Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fa La La La La

La La La Laaaaaa! Happy holidays, everyone! We are so very, very full right now. This season we celebrated two Christmas meals with Chris's family and three with mine. Plus, we're hosting a little cocktail party (with snacks, of course) this weekend. And my gym is closed til January 2nd. Sheesh.

Well anyway, let's go ahead and have virtual seconds-- this was the Christmas night menu at our house:

-Salad (Romaine, Roquefort, pecans and fuji apples with balsamic vinaigrette)
-Duck breast with a port-cherry sauce (recipe below)
-Sweet potatoes roasted with sage
-Lemony haricot vert with shallots
-Rum cake
-Creme de menthe brownies

Duck Breast with Port-Cherry Sauce
Adapted from
Serves 4

  • 1 cup frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed, halved
  • 1 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup beef stock or canned beef broth
  • 1/2 cup ruby Port
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 4 6-ounce duck breast halves
  • Combine first five ingredients in small sauce pan over medium high heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally until reduced and syrupy, about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. High heavy oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Score the skin of the duck breasts with a paring knife. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Sear breasts skin side down for several minutes, until skin is brown and crisp. Flip breasts over and sear for a minute or two. Remove skillet from stove and place in preheated oven. Cook until medium rare, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove to cutting board and allow to rest. Taste cherry sauce and season with salt and pepper. Slice duck thinly on the diagonal and top with sauce.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Indecisive by nature, when I came to the realization that I had both goat cheese and pumpkin on hand to fill my ravioli, I had a rough time making a choice. Variety (and sage, in this case) being the spice of life, I went for the gusto and whipped up both. The sweet pumpkin was a great counter to the tangy goat cheese, although honestly I’d probably eat anything smothered in browned butter and accented with crispy fried sage.


Pumpkin Ravioli and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage

Makes about 30 large ravioli


For pumpkin filling:

  • ¾ c. pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 tbs. bread crumbs
  • 1 tbs. grated parmesan
  • ½ tsp. fresh sage, chopped fine
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

For the goat cheese filling:

  • 4-5 oz. soft goat cheese
  • 1 tbs. bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp. fresh sage, chopped fine
  • salt and pepper

  • 1 package spring roll wrappers
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • 8 fresh sage leaves


  • Combine all pumpkin filling ingredients in a small bowl. Combine all goat cheese filling ingredients in a separate bowl.
  • To make the spring roll wrappers the perfect size for ravioli, take a stack and cut them in half down the center to create pieces that are about 2 inches by 4 inches.
  • Fill wrappers. Place about a tablespoon of either filling (avoid the impulse to overfill!) towards the bottom of the wrapper. Brush surrounding edges with egg wash. Fold top half over and crimp edges with a fork. As you finish the ravioli, set aside on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
  • Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. When butter has melted and begins to turn golden add sage leaves and fry until they are crisp and butter is brown.
  • When water comes to boil, add ravioli and cook in batches for just a few minutes each. As they finish, scoop out of pot with strainer and add to skillet with butter. Toss to coat.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More Giftable Sugar

I like making candies and goodies and whatnot, but I have a fear of anything that involves a candy thermometer. That's too much pressure. It means that if I'm off by one of two degrees -- ka plow!! Hot melted sugar explodes all over my kitchen and it's the end of society as we know it. Okay, maybe not. But I'm still intimidated by recipes that call for constant temperature monitoring. Soooo, for the past couple of years I have totally cheated and used Rachael Ray's Five Minute Fudge Wreath recipe to make yummy chocolate treats (and yes, that photo is atrocious). I branched out a bit this year and took my fudge making to the next level. A recipe that called for actual boiling of butter and sugar. I'm getting there . . . I'm getting there.

Cherry Almond Fudge
Adapted from

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds,
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

  • Combine butter, evaporated milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a hard boil for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate until melted and smooth. Fold in the almonds and cherries. Add vanilla.
  • Pour into an 8 by 8-inch square baking pan. Chill until firm, about 2 to 4 hours. Cut into 12 squares.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sugar and Spice

For the holidays, these pecans are everything nice. They're a great snack and make easy edible gifts.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Spiced Pecans
Adapted from The Washington Post, December 2002

  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 pound (about 4 1/2 cups) pecan halves
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  • Combine sugars and spices in small bowl
  • In a large bowl, beat egg white and salt with a fork until frothy. Toss in pecans until evenly coated.
  • Add sugar mixture, toss pecans again until well coated.
  • Spread evenly on baking sheet. Bake in oven 30-40 minutes, until crisp and dry, stirring occasionally. Cool and store.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese

Such an oddly delightful combination! Beets and goat cheese atop fresh greens with a tangy dressing make for a great summer salad (Corduroy's version with carrots is particularly good), but I was looking for something a bit cozier this time of year. This isn't much of a recipe, I admit, but it's definitely something I'll be making for falls and winters to come.

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese
Serves 4
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

  • 3 medium sized beets (baseball to softball size)
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub beets, wrap tightly in foil and place on baking sheet in hot oven. Bake for about an hour, until they can be pierced through with a fork.
  • Set aside to cool for a few minutes. As soon as your hands can stand it, peel and cut beets into chunks. Oh yeah, and also - your hands will get slightly stained. Just slightly. Not too bad. It's worth it.
  • Place beet chunks in bowl and sprinkle with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss and top with goat cheese.

The weirdest in my refrigerator . . .

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Yum. My love for pickles does not discriminate among the vegetable varieties.

