Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stollen (Page 616)

RECIPE #1069

  • Date: Friday, December 18, 2009 -- 4pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Phil O, and Teri
  • Recipe Rating: B+


This bread is traditionally served in the Christmas season, so I made it a couple weeks ago when Phil was visiting. I started by stirring together glaceed cherries, other mixed glaceed fruits, raisins, currants, and dark rum. I let this mixture sit for a couple hours. Then I proofed some yeast in warm milk and sugar. I added some flour and let the sponge rise for 45 minutes. Then I added more flour, salt, melted butter, eggs, and sugar and beat it until incorporated. I added the fruit mixture and sliced almonds (which had been toasted and chopped) and kneaded it in a mixer. Then I let the dough rise until doubled. I shaped the loaf, brushing with butter, then put it on a buttered baking sheet. I let it rise until it doubled again. I brushed the stollen with melted butter and baked it until deep golden. After it cooled I dusted it with powdered sugar. This stollen was pretty tasty. The bread had an excellent texture. The crumb was very tender and the dough had a wonderful richness to it. The crust was thick and buttery. I was surprised by the fact that I actually enjoyed having the candied fruit in the loaf. My one complaint was that there was too much dark rum. The flavor of the rum overpowered the flavor of the fruit and almonds. Aside from that, this bread was very tasty. The recipe made a lot of bread -- although it doesn't look that way in the picture, this loaf was HUGE! We ate it many days in a row for breakfast, toasted and spread with some butter. It was quite tasty.

This recipe isn't online.

Yay! I have finished another section of The Book! This recipe was the last one I had left in the Breads and Crackers sections. In no particular order, my top five recipes from the section:
  • Currant Tea Scones -- Absolutely fabulous scones with a subtle tea flavor and a wonderful crunchy sugar topping!
  • Naan -- This recipe for Indian flatbread was so delicious that most of it never made it to the dinner table -- my mother and special gentleman ate half the batch directly out of the oven. Yum!
  • Buttery Croissants -- My special gentleman's idea of paradise includes eating these croissants fresh out of the oven every morning. They were buttery, light, and flaky -- croissant perfection!
  • Sopaipillas --It's hard to go wrong with deep-frying, and this recipe for deep-fried dough did not disappoint. These sopaipillas were incredibly delicious drizzed with honey!
  • Raisin Brioche Pastries -- All of the brioche-based recipes in this section were excellent, but I think of the three this was my favorite. The brioche was beautifully complemented by the vanilla pastry cream and raisins to form a delicious breakfast pastry!
I am happy to be done with another section (3 down, 18 to go!), but I am sad to see this section go. I love both making and eating bread, and I enjoyed cooking my way through this section quite a bit! Finishing it off does make me feel like I am making some progress though! I have a couple more sections that each only have one recipe left, so hopefully I will be finishing those off very soon too!

This is my last post of 2009! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Deviled Beef Ribs (Page 415)

RECIPE #1068

  • Date: Thursday, December 17, 2009 -- 12pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

This recipe called for cooked meaty rib bones leftover from a standing rib roast. We had a rib roast a few weeks back with my special gentleman's family, and I froze the bones so we could use them in this recipe. We made a mixture of heavy cream, dry mustard, and Parmesan. Then I stirred together dry bread crumbs, parsley, salt, and pepper. We spread the mustard paste on the bones, then rolled them in the bread crumb mixture. Then we put them on a baking sheet, drizzled them with butter, and broiled them until golden. These ribs were pretty tasty, but very difficult to eat. It was exhausting trying to find the meat, especially because everything was masked by the bread crumb topping. So it was difficult to distinguish chunks of meat from chunks of fat without getting through the crumb coating first. There was also a lot of coating for how much meat there was. That might have been fine except that the coating had a very intense mustard flavor, which almost drowned out the delicious flavor of the beef. All that said, these ribs did taste good, and although they were a lot of work to eat, we enjoyed eating them. My special gentleman pointed out though that it would have been just as good (or better!) to simply reheat those meaty bones without any of the toppings. He may be right about that.

This recipe isn't online.

Ugh. When it comes to making recipes from The Book, I tend to enjoy the cooking quite a bit and the grocery shopping not nearly as much. Many of the recipes I have left require somewhat obscure ingredients, which often means making multiple grocery stops. Today was a personal record though. I am in Ohio at my special gentleman's parents' house and I was attempting to buy ingredients for dinner tonight and a couple dishes for tomorrow. I ended up going to EIGHT grocery stores. EIGHT! In order:

1. Whole Foods -- There I picked up most of the food I needed. They came up short on Pernod, tamarind concentrate, and instant espresso powder.

2. An Asian Grocery Store -- Attempting to find the tamarind, but no such luck.

3. Meijer -- Attempting to find the espresso powder, but no such luck. Picked up some staples that I opted not to get at Whole Foods though since they are cheaper at Meijer.

4. Liquor Store -- Found the Pernod!

5. Indian Grocery Store -- Walked in to find them boxing up everything on the shelves. Apparently they were going out of business. So no luck on the tamarind.

6. Another Indian Grocery Store -- Succeeded at finding the tamarind.

7. European specialty store -- Succeeded at finding the instant espresso powder.

These seven stops took quite a long time. Columbus is a big city and I was driving all over. Having checked everything off my list I triumphantly headed back to the house to start cooking. Only halfway through the dessert recipe did I realize that the dessert I picked contained raw egg whites. I feel ok about eating raw eggs myself, but I don't feel so good about serving them to others -- especially my in-laws. So I decided to head back out the store for trip number eight.

8. Giant Eagle -- Bought pasteurized egg whites.

Whew! I was already exhausted by the time I even starting any serious cooking for dinner! Sometimes this project is just crazy!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Raisin Brioche Pastries (Page 619)

RECIPE #1067

  • Date: Sunday, December 6, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike, Corbett, Mary, and Rich
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I made this recipe a few weeks back when Mike came to visit and we had Corbett, Mary, and Rich over for brunch. I started by making the brioche dough, which I blogged about a previous time that I made it. Then I soaked some raisins in boiling water until soft. These pastries were filled with vanilla pastry cream and raisins. To make the pastry cream I started by simmering milk. In a bowl I whisked together egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch, then I whisked in the hot milk. I cooked the mixture gently on the stovetop until it boiled, then continued to cook until it thickened. I stirred in some vanilla and butter and covered the surface with waxed paper. I let the cream cool to room temperature. Once the pastry cream was cool I rolled out the brioche dough into a big rectangle. I spread the pastry cream over the dough and sprinkled the raisins over it. Then I rolled up the dough and transfered the dough log to the refrigerator for an hour. I then cut the log into pieces, and put the slices on a buttered baking sheet. I let them rise for about an hour. Then I baked the pastries until golden brown. When they came out of the oven I brushed the pastries with apricot preserves, which I had diluted with a bit of water and warmed on the stovetop to thin. In a word: yum! These pastries were beautiful and super tasty. The pastry cream had a lovely vanilla flavor to it -- I would have liked even more of the delicious cream in each roll. I wasn't sure I would like the raisins in it, but they provided nice bursts of sweetness and some textural contrast. The brioche dough was rich and tender. These were lovely pastries -- perfect for a Sunday brunch!

The recipe is here.

My father-in-law asked me yesterday (while I was making dinner) whether I ever feel like I am a slave to The Book. It's an interesting question. On the one hand, I will be happy when this project is over. I have invested a lot in it and I am definitely looking forward to checking off that last recipe! On the other hand, I think I will miss it. I have been at this for just about 4 years now, and it has become a part of my everyday life. My special gentleman and I have grown accustomed to eating different foods almost every day, and I have certainly become accustomed to cooking new things.

