Lobster Mac & Cheese - Zantonio Style

Lobster Mac & Cheese - decadence on a plate. And this one is Decadence Incarnate!

Our friend, Tony has a business back east - Zantonio Brands of Hammonton New Jersey - and makes a couple of really great products - a fresh Bruschetta and a garlic parmesan butter marketed as Scampi Sauce. Both are available in Acme and Shop Rite stores back east, but there's no national distribution.

We've been working with him to help develop some online sales - something that is definitely not easy with fresh food. Our once-fabulous Postal Service isn't always as efficient as it should be - although even delayed packages have been within acceptable temperatures.

The best part of it for us has been receiving samples in the mail! When one has five pounds of Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce, one needs to find uses for it.

And we are...

Last night, I made a Lobster Mac & Cheese - using a recipe from Food and Wine magazine as my guide. The beauty of Tony's butter is I didn't need at add any additional herbs or spices other than a bit of salt and pepper, to taste. Everything else was there!

The biggest secret to this recipe - other than the Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce -is making the lobster stock. Letting it all simmer together makes for a really rich and flavorful base.

 

Lobster Mac & Cheese Zantonio Style

  • 6 small lobster tails – about 1 1/2 lbs, total – thawed, if frozen
  • 9 tablespoons Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce, divided
  • 3/4 cup sliced yellow onion
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pound uncooked short curly pasta – elbows, cavatappi, or campanelle
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 16 ounces mixed grated cheeses – fontina, Gruyère, cheddar, asiago – cheeses you like
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt, to taste

Crumb Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs – fresh, store-bought plain, or panko will work
  • 3 tablespoons Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions

Grease a 3-quart, 13- x 9-inch baking dish with butter; set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high. Add lobster tails; cook, undisturbed, until shells turn red but meat is still slightly translucent, about 2 minutes (lobster will be undercooked). Using tongs, transfer lobster to a large bowl; let cool 5 minutes.

Transfer 2 cups of the cooking water to a heatproof measuring cup and set aside; reserve remaining water in pot on stovetop.

Using kitchen shears, cut down the center of each lobster tail shell, transfer meat to a cutting board, and add shells to bowl. Clean the lobster tails.

Chop lobster meat into 1-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl; cover and refrigerate.

Make lobster stock

Melt 2 tablespoons of the Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add reserved lobster shells with any juices from bowl; cook, stirring often, until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring often, until almost dry, about 6 minutes more.

Stir in reserved 2 cups cooking water in measuring glass, and bring to a simmer over medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Stir in milk and cream; cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large heatproof bowl; discard solids. There should be about 4 cups lobster stock; set aside. Wipe saucepan clean; set aside. Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cook pasta

While lobster stock reduces, return remaining lobster cooking water in large pot to a boil over high. Add pasta and cook for 1 minute less than package instructions for slightly less than al dente. Drain and set aside.

Make cheese sauce

Melt 4 tablespoons of the Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce in cleaned saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, until bubbly and light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in reserved 4 cups strained milk mixture. Cook, whisking often, until thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from heat; gradually whisk in cheeses, whisking until melted. Add mascarpone and whisk until smooth. Gently stir in cooked pasta and lobster meat. Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish; set aside.

Make topping

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce. Stir in panko, lemon zest, and paprika. Sprinkle evenly over mac and cheese mixture in baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven until bubbly and golden brown on top, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes.

About 8 servings.

 

 

Tony is still not set for online sales - yet - but it's in the works. We'll definitely let you know when it happens!

 


Soft Mustard Molasses Cookies

These cookies come from a 2009 edition of the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine. I've had it laying around probably since then, but never quite got around to making them. I mean... Mustard in a cookie?!?

Well... as so often happens, I was wrong.

Yes, mustard in a cookie! They're like a soft version of a gingersnap - but with a bit more oomph! 

They're really flavorful and you don't actually taste mustard. A keeper, indeed.

Too bad it took me 15 years to get up the courage to make them.

 

Soft Mustard Molasses Cookies

adapted from Gourmet Magazine

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature 30 minutes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup mild molasses
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Grease 2 large baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in egg, mustard, and molasses (mixture may look curdled).

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing just until smooth.