Does not compare to the weirdest thing in my mailbox:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I am . . . amused? Concerned? Thanks, wacky former home owner! As if the tennis player wallpaper wasn't enough to make us worry about you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Pre-Game

Although my mom is technically hosting, I'm doing a ton of cooking for the holiday this week. In case you're interested, here is the menu we're having:
To get a jump on things over the weekend, I made the cheesecake and cranberry sauce, assembled the sweet potatoes and prepped the bread (baked cornbread, diced and dried it) for stuffing. I also prepped some layers of the cranberry chocolate torte I'm bringing to dinner on Wednesday night with Chris' family and made the chocolate pecan bars. Whew - that's already a lot of cooking!

If you're still looking for an excellent recipe for cranberry sauce or sweet potatoes, take a look below!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cranberries in Pinot Noir

Lots of thanks to Kristy for turning me on to this recipe! I believe she found it through Simply Recipes, but I used the Epicurious version. I was a little intimidated by the amount of curry, so I reduced it to 1/4 tsp. Chris and I both thought it was perfect! A little different than ordinary cranberry sauce, but not so different that you'll ruffle the feathers of Thanksgiving traditionalists.

Cranberries in Pinot Noir

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups cranberries (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cups Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Large pinch of Chinese five-spice powder
  • Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cranberries and fresh ginger; stir until cranberries begin to burst, about 3 minutes.
  • Add wine and sugar; boil until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes.
  • Add crystallized ginger, curry powder and five-spice powder.
  • Serve sauce cold or, if desired, rewarm over low heat, stirring often. Can be made 3 days ahead and stored in fridge.

Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Apples

I've made variations of this recipe for years and have realized that it can easily be pared down, as well as lightened up, without sacrificing flavor. However, if you have a little extra room for cream, butter and sugar, as well as time for extraneous steps, feel free to use the original version : ) I think that the key here is using really good sweet potatoes and apples. I'm on an organic kick, so I used an organic ruby variety of sweet potato and think Fuji apples are particularly sweet and hold up well during cooking. This is also a great dish to make ahead of time and pop in the oven right before dinner.

Before they even go in the oven. Caramel goodness. . .mmm.

Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Apples
Serves 6.

Adapted from

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tbs butter, divided
  • 2 tbs brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tbs heavy cream
  • 2 tbs Calvados, brandy, cognac, rum or spiced rum (pretty much whatever you enjoy the flavor of and have on hand)
  • 2 tbs orange juice
  • Bake sweet potatoes in 425 degree oven, until soft. 45-1 hr. When cool enough to handle, peel skin and mash. Set aside.
  • Toss apples with lemon juice. Heat 1 tbs butter in skillet over medium high heat. Once the butter has melted, add 1 tbs brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Add apples to the pan. Cook the apples until brown and soft, stirring occasionally.
  • Spoon mashed sweet potatoes into a casserole dish and smooth top. Pour browned apples over and smooth.
  • Heat remaining butter in skillet over high heat. Add remaining sugar, the cream, liquor and orange juice. Simmer and stir until reduced and syrupy. Drizzle over top of apples.
  • Heat entire dish in oven until warmed though, about 30 minutes. The temperature isn't too important here (so long as you don't burn it!) and it can be thrown in with your turkey or anything else in the oven.

Chocolate Pecan Bars

I just made these for my dad's birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad!) and as a back-up Thanksgiving dessert. They are simple, pretty darn good and go well with morning coffee. Next time, I think I might incorporate some caramel squares to try to make them more turtle-ish in nature.

Chocolate Pecan Bars
Makes 15-24 bars, depending on how generous you're feeling. Adapted from One of the reviews on the site noted a too-soft crust - I accidentally omitted the egg the original called for and my crust was fine, so I'd recommend doing that.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chopped pecans, plus a few halves for decorating
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix crust ingredients in food processor or with a pastry blender. Press into buttered 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
  • For the filling, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Beat in the flour, the vanilla, and the salt and then stir in the pecans and the chocolate chips.
  • Pour into crust and smooth out. It helps if the crust is still warm so that the chocolate melts a bit as you smooth it. Decorate top with pecan halves, if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm.
  • Allow to cool and cut into squares.

Steak with Caramelized Onions in Red Wine

This is one of my favorite Friday night meals. I think it would be absolutely heavenly with a sprinkling of gorgonzola, but haven't dared take it to that level yet.

Steak with Caramelized Onions in Red Wine
Serves 2

  • 2 nice NY Strip steaks
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 tbs. oil
  • 1/2 c. good red wine
  • salt and pepper
  • Take steaks out and prep for cooking, however you desire. Generally, we rub them with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of Montreal steak seasoning.
  • Slice the onion into thin rings. Heat oil over medium heat in skillet.
  • Cook the onions until a nice golden brown, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the red wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook onions in wine until most of the wine has evaporated or been absorbed, about 5-10 minutes. The onions should be a pretty purple with just a bit of syrupy liquid. Turn heat to low, stir occasionally.
  • Cook steaks however you like. We usually throw them on the grill on medium high for a few minutes, but you could use a broiler or grill pan. Whatever works.
  • Remove steaks from heat and allow them to rest. Pour yourself a glass of the remaining wine, top the steak with onions and serve.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Roasted Goodness

This meal may or may not have been inspired by a recent trip to Cracker Barrel. Don't judge me.

