Chicken Khao Soi

Spice Up Your Life

So it’s not winter but it’s also not quite Spring. It’s the “drears.” I don’t know about you but I desperately need a bit of spice in my life. This recipe showed up in my inbox and I had to have it. It’s a Thai dish so I cannot speak to its authenticity, but I can tell you that it is delicious – after a few small tweaks. The soup is pretty rich and VERY satisfying. So while it may not seem as if it would feed six people for a dinner, I found that a relatively small amount goes a long way.

Pet Peeves

I don’t know about you, but I really hate when a recipe calls for a tiny amount of something that I otherwise would not have in my pantry – and which isn’t available in my local stores. And which I may never use again.

Since I do a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, I’m always happy to buy the right spices or grains to complete my recipe. I will even grind my own spices for those dishes because they are so integral to truly experiencing the food. But I do not make a great deal of Asian or South American dishes.

So when this recipe called for a type of dried chili pepper that three well-stocked grocery stores didn’t carry I said ENOUGH! I know that each pepper has its own flavor profile but surely the dish could be made with some more easily available option. And while I would have liked to use bean sprouts, the only ones around were very sad looking… Yet despite these small disappointments, the final dish was so yummy that I have to share it with you. The smell of the khao soi paste alone was intoxicating.

A Word About Measuring

Spices and herbs make a dish. I recently made my Christmas Lamb Shanks and made the mistake of not tasting it before serving. It needed salt. It would have made all the difference. In the case of this dish, do NOT skimp on the spices. This isn’t baking. I generally measure spices, garlic, onions, cilantro etc. with a heavy hand. I know what I like and rarely do I regret my choices. If you don’t feel comfortable, start out with even measuring and add more as you taste. Otherwise you can pretty much assume that I used somewhat rounded measurements.

Recipe from Bon Appetit

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

Khao Soi Paste

4 large dried chiles, stemmed with seeds (I used a combination of Poblano and Negro Chiles. The original recipe called for large dried New Mexico or guajillo chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded. )

2 medium shallots, halved

8-10 garlic cloves

1 rounded tablespoon of grated ginger

1/2 cup chopped cilantro stems

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 14-oz. cans unsweetened coconut milk (Use the regular – not “lite”)

4 cups chicken broth (low sodium or unsalted)

1½ lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, halved lengthwise

1 lb Chinese egg noodles

3 tablespoons (or more) fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)

1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Sliced red onion, bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, crispy fried onions or shallots, chili oil, and lime wedges (for serving)

RECIPE PREPARATION

Khao Soi Paste

  1. Place chiles in a small heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover, and let soak until softened, 25–30 minutes. Alternatively, heat in the microwave for about 2 minutes and cover the bowl for 30 minutes.
  2. Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Purée chiles, shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and 2 Tbsp. soaking liquid in a food processor or blender, adding more soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls, if needed, until smooth. (I ended up using almost all of my soaking liquid.)

Soup

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add khao soi paste; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 4–6 minutes. Add coconut milk and broth. Bring to a boil; add chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, 20–25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat.
  2. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
  3. Add chicken, 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, and sugar to soup. Season with salt or more fish sauce, if needed. Divide soup and noodles among bowls and serve with toppings.
Advertisements

Beef Stufato with Buckwheat Pilaf

You Say Stufato

A stufato is simply the Italian way to say stew. The version that appears below comes from my handwritten notes dating back about 40 years. Since writing a blog was the furthest thing from my mind then, I did not write down the author. Soooooooo, my apologies to the person(s) who came up with this delicious and easy peasy beef stew. For an old-fashioned Irish beef stew check this out.

So What is Kasha?

You could serve this warm and welcoming dish with some good chewy country bread, over rice, pasta or mashed potatoes, but I am serving it with a kasha pilaf. Kasha is roasted, whole grain buckwheat. And buckwheat is a great source of healthy fiber anti-oxidants and is rich in minerals. Best of all, it tastes great! While I am not in any way gluten-free, buckwheat is. I always make a lot because it is great as left-overs and stuffed in pita with chopped tomatoes and lettuce for a vegetarian or vegan lunch.

