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Monday, December 5, 2011

Braised Short Ribs from bon appetit

One of my favorite meals includes a cheap cut of meat that is super popular right now.  Short ribs are relatively inexpensive and require some time and planning ahead, but make a super easy and seriously delicious meal.  My recipe is a remake of something I found on bon appetit's website and altered to suit my needs.  I like to make this a day or two ahead of time.  That way you can refrigerate the sauce making skimming the fat off the top easy.  This won't change the tenderness and unctuousness of the beef and make it a perfect meal for a dinner party that won't pull you away from your guests for too long.


5 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 750ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
8 sprigs thyme
8 sprigs rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
4 cups beef stock


Preheat oven to 350°. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 Tbsp. drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2 1/2 hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and cut off fat.  Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup.

If you're serving immediately:  Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.

If you're saving for use in a day or two:  Pour sauce into a bowl and refrigerate separately from meat.  When ready to eat, remove from refrigerator and immediately spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard.  Combine meat and sauce in a saucepan and gently reheat over medium heat until warmed through.  Serve over mashed potatoes with a side of crusty bread to soak up sauce.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I’m Thankful For…

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  You normally get two days off of school or work, it’s filled with delicious food which you’re encouraged to eat in copious amounts, and you get to be surrounded by family.   The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Westminster Dog Show, and football are on the TV.  Drinking from 10am till you pass out after the big dinner isn’t frowned upon; you’re just celebrating the season.  And finally, once Thanksgiving rolls around I am no longer slightly embarrassed by my Christmas decorations, which have already been up for about a month.

I try not to forget to give thanks for the good things in my life on this Thanksgiving.  Today, I’m thankful for:

My mother.  After a trying and difficult year, she is cancer-free this Thanksgiving.  I’m so proud of her and her strength.  She is an inspiration to me and I’m glad we can celebrate this holiday together.  I love you, mother.

My husband.  He is my rock.  He gives me strength when I’m weak.  He helps me see the light when I’m in the dark.  He brings me peace and comfort.  He calms the storm inside me.  He is the balance to my instability.  He has incredible insight and knows just what to say to me in every situation.  He is filled with kindness and empathy.  He inspires me to be a better me.  I’m not sure how I got so lucky to make him mine, but I’m thankful each and every day for our relationship.  On the 26th of this month, we will have been married one year.  I’m thankful for this year and look forward to countless more.  I love you, husband.

My grandparents and great-grandmother.  I share an unusual relationship with my grandparents.  Closer than many people are to their own parents, I’m lucky enough to have my maternal grandparents in my life.  We talk on the phone every day, and their support and love is unconditional and unwavering.  Growing up, their loving, caring, tender relationship with each other demonstrated a true and deep love; the perfect example of a patient, loving, supportive couple.  I am forever indebted to them for the care and love I received growing up. I love you grandma and grandpa.

I’m nearly 30 years old and until high school, I had three great-grandparents.  Only one of them, my grandfather’s mother, survives.  Her life is remarkable, and I can only hope to have inherited her longevity.  Always glad to see me, I find all our time together more precious than gold.  I love you, Maw. 

Good friends.  I’m lucky enough to have a handful of good friends.  We may not get to see each other as much as we would like.  We may not talk to each other all the time.  But the paths of communication are always open when one party needs the other.  Knowing I have this support group brings an immeasurable feeling of security.  You know who you are.  I love you, friends.

In-Laws.  Yes, I’m thankful for my new family through marriage.  Many men and women find themselves in tough situations where they don’t like their spouse’s family, or worse, the spouse’s family doesn’t like them!  I’m lucky enough to enjoy each and every one of my new family members.  Time spent with my in-laws is a delight.  I love you, new family.

Lola.  Don’t judge me because I’m thankful for my dog.  She brings me smiles and happiness on a daily basis.  I couldn’t love her more if she came from my own womb.  I love you, Lola.

And last, but not least…

Good food.  From dry-aged beef at a high class steakhouse to pizza from the local Italian joint, few things bring more pleasure than sharing good food with those you love.  Food accents the major milestones in life.  Holidays, at least in my house, revolve around the menu.  Food is central to our lives and I’m thankful that I’m able to cook delicious meals every day. 

Take some time this Thanksgiving holiday and think about that which you’re most thankful for.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fall Comfort Foods Final Edition: Thanksgiving Feast

Have you ever experienced flames on Thanksgiving???  I have.  Picture it: Kure Beach, 2006.  My mother and I rented a beach house for the week.  We brought everything necessary for our mini-vacation to the beach house, including the pots and pans and food for the Thanksgiving feast.

