Thursday, December 22, 2016

Party On! Three Easy and Elegant Hors d’Oeuvres from the Kitchen Goddess
What’s cooking? Spiced Plum Soup, Parmesan Gougères, and Salmon Rillettes

And after the gift buying and the gift wrapping comes the gift exchanging. Which is when someone either comes to your house or you go to theirs. Now I’ll admit that it doesn’t have to go that way – I’ve been known to drop my gifts off on someone’s front porch – but it’s a lot more fun to gather together this time of year, exchange wishes for all good things, and congratulate ourselves on having made it to a new page on the calendar.

This sort of hosting doesn’t necessarily mean giving people a meal, but you want to have something to go with that glass of wine or champagne. Those people shouldn’t be heading back out onto the road without something to muffle the alcohol. So the Kitchen Goddess has three treats you can make – ahead of time! – and have your friends and relatives thinking that you, too, must have Kitchen Royalty in your blood.

Spiced Plum Soup – Note the absence of a temperature descriptor in the name of this item. That’s because you can serve it hot or cold. Either way, it’s elegant and equally delicious. And you can make it days ahead. You only want to give your guests a small serving, as this soup also has alcohol in it. In fact, it starts with a full bottle of red wine, but the alcohol from that cooks away; the smidge of alcohol from the Cointreau (or other orange liqueur) does not. This soup looks and tastes more holiday-spirited than any other item in my repertoire. Sophisticated, simple, and sublime. It’s the little black dress of holiday hors d’oeuvres.

Gougères are traditional cheese puffs, usually made with either Emmenthal, Comté or Gruyère cheese. The great French chef, Daniel Boulud, makes his with Parmiggiano-Reggiano, which I think gives you license to use whichever cheese you prefer. And you there in the back of the room, shaking your head that you’ve never made French pastries and don’t intend to start now? Get a grip – these are easy to do. The Kitchen Goddess would not steer you wrong. You can make these delicacies and freeze them raw or cooked, so you’ll always want some in your freezer. The Kitchen Goddess served them in lieu of rolls at Thanksgiving – so chic. They’re unbelievably light and airy – barely crunchy on the outside, mildly eggy on the inside. Your guests will devour these little luxuries, so have plenty on hand.

✸ Classically speaking, Rillettes is a preparation similar to pâté and originally made from pork confit. Then some genius adapted the process to seafood, and everything about the presentation changed. So why is this luxurious spread called rillettes? I don’t know. Poached salmon puréed with creme fraiche and perked up with some tangy, herby, lemony flavors, it’s divine, and simplicity itself to prepare. Creamy and light, it works equally well on crackers, crostini, or piped into endive leaves.

Kitchen Goddess note: If those ideas don’t float your boat, take a look at a couple of past Kitchen Goddess hits that can be made ahead and are also sure to please.

✸ Those leftover bits of cheese hiding in your deli drawer? Put them to work in a batch of Fromage Fort – an anything-goes cheese spread that just needs about 20 minutes to come to room temperature.

✸ Any kind of pesto is great to have on hand, and they all freeze really well. But for the festive season, the Kitchen Goddess likes Artichoke Pesto, which will also last at least several days in the fridge. Of course, you’ll have to keep yourself from noshing on it, but that’s the risk you take...

Spiced Plum Soup

Adapted from The Silver Palate Basics Cookbook.

Serves 8-10 as a first course; 25-30 as 2-3-ounce “tastes.”

4 16-ounce cans of plums in syrup
1 750-milliliter bottle of Pinot Noir
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup triple sec (Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur)
grated zest of 2 lemons
Garnish: crème fraîche, light sour cream, Greek yogurt, or some combination thereof; mint sprigs

Drain the plums, reserving the liquid. Use your fingers to remove the pits, then transfer the pitted plums to a medium saucepan and add back the canned syrup.

Stir in the wine, spices, and sugar, and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer the mixture, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender and purée 1-2 minutes, until quite smooth. If you worry that any bits of plum remain unblended, strain the mixture through a sieve.

Add the liqueur and lemon zest and stir well. Refrigerate – if serving cold. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche, light sour cream, Greek yogurt, or some combination thereof, and a sprig of mint (if you have it).

Serving suggestions: To up the elegance factor, the Kitchen Goddess likes to serve this soup as a first course in balloon wine glasses. When it’s an hors d’oeuvre, she passes it in 2-ounce shot glasses on a tray.

