Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pan-Roasted Chicken

There are few aromas as wonderful as roasting chicken. Especially chicken slathered in butter, lemon, and garlic roasting away on an autumn afternoon. The citrus adds a bright, aromatic note to counter the richness of the butter, and the dish is finished with a flavorful sauce made from pan drippings and a touch of cream that is just as delicious atop the chicken as it is drizzled on accompanying potatoes or vegetables.

Pan-roasting is my go-to method for mouthwatering, succulent chicken. Browning the meat on the stove first locks in moisture and creates beautifully crispy, golden skin. Then the chicken is finished in an oven, still in the pan with the drippings and a flavorful stock, until it is evenly roasted to golden perfection. In less than an hour, you have a deliciously tender, luscious meal that tastes like it took hours of preparation.

This recipe is equally befitting of a cozy weeknight in, or a night of elegant entertaining.

Recipe after the jump... 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Seasonal Spotlight: Brussels Sprouts


It's beautiful in the city this time of year - with bright, changing foliage, crisp, autumnal air, shops aglow with festive displays and colorful holiday lights dotting the trees. It's my first Fall in San Francisco and I've been feeling nostalgic; missing home, family, the familiar holiday traditions. Craving comfort foods. Flavorful soups, braised meats and roasted, earthy vegetables.

This combination of smokey bacon, sweet caramelized onions and golden-kissed Brussels sprouts is the perfect antidote for chilly days. Warm and flavorful, yet still light.

I must confess that this is not an old family recipe. Growing up, vegetables were always strongly encouraged. But despite a large edible garden that produced a nearly year-round bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, Brussels sprouts not only never made it to our dinner table, they didn't even get planted. There was some kind of long-standing familial boycott. In fact, I had never even tried Brussels sprouts until recently. I expected to detest them, given their generally terrible reputation. Instead, I was surprised that I actually liked them, and - to the great chagrin of my family - inspired to explore the possibilities of this new-to-me ingredient.

So I started some research and discovered that overcooking Brussels sprouts brings out an unappetizing sulfurous smell, bitterness and dull color (I would suspect the reason for my family's embargo). Armed with that, I decided that quickly sauteing them to a crisp al dente would be a wonderful way to retain their bright, slightly sweet flavor.

If that's not enough encouragement for you to try these look-alike miniature cabbage heads, consider that Brussels sprouts share many of the health benefits associated with cruciferous vegetables: high levels of antioxidants, vitamin C and soluble fiber. They are members of the Brassica family, along with cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and collard greens, and numerous studies point to a strong connection between Brussels sprouts and cancer prevention. And when they're sauteed in bacon drippings, garlic and caramelized onions, it's nearly impossible to remember just how good for you they are. Even the non-believers will be converted.

Recipe after the jump...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup and getting back on track...

I had a plan. I was on track. Things were working. But sometimes life has other plans, and at the end of the summer I was dealt a devastating blow that changed things dramatically. I lost the most important person in my life, unexpectedly, and it derailed me.

I couldn't cook for a long time. I didn't want to eat. The sadness felt inescapable. Everything triggered a memory. And the comfort and joy I had always found in the kitchen became somehow empty and painful when it was so difficult just to get out of bed each morning and be functional. Get dressed. Get on the bus. Go to work. 

So this project was abandoned, and it's taken me a long time to regain my focus. I'm finally now starting to cook again. Easing back in. One day at a time. Finding comfort in classic family recipes. Trying new ingredients. I'm not there yet, but cooking is feeding my path to healing.

This recipe is a new one. Simple ingredients and perfect for the cold, windy, autumnal days we've been having in the city lately.

Recipe after the jump...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hickory-Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Nice try, chocolate chip cookies. You had a good run, apple pie. But in the end it wasn't even close. I'm referring, of course, to the clear winner of the title for most American of all culinary traditions: Barbecue.

While back in my hometown to visit my parents for Fourth of July, I decided the perfect way to fulfill our patriotic duty - and celebrate our country's 235th birthday - was by smoking a pig. Okay, just the shoulder of the pig in our case, but oh what a succulent, flavorful little shoulder it was.

I teased you with the sauce, but here's the real star of the show: hickory-smoked pulled-pork sandwiches.

Several years ago, my dad upgraded his grill to a larger one with a built-in smoker. Despite being a regular - and accomplished - grill master, regrettably, he has never used the smoker. And while I have perfected the art of slow-cooked, fall-apart-tender barbecue pork in an oven, smoking the meat was new to me as well. It was high-time we tried the sucker out.

I headed to the southern United States for inspiration - a region where the term "barbecue" is generally synonymous with smoked pork cooked low-and-slow, and concocted a special rub to use prior to smoking the meat. Meanwhile, the mixin' sauce pulled ingredient and flavor notes from Kansas City: it's a thick, sweet tomato-based sauce I created with pulled-pork sandwiches specifically in mind.

Smoking meat is a commitment. It takes hours and even days to slowly cook the meat into tenderized, delicious oblivion. Especially the large, tough cuts of beef and pork that are traditionally used for barbecue. Some may have eased into it the first time, and tried smoking some salmon or a whole chicken, which cook to perfection in an hour and a half.

I chose pork butt - also called pork shoulder or Boston butt - because pulled- pork is my very favorite type of southern barbecue and because I wanted to spend eight-plus hours cooking dinner.

But it's worth it. As you watch the meat fall apart at the lightest touch, and your mouth waters and you finally bite into that succulent sandwich, you forget how long it took to get there.

