Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! Last-Minute Tasty Bites and A Smoky Sipper

Let's send 2014 off properly with these delightful nibbles and sips (scroll down for recipes). 
See you all on the other side….. xxxooo

Fried rosemary potato chips

Caramelized onion, thyme, and Gruyere puff pastry bites

Calvados, Lapsang souchong, Champagne cocktail

Fried rosemary potato chips
makes a large bowlful

11/2 lbs or so of mixed sweet and russet potatoes*, scrubbed, knobs or ends trimmed, and sliced thinly on a mandoline
distilled white vinegar, for boiling
good flake sea salt, like Maldon
peanut oil, for frying
3 sprigs rosemary, torn into smaller sprigs

*I had red potatoes available and not russet, and did okay. General consensus is that russets produce a more consistent potato chip.

Soak the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water. This will help them release their starches, the enemy to a good fried potato chip. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add two tablespoons of white vinegar. Drain and rinse sliced potatoes and boil for 3-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove slices, lay out onto tea towels, and pat them dry to be thorough.

In a large skillet, pour in about an inch of peanut oil and heat on medium high. Add potato slices in batches, a few handfuls at a time. Turn with a slotted spoon every 20-30 seconds, up to 5 minutes, until the potatoes stop "fizzing". When they have stopped releasing bubbles, there is no more water in them and it is this key moment in which they will retain their crispness, before they start to burn. Keep in mind smaller chips will finish sooner than larger ones.

Transfer finished chips to a large bowl lined with paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat this process until you have completed the lot, tossing them for even saltiness.

Add the rosemary sprigs and turn as you did the potatoes until they stop fizzing. Add them to the chip pile, scatter a final pinch of salt on them, and toss to coat. Allow to cool fully.

Great alone or dipped into crème fraîche. Store remaining chips in a resealable bag at room temperature for one week.

Caramelized onion, thyme, and Gruyere puff pastry bites 
serves 20-30

4-6 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 cup Gruyere, finely shredded
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 package good puff pastry - I used Dufour
good olive oil
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Over medium heat in a heavy skillet, cook onions in a glug of olive oil, stirring occasionally, until they become translucent. Lower heat to low and cook onions until they have softened to collapse and become caramel in hue, about a half-hour. During this time, stir occasionally: you do not want them to brown, but they don't need babysitting. Add the thyme at the end and give a stir to incorporate.

Heat oven to 400 degrees (F). Roll out puff pastry between two layers of lightly floured parchment to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut the pastry into one-inch lengths, and into one-inch widths. At this size, there's enough to feed 20-30 people, so adjust scale (2-inch segments, for instance), if you have fewer mouths to account for. Chill on parchment-lined baking sheets for 5-10 minutes.

Score a square inside the perimeter of each pastry using a pairing knife. Pile a little caramelized onion mixture inside that square, topped with a pinch of shredded cheese, followed by freshly cracked pepper, and place into oven.

Start to check after 15 minutes, baking pastries until deeply golden. Rotate pans from bottom-to-top and turn front-to-back as they bake. Cool for a few minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a wire rack.

Serve warm. Store leftovers between layers of parchment in a sealed container, frozen or refrigerated. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for a day. Reheat in a toaster oven or oven for same flaky texture as when first baked. Keeps for 2 weeks refrigerated, one month frozen.

Calvados, Lapsang souchong, Champagne cocktail
serves 2

2 oz Calvados
1/2 oz smoky Lapsang souchong-infused neutral spirit - I placed 8 teabags in 1 cup good vodka for one week, then discarded the teabags - keeps indefinitely
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
juice from one lemon
Champagne to top off

Place all but the Champagne in a shaker and top with ice. Cover, seal, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into two coupe glasses and top with Champagne. Cin Cin!!!

I have loved sharing the fun and adventure of this year with you. Thank you for being here. 