As you will see, this feast takes days to prepare.  My mother and I had slaved away preparing the gravy base and our favorite Thanksgiving dessert, Biltmore bread pudding with caramel sauce.  The turkey was in the oven, and the cornbread dressing was prepped – ready to be cooked for dinner.

My mom had assembled the cornbread dressing in one of my cute little red ceramic casseroles.  She placed said casserole on one of the burners of the stove in order to give herself more counter room to prepare the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner.  Both of us then went on the deck to take in some sunshine.  As we’re watching the waves, trying to spot some dolphins, we hear the beach house fire alarm.  I run back into the house and see my little red casserole, broken on the range, cornbread dressing in flames on the burner. 

My mother is used to gas ranges.  She rarely has the occasion to cook on electric.  With a gas burner, you can clearly see when the burner is on because you see flames under your pot.  It isn’t so easy with an electric range.  Most of the time you can tell when a burner is hot because the coil is bright red, but for some reason my mother failed to notice that the burner was never turned the whole way off.   My poor little red casserole was ceramic, and never intended for direct heat.  It cracked under the heat applied to its bottom, spilling delicious dressing onto the hot burner.  The flames were about a foot high.

I saved the day by quickly transferring the dish and stuffing to the sink, stopping the flames and any further damage to the beach house.  My mom cried.  I tried not to laugh.  I mean, you have to laugh about these things.  That is the year we had StoveTop stuffing for Thanksgiving. 

My mom traditionally comes to me on Thanksgiving, rather than me coming to the big OC to spend it with the rest of the family.  We have collected what we believe to be the best recipes for the holiday; some of them our own, and some of them from the experts.  On our menu you will find:

Tom Colicchio’s Herb Butter Turkey and Gravy
Bobbly Flay’s Cornbread Chorizo Dressing
Grandma Nancy’s Candied Sweet Potatoes
Grandma Nancy’s Cranberry Relish
Katie’s Wonderful Whipped Potatoes
Grandma Nancy’s Pumpkin Pie
Biltmore’s Bread Pudding

In order to avoid StoveTop Stuffing on Thanksgiving, make sure you plan your cooking in advance.  Do your shopping in advance, leaving you precious days to locate the crap you forgot.  In order to make you less crazy, and to leave the oven for roasting the turkey and finishing the dressing on Thanksgiving Day, most of these recipes should be done ahead of time.  If you follow these guidelines you should have a painless Thanksgiving dinner!  As long as the dog doesn’t tackle the turkey and consume it, to your horror, on the dining room floor (also another true story that happened to my grandparents).

Three Days Ahead:

            -Clean out your fridge.  You’re going to need all the extra room you can get!

-Do Grocery Shopping.  (See shopping list at bottom of post)

-Make Pumpkin Pie & Biltmore Bread Pudding.

            Grandma Nancy’s Pumpkin Pie
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 ¾ cup pumpkin
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
1 2/3 cup canned milk

Combine ingredients.  Pour into uncooked pie crust.  Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350° and cook an additional 45 minutes.  Store in the refrigerator. 

            Biltmore Bread Pudding
            FOR THE PUDDING:
8 cups cubed day old bread
9 eggs
2 1/4 cup milk
1 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 TBL lemon juice
2 TBL butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Place bread cubes in a greased 13x9x2 pan. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour evenly over bread.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until sugar is dissolved and mixture turns a golden amber color. Stir in butter until melted. Add cream. Remove from heat. Serve with bread pudding.

Two Days Ahead:

-Make Cornbread.  Allow to dry out.

            1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal
¾ cup AP flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush 8-inch pan with butter or oil and place in the oven for 10 minutes. 

Stir together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Don’t overmix. Scrape batter into the hot pan and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and baked through. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let sit out overnight if using for stuffing/dressing. 

-Make Gravy Base.

            Gravy Base
            2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
            2 pounds turkey necks and/or wings
            2 cups diced onions
            1 cup diced peeled carrots
            1 cup diced celery
            6 cups (or more) low sodium chicken broth

Melt butter in heavy large deep skillet over high heat.  Add turkey necks and/or wings and sauté
until deep brown, about 15 minutes.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until vegetables are deep brown, about 15 minutes.  Add 6 cups chicken broth and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour gravy base through strainer set over 4-cup measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract
liquid.  If necessary, add enough chicken broth to gravy base to measure 4 cups.  Cool slightly.  Refrigerate uncovered until cooled, then cover and keep chilled.  Rewarm before using.

