Boiled I Mean Broiled Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Mustard Seeds

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Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Mustard Seeds

Brussels sprouts are complicated. They’re both hip and hated. They can be sublime or inedible. You’ll find their sweet nature on the menu of the latest gastropub, or piled high in a stinky mess at the worst of the mass market buffets. This unfortunate dichotomy has left them with a bit of an identity crisis. This is not their fault. But it can leave the home cook scratching his or her head wondering what the secret is to Brussels sprouts. Well, have you tried Broiled Brussels Sprouts? Not roasted but broiled. Broiled Brussels Sprouts are simple. All it takes is a watchful eye. So don’t be afraid and give it a try.

Because it’s true many people are afraid of Brussels sprouts, horrified even. Because they are often prepared in a horrifying manner– over-boiled. Boiling for long lengths of time really does not suit Brussels sprouts. That is because they’re technically a cruciferous vegetable. Which is a fancy way of saying cabbage. As we all know, boiled cabbage can be stinky and mushy. So too, Brussels sprouts. In fact, in French, they are called les choux de Bruxelles, which means cabbages of Brussels. So all the mistakes people make cooking cabbage can be amplified in these little cabbages.

Cruciferous vegetables get their name because their flowers have 4 petals and look like a cross (crucifix). Other cruciferous vegetables include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, collards, kale, mustard greens, rutabaga, turnip greens, and watercress. Now doesn’t this list look a lot like the list your doctor uses when he/she says you should eat more dark, leafy greens?

Well, listen to your doctor because cruciferous veggies all contain phytochemicals — vitamins and minerals, and lots of healthy fiber which some studies suggest lower your risk of cancer.

Unfortunately, these phytochemicals break down somewhat in cooking. This lessens their health benefits, and can also release a vile sulphery smell. Many people can’t get past the smell. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Broiled Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Mustard Seeds

Pickled Mustard SeedsBroiled Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Mustard Seeds

There are lots of great ways to cook Brussels sprouts. Broiled Brussels sprouts is one of the simplest and also one of the tastiest. I like to toss them with a little olive oil, coarse salt and cracked black pepper. I then stick them right under the broiler. Don’t be afraid to get them as close to the heat as you can. Then all you have to do is watch them carefully until they get browned and crackly on the outside with varying textures on the inside. They’re great served like this straight from the oven, but this time I tried something new from Naomi Pomeroy. I tossed these crispy broiled Brussels sprouts in a sweet and sour pickled whole mustard seed syrup to add even more caramelized complexity.

I hate to be one of those bloggers who throws around superlatives, but dadgummit, these were the best Brussels sprouts I’ve ever made. GREGBroiled Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Mustard Seeds

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Mustard Seeds

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Naomi PomeroyPublished
Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Mustard Seeds

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ pound Brussels sprouts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoon pickled mustard seeds (see recipe)

Directions

Place an empty baking sheet on an oven rack as close to the heat source as possible and preheat the broiler.

Cut the base off of each Brussels sprout, and then cut each sprout in half lengthwise, discarding any floppy outer leaves.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the sprouts with the oil. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper and toss well to combine.

Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the broiler (use a double layer of kitchen towels or oven mitts) and lay the sprouts in a single layer across the pan. Return the pan to the oven and set a timer for 4-6 minutes. After 4-6 minutes (depending on broiler strength), stir the sprouts and rotate the pan 180 degrees to ensure the sprouts caramelize evenly. Set the timer
for another 4-6 minutes. The sprouts should have a nice char on some areas and be vibrant green.

At this point, add the mustard seeds to the baking sheet and stir well. Broil for an additional 2 minutes. The sprouts should now be ready. When you taste one, it should be tender but not completely soft. I like to test one big sprout and one little sprout to get an average. (The sugars in the pickled mustard seeds will have caramelized a bit and can burn your mouth if you’re not careful.) Remove the finished sprouts from the hot baking sheet and serve immediately.

Pickled Mustard Seeds

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 cupSource Naomi PomeroyPublished
Pickled Mustard Seeds

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup whole mustard seeds
  • 1 clove peeled garlic

Directions

In a small saucepan over high heat, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 35 minutes, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of syrup (but is not as thick as honey). Let cool, transfer to a nonreactive airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

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Root Vegetable Gratin For a Rainy Weekend

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Root Vegetable Gratin with Mustard Cream

Thanksgiving has come and gone, its passing has left Los Angeles the gift of rain. So I’m going to make something warm and cozy. Something my mother might make. Maybe we’ll spend this first rainy evening having dinner in front of the fire. We have four leather chairs that pull around a table by the fireplace in a sort of a gentlemen’s club arrangement. Dining there suits the mood that prevails in this old house when the weather turns gray. It’s easy for my warm and cozy thoughts to turn to a gratin – a root vegetable gratin with sweet potato, celery root, and rutabaga.

