Friday, September 28, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie: Endives, Apples and Grapes

This autumn side dish ranks right up there with the best French Fridays with Dorie recipes thus far in cooking our way through Around My French Table. It was one I debated about even bothering with tonight, but the three gorgeous ingredients, and its uniqueness, simplicity, and rustic look won me over. I prepared it as a side dish (it could also be a first course), paired with a pan-roasted chicken breast, and I polished off the entire plate, right down to the last grape. Well, Trapper did help with a few bites of chicken and apple. 

endives, apples and grapes

I used small Fuji apples and substituted red grapes instead of green and thyme in place of rosemary. I halved one apple and quartered the other. The fruits and endive are cooked slowly in salted butter, and turned once halfway through, until they are soft and caramelized. The endive tastes amazing after it cooks and retains just a hint of bitterness. The apples and grapes are sweet and soft, but not mushy. I really encourage you to try this with roasted chicken or duck.

Gorgeous colors

Dorie features the recipe on her blog, here, as a Thanksgiving side dish. She offers another variation, called Thanksgiving Squash and Apples, with wedges of pumpkin or squash, chestnuts, apple, grapes, and sage, drizzled warm maple syrup and topped with toasted pecans. I may try that version sometime, but I'm definitely adding tonight's version to my fall and winter specialties and I will never look at endive the same way again. 

If you've never put cooked endive at the top of your favorites list,
or if you've never even cooked endive,
it's probably because you didn't have this recipe to turn to.
         -Dorie Greenspan

Thursday night never tasted so good!

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Puppies and Pasta

My puppy, and pasta coated in Mario Batali's Ragu Bolognese - two comforts that helped me get through another week of drama with a certain man acting like an immature boy. Trapper and I are pounding the pavement in Coronado in search of our own little cottage or bungalow so we can get moved, lick our wounds and start anew. Single again at 50...oh boy! I think I'll stay away from this time ;-)

Ragu Bolognese is a ragu made of layers and layers of flavors. Ragu Bolognese is made differently by every single grandmother, or mother, or daughter, or son who learns about it. It is delicious and it is absolutely the building block of some of the greatest dishes in all of Emilia–Romagna. - Mario Batali

I spent Sunday in the kitchen, preparing a double batch of Mario's ragu bolognese and a carrot cake for Mom's birthday. Both turned out fabulous, if I do say so myself. There are a few versions of Mario's bolognese out there, on Food,, and a YouTube via a Wine Spectator video of Mario himself in the kitchen. The versions vary slightly in the quantities of ingredients and cooking times/methods. Pancetta is used in place of ground beef in the Food Network version I followed, but it's a little more expensive to go that route, especially when making a double batch requiring 2 lbs of ground veal and 1/2 lb. pancetta. The Epicurious version is closest to Mario's version on the video, but varies in some of the the cooking times/methods.

Mario Batali's Ragu Bolognese

Mario demonstrates preparation of his Ragu Bolognese in this Wine Spectator video on YouTube. I've summarized the steps below, but it's very helpful to watch, especially to see how brown he allows the meat to become before adding the tomato paste. I would have never taken it to this level without watching this first.

Video Notes: 
This isn't a sauce to make if you're in a hurry if you want to make it the correct way. The recipe begins with the use of lipids, a combination of extra virgin olive oil and butter, which will give the sauce a velvety texture. The next layer is the mirepoix (carrot, celery, onion and garlic). You want to sweat the vegetables without allowing them to brown or discolor (if they discolor, you should throw them out and start over). Next is the meat - a combination of veal, pork and ground beef. The meat is cooked for quite some time, over a slightly lower heat, to render off all the fat and allow the meat to brown. After about 45 minutes, you will be able to hear a crackling noise in the pan telling you the meat is no longer braising or boiling. At that point, using a wooden spoon, move around all those brown, sticky bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, which add another layer of flavor. Next, add the tomato paste. This is probably the single most important cooking step - allowing the tomato paste to cook with the meat slowly, for about 30 minutes, allowing it to caramelize and intensify the sweetness of the tomato flavor. The bottom of the pan will be slightly scorched, but that's what you want. The addition of the milk at this point will act as a deglaze. It will take about 45 minutes for the milk to totally evaporate. Following evaporation of the milk, add a relatively dry white wine and reduce until evaporated and the alcohol has cooked off. At this point, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan so the liquid doesn't cook off and the sauce doesn't become too thick. After about an hour, taste the ragu for seasoning.

Mario Batali's Ragu Bolognese
Slightly adapted from Wine Spectator video, Food Network and Epicurious
Serves 4-6


5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 medium carrots, finely diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 ribs celery, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 pound veal, ground
3/4 pound pork, ground
3/4 pound beef, ground (ground chuck)
6 ounces tomato paste
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooked pasta
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating


In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft, but not browned, about 15 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and beef and stir into the vegetables. Lower the heat slightly and cook, Continue cooking, stirring occasionally to keep the meat from sticking together, until well-browned and all the fat has cooked off, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add the tomato paste, stir to incorporate, and cook slowly for about 30 minutes. Add the milk, stir and scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan, and allow to simmer another 45 minutes. Add the wine, simmer about 10 minutes until reduced, decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer for another hour. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat.