Drop 1 1/2 Tbsp batter per cookie onto baking sheets, arranging them 3 inches apart (cookies will spread). Sprinkle with Demerara sugar.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are puffed and dry to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool on sheet 1 minute, then transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

 

Make a batch - don't wait 15 years!


In The Beginning...

... there was no World Wide Web. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok... There wasn't even MySpace, let alone the concept of streaming movies or TV on demand.

Back in those Dark Ages, there was Compuserve, Prodigy, and America Online. You paid a monthly fee for an extremely slow dial-up connection to your service of choice. That fee entitled the user to 'X'-amount of minutes per month - and when you went over your allotment, you were charged by the minute for your overages. A lot. I know.

Victor and I were introduced online - he was on Prodigy, I was on America Online, and our Yenta, Nancy, was on both. She decided we should meet.

We did, and it will be 30 years in November...

During those years on Prodigy and America Online, we met a lot of really great people - people we were able to connect with in real life, and who remain cherished friends to this day.

One person we only knew from the Prodigy online world - who we lost contact with when Prodigy went away in 2001 - was a woman named Lisa Deaton. Lisa will always be remembered because she gave us her recipe for Double Fudge Brownie Decadence. And, as the recipe implies - it is decadent!

The secret to this particular recipe is the corn syrup. And, yes, boys and girls, there is a difference between Karo Corn Syrup and high fructose corn syrup.

Double Fudge Brownie Decadence

Lisa Deaton

Brownie

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9" cake pan.

In saucepan, heat butter and corn syrup until butter is melted. Stir in chocolate until melted. Cool, slightly.

Add sugar and then eggs, mixing well. Add vanilla, flour, and nuts, mixing well.

Pour into prepared pan and bake about 30 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then remove and fully cool on rack.

For glaze:

Melt together chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Stir in vanilla. Frost with glaze and then chill about 15 minutes to set glaze.

The online world really was so much different back in those days. To quote Simon and Garfunkel... A time it was, and what a time it was, it was... A time of innocence...

Not that we were actually innocent, mind you... we could definitely be hell-raisers walking the fine line of being TOS'd... I spent an inordinate amount of time on the Christianity Boards. It was fun being the Gay Atheist who knew more about the Bible than those who professed to follow it...

I also came close to working for the GLCF - Gay Lesbian Community Forum - on AOL circa 1992-93. Alas, the actual money wasn't there. With 20/20 hindsight, I probably would have made a fortune in stock. Oh, well...

It is difficult to imagine a time when you didn't carry access to the entire world in your pocket. A time when you called someone on the phone and it would be busy for hours because they were online with their dial-up. It's also hard to imagine a time when 14.6kbs was fast! You actually had to go to a bank - online banking didn't exist. Bills came in the mail - and were paid by check. It was downright archaic!

But I digress - as usual...

Thanks, Lisa, for the recipe - and the stroll down Memory Lane...

And speaking of Memory Lane... the plate is from the 1992 James Beard Award Dinner - a set of 4 from our friend, Susan, who has been a friend for more than 45 years - waaaaay before the online world existed.


Homemade Soup and a Loaf of Bread

We finally made it to the grocery store, yesterday. First time in almost 2 weeks. We've had a bit of weather that just wasn't conducive to being out and about.

It's definitely age-related... Back in my youth, I'd be on the roads in a snowstorm half-lit with bald tires heading to the store because we had the munchies or were almost out of beer. Now, common sense coupled with a profound fear of meeting a 2024 version of my youthful self in the middle of an intersection keeps me put.

Fortunately, a well-stocked freezer and pantry kept us well-fed.

The nice thing about not shopping for 2 weeks is we can now actually see into the freezer and cupboards! There's nothing languishing in a far corner, dying of freezer burn. No packaged goods with a Use By date of July 2019. It's all ready to be packed out, again!

Another fun thing about not shopping for a while is getting creative with the things you have - like last night's soup. We had every ingredient but one in the house - and the one ingredient we didn't have was being delivered by Imperfect Foods.

I rarely follow a recipe for soup - it's soup, after all - but once in a while I see something that sounds interesting. I really like the flavor combinations of Moroccan food and this one hit all the buttons.

