Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays!

I hope Santa brings you everything you asked for...

Happy Holidays everyone - see you next week!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Fondue Party - Continued

The fondue party was a great success!

My special (and only) guest came home at 8, devoured some fondue, and retired promptly to bed. I didn’t expect the festivities to last long, he’s been up for 36 hours straight (24 hour take home exam + full day of work) but plenty of melty cheese and a mini-party thrown in his honor was the perfect thing after such an ordeal. We dined in pajamas (those piggy toes are his, not mine)...

And after he disappeared to bed, I had lots of leftover fondue (and wine!) all to myself.

I made Smoky German Fondue with French bread and kielbasa for dipping.

1/2 small onion
1 cup light ale
3 cups shredded smoked gouda
1 cup shredded Emmentaler
1 T cornstarch
3 T milk
1 tsp mustard

Rub inside of fondue pot with onion. (I skipped this step, it seemed wasteful.) Add ale to pot and heat on medium till bubbly, turn heat to low and stir in cheese, heating until melted.

In a small bowl, blend cornstarch with milk and add to cheese. Blend in mustard and continue stirring until mixture is thick and creamy.

I serve with cut up french bread and sauteed kielbasa. I can never get the consistency of this fondue quite right. It's always a bit thick and the cheese doesn't fully melt. This doesn't affect the process though, and it's always a crowd favorite because of the smoky taste (and the fact that it's served with sausage). I actually added a little chicken broth midway through to thin it out a bit. Next time I may double the milk, omit the cornstarch, and use the cheeses in equal amounts.

We determined that the best dipping method is to stab a piece of kielbasa, stab a piece of bread, and then dip the entire bundle. Imagine this, but all together on one fork...

I'm not sure if you can tell, but I have a nonstick electric fondue pot. Perhaps the simplest and easiest fondue setup on earth. It doesn't have that authentic 70's flair, but the convenience is irresistable.

Thanks, Bill, for hosting a great fondue party!

Fondue Party!

Twelve Two Two Fondue is hosting a Fondue Party! (I found his blog through dooce and have been reading it ever since.)

My guest of honor arrives at 8 - will I make it?

I just brought the fondue pot down from its hiding spot in the cabinet behind the blender.

Stay tuned...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Brussel[s] Sprouts

Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Belgium, and are therefore named after its capital, Brussels. I don't know why this name connection never occurred to me, but I have been walking around saying "brussel sprouts" rather than "brussels sprouts" for just about my entire life until last Friday.

Until last Friday, I'd never cooked brussels sprouts at home. But there they were, looking all cute and mini-cabbagy at Whole Foods, practically begging to come home with me. And S'kat has made such nice ones recently, I thought I'd give it a try.

All of the recipes I found online were far too complicated, so I made up my own.

Brussels Sprouts with Shallots

Trim dirty ends off brussels sprouts and cook them in a pot of boiling water for 3-5 minutes, until they turn a more vivid shade of green and start to soften up. Remove from heat and drain. Once Brussels sprouts are cool enough to touch, slice them in half. Heat 1 T or less of oil in a pan over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add brussels sprouts, cut side down. After a few minutes, add three T of minced shallot, stirring to brown. Once the shallot has softened and browned lightly, and the flat sides of the brussels sprouts are starting to brown, add a few T of chicken broth. Cook (stirring frequently) for 1-2 minutes, until broth is reduced. Salt and pepper to taste. If you're feeling decadent, stir in a little butter too.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tag – I’m IT!

S’kat tagged me for the You Are What You Eat meme created by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

I used the desert-island philosophy. If I were stuck on a desert island, what foods would I miss the most. Not so much what 10 foods would I bring with me - that imposes certain dull and practical considerations. This was an analysis of what foods I would spend my time dreaming of.

Pork Roll

Huh? Unless you're from Philly or Central Jersey you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Pork Roll is the ultimate breakfast meat, and is best sautéed till crispy and served on a toasted English muffin with a fried egg and a melted American cheese single. I like to top mine with regular ketchup, Dad Raisinhater prefers a spiced pepper relish. I suspect you'll hear more about pork roll this January, maybe even from a special guest blogger!

Stinky Cheese

I'm not sure I can ever have children because I don't think I could tolerate 9 months without stinky cheese! I eat it plain, melted into sauces, and tucked into my omelets. My fridge always has at least two stinky cheeses hanging around (sadly unphotographed).