Kitchen Goddess note: And now... It’s not hard to make gougères. Maybe you’ll be nervous the first time. The KG was – the first time. The second time? Piece of cake... er, pastry. But it takes the KG a long time to explain because she really wants you to be successful at it. So be patient, read this recipe all the way through, and give it a try.

Parmesan Gougères

Adapted from Daniel Boulud’s Cooking in New York City.

Makes 6-7 dozen.

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into eighths, then each of those into quarters
1 cup cold water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1½ cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
6 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon paprika
dash of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons milk

special equipment: wooden spoon, pastry brush, baker’s parchment

Preheat the oven to 400º. Move a rack to the center of the oven. Cut parchment paper to fit two half-sheet rimmed baking pans.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the water, salt, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, immediately remove the mixture from the heat and add the flour all at once, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Return the pan over high heat and continue stirring vigorously for about 2 minutes as the dough cooks. (This 2 minutes is the hardest part; try to find someone who will relieve you in the vigorous stirring after one minute.) After 2 minutes, the dough should come together in a smooth mass and the bottom of the pot will be coated with a thin crust.

Transfer the dough to a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat at medium-low speed, adding the eggs one at a time (!), and beating well after each is added. Stir in the grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, nutmeg, and paprika, and add a dash of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Kitchen Goddess note: For any pastry, the most important element is the ratio of flour to moisture. I find that the trickiness factor is almost eliminated if (1) you can find a scale and get the exact amount of flour measured, and (2) use large eggs – not medium, not extra-large. And for this pastry dough, it’s important to be sure that each egg is fully incorporated into the batter before adding the next one. At first, the batter will tend to separate and look curdled as each egg is added. Relax and keep beating – it’ll come back together.

You have three choices for forming the gougères: (1) If you have a pastry bag and are accomplished at using it, pipe the dough into ¾ round mounds, using a ½-inch round tip. (2) If you want to pipe it but don’t have a pastry bag, spoon the dough into a zip-lock baggie with a half-inch corner cut. Or (3), go the Kitchen Goddess way – because piping is not a KG talent – using 2 spoons. Use the first spoon to dig out a blob of dough about the size of a walnut; take the second spoon to roll the blob gently onto the baking sheet (covered with parchment, of course!). In all cases, your aim is to get little ball-shaped mounds about ¾ inch in diameter, set 2 inches apart. Then with wet fingertips, lightly smooth away any points on the tops of the mounds. Before putting the pans in the oven, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle on additional grated cheese.

Bake in the center of the oven at 400º for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375º and bake another 20 minutes. The little puffs will get over-brown if given the chance, so until you know how your oven performs, keep an eye out for the last 5 minutes. The gougères are done when they are puffed and golden brown. Transfer the finished puffs to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Yes, these are small sheet pans. The KG uses them because they allow her to bake her gougères a dozen at a time and thereby keep a constant supply of warm puffs emerging from the kitchen.

Storing Gougères

The best way to store gougères is to form the raw mounds on a baking sheet and stick the sheet into the freezer. Once the dough is frozen solid, lift the mounds off the sheet and pack them airtight in plastic bags. And there’s no need to thaw them before baking; just add an extra couple of minutes in the oven.

If you have leftovers, lay them out on a baking sheet; cover the sheet with plastic wrap and freeze until the gougères are firm. Store the frozen gougères in sturdy plastic bags, where they’ll keep  for several months. Reheat them at 350º on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 6-8 minutes.

Salmon Rillettes

Adapted from Gourmet magazine, December 2004.

Makes about 1½ cups.

1 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, rinsed well and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, sliced
6 ounces king salmon filet
2 ounces crème fraîche (can substitute sour cream, light sour cream, or a crème fraîche/sour cream combo)
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 mounded teaspoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the wine and water in a deep skillet with a lid. Add the celery, onion, leek, peppercorns, bay leaf, and lemon. Simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Add the salmon, cover the pot, remove it from the heat and let it stand for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the salmon from the marinade and chill it in the refrigerator. Discard the marinade.

Transfer the salmon and remaining ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with a basket of crostini or crackers, or pipe into trimmed endive leaves with a garnish of dill sprig.