My mother would call these thinly sliced vegetables “scalloped” but she and I would be thinking the same thing.

I’m not planning to scour the web looking for just the right root vegetable gratin. Nope, this time I want something warm and familiar. So I’ve adapted my standard “scalloped” potato gratin with Emmental cheese, cream and of course mustard (two ways). A little grainy mustard in the cream sauce and some whole mustard seeds sprinkled over the top for a nutty burst of heat in the crusty bits. Yummy!

Root Vegetable Gratin

The key to this Root Vegetable Gratin with Mustard Cream (or really any gratin including my mother’s scalloped potatoes) is in having all the vegetables sliced the same thickness so they cook at the same rate. Make friends with a mandoline: It quickly yields precise, even slices. I also like to blanch the vegetables in a milky solution. They bake creamier that way and much more evenly. If you’ll read the recipe you’ll see that the mandoline and the blanching are not the only shortcuts I take with this classic recipe. In this version, I skip the laborious béchamel and simply layer the root vegetables with grated cheese and a sprinkle of flour. Then when I pour the mustard-cream sauce over the top the béchamel makes itself while baking.

That’s it! Serve it while it’s hot and bring on the rain! “Just don’t track muddy footprints all over the house” (that was my mother speaking)… GREG

Root Vegetable Gratin with Mustard CreamRoot Vegetable Gratin with Mustard Cream

Root Vegetable Gratin with Mustard Cream

Print This Recipe Total time Yield Published
Root Vegetable Gratin with Mustard Cream

Ingredients

  • unsalted butter (as needed for baking dish)
  • 2 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seeds (divided)
  • 2 pound assorted root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, celery root, and rutabega) (peeled and very thinly sliced)
  • 2 clove peeled, whole garlic
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • ground white pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounce grated Emmental cheese (or similar)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the sides and bottom of a 10″ x 7″ inch oval baking dish.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind 1 teaspoon of the mustard seeds into a very coarse powder. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine sliced root vegetables, garlic, milk, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer about 5 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften; drain, saving 1-cup of cooking liquid. Discard garlic; set vegetables aside.

Combine the reserved cooking liquid with the cream. Whisk in the Dijon mustard and the roughly ground mustard seeds. Season with salt and white pepper.

Layer the softened vegetables in the baking dish, sprinkling a little flour and some of the cheese between each layer. Reserve half of the cheese for the top. Slowly pour the mustard-cream mixture over the vegetables until it comes almost to the top of the dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and distribute the remaining whole mustard seeds evenly across the top. Place the baking dish on a cookie sheet to catch the bubble over. Bake in the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. Let the gratin rest about 5 minutes before serving.

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Start the Holidays with a Cranberry Shortbread Tart

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Cranberry Shortbread Tart

Oh, Gawd – the Holidays are here. I can tell because I’m getting weepy and nostalgic over the silliest things. Starting with the Cranberry Shortbread Tart I’m preparing for our Thanksgiving celebration and ending with Charlie Brown. Shortbread and Charlie Brown might seem like an odd partnership I know (I know), but whenever the holidays begin their approach I always find myself thinking about good ole Chuck. And Chuck was a fan of shortbread. This I know for sure.

Yes, Charlie Brown will always be a part of my Christmas mindset. But it’s not Christmas and yet I still find myself thinking about young Charlie Brown as I crumble the shortbread topping for my Cranberry Shortbread Tart.

When I was a kid there was no “on demand” TV, so Charlie Brown and his pathetic bent over Christmas tree always waited until after Turkey Day to hum their way into my heart. Nothing could get me wound up for the Holidays quite like Lucy refusing to eat “November snowflakes” and that cute as heck Schroeder pecking away at his keyboard (I bet he’s a hottie today). I still can’t get into the Christmas spirit until I’ve heard the songs from that show. Of course, Netflix and the like have changed all that. I can stream A Charlie Brown Christmas anytime I like. Holiday nostalgia is just a click away 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

But there are some Charlie Brown memories that, for me, can’t be binged on a flat screen television. Which means, these days, it takes a little more Charlie Brown to get my holiday juices flowing.

