29 December 2011

Gruesome Footage of Delightfully Gelatinous Chicken Stock

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: one is roots, the other is wings." — Henry Ward Beecher

We can also give them chicken feet so that they can help us make jiggly chicken stock. Yes, jiggly chicken stock, the best kind of chicken stock. Gelatinous, flavorful, and nutrient-rich. The only thing wrong with making chicken stock made out of chicken feet is the chicken feet.

The footage only gets grosser the farther down you scroll, so if this grosses you out, then you should maybe stop reading. Not that I want you stop reading, though. So you should just keep reading, even if you think this picture is gross.

I got as far as purchasing the feet. Once I got home and set them on the table, I got stuck. I sat there with my head in my hands, involuntarily moaning, occasionally poking the package of feet with an old chopstick, wondering why I had decided to spend my Wednesday gagging at nasty chicken feet instead of doing something fun, or even better, normal.

Along came Alice, who noticed my obvious distress and clambered up onto the chair next to me. She put her hand on mine and said, “It’s OK, Mommy. The chicken feet aren’t alive. They aren’t going to get you.”

“I know, but they’re FOUL. I can’t even look at them…how am I going to get them out of the package? How am I ever going to achieve jiggly chicken broth?”

“I’ll do it, Mom. I’m braver than you.” And before I could protest, or ask her if she got my joke, she tore open the plastic wrap, fearlessly grabbed two chicken feet, and gleefully waved them around in the air. A squeal of horror began to leak from the depths of my soul, but was squelched by a sudden, overwhelming rush of love and adoration for my little girl. Tears welled up in my eyes, blurring the scaly appendages so that I could no longer tell what was a dancing chicken foot and what was my daughter’s ecstatic face. My revulsion to chicken feet disappeared, leaving me with nothing but an all-encompassing love of all creatures great and small, furry and feathery, blah blah blah blah. Whatever. My warm and fuzzy bubble was abruptly shattered when Alice requested two skewers (“those giant toothpicks”) so that she could turn the chicken feet into puppets and make them talk to each other. I have never experienced dry heaving and laughing at the same time, but this might have been the closest I’ve ever come.

How are YOU doing right now, anyway? I hope I haven’t lost anyone. But I won’t take offense if you’ve clicked away by now. And in case you arrived on this post to actually learn about making stock with chicken feet, I will eventually get to that. But first I must ramble on about my child for just a little longer. I hope you understand.

Anyway, I gave her some skewers. Who am I to deny her that joy? I did the skewering, of course. Duh. You think I would let a three year old skewer raw chicken feet by herself? Now that’s just unsafe.

She grabbed the skewers and enthusiastically acted out a few puppet scenes. (That was the part of the story where I gave my child wings, by the way, but not real wings, because this story is about feet. Although wings make good stock, too...) Encouraged by her boldness in the face of danger, I marched into the kitchen, unwrapped the rest of the feet, and proceeded to hack off their talons.

The dry heaves returned.

I questioned whether this was a necessary step, but the internet declared it so, in order for the gelatin in the bones to seep out. It turns out I will do whatever it takes to get jiggly broth, so I cut those claws off as quickly as I could and threw the feet into the stockpot. Alice helped. I like to think that she grew some roots that day.

Recipe for Gelatinous Chicken Stock Made with Chicken Feet

Actually, I’m not going to give you an exact recipe, for a few reasons:

1. There is such a wealth of information on the internet about homemade stock that I am not going to pretend that I know enough about it to be proclaiming myself a jiggly chicken stock expert.

2. I don’t really think anyone is reading this post anymore. I’m pretty sure it’s too gross. I’m just writing it down so in twenty years when Alice tells me we never did anything fun when she was little, I have proof that her childhood was fucking awesome.

But if you really are still reading this, and you really are curious, here is one way that you can achieve incredibly delicious, gelatinous chicken broth:


- About 2 pounds of chicken feet. Chop off the talons and discard them. Hopefully your chicken feet will come already skinned, otherwise you’ll have to do that yourself. Ew.

- The bones and carcasses from 2 roasted chickens.
(EXTREMELY HELPFUL TIP: Any time you roast a chicken or bake chicken parts, you can freeze the carcass and leftover bones, even those from your guests. It sounds soooooo gross to be scraping your guests’ bones into a bag and putting them in your freezer, but the stock cooks for so long that the germs have no chance.)

- A few carrots, onions, and stalks of celery. Nothing needs to be peeled.

- Two bay leaves, fresh or dried thyme, perhaps a teaspoon of peppercorns.

- Three quarts of cold water (I might have poured in four; I can’t remember. Someone else can give you more accurate measurements. Anyway, you really can’t mess up, unless you add too much water, and then your stock will be too thin.)


