Comfort Foods and Indulgences
Every time I step into a meat market, I think of my mom. I can’t count the times I impatiently waited as she stood in front of the clear glass that separated her from rows of raw meat. As the butcher stood on the other side of the meat case waiting for her order, she examined the ground beef and the red, marbled roasts.
She carefully inspected the pork chops and the loins. The beef she would eventually purchase must have just the right amount of marbling running through. The pork must have enough fat to give it flavor and keep it moist as it cooked.
Somehow, my antsy behavior in all of those meat markets I frequented with my mother has made a complete turn-around over the years. I’ve become my mother. Meat markets and chocolate shops (she couldn’t pass up a Fanny Farmer store) are high on my list of places I love to visit.
Last week I had the opportunity to stop into Steve’s Meat Market in Ellendale, Minn. Owner, Donnavon Eaker, was busy helping a customer as I stepped into the smokehouse-scented store.
“Having steaks on the grill tonight?” the petite Eaker asked her customer as she added up the cost of the meat purchase. The happy customer shared her plans for that day’s meat purchase and walked out with a hefty bag of meat.
"The BBQ oysters were inspired by cookouts I’d have down in New Orleans. My friends and I would pull oysters out of the Gulf, crack them open and throw them on beach fires, and add all kinds of different sauces. Then, when I brought the recipe up to New York, I also was making this BBQ bacon sandwich. I thought, these two would be great together, so I combined the BBQ with the bacon and with the oysters." - Chef Paul Gerard, Exchange Alley, NYC
Oyster Barbecue Sauce:
1 bunch fresh thyme
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh chilies
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/8 cup tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon pimenton…smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
Everyone is always moving on to the next big thing. What is up with you people? That cupcake fad sure took off. I knew why, and I was on it so fast. I’m still on it in case anyone asks. Like someone will. In the same way that I always came home from a trip to London, Paris or even New York sporting a new fashion trend, I was carting back boxes of Magnolia cupcakes from the bakery’s West Village location as gifts for friends. Turning them all on to my addiction.
I’m not fickle. In fact I’m the opposite, loyal through and through. All y’all have moved on to pies or those fancy small French macaroons. I’m sticking by the cupcake. Oh, yes I am.
So, how come it took you so long to get into the biscuit craze? Can I toot my own horn here and tell you how long I’ve been a fan of the biscuit? Jumping in to answer before you say no. A long-ass time. My whole life, in fact. My southern grandmother, we called her Granny, made them for me. Pretty sure she dunked them in some bacon fat before they went into the oven. Those buttery, flakey biscuits came out perfect. Served piping hot, butter melting everywhere, dripping onto the plate for my first unforgettable bite. There is nothing quite like it. Until now.
I am a morning person. Regardless if one is a morning person or not, getting 5 people ready in the morning and out of the house on time can be a bit chaotic. Thank goodness I am organized. By the time my eldest wakes at 6:00 a.m., lunches are packed, I have read the latest news on the Huffington, and have had my first and only cup of coffee.
Eli likes his breakfast. Usually oatmeal, pancakes, eggs and omelets, and the occasional protein shake. Isaac could care less(generally a piece of fruit with almond butter or a protein shake) and Levi is easy; oatmeal or pancakes ( he LOVES his carbs). Weekends are my opportunity to make special breakfasts and baked egg dishes are high on the list. The invitation to Kitchen PLAY’s ”Breakfast Duo” challenge came at the perfect time. It came during the week of Passover and during those eight days, eggs, cheese, fruit (avocado), and veggies become a huge part of our repertoire. It’s either that or matzoh and as we are primarily a gluten free home, matzohs are kept at a distance.
The challenge was to create something using Avocados from Mexico and Jarlsberg cheese. In our house, eggs and cheese go hand and hand, and can be found in an omelet at least one morning during the week. Baked eggs are great for a crowd and this recipe, inspired by my friend Nancy, is one of those dishes. Every year she hosts “Break Fast” on Yom Kippur for 100 people. Forget the bagels and lox, instead it is this dish that I most look forward to as I break my 24 hour fast for atoning for my “sins”.
Is there a dish you make that gets your family a little excited for mealtime? At my house, it's gnocchi. When word gets out gnocchi is showing up for dinner, everyone starts milling around the kitchen...just waiting. Thank goodness this pasta only take a few minutes to boil.
Gnocchi is a wonderful comfort food, and a blank canvas to shape into any combination of flavors. We recently had some amazing homemade mushroom gnocchi while in Hawaii, and still haven't stopped talking about that meal. Making homemade gnocchi is definitely on my culinary bucket list...I will get to it. Sooner than later I hope.