The original recipe called for a can of chickpeas and no chicken, but... we have several pounds of dried chickpeas from Palouse, so I used them. Also, since the recipe said to use chicken broth, I added some chicken. Leave the chicken out and switch the broth to vegetable broth and you have a lovely Vegan soup...

Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup

adapted from America's test Kitchen

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 oz chicken breast or thigh, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Saffron
  • 3/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 4 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent and starting to brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in coriander, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken and brown lightly. Stir in 1/2 cup cup parsley and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in broth, water, and chickpeas. Cook until chickpeas are almost cooked through. Add tomatoes and lentils; increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in pasta and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chard and continue to cook, partially covered, until pasta is tender, about 5 minutes longer. Off heat, stir in lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I did make a vat of this - lunch for several days!!

And since we were having soup, I decided we needed some fresh-baked bread.

 

The recipe for the bread was actually a sun-dried tomato and olive bread. I didn't have any decent black olives in the house, so I just made it without the olives and tomatoes.

This is a really easy go-to recipe that is excellent plain, or made with any number of add-ins. Light crumb, chewy crust... Gotta love it!

And I really do like weighing ingredients - it is just so much easier.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Bread

adapted from the BBC

  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
  • 15g/½oz salt
  • 55ml/2fl oz olive oil
  • 20g/¾oz fresh yeast
  • 275ml/9fl oz water
  • 170g/6oz black Greek olives, pitted and chopped
  • 55g/2oz sun-dried tomatoes

Mix all ingredients, apart from the olives and tomatoes, in a large bowl. Take care not to put the yeast in direct contact with the salt when they are first added to the bowl.

Knead well with your hands and knuckles until the dough is elastic, smooth and shiny. Cover with a piece of cling film and leave to rise for one hour.

Divide the dough into two and add half of the olives and sun-dried tomatoes into each.

Mould both the doughs into rough round shapes and press firmly down. Sprinkle white flour lightly over the top and mark them with a cross.

Place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper (silicone paper) and prove for one hour in a warm place.

Bake at 220°C/425°F/Gas 7 for 30 minutes until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

 

Two loaves of bread - one in the fairly empty freezer.

Bring it on, Mother Nature. We're set!


Roasted Mushroom Chicken Marsala

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the kitchen is so delightful...

I just love it when I haven't been to the store in days, I find a recipe that looks pretty good, and I actually have the ingredients in the house to make it!

Case in point - last night's Roasted Mushroom Chicken Marsala!

We haven't been to the store because we've had some fun snow and ice - with more freezing rain about to start any minute. With highs only hitting the teens, the roads have become packed ice and snow. Our latest round of Cold Rain and Snow [cue the Grateful Dead] is only supposed to last until about 5am, tomorrow - an inch of snow and a half-inch of ice down at our level... More than a couple of streets are closed because of fallen trees or stuck vehicles and with plenty of supplies, there's just no reason to venture out. Besides, kids are sliding down our hill using a kiddie pool as a sled - who wants to interrupt their fun?!?

The chicken dish was compliments of a recipe I found on Food and Wine. It's one of the few food magazines I still subscribe to. Why I subscribe to any at this point is a mystery - I have literally thousands of recipes filed that I haven't made yet. I don't really need any more...

Be that as it may... this came out pretty good.

Roasted Mushroom Chicken Marsala

adapted from Food and Wine magazine

  • 1 lb mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shallots cut into thin rings
  • 2 chicken breasts sliced in half and pounded into cutlets
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup Dry Marsala
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • S&P to taste

Heat oven to 425°F.

Toss the mushrooms, garlic and shallots in a 9x13 pan with 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Roast on the middle rack of the oven, tossing the mushrooms once or twice, until the mushrooms are softened with crisp, golden edges - 20 to 30 minutes.

Season the cutlets with salt and pepper. Place the flour on a plate and then dredge the seasoned cutlets to coat them all over.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Once hot, sear the chicken in batches, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the seared cutlets to a plate and set aside.

Add the marsala wine, chicken stock and soy sauce to the pan, with the heat on medium-high, and reduce by half.

Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Once melted, place the chicken cutlets and roasted mushrooms back into the pan.

Heat for a couple of minutes to warm the chicken, then turn off the heat and serve.

 

Parsley Buttered Noodles and Green Beans finished off the plate. And dinner only took three pots and a roasting pan!

It was worth it.

