December 31, 2011

Best of 2011

I neglected my poor little food blog big time this year. I only posted 28 times all year...quite different from the 192 posts I published in 2008. But, I hereby vow to do better in 2012.

This past year was a rough one for me. My (new) marriage started falling apart last spring & by the fall, I was broken-hearted and divorced (again). Instead of cooking, I spent most of my time drowning in work, eating junk (aka comfort) food, crying, sleeping, or generally wallowing in self-pity. I just didn't have the physical, mental, or emotional energy to do much else, especially cook...and cooking an elaborate dinner for one just made me more depressed.

BUT...I'm moving forward now, looking ahead to better years, instead of dwelling on all my past mistakes and heartaches. To help the new year be a happier one, I've set a few goals:

1.  Cook one new thing each week - That was my inspiration when I started this food blog back in 2007. Cooking was my therapy then. I need to get back to that.

2.  Complain less - To help me focus on the positive things in my life, I'm going to keep a memories jar. I'll write down the good things that happen throughout the year and put them in the jar. At the end of the year, I'll read all my notes to remind myself how good my life really is.

3. Stop procrastinating - Recently, I was up until 2:30 am grading papers because I put them off too long. I will be better about getting work done in a timely matter this semester.

4.  Love bigger - I am lucky to have some wonderful people in my life (Corey! Stephanie! Sarah! Janice! Etc!). I will show my friends how much I appreciate them more this year and just be good to people in general.

* * * 

Despite my lack of cooking this year, I did make a few good dishes. Here are my favorites:

Best of 2011

December 29, 2011

Stovetop Shrimp Boil

I made a small, simple dinner for Christmas Eve.

 To begin, I boiled some tiny red potatoes in water seasoned with a Zatarain's Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab Boil packet. Beware: it's strong. It made me cough. A lot.

After the water came to a boil, I added chopped andouille sausage & corn on the cob.

After a few minutes, when the potatoes were tender & the corn was cooked, I added skin-on shrimp, turned off the heat & covered the pot for about 5 minutes, until the shrimp were cooked through.

I scooped everything into a serving dish & set it on the table with some lemon-garlic butter for dipping & big glasses of red wine.

It was a perfectly indulgent yet simply-prepared holiday meal.

December 27, 2011

Cereal Milk Panna Cotta

I recently bought myself the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook and just had to make something right away. I chose this recipe to serve at my new stove christening dinner party, after making osso buco and polenta with my friend Stephanie.

The milk tastes just like the cereal you steep it with. I chose two of my favorite childhood cereals, Golden Grahams & Cap'n Crunch. In the cookbook, pastry chef Christina Tosi recommends toasted cornflakes or Fruity Pebbles. I think Apple Jacks would be good, too.

The flavored milk can also be used in coffee or to make ice cream (Tosi's recipe calls for gelatin instead of eggs in the ice cream, so as not to mask the flavor of the milk). I chose the panna cotta recipe because it was pretty simple.

Cereal Milk Panna Cotta

November 20, 2011

Salted Caramel Sauce


This is my current obsession. I made some to drizzle over apple pie a couple weeks ago and have been eating it nearly every day ever since. I dip apple slices in it. I eat it by the spoonful. BY THE SPOONFUL. Seriously. It's THAT good.

So, go make some.

Salted Caramel Sauce
(aka CRACK) 
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon Kosher salt (or more to taste)

  • Put the sugar, water & corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir just to combine.
  • Heat over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber, 5-10 minutes.  (If it’s coloring unevenly, swirl the pan as needed to blend.) Lower the heat & slowly add the cream & butter. Stir to smooth & remove the pan from heat. 
  • Stir in the salt. Taste. Add more salt, if desired.
This sauce is ready to eat warm but also stores well in the refrigerator (just put into a covered container). It stays a soft, dip-able consistency...which makes it easy to eat BY THE SPOONFUL.

November 14, 2011

Spicy Ground Bison with Green Beans & Tofu

My oven has been fritzy for a while now; it either won't hold the heat or won't ignite at all. It's SO frustrating, especially when I planned to make things that need to be a savory butternut squash & sausage bread pudding or AN ENTIRE THANKSGIVING MEAL.

So, I decided this past Friday morning, sort of spur-of-the-moment, to just buy a new stove already, dammit. It will be delivered on Saturday. It's nothing fancy, but at least it will ACTUALLY COOK FOOD.

Until then, I'll be making strickly stovetop dinners: sauteed lentils with sausage, tilapia piccata with steamed broccoli, mushroom soup, & spiced rice with stir-fried pork (recipe to be posted soon).

I'd dog-eared the recipe below in this month's Food & Wine magazine, picked up some ground bison at Whole Foods this weekend, and made it for dinner tonight...with a few additions & substitutions. It was very easy to make and tasted really good, flavorful and just a tad spicy. I'd never eaten bison before, and I was a little leery about a possible gamey taste. There was none; in fact, I really couldn't even tell that it wasn't beef here.

