Tag Archives: Christmas

A Procrastinator’s Guide: New Year’s Resolutions

WELL. Here we are. The end of 2016. The beginning of 2017.

In a lot of ways, 2016 was a mixed bag. It was like a bag of trail mix where you thought you were going to get a lot of M&Ms, but in actuality, you just kept getting raisins.

Nobody wants fuckin’ raisins in their trail mix.

So, as we look forward to 2017 (blissfully ignoring the fact that we are 4 days into the year), I’d like to share some of my New Year’s Resolutions & Goals.

Many of them are food related. Shock of all shocks.

  • See Dear Evan Hansen
      • Yeah,  I surprised you there. Didn’t start with a food thing at all. You don’t know my life.
      • If 2016 was the year of Hamilton, 2017 is going to be the year of Dear Evan Hansen. Mark my words. Watch this video and then watch it 25 more times and you’ll be where I am: breathless with excitement over this piece of art that I’ve only known for 4 minutes and 57 seconds. (Times 20).

    • Note to self: Go on a Friday night.
  • Eat at Le Bernardin
    • For Christmas, my dad bought me Eric Ripert’s memoir, 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line. I’m only halfway through it, but it’s been a really wonderful read thus far. His childhood was so happy-sad and his relationship with food has been undeniably transformative. Which is why I’ve gots ta go ta Le Bernardin to eat his food. If you had the opportunity to hear Beethoven play, wouldn’t you? Mmmmmmhmmmm.
    • Note to self: Go on a Saturday night. Find someone dashing and funny to share meal. Jon Hamm, probably.
  • Eat at Russ & Daughters
    • Russ & Daughters is a New York landmark that has been around since 1914. In fact, they are celebrating 103 years today. (Happy Anniversarary, Russ & Daughters!) If you’re not familiar, the original location is a shop with the best bagels, smoked fishes, and caviars in all the land. Then, in 2014, they opened their sit down cafe. And then, they opened a restaurant/take away counter in The Jewish Museum. Hell, they even ship their fishes around the country. I will not let 103 more years pass until I eat their food.
    • Note to self: Go on a Sunday morning. Take Jon Hamm again.
  • Go to Hawaii
    • Ok, listen. This one is my biggest reach. But, I’ve been talking about going to Hawaii for at least 3 years. It has been stuck in my craw. I need to see where Magnum, P.I. wore his short shorts. I want to get a grass skirt and learn to hula. I want to pretend that I can surf. And I desperately need to eat some shave ice and taro root and literally all the poke.
    • tom-selleck-beach

      Come on.

  • Bake More Bread
    • I made focaccia for the first time for Christmas dinner and it honestly wasn’t great. It had good flavor, but it was dense and it was dry. But I knew where my problems were thanks to my repeated viewings of The Great British Bake Off and I am really excited to try again to see if I can improve. This is my year to play with dough. I knead to. #punsfullsizerender-2
  • Be More Peaceful
    • Couldn’t we all use a bit more peace and calm in 2017? Cleansing breaths, people.
  • And last, but not least: Be Open to New Experiences
    • Let’s try some new things in 2017. Let’s get weird.

So, in summation: theatre, eat, eat, travel, eat, peace, weird, Jon Hamm.

I don’t know about you, but 2017 sounds like it’s shaping up to be a pretty good year.

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Thanksgiving 2016: I’m Unprepared!

If there’s one thing I can say about myself, it’s that I’m consistent. I have consistently broken my promise to write on this blog consistently. I will try to be better.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, which has become my favorite holiday as of late.

Christmas? It used to be cool. But now, it’s just a lot of build up for a whole lot of nothing. Like when I lost my virginity.

HEYO!

Anyways. Thanksgiving is 4 days away. Even with my proclivity for procrastination, I am normally flipping through Bon Appetit and browsing Food52 for inspiration. But this year, I have not been.

This year has been a bit weird. Between some pretty heavy family dramz and the fact I’m on production right now in Salt Lake City, I’ve planned almost nothing. In fact, I only decided to go home to Jacksonville a few days ago.

Which means, I need to cook.

So, here we are. Real life Top Chef Challenge. Put together a Thanksgiving Dinner in 45 minutes of meal planning/grocery list writing. Dad will shop for ingredients at the best grocery store in the world, Publix. I will fly in on Wednesday to prep and the big day is on Thursday.

