Mmmm .. one of my favorites!  I experimented with a new recipe from Epicurious, called Brown Butter Soda Bread.  I was drawn to this particular recipe because it included fresh rosemary, rolled oats, and was topped with ground black pepper. Definitely a keeper!

Ingredients
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional for topping
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg white, beaten to blend

St. Patrick's Day02Directions
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Stir butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until melted and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir flour, oats, sugar, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl to blend. Pour buttermilk and melted browned butter over flour mixture; stir with fork until flour mixture is moistened.

Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Knead gently until dough comes together, about 7 turns. Divide in half. Shape each half into ball; flatten each into 6-inch round. Place rounds on ungreased baking sheet, spacing 5 inches apart. Brush tops with beaten egg white. Sprinkle lightly with ground black pepper. Using small sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch-deep X in top of each dough round.St. Patrick's Day07

Bake breads until deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool breads on rack at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: you’ll get the most tender soda bread by kneading the dough gently, just until it comes together, so the gluten is minimally developed.

St. Patrick's Day09For our main dish, I decided to make some serious comfort food … Shepherd’s Pie.  Found this recipe on Epicurious, as well. I decided to make it with half ground lamb and half beef just to keep things interesting, and added Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of nutmeg and increased the amount of tomato paste.  Also jazzed up the mashed potato crust by adding a little sour cream and cream cheese.  Delicious!  I doubled this recipe, and made one of them in my Mauviel rondeau, which made for a beautiful serving dish.

St. Patrick's Day06Ingredients
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 pound ground lamb (or substitute half with another ground meat)
1 cup beef or chicken brothSt. Patrick's Day05
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1 cup frozen peas
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk (any fat content)
Kosher salt to taste

St. Patrick's Day03Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion, carrot, and meat. Cook until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Drain the fat and add the broth, tomato paste, and herbs. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10 minutes, then add the peas.
4. Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish; set aside.
5. Meanwhile, bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes; drain.
6. Mash the potatoes with the butter, milk, and salt.
7. Spread them over the meat mixture, then crosshatch the top with a fork.
8. Bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes.St. Patrick's Day04

Tip • Instead of using a baking dish for the Shepherd’s Pie, keep the filling in the (ovenproof) sauté pan in which you cook it, top with the crust, and bake it all in the oven for a skillet version that won’t dirty another dish.

Lastly, what Irish meal would be complete without cabbage?  Molly Stevens has an excellent recipe, World’s Best Braised Cabbage. Her recipe comes from friends in Richmond, Virginia who, as she says, “were smitten by a braised cabbage side dish at their favorite restaurant,” so Molly decided to try and re-create it at home.  It’s so simple, once you make it, you won’t need to look at the recipe again.

St. Patrick's Day08Ingredients
1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 pounds)1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 large carrot cut into 1/4″ rounds
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt

Directions
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a large gratin or roasting dish.
2. Peel off and discard any bruised or ragged outer leaves. The cabbage should weigh close to 2 pounds so it will fit in a single layer in the baking dish. If necessary, cut away a wedge of the cabbage to trim it down to size.
3. Cut the cabbage into 8 wedges. Arrange the wedges in the baking dish, doing your best to make a single layer.
4. Scatter in the onion and carrot. Drizzle over the oil and stock. Season with salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Cover tightly with foil, and slide into the middle of the oven to braise until the vegetables are completely tender, about 2 hours. Turn the cabbage wedges after an hour. Don’t worry if the wedges want to fall apart as you turn them, just do your best to keep them intact. If the dish is drying out at all, add a few tablespoons of water.
5. Once the cabbage is completely tender, remove the foil, increase the oven heat to 400 degrees and roast until the vegetables begin to brown, another 15 minutes or so. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with fleur de sel or other coarse salt.

Kathy molly stevensI HIGHLY recommend investing in Molly Stevens cookbooks, All About Braising (winner of a 2005 James Beard award) and All About Roasting (winner of a 2012 James Beard award).  You won’t be disappointed!  I was fortunate to attend a cooking class she hosted last year .. such a treat.

Dinner is served!

St. Patrick's Day10

Overdone Christmas Party Meatfest, part 2: Estofat of Wild Boar

Wild BoarIt’s a rainy day here in San Francisco, so rather than stepping outside for last-minute Christmas shopping, I’d decided to stay in and share with you my experience with preparing wild boar.  In our quest for an interesting culinary experience for our party guests, Curt found a meat supplier, D’Artagnan, to ship us wild boar shoulder roasts. I found this recipe on the D’Artagnan website, and although you have to begin preparations a couple days ahead, it is so worthwhile!  … and, you can always turn the prep work into a party!  My friend Sandra was sweet enough to come over a few days ahead of time to help.