 Spicy Ground Bison with Green Beans & Tofu
adapted from Food & Wine

November 11, 2011

Winter 2011-2012 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's winter schedule is now posted online. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.
Here are the newest classes that I am teaching:

GIRLS NIGHT OUT: HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU - Friday, January 20 @ 6:30-9:00 pm (demonstration)
  • This is my "anti-Valentine's Day" class. Whether you are in or out of a relationship, enjoy a laugh poking fun at romance! I'll offer a quirky take on love gone awry, as you sip on a bittersweet Campari and Prosecco cocktail. Then, I'll prepare garlic bread knots, grapefruit and fennel salad with parsley and mint, fresh pasta with salty and spicy puttanesca sauce, plus wine-soaked strawberries with black pepper and balsamic ice cream.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SALSA SALSA DINE AND DANCE - Saturday, Jan. 21 @ 6:00-9:00 pm (hands-on)
  • Grab your partner and join us for a unique experience of dancing and dining. The evening begins with a one-hour Latin salsa dance lesson with a dance instructor from COCA, that will spark your appetite for an incredible evening in the kitchen. Afterwards, refresh your thirst with a mojito, as you prepare fried plantain chips with black bean dip, grilled shrimp quesadillas with smoked tomato salsa, grilled pork tenderloin with papaya-mango salsa and yellow Cuban rice, plus banana cream pie.                          
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SUPER TAILGATE PARTY - Friday, January 27 @ 6:30-9:00 pm (hands-on)
  • Before football season comes to an end, learn to tackle a fun menu perfect for a tailgate party or Super Bowl Sunday. This class will create a refreshing lemon-ginger beer shandy cocktail, crispy cheddar coins with bacon jam, bratwurst burgers with sweet onion and grape relish, spicy kimchi slaw, plus chocolate chip cookie dough brownies.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: 1960'S COCKTAIL PARTY - Sunday, January 29 @ 5:00-7:30 pm (hands-on)
  • Inspired by Mad Men and the pop culture of the 1960's, this class will create modernized versions of vintage recipes for a divine cocktail party: Tom Collins cocktail, caramelized onion dip with winter white crudités (including cauliflower, endive, fennel and jicama), clams casino, Swedish meatballs with black currant dipping sauce, cheddar-gorgonzola cheese ball with bacon and smoky almonds, deviled ham canapés, plus mini dark chocolate bundt cakes with spiced rum glaze.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: THE BIG CHILL-I COOK-OFF - Sunday, February 19 @ 5:00-7:30 pm (hands-on)
  • Let the battle begin, as couples create and choose their favorite chili for a spirited evening of cooking, fun, and a little beer to wash it down. Learn to make roasted corn and jalapeño dip with fresh tortilla chips, Carolina pulled pork chili, Cincinnati chili with spaghetti, "real" Texas chili (without beans), and root beer sorbet.

October 24, 2011

Braised Korean Short Ribs

Hi there. Yep, I'm still around. Just been a little quiet lately...and fairly busy. Once again, my life has undergone a dramatic change. After only a year and a half of marriage, I am divorced...again. For the past 6 months, I've been trying to...well...I guess I've been trying to find happiness. For me, happiness wasn't in marriage, so I made the difficult & painful decision to end that marriage. 

I've finally gotten into the groove of solo living and have started cooking more regularly. Just last night I made an apple pie with salted caramel sauce that was probably the best pie I'd ever made. I got such comforting satisfaction from cooking again. I'll definitely get back into the kitchen soon, especially now that fall weather is finally here. 

Cooler temperatures always signify the beginning of comfort food season for me. And, I love it...soups, stews, casseroles, hearty pastas, braised meats...I love it all! 

This recipe, which I made earlier in the year for a cooking class I was teaching, is going to be one of my "go to" dishes this winter, for sure. Braising meat until it is fall-off-the-bone-tender usually takes several hours to achieve. However, with a pressure cooker, you can get the same result in a matter of minutes.  Braised short ribs take 6-7 hours on the stovetop but only 45 minutes in a pressure cooker.

I was a bit scared to use a pressure cooker at first; I had visions of the thing blowing up in my kitchen and boiled hot food straying everything. But, it was very easy and safe to use. You simply add your ingredients to the pot, seal the lid in place, cook on high until the pot is pressurized (a knob will pop up), lower the heat, then cook the prescribed amount of time. To release the pressure, you just set the pot in the sink and run cold water over the lid. In seconds, the pressure knob will go down and you can safely unlock the lid. I am a total pressure cooker convert.

You can also cook apple sauce in 10 minutes, chutneys in 20 minutes, whole artichokes in 15 minutes, dried/unsoaked beans in 30 minutes, pork shoulder in just over 1 hour, steamed veggies (including corn on the cob) & stewed greens in less than 5 minutes, steel cut oats in 11 minutes, & oxtail in 45 minutes. 

Braised Korean Shortribs

August 5, 2011

Fall 2011 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's fall schedule is now posted online. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online. 