Bring all ingredients to a boil, skimming the scum from the top every once in awhile (or not). Turn down heat and simmer for hours and hours and hours. Then, go to a rehearsal and send your husband a text to please turn off the stove. Then, come home 4 hours later and find out that he didn’t get your text. Oh well, a little more simmering won’t hurt it.

Let the stock cool for a bit. Strain out everything and discard everything but the stock. Separate into various container sizes and freeze for later use.

Result: incredibly unctuous, smooth, thick flavorful stock that jiggles in the container like a bowlful of jell-o.

21 November 2011

Corn Pudding

This is the amount of corn pudding that I will eat today:

But this is how much corn pudding I wish I were eating today:

And when you make this corn pudding, you will wish that you also owned 54 ramekins that you could fill up with corn pudding and eat in one day. Or give to 54 friends. If you have 54 friends. Which I don't, because I spend too much time at home, photoshopping ramekins.

And if you're wondering if I actually sat here and counted all those ramekins, then I'm wondering how much time you really think I have. Because seriously, what a waste of time, to sit around counting photoshopped ramekins. The actual act of photoshopping ramekins, however, is meaningful, productive, and satisfying, and that is why I am not ashamed to say that I stay home and photoshop ramekins.

If you're wondering why this corn pudding is so delicious that I could eat 54 ramekins of it, well, the secret is heavy cream. Lots of it. Eek. You probably won't believe it, but I actually winced a little as I poured the cream into the custard. And poured. And poured. And poured. You can substitute half & half for the heavy cream, and it's almost as good. And the advantage of that would be nothing. So go ahead and pick up a quart of heavy cream next time you're at the store, because you WILL be doubling the recipe, because everyone will eat ALL of it, and you WILL want more.

And if you're wondering what other amazing photoshop skills I have, I can tell you that this is the limit of my talent. Duplicating objects and pasting them all over the place is about all I can do. See below.

It's a valuable skill. I think you'll agree. So if you have a little extra time, I could teach you how to do this, or you could just make corn pudding, depending on which skill is more important to you.

Corn Pudding
~Adapted from Emeril Lagasse (Original recipe is confusing; the directions are a little unclear. I also made a few substitutions/changes.)

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1 small red pepper, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or half & half)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Havarti or cheddar cheese
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish ( or lots of ramekins) and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the corn, thyme, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the cayenne, and cook, stirring, until just tender and starting to turn golden, 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Make the custard. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, sugar, thyme, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper until frothy.

Put half of the corn mixture in a food processor with a little of the custard and blend until smooth.

Add the pureed corn and whole corn mixtures and the cheese, crumbled bacon, and green onions and whisk to combine. Pour into the prepared dish and bake until set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. (If using ramekins, watch carefully, as they will cook in about 30-40 minutes.)

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

02 November 2011

Mommy & Me: A Trip to the Meat Locker

Tired of the same old playgrounds day after day? Crowds at the museums got you down? Looking for a new experience that will be fun for you AND your toddler?

Dress him warmly and take him on a trip to Peoria Packing’s Butcher Shop, where heaps and heaps of unpackaged meat are piled in open bins. You get to walk right up to the bins, choose your cut of meat, and put it in a plastic baggie all by yourself! Fun for the whole family!

Just look at that!

The sight of the abundantly pink mounds of flesh may be overwhelming to your child, who has probably not experienced such prolonged exposure to meat. When I went with my 15-month old, it was certainly a challenge to keep his pudgy little hands off of the raw meat as I was bagging it. He was strapped to my chest in a carrier, so I had to hold the bag two feet in front of me so he couldn’t reach the meat. But then his giantbaby head was in the way, and I couldn’t see what I was doing, and I kept missing the opening of the bag. Luckily, everyone else in the open-air meat locker was too excited about MEAT PILED HALFWAY TO THE CEILING to notice the lady who could only get her foot-long oxtails into a plastic baggie by turning in circles and holding her flailing baby’s hands in her mouth. The things we do for our children…

Oxtails. Very difficult to place in a plastic baggie while you are also holding a small human.

Recipe follows.

Why didn’t I put the baby in the shopping cart, you ask? Because this place is so crowded that the shopping carts cause traffic jams, and sometimes you have to leave your cart four aisles away so that you can get to the cut of meat that you’ve spied, and I don’t trust my joyfully carnivorous son in an aisle of meat all by himself. Left to his own devices, he might climb out of the cart and start leaping from one meat-piled cart to another, helping himself to the $.89/lb. drumsticks. DID I JUST SAY $.89/LB. DRUMSTICKS? WHY, YES, I DID.

I could go on and on about the prices at Peoria Packing. Actually, I will go on and on.

