November 27, 2007

Congratulations David!

David Baldacci's newest book, Stone Cold, debuts at #1 during its first week of release in the following publications: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly!!! Why do I mention this, you might ask? I am a close personal friend of David's and I used to do research for him- in fact, if you look in many of his books, you will see me in the acknowledgements. I try to follow the progress of all of his books, but I think this acheivement is unprecedented, at least by him. Oh, he has been at the top of the lists, but number one the first week?? That merits mention, as well as many congratulations!!! Here are some of the books on which I worked.

After all that Thanksgiving cooking, I have taken a short break from the kitchen. We have house guests coming and going during the holidays- starting this weekend. Several of them are bakers and passionate cooks, it promises to be a season filled with many, many blog posts...and the eggs.

November 26, 2007

Bunny Moon!

Some shots of last night's scenery...and the eggs!

November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn casserole, green beans and gravy.

Ethyl Moore's Pumpkin Pie Recipe, as baked by her granddaughter, TLMM. Custardy, smooth, pumpkiny. The perfect end to a perfect meal.

I recommend frying a turkey- it's unbelievable. It is moist and the flavor of the rub and injected marinade are consistent throughout its meat. The fried turkey skin is honestly too good to even try to put into words. We had a ham for Plan B in case there was a fried turkey mishap, but all went well. I basted the ham with Bobby Flay's ancho chili maple glaze and it was the perfect thing for it. I have been reading The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and used her recipe for mashed potatoes since it was something I could make a day ahead, and also used her sweet potato casserole recipe, but instead of the pecan mixture, I put baby marshmallows on top for a more kitschy Thanksgiving dish.

The corn casserole is also a TLMM family dish, and I will make this again for Chanukah or Christmastime- if love corn, you will love this! The fresh green beans are my own creation. We used another The Pioneer Woman Cooks recipe for the stuffing, using a combination of corn bread and white bread. It was the ultimate in stuffing as far as we were concerned, and is now our own family tradition.

As usual, we cooked for 25 instead of for 4, but that gave us plenty of leftovers. I can hardly wait until July to do it all again. In between all that cooking, parade watching, swimming and wine sipping, I kept looking around and taking it all in. It was a beautful day and our first Thanksgiving in our new home. We wore aprons over our bathing suits - in November! We hope that more of our family visit next year- the only thing that would make it more perfect...and the eggs.

November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks Every Day

I'm thankful for so many things- most importantly I try not to take those things for granted. In fact, I give thanks for them every night before I go to sleep.

I am thankful for my family and my extended family of friends, and for how generous they have been with their time over the last few years. We have a renewed bond which has only grown stronger with time. I'm so thankful for my nieces and nephews and how they make me laugh and remember what it was like to be a kid!!

I am thankful for my home, I am thankful for a bunch of things I have, some make life easier and more comfortable and some are just for fun- and thankful that I realize that those things are only things.

I am thankful for my animals, who, down to the little bird Hedwig, show me unconditional love every day, and I am thankful for my partner who loves me the same way. I am thankful that my family loves her, and that our families have so much in common, both personally and professionally.

I am thankful that the gym is 10 steps away from my office door!

I am very thankful for artichokes, butter, the perfect steak, hash browns, stone crab claws, cabbage rolls and birthday cake.

I'm thankful that my little brother is in town for one day and I will see him at lunchtime!

I'm thankful that my sister, Muffin face, was the 10,000th visitor on my blog, and will receive an official ...and the eggs t-shirt with "10,000th Visitor" on the back. Congratulations and mazal tov, Muffin Face.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Enjoy the holiday, and enjoy the food! Most importantly, appreciate what you have...and the eggs.

Fire-Roasted Veal Chops with Horseradish Glaze

This was my first test recipe from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook. The glaze used to brush on the veal during the last few minutes of grilling is genius- the syrup, chili powder, horseradish and mustard makes an incredible glaze. I will use the leftover glaze on pork chops, as Bobby suggests. The smoked red pepper sauce gives a potent kick, and I like spice! I used only a few pours on my plate pictured above and it was more than enough.

For the glaze:

1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, drained
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder (I ordered it online - see below)

4 (14-ounce) bone-in veal chops
2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the syrup, mustard, horseradish and ancho powder in a medium bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes. This can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in fridge- but bring to room temperature before you use it. Bring grill to high heat or a grill pan over high heat.

Brush the chops on both sides with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the chops on the grill and cook until golden brown and slightly caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, turn them over, and close the lid of the grill or tent with foil. Continue cooking to medium- about 7 to 9 minutes more, brushing with the glaze during the last couple of minutes of cooking. Remove chops from heat and let them rest for 5 minutes. You can serve the remaining glaze on the side, or make smoked red pepper sauce.