Lucy's Lemon Bars

Cranberry Shortbread Tart

Whenever I get weepy and nostalgic (especially at the Holidays) my mother is is usually the culprit. She passed away quite a long time ago. In fact, I’ve now lived longer than she ever did.

Her time was short but her talent and quirks were epic. I’ve gone into them far too often on this blog. So today, I’ll just say that my mom was a great cook. She was highly influenced by Julia Child and classic French cuisine. Despite her talents with anything labeled Cordon Bleu, my mom wasn’t much of a traditional-suburban-mom-baker as far as I recall. To her credit, she made really good oatmeal cookies and she accurately considered chocolate fondue an acceptable replacement to birthday cake. Still, the most memorable meals from my childhood almost never included something sweet at the end – unless it was wrapped in a crêpe.

However, I do remember one time about a week before Thanksgiving when I convinced her to make lemon bars using a recipe straight out of the Charlie Brown Cookbook. It was a prized possession of mine and somehow “just this once” I got her excited about a recipe containing absolutely no French grammar.

I can still picture the generous way she read the recipe aloud to me as we gathered all the ingredients together. I’m sure, thanks to Charlie Brown, this was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase mise en place uttered.

The recipe must have come together quickly and easily, I have no real memories of the actual cooking. You see, the thing about a vintage 1970 Charlie Brown Cookbook is this: every recipe must have been quite simple to prepare. So I’m surprised that my mother gasped and decried the whole thing a failure before we ever got those lemon bars into the oven. The thing my mom found so distressful about the recipe was how much extra shortbread dough there was leftover (she believed a lemon bar should have a thin, delicate base). She couldn’t just throw the excess away – so she did the first thing that made sense to her. She crumbled the extra dough on top of the lemon bars giving them a crumble-top that Charlie Brown never intended.

So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t seem to stop myself from crumbling a bit of extra shortbread on the top of my Cranberry Shortbread Tart. GREG

Cranberry Shortbread Tart

PS If you come back after thanksgiving I’ll post a picture of a slice of this Cranberry Shortbread Tart with its nostalgic crumble topping.

Slice of Cranberry Shortbread Tart

Cranberry-Almond Shortbread Crumble Tart

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Jill O'Connor for Fine CookingPublished
Cranberry-Almond Shortbread Crumble Tart

Ingredients

  • 2 cup granulated sugar (divided)
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 12 ounce fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (about 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoon apticot jam (optional)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • ½ tea teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter )cut into 16 pieces and softened)
  • 2 teaspoon inely grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tea teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Cooking spray
  • Confectioners’ sugar for garnish (optional)

Directions

Make the filling: Combine 1-cup sugar, lemon juice, and ½ cup water in a 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 2 minutes. Add the cranberries and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the cranberries have popped and the liquid is syrupy, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the apricot jam and simmer until the jam melts (if using), about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Make the shortbread: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until warm and fragrant but not yet brown, about 5 minutes; let cool completely.

In a food processor (with at least a 10-cup capacity), combine the nuts with 2 Tbs. of the flour. Pulse until very fine but not powdery, 20 to 25 short pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the remaining flour, the cornmeal, and salt.

In the food processor, combine the butter, remaining 1-cup sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and almond extract.

Pulse until creamy, 10 to 20 short pulses. Add the egg yolk and pulse a few times to combine. Add the dry ingredients and pulse, scraping down the sides as necessary, just until a soft dough forms, 30 to 40 short pulses. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic and divide.

Lightly coat a round 9½ x1-inch fluted metal tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray. Press half of the dough evenly onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap. Form the remaining dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the dough and the tart shell until very firm, at least 30 minutes.

Prick the bottom of the tart shell all over with a fork and bake on a heavy-duty baking sheet until firm, dry, and just starting to turn golden brown around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. The shortbread will have puffed up during baking, so use the back of a spoon to gently press down the bottom of the crust to create enough space for the cranberry filling. Spoon the filling into the tart and spread evenly.

Crumble the remaining shortbread dough over the cranberries in pebble-like pieces, covering the filling. Bake until the topping is firm and golden-brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Carefully remove the tart rim. Slide a long, flat spatula between the pastry and the pan bottom and transfer the tart to a serving platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using, just before serving.