Pot Roast with Vegetables and Gravy
Adapted from
Serves 6-8

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 5-pound beef chuck roast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups beef stock or reduced sodium canned beef broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2-3 onions, cut into large wedges
  • 4 cloves garlic , chopped
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 pounds carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 pounds potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (I left these out this go 'round because I had a craving for mashed potatoes, but I did add a few parsnips instead)
  • 1 tbls flour
  • 1/4 c. water
Special Equipment:
  • Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium high heat. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, brown meat on all sides. Be patient and let it get a nice sear.
  • Turn meat fat side up if you can (the roasts never seem to be cut correctly). Add broth, wine, onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and tomato paste. Stir liquid as best you can and bring to simmer.
  • Cover and put in oven. Roast for about 2-3 hours, until you can pull/shred a corner fairly easily with a fork. Add vegetables and continue to roast another 45-60 minutes. When done, roast should come apart very easily.
  • Remove vegetables to a platter. Remove meat to a cutting board. Cover both to retain heat. Strain remaining juices in dutch oven and remove fat. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Make a slurry of the flour and water. Quickly stir in to simmering juices. Simmer and stir until thickened. Slice roast and serve.
Yes, I went to the gym today. Why do you ask?

Monday, November 12, 2007

What the stalk is that?

An alien mace? Mutant broccoli? No, but perhaps even more frightening - brussel sprouts! Wait, come back! They're good, I promise.

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Serves 4

  • about 30 brussel sprouts (this was half my stalk)
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 c. beef or chicken broth
  • 1 tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Remove sprouts from stalk with paring knife, if necessary. Peel away any damaged outer leaves. Slice each sprout in half.
  • Melt butter in large pan over medium high. When butter stops foaming, add brussel sprouts to pan, cut side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • After sprouts have browned (about 5 minutes), add broth and vinegar. Cover until brussel sprouts are steamed through, about 5 minutes.
  • Uncover and allow any excess liquid to evaporate. Serve, drizzling with melted butter if desired. Change the minds of sprout-haters forever!
Oh, and what did I do with the rest of that stalk, you ask? I cut off the end and stored it in the fridge like asparagus - upright in a glass of water. They should stay fresh and firm for a few more days:Night-night.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Healthier Pumpkin Treats

As much as I love my Pumpkin Cupcake recipe, my jeans can only take so much. So how's a gal to get her fix during this glorious season of pumpkins pastries? I found a recipe from Cooking Light that sounded great, but 2 cups of sugar? How “light” is that? Plus, I thought I could health-ify it a bit more by substituting some wholesome whole wheat flour instead of plain old white. The result was pretty tasty, though not quite as dessert-like as a lot of pumpkin breads. It would be stellar with vanilla ice cream, though.

Unfortunately, our camera died this weekend so I didn’t get a picture (but – woohoo! New Sony Cybershot come to mama!). I’ll warn you that the tops didn’t come out quite as glossy as I expected, but they were quite dense and moist on the inside.

In the meantime:

Donkey Dragon says "Happy Howl-oween!"

Pumpkin Bread and/or Muffins
Makes 1 loaf and 6 muffins, or 2 small loaves.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Cooking spray


  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Combine flour and next 9 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, combine canola oil, eggs, and pumpkin in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in raisins.
  • Spoon batter into pans (I made one loaf and six muffins, but the original recipe is for 2 loaves) coated with cooking spray.
  • Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (20-30 minutes for muffins).
  • Cool and slice

Stuff It.

Yeah, two “stuffed” recipes in a week. I don’t know what to tell you.

Stuffed pork chops with pan roasted brussel sprouts and butternut squash

Stuffed Pork Chops with Apple and Onion
Serves 2


  • 2 boneless center cut pork chops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 c. diced apple
  • 1/3 c. diced sweet onion
  • 1/3 c. dry herb stuffing mix
  • a little water or broth
  • olive oil
  • ¾ c. white wine
  • 1 pat cold butter


  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Pat porkchops dry. Cut a slit in the side of each to create a pocket. Season well with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • In an oven-proof skillet, heat some olive oil until shimmering. Add onions and apples and sauté until onion is translucent. Add stuffing mix and toss. Throw in enough liquid to soften stuffing. Let mixture cool for a few minutes.
  • Stuff each chop with half the stuffing mixture. Secure with toothpicks (stuck in at a slant so that the chops can lay flat in the skillet).
  • Heat a tablespoon or so oil in skillet. Brown the chops on each side. Carefully turn using big tongs.
  • Put the skillet in the oven and bake for at least half an hour, or until the temp at the end of the chop measures 145 or so and juices run clear.
  • Take the chops out of the pan and put skillet on medium heat on stove. Deglaze with wine, stirring up brown bits. Simmer for a few minutes until reduced. Take off heat and whisk in cold butter. Drizzle over top of chops and serve. Remember to remove toothpicks!

Feta and Roasted Pepper Stuffed Chicken

This is a pretty solid weeknight recipe. I roasted the peppers right on my gas range and then baked them until they were soft. You can also do it on a gas grill. Or, be less cheap than I am and just buy a jar.

Stuffed Chicken with a Greek-ish Salad

Feta and Roasted Pepper Stuffed Chicken
Serves 2


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ c. crumbled feta (I like to use the herb seasoned kind)
  • ¼ c. roasted pepper, diced
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. seasoned bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a foil-lined cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
  • Cover the chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound them to an even thickness (about ¾ inch). Carefully cut a large slit in the side of the breast to create a decent sized pocket.
  • Combine the feta and peppers in a small bowl. Stuff the chicken and pat it down so that it lays as flat as possible.
  • Beat egg in a bowl and spread out breadcrumbs on a plate. Carefully dip stuffed chicken in the egg and then breadcrumbs. Set on cookie sheet.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown and juices run clear.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chicken Salad with Rosemary and Almonds

Borrowed from my divine Aunt Jen, who I believe borrowed from the divine Contessa Ina. Everything is eyeballed and to taste, really. You can usually find smoked almonds in the candy/snacks aisle, not the baking aisle, of the grocery store. I love them with the dried cherries. One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is having the leftover almonds and cherries around just for snacking.

