20 December 2013


I've wanted to make a real mincemeat, and then Dan Lepard, the fantastic baker and food writer at the Guardian, posted a recipe.

Here's the boozy mix of currants, sultanas, prunes, raisins, apples and spices — it sat for a month, being mixed once and topped with booze a hanfdul of times (I used, at varying times, bourbon, brandy, or rum).

Here it is mixed again and topped off with a bit of rum, in my favorite crust (Tartine's recipe).

 Topped with lattice...

And completed.

 And voilà!

28 November 2013

roasted parsnip pie

I made a parsnip pie back in 2007, and here's a new version. 

  • 8 oz. flour
  • 4 oz. lard
  • 1½ oz butter
  • ⅓ c. water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 18 oz. parsnips
  • chicken stock
  • butter
  • allspice berries
  • thyme
  • 8 oz. crème fraîche
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • nutmeg, grated (I used about an ⅛ of an inch nutmeg)
  • salt, pepper
Make the crust as you would any other (that's modified from Tartine's recipe), or use your favorite recipe. The lard seemed like a good idea for Thanksgiving. Chill overnight or at least while preparing the parsnips.

Chop and roast the parsnips at 375ºF with some allspice, thyme, and a few knobs of butter, with a half inch of chicken stock in the pan.

Meanwhile, roll out your crust, bake for ten minutes (also at 375ºF) with foil and pie weights and another eight without, until it is fully baked.

When the stock has evaporated form the parsnips, replenish, and roast until they are soft and caramelized (about an hour).

Purée the parsnips, adding enough stock to make it smooth. Pass this through a conical strainer (chinois), food mill, or sieve, so that the allspice and any fibers are taken out.

Add egg yolks one at a time, then fold in crème fraîche and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and more thyme. Beat the whites to soft peaks and whisk into the parsnip mix (you don't need to be gentle—it's not a soufflé, it's okay to beat to get it smooth).

Pour into the prebaked shell and bake for about 45 minutes at 325ºF, until set.

And here it is:

steamed kabocha cake (kabocha no mushigashi)

This is a recipe that I've modified from Hiroko Shimbo's The Japanese Kitchen. The recipe is very flexible — I've used different flours, different squash (or sweet potato), and I've added fresh cranberries or currants in lieu of raisins (or left both out). It is always a hit, and is my most-requested dessert.

  • 6 oz. roasted kabocha (I prefer roasted to steamed, and I've doubled the quantity)
  • 5 cloves, ground
  • ½ tsp. grond ginger
  • 2½ tbsp. cake flour (used here, but I've use whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour as well)
  • ⅓ c. rice flour (I've use mochiko in the past, Shimbo calls for joshinko, and here I used an all-purpose stone-ground variety)
  • 4 eggs, separated (or 3 if you have extra large ones)
  • 5 tbsp. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅓-½ c. each zante currants and walnuts tossed in a tablespoon of rice flour
Prepare a pot to steam: if you have a springform that fits in a bamboo steamer, that's great. But springforms are often too tall. In that case, I have a rack on the bottom of a stockpot that will fit an 8- or 9-inch springform pan with water going up to the rack. Line the springform with parchment.

Blend the kabocha, spices, and egg yolks (the spices are optional, but seem appropriate for Thanksgiving) in a medium bowl.

Beat the whites to soft peaks with the salt, adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time as you reach the soft peaks. Fold the whites, a third at a time, into the kabocha mixture. Sift the two flours together and then into this mixture, being careful not to deflate. Do the same with currants and walnuts.

Steam for 25-40 minutes (about 25 in a pot, longer if in a bamboo steamer), until a toothpick comes out clean.

26 November 2013

"mrs. child's famous sticky fruitcake"

As Julia Child notes, "[t]his cake isn't sticky at all, but it started out that way during my first experiements, and the name has remained, as a family joke."1 And thus began my first experiment with fruitcake. I've made panforte and convinced my fruitcakephobic family to relish that, and Child's fruitcake seemed like good introduction to fruitcake (she has yet to fail me, from pastry to roast chicken).

 The fruitcake began with me making mixed peel: I blanched lemon and orange peel in water and then cooked them in syrup (I wasn't about to buy the overly processed peel at a grocery store, and I've never seen the higher quality stuff of which British pastry chefs talk).