Ingredients
5 pounds D’Artagnan boneless wild boar shoulder
1 bottle (750 ml) full-bodied dry red wine, such as a Syrah
2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon dried Mediterranean oregano
2 bay leaf
2 teaspoons juniper berries
1 teaspoon bruised black and/or white peppercorns
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, chopped, for garnish

Preparation
Trim the BoarTwo days in advance, trim any excess fat from the wild boar and cut the meat into 24 pieces of approximately equal size. Gather all the trimmed fat and set aside.

Everything is better with cognacIn a flameware casserole, bring the wine and cognac to a boil over medium-low heat. This would be the time to pause and remember where you stashed away that kitchen fire extinguisher!  Turn off the heat and ignite, averting your face.

Ignite the alcohol When the flames subside, cover the casserole to keep the liquid hot.  Generously season the wild boar with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large conventional skillet (of course I pulled out my go-to cast iron).

Brown

Sauté the meat in batches over medium-high heat, turning, until nicely browned all over, about 5 minutes. Be sure not to crowd the skillet, otherwise the meat will steam and not brown!  As they are done, add each batch of hot meat to the hot wine in the casserole. Let stand for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, add the trimmed fat to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, onion, oregano, bay leaves, juniper berries, peppercorns, garlic, vinegar, and 1/4 cup water. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Scrape the contents of the skillet into the casserole.

Photos - 625

Ladle 1 cup of the liquid from the casserole into the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits still clinging to the bottom of the pan. Boil over high heat until reduced and syrupy, about 5 minutes (sipping on a nice glass of wine will help here … it’s important to be patient and not rush through this step). Ladle another cup of the marinade from the casserole into the skillet and again boil down to a syrup. Return this reduced syrupy liquid to the casserole.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Set the casserole over medium heat and slowly bring to a boil. Cover with a sheet of crumpled parchment paper and a tight-fitting lid and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.

Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the lid but not the paper and continue to cook for 2 hours. Transfer to a wooden board or folded kitchen towel to prevent cracking. Discard the paper and use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a bowl.

Strain the liquid and vegetables through a fine sieve set over a conventional saucepan. Press hard to get every drop of liquid. Skim off some of the fat and boil the juices over high heat until reduced to about 3 cups. Let cool; then cover and refrigerate the sauce and meat separately.

A day or two later, remove the meat and sauce from the refrigerator and let stand for about 2 hours to bring the meat and sauce back to room temperature. Meanwhile, brush a shallow baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the boar in the baking dish. Remove the fat from the surface of the sauce. Gently reheat the sauce in a conventional saucepan. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and pour over the boar. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.

The D’Artagnan recipe included an almond & chocolate picada, and I had every intention of making this, but simply ran out of time … I decided I really did need to take a shower before our guests began to arrive!

Why the heck would I go to so much trouble to prepare wild boar?  I’ve pretty much stuck to making the same 5 meats my whole life … chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and beef.  Now that I’m 50, I’ve been at this for a while!  Technique of this dish was so unique, I just had to try it.  Not that I’m a wild boar conisseur, but I’ve read that because they are fed acorns it gives the meat a richer taste.  The meat is lean and pork-like, but darker in color and has a tighter grain.  It pairs nicely with a bold red wine or strong ale, which you typically can’t do with a traditional pork dish.  Next time I’ll serve with a nice zinfandel.

As for the taste, YUM!  It’s as rich as a duck, but drier (and not greasy) … lean and tries to be as dry as a turkey.  Wild boar would never be confused for any meat you would find from a grocery counter.  Next time, I’ll serve this dish over hot buttered egg noodles.

Enjoy!

Overdone Christmas Party Meatfest, part 1: Christmas Goose

Christmas gooseI’m feeling rather inspired to blog about my most recent culinary adventure while relaxing here on the sofa, enjoying a nice cab, watching Julie & Julia. This past weekend Curt and I hosted our annual Christmas party, and we did get rather adventureous with the menu, which included: wild boar, Christmas goose, bison chili, roasted turkey, 4-cheese pasta for our vegetarian friends, plus a plethera of side dishes. It’s true, I did cook for a week, but it was a pretty fabulous dinner, if I say so myself.

