Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fettuccine Carbonara with Fried Eggs

Lately our motto is if it tastes great as is, it will taste even better with a fried egg on top. Yep, a fried egg.

I admit that I too thought this was strange the first time the Kitchen Genius suggested it. He and a bunch of friends went to Boston for a Bruins game. On the way they stopped at the Weymouth Hearth ‘N Kettle and they all ordered bacon cheeseburgers with fried eggs on top. (Guys are weird!)

Funny thing, the chef was more than happy to grant their request because he and his sous chef had been topping all their food with sunny-side up eggs. (More guys are weird!)

I thought eggs were just breakfast food, even if we had them for dinner, which we sometimes do because I love breakfast food, but don't eat many big breakfasts.

My response to the cheeseburger experiment was less than enthusiastic - until I had the chance to try a fried egg on pasta. Yep, on pasta.

Apparently the fried egg craving was kicked off by a recipe KG saw in the January 2009 issue of bon appétit. And it is not just any recipe. Bon appétit has named Fettuccini Carbonara with Pancetta and Broccoli Rabe the “Dish of the Year” on their cover along with the caption: “The Value Issue: Eat Better for Less.”

How could you not want to make the dish of the year??? Especially if it had a fried egg on it??? KG just couldn’t resist, and his fettuccine carbonara was simply melt in your mouth awesome. The eggs and cheese coated the pasta with a thick rich sauce and the yolk from the fried egg added an extra layer of creamy decadence that simply made this dish shine.

It seems pasta is the new cool food lately and it is showing up in all the finest magazines along with other budget recipes. Gourmet has spaghetti and meatballs on their January cover with the whole issue devoted to Italian American food.

Even though pasta is considered a bargain, it is one of my favorite foods, so I’m not feeling like this is a sacrifice. I can’t wait to try more unique and flavorful pastas in the New Year. I even bought KG a book called Pastissima!: Pasta the Italian Way
for Christmas, and I can’t wait to dig into the book myself and taste the wonders.

What’s your favorite pasta recipe and what dishes are you looking forward to creating in the New Year?

The Recipe:
From bon appétit

Fettuccine Carbonara with Fried Eggs
4 servings

8 large eggs
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon) finely chopped
12 ounces egg fettuccine
1 medium bunch broccoli rabe, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Whisk 4 eggs, both cheeses, garlic and pepper in medium bowl; set aside. Cook pancetta in large non-stick skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl. Reserve skillet with drippings.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender (about 3 minutes less than package directions); add broccoli rabe. Cook just until broccoli rabe is crisp tender and pasta is tender, about 3 minutes longer. Drain pasta-broccoli rabe mixture, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Return hot pasta-broccoli rabe mixture to pot (off heat). Immediately add egg-cheese mixture, pancetta, and 1/2 cup cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoons to moisten as needed. Season to taste with salt and more pepper, if desired. Cover to keep warm.

Heat skillet with pancetta drippings over medium heat. Crack remaining four eggs into skillet; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until whites are opaque, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn eggs over; cook just until whites are set but yolks are still soft, about 1 minute longer. Remove from heat. Top pasta with eggs and serve.

For a printable recipe click here

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pajama Day Beef Stroganoff

As wonderful as Christmas day is, it takes second place to December 26 – my self proclaimed holiday of Pajama Day. It is a tradition the came into being entirely by accident about ten years ago during a particularly hectic holiday season.

That year, Christmas Eve found the Kitchen Genius and I staying up until close to dawn, wrapping presents and preparing for Christmas with our four kids. Just as our heads hit the pillow, the door to our two younger children’s bedroom opened and we heard them sneak out. I took a nap to the sound of their excited whispers.

Christmas day at our home is one long and joyous celebration that includes a revolving cast of family members from both sides that arrive in shifts. We host a breakfast for eight to twelve people, with a break for clean up and showers, and then begin prepping for dinner for up to 25 people.

That year I was so tired I found myself dozing off, head propped in hand, while sitting at the dining room table over shrimp cocktail and artichoke dip at 3:00 in the afternoon. Luckily the KG was in charge of dinner because I simply couldn’t do it.

The next day as poor KG headed to work, I slept late and cuddled on the couch with the new novel he had given me for Christmas. The kids played quietly with their toys and it was a lovely day all around. When KG came home for dinner, I was still in my pajamas and we had leftovers for dinner. The day ended with me finishing the novel in front of a cozy fire.