Game on.

Here’s what I’m doing.

  • Rosemary and Citrus Turkey For a Crowd from NYTimes Cooking
    • I made this turkey last year and it was a real crowd pleaser. And by crowd, I mean: me, my mother and father.
  • Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing from Martha Stewart
    • This has been my go-to stuffing recipe for the past few years. It smells and tastes like being home for the holidays. And unlike being home for the holidays, this stuffing will not ask you why you’re not married yet or if you are a lesbian. (‘I have a busy job’ and ‘no, but like, a little bit in college.’)
  • Best Ever Green Bean Casserole from Alton Brown via Food Network
    • Lovers of my prose will know that I have been searching for the right green bean recipe for Thanksgiving for a few years. Previous green bean casseroles have been too fancy. Regular green beans are too plain for Thanksgiving. Alton Brown has never let me down, so let’s audition this one.
  • Classic Mashed Potatoes from NYTimes Cooking
    • Potatoes? Good. Milk? Good. Butter? GOOOOOOOD.
  • Cranberry Sauce from Alton Brown
    • Cranberries? Good. Sauce? Good. Ridges made by molding cranberry sauce in your own can? GOOOOOOOD.

I’ll get a little help from Sis Schubert’s rolls and some sort of frozen pie. A frozen pie is not my preference, but there are only so many hours in a day.

Bring on the Thanksgiving pants!

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You are my Everest.–via Tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

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Cookie Snobbery: Momofuku Milkbar Cookie Mixes

My name is Bethany Novak. And I am a snob.

No, not a snob for everything. I mean, I love my butler just as much as I love my housemaids. But they are NOT to look at me in the eyes.

Truth is, I am a cookie snob. I typically find that packaged cookie mixes are sub-par.

I know, I know. Fire up the stakes. Let’s burn the witch.

I was walking through Target on Saturday morning, wearing my Toronto Blue Jays hat, and playing a game where I make up player names in case someone ever asked me who my favorite player is. My latest one is Mark St. Clair. He was a 3rd baseman in the 90s. Had a .400 batting average. He is not real.

Anyway, I was walking up and down the aisles of Target without a list, which is really dangerous. You can spend a lot of money in there. But when you wander unencumbered by a list, hidden in the shadows of your Blue Jays hat, you make phenomenal discoveries. I stumbled upon Momofuku Milk Bar cookie mixes.

If you do not know Momofuku Milk Bar, you do now. It’s the bakery part of the Momofuku family of restaurants, which is based in NYC, and it’s delightful. It’s incredibly whimsical and yet nostalgic, but also so simple. Flavors straight out of childhood (or straight out of a smoky hotbox).

I’m a bit too familiar with the Milk Bar website for my own good. I bought some cookies and truffles as Christmas gifts this year. But I didn’t realize they sold these mixes at Target.

I started with the Compost Cookie, one of their signature flavors. Like other Target versions of haute brands, this product is a bit cheaper than you would get it on the Milk Bar site ($6.99 vs. $16.00). But you actually get a bit more cookie for your buck. A package from Target makes a dozen. The box from the Milk Bar site makes 9. Curious.

But what is not compromised in the slightest is the flavor. I’ve had the cookies from the bakery and they taste identical to the ones that I made in my kitchen this weekend. So, I stand corrected. Some cookie mixes can live up to the real thing. Mea culpa.

Compost Cookie, a tableau

Compost Cookie, a tableau

My friend Natalie saw my Instagram post about the mixes on Saturday and requested “a review with photos and lots of adjectives.” So without further ado, this is for you, Natalie. And anyone else who managed to make it through all the “jokes” to the point of the post.

Ok, adjectives. Um. Well. Yikes. Ok. These cookies are good. Err, no. They’re delicious.

No, those are fluff words that mean squat. Has watching Alton Brown taught me nothing??!

These cookies are perplexing. You shouldn’t want to like them but you do. They shouldn’t make sense but they do. They’re sweet. They’re super sweet. Chocolate chips and butterscotch chips combined put it almost over the edge. But then you come across the potato chips and the pretzels, which give a much-needed punch of salt. It’s a well-balanced cookie.