And in case you are curious as to how the KG makes her crostini, here you go:

Slice a baguette of French bread in pieces about ⅜ inch wide. (The Kitchen Goddess likes to slice hers at an angle to the loaf, but that’s just for show. No one – least of all her husband, who is frequently tasked with the slicing – knows why.) Place them on a large, rimmed sheet pan, and run them under the broiler for about 1 minute. Turn them over and run them under the broiler for about 30 seconds. Take a large clove of raw garlic and rub it lightly across the surface of the half-cooked side, then lightly brush olive oil across that side as well. Return the crostini to the broiler for 25-30 seconds, depending on how dark you like them to be. Let them cool, then store in large zip-lock plastic bags. They should keep for at least a week.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jingle Bells, Ice Cube Shells, Cookbooks by the Yard...
Gift Ideas for the Foodie in Your Life

It’s that time again, and I’ll bet you haven’t done all the shopping you need to do. How do I know? Because there’s a whole week and a day left before Christmas, and a week before the first night of Hanukkah. And we all know how frantic that week always is, in spite of all our best intentions.

Well, if there’s a foodie on your list, this is your lucky day. Once again, the Kitchen Goddess has put together a list of items – from stocking stuffers to really swell gifts – that should amuse or excite the food lover in your life. And if this list doesn’t do the trick, check these links to Spoon & Ink for ideas from holiday seasons past:

Spoon & Ink Gift Guide 2015
Spoon & Ink Gift Guide 2014
Spoon & Ink Gift Guide 2013

I should add that the 2013 guide features my coolest gift idea ever: a designer cheese grater that doubles as kitchen sculpture.

And in case you’re wondering, the Kitchen Goddess has not received as much as a sprig of holly for these recommendations. She is a wonder of ethical virtue.

Stocking Stuffers

The Kitchen Goddess loves champagne. But once you open a bottle, you face that tricky issue of how to store any that doesn’t get consumed that night. Admittedly, it doesn’t happen often that there’s champagne left over, but now there’s a solution: the Cilio Stainless Steel Champagne Sealer (online for $8.95 at either or Kitchen Universe). This attractive little gadget was actually given a “highly recommended” status from none other than America’s Test Kitchen, which as you know has fairly demanding standards. According to the ATK folks, “This inexpensive sealer attaches with an easy one-handed motion and an affirming click. Wine saved with it was just as fresh as a newly opened bottle for two full days (a full week if left undisturbed) and still drinkable on day three.... Once on, it was almost flat against the top of the bottle and fit easily in the fridge.” The Kitchen Goddess bought two of them.

When’s the last time you pulled the package of dark brown sugar out of your pantry and discovered that it was a solid brick of sugar? It has happened to me too many times. So I was intrigued to find The Original Brown Sugar Bear, this darling little reusable terracotta bear that, when soaked in water for 20 minutes, will maintain the right moisture level in a package of brown sugar for up to three months. It’ll do the same for other sugars, cakes and cookies, or raisins and other dried fruit. (Though if you have cakes and cookies hanging around long enough to dry out, I’d like to speak to you about this problem.) Alternatively, you can dry it out in the oven and use it to absorb moisture around crackers and chips, or salt and spices – even around cameras and other electronic equipment. And they’re only $3.99 on

As long as we’re talking whimsical, here’s a fun but very useful tool: the Oven Pull Monster. Especially if, like me, you’re always struggling with a potholder in order to maneuver a hot oven rack. Well, struggle no more. This heat-resistant (to 530º) silicone grabber makes it easy to pull a rack out of a hot oven or push one back in. At Bed Bath & Beyond or The Container Store for $2.99.

Is there a cheese lover on your list? You probably think “cheese bags” sound like a ridiculous waste of money. Hah. You would be wrong. Because cheese – even the relatively inexpensive stuff – will quickly dry out in your fridge if you have it wrapped in butcher paper, or get slimy and smelly (bad-smelly, not good-smelly) if wrapped in cellophane or a plastic baggie. Formaticum Cheese Bags (15 to a box) will extend the life of your cheese until you can actually finish it! The polyethylene and wax-coated paper helps regulate humidity and allows cheese to breathe. The bags are large enough to hold a couple of decent-sized pieces, reusable until they fall apart, and even then can be effective if wrapped around a piece of cheese with a rubber band or tape. $8.99 for a package of 15, from Bed Bath & Beyond or N.B. These little bags have garnered 579 reviews on amazon, and have a 4.6 rating out of 5 stars. That’s a lot of fans.

With the increasing popularity of cocktails, many people neglect the importance of the ice. A classic cube will improve not only the look of a mixed drink, but also the flavor because it doesn’t melt quickly. I got these at a food bloggers’ conference a year ago, and I love them. These Silicone Ice Cube Trays will seriously up the game of the cocktail maker on your list. Make the cubes with filtered water only, and store them in a Ziploc Freezer bag. These three trays for 1-inch cubes are $9.97 at; or you can get a single tray for 1.25-inch cubes for $6.95 at Cocktail Kingdom.