Oxtail, $3.99 per pound.

Pork shoulder, $1.69 per pound.

Chicken wings, $1.29 per pound.

NY strip steaks, $4.99 per pound.

Beef strips for fajitas, $3.29 per pound.

Italian Sausage (done on premises), $1.69 per pound.

All in all, I purchased 58.9 pounds of meat for $27.30. Unfortunately, in my excitement about my inexpensive fleshy treasures, I had forgotten that I had parked my car almost three blocks away. Carrying 60 pounds of meat and 20+ pounds of little human is a task that I do not wish upon anyone. But the real tragedy is that I did not get a picture of us. THAT would have been something for the baby book.

Braised Oxtail. Why not? It's only $3.99 per pound.

Spanish-Style Oxtails Braised with Chorizo

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, January 2003 (epicurious recipe here)

The recipe calls for pieces of oxtail that have been chopped into 2- or 3- inch pieces. If you can find whole oxtail (you can at Peoria Packing!), shred the meat from the bones when the braise is done, and it will make for a more appetizing presentation.


· 6 lb. meaty oxtails (2 whole oxtails, or 2 oxtails chopped into 2- 3-inch pieces)

· 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

· 1 teaspoon black pepper

· 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

· 3/4 lb mild Spanish chorizo (spicy cured pork sausage) (original recipe says ¼ pound)

· 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

· 4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped

· 4 garlic cloves, chopped

· 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

· 1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika (use smoked if you can find it!)

· 1 cup dry white wine

· 1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée, coarsely chopped (including purée) in a food processor

· 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

· 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar ( I always forget about this step and it’s still been delicious. Let me know how it is if you end up using the vinegar!)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

· Pat oxtails dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown oxtails in batches without crowding, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to a bowl. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.

· Remove and discard casing from chorizo. Cook chorizo, onion, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf in fat in pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Add oxtails with any juices accumulated in bowl and chopped tomatoes (liquid should come about halfway up sides of meat) and bring to a boil.

· Cover pot and braise oxtails in lower third of oven, turning once or twice, until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

· Optional: remove oxtails from pot let cool, then shred meat from bones. Add back to the stew.

· Skim fat from sauce, then stir in cilantro, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

· Note: Oxtails improve in flavor if braised 2 days ahead (add cilantro and vinegar just before serving).

26 October 2011

Better Than Bacon. Yeah, I Went There.

Guess what this is!

Yes, it does look like an octopus, but it's not. Guess again.

Now do you know?

Hmmmmm....what could it be?


No, I’m not calling you fat. These are slices of lardo, which is fat taken from the top of a pig’s back and then cured with sea salt, clove, nutmeg, white pepper, black pepper, rosemary, bay leaf, and coriander. Silky and succulent, sliced so thinly that it dissolves on your tongue in seconds, it leaves your mouth coated with an herbal luxuriousness that even bacon cannot rival. If you know any vegetarians, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to feed them this product, since there’s no meat in it whatsoever. Just fat, la la la.

The dude behind the counter explained that his favorite way to serve lardo is to lay an entire slice on a hot piece of toast so it can melt into the bread. I decided that my preferred method is to lay the entire slice right on my tongue and roll it around in my mouth for a bit, all the while savoring how full and wonderfully rich my life is at that particular moment, and how there is no place in the world I’d rather be than standing in front of the fridge, hiding from my children, and sucking on pieces on fatback from an acorn-fed Iberico pig imported from Spain.

Bonus: You don’t need chapstick or moisturizer for at least a week.

And if you can spare some extra, it’s a good treat for getting babies to do tricks:

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you where you can purchase this fine substance. We picked ours up at Panozzo’s Italian Market in the South Loop. You can also order it directly from La Quercia, a company in Iowa that produces award-winning artisan salumi. My Christmas present to myself is going to be a tub (or three) of Iowa White Spread from La Quercia, which is basically lardo that is whipped up and smooshed into a tub. Personally, I think 'Meat Butter' has a better ring to it than 'Iowa White Spread.' Well, almost everything has a better ring to it than 'Iowa White Spread.' Then again, the more I say 'Iowa White Spread' to myself, the more catchy it becomes.
I can't wait for my Iowa White Spread. Luckily I have lardo to hold me up in the meantime! Phew.

22 September 2011

Homemade Naan. Yuum.

I build a shrine to You, oh Glorious Cookbook. Unto thy radiant splendor I shall bow, reveling in thy gracious promise of a bread that does not need to rise overnight, whose dough can be kept in the fridge for 10 days, and whose need to be kneaded is nonexistent.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’ by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.