Mix it up

Mix it up

It’s also a cookie that is has great texture, almost like a granola bar. The crunchy pretz, the flaky chip, the thick oats. For all the stuff that is in it, it is packed full of flavor, but finishes really light. The cookies bake up soft in the middle, but caramelized on the edges.

Christina Tosi, you sexy bitch.

I’m not mad at it. 

This would be the cookie your grandma would make if you got your grandma kinda high. And everybody would love them. Regular grandma. High grandma. Kids. Adults.

Even the recovering snobs among us.

Momofuku Mixes are available at many but not all Target stores and on Target.com.

Check out Momofuku Milk Bar for their whole line of products. They ship pies, cakes, cookies, trufflies, mixes, cookbooks, etc. Word on the street is that the truffles are the tits.

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Take Your Children To Work Day: Chicken Tinga Tacos

Today is Taco Take Your Children To Work Day. So it seems only appropriate to have a post about MyFakeFoodDad, Dave.

Few of you have had the privilege of meeting my dad, but to know Dave is to love Dave.

Do you doubt? Let me explain. Meet Dave.

He doesn’t look like he’s having fun, but he is.

He worked on the railroad for his whole career. He can identify the meaning of a train whistle just by its sound. Now that he’s retired, he’s building a model railroad loosely based on the railroad where he worked when he met my mom. Pretty romantical, if you ask me. Also, nerdy. Old white man hobbies, amiright? (Don’t think he’s not reading this. I would say and have said this to his face. Love you, Pops!)

Dave loves Magnum P.I. and The Rockford Files and has instilled in me a healthy love and respect for both. We watch The West Wing every Thanksgiving, Die Hard every Christmas, and Nacho Libre every Easter. For that is how we do.

Dave will do most anything for a joke (sound familiar?), but he’s also really very thoughtful. He’s a long time reader of the Wall Street Journal and always keeps an eye out for articles that would interest me (and my friends). Theatre! Fashion! Production! Television! Recipes! So many recipes! All of the recipes!

A recent article he shared is about the culture of tacos in America. I love that sentence so much that I’m going to write it again. A recent article he shared is about the culture of tacos in America. The summary is that we’re starting to see a trend back toward the traditional roots of the taco and away from the culture of Anything Goes tacos. No, I don’t mean Cole Porter tacos. (That was for all you musical theatre nerds). What I mean is a taco where anything goes, like Doritos Locos tacos, Korean Barbecue tacos, or Tex Mex tacos. These things may be delicious, but they are not authentically Mexican in either flavor profile or ingredients.

The article included a recipe for Chicken Tinga Tacos from Bajo Sexto Taco in Nashville. Run, don’t walk, to make these for Cinco de Mayo. Or any day de Mayo. Or venticuatro de abril. (That’s tomorrow, people.)

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They are deeply soul satisfying. The sauce is spicy with a sharp bite from the vinegar, which cools off instantly from the creamy avocado. I paired it with a grilled Mexican corn salad and some chips and guac. Because duh.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that. Tacos are the best. My dad is the best.

I just can’t decide which I love more.

Chicken Tinga Tacos from Bajo Sexto Taco via wsj.com

  • 2½ pounds boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, thinly sliced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • ½ (7-ounce) can chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 12 fresh corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1 avocado, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast chicken until mostly cooked but still pink and juicy, 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, shred meat coarsely.

Meanwhile, caramelize onions: Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions, tossing to coat with oil, until softened, 10 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons water, then reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and deep golden, 20-30 minutes more. If pan becomes dry, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to prevent burning.

Make sauce: In a blender, process caramelized onions, chilies with sauce, garlic, vinegar and a pinch each of salt and pepper until smooth.

Heat canola oil in a large skillet. Once shimmering, add sauce and cook until rust-brown and thickened, 3-4 minutes. Add chicken, stir to coat, and cook until no longer pink, 3-4 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken on tortillas with a slice of avocado.

Mexican Corn Salad from Bon Appetit

  • 4 ears of corn, husked
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 ounce Cotija cheese or Parmesan, crumbled (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Prepare grill for medium heat. Grill corn, turning occasionally, until tender and charred, 8–10 minutes; let cool slightly. Cut kernels from cobs and transfer to a medium bowl.