And it's really not an arduous process. Yes you have to baby the fire along, to maintain an even temperature, and you have to "mop" the meat every so often to keep the meat juicy, but you get to be outside in the sunshine and sip on a cold drink and spend time with family and friends while you do it. Which makes a pretty perfect Fourth of July - or any weekend really.

Follow the jump for recipes and technique...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Whiskey Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

I'm officially back in the city, and officially back to work. After a glorious week off in the country, getting up at 6:30am and getting on a crowded bus this morning felt quite foreign. I'm very glad this is a short work week!

I spent much of my time back home cooking and working on new recipes, which I'll be sharing soon. Here's a new one I created this weekend while spending Fourth of July hickory-smoking a 4lb pork butt slathered in a spicy rub until it was fall-apart-tender.

I wanted this to be top secret. I wanted it to have a name like Smokey Joe's Backyard Moppin' Sauce. Or Three Finger Willie's Pit Master Pork Juice. I wanted there to be a lock box with a hand-written sauce- smudged recipe. A recipe passed down through generations, so good, if-I-tell-you-I'll-have-to-kill-you...

While that would certainly make for a more dramatic story, this sweet little BBQ baby was only recently created, but still worth a lock box. And there is a secret ingredient of sorts: All-American Bourbon Whiskey.

A thick, sticky, and sweet concoction, this sauce was specifically created with pork shoulder cuts in mind. It doubles as both a mopping and a mixing sauce; the strong, deep flavor is perfectly suited for turning tough cuts into irresistibly-lip-smackin'-good pulled-pork sandwiches.

Recipe after the jump...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dreaming of Summer

I have been dreaming of summer. A real summer. Not the version San Francisco has been insisting on giving me. Hot, lazy days spent outside in the sunshine, sandy afternoons at the beach and balmy nights dining outside. Without a sweater. Or a scarf.

My hometown of Santa Barbara has answered my wishes this week, bestowing some glorious (and much missed) sunshine down upon us. The week has been spent catching up with old friends, shopping at the farmer's market, and cooking as much as possible - that is when I'm not sneaking back outside to luxuriate in the garden.

I'm soaking it up while I can, and hoping some rays will stow away in my suitcase and brighten things up back home!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Little Vacation and Some Little Radishes

These little Easter Egg radishes were just too adorable to pass up at the market this week. I love them fresh with a little sea salt and some bread and butter... their crisp, peppery taste makes these colorful little beauties the perfect healthy snack.

Tomorrow I'm off to my hometown of Santa Barbara to visit my parents for the week and celebrate 4th of July with the boy. I'm very excited to see them and to spend some time languishing in their enormous and well-stocked kitchen. It puts my little 40 square foot cooking space to shame. I can't wait to spread out! I'm sure I will have some very eager recipe testers this week - namely my childhood black lab, Oliver.

I'll be back in the city in a week, with lots of new goodies to share! Wishing you a delicious week!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

Pink Dahlias keep the San Francisco fog at bay!
All week long I look forward to Saturday morning. Yes, I know that every full-time professional is working for the weekend, but I have a specific goal in mind. I daydream all week long about ingredients and recipes and long hours on the weekend to fuss around the kitchen. It keeps me going.

Saturday mornings are for going to the market. For stocking up on the week's necessities: milk and bread and fresh pasta. Fresh flowers to keep the apartment cheery - even in San Francisco fog. But more than that, it is my inspiration time. I wander the aisles, waiting for the newest idea to hit. The market never ceases to surprise me with a beautiful fruit, destined to become the star of a tart, or a beautiful piece of meat, calling out to be slow-roasted to perfection. I love the seasonal food changes, when suddenly the stores are bursting with new, beautiful, local fruits and vegetables, packed full of flavor and inspiration. After working 50- hour weeks, Saturday mornings make me whole again.

This morning at the market I found the normal bevy of inspiring seasonal ingredients. The summer season is particularly generous. Flats of colorful berries. Shiny cherries and crimson rhubarb. Bright green beans and sweet corn. Tangy heirloom cherry tomatoes teasing the start of full-blown tomato season.

And then there were these figs. It's a little early for fig season, but they called out to me. Their plump, aubergine little selves begging to be taken home. I gave in.

I prefer figs to be prepared simply. Sliced in half and eaten plain, like candy. Wrapped with a translucently-thin piece of prosciutto and drizzled with honey or balsamic vinegar.

Or like this. A plump, sweet, fleshy slice of fig atop a generous slather of goat cheese and fresh bread. Deliciously simple and a perfect summer nibble!

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Simple Tiramisú with Raspberries

Tiramisú is a classic. And rightfully so. Fluffy dollups of fresh, sweet mascarpone whipped cream with the warmth of vanilla and the slight bite of brandy or liqueur. Espresso- soaked ladyfingers and shavings or a dusting of rich, dark chocolate. Perfection. 

And then along came raspberries. Nestled into the light, airy layers. Infused into the whipped cream in the form of raspberry liqueur. 

Raspberries don't have a lot of competition in the berry world, as far as I'm concerned. Growing up, we had a couple dozen raspberry bushes, and in the summer when the big, beautiful berries were at the peak of ripeness, we would eat them right off the plants - by the handful. 

It was a miracle any berries made it into a colander and back into the house. I've still been known to eat an entire basket of raspberries in one sitting. By myself. On the way back from the market. 

I inherited this trait from my mother, who equally indulges in these voluptuous little red berries. In celebration of a little escape to my hometown to visit my parents next week, I'm making this decadent treat for her. This twist on the classic is sinfully delicious and just in time for summer. That is, if the star ingredient hasn't mysteriously disappeared, one-by-one (or by the handful) first. Maybe buy an extra basket - or two.

Continue after the jump for recipes...

Thursday, June 23, 2011


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