When ready to serve, transfer the pasta directly out of the boiling water into the saucepan with the appropriate amount of the hot ragu bolognese, and toss so that the pasta is evenly coated. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese - Mom's Birthday Dinner on her balcony

Leftover sauce can be frozen for 2 months.

Strozzapreti alla Bolognese - Leftover bolognese with a handful of pasta a few nights later

My other comfort - Trapper at 9 months

Trapper with Mr. Platypus

Friday, September 21, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie: Chicken Basquaise

I took advantage of the cooler weather on Sunday to make this week's French Fridays with Dorie Chicken Basquaise. I'm glad I made it early, and over the weekend, because it may not have happened during the work week. It takes time to prepare the pipérade, a medley of sliced onions, bell peppers and mild chiles, slowly sautéed with tomatoes, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and piment d'Espelette. It takes even longer to roast and peel all the peppers and chiles first. I didn't take the time to do this extra step (neither does Dorie) and didn't really mind a few floating pepper skins in the dish.  I also used canned San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes instead of peeling fresh tomatoes.

After preparing the pipérade, chicken thighs are seared golden brown, the pan is drained of the fat, and white wine is added to deglaze the pan. The chicken and pipérade then return to the pan to gently simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes. 

Dorie prefers to serve this colorful chicken and pipérade over plain white rice, finished with a sprinkling minced fresh basil or cilantro. I served mine over extra wide egg noodles, garnished with basil.

Dorie's recipes for the Pipérade and Chicken Basquaise were published in The Washington Post.

If you wish to go chicken-less, Pipérade and Eggs is another option. Simply spoon warm pipérade into shallow bowls, make a little well in the center of each, and fill the well with softly scrambled eggs. Drizzle the eggs with olive oil, garnish with fresh basil, and serve with slices of warm toasted country bread rubbed with garlic and moistened with oil.

Give me a few minutes - I just talked myself into making this for lunch with some leftover pipérade sans the crusty bread...

A few minutes later...yes, that's quite nice ;-)

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Friday, September 14, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie and Walking Away: Wine-Poached Peach, Burrata and Prosciutto Salad

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is actually Spice-Poached Apples or Pears, described by Dorie as one of the "most comforting and simplest French family sweets." Dorie likes to serve the fruit and its syrup with rice pudding or French toast, but it is usually served with nothing more than crème fraîche, heavy cream or plain yogurt.

Although I would have welcomed a little sweetness and comfort in my life with open arms, someone's stubborness, pride, ego and/or fears continue to stand in the way of great make-up sex working through this together.  So, my life has been turned upside down, like a bucket of ice water dumped over my head. It's been hard to work, sleep, eat (great diet), and listen to country music.  Geez, those country music lyrics really pierce the heart and open the floodgates...

Since cooking dinner for myself hasn't been too appealing, I've been drowning my sorrows at the local bars making the rounds to a few local spots for light dinners. I do like dining at the bar rather than sitting at a table by myself, especially at the local restaurants where I know many of the chefs and people who work there. The tourists are gone, we have our island back, and the restaurants are quiet and relaxing. Last Friday I met Alex, Chez Loma's new chef, and enjoyed his Steak Frites. On Tuesday, I stopped in at Leroy's Kitchen, stuck my head in the kitchen window to say hello to Chef Gregory, and sat at the bar with a glass of wine and his poached peach, burrata and prosciutto salad. I probably wouldn't have participated in this week's FFwD recipe, but for Greg's inspiration to adapt Dorie's recipe into his wonderful salad.

Rather than poaching apples or pears in water, honey, sugar, orange and lemon juice and zest, star anise, cinnamon and vanilla, and making a dessert out of them, I poached peach halves in chardonnay, star anise, cinnamon and vanilla. Once the peaches cooled, I nestled slices of fresh mozzarella (use burrata if you can find it) up against the wine and spice poached peach slices, wrapped them in prosciutto, and placed two or three of those tasty bundles on a bed of baby arugula lightly tossed in balsamic vinaigrette. I also crisped up a little chopped prosciutto and scattered it about. 

Chez Loma Steak Frites

Take it away, Keith


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Coronado Concert in the Park: Bourbon and Break Ups

Battle Bourbon. Certainly, there were many possibilities for cocktails, savory sauces and liquored up desserts. Until things began to fall apart. Jim and Carmen reluctantly decided to forego Grilled Bourbon Chicken and Derby Pie in an effort to finish up some projects before departing on their annual Yosemite camping trip. Kai just flew back into town from a Vegas run and didn't have time to prepare a dish. The 'smitten ones' were out of town. John and I were butting heads and not speaking. We weren't sure if anyone would show for the second to last concert of the season.