Whisk mayonnaise, lime juice, paprika, cayenne, if using, 2 oz. Cotija cheese, and 2 tablespoons cilantro in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add corn and toss to combine. Top with more cheese and cilantro.

DO AHEAD: Dressing can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Corn can be grilled and cut from cobs 1 hour ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Guacamole from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook via FoodNetwork.com

  • 4 ripe Haas avocados
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 8 dashes hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced

Cut the avocados in 1/2, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. Immediately add the lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.

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Bits and Bobs: My First Month in RVA

I’ve been saying to myself, “I have to write a blog post. My fans need me.”

But in reality, I’ve had nothing to which I wanted to dedicate a whole post. Please get off my jock, fans. I just want a normal life.

My friend, Anna, is always really incredible about writing about the bits and bobs in her life for her blog Curiouser and Curiouser. So, inspired by Anna, I give you highlights from my first month in Richmond/my life/my binge-watching of Top Chef.

  • No, really, I’ve watched every episode of Top Chef. I’m not kidding. I started from the beginning and just plowed on through. I think I started right before I moved…but even so, that’s PROBABLY an unhealthy level of TV watching. (Who are you to judge, weirdos?) Even the seasons I didn’t like originally had merit when I watched it again. What’s next for me? A season of MasterChef. DONE. Now onto MasterChef Junior and Hell’s Kitchen. And of course, the current season of Top Chef. Perhaps I might try a non-food show. But…I’d have to pay so much more attention…
  • Thanksgiving is in the air and I’m not upset about it. I love Christmas. But the fact that Christmas is trying to push Thanksgiving out of the way? Thanksgiving needs to hit Christmas in the face with a shovel. Defend November, Thanksgiving. I’ve already started fantasizing about my turkey day menu and have made my first stuffing of the year. I’m hosting the meal this year (in addition to cooking….like every year, MOM), so the research starts NOW.
  • I went on an oyster crawl. I remember eating my first raw oyster. I was on a shoot and we were at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain and my former boss was scoffing that I’d never had a raw oyster. I remember trying it and distinctly NOT liking it. Cause it’s weird. (Seriously, who is the first person who saw an oyster and said, “I better eat what’s inside there.”) Now, I can’t get enough of them. My friend Melissa organized an oyster crawl because Richmond has enough places that serve oysters that you can organize a whole crawl. MMHMM. The stand out was Rappahannock, an oyster bar whose owners are cousins that took over their grandfather’s oyster farm. The story is great, the food is greater. Order a dozen and the shrimp app, and be sure to chew on a licorice root just to see if it tastes like anything. (IT DOES, YOU GUYS, I SWEAR.)
  • I went to a food festival alone. Richmond had their inaugural Fire, Flour & Fork, “a gathering for the Food Curious,” a few weeks ago. I wanted to go and since I have like three friends (hey, it’s more than 0!), I went alone. The meal was stunning. The chef is a guy named Justin Carlisle and he’s got a tiny restaurant in Milwaukee called Ardent. He brought his farm-to-table philosophy to Richmond. Farm-to-table is really an understatement. It’s farm-to-table meets nose-to-tail. It’s farm-to-tail eating. Nose-to-table? (Weird.) He’s sourcing everything local, but not because it’s trendy. Because that’s the only way to truly understand your product. Every bite I ate was better than the last. The homemade muenster cheese was perfection. Mild and creamy and when paired with their milk bread (FROM THE SAME COWS?!), perfection. If you’re in Miwluakee, go. Make a reservation, it’s tiny! Also, it was kind of fun to go alone. I sat with a couple of gramma aged ladies and they were really nice. You can’t have a BAD time at something like that.

 

 

Those are my bits and bobs for now. Go make friends with a random old lady and chew on some licorice root.

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A Cure for Ebola: Chocolate Chip Cookies

They say 10,000 hours is how many hours you need to do something to master it. 10,000 hours of harmonica? Master of harmonica.

This is why I’m so EFFING GOOD at sleeping.

I’m 29 years old and assuming I’ve slept around 8 hours a night, I’ve slept nearly 85,000 hours. NAILED IT.

In the culinary world, with the exception of eating (roughly 32,000 hours), I’ve only ever done one thing even remotely close to 10,000 hours. That is bake chocolate chip cookies.