I am hoping to finish up this project sometime in the year 2010. I have only about 220 recipes left to go. I have a feeling this last year of the project is going to be the most difficult. Many of the recipes I have left to make have strange ingredients, or equipment, or require a lot of advance planning. But I am working through them one recipe at a time, with the end in sight! And I hope that a year from now, as the year 2010 draws to a close, this project will be done. And every night I will cook whatever I want for dinner! My special gentleman predicts that will mean Cream of Wheat for dinner every night for at least a few months. Only time will tell...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Veal Braised in Tomato Sauce (Page 454)

RECIPE #1066

  • Date: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Teri, and Terry
  • Recipe Rating: A-

When I dug some of this braised veal out of the freezer a few days ago I realized that I forgot to blog about it! Whoops! I made this veal a few weeks back. I started by stirring together some canned tomatoes and basil and letting it sit for a half hour. Then I cooked onions in butter and oil. Once the onions were soft I added the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and simmered. Meanwhile, I browned a veal shoulder roast in oil. Then I added the veal to the tomato sauce. I deglazed the veal skillet with red wine and added that and bay leaf to the pot. I brought the braising liquid to a simmer then put the pot in the oven for a couple hours. This veal was excellent. It was falling apart tender and the tomato sauce had a great flavor. I served it tossed with pasta and it was absolutely delicious! This wasn't a fancy dish, but I would certainly make it again -- it was quick to throw together and made a perfect hearty winter meal!

This recipe isn't online.

As the year draws to a close, I am thinking about resolutions for the new year. It's also time to check in on this past year's resolutions and see how I did! So here they are:
  • Run a marathon -- This one I did! I ran my first marathon at the beginning of November!
  • Have fun planning our wedding -- I did this one too! I had a lot of fun planning our wedding without getting too stressed out. And I was very happy with how it all turned out!
  • Get a tenure-track job -- Mission accomplished! I have accepted a tenure-track job which I will start in August.
  • Keep in better phone contact with my friends -- On this one I didn't do quite so well...
  • Appreciate the many blessings in my life -- This one was easy. I have definitely been feeling very blessed this year! Between getting married, getting a job in the same place as my husband, and buying a house, this has been an eventful year full of blessings!
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables -- I did well at this for about a month, but I have long since abandoned my good intentions. I'll try this one again next year!
  • Keep my mathematical life better organized -- I meant to clean and organize my offices both at work and at home, but with moving my home office only got less organized. Soon I will really get organized!
  • Be a good friend -- I hope I did well at this!
  • Make 350 recipes from The Book -- I failed very badly at this one. I only made about 175 recipes from The Book this year. It was a crazy year, and at various points cooking from The Book had to take the back burner.
Overall, I did a decent job with last year's resolutions. Now, I am ready for a new year and some new resolutions!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ultimate Quiche (Page 654)

RECIPE #1065

  • Date: Sunday, December 6, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike, Corbett, Mary, and Rich
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I made this quiche a few weeks back when Mike was visiting and we had Corbett, Mary, and Rich over for brunch. I started by preheating the oven with a baking sheet inside. I then chopped some bacon and cooked it until crispy. I rolled out some puff pastry and fit it into a pie dish. I then whisked eggs with creme fraiche, salt, and nutmeg. Then I poured the egg mixture through a sieve into the puff pastry crust. I sprinkled the bacon over the egg mixture, then I sprinkled grated Gruyere on top. I baked the quiche on the heated baking sheet until the center was set. This quiche was ridiculously unhealthy, but delicious! Between the 3/4 pound of bacon, 20 ounces of creme fraiche, puff pastry crust, and cup of Gruyere (not to mention 6 eggs), this quiche had quite a few calories in it. Out of curiousity we entered the ingredient list into Wolfram Alpha (which can compute nutritional information) and the results were obscene! Each piece of this quiche had 61 grams of fat and 730 calories! Ahh! The strange thing was, despite the insane amount of fat and calories, this quiche tasted very light. My special gentleman commented it was "like eating a bacon and egg flavored cloud." It really did have a great texture to it. And the flavor was wonderful -- it was eggy without being too eggy, and there was just the right amount of bacon and cheese. The puff pastry crust was also delicious, making for a very tasty quiche. This certainly wouldn't be a good recipe to make every day (that would be a fast track to a heat attack!) but for a special occasion this is a very tasty quiche!

This recipe isn't online.

What a lovely Christmas! My special gentleman and I had Christmas at my grandpa's house and we had such a great time! We spent all day Christmas Eve and all day on Christmas with my extended family, hanging out at my grandpa's house. There was a lot of card-playing -- at least 10 hours of Sheepshead each day! My mom, my cousin Anne, my aunt Marie, and I didn't play cards, but rather cooked up a big meal (which actually turned out to be enough food for several meals!). We had beef tips, Columbian chicken stew, mashed potatoes, baked beans, rolls, a green salad, chicken soup, chocolate cake with chocolate peanut butter frosting, etc... In keeping with midwestern tradition, we even made a "salad" with lime jello as a primary ingredient. The ingredients: lime jello, cottage cheese, canned pineapple, and Cool Whip. Interesting, no? In the end it tasted ok, but it looked so foul while we were making it that we were laughing so hard we were crying. In case you're wanting to recreate this midwestern specialty, here's a play by play. Step one: Mix cottage cheese with powdered lime jello:

At that point, it definitely did not look like something you would want to eat. It only looked worse after the next step: mix in canned pineapple:

The final step, folding in the Cool Whip, improved the appearance of the dish:

In the end it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. My cousin Anne rejected it outright, but my grandpa ate multiple servings! It definitely added a certain flair to the meal!

After a wonderful family Christmas, we got up early on the 26th to drive the nine and a half hours between my family and my special gentleman's. We arrived at his parents' house just in time for one of their extended family Christmas celebrations! So we ate another wonderful (and huge!) Christmas meal with family.

Today we are just relaxing, playing with Brad and Deniz's puppies, and hanging out. A lovely end to the holiday weekend!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rye Crispbread Crackers with Pepper-Dill Creme Fraiche and Smoked Salmon (Page 38)

RECIPE #1064

  • Date: Sunday, December 6, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike, Corbett, Mary, and Rich
  • Recipe Rating: B

We had some friends over for brunch a few weeks back and I made this dish as part of that meal. I started this recipe by making the crackers. I proofed the yeast, then I toasted and ground some caraway seeds and added them to the yeast along with rye flour, all-purpose flour, and salt. I kneaded the mixture, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough was smooth and elastic. Then I let it rise until it doubled. I divided the dough into two pieces, and rolled each out into a 15 by 10 inch rectangle. I let them sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Then, using a fork I made perforations in the dough outlining the shape of the crackers. I then baked them until golden and crispy. I broke the crackers apart. I then stirred together some creme fraiche, chopped dill, salt, and pepper, and put a dollop of the mixture on the top of each cracker. I topped the creme fraiche with a piece of smoked salmon. I was then supposed to sprinkle some orange zest on top of the salmon, but in the bustle of preparing brunch, I completely forgot. Whoops! This dish was ok but not great. The flavor of the crackers was nice and the creme fraiche and salmon went wonderfully together. As a combination of flavors the dish was very successful. The issue I had with the dish though was that the texture of the crackers wasn't quite right. I rolled the dough out to exactly the specifed dimensions, but it just wasn't thin enough for crackers. Instead of being delicate and crisp, these crackers were thick, which made them quite hard to eat. It also threw off the balance of the ingredients: there was too much cracker for the amount of creme fraiche and salmon. Had the crackers been much thinner and more brittle, this dish could have been very successful. Were I to make it again I would ignore the dimensions given in The Book for rolling out the dough and I would just roll it quite thin before proceeding.

The recipe is here.

