Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rice As the Empress Likes It - Riz L'Imperatrice en Gelee


Riz à l'impératrice is a very rich rice pudding made with vanilla custard, whipped cream and crystallized fruit that's been soaked in brandy or kirsch. It's a wonderfully festive way to usher in the New Year and it's not difficult to make. I've made a few changes to an old Julia Child recipe and, to avoid stress, I serve the pudding in martini glasses so there is no last minute unmolding to be done. That also allows me to use less gelatin and that makes for a creamier pudding. The puddings in the photograph are topped with a gelee that is nothing more than warmed and strained preserves. You could also use macerated fruit or a fruit sauce to crown the pudding. Is this my favorite dessert? Not by a long shot, but I do like to know I have a handle - however loose - on classic French desserts. This is a classic that can be moved from my "to do" to "done" list. Would I make it again? Perhaps. It's a good way to use the last of the glaceed fruit and I didn't hate it. When all is said and done, "It's a (kinda)good thing."

Riz L'Imperatrice

3/4 cup finely diced mixed red and green glaced cherries
1/4 cup kirsch or brandy
2 to 4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
4 quarts water
1/2 cup white rice
1-2/3 cup + 1-1/2 cups milk, divided use
1/3 cup + 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided use
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided use
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons strained apricot preserves
1 cup heavy cream
Optional: Macerated fruit or red berry sauce


1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2) Place fruit in a small bowl. Toss with kirsch. Sprinkle with gelatin. If you plan to mold the pudding use 4 teaspoons of powdered gelatin. Set aside.
3) Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add rice and cook for 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
4) Place 1-2/3 cups milk, 1/3 cup sugar and butter in a casserole that can move from stovetop to oven. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice and 1 teaspoon vanilla and bring back to a simmer. Cover rice with parchment paper. Cover casserole and bake until milk is absorbed and rice is tender, about 40 minutes.
5) Meanwhile, place egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add reserved 3/4 cup sugar and beat until mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon when dropped back on itself. Add cornstarch and blend. Bring reserved 1-1/2 cups milk to a boil. Lower mixer speed and add milk in a thin stream to egg yolk mixture. Pour into a large saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until mixture coats a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in glaceed fruit; stir until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in reserved 1 teaspoon vanilla and strained apricot preserves. Stir rice into custard, a spoonful at a time. Chill until cold but not set.
6) Beat cream until beater leaves traces on surface and cream doubles in volume. Do not overbeat. Fold cream into custard. If using a mold turn into an oiled mold or spoon into 8 martini glasses. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
7) If using martini glasses top pudding with fruit or sauce. If using a mold, release onto a rimmed serving platter and surround with sauce or fruit. Yield: 8 servings.

Swedish Coffee Ring with Apricots and Almonds

BBB is a monthly baking adventure sponsored by a group of twelve women who call themselves the Bread Baking Babes. This month's host is Cookie Baker Lynn. She selected a recipe for a Christmas wreath that looks absolutely beautiful and it has an almond filling that guarantees it will be delicious. Despite a wonderful recipe, Lynn gave the babes and their buddies (that would be me) free reign to vary the dough and filling, but she did ask that the bread be shaped as a wreath. She didn't say a word about the name! Now in my book a wreath and a ring are the same thing, and Christmas had passed, so I altered the name a wee bit. The recipe Lynn choose had a marvelous sweet dough so I decided to use that, but after some thought I chose to use an apricot filling for my version of the coffee bread. It worked out nicely. The filling is less sweet than many, but additional sugar can be added to taste. The dough is wonderfully easy to work with and it withstood even my clumsy attempts at artistry. I didn't embarrass myself but if you want to see some beautiful creations take a look at the wreaths these women produced. I'm also sending this entry to Susan at Wild Yeast who hosts a weekly event called Yeast Spotting.

Swedish Coffee Ring with Apricots and Almonds

1 pound dried apricots
2 cups water
1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1 cup sugar, divided use + additional sugar to taste
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk, divided use
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-1/4 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 toasted almond slivers
Glaze (optional)

1) Place apricots and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. Cover. Let stand for 2 hours.
2) Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Place in bowl of an electric stand mixer; add milk, 1/4 cup sugar, butter, 1 egg, cardamom, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
3) Turn dough onto lightly floured surface: knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
4) Bring apricots and water back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until apricots are soft, about 20 minutes. Transfer apricots and any remaining liquid to the bowl of a food processor. Puree. Add orange liqueur, lemon juice and reserved 3/4 cup sugar. Pulse to combine. Add additional sugar to taste. Set aside.
5) Punch down dough. Roll into rectangle, 15 x 9-inches, on a lightly floured surface. Spread with apricot filling to within 1/4-inch of the edges. Roll tightly, lengthwise. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal well. Stretch roll to make even. With sealed edge down, shape into ring on lightly greased cookie sheet. Pinch ends together.
6) With scissors or kitchen shears, make cuts 2/3 of way through the ring at 1-inch intervals. Turn each section on it's side (90 degree turn). Cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise until double, about 40 to 50 minutes.
7) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat reserved egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Liberally brush over ring. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake until golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.
8) To make optional glaze: Combine 1 cup confectioners' sugar with 1 tablespoon water and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Drizzle over cake.

Adapted from Betty Crocker's International Cookbook

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One Hundred Times Happy - An Anniversary Giveaway


Our winner is Allie(# 18) who blogs at Finding Inspiration in Food. Thank you all for participating.

It's hard to believe that this post marks my 100th entry - a celebration of sorts. I wanted to thank all of you who visit by offering a chance to win a token of my gratitude. My anniversary giveaway is the large, deep platter you see above. It is a duplicate of one I love and treasure. To enter, simply enter a comment which will be assigned a number for the drawing - if you do not have a blog make sure you leave an email address so I can notify you should your number be drawn. The drawing will occur at 9:00 AM (PST) on January 1st 2009. The winner will be announced and notified at that time.

I've been asked to pick a favorite recipe from those that have been posted on One Pefect Bite. I can't do that, but the recipes below are all contenders.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie and Bushman

One Perfect Bite was meant to be a place where different recipes and stories lured you to the kitchen to try something new or make something old new again. I didn't want to repeat the old standbys you know so well. Why then am I proffering a lemon meringue pie? This one is exceptional and if you're partial to lemon desserts, you'll want to take a close look at this recipe. My first memory of lemon pie is the one made by my mother in the kitchen of our apartment on the top floor of the North Park Hotel. The folks who transferred my father to Chicago were responsible for our housing and WWII housing shortages forced them to rent the apartment while they looked for more suitable and permanent housing for our family. We weren't allowed to play in the lobby and the apartment was very small, so the hotel's location across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo was a blessing for us and a lifesaver for my mother. We had daily access to the park and to Bushman who was, at that time, the most famous gorilla in captivity. Mr. Robinson, Bushman's keeper, insisted he couldn't feed Bushman unless we were there. We believed him. We were there daily and once a month we'd return from the zoo and my mother would use what was left of her sugar ration to make a lemon meringue pie. This was no small accomplishment at a time when eggs were beaten with a rotary mixer and the kitchen literally had no counter space. Angel food cakes must have been wife killers! Mom would allow the pie to cool in a service cabinet that opened from the hall into the kitchen; it was, coincidentally, a great spot for hide-and-seek and the delivery of ice. While the pie cooled we got to lick meringue from the beater and then make bubbles in the sink by cranking its handle in the soap suds. Pie day will always be remembered with fondness and associated with happy times, including those with my buddy Bushman who is now an exhibit at the Field Museum. It seems he is doomed, like the pharaohs of old, to spend eternity on display. I think you'll like this pie. My version uses more lemon zest than most and putting the meringue onto a warm filling keeps it from weeping. My family has promised that next time they see a pie they'll ask before cutting. As it was, we came perilously close to having no pie to photograph. I hope you'll try this one. It really is delicious.

