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!



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


  • 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.

Welcome 2023

Out with the old, in with the new...

Here's a reprint of my take on New Year....

If my mom ever cooked anything special for the new year, I really don’t remember it. The first time I recall hearing about good luck New Year’s foods was when I was in the Navy. Working with lots of guys from down south, Hoppin’ John entered my vocabulary. As I got older and moved around the country, more traditions arrived.

When I lived at Lake Tahoe, working for the Hyatt, I worked with a lot of Mexicans. They made tamales and brought them in for everyone to share. Somewhere, I remember King Cake – that was probably Boston. Black-eyed peas and cornbread followed me around the USofA, and landing in Pennsylvania, it became Pork and Sauerkraut. Victor would divorce me if I ever made pork and sauerkraut – so much for good luck.

After years in the restaurant and hotel business, the very last day I want to be out is New Years Eve. It’s even worse than Mother’s Day. I don’t know if you can even imagine the horror of delivering pizzas on such a night, or dealing with drunks throwing glasses in the general vicinity of a casino fireplace. We were still finding shards of glass for weeks after that one…

Other than a few small house parties, First Night in Boston was probably one of the more fun of the New Year festivities I’ve experienced. Definitely the most unique. Outdoors in a cold, snowy Boston with performances ranging from classical to contemporary in a score or more different venues. And the crowds were relatively well-behaved.

We had bullets raining down on us when we lived in San Leandro – why people think it’s a good idea to shoot guns into the air boggles my mind. We flew across the country on New Year’s Eve 1999 to bring in the year 2000 with Victor’s family – on a near-empty flight in deserted airports – remember Y2K?!?. And, as 2003 turned into 2004, being locked out of Times Square after seeing The Producers with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick less than a half-block away was pretty aggravating. We ended up heading back to our hotel and had a champagne toast with the bartender, the Beverage Manager, and a couple from Norway as the clock struck twelve.

Normally, I eschew crowds – especially the throngs out on a New Year’s Eve – but I do think I’d like to ring in the new year in a European city, Rome, London, Paris, Florence, Barcelona… I dunno… Outdoors in a huge plaza, somewhere – and within walking distance of wherever we were staying. The biggest stipulation being within walking distance of where we would be staying. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with any sort of transportation. And I could definitely envision a moonlit walk through Paris at 3am

So... New Year's Eve 2022 was fun and quiet. My brother and sister-in-law came over for homemade pizza and Aperol Spritzes.

Mike and I bored Victor and Debbie with antics from our Navy Days... We were both in The Gulf of Tonkin around the same time - he on the Saratoga (CVA-60) and me on the Ranger (CVA-61). Mike was an Airdale - working on the flight deck. I was a Commissaryman working mainly in the Bake Shop working 12 hour shifts 7 days a week baking thousands and thousands of loaves of bread, rolls, cakes, pies, donuts - you name it. I had the easy job.

The bars of Olongapo City in The Philippines, the Wan Chai district in Hong Kong, going through typhoons - all of the trouble a 20-year-old and a 23-year-old could get into 7000 miles from home. And there was a LOT of trouble to get into! That we survived is a testament to our good upbringing.

I spent New Year's Eve 1972 drinking homemade apple wine in the forward bake shop with a couple of buddies. The Navy recipe was to open a case of canned apple juice, add a pinch of yeast to each can, and let it sit behind the ovens until ripe. It was pretty nasty, but it did its job.

I had been dressed as Santa the week before... Love those Navy-issued glasses!

It just dawned on me that the apple wine was fifty years ago, last night! That really is several lifetimes ago. At least my taste has gotten a bit more sophisticated - last night was Laurent-Perrier La Cuvee Brut with Aperol!

And just in case you might want to make a pizza, this year... this really is a great dough. It's a 2-day rise, so plan accordingly.

Pizza Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (100º to 105º)
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups “00” flour or unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for bowl

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in bowl of mixer fitted with dough hook. Let proof about 5 minutes.

Mix together flour and salt. Add to yeast mixture. Mix on low speed about 4 minutes or until dough forms a coarse ball. Stop mixer and cover bowl with a towel. Let dough rest about 5 minutes, then remove towel and continue mixing another 2 minutes or so.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a ball, transfer to bowl and turn to lightly coat with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, then refrigerate overnight.

