Comfort Foods and Indulgences

mushroomleekpuddingIf you make anything new this Fall season, make sure it's this. It would also be an amazing addition to the holiday table because it is so dang fantastic. No one is going to be able to keep their fork out of it.

This dish is so good, my twelve year old requested leftovers for breakfast. Go figure. It's just one of those lingering tastes that leaves you wanting more. It's earthy and decadent and received rave, RAVE reviews from my family.

This recipe came from Food Network's Magazine this month (I love this magazine), but I did change a few things. I used a little more bread, regular butter, bacon instead of pancetta, sage instead of tarragon, white wine instead of sherry and more cheese of course. It was perfect, just perfect.


Cremini mushrooms are also a nice choice for this dish. They are a little firmer than the white mushroom, so they hold up better. And, they have a fuller flavor.

I placed the hot mushroom mixture on top of the dried bread cubes to cool slightly before tossing with the egg mixture.

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alfredobook.jpgI am an A+ eater and a B- cook.  Sad, but true – I’d be so much better off if it were the other way around.  I have a couple of A+ dishes in my repertoire, but by and large, I haven’t had the time to hone my kitchen skills.  Having to bring home the bacon and cook it too is hard work!  So I’ve eaten out as much as I’ve eaten in for the last 20 years.  Nowadays, I’m trying to reverse the trend.

I began my career in Manhattan around the same time that many famous, formal temples of gastronomy like Lutece and La Cote Basque were being replaced in the hearts and wallets of many New Yorkers by small, unpretentious, artisanal restaurants that cared more about the content than the packaging.  So I consider myself very lucky to have been there when Trattoria d’Alfredo changed the rules of the game.  Alfredo Viazzi introduced New Yorkers to simple, inventive, Italian regional cooking, as familiar to us today as spaghetti and meatballs were then.  I loved how this gracious, Savona-born, WWII partisan fighter, writer and cook presided over his flock nightly; I loved that he opened a supper club nearby where his actress/singer wife performed; and I loved the exquisite mocha dacquoise cake made daily for the restaurant by James Beard’s partner, pastry chef Gino Cofacci.

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No, really, oh. Oh as in “Oh my, these brownies”  and “Oh damn, these brownies.”  Oh as “Oh I can’t believe this recipe is so amazing” and “Oh there goes any bit of self control I had.”

Get the picture?

You can roll your eyes a bit when you say “Oh”.  It helps.

Even though I don’t claim to have the world’s largest sweet tooth and go for salty over sweet most days, I can’t help but claim this brownie recipe as one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Because to me, brownies seem like the perfect treat in theory. Chocolately, studded with fun things like nuts or fruit, small and compact and enough to satisfy thanks to their rich nature. But sometimes, well, you can’t help but feel let down sometimes when you bite into a brownie that’s dry, too moist or not moist enough, tastes like a mix or worse, doesn’t resemble a brownie at all.

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gracie_9_weeks_old.jpgLittle Gracie had been feeling under the weather all day Wednesday. She had no interest in running and playing, choosing to curl up and sleep for most of the day. And, she was coughing.

So, yesterday, off to the vet we went. When I take Gracie for a ride in the car, I feel like a new mother packing up to take the new baby out to run errands. I have no diaper bag, though. I put some water in the special bowl I have with a tight-sealing screw-on lid. Chew toys for the crate in the back seat. The leash. Treats to replenish the small supply I keep in my cup-holder in the front seat.

For this trip, I also made room for a small basket of my favorite chocolate chip cookies. I was sure the nice doctors, office staff and techs at the veterinary clinic would enjoy a people treat of their own.

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ImageI have a serious problem with this dish. I am embarrassed to say that I ate 25% of it before dinner was served last night. I am scared to put on my jeans. Instead of walking my usual 2.5 miles today, I am going to have to double that! What was I thinking?

The real problem here is that these are so utterly good, that one cannot just take a small portion. With that said,, eating 25% of the pan, isn’t all that unreasonable. Is it? In the past, I have always made Patricia Well’s recipe, Gratin Dauphinois from her book At Home in Provence. I adore her books and have made many of her recipes, but her particular dish requires one to cook the potatoes in the cream and milk mixture, on the stove, before layering the pan, etc. An unnecessary step. Dorie Greespan’s recipe from Around My French Table beats out any other potato dish of this kind and this is my new “go-to” dish for those nights when I just don’t have time to mess in the kitchen.

Potatoes au Gratin or “scalloped potatoes” as my dad endearingly referred to them as, was one of my dad’s favorite dishes. He loved his food. And he loved his restaurants. He was a carbs kind of guy. Happily I admit, I am as well.

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