The Sum of Its Parts

I often find recipes with multiple parts and after I have made them, it turns out that I really only like the topping or the base but not what was in between. That’s how I came to make my Sriracha Cashews. So while beef stew definitely would not be appealing to a vegan, the buckwheat pilaf would. I have found inspiration in some unlikely places. I have successfully turned non-vegan recipes into vegan ones and clearly non-Kosher recipes into Kosher acceptable meals. So before you go dismissing a recipe, see if you can’t find some take-away that you can use.

Recipe for Stufato

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 4 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • Up to 2 cups of a dry red wine like a Cabernet (use whatever you plan on drinking)
  • 14.5 ounce can of a quality diced tomato (preferably San Marzano)
  • About 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1.5 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil and thyme
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Additional chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish (Optional)

Directions

  1. Heat EVOO in a heavy-duty saucepan with a cover. Add meat in a single layer, without crowding and brown on all sides. (I did this in batches. If you crowd the pan, the meat won’t brown.) Remove the meat to a dish while you prepare the rest of the stufato.
  2. Add the onion to the same pan that you browned the meat in and sprinkle with the brown sugar and about a teaspoon of salt. Saute the onion until it becomes soft, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. (The juices from the onion should be sufficient to de-glaze the pan and all of those browned bits from the meat add flavor.)
  3. Once the onion has softened, add the wine to just cover the meat (you don’t want to drown the meat – just barely cover it), tomatoes, garlic, and herbs and stir through to mix. Now add back your meat and any juices and give another stir. Add some cracked black pepper and stir once more. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook on low for 2 hours. Adjust your seasonings and discard the bay leaves before serving.

Recipe for Buckwheat Pilaf (Vegan)

Yield: About 4 cups (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of roasted whole grain buckwheat (Kasha)
  • 2 Tablespoons of EVOO or butter
  • 2 cups of hot broth (Vegetarian, chicken or beef, preferably unsalted) (If using salted broth, eliminate the additional salt mentioned below.)
  • 1/2 cup each: chopped yellow onion, sliced mushrooms, celery and carrots
  • About 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the butter or oil and add the vegetables. Saute the vegetables until slightly softened.
  2. Add the hot broth (and salt, if adding) and bring to a boil. Add the kasha and stir through. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Uncover the pot and fluff the pilaf with a fork before serving.

Zucchini Bake

I have been hesitant to add recipes like this to the blog because they seem so obvious to me and because I really don’t measure when I make them. However, I realized that what may appear obvious to me just may not be to someone else.

Just Plain Good

This zucchini bake doesn’t have strange new combinations of ingredients or use sous vide techniques. It is simple to make, very flexible and the results are delicious almost no matter what you do. The fact is that the zucchini bake is just plain good. Zucchini bake goes beautifully with any grilled meat, poultry or fish. It could also be a main feature of a vegetarian meal.

East Does It

When my son was little, I always looked for new ways to get vegetables into him. Since most children – and adults – like pizza, I took the basic elements of a vegetarian pizza but changed the emphasis of the ingredients. Even though my son thought that he wasn’t a fan of zucchini, he always gobbled this up. Below are some basic guidelines for this easy and delicious side dish. However, feel free to add or change the cheeses or switch up the herbs to make it your own. You can also easily double or triple the ingredients to serve a crowd.