Lemon Meringue Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
2 cups sugar, divided use
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided use
2-1/2 cups water
4 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup lemon juice


1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Fit pie crust into a 9-inch pie pan. Prick shell all over with a fork. Weight crust to prevent bubbling. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
2) Place 1-1/2 cups sugar, cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan. Pour in water and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture thickens and bubbles. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
3) Lightly beat egg yolks. Slowly blend in 1/2 cup of hot cornstarch mixture; stir eggs mixture back into saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon zest and juice. Pour into pastry shell. Set aside.
4) Beat egg whites with reserved 1/4 teaspoon salt until foamy. Slowly add reserved 1/2 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating at high speed until stiff peaks are formed. Spread meringue on top of warm lemon filling. Bake until meringue is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit for 4 to 6 hours before serving. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Rosemary Aioli and the Perfect Sandwich


The two constants in making a perfect sandwich are really, really good bread and a mayonnaise so flavorful that it excites the taste buds. You'll also need two to four ounces of meat, perhaps a slice of cheese and some wonderfully crisp lettuce. You're tasked with finding great bread, but great mayonnaise is just a line or two away. The first recipe makes a flavorful mayonnaise from scratch. The second takes a prepared spread and, with a few additions, makes it outstanding. Both are recommended.

Rosemary Aioli

1 large egg yolk
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt, divided use
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary

1) Combine egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in jar of an electric blender. Pulse to combine.
2) With the blender on, slowly add 1/4 cup oil and process until a smooth,creamy emulsion is formed. With the blender still on, slowly add remainder of oil and process until sauce thickens.
3) Add garlic, rosemary, reserved 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Pulse to blend. Chill. Yield: 1 cup rosemary aioli.

Fast and Easy Rosemary Aioli

1 cup prepared mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon peppper

1) Combine mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
2) Mix well to combine. Chill. Yield: 1 cup rosemary aioli.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Potatoes Anna and Japanese-Style Potatoes with Butter and Soy

Years ago Potatoes Anna were often a component of dinner parties and special family meals in our home. I stopped making them because they were so rich. Granted they were delicious, but anything made with that much butter should be be good! One of my daughters told me that Cooking Light had a recipe for Pommes Anna and suggested that I give it a try. I did, but I've found my tastes have changed. There's no denying the potatoes are delicious and beautiful to look at, but after such a long absence on our table I thought they looked a bit contrived and a bit too perfect for a table that has relaxed - considerably - with the march of time. Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to stumble on a recipe for Japanese-style potatoes with butter and soy on the blog Just Hungry. These potatoes are simple to make and they are really flavorful. As it happened we sampled the potatoes back to back and that made it easy to compare them. Both are delicious, but unless the pope or the president come for dinner the Japanese-style potatoes are a hands down winner.

Potatoes Anna

1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1) Preheat oven to 450 F.
2) Combine salt and pepper in a small bowl. Melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter in an oven-proof skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.
3) Arrange a single layer of potato slices, slightly overlapping, in a circular pattern in pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper mixture.
4) Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of melted butter over potatoes in pan.
5) Repeat the layers 5 times, ending with butter and pressing down firmly after each layer to "pack" them together. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes, or until potatoes are golden.
6) Remove from oven and loosen the edges with a spatula. Place a plate upside-down on top of the pan; invert the potatoes onto the plate. Sprinkle with parsley. Yield: 6 servings.

Cook's Note: For best color pat potato slices dry before layering. This recipe first appeared in Cooking Light magazine.

Japanese-Style Potatoes with Butter and Soy

1 pound tiny Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and unpeeled
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Black pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Put the potatoes in a pan and cover with heavily salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until just fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Alternatively, potatoes may be placed in a single layer in a microwavable container to which 3 tablespoons of water is added; cook on HIGH power for 10 minutes, or until tender.
3) Melt butter in pan; add soy sauce. Return potatoes to pan; lightly toss to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until potatoes are brown and cooked through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley. Yield: 4 servings.

This recipe was developed by Maki and can be found on her blog Just Hungry.

Im sending this entry to Christie at Fig and Cherry who is hosting this month's Potato Ho Down. The Potato Ho Down event is the brainchild of Cathy who can be found at Noble Pig.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Spring Onions


We had a yen for lamb. I found gorgeous double cut chops and wanted something equally sumptuous to pair with them. My first adventure with Israeli couscous had been an absolute disaster - a dish resembling BB pellets and tasting not much better - but because I was up to my ears in potato and rice, I was willing to give this pasta another chance. I couldn't find a recipe that appealed to me, but the 2 cups of couscous I had purchased nagged at me. Most of my creations start this way. For those of you not familiar with the product, Israeli couscous is a small, round semolina pasta. It's sometimes called pearl couscous or maftoul, and it resembles barley or very small, white peas. I decided to toast the pasta and use spring vegetables to take it to another level. I'm happy to report it worked and has achieved "keeper" status. Highly recommended!

Israeli Couscous with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Spring Onions

2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
2 cups Israeli couscous
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Pinch of salt + salt to taste
1 (8-ounce) package sliced white or brown mushrooms
16 thin asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
16 thin spring onions, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided use

1) Combine stock and vermouth in a three cup measure. Set aside.
2) Toast couscous in a heavy skillet until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl.
3) In same skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until almost smoking. Add chopped onions, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Return couscous to pan. Add 2-1/2 cups of reserved stock mixture; bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Add reserved 1/2 cup stock mixture and cook, stirring rapidly with a spoon, until the couscous softens and plumps.
4) Meanwhile, place mushrooms, asparagus and spring onions into a microwavable container. Microwave on HIGH power for 3 minutes, or until vegetables are crisp tender.
5) Add vegetable mixture to couscous and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in 2 tablespoons reserved olive oil, butter and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Yield: 6 servings.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Pudding

...a Christmas pudding as described by Mr. Dickens himself.

"Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper (boiler). A smell like washing day! That was the cloth (the pudding bag). A smell like an eating house and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laudress's next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered - flushed, but smiling proudly - with the pudding, like a speckled cannon ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of a half-a-quarten of ignited brandy, and with Christmas holly stuck into the top."

"Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly, too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage..."

I first had Christmas pudding in Hannie's kitchen. She made her pudding on Stir-Up Day, the Sunday before advent. Connoisseurs insist that it's the final day on which a pudding can be made if it's to age properly for the holiday. On that day the Collect in the Church of England begins, "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of they faithful people, what they plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works..." Bored young choristers created a verse of there own and on the sly would chant:"Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get home tonight, we'll eat it piping hot." When the pudding is made at home all family members are expected to take a hand in the stirring, using a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ's crib). The stirring must be from east to west, in commemoration of the journey of the Magi, and it's said that if, as you stirred, you closed your eyes and made a wish your wish would come true. Some Christmas pudding recipes called for exactly thirteen ingredients, in honor of Christ and the twelve apostles. Then at some point a flaming halo of brandy came to represent Christ’s passion, while the holly stuck on top symbolized the crown of thorns. Hannie insisted that the pudding had been borrowed from German plates and brought to England by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Each year she would grab from memory her romanticized story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. She'd tell with delight of the day, a single day, when English and German troops put down their guns and shared Christmas pudding and sausage. Like Mr. Dickens before her, Hannie believed Christmas without pudding was beyond the pale - uncivilized. I closed my eyes while stirring the pot this year. I let you know what happens. Till then, from my kitchen to yours come warm wishes for the happiest of holidays. "God bless us, every one."