Here are the upcoming classes that I am teaching:

HEIR AND A PARENT: WIZARDS IN THE KITCHEN - Sunday, September 18 @ 1:00-3:30 OR Sunday, October 16 @ 1:00-3:30 OR Sunday, November 6 @ 1:00-3:30 (hands-on)

  • Attention all Muggles! Experience the world of Harry Potter and make magic in the kitchen as I help you prepare delightful dishes described throughout the J.K. Rowling series, including The Three Broomsticks' butterbeer, ham-and-cheese pasties from the Hogwarts house-elves, Mrs. Weasley's potatoes with béchamel sauce, and Aunt Petunia's individual berry-pudding trifles. Before you apparate home, you'll make edible wands to help ward off He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. This class is designed for children, at least 7 years of age, plus a parent.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEERS - Sunday, September 25 @ 5:00-7:30 OR Friday, December 9 @ 6:30-9:00 (hands-on)
  • Forget the porridge, chair, and sleeping - the three tastings of beer will be just right and plenty cold! Join me (aka “goldie” locks) in a fun evening designed for couples. This hands-on class will prepare beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy Sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake and vanilla ice cream.  

PHOTO FINISH WITH FOOD - Saturday, October 15 @ 11:00-2:00 (hands-on)
  • Whether you are a food blogger or love to cook and then capture pictures of beautiful food, this class will be the perfect photo finish. Join me in creating radicchio-Brussels sprouts-apple panzanella with pancetta and cider vinaigrette, red lentil-pumpkin soup with spicy caramelized onions, bittersweet chocolate tart with a pretzel crust, plus pomegranate-red wine sangria. Professional photographer Corey Woodruff will "focus" on capturing each dish with simple techniques and available lighting, using your own cameras to discover tips on exposure, composition, plus how to make a simple homemade reflector and lightbox. Please bring your cameras. Nothing fancy is required; even phone cameras will work!

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: PORK AVENUE - Saturday, October 22 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
  • If farm living is not the life for you, and you would rather have a penthouse view, relax while I shares my passion for pork. Enjoy bacon-infused bourbon and maple old fashioned cocktail, cherry-bacon-pecan snack mix, apple-fennel salad with crispy prosciutto and creamy goat cheese dressing, egg yolk raviolo with pancetta-spinach-ricotta filling, sweet-and-salty kettle corn, plus bacon cookies with maple glaze.

July 21, 2011

Cherry Sploosh Ice Cream

St. Louis in July: With the heat index above 110 degrees, it's too fucking hot to cook. Hell, it's even too hot to eat. Or move. Or breath. So, I've been sustaining myself with fruit smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and ice cream. Here's my most recent creation:

Sour Cherry & Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
aka "Cherry Sploosh"

 For the cherries:
2 cups sour cherries, pitted & roughly chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
  • Mix the cherries, sugar & water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the juices are thick. Remove from heat & cool. Strain out liquid. Reserve both the cherries and the syrup.
For the ice cream:
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan just until the sugar melts & the mixture is steamy.
  • Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. 
  • Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly, then add the custard back to the saucepan.
  • Stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, heat over medium heat until thick enough to coat the spoon. 
  • Strain into a bowl. Add the remaining 1 cup of cream, the vanilla, and the reserved cherry syrup. Cool in an ice bath or in the refrigerator until ready to churn.
  • Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker.
  • While the mixture is churning, melt the chocolate in a double-boiler. 
  • During the last possible moments of churning, drizzle the melted chocolate in a very thin stream into the ice cream. 
  • Remove the ice cream to a bowl and fold in the reserved chopped cherries.
Why "Cherry Sploosh"? A few reasons, actually...
  1. Sploosh is a funny word.
  2. You add a lot of stuff to this standard vanilla ice cream base. That is, you sploosh in some cherry syrup, melted chocolate, and chopped cherries.
  3. This: 

June 22, 2011

Lemon Curd

Once again, I attended the Shakespeare Festival in St. Louis's historic Forest Park. This year's performance was a 1950's-inspired rendition of The Taming of the Shrew. The play was set in the backyard of a rich "Lord's" home, complete with 50's style patio furniture, aluminum swimming pool, and vintage Chevy sedan. 

It was, as it always is, a great absolute favorite thing to do in the city.

I met some friends there this year, so I packed my picnic basket with things to share...pressed sandwich, truffled popcorn (aka "crack corn"), and lemon curd with strawberries. 

My first attempt at making this recipe resulted in a too thin--albeit still tasty--curd. I think I was afraid of over-cooking or over-heating the mixture & ending up with a curdled mess of egg yolks. So, I probably under-cooked it slightly, as it didn't get as thick as I had expected. Still, it made a nicely tart & refreshing dip for sweet strawberries.

June 21, 2011

Pasta with Roasted Beet Sauce & Wilted Arugula

I recently had dinner at Salt, Chef Wes Johnson's new restaurant in St. Louis, with a few of my Kitchen Conservatory co-workers. We ordered & shared nearly all of the small plates....including duck fat frites, mussels with chorizo, seared scallop with mustard sauce & cedar smoke, pork & fennel meatballs, crispy pork belly with pickled vegetables, and--my favorite dish of the night--pasta with beet sauce & sauteed collard greens.