Switching It Up

If you decide that you like the zucchini bake but want to switch it up a bit, you could try the following:

  • Change the herbs – use thyme instead of basil and oregano
  • Change the cheeses to match. Use a good Gruyere, Comte or aged Cheddar cheese instead of one of the Italian cheeses
  • Add some sauteed onion to the layering
  • OR use feta or other goat cheese mixed with some Swizz, Mozzarella or Greek Kaseri cheese and Za’atar and Aleppo pepper

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 1 pound zucchini, cut into 3/8-inch rounds
  • 14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • EVOO (preferably garlic flavored) for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and cracked pepper, to taste
  • About 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • About 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup (or more, to taste) of shredded or grated cheese (I like a mix of Mozzarella, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Fontina, Provolone or Asiago. Use cheeses with flavor – not like that soapy stuff that you get on some pizzas.)
  • About 1/4 cup of dried bread crumbs, plain or seasoned

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the zucchini and partially cover the pot, if necessary to maintain a good simmer. Cook the zucchini for 3-4 minutes and immediately strain the zucchini under VERY cold water. Spread the zucchini out on a tea towel and pat dry. You want to just barely blanch the zucchini. (What you want to absolutely avoid is mushy zucchini.)
  3. Use a heavy baking dish that is large enough to hold the zucchini when layered. (The shape of the dish is irrelevant.) Drizzle the bottom of the dish with EVOO. I like to use garlic-flavored EVOO but plain is fine if that is all you have.
  4. Place a layer of broken up stewed tomatoes on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of zucchini. Sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs. Crumble some of the basil and oregano over the bread crumbs, along with a sprinkling of salt and cracked pepper. (I never measure, but don’t be stingy with the herbs.) Drizzle a little EVOO on top and then repeat the layering until you have used everything up. I like to end with tomatoes.
  5. Spoon the liquid from the tomatoes over the top. Add a bit more cheese and drizzle with EVOO. (There is no magic here, so it is hard to mess this up. If this is part of a main dish vegetarian meal, I might add more cheese than if it is simply a side.)
  6. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheeses are melted. The zucchini bake can be made ahead and reheated.

Financier Pastries

So What Is a Financier?

A financier is an almond and brown butter pastry baked in a small mold. These light and moist pastries have a crisp eggshell-like exterior and traditionally were baked in small rectangular molds that resemble gold bars. They became a favorite of bankers in the Paris financial district.

While popularized in nineteenth century France, these delectable little pastries date back to the Middle Ages. They were originally made by nuns of the Order of the Visitation and were called a visitandine.

Turning Flour Into Gold

When you bite into one of these delights, the combination of brown butter and almond flour explodes with an instant burst of caramelized deliciousness. Financiers are deceptively simple to make, but unlike the classic Madeleine, they don’t disappoint. Marcel Proust has A LOT to answer for!

I have looked at numerous recipes for the financiers and they are all pretty similar. By some wonderful alchemy, these simple ingredients bake into pure pastry gold. The following recipe comes from the Joy of Baking and makes 12 little pastries. Since the financiers are best warm from the oven, this number was perfect for me.

Recipe

Don’t worry if you don’t have rectangular or boat-shaped molds. These work out fine using small muffin cups.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter plus 2 Tablespoons melted for brushing the tins

1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2 cup (55 grams) ground almonds (can use almond meal/flour)

3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners (powdered or confectioner’s) sugar sifted

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 large (90 grams) egg whites lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Fresh berries (optional)

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) with oven rack in the center. Place 12 shallow, rectangular or boat-shaped tartlet molds (or mini-muffin cups) on a baking pan. Brush each tin with melted butter.

Place the 1/2 cup of butter in a small, light-colored saucepan over medium heat. [You need to be able to see the color of the butter change so please don’t use a dark pan.] Melt the butter and allow it to come to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally. As it boils, you will notice foam coming to the surface. Continue to cook the butter until it starts to look clear and the milk solids have dropped to the bottom of the pan. The butter will turn a golden brown. [This happens all of a sudden so do not walk away!]

Immediately remove the butter from the heat and pour it through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth.

Allow the now clarified brown butter to cool to room temperature. You will need 1/3 cup of brown butter for the recipe. I didn’t have any left over, but if you do you can use this to brush the tins.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Be sure to break up any lumps from the ground almonds.

Make a well in the center and fold in the lightly beaten egg whites, vanilla and the brown butter.

Fill each mold almost to the rim. Bake the pastries for 5 minutes or until the batter is set around the edges but still soft in the center. [I originally baked it for 4 minutes so my berries sunk a bit more than was perfect.]