It's Christmas Eve! We had planned to stay in Madison until this morning and then drive up to Oshkosh (where my extended family lives) today, but there has been some nasty weather in parts of Wisconsin, so we decided to drive up yesterday instead to beat the storm. So we are here and yesterday we got to see some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. This morning we are headed over to my grandpa's house where we will cook today for our big Christmas dinner tomorrow. When I was little Christmas was always at my grandparents' house. Most of the adults would sit around the kitchen table playing Sheepshead (a card game that is a huge tradition in my family) and drinking. The kids would sit on their laps, collecting quarters from anyone who swore. When we got tired of watching the adults play we would run around the house, creating games of our own (Dog trainer comes to mind -- I was the dog trainer and my twin cousins, who are 4 years younger than me, were the dogs. They would crawl around the house on their hands and knees for hours!). We would eat, open presents, listen to Christmas carols. It was very fun! At some point Christmas moved to an aunt and uncle's house. Although the traditions stayed the same: Sheepshead, kids running around, presents, food... it was different from those early childhood Christmases. No one seems to remember the last year we had Christmas at my grandpa's house, but it was at least a decade ago. This year, though, Christmas is at my grandpa's! There aren't any little kids in the family any more, but my mom's family is a boisterous bunch. Even without small children I am sure there will be some holiday chaos! I am very much looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fig Pudding with Rum Butter (Page 831)

RECIPE #1063

  • Date: Saturday, December 5, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Fellow Chef: Mike
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C-


When Mike and I were trying to come up with a menu for our All Gross Food Dinner a few weeks ago, the first thing I said was, "I know what we should have for dessert!" There was really only one choice: Fig Pudding with Rum Butter. The timing was perfect. For one thing, this is the Figgy Pudding you hear about in Christmas carols, e.g.:

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some, so bring some out here

So, this recipe was quite seasonal. Further, I hadn't been able to make this any previous Christmas season because I didn't have the proper "2-quart decorative pudding mold with lid." However, I got one as part of a wedding gift from Vero and Phillipe (thank you!) so, I was finally prepared to make this recipe. From the "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" lyrics above, you might gather that figgy pudding is delicious. So then you could wonder why I would suggest this recipe as the dessert for our meal of bad food. I'll tell you why! You read the ingredient list for this recipe, and the eighth item on the list is "3 cups cold shredded beef suet." For those of you not culinarily inclined: suet means fat. This recipe called for 3 cups of beef fat. Ick. Ick, ick, ick. Nonetheless, I plowed ahead.

I started by putting chopped figs in whole milk and simmering for 20 minutes. I then let the mixture cool for an hour. I then buttered the mold. I sifted flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl I attempted to beat the suet with sugar until fluffy. I say attempted because fluffiness was not to be found. I tried an electric mixer. I even tried a food processor. I couldn't achieve fluffiness with my beef suet. Instead, the shredded suet flew all over (I later found suet in my hair) as I beat it, and stubbornly refused to fluff. Eventually I gave up and added eggs, one at a time, beating after each. I then mixed in some breadcrumbs which I had freshly ground, and some orange zest. I then added the flour mixture alternately with the fig mixture. I spooned the batter into the mold (the recipe says to "pour" but my mixture was way too stiff to be poured), and I put the top on. Then I put the mold in a pot and poured boiling water halfway up the sides. I covered the pot and simmered the water to steam the pudding for 2 hours. Then I unmolded the pudding and made the rum butter. I beat together butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, and dark rum. I served the pudding sliced with rum butter.

This recipe was pretty special. Mike summed it up best when he said, "I think I would be able to enjoy this more if I didn't know what was in it." It's true, the thought of all that beef fat was daunting. My special gentleman said, "I can feel the beef fat flowing through my veins." He found the "sweet beefiness" of the dish a bit offputting. True, the knowledge of all the beef fat was certainly disconcerting, but even without that knowledge I think the dish wouldn't have been very good. For one thing, it was quite dry for a pudding. The texture was not at all what I would have hoped for. Further, although the rum butter sounded tasty, it really wasn't. The sugar was grainy in it, and there was too much dark rum for the amount of butter. My main issue though was the flavor and mouthfeel of the beef suet in the dish. We all felt so greasy after eating it. I don't know what figgy pudding those kids were singing about in that Christmas song, but it was certainly not this recipe.

Sadly for you, this recipe isn't online.

Curried Greens with Golden Onion and Cashews (Page 543)

RECIPE #1062

  • Date: Saturday, December 5, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Fellow Chef: Mike
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-

This recipe was part of the special Recipes That Sound Bad meal that Mike and I made together a few weeks ago. In truth, I would have made this recipe long ago (despite the fact that it sounded questionable), but I couldn't find dandelion greens in Bloomington. Luckily, the grocery shopping in East Lansing is superior to that in Bloomington, and dandelion greens were quite easy to find. So I suggested this recipe for my dinner with Mike. The only reason it fell into the requisite category of dishes that sounded bad was that I have an aversion to bitter green vegetables. I am generally a flexible eater, but bitter greens are not my thing. So I was dreading this one a bit...

Mike started by cooking wedges of onion in olive oil with some salt until the onions were deep golden and crisp. We then stirred together curry powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, mustard seeds, cinnamon, and cayenne. Once the onions were ready we added some chopped, roasted, salted cashews, cooked for a few mintues, then added some of the spice mix. Then we removed the mixture from the heat. Meanwhile, I prepped spinach, mustard greens, and dandelion greens, removing all tough stems and center ribs, and chopping the leaves. We then heated some oil in a pot and added the remaining spice mix. When it was fragrant we dumped in all the greens and cooked until the greens were tender. Then we seasoned with salt and topped the greens with the onion mixture. My feelings about this recipe were exactly as I expected: I found the bitter greens quite hard to take and the carmelized onion topping quite delicious. I was willing to put my anti-bitter-greens bias aside and judge this recipe from a more neutral palate. However, even for a bitter greens recipe it wasn't so good. The topping was flavorful, but the greens themselves were a bit bland. The bitterness drowned out the spice mix, leaving the greens tasting very plain. Additionally, they had a wateriness to them which wasn't appealing. Mike and Matt liked it fine, but no one could muster much enthusiasm for this dish.

The recipe is here.

Ah, the holiday season! The weeks surrounding Christmas are certainly some of my favorite weeks of the year. After I gave my exam last week my special gentleman and I drove up to Michigan. The weather there was brisk and snowy and it couldn't have felt more like the holidays! I went to a lovely all-women Christmas party one afternoon (with lovely food!) hosted by one of the neighbors, and I met some of the women in our neighborhood! On Thursday, my special gentleman's good friend and collaborator Phil came to town. He stayed with us for 4 days, and it was great to have him visit! Having company only enhanced the holiday spirit! I cooked a lot -- we sat at the table sipping wine and eating food from The Book almost every evening. It was perfectly lovely. Then yesterday my special gentleman and I drove from East Lansing to Madison (stopping in Milwaukee to visit our friends Grant and Anna and their new baby Julia!). We arrived at my parents' place late last night, and today we had a relaxing day, enjoying Madison and finishing up some Christmas shopping. Tomorrow I will do a bit of holiday cooking, then Thursday we will head up to my grandpa's house in Oshkosh for the extended family Christmas festivities! What a fun time of year!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sliced Calf's Liver with Golden Onions (Page 461)

RECIPE #1061

  • Date: Saturday, December 5, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Fellow Chef: Mike
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I have known my good friend Mike since long before I started this crazy project of mine. He has eaten more than a hundred recipes that I have made from The Book. So he has had some recipes that were quite tasty (e.g. the Cranberry Caramel Bars), and some recipes which were not-so-good (e.g. the Shitake Bok Choy Soup with Noodles). Over the years he has observed that sometimes it is more fun to trash the terrible food than it is to eat the typically tasty food from The Book. Plus, he knows that I have to make them all and that I am hesitant to serve recipes that sound terrible to anyone but my closest friends. So, when Mike came to visit a couple weeks ago he requested that we make a dinner full of gross recipes from The Book. We picked a few recipes that seemed guaranteed to be bad and we composed a meal out of them. Our original plan was to make a beef tongue dish as the main course (which sounded like it might be ok, but the recipe contained the phrase, "When the tongue is cool enough to handle, peel off skin." That mental picture was enough to put the recipe on my icky list.). Unfortunately, while the butcher shop had pork tongue they were out of beef tongue, so that recipe had to wait for another day. Our back-up: this calf's liver dish. We served it with a side dish of bitter green vegetables and a dessert which contained 3 cups of beef fat. Yummy! I ate a few bites of my dinner, then pushed my food around my plate for a while before making myself some Cream of Wheat. Mike and my special gentleman did a little better, but certainly no one was stuffing themselves with this meal! Even though the food was bad it was still fun to cook and eat together!