            -Make Sweet Potatoes.  (These actually benefit from a few days in the fridge)
                        Grandma Nancy’s Candied Sweet Potatoes
4-6 yams
1 cup – 1 ½ cup brown sugar
½ cup orange juice
1 stick butter
½ teaspoon salt

Wash and cut off woody portion.  Do not pare.  Boil till tender.  Then remove skins.  Cut into wedges.

Mix remaining ingredients together in cast-iron skillet.  Bring to a boil, then pour over tender yams in oven proof baking dish.  Bake 30 minutes at 350°.   Rewarm before serving (can be microwaved).

One Day Ahead:

            -Make Cranberry Relish

                        Grandma Nancy’s Cranberry Relish
                        1 package cranberries, ground
2 oranges, seeds removed and ground
2 cups sugar

Add sugar to ground cranberries and oranges.  Store in refrigerator several hours before serving.  Serves 6-8. 

            -Make Dressing.

Cornbread Dressing
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ pound diced chorizo or Italian hot sausage, casings removed
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
1 large stalk celery, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
Cornbread, broken into small pieces
2-4 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
2. Heat butter in large pan over medium high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook until soft. Add the cornbread and 2 cups of the stock and stir to combine. The mixture should be quite wet, if it appears too dry, begin adding the remaining stock, a half cup at a time. Stir in the sage, thyme and cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
3. Scrape into a large buttered baking pan or large cast iron pan and refrigerate until time to bake.

            -Ensure Turkey is thawed, if using a frozen bird.

Thanksgiving Day:

            -Prepare Turkey

Tom Colicchio’s Herb Butter Turkey
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme plus 15 fresh thyme sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon plus 5 large fresh tarragon sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary plus 5 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage plus 4 fresh sage sprigs
1 fourteen to sixteen pound turkey
4 cups chicken broth
¼ cup all-purpose flour

Mix ½ cup butter and all minced herbs in small bowl; season herb butter with salt and pepper.  Transfer 2 generous tablespoons to another small bowl and reserve for gravy; let stand at room temperature.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 425°F.  Rinse turkey inside and out and pat dry.  Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin.  Rub 4 tablespoons herb butter over breast meat under skin.  Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan.  Sprinkle main cavity generously with salt and pepper.  Place 4 tablespoons plain butter and all fresh herb sprigs in main cavity.  Tuck wing tips under.  Tie legs together loosely.  Rub remaining herb butter over outside of turkey.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Place turkey in oven and roast 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.  Roast turkey 30 minutes; pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon plain butter to roasting pan.  Roast turkey 30 minutes; baste with pan juices, then pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon butter to pan.  Cover turkey loosely with foil.  Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting with pan juices and adding 1 cup broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer.  Transfer turkey to platter, let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5-10 degrees). 

Stir pan juices into bowl; whisk in gravy base.  Melt reserved 2 tablespoons herb butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat; add flour and whisk constantly until roux is golden brown, about 6 minutes.  Gradually add pan juice-gravy base mixture; increase heat and whisk constantly until gravy thickens, boils, and is smooth.  Reduce heat to medium; boil gently until gravy is reduced to 4 ½ cups, whisking often, about 10 minutes.  Season gravy with salt and pepper.

            -Prepare whipped potatoes.

Katie’s Wonderful Whipped Potatoes
4 large russet potatoes, washed and peeled
½ stick of butter
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Duke’s or Hellman’s Mayonnaise
Salt & White Pepper, to taste

Boil potatoes until soft, about 20 minutes.  Drain potatoes, add butter and whip with an electric mixer until smooth.  Slowly add heavy whipping cream until the potatoes reach desired creaminess.  Add mayonnaise, salt and pepper; whip until incorporated.  NOTE:  Taste along the way to make sure your potatoes are seasoned to your liking.

            -Cook Dressing (recipe above) Bake in the oven until firm and the top is golden brown, 20-30 minutes. 

            -Heat sweet potatoes.  I microwave them, but if you have room in the oven you can heat them up there, for about 20 minutes.  Watch so that they don’t get too brown.

            -Cook corn.  We always used the frozen stuff for the holidays.  Add a teaspoon or so of sugar to make them especially delicious.
            -Serve Cranberry Relish

            -Heat bread pudding & sauce.  Again, not too good for the microwave!  Heat up the pudding in individual bowls.  Serve the sauce on the side.

            Serve!  Enjoy!!!