Remove the pan from the oven and place raspberries or blueberries on top, if using, which I recommend. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until the financiers are golden brown and springy to the touch. Ovens vary but mine took an additional 7 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Once cool enough to easily handle, the financiers should easily pop out of the tins. These are best served warm, but they can be stored for a few days, covered, at room temperature.

Tuna Puttanesca

When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Well, we had four easy winters so I really can’t complain – too much. But this winter has seesawed between a polar vortex and just plain dreary and wet. So going shopping – even when it is from my garage to the supermarket’s – holds little to no appeal. This pasta tuna puttanesca is the perfect answer because it is made almost entirely from pantry staples. And the best part is that it can be thrown together in under an hour.

Good for Your Health and Your Budget

We all know that it is healthier and more budget-friendly to cook at home than to order in or go out. This dish is so flexible and so quick to prepare that it can feed a crowd or a couple. There is no need to buy fancy canned tuna, although it’s certainly fine if you do. Use what you have on hand or would normally buy. Whether you like tuna packed in olive oil or water – chunk “light” or albacore – it all works.

This pasta dish is low in fat, high in flavor. Make it as puttanesca-like and spicy as you like or add just enough hot pepper flakes to tickle your taste-buds. If you have fresh parsley – great. And if you don’t, it will still be good. However, you do need a flavorful pitted olive (I usually use pitted Kalamatas myself) and I personally think that briny capers are a must. Mario Batali said that you should never use cheese on pasta dishes with fish or seafood. It may be breaking one of the sacraments of Italian cooking, but
I happen to like cheese with fish. There is no judgment here. I leave that decision in your capable hands.

So Easy!

Don’t even measure. I will give you some measurements below, but please use them only as a guide. If you want more tuna, use more. More olives – go for it. If you really enjoy anchovies, they can be added when you are browning the onion and garlic. The anchovy will break down, again adding a bit of briny flavor.

Let’s Get Started

Ingredients for Dinner for 4-6 People

  • 2-3 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 12 ounces of canned tuna, drained
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 28 ounces (or 2 smaller cans) of chopped tomatoes in their own juice
  • 2 Tablespoons good quality tomato paste
  • About 1 Tablespoon, finely chopped garlic
  • About 6 ounces coarsely chopped, flavorful pitted olives
  • 1-2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2-3 strips of anchovy, drained (optional)
  • Hot pepper flakes and salt, to taste (you can always add more but you can’t remove it once added)
  • 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water
  • One bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped and divided in 2 parts
  • 13 ounces to 1 pound of a firm pasta like a penne or rigatoni, preferably rigate (with ridges)

Directions

  1. Heat a large pan and add the EVOO. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the edges are just beginning to brown. Add the anchovy, if using, It will break down, melting into the EVOO and garlic.
  2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir through.
  3. Add all of the ingredients (half of the parsley) except for the starchy pasta water. Mix through and cook on simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. This can be made ahead and reheated or made right before eating while the pasta cooks.
  4. When you are ready to eat, cook your pasta according to directions. Just before the pasta is al dente, remove 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and add it to the puttanesca sauce. Stir through and continue cooking while you drain the pasta.
  5. Toss the drained pasta into the pan of sauce (if the pan is large enough) or pour the sauce over the pasta when you serve it. Garnish with the remaining parsley and grated Reggiano Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano or Asiago cheese, if desired. I like to serve a salad alongside, but if your fridge is bare, this will satisfy on its own.

Cider-Braised Duck Legs with Leeks, Prunes and Apple

A Wet Wintery Sunday

This past week in Chicago we went from a polar vortex to a spring thaw. In the span of seven days, there was snow, ice, rain, wind and slush. So the idea of spending Sunday snuggled at home with my husband while something delicious bubbled away on the stove seemed like the perfect antidote. While the duck slowly cooked, I happily needlepointed while my husband tinkered.

I came across this recipe in our local newspaper a few weeks ago and knew that it was something that I wanted to try. All I needed were the duck legs and leeks. Little did I know that I would not only get this wonderful meal, but I was able to render almost a quart of lovely golden duck fat to enjoy throughout the coming months. More on that later.

