I haven’t been to Paris in a while, but I’ve been to the next best place: Encino.
There are two reasons why I go to Encino, a small city (or enclave or district or borough or cluster or whatever it is) in the San Fernando Valley, north of where I live. One is that I have a superior dentist there. The other is that I know a fabulous cook who lives there, and I like to take advantage of every opportunity to eat at her house.
Last time I dropped by (“Oh, is it dinner time? Who knew? What’s cookin’?”) Suzanne offered me a sample of her French onion soup. While my memory is admittedly badly impaired, I don’t recall eating a better version of it, ever.
For those of you who do not want to go to Encino because you are too busy visiting more glamorous places like, say, Cleveland, I have managed to procure the recipe for Suzanne’s soup. If you know what’s good for you, you will make it.
I confess, I couldn’t live without onions - maybe if I was marooned on an uninhabited tropical island and there was literally ‘nothing’ to slow cook or even firewood [I suppose] I would have to adapt. No other vegetable makes me happier then local onions - it is my favorite. All the different varieties have separate flavors and I love to do different thing with each variety from Ailsa Craig to Walla Wallas.
The first onion of the season is always baked whole with a knob of butter, a few tablespoons of maple syrup and wrapped in foil or parchment paper. I slow bake the onion parcel at 325 degrees F for at least and hour and a half-you will know when it is done when the aroma makes its way all the way to the other side of your house. How is that for precise recipe writing?
After I’ve eaten my first baked onion of the season with a spoon I can relax and get a bit more creative. Did I mention I encourage my onion farmers to leave the green tops on? They think I’m a little daft to pay for the extra weight only because they have never baked one of their onions split in two, covered with a touch of stock and baked in a covered dish until it is tender and very little liquid is left. I pour a little heavy cream over the top along with its distant cousin, chopped chives and reduce the cream until thick-ish. Any variety of onion works - red onions will tint the cream a delicate rose color.
Roasting broccoli is probably my favorite method – it’s quick and easy to prepare. High heat roasting enhances the natural sweet and nutty flavor while creating a beautiful brown, caramelized exterior. People seem to either love or hate broccoli, which is a shame because few other vegetables are as naturally abundant in indole-3-carbinol, a powerful antioxidant.
President George H.W. Bush apparently disliked it so much that he never, ever, wanted to see a sprig of broccoli on his plate. According to reports he proclaimed, “I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!"
It seems things have changed a bit at the White House, and broccoli is back on the menu. Last year at a Kids' State Dinner, President Obama told a kid reporter that broccoli is his favorite food. He may have been exaggerating a tad, but give this recipe a try, it might just change your mind about broccoli.
I can't think of anything more American than chowder. This seafood soup is synonymous with chilly days and large family gatherings. Even though we're almost into spring, the weather has continued to be cold and dreary here in the Northeast. I've been craving hot bowls of soothing soup. There are many different recipes for chowder, including the little-known Rhode Island-style made of clear broth. But the one I'm a fan of is creamy New England-style, which was probably the first recorded chowder recipe, dating back to the 18th century. It just so happens that I'm the outlier in a family of all Manhattan-style lovers. Still for me, the fish broth enriched with cream holds the most appeal. That richness is what makes this chowder so soul-satisfying.
The recipe for chowder originally came from France ("chowder" comes from the word chaudière, meaning cauldron) and eventually made its way to England and over to the New World with the colonists. The recipe evolved according to the surroundings, availability of seafood, and the specific tastes of the region. Somewhere along the line certain recipes became more popular than others. Immigrants added their particular spin: the Portuguese added tomatoes to clear-broth chowder and invented what we know as Manhattan-style. That began the epic rivalry between New England- and Manhattan-style chowders, now typically made with clams. But the first chowders in America were made with fish.
It's March, and the weather is still pretty miserable. There are cold fronts, snow storms, dense fog, and freezing rain blanketing various parts of the country.
While I can't make the daffodils grow any more quickly, I can share a recipe for a refreshing Italian Almond and Orange with Blood Orange Compote that is sure to make you feel warm and happy. I created the recipe a few weeks ago and have since made it two more times. It's that good.