 

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Thanksgiving Wine Tips & Unexpected Pairings

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Thanksgiving Wine Tips & Unexpected Pairings

This Thanksgiving shake things up a little. Yes, I could be talking about cocktails, but that’s Greg’s arena. And no, I’m not talking about excluding friends or family members from your table. What I am talking about (again) is wine. Just say no to Beaujolais Nouveau and try to stretch your imagination beyond Pinot Noir (which, I’ll admit can be fabulous, especially from Anderson Valley. And admittedly its cheery cherry goodness goes with nearly everything). Dig deeper into your wine tasting memory bank to find some interesting, reasonably priced unexpected pairings for your traditional Thanksgiving fare. (The first of my Thanksgiving Wine Tips is you do NOT have to forgo Champagne. I would never recommend that.)

More Thanksgiving Wine Tips:

Indaba Chenin BlancChenin Blanc from South Africa. Why not crack open a 2015 Indaba Chenin Blanc, the Cape’s signature white? This intensely flavored and balanced wine offers notes of apple, pear, and tropical fruit would be great with a squash dish featuring quinoa or mushrooms. The list price is a bargain at $12, but I found it online for $7! Not only that, but a portion of sales is donated to a fund for training educators. That’s something to be thankful for.

Lazy Creek RoseRosé from California. Not just a summertime sipper, a rosé made from Cabernet Sauvignon will stand up to brussels sprouts with pancetta. I recently tasted a sustainably farmed, fresh, floral rosé made from Pinot Noir that goes with just about any dish if you really must have Pinot Noir at your Thanksgiving table. Unfortunately, the 2015 Lazy Creek Vineyards Anderson Valley Rosé I tasted has sold out, but keep an eye out for the 2016!

columbia crest merlotMerlot from Washington state. Disregard Merlot’s unpopularity among the uninformed. Merlot can be a juicy, aromatic and spicy partner to that hearty porcini mushroom dish you prepared for your vegan friend. Fabulous finds from Washington run the price gamut from $11 (2013 Columbia Crest “H3”) to $85 for the 2013 Leonetti Walla Walla Valley Merlot, 94 points from Robert Parker which pretty much guarantees a burst of big black fruit supported by structured tannins.

Frank Family Petit SirahHow about a Petite Sirah from California? Well, there’s nothing petite about the 2013 Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Petite Sirah– this wine is intense, its aromas of fresh baked black fruit crumble translate to tart blackberry and blueberry flavors topped with creamy vanilla on the palate. The long finish allows you to sip and savor a spicy caramelized onion soup or aged gouda and camembert cheese course.

roederer estate brutIf you plan to serve some bubbly with dessert – and you should – you can save some cash (hey, that means you can buy more bottles) by choosing a nice $13 Spanish Cava, a sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend from the Anderson Valley like the widely available and highly drinkable $24 Roederer Estate Brut, or even a $15 French white or rosé Cremant de Limoux. I’m not a fan of Lambrusco at any price, sorry.

The last of my Thanksgiving Wine Tips is simple. Eat up, drink creatively and responsibly and enjoy your time with family and friends. Though it may not always feel like it, there is a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. KEN

Thanksgiving Wine Tips & Unexpected Pairings

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Is a Flamiche a Quiche?

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leek and egg flamiche

Is a flamiche a quiche? Or is it a pie? Well, if I told you that flamiche is a Flemish word for cake, would that clear things up? Once upon a time, an old-world flamiche was typically seen wrapped in a yeast-based dough – making it appear a bit more cake-like, I suppose. But in my mind, it’s neither quiche nor pie. A flamiche is a flamiche, and it’s different than a quiche. Unlike most open-faced American-style quiche, a flamiche stays closer to its French roots and often features a top and bottom crust.

Crust aside, the differences between a quiche and a flamiche are subtle (if they exist at all). However, for me, a quiche is best when it’s a true custard – no matter what ingredients or flavors you stir in. In fact, a French quiche is a very precise thing. The result “should tremble as if it were on the verge of collapse”, according to Thomas Keller.

A flamiche on the other hand is far more rustic. It can be sliced and eaten out of hand if you like. It still has egg in it, but the ratio is different – usually just enough egg to bind the ingredients together. I think one egg and one egg yolk is just about right.