Shopping List:

1 lemon
2-4 onions
1 lb. carrots
1 bunch celery
4-6 yams
1 package cranberries
2 oranges
Fresh rosemary
Fresh tarragon
Fresh thyme
Fresh sage
4 large russet potatoes

8 cups cubed day old bread

2 pounds turkey necks and/or wings
½ pound fresh chorizo or Italian hot sausage
1 fourteen to sixteen pound turkey

13 eggs
3.5 cups heavy whipping cream
2 lbs. Butter

Spices and Baking
Vanilla extract
Black pepper
White Pepper
1 2/3 cup canned milk
1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal
All-purpose flour
Baking powder
Brown sugar

1 ¾ cup pumpkin
14 cups (or more) chicken broth
2 tablespoons Duke’s or Hellman’s Mayonnaise

Orange juice

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Food Related Holiday Gift Ideas

Well ladies and gentlemen, it is that time of year again whether we like it or not.  The holidays are just around the corner, and whether you’re shopping for a perfect Christmas gift or just can’t find the right thing for day number eight during the Hanukah celebration, I’m here to help.  If there is a home cook, baker, griller, or foodie on your list, I have some ideas that can’t be beat (unless you get them a dandy immersion blender - see below).

For the Home Cook: 

Immersion Blender:  Ever make a sauce and think ‘this would be so much better if I could make it smooth but I really don’t feel like hauling out my blender or food processor.  And I’d rather not do the extra cleaning.’  Well this little guy is your answer.  Slip him right in your pot and blend till your heart’s content.  (Breville® The Control Grip Immersion Blender, $99 at Bed Bath and Beyond)

Gel Floor Mats:  Cooking all day can be really hard on the home cook’s feet, legs, and back.  These gel floor mats can help take some of the strain out of your home cook’s passion.  (GelPro® Original Gel Filled Anti-Fatigue Trellis Floor Mats, $124.99-$249.99, Bed Bath and Beyond)

Adorable Aprons:  Each home cook needs an apron, whether she remembers to put it on or not (I chronically forget, then end up with flour all over my front) isn’t your concern.  You can find really cute aprons at Sur la Table, Bed Bath and Beyond, and ModCloth.

Cookbooks:  Even if your home cook creates most dishes from the top of her head, she will undoubtedly love getting inspiration from cookbooks from well-respected chefs.  Consider these selections from Amazon:

Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 volume set) by Julia Child
Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking by Julia Child The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child (seeing a pattern here?) 

If your home cook isn’t a Julia fan (then she shouldn’t be in the kitchen, in my opinion… but to each her own, I suppose) try her French protégé’s work:

Essential Pepin: More than 700 All-Time Favorites From My Life In Food by Jacques Pepin
Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin
The Short-Cut Cook: Make Simple Meals with Surprisingly Little Effort by Jacques Pepin. 

Any cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Illustrated will give you delicious, tested, and easy to reproduce recipes with an explanation of why you’re using this technique rather than that.  My personal favorites from them include:

Italian Classics from the editors of Cooks Illustrated
Cooking for Two, 2009:  The Year’s Best Recipes Cut Down to Size from America’s Test Kitchen

Other titles to give a try come from our favorite celebrity chefs:
Lidia’s Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich
Mario Batali: Simple Family Meals from My Home to Yours by Mario Batali
Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes by Giada de Laurentiis
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients by Ina Garten
Louisiana Real & Rustic by Emeril Lagasse
Bobby Flay’s Grill It by Bobby Flay
Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible: The New Classic Guide to Delicious Dishes with More than 300 Recipes by Paula Deen

You can often find really great cookbooks from garage or yard sales or the local antique shop.  My grandmother uses her 1958 Betty Crocker cookbook on a very regular basis, and descendants already fight over who they will be bequeathed to (I call dibs!!!).  Have a look for some unique finds for the hard-to-shop-for home cook.

For the Baker:

Silicone Baking Mats:  These are the coolest baking sheets around.  Your cookies won’t stick, and they heat evenly.  Every baker should have them!  (Sur La Table SilPat Baking Mat, $24.95, Sur La Table)

Mixing Bowls:  Every baker and home cook starts out with a wide array of mixing bowls.  But over the years, something happens to them.  A new set would be welcomed by any baker.  (Sur La Table Red Prep Bowl Set, $11.95, Sur La Table)

Pastry Decorating Set:  To make those pretty cakes!  (Ateco Basic Pastry Tip Set $16.95, Williams Sonoma)

For the Griller:

Wireless Remote Grilling Thermometer:  Perfect for the entertaining griller!  The little device will beep you when your food is done!  Set it for food temperature or time limit.  The griller’s best friend!  (Wireless Remote Grill Thermometer $59.95, Williams Sonoma)

