Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Dinner

Turkey. Turkey. Only turkey.

There was supposed to be a jelly roll. But this turkey took 6 hours from start to finish. That's a lot for Christmas Day. So the rolling of the jelly is for another time.

To ensure it's juiciness (or something) the turkey is brined in very salty vegetable broth. 1 3/4 cups of salt to be precise.

Unfortunately the turkey did not completely fit in the stockpot, so when we pulled him out the brine... Most of him was white but the parts thats stuck out were a scary looking reddish-tan. Ah well.

So we stuffed him with Chestnut Stuffing. Chestnuts. So tasty but completely ridiculous. You must score them, then boil them, peel them, chop them and then finally mix them with bread cubes, celery, onion, and three cups of chopped parsley.

Not even half of the stuffing fit in Mr. Turkey. And anyhow, I'm not to sure about this stuffing thing. Once it's cooked and you take it out of the bird it's a bit...soggy. I suppose some people prefer it that way-but I like the bread cubes to be slightly crispy.

The Gravy

Apparently, you should never see the law or sausages being made. To this list there is just one thing I want to add. Anything you eat that contains or is made with giblets.

First the stock. Yes, gravy stock. Made with giblets.

I almost thought I wasn't going to make it. Giblets are scary. Really. Scary. I was about to decide just to use the turkey neck, which yes, seems sort of odd, but I am familiar with turkey necks. I am not familiar with strange...purple things. (Which I later learned were the heart and the liver.)

Eventually I used only the neck and something pink and unidentifiable, and I am sure if I knew what it was, it would make me feel ill. But I don't and I didn't so I just tossed it in the saucepan along with aromatic vegetables and herbs and boiled it.

But then I had to take it out and chop it, which did make me feel ill. Because of the smell. It was a funny smell, like stew meat, but-different. Fairly disgusting.

Now I made roux. I cooked flour with an equal amount of the most intense smelling pan drippings ever. Really. It smelled of turkey, chestnuts, bread, onion, and even garlic, although there wasn't actually any garlic in it. It was slightly ridiculous.

And now we wisk in the giblet-stock, (which has had the giblets removed), the pan drippings and-the giblets. Again. I reduced it until it was slightly thicker than heavy cream and finally strained into a gravy boat.

Ta Da!

Finally it was all together and we ate it. I'm afraid I did not enjoy it as much as my family because I had, you know, seen it being made. It was amazing nontheless. There were so many flavors layered in it, it was overwhelming. A portion could keep you going for hours, but somehow my brothers managed to eat third helpings.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Pan Seared Strip Steak with Mustard Cream Sauce is not very complicated. Except what is a strip steak?

Well it is also a Kansas City Strip, a shell steak, and a New York Strip. Once you figure this out, much is possible.

Once I figured that out, I could continue making my lunch.

Pan searing is fast. The butter hisses and the steak browns with alarming speed. I was attempting to cook it to medium rare-ish, but in my fear of undercooked meat it turned out more medium well done.

I do not like mustard. But for some reason it tastes ridiculously good in salad dressing and pan sauce.

While  the steak is resting, you add a bit of white wine to the juices and it spatters and bubbles for 20 second and then you end up with what looks like less pan juice than you had before.  But you end up with a reasonable amount once you add mustard and heavy cream.

I served this with Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes (do you know the difference between potato puree and mashed potatoes?) and (ahhh!) Creamed Spinach.

There is this skill that some people have where they can have everything cooked, hot, and ready at the same time. Unfortunately,  I do not.

In the end the steak was room temperature, slightly tough and absolutely delicious, the creamed spinach was piping hot and...not bad (I hate cooked spinach), and the mashed potatoes were hot and yummy.

A sort of success.


OK, So What ARE Bonito Flakes?


Bonito flakes are made out of boiled, smoked, sun dried, fresh bonito, a type of small tuna. It is one of 3 ingredients in dashi, a type of soup stock used in Japanese miso soup. The only other things in dashi are kombu (kelp), and water.

After searching a Japanese food store from top to bottom twice, there were still no bonito flakes to be found. Instead we got some fish sauce and dried flounder and hoped it would work.