American-style Chinese takeout fried pork dumplings. In high school I used to sprint down to the Sichuan Garden for dumplings every winter afternoon before play practice. I love stuffed pockets of food (empanadas, spinach and feta triangles, tamales)and the dumpling, for me, is the ultimate expression of this genre.

Sushi and Sashimi

I spent 7 years living in a sushi-less town and the deprivation took its toll. During that time, I tried to make my own cucumber and krab maki but there's nothing like going out for dinner and ordering this…

Staff Meal Chicken

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this spicy chicken recipe is one of my desert island foods.


Sriracha, I love you. I love you with mayonnaise, I love you on hot dogs and pizza, I love your squeezy bottle and your cute green cap, I love your cheap price and economy sized container. I will love you forever, you spicy devil.


The food of lust. A lust for more oysters. Fried in a po' boy or just like this.


I'll eat any kind of taco you put in front of me. Make them with the Taco Bell dinner kit – love 'em. Fill them with mystery meats from a strange cart on the corner of 96th street? Bring it on. I've traveled far and wide (or at least way uptown) in search of super special tacos and, if there were no tacos on my desert island, I would somehow find the strength to swim all the way to a more taco-friendly land.

Skirt Steak

Any time there is skirt steak on the menu, I am compelled to order it. I love all beef (see below) but I have a very special place in my heart for skirt steak, especially served with chimichurri sauce.


During my brief flirtation with vegetarianism I had vivid dreams of huge bacon bbq cheeseburgers from the Palms. Right now I'm sort of obsessed with mini-cheeseburgers. See...

I'd love to tag someone, but I fear the entire food blogging community may have done this one already. Do you have a food blog? Consider yourself tagged!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Weekend Cookbook Challenge – Susan Branch

Alicat from Something So Clever and Sara from i like to cook are hosting the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. This month, they challenged participants to cook something from the cookbook they've had the longest. For me, it had to be Heart of the Home by Susan Branch.

Where did I get this cookbook? I have no idea. I think Mom Raisinhater must have received 2 copies one Christmas and passed one along to me. It was published in 1986, and I remember reading it in early high school, so we're likely talking about the late 80s here. Imagine me reading it, hair held back in a scrunchi, oversized Outback Red sweater from the Limited, pegged pants tucked into my socks, and plenty of sparkly blue eyeshadow and frosted pink lips.

I think maybe Susan Branch was the Ina Garten of the 80s - living the charmed life on the Vineyard, extolling the virtues of locally grown produce and locally caught seafood, and hosting gracious lawn parties where all the guests get their own picnic basket. But you also get the idea that she didn't mess around and, like Ina, was probably a fairly shrewd dealer.

Most of Susan Branch's books are handwritten and include her own watercolor art. See…

If I were the author, this would land me straight in the mental hospital. Seriously, she hand wrote and painted every page.

For the challenge, I chose two recipes from Heart of the Home, spinach soufflé and cauliflower casserole.

Spinach soufflé

First, I think it is a bit of a stretch to call this a soufflé. According to the all-knowing wikipedia, a soufflé is "a light, fluffy baked dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a main dish or sweetened as a dessert."

This recipe did include eggs, but there was no separating of yolks from whites, nor fluffing of whites. I would say it was definitely more of a crustless spinach quiche or, better yet, a smooth frittata. Nomenclature controversy notwithstanding, this recipe was SO EASY.

Here's what I did:

Toss the following ingredients into your blender:

1 c cottage cheese,
3 oz. cream cheese
2 eggs
3 T flour
2 T butter, melted
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Blend until, well, blended. Add the contents (thawed and drained) of one 10oz package of frozen spinach. Give it a quick mix, and stir remaining bits in with a wooden spoon. (Don't go crazy blending once you've added the spinach, or you'll destroy all the spinachy texture.) Pour into a buttered casserole and set the casserole into a pan filled with hot water.

Bake at 350 for 80 minutes (the recipe said 70, but mine needed 80).

See, it doesn't puff like a soufflé, it just sort of gently inflates like a frittata. Now comes the hard part. The recipe sort of glosses over this part, saying something like "remove and serve."

Not so much. I wanted to retain a little of the puffy appearance, so slicing for removal was not an option. I tried to just pop it out with a knife, but nooooo. Next, I inverted it over a plate. Turning the casserole dish (still wet and quite heavy) onto a plate while wearing mittens is not easy. I have no idea how, but (perhaps because I am a clumsy ass) I actually burned my neck, of all places. Yep, my neck. And once the "soufflé" was liberated from its dish, it instantly lost the puffiness that I had scalded myself in an attempt to preserve.