And the leftovers became sandwiches for lunch, today.


Pane Siciliano

I have been making Pane Siciliano for years - ever since I first got Carol Field's The Italian Baker - some 25 or so years ago. I even baked a couple of loaves in Sicily when we were there! It's a good loaf of bread.

I received the latest issue of Milk Street Magazine and, lo and behold, they had a recipe for Pane Siciliano that was just a tad different - it called for ground, toasted sesame seeds in the dough!

Naturally, I had to bake a loaf!

 

 

And I must say - the addition of the ground, toasted sesame seeds really knocked it out of the ballpark! It worked really well with the semolina, adding just the right amount of nuttiness without overpowering the loaf. Needless to say, we liked it!

It has a beautiful, soft crumb and the crust has just the right chew.

 

Pane Siciliano

adapted from Milk Street

  • 40 grams (4 tbsp) sesame seeds, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 3 tbsp warm water,  divided
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp honey, divided
  • 340 grams (2 cups) semolina flour
  • 137 grams (1 cup) bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

In a skillet over medium heat, toast 30 grams (3 tablespoons) of the sesame seeds, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and pulse to a fine powder.

In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, stir together 1¼ cups of the warm water, the oil and 1 tablespoon of the honey.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the ground sesame, both flours, the yeast and salt. Attach the bowl and dough hook to the mixer.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the water mixture. Increase to medium and knead until a smooth dough forms and clears the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, place back in the bowl, cover, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1½ hours.

Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment and dust it with semolina.

Turn the dough out onto a dry counter (not floured).

Form the dough into a thick log about 12 inches long. Using your hands, roll the log back and forth against the counter while applying light pressure, stretching the dough into an evenly thick rope about 30 inches long.

Starting at one end, tightly coil the rope, stopping at the rope’s midpoint. Coil the other end of the rope in the opposite direction from the first, forming an S shape.

Place the shaped dough on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until  almost doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

Position racks in the middle and lower-middle of the oven. Place a metal baking pan on the lower rack and heat the oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 3 tablespoons warm water and the remaining 1 teaspoon honey. Have ready 3 cups hot to pour into the baking pan to create steam for baking the bread.

When the dough has almost doubled, brush it with the honey-water mixture and then sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Place the baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven, carefully pour the hot water into the baking pan and quickly close the oven door. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool the loaf on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Transfer directly to the rack and cool completely.

 

The recipe states one can also make 6 rolls from the dough, pretty much following the above instructions but rolling into balls and then flattening them to about 1" thick, cover and rise until doubled, and bake 35 or so minutes. I shall do that next time.

I shall be making it again. And again... It's an extremely easy loaf to make.

 


Andalusian-Style Chicken

I decided we needed something different for dinner... I had already baked bread - Pane Pugliese made into rolls - and wanted something that would go with it. It's one of my favorite breads to make - and it always comes out great!

I started going through chicken recipes, and since the larder was fairly well-stocked, went with a variation of Andalusian-Style Chicken from BBC Food. It's a Spanish version of Italian agrodolce.

I played with the recipe quite a bit - shocking, eh?!? I added eggs - shakshuka-style - and it really did come out good.. They were definitely correct about serving it with crusty bread.

Andalusian-Style Chicken

adapted from BBC Food

Ingredients
  • large pinch of saffron
  • 2 cups turkey stock
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 boneless, skinless thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • large pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 can San Marzano peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 25g toasted pistachios
  • S&P to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • crusty bread, to serve
Method

STEP 1

Add the saffron to the hot stock to soak. Heat the butter in a medium skillet and cook the onion until it is soft and just beginning to turn golden. Push to the side of the pan and add the chicken. Cook for a few minutes until the chicken is browned all over.

STEP 2
Add the cinnamon, cumin, and chilli, and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the stock, vinegar, honey, tomatoes, tomato paste, and raisins. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat a bit and cook until the sauce is reduced and the chicken is cooked through. When ready to serve, add 4 eggs, cover, and simmer until eggs are cooked to desired firmness. Scatter with the nuts, and serve with bread on the side.

 

This is a loaf of the Pane Pugliese I made a while back. I didn't take any separate pictures of the rolls.