Once we took the ingredients home, however, I read the back of the bag of dried flounder, which said it needed to be kept frozen (sort of defeats the point of drying it), which it had not been at the store.


There was no actually fish in the dashi, just some fish sauce.

But I had what I hoped would be a good enough substitute for the making of miso soup.

Miso soup is so good. Its basically nothing but water and soy beans prepared in various enigmatic ways and perhaps some seaweed.

But a long story short, the miso soup was good, and according to my mother, the extra step of making dashi added something, something I am not sure I could taste. Ah well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lamb and Pie: Is there anything better?

I think not.

Actually yes: Lamb with biscuits and pan sauce and then pie with  fresh whipped cream.

I must be the luckiest human on the planet.

A leg of lamb is rather strange looking. All raw meat is rather strange looking, but this is the largest piece of meat I have ever prepared. Although, granted, the 2nd largest thing was only a medium sized chicken.

It's even stranger when you saw the lamb two days after it was born and held it and petted it! The lamb, as a matter of fact, was raised by our neighbors down the hill and we watched the sheep and lambs from our kitchen window all summer! Local food, everyone. Down with Walmart. Get your food from where you live, not from China. Unless, obviously, you live in China.

Anyhow, the lamb had all these little white bits and things that I attempted to trim off. I'm not too sure how well I succeeded. Then came the fun part. I picked 25 individual leaves off a stalk of rosemary (greatest herb ever), chopped 25 other tiny sprigs off a bunch of thyme, and chopped a few cloves of garlic into miniscule slivers.

I then took a little steel paring knife and made 50 or so cuts all over the lamb and stuck a piece of thyme or a garlic sliver and a rosemary leaf in each one. I stuck it in a roasting pan and surrounded it in celery, carrots, onions, and red potatoes. Then I cooked it.

The leg of lamb was served with another amazing pan sauce made out of it's own drippings and some ridiculously good little biscuits. (The secret? More butter.)


Here's another local food story.

Just 10 seconds away from where the lambs live, there is an orchard. We went there a few days after I made the lamb and loaded up on 2 gallons of cider, an enormous bag of Rhode Island Greening apples and 5 Delicatta squashes. The squash became dinner and the apples became PIE.

I truly believe that apple pie is the perfect food. Is there really anything better than a wedge of pie, hot from the oven, dolloped with whipped cream? (If this made you drool go immediately and make yourself a pie.)

Anyhow, I made pie. Again. And I probably will make it again and again until the world ends.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


A frittatta is something like a big omelet or a crustless quiche. You can put just about any cooked vegetable in it but this one had yellow squash and goat cheese. Technically it was supposed to have zucchini in it too but...

I realized once again that I had to go collect herbs in the dark. Unfortunately it had frosted and the basil was brown and very dead looking. There were, however, chives, and we have multiple bags of basil in the freezer.

Another random substitution: we didn't have butter. So I used clarified butter left over from the Omelet la Flop. It seemed to work okay.

I cooked the frittata and it was a little bit scrambled-ish but once I sprinkled Parmesan and "Raw Milk Cheddar Goat Cheese" (There are kinds of goat cheese?)on top and broiled it, it looked fine.

Bottom line: lots of substitutions but it tasted really good and it didn't get cold in 45 seconds like omelets do. Yay!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


It's the time of year when children (and teenagers who like candy bars, such as myself) put on strange costumes and knock on people's doors, demanding candy. Charming. But anyways, it was Halloween and I honored it by making spiderwebs out of chocolate and putting them on cupcakes.

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream to be precise. The cupcakes were beautiful, almost black with massive quantities of Dutch process cocoa powder and super chocolately. And maybe best of all, they only needed one bowl.

The buttercream was the issue. It took a very long time for the egg whites to whip up to white, very gluey substance. And when the butter got mixed in it took on a curdled texture which did not go away with beating. It did not taste very nice either, although my mother and friend liked it.

The spiderwebs are not one of the recipes in the book, but they are made out of chocolate piped onto a template and break very easily. They looked quite nice.

