Archives for category: Recipes

As you may or may not know, I am in a writing workshop group that meets every three weeks. Sometimes we do writerly things, but these gatherings are often also dinner parties. It was my turn to host this week and I was searching for something I could make easily in the hour between getting home from work and the start of the workshop, and something that I could easily scale up to feed 9 hungry writers. Obviously I chose Cheeseburger Chili Mac & Cheese.

The recipe is very easy and I actually followed it, for the most part. I used regular pasta instead of whole wheat, and at the end when it says to top the chili and pasta with cheese, I mixed some in as well. I also did not think that the addition of beef stock to the chili was really necessary. By the time I reached that step, my chili was already liquid-y enough. Unfortunately, I am out of my own beef stock, so I had to use store-bought. In the future, I would use home-made and reduce it on its own for a bit first, thereby reducing the volume of liquid while still adding a little more depth of flavor to the dish. I already have a weekend in October blocked off for stock-making, so I’ll be fully stocked (anyone?) again soon.

Lamentably, everyone ate all of it before I take any pictures. Seconds and thirds were had, and I packed everyone off into the night stuffed full of meat, cheese, and pasta. I am very exciting for Fall weather to begin, and mac & cheese, though delectable year-round, is a great base for hearty Fall meals. What are your favorite mac & cheese variations?

As always, recipe after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dearest readers,

I promise that I have not forgotten about you. I have been busy and lazy and the summer just kind of dragged on and I never posted. Anyway, now, for the hundredth time, I am back.

Perhaps because I still think in terms of school years, I have always felt the urge to make resolutions after Labor Day, rather than after New Years. The summer is over, the weather turns, and everyone buckles down to business once again. This year, I am focusing on the things I usually try to avoid: working out, cleaning my apartment, generally becoming more of an adult.

Part of this campaign involves bringing my own lunch to work more often. In terms of both health and finances, I think it’s the better choice, even if it takes a little forethought. For example, I just made a big pan of baked oatmeal (recipe after the jump!) and some hardboiled eggs in anticipation of bringing them for lunches. As I was cooking, I realized that I would get more excited about making lunch if I had a cool grown-up lunchbox to pack everything into. Here are some of the ones I found; what do you think?

Built’s Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote Graphic and practical, these neoprene lunchboxes are insulated and machine-washable. I am partial to the “city grid” print.

Vivo Square Bento Box Conveniently stackable, these tins provide an easy-to-clean lunchbox option. Plus, the colors make me smile every time I look at them.

Graze Organic Reusable Food Bags I love organizing things and finding a special place for everything, so I love the idea of a little reusable, labeled bag for all my different lunch foods.

Artifact Olive Lunch Tote This is the grown up waxed-cotton version of the classic brown paper lunch bag. I like the leather strap detail and the simple concept.

Do you bring your lunch? Do you have a favorite lunchbox? Am I the only person with a lunchbox wish list? Let me know, and recipe for baked oatmeal after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

As promised, The Infinite Table is back in business and cooking up a storm. To kick things off again, I thought I would share one of my favorite summer meals: spaghetti alla carbonara and Champagne. Carbonara is one of my favorite classic pasta presentations. The egg and cheese makes for a rich, creamy sauce, and the bacon always makes my mouth water. I usually add some sauteed scallions or leeks as well to add a little brightness to the dish.


At this point, I need to introduce a new Infinite Table character: Boyfriend. Boyfriend is great. He drinks wine for a living and we can talk to each other in flavors alone. AND he is super useful, as you can see in the picture below. Say hello:

Anyway, carbonara is delightfully easy: saute up your bacon, garlic, and scallions in one pan, cook up your spaghetti (the carbonara pasta of choice and tradition) in a pot, and whisk together egg and cheese in a bowl. When all the respective parts are complete, mix them together. The heat from the pasta and bacon should cook up the egg and you’re ready to eat. Have Boyfriend or your resident sommelier pop open a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve and you have a simple, delicious summer dinner.

  

As always, full recipe after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

I am quite sure that I have mentioned many times my obsession with Joel Robuchon‘s potato puree. If you have never tasted it, you might be thinking something like, “Oh mashed potatoes can be very satisfying, sure.” You are wrong. His potato puree is beyond mashed potatoes, beyond cream, beyond even butter. Each mouthful is transcendent; you’re filled with a sense of peace and the conviction that the world is full of goodwill. I’ve had it multiple times on two different continents and I cannot ever imagine getting enough. Sometimes they even send out an extra serving of it because they know I want a truckful.