I wanted to recreate that dish at home, especially since there were some farmers market beets in the fridge that I needed to use. I didn't use a recipe, but here's what I did to create this simple, flavorful, and vibrant summer dish:

1. Trim, peel, & roast red beets with a drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper at 400 degrees until tender, about 15 minutes (I had about 6 tiny little beets).

2. Meanwhile, saute 1 small yellow onion (chopped) & 1 garlic clove (crushed) in some olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) until just softened. Add to a blender or food processor. Add the beets when they are cooked.

3. Add a splash of dry red wine, some heavy cream (I added about 1/2 cup), and the zest of 1 lemon to the beets. Blitz until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. Add more wine/cream or water to reach desired consistency. Toss the sauce with cooked & drained pasta.

4. To wilt the arugula: Over medium heat, cook a couple tablespoons of olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic in a large skillet. When it just starts to sizzle, add a few large handfuls of arugula. Toss in the oil and cook until wilted & tender. Finish with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

5.  To serve: Spoon some of the pasta onto a plate. Top with a pile of the wilted arugula & a sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese.

June 2, 2011

Deviled Ham

For Easter dinner this year, I bought a 15-pound bone-in ham. Ok, for two people, that is WAY TOO MUCH HAM...even in my pork-centric world. To avoid an overdose of standard ham sandwiches, I picked a few recipes to make with the leftovers that week: ham fried rice, ham & bean soup, ham & chive frittatas, & ham pot pie.

But, for the most part, those are the obvious use-up-leftover-meat dishes. In searching for some more exciting ways to use up the rest of the ham, which I cubed/vacuum-sealed/stashed in the freezer, I came across many great sounding recipes (see list of links at the end of this post).

Most recently, I made Deviled Ham. I was leery at first. My parents used to buy that "sandwich spread" shit from the supermarket deli, and I despised it. It looked and smelled like cat food. Plus, "deviled" ham just doesn't sound appetizing to me.

Yet, this recipe sounded so good...smokey ham, creamy mayo, tangy mustard, sweet maple syrup, spicy hot sauce...what's NOT to like.

May 19, 2011

Summer 2011 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's summer schedule is NOW posted. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online. 

Here are my upcoming classes:

RECIPE REDUX: AVEC ERIC - Sunday, June 5 @ 1:00-3:30 (demonstration)

  • I have chosen five of her favorite recipes from Avec Eric, by Eric Ripert the culinary artist behind the popular NYC restaurant, Le Bernardin. Kelly prepares salmon rillettes, roasted leg of lamb, roasted carrots with baby pea shoots and curry vinaigrette, asparagus with anchovy butter, plus macerated strawberries with aged balsamic ice cream.
FLOUR CHILD - Sunday, June 12 @ 1:00-3:30 (hands-on)
  • Love beads are not required for a lighthearted afternoon of savory baking in the kitchen. Join me in baking blue cheese gougères, black olive sablés, rosemary-potato focaccia, pesto palmiers, chorizo-pine nut bread, and spicy pistachio-parmesan cheese straws.

Choose one date: 
Saturday, June 18 @ 10:00-12:30
Sunday, July 10 @ 1:00-3:30 
Saturday, August 20 @ 11:00-1:30
Sunday, September 18 @ 1:00-3:30
  • Attention all Muggles! Experience the world of Harry Potter and make magic in the kitchen as Kelly helps you prepare delightful dishes described throughout the J.K. Rowling series, including The Three Broomsticks' butterbeer, ham-and-cheese pasties from the Hogwarts house-elves, Mrs. Weasley's potatoes with béchamel sauce, and Aunt Petunia's individual berry-pudding trifles. Before you apparate home, you'll make edible wands to help ward off He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. This class is designed for children, at least 7 years of age, plus a parent.

ADULT WIZARDS IN THE KITCHEN -  Tuesday, June 21 @ 6:30-9:00 (hands-on)
  • Attention all adult Muggles! Experience the world of Harry Potter and make magic in the kitchen as we prepare delightful dishes described throughout the J.K. Rowling series, including an alcoholic version of The Three Broomsticks's butterbeer, ham-and-cheese pasties from the Hogwarts house-elves, Mrs. Weasley's potatoes with béchamel sauce, shredded sprouts slaw, and Aunt Petunia's individual berry pudding trifles.

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: BEST OF THE BLOG - Friday, June 24 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
  • To celebrate four years as a food blogger, I'm sharing my best recipes from among hundreds. Sip on my Uncle David's infamous margaritas, then enjoy caramelized onion dip with pita chips, stunning tomato tarte Tatin, beet ravioli with poppy seed butter and basil, chorizo-potato-mushroom soft tacos, plus peanut butter and bacon truffles (which I served at my wedding reception).

May 10, 2011

Chorizo & Black Bean Slinger

There's been an on-going debate among St. Louis bloggers about slingers. A regional mid-western specialty, a slinger is a breakfast or late night diner dish that consists of hash browns topped with a hamburger patty (or sausage, bacon, or ham), chili, eggs, cheese, and onions. It's, quite frankly, a big ol' plate of mess. See?

pic from Wikipedia
Courtesy Diner Slinger, pic from STL Delicious

I decided to throw my hat into the slinger ring, so to speak, to show some local enthusiasts how easy it is to make--and to update--this dish at home...layer by layer:

May 4, 2011

Popcorn Ice Cream

A few weeks ago, my friend Stacy mentioned on Twitter that she had a bunch of egg yolks left after making macaroons for Easter & asked for suggestions on how to use them. My immediate answer was ICE CREAM! Stacy confessed that she'd never made ice cream, so I invited her (a few other foodies friends) over for an ice cream tutorial.

