Two years ago we managed to turn a soft pretzel surplus into a delicious Thanksgiving stuffing. Diced up philly pretzels tossed with mustard, sausage, and sautéed vegetables made for a really unique side that still gets talked about today. So this year, when I started to think about new stuffing options, I thought back to one of my favorite substitutes from the past. Farro, an amazingly hearty grain acted perfect in faux risotto. How about for a stuffing?
Really damn delicious it turns out! Playing off the earthiness of the grain I sautéed shitakes, cremini’s and re-hydrated Asian dried wood eared mushrooms. The trifecta was accompanied by celery, garlic and kale and honestly was everything I love about a stuffing. It was just missing some delicious gravy!
As for the recipe, I’m gonna leave this one open-ended for you. The basics for a stuffing are that stale or toasted bread cubes (in this case I used two cups of cooked farro) tossed with your sautéed ingredients, broth and whisked eggs, and baked until golden brown. A stuffing or if you really want to be technical, a dressing (baked outside of the bird) is a savory bread pudding when you think about it. And a delicious one at that!
So now we have the sprouts, the stuffing, and the cranberry sauce…think its time for some mashed potatoes!
When I was in Chicago back in November, I ate at Vermillion. Maneet Chauhan, the executive chef, and recent contestant on Food Network’s Next Iron Chef, has created a menu that creatively blends the flavors of India with some serious Latin influence. The outcome is a fun and familiar menu complete with awesome cocktails and flavor packed food.
I think the model makes a lot of sense for us cooking back in our own kitchens. Whatever cuisine we didn’t grow up with our mothers and grandmothers cooking has always fallen into the big bucket of ethnic food. The outcome can be a bit intimidating. Because whether you’ve whipped up a batch of fried rice or attempted a vindaloo, you know how hard it can be to nail the flavors and textures spot on. But at the end of the day, who cares? Why not make your version or your combination that works for you. Because the wonderful spices and flavors of certain cuisines are a great way to get started when your sick of the same old.
This curry is a really good example of just that! I had the idea to make a fish curry studded with roasted potatoes and spinach but as usual I didn’t know which direction I would take it in. Coconut Thai curry? Japanese style curry? Indian curry? They all sounded good! So with out much consideration for what I would label the dish, and a focus on technique and texture, my curry came out unbelievable. In fact, it might be my favorite thing I’ve ever made (seems ridiculous, I know, but at least top 5).
One piece of advice I’ve taken to heart is to cook your spices. What I mean is to actually add the spices directly to your cooking oil prior to adding any vegetables or other ingredients. The outcome is toasty and bold. In this case I started with a little olive oil, garlic, ginger, paprika, cumin, cardamom, curry powder, cinnamon, and cayenne. This base line of flavor came through to the last bite as the onions, tomatoes, spinach, lime juice, and yogurt soaked up all of this additional flavor.
And even with all of those strong flavor components, the fish in this dish really did shine through. A quick last minute addition of rock shrimp and calamari were delicious but the star of the show was the mackerel; pan seared skin side down to develop some crispiness and then finished cooking immersed in that beautiful sauce. With some simply roasted potatoes for a bit of starch, I don’t know how to label this one, other than awesome! But you would order awesome curry on a menu. Wouldn’t you?
One of the main reasons I was excited to get home from all the travel, was the prospect of working on the “hotel food re-do”. And I was thrilled to see that Turkey Club was in the lead as it is a pretty standard go-to order of mine! But when I took a look when I got back in town, a late surge by the Chicken Caesar Salad created a deadlock in the voting (nice drama huh?). So I guess the final vote was mine…and well, I chose both!
Simply put: the first of my re-do’s has set a pretty high bar for the turkey club! Because this Chicken Caesar Soup was not only delicious, it was extremely easy to make. And what a cool experience to slurp on that first spoon full and be instantly reminded of the classic, crisp salad. With familiar flavors and ingredients, I urge you to try this one on your own. And with an easy to follow recipe card (see attachment), I hope you will!
Starting off with a base of anchovies and onions gave this soup the perfect background flavors of your favorite caesar dressing. Homemade chicken stock and roasted chicken meat only add to the depth and are rounded out perfectly by the parmesan, egg yolks, and a dash of worcesterhire! With kale soaking in the flavors of the broth in place of the classic romaine, you will find yourself falling in love with this re-invented classic! Enjoy!
What is it about horse racing, particularly the Kentucky Derby, that manages to get the majority of people so passionate for two minutes of competition? Well there’s the gambling, the emotional stories, and the breath-taking excitement but you can get that elsewhere. So what else could it be? If you ask me….Silly hats and liquor!
Cooking for a Kentucky Derby party gave me some conciliation for my horse, Line of David, surging out to the second position only to fall back (out of camera view) by the half way point. Let’s just say I’m a better cook than a gambler. And I’m becoming a pretty damn good bartender as well.
Mint Juleps are a given, but for those a bit timid of the bourbon, I put together some grapefruit Margaritas that are just enough tart, and just enough strong. Even those who avoid tequila, due to taste or due to memories, can’t help but enjoy this drink. But with all this liquor flowing, there better have been some food.
Google “Kentucky Foods” and you won’t be thrilled with what you find. KFC and Hot Browns aren’t exactly party impressive so I decided to stick with a southern homestyle theme that worked just perfectly. I slow cooked these baby back ribs and finished them with a nice slathering of my homemade korean bbq sauce. Paired with some jalapeno and cheddar grits, a rustic mustard slaw, and blue cheese cornbread (the last two coming from the help of Nikki), this meal was a hit, for the gambling winners and losers.
Here’s to Silly Hats and Liquor!
No, this wasn’t a mustard tasting. This was just another reminder of how badly I needed to clean out the fridge. Call it spring cleaning if you’d like, but it’s been long over due. Luckily long gone are the days spent gasping at what was capable of growing on my leftovers and produce. I haven’t discovered some antimicrobial silver bullet, but I have stopped buying so many damn groceries. I used to stock the fridge with weekly shopping trips only to find myself trashing a bunch or forgetting what I had, and either way ending up with a bunch of boring dinners. Daily shopping trips may not be convenient for some but it keeps my spending and waste down and ensures my dinners have some creativity to them. This methodology hasn’t helped everything however… as there is never a need for four mostly empty bottles of mustard…
Along with my “spring” cleaning, I came to another realization: I have to start making my own breakfast. I’m generally out the door at 7:20 and unfortunately I’m just not that hungry then. But the amount of money I’ve been pumping into Dishes in Grand Central Station is a bit absurd. Oh yeah, and I hate anything overtly sweet during breakfast. Enter whole wheat cheddar cheese scones!
I’ve been wanting to make my own scones for a while now because I think they combine everything I love about a muffin and a biscuit; neither of which I’m all that into for an everyday breakfast. These scones are delicious with a bit of fruit preserves or even with just a little butter. The cheddar adds a bit of richness and some savory flavor but next time I’m definitely going to dial in a bit more flavor. Maybe a few diced up apples or even a bit of jalapeno. Either way, these are cheap and portable and the perfect solution to my breakfast concerns.
What about you? What do you fuel up on in the morning?