I have thought about trying to replicate this gateway to nirvana multiple times, and last night I attempted it for the first time. There are lots of slightly different recipes for this floating around, so I picked the first one and dove in. The basic idea is to boil the potatoes, squeeze them through a ricer, beat a bunch of butter and milk into them, squeeze them through a strainer, and then finish it off with more butter and milk. I followed the recipe exactly with one exception: I didn’t have whole milk so I used heavy whipping cream instead.

My initial reaction was that my arm hurt. Perhaps I should have been weight training for this, because after 4 minutes of beating the potatoes dry, 5 minutes of beating butter in, and 15 minutes of cramming the mashed mixture through a sieve, my right arm was pretty upset with me. If I weren’t in pursuit of such a noble end, I might have given up.

As far as the finished product was concerned, I would rate my first effort as a B. They were definitely more rich and less chunky than the average mashed potatoes. I think the potatoes could have been cooked for a few more minutes, as some parts were difficult to press through the ricer and the texture at the end was still a little grainy. Another problem I noticed was that the potatoes didn’t fully absorb all the butter and cream. Even though I beat the mixture very vigorously with a wood spatula as instructed , there seemed to be a portion of buttery liquid that I couldn’t get into the potato. I am not sure if I didn’t allow the potato to dry enough or if the ratio of potato to butter was off, but it resulted in potato puree that was not quite as light as I wanted. While the end product was very tasty, it was not as creamy and smooth as the real thing. I did not expect to hit the nail on the head the first time; if it were easy to make the puree everyone would be making it all the time. However, I thought it was a solid first try and will continue to research the matter. For my next effort, I am going to consult The Complete Robuchon for advice from the source.

Recipe after the jump

Read the rest of this entry »

Last night was one of those times when we throw a bunch of food around the kitchen, invite a bunch of people over, and drink several bottles of wine. As usual, it was a delicious affair that left me completely stuffed to the gills and passed out by 11:30. This week the theme was Southern food, so everyone thought of the most delicious, artery-clogging dish they could and made it.

Becca provided the featured item: a fantastic pile of pulled pork. It simmered away on the stove all afternoon and the smells were truly mouthwatering. It’s a miracle I didn’t eat it all before dinner. To accompany the pork, she made two different sauces: a fairly standard barbecue sauce and an Alabama white sauce. None of us had heard of this sauce before, but it was pretty tasty. It mostly reminded me of a honey mustard dressing.

To supplement the pork, I made creamed spinach and biscuits. I am very particular about biscuits because I grew up in North Carolina where there is this wonderful phenomenon known as Bojangles. Bojangles is a southern fast food chain whose most famous offerings are the chicken biscuit, the seasoned fries, and sweet tea (aka the nectar of life; the stuff is almost unbearably sweet but, my goodness, it’s delicious). There is something about a Bojangles biscuit (my guess would be about a stick of additional butter) that makes it better than any other biscuit I have tasted. So I hopped on the internet, searched for recipes, and came up with this. They turned out really well, though not quite as delicious as Bojangles’. I think I was a little too conservative with the “brush butter on biscuit” step. Next time I will douse a little more thoroughly.

The creamed spinach was also delicious, although I made a few slight changes to the recipe. Instead of peppercorns I used crushed red pepper and left out the chile, which turned out fine. I also didn’t feel like getting whole milk for the sole purpose of this dish, so I used the leftover buttermilk from the biscuit recipe. Otherwise I followed the recipe and came out with a truly rich, creamy plate of spinach. My eating strategy was to cut a biscuit in half, pile on pork, spinach, and one of the sauces. It was highly successful.

Our lovely guests also brought their Southern offerings. Alex and Jane brought collard greens and whipped them up with some pepper and garlic. Alex also made some of her sweet potato fries, which we have met before and absolutely loved. Jyoti baked a beautiful heart-shaped red velvet cake and cream cheese ice cream, rather than icing. The combination was amazing.

All of this resulted in one of those nights where you aren’t sure if you need to vomit or go back for more food or pass out or just lie in a heap on the floor moaning about how full you are. Obviously I settled for this last option which was so charming that all of our guests packed up and left. But nothing says “bonding” like getting indecently and embarrassingly full with a bunch of your friends, so all in all, I have to say that the Southern Extravaganza was a success.

As always, recipes after the jump and in the archive. May you all encounter a buttery biscuit in the near future!

Read the rest of this entry »

As I mentioned yesterday, I had the good fortune to have two very satisfying dinners over the weekend. On Saturday night our food friend and frequent Infinite Table subject Jyoti invited us over to her apartment for a three cheese fondue with tomato onion chutney. We wandered out through the light snow flurries and arrived to the wonderful smell of onions cooking on the stove. This is one of my favorite smells in the world, especially on a cold winter night. After a round of cocktails and several pilfered chunks of cheese (Becca was grating; I was eating), we were ready to melt the cheese. Jyoti dumped our piles of gruyere, Emmenthal, and vacherin (a gooey, soft, totally to-die-for cheese) into a big pot and melted away. Then she folded in the tomato onion chutney and served it in her perfect heart-shaped fondue pot.