In either case, a true flamiche is a specialty of the Picardy region of northern France. I haven’t thought about or thought about making a flamiche in several years. After all, the regional differences between a flamiche, a quiche, a tart and a pie can be altogether too fussy for day-to-day dining. However, a few weeks ago I saw a delicious looking caramelized onion flamiche on Chef Mimi’s blog. She too pondered the question, “Is a Flamiche a Quiche?” So I decided to add this leek version (from my book Savory Pies) to the discussion. GREG

flamiche flamiche

leek and egg flamiche

Leek Flamiche

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Savory Pies by Greg HenryPublished
Leek Flamiche

Ingredients

  • chilled pastry dough (enough for a double-crusted tart, divided into 2 discs)
  • all-purpose flour (as needed for rolling)
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4-5 leeks (white and light green parts, thinly sliced, about 1 pound after slicing)
  • kosher salt and white pepper
  • 8 ounce semisoft cow’s-milk cheese (such as Port Salut, Morbier, or even fontina, grated)
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 egg yolk (lightly beaten)
  • ¼ cup half and half (plus more for brushing)

Directions

On a lightly floured surface, use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll 1 dough disc to an 11 or 12-inch round, a generous 1/8 inch thick. Carefully fold in half, slide onto the rolling pin, and transfer to a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Gently press to line the pan without stretching or tearing. Use light pressure to push the dough into the sides, letting the excess drape over. Repair any holes with a bit of extra dough. Chill the dough-lined pan while you make the filling.

Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often until the leeks are quite softened but aren’t yet coloring; about 10 minutes. Stir in the cheese and a pinch of white pepper. When the cheese is melted, set it aside to cool completely.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and ¼ cup half and half. Stir in the cooled leek mixture and a bit more salt and white pepper. Pour into the lined tart pan and spread evenly across the bottom.

On a freshly floured surface, use a freshly floured rolling pin to roll the remaining chilled dough disc to a large round, a generous 1/8 inch thick. Carefully fold in half, slide onto the rolling pin, and transfer to cover the tart. Press to seal the crust at the edge of the pan; run a rolling pin over the top to neatly trim. Cut a ½-inch hole in the center of the top. Brush the exposed dough with more half and half.

Set on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the heated oven until lightly golden, about 45 minutes. Let rest on a rack at least 10 minutes before removing the tart ring. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

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It’s My Birthday: Here are 10 Things I’ve Learned About Life

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The Fourth Regiment cocktail

ONE: People who “hate getting old” are silly. Every year is a privilege. Every birthday should feel like a triumph. Even in these scary times in which we live. Because having faced a few good years on this planet gives you a certain awareness about life. So let me tell you this: don’t worry the world won’t end just because it seems to be getting away from us.

TWO: When someone (anyone) starts a sentence with, “I’m not being …”, they always are.

THREE: Speaking of which. I don’t mean to endorse violence. I hate violence. Yet I can’t help thinking if I had two weeks left to live I would really love to punch a politician or two in the face.

FOUR: Being happy is nearly as good as being rich.

FIVE: It’s a good idea to learn as early as you can to love and be loved in return. I waited until I was almost thirty and that’s just too damn long.

SIX: Meat is murder. A murder with which I’ve made my delicious peace. Meat is how man conquered the planet and came to sit savagely at the top. For better or worse.

SEVEN: Still, a raw apple, a handful of nuts, and a hike in the woods will make you feel like you can accomplish anything.

EIGHT: Once you get older and your palate develops – whiskey begins to taste really good. It really does.

NINE: Speaking of whiskey. I’ve discovered a new whiskey drink. Well, it’s hardly new, and I wasn’t the one who actually “discovered” it. This is another of those long-forgotten drinks that have recently been resurrected. Most believe that The Fourth Regiment is a cocktail that dates back to the 1800s. Cocktail historian Robert Hess bought a book on eBay entitled 282 Mixed Drinks from the Private Records of a Bartender of the Olden Days (published in 1889) that is thought to be the first known written recipe of The Fourth Regiment. My glass is tipped to the historians who dug it up. It has three kinds of bitters. One of which is celery bitters. Making this a slightly savory take on a Manhattan cocktail.

TEN: Life is like the best book you ever read (or movie, or recipe, or post – you choose the simile). It’s not how long it is, or where it begins or how it ends. It’s not about complicated plot-lines or fancy ingredients. It’s about how it makes you feel. And that’s entirely up to you…

So raise a glass with me on my birthday. I’ve still got lots left to learn. GREG

The Fourth Regiment Cocktail

The Fourth Regiment Cocktail

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1Source Adapted from Robert HessPublished
The Fourth Regiment Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash celery bitters
  • 1 strip lemon peel (as garnish)

Directions

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon strip.

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Sadistic Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hot Buttered Peas

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Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hot Buttered Peas

When I was making these Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hot Buttered Peas my mind was going in a million directions. So forgive me if I can’t put together a disciplined post that has very much to do with the pictures you see on this page! My MIL has been in the hospital and I find myself taking all sorts of shortcuts. Typically I’m the sort of person who believes if you put a little extra elbow grease into something the rewards you reap are far greater than the effort put forth. However, not this time. This post may be long, but actually it’s a free association editorial shortcut. I can’t promise I’ll stay on message.

