Posts tagged holiday
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

beef brisket with merlot and prunes

beef brisket with merlot and prunes

I’ve a soft spot for humble meals made quietly, slowly, with nothing more than basic ingredients. Dishes that cook over slow heat for hours, particularly meat. Meat, that when you cut into it, slowly falls apart, so soft you hardly need to chew it. Meat that comes with a rich, thick sauce. Meals like this – I could eat on an almost-daily basis.

brisket. hello, gorgeous!

Sadly, I do not. Partly because I try to be thoughtful about meat consumption, partly because I work hours that don’t allow me, upon getting home, make a meal, that cooks over several hours (albeit, sort of happily cooks itself as time goes by) because that would mean, I would eat at midnight. Or later. And while I’ve fond memories of making and eating goulash at 1 am in college, college this is not, and somehow showing up for work late isn’t the same as skipping your 8am accounting class. The tardiness policy at work just isn’t very lenient.

brisket mise

Beef brisket is just one of those meals that if you’re spending a few hours at home puttering around, or expecting company for dinner, can be made with minimal effort and some glorious results. The concept is rather simple. You take a fatty slab of meat, brown it to lock in the flavor, brown the vegetables, and combine everything with something like wine, pomegranate molasses (with which I’ve been having a decade-long love affair!) and some dried fruit. In this case, the fruit of choice is prunes.

browning the brisketbrowning the brisket

Wait, come back! I know I just said prunes and I know they’re about as sexy as granny panties, but, please give them a chance. Cooked in stews, or slow-cooked in wine, sugar and spices, they transform themselves into something incredible lush and luxurious. I know, I just called prunes “luxurious”, when nothing could be more pedestrian. But, have I ever lied to you? Well then!

ready for cooking

I learned, pretty late in life, that brisket is sort of this traditional Jewish meal served during holidays or Shabbat meals. I didn’t grow up with it, so I felt it was my cultural duty to master the craft. Of course, I was cooking dinner with which I was hoping to impress, and I chose a dish that I’d never cooked before. Smart? I’d say not really. Was I a bit nervous? Absolutely. But everything came together without a hitch and the meat cooked perfectly and didn’t resemble pressed sawdust neither in looks nor in taste. If you’re looking for a centerpiece dish for Passover – look no further than this. And while it is always recommended that you do a practice run with a holiday meal beforehand, I’m pretty certain you will succeed with this one because the building blocks of a great dish are already included in the ingredients and the cooking process. If you cook it patiently and slowly, you will get a “humble” meal that will delicious and festive enough to be fit for a king.

Continue reading beef brisket with merlot and prunes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

orangettes

orangettes

Well, it’s Christmas Eve. And when they say “not a creature was stirring” they really do mean it. The subways this morning were empty, almost abandoned. On my way to work, the city streets were quiet, and the air just hung still. For the first time in a long time, we have snow in New York on Christmas. It feels very appropriate.

bright, pretty oranges

I don’t care what anyone says, but I’ve been listening to holiday music since Thanksgiving ended. I can’t help myself. I also can’t get enough of these orangettes; I’ve been eating them as fast as I’ve been making them, which poses a problem since I was planning to give them away as gifts. Come January 1, I’ll have to draft some resolutions: and eating fewer sweets will certainly be one of them.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

sugar-and-spice candied nuts

sweet & spicy nuts

Last year I got these as a gift from Deb who gave me a generous, pretty jar filled to the brim with these nuts. Not half an hour later, the jar was empty and I was peering inside it trying to figure out who ate all the nuts. Certainly, I couldn’t have done it in thirty minutes’ time. I even stuck my finger in the jar trying to pick up all the sweet bits and lick them off. It was better than nothing, but still, the nuts were gone and I had to face the music: portion control – epic fail.

sweet & spicy nuts

A week later, I sat my physician’s with a fever and found the recipe in a November issue of the New York Magazine. When the nurse called out my name, I, flustered and achy, accidentally (I swear!) shoved the magazine into my oversized bag, and thus brought it home at the end of the day. I figured the recipe called out to me so much, that maybe, subconsciously, I intended for this issue to be mine. I clipped the recipe and it promptly got lost in my towering recipe pile where it stayed lost until I moved to Brooklyn.

sweet & spicy nuts

A few months later, I was sitting at Hill Country and eating brisket. And ribs. And some serious sides. And drinking a beer. But I digress. Not a half an hour after the brisket was placed in front of me, it was gone. And I was, you guessed it, licking my fingers once again. Ladylike? Who, me? Believe it or not, my parents did raise me with table manners and taught me things like how to use a fork and knife, keeping elbows off the table, and not talking with a full mouth, just to name a few. And yet, here I was, licking my fingers. In public.

sweet & spicy nuts

I suspect my lapse in manners isn’t entirely my fault. I hold Elizabeth Karmel, the executive chef at Hill Country and creator of these nuts, partly responsible. Her food has a certain power over me (and I suspect over logs of others as also) in that I am compelled, whenever in the presence of her food, to lick my fingers and the plate the food came on. I consider it a very good thing, good, ladylike manners aside, that someone can consistently put out food that makes your forget your surroundings and it’s just you and your dinner. [Pan camera Matrix-style 360 degrees around you and the plate.]

