Our January Cookbook of the Month shares some of the best home cooking on the web, all plucked from the best of the best of Food52. The blog hosts a recipe contest in a different category every week, and these are the first batch of winners (more to come, we hope!). It's no wonder that, according to our cooking columnist, The Food52 Cookbook is a "dazzler."
This recipe is utterly flexible and undeniably delicious.
A&M: One Hungry Mama gave us the history of this dish: “This recipe came to me right as I was about to overextend myself: I was eight months pregnant and, with a day of cooking ahead of me, almost decided to whip up impromptu blueberry corn muffins for breakfast. As I stared at the cornmeal trying to gear up to bake, it struck me: breakfast polenta!” Inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe, she blends almond meal with the polenta and cooks the two together, later adding vanilla, fresh blueberries, and cardamom. A bit of honey lends just the right amount of sweetness—a light touch keeps it from being cloying.
2. Reduce the heat to low and add the polenta, whisking constantly until smooth. Add the almond meal and continue whisking for several minutes until the polenta thickens to a creamy consistency. Add the butter and whisk until it melts completely.
3. Turn the heat off and whisk in the honey, blueberries, vanilla, and cardamom. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream and an extra sprinkle of blueberries.
Tips and Techniques
We tried this with hazelnut meal instead of almond meal, too, and loved it just as much. You can also be flexible with the fruit: use whatever berries are in season.
About the Cook
Stacie Bills lives in Brooklyn, New York, and writes about food and parenting on her blog, One Hungry Mama (www.onehungrymama.com). Her favorite recipe from a cookbook: “Mark Bittman’s Orzo Risotto from How to Cook Everything because it’s simple, endlessly adaptable, can be fed to anyone (even a six-month-old!) and, of course, is utterly delicious however you personalize it.”
CASJ: “I am eating a bowl of this right now—it is wonderful—I never would have thought to add the almond meal. Thanks for the great recipe!”
Our January Cooking column is all about the best recipes for home cooking, and Good Bite Weeknight Meals gets its 140 recipes from food bloggers (very similar to our Cookbook of the Month, The Food52 Cookbook). The selections in these books make day-to-day cooking a breeze. Not to mention, if your New Year's resolution is to spend less money this year, home cooking is the way to go!
This recipe is a great example of the Good Bite mantra: “delicious made easy."
You’ll want to prep and get this recipe going in the morning--the jambalaya needs four to six hours of cooking time on the slow cooker’s high setting, or six to eight hours if cooked on low.
Add the celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker. Add the broth, crushed tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 4 to 6 hours.
Once the jambalaya is cooked, turn off the slow cooker and skim away any excess oil on the surface. Add the shrimp and stir until pink, 3 to 5 minutes. (The residual heat from the slow cooker will suffice to cook the shrimp.) If desired, add more salt, black pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Serve the jambalaya over hot cooked rice or with bread.
“Throw everything in the pot, plug it in, and push a button. Don’t you wish everything in life were this easy?!”
The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (the foodie brains behind the Food52 blog) is our January Cookbook of the Month! It is a phenomenal collection of winning recipes from their weekly contests, starring the best of the best in a community of home cooks.
Very cool, and very tasty!
A&M: This pound cake drops the pounds of butter and sugar in favor of oil and maple syrup, creating a springy texture and glistening, shellacked exterior. The oil folded into the batter at the end was a new technique to us; we hold it responsible for the cake’s sweet, crackly crust. Rivka’s choice of Grade B maple syrup means that the maple aroma and flavor are pervasive without being cloying. The end result is moist and flavorful enough on its own, but fresh whipped cream and strawberries never hurt.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and stir just to incorporate. Add the oil and fold gently until the oil is absorbed into the batter. Make sure not to over mix the batter.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Cut around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Turn the cake out onto the rack, then turn it upright on the rack and cool completely.
Tips and Techniques
Rivka: “The cake is extremely moist; unless eating it just out of the oven, toast your slice to get some contrast between the crust and innards. Really make sure to pull the cake out of the oven right when it’s done. If it stays in longer, it’ll dry out a bit.”
About the Cook
Rivka Friedman is a healthcare consultant and food blogger in Washington, D.C. You can find her recipe for Rhubarb Curd Shortbread on page 367.
Her favorite recipe from a cookbook: “Olive Oil and Sherry Pound Cake from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert.”
Her top cooking tip: “Freeze coffee into ice cubes so that iced coffee doesn’t get diluted as the ice melts.”