Punch down dough, re-roll, and return to bowl. Tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Divide dough into 2 pieces; shape pieces into balls and place on a lightly floured work surface. Loosely cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.

And Happy New Year!

Christmas Dinner - 2022


Phoebe and Nancy pulled out all the stops. An outrageous meal with some outrageous people.

Fun, Fun. And More Fun.

We started off with an hors d'oeuvre remake from Christmas Eve.

And then we moved on to the main event - Prime Ribs. Yes, plural. They made two!

Perfectly cooked. of course!

And then it was the side dishes... Mashed potatoes, of course

And a vat of gravy. Phoebe makes good gravy!

Green Beans with chopped garlic

Creamed Spinach

A fabulous salad

and the obligatory dinner rolls

Because we definitely didn't eat enough, we had desserts - yes, plural, again.

Brownies with a mint frosting in homage to Mom..

An Orange Apple Cake

Lots more cupcakes

And Pumpkin Snickerdoodles that I didn't get a picture of.

It was an entire weekend built on excess, and we realize just how fortunate we are that we are able to do so. No one is rich, but we're definitely doing better than so many others. No one has to worry about where their next meal is coming from or in danger of losing their home. We were able to buy presents - and a lot of really good food!

It's a great feeling.

Since my feelings on New Year's Eve are fairly common knowledge, a raucous Christmas is going to morph into a much quieter New Year's Eve.

Stay tuned...

Panettone and Holiday Weight Gain

Ah... 'Tis the Season, indeed.

227.4, this morning. Christmas - the gift that keeps on giving! And giving...

It's really been a yo-yo two weeks. It started with Christmas Cookie Baking at my sister's house, going out to dinner, still not at the gym, too damned cold outside to do anything... And then getting candy in the mail from friends! 2 pounds of Fralinger's Salt Water Taffy from Atlantic City. A tin of Almond Roca.

While I've gained back a few pounds, I saw my Primary Care Dr on Monday for a 6-month follow-up, and I was actually down almost 25 pounds from my appointment in June. Not too shabby!

So... as any red-blooded foodaholic would do, I made a Panettone, today! It's a 2-day process. I started yesterday!

Panettone eluded me for years. It was one bread that was almost there - but not quite. Last year I finally nailed it. This year was even better!

I'm not entirely sure where I was going wrong, but time, perseverance, and pure luck have finally played out. Not to mention having a 95°F proofing setting in the oven!

Feathery light, soft, and delicate. Perfection in a 7" paper baking mold.

And just a few calories. The entire recipe is 5405 kcal - five thousand, four hundred, and five calories! 

I sliced 2 pieces for me and Victor - 1/8th each - 676 kcal. That's not leaving me much for dinner, tonight. But every feathery bite was worth it.

It is just so much better than the packaged panettone I have bought for years. And, while it does take a bit of time, the actual recipe is quite easy and straightforward.



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


  • 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 flavorings and 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 a couple at a time. Mix on medium speed until the dough begins to smooth out.

Cut the softened butter into 1 tbsp chunks and add the butter a piece 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. The dough 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 well 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.

It's worth it!

Traditional Fruitcake - Sorta

There are so many variations on a Fruitcake, that it's nigh-on impossible to call one traditional. I mean... traditional from the 1600s? Traditional from a can?

The only thing really traditional about this is it has fruit and nuts - and it's dark.

As I have stated before, I like fruitcake - in all its guises. Homemade is the best, but I'll settle for a slice from a can if that's all there is.

Today's fruitcake is a mishmash of recipes from lord knows where... I have no fewer than six fruitcake recipes on the site, and all of them have been tweaked at least twice.



  • 2 cups mixed diced glacéed fruits
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 3/4 cup brandy
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped assorted nuts
  • 1/4 cup peach jam mixed with 1 tbsp brandy

In a large bowl combine all of the fruits with the rum and let macerate several hours or overnight.

Line the bottom of a well-buttered 9 1/2-inch springform pan with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper. Into a small bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, and the spices.

Cream together the butter and the brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy and beat in 4 of the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Drain the fruit mixture well and mix the juices into the batter.

Stir the flour mixture into the batter, one fourth at a time, stir in the fruit mixture, the almond meal, and the nuts, stirring until the mixture is just combined, and turn the batter out into the prepared pan.