So that you will continue to grant my family with loaf upon loaf of delicious breads, I swear to sacrifice to you all that I am able, Oh Magnificent One. Please specify that which you would have me surrender unto thee.

My children? Oh Cookbook, my love for them abounds too greatly for me to relinquish them to thee. Please forgive me. Instead, I grant thee several hours of innocent and youthful toil. Up three flights of stairs, my dutiful children shall carry pound upon pound of flour, faces aglow in hopes that they will soon blissfully nibble the crumbs of your offerings.

My wardrobe? I have anticipated your needs, my Beloved Cookbook. The Ides of September have barely passed, yet the cool autumnal breezes have transformed my kitchen into a small-scale bakery. Your pages beckon me with promises of warm bread, crusty on the outside and chewy in the middle. Already my clothes are one size larger than they were but one fortnight past. Hence, my wardrobe is thine.

My wallet? But sir, surely you understand that my monies are all but depleted, due to the delightfully excessive amounts of flour that your recipes have required. In addition, I have upgraded to King Arther Flour, if only to bring out the grandeur of your baked grains. I have not been disappointed by the quality of the new and expensive flour. You are so totally worth the extra two-bucks-per five-pound-bag.

Oh Magnificent One, now that I have succumbed to your desires, please grant me permission to spread your Word. Allow me to sing the highest praises of the most recent recipe that your pages have imparted to me: naan. Also, please allow me to stop kissing your ass and close my Thesaurus window so that I can stop coming up with fancy words to describe you and your breads.

Thanks dude. And thanks for the naan. It's phenomenal.

Naan, a traditional flatbread of India and other South Asian countries.


~from ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’ by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.

For the dough: (This is the basic “Boule” recipe for many of the breads in the Magnificent Cookbook. I also used it to make Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls, and the fresh loaves of bread mentioned in the Meat Butter post.)

Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipes is easily doubled or halved, and you can keep the unused portions of dough in your fridge for up to 10 days. (Note- The authors explain things in much greater detail than I have provided. You should just get it.)

3 cups lukewarm water

1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast (2 yeast packets)

1 ½ tablespoons kosher or other course salt

6 ½ cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour

1. Warm the water to just slightly wamer than body temperature.

2. Add yeast and salt to the water. Don’t worry about dissolving it completely.

3. Mix in the flour using a wooden spoon or a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Kneading is unnecessary. You’re done when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches.

4. Allow to rise. Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours. Longer times, up to 5 hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough anytime after this period.

For the Naan:

¼ pound (peach-size portion) of dough

1 tablespoon ghee or any neutral-flavored oil (I used olive oil)

Butter for brushing on loaf if ghee is unavailable

1. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a ¼ pound (peach-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Using your hands and a rolling pin, and minimal flour, roll out to a uniform thickness of 1/8 inch thick throughout and to a diameter of 8 to 9 inches.

2. Heat a heavy 12-inch nonstick or cast-iron skillet over high heat on the stovetop. When water droplets flicked into the pan skitter across the surface and evaporate quickly, the pan is ready. Add the ghee or the oil, pouring out excess fat if necessary.

3. Drop the rolled dough round into the skillet, decrease the heat to medium, and cover the skillet to trap the steam and heat.

4. Check for doneness with a spatula at about 3 minutes, or sooner if you’re smelling overly quick browning. Adjust the heat as needed. Flip the naan when the underside is richly browned.

5. Continue cooking another 2 to 6 minutes, or until the naan feels firm, even at the edges, and the second side is browned. If you’ve rolled a thicker naan, or if you’re using dough with whole grains, you’ll need more pan time.

6. Remove the naan from the pan, brush with butter if the dough was cooked in oil, and serve. (I made a raita dip to put on the naan, and then I gorged myself on pounds and pounds of naan and raita, and then I became too full to breathe, and I will be repeating that process as soon as possible.)

You don't even have to turn on your oven!

12 September 2011

Child Labor Day Cake

Last Monday I decided to celebrate Labor Day by making my three-year-old daughter labor for me. I informed her that she would be baking me an eight-layer chocolate cake with raspberry filling and vanilla buttercream frosting, and then we would be even, for everything.

Of course I helped her, what kind of mother do you think I am? It was a delightful joint effort that I hope she remembers for all of her sweet days on this beautiful earth or at least for a month.

Oh, what fun we had! I made her do all the stuff I hate.

Like buttering the cake pans. How I dearly despise buttering cake pans. Don’t ever tell my kids this, but my #1 reason for having children was to be able to someday delegate that loathsome chore. My friends, that day as arrived. I cannot describe the weight that has been lifted off my shoulders now that one of my children can complete this slimy and horrid task. It makes everything TOTALLY worth it, even the ring of fire. If you don’t know what that is, don’t google it. It will be awkward for you when next we meet.