Bradley came through with a refreshing Bourbon Cider Twist cocktail. I'm not sure where he lifted the recipe, but my guess is from Cocktails 'N Stilettos. He 'made it his own' by using honey bourbon and key limes. Thank you Minute Chef - I needed and enjoyed several of those cocktails.

I was all over the place in trying to decide what to prepare. I pulled out Pig - King of the Southern Table and found a recipe for Kentucky Potted Country Ham. I wasn't in the mood for anything that would complicate my life further and it sounded simple enough, so I gave it a whirl in the food processor.  Let's just say that a paste of whirled ham, butter, bourbon, dry mustard, cloves and freshly ground pepper, spread on crackers, didn't take my breath away (but the bourbon cocktail used for the photograph helped it go down). It was okay as a casual picnic spread, but the pinch of cloves was a pinch too much for my taste buds. Pâté de Foie Gras, please.

Thankfully, our 'Salad Queen' arrived with one of her best salads ever. This Kentucky Bibb Lettuce Salad and Bourbon Vinaigrette was tossed with a winning combination of greens, juicy peaches, candied pecans, crispy bacon, Gorgonzola cheese, and slivers of red onion.

Nina and Alec's Bourbon Vanilla Shrimp rounded out the savory dishes nicely, but I neglected to find out the recipe. I'll attempt to obtain and update if successful.

Unfortunately, the music of the evening was less than stellar. When the 'Chicken Dance' song elicits the most audience participation, the Coronado Concert in the Park selection committee may need to re-think next year's line up.

I hesitate to share John's Deviled Dessert Eggs because 1) They didn't work out as planned; 2) My photo is pretty bad; 3) We're still not talking; and 4) It's become quite clear Trapper and I will be embarking on a separate journey.

Don't quote me on this, but I believe he dyed and infused the whites with purple coloring, bourbon, vanilla, and sugar. He discarded the cooked yolks and used new yolks in an attempt to make a pastry cream for the filling, which never set up. He used a drizzle of bourbon caramel sauce, dyed bright green, and added an inedible mint sprig garnish. 

At mom's suggestion, I made the Cherry-Bourbon Pie from the latest Bon Appétit. This crumble-topped pie stars the flavors of an Old Fashioned cocktail - bourbon, sugar, orange, and Trader Joe's Dark Morello Cherries. Cherry Pie is my all-time favorite pie, so I had no problem agreeing to try this one. I added about a half cup of chopped, dried cherries to the filling and served the pie with a dollop of whipped cream spiked with Luxardo cherry liqueur.  Loved it, but see Newf Notes below. 

Sunday will be the last Concert in the Park for the 2012 summer season, with Midlife Crisis scheduled to perform. What kind of culinary theme do you pair with a band called Midlife Crisis? Carmen will be up tonight thinking of ideas.

That's it! John and I are going through a midlife crisis and he's out test-driving red Ferraris tonight. Maybe I should pack it up, move to Montana and marry a cowboy. Remind me to give Pioneer Woman's Marlboro Man a call in the morning to see if he can hook me up.

Cherry-Bourbon Pie
Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit
(Makes one 9-inch pie)

Pie Crust

Use your preferred homemade pie crust recipe, or Bon Appétit's crust, here.


1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces

Combine all ingredients except butter in a medium bowl. Rub butter into oat mixture with your fingertips until it's completely incorporated. If butter begins to soften while mixing, chill mixture to firm it up, about 15 minutes (cold butter ensures a flaky, tender crumble). Cover and chill crumble up to 5 days ahead.

Pie Filling

3 24.7-ounce jars pitted sour cherries in syrup, drained well* (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup dried cherries (coarsely chopped)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

*Recommended: Trader Joe's Dark Morello Cherries in light syrup

Preheat oven to 350°. Line pie dish with crust and crimp edges. Place pie dish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Combine sour and dried cherries, sugar, bourbon, cornstarch, orange juice, and orange zest in a large bowl. Gently mix until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour cherries into pie crust and top evenly with crumble. Bake until pie crust and center of crumble are deep golden brown and juices from cherries are bubbling and look thickened, 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours (the juices will begin to ooze out of crust and onto foil-lined sheet). Let pie cool for at least 2 hours at room temperature to allow filling to set properly (cutting into the pie before it's set will result in a runny filling). Cover and let stand up to 1 day at room temperature.

Newf Notes: As you can see, my pie ended up with a runny filling despite allowing it to sit for several hours. The juices never oozed out of the crust during baking, so maybe my oven was off, the filling didn't get boiling enough for the cornstarch to thicken the filling, or maybe it was just too damn hot and humid in the kitchen that day for the pie to totally cool and set. The crust was flaky and the filling was luscious - it just didn't want to stay together for a pretty "slice of pie" photo.  Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers and have a few spoonfuls of cherries between sips of coffee the next morning.