I can’t approximate how many times I’ve made them in my life. I just remember that I started making them when I was in elementary school (Beaches Episcopal School, where you at!?!) and I really never stopped making them.

There is nothing more soul satisfying than a chocolate chip cookie. It’s comforting. It’s reminiscent of childhood and lunch boxes and Christmas and hugs and everything good in the world. A chocolate chip cookie is the antidote to every bad thing in the world. Chocolate chip cookies have healing powers. Chocolate chip cookies can cure ebola.*

*Cookies probably can’t cure ebola, but it certainly couldn’t make ebola worse. Please note, I am not a doctor.

I don’t do anything fancy with my chocolate chip cookies, but I swear to you they’re practically perfect every time. They’re puffy and chewy, yet super light.

I do have 2 things I do every single time that give me success.

  1. I use an ice cream scoop to form the dough. Every time you get big, beautiful cookies.
  2. I don’t overcrowd the pan. A standard sized sheet pan holds 5 cookies, staggered to give them room to spread. (This was very difficult when I only had a convection oven that fit a half sheet pan and only had one rack in it. Baking took HOURS.)
The Scoop Method

The Scoop Method

So if you want chocolate chip cookies that cure ebola**, try this recipe from my grandmother, Nestlay Tollouse.

**These cookies have not been scientifically proven to cure ebola.

Original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookies from the back of the bag, adapted from VeryBestBaking.com

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened | I almost always microwave it. Good for you!
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (one 12-oz. pkg.)  NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts | Listen, this is a personal choice here, but I think nuts in chocolate chip cookies are disgusting. Their texture gets weird. Eliminate them and focus on the perfection.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Whisk ingredients together. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts (yuck). Drop by ice cream scoop onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet):Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.

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A Good Pie-dea: Paprika Peach Pie

Last Christmas, I bought a friend a gift. And then immediately bought myself one.

That’s how it goes, right? One for you and one for me. I’m pretty sure that’s how the wise men did the first Christmas. Myrrh for you, myrrh for me.

This present was the all pie cookbook from Four & Twenty Blackbirds. If you don’t know Four & Twenty Blackbirds, you wanna know it. It’s a pie shop in Brooklyn run by two sisters, Melissa and Emily Elsen. These gals learned how to make pie from their grandmother and they are killing the pie game.

I got the cookbook for Christmas (for myself) and then was immediately too intimidated to make a pie. Because let’s be real, you can’t use any Pillsbury crust for a cranberry and sage pie. The crust is crucial and needs to be made from scratch.

A few when planning for a pool day with my friends Lindsay and Tim, it was put up or shut up. This was the perfect occasion to make a pie. Tim and Lindsay are adventurous eaters and enjoy (dare I say, seek out!) unique flavor combinations. Plus, it’s summer, so you know the fruit is begging to be turned into a pie.

So, I decided to make one. With the best of summer fruits and knowing Lindsay and Tim’s appetite for adventure (PUN INTENDED), I decided to make a paprika peach pie.

Say whaaaat!

You heard me. Paprika peach pie. And might I say, it was delicious. A little ugly, but dee-licious.

That’s what she said.

(Sorry, dad.)

Paprika Peach Pie, Y'all

Paprika Peach Pie, Y’all

This pie was so fresh and so sweet, with a touch of spice from the paprika. The rich buttery crust should not be skipped. It was hard to do (particularly being my first time), but well worth the time and effort. My lattice looks like a 4th grader did it, but OH WELL. I DID IT.

Make sure if you attempt this pie, you give yourself a lot of time. I was kind of d-u-m and started this pie late in the afternoon. Pie needs time. Pie needs handholding. Frankly, pie is a delicious brat. Put the dough together, now leave it alone for an hour. Then assemble the inside of the pie. And then leave it alone again. I’m pretty sure that pie is the cat of desserts. When it wants you, it wants all of your attention. And then it is done with you

Cover this with cat up with whipped cream and eat it. You will not be disappointed.

…Um….that’s what she said…

(Again, sorry, Dad.)

Paprika Peach Pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, via Edible Brooklyn

Paprika Peach Pie

Makes 1 pie

  • All-Butter Crust for a 9-inch double-crust pie (see below)
  • 2½ pounds peaches (enough for about 5 cups sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 dashes Old Fashion bitters | I had Angostura bitters at home and used that. Worked well!
  • Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
  • Demerara sugar, for finishing | I left this out because I didn’t have any. It would’ve looked better if I’d included.