  • 1/4-1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/4-1/2 c. mayonaise
  • Cooked chicken (from a roasted chicken, store bought rotisserie chicken, whatever). 4 cups-ish?
  • 1/2 c. chopped smoked almonds
  • 1/2 c. chopped dried cherries
  • 1-2 tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 c. finely diced red or sweet onion
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • In small bowl, mix together mayo and sour cream.
  • Dump rest of ingredients in large bowl, add mayo/sour cream and mix.
  • Serve on croissants, wraps, rolls or just a bed of lettuce.

Cold Enough to Roast a Chicken

I was thrilled to finally unburden my freezer of one roasting chicken this weekend. For just the two of us (We can make it if we try, just the two of us, you and I. Wait, where was I?Anyway . . .) a six pound chicken turns into many, many meals. Some yummy, warm, autumnal meals. We have a few nights of chicken soup and a few lunches of chicken salad ahead of us. Below is the standard recipe I use, ever since I first made it for a group of friends in college. If a half drunk junior can make it in a crappy rental house kitchen, you know it can't be that hard.

Shhh . . .the chicken is resting. She would have looked more lady-like had I tied the legs with twine, but we're not into bondage.

Perfect Roast Chicken

  • One roasting chicken (about 6 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 springs fresh rosemary (my contribution to the recipe)
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • A half hour before cooking, take out chicken and butter and bring to room temp.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Prep the chicken - remove giblets, rinse bird and dry with paper towels.
  • Smash the garlic cloves and prick the lemon all over. Toss inside chicken with the herbs and a liberal seasoning of salt and pepper.
  • Smear your nice soft butter all over the outside of the chicken. Again, season liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Slice onions into 1/2 inch slices. Lay on bottom of roasting pan. These will act as a mini roasting rack for your chicken. Set chicken on top and throw into hot oven. I always do breast down to ensure it will be moist.
  • Now, walk out of kitchen and marvel at the wonderful smells already wafting through the house. Also, put some nice white wine in the fridge.
  • After about an hour and a half, start checking the temperature. The chicken should have a lovely golden skin by now, but don't let it fool you into thinking that it's actually done. Look for a temperature of about 180 in the thigh and clear juices. Sometimes it takes my bird nearly half an hour longer and I'll throw a piece of foil over the top so that the skin doesn't burn.
  • Carefully remove chicken to cutting board to let it rest while you make gravy. Yes, gravy. It's not that hard. Call it "pan sauce" if that's less intimidating.
  • If you have one, pour off the drippings from the pan into a fat separator (this is awesome). Or, pour it into a shallow bowl, let it rest for a minute and spoon off the fat. Pour the de-fatted, somewhat strained drippings back into the pan. Heat pan on stove over medium high for a minute to get it going. Add one cup broth/stock and turn to high. After a few minutes it should reduce and thicken. If you're having trouble, just make a little slurry of flour and extra broth and stir it in.
  • Remove the aromatics from the chicken cavity, slice and serve with gravy.

Plated, with braised purple cabbage and smashed potatoes. And lots of gravy. I'm still working on my photography, obviously.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Moist, pumpkin-y, perfect. Sorry, no picture. I ate the last remaining cupcake without even thinking about snapping a pic.

From Domino Magazine. Makes 24 cupcakes.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 cup sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line the muffin pans with liners or spray them with baking spray.
  • Sift together the flour, spice, baking soda and salt.
  • In mixer, combine the sugar, pumpkin and eggs, and mix until smooth. Add in the oil and the orange juice until the batter is smooth.
  • Add the flour-spice mix to the pumpkin mixture and fold together until well incorporated, but do not overmix.
  • Bake 20–25 minutes.
  • Frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
From the Cake Mix Doctor. Makes enough for 24 cupcakes.

  • 1 stick (1/4 c.) butter, room temperature
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3.5 c. confectioners sugar
  • Whip together butter and cream cheese until very soft and fully mixed. Add vanilla.
  • Slowly add confectioners sugar. Mix until smooth.
  • Use pastry bag to pipe icing on cupcakes or spread with spatula.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Smokin' Up

Adventures in Pulled Pork with Grillmaster Bob

Like getting your driver's license or turning 21, smoking your first giant slab of meat is a right of passage in my family. Sure you might be married, have a college degree and maybe even kids of your own, but you aren't a full Clements until you've spent a few hours out back next to the Smoker. The clothes you wear are your badge of honor -- wreaking of a distinctive mix of pork fat and smoke, like a wild hog caught in a forest fire. However, I don't believe that anyone has ever documented this multi-day process, so I thought I would give it a go. Essentially, you apply a rub to the meat and refrigerate over night. Then you smoke it for a few hours, put it in the oven for a few hours, pull the meat, then add some home made barbecue sauce.

