Strawberry Cake and TasteFood News

strawberry cake tastefoodIt’s almost summer, and we deserve cake.

I am so excited to share with you 2 pieces of good news about TasteFood. It’s been a little quiet here on the blog lately, in large part due to 3 book projects I’ve been busy working on. I am happy to announce that the first book The Little Pink Book of Rosé, is now available for pre-order! It’s a light and sparkly little gift book, filled with quips, quotes and fun facts about rosé (my favorite summer wine), as well as 20 sweet, savory, and drinkable rosé recipes which I developed.

Now for the second piece of big news: As of June 8, TasteFood will be a syndicated weekly column coming to a newspaper near you! This means that you will be able to read TasteFood in many of your local papers throughout the U.S. each week. Once the dust settles, I’ll be developing a newsletter that will tie in news about my cookbooks, blog, and column. Finally and most importantly, I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment, ask questions, let me know about recipes, cuisines, or cooking topics you would like to read about, either here on the blog or the email address provided in my column – your feedback is highly valued!

So, now it’s time for cake…

Strawberry Cake

While nothing beats fresh sun-sweetened strawberries, au natural or swiped through a dollop of whipped cream, put aside a pint or two to make this simple cake. It’s light and simple, gently sweetened and generously studded with as many strawberries you can fit. I halved the jumbo-sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they’ll begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess. Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) pie or gratin dish.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Combine the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Add the flour and mix to thoroughly combine without over-mixing. 4. Pour  the batter into the prepared dish and spread evenly. Arrange the strawberries, cut-sides down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy – and reserve the rest for serving. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Bake the cake until the top is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Cool slightly and serve lukewarm or at room temperature with whipped cream and extra strawberries (if you haven’t already eaten them!)

The Cowgirls’ Guide to Cheese and Potato Gratin

Cowgirls gratin

Posted by Lynda Balslev 

I am not going to lie. I am a cheese fanatic. Those of you who know me already know this. I adore cheese, and relish serving it on pretty boards, tumbled into salads and cooked with gratins, pastas, eggs, you name it. I even call it dessert when given the choice. I think I know a little about cheese, gleaning knowledge from my international life, tasting, favoriting and cooking with locally produced cheese from the various countries I’ve called home and traveled to. People ask me about cheese, seek recommendations, and even pay me to create lavish baskets and wooden boards covered with blocks, rounds, wedges, and slabs of mild, creamy, floral, moldy cheese. And then I met this book: Cowgirl Creamery Cooks and realized that while I know about cheese, the gals at Cowgirl live it. And I envy them.

cowgirl book

Sue Conley and Peggy Smith are the Cowgirls behind the Marin creamery, located in Point Reyes, California. They met in college, and have both worked as chefs in Berkeley restaurants before launching Tomales Bay foods, which promoted West Marin’s farms and dairies to Bay area chefs. From there it was a quick leap to producing their own cheese from locally produced milk from Strauss Family Creamery. Nearly 20 years later, the Cowgirls are known throughout the Bay area and beyond, garnering numerous awards, including the induction into the Guilde des Fromagers.

This book is a great read for cheese lovers and organic food aficionados. Not only is it Conley and Smith’s personal story, it’s a how-to on all things cheese – including tasting, buying, storing, and pairing with 75 recipes and photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. It will entertain and enlighten, and most importantly, leave you very hungry. Here is a taster.

Red Hawk Potato Gratin

Red Hawk is a rich triple-crème washed-rind cheese with a strong aroma and mellow flavor. Camembert may be substituted. Serves 6 to 8.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, julienned
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup heavy cream
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
10 ounces Red Hawk cheese, cut into 16 wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat a cast iron skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. When the butter has melted, add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the cream and half of the Parmesan.

2. Transfer half of the onion-cream mixture to a glass 13 by 9-inch baking dish or casserole. Arrange half the potatoes in an overlapping layer on top of the mixture, and then top with 8 of the Red Hawk wedges. Add the remaining potatoes in an even layer, the remaining half of the Red Hawk, and the remaining onion-cream mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let the casserole cool for 10 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. All opinions are my own. 