Even though I had been eating stolen bits of cheese and pouring a bag of pita chips into my face the whole evening, I saved enough room to be starving by the time dinner was served. Instead of the traditional pieces of meat and vegetables, we decided to load up on carbs. Nick boiled and then quickly sauted some tortellini and I brought along a few loaves of Jim Lahey’s stecchia (long, Italian loaves from my bread hero) that I had made the night before. We swarmed the fondue pot and proceeded to stuff our faces. The chutney was a delicious addition to the melted cheese and I really loved the flavor of the melted vacherin. Nick and I were a little skeptical about the idea of using tortellini, but it turned out to be delicious. We opted for a chicken-filled tortellini since we thought a three-cheese tortellini dipped in three-cheese fondue might be too much, even for professional eaters such as ourselves. My bread also turned out reasonably well. It tasted delicious, but looked pretty ugly and definitely nothing like Jim’s perfect loaves in his cookbook (hence the lack of pictures). I’ll definitely be trying the bread again because I loved the taste, but I promise I’ll work on making prettier loaves so I can photograph them for you.

If you’re on the East Coast, I hope you are staying warm and dry. In New York we’re expecting another snow storm tonight, which seems like the perfect moment to make some beef stock and guzzle a bottle of red wine. As always, recipes after the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »

As I mentioned, Friday night wasn’t my only dinner party of the weekend. On Sunday we had two people over for dinner and prepared another mountain of food.

Becca took the lead on dinner again this time and made the most delicious mushroom risotto. There are a couple of ways to handle the mushrooms. You can use dehydrated mushrooms and use the leftover mushroom water to start the risotto, or you can use fresh mushrooms (like we did) and use chicken broth or another stock of your choosing. Becca also substituted dry white wine for the Sherry since we had some left over from Friday and we added spice-rubbed chicken pieces for a little protein.

For a side, I made asparagus with balsamic shallots for a recipe I found in the Bon Appetit Cookbook. It’s a very simple recipe: reduce the shallots and balsamic vinegar, cook the asparagus briefly with some butter, and serve together. I love all the primary ingredients in this recipe, so I thought it was pretty tasty, but overall I was not impressed by the recipe. It makes for a perfect quick side vegetable, but it’s not the most complex in terms of flavors or preparation. The good this about this recipe is that you hardly even need a recipe for it. I didn’t measure those ingredients (the magic of eyeballing, again) and definitely cheated by adding more butter than the recipe calls for.

In addition to Becca’s risotto and my asparagus, I also threw together a tomato, mozzarella, and basel salad. I used cherry tomatos sliced in half length-wise because cherry tomatos are far cheaper than the perfect, glowing heirloom tomatos I really wanted to buy but was, for once, sensible enough not to buy. Jyoti was a dinner guest again and brought over this wonderful treat that I had not heard of before. She layered mascarpone with honey and pomegranate seeds and served it with pita chips. It was a great flavor combination and I think I remember using my finger to clean out the dish.

Needless to say, by this point Becca, Nick, and I are getting pretty good at throwing dinner parties. Of course, we are missing a dining table because I am on a budget and procrastinate a lot, so balancing plates on knees while juggling champagne flutes always makes our events slightly less civilized than they could be, but I like to think that it is all part of our charm. Still, a major goal for 2010 is to get a dining table and I only have a few days left, so wish me luck!

Recipes after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

As I mentioned last week, my weekend was full of dinner parties. Each one was an elaborate affair and therefore deserving of its own post, so I will start with Friday night. We invited three of Becca’s friends over, bringing our dinner table up to six people. We also had a vegetarian in attendance, which was a new challenge for us in terms of menu-planning. However, as is always the case at our dinner parties, we ended up with a towering mountain of food supported by several bottles of wine.

To start, Nick made a beautiful salad with spinach, pears, walnuts, dried cranberries, and feta tossed with just some olive oil and salt. Becca made an unbelievable pumpkin lasagna. Instead of the traditional tomato sauce used in lasagna, Becca used a mixture of pumpkin, cream, sage, and a few other ingredients. I made one of my standard sides: roasted brussel sprouts with mushrooms. I have made this recipe many times and it is delicious every time I make it. The recipe suggests chanterelles and/or oyster mushrooms, but I have used all kinds of mushrooms and it always turns out well. The recipe also asks you to fry shallot rings to add a little crunch to the dish. This is a great addition, but sometimes if I am feeling lazy I’ll just saute them instead. It’s a pretty flexible recipe, so tailor it to your own flavor preferences.