Put 2 loaf pans, each filled with hot water, in a preheated 300°F. oven and put the springform pan between them. Bake the cake for 1 hour, brush the top with the remaining egg, beaten lightly, and bake the cake for 1 hour more. While the cake is baking, in a saucepan melt the peach jam with the remaining 1 tablespoon rum over moderate heat, bring the mixture to a boil, and strain it through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on the solids.

Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes.  Remove from pan. Brush the top of the cake with glaze.

Wrap in cheesecloth and soak with brandy. Store in a cool, dry place.

I have made this with rum, whiskey, and brandy. Today was brandy. I have also switched out the dried fruits and nuts. Today's nuts were pistachios and walnuts.

As soon as it cools, it will get wrapped and sit in a nice cupboard waiting for Christmas Eve...

Unless we decide to dive in earlier, that is...


Apricot Macadamia Nut Fruitcake

I started a bit of holiday baking, today...

A bit, because we do not do the insane baking of years past.

We had a lot of fun doing it, but, at the same time, it was all we did for weeks before Christmas.

It's more fun being retired and doing a few things...

Today, was Apricot Macadamia Nut Fruitcake.

The original recipe came from Bon Appetit magazine years and years ago. It's totally untraditional and totally delicious.

I made just one - gone are the days of making 4x the recipe - and set it off to age in some brandy.


Apricot Macadamia Nut Fruitcake

adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons apricot brandy
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups flour, sifted twice
  • 1 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts, lightly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 275°F. Grease and flour a 6 cup Bundt pan or 8″ round cake pan and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat yolks in small bowl and add to butter mixture. Mix well.

Combine milk, brandy and vanilla and add alternately with flour in 4 batches, mixing well after each addition. Stir in apricots, raisins and macadamia nuts.

Whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating until stiff but not dry. Gently fold into batter. Spoon into prepared pan and bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean (about 2 1/4 hours). Cool completely in pan.

Sprinkle a bit of apricot brandy on top and serve. Cakes can also be made in advance, wrapped in apricot brandy-soaked cheesecloth, wrapped in plastic and aged. YUM!!



I'm also going to make a traditional fruitcake, this week. I'm just about the only person I know who likes it, but that's okay...

I think we may start the Christmas Decorating tomorrow... Back in our youth, it was always the day-After-Thanksgiving-Decorate-A-Thon. We've slowed down there a bit, as well.

On a positive note, we did get the Christmas cards in the mail.


Food, Glorious Food

226.4lbs the morning after Thanksgiving. Not bad, considering it was non-stop eating from 2pm until sometime past 8pm. And what glorious eating it was! It’s really great to be a part of a family that really knows how to throw a holiday feast!

I’m definitely not beating myself up for gaining a pound this week. We ended up going out to dinner twice in 4 days, to start. Our other meals were realistic, so only a pound is pretty good, considering. Besides… I can lose the weight. What I never want to lose is the fun we have when we get together – it’s worth a bit of over-indulgence!

We started off at 2pm with hors d’oeuvres… Naturally, I didn’t get any pictures of the table-full of fabulous finger foods.

Italian sausages braised in white wine… olive cheese puffs, cheese toasties, a cheese board with cambozola, gouda, and another – my mind is blanking… stuffed mushrooms… I know there was more – I wish I had taken pictures.

I did take pictures of the dinner table, though.

We had two turkeys, garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, scalloped potatoes, corn pudding, brussels sprouts with onion and bacon, bacon-topped macaroni and cheese, a fantastic salad, homemade and canned cranberry sauces, and homemade dinner rolls.

And then – when I could barely waddle – we started on desserts.

Wednesday was Finley and Elise’s 2nd birthday, so we also celebrated them with Birthday Cake and Birthday Cupcakes.

Then we had mini pumpkin tarts, mini walnut tarts, and ginger cookies.

Two-bite delights!

And speaking of delights, here’s Grandpa reading a story to Finley with a Birthday Bow on his head.

A perfect day.

And I only gained a pound!

Cranberry Stilton Salad with Pumpkin Dressing

Ruth Pearson

This salad shows the genius of my dear friend, Ruth! After seeing a salad with Pumpkin Dressing at a local salad place, she created this, blending Fall flavors in a hip, contemporary way!