“Alice, will you please butter and flour the cake pans for me?”

“Why, Mom?”

“Because I made you. Please just do it.”

Notice that I said please. Because I am nice.

“Oh, and also, can you cut this pound of butter up and add it to the meringue?”

“Sure, Mom. I love you. You’re the best. Thanks for letting me touch butter with my bare hands.”

“No problem, kiddo. You owe me big time, though."

Look how slimy her fingers are! EEEEEWWWWWWWWW!


"And if you're nice to your little brother while the cakes are baking, I'll let you frost the cake, too!"

"How am I EVER going to get these cakes frosted?"

And this is the part where you probably expect me to post the recipe.

Ok. I am lazy. Obviously. I make my kid bake cakes for me instead of baking them myself. Therefore, I’m not going to type out the somewhat-involved recipes for the cake and the buttercream. If you want the recipes, please leave a comment, and I’ll figure out a way to get them to you. Alternatively, you can wait a few years until Alice learns to type and then I’ll command her to type those beasts out and email it to you.

Here are the components:

Cake: “Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake” from America’s Test Kitchen’s The New Best Recipe

Filling: Smucker’s Raspberry jelly, or any jelly that doesn’t have lumps.

Frosting: “Vanilla Buttercream Frosting” from Gourmet Today by Ruth Reichl

General directions: Bake the cake, doubling the recipe. I know. I’m crazy. Cut each of the four cakes in half so you have eight layers. (Don’t let your three-year-old do that.)

Put your first layer on the cake plate. Cover it with frosting. Spread raspberry jam on a different layer, then turn that layer upside down and place it on the first layer, so the raspberry layer is touching the buttercream layer. Repeat. Repeat many, many times, until all eight layers are stacked. It is your choice whether to frost the sides of the cake or leave the glorious bounty of the eight layers visible for all to see.

And of course, make someone else do the dishes. You deserve it.

30 August 2011

Birthday Barbecue Sauce

Happy Birthday to Me!

I will not bake my own birthday cake.

I will not cook my own birthday dinner.

But I WILL make my own birthday barbecue sauce.

Yesterday, on the eve of my birthday, I had some friends over for dinner, but IT WAS NOT MY BIRTHDAY DINNER. Who cooks dinner for their own friends for their own birthday? Losers, that’s who. Losers that nobody loves. So, I repeat, this was NOT my birthday dinner.

Ok, back to the homemade barbecue sauce. Something you may or may not know about me is that when a particular food is exceptionally delicious, I like to rub it all over my face. As it turns out, I’m not the only one who has this tendency when it comes to an exceptional sauce. Observe these dinner guests at my non-birthday dinner.

Please note that dinner has mostly been cleared off the table. And sauce is STILL on faces. THAT'S how good it is. You think this picture was posed? Ha. Do you actually think people would willingly smear BBQ sauce on their faces and agree to have their pictures taken and posted on the internet?


So, no, the above picture was not posed, and yes, this sauce is spectacular, and no, you should not leave it on your face for extended periods of time, and yes, you should make it as soon as humanly possible, and no, you should never buy BBQ sauce at the store ever again, and yes, actually, this picture was posed. But it just goes to show the lengths that people will go to prove the worthiness of this sauce!

Aside from slurping this sauce by the spoonful, I enjoy it on pulled pork, grilled chicken, and anything else you would slather barbecue sauce on. Making it from scratch is really not that difficult or time-consuming. You should try it! Make a huge batch and freeze it in different-sized containers. Consider freezing it in ice cube trays so that you don’t have to thaw the whole batch if you need just a dollop for a hamburger. Or if you need to satisfy your craving for a barbecue-sauce popsicle.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce:

~adapted from Emeril Lagasse


4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 1/2 teaspoons paprika (if you have smoked paprika, use a mixture of smoked and sweet)

1 ½ teaspoon Kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

¼ easpoon cayenne pepper (optional)

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon molasses

5 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground coffee or instant espresso


In a medium non-reactive saucepan set over medium-high heat, add the butter and, when melted, add the onions and cook until they are very soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and all of the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to brown. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the sauce has thickened and the flavors have come together, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Makes about 3 cups of sauce. Remember that you can freeze it!


18 April 2011

Play With Your Food

Amy Sedaris beats me to everything.
Once, I had this great idea to cover myself with cake frosting and then roll around in sprinkles, but I procrastinated for too long and she did exactly that and then put a photo of it on the inside of her dust cover jacket thingee.
Disgruntled, I then decided to go savory and to roast hot dogs on a rake so I could cook 12 hot dogs at a time, but I didn’t own a rake, so I didn’t do it, and then she did. Curses, foiled again!
I was depressed for a few months about it, but then got over it when I was inspired to put googly eyes on my food and take pictures of it. Wondering if this could be a viable niche for my path to stardom, I went through Fancy Toast posts from previous years and photoshopped googly eyes on old photos, because sure, I have that kind of time.