Christmas Goose
Step 1: Find the goose, then prep
While it can be difficult to find a goose at our markets here in Pasadena, it’s a different story at the Asian markets in Alhambra. So, just a short drive south, I found a goose in the freezer section and let it defrost in my refrigerator for a few days.

Having never prepared goose before, I simply had no idea what to expect with my “Confucious-style-goose” … but was I ever surprised to discover that Confucious liked his goose completely intact … from head to toe! I shreeked when I turned the goose over and discovered an eyeball looking ominously in my direction. Confucious Style Young Goose

Fortunately my foodie friend Shelley, who is much braver than I, had volunteered to help in the kitchen that night, and I was grateful that she took on the task of clearing out all of the frightening “parts” that were completely unfamiliar to me.Shelley cleaning the goose

I planned to follow the recipe by one of my favorite authors, Molly Stevens, and did so successfully until the end … but more about that later. To prep the goose, tear off any loose deposits of fat inside the cavity openings. Using a sharp skewer or paring knife, prick holes in the skin around the lower breast and thighs (the holes allow fat to release from under the skin during cooking). Then generously sprinkle salt and pepper inside and out, and leave the bird resting uncovered on a half sheet pan in the refrigerator.Steaming the goose

Step 2: Steam the goose
Place the goose, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour water into the roaster pan until it is about 1-2 inches deep, then cover tightly with heavy-duty foil. Set the roaster on the stove, and heat on medium high heat until the water is boiling. Turn down the heat so the water gently simmers. Steam the goose for 40 minutes. After the steaming process, I noticed a few pinfeathers, but they were easy to pluck out with my needle-nose plyers.Removing pinfeathers

Step 3: Roast the goose
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Lift the roasting rack and goose out of the roasting pan and set aside on a tray. Pour the steaming liquid into a clean vessel and leave at room temperature until cool. Return the roasting rack and goose to the roasting pan. Transfer to the oven and roast until the meat on the drumsticks feels soft when pressed, about 2 hours. The internal temperature of the thigh meat should be about 180 degrees. Set the goose in a draft-free spot to rest for 20-45 minutes, tenting with foil if your kitchen is cool. Carve and serve.

Unfortunately I fell behind with the craziness of having 100 people for dinner, so I didn’t follow the recipe closely to make Molly’s gravy. Having made several of her recipes, I can imagine how tasty the gravy would be, so, don’t be a cheapskate! Bite the bullet and just order her roasting cookbook … you won’t be disappointed!

Chicken Fricassee

So I consider myself to be a safety-aware chef … but recently I really blew it.  Since autumn has finally arrived in Pasadena I was drawn to one of my favorite cookbooks, All About Braising by Molly Stevens.  While slicing onions on my mandolin to make chicken fricassee, my thumb got a little too close to the blade, and … ouch … I lost a few layers of skin!  I won’t make that same mistake twice.  Yawwwwch!

In spite of the thumb incident, this dish turned out beautifully and I’m anxious to share Molly’s recipe with you.

Chicken Fricassee with Artichokes & Mushrooms
One 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces or 2 3/4 pounds legs and thighs
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour for dredging
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
One 14-ounce can artichoke bottoms (not hearts) drained, rinsed and quartered
3/4 pound (12 ounces) button mushrooms, quartered
1 medium yellow onion (about 6 ounces) thinly sliced
1/4 cup Cognac, or other good brandy
1 1/4 cups dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Two 2- to 3-inch leafy fresh thyme sprigs
One 2- to 3-inch leafy fresh marjoram sprig
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 lemon (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Dredging the chicken: rinse the chicken pieces and dry well with paper towels. Generously season with salt and pepper. Spread the flour in a wide shallow dish. Dredge chicken pieces, turning to coat both sides.
  3. Searing the chicken: Heat the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add half of the chicken pieces skin side down and cook until the skin is an even blond color but not at all brown, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook the second side until blond, another 4 minutes or so. Transfer to a large plate or tray to catch any drips. Cook the second batch of chicken; set aside with the rest.
  4. The aromatics: Return the pot to medium heat; add the artichokes, mushrooms and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the platter with the chicken.
  5. Flaming the Cognac and building the braising liquid: Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the Cognac and carefully ignite it with a match. Be careful as the flames can be high. Let the flames die down, about 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pot as the Cognac boils to dislodge any lovely browned bits. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Simmer to reduce by one quarter, 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. The braise: Add the chicken pieces to the pot, setting the breasts on top to protect them from overcooking. Add the vegetables, along with the thyme, marjoram, garlic and any juices that have collected on the platter. Cover the pot with parchment paper, then cover tightly with the lid. Slide onto a rack in the lower third of the oven and braise gently for 15 minutes. Turn the breast pieces over and continue braising until the chicken is fork-tender, another 40-45 minutes.
  7. The finish: With a slotted spoon or tongs, lift the chicken pieces and most of the mushrooms and artichokes from the pan; transfer to serving platter. Skim as much surface fat as you have the patience for from the braising liquid. Set the sauce over medium-high heat and bring to a strong simmer. Lift out and discard the herb sprigs. Let the sauce simmer vigorously to reduce in volume and concentrate in flavor for about 5 minutes. Add the creme fraiche and continue to simmer to reduce to the consistency of a thin cream soup, another 5 minutes or so. Taste for salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes flat, add a squeeze of lemon.

