Thursday, December 29, 2005 

Bar basics: Stocking up for the party

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With many parties going on this weekend, this article tells you what you need to have on hand for a great cocktail party.

Categories are broken down into Liquor, Equipment, Garnishes and Mixers and Condiments.

Here's the liquor list, for the others, you'll have to visit the article...


Blended whiskey
Dry vermouth
Sweet vermouth
Other schnapps, liqueurs and brandies such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Sour Apple Pucker, etc.

What's in your bar?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005 

Maine woman's whoopie pies made a whopping business

By Glenn Adams, Associated Press

RICHMOND, Maine -- Just more than a decade ago, Amy Bouchard drew on her love for baking to create a business in her kitchen making whoopie pies. In those days, she would crank out three at a time.

Now, she churns out 5,000 to 7,000 of the sweet Wicked Whoopies each day, shipping them all over the country and beyond.

The business has outgrown its bakery in a converted fishing goods shop and will double in size when it moves to a new site in January.

The business was born and christened Isamax (IZE-uh-max), from a mixture of her two children's names, Isabella, now 13, and Maxx, 19.

Isamax Web Site

I'm seriously considering purchasing a dozen of the Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies....

Friday, December 23, 2005 

Rib roasts - beef, pork, lamb - are a cut above

Karen Fernau
The Arizona Republic

1) Prime rib

To cook, preheat the oven to 550 degrees. Cover the roast and cook for 15 minutes to seal in the juices and flavor. Reduce cooking temperature to 350 degrees and cook the roast about 25 to 30 minutes a pound.

Remove the cover for the last 15 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to test the roast for how you prefer to serve it. Rare is 120-130 degrees on a meat thermometer; medium-rare is 130-140 degrees.

2) Rack of lamb

To cook, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, heat a large, deep pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Lightly coat with olive oil and sear the lamb on all sides. Remove and place in roasting pan and cook in the oven for eight to 12 minutes, or until slightly less than the desired degree of doneness.

3) Crown roast of pork

To cook a crown roast, place an empty, clean can with paper removed in the middle of the roast. The can acts as a "chimney" and helps preserve the shape of the roast. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place roast in the center of a roasting tray or roasting rack. Roast pork about 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours, or until pork has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.

For each of these, you want to allow the meat to "rest" before cutting and serving.

You'll also see that we have a new look here...hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, December 22, 2005 

If It's Holiday Time, It Must Be Eel Season!

By Frank J Prial, NY Times MUST be Eel season...

That's the first thing I think of when I consider this time of year.

Don't you?
Holiday time is eel time," said Mr. Sloup, who sells his catch to wholesalers, individual markets and restaurants in Chinatown.

"Eels are a traditional dish around now, especially among Italians. Then, at the end of January is the Chinese New Year. The Chinese love eels. So do the Koreans and the Vietnamese, and that market is exploding in New York."

David Pasternack, the chef and an owner of the seafood restaurant Esca, agreed.

"Eels are excellent right now, and they are popular," said Mr. Pasternack, who added that he likes to fry eels and serve them with a little tomato and chili. "In fact, with the Asian market growing all the time, it's getting harder and harder to find them."

The article goes on to tell of some the history of catching eels and using them for food in cultures around the world and locally in NY.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 

Turkey - Aussie style

By Steve Manfredi,
Sydney Morning Herald

Maintaining the succulent breast is paramount and, really, there is no way around it unless you separate dark meat from light. In fact, the legs can be roasted one or two days before, then stripped for the salad. All that's left to do is stuff the breast and roast it off the bone in just over an hour on Christmas morning.

Turkey is good with
Butter; olive oil; garlic; lemon; thyme; parsley; rosemary; sage; coriander; fennel; cumin; paprika; bacon; prosciutto; onion; celery; carrot; potatoes; walnuts; pine nuts; chestnuts; almonds; mushrooms; truffles; peas; beans; mustard; olives; anchovies; capers; wine.
A couple of nice recipes follow...

Monday, December 19, 2005 

Spices of the Season

Baltimore Sun reporter

This article has a look at the spices we most commonly associate with this time of year:


Allspice comes from the dried, unripened fruit of a small evergreen tree in the Carribbean and has a flavor suggesting a blend of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. It was exported to Europe in the early 1600s as a substitution for cardamom. It is used in seasonings, sauces, sausages, ketchup, jams, pumpkin, gravies, roasts, hams, baked goods and teas.

Cinnamon comes from the dried inner bark of various evergreen trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamomum burmannii is primarily imported from Indonesia and is the most common form of cinnamon in the United States. Vietnam is the source for Cinnamomum loureirii, sometimes called Saigon cinnamon. Cinnamomum zeylanicum, grown in Sri Lanka, is actually "true cinnamon."