Afterwards I realized it was probably the best day I had had all year and declared it a yearly tradition. It has grown ever since. Now, I build a big fire in the fireplace early in the day and pull out the bed in the sleeper sofa.

Everyone brings his or her pillow and favorite blanket. We cuddle, snooze, watch movies, play games and read books. This year while I relaxed and read The Shack
on the sleeper sofa, Julie helped Melissa set up a MySpace page on the couch next to me.

Tommy played video games all day and KG went fishing (he’s never really figured out how to just lie around all day).

The beauty of a self-created holiday is you get to make all the rules. My rules are simple, but unwavering. On Pajama Day everyone sleeps as late as they want and no one wakes anyone else. There is no cleaning, no cooking and no hours spent putting together impossibly complicated toys with hundreds of pieces.

In the early years we simply ate the bounty of leftovers that always includes shrimp, prime rib, cheesy potatoes and dozens of cookies. The only exception to the cooking rule was roasting hotdogs and marshmallows in the fireplace, because that is just plain fun.

But about five years ago I decided that since I really like to cook, making a real dinner wasn’t considered work if I kept it easy. I began making beef stroganoff with the leftover prime rib for our Pajama Day dinner using a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1965 Edition
my Mom had when I was growing up. The recipe isn’t in the updated version of the cookbook that I have, but I made this often enough during my young married days that I know it by heart.

The original recipe used sirloin steak, sliced really thin and quick fried to brown the outside while still leaving the inside medium rare. This can also be made with hamburger or any leftover beef. It’s easy, tasty and incredibly comforting – in short the perfect meal for a day set aside for pure relaxation.

The Recipe:

Beef Stroganoff
Serves 6

2 pounds medium rare prime rib, sliced and cut into bite size pieces (or 2 pounds sirloin steak, sliced thin against the grain).
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced vertically
6 large mushrooms or 12 small mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 – 14 ounce can beef broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 pound egg noodles, cooked according to package instructions

Heat olive oil in pan and quick fry onions until crisp tender. Remove and place in bowl. Add mushrooms to pan and fry until tender. Place in bowl with onions. (If using sirloin steak, fry it now and add to bowl with onions and mushrooms)

Add a touch more olive oil and sauté garlic for a minute or two until soft. Add tomato paste to pan and stir to spread it around the whole pan.

Add beef broth and whisk until tomato paste is combined with broth and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper and bring to low boil. Mix sour cream and flour together and slowly whisk into pan until combined. Add prime rib, onions and mushrooms and heat through. Serve with egg noodles.

For a printable recipe click here

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Polpettone or the Giant Meatball

Somehow all the decorating got done, all the presents got wrapped, all the cookies got baked and Christmas happened in all its magical glory. This truly is my favorite holiday and even though I’ve had a wicked bad cold, we had a lovely Christmas day.

Every year we cook Christmas dinner for whomever in our combined families can make it to our house. This year we had 16, which is actually a smaller crew than usual. Christmas dinner is the Kitchen Genius’s chance to shine. He’s in charge of the kitchen, and I’m just the prep helper.

We also had other help. My sister-in-law Gini brought some great appetizers made with Pillsbury pastry sheets. She filled one with chicken, artichokes and garlic mayo and the other with mushrooms and cheese. They were very tasty. Her daughter Sarah brought her famous hot clam dip.

The thing about holiday menus is most people like to have the same things every year. We tried tinkering with the menu some but no matter what we wanted to change, it seemed it was someone’s favorite. So once again we had shrimp cocktail, prime rib, cheesy potatoes and a tossed salad.

Since my husband is half Italian, we always have a pasta dish, usually with a side of meatballs. This year the Kitchen Genius made Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach using a recipe he found in the January issue of Gourmet magazine that focuses on Italian American food. The lasagna was three inches deep of pure yum.

Instead of regular meatballs, I decided to try to make Polpettone, or as it is more commonly known in KG’s family: “the giant meatball.” I heard about this dish for years before I ever actually tasted it. It was served at all major holidays in the Bruno/Higgins home and inspired some pretty fond memories.

The only thing I knew about the giant meatball was that it was stuffed with hard boiled eggs, salami and cheese and cooked in sauce. When I asked Gini about it, she gave me their grandmother’s recipe. The recipe was kind of vague on directions. I made it once years ago and it just didn’t come out the way we hoped.