Christmas Pudding

1 cup light raisins
1 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
3 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel
1 tablespoon chopped candied lemon peel
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup quartered glaced cherries (mixed red and green)
3 ounces brandy
1/4 cup chopped ginger in syrup + 1 tablespoon of syrup
1 large apple, grated
1 large orange, juice and zest
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 ounces shredded suet or softened butter
3/4 cup golden brown sugar
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1) Toss raisins, figs, peel, apricots and cherries in brandy. Let sit overnight.
2) Combine ginger, syrup, grated apple, orange juice and zest in a large bowl. Add eggs, suet, brown sugar, bread crumbs and flour. Stir in soaked fruit, and pumpkin pie spice. Mix well.
3) Spray a pudding mold and lid with nonstick spray. Fill with pudding mixture. Cover and snap lid into place.
4) Place in a 6-quart pot. Fill pot with 2 quarts of water (water should come up 3/4 of way up sides of pan). Bring water to a simmer. Cover pot and steam pudding for 3-1/2 hours.
5) Remove pudding; cool on wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Unmold and allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
6) To reheat, warm foil wrapped pudding in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or return pudding to mold and steam again for 3-1/2 hours. Individual sliced can be warmed in a microwave. Serve warm. Flame with brandy if desired. Serve with a brandied hard sauce. Yield: 1 pudding (about 8 servings).

Hard Sauce

1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 stick, unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

Combine all ingredients in small bowl; stir to blend well. (Can be made 4 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuscan Pork Loin

There's a lot of laughter in my kitchen right now. Bob and I have spent the last 30 minutes trying to get a picture of the black mushroom soup that I planned to share with you today. It's not happening folks. I could go into detail, but it's best - trust me - that we move on to the next course. Tuscan pork loin is a homely dish, but with a little lipstick this pig can delight your guests as well. It's really delicious; for best flavor it should sit tightly wrapped in its herb coating for at least 8 hours before roasting. Dried herbs work well here and dry vermouth can be used to make the sauce. If Julia Child could use vermouth as a stand-in for white wine, so can we. The good news is the vermouth keeps pretty much forever, so you can always have "white wine" at the ready. The roast needs no special handling, though to assure even cooking it's best to tie it into a cylinder. Once it's in the oven you're done. Enjoy!

Tuscan Pork Loin

Pork Loin:
1 center cut boneless pok loin (2-1/2 to 3 pounds)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided use
! teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon crushed dried sage
1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
2 teaspoon crushed dried thyme
1 tablespoon coarse garlic salt
2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper
1/4 cup dry white vermouth
1 cup reduced sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon instant-blend flour (i.e. Wondra)

1) Using kitchen twine, tie pork loin at 1-inch intervals to form a cylinder of uniform circumference.
2) Combine oil, lemon zest, sage, rosemary, thyme salt and pepper in a shallow baking dish. Roll pork loin in mixture. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
3) Preheat conventional oven to 325 degrees F. If using a convection oven preheat to 300 degrees F. Place a large (12-inch) cast iron skillet into oven to warm.
4) Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat until oil begins to shimmer. Add pork; sear well, about 5 minutes per side, using tongs to roll meat until all surfaces are brown. Transfer roast to hot pan already in oven. Roast for 35 minutes, or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. Remove from oven. Tent with foil; let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.
5) While pork roasts, add 1/4 cup vermouth to pan in which pork was browned. Scrape to release fond from bottom of pan. Add broth. Stir in instant blending flour and whisk until a thin sauce forms. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Tuscan pork loin. Yield: 6 servings.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dresdener Stollen

" was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well." Mr. Dickens must have made the acquaintance of the other man in my life - my husband's father, Andy. He was an uncomplicated man whose education was incomplete, but whose intelligence, ethics and example could - and often did - put wiser men to shame. A farm boy, he fell in love with the doctor's daughter, the gentle Gen, and wooed her with persistence and a devotion that could not be refused. Together they had five children into whom they poured themselves and everything they had. They built a safe and happy home and during the Christmas season they put the Fezziwigs to shame. Following midnight mass their doors opened for a revillion and stayed open until midnight the following day. Andy watched all this with a gentle and bemused smile, very much in the moment but quiet nonetheless, taking it all in. The cast of characters included Don, a rejected suitor of their middle daughter, who would arrive on Christmas morning for a visit. We were never sure who it was he missed, but he came for years - the Christmas version of The Man Who Came for Dinner. Then the rest of the clan would tumble in for dinner and a raucous good time that included endless choruses of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Each of us had a day for which we had to sing and when there were more of us then days we'd have to share. The provider of the feast probably had many things he wanted, but at Christmas he would only own up to wanting chocolate covered cherries and good stollen - Dresdener Stollen. He saw to it that all of us had what we wanted, but also taught us the difference between a want and a need and how to enjoy the moment in which we found ourselves. May it truly be said that we all know how to keep Christmas well. Andy was our teacher.

Andy's favorite stollen is a cake-like bread made with candied fruit, nuts and spices. It's dusted with powdered sugar that is supposed to represent swaddling clothes worn by infant Jesus and for that reason the bread is also called Christstollen. Stollen is one of those yeast breads that has a history of its own. Starting in the 15th century loaves made in Dresden weighed up to 30 pounds and were so popular that they were cut and served with utensils made just for that purpose. Traditionally, the first piece of stollen was set aside and kept to ensure the family would be able to afford stollen the following year; the last piece saved to insure the family had enough food for the current year. Here is a recipe for one of the best stollens I've ever tasted. It's adapted from one I learned in Hannie's kitchen.

Dresdener Stollen

2-3/4 cups unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 scant tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup dark raisins
3/4 cup white raisins
2 tablespoons candied orange peel, finely chopped
1 tablespoon candied lemon peel, finely chopped
1/2 cup quartered, glaced cherries (mixed red and green)
1/2 cup lightly toasted chopped almonds
1 tube (6 to 7-ounces) almond paste
Confectioners' sugar

1) Mix salt with flour in a microwavable bowl. Place in microwave oven and heat on HIGH power for 1 minute. Whisk. Add yeast and whisk again to mix. Set aside.
2) Combine milk, butter and sugar in a microwavable bowl. Cook on HIGH power for 1 minute, or until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. When mixture is tepid add egg and whisk to combine.
3) Pour milk mixture into flour and mix well until the dough leaves the sides of bowl and forms a ball. Add candied fruits and nuts working into dough with hands.
4) Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, or until fruits and nuts are evenly distributed. This is a very stiff dough.
5) Place dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 to 3 hours.
6) Turn onto a lighly floured board. Flatten and roll into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle.
7) Form almond paste into a log about 13-inches long. Place in the middle of dough, then roll dough around it. Pinch and turn edges under. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place dough on parchment paper, cover with damp towel and let rise until double.
8) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake in the center of oven for about 35 minutes, or until an even golden brown. Move loaf in parchment paper sling to cooling rack. Brush top with butter. Let cool for 30 minutes. Dust liberally with confectioners' sugar. Yield: 1 loaf.

