Day 25, Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Thank you so much for joining me these past 25 days! It’s been an enjoyable, if exhausting, ride.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas (or just a happy December 25th if you’re not of the Christian faith) and the best new year yet! I’ll probably take a few weeks off, but hope to pop in now and then to say hi and share a recipe or two.


Day 24, Southern-Style Cornbread

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 24

It’s a little late to be giving out recipes for homemade gifts, and no doubt your Christmas menu has been planned for a while, so here’s something to keep in mind for New Year’s Day. It’s a naturally gluten-free creamed corn cornbread from none other than Alton Brown, and it’ll be the perfect accompaniment to your black eyed peas and greens, I promise. Like any real southern-style cornbread, it’s not sweet or cakey; instead, it bursts with corn flavor and is quite crumbly. (It’s also wonderful reheated the next morning then crumbled in a small bowl with sugar and milk.)

Find the cornbread recipe here.
And DO NOT use canned creamed corn, but be sure to make this one. You’ll be glad of the leftovers, I promise.

Day 23, Pralines

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 23

You didn’t think I’d let Christmas go by without pralines, did you? I’m not capable of such cruelty.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 23

I always tweak the original recipe ever so slightly. This year, I toasted the pecans before adding them to the sugar mixture. That simple step yielded tons of pecan flavor and has earned it a permanent spot in the praline repertoire.

recipe after the jump

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Day 22, Alfajores

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 21

Hmmmm. These cookies, these cookies, these cookies…

I’ve had alfajores in the back of mind ever since Matt Armendariz first posted about them five years ago. I finally got around to making them this week, but my experience with them was mixed. Oh, they were delicious, as you’d expect from a dessert so dependent on cajeta. And the cookies themselves weren’t especially difficult to make; they didn’t spread at all in the oven, which can’t always be said about gluten-free dough. But the filling kept oozing out of them because I never quite got my cajeta to the perfect consistency despite cooking, cooling, cooking again, and cooling again. I realize this is entirely my fault, which is why I wanted to post about it anyway; you may have better luck than I did, after all. And if I wasn’t taking pictures for this blog, the consistency of the cajeta wouldn’t have been an issue, because who doesn’t love a layer of gooey caramel sandwiched between two cookies?

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 22

Come to think of it, maybe there was no problem at all. Have I mentioned that they were delicious?

Maybe rolling the edges in coconut as instructed would’ve helped, but I left it out because I didn’t want to interfere with the cajeta flavor.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 22

Get the recipe here and make it gluten-free with Cup4Cup Flour. The cajeta, as ever, came from Rick Bayless. I do heart him.

Day 21, Rosemary Syrup

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 21

My friend Kasha came over yesterday to hang out, do a little cooking, and help me with styling a few things, but it was one of those star-crossed days in the kitchen — my chicken was dry, the caramel sauce didn’t set before sundown, and the rosemary syrup didn’t make it entirely into the jar. No worries, though; I like a bit of imperfection in my pictures. Also? That dry chicken is nothing a little BBQ sauce won’t fix, and the caramel finally behaved itself long enough to proceed with the recipe. (More on that later.) It’s all about rolling with the punches in the kitchen, as Julia Child taught us so well with her enthusiastically-flipped potato pancake (not a chicken or duck as urban legend would have us believe).

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 21

Be sure to check out Kasha’s blog for a lot of great fresh-from-the-farm recipes and tips for using seasonal produce. She’s also an excellent baker.

recipe after the jump

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Day 19, Fig & Blue Cheese Savouries

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 19

While it may seem that all we do is consume sugar around here, salty or savory foods are what really do it for me. When I do want a little sugar, though, I’m happiest at the intersection of savory and sweet, which is exactly where today’s treats are located.

A few weeks ago, I was looking over my copy of the new Food52 Cookbook before its launch party when these beauties jumped off the page and demanded to be made. As always, I adapted this stellar recipe with gluten-free flour, but this time it took a little coaxing to get the results of regular flour. Still, this minimal extra work was rewarded with flaky, delicate pastries, so don’t let it scare you off.

(And how’s this for a shameless plug? Be sure to check out my recipe for Short Rib Ragu in the winter chapter of the Food52 Cookbook!)

recipe after the jump

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Day 18, Chocolate Chunkers

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 18

These chocolate chunkers may not be the most attractive cookies ever to grace a blog, but they surely rank among the most delicious. And why wouldn’t they? Dorie Greenspan developed the recipe. ’nuff said.

I’m a batter eater from way back and honestly had a hard time convincing myself to cook these at all, but after resting for 10 minutes out of the oven they somehow improved upon what I thought was perfection. As we nibbled in the following days, Gil and I took to microwaving the cookies for 15 seconds or so to melt the chocolate a tiny bit, which was a great idea; they’re rich, and one is perfectly satisfying when they’re ever so slightly gooey.

Did you know that you can click on any image and it’ll take you to its flickr page? I only bring that up because, unless you’re using the biggest of monitors, the following behemoth will be tough to view in one window. Sorry ’bout that, but these cookies merited an ingredient shot. Plus, I’d just bought that chocolate spear, which is AWESOME and makes chunking chocolate from a big bar so much easier than doing it with a knife.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 18

Get the recipe here. The only changes I made were to substitute equal parts dried bing cherries and chopped apricots for the raisins, and Cup4Cup flour for the AP flour.