I served the chicken with spaghetti squash and braised cabbage (another excellent Molly Stevens recipe).

Baumalu Review

The go-to potThe most common question I’m asked in my kitchen is “do you really use your copper pots?” which kinda makes me giggle.  When my husband first started purchasing our copper pots, I kept them polished and beautiful, and still reached for my All-Clad and Cuisinart standbys.  As I slowly started using the copper beauties, I became a believer in copper.  It might be because I’m a bit controlling … and the copper responds so quickly to heat that it fuels my desire to control.The first copper pots in my collection were used, and not marked with a brand-name, and it seemed that Baumalu was regularly sold on eBay.  My husband can be a bit obsessive when it comes to learning and researching, which can make me crazy (I’ll admit it … I usually buy the first car I test-drive).  He couldn’t find much information on-line about them, but today I have 5 Baumalus and they are my most used.  Here’s what I’ve learned about them, having now used them for a couple of years.

There seem to be three lines of Baumalu copper, which is usually not specified on eBay.  One line is a hammered copper, which I don’t have any of, since they always seem to sell higher and don’t think they would out-perform the others.  Another line is the lighter weight, less expensive line and is easy to spot in a photo because it has a chromed-steel handle and is a stainless steel pot with a thin layer of copper on the exterior (the stainless steel appears to be 2 mm thick, and copper less than 1 mm).

Tin on the left and stainless on the right.

I use this pot when I’m looking for more consistency and don’t need as much control since the stainless steel doesn’t change temperature as quickly as tin.  The much heavier, much sturdier, and much less refined-looking Baumalu (I’m guessing it’s a commercial line) have cast iron handles and 2 ml thick copper.  They are tin-lined, which I prefer, particularly for sauces since there’s no burn ring as the sauce reduces, and if I’m cooking something that I need precise heat control, there just isn’t a better option.  When using copper, remember that you can’t set an empty pot on a heated burner, or you’ll separate the tin layer from the copper.  Also, if you’re using a commercial-style range with high BTU burners, there’s never a reason to turn the heat higher than “medium” … I can boil water quicker in these pots on medium heat than in a stainless steel All-Clad on high.  Even though all but one of my Baumalus were new when I bought them, I enjoy using them since it makes me feel like I’m cooking in the Downton Abbey kitchen.  Sometimes I hear that folks are afraid of the tin, thinking it won’t pass the test of time, but I haven’t had any problems, and haven’t yet had my pots re-tinned.

Left: Baumalu 3qt.sauce pan Center: Mauviel 3 1/2-qt. Rondeau Right: Ruffoni 4 3/4-qt. stockpot

Copper vs Copper
I didn’t buy a set of pots, I bought the pots one at a time based on what I needed (which is a post for another time).  I have a Mauviel and a few Ruffonis in my collection that are just downright beautiful, but I find myself reaching for my Baumalus more regularly since I love to be in control. 😉

A word about thickness
Julia Child was known for saying to buy copper cookware that’s at least 3 mm thick … I have only one this thick that my husband found used on-line.  It’s a Baumalu windsor pan.  I’ve never seen a Baumalu 3 mm copper pot new … probably because the price would be so high.  My Baumalu 2 mm 11-inch braiser is pretty heavy; if it were 3 mm, even though I lift weights every week, I don’t know if I could pick it up, especially if it was full!  The difference in the way sauces reduce when comparing my 2 mm with 3 mm is so very slight, I don’t think it’d be worth the money.  But, I do highly recommend spending the money to get a 2 mm verses 1, especially for reductions.