How Does This Salad Dressing Taste So Good?

Yes, you can take a wrinkled piece of ginger, cut off the bad bits,grate it, mix it with soy sauce, olive oil, and this strange substance we call vinegar (how do you make vinegar anyways?) and it will taste amazing.

Ginger-Soy Vinaigrette, people. It's what's for salad dressing.


I Don't Have a Pasta Machine But...

I do have a rolling pin!

Once again I made pasta without the help of a pasta machine. The recipe was Ravioli with Butternut Squash Filling. Making the filling wasn't too hard once I scraped the flesh out of the squash. You just blend it with an egg yolk and some cheese and voila.

The pasta was more difficult because I had to roll it out until it was translucent and then I stretched it and rolled it some more.

I formed nice little raviolis, although on or two of them fell apart while cooking. They were very yummy but a little bit too chewy. Unfortunately, I did not have any sage so I  could not chiffonade it and serve it on top. Too bad.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Roasted Pineapple

I thought it would be simple. I was wrong.

Well it would be if it did not burn one time and start melting wax paper the other.

It smelled like Christmas trees and burnt candy with a hint of fruit punch. It tasted...Very sweet and slightly burnt and had a very mushy texture. You didn't get that stange feeling in your mouth, like you do with fresh pineapple, but it didn't taste very pinappley.



I love garlic. When I make French bread I almost always make garlic butter to go on it. I have been know to eat cloves of raw garlic on toast.

But this time the garlic was cooked. I chopped the tops off of 2 cloves, stuck them in custard cups and covered them with thyme and olive oil. They were actually supposed to cook for 2 hours but we were hungry and increased the heat a bit and decreased the cooking time.

We popped the garlic out of its cloves and spread it on French bread instead of garlic butter.

Ohhhh yum.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Omelet La Flop

Omelets are so easy and hard. I made an Herb Filled Omelet this morning, with chives, basil and tarragon. it tasted awesome but it looked...not so good. Is the heat too high? Maybe. The eggs formed curds rather quickly. But they did not want to form a nice folded omelet shape.

I guess omelet's take practice. To be continued...The Epic Battle of the Flopped Omelet.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Clay Baked Casserole

Don't ask how to pronounce it. Vegetable Tian is, according to Ms. Stewart, a Provencal creation named for the traditional earthenware baking dish it is cooked in. Basically it is a refined eggplant-tomato-zucchini-onion casserole.

I do not have a tian, but I do have some earthenware pizza pans which I used instead. My  vegetable tian was not nearly as pretty as the one in the picture, mostly because I had a very fat eggplant. The slices were huge. There was also some interesting color variation because half of my tomatoes were green.

Whole cloves of garlic, sprigs of rosemary & thyme, and a lot of oil went on top. I stuck it in the oven and went to make biscuits.

We popped the garlic out of it shells and spread it on the biscuits. The tian was delicious, even though I'm not too fond of zucchini. It tasted slightly of the dish I had cooked it in which I guess is why you bake it in earthenware. My dad showed us how to sprinkle the leaves of the herbs on our food but then wished he hadn't because we each immediately grabbed another sprig.

Yum yum yum.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Strange Green Substances

It was almost perfect. I had everything I needed to make Pureed Mixed Vegetable Soup. Except for onions.
Onions. How could I not have them? Not one.

So I needed chives. We have a zillion in our garden. Armed with a flashlight and a paring knife, I went out after being warned about chucacabra thingys (mexican werewolves) by my brother. I found the chives, and cut a bunch of them with the paring knife (it works so much better than scissors.)

Once I escaped from the chucacabras, I made this soup of potatoes, broccoli, spinach and chives. The result was a strange green substance that looked like it belonged in a cauldron.

It was bland and weird and not very tasty. The  vegetable soups in this book have been sort of disappointing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ambrosial Pan Sauce

I had a thawed chicken and was learning the fine art of breaking chicken joints from my dad. Needless to say, it was disgusting. Once the joints were broken (which makes it easier to carve) I washed it out (also disgusting) and dried it out (even more disgusting). Once it was in the roasting pan, it looked all...floppy (and disgusting). I arranged the chicken so it was less floppy, and stuffed it with lemon, garlic and lots of rosemary. I also stuffed butter and even more rosemary underneath its skin, which wasn't too disgusting, but was sort of difficult.