Here's to many more adventures in 2015!!!!! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rounding the Year out: Holiday Sips with The New York Times (Another Page 1!), Walnut Recipes with Food52, and More

The last few weeks have gone quickly by. There's a flurry of work which you should know about. Much great food and drink for winter days to keep you and your loves cozy, or, just yourself.

So important to give special things to yourself, and, hey, it all starts with you. Is there a little pep talk in there? Maybe. But if so, it's for me, as the start of New Years aren't an easy thing. It's like I have to figure out where I am, all over again….

Anyway. These are all great eating and drinking, so get some. :)

This feature was sparkly and huge on Page 1 - always something I relish - Christmas Eve. Both cocktails are lovely. I especially like the Apple Brandy-Islay Scotch-Champagne riff on the French 75. I have made similar at my own bar for a while, but used a Lapsang Suchong infused spirit I'd created instead of the Scotch. Bright, warming, and surprising.

Also with The Times is this tasty recipe, prepared with fresh pasta, chopped tarragon, yuzu juice, togarashi pepper (if you can find it - though cayenne makes a fine substitute), and delicious plump crabmeat.

Good eating indeed. And, this extra-special gingersnap cookie recipe.

While looking at these sweets, I was reminded of the gorgeous brownies I produced for the December Birmingham Magazine. They are utterly scrumptious. Use this recipe if you're looking to make a batch for yourself.

AND, there's more…. now you can see how the days go by in a blur over here!

My "What to do with a bulk of Walnuts" story is the newest installment for Food52's Halfway to Dinner column. If you haven't seen my other features, I also created recipes and the stories for capers (to die for), preserved lemons, and red quinoa!

 Roasted kabocha, celery, pomegranate, walnut, and fried sage salad

Beet, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, walnut, and mint salad

 Walnut pesto

 Bourbon-roasted squash soup with blue cheese and candied walnuts

This last recipe - a persimmon-walnut bread pudding - has a special place in my heart. And belly. I basically threw a bunch of stuff together while keeping the tenants of bread pudding in my back pocket, and came to the other side with an outrageously delightful dessert (or breakfast!). Please do let me know if you try it.

Well, that's almost all of it.

Christmas was spent somewhat uneventfully here, with the beau home but fiercely under the weather. We are both emerging, and if I have my way, I'll have a New Year's post up in a couple days. Please hold me to it! There are some other tasty bites I've been keen to share.

I hope you have had a joyous Holiday Season, and that you are feeling light with the days remaining in 2014. Woo-hoooo! xxx

Friday, December 5, 2014

Winter Stew and Soppressata Cheese Breads at Anthology & the 2014 Annual Gift Guide

I've made a lot of stories I'd call special. But this one is special in that it is a straightforward, delicious go-to in the cold weather months. And it possesses a sense of childhood indulgence (I'm pointing at you, amazing cheese breads). Finally, this story is special because the independent makers and excellent customer service folks over at Scoutmob helped me actualize my concept in full glory.

Here's the newest feature at Anthology: a fireside winter picnic with friends, delicious comfort food, and the beautiful objects that enhance our lives.

What is Scoutmob, you might be asking? A great curated collection of over 1000 makers who create high-quality and limited-edition goods, all made here in the USA. Real people making things. Beautiful things made to last. What's not to love?

The ceramic quail egg chili bowls set the stage for my three bean Tuscan inspired stew. Jessie Lazar makes contemporary heirloom pieces and her workmanship is delicate yet unfussy. 

As far as the stew goes, why settle for one bean when you can have the amazing textures and flavors of three? Savory and buttery great northern, flageolet, and cannellini. YUM.

This gorgeous solid walnut board made an ideal presentation for the cheat's soppressata cheesy breads. 

And the backdrop for lolling the afternoon away with amazing food and friends…? This colorful and hand-woven rug by Re:loom. I've included them in my annual gift guide, below. I love championing people who are doing things right. 

See the full story and recipes at Anthology!