Smoked Pulled Pork
(This serves about 15 people, we tripled it and smoked 3 Boston butts)

  • 1 7lb Boston butt pork roast
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs pepper
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs chili powder
  • 2 tbs paprika
  • 1 tbs dry mustard powder
  • barbecue sauce (recipe further down)
Special Equipment:
  • a smoker (or charcoal grill. America's Test Kitchen has good pointers for that.)
  • charcoal
  • kindling and newspaper
  • apple wood, soaked in water
  • a large metal steamer tray filled with water
  • Combine the 6 dry ingredients to make a rub. Rub all over pork. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
  • The next day, prep your smoker. Fill with balled newspaper, kindling and half a bag of charcoal. (We actually used lighter fluid and thought it was fine, evidently that was a no-no, but oh well)
  • Place steamer tray of water above fire and under grill plate.
  • Once the fire gets going, add the apple wood.
  • At the point, you can put your pork (unwrapped) on the opposite side of the grill from the fire. Make sure it is fat side up, so that the juices self-baste the meat.
  • Close the lid. Drink some beer. Wait 3 or more hours.
  • After a few hours, you have some choices. You can wrap it and continue smoking or you move it to the oven. We wrapped the meat tightly in many layers of foil, making sure to keep track of which side is the fat side. I then put it in a steamer pan with an inch of water and covered the whole pan tightly with foil. If the meat is coming straight off the grill, you can do 325 for 2 hours. Our pork was refrigerated in between smoker and oven, so I did 375-425 for 2.5 hours.
  • Take out of the oven and take a fork to the edge of the meat. If it flakes off easily, you are probably good to go. Let it cool a bit before pulling completely apart. I found that using my hands was easiest to pick out bits of fat.
  • Mix with 3/4 c. -1 c. of barbecue sauce, just enough to keep it moist.
  • Serve with kaiser rolls, bread and butter pickles, extra barbecue sauce and cole slaw.

Barbecue Sauce
Makes ~4 cups

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 c. ketchup
  • 1/4 c. molasses
  • 1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c. dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2-3 tsp. pepper sauce or hot sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • Heat about 2 tbs oil in dutch oven (enough to coat bottom of pan) over medium.
  • Add onion and garlic, saute until translucent.
  • Add remaining ingredients and bring to simmer.
  • Turn heat down to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Cool and keep in airtight container in fridge.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ray's The Classics

Yay! Chris came through for my birthday and made reservations at a place I've been eager to try. We never made it in last year when Ray's The Classics (sibling to Ray's The Steaks in Arlington) opened. A combination of lots of buzz, lack of reservation-making foresight on my part, and no participation (the nerve!) kept us away. Anyway, we had a relatively early dinner on Friday and the food was great. I had the crab bisque, 12 oz. house special steak and key lime pie for dessert. The crab bisque was lovely and silky. Chris has the spiced onion soup and the same steak, only larger. Our steaks, both perfectly done, came with creamy mashed potatoes and some seriously good creamed spinach. Complimentary sides were a pleasant surprise after visiting Sam & Harry's and BLT Steak last month where everything is a la carte. Because Chris has mentioned my birthday when making reservations, the key lime pie was also complimentary - how nice!

We both thought it was an excellent meal at a decent price. In fact, when our bill arrived, I noticed that since dessert was free we'd actually spent less than we would have at others places during Restaurant Week. Our only gripe was the sloooooow service. We didn't notice all too much, since we were enjoying a cozy corner table and a bottle of wine, but we did have four different servers and dinner took more than two hours for just the two of us. We had to ask for the check twice (from different people). I don't think we'll be holding that against Ray's though, we had a very good meal and a nice night out. They even wished me a happy birthday on the way out the door : ) I'd definitely go back for a special occasion meal that won't blow the budget. I just wouldn't recommend it for impatient eaters or vegetarians (half the menu is steak, after all).

P.S. - I won't be updating until after our party this weekend, but I plan to be back with lots of recipes and even a how-to for smoked pork barbecue!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Grilled Caprese Chicken

A great Indian summer supper. It could be very light too, if I didn't insist on topping it with a giant slab of fresh mozz. Oh well, it's almost sweater season, right? The first few steps are basically how we make any grilled chicken. I'm no Alton Brown, but my theory is that an even thickness and a marinade with a bit of oil and a bit of acid are crucial to moist, non-rubbery grilled chicken. It was complimented by grilled zucchini and onions. By the way, do you have a grill basket? You should really get one.

Grilled Caprese Chicken
Serves 2

  • 2 chicken breast halves, pounded between plastic wrap to an even thickness
  • juice of half a lemon
  • good olive oil
  • 1/3 packet Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix (dry)
  • 1 vine ripe medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 c. artichoke hearts (optional)
  • about 6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 slices mozzarella
  • Throw breasts in bowl or ziploc bag. Add lemon juice, italian dressing mix and a glug or two of olive oil. Mix to evenly coat chicken. Preheat grill.
  • In a small bowl, combine tomato, artichoke hearts, basil, garlic, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a splash of olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Turn grill down to medium high. Throw breasts on and cook, about 6 minutes on each side. If you have a hard time judging when chicken is done, please for the love of God, get a meat thermometer. I can't think of any sauce, condiment or magic potion that can cover up the sin of overcooked chicken breast.
  • When the breasts are just about done, top each with a slice of mozzarella and allow the cheese to melt for a few moments.
  • Remove chicken from grill and let rest for a minute or two (also important for juicy meat). Top with a few heaping spoonfuls of tomato mixture. Enjoy the last taste of summer!

It's fall, dammit.

I can no longer wait for the weather to catch up. I'm ready for autumn--the season of pumpkins and pot roast and apple pie. However, with the 90 degree weather (seriously, 90? That's just for shock value, right?) my oven remains empty. I have found a pretty good substitute that I like to call "fall in a bottle". Pumpkin ale!

I believe it's a brown ale (hence the slightly bitter, ale-y taste. Sorry, I'm usually more of a Hefeweizen/wheat ale girl!) brewed with real pumpkin and spices. Although a lot of beers have pumpkin flavor, I really love the spices in this version. You all know that I'm a huge fan of Blue Moon in general, but I have to say that this pumpkin ale puts theirs to shame.