While this Italian torte bakes, your home will be filled with the bright scent of citrus. Since it's subtly sweet yet rich with almond flavor, it's ideal for pairing with a glass of Italian Vin Santo on a relaxing afternoon. It also makes a lovely formal dessert when dressed with a spicy compote of tart blood oranges soaked in honey, vanilla, cloves, and star anise.
Brisket....I'm licking my lips. I love it. I've always loved it...as long as it's cooked right. Let's face it, it's a tough, flat piece of meat. It's a chest muscle. The only way to cook it right, is low and slow...which is why we braise. And the Guinness adds a nice layer of deep complexity to the sauce, just like red wine does to a pot roast. However, since the barley used to make Guinness is roasted, you get this really deep flavor in dished like this.
Braising melts all that intramuscular fat and works through the connective tissues. It's a three method process and worth every minute of time spent. Braising includes browning, deglazing and simmering, but really, the meat is in the oven most of the time...you might as well just forget about it and go read a book.
The torture comes in with the amazing smells coming from the kitchen....it leaves me hungry all day. ALL. DAY. I end up snacking on things I shouldn't because of that meat smell. UGH. Let's just say I might have eaten a few too many cookies yesterday. UGH. And why does smelling meat make me eat cookies?
For all of you out there with cold feet, throbbing headaches, and damp socks.
For those who trudged through 1 ½ feet of sleet water to cross the street over and over again.
For those who shoveled for hours even after the snow turned to rain and then to solid ice.
For those who got stuck on the train in a tunnel for a half hour and then missed your meeting.
For those who forgot to eat lunch and took it out on everyone during the slow bus ride home.
For those of you trapped at home with no power.
For the cabs with spinning wheels and no traction.
For those with 3 pairs of soaked “waterproof” boots.
Although New England Clam Chowder (the white creamy version) is probably more popular, Manhattan Clam chowder is equally delicious. More like an Italian soup, this tomato based clam chowder makes a great winter dish.
Traditional recipes often require cooking fresh clams and using the cooking broth in the chowder (which is fine if you have the time) but I find that using canned clams and bottled clam juice makes this recipe more manageable, without sacrificing taste or quality.
Bal Harbor clam juice is available in most grocery stores and has great flavor. It’s made from steaming whole, premium clams and is triple-filtered. This soup will keep refrigerated for up to 2 days, and the flavors continue to meld. Reheat over a low heat, and make sure not to boil the chowder, which can toughen the clams.
Seriously folks what is with all the bad weather in the U.S.? When I'm tooling around on Facebook I feel like I've been living everyone's bad weather, including my own. So much snow everywhere. Let's hope Spring comes a little early this year. All these gloomy days means the slow cooker has been earning its keep. This Pulled Pork Chile Verde has been something I've been working on. But today it was perfect and that's why I'm sharing it with you.
My goals for this recipe were straightforward. I wanted a dish that makes enough food for several meals, reheats well, lower in calories and a version even picky eater kids would eat and love. All were accomplished!
In regards to meal times, my older son is easier to please than my younger one. Let's just say I have a real critic when it comes to what he wants to or will eat. But he loved this. I purposefully made it mild enough so the kids would enjoy it. You can do the same and add hot sauce to get the heat you prefer or use a spicier sauce to begin with.
Growing up I ate a green salad pretty much every night with dinner. In Italy, we did the same, though it was served at the end of the meal. These days, I find it hard to convince my other half to eat salad. My solution is to make main dish salads. This one uses Belgian endive and is easy to make for one or a group. It has many delicious things added to a base of endive and fennel, namely candied walnuts, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.
Endive and fennel just seem to have a natural affinity for one another. Both are crisp, but fennel has a chewier texture and a sweetness, while endive is lighter and juicier and has a slightly bitter edge. You could use them to make a simple side salad but this one has lots of goodies to make it a main dish. Use a Champagne vinaigrette or a Dijon mustard vinaigrette to dress it. Or even just lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.