Pumpkin Rolls

I've been making these rolls for probably 30 years or more. I don't really recall the origin of the recipe - just that it came about one Thanksgiving, lo these many years ago - and has been a holiday staple ever since.

My best guess is that they came from a magazine like Bon Appetit or Gourmet, but I haven't been able to find a similar recipe doing a web search... They're extremely easy and really good.  I use the food processor to blend the butter and 2 cups of flour together and then add it to the rest of the flour.

For this batch, I switched things up a bit... I went from 3/4 cup butter to 1 cup, and 1 egg to 2. I also used 3 cups bread flour and 4 cups all-purpose. And I cut the nutmeg to 1/2 teaspoon and added a half-teaspoon of mace.

 

Pumpkin Rolls

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • egg wash made by beating 1 large egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water

In a mixing bowl proof the yeast with 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the milk for 5 minutes.  Combine 6 cups of the flour, nutmeg, salt, and the remaining sugar and blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the eggs, the pumpkin puree, and the yeast mixture and mix until it is combined well.

Using a dough hook, knead -- adding as much of the remaining 1 cup flour as necessary -- for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball, transfer it to a well-buttered large bowl, and turn it to coat it with the butter. Let the dough rise, covered in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it is doubled.

Turn the dough out onto your counter, divide it into 24 pieces, and form each piece into a ball. Place the balls onto a buttered sheet pan and let rise, covered with a kitchen towel, in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until they are almost double in size.

Brush the rolls with the egg wash and bake them in the middle of a preheated 350° oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until they are golden brown.

I think this will be the new go-to version, although I think I'll go all bread flour, next time just to see how they come out.

In any event, they're easy to make - and make great sandwich rolls!

I may have to make these a bit more often...

 


Perfect Panettone

How this came out as perfect as can be will always be one of life's great mysteries...

For the last two years, I've actually made a pretty darned good panettone. The previous years - not so good.

Using the same recipe each time, I kinda figured out what I was doing wrong - usually not allowing it to proof properly or refusing to believe it really is a fairly wet, sticky dough and adding too much flour.

This year, I started off as always, but when I mixed the flour with the milk, it kinda lumped together. It was like a mixing bowl of orzo.

I considered tossing it and starting over, but decided to go for it. I added the eggs - too quickly, I'm sure - and I ended up with a lumpy wet mass. At this point, I should add that I had six eggs in the carton and added all six. Not a smart move.

Knowing it was too loose, I started adding more flour by the tablespoon. I knew I needed a sticky dough, so I set the timer for 10 minutes and walked away - letting the mixer run,.  came back to a pretty decent looking dough - lumps gone.

Time to start adding the butter.

Even though the butter had been out for several hours, it wasn't quite as soft as it should have been. "Room Temperature" is a subjective term - ours is probably colder than many. Anyway... I started adding the butter and it took forever for it to mix in. Where the recipe states "Total mixing time will be about 10 minutes – maybe a bit more." it definitely took more - it was easily 20 minutes of non-stop mixing.

30 minutes of pretty much non-stop mixing. It was silky and satiny.

I scraped it into a bowl, added a lid, and into the refrigerator it went. The following morning I followed the instructions for adding the fruit and rolling it into a ball and placing it in the buttered panettone paper mold. (I placed the paper mold into a 7" springform pan for added support.)

I then let it rise for a full three hours at 95°F on the proofing setting of our oven. I then pulled it out, heated the oven to 350°F, and into the oven it went. The result was perfection!

Panettone

Fruit

  • 300gr mixed dried fruits (currants, raisins, cranberries, candied lemon and orange peel, dried cherries, or any combination)
  • 6 tablespoons brandy

Dough

  • 1 1/2 tbsp rapid-rise yeast
  • 5 ounces 98°F milk
  • 50gr (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Fiori Di Sicilia extract
  • 500gr (4 cups) bread flour
  • 5gr salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 255gr unsalted butter, at room temperature

Place dried fruits in bowl, add liquor, cover and keep at room temp overnight.

Mix sugar with barely warm milk. Add yeast and set aside.

Mix flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add yeast mixture and mix to combine.

Add the eggs. Mix on medium speed until the dough begins to smooth out.

Cut the softened butter into 1 tbsp chunks and add the butter a few pieces at a time, mixing it in fully before adding more. Total mixing time will be about 10 minutes – maybe a bit more. It should be glossy and satiny. It will be sticky.