Oh, hey! The Washington Post just wrote about pumpkin ale!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Celebrating a Homecoming with Heavy Cream

Part II in a series, because evidently I have a knack for creating special event menus that rely on this naughty dairy product.

So, my brother is home from Iraq! Looking suspiciously pale for someone who has supposedly spent 9 months in the desert, but it's okay--if he actually wiled away the past few months holed up in his friend Mike's basement while playing video games and avoiding diaper duty, I won't rat him out.
Chris and Tessa tried for a good 20 minutes to get a decent picture of Bird, Dad and me. I'm using this reject photo to spite them and because it's a more accurate representation of the three of us.

On the menu: steak au poivre, sour cream and chive mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach and chocolate amaretto cake. And Masking Tape wine. Made on my dad's friend's Eastern Shore winery (where they've yet to select a name or logo, hence the masking tape), it seriously looks like something straight out of Prohibition. Because of that, and the fact that it's pretty tasty, it's become a family favorite.

This would only be cooler if the label was made of duct tape.

Steak Au Poivre (courtesy of This is one of the recipes I based my Duck Au Poivre on last month. Just as delectable with steak! This serves 4, but is easily doubled for 8.


  • 4 (3/4- to 1-inch-thick) boneless beef top-loin (strip) steaks (8 to 10 oz each)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots (I omitted because the shallots at my store looked terrible, recipe was great without)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/2 cup Cognac or other brandy
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Preheat oven to 200°F.
  • Pat steaks dry and season both sides with kosher salt.
  • Coarsely crush peppercorns in a sealed plastic bag with a meat pounder or bottom of a heavy skillet, then press pepper evenly onto both sides of steaks.
  • Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot, about 3 minutes, then add oil, swirling skillet, and sauté steaks in 2 batches, turning over once, about 6 minutes per batch for medium-rare.
  • Transfer steaks as cooked to a heatproof platter and keep warm in oven while making sauce.
  • Pour off fat from skillet, then add shallots and half of butter (2 tablespoons) to skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until shallots are well-browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add Cognac (use caution; it may ignite) and boil, stirring, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cream and any meat juices accumulated on platter and boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook over low heat, swirling skillet, until butter is incorporated. Serve sauce with steaks.
Sour Cream and Chive Mashed Potatoes
Darn good potatoes, few ingredients. Serves 4-6.

  • 2 lbs. red skinned potatoes (about 8-10 medium sized potatoes)
  • 3/4 c. light sour cream
  • 1/2 a bunch of chives (about 6 little chive stems), sliced into small pieces.
  • salt and pepper
  • Dice potatoes (not peeled) and place in pot. Cover with cold water and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender.
  • Drain potatoes and put in mixing bowl of standing mixer (you can just as easily use a hand mixer, though). Add sour cream, chives and a few good shakes of salt and pepper. Mix until fairly smooth, a few lumps are just fine.
As usual, Hali oversees child labor for the evening. You call that Swiffering, kid?! Luckily, we have lots of floors for him to practice.

Cheaters' Chocolate Amaretto Cake

This is such a simple cake, but is incredibly moist and has a rich, satisfying chocolate flavor. The ganache glaze is delectable. So what's the "cheater" part, you ask? Well, aside from breaking any low-cal diet you might have planned, the ingredients are far from scratch, yet still impart a great homemade flavor. Essentially, the cake is an edited version of the famous Bacardi rum cake recipe, staple of '60s housewives everywhere and one of my personal favorites. Do yourself a favor and serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

We also shared a few sips from a bottle of Chyrsalis Vineyards Petite Manseng. The bottle recommended a "lighter" dessert paring, but whatever, they're not the boss of me. Mmm ... look at that glaze. I think I want to be buried in a tub of ganache.

Ingredients for Cake:
  • 1 package devil's food cake mix
  • 1 package vanilla instant pudding (3.4 oz)
  • 1/2 c. Amaretto (I use a chocolate amaretto, but regular is fine)
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 4 large eggs
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat bundt pan with cooking spray.
  • Combine first five ingredients in mixer, add each egg one at a time. Mix until smooth.
  • Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for about an hour. Cake is done if you can press it lightly with your finger and it springs back.
  • Allow to cool for about 20 minutes. When pan is cool to the touch, run long knife around edges and invert cake on to plate. Cool for another 20 minutes, the spoon ganache over (recipe below)
Ingredients for ganache (adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor):
  • 1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 tbs. amaretto
  • In saucepan, bring cream to boil over medium heat while stirring. Place chocolate chips in separate heat-proof mixing bowl.
  • Pour boiling cream over chocolate chips, stir constantly until smooth.
  • Add amaretto and continue stirring. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before spooning over cake.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Last Minute Event - Capitol City Carnival

This looks like fun! If you don't have anything better to do this weekend than head out to the hills of Virginia (actually, I have no idea - is Bull Run in the hills? It sounds like it would be.) check it out: Capitol City Carnival!

Doesn't that look fun? Freak shows and beer and George Clinton? Awesome! I may convince Chris to head out there Sunday (we'll see). The only downside is that tickets are $30 but that only entitles you to 4 little beer samples. Boo! I hate when they do that.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chicken Parmigiana and Chunky Tomato Sauce

So, I guess Mondays are designated "Italian" nights in our household. One of our favorite take out places (Mama Lucia's) has an awesome dinner deal on Mondays and if we can't make it there, we always seem to have some version of pasta. Tonight was chicken parm with tomato sauce, whole wheat spaghetti and roasted zucchini. And a few sips of Hess Collection Mount Veeder Cuvee.
The flash of my Kodak washed out the golden crust, but trust me it's there in all its cheesy glory.