I wanted to try something new & thought that Popcorn Ice Cream over at Almost Bourdain sounded intriguing. We had to adapt the recipe though, since the original only calls for 1 egg and we had 6 yolks to use.

To make our batch of POPCORN flavored, we simply heated 1 1/4 cups EACH of whole milk & heavy cream with 1 cup sugar & a few big handfuls buttered popcorn (real popcorn with real butter, not that microwaved shit) in a medium saucepan until the sugar melted & the mixture just started to bubble.


Remove the pan from the heat & let the flavors infuse for 15-30 minutes. Then, strain the mixture through cheesecloth to remove the popcorn.


Meanwhile, whisk 6 egg yolks in a large bowl.

When the cream mixture is strained, slowly whisk it into the yolk to temper the eggs. Here, you are gently heating the egg yolks with the warm cream. GO SLOW. You don't want to scramble the eggs.

Return the mixture back the pan & heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. As you stir, scrape the bottom & sides of the pan. Again, GO SLOW...if you heat the mixture too quickly, the eggs with curdle.

Strain the thickened custard into a clean bowl & chill until ready to freeze (we used an ice bath to bring the temperature down quickly). The key to making ice cream at home is to have your custard ice-cold before churning. When ready, churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.


The finished ice cream was very yellow from the yolks, which was good because it looked like popcorn. It, surprisingly, tasted just like buttered popcorn, too. We ended up topping each bowl with a sprinkling of coarse salt & several kernels of popcorn for crunch. So interesting...but really quite good!

Thanks to my friend, the ultra-talented Corey Woodruff for taking pics at our little ice cream party!

April 24, 2011

Pasta with Bacon Vodka Cream Sauce

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I love all things pork, especially bacon. I've even made bacon vodka a couple times.

Yes, that's right...BACON vodka. I first made it for a bacon class I was teaching; we used it to make Bloody Marys & BLT martinis (with lettuce water, fresh tomato juice, a crouton rim & a sprinkle of bacon salt that tasted JUST LIKE the joke).

To make your own bacon vodka, you just cook up some bacon. Add it to a big jar with an entire bottle of vodka. Let it hang out in your pantry for a few weeks (it will look like a science experiment after a while, but don't be alarmed). Fish out the bacon. Freeze the jar of vodka. Strain. Strain. Strain. Drink. It's tasty shit. For real.

If you don't want to make your own, you can now buy a bacon-flavored vodka called Bakon Vodka. I have to tell ya, though...homemade taste more like real bacon. The flavored stuff smells and tastes like bacony Bac~Os. So, just make your own. Homemade bacon vodka has a smokey, rich taste. REALLY good in mixed drinks AND food.

I made a vodka cream sauce...because pasta, tomatoes, cream, and bacon seemed like a natural combination. Initially, I used a Rachel Ray recipe (gasp!) called You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta that I found on Smitten Kitchen. I chose this particular recipe because it calls for an entire cup of vodka, unlike most recipes which only use 1/3 to 1/2 cup, and only 1/2 cup of cream. I wanted to taste the bacon essence, dammit! Still, even with my omitting the addition of 1 cup of stock in favor or more vodka, I simply couldn't distinguish any of the bacony goodness.

So, I decided to create my own vodka cream sauce recipe to highlight my bacon vodka:

1. Saute a small onion, diced, in about a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. When the onion is soft, carefully add 1 cup of bacon vodka. It shouldn't ignite, but it's best to turn off the heat when you add the booze. Simmer this until slightly reduce, 3 minutes or so.

2. Then, add 1 cup diced tomatoes (I blanched & peeled a few Campari tomatoes; you should use the freshest, ripest tomatoes you can find). Season with salt & pepper (and, if you'd like, some fresh thyme or oregano). Cook until the tomatoes start to break down, 5 minutes or so.

3. Stir in 1/4 cup heavy cream and cook just until the cream is warm. Serve over penne noodles.

April 15, 2011

Thomas Keller's Rubbed & Glazed Pork Spareribs

Today is my blogiversary. Four years ago, I started this food blog with a post about Julie Powell's book Julie & Julia. My first posted recipe was Julia Child's potato & leek soup. Since then I've written about nearly 400 new recipes that I've tried for the first time.

Over the past four years, my life has gone through many changes. There have been many, many happy moments but also lots of heartbreaking drama and a couple really scary events. Through it all, though, I've continued to cook at home, try new recipes & ingredients & techniques, and write about it here. This blog continues to be my therapy, my creative outlet. As a result of blogging, I've met some fabulous people, several of whom have become great friends. I've also had some awesome experiences because of blogging...flying to LA to meet Julie Powell, working at Kitchen Conservatory, being "chef for a day" with Josh Galliano at Monarch, & writing for Sauce Magazine.