Cloves are the dried, unopened, nail-shaped flower buds of the evergreen Syzygium aromaticum. Indonesia is the largest producer of cloves, although those of Madagascar are considered superior. Cloves were extremely costly in the past and wars were fought to secure exclusive rights to the profitable clove business.

Ginger is the dried knobby-shaped root of the perennial herb Zingiber officinale. The plant grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Once the leaves of the plant die, the thick roots, about 6 inches long, are dug up. China and India are the principal sources of ginger. During the 15th century, gingerbread became a gift of love and respect.

Nutmeg is the seed of the fruit that grows on the tree Myristica fragans. Nutmeg blends well with other spices and is found in the ethnic cuisines of Italy, the Caribbean, France, India, Germany, Scandinavia, Greece, Latin America and the Middle East.

Friday, December 16, 2005 

Holiday Match-Making

By Paul Gregutt - Seattle Times

An interesting look at putting together food/wine combinations:

I take a practical approach to wine and food pairing, especially during the holidays.

First, I look for opportunities to pull out special wines — Champagne for starters, richer white wines for opening courses, older red wines for main courses and something decadent and sweet with dessert.

Second, I try to include as many different wines as possible. A half bottle per wine-drinking guest is a good starting point, but as long as no one feels pressured to finish every glass or empty every bottle, it's fine to up that to a bottle per person. Have a dump bucket placed conveniently nearby, and let guests know it's perfectly all right to use it. And remember that in any mixed group, there will be some who really don't like white wines and some who really can't drink red, so you'll want to offer a bottle or two of each.

He then goes through suggestions for various types of food, such as:


Recommended: A Spanish cava from a value producer such as Codorníu or Freixenet.


Recommended: Cermeño Tinto 2004; $11. For spicy meat dishes, this Spanish red's bright, spicy fruit will work well.


Recommended: Pedroncelli 2004 "East Side Vineyards" Sauvignon Blanc; $10. This new release is a knockout, ripe and juicy with pineapple/grapefruit flavors.


Recommended: Duck Pond 2003 Chardonnay; $9. Soft and tropical, this barrel-fermented Columbia Valley wine will be just right with light cream sauces.


Recommended: Alice White 2005 Shiraz; $7. The best of the Alice White wines, its lightly sweet, fresh and plummy fruit flavors will handle sweet fruit or tomato sauces, barbecue or pizza.

There are further explanations/descriptions of each category in the article...

Thursday, December 15, 2005 

Boston's tea party

On the anniversary of that other tea party, local sippers enjoy a variety of tea traditions

By Lise Stern, Boston Globe

The article lists out four places in Boston where you can have the tea "experience", each one a little bit different.

At one of them, you can be led in a tea tasting...where the host will have you sample various brews, and give you background on the harvesting, history and preparation of each one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 

Holiday dishes from the '50s, '60s enjoy resurgence

Party mix and cheese balls: kitsch or classic?

By Nancy Stohs

Two holiday classics from the midcentury era — Crown Jewel Dessert (also known as Broken Window Glass Cake) and Green Bean Casserole — turn 50 this year.

The sparkly dessert from Jell-O features cubes of green, orange and red gelatin, stirred into a mixture of syrupy red gelatin and whipped topping before being chilled again for serving in squares with more whipped topping.

The green bean bake is notable for its simplicity: green beans, mushroom soup, milk, pepper, french-fried onions. (The Campbell's recipe adds soy sauce.) You can find it on every can of French's french fried onions, or go to for the original recipe and variations.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005 

Come fry with me

Fritto misto, the crisp and golden 'mixed fry' that's an Italian staple, is popping up at restaurants all over L.A. -- and it's perfect for a cocktail party.

By Donna Deane, Times Staff Writer

Maybe you love perfect thin-sliced onion rings, those seriously flavored, crisp-coated tangles. Maybe you're a tempura fan, delighting in the tender, buttery texture of a thin, lightly fried slice of winter squash in its delicate golden brown wrapping.
Some tips on preparing:
  • Cut vegetables and seafood into pieces small enough to cook through completely without burning on the outside.
  • Heat the oil while you're preparing the ingredients. Dip them in milk or buttermilk, then flour or semolina or bread crumbs. Arrange the dredged vegetables and seafood on a tray so they are ready for frying.
  • A countertop fryer is a wonderful tool and the easiest route. Its thermostatic control maintains the temperature of the oil throughout the frying process.
  • Peanut oil is one of the best oils to use for frying because of its high smoke point. Pure olive oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil and corn oil are also good choices.
  • Cook similarly sized pieces that will have similar cooking times in the same batch. Add just a few items at a time to the hot oil. Don't overload the fryer.