Here it is:

I think it was perhaps a little to floury, and the cheese was extremely mild, but it did have a nice fresh spinach flavor. I used a new brand of organic frozen spinach – not sure if that could've made any difference.

I also made Cauliflower Casserole. (You'd think I was preparing for a church basement potluck supper with these recipes I chose, right? In reality, I was feeling the scurvy coming on and needed some veggies after yesterday's meatfeast.)

The Cauliflower Casserole was easy enough for a monkey, and then I made it even easier by using canned tomatoes.

1 head cauliflower.
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup shredded chedder/jack mix
½ cup parmesan
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (panko style)
2 T butter, melted

Steam one head of cauliflower until just tender, and lay in a buttered glass pyrex dish. Top with the tomatoes. Mix together the cheese and breadcrumbs, sprinkle over cauliflower. Drizzle with butter. Cook at 375 for 30 minutes or until brown.

Meh, it was tasty, cheesy, and crispy, but not earth shattering. I like my cauliflower roasted with garlic.

The Weekend Cookbook Challenge was great fun, and gave me a terrific opportunity to peruse little-used volumes while doing some disturbing time-travel back to 1988. Ali and Sara – thanks for hosting!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Field Trip

R Raisinhater and I decided yesterday was the perfect day for a lunchtime food adventure. We met in Jackson Heights – international food capital of the world. In a four block radius you see dozens of Indian buffets, falafel, tacos, even…

But we were yearning for meats, so we headed over to La Porteña for an asado.

I love the cheesy Argentine decor at La Porteña. Saddles and spurs on the walls, gaucho waiters with neckerchiefs, signed photos of argentine sports heros, even a signed photo of The Donald. Tango plays in the background and the service is quite good, the waiters always manage to turn up just when you need something.

First, we had some empanadas (or, as they call it, gaucho pie). They were deliciously moist (unlike mine, which often get a bit too dry in the middle) and, my favorite, provoleta.

Provoleta is a plate of melted provolone cheese, seasoned with herbs and salt, with a crispy brown underside. We sliced it into wedges and stuffed them in our mouths! With a glass or two of wine and some chocolate for dessert, provoleta is the single woman’s ideal dinner.

But my brother and I were nowhere near done – there was parilla was on the way. We sipped our wine and sat up straight, trying to encourage digestion and make space for the meats. We were perhaps a little bit intimidated when it arrived.

Why did we order parilla for two! One serving would have been enough to feed the two of us and the family two tables over. We got skirt steak, sweetbreads, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage, my favorite!), and short ribs, all served with chimichurri sauce.

Afterwards, we were so meat-drunk we had to go back to R’s house and sloth on the couch, drinking beer and playing scrabble. We were joined by R’s fantastically portly feline, Norman, who entertained us all by trying to stuff himself into a little wicker basket.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Me? Eat What?

Everybody has a few, right? Those secret guilty pleasures? Those foods you know are gross but can't seem to resist?

As I was looking around my kitchen I noticed a few things that would horrify most food bloggers.

Here are a few of the foods I eat when no one else is looking…

Velveeta Shells & Cheese. With real bacon (artificial smoke flavor added).

Nope, not real cheese. Yep, I could make my own homemade macaroni and cheese gratin. But sometimes I yearn for that bright yellow artificial cheese taste and sticky consistency.

Wait, what's that hiding behind the Shells & Cheese? Oooh yes, Lipton Onion Soup Mix, used for making the famous Lipton California Onion Dip.

I actually ate this for dinner last night, on pretzels. One of the pretzels was a yogi.

I think that is tree pose.

There may also have been some buffalo "chicken" nuggets with Wish Bone blue cheese dressing.

And worst of all – what's that hiding in the microwave?

Aaaaaaaaaaaah – taco flavored Hot Pockets!! Disgusting.

But no meal is complete without dessert.

Served on a spoon.

Have I lost all credibility as a food blogger? I cant be the only one, can I? Anyone else out there hiding anything?

C'mon – show the world all those gross things you eat when you think no one's looking!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Road to Crazy is Smooth and Slick

Yesterday was Wednesday and I didn't cook anything from the NY Times - I was far too busy feasting and wine-guzzling with some Raisinhater kin. Hopefully I can get to it tonight.

But here's a creepy picture for you.