Butter a large bowl and scrape dough into it. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning, strain the soaking fruit.

Place dough on a lightly floured counter and spread out into a rectangular shape.

Place half of the fruit onto half of the spread-out dough. Fold the dough over the fruit and fold over, again. Pat out, again, add the remaining fruit, fold several times and then form into a ball.

Butter a 7″ panettone mold or paper.

Add the dough ball, lightly cover, and allow to rise for about 3 hours – or until the dough is rising above the rim.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 300° F and bake for an additional 45 to 55 minutes.

Cool completely before slicing.

 

The baking gods were definitely watching over me on this one.


High on the Hog

We just finished Season Two of the Netflix show "High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America." What an excellent program.

It's no secret that we love food and that we often see food as bridging cultures and cultural differences. The beauty of this show is that the program host, Stephen Satterfield, actually explains African-American food, culture, and tradition, and then brings in people who actually lived and experienced some of the most significant events in our collective history - events not typically taught in any sort of detail, if taught, at all.

One episode had him back in Atlanta - his hometown - and, at one point, focusing on the student activists during the Civil Rights Movement and the restaurants, cooks and bakers who helped to fund the sit-ins and demonstrations - paying for bail, etc.

Every bit of the food had me drooling - corn biscuits that looked lighter than feathers, fried chicken that I could only dream of replicating - but one that really stood out was a Bean Pie. Made from Navy Beans, it was developed by Black Muslims in the Nation of Islam in the 1930s.  It was determined that what we term Soul Foods were relics of the “slave diet” and had no part in the lives of contemporary African-Americans. Kinda the anti-Sweet Potato Pie.

The things I learn...

As luck would have it, we had a bag of dried Navy Beans in the pantry. What I didn't know until after I made the pie, was that to be authentic, it should have had a whole wheat crust. Also, most recipes called for equal amounts of nutmeg and cinnamon, but several went for other spices, as well. I opted for cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, because, while I love nutmeg, a little goes a long way when you're grating it fresh.

Also, some recipes called for simply mashing the beans, others called for food mills and strainers. Different textures seem to be normal. I used my Ninja blender to make it very smooth. Having never had a slice of an authentic African-American Muslim Bean Pie, I went with my own instinct and preferences.

Still learning.

But... I made a damned fine pie!

 

Navy Bean Pie

adapted from several internet recipes...

  • 2 cups cooked navy beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 unbaked 10" pie shell

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place beans and evaporated milk in blender and process until very smooth. Add butter and mix, then add remaining ingredients and process until creamy.

Pour into unbaked crust and bake 60-75 minutes. Top should be well-browned and center still slightly jiggly.

 

It's a really damned fine pie!

Silky-smooth, rich, flavorful - everything one could want in a slice of pie. Again, I don't know just how smooth the pie would be, but I do believe that if people had tools like the blenders we have today, they would have used them. Modernizing a recipe is not altering its history or historical significance.

The freshly grated nutmeg came through loud and clear, but was tempered by the ginger. I have my Grandmother's nutmeg grater, which, following the theme of learning through our ancestors, is quite appropriate. Grandma was a great cook, as was my mother.

 

 

If you haven't seen the series, I do urge you to check it out.

And make a pie.


The Day After

One of life's great joys is the leftovers from Thanksgiving Dinner! There's such pleasure in revisiting all the delicious flavors...

Ours started with Turkey Sandwiches with mayo, stuffing, and cranberry sauce for lunch - usually on squishy white bread but it's something we don't usually buy and neither of us wanted to go to the store.

I didn't get a picture because I was too busy shoving it into my mouth.

Then, it was a Hot Turkey Sandwich for dinner. We both came close to licking our plates, but we had to save room for Pumpkin Pie with freshly whipped cream.

I'm stuffed, again, just typing this.

The Main Event was at Phoebe and Nancy's - 15 chronological adults, 2 three year olds, and a 7 month old 65 pound Golden Retriever puppy. Everyone contributed to the meal - it takes a village to feed this group.

