Monthly Archives: November 2012

In a pinch.

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It’s Thanksgiving and I’ve opened up the “help line” on my Facebook page. Someone posted “I told a woman in Whole Foods yesterday to check out your blog for the Caramelized Brussels Sprouts recipe. It’s so simple.”

It is, and here’s the recipe. In fact I just finished halving the blanched Brussels sprouts. We’ll be serving these on our table today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tbs Fig Balsamic vinegar, or another good, aged balsamic

Directions:

  • Boil a large pot of water, add 1 tbs salt and Brussels sprouts. Cook 1 minute. They will still be crisp. Remove to ice bath, cool, drain and dry. Cut in half.
  • Warm oil over medium-low heat in a 12” skillet. Add onion and leek and sauté until softened.
  • Add blanched Brussels sprouts and cook over medium-low heat until brussels sprouts turn brown and caramelize, 20-30 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and Fig Balsamic vinegar.

Carpinelli’s Cippolinis

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Some of the world’s best recipes were born of necessity. Like Beef Wellington. I mean, what else do you do when there’s nothing in the fridge but puff pastry, mousse de foie gras and a a whole beef tenderloin?

This dish is just like that. Deep into the sometimes challenging fall produce season, I was staring  at a collection of cippolini onions, broccoli and a new Cranberry Port wine jam from Sapore Oil and Vinegar, that was just calling out for a bacon vinaigrette. A request for recommendations on my Facebook page produced a comment from ginger-haired Steve Carpinelli, and Carpinelli’s Cippolinis were born, dressed in a red cranberry port vinaigrette.

The dish balances mildly sharp cippolinis, sweet jam,  and salty/fatty bacon, all grounded by earthy broccoli. It’s colorful and fun, and offers a nice break to otherwise hearty-rich fall meals.

Carpinelli’s Cippolini Cranberry Salad

For salad:

  • 2 cups cipolini onions
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

For dressing:

  • 1 thick slice bacon, diced
  • 2 tbs Arbequina Olive Oil*
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup Cranberry Port Jam*
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar*

*Arbequina is a mild, grassy, Spanish olive oil. Sherry vinegar is a slightly more acidic substitute for Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry. Red currant jam can be found in most grocery stores and used in place of the Cranberry Port.

Directions:

  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch onions for 30-45 seconds. Shock in an ice bath, drain and peel.
  • Blanch broccoli florets in the same water until bright green and crisp tender, about 90 seconds. Chill in ice bath, drain and dry.
  • Fry bacon in skillet over medium heat. When cooked through, remove bacon, leaving fat in the pan.
  • Add Arbequina olive oil as needed to make 1/4 cup fat.. Add shallots and sauté until softened, 3-5 min.
  • Add Cranberry Port Jam and whisk until it “melts” into the fat.
  • Turn heat to medium-high, add sherry, cippolinis and cranberries. Cook 2 minutes while dressing reduces.
  • Season broccoli florets with salt and a splash of Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar. Top with cippolinis and dressing and sprinkle with dried cranberries.

*Make it vegetarian. Leave out the bacon and start the dressing by sautéing the shallot in olive oil.

Pork is the answer.

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My husband Jason and my brother Alec are allies. Each the youngest of three, they speak a common language, one I’m not too sure I approve of. In addition to their inability to find humor in the harmless practical jokes I may have played on Alec when we were kids (maple syrup in the water bottle we used to comb our hair, for instance), they also prefer the canned, gelatinous abomination known as cranberry sauce over fresh, whole fruit.

I’m in no way a purest. My Aunt Ali’s cranberry, walnut mold is the sentimental favorite, but the foodie, hipster compotes I’ve been cooking down since my mid-twenties deliver equal satisfaction. Still, despite my best efforts, because of Jason and Alec, I am forced to open one solitary can in an otherwise farm fresh meal preparation. Until this year.

If there is one way to win over men with food, it’s a really fatty piece of pork. I promise, one mention of pork belly, and your father, brothers and uncles will gladly turn off the game and come running to the dining room table.

Pork belly took me a couple tries to get right. A lot of fat will render out, so don’t rush the initial searing. There are a couple inches at the end of the piece of pork belly that are almost entirely fat. Save those for later. Finally, when you sear the meat before serving, pat it dry and cook it over relatively low heat to prevent the fat and sugars from burning.