Momofuku Bo Ssam – Lacquered Pork in Lettuce Leaves

Slow-Roasted Pork Wrapped in Lettuce with Ginger, Scallions and Red Chilies 

Normally I can’t resist tweaking a recipe, but not this time. As soon as I read this article and recipe in the New York Times for Momofuku Bo Ssam, I began to plan my week around making it. Adapted from the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang and Peter Meehan, this Korean-inspired recipe has perfection written all over it. Despite its exotic name with a restaurant pedigree, I might call this dish Lacquered Slow-Roasted Pork. The meat alone is a masterpiece, oven-roasted to a crispy, caramelized heap with nothing more than copious amounts of sugar and salt. It’s then wrapped in lettuce (ssam), brightened with an intoxicating muddle of ginger and scallions and thoroughly electrified with a fermented bean and chili sauce which will rock any Scoville Scale.

In this recipe, the method and ingredients are slightly modified from the original recipe.

Bo Ssam: Slow-Roasted Lacquered Pork with Ginger, Scallions and Chile Sauce

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

4 pounds pork butt (shoulder)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 cup light brown sugar

Ginger-scallion sauce:
1 bunch scallions, about 8, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/4 cup freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Red chili sauce:
1 tablespoon fermented bean and chili paste
1 teaspoon sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

For serving:
Cooked basmati rice
Butter lettuce leaves or little gem leaves
Optional: Fresh cilantro sprigs, toasted sesame seeds, and/or minced red chile pepper for garnish

Method:

1. Place the pork in a large bowl. Combine the granulated sugar and 1/2 cup salt in a small bowl. Rub all over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

2. When you are ready to cook, remove the pork from the oven, discard any accumulated juices, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

3. Heat the oven (or a grill) to 300°F.

4. Place the pork in a roasting pan. Roast in the oven (or over indirect heat on the grill) until the pork is falling-apart tender, about 4 hours, turning and basting occasionally.

5. While the meat is roasting, prepare the ginger-scallion sauce and red chili sauce. Combine all of the ingredients for the ginger-scallion sauce together in a bowl. Taste for seasoning and set aside. Combine all of the ingredients for the red chili sauce together in a bowl. Set aside.

6. Remove the meat from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Pour off and reserve the accumulated fat and juices.

7. Increase the oven (or grill) temperature to 500°F.

8. Shred the pork, and return to the roasting pan. Drizzle with some of the reserved fat to lightly coat and moisten the meat. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the pork and return to the oven or over indirect heat on the grill. Roast until the meat begins to crisp and caramelize in parts, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to a serving platter.

9. To serve, place a spoonful of cooked basmati rice in the center of a lettuce leaf. Top with the pork, the ginger-scallion sauce, and a drizzle of red chili sauce.

10. Optional: Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs, toasted sesame seeds, and/or minced red chile pepper.

Food52 – The Cookbook

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Last weekend I was delighted to host a book launch party for Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs and 20 Bay area members of the recipe site Food52.  Amanda and Merrill, the co-founders Food52, were in the Bay area promoting the newly released Food52 Cookbook –  a compilation of a year’s worth of winning recipes. Food52 “grew out of an insight that many of the best recipes come from home cooks.” Each week a contest is announced and entries submitted from the F52 community. Amanda, Merrill and the F52 editors whittle the entries down to 2 selections which are then voted on by the entire community. The winning recipe earns a spot in the cookbook. I am more than honored that 4 of my recipes are in the first cookbook.

Aside from publishing recipes, Food52 has evolved into an active and thriving online and offline community, sharing recipes, news, tips and advice while creating long lasting friendships bound together by a love for food and cooking. So, when Amanda and Merrill arrived in San Francisco on their book tour, it was natural that we would gather the Bay area F52 community and enjoy a lunch together. Potluck, of course.


Homemade charcuterie garnished with lots of cheese

Here’s a riddle:
What happens when you gather 20 passionate foodies for a potluck party?
Answer: You are treated to an amazing array of food.

