Weather is weird here in Nashville, and winter can fluctuate from a balmy 75 degrees to the upper 30s in a matter of days. No matter the temperature, though, once it hits January, I start craving a cozy soup to spill all over my books.
This one comes from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten:
Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, add more chicken stock. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste.
Serve large shallow bowls of soup with a bruschetta on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and serve hot.
NOTE: To cook the pasta, put 1 cup of pasta into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook according to the directions on the package, drain, and set aside. You can make this soup ahead and reheat it before serving. It will need to be reseasoned.
Slice the baguette at a 45-degree angle in 1-inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Take the slices out of the oven and rub the surface of each one with the cut clove of garlic.
During the majority of the year, breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal and a mug of coffee on the way out the door. But on those lovely days off from work—especially if you're playing host or hostess—it's time to bring out the breakfast recipes.
Try this divine grits recipe from Rebecca Lang's Southern Living Around the Southern Table:
2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking very often, until grits are creamy and tender, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. (If grits become dry and begin to stick before they are creamy, add more water, 2 Tbsp. at a time, and continue to cook until grits are tender.)
3. Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease a 1 1?2-qt. soufflé dish. Sprinkle sides and bottom with 1 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
4. Remove grits from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in egg yolks, 2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and next 4 ingredients.
6. Bake at 400° for 50 to 55 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned. Serve immediately.
Makes: 6 servings
Hands-on Time: 15 min.
Total Time: 2 hr., 25 min.
Our Top Pick in Cookbooks for December is Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, with nearly 100 recipes that are "pure Ina: inspiring, totally trustworthy, confidence-building, packed with full-page photos and generously seasoned with tips for getting everything planned, prepped and plated."
Barefoot Contessa Foolproof is also one of our Top 10 Cookbooks of 2012! Who else is making these brownies tonight?
Melt the butter, 8 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature (see note).
In a medium bowl, sift together ½ cup of the flour, the baking powder, and salt and add to the chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t overbake!
As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, place the jar of caramel sauce without the lid in a microwave and heat just until it’s pourable. Stir until smooth. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies and sprinkle with the sea salt. Cool completely and cut into 12 bars.
Note: It is very important to allow the batter to cool before adding the chocolate chips, or the chips will melt and ruin the brownies.
My favorite time of the year to bake is during the holidays, and cooking columnist Sybil Pratt calls Bouchon Bakery "an absolute must" and "a knockout." It comes from Thomas Keller, the extraordinary American chef, and Sebastien Rouxel, executive pastry chef for the Thomas Keller restaurant group.
Bouchon Bakery is also one of our Top 10 cookbooks of 2012! Here's a sample of what makes it so amazing:
You’ll need a 3¼-inch round cutter and a pastry bag with an Ateco #867 French star tip. For this recipe, we use Virginia jumbo peanut halves and Skippy natural peanut butter. Cookies baked in a convection oven will have a more even color and will not spread as much as those baked in a standard oven.
To toast the peanuts: Preheat the oven to 325°F (standard).Spread the peanuts on a small tray and toast in the oven, stirring often, for 16 to 18 minutes, until a light golden brown. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
For the cookies: Place the flour in a medium bowl, sift in the baking soda and baking powder, and whisk together.
Place the butter and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn to medium-low speed and cream the butter, warming the bowl if needed (see Pommade, page 190), until it has the consistency of mayonnaise and holds a peak when the paddle is lifted. Add the sugar and mix for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla paste and mix on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds, until just combined. Scrape down the bowl again. The mixture may look broken, but that is fine (overwhipping the eggs could cause the cookies to expand too much during baking and then deflate).
Add the combined dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds after each, or until just combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there. Add the oats and pulse on low about 10 times to combine. Add the chopped peanuts and pulse to combine.
Mound the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and, using a pastry scraper, push it together into a 5-by-7-inch block. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
Unwrap the dough, place it between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap, and roll it out to a ¼-inch-thick sheet. If the dough has softened, slide it (in the parchment) onto the back of a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm enough to cut.
Using the round cutter, cut 8 cookies from the dough. (If the dough softens, return it to the refrigerator until the cookies are firm enough to transfer to a sheet pan.) Arrange the rounds on a lined sheet pan.