Chasing Away Those Blues

With a little bit of planning, this delicious recipe will yield four generous servings along with the aforementioned duck fat and cracklings. I served it with polenta, a green salad a lovely fruity red wine. Chase those winter blues away with this rich and flavorful duck stew. The duck falls off the bone and is juicy without being fatty. The apples and prunes are the perfect complement to the dark duck meat while the Calvados and cider cut through any overt sweetness of the fruit.

While the stew simmers, you can use that time to get those nasty little chores done around the house. Or better yet, take a long soak in a warm tub or curl up with a good book and a better companion.

Recipe from Chicago Tribune, Food and Dining January 16, 2019 and tweaked by me

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 large duck legs, about 10-12 ounces each
  • 1.66 cups apple cider, preferably fresh
  • 2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 generous teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 dried or fresh bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 7-8 ounces of pitted prunes
  • 2 flavorful apples, cored and sliced with the skin left on (I used Honeycrisp. Fuji or Braeburn would also be good.)
  • 1/4 cup good quality apple brandy such as Calvados (If you don’t plan on actually drinking the brandy, you don’t have to buy the most expensive Calvados on the market. Any decent bottle will do and closed tightly, it will last for some time. It’s great to use with apple tarts, by the way.) 
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  1. Trim the excess fat and skin from the duck legs. [Do NOT throw this away. At the end of the recipe are directions how to render the fat and make cracklings.]
  2. Prick the skin on the legs all over with a fork and season the legs generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven or covered braising pan over medium heat. When the pan is nice and hot, add the duck legs in a single layer, skin-side down. Cook until the skin is a lovely brown and the duck has given off excess fat. Turn over the legs and cook the underside until brown. The second side will cook much faster than the skin side so don’t walk away and leave it. Remove the browned legs to a platter and loosely cover with foil. Allow the fat to cool down slightly and then CAREFULLY pour the fat through a fine sieve into a clean glass jar. This is just the beginning of the duck fat that you will render.
  4. Deglaze the pan, using 2/3 cup of the cider, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the leeks, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are tender – about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the herbs and spices. Add the chicken broth and remaining 1 cup of cider. Stir through and then add back the duck legs. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 2 hours, untouched, until the duck legs are very tender when pierced with a sharp knife. [The braise can be made ahead up to this point. It can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days, if desired. I didn’t do this, but it’s good to know that you can.]
  6. When you are ready to serve the duck, remove the legs from the pan and skim as much fat as you can from the braising liquid. [I actually didn’t have that much at this point, because of judicious trimming and pricking and browning the duck initially.] Add in the prunes and sliced apples and stir through. Add back the duck legs. Bring the mixture to a lively simmer and cover the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes and then add in the apple brandy. Cook for 5 minutes more. Serve over polenta or a sturdy noodle like a spaetzle so that you don’t lose a drop of that wonderful braising liquid.

Directions

How to Render Duck Fat and Be Happy All Year

Duck fat is possibly the eighth wonder of the world. Okay, I exaggerate. But it is a slow-burning fat that makes a humble pot of beans or potatoes or simple scrambled eggs into something truly special. Stored in the fridge or freezer it lasts almost indefinitely and a little goes a long way. It’s easy to prepare and while it takes a bit of time, it requires little effort and supervision. Here’s how:

Remember all of those trimmings of excess skin and fat? Coarsely chop them and place them in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add 1/2 cup of tap water. Cook low and slow, allowing the trimmings to render the fat (liquefy) while the water evaporates. Any bits of skin will turn toasty, crunchy brown and these cracklings can be used in salads or however you like. Don’t be impatient. This takes about an hour or more. Once all of the fat has liquefied and the skin has browned, carefully remove the cracklings to a paper towel using a slotted spoon. Allow the duck fat to cool slightly. Then carefully pour it through the fine-meshed sieve into the bottle with the other reserved fat. Cover the jar. Once the jar cools, it should be refrigerated.