Braised in cranberry apple cider, the pork is flavorful and tender. Tart-sweet, orange-infused cranberry is the perfect foil for rich, fatty pork. This round goes to me. Now if I could only get them to eat beets…

Cider Braised Pork Belly

*Begin the pork two days ahead of time, letting it dry marinate overnight and braise for several hours the following day.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 – 2 pounds pork belly
  • 1 tbs coarse salt
  • 2 tbs Spanish paprika
  • 1 tbs ground Aleppo pepper (or 1 tsp cayenne)
  • 1 tbs fresh-cracked black pepper
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 2 tbs red miso paste
  • 2 cups cranberry-apple cider (or 1 cup apple cider and 1 cup cranberry juice)
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1/4 cup Autumn Apple Vinegar*
  • 2 tbs maple sugar
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns

*My seasonal favorite from Sapore Oil and Vinegar. You could substitute sherry vinegar.

Directions:

  • Mix together salt, Spanish paprika, hot pepper and black pepper. Rub pork belly with rub and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours.
  • Warm a dutch oven over medium heat. Meanwhile rinse dry rub from pork belly and pat dry. Cut pork belly, the short way, into 1″ strips.
  • Sear pork belly on all sides, starting with the fat side down. The fat will produce some smoke so get ready to fan your alarm.
  • Pour off all but 2 tbs fat and sauté shallots until soft. Add miso and cook 1 minute longer. Add cider, sherry and vinegar to pan. Bring to a boil. Add pork belly, cover and simmer over low heat for 2.5 – 5 hours, until fork tender.*
  • Remove meat from braising liquid, pat dry. (Move onto next recipe or see the next step to serve separately.)
  • To serve the pork belly on its own, slice in serving size piece, and sauté over medium heat for 1 minute a side before serving. Be careful not to burn the fat.

*Braising the meat longer makes it more tender, but it was delicious at 2.5 hours. You can also braise it in the over at 200 degrees for 4-5 hours.

Cranberry Compote With Pork Belly

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 cups fresh, whole cranberries
  • 1 cup maple or brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup ruby Port
  • 1 tbs Orange Oil*
  • 1 1/2 pounds Cider Braised Pork Belly (recipe above)
  • 1 tbs Autumn Apple Vinegar

*You can substitute Sapore’s Orange infused oil with two 2″ pieces of orange zest.

Directions:

  • Melt butter in a 3 qt sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Add shallot and sauté until soft., 3-5 minutes. Add star anise and cranberries and sauté for 3 minutes longer.
  • Add sugar, cider, Port and orange oil. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until liquid reduces to a thick, jammy glaze.
  • Slice pork belly into 1/2” strips. Sauté over medium low heat for 1-2 minutes a side being careful not to burn the fat. Add Autumn Apple Vinegar and reduce, turning pork belly to coat.
  • Serve pork belly pieces over the compote.

Stock is magic.

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Thanksgiving dinner is a pause. I somehow put everything down for three days and focus on bringing one meal to the table. In a life filled with multi-tasking and the constant feeling that I lost a week somewhere in 2003 that I desperately need to get back, it’s a moment of peace.

That peace begins with a deep breath and a pot of stock. Even before I’ve finished the menu, the house fills with the scent of roasting meat and rough-chopped aromatics. Stock is effortless and rote, a handful of ingredients with no complex techniques, simply roasting and simmering with a little deglazing in between.

But, for its simplicity, stock adds great complexity and depth to the meal that lades the table Thanksgiving day. It brings satisfying richness. It elevates pan drippings into gravy, layers the simple sugars that glaze sweet potatoes and parsnips, transforms day-old bread into moist, herbed stuffing. Let’s hit the kitchen.

Rich Turkey Stock

Ingredients:

  • 6 pounds turkey parts like necks, legs or wings, cut in 3-4″ pieces*
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups dry white wine or dry Vermouth
  • 4 ribs celery, roughly chopped
  • 6-8 parsley stems, about 2″ each
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns

*You’re looking for cheap meat, less than $3 a pound, with some bone in it. Have your butcher chop it down for you.