Day 17, Roast Lemon Chicken

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 17

When the time comes to roast a chicken, I tend to go one of two ways — Zuni or Thomas Keller — depending on how early I can get my act together. (My act getting-togetherness being what it is, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that I default to Keller.) They’re both foolproof recipes that yield a moist, juicy bird with a minimum of effort, which I think we all can appreciate. But another reason I roast this way is because neither involves breaking down the bird beforehand. Butchering anything in my kitchen is often met with much sighing and gnashing of teeth, for it rarely turns out well. Not that it stops me. For a while, I thought poultry shears would be my salvation, but my chicken managed to look even more like a crime scene than usual. I tried the cleaver route as well, but things still went awry.

Then, earlier this year, I was invited to take a cooking course at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in exchange for a blog post on their site. How could I refuse, especially when they’re located in my (former) office building? I perused the courses, searching for the sweet spot in the Venn diagram of interesting, useful and schedule-appropriate. I found it in a course on Sustainable Meats, taught with a wicked sense of humor and smart-assedness by Chef Erica Wides. There were maybe 10 people in the class, all there for different reasons — their own health, a cleaner environment, and animal welfare concerns, just to name a few. We prepared an entire meaty dinner from scratch, but the most useful thing I learned that night was how to spatchcock a chicken without leaving it in shreds. I’ve used this method over and over and I’m still not quite sure why it’s so much easier for me, but it is. The proof is in the (chickeny) pudding, I guess.

What you do is sit the chicken on its butt and cut down one side of the backbone, flip it over, and cut down the other. Then you place the chicken breast-down and use your knife to cut a vertical slit through the top-center of the breastbone. Flip it over and press down on the breastbone with the heel of your hand to crack the ribcage. Flip it over again, run your fingers along the sides of the breastbone to release it from the cartilage, and pull it out. Now, it takes a little muscle, I won’t lie, but the results are stellar.

In addition to a newfound facility with spatchcocking, we got a heads-up about Chef Erica’s podcast “Let’s Get Real” on Heritage Radio Network. This is frank, hilarious talk about the sad topic of foodiness and how to get back to eating real food rather than a pitiful approximation of it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I was already on board so it’s a reinforcement of my values, but it’s nice to hear I’m not the only borderline-orthorexic around.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 17

But back to the chicken at hand. This roast spatchcocked lemon chicken came from the January 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living. It’s a bit more work than salting a chicken and throwing it in a hot oven, but worth the time if you have it to spare. The shallots and lemon slices caramelize on the pan in the chicken juices and are almost better than the chicken itself, if such a thing is possible. I served it with a colcannon-ish mashup — celery root mashed with sautéed kale, garlic and red pepper flakes with a bit of grass-fed butter added at the end, just cuz.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 17

How sexy!

And if you’re STILL looking for a Christmas present for that special food-lover in your life (hey, I just finished my shopping yesterday, so no judgement here), a recreational course at ICE could be just the thing. I know I’d be thrilled to receive such a gift.

Day 16, Swedish Meatballs

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 16
Like Christmas on a plate, wouldn’t you say?

A few weeks ago, Gil and I grabbed lunch with friends at Red Rooster after recording that week’s Virtual Memories podcast in the neighborhood. The restaurant came highly recommended, but I still managed to be surprised by the range of dishes on the menu and how perfectly executed they all were. But if we’ve learned anything from The Highlander, it’s that there can be only one, and I was declared the winner of the ordering war with my somewhat unorthodox lunch: Swedish meatballs with a side of cheese grits.

I can’t say these meatballs are exactly like the ones in the restaurant, even though I followed Marcus Samuelsson‘s recipe to the letter, save for the gluten-free breadcrumbs. Still, they’re well worth your time and far better than any other Swedish meatballs I’ve eaten, barring the original at Red Rooster.

I buy only pastured veal, which is part of  a much larger discussion about animal welfare I hope to get into soon. Whole Foods can be a good resource, though I prefer to stick to vendors at my local farmers’ market whenever possible. If you’re uncomfortable eating veal at all, I’d probably substitute equal parts ground beef and ground pork for it.

Get the recipe here.

Day 15, Sweet Potato Pie

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 15

Today, we liberate sweet potato pie from the tyranny of Thanksgiving! We free it from the bonds of turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans! No more shall this dessert be relegated to one holiday when 364 days of the year are so glaringly sweet potato pie-deficient. Radiating a spirit of Christmas generosity, give the world a slice of heaven; I assure you, no right-minded pie-eating person could deny it.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 15

Like a lot of people, I grew up eating pumpkin pie, which was fine because I didn’t know better; the spices were there, but the flabby, wet consistency was a turnoff. I grew up with this idea that sweet potato pie could be amazing because my dad gets this dreamy look in his eyes when he talks about the ones his co-worker used to bring in. But he never tried to duplicate them at home, so sometime in adulthood I discovered sweet potato pie on my own and wondered if there were other secrets my family kept from me all those years. If you can have the real thing, why suffer through a Jell-o approximation?

W. Kamau Bell put sweet potato pie front and center in his Thanksgiving episode, maintaining, “Black people like sweet potato pie and white people are wrong.” If the breakdown is that stark, then yeah, he’s got us there. So I’m getting evangelical about it . . . Make This Pie! The gluten-free version is just as good as the regular, so you really have no excuse.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 15

I also made my own pie spice, using the recipe here. Totally worth it to have something so fresh and, you know, spicy on hand. As the recipe yields a lot, it gives me plenty of reason to make more pies as often as possible.

So treat yourself this holiday season. Make a sweet potato pie.

recipe after the jump

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