This time I was determined to master the recipe. I found some photos online so I would know what exactly it was supposed to look like and just like that, it all made sense. You know what they say about a picture…

First you make the meatball recipe and flatten it into a rectangle on a sheet of plastic wrap. Then add a layer of salami, mozzarella cheese and sliced hard boiled eggs.

Roll it up like a jelly roll and pinch the edges to seal them.

Next you’re supposed to fry it, but I decided baking it would be easier since I made two.

After I baked them for 45 minutes, I slipped them into a pot of hot tomato sauce and simmered them for another hour.

The presentation was beautiful and it was a huge hit! My father-in-law was especially pleased and it was wonderful to revive a family tradition that I now hope to pass on to my kids.

For dessert, Gini brought brie topped with cherries, pecans and honey and wrapped in pastry and baked. Isn’t it beautiful? It tasted just as good as it looks.

I hope your Christmas was as full of good memories as mine…

The Recipe:

Polpettone (Giant Meatball)

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon parsley
1 egg
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 slices of fresh bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 slices salami
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Mix beef, pork, parsley, egg, cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper well. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and press the meat mixture into a rectangle on it. Top with salami slices, overlapping slightly and leaving the edges free. Sprinkle cheese on top of the center. Arrange two rows of egg slices on top.

Lift the edge of the plastic wrap and roll the loaf like a jellyroll. Press edges tightly to seal. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, turning after 20 minutes. Put meatball in pot of hot sauce to cover and simmer for an hour. Slice and serve with extra sauce.

For a printable recipe click here

Monday, December 22, 2008

Zuppa di Pesce for my Patriots Fans

We had our first snowstorm!!! About ten inches total!!! In case those exclamation points didn't clue you in, I must confess I adore snow.

Every time the merest hint of a snowflake appears in the sky I start singing, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” offering up the refrain as a prayer. Here's the view off my deck:

I love to make snow men and snow angels and I think sledding is divine. Unfortunately I’ve had a nasty head and chest cold for the past four days and with so much to do to get ready for Christmas, there just wasn't a free moment for any outdoor play this time around.

Ever since the snow on Friday, it has been bitter cold. Our daughter’s boyfriend Scott scored four seats to a Patriots game on Sunday so Scott, the Kitchen Genius, and our two oldest daughters all bundled up in many layers and headed up to Foxborough for four hours of freezing cold fun. KG sent me this photo from his phone during the game:

I stayed home with our two youngest kids and granddaughter and cooked some treats to warm the gang when they got home. Knowing they endured snow, rain and chilling winds, I met them at the door with some “Gloucester Grog,” made with apple cider mulled with spices and beach plums and spiked with bourbon.

For dinner, I wanted to make a nice homemade soup. One of KG’s friends at work has a fisherman husband who gave us a whole cod, so I decided to make Zuppa di Pesce or Italian fish soup.

Paired with some homemade bread, it was just what my cold and weary Patriots fans needed.

The Recipe

Zuppa di Pesce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium size red pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled, quartered and then sliced
1 cup white wine
1 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 quart chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh ground Italian spices
2 cups chopped kale
2 pounds fresh cod
1 pound shrimp

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven. Add onions, peppers, celery, garlic, and carrots and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until just tender. Add white wine and cook down until liquid is about half. Add tomatoes and chicken broth and spices and simmer for 45 minutes. Add chopped kale and simmer for 20 minutes or until kale is tender.

Add water or more chicken broth if liquid level seems too low for soup or to cover seafood. Place cut up pieces of cod on top of soup and gently push them down to submerge them. Cook for five minutes and then add shrimp. Cook until fish flakes and shrimp is pink, about four or five more minutes.

Serve with fresh grated Romano cheese.

For a printable recipe click here

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lemon Shortbread

Cookies have been showing up all over in bloggerland. Since I usually do all my baking on December 23, I’ve been feeling a little left out. Thankfully the holiday party for my Writers’ Group gave me an excuse to start baking.

One of my favorite cookies is shortbread. The fact that nobody else in my family gets excited about them is a bonus because then there’s more for me. My ex-mother-in-law was the first person to turn me on to these flaky buttery treats. She used to make them every year for Christmas and continued to give me some even after her son and I divorced twenty years ago.

At some point she stopped baking, so now I make shortbread every year for her. A few years ago she gave me this wonderful ceramic shortbread pan made by Brown Bag Cookie Art. It makes the prettiest shortbread cookies with little raised animals.