Chicken Pesto Skewers
by Becky (KitchenSolo) – photo by Andrew Gaber

Sausage and Kale Tart – winning recipe by Karen (My Pantry Shelf)
Prepared by Tiffany (Ms. T) – Photo by Andrew Gaber

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The only downside to hosting a party like this is I was so busy I didn’t have a moment to take any pictures. Andrew Baber kindly shared this photo of Amanda and Merrill chatting with Shelly Peppel (Food52 News) and Beverly Best. Thanks, Andrew!

The Cookiepedia and a recipe for Chocolate Crinkles

The Cookiepedia and a recipe for Chocolate Crinkles

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I received a new cookbook today, and I am smitten. It’s called The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking and Reinventing the Classics, written by Stacy Adimando. I must confess that I was somewhat skeptical of what a classic cookie book could show me. I am a straightforward baker when it comes to cookies. I rely on a short list of traditional goodies, often made at the spur of the moment without much thought except to quell a craving for something sweet, buttery, chocolate and uncomplicated. I’ve been making my family’s favorite cookies for so long I rarely use a recipe, relying on memory and simple ratios. Why would I need another recipe for my tried and true favorites?

Well, maybe I don’t need another recipe, but perhaps I do need a kick in the butt. For so long I have been making cookies by rote, with a little tweaking here and there to shake things up. While I know what I am doing, I realize that I have forgotten why I am doing it. The Cookiepedia is the perfect reminder that instructs and informs in a bright and friendly manner – just like you were baking with a friend or sister who happens to know a lot about a cookie. It has all the usual suspects (nearly 50 in all, including mint thins, snickerdoodles, blondies, and meringues), doled out with a healthy measure of tips, facts, tweaks and variations. Just like a girlfriend who knows your dirty laundry, real life is taken into consideration with time constraints, picky eaters, potential mishaps, even weather glitches in its guidance. It takes your hand, keeps you company and strikes up a conversation, while you do what you love to do – bake cookies. Consider this a Betty Crocker Cooky Book for the modern family. In fact, I bet Betty would take a few notes.

Chocolate Crinkles

These plump chocolate morsels didn’t crinkle so much as poof for me. The results were a  fudgy, brownie, cake-like cookie which tasted fabulous. (Who can argue with a description like that?)  Makes about 30 – 1 inch cookies.

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for rolling

Combine chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. (Be sure thhe bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.) Let the chocolate start to melt, then stir occasionally until it’s smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat the sugar and eggs in a bowl of an electric mixer until thick and smooth, 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. Beat on medium-low speed until they’re combined.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Add the mixture in 2 batches, beating each time until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to scoop, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Roll 1-inch balls of dough in a bowl of powdered sugar, coating them completely. Place them 1 1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes until they just feel firm. (The cookies are best when slightly undercooked in the center.) Cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Note: I found that most of the powdered sugar melted while baking, so once the cookies were fully cooled, I rolled them again in the sugar.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Cookiepedia. Written by Stacy Adimando and photographed by Tara Striano. Published by Quirk Books.
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of The Cookiepedia from Quirk Books. 

On a Stick! and a recipe for Chinese Meatballs

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Here’s the thing: It’s fun to eat with your hands, and Matt Armendariz has figured this out. In his new book On a Stick! it seems that every food you may think of is fair game for skewering. It might be simple:  Crudité Skewers with Latin Green Goddess Dressing or Caprese Sticks with Mozzarella, Basil and Tomatoes. It might be more complex: Deep Fried Ravioli or Spaghetti and Meatballs anyone? Or perhaps you are craving something sweet. How about Frozen Bananas Dipped in Chocolate or Strawberry Shortcake? Yes, that’s right – all on a stick.

On a Stick! puts the fun in food, taking ordinary and exotic recipes and sticking it to them, so to speak, along with an assortment of dipping sauces – because, after all, dipping a stick in a sauce, dressing, salsa or chutney is half the fun of eating food on skewers.  If you would like to enjoy a little simple pleasure, if you need to entice your kids to eat their veggies, or if you wish to invite your 20 closest friends to a party, you will appreciate this book.  There’s something in it for everyone, and fun doesn’t get more tasty than this.