I was so thrilled with my idea that I began the process of converting Fancy Toast into a blog solely devoted to putting photos of googly eyes on food. I mean, who does that?

No really, who does that? I was curious. So I looked it up. And guess who does that. You-know-who. In 2004 she had hosted a Flickr contest in which she invited people from all over the world to put googly eyes on their food and submit pictures.

Hate her!
Why didn’t she invite me? When I think about how many kindred spirits I missed out on connecting with because I was too unaware in 2004 to be creating real art, I just get sick about it.
So I wrote a hate letter to Amy Sedaris, but before I sent it, I asked my husband to check it for typos, seeing as Amy Sedaris and I share a mutual hatred for typos. I just made that up. After he read it, he didn’t tell me NOT to send the letter, because that’s the kind of husband he is, but he did tell me that it doesn’t matter if someone else has already done the googly-eye-on-food-thing, because it’s still funny.

What a sweetheart he is. I started thinking about how much I love that man, but then after 3 seconds I had had enough of that and moved on to (or reverted back to) thinking about how funny the googly-eye-on-food-thing is, even if it’s been done before. Let’s face it. The funniness factor of some things never ever wears out. Like mustaches, and also, knock-knock jokes.
(Knock Knock.
--Who’s there?
I eat map.)

Luckily, the human being that I happened to create a few years ago ALSO thinks googly eyes are hilarious when you put them on inanimate objects, so instead of this activity being a ridiculous hobby with which a grown woman is amusing herself, instead of contributing to the good of humankind, it has evolved into a joyous ritual that I can share with my child, one that will provide her with a childhood filled with memories of laughter and delight. As these mirthful experiences shape her personality, and as she reaches adulthood and is able to contribute to the good of humankind with her humorous graces developed from our mutual googly eye silliness, I will live vicariously through her goodwill as I continue to stick googly eyes on food and other objects, laugh uncontrollably, and text the pictures to my husband, who will have blocked my texts years before but will never tell me because he will know how much joy it gives me to text him pictures of googly eyes on things. Like this one of Shel Silverstein. It almost makes him look a little less creepy, right?

But don’t worry. If your offspring doesn’t think googly eyes are funny, that’s cool. You can still stick googly eyes on your kid when he’s not looking and take pictures of him and post them on the internet for everyone to laugh at. Or not.

(My husband wouldn’t let me post the one where I also drew a nose and a mouth.
That’s the kind of husband and father he is.
If you really want to see it you just let me know.)

But do you know what the best part of all this is? Amy Sedaris can’t beat me to sticking googly eyes on her kids, because she doesn’t have any kids, because she’s too busy stealing my great ideas.

But if Amy Sedaris wanted to come over to my house and put googly eyes on my food or my kids, I would let her, because I love her.

Sour Cream Banana Cake
(I realized I haven’t said anything in my post about this cake. Um. Make it, it’s real good. Or make your own recipe for banana cake, which you’ll probably do anyway, and stick googly eyes on it to make people laugh. Or to make just yourself laugh.)
(Also I realized I don’t know who created this recipe. I got it from my friend Melissa who got it from someone. But you should still make it. Like I said, it’s real good.)

2 cups flour
1tsp. baking powder
1tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (original recipe says 1/4 tsp. but what’s the point of that)
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (this is not in the original recipe so you can leave it out)

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
5 ripe bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift or stir the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Blend butter and sugar in a food processor or stand mixer.
Add eggs, banana, sour cream and vanilla, and mix.
Add the dry ingredients.
Pour into a greased bundt cake pan.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean ( my cake took at least 50 minutes but my bananas were frozen then thawed and therefore very liquidy).

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, or a mixture of sugar and butter.
Decorate with googly eyes, or not.

28 March 2011

Sunday Morning Tummyache

Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls

Did you know that there is a recipe for magic bread dough that allows you to store the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks, giving you the opportunity to bake fresh bread at a moment’s notice?
Did you also know that you don’t have to knead this bread dough?
And did you know that this morning I decided to stay home from work because I woke up with the the urge to eat sticky pecan caramel rolls as soon as possible?
And did you know that I spontaneously whipped up that pan of sticky pecan caramel rolls in twenty minutes (not counting rising time), because I already had some magic dough stored in my fridge?
If you already know all of the above facts, I imagine you must be magic yourself. And then you probably already know about the huge tummyache that I got from eating half of the pan.
But having a tummyache on a sunny Sunday morning at home is still better than being at work.