Our wonderful guests did not come empty-handed, either. One brought steamed spinach and another brought challah, still warm from the oven. Our friend Jyoti (of the wonderful food blog Hom Nom) supplied dessert with five different flavors of home-made ice cream: two kinds of peppermint, gingerbread, spiced apple, and the great mystery flavor: bacon.

After all this amazing food and several bottles of sparkling wine, I would not have even noticed that the meal was vegetarian (minus the bacon ice cream, of course). Even though we were all stuffed to the gills, we rallied from our stupors in time to decorate our Christmas tree.

Recipes for the lasagna and brussel sprouts after the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »

I cannot describe how happy this video makes me. I love Eric. I love Martha. And I love pasta carbonara. This dish is something that I usually like to eyeball. Once you know the basic ingredients, it is a simple dish to whip together. Sometimes I’ll add leeks or shallots or anything else I might be trying to use up in my kitchen. It’s always delicious, satisfying, and essentially idiot-proof. I can only imagine how much more delicious this dish would be with Martha’s farm-fresh eggs and Eric’s special pasta.

I’ve included Eric’s recipe after the jump if you want to try it yourself.

Read the rest of this entry »

I recently moved to a new apartment, and part of moving is getting used to new roommates and exploring a new kitchen. I have spent a lot of time with my new kitchen, particularly baking things like bread and cookies. My roommates are both fantastic. I’ve known Nick since we were 5 years old, so we are pretty used to each other. Becca is a relatively new friend, but she fits in perfectly. The three of us have many things in common, but one of my favorite commonalities is our love of food and cooking. In light of this shared passion, we’ve started Sunday Family Dinners. Each week one of us takes over the kitchen and prepares a meal for everyone. Becca started with fish tacos, Nick made meatballs two ways, and last weekend was finally my turn. Fall always makes me crave butternut squash in any form, so when I saw a recipe for roasted butternut squash in the Times I knew I had to make it. From there I thought backwards to figure out what protein I wanted to serve with my seasonal side dish. Ultimately I decided on a pork roast stuffed with a fruit stuffing.

I had never made a pork roast before, but after I saw my friends’ success with a gigantic turkey, I felt emboldened. That being said, my experience was not without obstacles. My first challenge was frenching the pork loin. I realize that I could have (and probably should have) asked the butcher at the store to do this for me, but I remembered seeing Alton Brown perform this procedure on TV once and he made it look easy. Never mind that he is a celebrity chef, I thought I could do it. What I forgot about is that we currently only have one (not particularly sharp) paring knife and that I actually know nothing about cutting meat. Fortunately in the end, my poor piece of meat looked decent. The cuts weren’t clean, but it looked fairly close to the pictures online.

The second challenge was stuffing my piece of pig. The recipe says to use a long-handled wooden spoon to stuff the meat, as if the loin is a giant mouth, impatient to consume the stuffing. This is not the case. Even though I made the appropriate cuts in both ends and shoved my hands inside to make sure the hole went all the way through, it was a big, gory mess trying to get the stuffing inside the pork. I tried the wooden spoon, a tablespoon, my fingers, a chopstick, etc., but I still had limited success. Ultimately, only the middle two pieces of the finished roast were stuffing-poor, but I’m still curious as to how to stuff it properly.

The last challenge was by far the most irritating. I finally had my meat prepared. I happily popped it in the oven and plopped myself on the couch for a short break. Not five minutes later, our smoke alarm starts going off. Anticipating the disgruntled attitude of this smoke alarm, I hopped on a stool and searched for the battery. After all, it is often better to be proactive. However, I ripped out the battery and the thing continued to wail in my ear. Nick was running around opening windows, Becca was fanning the alarm from below, I was getting more and more cranky. For about twenty minutes we took turns holding a plastic bag around the offending appliance until Nick finally got it to shut up. Eventually a maintenance man came to solve our problem: rip the smoke alarm out of the ceiling and sign a waiver stating that we agreed to this solution. Perhaps not the safest option, but definitely the most quiet.

Finally, we were able to sit down in silence and eat the meal. I was nervous that the meat would be underdone or overdone or otherwise inedible, but I must have had beginners’ luck because it came out PERFECTLY. This leads me to believe that the recipe is idiot-proof and I encourage everyone to try it, because it was delicious. The squash was a great side dish for the pork, and the vinegar in the squash dressing was a perfect compliment to the meal. I love my new apartment and I love my new roommates. Sunday Family Dinners couldn’t make me happier.

Sadly I don’t have pictures because I don’t have a fancy camera that takes pretty pictures (actually I do, it’s just not digital), but check out the recipes after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »