Monday, December 29, 2008

The 9th Annual Pozole Party

This year was the 9th Annual Pozole Party - the ultimate "Last Christmas Party" historically held on Christmas Eve Eve (December 23) regardless of the day of the week. In the intervening years since December, 2000, much has changed, both for the party and it's participants. It's grown for one thing - from five original guests to over thirty, and as you might expect, the guests have, shall we say, "matured." Instead of a bunch of twenty-somethings slurping margaritas before going home to mom and dad's for the holidays, we now have moms and dads who can't slurp too many margaritas because they have to get home to relieve the babysitter. It's traditionally been a bit of a raucous party, and while it's been an absolute blast, I think we may be ready to acknowledge the effects of the passage of time. James is lobbying for one last go round with the old format for the 10th Annual, but after that I forsee a revamp - perhaps an earlier time slot and a different day. It would be kind of nice after all to be able to cook on Christmas Eve - something we haven't been able to do, well, ever.
Last year I shared the formula for the margaritas (which were still a pretty big hit this year, babysitters be damned) and this year - yes - this year, I have the Posole recipe. (We've always called it the Pozole Party, with a "z", so for the sake of continuity I'm sticking with that, though we spell the name of the soup with an "s." Don't ask too many questions.) James has kept this pretty close to his chest in the past - but I watched him this time, and I have the two recipes that he cobbles together to make it - so I think I can do a pretty good job of replicating it here. It's certainly not complicated - that's the beauty of it really. It's just pork and chicken soup with hominy - the mix-ins and garnishes are the seasoning, and everyone can customize his or her own bowl.
Posole Party 08
Of course, if you don't live in San Diego you won't have access to the El Indio tortilla chips or the Las Cuatros Milpas tortillas, or the salsas from the Farmers Market taco stand. Sorry 'bout that. I would take mail orders - but I'm afraid the shipping costs would be prohibitive.
Pozole 2007 039
A more or less original recipe, adapted from versions in Mexico -the Beautiful Cookbook and the NY Times

1 whole organic chicken
3 cloves garlic smashed
2 medium carrots - cut into 3 pieces
2 stalks of celery - cut into 2 pieces
1 onion, cut into eighths
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
small bunch of cilantro stems, tied together with twine or tied in a cheesecloth bag
(chop the leaves for garnish.)
roughly 10 cups of water

3 pounds of lean boneless pork - any combination of shoulder or butt
1 tablespoon of salt
2 carrots - cut into four pieces
2 celery stalks - cut into two pieces
1 onion - cut into eighths
1 tablespoon of peppercorns
10 cups of water

1 pound dried hominy (we used Rancho Gordo )
1 onion

Garnishes: chopped onion, chopped cilantro, dried oregano, chopped fresh and/or dried chiles, limes, and sour cream mixed with a few drops of hot sauce.

Prepare the hominy by soaking overnight in enough water to cover by one inch. Drain the hominy and place it in a large pot with 1 onion cut into quarters. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender - about 2 hours.

Place the chicken in a large pot or dutch oven and add the garlic, onion, 1 tablespoon of salt and cilantro stems. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered over medium to low heat for about 30-45 minutes, just until the meat is cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Pull the meat off the bones, remove the skin and shred the meat, keeping the carcass intact. Return the carcass to the pot and simmer the stock over low heat for another hour.

While the broth simmers, cook the pork. Place the pork in a pot with salt, onion, celery, peppercorns and water, and bring to a boil. When the water boils, skim the surface and reduce the heat. Simmer over medium heat for one hour. Remove and shred the meat and strain the pork broth. Remove the bones from the chicken broth, and strain if necessary. Combine the pork broth, chicken broth, hominy, shredded pork and chicken in one pot, and bring to a simmer for twenty minutes to combine flavors. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with the dried oregano, peppers, sour cream, lime wedges, shredded cabbage and additional salt and pepper. Pass tortillas on the side.

Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo also has a wonderful sounding Posole Verde recipe here that can be made vegan with the use of vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. James also made an experimental batch of the Verde with some pepitas, tomatillos, etc. this year, but it needs a little more work before we can post it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
Oh my, I am soo tired. In a good way of course, after hosting a party last night and getting all the holiday shopping and wrapping and baking and cooking done. I really wish I could sit down and write a big long post right now, but sadly, I cannot. We're on our way out to two more festive occasions tonight and another tomorrow, but I promise you when I come back, I will have posole, and peppermint bark, and pink lady cake to share. Wow, didn't realize there was so much alliteration in there. Links and photos and recipes, oh my!
To whet your appetite, here's a photo of some Posole from the party last night. It's not the most photogenic stuff in the world, but it is delicious!

Merry Christmas everyone, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rainbow Cookies and Afternoon Tea

Rainbow cookies
I first discovered (and fell in love with) these little almond paste and butter filled squares when I was in NYC this past October. Even then I thought about making them for the holidays - it just seemed so right given their festive red and green color scheme. I knew it would be a project, but I also knew the recipe was likely to make a lot - and they would probably keep well since they're so dense and moist. When Sherry Yard's Desserts by the Yard landed in my lap a couple of weeks ago, I figured it was serendipity. The book says that at Spago, these are served as petit fours after dinner. When I tweeted that I was embarking on this project I actually heard from a friend who used to make them there for that very purpose. She confirmed what I was already learning - that they are indeed labor intensive, but very much worth the effort.
The laden table
I made them specifically for a Sunday afternoon gathering of some girlfriends - a holiday tea and handmade gift exchange. Everyone was asked to bring some cookies to share and a gift for the exchange (handmade by someone, but not necessarily the guest herself.) We drank rose champagne and white hot chocolate with vanilla bean and orange, (tea? what tea?) and ate cute little open-faced sandwiches, fancy cheeses, scones, and cookies. It was a lovely afternoon. At least I enjoyed it, and it's always a good sign when you have fun at your own party, I think. Here's the menu:
cucumber with mint butter and curried chicken salad tea sandwiches
Holiday Afternoon Tea
December 14, 2008

Pierre Robert, Cave Aged Gouda and Stilton/Gloustershire Cheeses
Prosciutto and Salami
Frog Hollow Farms Peach Chutney
Bread and Cie Baguette

Cucumber with Mint Butter and
Curried Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches on Brioche
Puff Pastry Bites with Feta and Caramelized Onions
Roederer Brut Rose

Ginger Scones
Assorted Cookies
Eclipse White Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Bean and Orange
Jora's ginger scones
Everyone made delicious cookies and candies - there were ginger spice and butter cookies, dark chocolate fruit and nut clusters, some with milk chocolate, some with white chocolate, lemon and cornmeal, and even vegan gingerbread men. Jora made the scones, and Angie brought homemade toffee.
We ate all we could, and everyone took home as many leftovers as they were willing.

Making the rainbow cookies was really a two day process - not because it's especially difficult or tricky, but because there are several steps. First, a rich dough is made with almond paste, butter, sugar, flour and almond flour. This is divided into thirds, two of the parts are colored red or pink and green, and the third is colored yellow or left plain (I left mine plain.) The cake layers are baked just until dry on lined sheet pans, cooled, and then carefully stacked on top of one another. Each layer is brushed with simple syrup, and raspberry and apricot jams are spread between the layers. The stacked layers are then weighted and refrigerated overnight to soak up the syrup, and the next day, the whole cake is glazed with chocolate and cut into squares. The result is a melt in your mouth hybrid of cake, cookie and candy - buttery and rich, kissed with fruity jam and dark chocolate. It's one of those things that is more than the sum of its parts, and each of its parts are pretty delicious all by themselves.

There were a few things about the recipe that didn't work for me though - my food processor was not large enough for the whole batch of dough, and I have a hard time believing that anyone in a home kitchen would have one that would be - so I've modified it to use a stand mixer for part of the process. I also think the directions could be a little more specific. I drew on some of my pastry schooling in the process, so I'll put those details in. One of the major reasons this recipe is worth the effort is that it makes a TON of cookies (120 one inch squares, according to the recipe.) I have half of the batch frozen, and I lost quite a bit to scraps (which are very tasty snacks in and of themselves) and I still had dozens of the little suckers. The finished cookies taste even better a few days after they're made, and will keep for at least a week or two refrigerated.
Rainbow cookies cross section

Rainbow Cookies
adapted from Sherry Yard's Desserts by the Yard

For the cake:
12 ounces almond paste
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 pounds butter (6 sticks) softened and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
6 large eggs, separated
3/4 cups almond flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
3 cups All Purpose flour
red food coloring
green food coloring

1 recipe simple syrup (place one cup of sugar and one cup of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stir to dissolve sugar and allow to cool.)
3/4 cup apricot jam
3/4 cup raspberry jam

For chocolate glaze:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 stick butter
1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup (The original recipe calls for 5 Tablespoons of corn syrup, but I used this amount and it worked great.)
1 1/2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray 3 12x17 inch half sheet pans with pan spray and line with parchment. (The spray will keep the paper from sliding when you are spreading the thick batter.) Lightly spray the parchment.

Place the almond paste in a food processor and blend for two minutes. Add the sugar and pulse until the mixture has the consistency of wet sand. (I had some problems getting my food processor to "grab" the mixture - it just wanted to spin through it, but I kept scraping and pushing it down and finally got it incorporated. )

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat to soft peaks. Transfer beaten egg whites to another bowl, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.

Transfer the sugar and almond paste mixture to the bowl of the mixer and add one quarter of the butter. Beat the butter into the mixture. Continue to slowly add the butter 1/4 at a time until it is incorporated and the mixture is fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and blend in the egg yolks one at a time on low speed. Still on low speed, blend in the almond flour, then the All Purpose Flour - just until incorporated. Last of all, fold in the beaten egg whites thoroughly but gently.

Weigh the batter on a kitchen scale, and divide it into three portions of equal weight. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir 1-2 drops of red paste food coloring into one portion, and 1-2 drops of green food coloring into another. One third of the batter should be bright pink and one third light green. (Sherry also suggests dying the third section yellow, but I opted to leave it natural.)

Scrape all of one colored batter onto one end of a half sheet pan and spread it evenly, pushing the batter with the spatula to the outer edges of the pan, making sure the layers are at least 1/4 inch thick. Slide your finger or a damp paper towel around the inner edge of the pan to remove any excess batter. Repeat with the remaining 2 portions of batter.

Place the pans in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. (This is a good time to make the simple syrup.) Rotate the top and bottom pans from top to bottom and turn them around. Turn the middle pan around. Bake another 10 minutes, or until the cakes are dry and firm to the touch. They should not brown and they should not rise. Allow the cakes to cool in the baking sheets for 10 minutes.

When the cakes have cooled, place another empty half sheet pan in front of you upside down. Spray the pan with pan spray and place a layer of parchment paper on it with several inches of overhang. Invert the white or yellow cake onto the parchment covered upside down pan, and peel the parchment off the top of the cake. Brush the cake liberally with simple syrup and spread with the apricot jam using an offset spatula. Repeat this process with the pink layer, brushing it with simple syrup and spreading it with the raspberry jam. Top with the green layer and brush it liberally with simple syrup. Trim any crumbling edges and remove the loose crumbs.

Use the parchment overhang to slide the cake off the pan and place in one of the now-empty half sheet pans. Cover the cake tightly with plastic or wax paper and place one of the other empty pans on top. Weight it evenly with something else in the fridge, and refrigerate the cake overnight. (At this point, the cake can also be wrapped airtight and stored in the freezer for three to four weeks.)

Make the chocolate glaze:
Combine the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave on low power until the butter is melted. Stir to melt the chocolate. Stir in the corn syrup and the Grand Marnier. The glaze should be smooth, shiny and pourable. (It will cool and set when it is poured on the refrigerated cake.)

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and unwrap it. Pour about 1/3 of the glaze in a wide strip down the middle of the cake and spread it gently with an offset spatula, stopping just before the edges. Be careful when gliding over the surface that you avoid scraping the cake and getting crumbs in the glaze. When the glaze has cooled, repeat the process until the glaze is about 1/8 of an inch thick (you will probably have quite a bit left over.) When the glaze is firm and starting to dry, you can use a pastry comb or fork to make a squiggly pattern in the top of the chocolate if you like. Refrigerate the cake again for at least thirty minutes or until the glaze is completely set.

To cut the cake, use a sharp narrow knife dipped in warm water and wiped dry. Cut only in one direction - being careful as you pull the knife up through the cake so that the glaze does not peel off the cake. Also be careful in picking the cut pieces up off of the paper, as the bottom cake layer may want to stick to the parchment. The finished glazed cake can be frozen - cut or uncut - for two to three weeks as long as it is well wrapped.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Birthday Supper for Jimmy


Jimmy's Birthday Supper
December 8, 2008

El Indio Chips and Salsa
Taittinger Brut Rose

Dry-Aged Steaks
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Yorkshire Puddings
Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon

Banana Creme Brulee "Pie"

James B-day Dinner

Monday was James' 39th birthday. He insisted he didn't want a big party, and since next year is the 40th (which, at least in my opinion, DEMANDS a big party) - we decided to make it a quiet evening at home. I procured some nice, thick dry-aged steaks, a bag of James' favorite El Indio tortilla chips and a bottle of Eberle Cabernet from Iowa Meat Farms. (I had hoped to get to Homegrown, but just wasn't able to make it to La Jolla.) Then I roasted some brussel sprouts with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, salt and red pepper flakes and baked up some yorkshire puddings, aka popovers. Aren't they pretty?
James B-day Dinner

Since it was a birthday dinner, of course, there was also an indulgent dessert. A few weeks ago, I received an email from Amazon, telling me they had shipped my most recent order. I couldn't remember placing an order - but maybe I did it accidentally? Or maybe James did it and then played dumb? I have no idea to this day, but whichever way, I wound up the proud but accidental owner of the new cookbook from Sherry Yard, "Desserts by the Yard." It was in my "saved to buy later" list - so it wasn't totally random, but who knows if I ever would have sprung for it.
Desserts by the Yard

I'm glad Amazon (or whomever) did the job for me. It's absolutely marvelous - full of classic and fun desserts with a decadent twist arranged in groupings that mirror the stages of Sherry's career. The early part of the book focuses on New York - where she grew up, went to culinary school and had her first pastry job (at the Rainbow Room, where she started out as a cigarette girl!) The middle stage reflects her stints at Campton Place and Catahoula in the Bay Area, and the latter part is based on her time in LA, where she has been since about 1993 working for Wolfgang Puck at Spago and Chinois on Main. Sherry's personality comes through in the little blurbs and anecdotes throughout the book, and her can-do attitude and impeccable taste are reflected in the recipes. Some of them are show-offy, but others are not at all - and the tips, hints and basic recipes in the book are indispensible. And then there are the photographs - oh the photographs. They're in a class by themselves - and they really made me want to make this dessert.

It's a riff on Banana Cream Pie, fancied up with a slab of puff pastry in place of the crust, and a layer of frozen creme brulee instead of custard. These layers are topped with some marinated bananas, and the whole mess is slathered with whipped cream. It sounds killer, and it is - in more ways than one. Definitely not for the faint of heart...
Banana Creme Brulee Pie in progress

I used frozen puff pastry dough, but I have a great easy recipe for it over here on this post. A batch is a great thing to have in the freezer. The creme brulee is a standard creme brulee recipe, cooked in one large flat piece and frozen. I cut it down by 1/3 so that I would have the amount I wanted, and it fit perfectly in a 9 inch square baking pan. (I used roughly half of that when I put it together.) The bananas are marinated in orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla and booze - the recipe calls for kahlua, but some top notch rum would be delicious as well. Sherry also tops the puff pastry with chocolate but I used some salted caramel I made the other day. The recipe makes a whole pint, which is a wondrous thing. Here it is, along with the recipe for the rest of the pie and the popovers, as I adapted them:

Banana Creme Brulee "Pie"
adapted from Desserts by the Yard, by Sherry Yard.

basic components:1 4x8 inch piece of all butter puff pastry dough, baked and cooled
1 recipe creme brulee, below, frozen and cut into a slab 1/2 inch smaller than the pastry dough all around
marinated bananas (see below)
whipped cream
salted caramel sauce

For the Creme Brulee:
(make the night before, or very early in the day)

3 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup of sugar minus 1 tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste, or seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
4 1/2 large egg yolks

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper and position it inside a 9.5 x 17 inch baking pan.

In a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla and heat to a simmer. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the mixture to steep for 15 mins or so. Check the temperature, it should be about 165 degrees.

Whisk the egg yolks lightly into a large bowl. Whisk the cream mixture into the egg yolks, tempering it in, and strain the mixture into the 9 inch pan set into the 9.5x17 inch pan. Position both pans on the rack in the oven, and pour hot water into the larger pan to 3/4 of the way up the sides of the inner pan. Bake for between 1 hour and 1.5 hours, until the custard is set but still jiggles slightly. Remove the inner pan from the water bath and cool completely. Wrap the entire pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for several hours or overnight. When it is frozen solid, remove the pan from the custard by dipping it in warm water and lifting the paper lining out of the pan. Peel the paper off the custard, wrap it in plastic wrap and replace in the freezer until ready to use.

Bake the puff pastry, marinate the bananas and whip the cream within a few hours of serving:
For the Bananas:
2 ripe but firm bananas
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons kahlua or dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Slice the bananas and toss with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Cover bowl with plastic, pressing plastic onto the surface of the bananas, and refrigerate.

Whipped cream:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk whipping cream until thick. Add powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.

Puff pastry:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut a rectangle of butter puff pastry dough (thawed but still cold) about 4 inches by 8 inches. Place on a silpat or parchment lined baking pan in the upper third of the oven and bake until dark golden brown, about 20 minutes. (Sherry recommends setting another pan on the pastry to flatten it, but I tried this and thought it was too tough.)
Set aside to cool.

Up to one hour before serving, place the puff pastry on the serving platter. Warm some homemade or storebought caramel sauce (or chocolate if you prefer) to a spreadable or pourable consistency, and spread over the puff pastry dough. Unwrap the layer of frozen creme brulee, and trim and scrape it to a neat shape about 1/2 inch smaller than the pastry. Place on top of the caramel. Refrigerate for up to two hours.
Just before serving, spoon the bananas over the creme brulee layer and spread with the whipped cream. Slice with a sharp knife, wiping the blade between cuts.
Serves 4 (The recipe above makes enough creme brulee for at least 8, so just double the size of your pastry and the amount of bananas and cream if needed!)

and if you want to make your own marvelous salted caramel...

Salted Caramel Sauce
10 1/2 oz sugar (by weight)
1 oz corn syrup (by weight)
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 oz of butter cut into small pieces
1/2 t vanilla paste or 1/4 of a vanilla bean pod, scraped
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon of good quality sea salt, such as Maldon. (Start with 1/4 and add more to taste.)

Measure your ingredients and have them ready to go before you begin.

In a medium saucepan - between 2 and 3 qts, cook the sugar, corn syrup and water until the mixture reaches a deep golden color. The depth of color will determine the flavor of your caramel sauce. The darker you go, the less sweet and more intense it will be. Once it starts to color it happens quickly, so watch it carefully once it starts to brown. You want it to have some good color, but you want to catch it before it starts to turn reddish.

When your sugar syrup is nice and brown, tilt the pan and carefully pour in the cream. It will foam and bubble and release steam, so be careful not to burn yourself. Stir until the mixture is incorporated and the bubbling has subsided. Add the butter, vanilla paste (or seeds) and salt, and bring the mixture back to a boil (this happens very quickly.) Remove from heat. Dip a spoon in the caramel and allow it to cool. Taste and add more salt a pinch at a time as desired.

Makes one pint.

Yorkshire Pudding Popovers
adapted from Nigella and other sources I can't quite recall
(a slightly different version of this recipe has appeared on this blog before)

1 cup of milk (I used nonfat with a couple of tablespoons of half and half mixed in to give it more body)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground mustard
1/4 cup very finely grated fresh parmesan or other very sharp cheese, loosely packed
5 or 6 grinds of freshly milled black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 Tablespoons of butter, cut into quarter inch chunks if using a popover pan, or slightly smaller than 1/2 inch chunks of using a muffin tin

Preheat the oven to 450

Whisk the milk, eggs and seasonings together and set aside

Put the pieces of butter into the cups of your pan and preheat the pan in the oven for about 3-4 minutes, until the butter is melted. Watch it carefully so it doesn't brown too much or burn.

While the pan is in the oven, whisk the flour and shredded cheese into the egg mixture. (It is important that the cheese is fresh and very finely grated, otherwise it might keep the batter from rising.)

Bake at 450 until the puds are puffed and browned, and firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Crack the oven door and turn it off - and leave the puddings in for five to ten minutes to dry out. Serve immediately, while hot and crisp. Makes 10 in a mini popover pan, or 6-7 in a muffin tin.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday Supper 11.23.08 - A "Zuni Thanksgiving"

Sunday Supper 11.23.08
This past Sunday, we hosted a Sunday Supper at our house. Though it wasn't Thanksgiving just yet, we wanted to roast a turkey - so we decided to pretend as if it was. I decorated the table with some dusky pumpkins and squash that I picked up at Schaner Farms' stand at the Saturday Little Italy Mercato - along with this lovely little herb bouquet that I hung on the front door. (Schaner also sells at the Santa Monica Farmers Market in Los Angeles.)
Herbs from Schaner Farms
The party favors were little 2 piece boxes from Eclipse Chocolat containing one each of their Pomegranate Sage and Pumpkin Muscovado chocolates.
November 23 2008 090
Having used the Zuni method for roasting chicken many times with great success, I decided to try Judy Rogers' method for turkey, along with my own Thanksgiving-esque version of the Zuni Bread Salad. This was our menu:
Zuni Turkey - Sunday Supper 11.23.08

Sunday Supper
"Mock" Thanksgiving


Zuni-Style Roast Turkey
Bread Salad with Chestnuts, Bitter Greens and
Homemade Pork Sausage with Pepper and Sage.
Brussel Sprout Gratin
Roasted Cranberry Relish
2007 Sinister Hand

Pumpkin Tartlets with
Homemade Ginger Ice Cream
Kalyra Port

I bought the fresh turkey at Homegrown Meats, up in La Jolla and picked it up on Saturday morning. The Zuni method involves a dry brine, so I rubbed the salt over it and under the skin and pushed a few herbs under the skin and in the cavity. It dried out nicely and absorbed the salt, but I think an additional day of brining might have been beneficial. The method really recommends that the turkey spend a day or two in a bag, and then dry uncovered for a few hours.

The bird cooks upside down for 30 mins at 450, and is then flipped over to cook for about 3 more hours at 325. The result is succulent, crispy skinned and juicy, just like the chicken - and it looks just lovely with that bronzed skin. My only regret was that I cooked it a little too early - it finished at about 2:30 PM, and I had guests arriving at 4 - but I had to free up the oven for the bread salad and I needed the drippings in order to make it - so I didn't really have much choice in the matter. If you have two ovens (or even a larger oven) you won't have that problem.
Bread Salad - Sunday Supper 11.23.08
For the bread salad, I made some homemade sausage with pepper and sage (which was delicious by itself and dead easy) which I cooked in a big skillet - then I sauteed the onion and some slivered celery in the drippings from that and added in the sliced chestnuts. I tossed the toasted bread cubes with vinegar, broth and pan drippings, added the sausage, celery and chestnuts, and put it the pan in the oven to warm. When that came out, I tossed it with Sage Mountain's baby spicy greens mix, and served it all up in a big salad bowl. Friends Jora and Angie helped out with decadent and delicious Brussel Sprout Gratin and miniature pumpkin tarts with spicy and creamy ginger ice cream. I also roasted some cranberries based on a recipe I found in Saveur.
Oyster - Sunday Supper 11.23.08
The oysters came from The Better Half Shell on a recommendation from Catalina Offshore Products. I was a little concerned about keeping them alive in the fridge for 24 hours, but I just put them on a towel lined half sheet pan tray and covered them with another wet towel. We had a bit of a scare when we pulled them out and the towels were frozen - but luckily they were still kicking underneath. Thanks to Candice for coming over and being our designated shucker - she did an amazing job, and James was even able to get in there and learn how to do it for the next party.
James shucking oysters - Sunday Supper 11.23.08
One of my favorite things about this supper was the fact that it started so early - at 4 PM. It was wonderful to enjoy the company of friends and a full meal (after dark) and still have the kitchen cleaned by 8 PM - and I'm sure our friends found it just as refreshing to get home before midnight!

Here are the recipes:

Zuni-fied Dry Brined Roast Turkey (aka The Judy Bird)
adapted from the LA Times and the Zuni Cafe Cookbook

1 12-18 pound turkey (I cooked a 16 pounder from Homegrown Meats)
1 cup of kosher salt (it does have to be kosher)
fresh sage and thyme

48 hours before you plan to roast it (or 24 if you're pressed for time like I was) remove the giblets and any twine or wire on the turkey and rinse and dry it well with paper towels. Put your salt in a dish and start by generously rubbing a few tablespoons on the inside. Slide your fingers underneath the breast skin and rub the salt up underneath the skin as far as your fingers will go. Flip the bird around and slip your fingers under the other side and rub salt under the skin. Pat salt on the outside of the breast.

Massage salt on the outside of the legs and thighs - pulling them apart to get it all over the skin. cut slits in the top of the legs and slip your hand in under the skin, massaging salt over the leg and thigh meat. Slip some sage leaves under the skin and place sage and thyme in the cavity of the bird. Place the turkey in a large plastic bag and put it in the fridge overnight. Massage again the next day to work the salt into the meat. 8 hours before you plan to roast it, take the turkey out of the bag and place it on a tray or plate on multiple layers of paper towels. Put it in the fridge uncovered on the tray to dry out. About 2 hours before you plan to roast it, remove from the fridge to come to room temperature - at that time, change the towels underneath it so it's completely dry when it goes in the oven. (If you only have 24 hours, just massage salt into the bird once, and place it on a paper towel lined plate uncovered in the fridge until you take it out to come to room temp.)

Prepare your roasting rack and pan and preheat the oven to 450. Place the bird breast-side down on the rack, and roast for 30 minutes. Flip it over (using your hands and some kitchen towels) and reduce the heat to 325. Roast until the thickest part of the breast meat registers 160 on a meat thermometer or until the juices run clear coming from the thigh - about 2.5 to 3 hours. (You can start collecting drippings from the pan using a turkey baster anytime after the first two hours.)

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 30 mins before carving.

Thanksgiving Style Bread Salad

1-2 loaves of day old french bread
3 cups of pork sausage with pepper and sage (see below)
2 celery ribs thinly sliced
1 bunch of scallions, sliced diagonally - including some of the green part
3-4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
At least 4 cups of arugula or other bitter greens
red wine vinegar
2 cups of homemade chicken or turkey stock
1.4 cups of steamed chestnuts, sliced - or dried currants
1/2 cup pecan pieces or pine nuts
champagne vinegar
drippings from the turkey

Cut most of the crust off of the bread and half the loaf lengthwise.
Toast under the broiler on a baking sheet until lightly browned. Flip over and toast the other side. Tear the bread into irregular chunks ranging between 2 inches and 1/2inch - put in a large shallow bowl.

If using dried currants, warm some red wine vinegar slightly and pour it over the currants to absorb.

Make a tart viniagrette of 1/4 cup of olive oil or turkey drippings if you have them, and 2-3 tablespoons of champagne vinegar, in a small bowl or cup. Drizzle over the bread and toss thoroughly. Taste for tartness and seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Put the pecans or pine nuts in a dish in the oven to heat for a few minutes.

Heat a large skillet and tear off 1 inch chunks of sausage and drop them into the pan. Fry until well browned. Remove the sausage from the pan and add the scallions, celery and slivered garlic to the drippings. Saute until the softened. Add the sausage, onion mixture and slivered chestnuts or drained currants to the bread. Add a few grinds of pepper, and toss with a half cup of broth and another generous drizzle of drippings and vinegar, until everything is well moistened and well seasoned.

Place the bread salad in a large pan and cover loosely with foil. Place in the oven to warm the for about 30-45 mins. If your turkey also needs warming, you can carve it and warm it in the oven for 15 mins.

When you remove the bread salad from the oven, toss it with the arugula, salt and pepper and more drippings or viniagrette to taste. Don't be shy with the greens - they wilt and shrink when tossed with the warm bread.

Pile the bread salad on a platter or into a large bowl and serve with the carved turkey.

Fresh Pork Sausage with Pepper and Sage
adapted from Bon Appetit

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes, chilled
1/2 pound fresh pork fat, cut into 1-inch pieces, chilled
3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon potent dried rubbed sage
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Pulse the pork and fat in batches in the food processor until finely ground. Place in a large bowl - add the rest of the ingredients and blend with moistened hands just until combined. Wrap in Saran Wrap and press and roll to form a log. Refrigerate overnight or at least a few hours before using.

Roasted Cranberries
adapted from Saveur

2 pounds of fresh cranberries
1 orange - zested, zest cut into 1.5 inch strips
and 2 tablespoons of juice reserved
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 cups of sugar (or a little less if you like them tart - I'd go with 1.5 myself)
2 tablespoons champagne or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of port
2 tablespoons of water (if needed)

Preheat the oven to 450. In a large bowl, toss the cranberries with the orange zest, cloves, cinnamon sticks, jalapeno and sugar. Spread on a parchment lined rimmed half sheet pan, avoiding the edges of the pan (you will need to do at least two batches) and cover loosely with parchment. Place in the oven for about 10-12 mins, until the cranberries burst and release their juices. Scrape the cranberries into a bowl and repeat the process until all of the cranberries are roasted.

Stir in the orange juice, port, and vinegar, adding a little water if it still seems too thick. Allow to cool and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ben Stiller's Home on "So Haute"

I don't know if anyone else will remember this, but a couple of years ago, Elle Decor did a feature on Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor's home decorated by Roman & Williams. In a classic case of life imitating art, these guys became sought after designers after doing set design in Hollywood - they were so good, celebrities started hiring them to do their homes. They landed some commercial contracts, and the rest is history.
stiller living room
I absolutely loved this spread and I haven't stopped thinking about it since, so I went online to look for some photos to post. These came up on a lovely and intriguing blog called So Haute - along with some other photos of Roman & Williams' work. Check it out here. The world of design blogs is still relatively new to me, having been wrapped up in the food blog world for so long, and this one looks like a very worthwhile discovery indeed. I especially love that it's not snotty, like so many decorating blogs seem to be (not that that doesn't have its place too) and I am especially amused that she thinks she's late to the Eddie Ross party. If she is, then I almost missed it entirely!
I just love the dark walls, eclectic mix of furniture and wood beam ceilings. And that ladder bookcase really gets my motor running. It's almost hard to believe it was decorated, since it looks so lived in and personal - but I guess that's the magic of hiring a set designer!
stiller living room2

photos via So Haute

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tortoise on Abbott Kinney in LA

Tortoise on Abbott Kinney in Venice Beach
I stumbled across this little shop recently when I was in LA for a girls getaway with a good friend. Tortoise stocks Japanese crafts and housewares - glassware, textiles, kitchen items, jewelry, garden decor, games, cards and paper, finely crafted wooden and ceramic vessels and small furniture items. Everything is carefully curated and artfully displayed, and you just get that lucky feeling - like you're seeing things you're not likely to see anywhere else - and let's face it, how often can you really say that these days?
Japanese Textiles at Tortoise on Abbott-Kinney in Venice Beach
I loved these Japanese textiles. They're multi-purpose squares of cloth called tenugui that were traditionally used as scarves or headwraps, but can also serve as napkins, bread basket liners, table decor, kitchen towels... you name it. I contemplated them as napkins - but the $12. pricetag was a bit of an obstacle since I wanted one of each.
Tortoise on Abbott Kinney in Venice Beach
Their online store doesn't provide quite the same experience as the shop, but if you've been there before, or need to shop for a gift from afar, it's good to know it's there. They also do the most amazing gift wrapping, with a beautiful handcrafted paper overlay with stamping and a ribbon.

1342 1/2 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Open Wed-Sun 12-6

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fanny at Chez Panisse


This is one of the cutest cookbooks out there for kids, with gorgeous illustrations and a nice little history of the restaurant, Chez Panisse. Take a peek!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A visit to Martha Stewart Everyday in NYC

In the Martha Stewart Everyday Test Kitchen

An unexpected highlight of the recent trip to NYC, was a visit to the offices of Martha Stewart Everyday Food with Amy Sherman, of Cooking with Amy. We went to meet Deb Puchalla, the Editor in Chief of Everyday Food, a lovely woman with whom we both correspond on Twitter. We also met up with Eddie Ross - a designer and stylist who works at Martha Stewart and was a contestant on the recent season of Top Design. I wrote a little bit about Eddie's recent feature in Domino here on my style blog. (I'm actually doing Nablopomo over there too, posting info on local boutiques, artists, designers, home ideas and fashion picks every day, so please check it out if you get a chance!)
In the Martha Stewart Everyday Test Kitchen

Deb took us on a tour of the offices, which are actually about to move soon to a location further downtown. This Midtown location was originally the offices of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, in fact Martha's office is still in the building. We walked by it but of course she wasn't in. The offices are decorated in a style very much in keeping with Martha's aesthetic - simple with lots of white, pale "Martha green" and stainless steel. This kitchen - now the test kitchen for Everyday Food - used to be the test kitchen for Martha Stewart Living. It looks the way you'd want your dream apartment kitchen to look - galley style, with long stainless steel tables down the center, a huge gas range, steel front refrigerator, deep stainless sink, and cookbooks everywhere - shelves upon shelves.
Cookbooks in the Martha Stewart Everyday Test Kitchen

Also everywhere, not in the kitchen but on the office walls, were the magazine layouts - pasted up for everyone to review. We saw the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas issues of Martha Stewart Everyday and Martha Stewart Living. Thing is, they weren't THIS year's layouts, but NEXT year's. Everything in this business is done a year ahead because of the printing and publishing schedules and because everything has to be tested in season when the ingredients are available. Ever try to buy squash or pumpkins in April? Good luck.
In the Martha Stewart Everyday Test Kitchens

I also made a new discovery. After seeing it pasted up on the wall, I ordered a subscription to the new Martha Stewart magazine "Body+Soul" - it's full of healthy recipes made with whole foods, tips for green living and relaxation, and the photography and layouts just looked really cool. I'm looking forward to checking it out. I also told Deb that I really miss Blueprint. (I was always intrigued by this skirt - held together by one button, and made by tracing an oatmeal can on ultrasuede, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't look anything like that picture on me!)

It was a real pleasure to meet Deb, and just like the Gourmet Institute, the visit to the offices just made it that much more fun to read the magazines. I also really appreciate the fact that they have me on the sidebar of their Dinner Tonight blog - it's a great source for fast, easy recipes and time saving tips just like the magazine. You can also check out their webpage here for newsletters and more recipes, and order a subscription to the print magazine here!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday Supper 11.9.08 - Perfect Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken with Green Salad, Dressing and Cranberries

Sunday Supper 11.9.08

Knight Salumi's Hungarian Salami
Spring Hill Farms' Goat Sage Cheddar
Melted Humboldt Fog
Fig Jam and Bread and Cie Levain

Roast Chicken
Jora's Dressing with Apples and Cranberries
Sage Mountain Greens with Herbed Parmesan Vinaigrette
Cranberry Relish

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

It's always nice to be able to cross accomplishments off your list, and thanks to Judy Rodgers and her recipe for Zuni Chicken with Bread Salad, I can happily say that I've got roast chicken nailed. Her quick and easy method comes out perfect - crisp, juicy and delicious - every single time.
Sunday Supper 11.9.08
There are two secrets - salting the bird in advance (which does mean you have to plan ahead a little bit) and flipping it over at the appropriate point in the cooking to keep the breast meat moist. Judy Rodgers insists that smaller birds cook better, but I don't really think it makes much difference if you reduce the heat a bit. We enjoyed this one last night for Sunday Supper at Jora's house, accompanied by a green salad with a homemade vinaigrette dressing and cranberries - with homemade pumpkin pie for dessert.

Jora's salad dressing was amazingly delicious, and I can't wait to get the recipe. She's promised to share it and her pumpkin pie on her blog sometime today or tomorrow. When she does, I'll update this post with links.
Pumpkin Pie and Port
Jora's pumpkin pie was lovely - perfectly spiced and not too sweet. She asked me to leave the whipped cream unsweetened, and she was right - it really doesn't need a thing.
Pumpkin Pie
I also just have to include this gratuitous shot of Jora's adorable baby girl - "Baby J" - wielding a chicken leg. C-Man was also in attendance, sitting just to her left at the table with the Big People. They really are some cute kids. Without further ado, here is the chicken recipe.
Baby J at Sunday Supper
Perfect Roast Chicken
based on Judy Rodgers' method in the Zuni Cookbook

1 organic chicken, around 4-5 pounds or smaller if you can find it.
2 Tablespoons of kosher salt (it's important that it is kosher) in a small dish (since you'll be dipping your fingers back in it after touching the raw chicken.)
a few sprigs of thyme and/or sage leaves (optional)

paper towels
a plate
a half sheet pan

Rinse and dry the chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Fold some towels and place on a plate, setting the dry chicken on the towels. Slip your fingers underneath the breast skin to loosen it, and and liberally rub salt under the skin directly on the meat. Liberally rub the inside of the chicken and outside of the skin with salt, patting the outside to encourage it to sink into the skin a bit. Slit the tops of the legs and slide your fingers under the skin to rub salt on the legs and thighs under the skin. If you're using them, slide three or four stalks of the herbs gently under the breast skin, and put a few inside.

Place the dry, salted chicken UNCOVERED on its plate (with paper towels) in the refrigerator, giving it a little bit of breathing room. This will keep the skin dry - which is what you want in order to get it crisp & golden. The chicken should dry brine in the refrigerator for at least five or six hours. Take it out of the refrigerator for the last hour two to allow it to come to room temperature (this helps prevent sticking.)

About an hour and a half to two hours before you want to serve it, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Just a few minutes before you put the chicken in, place a half sheet pan in the oven to heat.

When the oven and the pan are hot - take the chicken and pat it dry one last time - then set it directly on the hot pan - it will sizzle loudly.

Roast it for about 30 for a small bird, or 40 minutes for a larger one - until it's nice and brown. If it seems to be burning or smoking - reduce the heat. (If you're using smaller chickens, you can actually turn it up to 450 to speed the cooking a bit.)

Pull the pan out and gently loosen the bird from the pan and flip it over with tongs - setting it breast side down. Cook for another 20 minutes or so. Then pull it out and flip it back over. Set it back the oven and cook for about 10 more minutes, until the breast skin re-crisps and it's a nice lacquered golden brown all over. You'll hear it sizzling and spitting in the pan. If you have a probe thermometer and want to check it for doneness, it should be at or above 165.

Let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes after it comes out of the oven before carving - it will become more tender and finish cooking a bit outside the oven.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Japanese Baths

One of my most cherished fantasies is that I will one day have a Japanese bath in my home. I already have the spot in the yard picked for the garden, and it just so happens that our master bathroom, which is in desperate need of remodeling - opens onto that side of the house. So maybe someday, something like this will be a possibility...
japanese bath i.
japanese ofuro tub 1.
I'd also be ok with one of these out in the garden itself... Really, it wouldn't matter...
The most important elements are hot water you can get into up to your neck, and a view of nature (or at least natural light) while you're soaking. A garden to cool off and meditate in afterwards is nice too.
bath woodblock
Beautiful Japanese baths are available for day use at:
Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe
Kabuki Hot Springs in San Francisco
Esalen in Big Sur (Their signature massage is worth the trip in and of itself.)
Tassajara Zen Center near Monterey also has Japanese baths, and is re-opening for guests in April, 2009. More info is on their website under the "Guest Season" tab

Photos via Zimbio, Dufarelli, Kyoto Guest Houses and Konyoku.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes we did!

Shepard Fairey Progress poster

Poster art by Shepard Fairey

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Lisa Ruyter

ruyter trees ii

When I started thinking about posting about art on this blog, Lisa Ruyter was one of the first artists who came to mind. Except, I couldn't remember her name. I've developed this thing as I've gotten a little bit older where information sort of burbles to the surface of my brain slowly like the answer in a Magic 8 ball. This week, after much stewing and many incorrect guesses, the name Lisa Ruyter just popped into my head out of nowhere. I ran to the computer to do a Google search, and lo and behold...
ruyter paris

I first noticed her work when I flipped through an issue of Elle Decor and saw one of her paintings hanging on a wall. I liked the simple lines and the juxtaposition of the bright poppy colors with the organic, detailed subject, which was a stand of trees much like this one:
ruyter dark waters

It just struck me as totally original, and my little lizard brain said "want." Well, of course Ms. Ruyter is a very famous and successful artist, so this is probably as close to owning one of her works as I will ever get, but that doesn't stop me from admiring them or sharing them with you. I hope you like them.
ruyter trees

All photos via Lisa Ruyter's website - where galleries of her work can be viewed. More here (for sale) on

Friday, October 31, 2008

Miscellany - Updates on Starlite, Urban Solace, Jayne's and A.R. Valentien

The Lindbergh at Starlite

Happy Halloween! The radio show yesterday was a lot of fun, and the podcast should be up here soon if you want to listen!

The cocktail pictured above is a "Lindbergh," which I very much enjoyed at the Urban Slow Food Mixer at Starlite on Wednesday night. This was the kickoff event for the new urban offshoot of Slow Food San Diego, which will serve San Diego's urban communities. The organizers of this group are extremely dedicated, and I am impressed with the energetic response they're receiving. I think this is going to be a very good thing.
Dominick and Kate at the Starlite Urban Mixer

Starlite really makes some fabulous cocktails. The Lindbergh is a martini of Plymouth Gin, lemon juice and housemade maraschino cherries, with the juice from the cherries mixed in, and yes, it tasted as good as it sounds. A little bit later I also tried a "Pink Dragon" - a delicious concoction of Plymouth Gin, and pureed dragon fruit with housemade ginger syrup. The Kentucky Colonel is another favorite - made with bourbon and housemade cherry vanilla bitters and served in one of their huge copper mugs.

I've also been loving their food lately - how can you not, when they're committed to supporting local farms and sustainable practices - and nothing on the menu is over $20.00? Preparations of simple dishes like mussels and jidori chicken are creative and well executed, the burger is excellent, the charcuterie plate is one of the best in town, and the fritto misto is always fascinating. Last nights' included fried pickles and "meat stuffed olives" along with the more traditional mushrooms and onions.

I've also had some very good meals recently at Jayne's and Urban Solace. It had been a while since I'd been to either - I stopped in at Urban Solace a few weeks ago for lunch, and had dinner at Jayne's Gastropub just this week. At Urban Solace I had the watermelon salad, which is now probably (sadly) off the menu, since the watermelon and tomato seasons are over, and the duckaroni - their macaroni and cheese with duck confit. The small side portion was perfect for lunch. It was rich and complex and the browned breadcrumbs on top were a nice touch. The pulled pork sandwich my friend ordered was excellent too.
Steak Frites at Jaynes

I went to Jayne's this week with three friends for a girls' night out, and thought the food was better than ever. We started with the Caesar salad and the Gambas a Ajillo. I've tried them before and they were as good as I remembered. For entrees, we ordered the burger, the duck breast, seared albacore, and steak frites. I tried them all, and each dish was wonderful. The albacore and the duck were truly fine dining quality. The balance of flavors on the albacore was especially nice - with the tomato coulis and the cucumber relish. The burger and the steak frites were also perfectly prepared - medium rare for the steak and the burger, and crisp for the frites - which is all you can ask. We split a half bottle of rose champagne four ways - Besserat De Bellefon Brut Rose - which we all absolutely loved, and Jora ordered a glass of Chateau de Pampelonne Rose -which Krista and I liked so much we each ordered one for ourselves.
Jeff Jackson, Chef at A.R. Valentien

Last but not least, Jeff Jackson, the chef at A.R. Valentien at the Torrey Pines Lodge was the guest for the first half of the radio show yesterday, and he had some interesting things to say about changes at A.R. Valentien, and Celebrate the Craft coming up this weekend at the Lodge.

At the restaurant, they have changed the format of the menu to small plates, with nothing over $21.00. Portions are slightly smaller (which probably isn't such a bad thing) but the dishes will still be fully composed, something like what Chris Walsh is doing at Bite.

Celebrate the Craft runs throughout the weekend, with a Plein Air art auction and dinner on Saturday, and a "picnic" on Sunday on the vast lawn behind the hotel. It is a beautiful setting, and there should be some amazing food - chefs of all of the best sustainable restaurants in town will be there, including Jason Knibb of 910, Anthony Friscia of Stingaree, Christian Graves of JSix, and James Foran, the pastry chef at Market who I took classes from at Grossmont. Rather than preparing dishes from the restaurant, Jeff has paired each of these chefs with a producer to come up with a dish they will serve together. It promises to be a unique event and I am sure it will be well worth the $65.00 ticket price. More information and tickets are available on their website. If you go, perhaps I will see you there!

p.s. - Genie over at The Inadvertent Gardener was in San Diego last week, and checked out the Linkery. I'm so glad she liked it!