To make this recipe I started by thinly slicing the liver and seasoning it with salt and pepper. Then I sliced some onions paper thin and Mike cooked them in butter until they were golden brown. Then I put the onions in a bowl, and cooked the liver in butter very briefly. Then the liver went on top of the onions and I deglazed the pan with water. I poured this sauce over the liver, then tossed the liver with chopped parsley. That was it! It's a bit hard to grade this recipe because neither me nor my special gentleman particularly care for liver. I found this dish quite hard to eat. It had a certain richness to it that made it actually difficult for me to consume more than a couple bites. My special gentleman had more, but the look on his face was one of dread with each bite. The only pronounced flavors were those of the liver and the onions, so if you didn't care for one of those components (e.g. the liver) there was no masking it! Mike likes liver just fine and he found this to be a perfectly good liver preparation. He wasn't raving about it, but he also didn't have anything particularly nasty to say about it. I certainly wouldn't make this dish again, but if you are a liver-lover it might be worth a try.

The recipe is here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Easy Cassoulet (Page 272)

RECIPE #1060

  • Date: Thursday, December 3, 2009 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Mike
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I only have two recipes left in the Grains and Beans section of The Book, and both are for cassoulet! Since now is the perfect season for warm comfort food, I figured I would knock out one of the cassoulet recipes. This is the simpler of the two, hence the title: Easy Cassoulet. I started by soaking dried white beans in cold water overnight in the refrigerator. Then I drained the beans, put them in a pot and added cold water, beef stock, tomato paste, chopped onions, and chopped garlic. I boiled the mixture, then added a bouquet garni of celery, thyme, bay leaf, cloves, parsley, and black peppercorns. I simmered the bean mixture until the beans were almost tender. Then I addded chopped canned tomatoes and simmered some more. Then I worked on the other components of the dish, starting with the duck. I had to special order confit duck legs (AKA duck legs that have been salt-cured, poached in their own fat, then preserved submerged in their own fat). I separated the duck legs into three piles: bones, meat, and skin/fat. I added the bones to the simmering beans. I cooked the skin and fat in a bit of water until the water evaporated and the skin was crispy. I removed the cracklings from the pan and cooked sliced pork sausage in the remaining duck fat. I then removed the sausage from the skillet and cooked chopped garlic in the duck/sausage fat. I added fresh breadcrumbs and cooked until they were golden. I removed the breadcrumb mixture from the heat and stirred in parsley, salt, pepper, and the cracklings. I then stirred the duck meat and sausage into the beans, added salt and pepper and ladled the mixture into a Dutch oven. I sprinkled the breadcumb mixture on top of the beans and I baked the cassoulet until it was brown and bubbling. [Yes, this recipe had a lot of steps. Perhaps it should be called Easy For Cassoulet rather than Easy Cassoulet!]

This cassoulet was pretty tasty. The flavors of the duck and sausage were wonderful with the beans. The dish was rich and hearty. I had only two complaints: one, I only added as much salt as indicated in the recipe yet it came out quite salty. If I made this recipe again I would definitely be more cautious with the salt. My second complaint was that although the breadcrumb and crackling topping was delicious before it went on top of the cassoulet, the bean liquid was so thin that it absorbed right into the breadcumb topping. So the dish didn't have the nice crisp topping that I had hoped it would. Those issues aside, this was a very solid cassoulet recipe. It had great depth of flavor and it was certainly appropriate for a cold winter evening. Cassoulet is one of Mike's favorites and he approved of this recipe.

The recipe is here.

This post is another addition to the series of posts about our wedding in May. The whole week of the wedding was super fun! We got married on Saturday, but my best friend Emilee, her husband Brian, and their son Sam arrived on Tuesday, and my parents did as well. Emilee, Brian, and Sam stayed with us in our apartment for the week, which was great! Having them around completely relieved any stress I was feeling about the wedding. It was a great week, filled with big "family" dinners:


Having Sam around was a riot. He is seriously the best kid ever. He seems to always be in a good mood. Here's Sam just hanging out:


We were all pretty busy, but luckily Sam is great at entertaining himself:





He even put up with our not-entirely-baby-friendly accomodations. For instance, we don't have one of those little baby bathtubs, so Sam took baths in my canning pot!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Asian Pears with Vanilla-Poached Kumquats (Page 810)

RECIPE #1059

  • Date: Saturday, November 28, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Dave, Karen H, Brad, and Deniz
  • Recipe Rating: C+

Kumquats are in season and I saw some in the grocery store when we were in Ohio, so I immediately thought to make this dessert! I started by peeling, coring, and slicing some Asian pears. Then I boiled a mixture of water, lime juice, the seeds from a half a vanilla bean, the vanilla pod, sugar, and a pinch of salt. I added sliced, seeded, kumquats, reduced to a simmer, and simmered until the kumquats were softened. I put the pear slices in a bowl and poured the hot syrup over them. I then chilled the mixture for several hours. This dessert was disappointing at best. I like Asian pears. I like kumquats. I especially like vanilla. But somehow the three together didn't work so well. For one thing, the combination of raw pears with cooked kumquats was very odd. The flavor of the pears was quite mild so it was overshadowed by the incredible bursts of citrus flavor from the kumquats. In my opinion the vanilla just didn't work with it. The dish wasn't bad exactly, but the flavors didn't come together to form something coherent. We ate it all, but no one had anything nice to say about it! Definitely not a recipe I would make again.

The recipe is here.

My special gentleman is on leave this coming semester so that he can attend a special program in his research area at a math institute in Berkeley, California. This means that he will be living in Berkeley from January through May. I am not on leave from my job in Indiana, but I am not teaching this coming semester (since I taught my full load for the year this fall), so I will be visiting him in California often. This means neither of us will be in Michigan. Originally I had planned to come up to Michigan every couple weeks to check on the house and have our neighbors keep an eye on it the rest of the time. The idea of the house sitting empty through a Michigan winter was making me really nervous though. Also, I wasn't too sure I wanted to be driving back and forth from Bloomington to East Lansing for another semester! Lucky for us, some friends of ours in East Lansing agreed to live in our house next semester (Thank you Corbett and Mary!). So the house won't be empty, and we won't have to worry about the furnace shutting off and the pipes freezing, or anything like that! Yay! It also means, though, that when we leave Michigan on Monday we probably won't be back to the house until June. It's silly to be sad about that, of course, but in a way I am. I love it here! I am, right now, sitting on the sofa in front of the fireplace, enjoying a roaring fire on this winter night. I'll miss that! Of course, I love being in Bloomington, and Northern California is one of my favorite places. So I am sure next semester will be awesome! But by June I anticipate I will be eager to come home to Michigan! It will be warmer then, but perhaps I will still sit start a fire in the fireplace and sit in this very spot, enjoying a lovely Michigan evening!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Exotic Mushroom Pate (Page 16)