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place turkey pieces in a single layer in a heavy bottomed roasting pan (you’re going to put the pan on the stovetop later). Do not crowd the turkey. Roast in two batches if needed.
  • Roast the turkey until rich brown, about 1 hour. Remove turkey to a large stockpot.
  • Add carrots and onion to the same roasting pan. Toss them in the rendered fat from the turkey and place in the oven. Reduce heat to 375.
  • After 30 minutes, toss the roasting vegetables in the tomato paste and return to the oven. Turn the oven back to 400 and roast for 10-15 minutes until golden brown, watching carefully not to burn. Remove vegetables to stock pot with roast turkey.
  • Place the roasting pan over two burners on medium high and add white wine. When wine comes to a simmer, scrape up all the brown goodness. When wine reduces to 1/4 cup, add additional water if needed to finish scraping the brown bits from the roasting pan.
  • Pour deglazed pan juices into stock pot and add remaining ingredients.
  • Fill pot with cold water to cover turkey and vegetables by 2 inches.
  • Bring the pot to a simmer over medium low heat, partially covered. It will take about 45 minutes. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface.
  • Continue to simmer stock, partially covered, just a bubble or two every few seconds, for three more hours. Be careful not to let it come to a boil. Add more cold water if needed to keep meat covered. Skim any additional foam that collects on the surface.
  • After three hours, strain the stock and remove the solids, discarding them. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and then one more time through a sieve lined with a  layer of paper towels or double layer of cheese cloth. You will have to change out the towels or cheese cloth several times, as they become clogged.
  • Place strained stock in the fridge overnight. In the morning, skim the coagulated fat from the surface.
  • Taste a little stock with a pinch of salt. If needed, reduce stock by up to 25% to concentrate flavor. It should make about 3-3.5 quarts.
  • Refrigerate for three days, or freeze up to 6 months.

Of patricide and proteins.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

The first time I made this dish I nearly killed my parents.

Zabaglione is simple, in concept. Whisk together 8 egg yolks, 1/3 cup of Marsala wine and 3/4 cups sugar. Place it in a metal bowl, over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until it increases to three times it’s volume and will hold a soft peak. Serve over fresh berries. There, wasn’t that easy?

There are a few finer points. The basic chemistry of this dish relies on whisking egg yolks over the gentle heat of a double boiler, allowing their tightly-coiled proteins to uncoil in long strands. Those strands interlock forming pockets of air. As the air expands and the egg yolks slowly cook, the whisked custard expands in volume creating an airy foam. Et voilà! Zabaglione. (There’s a joke in there somewhere. Linguistic humor is hilarious!)

How can such a simple dish go wrong? Cook the custard over high heat and fail to whisk constantly, allowing the eggs to scramble before the proteins can uncoil and form air pockets. Then, you end up with about 1 cup of custard, barely a few tablespoons per person, of highly concentrated fat, sugar and alcohol. Which is exactly what I served my parents the first time I made it.

Despite several near heart attacks that night, everyone remains healthy to this day and we continue to enjoy much lighter Zabaglione, like this autumnal version I’ll be serving up at Thanksgiving dinner.

Calvados Zabaglione With Apples

Ingredients:

For Zabaglione:
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup Calvados

For Apples:
2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
4 tbs butter
1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg, fresh grated
1/4 cup Calvados
2 tbs Cinnamon Pear Balsamic vinegar*

*Sapore’s new winter vinegar. You can substitute a syrupy aged balsamic vinegar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Directions:

Zabaglione:

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and wine in a metal bowl placed over a saucepan filled with simmering water.
Whisk steadily, keeping water at a simmer, until cooked through, and volume triples. about 5-7 minutes.

Apples:
Melt 2 tbs butter in large sauté pan over medium heat.
Sauté 1/2 apples for five minutes. Remove, add additional tbs butter and sauté remaining apples. Remove from pan.
Add sugar, nutmeg, Calvados, vinegar and remaining butter. Simmer until thick. Add apples and toss to mix.
Serve apples topped with custard.

Richer for it.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

I recently asked the question, “should I use bacon fat?” It was largely rhetorical.

My husband Jason, our friend Sam and I were in the test kitchen working on a recipe for a Brussels sprout slaw. Inspiration had come in the form of Sapore Oil and Vinegar‘s new Harvest Apple vinegar. Expecting apple pie in a bottle, my nose was greeted with something closer to Worcestershire sauce. Though not as savory, the vinegar sang a siren song of Brussels sprouts, sharp, grainy mustard and bacon. It was a song we had heard before.

Around this time last year we answered a similar call. Blanched, shaved sprouts were dressed in a bacon fat, mustard, sherry vinaigrette. This time the results were different. Maybe it was the lower acidity of the Harvest Apple vinegar, or maybe it was the rich, sweet and sour sweet potatoes we had just eaten, but tasted side-by-side, we preferred a light, grassy olive oil over rich, salty bacon fat.