He's saying "Yummy Sushi is to Die For." I walk past Yummy Sushi every morning on my way to work and every morning this window catches my eye. I'm not a vegetarian and I am not squeamish about the idea that my food comes from dead animals. I don't care if there is a fish head on my plate. In fact, I think it's important for all carnivores to acknowledge the fact that an animal died for their dinner. C'mon, people, its ok if your food looks like an animal!

But that Yummy Sushi fish freaks me the hell out.

What kind of message is he trying to convey? Is he a Christ figure? A kamikaze fish dying for his cause? Is he making an anti-vegetarian statement (see, the fish like it)? A misguided teenage fish that doesn't know any better, all elbows and knees under his black fishy trenchcoat?

The worst part is that Yummy Sushi is dreadful. Poor Mr. Fish, sacrificing himself for low grade takeout spicy tuna rolls.

And so every morning I walk past, feeling sad for a picture of a fish.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Loaves and Fishes

How do 8 hungry Raisinhaters dine in New York City for under $10 per person?

On Saturday night I hosted the full Raisinhater family plus B Almost-Raisinhater and the lovely Miss K. Eight people for dinner in a one-bedroom apartment with a galley kitchen can be a tricky proposition, especially on a budget. (They brought the wine and cheese - thanks guys!)

We had staff meal chicken, potato gruyere gratin, and sesame broccoli. Not a thrilling or even particularly sophisticated menu, but it is fabulous for two reasons. It is CHEAP and all of the work can be done WAY before your guests arrive.

Here's how your day looks:

I suggest you start with the gratin. You can make this early in the day, stick it in the fridge, and throw it in the oven before the guests arrive. As an added bonus, it makes your apartment smell really good (provided you like the smell of melty cheese). The recipe is from Epicurious. If you're on a diet, avert your eyes.

Potato Gratin with Gruyere and Crème Fraiche

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
1 1/2 cups (packed) grated Gruyère cheese (about 6 ounces)

Slice your potatoes. A great excuse to use the mandoline if you have one!

Butter or spray a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange half the potato slices (overlapping so there aren't any big spaces), sprinkle with salt and pepper, spread with half the crème fraiche, sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat process to make a second layer. At this point you can cover it and stick it in the fridge for a while (maybe even overnight, but I've never tried it).

Next, make your Staff Meal Chicken marinade. I know I've talked about Staff Meal Chicken before but I just want to reiterate - it is scrumptious!

Marinate the chicken as follows:

Mix together the following ingredients in a large bowl:
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon granulated garlic (not garlic powder)
1 heaping tablespoon granulated onion (not onion powder)
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 cup hot red chili flakes
1/2 cup olive oil

Here are the spices, waiting eagerly for the lemon juice, oil, and chicken.

Add 8 – 10 skin-on (important!) bone-in (also important!!) chicken thighs to the bowl, toss to coat. Marinate for a least an hour in the fridge, turning occasionally. I actually doubled the recipe and marinated it in zipper bags in the fridge.

Once the chicken is done, you can start on the broccoli. I adapted the sesame red pepper sauce from this Epicurious recipe. I simplified it quite a bit because I didn't think all of the spice grinder and sauce on the side nonsense was necessary or beneficial.

Trim and wash the broccoli and cut it into normal big-bite pieces, set aside. Toast 3 T sesame seeds in a frying pan until lightly golden. Remove from heat and add 3/4 tsp each of kosher salt and crushed red pepper (or modify to taste). Set aside.

Now, you're done until it's time to eat. See how easy!

Have some cheese. And maybe a little wine. Go on, you deserve it.

Whoops, maybe not that much, its only 3 pm. Take a nap.


Time to cook! When you're approximately 1.5 hours from dinnertime, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once preheated, add your gratin. Cook for 30 minutes at 400.

After that time, turn the temperature down to 385 (yes, this is weird, but it works) arrange the chicken thighs on foil covered (important!) baking sheets and add to the oven for another 30 minutes. (Yep, the gratin is still in there too.)

After that time, turn the temperature down to 335, set your timer for 20 minutes, and cook your broccoli. You can do this any way you want, some people steam it, I just throw it in a pot of boiling water till it turns bright green, drain it, rinse it with cool water, and set it aside. (If you really want, you can even do this step way earlier in the day, just let your broccoli come to room temperature before dinner.)

Once your timer goes off, remove both the gratin and the chicken from the oven. They both need to rest for 10 minutes. Here's the chicken…

The gratin was lovely - imagine lots of crispy melted cheese.