sweet & spicy nuts

Let me be clear – these make an awesome holiday gift, be it Christmas or Hannukah (totally belated, I know, but I’m a delinquent gift-giver!), or any other holiday for that matter. And as an added bonus, during this crazy-busy holiday time when we constantly feel two steps behind, these nuts are also a cinch to make, requiring mere minutes of hands-on time and just a quick peek in the oven to stir and rotate your baking sheets. What comes out of the oven is so good, that I teetered on keeping these to myself instead of giving them away. But ‘tis the gift-giving season and I like presenting people with tiny cellophane bags with little red bows.

sweet & spicy nuts

Not that I haven’t ripped open a few for myself. I would never!

sweet & spicy nuts

Continue reading sugar-and-spice candied nuts.

Friday, December 18, 2009

white chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream-cream-cheese frosting

white chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream frosting

I often joke that my friends no longer allow me to attend their parties without baked goods in tow. Cupcakes – to be more specific. Cupcakes topped with frosting generously slathered on, or piped in tiny dots, or with semi-Impressionist-looking flowers. But cupcakes in their most shining glory – a tiny, single-portion cake made just for you. It’s cake – personalized and it doesn’t get better than this. Somehow, in its miniature form is just that much cuter than its bigger cousin, but then again, baby anything is much cuter than its adult version.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

chicken liver pâté

chicken liver pâté

All right, I’ll get quickly to the point here. If you are celebrating Christmas, you are probably either traveling to your celebration destination or cooking a meal and preparing for the festive holiday. This is for those of you in the kitchen who might be looking for a quick appetizer that makes you look like a three star French chef, while your guests ooh and aah, and you feign hard work and great kitchen skills – this is for you. You can thank me later, but first go and see for yourself how easy and awesome this is.

chicken livers

I will warn you now that this requires three (that’s 3!) sticks of butter which is probably why it tastes so amazing and luxurious. When I served this at book club, the ladies dove right in – a sign of great success. You can make this tonight and serve this during the cocktail hour tomorrow. When you pour the warm pâté into the dish where you will serve it, don’t worry that it might seem too liquid – it will set, I promise. If you are having a bunch of people over, it might work to chill the pâté in several small dishes that you can set around your apartment or house.

i know raw liver - EW!

Or, if you are running short on small gifts to hand out, these make perfect homemade gifts. Pour the pâté into a small jar, affix a double layer of wax paper with a piece of twine or ribbon and attach a gift tag. And in an instant you have a thoughtful and luxurious gift! An appetizer that doubles as a gift too? Now that’s holiday cooking worth spending a few minutes on!

Wishing everyone celebrating Christmas a wonderful and festive holiday!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

fleur de sel caramels

Fleur de Sel Caramels

I’ve been trying to start this piece for you, not sure where to begin. I mean, I could have just apologized for throwing another sweet concoction your way, but I’m not going to do that. Because, why would I tell you I’m sorry about telling you that you must make these now, when you are just bound to thank me later. Consider this an early present to those of you whom I cannot reach and physically present with these caramels, but a few friends and all coworkers did get a chance to sample these and the overwhelming response has been, and this is all you’ve made for us? Isn’t there more??

mmm... butter....butter and cream... this is so not low fat - ha!

Perhaps I have struggled with writing this because I don’t know where to begin or how to end. These caramels are beyond decadent and when you taste them, it’s the tiny conflict on your tongue between the salty and the sweet that makes them so irresistible. To have just one and not reach for another is a near impossibility.

while dissolving the sugar, stirbubbling caramel - it is clear at first
getting to that golden colorafter adding the cream and melted butter, the caramel bubbles

I cannot tell you how amazing these are because they are beyond words. Something about salty caramels that transcends mere language. But luckily, where words have failed me, the pictures, hopefully rise to the occasion and tell you what I, frustratingly, cannot.

drip

As I have recently learned (the hard way), caramel should be made in a heavy gauge pot that is preferably not a non-stick. The lighter metal ones are perfect; just make sure your sides are tall enough for the caramel to bubble when you add butter and cream to it. You can also use your cocotte for it if you like, as it’s amazing at distributing heat. Be careful not to mix your caramel when you are cooking it, but gently swirl the mixture from one side to another from time to time. And watch and smell for that deep, deep amber color. You might also find that these seem a bit too soft at room temperature, which is fine as you can just keep them in the fridge, as I did. Not only does their consistency improve, but they have a longer life-span, not that you will have these hanging around much if you’re anything like me.

Fleur de Sel Caramels

In retrospect, looking at these pictures, I think I should have cooked the caramel even a hint longer, but it turned out fine enough for this time around. I am still learning how to get it just right, and since salted butter caramel is not a hard thing to enjoy, I think I can just go on making these indefinitely. I know of quite a few people who won’t have a problem with it. That is – if I choose to share.

Continue reading fleur de sel caramels.