Friday, April 17, 2009

Historical interlude: Benedictine

You probably thought I was going to tell you about a B&B cocktail. Certainly that is the most widely known Benedictine in the food and beverage world. But we are here to discuss the lesser known champ: The dip or sandwich dressing which is said to have been created in Louisville, Kentucky at Benedict's restaurant and also going by the name Benedictine. With the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby dead ahead of us, why, what better time than the present?

I will grant you two things right off the bat: First, I have not made it. I have my hands full and anyway, I am tied up with the staggeringly serious and pivotal testing of banana fritters. If I don't figure that out, what will become of us?

And secondly, you might say it reads like a Paula Deen recipe. I would not call you a fool for saying so either, it sho' ain't heath food, baby. But look, it is a celebration of the contesting of the greatest horse race on earth (if horse races can indeed be called, "great"), and it is best to put your party in good stead with attention to the matters of history when it comes to event planning.

Before you furrow your brow and wonder why I did not post on the Hot Brown (just stand by) and the Julep (can you hear me snoring? Sorry!) I could have done as I am perfectly capable of mixing one right now with the early mint in the beds and snapping a few inspiring shots but you would have rightly called me a tearing bore and never come again. So, what have we to lose for trying something less well known and consequently, more exciting? Not to mention how thrilled I am this feeds my my great fascination with food coloring once again morphed into a faux-elegantista among the cocktail nibbles: Shameless food coloring vamp that I am, I am always looking for a place to sneak it in and still hear everyone tell me how marvelous and erudite I am! Oh, how I giggle smugly inside.

Alright, enough of that drivel. Let's get on with it...

By the way, my entertaining notes on the Derby and uniquely sparkling perspective can be found here and here.

I have had this recipe in a notebook long enough that it looks abused. No clue from whence it spring, if it belongs to you, stand up and take a bow.

1 large cucumber
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons grated onion
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
dash green food coloring (totally not optional)

Peel, grate, and drain cucumber. Combine with remaining ingredients in food processor. Serve as is or as a sandwich or canape spread. Thin with sour cream to make a dip for vegetables.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Henkels at Rue La La

Great news for cooks. Rue La La has a wonderful sale on Henkels knives until tomorrow. For example, the utility knife above is normally $100 and is $49 on Rue La La. Email me under "Profile" then "Contact" if you need an invitation to this private shopping service.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter and Passover

A little of our Easter celebration here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Give 'til it hurts

What a lovely gift for the cook who loves to experiment: A salt collection including six fine and exotic salts from around the globe. If you have never experienced the magic of a fine finishing salt, this might be a great place to begin. Available here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


This method is all I can do and absolutely the best I can do for you all at once when it comes to food: Ease, economy, and a meal staple which is both comforting and satisfying as well as elegant and attractive. If you can do only one thing well in the kitchen, it should be roast chicken. It will always be greeted warmly at any table and will yield hundreds of other dishes. I should send you no further into the world without this knowledge.

It will take a couple of hours requiring no more of you than a few initial steps but it is not a quick fix nor as easy as anything out of a make-dinner-simple brightly colored pre-made food box. Like anything else, it is half skill and half feel but once your hands know the cadence and your vision knows the desired outcome, it will be the easiest big finish meal in the arsenal. It has always been a Sunday chicken in our house owning only to the length of the cooking time, not to any difficulty in process.

If you simply must have a recipe then I suggest a book which was once recommended by a chef like this "I don't care if you have no money and you don't have a place to live, buy this book, " it is Barbara Kafka's Roasting and there is not a recipe in it that is not money in the bank.

Since this is a method for roasted chicken, it requires a ferociously hot oven. High heat is the very definition of roasting in my book. 350 degrees will yield you only a dry baked chicken. Be sure your oven is very clean beforehand or keep the fire extinguisher handy.

Into the roasting pan, throw a bag of carrots peeled and cut into large pieces and three medium onions cut in very large wedges (if the onion is cut small or chopped it will scorch and ruin the whole kaboodle). Coat with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Toss them about the pan until coated and be sure the entire bottom of the pan is covered in oil so the chicken will not stick.

Take a large roasting chicken and rinse it outside and in. Coat the skin generously with softened butter, then season the bird outside and in with salt and pepper. Don't be shy. Truss the bird if you know how, if not, don't.

Place the bird in a 450 degree oven and roast for about one and half hours or until the thermometer pops. Begin checking the thermometer after one hour. If, after one hour, the skin is very golden, cover the pan with foil or a baking sheet, continuing to check quickly every 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

Some of the veggies may be too dark to eat, salvage all remainders as they make a wonderfully tasty side dish, although not slimming.

I hope this serves you well to the end of your days.

Now for a fabulous giveaway of Tricia Lowenfield's children's book Be Kind, Be Sweet, here at Blushing Hostess Entertains. And don't miss the tablescape of Eve's crudite table there as well for the tablescape anniversary!