I opted for the pepper sauce since chipolte peppers were an ingredient!

4 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped (I used a jar of roasted red peppers)
1/2 small red onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves roasted garlic, peeled
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chipolte chile puree (a small can of chipoltes in adobo sauce, blended until smooth)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil

Place all ingredients except canola oil in blender, season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and blend until emulsified. Strain the sauce into a bowl. The sauce can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated.

After emulsification!

Delicious- extra spicy, smoky. Use with caution! This recipe makes a lot of sauce- probably 3 cups, so you will have a lot left over. I plan on using the leftovers as crab cake sauce. I usually blend mayonnaise and chipoles in adobo sauce but this is even better.

This meal was thoroughly enjoyable despite the fact that I didn't take the time to prepare Flay's suggested side dishes (see my last post). This is the first time I have used a glaze during the last few minutes of cooking and it both enhanced and complimented the flavor of the veal (the flavor of the meat, especially near the bone, was mouth-wateringly good). It has given me the incentive to find a glaze to jazz up foods that I have grown tired of preparing, like chicken. I enjoyed my new experiences with Southwest cuisine, and, as soon as the stagehands' strike is resolved, I will add Mesa Grill to my next NYC trip itinerary...and the eggs.

November 20, 2007

Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook

I have to fess up! When given the prospect of reading and reviewing two new cookbooks (see my review of Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, here), I was certain that Bobby Flay's new book, Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook: Explosive Flavors from the Southwestern Kitchen (Potter, 2007), would be the hands-down favorite. I love to grill. Bobby loves to grill. I love meat. Bobby loves meat. It's as easy as 1-2-3, or so you would think. Before I read the book, I perused the recipes and chose two to test, and then I went about reading. The Mesa Grill opened in New York in 1991, and now has two other locations- one at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and the other at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas.

As Bobby tells us in his Introduction, the menu has evolved over the years but has stayed true to its Southwestern roots. In the next section, The Southwestern Pantry, Bobby lists the building blocks of flavor for Southwestern cooking, most of which you will recognize as being available at your market, like avocados, but other things like cajeta (found in Latin markets) might be harder depending on where you live. For example, the first recipe I tested, Fire-Roasted Veal Chops with Maple-Horseradish Glaze, called for ancho chile powder. Despite living in Miami, I had to order it online.

The next section, Mesa Kitchen Basics, details cooking techniques mentioned later in the book. Very helpful for the novice. The next section, Drinks, is one not often found in cookbooks- this section is necessary here because certain drinks go particularly well with Southwestern food- and one of Mesa Grill's signature drinks is a Cactus Pear Margarita, which sounds like a good way to start to me! This section even includes a recipe for Mesa Grill Pretzels, which look deliciously spicy, and are on my list of recipes to try.

Soups are next- although Mesa Grill's recipes change seasonally, these are good, solid choices from across the board- Black Bean Soup with Toasted Cumin Crema and Three Relishes, Chicken and Mushroom Posole Soup and Pumpkin Soup with Cinnamon Crema and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds are in the array. After the salad section (Sophie's Chopped Salad is named after Bobby's daughter and looks like a great option for a dinner party) is an appetizer section, and then come the proteins.

One of the differences between this cookbook and others is that the name of the recipe reads just like it might on Mesa Grill's menu instead of a recipe in a cookbook. That might be the point of the book. For example, the first recipe I want to test is Fire-Roasted Veal Chops with Maple-Horseradish glaze. If I wanted to make veal, I would just go to one of my trusted cookbooks and search the index for veal. Instead, I want to review Bobby's book. I read the ingredients and saw that side dishes are recommended based on the restaurant's menu (in this case Mesa Grill Spinach, page 210 and Wild Rice Tamales with Sage Butter (page 207), but I only want to make the veal. The spinach sounds good (and is the simplest recipe in the book) but the tamales sound too complicated for a regular dinner (dried corn husks, a steamer- you get the point). Bobby recommends smoked red pepper sauce for these chops, and I think that sounds great. O.K., page 230 for that. On page 230, the list of ingredients for the sauce refers you to both page 18 (twice) and page 19. All that flipping gets messy while you're cooking (take my word for it).

I did make both the recipe for the chops and for the sauce, and they were amazing, and will be detailed in my next post. Especially yummy was the glaze for the chops-- a totally different taste than my usual repertoire. His instructions are clear and easy to follow.