Now, for beautiful objects to treat yourself and your loved ones - 

2014 Annual Gift Guide

1. I've gone crazy for ceramics this year. There are so many talented people producing in clay, and it is easier than ever (thank you Instagram) to access their creations. It can be a bit much to keep track of, but for me, it's quite tantalizing. I have to prioritize in my line of work! That said, I am in love with Marité Acosta's pieces. They are elemental and functional, and timeless. Her work appears in the stew story, vessels holding mascarpone and marbles (no, I didn't plan that tongue-twister…).

2. Made from repurposed and sustainably harvested Mango wood, these sleek candlesticks from designer Michael Dreeben reference modernist style while incorporating traditional craft practices. They make a graphic, elegant statement in any space.

3. I only recently found out about Brooklyn woodworker Ariele Alasko's gorgeous carvings and inlay work. It seems she has a lot of fans, as her shop sells out as soon as she has new work to share. Brava Ariele! And good luck snagging one of her unique creations.

4. The photography in Bitter is stunning, and honestly is what drew me to consider making it part of my collection. Aya Brackett is the talent behind the photography, and Jennifer McLagan the author of this seductive book on the bitter taste.

5. George Steinmetz, the famed National Geographic photographer, has named is opus Desert Air. His favorite places are those most hard to get to, and he captures them from a motorized paraglider. No big deal. This book shares page-after-page of stunning images that everyone will appreciate.

6. For the fur baby in your life, this fantastic hexagonal wall-mounted work of art is the purrrfect splurge.

7. This is the board I used for the stew and cheese bread feature, and I absolutely love it. Crafted in a timeless form, I look forward to all the entertaining uses it will serve!

8. All rugs by Re:loom are hand-woven from donated and repurposed fabric, by homeless and low-income families. This initiative, based in Atlanta, creates a sustainable income for people, as well as provides affordable housing and health care. Each is a limited edition product and made with great attention to detail. One of their rugs is the backdrop to my delicious stew story, and I am eager to incorporate it into my home. :)

9. Freedom Soaps is a local brand here in Alabama. Each of Chasity Curtis' body products smells amazing and contains only the most elemental ingredients. I'm a huge fan, so much so that I am photographing her product line for a new launch in 2015. This activated charcoal soap is one of my favorites!

10. Many of us already know about the beautiful goods at Quitokeeto. The addition of this potter's beautiful pieces is no exception. They're even oven safe! Now, to be fast enough to acquire one…

11. This Oaxacan Molé Sauce is rich, smoky, and spicy in all the right ways. It's another curated item at Scoutmob, something I keep on hand for unexpected entertaining, or even to dip into by myself. Small batch, out of Portland.

12. Kind of a dream piece, this gorgeous knife incorporates reclaimed materials, like old saw blades and burlap from coffee bags. That these are dream pieces may be a good thing, as current lead time for orders is 23 months (!!). With as much work as I have in the kitchen, this knife would quickly earn its keep….

13. Last but not least is another new-to-me maker out of New York. Susan Connor hand-designs each of her creations and incorporates wood block printing to articulate them. I'm taken with so many of her works. This pillow joins my lust-for collection.

If the notion of the holidays inspires you to give in the bigger sense, here are some organizations that will greatly appreciate your contribution:

Friends of the Earth - Campaigns in climate, food, land, and water to bring balance back to our ecosystems and our people. - Worldwide. People-powered, climate change-centered actions.

Center for Biological Diversity - Spotlights threatened and critically endangered species around the world, and mounts campaigns to raise awareness and halt further habitat destruction/poaching/harmful legislation, etc.

Real News Network - Telling the news the way it should be: based on facts. Ad-free, with contributions from award-winning journalists spanning the globe.

I'm still amazed we are nearing the close of 2014, but upon reflection, am so grateful for this knockout of a year. It's one for the record books!

Thanks for reading, as always, and for all the support you've given. It means the world to me!!! xxx