Caramelized Apple Pancake

Handsome Old Dog Learns New Tricks

I have been married for a bit over 34 years.  I think that it is safe to say that the closest my husband came to cooking in 32 of them had been to pour a bowl of cereal and milk. However, since Andrew has retired, he has become interested in learning to do some of the cooking. I know! (Our son seems to be learning somewhat faster, for which I applaud Frances.)

Andrew decided to first tackle brunch, an especially good place to start since I rarely do that meal myself. He has become quite adept at making different kinds of pancakes and waffles and I enjoy them all. it One of my favorites is the Amaretti Mascarpone Pancake. But for the past couple of weeks, he has made this Caramelized Apple Pancake. This just might be the best pancake yet. It is similar to a Dutch Baby.  This is the third or fourth different recipe he has tried and it is clearly the keeper. The original recipe called for skim milk, but the buttermilk we used gave the batter an almost sponge cake-like texture that absorbed the flavors and liquid from the apples. Try it and you may never need to go out for brunch again.

Lessons Learned

Now that Andrew has experienced some successes, he recently tackled a chicken curry and it was delicious. I made the accompanying dal and the rice pilaf since he hasn’t quite figured out how to put an entire dinner together, but that just made the process more fun. He is even talking about meal planning!

I have learned a few things from all of this: 1) never give up hope; 2) don’t give cooking advice unless asked; 3) don’t be in a rush to eat since his efforts so far take a very long time to come to fruition and 4) don’t get upset that every, bowl, spatula, cutting board and knife was used to make one meal!

You do need a heavy-duty cast iron pan for this recipe and flavorful apples such as Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious or one of the heirloom baking apples now more readily available in many grocery stores. I would not use the ubiquitous Granny Smith unless you truly cannot find one of the alternatives.

Caramelized Apple Pancake

JeanMarie BrownsonDinner at Home from Chicago Tribune Food and Dining, 1/06/2019 

Yield: 2-4 portions, depending on your appetite

Ingredients

3 large or 4 medium apples such as Honeycrisp or Yellow Opal, or a mixture

6 Tablespoons granulated sugar

6 Tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

2 generous teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk 

4 large eggs

1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4-inch thick slices. In a large bowl, mix the apples with the sugars and cinnamon
  2. Put milk and eggs in a blender and mix (You can also do this by hand). Add the flour and salt and mix only enough to incorporate the flour.
  3. Heat one large oven-proof skillet (10-inches measure across the top) over medium heat. Add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt. Add the apples to the melted butter and cook, stirring occasionally until the apples have softened – about 10-12 minutes. 
  4. When the apples have softened, remove them from the heat. Make sure that the apples are evenly arranged to cover the bottom of the pan but don’t obsess over it, please. Slowly pour the batter over the apples. (While my husband has started in the middle of the pan and worked outwards, you may want to try it the other way around. This might allow the pancake to poof more evenly.) 
  5. Transfer the pan immediately to the hot oven. Bake until puffed and golden (about 25 minutes). Serve immediately, flipping the wedges over on the plate so that the apples are on top, if desired. 

Butterscotch Pudding

For those of you who follow me, you may have noticed that I last posted just prior to Thanksgiving. Frankly, I wanted a break. I enjoy cooking and finding new recipes but it just wasn’t fun trying to make something completely new each week, especially when it is just for the two of us. But I really had a yen this week for old-fashioned butterscotch pudding, something that much to my surprise, I had never actually made before. And somehow with a raging snowstorm this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

So as I usually do when approaching a new recipe, I searched out about five different versions of butterscotch pudding and butterscotch budino. Some were really tarted up and while likely would be delicious, that simply wasn’t what I was looking for. And some had these overly complicated instructions. This is pudding, folks! I finally came across the method I wanted from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, but added some pure vanilla extract to her ingredients.