I usually make the classic shortbread in the little booklet that came with the pan, but this time I decided to try the lemon shortbread. The cookies tasted great, but they didn’t come out of the pan as easily as they usually do. And sadly, the little animal figures just didn’t show up very well. That’s what I get for messing with a classic.

If you don’t have a shortbread pan, you can still make great shortbread. Just form the dough into a circle about 1/2 inch thick and score 8 wedges before baking. Make sure you liberally prick the surface of the shortbread before baking it so the shortbread doesn’t puff up unevenly during baking. Another important tip is to cut the shortbread while still warm so it doesn’t crumble or break.

To make them fancier, you can dip them in chocolate, spread them with jam or drizzle them with a glaze of your choice, but I like them just plain. They store well, and unlike other cookies their flavor actually improves with age.

I’ve already confessed that I only bake cookies at Christmas here. So how funny is it that my Mom read my post and felt so bad for my kids that she bought me this cookie jar at an antique store? It is the same cookie jar that was on my Grandma Palmer’s counter all through my childhood and it made me so happy, I’ve resolved to keep it full.

And one final cookie note: My cookies have been featured on the new Cape Women Online e-zine in an article called, “Making Sweet Memories,” written by my dear friend Debi Boucher Stetson. It’s a wonderful e-zine, full of great ideas, wonderful writing and even poetry and fiction.

Now I can’t wait for cookie day! What’s your favorite holiday cookie?

The Recipes:

Classic Shortbread
From Brown Bag Cookie Art

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar, unsifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour, unsifted

Cream butter until it is light. Cream in the powdered sugar, then the vanilla. Now work in the flour. Knead the dough on an unfloured board until nice and smooth. Spray the shortbread pan very lightly with non-stick vegetable spray. Firmly press the dough into the shortbread pan. Prick the entire surface with a fork, and bake the shortbread right in the pan at 325 degrees for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Let the shortbread cool in its pan for about ten minutes before you loosen the edges with a knife and flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. If the shortbread does not come right out, tap one edge of the pan. Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while still warm. Let the pan cool before washing it.

For a printable recipe click here

Lemon Shortbread
From Brown Bag Cookie Art

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar, unsifted
2 teaspoons lemon peel
1 cup flour, unsifted

Cream butter until it is light. Cream in the powdered sugar, then add the lemon peel. Now work in the flour. Knead the dough on an unfloured board until nice and smooth. Spray the shortbread pan very lightly with non-stick vegetable spray. Firmly press the dough into the shortbread pan. Prick the entire surface with a fork, and bake the shortbread right in the pan at 325 degrees for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Let the shortbread cool in its pan for about ten minutes before you loosen the edges with a knife and flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. If the shortbread does not come right out, tap one edge of the pan. Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while still warm. Let the pan cool before washing it.

For a printable recipe click here

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Too Busy Decorating to Blog

First of all I must say kudos to all the bloggers like Megan’s Munchie’s and ZestyCook who are still managing to blog EVERY day during this busy season. You foodies have my utmost respect.

Creating tasty food is always a priority, but finding the time to write about it has been put on the back burner these days as I bustle about decorating our house to look like the department stores I'm not visiting this year.

We’re facing the same budget crunch so many others are experiencing these days, so even though there will be fewer presents under our tree, I decided to make our house as festive as possible. Best of all, it was entirely affordable because I’ve been collecting Christmas decorations for over 20 years.

The first step was picking out a tree. We drove off Cape to Westport, Massachusetts to Al and Penny Hatfield’s Christmas Tree Farm, named A Quiet Place.

It was indeed quiet before my crew got there. I went with my oldest daughter Jess, her boyfriend Scott, my granddaughter Skylar and my third daughter Julie. It remains one of my nicest memories of this season.

Jess and Skylar were so excited they ran when we first got there. Sky picked one that was just her size.

We looked at every tree on the farm – twice – before I chose the biggest, fattest tree of the bunch, because that's the way I like my trees. This place was truly magical and we didn't want to leave.

Al drove his tractor out, cut down our tree, and even took our picture.

And then when we got home, I set to work. We have Santas and more Santas and a few snowmen too.

