Wednesday, February 28, 2007

krispy kreme introduces whole wheat donut

Riddle me this—what is the point of a glazed whole wheat donut? Is it to assuage the guilt of eating ungodly amounts of trans fats in each morsel?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Chicago issues first foie citation

And the unlucky recipient is Hot Doug’s, the edgy “encased-meat emporium” in Chicago. Certainly Doug Sohn’s reputation precedes him, but he was recently featured in a tantalizing piece on Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie. In addition to the Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Sauce Moutarde and Armagnac-Truffle Chicken Mousse— the culprit of the $250 fine—Sohn also serves a three-chili wild boar sausage with chipotle dijonnaise and emmental cheese, a corned beef sausage with a reuben treatment, gyros sausage with creme fraiche tzatziki, and a Catalonian pork sausage with saffron rouille and manchego cheese, to name just a few mouth-watering selections.

For the record, I’m against the foie gras ban for so many reasons, chief among them: we have bigger issues to solve as a society—poverty and child mortality rates and education funding cuts and the war in Iraq to name but a powerful few. Legislators and city councils are wasting energy on the foie gras issue.

I’d like to pay Doug’s fine in exchange for foie gras sausages for all my friends.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

old standby: easy risotto

At the end of the day, I want to put a hearty, warm meal on the table for my little family. And some times that simple goal is easier said than done.

Our day starts early and runs long. Neither Hambone nor I are home before 6 p.m., at which time, Alpha and Beta only want to reconnect by giving us lots of physical attention. So, Monday through Thursday, we’re rarely very ambitious about trying new or involved recipes, which allows us to spend more time with our little darlings.

Over the years, we’ve honed a few meals that we can whip up without referring to recipes. These are nourishing and hearty, usually one-dish, meals that can be put on the table in relatively little time. This past week we made our cheater risotto, which we adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit over ten years ago. I say “cheater” because, although this dish absolutely looks and tastes like risotto, the method lacks the hot stock and Arborio rice, as well as the constant stirring required by authentic versions.

I do love to tinker over a risotto, and I know that they’re really not that time consuming, so when I want to perch on a stool by the stove with a good book and stir for the better part of an hour, I turn to more time-honored practices. But on weeknights, after working a full day at the office and sitting in rush-hour traffic, I turn to this equally creamy but quicker form—and savor it all the same.

Easy “Risotto”
1 T. butter

1 shallot, minced
1 c. long-grain white rice
1/2 c. dry white wine 1 (14.5 oz.) can broth (I use chicken, but vegetable is good too)
1 T. olive oil

3 links Italian sausage, casings removed

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup feta cheese

Salt and pepper

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add minced shallot and sauté until soft, about 1 minute. Add rice and stir until coated, about 1 minute. Add wine and boil until liquid is almost absorbed, a few minutes. Then, add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer with lid on for 12 minutes. Rice should almost be tender; a little liquid should remain.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the sausage mixture. Heat oil in sauté pan until hot. Add sausage to pan and cook until browned, breaking up pieces as it cooks, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are soft and browned. Add the sausage mixture and feta cheese to rice. Stir to incorporate and serve.

Note: This recipe is very versatile. The rice part is the basic technique. Shrimp, corn, and tomatoes is an awesome combination. And of course, you can always stir in parmesan cheese and butter to finish. Pictured above is a sausage-corn-zucchini-tomato version.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kids in the Kitchen: Flourless Chocolate Cake

Simply put, Alpha and Beta love to hang out in the kitchen.

Our galley kitchen is separated from the dining room by a peninsula with a granite countertop. The kids love to pull up to the eating counter and hang out while we cook dinner. But, when I am baking, they grab their aprons, pull up stools, and roll up their sleeves. They are both well versed in the rhythms of turning dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mixing them gingerly until a batter emerges. Pancakes, cookies, and muffins are well within their abilities.

So recently, when I decided to make a birthday cake for their Uncle Nik, I should have known the boys would want to help. Alpha and I had looked over the cakes at the grocery store earlier in the day and agreed that we could do better at home. We decided to make a recipe from Everyday Food that I’ve done a number of times. It’s a quick, easy flourless cake.

While I melted semisweet chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler on the stove, Alpha studiously separated eggs. I demonstrated how to transfer the yolk between shell halves, allowing the white to fall to the bowl below. Alpha is a quick study and insisted on trying it right away. He declared, “Wow, that’s so cool.” He proceeded to carefully separate four more eggs, beating them with a whisk before adding the cooled chocolate/butter mixture.

Meanwhile, Beta held the hand mixer and beat the egg whites to soft peak. Then he dumped in the sugar, and we continued beating until the egg whites were glossy. Alpha, who assured me he had folded ingredients before, set about incorporating the whole mess. While his folding technique desires refinement, he did manage to thoroughly blend the whites and chocolate.

Then, because their collective attention span is as big as a gnat, I poured the batter into a springboard pan and tended the oven, checking for doneness every five minutes after the allotted baking time. Needless to say, the boys enjoyed eating their cake as much as they enjoyed making it.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Everyday Food (January/February 2004)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or 8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate)
6 large egg yolks
6 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F, with rack in center. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Place butter and chocolate in a large bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring each time, until melted; cool slightly. Whisk in yolks.

2. In another bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar; beat until stiff and glossy. Whisk 1/4 whites into chocolate mixture; gently fold mixture into remaining whites.

3. Pour into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until cake pulls away from sides of pan and is just set in center, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Serve dusted with confectioners' sugar.