Saturday, November 30, 2013

Turkey Chicharones


a delicacy that only come around ONCE A YEAR
please excuse the quick's the only pic i got before they were GOBBLED UP !!!

save as much skin as you can
(from your roasted turkey) 
large pieces, if possible.
bake in oven as you would BACON.

line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
start in cold oven at 380-390 F
(i use convection)
set timer for 15 minutes
check and flip
set timer again for 5 minute intervals until done
keep a close eye and flip again for even crisping
set on paper towels to cool


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Make Brandy #3

 Once your must is fermented after two weeks, strain it through cheese cloth. Then put the wine in your still, and seal the joints with rye dough. Fill the chamber holding the "snake" with ice. Heat to 90 degrees Celsius. Then watch the clear liquid pour out. About 20 quarts of must gave 15
liters of wine, minus pomace, and in three 3 liter runs of the still, 1.5 liters of clear alcohol. So it was probably 10-12%. It's VERY strong now, I don't know what percentage, but more than 40%. And tastes like the grapes. Then put it in your well soaked barrel. Wait at least a year. Maybe more. That slow enough?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The "Accidental" Bird from INA GARTEN



this is positively THE BEST, moist and perfectly seasoned turkey i have ever tasted let alone cooked.
lucky for you i tested this early.

please accept my apology for the IPhone photo...i know it's awful.  i had no intention of posting, but i just had to let you know about this fabulous bird in hopes you might give it a try.

click on link for recipe and follow exact instructions

it takes 2-3 days

1-2 day dry brine in the fridge(2 days better)
uncover overnight to dry
and ONLY 1 hour and 45 minutes to cook (time for 12-13 pound bird)

NOTES... i used a Butterball "FRESH" turkey.  make sure you "muddle" the salt, rosemary and lemon zest for the dry brine.  it will adhere better.  i used a convection oven and adjusted temp. accordingly, lowering by 20 degrees.  i used a probe thermometer and removed the bird when it registered 174 F in the thigh.  make sure to let it rest for a good 25-30 minutes.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lightened up Pumpkin Cheesecake w/Gingersnap Crust


have seconds and thirds at dinner and still enjoy a "lite" holiday favorite.

it's not your "New York style" cheesecake...
but it fits the bill after the big Thanksgiving throwdown.

the taste and texture is a cross between cheesecake and pumpkin could probably use a little more cream cheese for that real "cheesecake" flavor, BUT we're trying to keep this light.
a piece of cake (1/12th) without the crust is about 160 calories...the fats are low and the protein is significantly better than your typical holiday treat.
beware...the crust is "real-stuff" so it's probably another 150 cals.

i recently posted about Martha Stewart's EASY Lightened Up Cheesecake, BUT...
Thanksgiving calls out for PUMPKIN
so i went with the basic ingredients and instructions from her cake and blindly adapted it to a pumpkin cheesecake.  the outcome was delicious and light after a big meal and fabulous for that piece of "midnight pie" or morning after slice.


280g gingersnap cookies
3 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar, packed

preheat oven to 325 F
lightly butter a 9" springform
line side panel with a strip of parchment
NOTE...i don't know if i like the parchment idea.  this is what Martha Stewart said to do in the original recipe for her "Lightened Up Cheesecake".  i know the calories are in the crust, but i think it makes for a more attractive cake with the crust a little further up the sides...AND i'm not sure the parchment is be the judge.

pulse gingersnaps in processor until fine crumb.  it helps to give it  a stir between pulses to insure an even large chunks, but you don't really want "powder".
add butter and brown sugar.  pulse to combine.
pour crumb mixture into prepared pan.
NOTE...i did not use all of it.  i had about 1/2 cup left over.
press onto bottom and about an inch up the sides.  you can just do the bottom if you want.
bake for 10 minutes and remove to cool.

simply wipe out your food processor from your crust making and proceed with cake mixture.

oven is heated to 325F

1 1/4 cup (10oz)  low fat cream cheese.
2 cups low fat cottage cheese
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cups granulated sugar.   (i sub'd in 1/4 cup Stevia baking sugar)
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp all purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

to the processor add the cottage cheese and cream cheese.  blend until VERY SMOOTH, scraping down the sides, 4-5 minutes.  add pumpkin puree, 3/4 cups sugar, sour cream, eggs, flour, vanilla, pie spice, cinnamon, salt.  blend until smooth and well incorporated.
pour filling into crust.
bake until barely set in the middle.  about 1 hour...
NOTE...ovens may vary.  i am an "oven watcher".  look for a slight jiggle in the middle.
then turn the oven off and let cake sit in oven with door "cracked" open for another hour.
transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.  refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.
I WOULD SUGGEST serving this the day of after it has been properly chilled to keep the integrity of the can get a little weepy/soggy if kept a day or two in the fridge, BUT the actual cake will hold up for days.