One of my favorite decorations is my Grandma Palmer's ceramic tree. Somehow I was the lucky one who inherited this treasure that she painted in my Grandma Agard's ceramic shop back in the 1960's. Every year when I set it up, it feels like a little piece of my childhood is right here with me.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Budget Meals Don't Have to Sacrifice Flavor

A few weeks ago a friend asked me to post some budget friendly meals on my blog. The subject seemed to come up again and again in conversations I had, so I pitched a story about it to my dear sweet editor Gwenn Friss at the Cape Cod Times.

Gwenn loved the idea and the story ran this week along with photos of a meal I made from a recipe given to me by Kim Concra, a Nutrition and Food Safely Specialist at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension.

This is one of the simplest dinner recipes I’ve ever made and it was so delicious I’m making it again this week. The photo above follows the Cooperative Extension recipe exactly, and the ingredients only cost $6.63 for a meal that fed four people with leftovers for my lunch the next day. That’s $1.33 a serving.

The point of the article was how to create inexpensive, but tasty meals. I have to confess that I added Kalamata olives after I took the photo, because they go so well with the feta cheese and I simply love them. Also, when I make this again, I will sauté up some onions, garlic and peppers because they add a lot of bang for the buck.

My recipe reflects the changes I plan to make, but I promise it is still an inexpensive and very fast dinner that is tasty enough that I will be making it again and again, especially on those nights when I just need a quick and easy dinner.

If you’re looking for more budget friendly tips, you can read the article here.

The Recipe:

Greek Pasta with Tomatoes & White Beans
Adapted from a recipe courtesy from Cape Cod Cooperative Extension

Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
1 (19 ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach, chopped (about 8 cups)
4 cups hot cooked penne (about 1/2 pound uncooked tubular shaped pasta
1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely crumbles feta cheese
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted


Sauté onions, garlic and peppers in olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat until tender, about five minutes. Add tomatoes and beans and bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes. Add spinach and olives; cook two minutes or until spinach wilts, stirring occasionally. Place 1 cup cooked pasta on each of four plates; top each serving with 1 1/4 cup sauce and 2 tablespoons feta cheese.

For a printable recipe click here

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sicilian Scrod

Tis the season for birthdays in my family and it has been just one party after another for weeks now. The latest was for my oldest daughter, Jess. For her birthday dinner she requested seafood.

Jess is my most adventurous eater, so I decided to take a chance and try to recreate a seafood dish I ate several years ago at a dinner party in Chatham.

All I remembered about the dish was how much I loved it and how surprised I was that raisins were pretty awesome in tomato sauce. The tomato raisin sauce was ladled over fish and baked.

I made up my own recipe and since it was a special occasion, I broke out my home canned tomatoes. Despite the fact that I burned the pine nuts TWICE (really keep an eye on these guys - they only take 5 minutes and they are too expensive to ruin), I was happy with the recipe. It was as good as I remembered.

It was also the perfect main event for a dinner served in courses, because after you put it in the oven, you have 20 minutes to enjoy some appetizers, which is just what we did.

First we served a delightful shrimp bisque that was much tastier than the bland photo would have you believe. I’m making this one again soon too, so I’ll post the recipe with (hopefully) better photos in the near future.

Next we had a salad with blue cheese and pomegranate seeds. I love this combination, and pomegranates are in season now so we’ve been eating them a lot.

I got the recipe for Jess’s birthday cake from Leslie at The Hungry Housewife. As soon as I saw this recipe for a Reese’s Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting on her blog, I knew my kids would love it.

And they did! It’s a peanut butter and chocolate cake that is so rich and yummy you must have a glass of milk to wash it down, even if (like me) you don't usually like milk. In fact, I think this recipe alone could actually make milk the new beverage craze. From my bartending days, I remembered it's all about the presentation. I had mine in a shooter glass and if I had thought ahead, I would have put out a tray of these:

Next time I will, because there will be many next times for this cake. This is one seriously good recipe, so if you want to bake it, go visit Leslie here. She has a really fun blog with great recipes and gorgeous photos.

Only one more birthday to go and then it’s on to Christmas!

Sicilian Scrod
Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
1 garlic cloves, minced
1 quart whole tomatoes
1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
4 large basil leaves, cut chiffonade style
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 pounds of scrod filets
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted in oven

Put olive oil in Dutch oven pan and sauté shallots, garlic and mushrooms over medium low heat until tender. Add tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon. Add herbs and salt and pepper and simmer sauce for one hour. Add raisins and simmer for another 45 minutes.