The dressing recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups and any leftovers (not that there’s likely to be any!) may be refrigerated.

For the Salad:

  • Baby Spinach (or a hearty mixed greens)
  • Cranberry Stilton Cheese, crumbled
  • Nut mix of your choice

For the Pumpkin Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup Grapeseed oil (or other light, neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Pumpkin Butter
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

Crumble Cranberry Stilton cheese over baby spinach and mix.

Whisk dressing ingredients together, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad and mix well.

Top with nut mix and enjoy!

Christmas Eggnog Cake

It's a really quiet Christmas Day around here. Almost too quiet. Both of us are used to loud, raucous family gatherings, so it's a bit strange to be home in a relatively quiet house. Nonna just isn't up to traveling to North Jersey anymore - she got carsick the last two times she went, so I don't see any more trips north, for a while. We miss the fun, but it is what it is...

So with a mere three in the house, there's lots of time to do things. Like bake a cake. And what to do when you have a quart of eggnog in the 'fridge? Why... make an Eggnog Cake, of course!

I was first going to make my mom's Eggnog Pie, but changed my mind on the way to the kitchen. I do that often...

A quick Google Search brought up a score of the exact same recipe, so I went for it.

Eggnog Cake




  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup prepared eggnog (or see notes for recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey


  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared eggnog (or see notes for recipe)
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon rum-flavored extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Beat 1/2 cup butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Add eggs, one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into butter mixture before adding the next. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon lemon peel, mixing well.
  3. Combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Pour flour mixture into the batter alternately with 1 cup eggnog, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in bourbon. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until cake springs back when touched lightly with a fingertip or a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes (test both cake layers). Cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting on a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. To make frosting, combine 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in 1 1/2 cups eggnog, whisking until smooth.
  6. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. When mixture boils, cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool completely to room temperature.
  7. Beat 1 cup butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in cooled eggnog mixture, 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, rum extract, and 1/8 teaspoon grated lemon peel. Beat on high speed until mixture is fully incorporated and frosting is fluffy.
  8. Spread cake with plain frosting between cake layers, over the top and on the sides. Coat the sides with toasted pecans, pressing the nuts onto sides in small handfuls. Refrigerate until serving time.

The frosting is interesting - you cook a batter of sorts with eggnog and flour, let it cool, and then whip it in to butter and granulated sugar. It's very soft and fluffy - easy to work - and definitely needs to get into a refrigerator to set up.  Both the cake batter and the icing tasted great on their own.

And it was a hit! We may have to add this onto the Holiday Baking List!

Three of the Seven Fishes

Merry Christmas Eve - La Vigilia  - The Feast of the Seven Fish.

We're home this Christmas Eve - Nonna is not up to traveling up to North Jersey - so we're doing a bit of a rake on the 7 fish theme.  Three Fish in Puff Pastry.

It's a really simple concept - make a stuffing of crab, shrimp, shallots, celery, and bread crumbs - put it in puff pastry with some fish filets, and bake.

Oh - and it tastes really good.

Since moving east we have gone up to Victor's sister's house for Christmas, and out BIL, Tom, creates a feast. The entire 7 fish, wine, desserts for days... It's a sight to behold. Gastronomic heaven on Christmas Earth.

But it doesn't seem as if we're going to be able to be a part of this, for a while.

Time to institute Plan B.

With only three of us, actually doing 7 fish is difficult when one of the three doesn't eat much fish. I settled on three - crab, shrimp, and cod - mostly disguised.

It was definitely a hit!

I got the basic recipe from but switched things around quite a bit - as I usuall do...

Here's the recipe and my changes at the end...

Stuffed Fish in Puff Pastry

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup minced celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 ounces crabmeat
  • 8 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined and minced
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 (17.5 ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 2 pounds flounder fillets
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten


  1. To make the stuffing: Melt butter or margarine in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Saute onion, celery, and parsley until all of the vegetables are just tender. Mix in crabmeat, shrimp, and vermouth. Season with salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce; cook until shrimp is finished cooking (it will be pink). Mix in bread crumbs, a little at a time. When the mixture holds together well, stop adding bread crumbs. Taste and add more seasoning (salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce) if necessary. Set this mixture aside to let it cool.