Chicken Parmigiana
Adapted from Everyday Food. This is one of my favorite recipes to whip out with I feel like I just can't look at another boring, bland chicken breast. I used panko bread crumbs this time, which are fun for the fancy gourmet factor, but I have to say the crust sticks to the chicken better with old school Progresso crumbs in the big blue cannister.

  • 2 chicken breast halves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c. bread crumbs
  • 3/4 c. grated parmesan (NOT Kraft. I may use store bought bread crumbs, but have to draw the line somewhere)
  • about a 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. tomato sauce (my current favorite version is below)
  • 4 slices of mozzarella
  • Preheat the broiler.
  • Set the breasts down on a flat surface and with a sharp knife, filet the breasts in half horizontally. Salt and pepper chicken on all sides.
  • In a shallow bowl, wisk egg. On a plate or pie pan, combine parmesan and bread crumbs (you could season with a little italian spice blend, if you like). Dip each piece of chicken first in egg, allow excess to drip off, then in crumbs/cheese. Press coating on if necessary.
  • Heat skillet over medium high and add enough olive oil to coat bottom. Once oil is hot, fry chicken until golden on each side, about 2 minutes on each side. Do not crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary.
  • Coat bottom of oven proof dish with tomato sauce. Place browned chicken on sauce and top each piece with a slice of mozzarella. Broil for a few minutes, until sauce starts to bubble and cheese begins to brown. Serve over pasta with extra sauce.

Quick and Chunky Tomato Sauce
First, let me start by saying that tomato sauce is not something I am very snobby about. I was raised on Prego and still keep a jar of some kind of Trader Joe's sauce in the cabinet. But if you have an extra 20 minutes or so and a few staple ingredients on hand, it's almost as easy to make yourself. I've dabbled with slow cooked recipes and fresh tomato versions, but I think this is a great combination of simplicity and flavor. Plus, Chris loves it and I cook to please my man, dontcha know.
The dirtier the pot, the better the sauce.
Makes about 4 cups

  • olive oil for pan
  • half a large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • salt (or Adobo salt for a bit more flavor. It's the wrong ethnicity, but we'll just call that "fusion cuisine")
  • sugar
  • balsamic vinegar
  • Italian spice blend (oh shush - I've managed to kill off most of my fresh herbs this season.)
  • heat oil in bottom of dutch oven (or heavy bottomed pot) on medium high. Once oil begins to shimmer, add onion. When onion becomes translucent, turn down to medium, add garlic and stir about.
  • As onion and garlic cook, puree one can of tomatoes with juice. Add both cans of tomato to pot and stir. Swirl a bit of water in the cans and add that to the pot as well.
  • Throw in a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, a splash of vinegar and a few good shakes of Italian spices to taste.
  • Simmer 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
  • If you need to justify owning your immersion blender, feel free to break it out now if you think the sauce is a bit too chunky (or pour a bit of cooled sauce into your blender and puree, then add back into rest of sauce).

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

This is a neat twist on traditional potato salad. I served this with the buffalo chicken and coleslaw at our tailgate on Thursday. The Terrapins lost, but I think this side dish was a clear winner (ba dum bing!)
Loaded Baked Potato Salad
Serves 8

  • 2.5 pounds red skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1/2 c. light sour cream
  • 1/2 c. light mayonaise
  • 2 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 3/4 c. shredded cheese such as cheddar or monterey jack, or a mix.
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of paprika

  • Place potatoes in pot, cover with cold, salted water. Bring to boil and cook until fork tender. Drain and cool.
  • Meanwhile, fry bacon until crips. Cool and crumble.
  • Mix together sour cream and mayo, combine with cooled potatoes and bacon and rest of ingredients.
  • Chill for about half an hour before eating.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

My 'Tini Matches my Screen-y

Interesting. Did you know a Raspberry Melon Martini perfectly matches the Food Network's home page? Coincidence?

Raspberry Melon Martini

  • One part raspberry flavored vodka (like Smirnoff Twisted)
  • One part melon liqueur (like Midori)
  • Ice
  • Fresh raspberries for garnish
  • Combined vodka, liqueur and ice in martini shaker. Shake your heart out. Strain and pour into martini glass.
  • Throw in your pretty raspberries for garnish. Or not, if you're like me and ain't got none.

Tailgate, Take One

In preparation for our festivities next Thursday evening (UMD vs. WVU. Go Terps!), I thought I'd try to make a meal out of a classic football munchie - the buffalo wing. The chicken is pretty good at room temp so I think it will make a good addition to our tailgate, grilled at home beforehand. Of course, what is "buffalo" anything without blue cheese, so I've paired it with a blue cheese coleslaw in addition to sweet potato fries. And beer. And napkins.

Grilled Buffalo Chicken
Serves 4
  • 8 chicken drumsticks, thighs or combination
  • 1/2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 c. pepper sauce, like Frank's Red Hot
  • Prepare grill.
  • As grill heats, in large bowl combine chicken with olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Grill chicken over medium to medium high heat. Turn frequently.
  • As chicken grills, melt butter in microwave (I use a coffee mug so that it's easy to take out to the grill). Stir in pepper sauce.
  • After about 20-25 minutes check chicken for doneness (I don't think "doneness" is actually a word, but I use a thermometer and look for temps between 160-165).
  • When chicken is almost done, begin basting with pepper sauce, turning a few times.
  • Take off grill, let rest a few minutes before chomping down.
Blue Cheese Coleslaw
This is "inspired" by Ina Garten's recipe, which has a ungodly amount of mayonnaise. Speaking of God, this is exactly why he bestowed the Cuisinart down upon us. Serves 8.