Clean by Bar Keepers FriendKeeping copper clean
The second most-asked question I’m asked is how I keep my copper pots cleaned.  To be honest, I kinda like the patina look on my pots.  I’ll make ’em shine at Thanksgiving by using my Bar Keepers Friend.  You can also clean the copper by slicing a lemon, dipping in coarse salt, and rubbing it in to the copper.  Another option is to rub ketchup over the copper, let it sit for a little while, then rinse off.

I recently wrote a review on Ruffoni pots.

Canning Party – Chutney

I’ve heard it said that at some point, we eventually become carbon copies of our parents.  The other day at Trader Joe’s, the items in my cart totally made me think I’m becoming my mother, whom I admire tremendously.  I’m not sure if it was the organic carrots or the raw almonds, but it’s definitely happening. One of our chores growing up was helping my mom can the summer’s fresh bounty, and recently I’ve enjoyed making chutneys, pickles, and other treats for my pantry.  Last Sunday I had my very first canning party … it was so much fun, I can’t wait until the next one!

Chris, my Canadian buddy, inspired this recipe selection of Peach and Raisin Chutney. She is an excellent cook, so I was thrilled that she came out for the party. We found this recipe on the Canadian Living website, and it is amazingly delicious. The chutney will make cold meat sing! Also, spoon on top of goat cheese crostinis, brie, pork tenderloin, pancakes, breakfast crepe, french toast, or even ice cream.

Peach & Raisin Chutney
8 cups sliced peeled fresh peaches
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups raisins
2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Preparation
In large heavy Dutch oven, combine peaches, brown sugar, onions, raisins, vinegar, red pepper, mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, cinnamon, curry powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring often, until thickened and toffee-brown in colour, about 1 hour.

Fill hot 1-cup canning jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles.

Cover with prepared discs. Screw on bands until resistance is met; increase to fingertip tight. Boil in boiling water canner for 10 minutes. (See Canning Basics)

Turn off heat. Uncover and let jars stand in canner for 5 minutes. Lift up rack. With canning tongs, transfer jars to cooling rack; let cool for 24 hours.


With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it’d be fun to make a pear chutney, as well … this girl’s just gotta have some chutney on hand for turkey leftovers. One of the blogs I follow, Food In Jars, had this excellent recipe for Bartlett Pear Chutney with Dried Cherries and Ginger.

Pear Chutney with Dried Cherries and Ginger
makes 3 half pint jars

3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped roughly
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons apple brandy
4 cups roughly chopped Bartlett pears (4-5 medium pears)
2/3 cup sugar

Place dried cherries in a heat-proof bowl or measuring cup and pour boiling water over top. Set aside. Heat a large, non-reactive pot or skillet over medium heat. Add oil and heat until it shimmers. Add onion and sea salt and cook until the onion softened and develops a bit of color. Add ginger, mustard seeds and cardamom and cook until spices are fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop.

Add vinegar and brand to pan and use a wooden spoon to work up any bits of fond on the bottom of the pan. Add dried cherries and their liquid. Add chopped pears and sugar and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low, put a lid on the pan and let pears simmer gently for 30-35 minutes so that they soften.

When the pears can be crushed with the back of a wooden spoon, remove the lid from the pot. Increase the heat to high and cook quickly, stirring regularly, to help reduce any remaining liquid.

When chutney is no longer at all watery and looks deeply colored, take a taste. Should it need it, add a splash more vinegar, a pinch more salt or a spoonful more sugar. Do make sure to taste for adjustments before canning, as ingredients can vary from kitchen to kitchen and it’s the only way to ensure that you’ll wind up with a product that you like.

When chutney is fully cooked down and tastes good to you, ladle it into three prepared half pint jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars from canning pot and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and eaten within a week. Sealed jars can be kept in the pantry for up to one year.

Jumbo Shrimp South Beach Approved

I’m on a quest to find flavorful dishes that are easy on my waistline, and came across this shrimp recipe on the Epicurious website.  The shrimp are grilled and served alongside a chile, cilantro and lime dipping sauce.

Peppers in the food processorMy Latin market, Baja Ranch, didn’t have red Anaheim chiles (what’s up with that??!!!) but the green ones worked great.  I piled the peppers with fresh chunks of ginger, cilantro, a serious amount of garlic cloves, fish sauce and a couple tablespoons of oil into my food processor and a few pulses later, the dipping sauce was done.Asian slaw  Several reviews suggested using half as much fish sauce as the recipe called for, so I went with this plan.