The same roll, upside down. Or is it right-side up? It doesn't matter, just eat it.

I should stop complaining about about my tummyache and start telling you about this magic recipe. It comes from the book ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’ by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François. The title is ALMOST true; it’s not really 5 minutes a day, because they are only counting the handling time, not the rising and baking time, but it’s close enough for me.

The premise of the book is that you can mix up a huge batch of bread dough with a spoon or a stand mixer (easy), put it in a container without kneading (easy), put it in your fridge (easy, as long as your fridge has room), and anytime during the next 14 days that you need a loaf of bread, you just saw off a hunk, shape it into a loaf (no kneading = easy), and bake it in the oven (easy). The authors demonstrate their technique in a short video, here.

The bread isn’t just easy. It’s good. Really good. Not as good as the bread at Medici, our neighborhood bakery, but better than the bread at our local hoity-toity grocery store, which claims to be ‘America’s Most European Grocery Supermarket.’ That’s a fine middle ground for me, considering I don’t really have room in my little Ikea kitchen for a huge brick oven that can reach 20,000 degrees.

There is a master bread recipe from which you can make several different shapes of loaves. Ahem, or sticky pecan caramel rolls. Yes. Please. But there are almost 100 other doughs to choose from as well. A few that I hope to bake soon are Roasted Garlic Potato Bread, Spinach Feta Bread, Vermont Cheddar Bread, Oatmeal Pumpkin Bread, and a traditional Challah. Oh man I can’t WAIT. I’m so excited that I have already started emptying my closet of all the clothes that won’t fit me anymore after I make a habit of eating this bread on a regular basis. But I won’t care because I’ll be shopping for a new wardrobe with one hand and shoving bread (or pecan rolls) in my mouth with the other hand. And if you follow my trail of crumbs and find me, I’ll tear off a chunk for you, too.

Get the book and start baking!

08 March 2011

Lidia Oh Lidia

"Oh no. OH no. Please don't squish me.
I do not want to be pasta today."

"Noooooooo! You can't make me do this!
I'm too young to go! It's not my time!
If you spare me just this once, I'll do your laundry for a year!"


No, I did not spare his life. Call me cruel, but I don’t see how a squished noodle without arms or legs could do my laundry. He put up a good fight, but in the end, his destiny was to be my dinner: lasagna with fresh spinach noodles and a Ragù alla Bolognese.
His was a noble cause. Who wouldn’t want to be flattened into a beautiful sheet of pasta, smothered with a four-hour meat sauce, sprinkled with mountains of various cheeses and baked in the oven until bubbly and crispy? You would.

That pasta, it sure was pretty. Smooth and silky, cool to the touch. A lovely pale green, flecked with tiny grains of spinach. And the smell...mmmmmm.....earthy and floury, with hints of egg and olive oil. I wanted to rub it all over my face. But I didn’t. Yes I did. No I didn’t.

After I got over the fact that I had made fresh spinach pasta with my own bare hands, and had called almost every single person I know to tell them the good news, I got to work making Lidia Bastianich's Pasticciata Bolognese, filling a baking dish with layers of pasta, Lidia’s Ragù, a besciamella (white cream sauce), and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
My oh my oh my oh my oh my oh my oh my.
I'm thinking that maybe you should be nicer to me next time you see me so that I might someday invite you over to my house to eat this. Also, I wish that Lidia Bastianich was my third grandmother.

So yeah, I made a fancy lasagna, basically. A heaven-sent fancy lasagna that was a LOT of work but a lot of fun and a LOT of tasty. But you could do anything with this spinach pasta. I'm thinking next time, if I don't have the time to make the accompanying four-hour meat sauce that accompanies this recipe, I'll just cut the pasta into noodles and serve it with sun-dried tomatoes, crispily browned garlic slices, and maybe feta cheese. Won't that be purty?
Any other suggestions?
Besides clothing your baby in it?

Spinach Pasta Dough
~ adapted from Lidia’s Family Table by Lidia Maticchio Bastianich

One 10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
2 large whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Squeeze the spinach by handfuls to press out as much liquid as possible. When you think you’ve squeezed it enough, squeeze it again, by handfuls, using all your might. The drier the spinach, the better the pasta.

Crumble the spinach into the food processor bowl and purée it thoroughly, scraping it off the sides. With the spinach and the blade in place, add the flour and pulse to blend with the spinach, scraping as necessary.