Monday, December 12, 2005 

When the mature bird proves to be much more attractive

By Jill Dupliex, London Times.

It's certainly not too early to be planning your next Turkey dinner. This article in the Times of London starts you today (Last Friday actually) and takes you day-by-day, hour-by-hour through the selection and preparation of your turkey, along with stuffing and gravy/stocks. There is also a recipe for Roast turkey with bacon.

When selecting your Turkey, they offer this advice:
Order your turkey. Make it a good one. It’s worth going beyond the supermarket chiller cabinet to find superior eating quality and real old-fashioned flavour in a slowly reared, mature bird raised in low-intensity, free-range conditions, hung for around two weeks, and sold fresh, not frozen.

Thursday, December 08, 2005 

Shortcuts to a Latino Christmas

San Francisco Chronicle, by Jacqueline Higuera McMahon

For another view of traditions for this time of year...
I cannot write about the holidays without longing for all the dishes that my mother, grandmother and company prepared year after year. No one could imagine a Christmas without the red enchiladas, huge tamales filled with chile colorado and olives, and the empanadas from Grandmama's Chilean part of the family.

Some good recipes follow...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005 

Cookie master: Five easy steps to holiday-baking perfection

By Linda G. Kincaid
Boston Herald

Sure, you'd like to bake some cookies for that party later this month, but you just know that you're not going to have the time to make them that day with everything else going on around you.

This article outlines some steps you can take in advance so that you can easily have those fresh cookies for that occasion. There are even several recipes included.

Here are the steps listed, they are of course, fleshed out in detail in the article.

Step 1: PLAN
Step 2: MIX
Step 4: BAKE
Step 5: FINISH

Tuesday, December 06, 2005 

A Life in the Culinary Front Lines

R.W. Apple, Jr had a terrific article last week on long time New York Herald Tribune food writer Clementine Paddleford, who wrote for the paper from 1936-1966 and in many ways was very much ahead of her time. She also wrote for Gourmet magazine.

Although she disliked cooking for herself, she produced competent steaks, pastas, curries and peach Melba (a personal favorite). But she never personally tested recipes for her columns or books, leaving that to the Trib's ninth-floor test kitchen.

Her thing was describing foods and their flavors. She once famously spoke of "a tiny radish of passionate scarlet, tipped modestly in white." She rejoiced in the harvest-time "scent of apples down orchard lanes, a drowsy winy scent permeating the country cellar, spreading across the market place." And when she traveled to Fulton, Mo., in 1946 for Winston Churchill's famous Iron Curtain speech, she wrote that the great man was served a soufflé that arrived in front of him "with a rapturous, half-hushed sigh as it settled softly to melt and vanish in a moment like smoke or a dream."

Ms Paddleford passed away in 1967.

Monday, December 05, 2005 

How long can meat be safely frozen?

That and other questions surrounding the freezing of meat are addressed in this archived post over on the excellent Cooking for Engineers blog, a site I've been meaning to give a proper mention of here in addition to the sidebar link on the blog here.

Michael discusses the following aspects of freezing meat in this post:

Freezing Duration

Freezer Burn

Packaging Meat For Freezing


There are some good tips and ideas in the comments section as well.

Overall, this is a thinking man's food blog. Great analysis of techniques and recipes, as well as outstanding photography of the process.

Friday, December 02, 2005 

Deveining Shrimp

Technique of the week

  • Grasp the shrimp's legs securely, and peel away the shell. Shrimp are often eaten by hand, so leave the tail and the last section of shell as a handle for diners.
  • With a sharp paring knife, slice down the center of the shrimp's back to reach the intestinal vein.
  • Lift out the vein with the tip of your knife. Now rinse the shrimp and pat it dry, and you're ready to cook.
  • Pile cream cheese and spinach souffle onto crackers, and top with shrimp. Open the wine, and you're ready to party.
  • Most of the shrimp sold in our market have been frozen and some are thawed for sale. Other shrimp are sold IQF -- individually quick frozen.

Thursday, December 01, 2005 

A bowl of Mexican soup

The origins of tortilla soup may be a mystery, but its intriguing flavor has long made it a California favorite.

By Barbara Hansen, Times Staff Writer
Classic tortilla soup, the way you'd find it in Mexico City, is simply good chicken broth combined with roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, chiles and tortillas, cut into strips and fried. It's wonderfully satisfying, "a sort of soul food soup," as Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy puts it.

In California, it's often made with a tomato base thickened with ground tortillas, but there are variations, such as a bean soup enriched with crunchy strips of fried tortillas.

"To be really authentic, the soup should have only a little white onion, raw not cooked, blended with roasted tomato," says Kennedy, speaking from her home near Zitácuaro in the state of Michoacán.