The base is four pounds of peel and fruit: I used the aforementioned candied orange and lemon peel plus raisins, sultanas, zante currants, figs, candied ginger, sour cherries preserved in alcohol, unsulfured apricots, and prunes. This sits overnight with a pound of nuts (I used pecans and walnuts), a pound of mincemeat (I used some from Dan Lepard's recipe: I should have made it a month ago, but this'll be fine — and now I'll have mince for a Christmas pie), ⅔ c. rum, ⅓ c. bourbon, 1 tbsp. espresso, ¼ c. molasses, and a mix of 1 tsp. cardamom, ½ tsp. each cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and mace, and 1½ tsp. salt.

Above left is what that looks like after 24 hours of maceration, above left is tossed with 3½ c. flour with 1 tbsp. baking powder.

To that mixture is added ½ lb. butter that was creamed with 2 c. sugar, ⅓ c. brown sugar, 2 tbsp. vanilla and six eggs. This is then spooned into buttered and floured tins lined with parchement. I ended up with four loaves a little under a pound each, one toping two pounds and a sixth weighing in at almost three-and-a-half pounds (the smaller caked baked for 80 minutes, the larger for 120-130).

These smell lovely. I sprinkled more bourbon and rum atop, wrapped them up, and we'll see how they are in a month (if I can wait)!

1Julia Child, From Julia Child's Kitchen (New York: Grammercy, 1975), 583.

20 November 2013

apple nougatine tart

There's something about Tartine's apple nougatine tart that is simple and spectacular. The apples (three varities) are sautéed in butter and sugar beforehand, which creates a stable texture for the tart, reduces extra moisture, and creates a buttery-carmalized fillling.

The sautéed apples are layered in a fully-baked crust after being tossed with lemon juice and zest (which I used to deglaze the pan and reduced slightly). 

This is covered with a mixture of sliced almonds, sugar, and lightly whipped egg white (I prefer it slightly whipped to make the crust light).

And voilà: one of my favorite ways to consume apples. And it travelled well on the CTA to a friend's for dinner.

06 November 2013


I've finally found the perfect combination of Midwest apple varieties for tarte tatin — and I can't remember one of them. Coming from Massachusetts, it's been a hurdle keeping track of local varieties, especially when I can't find apples that I had come to expect. One of the apples above is Winesap — a fabulously tart apple. The other is also a tart baking apple, and together the tart has a lemony aroma and taste that makes it one of the best that I have made.

05 November 2013

duck + chestnuts

Duck breast, dry rubbed with thyme, salt, and pepper, seared and finished with a wine-duck-cherry sauce (reduced wine, duck stock, sour cherries that have been soaking in grain alcohol with hibiscus and orange peel, and the faux-demi-glace that you get when making duck confit). This, with Julia Child's purée of chestnuts, which has left me with fingers numbed from peeling hot chestnuts but nevertheless sated, thinking it was well worth it.

04 November 2013

sour cherry, apple, and pear pie

A blend of sour cherries (frozen from July), pears, and apples — with cinnamon, cloves and a bit of sugar and tapioca flour — made for a delightful fall pie.

26 October 2013


You cant go wrong with Jennifer McLagan: This is her cassoulet, and the verdict tonight was that it soars above others. Of course, with a book entitled Fat, what could go wrong?

Jennifer's recipe for duck confit, while not pictured, is flawless and important. That process began days ago, leading to pork skin and then the skinned duck confit layered upon Great Northern beans, having been cooked with thyme, parsley, cloves, and leeks (a subsitution in the recipe for onions):

Atop that was lamb and pork belly, and another layer of beans. The beans are actually a mix of the aforementioned beans with cooked tomatoes, all of which forms another layer (which is actually less wet than the photo suggests). The beans are studded with andouille sausage:

Baked for three hours with bread crumbs and chopped duck confit skin (another modification: I thought that the skin would slowly render into the crust, and it works!), it becomes this:

I served this with kale stewed in chicken stock. As it is so rich, this was preceeded by fermented beets, raw fennel, and a mixture of olives. 

We ate this with the kale, garnished with parsley and Tierenteyn mustard. The mustard and parsley pulls it all together. 

With such a rich meal, a following salad course of endives and watercress in lime, olive oil, and pistachio oil made way for Miss Fat's fabulous apple cake with whipped cream and a fantastic walnut topping.

23 October 2013

chanterelles with pasta

Some beautiful chanterelles from the market (most likely the last of the season)...

 With shallots, simmered (covered) with some chicken stock (for about twenty minutes), then with crème fraîche, salt, and peper added, and simmered uncovered until the sauce reduces.

This I served with fresh pasta that I managed to roll out thinner than usual.

Tastes like heaven, feels like fall, as the season quickly fades into interminable Chicago winter.