When your days (and nights) are spent pacing the halls of hospitals, shortcuts quickly become part of your day-to-day life. Which is why you’re seeing Spiced Lamb Meatballs and Hot Buttered Peas, a dish seemingly more suited to April than November. I say seemingly because fresh peas straight from the pod are indeed a springtime treat, well worth the extra elbow grease they require. However, frozen peas are an off-season shortcut that I find perfectly acceptable. Are you surprised? Had you just assumed I was too persnickety to advocate for frozen peas?

Well, I have news for you. I think frozen peas are the greatest shortcut known to man (or woman)! They’re one of the two veggies I regularly buy frozen (artichoke hearts are the other – I do a really good roasted artichoke bruschetta that starts with frozen artichoke hearts).

Anyway, it’s not the taste and texture (or quality) of frozen peas that I find myself thinking about as I write this post. It’s the memory that buttered peas bring up every time I serve them. I warn you, this is going to be quite a diversion from the Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hot Buttered Peas recipe I intended to write about today. But here goes.

You see this whole distracted thing started because I was making this meal while I was listening to some cable pundit talking about “kids today” and all the crazy stuff they’re up to. The guy on TV was trying to make the point that kids today have an exaggerated sense of invulnerability and are far more likely to participate in dangerous activities than the kids from previous generations. Naturally, he blamed video games and apps like Pokemon Go for the deterioration of childhood innocence.

Now, I’m not a gamer, and I’m not here to defend or decry these games. In fact, I pay very little attention to video games and really have no opinion about them at all. But I will say kids will be kids and they’ll have their fun no matter what you or I say.

So why bother to say anything? Well, in a convoluted way this pundit’s opinion has a lot to do with Spiced Lamb Meatballs and Hot Buttered Peas. Because at the center of this recipe are peas and butter. In fact, the phrase Hot Peas & Butter is what makes me uniquely qualified to respond directly to that talking head and his theories on childhood sadism. And that response is a resounding “baloney”!

Kids today are not more sadistic or vengeful than the kids from his gilded childhood. I doubt they’re any more aggressive either. And you know what? I believe most kids today will grow up just fine, no matter what games they choose to play.

But what the heck does this little tirade have to do with Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hot Buttered Peas?

Well, maybe I’m dating myself, but when I was a kid there was a particularly sadistic little game we played called Hot Peas & Butter. Maybe it was regional game because we only played it when I lived in Utah, but I did a little research and I’m not the only kid that played this little game. It has several names and they all have peas and butter in the title. So I’ll let the Urban Dictionary sum up the game just so you know that I am not making this whole thing up.

“HOT PEAS & BUTTER is a fun ass game in which one person hides a belt and asks a group of people to find it. The person who hid the belt can help the people find it easier by saying degrees of temperature (i.e. hot, warm, cold) as a metaphor to describe their proximity to the whereabouts of the belt. After a person finds the belt they yell “Hot Peas and Butter!” and the other participants have to run back to home base before they get their ass whipped with the belt.”

I’m not kidding. The point of the game was to slap other kids really hard before they made it home safe. I can still feel the sting that belt produced on the back of my young legs. So when I hear that video games are the cause of children feeling particularly invulnerable I would like to remind the pundits that the only video game we had was Pong. Which was so boring we had to run outside and invent games that were sadistic, vengeful and aggressive.

Wow. That was quite a digression from Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hot Buttered Peas. Like I said, I’m very distracted these days. GREG

Spiced Lamb Meatballs and Hot Buttered Peas

Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hot Buttered Peas

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from The Basque BookPublished
Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hot Buttered Peas

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 2 roughly chopped peeled onions
  • 1 roughly chopped carrot
  • 2 leeks (white and light green parts roughly chopped and rinsed)
  • 1 ½ cup red wine
  • 12 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 pound ground lamb
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 onions (peeled and minced)
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • canola oil (as needed for frying)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup diced, dry-cured Spanish chorizo
  • 3 cup fresh and blanched or frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter (at room temperature)

Directions

Make the stock: In a large saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Add the roughly chopped onions, carrot, and leeks and cook, stirring often, for about 7 minutes, until they just begin to color. Add wine and simmer for a few minutes until the alcohol cooks off. Add the stock and mint, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer the stock gently for an additional hour. Remove from heat, strain stock through a fine mesh sieve, and return to the saucepan. Set aside.