RECIPE #1058

  • Date: Thursday, November 26, 2009 -- 4pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Karen H, Dave, Brad, Deniz, Pete, Danae, Kenny, Gail, Eddie, Evelyn, Sandy, Jinx, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I made this pate as part of the hors d'oeuvres spread for Thanksgiving dinner. The Book warns that this recipe is "neither easy nor inexpensive" but I think it was worth the investment both of money and energy. (Actually, relative to a lot of things in The Book, this recipe wasn't really very expensive...) I would have made this recipe sooner -- mushrooms being one of my special gentleman's favorites -- but I didn't have a terrine. However, Alp sent us a wonderful terrine as a wedding gift (Thank You Alp!) so I had the equipment I needed for this dish! I started by buttering the terrine and lining it with parchment. I then soaked dried porcini mushrooms in boiling chicken stock. I drained, rinsed, and chopped the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid. I strained the soaking liquid through a coffee filter, then I boiled it to reduce it and added it to the chopped porcini. I cooked shallots and garlic in butter, then added some sherry and cooked them more. I put this mixture in a blender. Then I cooked sliced shitake and oyster mushrooms in more butter. I added some of the mushrooms to the blender, and the remaining mushrooms to the porcini mixture. I added heavy cream, toasted, ground almonds, and eggs to the blender and blended the mixture until very smooth. I added it to the porcinis, then stirred in some chopped parsley, thyme, lemon juice. bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. I poured the mixture into the terrine, covered it with foil, and set the terrine in a larger pan. I filled the larger pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the terrine. I baked it for almost an hour, then I let it cool and refrigerated the pate, still in the terrine, overnight. Before serving it I made the topping. I cooked shitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and almonds in butter and olive oil. I let the mixture cool then seasoned with parsley, salt, and pepper. I then let the pate come to room temperature, and I carefully inverted it onto a platter to unmold it. I topped it with the topping and served it with some toasted baguette slices.

This pate was very tasty. It had a complex mushroom flavor, which was complemented nicely by the subtle notes of garlic and sherry. The topping was extremely delicious -- the almonds were a lovely complement to the mushrooms, both texturally and in terms of the flavors. I tried the pate both on the toasted baguette slices I made and on some store-bought crackers. It is definitely worth investing the time to toast your own crostini if you make this pate. It was delicious on the fresh toasts. My only complaint about this recipe was that I didn't find the texture of the pate to be completely perfect. The flavor was excellent, but the texture could have been a bit smoother. That said, many people enjoyed this (everyone except one of my special gentleman's cousins, who declared that it tasted like "cold meat loaf."). It makes a ton of pate, so it is a recipe most appropriate for a large gathering -- perfect for this holiday season!

The recipe is here.

And I am done! My students took their exam yesterday, my assistants and I graded them, and I computed the course grades. I have also answered at least 20 emails so far from students complaining about their grades. *sigh* They don't seem to understand that what is done is done. If they wanted a better grade, they needed to do better on the assignments and exams throughout the course! There is nothing I can do for them now... A friend of mine used to tell her students, "I will help you as much as you need up until you take the final exam, but once the final is over, my heart is closed to you." I always think of that at this time of the semester. It is exactly right -- I feel sorry for my students who have sad stories about why they need better grades, but it just doesn't matter. I can only give them the grades that they earned. I am told that many students learn from their high school experiences that begging, pleading, and/or crying is effective for getting their grades changed. It just doesn't work that way in my class.

Complaining emails aside, I am still feeling pretty good! The semester went relatively smoothly, most of my students did reasonably well, and now that I have submitted my course grades, the semester is over! Plus, mixed in with all the complaining emails I have also gotten a few nice emails from students who did better than they thought they were capable of, and are grateful. That's always nice!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chestnut Stuffing (Page 381)

RECIPE #1057

  • Date: Thursday, November 26, 2009 -- 5pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Dave, Karen H, Brad, Deniz, Penny, Kenny, Gail, Danae, Eddie, Evelyn, Sandy, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I made this stuffing as part of the Thanksgiving dinner feast. I started by cubing some crusty bread and drying out the bread cubes in the oven. Then I cooked onions, celery, sage, thyme, rosemary, and savory in a skillet until the onion was softened. I added chopped bottled chestnuts and cooked another minute. I added the mixture to the bread cubes, and added chicken stock, parsley, salt, and pepper. I assembled the stuffing a day ahead and refrigerated it. On Thanksgiving day, I let it come to room temperature, then baked it in a baking dish. This stuffing was delicious! It had a great texture (not too soggy, not too dry!) and the flavor was just wonderful. The combination of herbs was beautifully balanced and the chestnuts added a lot, both texturally and to the flavor of the dish. I made two stuffings from The Book for this meal, this one and the Herbed Bread Stuffing, and almost everyone agreed that this Chestnut Stuffing was the winner. Indeed I think it was one of the best stuffings I have had. The flavors were traditional, but still interesting. By the end of the meal there was not a forkful left of it in the dish!

The recipe in The Book is similar to this one, except the one in The Book has chicken stock in it, and calls for bottled chestnuts rather than fresh.

It's Sunday evening and I am waiting for my husband's delayed flight to arrive (actually, I am still waiting for it to take off from New York...). It has been a busy, busy weekend! On Saturday Nola and I threw our dear friend Teresa a baby shower! My jobs were the food (of course!) and the games. I made lots of finger-food. On the menu: Parmasan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves, Tarragon Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Smoked Almonds, Cheddar Cheese Straws, Mini Gruyere Quiche, Mini Bacon Quiche, Dark Chocolate Caramel Truffles, and Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes. I was happy with how it all turned out. Nola hosted the shower at her house and I thought it was very festive and fun!

Today I spent the day at the office. My students have their final tomorrow morning, so I held a review session today for a couple hours in one of the big lecture halls, followed by several hours of office hours in my office. It was exhausting, but I like the students to be able to get the help they need before the exam. The department was pretty empty (it being Sunday and all) but the hall outside my office was lined with students all afternoon. About 7 or 8 students could fit into my office at a time, and as soon as one of the students left a new student would come in! I stood at the board in my office the whole time, doing problems on demand.

Tomorrow will be another busy day, filled with proctoring, grading, and assigning course grades. But then my semester will be over! It's very exciting!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deviled Eggs (Page 27)

RECIPE #1056

  • Date: Thursday, November 26, 2009 -- 4pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Dave, Karen H, Deniz, Brad, Evelyn, Eddie, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I made the appetizers for Thanksgiving dinner this year and one of my selections was these deviled eggs. I started by hard-boiling some eggs. Then I peeled and halved them and carefully removed the yolks. I mashed the yolks with a fork, then stirred in mayo, mustard, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Then, the recipe claimed I would be able to put this in a pastry bag and pipe it through a star tip. Yeah, right. Star tips have tiny crevices, and unless something is completely smooth, little chunks will get stuck in those crevices and then the tip pipes ugly shapes rather than lovely stars or swirls. There was no way to get this stuff smooth enough with a fork to go through a star tip. I know. I tried. Twice. After taking the mixture out of the pastry bag the second time, and cleaning the tip the second time, I decided to put the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. That worked and I was able to pipe it after that. These deviled eggs were only ok. Aside from the textural issues I had with the filling, I found it a bit bland. You could taste the mustard a bit, but other than that it just tasted eggy. I enjoyed eating them well enough, but I wouldn't make this recipe again. There are better deviled eggs out there.

The recipe is here.

My husband and I have been married just over 6 months now, and I remember promising shortly after the wedding that I would post some pictures on my blog. Then I never did. So scattered throughout the next few weeks I am going to do a series of wedding posts, both because it was such a fun time and because we have such wonderful pictures (thank you Brian and Chris!!!). I'm going to start with the adventure I had making my own wedding cake!