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 lbs baby carrots, grated
  • 1/4 c. minced onion
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. celery seed
  • 6 oz crumbled blue cheese(one small tub)
  • Combine cabbage and salt in colander set over large bowl. Put in fridge for an hour or two. Dispose of nasty cabbage water, rinse cabbage and pat dry with paper towels. You can skip this step if you want, but it does help keep the cole slaw from becoming watery later on and lessens the harshness of the cabbage.
  • Combine cabbage with carrots and onion.
  • In separate bowl, combine rest of ingredients.
  • Add blue cheese mixture to cabbage and carrots, toss well.
  • Chill at least half an hour. Toss again before serving.
Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 3-4
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Slice sweet potatoes into fries (about 1/2"x1/2" slices)
  • Drizzle potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with garlic.
  • Put on baking sheet in single layer and bake for about 20-25 minutes, turning a few times, until done.

Cherry Cordial Brownies

Brownies are definitely my go-to dessert. They're easy. There are a million ways to dress them up. They're crowd-pleasing. What's not to like? Here I took one of my stand-by recipes for creme de menthe brownies and switched out the liqueur for chopped maraschino cherries. The resulting brownies taste deliciously akin to chocolate covered cherries. In this first test batch, the cherry layers were a bit runny (though still good), but that's probably because I got cocky and tried adding extra cherry juice to the mixture.

Cherry Cordial Brownies

  • One batch of your favorite brownie recipe, baked in 9x13" pan and cooled. (My favorite is usually courtesy of the fine folks at Ghiardelli. wink wink nudge nudge. )
  • 1/4 c. butter, softened
  • 2 c. confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 16 oz. jar maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 c. butter (yes, more)
  • 6 oz (half a package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Cream 1/4 c. softened butter, gradually add confectioners sugar. Once smooth, add cherries and stir to combine.
  • Spread cherry mixture over brownies. Chill1 hr.
  • Melt remaining butter and chocolate chips in double boiler, stirring often. Pour melted chocolate over cherry layer, smoothing with rubber spatula. Chill 1 hr.
  • Cut in smallish squares (these babies are sweeeet) and enjoy!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mark Your Calendar? Or not?

Rennfest. I imagine Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons eating a turkey leg while wearing tights and bells. Am I wrong? Is just witnessing that kind of hilarity reason enough to go?

I know, I know. I've lived in Maryland all my life and I haven't been? Yeah, well I've also never worn a cape to high school and I can't put "Set Design" on my resume. So, Mr. Internet, what do you think? Is this a foodie "Mark Your Calendar" type of thing with meat on sticks and casks of ale? Is anyone out there going? We have a few weekend days free in the next month and I might be convinced ; )

By the way, I do hope to add more actual recipe content this weekend. It's been a busy week with painting our guest room and starting school again. I did make a decent potato salad, but if your last name is/was Clements you already know how to make it and don't need tips from me : )

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mark Your Calendars - Wine Events

If you have the weekend of September 15th free, check out these local wine events:

It seems poor planning to have these two on the same weekend, but I'm sure they're both worth checking out. We had a lot of fun at the VA Wine Festival last year (though the traffic sucked). We will be at my fabulous friend Cate's wedding that weekend, so we'll miss out on both this year. If you go, let me know how it was!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Celebrating Marriage with Heavy Cream

Happy 2nd Anniversary to me and Chris! What did I give him this year? An extra 5 pounds by forcing him to inhale this menu:

  • Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam and water crackers (washed down with a bottle of Domaine Chandon's Riche) Mt. Tam is pretty much my favorite cheese. It's a lovely triple-cream that is a lot like brie but with a smoother flavor.
  • Salad of baby greens, blue cheese, pears and pancetta crumbles with a port dressing. To make the dressing, I simmered a cup of port (the cheap cooking kind, not real port) with a diced shallot until it was reduced by half. Then I strained it, added a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. It was surprisingly sweet and mellow and went well with the blue cheese, which had a lot of kick.
  • An unbelievable Samoa cheesecake (Culinary Concoctions by Peabody) Mine was not nearly as pretty as Peabody's, but it sure was good!
Duck Au Poivre
I had a hard time finding a recipe for exactly what I was looking for, so I combined the cooking instructions from this recipe (The Gilded Fork) with the sauce from this one (Epicurious). Just thinking of this sauce makes me drool. I will definitely be making it with steak sometime soon.

4 duck breast halves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns (I used Penzy's French style peppercorns)
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup Cognac or other brandy
3/4 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Score the skin side of the duck almost through to the meat in a crisscross pattern. Mix the peppercorns and salt and rub on both sides of duck breast.

Heat heavy-bottom skillet over low heat. When skillet is hot, place breast skin side down. Brown the duck without turning. Discard any fat throughout the process. About 7 minutes.

Turn the duck over. Place skillet into preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until center is rare. Remove from oven. Let rest on a board for 5-7 minutes. For service, slice duck, skin side up on a 45-degree angle, into thin slices.

Pour off fat from skillet, then add shallots and half of butter (2 tablespoons) to skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until shallots are well-browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add Cognac (use caution; it may ignite) and boil, stirring, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cream and any meat juices accumulated on platter and boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook over low heat, swirling skillet, until butter is incorporated(not the most appetizing picture of the duck, I know. You will just have to take my word for how awesome it was)