Place scrod filets in baking dish and ladle sauce over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Top with toasted pine nuts and serve.

For a printable recipe click here

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pumpkin Pecan Scones

Thanksgiving is officially over when the last of the leftovers are gone, and the holiday was finally put to rest at our house tonight.

We actually did not eat a ton of leftovers – just some sandwiches on Friday and then I gave a lot of stuff away. But tonight I made a yummy turkey tortellini soup and wanted to make something to go along with it.

I didn’t have time to make a yeast bread, so I decided to make scones. I absolutely love scones, and don’t make them nearly often enough. I found a great recipe by Stephanie Jaworski at Joy of Baking for pumpkin scones. If you love scones like I do, you must visit this website! They have about two dozen recipes that are simply fabulous and their photos will make you drool.

I choose the pumpkin ones simply because I thought they would be a nice accompaniment to homemade turkey soup and I had a can of pumpkin in the cupboard.

The recipe calls for buttermilk, which makes a lighter scone than heavy cream does. Of course I did not have any buttermilk on hand, so I resorted to an old trick. To make a buttermilk substitute, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk and let rest for ten minutes.

I’m sure baking purists would disagree, but I’ve never noticed any difference in flavor when I use soured milk instead of buttermilk. Plus I find it to be more economical because every time I buy buttermilk for a recipe, I end up throwing the rest of the carton away.

The other trick to making scones is to make sure your butter is very cold. That way when you cut it into your dry ingredients it will make a texture similar to crumbs like this:

Scones are baked at a high heat (400 degrees) so Joy of Baking recommends adding an extra cookie sheet underneath the one you are baking on to prevent the bottoms from becoming too dark. I tried this and it worked beautifully.

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, the Kitchen Genius whipped up a cranberry butter that was so good I forgot my no butter rule and slathered some on. I actually ate much more than this photo would have you believe.

This recipe is a keeper and my family can’t wait for me to make them again. My son, Tommy, actually hid the last scone. He wants to eat it for breakfast tomorrow and was afraid his sister would scarf it down before he wakes up.

The Recipe:

Pumpkin Pecan Scones
(Adapted from

2 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans (cooled)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin (not pre-spiced)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Egg Wash:
1 large egg, beaten together with 1 tablespoon milk or cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in the middle of oven. Like baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut butter into small pieces and blend with dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two knives. Stir in raisins and pecans.

Mix buttermilk, pumpkin and vanilla together in a smaller bowl. Add to larger bowl and mix just until dough comes together. Turn onto lightly floured counter and knead four or five times.

Mold dough into a seven inch circle about an inch and a half thick. Cut circle in half and then cut each half into thirds, forming six scones. Place scones on baking sheet close to each other, but not touching. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cranberry Butter

1/4 cup softened butter
2 tablespoons cranberry sauce, at room temperature

Combine butter and cranberry sauce in a mini-food processor and mix until well blended.

For a printable recipe click here

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pom Pom Peking Duck

I adore pomegranates, but until recently I had never done anything with them except toss the seeds in a winter salad along with some gorgonzola and toasted pecans (YUM!).

Just a few weeks ago, I even painted my living room pomegranate red (seriously, that's the color of the paint chip). So when I read about the POM Wonderful recipe contest in the Foodie BlogRoll newsletter, I was intrigued.

POM Wonderful is giving away $5,000 to the best blogger recipe and the Foodie Blogroll is giving away a case of POM Wonderful juice and a case of fresh pomegranates! So the big question was, what could I make with pomegranates?

Of course the Kitchen Genius was all over this idea and he thought pomegranates would go really well with duck. That night, as luck would have it, we ate dinner at the Hunan Gourmet in Orleans and saw Peking duck on the menu, served with Chinese pancakes.

Ignorant of what we were getting ourselves in to, we decided to try to make Peking duck. Our first hint that this might be a challenge came when KG called a friend of his who attended the Culinary Institute of America. His friend had never made Peking duck.

“You know, they do that really well in restaurants,” he said.

Well yes they do, but we were determined to try this at home. We read a lot of recipes and did a lot of research and combined the best of what we learned with the ingredients we liked most.

The most important thing we learned was that it’s really important to make sure the skin on the duck is DRY. As in really, really dry – before you ever cook it. The crispy skin is the Holy Grail of Peking duck and KG was determined to achieve it.