And be sure to catch Kimba's DIY party at A Soft Place to Land here, full of projects I am precluded from being involved in owing to being a menace with tools!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tuscan Salad

There are many things about Tuscany that will remain with you until the end of your days but perhaps none so easily accessed daily as their masterful way with good clean foods and unmuddled flavors. One of my favorite salads from the years my work took me to sweater vendors there was something not far from the below. It will not replace a trip to Tuscany but it will be a wonderful addition to your repertoire.

I would sooner see you leave out the artichoke than replace it with canned or frozen.
They are a lot of work, certainly, but the rubbery and tart canned version and the watery frozen suspects are no form of replacement. The salad will be just as lovely but perhaps a bit less filling without.

Tuscan Salad
Use enough of each to accommodate servings and preferences.

Being certain to carefully rinse the white beans and to toast the pine nuts is critical to the quality of this salad. Take no short cuts.

Wild Arugula
Freshly cooked and trimmed artichoke hearts
Rinsed cannelli beans
Dry toasted pine nuts
Huge shavings of excellent quality parmiggano-reggiano
Lemon Vinaigrette

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Seafaring tales

Firstly, yes, that is a Ritz cracker. I love them and I don't care what is in them: But please don't tell me. There are just some thing's I am not supposed to know.

Secondly, I love Legal's Clam Chowder enough to import it. Also, their coconut shrimp and a pinot noir which were part of my Saturday afternoon Boston shopping loop after Newbury and on my way into Saks and before I became addicted to the guilty pleasure of the burger in the quiet of the Oak Room after a week of fashion house insanity. But I really digress.

For a short while I had fresh (then) chopped clams in the freezer and since it was winter and I am now at least one hour from Legal's, which is now everywhere it seems, I googled the recipe and made it myself. It was fabulous and just as good without my shucking my own clams (stop it) or buying salt pork (seriously, come on).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Blue Cheese Gougères

And so we come to my new favorite nibble, the Blue Cheese Gougères from Cooking Up a Storm, a book which I have suggested - downright begged - everyone to buy and possess. I cannot publish my adapted recipes from this deeply moving and thorough volume and anyone who does is no friend of mine: To give them out would mean one fewer books sold and NOLA needs the profits. But I can, at the very least, point you to my favorites that you will have this reference when you get your own copy.

I promise you, finer nibbles you will rarely find. I used a salty Danish blue because it needed to stand up to a heavyweight bordeaux. I was a concerned about this combination but anxious to try out the recipes from this book. Neither the depth of the wine nor the pungent saltiness of the puff let me down. I have long made Julia Child's gougères for company and in an emergency, say, when I incinerated the Apple, Bacon, Butterscotch app from Alinea at Home. But this is my new game, so long plain Jane.

I hope you enjoy the book, give it to friends as Hostess gifts, to your Mom for Mother's Day, to your hairstylist...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chimi for Amy

I hoped I would get this on to the site last week before my Sister-in-Law, Amy, made it for a dinner party. I wish I had because when she told me she did not think it tasted like mine - but was still wonderful - we would have recognized that I forgot to tell her about the scallions. Well, Amy, here you are and now it is complete.

This is not a traditional chimichurri. If it were, it would be cilantro and parsley (and certainly it still could be, just split the parsley and add an equal amount cilantro) however, not everyone enjoys cilantro. I learned from a visit to Bouley test kitchen here in New York, that excellent parsley is its own reward. Too often it is labelled tasteless and left unused while cilantro chimi's and basil pesto's proliferate. It should be more highly considered: Parsley's more delicate flavor allows for more versatility in use of this sauce.

I think you'll find this sauce is equally as deserving of a place on your table and a keeping place in your fridge. We keep it in the original consistency as described below, using it as a healthier alternative to mayo on sandwiches and burgers. We thin it to make vinaigrette's, and add it to casseroles and pasta sauces. I think once you have a great herbal sauce love which is not too overwhelming in flavor, you can enjoy it constantly and it is worth the once a month blender wrestling to always have it at the ready. Enjoy.

Makes about 3/4 cup
I normally double this recipe because it has so many uses, but this yield will go a very long way.

1/2 cup best quality olive oil, more as needed
Juice of 1 lime, more to taste
2 large bunch parsley, stems removed
4 green onions (scallions), roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon honey, more to taste

In the bowl of a blender, combine the olive oil, lime juice, and as much parsley as will fit. Blend one minute, occasionally stopping to scrape down the bowl, until it reaches a pesto consistency. Add the remain parsley, green onions, garlic cloves, red wine vinegar, salt pepper, and honey. Blend again completely processed to sauce. Taste. Adjust salt, pepper, and honey to taste. Refrigerate. It is best after an hour or two in the fridge to allow it to marry.

You may think this out with more olive oil while still in the blender or later if you like a thinner consistency to use for marinades or vinaigrette's. We use the original thick, spreadable consistency for sandwich spread to replace mayonnaise. A slightly thinned version is used for a serving sauce over Argentinian rubbed grilled meats. It is also lovely combined with mayo for burgers and sandwiches if you do not mind the calories.