Her top entertaining tip: “Homemade pickles—I like a mix of green tomatoes, green beans, and maybe even sour cherries—makes an easy, elegant summer appetizer.”
Here’s her blog: Not Derby Pie.
What the Community Said
Bevi: “I have made this a number of times and always get the same response: delicious! Over Xmas I made the cake for my mom—a dyed-in- the-wool Vermonter. She was so happy.”
vvvanessa: “I have this cooling on the windowsill and even though it just came out of the oven six minutes ago, I couldn’t wait to taste it. It’s great! I love that it isn’t too sweet, and the texture is amazing—so moist and tender! Congrats and thanks for a great recipe!”
Our December cooking column, part II of a fantastic collection of gifty cookbooks (see part I here), includes four spectacular collections of great meals. For the foodies and gourmands on your gift list, they're great, but Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Breatherton is one of those books I'd have to keep for myself!
And this recipe is one I just might have to add to my holiday dessert list . . .
Rising and proofing time
1. Put the raisins and currants into a medium bowl, pour in the rum, and leave the ingredients to soak overnight.
2. The following day, sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the center, sprinkle in the yeast, and add 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Gently heat the milk until lukewarm and pour on top of the yeast. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, or until frothy.
3. Add the rest of the sugar, the vanilla extract, salt, pumpkin pie spice, eggs, and butter. Using a wooden spoon, or electric mixer with a dough hook, mix, then knead the ingredients together for 5 minutes, or until they form a smooth dough.
4. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Add the candied peel, soaked raisins and currants, and almonds, kneading for a few minutes until incorporated. Return the dough to the bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
5. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to make a 12 x 10in (30 x 25cm) rectangle. Fold 1 long side over, just beyond the middle, then fold over the other long side to overlap the first, curling it over slightly on top to create the stollen shape. Transfer to the baking sheet, and put in a warm place to rise again until doubled in size.
6. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until risen and pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then generously dust with confectioner's sugar. Serve cut into thick slices, with or without butter.
Stollen can be made with any combination of dried fruits. It can be plain, as in this recipe, or stuffed with a marzipan or frangipane layer. Any leftovers are great for breakfast, lightly toasted, with butter.
Thanksgiving is all about the best family recipes--the ones that use the most butter and cream and are handwritten on ancient recipe cards. Like my grandmother's corn pudding recipe—at the bottom she wrote, "Serve, eat & slap yo' mama!"
So don't make this recipe today. Enjoy your favorite family dishes with those you love, and log this one away for later. Because you have to admit, this recipe from Ruhlman's Twenty sure does look good!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
The main critical points are to cook and shock the asparagus properly and to get a good colorful crust on the scallops. The hardest part is finding good scallops. Try to find a good fishmonger who can offer large dry-packed scallops in the fall and winter when they are primarily harvested. The larger they are, the better the dish will be, and the easier it will be to prepare.
Remove the scallops from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and place them on a plate lined with paper towels. They usually have a little nib of connective tissue on their side; remove and discard this.
Just before cooking the scallops, put the puréed asparagus in a saucepan over low heat. Put the asparagus tips and 1 piece of the butter in a sauté pan over low heat.
Season the scallops on both sides with fine sea salt. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. It needs to be large enough that the scallops aren’t crowded, or you won’t get a good sear, one of the pleasures of this dish. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. A depth of 3/16 inch/5 mm is ideal, but gauge the depth by eye. It is better to err on the side of too much oil. You’re not eating the oil, just cooking in it. When it’s very hot, just before it smokes, add the scallops and cook until they are beautifully seared, about 2 minutes. Turn and continue cooking just until the scallops are warm in the middle and medium-rare, about 2 minutes more. With scallops, it’s better to err by undercooking them; raw scallops are delicious, but overcooked scallops are rubbery. Remove the scallops to paper towels to drain.
While the scallops are cooking, raise the heat on both pans with asparagus to medium. Warm the tips in the butter. Bring the puréed asparagus to a simmer and season with kosher salt, then whisk in the remaining butter.
Immediately before serving, add the lemon juice to the asparagus sauce. Divide the sauce among plates or large bowls. Place the scallops on the sauce and garnish with the warmed asparagus tips and lemon zest.
Ruhlman's Twenty is one of those cookbooks that should be in every kitchen. Michael Ruhlman distills the art of cooking down to 20 fundamental techniques that "all cooks, regardless of their skill or station, need and use." Whether you're making a multi-course meal or some mac'n'cheese, this book will take you from cook to chef.
In this recipe, the grits are cooked with bacon and onion, and the shrimp is gently poached in butter, which then enriches the grits.
