This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Shallot and Cream Sherry Beurre Blanc

By | Dishes, Entertaining, Obsessions, Sauces, Seasonal | No Comments

Today’s cooks are clearly eager to learn about fresh, seasonal, and healthy sauces, but over the past few weeks I have been reminded that people still LOVE butter sauces. I rarely make them but this weekend we had a birthday celebration for my friend, Mark, so I decided to splurge. Mark and another dear friend, Kris, grew up in families with Scandinavian roots. When they get together around the holidays, they often share buttery tales: Mom spread butter on her chocolate cake, Grandma refused her buffet plate of lutefisk until the fish and potatoes were visibly swimming in it, entire cubes of butter were the norm just unwrapped and plopped on the top of steaming green vegetables. I’m sure my mish-mash of European ancestors were also butter lovers, but Mom and Dad were partial to green vegetables seasoned with vinegar or soy sauce. I felt almost giddy when I decided, at…

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This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Chanterelle and Bacon Pasta Sauce

By | Ingredients, Obsessions, Sauces, Seasonal | No Comments

It was Thanksgiving week,  so every time I opened the fridge in search of dinner inspiration I was faced with a wall of ingredients slated for other events. Things were a bit crazy. There were a lot of gravy-centric interviews on radio and TV. I can’t actually remember what I threw together for spontaneous midweek dinners – except for this magnificent chanterelle and bacon sauce. I had restocked my stash of chanterelle mushrooms last weekend because they were just too pretty and cheap to pass up. ($10.99 a pound I think. I’ve seen them for a lot less, but not this year.) Then I forgot about them. When I discovered them tucked away in their brown paper bag, I was thrilled. I grew up hunting chanterelles. Mom and Dad kitted us out in hiking boots, raincoat, compass, safety whistle, and our own special “mushroom knife” with a belt holster. We broke into…

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Thanksgiving

By | Entertaining, People, Seasonal, Traditions | No Comments

As a food writer with a brand new book out, I’ve felt some pressure to make Thanksgiving a big deal this year. Several people have asked about my plans. I have shared a few favorite recipes and lots of gravy tips but I have resisted the urge to namedrop turkey farmers or pledge allegiance to certain cranberry varieties. That’s just not my style. Instead, I’m going to come clean. I’ll admit that my Thanksgivings are rarely the jaw dropping, camera-ready feasts you might expect from a food professional. I have my years, but more often than not, we join my husband’s family and have a very traditional menu. This year, alongside a few small slices of Butterball or Costco turkey, I will serve myself an oversized portion of green bean casserole, the kind made with canned French beans and Campbell’s mushroom soup. I may scoop some salty StoveTop stuffing straight…

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Stocks, fast and slow

By | Ingredients, Seasonal, Traditions | No Comments

  The biggest stock pot is on the stove today. It’s just barely burbling and the aroma of onions, chicken parts, and herbs is shifting from raw and sharp to sentimentally pleasing. I’ve been talking a lot about “new” stocks and infusions lately; doing interviews, writing articles, teaching classes, and insisting that great sauces do not require cauldrons of simmering bones as a starting point. I’m touting the value of quick “mock stocks” made with vegetable scraps, dried mushrooms, shrimp shells, yeast concentrates and virtually anything that will add complexity and depth to plain water. I’ve been actively urging people to try alternatives like 30 minute vegetable stocks flavored with non-traditional ingredients like eggplant, green beans, and corn cobs. The only savory dark brown stock I have referenced in months has been a vegan recipe from the book that takes two hours.  (And is spectacular!) Today’s stock is nothing like the…

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Chimichurri

By | Adventures, Cooking Outdoors, Obsessions, Sauces, Travels | No Comments

We just returned from a 12 day vacation in Argentina, so it seems only natural to be pondering chimichurri right now.  I suppose the place to start is to explain that, while I’m an admittedly obsessive cook, I’m not an especially obsessive food tourist. Before I travel I do a fair amount of research and make mental lists of the local foods I want to try, then I do my best to fit them into my trip. I rarely do it the other way around. In Argentina, chimichurri topped my “must try” list but I never sought out the “best” or most authentic samples. I didn’t organize afternoons of chopping or grilling with locals either, but that’s not going to stop me from forevermore making sweeping, “expert” generalizations about “real” chimichurri. I was served a few bowls of the stuff in the right country. I figure that counts for something. If you…

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This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – Cider and Sage Pan Sauce

By | Dishes, Ingredients, Local, Obsessions, Sauces, Seasonal | No Comments

I’ve always loved cider. Squat brown bottles of Canadian cider were always tucked in among the beer during our summer vacations. I drank more pints in London pubs than I probably should have. Over the years I turned my back on cider and my eyes wandered to our sexy local craft beers, but I’m thrilled that good, local ciders are back and demanding attention. They are far too good to forsake. I’m searing a lot these days – testing out temperatures and surfaces, but I’m not yet ready to lock in recipes until I can explain what is going on in the pans. That means I’ve got good pan residue that I can spontaneously deglaze with whatever is handy. Cider has been handy, apples are handy and I have a giant shrub of purple sage that is always calling out for attention. No doubt this recipe will be tested and improved…

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This Week’s Spontaneous Sauce – “Almost Aardvark” Chile Sauce

By | Obsessions | No Comments

Hooray! Chile season is here! We are big fans of chiles and chile sauces. So much so that there is an entire chapter devoted to them in Mastering Sauces. Tabasco is practically a religion for Jeff. Sriracha is always at hand – both homemade and the rooster variety. Tapatio is served with every taco. Homemade Chinese Chile Oil, Korean chiles (gochugaru and gochugang), extra hot Indian ground chiles, whole dried New Mexican, ancho, chipotles…oh dear, it might be best not to count. The quantities, varieties, and prices now available at the farmer’s market make fresh chiles almost impossible to pass up. Last Sunday, when the market opened, I dashed straight to the Tonnemaker’s Farm stand in search of just the right peppers to make this year’s batch of Homemade Sriracha Sauce (page 302). For sriracha you need peppers that are both hot and slightly fleshy. Cleaning several pounds of tiny hot chiles…

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