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For my first recipe, I tried the Chinese Meatballs, which are a spicy, savory concoction of ground turkey, cilantro and spices. Fragrant with ginger and garlic, these addictive little morsels are served with a sweet and sour chili sauce. I pan fried them rather than deep fried them before dutifully skewering with bamboo sticks. And you know what? They really do taste better on a stick.

Chinese Meatballs with Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce
Makes about 12 meatballs

3/4 pound lean ground pork or turkey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons peeled and minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl with your hands to thoroughly combine. Form into 12 small even balls. Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the meatballs in one layer without overcrowding. Cook, turning, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Skewer with toothpicks or bamboo sticks. Serve with Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce.

Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce

1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons minced lemon grass
1/2 bunch mint, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon seeded and minced red jalapeño
1 teaspoon peeled and minced ginger

Stir vinegar, sugar and lemongrass in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until sugar dissolves and liquid reduces by one-third. Strain into a bowl and cool completely. Stir in mint, cilantro, garlic, red jalapeño and ginger. Serve warm or at room temperature, alongside the meatballs.

Recipe reprinted with permission from On a Stick! Written and photographed by Matt Armendariz. Published by Quirk Books.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of On a Stick! from Quirk Books.

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches and a Recipe for a Pulled Pork

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches and a Recipe for a Pulled Pork

If you think that a sandwich is just a sandwich, then think again. Actually, first get your hands on The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches, have a look through it, and then think again. Your view of sandwiches will never be the same.

It’s hard to resist the book by its cover alone, with a photograph of a teetering triple decker sandwich (The Dagwood) and the promise of not only recipes (110 in all) but “history and trivia for everything between sliced bread.”  How can this be resisted? Author Susan Russo lures the reader in with her irreverent writing sprinkled with snippets of trivia, and punctuated with drool-worthy photos from the talented photographer Matt Armendariz.

This weighty compact book is thick and juicy with recipes and nuggets to chew on, so to speak – just like a good Reuben Sandwich. I quickly discovered that a sandwich is far more than a lunchtime staple framed by sliced bread. Start your day with an All-in-One Breakfast Sandwich (with hashbrowns, waffles, eggs and bacon),  or finish a meal with a Banana Split Sandwich (a.k.a. dessert). There is even a British Chip Butty – otherwise known as a French Fry Sandwich on this side of the pond – which handily qualifies as munchy snack food. The possibilities are seemingly endless, and this book gallantly and informatively tackles the encyclopedic task of celebrating the humble sandwich.

Despite the impressive number and variety of sandwiches in the book it was easy to select my first recipe. Pulled pork is a family favorite, and I know that Susan is an avid football fan, frequently posting enticing recipes on her blog for spicy game-viewing fare. I was keen to try her recipe for a Pulled Pork Sandwich – knowing it would be a winner.

Pulled Pork Sandwich
Makes 8-10 Sandwiches.

Coleslaw:
12 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

8-10 cups pulled pork, shredded (recipe below)
8-10 hamburger buns or kaiser rolls
Extra barbecue sauce for serving (optional)
Pickle slices

Make the coleslaw: Place cabbage in a large bowl. Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small pot over medium – high heat. Reduce to a simmer and add oil, salt and pepper. Simmer 3-5 minutes. Pour over cabbage. Refrigerate until use.

Assemble sandwiches: Place 1 cup meat in each bun. Drizzle with extra barbecue sauce if desired. Top with a scoop of coleslaw and some pickle slices. Close sandwich and serve immediately.

Pulled Pork Recipe
Makes 8-10 cups

Meat Rub:
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder

1 (5-7 pound) boneless pork shoulder

Vinegar Barbecue Sauce:
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Tabasco
1/4 cup stone-ground mustard

Combine all of the rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Rub the mixture all over the meat. Refrigerate the meat at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight. Remove from refrigerator 20 minutes before cooking.
Preheat oven to 250 F. Place meat, fat side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Cook uncovered 2 hours. Raise oven temperature to 350 F.  Cover meat with foil and cook until internal temperature reaches 170 F, 5-6 hours. Remove meat and place on cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest 30 minutes.
Combine vinegar sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Shred the meat and place in a wide shallow dish. Pour vinegar sauce over meat and toss to coat.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo. Published by Quirk Books.

Scandinavian Classic Baking and a recipe for Desert Sand Cookies

Scandinavian Classic Baking and a recipe for Desert Sand Cookies

When Pat Sinclair asked me if I would like a copy of her newly published cookbook, Scandinavian Classic Baking, I didn’t hesitate to accept. She reached out to me after she read an article I wrote on Danish Open Face Sandwiches for NPR – perhaps recognizing another kindred spirit when it comes to Scandinavian cuisine. Well, she got that right.

Since the book arrived, I have pored through it – that is, when I have had a chance to read it. This book has struck a nostalgic chord in our entire family, with everyone vying for a look and tagging favorite recipes. And there is something for all of us:  soft, yeasty cinnamon rolls drizzled with almond icing, cardamom scented breakfast buns, Swedish pancakes with lingonberries and ginger-spiced pepperkakor cookies – to name but a few.

This book is beautifully and thoughtfully compiled, with an authentic collection of recipes representing all of the Scandinavian countries, accompanied by lovely photographs by Joel Butkowski. The recipes in the book are clear, concise and approachable, splendidly representative of Scandinavian cuisine, which is typically unpretentious and uncomplicated. Many of the recipes are supplemented with side bars packed with informative tidbits on Scandinavian culture with tantalizing photos of landmarks and people, elevating this compact book to the cocktail table.


Swedish Apple Pie, simple and pleasing. Luckily I snapped a picture before the family devoured it.

Last weekend we ticked a couple of recipes off of our long list. Since my daughter was helping, she chose to make Desert Sand Cookies and Swedish Apple Pie. As we baked, we chatted about Denmark. We spoke of family, friends and places we look forward to visiting on our next trip.  We spoke of holidays and some of our favorite foods. I thought of the traditions that are passed down through generations through recipes, and how these recipes keep memories alive while connecting us as a family. In our well traveled family life this has been exceptionally important, as we mindfully strive to remember our roots and the different countries in which we’ve lived.  Now we have a little extra help from Scandinavian Classic Baking.

Desert Sand Cookies
adapted from Scandinavian Classic Baking by Pat Sinclair

The key to these simple butter cookies is the browning of the butter, which gives them their unique and delicious flavor, typically found in Danish Butter Cookies.

Makes 24 (1 1/2-inch) cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brown the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the butter begins to foam, stir constantly until it turns a deep golden brown. Watch it carefully at this point, because the color will change quickly. Cool to room temperature.
Heat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cooled butter and vanilla to the sugar in a medium bowl and stir until evenly mixed Add the flour and mix to form a dough. Shape the dough into 1 1/2 inch rounds. Place on baking sheet and press a crisscross pattern with a fork. (Dip the tines of the fork in a little flour if it sticks.) Bake 10-12 minutes or until set; they will not brown very much in the oven. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies are fragile until cool.

Home-Cured Pork Belly and a Recipe for Caramelized Bacon Chips

Home-Cured Pork Belly and a Recipe for Caramelized Bacon Chips

I was tempted to call this post The Girl and the Pig, because, you see, I am hooked on bacon. More specifically, I am hooked on my own home-cured bacon. Prompted by the latest Charcutepalooza challenge, I cured 6 pounds of pork belly with a savory rub of salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and garlic. Sounds like a simple blend, yet when left to marinate and cure over a week, this basic recipe yielded swoon-worthy results.  For my first attempt, I pointedly avoided using lots of sugar or smoking the bacon. I wanted a savory result undistracted by excessive sweetness or the aroma of smoke: I wanted to taste the real deal, and it was worth it.

What to do with 6 pounds of home-cured bacon? (Oh, to be so lucky to have that problem.)  So far, I’ve eaten quite a bit, frozen half and given some away. Normally, I use bacon as an ingredient in salads, stews and pasta dishes, but this bacon is so good, I only want to eat it straight up, fried in a skillet or baked in the oven. So, in the spirit of simplicity, I decided to caramelize bacon chips, roasting them in the oven with spices and the previously forsaken sugar.  Sweet, salty, crispy and spicy – the results were utterly decadent. Now the question begs:  Is this a dessert, snack, condiment or food group? I say all of the above.