To assemble the pie:
Have ready and refrigerated one pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan and pastry round or lattice to top (double-crust recipe below).

Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Have ready a large bowl of ice water.

Score an X into the bottom of each peach, and then drop it into the simmering water for 30 to 60 seconds. Remove and immediately drop into the ice water.

When the fruit has cooled slightly, the skin should slip off easily when scraped with the back of a knife. (This did not really work for me, so I used a vegetable peeler on the stubborn skin.)

Slice the peeled peaches into ½-inch slices, add to a large bowl, and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Add the granulated and brown sugars, potato starch, paprika, white pepper, allspice, ginger, salt, and bitters and toss well to combine. Spoon the filling into the refrigerated pie shell, leaving behind excess juices. Arrange the lattice or pastry round on top, and crimp as desired.

Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile, position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Brush the pastry with the egg wash to coat; if your pie has a lattice top, be careful not to drag the filling onto the pastry (it will burn). Sprinkle with the desired amount of demerara sugar.

Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown.

Lower the oven temperature to 375°F, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 30 to 35 minutes longer.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

To make dough for one double-crust 9- to 10-inch pie or tart:

  • 2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup cold water
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ice

Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl.

Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula.

With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).

Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated.

Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.

Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.

Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow.

If making the double-crust version, divide the dough in half before shaping each portion into flat discs.

Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

 

 

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A Christmas Tradition: Carrot Cake and Chuck Hughes (Sigh!)

It was two days before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a…

Nope. Can’t keep that shit up.

It really was two days before Christmas and I was attempting to make my first carrot cake.

YES. I realize that Christmas was weeks ago. It’s getting a bit wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey on the blog today.

Why must we all speak like children?

I have no idea where he picks that stuff up.

I love carrot cake. I don’t know what it is. There’s normal cake deliciousity, plus the natural sweetness of the carrots and the raisins. And don’t even get me started on a cream cheese icing.

Have you ever seen someone on TV and REALLY thought you could be friends with that person? Like REALLY? Like if you actually met them, you’d grab a burger and start talking and hanging out or whatever. (This is going somewhere, I swear.) Chef Chuck Hughes is like that for me. He’s really funny and super likable. He’s totally goofy, absolutely adorable, and bonus? He makes a lot of gorgeous dishes on his show on cooking Channel Chuck’s Day Off. Also, that show has an awesome soundtrack.

Last year, Chuck did a Christmas special called “Chuckmas” (no idea where they got the name). And he and his mom made a carrot cake that I believe they make every year. And no wonder. It’s delicious and fairly foolproof.

Fairly foolproof. But don’t worry, I’m always here to play the fool.

One of my springform pans was leaking, so I put it on a cookie sheet. And the only way to get the other pan on the same rack in the oven was to lean the other springform pan on the cookie sheet. So, basically, I wound up with one really nice, even cake and one really slanty cake that looked like a hillside.

Once they cooled, I thought I’d cut the top of the cake off like I’d seen on TV! It looks so easy! Level the cake! Nope. This went very poorly. The cake was misshapen, basically a dome, and it started to lead to some structural damage. Then I had this exchange with my dad.

Me: My cake is falling apart.

Dad: I have something for that!

He brought me a backhoe.

He brought me a backhoe.

I also kind of fucked the frosting up. I overwhipped it in an effort to get the lumps out of the cream cheese.

But my pal Chuck KNEW I was going to struggle a little bit. So he and his mom top the cake with these amazing crystallized walnuts. So, even though I wasn’t completely perfect, he had a way to cover up all my mistakes.

That’s what super talented, hunky friends are for.

Carrot Cake, ever so slightly adapted from Cooking Channel

Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups peeled and grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • ½ cup dried golden raisins

Frosting:

  • 2 packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups confectioners sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange

Maple Walnuts

  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts

For the cake: With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8-inch springform pans with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the sugar, oil and eggs with a whisk. Gently stir in the dry ingredients. With a spatula, gently fold in the carrots, pineapple, walnuts, cherries and raisins.

Divide the batter between the pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in the pans on a rack. Run the blade of a knife around the cakes and unmold.