Put the broccoli in a big festive bowl and drizzle over 1 tsp of sesame oil and sprinkle on the sesame spice mixture. Toss with your hands. Eat!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Expiration Date Mandate

I heard a strange sound when I got home from work last night, a sort of chanting banging noise. Was it coming from the kitchen?

"Eat. Us. Up. Eat. Us. Up. Eat. Us. Up."

There was the clanging of tiny tire irons and the "swip" of switchblades flipping open. I opened the fridge.

Eeek – the food was going bad!

The broccoli was clustered on one side, snarling and baring its stems at the broccoli rabe. So sad when brother turns against brother that way. The gorgonzola was throwing stinkbombs, the bacon was just laying, limply, wounded, trying to avoid the fray.

What to do? Could this food be saved? Born again in a new pure form? The situation was pretty dire.

Here’s what I had:
2 heads of broccoli
1 bunch broccoli rabe (wilty)
2 portobello mushrooms (slightly soggy)
1 wedge cheap gorgonzola (furry)
Garlic and heavy cream

In advance – I trimmed the broccoli rabe by chopping off the stems halfway and threw it in a pot of boiling water for 4 minutes or so.

After I pulled it out I drained it and, when it was cool enough to touch, I chopped it up a bit and set it aside. I sliced the mushrooms, removed the fur from the gorgonzola and crumbled it. I cooked the broccoli for later use in another dish.

The actual recipe…

First, I started the pasta water. Next, I cooked the bacon in a large skillet till crisp and brown and pulled it out to drain on paper towels.

I put a small saucepan of heavy cream (1/2 cup?) on the back burner to simmer slowly.

By this time, the water was boiling and I threw in the gemilli. I turned down the heat slightly and, without draining the skillet, sautéed the garlic until fragrant.

I added the crumbled gorgonzola to the simmering cream (stirring often), and added the sliced mushrooms to the pan of garlic (and bacon fat) and cooked them till they FINALLY relented and got soft. This took much longer than expected. All the while, be sure you’re stirring your gorgonzola and cream, or it will get icky.

The pasta was almost done, but not quite. I added the broccoli rabe to the mushroom garlic pan and, once it was thoroughly warmed, I crumbled in the bacon.

Now, time to drain the pasta. After draining, I put the pasta back in the pot, added the mushroom, bacon, broccoli rabe mixture, and added the gorgonzola cream sauce. I stirred it all up, added a LOT of ground pepper, and here it is…

This was a surprisingly delicious dinner, especially considering the fact that it was made with food that was on the verge of total collapse.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

C is for Cookie

That's good enough for me.

I have tried. Lord knows I've tried. Sugar cookies. Molasses lacy cookies. Banana nut cookies. Almond crescent shaped cookies. Macaroons. Those cookies with Hershey Kisses in the middle. Shortbread. Gingersnaps. Is it me, can I not bake good cookies?

Or is there really no cookie better than the chocolate chip?

They are good. They are always good. Even if I mix up the ingredients 6 different ways they are good. And right out of the oven, they are heaven. The secret, I say, is the salt.

Yes. Eeeew. I add lots of salt to my chocolate chip cookies. I do not wish to brag, but I must. Men have loved me for these cookies. Also, three months later, houseguests have called for the recipe. But I will repeat. Men have loved me for these cookies.

Do you not want the recipe?

Here it is.

Chocolate Chip Cookies of Love (sometimes takes up to two weeks to blossom)

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream ½ cup softened (not melted) butter. Add ½ cup light brown and ½ cup white sugar and mix in thoroughly. Beat in one egg and ½ tsp vanilla.

Stir in 1 cup & (almost) 2 T flour, ½ tsp (plus a little (or big) extra pinch) salt), ½ tsp baking soda. Mix thoroughly.

Add one cup chocolate chips.

Drop in (almost) tablespoon sized clumps onto a greased cookie sheet (or silpats) and bake for 10 minutes (longer for the first round, less for the others, preferably near the top of the oven). Cool on racks. Eat before cool.

This is the old Joy of Cooking recipe. My modifications are in parentheses. Also, the original recipe called for ½ cup each of chips and walnuts. This is silly. If you want to add walnuts, go ahead and sprinkle them on top or something, but definitely use a full cup of chips! Finally, do not use a mixer. These must be made entirely by hand, with a wooden spoon. Why? I do not know. Do not question the magic.

Updated to add: Oops, I forgot to mention that this is my entry in the Holiday Cookie Exchange!