Whisk together the whole eggs, yolks and oil in a bowl. With the food processor running, pour in the liquid ingredients on top of the green flour. Process for about 30 seconds, scrape down the work bowl, and scrape in all the egg residue too. Process another 20 to 30 seconds, until the dough has started to come together and a a ball on the blade.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, until it’s smooth. Wrap well in plastic wrap, and let rest at 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling. Store for 2 days in the refrigerator, or for 3 months in the freezer.

Remove googly eyes before cooking.

Makes enough for one delicious pan of Lidia Bastianich’s Pasticciata Bolognese

02 March 2011

Panade Me?

How dare you turn up your nose at this dinner that I so lovingly created for our family?

Oh, I get it. You’re mad at me because when you asked for a snack today, I tossed some stale bread cubes at you and told you to go play in your room so I could concentrate on my iphone Words with Friends game.

Oblivious to your silent sobs, so wrapped up in figuring out how to get more points from a J, a Q, and 5 I’s, I barely noticed how you gathered up the scattered cubes in your chubby little hands and attempted to gnaw on them. I barely noticed how you walked over to the computer, typed in a search for ‘day old bread dinner’ and printed out a brilliant recipe by the Wednesday Chef. Not until I heard a little sniffle and was waving away the tear-stained printout that was blocking the view of my beloved electronic gadget did I hear you patiently saying, “Mom. Instead of ignoring your children and immersing yourself in a silly online game that you think increases your verbal intelligence but really is just a big timesuck, why don’t you turn these nasty hard bread cubes into something more palatable that the whole family can enjoy?”

Panade: Crusty bread cubes splendidly saturated with chicken stock and layered with chard, onions, and Gruyère.

OK none of the above is true. Because you are three years old and you don’t know what ‘palatable’ means. And while I do occasionally neglect you give you some alone time so that I can immerse myself in the glorious land of the Internet, it’s usually not for more than 3.5 minutes at one time. And I don’t feed you stale bread, UNLESS I have baked it myself AND it’s been soaking in homemade chicken stock AND layered with almost-caramelized onions, some sautéed chard, and a few handfuls of Gruyère. AND baked for 2+ hours in Le Creuset bakeware until it becomes a savory party in your mouth. It is called a panade. Just so you know. So stick your tongue back in your mouth, kiddo, and show me how delighted you are really are for this truly lovely dinner.

Thats’ better.

Readers, please see what Luisa, the Wednesday Chef, has to say about Zuni Cafe's chard and onion panade. She is more eloquent than I am, so I will not even attempt to describe the taste or the texture of this divine food. I'll leave it to her. So. Read her post, make the panade, and see for yourself!

20 February 2011

Fancy Toast Personality Quiz (Sort Of)

Cassoulet on A Slice of Bread

There are two types of people in this world, and you can tell who is who by what they do with the fat that rises to the surface of a cooled stew on its second day.

The first type of person peers inside the pot and says, “Ew.” She then takes a slotted spoon, scoops off the fat, and discards it.
The second type of person shrugs and says, “Yum.” He heats up the stew and stirs the fat right back in.

Oh, and there is actually is a third type of person. The type who opens the lid of the pot, jumps for joy and exclaims, “MEAT BUTTER!”
She proceeds to grab a hunk of bread, slather it with meat butter, and happily devour it, smearing enough of the fatty goodness on her mouth and lips that she doesn’t need to use chapstick for the rest of the month.

Well, I suppose there is a fourth type of person, who makes a lean, healthy stew that doesn’t really have any fat.
And maybe there’s a fifth type of person who doesn’t ever make stew.

So that narrows it down. There are five types of people in the world, and all of the people on our beautiful planet can be categorized according to their feelings about fat upon the surface of a cold stew. Which one are you?

I am the third one. The gross one. Yes, I ate fat and I liked it. No, not fat...meat butter. And it was delicious. And if you came to my house, and I handed you a slice of home-baked bread with a lovely sienna-colored spread on it, and said, “Welcome. I made you a delicious meat butter,” I bet you would eat it and like it too, because you wouldn’t want me to cry. Even if you thought it was gross. But you wouldn’t think it was gross, because you wouldn't know what it was until after you had eaten it and proclaimed your love for meat butter and also, your friend, me.

Meat Butter (with beans). Doesn't it look good?

Recipe for Meat Butter on Bread
Here is the part where I usually post the recipe. But I’m not going to, because the recipe for the pictured cassoulet is pages and pages long, and honestly, if you’re going to make a cassoulet, you’re probably not going to take the recipe from a food blog that has had about 3 posts in as many years.
Make a stew with at least one type of fatty meat. In this case, I used bacon, pork shoulder and chicken thighs.

Put stew in refrigerator overnight until fat rises to the surface and hardens.
Bake or buy a loaf of bread.
Smear meat butter (along with some stew) on a slice of bread.
Offer to a friend.