It was roasted at rather high heat, but it came out beautifully. I pour the juices into a pan, did not get rid of the fat (whats the point? Fat tastes good.) and whisked in some white wine, reduced it by half, and added some butter. This was poured over the chicken and tasted amazing. You could live on it, that stuff is so good. It had a hint of rosemary and garlic and smelled like heaven.

I will definitely make this again. I'm having trouble finding reasons to make chicken any other way.

Burgers of Some Sort or Another

I was supposed to use freshly ground chuck, but I don't have grinder! I'm sure it's delicious, but I'm going to have to substitute a little. So frozen organic ground beef will have to do.

I have always wondered - hamburgers are not made out of ham. They are not even made out of pork. Shouldn't they be beefburgers? Or...chuckburgers? Or even cowburgers? Okay, not cowburgers. That sounds a little weird. But ham is very misleading.

They were burgers of some sort or another and they were BIG. They were nothing but meat, and some salt and pepper. They are cooked in pans, which was sort of new for me, because I do not usually cook meat. My dad and my brothers generally do that. Unfortunately, I added too much oil to the pan and it was super crackly. I was rather freaked out, the burgers were a bit black on the outside but I was saved by the help of my brother and dad.

Once that was over, I wiped out the pan, and toasted some really yummy white bread buns I had made in butter. They were SO good.

I had also made some Buttermilk Herb Vinaigrette, but I was so full from the delicious burger that I didn't eat any of it until the next day!

Cookie Cakes

Basic Drop Cookies- you can add almost anything to them. Dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, whatever. Mine had chocolate chips and pecans in them. You could even make them without add ins.

As warned, they were quite cakey. Ridiculously cakey in fact. They almost worked too well. They hardly spread out at all. And some people like 'em that way. But if you don't, (and unfortunately for me, I don't), do as Martha says, and use 1/2 cup less flour and reduce the baking time by 2 minutes.

But they tasted good (I mean they're chocolate chip cookies, how could they not?), and now I know- less flour!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blandness in a Very Short Post

I made broccoli cream soup. And it was bland.

It was basically chicken stock, milk, broccoli, and a bit of onion. The broccoli cream soups I have eaten usually have potatoes and cheese and such things. This did not.

In fairness, it was a master recipe for other types of cream soups also.

But it tasted like almost nothing.

Yellow Cake

I have a history with yellow cake.

The one and only time I tried to make yellow cake, I used Julia Child's genoise. Genoise is held up by fluffy beaten eggs. No leavening. You have to add the perfect amount of flour and mix it in a way so that it keeps its volume.

I did not.

I made that cake three times and then gave up on it. It just didn't taste good enough for all the work.

And then my mother asked me to make a surprise cake for my dad's birthday. I decided on Butter Cake with Easy Chocolate Buttercream.

And it was so simple. It had a normal amount of flour and baking powder. It was a normal cake. And it even tasted good.

I will never make a different yellow cake again.

The buttercream was super chocolatey, due to the Dutch process cocoa in it. I actually added less confectioners sugar than was called for, since my cocoa powder was special dark- a blend of regular and Dutch process cocoa powder and not as rich as normal Dutch process.

The cake was good but very sweet.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tomato Sauce in America

It was not your average tomato sauce.

Tomato sauce in America is generally ground up tomatos with herbs of some sort. It's a paste. But instead of putting that on pappardelle I chopped up tomatoes, oragano, garlic, and parsley, mixed it all together with olive oil, salt and pepper and called it tomato sauce.

The sauce was poured on  homemade pappardelle, which is strips of flat pasta about an inch wide.

When you look at the ingredients, pasta looks simple. Eggs, flour and salt. How hard could it be? Pasta is so devious.

So you mound of flour on a cutting board, make a well in it and pour in the eggs. Except there's too much egg to fit in the well. So it spills all over your cutting board and you have to keep it from dripping on the floor, while trying to knead it and yelling "No! No! Stay there! Ahhh!!!!" at the same time.