  2. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

  3. Roll 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a flat surface. The puff pastry, once rolled should be about 1/3 to 1/4 inch thick and large enough for you to lay the fish on top of it and still have puff pastry on the sides. Lay one of the fish fillets on top of the puff pastry. Spread the stuffing mixture evenly over the fish fillet. Place the remaining fillet over the stuffing. Trim the pastry around the filets in roughly the shape of a fish. Save the trimmings.

  4. Roll second sheet of puff pastry out to about 1/3 to 1/4 inch thick. Drape second sheet over stuffed fillets, making sure that there is enough of the top sheet to tuck under the bottom sheet of puff pastry. Trim the top sheet of pastry about 1/2 inch larger than the bottom sheet. Brush underside of top pastry sheet with water and tuck under bottom sheet of puff pastry pressing lightly to totally encase the fish and stuffing package. Place the sealed packet on the prepared baking sheet, and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

  5. While packet is chilling, roll out pastry scraps. From the scraps cut out fins, an eye and 'lips'. Attach cut-outs to chilled package with a little water. Use an inverted teaspoon to make indentations in puff pastry to resemble fish scales but do not puncture pastry. Chill entire package.

  6. While the package is chilling, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

  7. Remove the fish from the refrigerator and brush the package with the egg yolks. Measure the thickness of the package at its thickest part. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake the fish for 10 extra minutes per inch of measured thickness. Test for doneness by inserting a thermometer into the package, when the temperature reaches 140 degrees F (70 degrees C) the fish is finished cooking.

I used shallots in place of onions, omitted the red pepper because Nonna doesn't like spice, increased the shrimp, used a pinot grigio in place of the vermouth, used only 2/3 lb of cod, and didn't form it into a fish.

I placed all of the stuffing on the pastry and then put two fish filets on top.

Reality is,  you could completely eliminate the fish filets or just add chunks to the filling.

It really was good - and something I will make again!

La Vigilia and Crab Cioppino

The Feast of the Seven Fish... Christmas Eve was once a day of abstinence in the Catholic Church - no meat - and  La Vigilia as it is referred to in Southern Italy - came into being early on. Far from being a day of fasting, it is a day of feasting. Italians know how to turn a simple meal into an extravaganza!

We're missing the Seven Fish up in North Jersey this year but we still wanted to uphold the tradition. Victor and I are home alone with Blanche, while Nonna is up with the rest of the family. But seven fish is a lot for two people - even for us. So... our Seven Fish tonight is Crab Cioppino! All Seven Fish in one pot. It's something I've wanted to do for a really long time - and tonight I have my chance! This is the first time in 21 years we've spent Christmas by ourselves. While it's not something I'd want to do every year, it's been a lot of fun, so far.



I was a bit concerned about finding dungeness crab being 3000 miles from home and considering there's a massive algae bloom going on out west. There are high levels of domoic acid in the crabs and right now there is no crab fishing at all in California and Oregon. But the seafood gods were on my side and I was able to find frozen dungeness crab at our local fish market. The place was packed this morning when I went in - they take their Seven Fish really seriously around here - but there was my crab in their freezer case waiting for me.

Frozen. But t was some damned good crab!


In fact, it was some of the best crab I've had in years! And it was frozen. Go figure. I know I'll be heading back there for more. In fact, I'll be heading back there for a lot of things. They had a great selection of all types of seafood.

The cioppino came out great. Really great. The broth was rich and flavorful with just a hint of heat. The seafood all cooked to perfection. Even the calamari was tender - and we all know what little rubber bands they can be. It really, really was good.


There's no way one can make cioppino for two. I made enough for dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow, and dinner for Steve and Marie to take home tomorrow night when they drop off Nonna. I'm stuffed - and already thinking about having more tomorrow!

To go along with the cioppino, I also baked rolls - Pane all'Olio - from Carol Field's Italian Baker. It's one of my most favorite bread books and every recipe I've made has come out perfect! These were no exception. A nice crust and a really tender crumb. The oil really makes a difference.


Here goes the recipe. Hopefully I'll get everything included... It's been a work in progress...