Pit Grilling Mit:  Sometimes when you grill there’s no utensil is as good as your hands to flip your bird, steak, ribs, etc.  But this is a tricky feat over a hot grill.  These mitts keep your griller safe!  (Pit Grilling Mit, $19.95, Williams Sonoma)
For the Foodie:

Chocolates:  There aren’t many people who don’t like chocolates.  If you’re in doubt with what to buy your foodie, and you aren’t sure if she cooks at home, chocolates are a sure way to go.  My recommendation is a box of bonbons from South-N-France, a small bonbon shop in Wilmington, NC.  The husband/wife team makes these little morsels right in their kitchen!  My roommate and I were known to pop by after hours for a last minute chocolate fix.  If nothing else, check out their website and watch their adorable video!  If you’re in the area, send a Singing BonBon Telegram!  Too cute! 

If you’re looking for something a little different for your foodie, try Vosages Haut Chocolates.  Most Americans aren’t very creative with their candy bars.  Chocolate, nougat, caramel, coconut, peanuts, and marshmallow are about the only additions we make on a regular basis.  Vosages Haut Chocolate gets creative with the candy bars and candy.  My personal favorite from their collection (and my cousin adamantly agrees) is the Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar.  Milk chocolate is mixed with bacon and smoked salt to make a perfect salty sweet treat.  Hey, don’t knock it till you try it!!! 

Another good candy bar is the Red Fire Exotic Candy bar which incorporates Mexican ancho & chipotle chillies, Ceylon cinnamon and dark chocolate.  The heat of the chillies makes you appreciate the chocolate. 

Order your foodie a collection of candy bars, then order one for yourself!!!

Wine Club:  Maybe your foodie is more of a wino.  If this is the case, sign him or her up for a wine club (check your state laws first, some states won’t allow for the shipping of wine to your doorstep).  When I lived in Virginia, I was a Vine Club member of Tarara Winery, in Leesburg, Virginia.  The gorgeous winery included a tasting deck overlooking the Potomac and a wine cave.  And did I mention that their wine was suspiciously delicious?  Because my busy schedule didn’t allow me to drive out to Leesburg whenever I wanted wine, I signed up for their Vine Club.  Tarara would ship me 3 bottles of wine quarterly.  These were often the higher end, harder to get (or to afford) bottles for a low price of $70.00 per quarter.  This was usually a big discount on these bottles, and delivered right to your door!  Many wineries offer this kind of club, and American wine has come a long way!  Try Tarara or your wino’s favorite winery today!

High End Olive Oil:  If your foodie is also a home cook, she might like some high quality olive oil.  This is something every foodie home cook covets but doesn’t always have the money to purchase for herself.  Sure, some of the grocery store extra-virgin olive oils are surprisingly good (I have a gallon of Bertolli Extra-Virgin Olive Oil in my pantry and I think it’s pretty tasty), but the flavor of some really high quality olive oil can make these grocery store olive oils look like canned tuna.  In salads and over raw items, nothing compares to a really good olive oil.  Browse through the vast selection of olive oils at  Or do an olive oil tasting for your holiday party!  Choose a collection of olive oils from separate regions of Italy for a unique holiday party experience!

Artisanal Cheese:  Please resist the last minute Hickory Farms purchase for your foodie.  Don’t get me wrong, I like their sausage and cheese offerings as much as the next girl.  And talk about easy to find around the holidays!  There is hardly a mall in America that doesn’t have a Hickory Farms kiosk in the months prior to Christmas.  In addition, I’m not knocking their quality.  For the money, you will be hard pressed to find a better deal for such delicious meats and cheeses.  But a foodie values the smaller, family-owned and operated cheese-makers over the mass produced products. Get your favorite foodie some delicious cheese right from the source in Vermont, one of America’s best cheese-making regions! The following farms ship their cheeses right to your door! 
            Cabot Vermont -
            Blue Ledge Farm -
            Grafton Village Cheese-
            Crowley Cheese -
            Shelburne Farms -
            Vermont Shepherd -
            Plymouth Artisan Cheese -

Kobe Beef  or Dry-Aged Beef:  Kobe Beef is delicious and melts in your mouth like butter.  From Wagyu cattle in the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan, it must meet strict criteria to be classified as Kobe.  Because of its high cost, most Americans are instead exposed to Kobe-Style Beef, or Wagyu cattle raised to Kobe standards in America.  The differences are negligible, but the price is much more affordable!  Your foodie would love a box of filet mignon from Kobe Beef America!  Get a box of four 8oz. Filet mignons for $199.99.