The recipe and picture for Dresdener Stollen is being sent to Yeast Spotting, an event sponsored by Susan at Wild Yeast, and to Bread Baking Day, an event hosted this month by Annarasa.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Trencherman's Onions

If there is beef on the table my trencherman will clamor for these unusual onion stuffed onions. I'm happy to oblige because they can be assembled the day before the feast and leave my hands free for other tasks. If you're looking for something slightly different to serve your family this holiday season, take a quick look at the recipe and see if it might suit your needs. Onions prepared in this manner are sweet and a perfect match for beef. They are wonderful on many levels. It's hard to beat that old trinity of cheap, easy and delicious. Why not give them a try?

Trencherman's Onions

6 (about 6-oz. each) tennis-ball-size white onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, diced
4 cloves peeled garlic
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves + 1 tablespoon chopped parsley for garnish
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a medium (11 x 7 x 2-inch) baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2) Peel onions, leaving root and stem ends intact. Place in a large microwaveable container; add water to just cover bottom of container. Cook, covered, on HIGH power for 10 minutes, or until onions are just tender. Remove from container; set aside to cool.
3) Heat oil in a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add bacon and sauté until brown and crisp. Remove pan from heat.
4) Remove top 1-inch of onions. Discard stems; add flesh to bowl of a food processor. Leaving sides and bottoms of onions intact, scoop interior flesh into food processor and place onion shells in prepared baking dish. Add garlic, basil, and 1/2 cup parsley to onions in food processor; pulse to coarsely chop. Scrape into skillet containing bacon and stir with spoon to combine. Return skillet to stovetop; cook over medium heat until onion mixture softens and is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add cream and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper. Spoon an equal portion of mixture into onion shells. Bake in middle third of oven for 30 minutes. Garnish with reserved 1 tablespoon parsley. Serve hot. Yield: 6 servings.

Housekeeping and a Recipe Request

I've added a small section to my bloglists for folks who no longer car pool; it's called Blogs - Senior Lifestyles.

I've also added a new member to my Cooking Contest Colleagues bloglist - take a peak at the new addition Cybercook's Cooking Corner.

Finally, a requested recipe for stuffing.....

Savory Corn and Sausage Bread Stuffing

1 pound well-flavored bulk pork sausage
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
16 slices day-old bread, cubed to yield 8 cups
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can (14.5-oz.) cream-style corn

1) Cook sausage in a large skillet, stirring to break up, until browned. Remove sausage from the skillet. Add butter or oil to the drippings in the pan to make 1/4 cup. Add onions to pan and cook until soft.
2) Combine bread cubes with parsley, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add onion mixture, sausage and the can of cream-style corn and toss until well combined. Makes 10 cups.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Baby Jesus Birthday Cake

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...It began as an effort to introduce our children to people from places and economic backgrounds different than their own. To that end, our chosen place of worship was a mission parish that was home to a community of Haitian and Korean immigrants and disparate white folk like ourselves. The congregation was small, so those of us who could were asked to teach and serve in ways we never imagined. That's how I - an Assembler programmer at the time - came to write the Christmas pageant. There was a moment in "my" pageant when the church went dark and the tape recorded cry of a newborn could be heard; then borrowed flood lights, focused only on the manger, came on and washed it a sea of light as a deep, sonorous voice boomed, "This is my beloved son." It was also at that precise moment that our tiny Mary stood up, grabbed her crotch and ran down the aisle squealing, "I gotta pee". Hollywood never called and I went back to writing Assembler programs, but my children have memories they won't let me forget. The focus of another Christmas memory is a Three Kings Cake that we called the Baby Jesus Birthday Cake. This began when my children were really small and I wanted to make Christmas a less secular affair. On Christmas Eve we'd have a birthday party with a cake that contained a magical clove (meant to represent the gifts of the Magi) that would bring good luck to the person who found it. Today's recipe is the one I first used to make the cake. I must, however, admit that there were many years when the birthday cake came from a mix into which I'd stuck a clove. Time, all those years ago, was my enemy and it often trumped intent, but in one form or another we always had the cake. That would include the year I forgot the clove and had to work it into the bottom of the cake with a skewer in order to save the day. Despite all those false starts and hurdles, I've been blessed to see the tradition of the cake continued in the Christmas celebrations of my adult children. My grandsons now search for that illusive clove on Christmas Eve. Oh, and for the record, I never ask if the cake is homemade, but I always ask who got the clove. I like to "hang" with lucky people.

Baby Jesus Birthday Cake...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

8 egg whites, room temperature
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar, divided use
2 cups butter
8 egg yolks
3 tablespoons fresh orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1 whole clove
Confectioner's sugar


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour 10 inch tube or bundt pan. Sift flour with baking powder and salt; set aside.
2) With electric mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating after each addition. Continue beating until soft peaks form when beater is slowly raised. Turn into medium bowl.
3) In same bowl, at high speed, cream butter with remaining 1 cup sugar. Add egg yolks and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, Add orange juice and zest and beat until smooth. Divide flour mixture into thirds; using low speed blend in flour 1/3 at a time, just until combined, about 1 minute.
4) At low speed, beat in egg white mixture, half at a time, just until blended.
5) Turn into prepared pan. Press clove into batter. Bake 60 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
6) Let cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes. Loosen around edge of pan with spatula. Turn cake out of pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
7) Transfer to a cake plate. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar lightly over top. Slice thinly with sharp, thin-bladed knife. Yield: 12 to 16 slices.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Crepes with Hot Buttered Rum Sauce

The worst of the weather is over, but our driveway is coated with ice and that means we're marooned on our hillside for the evening. Ah, well! It's a perfect night for a fireside supper, so there's a pot of onion soup on the stove and Portuguese bread in the oven. I'm tending to a rum sauce while my crepe batter rests. I thought I had a stack of crepes in the freezer but they're nowhere to be found, so I'm here, last minute, making a batch for dessert. This is a lovely treat for family and close friends. It's not hard to do - the component parts take time to prepare, but I promise the end result will be worthy of your effort. The crepes are great for cold winter nights and, if you're so inclined, give them a place of honor on your Fat Tuesday table. They can be sauced as you please.

Crepes with Hot Buttered Rum Sauce


1 cup + 2 tablespoons instant blend flour (i.e. Wondra)
5 tablespoons superfine sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup water
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, divided
1 cup + 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark Jamaican rum
Butter flavored nonstick cooking spray
1 cup whipping cream or vanilla ice cream

1) Combine flour, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Combine milk, water, egg yolks, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and 5 tablespoons melted butter in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Gradually beat liquids into flour with a whisk or wooden spoon. Blend well but do not over beat. Let sit for 30 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 cup butter, brown sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a heavy bottomed 2-quart saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Use a small funnel to transfer sauce into a plastic squeeze bottle. Place bottle in a pan of warm water.
3) For each crepe, lightly mist an 8-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Set pan over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Remove pan from heat. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into pan; rapidly tilt to coat bottom of pan with batter. Cook for about 1 minute, or until crepe loosens from bottom of pan. Flip crepe and cook for 1/2 minute longer. Transfer to a plate. Repeat process until all batter is used.
4) Crepes can be assembled 1 to 2 hours before serving. To assemble, spread about 2 teaspoons rum sauce on a salad-size plate. Place a crepe, best side down, on plate. Spread topside with 2 teaspoons rum sauce. Fold crepe in half, then in half again to form a wedge shape. Place on a rimmed microwavable serving platter. Repeat process for each crepe, overlapping slightly to form a spiral pattern. Set aside.
5) When ready to serve, if using whipping cream place cream, place reserved 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a chilled 1-quart bowl; beat until soft peaks form. Transfer to a serving bowl. Place crepe platter in microwave and cook on HIGH power for 20 seconds. Remove from oven. For each serving, transfer 2 to 3 crepes to an individual dessert plate; drizzle with additional rum sauce and garnish with a dollop of cream or a scoop of ice cream. Yield: 16 to 18 crepes.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hot Buttered Rum Punch and Wassail

If Lil - my darling Lily - were here, she'd walk you through the finer points of wassailing and you'd belly up to the bar, completely charmed, before the night was through. Lily was director of nursing at a teaching hospital in Chicago; she was also instrumental in establishing hospice centers throughout the city. Lily belonged to a community I've come to call the gatekeepers - a special group of people whose training and disposition place them with those about to take the first or last breaths of their lives. It's holy work - they are the faces we see at the beginning and end of life's journey.