Crab Cioppino

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 4 bottles clam juice
  • 3 28oz  cans San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
  • 3 lbs dungeness crab legs and claws
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 lb clams
  • 1 lb Alaskan cod chunks
  • 1/2 lb calamari
  • 1 lb scallops
  • 1 jar anchovies
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes - more or less, to taste
  • 1 tsp Greek oregano
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt & Pepper

Get a large pot.

Saute onion, fennel, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil until vegetables are quite wilted and beginning to get tender. Stir in the anchovies and red pepper flakes and cook until anchovies dissolve. Add one bottle red wine - I used a really good chianti - and bring to a boil. Simmer about 10 minutes and add the clam juice and vinegar.

Add the canned tomatoes, breaking them up as you add each can.

Add about a teaspoon of Greek oregano, a pinch of salt and a hefty pinch of black pepper. Bring to a boil, and then simmer about an hour.

At this point you can turn off the heat and save it for later or bring it to a boil and carry on...

Add the dungeness crab.

Add the clams.

Add the cod chunks.

Add the shrimp.

Add the scallops.

Finally, add the calamari.

From start to finish on adding and cooking the fish should be about 20 minutes.

Ladle into large bowls - discarding any unopened clams - and serve with crusty bread.

Forget the napkins. Have several kitchen towels available. This is one messy meal as half of it is eaten with your fingers.

And it is worth every spot and stain you can make!





Christmas Cookies 2015



It's beginning to look a lot like Diabetic Coma...

That means it's the Annual What Were We Thinking I Thought We Were Going To Cut Back Christmas Cookie-A-Thon!

Yeppers... we done did it, again. More cookies than we planned on making - which only means more cookie-eating. We'll worry about the diet in 2016.

We made several of the traditional cookies, starting with Aunt Emma's Apricot Cookies and four different Biscotti. Victor makes the Biscotti - and he has it down to a science! A triple batch of Aunt Dolores' Rum Balls... Almond Cookies made into Thumbprints...


And a couple of new cookies for us. We made a Soft Sugar Cookie this year - rolled in colored sugar. Festive. These came from The Food Network.



Something fun and a bit of a different take on a traditional Sugar Cookie.

The real fun cookie, though, is the Cuccidati!

These are a Sicilian Christmas Cookie that we've both had in the past, but where or when escapes us... I had done a Google Search for Italian Christmas Cookies - note that we have been trying to cut back so I did a Google search for more recipes - and found dozens of recipes for the cuccidati that all had pieces or parts that sounded good - but not quite what I wanted - so I took the best from many and came up with a pretty darned good filling - if I do say so, m'self!


These will be topped with a milk and powdered sugar glaze and then topped with either sprinkles or colored sugar. The Italians really like their sprinkles - me, not as much - but tradition is tradition.

There's also a version where they're dipped in egg and rolled in sesame seeds before baking. I thought I might do some of them like that and ended up not. Oh well. An excuse to make them, again.


The Filling - should be made a day or two in advance

  • 1 lb dried figs
  • 1 lb dried dates
  • 1/4 lb raisins
  • 1/4 lb dried cherries
  • 1 seeded tangerine-peel and all
  • 1 1/2 cups pistachios
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup Marsala
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Working in batches, finely mince the dried fruit, tangerine, crushed pineapple, and nuts in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl and mix well. Add the sugar, Marsala, and cinnamon, and mix it all together. Filling will be sticky but should hold together if pressed. Place in container and refrigerate for a day or two to meld the flavors.

The Dough

  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups lard
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt

Cream sugar and lard until light. Add eggs one at a time and then vanilla and milk and mix well.

Mix flour with baking powder and slowly add one cup at a time until a reasonably-firm - but not sticky or dry - dough is formed. Refrigerate about an hour.

To Make Cookies

Preheat oven to 350°F. Take a piece of dough and roll into a rope about an inch and a half around. Roll into a long, flat shape.

Take a piece of filling and roll it into a rope and place down the center of the dough. Brush one edge with egg wash and roll dough over filling to seal.

Cut on an angle about every half-inch and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Bake 13-15 minutes or till lightly browned.

Cool and frost, as desired, with milk and powdered sugar glaze and sprinkles.



And just because one does not live by cookies, alone, I made a big tray of Fudge with Crushed Peppermint Candy topping.


We still have a Greek Walnut Cookie to bake off - dough is made - and then we need to chocolate-dip and/or decorate and then start making trays.

It really is a fun tradition...