This is not a recipe for those who don’t love food because it takes about two full days for that afore mentioned drying. First KG washed the duck and dried it thoroughly with paper towels.

He decided to make his own Chinese five spice mix and toasted whole peppercorns, fennel seeds, whole cloves and star anise until they were aromatic (my kitchen still smells wonderful).

He then ground them with some cinnamon with a mortar and pestle until they were a fine powder and liberally rubbed the inside cavity with the mixture, reserving a teaspoon for my pomegranate sauce.

Here’s the weird part and the final proof to our neighbors (and children) that we are in fact as crazy as they suspected: He hung the duck outside on the front porch on a hook over a drip pan and then went up into the attic to dig out a fan, which he set up to blow on the duck.

Four hours later, we ladled some steamy hot broth with ginger and scallions over the duck repeatedly. This helps render the fat so you can get that all important crispy skin.

After the steam bath, it was back outside in the frigid air for our poor duck for another four hours. Afraid the critters would steal our meal if we left it out overnight, we put the duck in the fridge, uncovered, for the night and the whole next day.

After all that prep, the actual recipe isn’t too crazy. Basically I roasted the duck on a rack for a little over an hour, turning it three times. In the meantime I made my pomegranate sauce and the pancakes for wrapping.

After the duck was done, KG carefully removed the skin and put it back on the rack in the baking pan and broiled it for another five minutes, because really that skin just can’t be crispy enough. While he carved the duck, I prepped the toppings.

This is a fun meal where everyone makes their own little duck wraps. The basic procedure is to take a pancake and place about five slices of duck in the center. Top with one or two strips of crispy skin. Drizzle with one tablespoon pomegranate sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and fresh pomegranate seeds. Fold and enjoy!

The Recipe:

Pom Pom Duck

Preparing the Duck:


5 pound duck
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon star anise
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

10 cups water
1/4 sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup sliced scallions
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Madeira wine
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoons water

Wash duck and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Heat peppercorns, fennel seed, cloves and star anise in cast iron skillet over medium heat until aromatic. Using a mortar and pestle, grind spices with cinnamon until fine powder. Coat inside of duck with three tablespoons of mixture and reserve remaining spices. Hang duck outside over a drip pan with fan blowing on it for four hours.

In a large Dutch oven, heat ten cups of water, ginger, scallions, honey, wine, vinegar and corn starch mixture until boiling. Place duck in a large strainer over a second Dutch oven size pan and ladle boiling mixture over duck. When all the mixture is gone, transfer pans and reheat water mixture and ladle over duck again. Repeat two more times. Hang duck outside with drip pan and fan for another four hours. Place in refrigerator uncovered overnight and all the next day until ready to cook.

Put duck, breast side up on a rack over baking dish. Roast in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn upside down and roast another 30 minutes. Turn duck again and roast for 10 more minutes. Take out of oven and remove skin. Place skin on rack and broil for another five minutes until extra crispy. Meanwhile carve meat off duck in slices and transfer to a platter. Slice skin in thin strips and serve with Chinese pancakes, pomegranate sauce, scallions and pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate Sauce:

2 1/2 pomegranates, cut in half, seeds removed
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice mix

Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring frequently. Strain mixture through fine sieve strainer, pressing on seeds with back of spoon to remove all the juice and put juice back in saucepan. Heat to boil. Meanwhile mix 2 tablespoons corn starch with 4 tablespoons cold water until smooth. Add to syrup in pan and mix until thickened.


Four cups flour
2 cups boiling water

Add boiling water to flour and stir quickly until dough comes together. Knead dough until it is smooth and let rest 30 minutes. If dough is still to wet to work with add more flour as necessary, up to one cup. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out circles with 3-inch round cookie cutter. Roll each circle to about 6 inches and 1/16 inch thick. Heat non-stick skillet and drizzle with sesame seed oil. Cook pancakes in small batches until firm and lightly brown on both sides, about five minutes. Stack pancakes on plate and cover with plastic wrap to keep warm.

To serve:

Put in small bowls on table:
Pomegranate sauce
5 scallions, cleaned and sliced
Seeds from remaining 1/2 pomegranate
Put duck meat and skin on a platter
Put pancake plate on table

Take a pancake and put five slices of duck in the center. Top with one or two strips of crispy skin. Drizzle with one tablespoon pomegranate sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and fresh pomegranate seeds. Fold and enjoy!

For a printable recipe click here