before serving.....
the cake will sweat a little on the top after removing from the fridge.  i find that dabbing with a Kleenex will remove sweat without making a mark on the surface.
put pecans or chosen decorations on before serving so they will still be crunchy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ketchup Chips

These do look a little prosaic. Dehydrated tomato slices, right? Well, a little more. For those of you who like the flavor of ketchup, and might use it more often, if it didn't make bread soggy. These are seasoned with the same flavor profile as ketchup. The key it turns out is a little brown sugar and some clove. They are actually quite fetching just on their own, rather tart. I sliced them paper thin and completely utterly dessicated them, so they're crunchy. I just put a few on a turkey sandwich. Delightful. They could also be powdered and sprinkled on a salad, or anywhere you might want that flavor but not the goop of ketchup.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fall Awakening

When the ginkgos shed their lacy yellow fans, one might be tempted to succumb to melancholy. But the kitchen tells me otherwise, this is the season of birth and renewal. Here in The Valley, when the first rains drench the parched soil, the bacteria and molds awaken from their secret crevices and sweep through the house. Anything on the counter will ferment in a few days. There is the tub of must bubbling furiously and reeking of alcohol. A ginger bug dances lightly in a glass jar to make ginger beer. Green apple juice is doing its own thing, I'm not sure yet what. There is a new sourdough starter, just 4 days old and already piquant, waiting for an appropriate name. We tend to take our cues from the trees who go so obviously dormant. But pay attention to the little creatures, at least here they are happy and buzzing after a long dry summer.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My first chocolate bar...Chip n' Chipotle Dark Chocolate

rich dark chocolate
crunchy tortilla chips
spicy chili blends
with pure cocoa nibs
and robust espresso beans


to make the beautiful bars, you'll need some molds.
i found mine at SURFAS.  they are also available here from Amazon.

you will also need to
the idea of tempering should not scare you away.  it's very necessary for a good crisp giftable chocolate bar.
the microwave method is very easy and will change your chocolate making life to a new level.


1lb. dark chocolate.  i use "coverture" 61% Guittard discs
1/2 cup, plus a little more, crispy, salted yellow corn tortilla chips
3/4 tsp chili powder.  the kind you add to chili.  i get the medium chili blend, salt free from "Savory Spice Shop".
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
have some fresh ground black pepper ready to add if you want...i did add a little
20-25 whole roasted coffee beans, crushed into small pieces.  i used French Roast Pete's
(test them at time of purchase to see if you can easily break it with your fingers.)
1/8 cup cocoa nibs...for extra dark chocolate crunch
for looks...dried red chili, cut into small pieces.  i used chili arbol, as shown.

crush tortilla chips.  i used a plastic baggie and a rolling pin.  pour this into a mesh sieve (NOT the fine mesh) over the sink and tap to get out the very small "sandy" pieces.  this will give more crunch, less sandy texture.
crush the coffee beans.
chop died chili
measure out your goodies and have them ready.
always have extra on hand for final taste test.  you might want more something...

this is very important...and NOT difficult.
it is a must for a good snappy, shiny chocolate finish and will make room temp stable chocolates.
i use the microwave method explained HERE that i have adapted from Alton Brown's microwave method see HERE.
IN A NUT SHELL... you will slowly melt the chocolate, bring it up to 115 degrees (for dark) and slowly lower the temp to 90 degrees before using...but please click on link for instructions.
once your chocolate is at 90 degrees (for dark chocolate) start to add all ingredients.  stir to incorporate, but no need to "over-stir".  do a taste test...add more what ever you see necessary.
pour into molds and sprinkle with a little flaked sea salt, pepper flakes, ground pepper?  remember this will be the bottom of the bar.
let sit to set OR i put them in the fridge until the bar has separated from the mold completely. get a really "shiny" bar.  let it set completely and release from the mold.  the first time i was anxious and removed it too soon.  the bar in these photos is not as shiny as the next batch.  you can tell by gently lifting up the mold and looking at the bottom.  you will see if it has totally released from the mold.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brandy #2