This is a simple recipe that requires no special skills and the results will take you back to a place of comfort – something most of us sorely need these days.  The resulting pudding is creaminess itself, lovely and unpretentious. It will not taste like that phony butterscotch flavor of the packaged mixes, so if that is what you are looking for, this isn’t it. This pudding is made from very simple ingredients that most of us have on hand, although I did go out and buy whole milk since generally we drink skim or 1%. While you can make this with a lower fat milk, please don’t. It just won’t be the same. So get out your spoon, take a deep breath, close your eyes and take a taste of comfort.

Butterscotch Pudding

Yield: About 10 servings – 100 grams or 3.5 ounces each (The size of the portions is entirely within your discretion, so if you prefer larger portions, there will obviously be fewer.)

Ingredients

1.5 cups dark brown sugar

1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) Cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

3 cups of whole milk

4 large egg yolks (Discard or save the whites for another use. They can be frozen.)

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (NEVER, EVER use imitation!)

Garnish (Optional)

Whipped cream, flavored with a bit of rum, bourbon or simply vanilla and a bit of powdered sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium, non-stick pot, gently whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt. Break up as many of the brown sugar lumps as you can. Butterscotch pudding2
  2. In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, preferably with a lip, whisk together the milk and egg yolks. Pour the mixture into the pot, whisking as you go to combine.
  3. Place the pot over medium heat and cook, gently stirring pretty constantly until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken. This took me about 12.5 minutes. Don’t get discouraged. Nothing seems to be happening until all of a sudden, it’s thickened and you have pudding. Stir until it is the consistency of a creamy, thick, but still pourable pudding.
  4. Remove immediately from the heat and stir through the vanilla and butter. Transfer the pudding (which is very hot) to your desired serving cups and cover with some plastic wrap, touching the top of the pudding. Allow to chill for a couple of hours. Butterscotch pudding4

Slow Cooker Asian Short Ribs (galbi-jjim)

While you will never catch me sitting down to eat a rare steak or roast beef, I do enjoy eating meat – especially when it is slow roasted or braised. I recently bought some beautiful short ribs on the bone even though I wasn’t quite certain what I wanted to do with them. I came across this recipe for Korean slow-cooker short ribs and decided that in honor of Frances I had to try them. Only Frances or her mother can tell me if this is authentic; I can simply say they are delicious! This is real Korean comfort food. The flavors only get richer the more you eat!

If you are feeling lazy, just serve it over some cooked rice so you don’t lose a drop of the yummy sauce. If you are feeling more ambitious, you could choose to add some carrots and potatoes or water chestnuts, dried red dates and ginkgo nuts to the slow cooker about half-way through the cooking time or serve with sugar snap peas that simply have been steamed or stir-fried. This is a wonderfully easy and delicious dish to make for a relaxed dinner with friends. And wouldn’t you rather be taking part in the evening instead of stuck fussing in the kitchen?

Slow Cooker Asian Short Ribs by Chungah Rhee from Damn Delicious and Eating Korean by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Yield: 6 to 8 servings, depending on the number of banchan served

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup beef broth

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3 cloves garlic, minced, about 1 good tablespoon

1 rounded tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces (Although don’t fret if the short ribs are cut differently. Do try to get them on the bone, however, as the bones lend flavor and gelatin to the sauce.)

1/4 cup water or broth

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Optional Additions

1 pound baby carrots

1 pound red baby bliss or other small potato

For Garnish

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

3 scallions, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together soy sauce, beef broth, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and red pepper flakes, if using.
  2. Place short ribs into a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir in soy sauce mixture until well combined. Galbi jjim3
  3. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.*
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/4 cup water or beef broth. Before stirring in the slurry of cornstarch, use a spoon to carefully skim off as much of the fat that has risen to the top as you can. Then stir the cornstarch mixture into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for an additional 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. If you don’t remove the fat first, your sauce will never appear to get thicker – to say nothing of the fact that the fat has done its job of keeping the meat moist and adding flavor, but eating all of it is neither tasty nor healthy.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley or scallion and sesame seeds, if desired. Galbi jjim1

NOTES:

*To test for doneness, pull on a bone as it should slide out freely. In a Korean home, this dish would be served with the ubiquitous kimchi and a choice of banchan. Left-overs will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Simply gently reheat.