If you haven’t had grits in a while, make these, and you’ll ask yourself why they aren’t part of your pantry and cooking routine. They require at least the 30 minutes of cooking called for in this recipe, but can be cooked longer; in fact, they’re best cooked over very, very low heat for hours and hours so that they fully hydrate. The grits can also be cooked all day in a slow cooker, if you have one.
Add the grits and stir. If using milk or stock, add it along with 2 cups/480 milliliters water. If not using milk, add 4 cups/960 ml water. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook the grits, stirring, for about 30 minutes. Give the grits several grinds of black pepper. Add more milk or water as needed (about 2 cups/480 milliliters) to keep the mixture fluid. You should use enough water so that the grits don’t stick to the pan and they can absorb the moisture they need. You can cook off additional moisture, so err on the side of using too much liquid. Keep the pan covered on low heat over a heat diffuser for up to 12 hours; monitor the moisture level, adding milk or water as needed. (You can also put the grits in a slow cooker on low or in a covered pan in a low oven, 150° to 200°F/65° to 95°C, for up to 12 hours.)
When the grits are ready, put 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan that is just large enough to hold the butter and shrimp/prawns. Bring the water just to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add a chunk of butter and whisk continuously as the butter melts. When the butter has begun to melt and emulsify into the water, add three more chunks and continue to whisk. (Or you can swirl the butter in the pan; it needs to keep moving—how you do it is up to you.) When all the butter is incorporated, add the shellfish and stir. Keep the pan on medium-high heat until the butter gets hot again. Use an instant-read thermometer to maintain a temperature just below a simmer, 170° to 180°F/77° to 82°C. Don’t let the butter to boil. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove a shrimp, cut it open, and check that it’s just cooked through. It should be white at the center, not translucent gray, and tender and juicy.
Put the grits over medium-high heat to get them up to temperature. They should be loose but thick. Taste and add more salt if needed. Stir about a third of the poaching butter into the grits.
Spoon the grits onto plates, and arrange the shellfish on or beside the grits as desired. Garnish with more butter, freshly ground pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
From the world-renowned chef of elBulli comes a cooking guide unlike any other--The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià. BookPage cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt calls it "manna from the maestro for home cooks, both novice and notable."
It's our November Cookbook of the Month, and whether you're bringing gourmet to a table of two or 75(!), it has you covered. Check out one of the truly elegant dishes:
(You can use fresh or unsweetened dried coconut)
(You can also make the flan in small individual molds or timbales, in which case reduce the cooking time to 15-20 minutes)
For the caramel:
Put the water and sugar into a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil to make a dark caramel. Divide the caramel among individual or large molds and set aside to cool.
Break the eggs into a large bowl, then whisk until frothy.
Put the coconut milk, grated coconut, and sugar into another large bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Save any leftover coconut milk for serving later. Add the eggs and whisk until even.
Pour the mixture into the caramel-filled molds. Cover the tops of the molds with foil, then transfer to a roasting pan. Pour enough cold water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the side of the molds.
When ready to serve, loosen the flan with a round-bladed knife. Carefully turn over the crème caramel out of the molds. Slice into ¾-inch slices. Serve the slices surrounded with a few spoons of coconut milk.
The Slow Cook Book by Heather Whinney is all about the thrifty and the nifty. Any of the 200 recipes in this collection can be done in a traditional oven or in a slow cooker. Sounds like a real staple for those of us who cook every day! Read more in our October cooking column.
The following recipe is seasonal deliciousness at its best. Enjoy!
Pour in a little of the stock, increase the heat, and scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer everything to the slow cooker. Add the remaining stock, cover with the lid, and cook on auto/low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
Remove the cinnamon stick and use an immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth, or transfer in batches to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a clean pan to heat through, taste, and season as required. Serve with some chunky whole grain bread or some rye bread.
Pour in a little of the stock, increase the heat, and scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining stock, boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to barely a simmer, cover with the lid, and cook for about 45 minutes until the pumpkin is soft and the flavors have developed.
Remove the cinnamon stick and use an immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth, or transfer in batches to a food processor and blend until smooth. Add a ladleful of hot water as you go if it is too thick. Transfer to a clean pan to heat through, taste, and season as required. Serve with some chunky whole grain bread or rye bread.
"Melissa Clark’s effervescent, inexhaustible enthusiasm for all things edible is wonderfully infectious. She really makes you want to drop everything, head for the kitchen and whip up an Upside-Down Polenta Plum Cake or Carroty Mac and Cheese."