It may sound cliche but blogging has changed my life. Not that I've become rich & famous or anything by any means...but this little blog of mine gave my life some kind of purpose at a time when I felt like I didn't have any.

This blog has also given me an excuse to spend four hours on a Sunday afternoon making the most delicious ribs I've ever eaten.

March 27, 2011

Julia Child's French Onion Soup

What a weekend I've had so far! Yesterday, I woke up to news that my 96-year-old grandmother had passed away. Then, it snowed 3 inches or so in St. Louis. The roads were pretty slick, and I got into a little car accident on the highway. It was a fairly expensive version of bumper cars. I had to have my car towed since the battery died in the 2.5 hours that I was stranded on the side of the road.  So, I scrapped all my weekend plans and moped around the house instead, spending most of my Saturday evening watching old episodes of Julia Child's The French Chef.

One of my favorites is "The Potato Show." It's obviously an early episode, as Julia is so young-looking and the video has a grainy,vintage quality.

My favorite part is when she says, “There’s a whole clove of garlic in the press, and it goes CREEEAK all over the stove but into the potatoes, too." In classic Julia fashion, she's hunched over the too-short counter. She doesn't finish sentences, fumbles around the kitchen, seems a bit out of breath, sometimes forgets steps or ingredients, & quickly switches from one recipe to another. It's as if she is a caricature of herself. Watching Julia Child cook is like watching someone cook at home. She's messy and real, not sterile like today's cooking shows.

But, isn't that what makes her so endearing? 

Well, that and her unashamed love of butter. In this episode, when she adds heavy cream and butter to mashed potatoes, she tastes, shakes her head & states, "Good. Nothing like butter."

"The Potato Show" episode was made famous by the movie Julie & Julia; it's the episode where Julia flips a potato pancake all over the stove. She puts potatoes in pan to make a mashed potato pancake, flips it & misses the pan, scratches her head, then declares, “Well, that didn’t go very well.” The original scene is pretty much exactly like Meryl Streep's remake. Julia does flip a large shredded potato pancake later, stating "I’m going to flip this, by gum.” This time, it goes well.

In a later episode of The French Chef, Julia makes "the soup that made the onion famous." (Interestingly, French onion soup was Julia's last meal before she died of kidney failure in 2004). Though this is still early in the series, Julia seems more confident.

Julia puts the finished soup in an earthenware casserole dish.  She adds a few tablespoons of cognac, grated raw onion, and sliced Swiss cheese (sliced on a box grater) to “give it that nice, stringy quality.” The dish is topped with toasted croutes, grated Swiss & Parmesan to cover the toasts, and a drizzle of melted butter or olive oil.  It's then baked for 30 minutes, then broiled just to lightly brown the cheese.

There is smoke coming out of the oven when she browns the cheese.  “I think that possibly browned a little too much,” she admits. The camera doesn't zoom in for a close-up right away. Later, however, when she's ladling soup at table, you can see that it's definitely burnt! She doesn't apologize, just as she taught us to not be ashamed of our kitchen mistakes.

(Onion Soup)

The onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterized a perfect brew. You should therefore count on 2 1/2 hours at least from start to finish. Though the preliminary cooking in butter requires some watching, the actual simmering can proceed almost unattended.

March 22, 2011

Ricotta & Chive Gnocchi with Kale Pesto

Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn describes ricotta gnocchi as a "traditional Florentine pasta" that is "the lighter, hipper cousin to northern Italy's potato gnocchi." It sounded perfect to me...comfort food for a warm spring evening.

Although I'd eaten ricotta gnocchi at work, I'd never made it myself. This type of gnocchi is light & pillowy, a very soft & delicate dough. To jazz up the traditional recipe, I added chopped chives...which have recently exploded in my herb garden, coming back along with the oregano & lemon thyme that I planted last year. I ate the tender little dumplings with a bright green, herbaceous & lemony kale pesto. 

I wanted something satisfying yet fresh, something to use my pungent garden chives, something that included kale (my current obsession), something to get me in a springy mood...and this easy recipe did the trick!

Ricotta Chive Gnocchi

March 5, 2011

For the Haters: Coconut Spice Crispies

I recently got my first snarky blog comment. An anonymous person actually took the time to write, "Do you ever cook from your 'own' recipe book? I understand your blog but it seems that any individual who watched the food channel and or watched a repeated 'youtube' episode could just as much reproduce your blog."

First of all, YES, I do cook from my "own" recipe book. Every day, in fact. My typical meals are things I simply throw together without a recipe using what's on hand in the kitchen, nothing special or complicated. But, that's not what this blog is all about. You, dear anonymous commenter, obviously do NOT understand my blog...because if you did, you'd know that I focus on NEW things I've tried in the cleaning squid, perfecting homemade biscuits, cooking wild duck, or skinning out a pig's head & rigging up a make-shift sous-vide machine to make Porchetta di Testa. I would encourage you, Mr. or Mrs. Anon, to reproduce THAT! Seriously. DO IT. And then leave me a link to YOUR food blog.