Caramelized Bacon Chips

If you can stand it, let the bacon chips thoroughly cool once removed from the oven. They will continue to crispen as they cool.

1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
12 ounces thinly sliced bacon, cut in 2 inch strips

Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.)  Pour sugar onto a small plate. Dredge bacon in sugar, making sure that a good amount sticks. Lay bacon in a single layer on a grill pan. Sprinkle with cayenne and cinnamon.  Bake in oven until deep golden brown, without burning, turning once with a spatula, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer bacon to a plate lined with parchment paper. Cool completely.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and now partnering with Food52. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie. 

 

Holiday Dessert: Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise

Holiday Dessert: Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise

Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise is most worthy of the holiday table. Not only is it appropriately elegant and sinfully rich, it may be prepared up to 3 days in advance, allowing you to get on with your Christmas shopping and preparations for house guests.

Also known as a Marquis au Chocolat, this popular French dessert is like eating a truffle in the form of a brick. I first made this recipe as a finale to a cheese fondue party, when I wanted a simple yet rich chocolate dessert with a French twist. I scoured my cookbooks and found inspiration in a recipe for Marquis au Chocolat by Thomas Keller in the Bouchon Cookbook. I  paired the chocolate with orange which proved to be a match made in heaven. Slivers of dark chocolate nestled in a pool of cool orange-infused crème anglaise, studded with Gran Marnier macerated fruit. Not only did the orange add a bejeweled touch, its citrus notes brightened the chocolate, elevating this classic to celebratory status, befitting the holiday table.

Chocolate Terrine with Orange Crème Anglaise and Gran Marnier Oranges
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Cookbook

Serves 10 to 12

For the Chocolate Terrine:
Canola oil
12 ounces (350 grams) 70% dark chocolate
1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter
4 large eggs, separated
4 large egg yolks
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (125 ml.) heavy cream
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Lightly oil a 6 cup terrine mold or loaf pan.  Line mold with plastic wrap.
Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Add 8 egg yolks to cooled chocolate mixture, stirring to combine.  Sift together confectioners’ sugar and cocoa.  Stir into the chocolate mixture.
Beat cream in bowl of electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate until use.  Beat egg whites with sugar in clean bowl of electric mixer until soft peaks form.
Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture, then fold in whipped cream.
Pour into terrine mold and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate 12 hours.  (Terrine may be prepared up to 3 days in advance.)

For the Orange Crème Anglaise:
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup (250 ml.) heavy cream
1 cup (250 ml.) whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 teaspoons grated untreated orange zest
5 large egg yolks

Combine the cream, milk and 4 tablespoons sugar in a medium saucepan.  Add the vanilla bean with seeds and orange zest.  Heat to a simmer, stirring.  Remove pan from heat, cover and let sit 30 minutes to let flavors infuse.
Whisk egg yolks with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl until mixture thickens and lightens in color.  Whisking constantly, pour 1/3 cream mixture into egg mixture.  Return egg mixture to the saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about 10 minutes.  (To check if done, run a finger down the back of the wooden spoon.  The line should remain clearly intact without the custard running.)
Strain custard through a fine meshed sieve into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water.  Cool custard, stirring occasionally.  When completely cool, pour into a container.  Place plastic wrap over surface of custard.  Cover container and refrigerate.  (May be prepared up to 3 days in advance.)

For the Gran Marnier Oranges:
2 navel oranges
2-3 tablespoons Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon sugar

Cut away peel and pith of oranges with a knife.
Slice oranges horizontally, about 1/4″ thick
Cut out orange segments.  Toss segments with Gran Marnier and sugar in a bowl.  Let sit at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. (Cover and refrigerate until use.)

To serve:
Remove terrine from mold.  Run a knife under hot water and wipe dry.  Slice terrine in 1/4 inch slices.  Arrange 1-2 slices on a plate.  Drizzle Orange Crème Anglaise around terrine.  Garnish with Gran Marnier Oranges.