Boys and girls, this is the ultimate in foodie gifts.  If you’ve never had dry-aged beef, you haven’t really lived.  Because of the cost and space involved with dry-aging (it requires a temperature and humidity controlled cooler), finding dry-aged beef can be difficult.  Most steakhouses have abandoned the practice, especially in these tough economic times, and finding a butcher who dry-ages can be next to impossible.  Dry-aging beef happens when a side or cut of beef is hung in a cooler near freezing temperatures for several weeks.  This process concentrates the flavors while tenderizing the meat, making for the ultimate in good steak.  You can order your favorite cut from Allen Brothers for between $139.95-$379.95.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Comments Issue

Dear Valued Blog Reader,

Thank you very much for your continued readership and support of my food-related writing venture.  I really enjoy writing about my recipes and food related discoveries and it means the world to me when you take the time to read my articles.

It has been brought to my attention, repeatedly, that commenting on my blog is difficult, nay impossible. This is a huge problem, as I value your opinion and feedback.  According to Blogger.Help, this is a "Known Issue" and a fix is in the works.  This fix, however, was posted way back in May and from my calculations, it's still a problem with my blog.

Commenting has been enabled all along in all three different areas where commenting must be enabled.  I've done the other recommended items in an attempt to remedy the problem.  From this point, I'm flummoxed as  to what further actions are required to enable the comments.

I'm monitoring the situation and trying to get the Blogger people to fix the issue.  Please make an attempt to comment on a post.  If you're unable to comment, feel free to email me at and let me know about the issue and/or send your comments to me directly.

Again, thank you for reading my blog!  I appreciate each and every page view!  Stay hungry!

Katie Crenshaw

Another Life-Changing Culinary Experience: Lidia's Pittsburgh

Article first published as Another Life Changing Culinary Experience on Technorati.

Ever since I was a budding foodie in my grandmother’s kitchen in high school, I have been a fan of Lidia Bastianich.  The PBS culinary staple has been cooking Italian food for the American television consumer since 1998, guiding home cooks to greatness with her simple and delicious recipes.  My mother and I would watch her together and discuss her recipes, dreaming of someday eating at one of her restaurants.

Recently, during a visit to my mother in western Pennsylvania, we were lucky enough to realize our dream.   A rainy Saturday brought us to the Strip District in search of some Christmas gifts when we found ourselves starving on the doorstep of Lidia’s Pittsburgh. 

Even though we were clad in jeans for our traipse around the Strip District, we were welcomed into the beautifully decorated dining room.  High ceilings, warm colors, and a blazing fireplace make the restaurant goer feel right at home. 

Seated for Saturday brunch, we were treated to a delicious and sizable meal.  Our lovely waitress informed us immediately that the brunch included our choice of complementary Bloody Mary or mimosa, to our delight.  As we sipped well-crafted cocktails, we pondered the menu in awe at the mouth-watering selection laid before us.  My mom and I both decided to try the Pasta Tasting Trio, which is a daily selection of three different pastas made in-house and is all-you-can-eat. 

But before the entrée could make it to us, we were escorted to a table laid with a vast array of antipasti.  Mom and I piled our plates with small bites of each creation and returned to our table.  We tasted each, commenting on the flavors; a delicious white bean salad with salami, delicious Caesar salad, a banana pepper with ricotta cheese that left my mouth in flames.  A bread selection was brought to our table with several delicious flavored butters to accompany. 

Just when we thought it couldn’t get much better, our pastas arrived.  Served tableside, a small serving of each is spooned onto your plate by three different waiters who describe each to you.  On this particular Saturday we were delighted with sausage ravioli with butter rosemary sauce, bell pasta in a creamy tomato sauce, and a delicious fettuccini with spinach in a cream sauce.  The pasta was tender and expertly prepared while the sauces were tasty and inspired. 

Even though we were full from our pasta, we had to try the dessert selections included in the brunch.  Beautifully arranged on another table we found carrot cake, tiramisu, chocolate amaretto cake, cheesecake, pumpkin torte, and sfogliatelle (a personal favorite).  We got a little of each and delighted in our good fortune to be lucky enough to dine at Lidia’s Pittsburgh!

Twenty-five dollars will get you this enormous brunch including bread, antipasti, entrée, dessert and cocktail – easily the best deal in Pittsburgh.  Next time you find yourself in the Strip District, or are looking for a reason to dress up (as our jeans probably weren’t quite dressy enough for this fabulous place), give Lidia’s Pittsburgh a try.  You will be glad you did!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall Comfort Foods Sneak Addition: Chicken Pot Pie

I don't know about you, but nothing says comfort like a nice, hot, creamy chicken pot pie.  The flavor of the vegetables melds with the delicious chicken and with the beautiful, creamy sauce - divine.  My recipe is an adaptation of one I found on Food Network by Ina Garten which I thought I had shared here previously, but am failing to find.  