Make the meatballs: While the stock is simmering combine lamb, breadcrumbs, half of the minced onion, egg, paprika, cayenne, and allspice in a large bowl; fold to combine until the spices are well incorporated but without overworking the mixture. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.

Shape the lamb mixture into 1-inch balls. Pour the canola oil to a depth of 3/4 inch into a deep straight-sided pan and place over high heat. Working batches, add the meatballs to the hot oil and fry, turning as needed, for 2 to 3 minutes, until evenly browned on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

Make the hot buttered peas: In a small saucepan, combine the remaining minced onion, bay leaf, chorizo, and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat and sweat for about 7 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Add the peas, tossing to coat, and cook until just cooked through. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter.

Assemble the dish: Meanwhile, bring the prepared stock to a boil over high heat and turn down the heat to a simmer. Add the browned meatballs and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the warm meatballs to a warm serving dish, add the hot buttered peas, and fold together. Serve warm. Save the stock for another use.

 

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The London Cookbook: By Aleksandra Crapanzano

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The London Cookbook: By Aleksandra Crapanzano

How important are cookbooks in your life and why do you read them? Inspiration, information, or transformation? Are you a cook who reads or a reader who cooks? I ask because, The London Cookbook: Recipes from the Restaurants, Cafes, and Hole-in-the-Wall Gems of a Modern City has crossed my path. It’s as thrilling to read as it is enjoyable to cook by. So I’m going to do something I never do. I’m going to skip the recipes in this review (for now). I’m not going to recreate a recipe (just yet). Instead, I’m going to talk about how the words made me feel as both a reader and a cook.

The London Cookbook is by Aleksandra Crapanzano who has a pedigree as a writer that’s very impressive. The James Beard Foundation gave her the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Distinguished Writing. Her work has appeared in all the food magazines that matter.

But that’s her resume. I want to talk about her words. Sure this book provides some enthusiast encouragement to get into the kitchen and cook. The carefully curated collection of recipes culled from the city’s best chefs will certainly stoke your wildest dinner party fantasies. But more importantly, I find The London Cookbook not just inspiring but motivating.

In the best sections of this book, the author expresses her excitement in discovering the “not to be missed” restaurants of a city she obviously adores. Perhaps it’s the thrill of discovering a new chef or simply distilling a well-known restaurant’s allure into one perfect dish. Crapanzano speaks to a food lover like me with a passion that borders of provocation. In other words, if you’re a serious cook, this book will ignite the fervor that brought you to the kitchen if the first place. Some of the recipes may seem daunting, but they’re explained with precision – in words familiar to all home cooks.

I live in Los Angeles and like London, there are always new neighborhoods and world-class restaurants to get excited about. The quest to experience them is a large part of what makes living in a giant metropolis so exciting. Crapanzano’s words translate the thrill of discovery into the belief that food so glorious can be achieved at home with nothing more than the skills this book so artfully explains.

There will be more to come from this book on this blog, I’m sure. GREG

The London Cookbook: By Aleksandra Crapanzano

I received a review copy of The London Cookbook: Recipes from the Restaurants, Cafes, and Hole-in-the-Wall Gems of a Modern City. All opinions are my own.

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Soft Cinnamon Cookies with Coconut Toffee Crunch

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Simple Cinnamon Cookies with Coconut Toffee

Does your family argue over cookies? Some like soft, gooey confections while others aren’t happy unless their cookie is crisp enough to crack when they bite into it. Well, as the holidays grow dangerously close I think it’s up to the cook to develop a plan to put your family’s cookie wars aside. Bring them a cookie with holiday spice. A cookie that has both cushion and crunch. These simple Cinnamon Cookies are sweet and spicy and nice and soft – the perfect foil for the exotic candy-crisp center. In other words, Cinnamon Cookies with Coconut Toffee are the best of both worlds.

Put them on you Holiday Wish List. GREG

Simple Cinnamon Cookies with Coconut ToffeeCoconut ToffeeSimple Cinnamon Cookies with Coconut ToffeeSimple Cinnamon Cookies with Coconut Toffee

Cinnamon Cookies with Coconut Toffee

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 16Published
Cinnamon Cookies with Coconut Toffee

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature, divided)
  • 2 ½ cup granulated sugar (divided)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoon milk (divided)
  • turbinado sugar (as needed)

Directions

Make the coconut Toffee: Melt 1 cup butter in a heavy, 2-quart or larger saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter begins to get foamy, whisk in 1 ½ cups granulated sugar, water, and 1 teaspoon salt, scraping down the sides. Lower the heat to medium. Do not stir until the toffee begins to color, about 13 minutes. When it is the color of peanut butter, remove from heat and immediately add the coconut, stirring to combine. Spread the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet so the toffee is no thicker than ¼ inch. Cool completely, then break into pieces about 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter. Set aside 16 of the most uniform pieces for the cookies. This recipe makes more coconut toffee than is needed for the cookies; the extra toffee will keep, in an airtight container at room temperature, up to five days, or freezes much longer.