Lily was my friend and neighbor and, for a period of time, a gatekeeper for my almost 3 pound baby daughter. She walked and talked me through sleepless nights and miles of worry, but our story had a happy ending - one that was atypical for preemies born all those years ago. Then came another baby girl - this one delivered by 747. She was frightened, malnourished and in braces; one of the first people she'd let hold her was Lil. Unfortunately, Lil never got to see the beautiful and accomplished women "her" babies became. Her pride would measure mine and I must tell you these young women still take my breath away. I can't believe they're mine.

Lily knew how to make Christmas merry. She loved caroling (wassailing) and she wasn't above having a nip now and then. She was very familiar with the tradition of wassailing. As she explained it, wassailers went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. In pre-Christian times villagers traveled through fields and orchards in the middle of winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might prevent or slow the growth of future crops. As part of this, they poured wine and cider on the ground to encourage fertility in the crops. Lily thought this was a terrible waste of spirits. During the Victorian era this evolved into the idea of Christmas caroling. Carolers would return home after a night of singing and warm themselves by the fire with a pot of spiced wassail or hot buttered rum. I suspect they slept well. Today's recipes are for a hot buttered rum concentrate that will quench the thirst of the entire neighborhood; the other is for wassail - an elixer for those who are really, really cold or really, really thirsty. They are both very good. I hope you'll give them a try this holiday season. Slainte Mhath, a Mhari!

Hot Buttered Rum Concentrate

1 pound golden brown sugar
1 pound confectioners' sugar
1/2 pound softened, unsalted butter
1 quart French vanilla ice cream
Pick your poison - rum, Irish whiskey etc.
Grated nutmeg for garnish

1) Place brown sugar, confectioners' sugar, butter and ice cream in bowl of an electric stand mixer. Mix, using paddle attachment, to combine. Freeze.
2) When ready to serve, place 1 to 2 tablespoons of frozen mixture into a mug. Add a jigger of rum or whiskey and fill mug with boiling water. Sprinkle top with nutmeg. Yield: 24 to 32 servings.

Lily's Wassail Bowl

4 small oranges, unpeeled
Whole cloves
3 (12-ounce each) bottles ale
3 cups dark rum
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Stud oranges, at 1/2-inch intervals, with cloves. Place in a shallow pan and bake, uncovered for 30 minutes.
3) Place ale, rum, sugar and ginger in a 5 to 6-quart saucepan. Bring just to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
4) Place hot oranges in a punch bowl. Slowly cover with hot liquid. Ladle into cups. Serve hot. Yield: 15 servings.

Lily's Scottish Toast

The toast is Slainte Mhath! (pronounced Slanjey-va, meaning "Good Health"). The response is Slainte Mhor! (pronounced Slanjey-voe, meaning "Great Health").

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thai Rice Noodles with Beef and Spinach

I love the delicious flavors of Thai cuisine, but I need dishes that can be quickly executed and don't require special equipment or ingredients that take weeks to assemble. This dish meets all my requirements and is a nice break from the heavy, rich food that can be overwhelming at this time of year. If you can't find bahn pho (rice noodles), boxed rice sticks, the ones used to make pad thai, can be substituted if you follow the manufacturers instructions to soften them. This is everyday street food in Thailand. As you look at the recipe you'll see that it has no chili heat. It is, however, beautiful to look at and has a nice balance between sweet and salty. If you'd like more heat you can quickly make prik nahm som, a Thai condiment that is passed with the noodles; simply chop a small hot green chili and mix it with 1 teaspoon sugar and 2 to 3 tablespoons white vinegar. These noodles are sure to take you to a happy place. Enjoy!

Thai Rice Noodles with Beef and Spinach

8 ounces wide rice stick noodles (bahn pho, L or XL)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons tamari or dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon molasses or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided use
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
1/2 pound thinly sliced boneless beef strips (i.e tri-tip, flank or rib eye)
5 large handfuls fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup water
2 lightly beaten eggs

1) Cover rice noodles with boiling water. Let sit 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse well in cold water. Set aside.
2) Combine fish sauce, tamari, molasses, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
3) Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large, high-sided saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beef and toss to coat with oil. Add spinach and cook, tossing frequently, until beef is cooked and spinach is a bright, shiny green, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer beef and spinach to a serving platter.
4) Add noodles to pan, tossing to cook until noodles have softened, about2 minutes. Use splashes of water to keep noodles moist and prevent sticking. Push noodles to one side of pan.
5) Add reserved 1 tablespoon oil. Pour eggs into cleared half of pan. When almost set, toss to scramble and combine with noodles.
6) Return beef and spinach to pan. Stir in sauce mixture. Toss mixture until noodles are colored and ingredients are combined, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to serving platter. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

This recipe is adapted from one created by Nancie McDermott.

It is being sent to C at Foodie Tots who is hosting Pasta Presto Nights # 94, a blogging event created by Ruth at Once Upon A Feast.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peasant's Paris Brest

If you could have just one cookbook, which one would you choose? I'd probably keep my copy of The New York Times Menu Cook Book. My old friend is a bit worn, her spine sags and her pages have come unglued, but for sheer breadth it's hard to beat the recipes she holds. Today's recipe for Paris Brest is tucked between her covers and it's been a part of our holiday table for over forty years. Food lore tells us that this lovely French dessert was created by a pastry chef in honor of a bicycle race between Paris and Brest. It consists of a baked almond-topped chou paste ring (patterned after a bicycle tire) that is split and filled with a praline-flavored buttercream and then topped with a whipped cream. Paris Brest is not hard to make but there are several steps required to assemble it. The components can be made ahead of time and then combined and assembled just before serving. Some folks go so far as to enclose the pastry in a cage of spun sugar. I think that's beautiful but I'd probably be dangerous - to myself and others - if I started flinging sugar syrup through the air and I can't begin to imagine how I'd clean my floors when done. You'll notice that I've called this Peasant's Paris Brest. That's because I've never mastered the use of a pastry bag and, rather than fuss, I use an ice cream scoop to form the pastry ring. My version lacks the perfection of one prepared by a pastry chef but it works for me and I think it will work for you as well. Do try this! You won't be sorry.