For the frosting: In a bowl, cream the cream cheese with the butter and icing sugar with an electric mixer. Add the zest and juice and continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

Spread the frosting over the top of the cakes and stack them on a platter.

For the maple walnuts: In a skillet, bring the syrup to a boil. Add the walnuts and stir continuously until the syrup has crystallized around the walnuts. Pour onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let cool. Garnish the cake.

Cake!

Cake!

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Holiday/Celebrate: Margaritas Would Be So Nice

When it comes to this holiday season, you can count on two things.

  1. You will be invited to a holiday party.
  2. You will be required to bring something fabulous.

If you haven’t been invited to any parties, then…yiiiikes.

YIKES

But you probably all have been because you’re all very cool with nice teeth and good hair.

Our holiday party at work was a week and a half ago (I know, I know) and my friends Anna, Bailey and I decided to throw a little cocktail party beforehand. We planned really well, and had some delicious foodstuffs.

And by “we planned really well,” I mean “I planned ok yet had one major crisis.”

We had the party at Bailey’s, since it was right near the venue of our holiday party. So I was taking all of my stuff there. And since I was making two apps and a cranberry margarita, I was taking all my materials to her apartment.

As I started assembling my cranberry margarita, I realized: I left my tequila at home. And there was a parade going on downtown. And the party started in 15 minutes.

TEQUILA CRISIS.

Anna’s husband, Kevin, generously offered to go buy more but I remembered we were 3 blocks from my office. And there is always tequila at our office, so I took it. (Calm down, I replaced it Monday.) My work is drunker cooler than yours.

TEQUILA CRISIS AVERTED.

These cranberry margaritas are divine, y’all. They look like Christmas with the bright red margarita and the green lime. They’re sweet, but not overly so. And the tequila is present but not overwhelming, so they go down really smooth. The Chinese five spice on the rim is a revelation. Thank to Mark Fisher for the recommendation! (When Mark Fisher recommends a food or drink, you listen.)

As for food, Bailey was in charge of cheese and charchewterie (that’s what we call charcuterie). Anna made these amazing southern samosas and baked brie, and I brought a nut mix and ceviche. Basically, the two most random things ever. But they were good. Light and nibbly. Good party food. Good pre-party food. Good food for eating with your friends at one of your many holiday parties.

And if you weren’t invited to any parties?

Then just pop in your copy of Angels with Dirty Faces and go to town.

Junk and rubbish.

Cranberry Margarita from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • Homemade cranberry jam, recipe to follow
  • Kosher salt
  • Sugar
  • Chinese five-spice powder
  • Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Tequila

Cranberry Jam

  • ¾ cup fresh cranberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Bring cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and jammy, 30–40 minutes. Mix in orange zest; let cool.

Jam can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Margarita Assembly

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 lime wedge, plus 2 oz. fresh juice
  • 4 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 6 oz. tequila

Mix salt, sugar, and five-spice powder on a small plate. Rub rims of Old Fashioned glasses with lime wedge; dip in salt mixture and fill glasses with ice.

For each cocktail, combine ½ oz. lime juice, 1 oz. orange juice, 1½ oz. tequila, and 2 Tbsp. cranberry jam in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice. Cover and shake until outside is frosty,  about 30 seconds. Strain into prepared glass.

This recipe can easily be made into a large batch and put in a pitcher. Just make sure final ratio is 1 part fresh lime juice, 2 parts orange juice, 3 parts tequila and as much cranberry jam as you like.

The Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts from Food Network

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds | I bought nuts at Whole Foods.
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm. And once you eat these, you will never want to stop.

Blurry Southern Samosas and Nut Mix, y'all

Mahi-Mahi Ceviche with Japanos and Coconut from Epicurious

Note: There was no mahi-mahi available, so I used red snapper and it was a really good substitute. I also added one cubed avocado.

  • 1 pound mahi-mahi fillets, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
  • 1 ½ cups fresh lime juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 jalapeño chiles, seeded; 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • Saltine crackers

Combine fish, lime juice, and oregano in large glass bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Chill until fish turns opaque, stirring occasionally, about 50 minutes.

Strain almost all lime juice from fish; return fish to bowl. Stir in onion, minced and sliced jalapeños, coconut, and cilantro. Season with salt. Chill at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. Serve in Martini glasses, or in a bowl if you’re not a cheesy nerd. Pass crackers separately.