Make the Cinnamon Cookies: In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl cream remaining ½ cup butter and remaining 1 cup sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well until combined, about 2 minutes.

Stir in ⅓ of the flour mixture, followed by 1 tablespoon milk. Once combined add half the remaining flour mixture and 1 more tablespoon milk. Once combined add the remaining flour mixture and last tablespoon of milk. Mix until dough just comes together. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

To bake: Remove dough from fridge and roll into big 1 ½ inch balls. Roll each ball in turbinado sugar and place on a baking sheet about 2-inches apart. Lightly press a piece of coconut toffee into the center of each ball to flatten it. Bake until the edges just begin to brown, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

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Egg Noodle Frittata with Full Fat Ricotta

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Egg Noodle Frittata

A carefully constructed, big-as-a-plate frittata, can be a cook’s blanks slate and a host’s best friend. It’s one of the culinary world’s perfect wonders. If you’re like me you probably make one when you want to clear out the fridge. Veggies, cheese, meat or potatoes – even pasta and rice. These are all great additions. It’s fun to go wild but a frittata can go downhill fast when it’s so overloaded with leftovers that it becomes a sloppy unfocused mess. A good frittata requires some finesse and a plan. Because if you ignore the basics a frittata can be as wet and messy as a dirty dog rolling in the grass.

The Key to Frittata Success

While it’s true that spontaneous frittatas are fun and easy to make – you shouldn’t wing it too much. Balance is the key, especially when it comes to the dairy in the recipe. I’ve seen too many versions that don’t include some added fat. If you want a chubby, fluffy frittata then full-fat dairy is crucial. I know because I’ve had a few overly improvised frittata fails: too lean, too skinny, too bland. These stingy versions quickly become spongy, dry, and tasteless. Nothing more than baked scrambled eggs loaded with leftovers.

As with most dishes involving eggs, there’s an egg-to-fat ratio and it’s important. For 8 eggs you need about 3/4 cup fat. That’s generous. You could get by with a 1/2 cup. But really 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup is your window. Do the math if you want to use fewer or more eggs. Use too much dairy, and you end up with that messy wet dog I mentioned. Use too little, and you’ll miss out on the luscious allure that defines a good frittata.

Sherry Yard’s Noodle Frittata with Smoky Paprika is a good example of a balance and finesse. Of course, she gets the egg-to-fat ratio correct, but there are other valuable lessons in this recipe that you can adapt to your spontaneous frittatas as well. For example, I like the way she whirls the liquid ingredients with the ricotta in the blender. This not only fully incorporates the ricotta it also add more air and volume than I could accomplish with a whisk. GREG

Egg Noodle FrittataEgg Noodle FrittataEgg Noodle Frittata

Noodle Frittata with Smoky Paprika

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Sherry Yard for Food & WinePublished

Idiazabal cheese is a is a traditional, farmhouse, hard cheese made from raw milk of Latxa or Carranza sheep in the Basque and Navarra regions of northern Spain. You may substitute it with any firm white sheep’s milk cheese. I used manchego.

Noodle Frittata with Smoky Paprika

Ingredients

  • 4 ounce dried, wide eggs noodles
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ medium sweet onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
  • 5 ½ ounce Idiazabal cheese (grated)
  • 1 teaspoon weet Pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika) (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 8 large eggs (lightly beaten)
  • ½ cup fresh full-fat ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the noodles until al dente. Drain the noodles and cool under running water, then drain again.

In a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the noodles.

In a medium bowl, toss 1 ½ cups of the shredded cheese with the 1 teaspoon of paprika. In a blender, combine the eggs with the ricotta, chicken stock, milk, salt and white pepper and puree until smooth. Add the egg mixture and cheese to the skillet and mix well. Bake in the heated for about 25 minutes until the frittata is just set. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of cheese on top. Turn on the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Let stand at least 5 minutes. Sprinkle the frittata with paprika, cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature..

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