I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pork Blade Roast and Celery Root Puree

Hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season. Joe and I had a quiet but really nice Christmas day here in the city. We saw Pina (a lovely film tribute to Modern dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch), but mostly spent the day eating and drinking. Homemade cinnamon rolls, coffee, lox, bone marrow on toast, fried potatoes, dry-aged rib eye roast, Scotch, wine...pretty decadent day. Really the only thing that would have made the day better is the addition of family. Hate being so far from home around the holidays. I think the older I get the harder it becomes (plus I really hate watching all of those babies--of friends and family--grow up from afar. I want them to know who I am!).

This was not served in the midst of all of the food extravagance but would have made a nice meal for the day as well. Vegetable purees always seem to lend an elegant note to a meal, giving a "restaurant quality" touch. The brightness of the creamy celery root puree also helps to cut through the richness of the pork blade roast.

Pork Blade Roast

2 lb. tied pork blade roast (boneless)
2 t. herbs de Provence
1/2 t. fennel pollen
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 onion
1/4 c. dry vermouth
1/2 c. cream
2 TB butter

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix together the herbs de Provence, fennel pollen, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Rub this mixture all over the pork roast.
Cut the onion into 4 wedges and place them into a large dutch oven. Place the blade roast on top of these onions (using them as a "roasting rack"). Pour about 1/2 c. water into the bottom of the pot. Place the roast into the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Cook for about 20 minutes and then check on the roast--you want to make sure there is always a little bit of water in the bottom of the pot. Add a little more as necessary. You want to cook until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees (it should take about 50-55 minutes after turning down the oven temperature).
Remove the roast from the dutch oven and cover and set aside for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Remove and discard the onions. Place the dutch oven onto the stove top over medium-high heat. Add the vermouth and deglaze the pan. Then add the cream and allow to cook down for about 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the butter, remove from the heat and salt and pepper to taste. Serve drizzled over top of the sliced pork roast.

Celery Root Puree
5 small celery roots (about 3" in diameter)
2 small potatoes
1/4 onion, chopped
3 cloves peeled garlic
2 1/2 c. milk
4 c. water
salt and pepper
1 stick butter
1 t. lemon juice

Peel and chop the celery roots and potatoes. Place both into a large pot along with the onion, garlic, milk and water and a good shake of salt. Place on the stove top and bring to a boil. Cook until the celery root and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes or so. 
Once tender, drain off all of the liquid, then place the solids into a blender/food processor along with the stick of butter. Puree until smooth. Then add the lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Candy Making

For years now I have wanted to get together with a group of friends around the holidays and spend the whole day making candy. Every year, though, the season passes in a whirl of busy days and next thing I know the holiday has passed. This year a few girlfriends and I finally nailed down a date that we were all (relatively) free in the crazy weeks before Christmas and got down to business making candy.

We decided to each choose 2 recipes and bring the ingredients we would need for those. We also brought 3 copies of each of the recipes so we could all take them home. We ended up with mounds and mounds of lovely treats. Plus it was a great excuse to get together, chat, drink far too much coffee and prosecco (which, when combined with far too much sugar, causes some crazy reactions). For lunch we had a spread of cheeses, meats, crackers and tapenade.

The bounty:
Analisa Cookies (recipe below)
Pecan Clusters (recipe below)

Peanut Brittle
Apple Cider Caramels 
Oreo Truffles
Spiced Pecans
Christmas Biscotti

I had a wonderful time and am hoping that we can make this an annual tradition.

Analisa Cookies
(recipe from my friend Mary's family)
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. real butter
1 egg
2 tsp. almond extract
3 1/2 c. sifted flours
chopped slivered almonds

2 1/2 TB very soft butter (not melted)
1 1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 TB milk
1/2 t. almond extract

Cream together sugar and butter. Add egg and almond extract. Beat well. Stir in flour, mix well. Refrigerate overnight, or until dough is stiff.
Roll the dough out to 1/8" thickness (using flour when working the dough). Cut with two cookie cutters (one slightly larger than the other. You will want 1/2 slightly larger and 1/2 slightly smaller cookies). Place the larger cookies on ungreased cookie sheets and add a small amount of lingonberries to center. Put the smaller cookies on top and lightly seal the edges. Bake at 375 degrees until slightly brown, 5-8 minutes. Cool before frosting.
Mix the frosting ingredients together. Use to frost the cool cookies, then sprinkle with slivered almonds.

Pecan Clusters/Pecan Critters
(recipe also courtesy of Mary's family)
1 (11 1/2 oz) Pkg. chocolate chips
1/4 c. butter
1/8 t. salt
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
2 c. coarsely chopped pecans
pecan halves

Over medium heat melt chips and butter with sweetened condensed milk and salt. Remove from heat once melted and stir in nuts and vanilla. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper lined baking sheets. Top each one with 1 pecan half. Chill. Store tightly covered in a cool area.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Entertaining Meal Prep Tips

I am so very late on this post, but as there are other holiday entertaining opportunities to come, I figure it can't hurt to go ahead and post it. Plus, I redo this for myself every year so why not just put it down it a place I can come back to. So here are my steps to preparing Thanksgiving dinner (plus the recipe for the Cran-cherry Sauce and Garlic Roasted Mashed Sweet Potatoes and my favorite Roast Turkey).

Step 1: Menu Planning.
The first thing I always do when hosting a gathering is to decide what to serve. These days I usually have a few vegetarians in the mix so I need to make sure there is enough for everyone to eat. I gather up all of the recipes I will need into one place. This step also includes deciding what you would like to have others bring/contribute to the meal. This year I had one friend volunteer to make the desserts (3 unbelievable pies) and everyone else brought wine (lots and lots of wine).
Thanksgiving 2011 Menu
Roasted Peanuts
Chips and French Onion Dip
Maple Bourbon Pickles

Entrees and Sides
Fall Vegetable Patties (vegetarian option)
Green Bean Casserole
Spinach in Beurre Blanc
Grandma's Dinner Rolls
Mashed Potatoes
Garlic Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Cran-cherry Sauce

Eggnog Ice Cream

Step 2: Shopping Lists and Purchasing
Here I go through all the recipes I have compiled and list which ingredients I am going to need to pick up. This gives me the chance to go through the pantry and double check that I have all of the staples that I need as well.
I usually end up doing a couple of shopping trips to pick everything up. I start with drinks and non-perishables the week or so before the event, and buy the perishables about 4 or so days before.
There are certain items you need to think of even farther in advance--like the turkey or ham for the big holidays. I ordered my turkey this year towards the end of October/beginning of November from Brooklyn Victory Garden. They brought in turkeys from the local Oink and Gobble Farms.

Step 3: Set Cooking Plan and begin pre-preparations.
Next up I decide which items I can start cooking/prepare in the days before the event and which need to be done at the last minute. Here's what I cooked in the days leading up to Thanksgiving:
2 Days Before:
Make Cranberry Sauce
Make the ice cream base and refrigerate
Make turkey stock from turkey neck
Caramelize onions for dip

1 Day Before: 
Make dinner rolls
Make ice cream
Prep veggie patties
Boil potatoes and rice them
Roast sweet potatoes and mash
Make onion dip
Tie and rub/prepare turkey

Day of:
Cook turkey (once cooked allow to sit before carving and drain juices and separate to use for gravy)
Prep green bean casserole and cook
Set out serving wares
Set out appetizers/drinks

Last minute (the final prep before serving--this is a great time to learn how to delegate and ask for help from you guests!):
Reheat potatoes and mix with milk and butter
Reheat sweet potatoes and mix with milk and butter
Make beurre blanc and add spinach
Make gravy
Fry veggie patties

Step 4: Enjoy!
Don't forget to take the time to enjoy your own meal and your company. Proper planning before the event allows you that time. You can leave the dishes for later after the guests have gone.

Cran-cherry Sauce
1 package fresh or frozen cranberries (12 oz)
1 1/4 c. cherry juice
3/4 c. turbinado sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup
zest from 1 lemon
zest from 1 orange
1/2 stick of cinnamon
1/8 c. fresh squeezed orange juice

Mix together the cranberries, cherry juice, turbinado sugar, maple syrup, lemon and orange zest and the cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Heat on medium-high, bringing the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium to allow the sauce to simmer. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, remove the cinnamon stick, then stir in the orange juice. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Garlic Roasted Mashed Sweet Potatoes
sweet potatoes
whole garlic cloves
fresh sage leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper

milk/heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375.
Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into 1 1/2" cubes. Toss together with a few whole cloves of garlic, whole sage leaves, salt and pepper.
Spread the sweet potatoes, garlic and sage onto sheet pans in a single layer. Roast for about 45-60 minutes, tossing every so often, until the sweet potatoes are tender and slightly brown.
Once the potatoes are roasted, mash together with the garlic and sage and mix with milk or cream and butter. Add more salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

Roasted Turkey

This is how I've prepared my turkey for the past two years and it has turned out really juicy and delicious. The first thing I do is pull out the neck and giblets. A couple of days before Thanksgiving I use the neck and vegetables to make a turkey stock. I save the giblets for the gravy and use the liver to make a pate (great for  an appetizer or quick, simple dinner).

The day before Thanksgiving I mix together some room temperature butter with fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme), and maybe some minced garlic or fennel pollen. Then I lift the skin of the turkey and rub this mixture underneath, between the skin and meat, avoiding rubbing it on the outside of the skin. Then I salt and pepper the outside of the turkey well (sprinkling some salt and pepper into the cavity of the turkey as well). Then I place the turkey on the roasting rack in the roasting pan and put the whole thing into the refrigerator uncovered overnight (this helps to dry out the skin of the bird, making it extra crispy once roasted).

The next morning I get up and turn on the oven to 475 degrees. Once the oven is preheated I place the bird in for 20 minutes. Then I take about 1/2-3/4 c. of turkey stock and add it to the bottom of the roasting pan and turn down the oven temperature to 275 degrees. I will then allow the turkey to cook until the thigh meat reaches 160 degrees (this takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes per pound. Check the temperature often). 

While the turkey is cooking I heat up turkey stock in a saucepan to a boil, then add the giblets. I allow these to simmer for about 45 minutes, then remove the giblets.

When the turkey has reached temperature I pull the turkey out of the oven and use the roasting rack to tilt it up towards its side to allow the juices on the inside of the bird to drain out. Then I set the bird aside and cover. The juices I place into my pyrex measuring cup and allow the fat to separate from the juices. Once it separates I use a spoon to carefully take off the fat and place into a separate bowl. To make the gravy I will use some of this fat made into a roux with flour, then add the juices, then add the giblet soaked turkey stock to finish it off.

Once the turkey has rested for around 20-30 minutes it is time to carve and serve.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tortellini Soup

'Tis the season for colds and flu's....so therefore also the season for brothy soups. The husband was home sick from work yesterday so I wanted to make him something comforting and easy to eat, but I knew that I needed something that would be hearty enough to help me make it through a long Friday night at work. So I came up with this tortellini soup. It is so simple to put together, is flavorful without being overpowering, and is just as delicious for a weekday lunch or dinner as it is for a sick-day meal.

Tortellini Soup
2 TB olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
32 oz. chicken stock
2 1/2 c. water
8.8 oz. dried tortellini (I went with spinach and ricotta)
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender and translucent. The add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then add the carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and water to the pot and turn the heat up to high to bring the liquid to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook until tender, about 13-15 minutes. Salt and pepper the soup to taste and serve.