Paris Brest

Ingredients: Pate a Chou

1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
4 eggs + 1 egg for glaze
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds

Directions: Pate a Chou
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease and flour a cookie sheet and lightly mark a circle with an 8-inch layer cake pan.
2) Place water and butter in a pan and bring to a boil.
3) Add salt and flour all at once. Stir vigorously. Cook until mixture forms a ball and leaves sides of pan. Remove from heat.
4) Beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, until each is well incorporated.
5) Using circle line as a guide and an an ice cream scoop to drop dough, create a ring of chou paste, about 1-inch high and 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, on inside of line. Use damp fingers or a spatula to connect and smooth ring.
6) Beat reserved egg; brush onto ring, sprinkle with almonds, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until well puffed. Lower heat to 350 degrees F. and bake for 15 minutes longer.
7) With point of a sharp knife, pierce edge of ring in half a dozen places to allow steam to escape. Bake for about 15 minutes longer, or until shell is well browned and dry inside. Cool on a rack.

Ingredients: Praline Candy
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup blanched almonds

Directions: Praline Candy
1) Combine ingredients in a heavy pan. Heat while stirring until sugar dissolves.
2) Continue to heat without stirring until mixture turns color of maple syrup. To avoid overbrowning almonds, pan may be shaken gently once or twice.
3) Pour immediately onto a buttered cookie sheet. Allow to cool before using. To crush, place a little at a time in a blender and blend on high speed for fifteen seconds. Praline may be kept in an air-tight container for several days.

Ingredients: Praline Butter Cream
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely crushed Praline candy

Directions: Praline Butter Cream
1) Place sugar, water and cream of tartar in a small pan. Bring to a boil and boil without stirring until syrup spins a long thread when dropped into cold water, or registers 240 degrees F. on a candy thermometer.
2) Pour syrup gradually onto eggs, beating constantly until mixture is very thick. Beat in butter a little at a time. Stir in the vanilla and crushed praline.

Ingredients: Final Assembly

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Directions: Final Assembly

1) Combine cream and confectioners' sugar in a chilled bowl. Beat until cream holds its shape.
2) Split pastry ring crosswise; fill lower half with praline butter cream. Top with whipped cream. Put halves together. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Yield: 8 to 10 small servings.

Recipe adapted from The New York Times Menu Cookbook 1966.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Forbidden Rice and Jewel Tone Grains


Forbidden Rice - Chinese Black Rice

We discovered black rice in China where it is called Forbidden Rice. Story tellers insist it was grown for the exclusive use of Chinese emperors who believed it to be an aphrodisiac. I can't vouch for that. I can, however, tell you that it has a nutty flavor that's a cross between brown and wild rice. It has a coating of black bran and as the rice cooks it turns from black to a deep indigo, making it more visually appealing than its plainer country cousins. It's high in iron and amino acids and it really is good for you. Fortunately, it is no longer the sole domain of emperors and we can all enjoy this delicious rice. I love to serve it with wild salmon - the colors are hard to beat. While it can be used for risotto, I find the color of the liquid to be off putting and prefer to use the black grains in a pilaf. Using 1 part rice to 2 parts liquid and cooking with added ingredients of choice, you'll have a stunning, edible conversation piece in about 25 minutes. One cup of Forbidden Rice will provide four servings.

Himalayan Red Rice - Bhutanese Short Grain Red Rice

Himalayan Red Rice is grown in the Kingdom of Bhutan at the eastern end of the Himalayan mountains, where it literally colors the landscape. The rice is nutty and aromatic and when it's cooked it becomes pink with a soft, slightly sticky texture. Himalayan Red Rice (Bhutanese) has a bran coating that remains intact after milling, so it has the same nutritional qualities as brown rice. It cooks as quickly as white rice and in half the time of brown. It's a great source of fiber and can be used in any recipe that calls for white or brown rice. Use 1 part rice to 2 parts stock and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid evaporates. The liquid turns red as the rice cooks. Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in any desired additions. One cup of red rice will serve four.

Yellow Rice - A Recipe


3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch cinnamon
3 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups long grain or basmati rice
2 tablespoons sliced scallions

1) In a medium saucepan, heat turmeric, cumin and cinnamon over low heat until fragrant, stirring, about 30 seconds.
2) Add water, salt, and butter and bring to a boil. Add rice and stir well. Cover and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cook, covered, without stirring until water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
3)Remove from heat and let sit, covered, without stirring, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, add scallions, and serve. Yield: 4 servings.

Green Rice (Arroz Verde) - A Recipe


1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro sprigs
1 cup tightly packed fresh stemmed spinach leaves (about 1 1/2-ounces)
1-1/4 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth
1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced

1. Put cilantro, spinach and broth into a blender and blend until the vegetables are pureed. Add milk and salt and blend until combined.
2. Heat butter and oil over medium heat. When butter is melted, add rice and sauté, stirring about every 30 seconds, until it turns golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3. Add contents of blender, stir well, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cover pan, turn heat to very low, and cook for 20 minutes. Stir rice carefully, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes. Take the pan off heat and let the rice steam in the covered pot for 10 minutes. Serves 6 - 8.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking magazine.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Braised Chicken with Riesling - Coq au Vin Blanc

Coq au vin seems to be back in vogue. I've always loved this peasant treasure. As a matter of fact, I have two versions of it in my permanent recipe file. My vin rouge comes from the very old Dionne Lucas cookbook. I still love it, but it uses three types of wine plus good brandy, bacon and a mound of vegetables that need browning before going into the pot. It's very good, very French but a lot of work for a braise. The vin blanc is just much easier to make. My recipe comes from Alsace and is based on one developed by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Need I ask which you think I make more often? The one requirement for this recipe is a reasonably dry and full-bodied Riesling. The name of these two dishes is actually a misnomer. The chicken originally used to make them was a tough old stewing hen. Copious amounts of wine and a long simmer were needed to tenderize the old girl. Our chickens are so tender that the modern braise bares no resemblance to the coq au vin of old. This is simple to do and absolutely delicious. With a luscious salad, crackling French bread and a slightly more formal presentation, family fare can be elevated to company status in an almost effortless fashion. Finish the meal with an apple or lemon tart and your reputation as a cook be enhanced. Once you try this you'll see why it's remained my permanent roster all these years. It really is a keeper!

Braised Chicken with Riesling

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
One 3 1/2-pound chicken, quartered
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons Cognac (optional)
1 cup dry Riesling
6 ounces white mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream

1) Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Add chicken, season with saltand pepper and cook over moderate heat until slightly browned, about 4 minutes per side. Add shallot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add Cognac, if using, and carefully ignite it with a long match. When flames subside, add Riesling, cover and simmer over low heat until chicken breasts are just cooked, about 25 minutes. Transfer breasts to a large plate and cover with foil. Cover and simmer legs until cooked through, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer to plate.
2) Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat until liquid evaporates, about 7 minutes. Increase heat to moderate and cook, stirring, until browned, about 3 minutes.
3) In a bowl, blend flour and remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir cream into the large skillet; bring to a simmer. Gradually whisk flour paste into cooking liquid and simmer, whisking, until no floury taste remains, about 3 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Return the chicken to skillet, add mushrooms and briefly reheat. Yield: 4 servings.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I have some very special people to thank for the honors they've passed on to my last child - One Perfect Bite.