Another great suggestion in the reviews was to serve the shrimp alongside an Asian slaw.  I snagged this recipe from Epicurious, as well.  The snap peas and red pepper really jazzed it up, and this was super easy to make.

Asian Slaw with Peanuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons oriental sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce

6 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
6 green onions, very thinly sliced
6 ounces snow peas, stringed, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup roasted peanuts

Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper.  Mix cabbage and remaining ingredients in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Jalapeno poppers

I was at a party a few years ago and had these jalapeno poppers for the first time.  Friends of ours were hosting a dinner to benefit the organization my husband works for, Lake Avenue Community Foundation, and … talk about the “hostess with the most-est” … Robin knows how to do DO IT RIGHT!  She and her close friend Jackie have a fun blog … check it out here.  These poppers are absolutely delicious, and totally work if you’re going low-carb.  Slice jalapeno peppers lengthwise, remove the membrane and seeds, place a slice of good quality dry salami in the pepper, spread cream cheese on top of salami, and top with grated sharp cheddar.  (I used reduced-fat cream cheese and cheddar.)  Grill on a barbecue until the pepper is soft, charred a little, and the cream cheese is gooey and delicious.  These taste even better if you cook in a smoker rather than BBQ, so if you have one, definitely use it!

Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

It’s funny how people think pork is dry.  It just needs a little extra time and love.  I’ve made several pork dishes from Alton Brown’s collection, Epicurious and Cook’s Illustrated and have learned how important it is to brine pork.  Don’t skip this step!  After brining the roast for 24 hours, I prepared a fruit-based filling with leftover dried fruit from the pantry.  Next time I think I’ll try adding cashews.

Serves 6-8
THE BRINE

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (4- to 4 1/2-lb) boneless pork loin roast, trimmed

Combine all ingredients except roast in a large pot; bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the salt is dissolved.  Cool completely, then immerse roast in brine and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

THE FILLING

  • 1/3 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried bing cherries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup carmelized onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch ground cumin
  • pinch ground coriander
  • pinch ground cinnamon

THE ASSEMBLY

Remove the roast from the brine, and rinse thoroughly; pat dry; butterfly (check out this YouTube if you need a refresher on how to butterfly a roast).  Sprinkle flattened roast with salt and pepper.  Combine remaining filling ingredients, then spread over the roast.

Roll tightly in the shape of a log, then use kitchen string to tie together in 2″ intervals.  Place in a roasting pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 1/4 hours, until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.  Remove from oven, and tent with foil for 5 minutes.  Slice, and serve!

A Night at the Bowl

FigsIs there anything more wonderful than a night at the Hollywood Bowl?  Last night we joined several friends for an evening under the stars to hear The Brian Setzer Orchestra.  Although I’m a big fan of Brian’s, I was most excited to see Leslie Spencer making her debut at the Bowl.  Go Les!

You never can be sure if there will be an opening at a picnic table, so we decided upon a simple tapas dinner.  My colleague Sonya had generously shared with me a bowl of figs from her tree, and I found an idea for them on one of my favorite food blogs, A Feast for the Eyes.  I wrapped each fig with a slice of proscuitto, with a dab of brie cheese tucked inside, then placed them on a skewer.  I finished them by placing on the grill for a short time, so the cheese would soften a bit.  Delicious and so very easy!  Thanks, foodiewife, for a great idea.

Having spent half the day meeting with a new client and at a property inspection, I didn’t have a whole lot of time for food prep before hopping on the shuttle for the Bowl, so I decided to keep it simple and made goat cheese crostinis.  I thinly sliced a baguette, drizzled each piece with olive oil, and toasted the crostinis in the oven.  Fortunately I had a few toppings on hand from recent canning experiments, including: tomato basil marmalade, pickled fennel with orange zest (both from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook), and rosemary onion confit (The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman).

Welcome to my new blog!

The way I see it, the only thing more fun than cooking is eating!

Why do I enjoy hosting a meal?  It gives me a chance to be creative, to collaborate with my friends, and banter about how much salt is too much.  Then of course there’s the wine.  I think Julia Child had it right when she used to say, “I always cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in my food.

Paul Bertolli, on the essentials of menu planning, says “The only thing to remember is that the palate should be kept fresh, teased, surprised, excited all through a meal.  The moment there is danger of fatigue, it must be astonished, or soothed into greater anticipation, until the sublime moment of release when one moves away from the table to relax with coffee and an alcool.”  I’d love to be his dinner guest!

So … let the new adventure begin.