December 30, 2013

Beet Carpaccio

Every Christmas, my husband gives me a cookbook. He usually browses the pages before he wraps it and writes a little note indicating which recipes he like me to try. I realize this sounds a bit like the old yarn about a husband giving his wife a vacuum or washing machine or something else that will add more to his comfort and less to her joy, but not in this case.  It's my favorite gift because it's a gesture that says he really knows me and, as my friend Royce who reads all matter of relationship books would say, he's speaking my love language. I love to cook. I love it when my cooking is appreciated and I really love it when someone asks me to cook something specific (especially if it's something I've made before that they enjoyed).

This recipe was inspired by a cookbook he gave me about 10 years ago - The Naked Chef Takes Off by Jamie Oliver - a chef whose casual, imprecise style really suits me. He made it with beef (delicious). I made it with beets, turning it into a good side dish or appetizer. Earthy beets, a bite from the horseradish and tiny fried onion rings for a bit of salty, crispy garnish.

December 26, 2013

Sticky Sriracha Wings

Sriracha Chicken Wings

Sriracha Chicken Wings

Chicken wings can be a glorious thing when they're fresh, hot and coated with great sauce (or great spice like this recipe I want to try when I work up the nerve). But I've eaten a lot of mediocre wings with a flabby texture that only serve to remind me how unhealthy they are and maybe not worth the calories. So I've taken to trimming the excess skin off the little appendages before I cook them. I learned this trick from my dad who goes at his wings* like a surgeon with a straight edge razor and makes them almost heart-healthy. I'm less rigorous and just look for any little flaps that aren't firmly adhered to the meat.  I think it's worth the effort. 

This version is spicy and garlicky with that addictive Sriracha flavor.  I made two pounds and probably should have doubled it for my family of four. A hit with everyone, these are quick to make because there's no need to marinate. You can make the sauce while the wings bake and bring them together in the last 10 minutes. 

* I just realized this makes it sound like my dad's a bird. He's not. 

December 19, 2013

Parsley Potatoes

parsley potatoes

The more time I spend in the kitchen, the more I realize that successful cooking is about technique. That specialized knowledge of how to prepare food that transforms simple foodstuffs into something special. And it's most exciting when the foods are humble, available and cheap. Enter potatoes, parsley, butter and salt. The preparation is equally straightforward. You don't have to clarify or zest or break out your mandoline. The technique at play is roasting - dry heat cooking that browns and caramelizes the surface of food and creates rich flavor. Slice, salt, roast. The only frivolity is a sprightly parsley leaf - added for nothing more than whimsy and because whoever you make them for will feel just a little special.

Note: I think these would be a great appetizer with a little dollop of....use your imagination. I would love a bit of salty caviar and creme fraiche (humble and haute?) but I probably wouldn't get it. Santa, if you're reading this...lots of room in my stocking...

December 15, 2013

Sugared and Spiced and Everything...Nuts

I first tried these at a sample station at our neighborhood co-op. Don't you love a good grocery store sample? They were made by Kate Moore, a local chef and cooking instructor (see her class line-up here) and she was nice enough to share the recipe.

They have a delicious crust of sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and a little chai flavor from the cardamom (my addition - if that doesn't sound groovy to you, just leave it out). There's a hint of heat from the cayenne, but it's subtle and not likely to bother anyone. Quick to make (and consume) and a nice gift loaded into a pretty jar.

These are equally good with a cold beer or a cup of hot tea. How many things can you say that about?

December 2, 2013

Shoestring Potato Fries (Baked)

Shoestring Potato Fries

This is an easy and healthy way to make crispy shoestring potato fries at home in your oven. The key is to soak the potatoes before baking to remove some of their starch. Starch, I learned, attracts moisture and makes the potatoes softer (vs. starch in a shirt which makes it stiffer/crunchier). Easy - no mess - no guilt. 

Baked Shoestring Potato Fries
Makes enough for 1 large or 2 small servings

1 russet potato
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 450ยบ

2. Scrub potato and slice lengthwise into thin (1/8") slices (I used my mandoline). Stack and slice again into long, thin matchsticks. The more uniform the fries are, the more evenly they'll cook. Submerge in cold water for 20 minutes or longer (you can do this ahead of time and place bowl in refrigerator).

3. Drain potatoes and place on clean towel. Pat dry with paper towels (as dry as you can get them so the oil will adhere). Toss in a bowl with oil and salt. Spread out on a sheet pan(s) making sure the potatoes don't touch each other (or they'll steam and not get as crispy) and bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until brown. 

Shoestring Chili Fries
Makes good chili fries too...

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