My special gentleman and I settled on a less traditional wedding cake flavor: Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream. I couldn't find a Red Velvet recipe that I loved, so I had to come up with my own version. This took several test batches of cake, which Mike and Teresa generously helped eat! By the week of the wedding I had my recipe perfected and I was ready to go! Two days before the wedding was Wedding Cake Day. It all started with one layer of Red Velvet cake:

My cake had 9 layers, which I first assembled as 3 smaller 3-layer cakes. Here's the first one:

I frosted each of the 3-layer cakes individually:



Mmmmm.... more frosting:


I tried at some point to convince our ring bearer Sam that frosting was delicious. He was not so convinced:



My mother, on the other hand, took no convincing. She happily ate the leftover frosting by the spoonful:

One thing that makes a wedding cake trickier than just an everyday cake it its size. A 9-layer cake can't support it's own weight, and without any additional structural support it would collapse. So, in the bottom 3-layer cake we put 3 wooden dowels. Then we rested rounds of cardboard on the wooden dowels, and the second 3-layer cake sat on that cardboard. So the weight of the upper parts of cake was supported by the dowels rather than by the bottom three layers. We repeated this process to set the third cake on the second one. Luckily, my dear friend Brian is an experimental physicist, so he helped cut and place the dowels for maximum stability:

Once the dowels were in, the second set of layers went on:


And then the third set of layers:

Then the whole thing was ready to be frosted again, this time with a thicker layer to cover up the cardboard and red velvet cake which was still peaking through:

Once it was all frosted, I melted white chocolate and piped a design onto huge freezer paper. Then I let it set just slightly. Once it was set enough it hold it's shape, but not enough that it was hard, I used the paper to transfer my design to the side of the cake:

Somewhere in there it says, "Teena and Matt" but it was very well hidden! Once the white chocolate cage was on, I just had to place the roses on top. I had piped all the roses in advance and frozen them, so I just needed to place them:


Here are all the roses, nicely in place:

At that point I was exhausted. The look on my face in this picture says it all:

But after a quick shower, I was rejuvenated. Here's me finishing up the last few details:

And here is a picture of the finished cake:


The most nerve-wracking part by far was transporting it from my apartment to the restaurant where we had the reception. It was only about a block, but no one was willing to carry it but me, for fear of dropping it, and it was so heavy that my weak little arms were shaking the whole way. My big concern was that the mirror we were using as a serving platter would break under the weight of the cake. Brian guaranteed me that was crazy, but the person who suggested the mirror serving plate idea claimed he had seen it happen, which was enough to make me paranoid! The platter held up and the cake made it in once piece. Here it is at the restaurant, shortly before it was time to eat it!

I had a pretty relaxed attitude about the cake making. I figured if it was a disaster we just wouldn't have wedding cake. But in the end, I was really happy with how it came out. And I thought it was very tasty! Plus, it cost about $50 to make, rather than the hundreds (if not thousands) that it costs to get a professional cake made. Everyone said I was crazy to make my own wedding cake, but if I could do it all over again, I would do the same thing. I was surrounded by people I love while I was making the cake: Matty, Emilee, Brian, Sam, my mom, and my dad, and I have very fond memories of that day.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Herbed Bread Stuffing (Page 378)

RECIPE #1055

  • Date: Thursday, November 26, 2009 -- 4pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Dave and Karen's House
  • Fellow Chef: Karen H
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Brad, Deniz, Dave, Pete, Danae, Kenny, Gail, Eddie, Evelyn, Penny, Michael, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B

I made this stuffing as part of the Thanksgiving feast at my in-laws' house. I started by cutting some crusty bread into cubes and baking the cubes until they dried out. Then I cooked onion, celery, thyme, sage, and rosemary in butter. I mixed together the dried bread cubes, some chicken stock, water, salt, pepper, and the vegetable mixture. Then I refrigerated the stuffing overnight and the next day Karen stuffed it into the bird. After the turkey came out of the oven we removed the stuffing, put it in a baking pan, and cooked it some more to make sure that the stuffing was cooked through. This stuffing was pretty good. It might have gotten a better grade had I not actually made two stuffings from The Book for Thanksgiving. The other one outshone this one (I will blog about that one next) so I probably wouldn't make this one again. That said, this stuffing wasn't bad at all. It was nicely seasoned and I enjoyed eating it. A lot of liquid went into it -- I am not a huge fan of soggy bread, and this stuffing was a little bit too soggy for me. It had a lot of flavor though, and it certainly felt like traditional Thanksgiving food. If you are looking for a very standard stuffing recipe, this isn't a bad one to try.

The recipe is here.

Today I filed what was hopefully (fingers crossed!) my last academic misconduct report of the semester. This was the sixth one I have filed this term, which is very unfortunate. The student in question, when confronted, immediately confessed and apologized. Although it didn't stop me from filing the report it did make me feel slightly better about the state of humanity. Here's a summary of the cheaters I encountered this semester:

(Note: Because cheating is rampant in this Business Calculus course, I write four versions of every quiz and exam so students don't have the same version as the students sitting near them. The students are aware of this. It is meant to deter cheating rather than to catch cheaters, but students still seem to copy off their neighbors...)

Quiz 1: A student had all the correct work, leading to the correct answer for his version. But then out of nowhere he wrote down and circled the answer to another version. The student confessed when confronted that he had copied off his neighbor.

Midterm Exam: A student had a correct answer to a different version of the exam. The student, very upset, immediately confessed when confronted.

Midterm Exam: A student was witnessed copying during the exam by four proctors. I moved the student to a seat in the front row, but then he just copied off of his new neighbor. When confronted he denied that he was looking at other students' papers. However, his exam confirmed what the proctors witnessed: there was work on his exam which was symbol for symbol identical to his neighbor's, even though his neighbor had a different version of the exam.

Quiz 7: A student had an entire page of answers that were directly off a different version of the quiz. Suspicious that this was reflective of a pattern of behavior, I dug out his Midterm Exam (I keep photocopies of their exams), and indeed he had answers from another version on that paper as well. He initially denied that he had copied anything, but then admitted that although he didn't specifically remember cheating on either the exam or the quiz, it seemed unlikely to be a coincidence that he had so many answers from other versions.

Exam 3: A student had three answers in a row directly off a different version of the exam. When confronted he denied having copied them, claiming instead that he had guessed, and just happened to guess three answers that were all correct for the same other version of the exam.

Quiz 9: A student had two answers off of another version of the quiz. When confronted she immediately confessed that she had looked at the paper of the student sitting next to her.

*sigh*

I went into the semester hoping it would be a semester without academic misconducts. Clearly that was not the case. Well, now I can just hold onto my hope that no one will cheat on the final exam. As part of the penalty for cheating the student gets a zero on whatever he or she cheated on. So getting caught cheating on the final will essentially guarantee that you will fail the course. Unfortunately that is not deterrent enough. I had a student cheat on the final exam the last time I taught this course...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Quiche Lorraine (Page 654)

RECIPE #1054

  • Date: Sunday, November 22, 2009 -- 10am
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Karen H, Dave, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

I made this quiche for breakfast when my in-laws visited a couple weeks ago. I started by making a pastry crust. I rolled it out and fit it into a pie plate. Then I pricked it with a fork in several places and refrigerated for 30 minutes. Then I blind-baked the pie shell, lined with foil and filled with raw rice. After 20 minutes I removed the foil and rice and continued to bake until the shell was golden. Meanwhile, I chopped and cooked some bacon. Then I mixed together eggs, egg yolks, heavy cream, milk, salt, and nutmeg. I poured this mixture into the pie shell and sprinkled with the cooked bacon. I then baked the quiche until it was browned and set. This quiche was ok, but really, why make quiche without cheese in it? That was my major complaint -- it needed cheese. My other complaint was that with the huge amount of heavy cream that went into it (2 cups), it had more the taste of an egg-flavored whipped cream than a quiche. The crust was nice and the texture of the filling was very light and fluffy. The flavor of the filling just didn't do it for me though -- it was too creamy and bland. The quiche certainly wasn't bad, but I wouldn't make it again. There are better quiches out there. In fact, there is a better quiche in The Book which I made for brunch yesterday. I'll post about that one soon...

This recipe isn't online.