It needs to be kneaded for 10 minutes by hand, then it must rest for an hour and a half, before being rolled so much it is see-through and formed into shapes. But it is delicious.

The Dessert that Turned into Breakfast and Back Again.

Galette. What a lovely word. What a lovely thing. We had bunches of plums so I decided to make plum galette.

Now that I have a food processor again, pastry is easy. Pate brisee, is butter dough, or pie dough, not to be confused with pate sucree, sugar dough, or pate choux, cabbage dough, (which, fortunately, does not have cabbage in it.)

I rolled the pate brisee out to the size of a pizza. I covered it with plums mixed with sugar and such things and then folded the edges of the crust over the filling. The galette was brushed with egg glaze and sprinkled with sugar.

It seemed to get bigger in the oven. I'm not sure if that's actually possible. It was going to be eaten for dessert after dinner, then for breakfast, then when I decided to blog I realized I hadn't actually eaten any. So I did and it was soooooooo good. Sweet, tart and flaky. And quite simple too.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Magic Pie and the Lobster Shrimp

Yesterday was PIE DAY! Glorious, glorious pie. Apple pie.

Since I did not have a food processor available, I used a pastry cutter and my hands for the crust. It... sort of worked. I did not cut the butter in quite as much as I should have, and when the time came to add the water, I had to add an extra 3 tablespoons to get it to hold together. It would have worked if I had kneaded it but you must NEVER knead pastry more than twice. Unless of course, you like tough pastry.

The apple filling worked beautifully, although, granted, there is not much that could go wrong. The pie came together nicely with no patching or tears. And then it went into the oven and that was that.

I wish.

I forgot, as usual, to put a cookie sheet to catch the drips. So there was a bit of smoke and a piece of fallen pie crust caught on fire. But we fished it out. The pie was delicious and warm with fresh whipped cream. Happy Ending.

The Lobster Shrimp
Today we went to one of the few billion fish markets in South Carolina, and bought a pound of "large" shrimp. I took them home and prepared a pot of water with thyme, carrots, celery and peppercorns. The water was boiling and I dropped them in. They turned pink in an instant.

Martha says to drop them in when the water is boiling and then to take them out when they are pink and the water is about to boil again, about 1 1/2 minutes. If you ever make these, just take them out when they turn bright pink.

After we picked of the shells and deveined, them there was not a lot of food left. I said they were like lobsters: Once you've picked off the inedible part, there's not a lot left.

But we ate them anyways, and they were fine but slightly overcooked. There was no flavor whatsoever from the carrots and thyme. I didn't really expect there to be, after they cooked for a minute and a half.The cocktail sauce was yummy and my mom, who does not like cocktail sauce, licked her spoon.

Shrimp. Why bother?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Coodled Coddled Eggs

The first day begins...

Off to a slightly overcooked start. My very first recipe was coddled eggs.

 Coddling means to heat food in water that is just below the boiling point. Apparently you can coddle other things but eggs are the foods that are usually coddled, as far as I know.

They were a little overcooked. They are supposed to be soft enough so that you can dip your toast batons (called soldiers) into them. The heat was a bit too high. Instead of dipping, we ate them with forks, along with the soldiers and some spicy sausage. And it was pretty good.

And writing this post, my fingers keep on typing coodled. So now I'll call them coodled whenever I overcook them.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hi everyone! In case you did not notice, this is Ellen Cooks Martha.

This year, starting on the first of September, I will be cooking every recipe in the Martha Stewart's Cooking School Cookbook (including soup ganishes).

I absolutely love this cookbook. The very first time my sister and I opened it we could say nothing but "Ooh", "I want that", and "Yuuuuum!" Food is so beautiful. The pictures of melting butter with herbs,creamy, crackly, creme brulee, macaroni and cheese! Delicious macaroni and cheese.

 Anyways it's a lovely cookbook.

So here I go into the world of rabbit and beef stock and (eeek!) creamed spinach. One girl, one year, over 200 recipes and a lot of whole fish.