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake

As someone who has hosted Thanksgiving dinners for over three (YIKES!) decades, I can tell you that in order to be successful and to also enjoy yourself, it takes a battle plan. You don’t have to be like me and start dreaming about what you will make six months in advance, but it makes all of the difference in the world if you are organized and plan to have a menu that mixes do-ahead dishes along with make-the-day-of dishes. It is the only thing that keeps you sane and relaxed, particularly if, like me, you have a small kitchen and limited storage.

Everyone who comes to my house has their favorite dishes and I do try to always have some if not all of them on hand. I can’t even imagine having a Thanksgiving dinner that didn’t include my Curried Butternut Squash Soup, Orange Cranberry Relish or Vegan Pumpkin Pie and, of course, my Bourbon Pecan Pie. However, I don’t want to get bored and this year I am not only hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the family, but the Shabbat dinner the next night. So I make a point of slipping in something new every year. One thing I have learned over the years is that no matter what mistakes you may make in the main part of the meal, all will be forgiven – and forgotten – if you have great desserts. So in addition to the pumpkin and pecan pie, I will have an Apple Almond Paste Tart and this Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake that I am trying out this year. Sounds like a lot? I guarantee that with 13 people over two nights, there won’t be a crumb left!

The beauty of this apple cake is that it is best made at least one to two days ahead. That allows the Bourbon, sugar, lemon glaze to really penetrate the cake and it will bring out the apple, ginger and spice flavors. And while I may be using some of those same flavors in other desserts, they appear in different guises with a different emphasis in each case. By using a palate of ingredients, you guarantee that everything will complement everything else.

You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to make this lovely cake, but definitely keep it in mind for the holiday. It takes a little work but there are no special or difficult techniques involved. Just follow the steps and even a novice baker can have success.

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake by Melissa Clark in The New York Times

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake4

INGREDIENTS

2 sticks unsalted butter 226 grams, at room temperature, plus more to grease pan

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 315 grams, plus more to dust the pan

3 tablespoons (30 grams) plus 1/2 cup (80 grams) bourbon 

½ cup (90 grams) candied ginger, chopped

1 ¾ cup (330 grams) brown sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder

1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons (3 grams) ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon (5 grams) fine sea salt

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 cup (227 grams) sour cream

1 tablespoon (15 grams) vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons (5 grams) finely grated lemon zest

2 medium Granny Smith apples (about a pound, 454 grams) peeled, and coarsely grated

1 cup (120 grams) coarsely chopped, toasted pecans*

½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon (20 grams)

PREPARATION

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. (Or use one of those cooking sprays that already has the flour in it.) In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons bourbon and the candied ginger. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the brown sugar and remaining butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream and vanilla. Pour in the bourbon from the ginger mixture (reserve ginger) and whisk until smooth. Stir in zest.
  4. With the mixer on medium speed, add the dry mixture and sour cream mixture to the wet mixture in three additions, alternating between the two. Fold in the ginger, apples and pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out dry, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in the pan 20 minutes, then run a paring knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake, if necessary; cool, flat side down, on a wire rack.
  5. While the cake cools, combine the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup Bourbon in a small saucepan. Over low heat, gently stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the lemon juice and take off the heat.
  6. While the cake cools, make 10 slits on top with a paring knife and pour half the Bourbon-sugar mixture on the still-warm cake. When the cake is fully cool, flip it and pour the rest of the glaze on the other side, then flip again to serve.

NOTE: While the cake is wonderful on its own, adding a good dollop of freshly made whipped cream or vanilla ice cream makes it amazing. Did I mention that you could even add a bit of Bourbon to the whipped cream??

Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake1 (2)

To toast the pecans (or any nuts), preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lay the nuts on a baking sheet or pan in a single layer. Toast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the nut used. You should just begin to smell the nuttiness. You should check the nuts about halfway through and jiggle the pan a bit.