It's the last week of class! My to-do list for this week is insanely long, but a week from right now, my semester will be done! I was nervous about this semester -- having 330 students and all -- but so far things have gone very smoothly and now the end is in sight! I am not teaching next semester and I am leaving Indiana University at the end of the academic year, so this is actually my last semester teaching at Indiana. It makes me a little sad. I have really enjoyed teaching at IU, and I feel like I just hit my stride. But I am also excited about 8 months without teaching. It will be great to be able to focus on my research. And I am already looking forward to starting my new job in Michigan in August! What a crazy time...

For now though, I have a week filled with lectures, and review sessions, and many, many office hours. Next Monday my students will take their final exam and I want to help them be as prepared as possible. And at the end of this week, when I take off my microphone and step off of the stage in the lecture hall, it may be the last time for quite a while that I teach a course with several hundred students in it!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Varenikis (Page 818)

RECIPE #1053

  • Date: Saturday, November 21, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Brad, Deniz, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: B


I made this recipe for dessert when my in-laws came to visit a couple weeks ago. I started by making the Vareniki dough, which I had already made once before and blogged about here. Then I prepared the filling. I combined water and sugar in a saucepan and boiled it, then I stirred in some brandy. I then chopped dried apricots in the food processor and stirred in some chopped walnuts. I rolled out the dough, cut it into squares then put some filling in the center of each square. I folded the squares into triangles, then brought two of the vertices of each triangle together to form a hat-like shape. To cook the dumplings I boiled them in lightly salted water until tender. In the meantime I browned fresh bread crumbs and chopped walnuts in butter then I seasoned the mixture with salt. I then added some cinnamon and sugar. I drizzled some melted butter on a serving platter, then put the cooked varenikis on the platter. I topped them with the bread crumb mixture and some additional cinnamon sugar. I liked this dessert ok. My major complaint was that the dumplings were too doughy. The filling had a nice flavor and texture, but relative to how much dough there was, there wasn't enough filling. Although the dough was good, the part of the vareniki where the vertices of the triangle came together had too much dough in one place. The large amount of dough there needed a larger amount of filling to complement it. The highlight of the dish was really the toppings, which was delicious! It was buttery, with a lovely crispness from the breadcrumbs, and some sweetness from the cinnamon sugar. Yum! I found myself eating the topping off the platter long after I lost interest in the dumplings. Overall this dessert was perfectly fine, but it isn't one I will be making again.

The recipe is here.

My friend Mike has been visiting the last few days. He came out to Indiana to give a couple lectures at IU in the math department. After his last talk on Friday we drove up to Michigan and we have been hanging out this weekend at the house. Mike made a special request for some nasty book food, so he and I sat down with the book and tried to construct a dinner that sounded disgusting! What we came up with: Calf's Liver with Onions, Bitter Greens with Onions, and Figgy Pudding. And, just as hoped, it was bad! I will blog about these recipes soon, but the summary of how the meal went was that I took a couple bites, pushed the food around my plate for a few minutes, then made myself some Cream of Wheat for dinner instead! Surprisingly, the dish that was met with the most resistance by Mike and Matt was the Figgy Pudding. They agreed that they might have liked it if they didn't know what went in it, but that knowledge made it difficult to enjoy. The upsetting ingredient: 3 CUPS of beef fat. Mmmm... dessert with beef in it! I'm totally ok with the idea of putting a little animal fat in dessert (e.g. pie crust made with lard), but 3 cups of beef fat!?! It was a lot of fat. It makes me cringe thinking about it even now. The kitchen had a mysterious sweet beefy smell this morning when I came downstairs -- the lingering scent of figgy pudding.

Today I tried to redeem myself (and the project) by producing some food that actually tasted good. We had our friends Corbett, Mary, Allison, and Rich over for brunch and we had a very tasty quiche from The Book, and some yummy pastries involving brioche dough and pastry cream (hard to go wrong with that!). It was definitely a more satisfying meal than dinner last night!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Herbed Rib Roast (Page 412)

RECIPE #1052

  • Date: Saturday, November 21, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companion: Dave, Karen H, Deniz, Brad, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I made this standing rib roast as the main course when my in-laws came to visit a couple weeks ago. This recipe was super easy, and quite delicious. I started by trimming most of the fat off my roast. Then I ground black peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt in a spice grinder. I minced and mashed that together with garlic cloves, fresh thyme, and fresh rosemary to form a paste, then I stirred in some olive oil. I rubbed the paste all over the roast then let it marinate in the refrigerator overnight. The next day the refrigerator stunk of garlic and my roast was ready. I let it sit at room temperature for an hour, then I put it on a rack in a roasting pan, in a 450 degree oven. Twenty minutes into the cooking I turned the oven down to 350, and I roasted until the meat reached 110 degrees. I let it rest for 25 minutes, and meanwhile, made the jus. I deglazed the roasting pan with beef stock, and added rosemary, thyme, and garlic. I transfered the jus to a small saucepan and simmered to the desired consistency. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper. In a word: Yum! Standing rib roast is always good, but this was especially tasty. The herb rub gave the meat a ton of flavor, and those flavors were enhanced by the jus. The herbs and garlic were nicely balanced -- the individual flavors each came through clearly and no one flavor stole the show. The meat was also perfectly cooked. If you are looking for a simple beef preparation that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, this is a great recipe to try!

The recipe is here.

Almost four years ago now, when I started this crazy project of mine, the term "cook-through blogging" was one that no one had ever heard. There were a few people out there doing similar projects, but no one was tackling a book with more than 1000 recipes in it. I thought, perhaps, I was the only crazy person out there! But a little over a year after I began tackling The Book, independently a blogger in Canada had the same idea. Kevin has gotten through a little over 200 recipes from The Gourmet Cookbook in his version of the Gourmet Project. Later that year, Melissa also had the same idea, and started her blog, Melissa Cooks Gourmet. So then there were three. Cook-through blogging still didn't seem too trendy though. But then the Wall Street Journal wrote an article about it, mentioning all of us Gourmet Cookbook bloggers. That's when the craze took off. We got a fourth member of the Gourmet Cookbook club when Adam started his blog, Gourmet, all the way. He started in 2008, and is already more than 200 recipes into the project. Many other people started cook-through blogs about other cookbooks, and one person even started Cooking the Books, a blog devoted to cook-through blogs. She has 30 on her list, not including some which are inactive lately. A couple people are tackling the new Gourmet cookbook, Gourmet Today, in their blogs: It's Gourmet Today and BGB Challenge. It also has more than 1000 recipes, so they are in for a long ride!

With the closing of Gourmet magazine, a new Gourmet-related project has emerged: Gourmet, unbound. This project suggests that participants post on their blogs a recipe from a back issue of Gourmet magazine on the first of each month. For instance, today, on December 1st, participants will post a recipe from a December issue of Gourmet, from any year. It sounds like such fun! It's also easy for us Gourmet Cookbook bloggers because everything in The Book comes from some back issue of Gourmet. This is my first contribution to Gourmet, unbound. This Herbed Rib Roast is from the December 2000 issue of Gourmet.

Just as the cook-through blogging trend is catching on, I am nearing the end of my project. With more than 1050 recipes behind me I have less than 250 to go!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Beef Consomme with Tiny Choux Puffs (Page 90)

RECIPE #1051

  • Date: Saturday, November 21, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Brad, Deniz, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I made this as a second course for dinner when my in-laws visited a couple weeks ago. The idea behind consomme is to start with stock and clarify it. They say you should be able to clearly see a dime at the bottom of a gallon of consomme. Indeed, it should be very clear. Before I went to culinary school if you had asked me how one clarifies stock to make consomme I would have guessed various straining techniques. But, in school I learned the actual method. I was startled (and a little disgusted), and I certainly didn't believe it would work. But it does! Even now, after having made consomme several times, it still amazes me. Here's how it goes: I started by heating some homemade Veal Stock. Then in a separate bowl I whisked together egg whites, crushed up egg shells, chopped up tomatoes and celery, ground beef, salt, and crushed peppercorns. That delicious mix of things looked like this:

Mmmm... egg shells and beef. What happens to this slop? It gets stirred into the beautiful homemade veal stock. Yup, I whisked that nastiness into my stock in order to clarify it. Mysterious, no? I whisked in the beef and egg shell mixture, stirring constantly until the stock simmered. Then I let it simmer without stirring for a half an hour. What happens is that all that nastiness hardens into a crust, called the raft, on top of the soup. What is left underneath is wonderfully clear. I ladled the soup into a sieve lined with damp paper towels and let the liquid drain through. Then I boiled and seasoned the liquid, then served it topped with the Tiny Choux Puffs, which I already blogged about.