Push the trimmings together and refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to roll, then roll out and cut into 4 more rounds. Add them to the sheet pan. Wrap the sheet in plastic wrap and freeze the dough for at least 2 hours, or until firm. (For longer storage, remove the frozen rounds from the sheet pan and freeze in a covered container or a plastic bag for up to 1 month.)
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (convection or standard). Line two sheet pans with Silpats or parchment paper.
Arrange the frozen cookies on the sheet pans, leaving about 2 inches between them. Bake the cookies until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes in a convection oven, 16 to 18 minutes in a standard oven, reversing the positions of the pans halfway through baking. Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.
To assemble the cookies: Combine the buttercream, peanut butter, and salt in the bowl of the mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix for 2 minutes on medium-low speed, until combined and smooth. Transfer the mixture to the pastry bag.
Turn half of the cookies over. Beginning in the center, pipe a spiral of peanut butter filling (55 grams) on each one, to within ¼ inch of the edges. Top each with a second cookie and press gently to sandwich the cookies.
The cookies are best the day they are baked, but they can be stored in a covered container, at room temperature if unfilled, refrigerated if filled, for up to 3 days.
Note on rolling out the dough: At the bakery, we use a commercial sheeter to roll out the dough quickly and evenly. At home, the dough must be refrigerated as necessary during the rolling and cutting process.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place the 150 grams/1 cup sugar in a small saucepan, add the water, and stir to moisten the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, and simmer until the syrup reaches 230°/100°C.
Letting the syrup continue to cook, turn the mixer to medium speed, gradually pour in the remaining 33 grams/2 tablespoons plus 2¼ teaspoons sugar into the whites, and whip until the whites are beginning to form very loose peaks. If the whites are ready before the syrup reaches 248°F/120°C, turn the mixer to the lowest setting just to keep them moving.
When the syrup reaches 248°F/120°C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup to the whites, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk. Increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the bowl is at room temperature and the whites hold stiff peaks. (If the mixture is warm, it will melt the butter.)
Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, a few pieces at a time. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed and beat to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hold its shape, it should be refrigerated for up to a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.
The buttercream can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost frozen buttercream in the refrigerator overnight before using. Thirty minutes before using the buttercream, place it in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and allow to soften. Then mix on low speed to return the buttercream to the proper consistency for piping or spreading.
La cocina Latina is more than just excellent Mexican food. As Maricel E. Presilla shows in Gran Cocina Latina, it's a wonderfully complex amalgam of Portugese and Spanish-speaking countries' cooking customs, from Argentina and Cuba to Mexico and many islands in the Caribbean. Read more in our November cooking column!
When I think Latin American desserts, I think flan, and this one looks amazing.
This is a seductive flan with the texture of a creamy cheesecake and the aroma of fresh oranges and orange blossoms. I once made it for a friend who liked it so much I decided to serve it at my restaurants. The key flavoring is Venezuelan Santa Teresa Rhum Orange, an artful orange rum liqueur that gives the dessert flavor and depth. You can use other orange liqueurs, such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier, but try adding a tablespoon or two of a good aged rum as well. It does wonders for the flavor.
Place the whole milk and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape the black seeds into the milk, and add the bean; or add the vanilla extract. Add the cinnamon, star anise, and orange peel and bring the milk barely to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool. Strain and discard the solids.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the cream cheese, egg yolks, and eggs in a large mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon while adding the condensed milk until smooth and well integrated. Add the cooled steeped milk, ¼ cup liqueur, and the orange blossom water and stir gently until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the caramelized mold. Place the baking pan on the middle oven rack. Set the mold in the baking pan and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides. Bake until just until set, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
While the flan is cooling, place the orange juice, the remaining 1 cup sugar, and the slivered orange peel in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is reduced almost by half. Stir in the remaining ¼ cup liqueur and continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Chill the flan in the refrigerator, in the pan, for at least 3 hours before serving. Unmold onto a decorative platter and garnish with orange slices. Pour the sauce into a decorative bowl and bring to the table with the flan.
Happy Thanksgiving, readers! Our Cookbook of the Month, naturally, is Sam Sifton's "charming, absolutely essential manual," Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well.