The basics of Ina's recipe are just what I like, but I switch around the veggies a little to my own liking.  And, I admit, I cut corners.  I'm a remedial vegetable chopper (no matter how much practice I get I just don't get much better at it) so cutting all the vegetables and fresh herbs takes enough time for this dish without adding the chicken and pastry into the mix.  Instead of roasting my own chicken breasts (which you can easily do if you follow the original recipe) I use a rotisserie chicken from the deli section.  And instead of making my own pastry crust (again, not that hard) I often use pie crusts purchased in the dairy section.   

Without further ado...

Chicken Pot Pies
1 whole rotisserie chicken, skin removed and meat trimmed from bones and cubed (I just use the breast meat) 

  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (1 tablespoon if using dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (1/4 tablespoon if using dried)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • White pepper
  • 1 package prepared pie crusts 


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, celery, thyme, and parsley. Salt, black pepper, and white pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Remove from heat.

Ladle filling into ovenproof ramekins (I have 6 ramekins, and I usually have enough filling leftover for 4 more which I freeze for future use).  Roll out the dough and cut into circles that are slightly larger than the ramekins (I use a larger bowl to measure the size).  Place dough on top of each ramekin, and then brush with egg wash.  Make 3-4 slits on top of dough, and sprinkle dough with salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.  Enjoy!  

The Last Roast Recipe You Will Ever Want

To some people, nothing says comfort food better than a delicious roast.  The tender, juicy slice of meat melts in your mouth and warms your heart.  If you’re one of these people, then I have the perfect recipe for you!

While extremely labor light and easy to prepare, a standing rib roast is an extremely expensive cut of beef.  This recipe isn’t something most people can afford to make on a regular basis.  But for very, very special occasions, this is a recipe that won’t disappoint. Serve with roasted carrots (you can add them right to the roast pan, when it has about an hour left in the oven), whipped potatoes, and your best red wine.  I recommend an Argentine Malbec, which will do well in the sauce and perfectly complement the roast.

Standing Rib Roast
8.5 lb standing rib roast (weight with bones), top fat trimmed
Vegetable oil
1 ½ sticks butter, softened
2 tablespoons freshly cracked pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced (I used a whole head of garlic [about 8 cloves] but we're garlic freaks)
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cup beef broth
½ cup dry red wine

Have the butcher remove the bone leaving roast in one piece.  Tie the meat back to the bone and serve with or without the bones.

Put roast fat side up in roasting pan.  Brush exposed ends with vegetable oil, sprinkle all over with salt.  Mix 8 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons pepper, garlic, and salt in small bowl.  Reserve 2 tablespoons pepper butter for sauce.  Spread remaining butter on fat side of roast (can do 1 day ahead of time).

Roast the roast at 350° in the bottom third of the oven 2 hours 45 minutes.  Transfer to platter and tent loosely with foil.  Let rest 30 minutes. 

Strain pan juices into measuring cup and skim off fat.  Return to pan.  Sit over 2 burners.  Add broth and wine and boil until reduced to 1 ¼ cup, about 6 minutes.  Whisk in pepper butter.  Slice roast and serve with sauce.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall Comfort Food Series: Poor Man's Dinner

How often do you come home from work on a weeknight and the last thing you want to do is slave over the stove to make dinner?  You still want something hot, homemade and comforting, but unfortunately you do not live with Paula Deen.  You’re not feeling pizza, Chinese delivery doesn’t sound good, you had Thai last night, you don’t feel like going anywhere for dinner…  This easy, delicious dinner is your answer.

This dish comes from the depression era when people would do all they could to make their meat stretch as far as possible.  A lot of really delicious dishes are the result of poor people doing what they can with the pieces of meat and vegetables they could afford.  Much of traditional French cooking is a result of peasantry turning cheap pieces of meat into delectable dishes.

Though this dish isn’t French, there is nothing fancy, or even, pretty, about it, you will find it comforting and soul warming.  They say that you eat with your eyes first, but you may want to leave your glasses on the table when feasting on Poor Man’s Dinner.  The finished product definitely isn’t a thing of beauty. You may know this dish’s cousin, Shit on a Shingle.  My family has always made our version with ground beef rather than dried chipped beef, and served with whipped potatoes instead of on a piece of toast.  There are a ton of variations for this recipe, but here you will find my family’s favorite way to enjoy this dish.  Though it isn’t fancy or pretty, I hope you will give this recipe a try!