Besides, I HAVE posted several family recipes (like Aunt Anna Mae's rice pilaf, Grandma Martin's cranberry salad, Mom's fried tacos, & my husband's great-great-grandmother's sauteed spinach) and some original recipes (like flourless chocolate & red wine cake, our favorite fried green tomatoes, or my version of Thai beef lettuce wraps) as well.

And as far as anyone being able to reproduce my blog...isn't that true for almost any food blog? There are thousands of food blogs out there and only a handful are 100% original. That is true for most cookbooks as well. Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics or Mark Peel's New Classic Family Dinners don't include all original recipes, but they are both great cookbooks. I mean, home cooking is all about adapting other recipes...learning a basic technique and tweaking it to fit your own tastes. I didn't invent flourless chocolate cake or fried green tomatoes or lettuce wraps, but I did add a little personal touch to those recipes.

Take, for example, this recipe...which was inspired by one in Heidi Swanson's cookbook Super Natural Cooking for "Do-It-Yourself Power Bars." Her "Power Bars" are made with puffed rice cereal, rolled oats, oat bran, nuts, dried fruit, and brown rice syrup (see my previous post on that recipe here). Her online version features coconut and ground espresso. I've been wanting to try the Power Bars again, and I thought a spicy version would be good, a more "adult" version of classic Rice Krispies. So, here is MY take on her recipes:

Coconut Spice Crispies

February 21, 2011

Pommes Dauphinoise

I love reading Nigel Slater's cookbooks. His recipes are wonderfully written. Take, for instance, his recipe for Pommes Dauphinoise in Appetite; he titles this recipe "a creamy, unctuous potato dish." Slater writes:
A shallow earthenware dish of gratin dauphinoise is a perfect thing, the slices of potato scented with garlic and wallowing in cream, its top lightly browned. It seems sacrilegious to add or subtract from the classic recipe. [...] Despite the almost obscene quantity of cream, there is still a frugal simplicity in this dish.
Pommes Dauphinoise is a French dish from the Dauphiné region, near the Italian border. It consists of thinly sliced potatoes layered in a shallow buttered dish with sliced garlic, topped with heavy cream, and baked until brown & bubbling.  According to Gourmet Britain, "The dish should be perfumed with garlic, plenty, not just a token amount - and please, no eggs or cheese toppings."

I made this tonight to go a long with a big, juicy, grilled T-bone steak. I ate about half the steak and saved the rest of my appetite for more of these potatoes, proclaiming "The French sure do know what the fuck they're doing!"

A Creamy, Unctuous Potato Dish
(aka Pommes Dauphinoise)
from Nigel Slater

February 17, 2011

Angry Lobster

Let's face it: Valentine's Day sucks...and it doesn't matter if you're in a relationship or not. While I like getting gifts as much as anyone, I don't like the pressure of having to do something romantic for V-Day. Going out to eat is out of the question for us, as it's usually so crazy-crowded at the restaurants. It just feels like such a forced holiday.

So, this year, I decided to have an Anti-Valentine's dinner party for a few friends. For decorations, I set a vase with three long-stemmed red roses in the middle of the dining room table. Then, I cut the blooms off and left them laying on the table. I also set out a heart-shaped box of chocolates for my guests...after I'd taken a bite out of each one, of course. I called my appetizer course--a chunk of bleu cheese--"Love Stinks." I made Red Hots infused vodka as an aperitif.

I asked my guests to bring an appropriately unromantic dish to share...something bitter, sour, spicy, or otherwise un-love-ly.

February 16, 2011

Egg Yolk Raviolo

A couple years ago, the Food Blog Mafia gals went to dinner at Acero, an Italian restaurant in Maplewood. One of our favorite dishes was the Egg Raviolo, a "Farm Fresh Egg Yolk Wrapped in Delicate Pasta." When you cut into this huge, round raviolo, a warm yolk oozes out. So freakin' delicious. 

I've been wanting to recreate that dish at home ever since that meal. When I saw a similar recipe in Mark Peel's newest cookbook, I knew I had to try it soon. It was the perfect recipe for my next cooking project with my friend Stephanie

I was fairly intimidated by this dish at first. I mean, so many things could go could break the yolk while assembling the raviolo, the pasta could bust during cooking, the yolk could get over-cooked...  

But, what I discovered is that this is a pretty easy recipe to make! And it's simply stunning to look at. I ate two of these for dinner and made more for lunch the next day.  

Giant Ravioli with Spinach, Ricotta, & Egg Yolk
slightly adapted from Mark Peel's New Classic Family Dinners

February 4, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Basque Potato Tortilla

I've joined a new online cooking group: French Fridays with Dorie. Created by the people behind Tuesdays with Dorie (a baking group), these bloggers are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook Around My French Table.

I made quite a few of the TWD recipes from March 2008-December 2009. I joined the group to force myself to learn baking skills, which I did. After nearly 2 years of making weekly desserts, though, I had just had to stop. That was simply too much sweet stuff.

Recently, though, I've found myself with all kinds of cooking plans that I never follow-through with. I figured that having a weekly cooking project would be a good idea to get motivated. Though, I still may not complete each week's recipe, my goal is to try at least two every month.