This cookbook would be the perfect holiday gift for anyone who loves the Mesa Grill. Want to create a dinner based entirely on the Mesa Grill's menu? This book is for you! I have never had the pleasure of dining at any of Flay's restaurants, but would jump at the chance. I would love both making and eating black bean soup- but I would love Black Bean Soup with Toasted Cumin Crema and Three Relishes much, much better if I didn't have to make it myself.

November 17, 2007

Thanksgiving Luncheon for 100

Each November, the Miami office of the law firm where I work holds a Thanksgiving luncheon. The basics are catered (turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing), but the rest is up to us. Some people cook and some people purchase food to bring in. Here are some shots from this year's extravaganza!

From the caterer. Basics foods of Thanksgiving. Basically good.

The dessert table!

The committee gave the conference and dining rooms a perfect Autumn holiday backdrop!

Hilarie's cranberries and sultanas with bourbon sauce. It was all the rage at this shin dig! I heard several comments about enjoying consuming alcohol at lunch during work. This was the crowd favorite as evidenced in the "after" shot at the end of this post.

I made traditional ambrosia. Coconut optional!

Another crowd favorite was Karen's pineapple upside down cake. Might have contained alcohol.

This was the best banana pudding I have ever had in my life, and I love the serving dish, too. I will have to ask Bertha for the pudding recipe!

The "after" shot of Hilarie's cranberries and sultanas.

As I was eating, I quickly realized that the food was excellent. There were many hot dishes made by my co-workers, the recipes were varied - some were a little sinful like loaded mashed potatoes, and some were decadent and fancy like Kim's Roquefort shiitake scalloped potatoes- and all were really wonderful. I was toward the end of the hot food line so I couldn't get pictures of that table before it was molested. It was impossible to sample everything, so I tried what I thought looked the best. I didn't know all that talent was walking around our firm. I will have to start talking about cooking more often and maybe I can find some guest blog volunteers!

Now, on to planning my own Thanksgiving dinner for 4...and the eggs.

November 14, 2007

Homemade Matzo Ball Soup (Good For What Ails You)!

It's that time of year again. I am down to very few vacation days, but today I woke up feeling like I was coming down with a cold. The last time I had a cold was almost 10 years ago- and that's no accident. I have a secret to share with you: Every time I get this feeling, I stay home, make matzo ball soup and rest. This stuff is magic. Just smelling it cook for the few hours it takes starts the body a-healin'. Let's hope this is the case today.

1 cut up chicken, salted and peppered
1 onion, quartered
1 turnip, cut in half
1 parsnip, cut in half
1 sprig fresh dill
1 piece of leafy end of celery stalk

Put everything in a stockpot and cover with a mixture of chicken broth and water - I use 2/3 broth. Turn it almost to high heat until it gently boils, and then turn it down to keep it at a strong simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

Just before the 2 1/2 hour mark is a good time to prepare your matzo ball mixture because it should sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

1 cup matzo meal (unsalted)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup oil (schmaltz will also work)
1/4 cup water or seltzer
1 teaspoon salt (OR to taste)
Pinch of Ground Pepper

Beat eggs. Add water, oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Add matzo meal and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate for 1/2 to 1 hour.

Back to the soup! At this point, get another large pot and through a colander, strain the soup over it, so that all that is in the new pot is broth. Shred some of the chicken and add to broth. Some people don't put any shredded chicken in their soup, but I do. Also, at this point, add carrot and celery - one stalk of each, sliced thinly. Taste broth and add salt if necessary. Leave broth with shredded chicken and carrot and celery on the simmer for another 1/2 hour or so, until vegetables have softened. Time to make matzo balls!

Remove mixture from refrigerator. Partially fill large pot with water (I use some more chicken broth and mix it with the water) and bring to a boil. Moisten palms with cold water. Form mixture into balls about 1" in diameter, and drop matzo balls in boiling liquid. When all the matzo balls are in the pot, reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 30 or 40 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to a large bowl.

If you are ready to eat, it's time to serve up bowls of your wonderful matzo ball soup. This soup also freezes well, but freeze the matzo balls separately on a flat sheet, and then place in a heavy duty freezer bag. Whenever you defrost the soup, and it's in the pot getting hot, you can put the frozen matzo balls right into it and let them heat up in the soup.

A little extra advice: don't freeze the soup with the matzo balls in it- the soup gets cloudy in the process. It tastes the same, but it won't look nearly as nice so you won't want to serve it to company.

I have to admit that I have smelled this soup cooking all morning and I already feel better. No more aches, scratchy throat or all-around yukky feeling. It's only 12 noon, so maybe I should have a bowl of soup and drive into work after all. On the other hand, I should probably just take it easy- the hammock would be a nice place to nap. The dogs are happy I'm home and I wouldn't want to disappoint them...and the eggs.