Red Snapper Ceviche

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I love smiling. Smiling’s my favorite. An Elf Dinner Party.

The holidays are full of traditions. Some good, some bad. Some so bad they’re good. (Folgers incestuous brother-sister Christmas commercial, anyone? YOU’RE MY PRESENT THIS YEAR, INAPPROPRIATE BROTHER.) And some of them are phenomenal. This one is simply phenomenal. 

For the last 6 years, my friends J & B and I have gathered to watch Elf. We watch, exchange presents, decorate cookies and cry when Buddy saves Christmas*. BACK OFF, IT IS EMOTIONAL.

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*Please note, J and I are the only ones who cry. B, being the man of the group, does what every man does when women are crying at Elf: makes fun of them for crying at Elf. 

This year’s party was in J & B’s awesome new house. New house, new Elf party. Why not incorporate a new twist? Let’s add some Elf themed food.

When I told my dad about this, he assumed that that meant we’d be eating spaghetti with syrup on it. A little on the nose, Dave. But the principle was right. 

J assigned each of us one of the Elf culinary staples. B got coffee (from the scene where Buddy congratulates the shitty diner on the world’s best cup of coffee), J got marshmallows (which Buddy puts on his spaghetti, along with pop tarts and other stuff), and I got maple syrup. Which was both exciting and terrifying.

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I have to make another confession here on the ole blog: I don’t think I’d ever had true maple syrup before. I’m not a huge pancake fan. I’ll do a waffle from time to time, but it sure as shit better have a piece of fried chicken on top. I’ve always been drawn to the savory more than the sweet, so this may have been my first experience with maple syrup. Like, in the world.

Worst. Food. Blog. Evar.

But, I had a mission. To create an appetizer with maple syrup for our Elf party. Buddy didn’t let Santa down. And I was not going to let Santa down either. Or my friends. Since Santa was not attending this party.

I found a recipe on the Epicurious app for Very Simple Pumpkin Soup that featured maple syrup. Sidenote. The Epicurious app is an awesome cooking app, y’all. The functionality is amazing. The way I found this recipe is by searching by ingredient and then by course, weeding out the thousands of French toast recipes and only focusing on the things that were appropriate. Download the Epicurious app.

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And before you ask, yeah right, Epicurious is not paying me. They’ve never even heard of me. I’ve barely even heard of me. Just a rad app for iPhone and iPad. 

Anyways, this soup is good. It’s easy because you’re using canned pumpkin. And it’s a bit sweet, because of the pumpkin and the maple syrup. But the Chinese Five Spice gives it some depth and spice (….5 spices to be precise…) without being spicy. Top with sautéed shitake mushrooms and you’ve got yourself a treat even Buddy might like. 

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B brought the baking with a pumpernickel bread made with coffee. It was terrific. Really rich flavor and paired so well with herbed goat cheese and a creamy swiss.  

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And J made an elegant smores bar, inspired by her some searching on Pinterest. She stepped it up by adding some bacon. Cause bacon makes everything better. We got to toast the marshmallows in their brand new fireplace.

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It was an excellent night. And now, all I want to do is make food inspired by movies. Watch Midnight in Paris and make coq au vin. Watch Ocean’s 11 and make fruits de mer. Hell, I’ll even give Silence of the Lambs a go.

CALM DOWN, JERKS.

I would make LAMB with a chianti sauce and fava bean risotto. And tiramisu. Cause it has lady fingers. PUNTASTIC!

Very Simple Pumpkin Soup, from Epicurious.com

 

  • 2 15-ounce cans pure pumpkin
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed | I do not have a presser of garlic. So, I minced. 
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder | * A blend of ground anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger available in the spice section of most supermarkets. I thought I was going to have trouble finding it, but found these at Fresh Market. 
  • 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced | These I found at Whole Foods. 

Bring first 4 ingredients to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking often. Whisk in syrup, 2 tablespoons butter, and five-spice powder. Simmer soup 10 minutes, whisking often. Season with salt and pepper. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Divide soup among 6 bowls. Sprinkle soup with mushrooms, dividing equally; serve.

Soup can be made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring to simmer before serving.

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