22 October 2013

fermented beets

I've made fermented beets before, and last time I made them I used shredded beets; the catch being that they felt like a condiment when shredded and fermented. Wanting more of a pickle, this time I peeled and then chopped the beets in chunks (two-and-a-half pounds) and mixed then with 2½ tbsp salt, 1 tbsp caraway seeds and a dozen or so lightly crushed (maybe more bruised?) juniper berries.

I packed these into a crock (above, in green), added just enough water to cover and weighed them down so that the beets were submerged in brine.

Fourteen days later they were tender yet crisp and had a nice zing to them. They are delicious, and have turned a deep purple color (the jar behind is clear but packed with beets and brine after fermentation).

01 October 2013

black-eyed peas

Fresh black-eyed pea tacos: shelled the peas, boiled them for twenty minutes, then cooked them with bacon, coriander, chiles de árbol, and cumin. So delicious.

23 September 2013

fresh lima beans

Growing up, my mother always shuddered in horror as my father would eat lima beans: she would recall clandestinely feeding them to her dog as a kid, only to be found out when the dog licked them clean of butter and left them in a pile under the table. Consequently, I never ate them.

And then I saw fresh lima beans at the farmer's market, and decided to give them a try. I cooked them in a reduced garlic-leek-chile de árbol broth with kale and ate them with a few pine nuts scattered on top. They were tender, creamy, and delicious. They are worth a second chance.

14 September 2013

spicy pork rillettes

This is a Spanish-style porc rillettes (manteca colorada) from Jennifer McLagan's stellar book Fat. It's basically rillettes (slow-cooked pork belly, which is shredded potted and covered in fat — see another version or with duck) with the addition of paprika. I used sweet Spanish paprika, hot Hungarian paprika, and added some merquén ahumado, a wonderful smoked chili pepper. The result was delicious.

13 September 2013

birthday 2013

As often goes, documentation of birthdays easily is swept away with the flurry of food and libations, seen above before with my cat resting before an evening of him asserting his rôle as master of ceremonies and lead entertainer. in the foreground is anise seed and orange flower water shortbread, a delicious recipe from Deborah Madison's latest book.

Autumn approaches and I wanted to do something with my florishing sage plant: here we have asiago and mascarpone blended with fresh sage as well as salt and pepper, spread on a toasted slice of baguette and topped with fried sage leaves, a delicious finish.

I adore génoise, and have made them in the past, but I recently discovered a cake by Deborah Madison (from an earlier book): a hazelnut cake that is basically a génoise with most of the flour replaced with ground toasted hazelnuts (or hickory nuts, but those are not easy to come by). I split the cake into three, spashed the layers with kirsch, and layered them with Julia Child's chocolate mousse (with kirsch in place of the orange liqueur). Finished with kirsch-flavored whipped cream and sour cherries that have been soaking in grain alcohol with hibiscus and orange peel. Fantastic.

01 September 2013

lime-ginger melon marmalade

I'm calling this lime-ginger melon marmalade, instead of jam (as last time) because, while I liked the flavor of the jam (based on Jane Grigson't Fruit Book recipe), I didn't like how the chunks of melon became dense. This time, instead of cubing the melon, I julienned it (four pounds of it, this was a huge cantaloupe). This was in hope—and with success—that the strips would have more of a marmalade consistency instead of a cubes-in-syrup one.

This makes ten pints, and can easily be halved: 4 lbs julienned melon, about ¼-in. thick (your choice: Grigson specifies green-fleshed but I've always used orange-fleshed varieities), 7 oz. ground fresh ginger (I sliced it across the grain and then processed it in a food processor), 1 lb. limes, rind finely julienned and fruit set aside for later (lemon works too, but just use the zest; lime rinds are thin enough that the whole rind works), 4 lbs sugar.

Mix the sugar with the melon, add the lime and ginger, and let sit 6-8 hours or overnight in a non-reactive bowl (glass, ceramic, etc.).

This is what it looks like after sitting and turned into its cooking vessel (above).

Heat the fruit-sugar mixture, and add the reserved limes, tied up in cheesecloth. Cook, stirring frequently, until it reaches 220º (F) on a thermometer, then remove and press any liquid from the cores of the limes. Continue cooking, testing occasionally to see if it will set (place ½ tsp. on a chilled saucer, leave in freezer for two minutes: this will tell you if it is ready). I cooked this until it was around 224º (F).  Process in a hot-water bath for 15 minutes.

The strips of melon resulted in a wonderful texture, and the ginger and lime give it a wonderful kick. Perfect with a croissant.