If, by chance, your preparations aren't going very well—or if you simply need a great last-minute recipe for cranberry sauce—here's a little help from Sam Sifton.
Science! Sometimes it’s helpful. So is spice. Some like a clove or two added to their cranberry sauce. (I am not one of them.) Others, a whisper of ginger and a small handful of nuts, for texture. Of this, I approve.
2. Cook until sugar is entirely melted and cranberries begin to burst in the heat, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir again, add zest, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes longer, turn off heat, cover pan, and allow to cool.
3. Put cranberry mixture in a serving bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator until cold, at least 2 hours, or until you need it.
Cooking in November means turkey . . . but this year, it also means Turkey, the country! Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt has taken us for a spin around the world with her November column, and with Leanne Kitchen's cookbook Turkey, "she offers an elegant cook’s tour of Turkey’s seven geographic regions, where Mediterranean, Slavic and Middle Eastern influences mingle and where courtly Ottoman dishes share the Turkish table with more humble, hearty peasant fare."
All T/turkey, all the time!
Celeriac, orange and walnut salad
Combine the orange juice and orange zest in a large bowl. Cut the celeriac in half lengthwise, finely slice, then cut into very fine matchsticks, adding them to the orange juice mixture in the bowl as you go to prevent them from browning — you may need to add a little more juice to coat the celeriac but take care not to add too much or the dressing will be too thin. Add the garlic and walnuts, then season with salt and toss well to combine. Just before serving fold in the orange slices.
Preheat a grill or griddle pan to medium-high. Drain the fish and thread onto the soaked skewers, brush with the remaining oil and cook the fish, turning often for about 5 minutes, or until just cooked through but still a little pink in the middle. Serve immediately with the salad.
Our October Cookbook of the Month is My Beverly Hills Kitchen by Alex Hitz! Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt shares why this Southern cookbook, in a sea of Southern cookbooks, really stands out:
"It’s Southern food on Alex’s terms, revived, revamped and revved up, grand old plantation recipes (plus a few newer creations) prepared to foodie-pleasing, haute cuisine specs."
yield: 6 to 8 servings
Combine the pumpkin, eggs, yolks, heavy cream, ginger, salt, black pepper, and sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dishes and assemble a bain- marie.
Top the pumpkin mixture evenly with the crumbled Roquefort and then the roasted pecans.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until barely still trembling; bake for 5-10 minutes, less time if you will reheat it the next day.
Serve warm, garnished with the chives and cre?me frai?che.
Assembling a bain marie
Note: it sounds fancy, but it’s very easy, and makes such a difference in cooking perfect custards, that you owe it to yourself to learn how. Place a souffle? dish into a deep roasting pan, and pour boiling water into the sides of the pan, so the water comes about a quarter of the way up the sides of the souffle? dish. Be very careful when you put the bain marie in the oven so you don’t burn yourself!
Melissa d'Arabian, host of the Food Network’s popular “Ten Dollar Dinners,” has "taken a tough, practical stand on savvy shopping for delicious, $10 dinners for four" in her new cookbook, Ten Dollar Dinners. It's all about using ingredients wisely—gives new meaning to the term "brain food"!
Cooking time: 10 minutes
2) Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring often, until they are browned, about 5 minutes.
4) Add the capers and then stir in the butter until it is melted and the sauce comes together. Turn off the heat and pour over the chicken before serving.
The recipes in David Venable's debut cookbook, In the Kitchen with David, promise to "warm your heart, stir your soul, and happily fill your stomach." Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt found it to be "warm, chatty" and defined by its devotion to comfort.
According to the publisher, this is David's all-time favorite, and he serves it at every Thanksgiving.
My ultimate macaroni and cheese
While the pasta is cooking, heat the half-and-half in a large saucepan over medium heat. Just before the mixture starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the eggs in a bowl, then whisk in 2 cups of the warm half-and-half. (This will keep the eggs from scrambling.)
Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and whisk to combine. Stir 1 cup of the Cheddar, all the mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Velveeta, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the milk into the saucepan. Heat the saucepan on medium-low heat to help melt the cheese. Whisk in the mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Do not let the mixture boil.
Toss the cooked pasta and cheese sauce together and then pour into a 4-quart baking dish. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle an even layer of crumbled bacon on top and bake for 10 minutes more.