The result: delicious consomme! It had an intense beef flavor and a wonderful mouth feel from the veal bones that went into the stock. It was very clear, just like it should be. And the tiny choux puffs were a tasty and elegant addition. My only complaint was that it was a bit salty. When I seasoned it I didn't even add any additional salt, but the salt that went into the raft mixture was already a bit too much. Were I to make it again I would cut back on the salt that I added at that stage so I would have more control over the saltiness at the end. Aside from that it was a very good rendition of beef comsomme and I would use this recipe again.

The recipe is here.

Driving back to Indiana first thing this morning from my in-laws' house in Ohio, I had this weird feeling. For a long time I couldn't pinpoint what it was, but I felt very different than I have lately. About an hour into my drive I identified the feeling: I felt refreshed! I felt invigorated! I felt awake! I don't know if it was all the holiday fun this weekend, or the good food I ate. Maybe it was sleeping 8 hours a night. Maybe it was spending a whole week with my husband, which I haven't done since August. Maybe it was taking a few days off of work, not thinking about my research or my classes. I don't know. But whatever it was, this long weekend left me feeling rejuvenated. It was just the push I needed for these last two weeks of the semester!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jumbo Ravioli (Page 235)

RECIPE #1050

  • Date: Saturday, November 21, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Brad, Deniz, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: B

This recipe was part of a dinner I made when my husband's family came to visit us last weekend. To make this recipe I started by making the Pasta Dough recipe. While the dough rested I made the filling. I stirred together ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. I divided the dough into 6 pieces. With each piece I put it through the pasta roller on the widest setting 8 times. Then I put it through once on a slightly thinner setting, then on an even thinner setting, and so on until I put it through on the thinnest setting. I repeated this process with the other pieces of dough. Then I took one rectangle of dough and dropped mounds of filling on it. I brushed egg wash around the mounds and laid another pasta rectangle on top and pushed it around the mounds to enclose the filling, pressing the air out. Then with a pastry cutter I cut the ravioli into 3 inch squares. To cook the ravioli I put them in a pot of boiling salted water and gently boiled. I served them topped with tomato sauce. These ravioli tasted pretty good, but making them was a bit of a disaster. I rolled out the dough as instructed, but while rolling I kept thinking, "This dough is too thin for ravioli." Indeed it was. Typicaly the problem with ravioli is that they can come unsealed around the edges while cooking, and the filling will seep out into the water. That didn't happen here. But the pasta was so thin that it just couldn't contain the filling. The pasta tore open around the mounds of filling, which spilled the filling into the boiling water. Most of them were salvagable, but they weren't cute. This also made it impossible to serve them elegantly. Indeed you can see in the picture above that I used the tomato sauce to cover up the mess. Were I to make these again I would make the pasta thicker, or the ravioli smaller. The combination of very thin pasta and a huge amount of filling led to them tearing. The filling had a nice enough flavor. It wasn't terribly interesting, but for a simple cheese ravioli it was fine. In summary, I enjoyed eating these ravioli, but as written I won't be making this recipe again.

This recipe isn't online.

My husband and I travel a lot -- both to see each other, and for our work. I try to be at least a month ahead planning our travel: buying plane tickets, figuring out the dates for road trips, renting cars when needed, etc... Now that November is nearing a close, I am trying to tackle the December travel schedule. The beginning of December it's just the usual thing: traveling to Michigan on the weekends and back to Indiana during the week. The Christmas travel, though, is always a little confusing. We try to celebrate Christmas with both of our families in one way or another. So we schedule a trip to Wisconsin and a trip to Ohio back to back, in some order. We also try to coordinate with the schedules of our siblings (my brother and my husband's two brothers) if any subset of them are traveling to Wisconsin/Ohio for Christmas. Once we have all the info we try to do whatever allows us to see the most people for the longest period of time, while missing as few extended family events as possible. After consulting with all the relevant parties, we have developed a Christmas plan for this year! We are doing pre-Christmas and Christmas day with my family, and post-Christmas with my husband's. I haven't had Christmas day with my family in several years (as typically that is allocated to my husband's family) so I am excited about that -- especially because the Christmas celebration will take place at my grandpa's house, where we had it when I was a little kid. Christmas hasn't been at my grandpa's house in decades, so I am very excited for Christmas this year! Then we will have post-Christmas and New Year's fun in Ohio with my special gentleman's parents, his brother Brad, sister-in-law Deniz, and the puppies! It should be a good time. And shortly after New Year's we will hit the road for a long drive to California (where my special gentleman will be living in the winter/spring). But that's January travel, so I won't worry about that quite yet!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Boston Brown Bread (Page 602)

RECIPE #1049

  • Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Brad, Deniz, Karen H, Dave, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I had put off making this recipe for quite some time because I didn't have the coffee cans I needed to steam the bread in. Finally I decided just to buy some coffee in cans so I could make this recipe. I started by buttering my coffee cans and lining the bottoms with parchment. Then I sifted together flour, cornmeal, and salt. I heated molasses in a saucepan and added baking soda and buttermilk. I gently stirred that into the flour mixture. I tossed raisins in flour then added them to the batter. I poured the batter into the coffee cans, covered each tightly with foil, then set them on a steamer rack in a big pot. I poured boiling water around the cans until it reached halfway up the sides of the cans, then I covered the pot and steamed the bread at a simmer for about 1 hour. Then I removed the loaves from the cans. Here's what the bread looked like when it came out of the can:

This Boston Brown Bread was very tasty! It had a lovely moist texture and a great flavor. It had a bran muffin quality to it but without all the fat that is typically found in bran muffins. We ate this with baked beans (as shown above) and also just spread with cream cheese, and it was delicious both ways! I also enjoyed making this, as I don't typically make steamed breads. It was a new adventure! This recipe is a keeper.

This recipe isn't online.

I distinctly remember my first encounter with Boston Brown Bread. When I was in graduate school I volunteered ever Sunday on the lunch shift at a homeless women's shelter in Boston. When I walked in Sunday morning I would always ask, "What's for lunch today?" One morning the answer was, "Brown bread and baked beans." I remember thinking, "Most bread is brown... What kind of brown bread?" I assumed that the term Brown Bread referred to some dark wheat or pumpernickel bread. Little did I know that Brown Bread refers to a very specific traditional Boston food.

Later in the meal, the meal manager asked me, "Teena, could you grab the Brown Bread and get it ready." I responded, "Sure." Then started my search for this Brown Bread. I scoured the kitchen for dark bread, looking in the bread box, the walk-in, on the shelves, etc... The only bread I found was white, so baffled, I went back to the meal manager to admit I couldn't find it. She looked at me, confused, and said, "It's right on the counter." I looked at the counter, she looked at the counter, and when it was clear that I wasn't making the connection she pointed at a whole bunch of cans. I walked over, and indeed, half of the cans were labeled Baked Beans and the other half were labeled Brown Bread. This was my first experience with bread in a can.

Only later would I learn that Brown Bread is traditionally cooked in a can, and this canned version you can buy is not so different from what you would traditionally steam in the can at home. But at the time it mystified me, that bread in a can.

After we made the food and served the guests at the shelter, the volunteers ate lunch. I tentatively took a bite of the Brown Bread and Baked Beans that day, only to discover that I liked it. It's better, of course, when it is made fresh, but unfortunately it is hard to find in bakeries outside of New England. Fortunately, I now know how to make it at home!