Poor Man’s Dinner
1 lb. 85% lean ground beef
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth (Can substitute milk for broth for creamier gravy)
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

3-4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
½ stick of butter
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Duke’s mayonnaise (Hellman’s will do in a pinch)
Salt and White Pepper to taste

Brown ground beef, salting and peppering generously.  Move to edge of pan.  Add flour and whisk with pan juices.  Allow flour to brown.  Mix flour mixture in with ground beef.  Slowly add broth until gravy has formed to the thickness of your liking.  Simmer to thicken.

Meanwhile, boil potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, add butter and whip with an electric
mixer until smooth.  Slowly add heavy whipping cream until the potatoes reach desired creaminess.  Add mayonnaise, salt and pepper; whip until incorporated.  NOTE:  Taste along the way to make sure your potatoes are seasoned to your liking.

Serve ground beef mixture over whipped potatoes.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall Comfort Food Series: Macaroni & Cheese, Katie’s Way

I think most American’s would include some version of macaroni and cheese on their list of favorite comfort foods.  The mixture of tender noodles with creamy, gooey cheese is enough to make almost everyone melt. 

Please do not misunderstand me, not all mac and cheese recipes are created equal.  My grandmother’s recipe, for instance, leaves a lot to be desired.  Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother is a decent cook.  Her hamloaf is a specialty no one can touch, and her pie crust is a gift from the culinary gods.  But when it comes to macaroni and cheese, her’s is depressingly flavorless with mushy noodles.  The best part is the browned croutons on top, made from delicious gluten bakery bread. 

Grandma’s macaroni and cheese is boring and uninspired.  This can be contributed to her use of flavorless American cheese in her recipe.  Or worse yet, the dreaded “cheese food product”.  You all know the yellow log of imitation cheese found on store grocery shelves nationwide (not the refrigerated section where all proper cheese belongs) I’m referring to.  Sure, it melts beautifully and leaves a great texture to your macaroni and “cheese”.  But ladies and gents, IT ISN’T REALLY CHEESE.  This nuclear bunker staple should be limited to cooking when in an actual nuclear bunker, not in the safety of your own kitchen.  Whatever you do, however little time you have to make dinner, please PLEASE do not resort to using “cheese food product” in your macaroni and cheese!  I beg of you!!!  After all, your macaroni and cheese is only as good as the cheese you put in it.

When I was searching for a special recipe in the macaroni and cheese department, I came across this recipe from Ina Garten on the Food Network.  Her recipe has a wonderful flavor, but the sauce comes up a little dry and the noodles a little mushy for my tastes.  With a few tweaks to her recipe (doubling the sauce, tripling the cheese, undercooking the noodles during boiling, and replacing fresh breadcrumbs with crunchy buttered panko) I think I’ve found a new regular for our table. 

Yes, the cheese can be expensive making it prohibitive to make this dish on a regular basis, but please give this recipe a try at least for a special occasion.  You will be glad you did. 

Macaroni and cheese, Katie’s way (makes 2 large servings)
5 slices bacon
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups small shells or macaroni (I prefer the shells because they are like little cups for your cheese sauce, but you can use whatever you prefer or have on hand)

3 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup Gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
¾ cup blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled into pea sized pieces
Dash nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400°.

Bake the bacon.  Place a baking rack on a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the bacon in a single layer on the baking rack.  Bake bacon for 15-20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp.  Remove the pan carefully from the oven and transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.  Once cooled, crumble bacon. 

Boil the noodles.  Bring large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, add the 2 tablespoons of salt to the water and the small shells.  Boil pasta for 3 minutes. (Don’t worry that the pasta is undercooked, it will soak up moisture from the sauce while baking in the oven.  This technique makes for al denté pasta in the finished product, rather than overcooked, mushy noodles.)  Drain well.

Make the béchamel sauce.  Without boiling, heat milk in small saucepan.  Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat and add the flour.  Whisking constantly, cook the flour and butter for two minutes.  Add the heated milk to the flour mixture and cook until thickened (without allowing milk and flour mixture to boil), several minutes.  Once heated thoroughly, remove the pan from the heat and stir in cheeses, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in your cooked pasta and crumbled bacon.  Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in microwave on high, about 30 seconds.  Immediately before baking mac and cheese, mix melted butter with panko (don’t do ahead of time or the panko will get soggy), stirring until the panko is well coated with butter.  Top mac and cheese with panko mixture and bake 35-40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the panko is browned on the top.