Making a bechamel sauce for this dish is also really easy. If you have never made this creamy sauce before, don't worry. The great thing about a bechamel sauce is once you know how to execute it, you'll be able to whip one up for a variety of dishes. It's simple to change the flavor to go with almost anything. You will never be at a loss when it comes to needing something creamy for one of your recipe creations.
Wowzer. That's all I can say. Dad is going to love this one! But then again, why wait until Father's Day, have it tonight.
Food Network Magazine had a section on burgers this past month and there were a few I had to try...this was one of them.
The sauce was made with beer, sharp cheddar and horseradish. It is a nice addition to a meaty burger, and the cheese sauce adds some nice complexity.
It has your name on it, you must try it. You could easily make them into sliders as well.
With the weather being so indecisive here on the East coast—one minute it's hot and humid, the next it's cold and rainy—it's been difficult to fully fall into the pleasures of autumn. But with October just a day away, I've been starting to crave comfort foods, like soups, stews, and hot sandwiches. Lunches for me have been a mixed bag of sorts, I'm never sure what to eat, and I'm not always satisfied with what I get. But the sandwich shop near my workplace always seems to have the right sandwich for me. It's my standby.
'Wichcraft, pretty much a chain restaurant in New York City, in my opinion, has the best pressed sandwiches, among them the grilled Gruyère and caramelized onions. It is just mouthwateringly good with its oozy cheese and sweet caramelized onions. Whenever I need a comfort food fix, I always seem to gravitate toward this sandwich. It's simple and it always hits the spot. I've decided to come up with my own personalized version.
My version of this popular sandwich includes ham, for extra flavor. I use a panini press to make the sandwich, but you can also use a regular skillet, and just simply weight the sandwich with a foil-wrapped brick between flips. The caramelized onions can be prepared a day in advance, making this lunch come together even faster. Use either Gruyère or Emmental cheese for the best results in both flavor and texture.
Whenever I'm in Hayes Valley around lunchtime, I'm always tempted to stop by Arlequin for a toasted cheddar, pear and bacon sandwich. The bread is crispy and crunchy, the cheese oozes and the sweetness of the pear is offset by the smoky saltiness of the bacon. Taking that sandwich as inspiration I decided to add mustard to my version. I was sure the warm spices including cinnamon, clove and cayenne in the mustard would really be delicious with the pear but I didn't want the intensity of bacon for this sandwich. After experimenting a bit, the combination I settled on was smoked turkey, white cheddar and pear. Smoked turkey is a good sandwich choice, it adds some heft and lean protein, and is healthier than ham or bacon.
One trick to getting this sandwich is right is to layer the ingredients just so. Start with a mustard slathered slice of bread and top it with cheese. The cheese and the mustard will kind of melt together. Put the smoked turkey in the middle and on the top put the pear. By grilling or toasting the sandwich on both sides in a pan you get a warmed through pear and gooey cheese that holds the turkey firmly in the middle. Make sure the cheese has melted before taking it off the heat. The last key is to let the sandwich sit for a few minutes before slicing, if you can!
I see every glass half-full especially if it is a first growth! So, one reason why winter’s grey pall makes me sunny is that it is BLACK TRUFFLE SEASON! Think of all the lovely winter dishes one can indulge in during Black Truffle Season…
Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing Simply Truffles, by Patricia Wells – a book of recipes and stories “that capture the essence of the Black Diamond.” What delicious prey!
Many of the recipes are French in taste and design – understandable since the Black Beauty is also known as “Black Perigord Truffle.” Grown in that region among the Oak and Hazelnut trees, it is less aromatic and exotic than the Italian White Truffle, and considerably less expensive – allowing a casual sense of freedom to its use.
Shave away! And crumbs make wonderful Truffle butter which can be frozen.
Torrijas, a cross between French Toast and bread pudding, can be found throughout the year in Spain, but they are particularly popular for dessert around the Easter holiday. The tradition of reviving stale bread with eggs and milk dates back to Roman times, and most countries have their own particular version.
I first tried this dish at the Palace Hotel in Madrid and was impressed with the subtle flavors of cinnamon, lemon and honey. There are many variations of this treat – some soften the stale bread by soaking it in a sweet wine, while other variations use milk, and honey. The chef at the Palace was kind enough to share his recipe, which I think is just about perfect.
In Spain, it’s served cool or at room temperature (frankly almost everything in Spain is served at room temperature) and drizzled with honey syrup.