Within a few days of the crush, the must will begin to bubble and will give off a faint aroma of wine. It smells absolutely luscious at this point. Feel free to taste it now too. But don't forget to push down the cap twice a day. This is all the skins and pits which rise up to the top. I just pushed it down and mixed it in. The skins will give color, tannins and flavor to the must, so you want to leave them on for the whole two weeks. Though of course the color will be gone once it's distilled, the aroma and flavor of the grapes will come through in the end. As long as you don't distill it many times and strip it of all flavor!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How to Make Brandy

In the next few posts I will explain how to make brandy. You must start with grapes. Doy. Pick them off the stems and nasty bits. This took a few hours without machines. 20 quarts. But do leave the grapes whole on the skins and pits, for flavor. This is where ALL the flavor happens. Thanks to Elke who gave them to me from her backyard! I think they're ZIN. Very sweet. Shriveled a bit. Late harvest, right? So next I will crush them by hand NOW and let them ferment naturally with wild yeast. Whatever is already there. Push the bubbly top down a few times a day. Then take to the still. That's next in a few weeks. This is so exciting. And I have more grapes. Maybe I'll take them to class tomorrow to let them do it all. Is there any reason not to do this yourself? Even if you have to find some grapes elsewhere? The only investment is a still. Next time. Same Bat Channel!

Friday, November 8, 2013

History of Alcohol Class

So I have been writing about food for about 25 years, and teaching food history about a dozen or so. And somehow I've always been able avoid thinking about consuming whatever I'm writing about. A survival strategy. In fact I've so successfully managed to separate food at work from hunger that I never eat lunch. Just breakfast and 12 hours later dinner.
But for some reason the history of alcohol class I'm writing now is completely different. After writing about some spirit for a more than a whole day, then talking about it, there is nothing I want more than to drink it. Wednesday was cognac. Monday was whiskey. YES, and I had to have them all. Monday with be absinthe. You can see what I was doing today! Am I really that impressionable, or just a garden variety dipsomaniac? I don't even like vodka. Really. No flavor or aroma. It's just watered down grain alcohol. What's the point? So what could have possessed me to buy this? The passages from Tolstoy and Bulgakov. Listening to the folk song about Stenka Razin who got drunk and drowned his new Persian bride, and dredging up my freshman year's worth of Russian. And you know what, I still don't like it, but it must be consumed. хорошо?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Martha's Easy Light Cheesecake

heavy holidays are on the way...

you might want to lighten things up a bit.

start with this absolutely delicious light cheesecake.
so easy to prepare.
and baked with NO WATER BATH
no one will suspect the ingredients.  friends and family had no idea the main ingredient was cottage cheese.  don't say anything...


the original recipe is for a 9" cake, but i made mine in an 8" then made 2  individuals in small mason jars with cookie crumbs at the bottom.


28 Nabisco Chocolate Wafers
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
4 Tbsp melted butter

put wafers in possessor and pulse until crumb texture.  add sugar and butter and process again.  pour crumb mixture into springform pan and tamp down with something flat.  gently press mixture up the sides.  it's a bit crumbly, but as you can's do-able.
this Martha original recipe does not require going up the sides, but i found it to look more attractive.  (you shall see an example in my Lightened Up Pumpkin Pie recipe soon)


bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes.  remove to cool.

NOTE...i did not use all the crust mixture and as you can see i had a nice thick crust all the way up the sides of an 8 inch pan.  better to have too much than not enough.

simply wipe out processor and begin to prepare mixture  for cake.


3 cups low fat cottage cheese
8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, room temp.
3/4 cup  granulated sugar
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla extract (Martha called for 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt

preheat oven to 325 degrees.
have prepared crust as noted above, or crust from original found in link.
as noted i used an 8" springform pan and had leftover.

blend cottage cheese and cream cheese until very very smooth and glossy, scraping down sides as necessary, about 4-5 minutes.  add 3/4 cup sugar, sour cream, eggs, flour, vanilla, salt and blend until filling is completely smooth.
pour filling into prepared crust.  bake until barely set in the middle, ABOUT 1 HOUR.  there should be some "jiggle".  TURN OFF THE OVEN and let the cake cool in the oven for 1 more hour.  i left the oven door slightly open...very slightly!  transfer to wire rack and let cool to room temp for 2 hours, then refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Whatever is in the Fridge Challenge

Sometimes you have no choice but cook whatever the hell is in the house. Freezer, extraneous bits from the back of the cabinet, odds and ends refrigerated. This was polenta and fresh corn blended into a blini with egg and milk. Then shrimp in coconut oil, only because there was nothing else. Then leftover tomato I put up a few weeks ago made into a quick sauce. Some cilantro. It all went surprisingly well together. Maybe this is the way to cook, being constrained by whatever is around.