The rules for this group are simple: Make the chosen recipe each week, post on Fridays, but don't publish the recipe. Also, there is no minimum posting requirement...which is nice as I was eventually "kicked out" of the TWD group for not posting.

photo from Around My French Table
This week's recipe is for Basque Potato Tortilla, which I've been referring to as a "potato quiche." It's more like a frittata than a quiche, though, and it's easy to make...brown potatoes & onions with garlic & rosemary, combine with beaten eggs, cook slowly without stirring in a cast-iron skillet until set, finish under the broiler.

Meant to be served at room temperature, this is a popular Spanish hors d'oeuvre (often served in bite-sized pieces on toothpicks) served in the Basque region of France, according to Dorie. I ate it warm for dinner with a side of braised kale with garlic & lemon. Jerad ate a few cold slices for breakfast the next day with a side of ketchup (Ahh, Jerseyville).

Upcoming recipes:
Feb. 11 - Orange-Almond Tart
Feb. 18 - Pancetta Green Beans
Feb. 25 - Short Ribs in Red Wine & Port

February 2, 2011

Winter Panzanella

Today is our 6th snow day in 2011. We haven't had a full week of school yet this semester. You'd think that with so many days off, stuck in the house, that I would be super productive. You'd be wrong. I tend to increase my laziness on impromptu vacation days. Instead of catching up on grading, reading more, cleaning, or doing laundry, I tend to zone out in front of the computer or piddle around in the kitchen. 

And, you know what? I don't feel bad about that at all. 

Last weekend, knowing that a snowpocalyse was approaching St. Louis, I planned a few cooking projects for the week...involving comforting winter recipes that are healthier than my usual carb-loaded cold weather fare.

The first of those recipes is a winter panzanella. Panzanella is a summertime salad made with toasted bread cubes, ripe tomatoes, garden-fresh basil, & soft mozzarella cheese. It is our favorite thing to eat in the summer. Of course, the pale, mealy tomatoes you find in the winter will just not do in a salad. So, I found a more seasonally-appropriate version that replaces the tomatoes & basil with radicchio & brussels sprouts. Crispy bacon & crunchy apples are added. It's really delicious, filling & comforting. 

Winter Panzanella
adapted from Bon Appetit

February 1, 2011

Spring 2011 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's spring schedule is now posted. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online. Here are my upcoming classes:

SUSHI ROCK AND ROLL - Saturday, Feb. 12 @ 12:00-2:30 OR Saturday, March 19 @ 12:00-2:30 (hands-on)
  • Wrap and roll your favorite sushi in a hands-on class. Learn to use a variety of ingredients to create incredible hand rolls that will showcase your inner artist. Enjoy salt-and-pepper edamame, then learn to prepare sticky sushi rice and make a variety of hand-formed nigiri, and rolled maki, including spicy tuna rolls, California rolls and Philadelphia rolls. Create lemongrass sorbet for a refreshing dessert.
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: JUST GRATE! - Saturday, March 5 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
  • Enjoy camembert fondue with crudités, crispy baked cheddar straws, fromage fort canapés, gorgonzola custards with pears and hazelnut vinaigrette, plus baked goat cheese with spicy tomato chutney. Served with white wine sangria.
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: EDUCATING 'RITA - Saturday, March 26 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
  • Menu includes champagne margaritas, tuna ceviche, grilled shrimp soft tacos with mango guacamole, Mexican grilled corn salad, and strawberry-lime sorbet.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GOLDILOCKS & THE THREE BEERS - Sunday, April 3 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Forget the porridge, chair, and sleeping - the three tastings of beer will be just right and plenty cold! Join me (aka "goldie" locks) & my beermeister husband in a fun evening for couples. This hands-on class will prepare beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy Sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake and vanilla ice cream.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: FROM BEER TO SUSHI ETERNITY - Friday, April 15 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on)
  • Be prepared for a fun evening of sushi designed just for couples. Enjoy salt-and-pepper edamame & spicy cucumber salad, then learn to prepare sticky sushi rice and make a variety of hand-formed nigiri, and rolled maki, including spicy tuna rolls, California rolls and Philadelphia rolls -- all served with cold beer that Jerad has chosen to pair perfectly with sushi. Finally, we'll make lemongrass sorbet for a refreshing dessert. 
HEIR AND A PARENT: WIZARDS IN THE KITCHEN - Saturday, April 16 @ 10:00-12:30 OR Sunday, May 1 @ 1:00-3:30 OR Saturday, June 18 @ 10:00-12:30  (hands-on)
  • Attention all Muggles! Experience the world of Harry Potter and make magic in the kitchen as I help you prepare delightful dishes described throughout the J.K. Rowling series, including The Three Broomsticks' butterbeer, ham & cheese pasties from the Hogwarts house-elves, Mrs. Weasley's potatoes with béchamel sauce, and Aunt Petunia's individual berry & pudding trifles. Before you apparate home, you'll make edible wands to help ward off He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. This class is designed for children, at least 7 years of age, plus a parent.