The Menu

Appetizers

Holiday Sidecars
Cheesy Toasts
Sausage Bites with Dips
Baked Brie
Za’atar Crackers
Veggie Tray with Dips
Meatballs
Clam Dip with Chips

Mains & Sides

Turkey & Gravy
Two Dressings
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Corn Pudding
Butternut Squash Gratin
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Green Beans
Mac N Cheese
Mixed Green Salad
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Canned Cranberry Sauce
Black Olives
Rolls

Desserts

Pumpkin Pie
Marionberry Pie
Carmel Apple Pie
Chocolate Cupcakes
Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

If you're thinking that it was a lot of food for 15 chronological adults and 2 three year olds - Hank, the Golden Retriever puppy, doesn't get people food - you would be correct. It was a massive amount. But that's why one brings tupperware and ziplock bags - The Leftovers!!!

I did manage some pictures of the food on my phone, but I took them too quickly and I really didn't do justice to them.

Just envision a Norman Rockwell scene...

That was us.

 

 


Cast Iron Orange Cake - Without a Cast Iron Pan

The recipes one finds just reading the daily newspaper! Why I have spent untold thousands on cookbooks and cooking magazines is beyond me...

Case in point - a Cast Iron Orange Cake. We have both been really good about desserts - our A1C was creeping up juuuuuuust a bit, and neither of us felt like succumbing to Type 2 Diabetes in our dottage.

That being said... once in a while we must treat ourselves. That's once in a while - not nightly.

Enter the New York Times...

Victor saw a recipe for this cake that really sounded intriguing - made with whole oranges - skin, pith, and all. Only problem was it calls for a 10" cast iron skillet. We no longer have any cast iron skillets - they didn't make the move west.

We do, however, have the top to a cast iron dutch oven that I have used for bread baking. But it's on a bottom shelf in the far corner of a cupboard, and my hips in their current state do not enjoy crawling around on the floor searching for things. We do, however, have every size cake pan imaginable - all at eye-level. I grabbed one of the 10" pans and went to work.

 

Now, having never made this cake before, I have no idea how my version compares to one baked in cast iron, but my 10" Allied Metal Spinning cake pan made a damn fine cake!

Cast Iron Orange Cake

adapted from the New York Times

  • 2 cups/400 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 2 teaspoons or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely ground (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup/226 grams butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 cups/255 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup/50 grams semolina flour (or another 1/4 cup/32 grams all-purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup/60 grams chopped toasted walnuts
  • Olive oil, for the pan

Make the cake: Place a 10-inch cast iron pan on the middle rack of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F while you prepare the batter.

Add sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and finely zest one orange into it. Set the bowl aside and then trim a bit of the stem end off both oranges and discard. Cut oranges into 8 pieces and puree in a food processor or blender, scraping the bowl as needed. You need 1 1/2 cups puree; set aside.

To the stand mixer bowl, add vanilla, fennel seeds (if using) and a pinch of salt. Rub ingredients together vigorously with your hands and fingers.

When sugar is fragrant, add butter and set the mixer to medium-high speed to cream until fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Scrape down bowl and paddle, making sure you aren’t leaving any butter unattended.

Add egg yolks and beat on medium-high until well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes more, remembering to scrape bowl and paddle as needed.

While wet ingredients are working in the mixer, prepare dry ingredients by whisking together flour, semolina, baking powder and salt.

Scrape butter mixture down from bowl and paddle. Give it a good stir to make sure the batter is well mixed. Return to the stand mixer, add the reserved 1 1/2 cups orange puree and slowly incorporate on medium-low speed, then turn to medium-high to blend well.

Starting on low speed, add dry ingredients, then increase speed to medium-high and eventually to high, scraping bowl and paddle until batter is very well mixed.

Stir in the nuts.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven, brush with a generous amount of olive oil and spread batter in the hot pan. It should sizzle and will get a nice, toasty caramelized bottom during baking.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The cake should be set in the middle and golden brown on top. You can use a cake tester if you have one; it should come out clean. This cake can be eaten on its own warm out of the oven after sitting for a little over 30 minutes.

It did not sizzle when I put the batter in, but it did bake up nicely.

I also substituted pistachios in place of the walnuts 'cuz we were out. (Just did a Trader Joe run this morning and we're well-stocked for the holidays!)

I'm thinking 1 1/2 cups of lemon, lime, or grapefruit would work quite well in this recipe...

Just not this week.