Pam, whose blog, For the Love of Cooking, has great recipes, gorgeous photos and writing that highlights her love of life and family has passed the PROXIMITY award to me: "This blog invests and believes the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award." Thank you, Pam.
I'm going to pass the award on to a special group of people - those who sponsor and make blogging events work. Their considerable efforts make it possible for others to showcase their work and reach a wider audience. These women all write well, have food expertise and produce recipes and photographs that make their blogs standouts. Please pay them all a visit. In no special order, these are my choices for the PROXIMITY award:

Susan at Wild Yeast (Yeast Spotting)
Ruth at Once Upon a Feast (Presto Pasta Nights)
Darlene at Blazing Hot Wok (Regional Recipes)
WC at Wandering Chopsticks (Weekend Wokking)
Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen (Weekend Herb Blogging)
Sara at I Like to Cook (Weekend Cook Book Challenge)
Cathy at Noble Pig (Potato Ho-Down)
Tanna My Kitchen in Half Cups (Bread Baking Babes)

As proof that lightning can strike twice, Cathy at Wives with Knives and Martha at Lines from Linderhof were kind enough to pass the BRILLANTE WEBLOG award on to me. Their blogs have lovely old-world qualities. Be sure to pay them a Christmas visit.

"The purpose of this award is to send love and acknowledgment to women who brighten your day, teach you new things and live their lives fully with generosity and joy. It may be given to one or 100 or any number in between - it's up to you."

I love blogs that teach me something I didn't know before I read them. For that reason I'm passing this award to the following folks whose blogs are beautifully photographed, well written and, most importantly, present great food. In no particular order of importance, here are some of my favorite teachers.

Peter at Kalofagas
Mimi at The French Kitchen in America
Claire at Colloquial Cooking
Lily at Lily's Wai Sek Hong
TOH at Tastes of Home

I also have to thank Julie of Peanut Butter and Julie fame who always has something new and different for her readers. Julie is especially attentive and responds to all comments via email. Julie has passed the KREATIVE BLOGGER award to me.

I'm going to pass the award to the Blonde Duck at A Duck in Her Pond - one of the most creative and entertaining blogs I've come across. Stop by and see for yourself.

.....and last but not least, Allie, of Finding Inspiration in Food - a blog as enthusiastic as its creator's personality - sent the I'M A CHOCOHOLIC award to me (I've since gone into recovery). Allie is Cooking Contest Colleague and she has some fabulous recipes. I visit her site every day.

I'm passing the award on to Cathy at Wives With Knives who has a killer recipe for Blum's Coffee Toffee Pie sitting on her site. This is a truly Lucullean recipe.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Norwegian Christmas Bread

Pride is a fearsome thing and ego can be an absolute killer. The pair nearly did me in yesterday when the counter on my site meter went berserk. By ten in the morning it registered twice the normal traffic and an hour later activity had tripled. My first thought - indeed my first word - was "finally." I really felt loved! I basked in the sheer glory of it all until my left brain kicked in, and, ignoring pride and ego, forced me to take a hard look at the data. My left brain is a real spoiler. At any rate, the counter was right, but the folks visiting my sight weren't looking for me, they were looking for Ming Tsai. He had just done a crock-pot demo on Barbara Walters show, "The View". I have a crock-pot recipe for Asian ribs on my blog and in the comments Ming Tsai's name was mentioned. That was all the search engine needed. It directed all those folks looking for his recipe to mine --- which, by the way, is most excellent. "Sic transit gloria mundi." Fortunately, I can laugh at myself --- humor, once again, trumps pride and ego. Today's Christmas bread is one Bob's favorites. I've adapted the recipe from an old neighborhood favorite to better suit today's needs and equipment. It's easier to make than panettone and its shape makes it easier to store. This recipe makes a lot of bread, but it can be frozen. The cardamom scented loaves make great gifts to share with friends and neighbors. Julie, who blogs at Peanut Butter and Julie slices her sweet breads before freezing them. The slices can be thawed and table ready in minutes. I like the idea - a lot. I'm sending photos of this bread to Yeast Spotting, a blogging event sponsored by Susan at Wild Yeast. This is a really nice recipe. I know you'll enjoy it.

Norwegian Christmas Bread

3-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 large eggs, beaten
10 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 cup for kneading
1 tablespoon salt
5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup plumped dark raisins
1/2 cup plumped light raisins
1/2 cup candied orange peel
3 tablespoons candied lemon peel

1) Place the milk in a large microwave container. Microwave on HIGH temperature for 2 minutes, or until milk bubbles at edges and container is warm. Add butter, sugar and cardamom to milk. Set aside.
2) Place 10 cups flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
3) Beat eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer, using paddle attachment. Slowly add milk mixture and beat until mixed.
4) Switch to dough hook attachment. At low speed, add flour and fruit in alternating spoonfuls. Keep mixing until a smooth, elastic mass is formed.
5) Spread 1/2 cup flour on work surface. Turn dough onto flour. Sprinkle top of dough with 1/4 cup. Knead until just smooth. The dough will be slightly tacky. Place in a large greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk.
6) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray four bread pans with nonstick spray. Punch dough down. Let rest 10 minutes. Cut into four pieces, shape into loaves and place in bread pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double.
7) Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush tops with butter. Let sit for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on a rack. Yield: 4 loaves.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Pasta


I know it's happened to you. Folks invited for a drink stretch cocktails into the dinner hour, leaving you to puzzle how a meatloaf will feed ten people. I'm a pro in the "loaves and fishes" department. I might deconstruct the meatloaf and turn it into chili mac, but I'd be even more likely to make a dish we call Christmas pasta. My pantry and refrigerator are stocked with the few staples required to pull this off because unplanned dinner guests are no strangers at our table - especially at Christmas time. The pasta is simple to make and the colors give it a holiday feeling. It's a great addition to a buffet table or covered dish supper. There's only so much that can be said about peppers, peas and cream, so, rather than embroider something so basic, I'll simply say it's delicious and move on. I'm sending my recipe to Mary of Baking Delights who is hosting this week's Presto Pasta Nights a blogging event sponsored by Ruth at Once Upon A Feast. This is a nice recipe to have on file.

Christmas Pasta

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced
2 large red bell peppers, julienned
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups half-and-half or light cream
3 large eggs, beaten
1 pound penne pasta
1 to 2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 to 1 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


1) Bring 6-quarts of well-salted water to a rolling boil.
2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers and saute until tender. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat. Stir in parsley. Set aside.
3) Heat half-and-half in a microwave on HIGH power for 1 minute. Whisking constantly, add to eggs. Set aside.
4) Cook pasta in boiling, salted water per package instructions. Drain in a colander. Add pasta, peas and basil to sauteed vegetables. Toss to combine. Add egg-cream mixture and Parmesan cheese. Toss and serve immediately. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Ma'am began her Christmas baking right after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I'd cross the street to join her in the kitchen and watch her confections come to life. The bungalow kitchen was long and narrow; a large chrome table was pushed against one wall and chairs were moved to the porch so the surface of the table could be used as a work area for the bouts of extreme baking that were about to occur. She began by making candied peel and macerating raisins, dates and apricots in a bath of sherry or dark rum. I cracked walnuts, pecans and almonds with an ancient, charmless nut cracker whose use was strictly functional. We'd toast the nuts, she wipe her hands, pat me on the head and finally call it a day. A week later she'd start to bake her Christmas cakes. The cassata and rum cakes were Lucullean, but the panettone, while beautiful, was dense, dry and unappealing. The secret for perfect panettone never made the passage from Sicily to her new world kitchen. I'd dutifully carry our cake home where my Mom would take one look, shake her head and use it to make bread pudding. A few days ago I read that panettone has become the new fruit cake. That's a shame. Twenty years ago I would have shared that assessment, but I had an attitude readjustment when I discovered Sorini panettone. Bob and I both had jobs that put us on corporate Christmas lists and the number and size of the Christmas baskets we received was a testament to wretched excess and a lack of corporate imagination. We were able to re-gift the baskets to a local shelter, but the panettone usually came after the baskets had been picked up. So, it happened I that I was again exposed to panettone. The Sorini bread was incredibly good and it became a much anticipated Christmas favorite. Of course when we retired the panettone well went dry. Those who know me well know that I won't pay five dollars for a loaf of bread. Imagine my thoughts about paying $39.99 for panettone. I'm happy to report that after ten years of trying I've finally come up with a light, moist panettone that's close to that of the Sorinis and costs far less than the ransom that is charged for theirs. The bread requires a sponge, so you'll need a day's lead time for it to develop and another day to make the bread. All ingredients should be at room temperature before proceeding. The dough will be a bit sticky, but that's as it should be. I use fresh, candied peel and toasted almonds to make my panettone. Next year I want to swap glaced chestnuts - homemade of course - for the almonds. While I'd love a drumroll, it's probably best that we just move on. Here, on it's maiden voyage, is Mary's.....