Are we retiring last fall’s bacon fat version? No, with a crisp loaf of bread or a savory celery root soup, the bacon fat version is still our choice. However, sitting amidst a table loaded with stuffing, potatoes, turkey and gravy, the light, bright, more acidic version is a welcome island amidst the starch.

Brussels Sprout Apple-Mustard Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed and halved

For dressing:

  • 1/2 cup diced Pancetta
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Autumn Apple Vinegar*
  • 2 tbs sharp, grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup Frantoio Olive Oil*

*It’s the holidays – treat yourself, and order a couple bottles online at Sapore Oil and Vinegar. If you need a substitute for the Autumn Apple Vinegar, combine 4 tbs Sherry vinegar with 2 tbs cider or apple juice. Frantoio is a light, grassy olive oil. you can sub any good quality oil.

Directions:

  • Blanch Brussels sprouts in salted, boiling water for 1 minute. Remove to ice bath. When cool, drain and pat dry.
  • Sauté pancetta in 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat until crispy. Remove to drain on paper towels. Reserve fat to fry just about anything.
  • Whisk together shallot, Autumn Apple Vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Thinly slice Brussels sprouts and place in a bowl with some extra room.
  • Whisk Frantoio oil into vinegar mixture. Season to taste.
  • Dress brussels sprouts with 1/2 dressing and Pancetta. Let rest 5-10 minutes and season to taste with additional dressing if needed.

Civil disagreement.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

November 2012 reveals great divide amongst the American people. Tomorrow’s election will leave 45+% of us deeply concerned about the next four years. Thanksgiving day will leave even more people deeply concerned about their fellow Americans’ palates. Forget politics and religion, it’s food that reveals the true regional and familial diversity in this country.

Moving to DC 10 years ago, the Southern traditions of greens and sweet potatoes were exotic and foreign. In New England, the only thing we boil for several hours is brisket, and we don’t add molasses or marshmallows unless we’re serving dessert. This past week, in the heated run-up to Election Day, I was determined to find common ground.

Maple sugar brings sweetness and depth to the potatoes while a complex Autumn Apple vinegar delivers balance and brightness. Nutmeg and white pepper give complexity to these simple, bold ingredients. Richly sauced, the sweet potatoes needed grounding, and earthy kale, quickly fried or baked, adds both texture and grassy greenness to the dish. Best of all, it’s simple and brightly colored, a perfect addition to Thanksgiving tables filled with browns, beiges and whites.

As for tomorrow’s election? We’re a diverse country, currently under great economic duress and social change. The division amongst voters and slow movement of our government reflects a system that is working, awaiting clear(er) direction from a strong(er) majority of voters. Like the growing diversity of my Thanksgiving table, I’ll celebrate the diversity of our country: not just of race or religion, but of the people, geography, industry and education that shapes our beliefs and perspectives.

Whatever you believe, please vote tomorrow. Then we can begin arguing about whether stuffing belongs inside the bird (it clearly does).

Sweet And Sour Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Kale

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs + 1/2 cup olive oil separated
  • 2 large sweet potatoes cut in 1/2” by 3” wedges
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbs Autumn Apple Vinegar, separated*
  • 2 tbs maple or brown sugar
  • 4-6 cups water
  • Nutmeg
  • White pepper
  • 2 cups Tuscan kale cut in thin ribbons

*While most cider vinegars are overpoweringly acidic with little depth, Sapore’s Autumn Apple provides balanced bite with fresh apple sweetness. To substitute, use a good sherry vinegar and add 2 cups of fresh apple cider to the braising liquid.

Directions:

  • Heat 2 tbs oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or sauté pan. Toss in potatoes and cook until beginning to brown, turning once or twice to caramelize on a couple of sides.
  • Deglaze pan with 1/3 cup Autumn Apple Vinegar and sprinkle potatoes with sugar. Add water and cook covered for about 15 minutes until softened but still very firm in the center.
  • Uncover potatoes and let liquid reduce as potatoes finish cooking. Add additional liquid if more cooking time is needed.
  • When sweet potatoes are tender in the middle, but not mushy, toss with 2 tbs additional vinegar and let liquid reduce to a glaze. Season to taste with nutmeg and white pepper.
  • While potatoes finish cooking, heat 1/2 cup oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Fry kale, remove to paper towels to drain. Season with sea salt and serve over potatoes.*

*Kale can also be baked in the over. Toss with olive oil and salt and back ribbons at 400 until crispy. Watch carefully to prevent blackening.