That's what our BookPage cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt had to say about Cook This Now. These season-friendly recipes, arranged by Clark (food writer and columnist for the New York Times Dining Section), are the type of delicious meals you can't wait to make.
This is one of both our favorites. It’s comforting, crusty topped, soft centered, and very cheesy—but not at all sophisticated. Just simple, kid-friendly, homemade food with the added grown-up appeal of lots of healthful carrots tossed into the mix.
I got the idea from a chef’s recipe in a glossy food magazine. The chef called for cooking carrots in butter and orange juice, pureeing them, and using the puree as a sauce for mac and cheese. I tried the recipe as written and was disappointed. It was a lot of work, and I didn’t like the sweetness of the citrus fruit interfering with my cheesy goodness.
So I decided to come up with my own simplified and ultra-Cheddary version. It was a huge hit with the under-three crowd and their parents, too.
It’s a straightforward recipe that comes together without much fuss, other than having to grate some carrots. But to make up for that, I’ve eliminated the need to make a cheese sauce on the top of the stove. Instead, I toss the hot pasta with grated cheddar, butter, sour cream for creaminess, and eggs to hold it all together. The grated carrots get boiled along with the pasta, so cooking them isn’t an extra step. And the tiny orange shreds look so much like the cheddar that your kids might not even notice they are there. Dahlia certainly hasn’t, and while I’ve never lied to her about their inclusion, I might have left out the word carrot in the dish description—accidentally, of course.
Makes 6 servings
2. Cook macaroni according to package instructions in a large pot of salted boiling water; add carrot 3 minutes before pasta is finished cooking; drain well.
3. While pasta is hot, stir in all but 1/2 cup of the cheddar and the butter. In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, salt, mustard powder, and pepper. Fold mixture into the pasta.
4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the parmesan over the top. Bake until the casserole is firm to the touch and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Our Cookbook of the Month celebrates one of the great chefs of our time--Jacques Pepin! Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food honors Pepin's 60 years in the kitchen with the best recipes.
BookPage cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt had only good things to say: "From golden oldies to the here-and-now, from the classic French to the all-American, everything in Jacques’ repertoire carries his unique stamp and approach—unpretentious yet elegant, pragmatic yet sophisticated."
The following recipe is exactly that:
I cook the apples with the skins on to give a chewier texture. Dried currants (raisins can be substituted), slivered almonds, and dried apricots fill the gaps between the apple chunks and additional apples on top create a flat surface for the pastry to sit on, which gives the tart a nicer shape when it is unmolded.
The tart should be served at room temperature or slightly warm. If you make it ahead, keep it in the skillet. The caramel may stick to the bottom, but the dough on top will stay dry. Then, at serving time, put the tart on the stove over medium heat for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan to melt the caramel, so the tart will unmold easily.
Combine the sugar, 2 tablespoons of the water, and the lemon juice in a 12-inch ovenproof non- stick skillet and cook until the mixture becomes a caramel, about 4 minutes. Add the almonds and cook for 10 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes, so the caramel hardens. Arrange the apple quarters on top of the set caramel, placing them side by side and skin side down in one layer, making two concentric circles, with a piece of apple in the center. Sprinkle the butter, apricots, and currants on top.
Slice the remainder of the apples thin. (You should have about 3 cups.) Arrange on top of the circles of apples to fill the skillet completely. Add the remaining 1?2 cup water, bring to a boil, cover, and boil gently for 10 minutes. The object here is to soften the apples so they sink down and form a flat surface. Remove the lid and continue cooking over medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until there is no liquid visible when you incline the pan slightly. This indicates that most of the water and juices have boiled away and what remains is the sugar and butter, which are beginning to caramelize again. Set aside. (The apples can be made several hours ahead.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the center.
Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and place it on a board. Sprinkle with a little flour and roll out to a very thin circle (no more than J inch thick). Trim the edges and then fold the dough in on itself to form an edge that is a little thicker all around.
Place the circle of dough on top of the apples. Press it down with your hands so it lies completely flat. Pierce all over with a fork and sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons sugar, which will caramelize and glaze the dough during cooking.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let cool until warm or at room temperature.
At serving time, if the tart has cooled beyond lukewarm, place the skillet back on medium heat and cook, shaking the pan lightly, until the caramel melts. To unmold the tart, place a flat serving dish on top of the skillet and turn the tart out onto the plate.
Beat the heavy cream until firm but not too stiff (no sugar is needed, since the apples are sweet).
Cut the tart into wedges and serve with a good spoonful of whipped cream per serving.