Day One Sponge
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
Day Two Bread
3/4 cup soft butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup light raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
1 cup toased almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh candied orange peel, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons candied lemon peel, coarsely chopped

1) To make sponge: Combine flour, water and yeast in a medium bowl. Mix with a spoon until smooth. Cover; set aside at room temperature for 15 to 20 hours.
2) To make panettone: Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Add in whole egg and two egg yolks; beat until smooth. Stir in sponge (made day before); beat just till smooth. Stir in vanilla and buttermilk, mix well. Stir in 2 cups flour and salt; mix until well combined. Mix in yeast. Let rest for 20 minutes, uncovered. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of reserved flour on work surface. Place dough on floured surface. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup reserved flour; knead for 8 to 10 minutes, adding additional flour only as needed. Dough will remain sticky. Spread raisins, almonds and candied peel on work surface; knead mixture into dough. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat all surfaces. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours. Lightly grease two 6 cup molds or souffle dishes. Punch down dough, cut into two equal pieces
and place in molds. Cover and let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake in center of oven for 50 to 55 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes. Gently remove from pans. Cool on wire racks. Yield: 2 Loaves.

Credit for this recipe must be shared with the folks at Cooking Bread a wonderful site for the very kneady (sorry I couldn't resist).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Candied Orange and Lemon Peel

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Oranges and lemons and spice - how nice! Perhaps, but I wonder how many European Christmas treasures have been ruined using the glazed peels and citron that we buy for baking during the holidays. I, only recently, discovered that citron is a fruit, related to the orange and lemon, but with an identity all its own. I had always assumed that citron was candied lemon peel. Citron is valued for medicinal purposes and in the ancient world was mixed with wine as an anecdote to poison - if only Socrates and Seneca had known! While this may be a culturally acquired taste, my palate can't deal with citron, so I decided to follow the example of frugal peasant housewives around the world, and, working from an old recipe, make my own candied peel. What a treat! Fresh candied peel is a confection that will enormously improve stollen, panettone, cassata and Scandinavian Christmas breads, replacing bitterness with the true essence of the fruit. I was also delighted to find that Davis Lebovotiz had come up with a recipe to make crystallized ginger in home kitchens. Now between work, cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping, wrapping and keeping the children entertained, you'll have something to fill your idle hours. My work here is done!

Candied Orange and Lemon Peel...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

8 large, thick skinned naval oranges or 14 large, thick skinned lemons
4 cups granulated sugar, divided use
1 cup water

1) Cutting lengthwise, quarter the peel of oranges or lemons with a paring knife. Remove peel from each quarter, saving the fruit for another use. Place peel in a 4 to 6-quart pot; cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain. When cool use a tablespoon to dig out most of the white pith. Cut the remaining peel into 1/4-inch strips and set aside.
2) Combine 2 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peel, cover, and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Remove peel; drain on a wire cooling rack and allow to dry for 1 hour.
3) Place peel and remaining 2 cups sugar in a large bowl. Toss until peel is evenly coated. Shake excess sugar from peel and place on a baking sheet; allow to dry overnight. Store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks. Yield: 2 quarts orange or 1-1/2 quarts lemon peel.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sicilian Pork Chops

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...If I were to tell you that I'm a practicing Catholic, Quaker, Buddhist, some believers I know would roll their eyes, shake their heads and conclude, sotto voce, "perhaps, but she's not very good at any of them." Then Mrs. S, emerging from the clouds of Christmas past, would let you know - in tones not not so sotto voce - "I did the best I could with her ." And that, too, would be true. She walked me to Catechism classes until she was sure I could make the trek alone and twice a week would sit me at her kitchen table to make sure I'd done my homework. Her four boys - young men, still living at home - always called her Ma'am, so I thought it only proper I do the same. She seemed not to mind. Before the advent of today's exhaust fans, you could pretty much tell the ethnic background of a family by the aromas coming from their kitchen. Ma'am's kitchen was decidedly Italian and when you walked through the door you were enveloped by the smell of onion, garlic and oregano. She did nothing by halves; sauce was made in ten gallon containers and potatoes were cooked five pounds at a time. As I recited my catechism, I watched her work and absorbed information and techniques that, years later, would prove to be invaluable. It was a form of osmosis. She had no clear intent to teach and I had no intent to learn, but it happened anyway. Her home, at Christmas, was a revolving door of family, friends and neighbors. As I got older she shared her secrets for candied peel, panettone, cassata and pork dishes so good they'd make you weep. Ma'am kept track of me through the years. Just before Bob and I were married I had lunch with her and as we chatted she wanted me to know, "It's a shame you're not Italian, you'd be good for Salvatore." I had to laugh. Ma'am was a true believer in equality, a champion of civil rights, but she was never able to get her arms, or for that matter her head, around the idea her boys might marry someone not Italian. Today's pork chops, part of my permanent roster for more years than I care to admit, are based on Ma'am's Sicilian recipe. These are simple to do, but planning is required. The chops need to be brined before cooking. I do hope you'll try these. They are very, very nice, even in the hands of a non-Italian cook.

Sicilian Pork Chops...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

1/4 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
2 bay leaves crumbled
4 boneless pork chops, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2-inches thick
1/4 cup flour for dredging
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoon heavy cream or half-and-half
Garnish: chopped parsley or strips of lemon zest

1) To make brine: Combine salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add 1 cup hot water and stir until sugar dissolves. Add 3 cups cold water, thyme, pepper, sage and bay leaves. Whisk to combine. Pour into a resealable zip top bag; add pork chops and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.
2) To make pork chops: Remove chops from bag and pat dry. Dredge them lightly in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet. Add pork chops and cook over high heat, turning once until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a plate. Sprinkle very lightly with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3) To cook onions: Add reserved 1 tablespoon butter and onions to pan. Cook until onion is just tender and lightly brown. Add vermouth, bouillon granules and 1/2 cup water. Boil until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 minutes. Stir in capers.
4) To complete pork: Return pork chops to skillet, placing them on top of onions. Reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer slowly for about 10 minutes. Turn chops and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or until pork is firm to touch and a meat thermometer inserted in middle of chops registers 145 to 150 degrees. Transfer to a serving plate; tent with foil. Set aside.
5) To make sauce: Turn heat up to high. Add 1/4 cup water to skillet; bring to a boil. Add cream and boil to reduce liquid by about a half, or until liquid is of sauce consistency. Adjust seasoning if required. Spoon sauce over chops. Sprinkle with parsley or lemon zest strips. Yield: 4 servings.

Cook's Note: Chopped Sicilian olives may be used instead of capers.
Related Posts with Thumbnails