Serious Gifts

The Kitchen Goddess was in Sicily this year, and had a chance to sample the local fresh pasta. Oh, my. If you’ve ever had fresh pasta, you know the difference in that and the dried stuff is legion. Now, even the Kitchen Goddess admits: (1) dried pasta is still perfectly fine; (2) we can’t make fresh pasta every time the mood strikes us; but (3) if the mood strikes, it’s not hard but you have to have the right equipment. Here it is: the Kitchenaid Pasta Extruder (best price by a long shot was $129.59 at And yes, you have to own a Kitchenaid stand mixer to start with. But what a fun way to spend a winter afternoon.

You know what else will chase away the winter blahs? Candles. All by themselves, they add a warm and friendly atmosphere, regardless of what food is being served. But for her hubby’s occasional protests that she’s trying to burn down the house, the Kitchen Goddess would have candles at every meal. Some of the most beautiful votive holders come from a company called Glassybaby. You may remember my praise of these glass holders last year, and this year, the company has been especially thoughtful and creative with new versions. They’re boxed so beautifully that you don’t even need extra trimming, and the two here come with a note that 10% from the sale of each will be donated to Conservation International to protect carbon-rich forests.

"Mother Earth"
“Home” and “Mother Earth” are $75 each; other, simpler designs are $44. The company has retail stores in Washington state and California; otherwise, shop online at

Good Food and Good Reads

When Gourmet magazine shuttered its doors in the fall of 2009, Ruth Reichl found herself without a job for the first time in 40 years. So she did what she’d always done in times of stress – she disappeared into her kitchen. She roamed ethnic neighborhoods in New York City to discover new styles of cooking, and from her house in rural upstate New York, she explored farmers’ markets for unfamiliar foods. The cooking itself became a form of meditation. And then she wrote a book about the experience: My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life ($22.75). Like many of her books, it’s a mash-up of memoir and cooking, so it’s a good read, even if you don’t cook the recipes, and the photography is lovely. A New York Times bestseller.

At the other end of the age spectrum is Justin Warner, the 30-some-odd (and “odd” is a good choice here) wunderkind, best known as the winner of the eighth season of the Food Network series Food Network Star. His book, The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them ($23.07), offers a playful, non-traditional approach to food, focusing on why certain tastes go together and how to make use of that understanding. It’s not a huge book – but of the 110 recipes, I’ve already tried or bookmarked as must-tries 11 of them. And that’s saying something. It’s a fun read, youthful and irreverent, with unusual combinations – like his Smoked Oyster Caesar Salad (from The Law of Bagel and Lox) and the Pepperoni-crusted Cod with Pineapple (demonstrating the Law of the Hot Dog) – but all so far delicious, and I’m happy to have them in my repertoire.

“What’s better than sandwiches?!?! Falling in love, action movies, nephews, Led Zeppelin, becoming super good friends with Tom Cruise to name a few.” That’s the opening salvo in Tyler Kord’s delightful book, A Super Upsetting Book about Sandwiches ($14.69). It’s not really upsetting – unless you want your sandwiches to be BLTs or grilled cheese. But if you’re willing to try a sub roll with roasted cauliflower and raisin-scallion relish and smoked French dressing and potato chips, then this might be the book for you. Also Chef Kord is clearly onto something successful because he is also the owner of the lauded No. 7 restaurant and No. 7 Sub shops in New York. And New Yorkers know something about sandwiches.

Actual Food – or at Least Chocolate

One of my favorite places to visit in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan is Vosges Chocolates. I started going there because the woman who built the company went to Vanderbilt, my alma mater. But it happens that she knows a lot about chocolate, and I’ve been a fan ever since. The company makes gorgeous gift boxes, with delicious and exotic assortments of truffles, in prices that range from $22 to $250. So something for everyone.

A Gift with a Personal Touch

Fresh spices and freshly dried herbs are a welcome gift for anyone who enjoys cooking. This summer, I put together a spice package as a gift to a friend who had moved from New York to Florida and would be setting up a brand new kitchen. The gift was so well received that I replicated the concept for a bride-to-be. First, I purchased quantities of several unusual spices, along with a few of my favorite spice mixes from Penzey’s. I bought spice jars from, and filled them with the spices and mixes, and added labels to the jars. Then I included a note with a list of the spices and how I would use them. It’s a fun way to share the cooking experience.

In my gift package:

■ Aleppo Pepper (from Penzey’s)
■ Texas Bay Leaves (from a friend with a bay tree)
■ Fennel Pollen (from My Spice Sage)
■ Ground Dried Lemon (from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern products)
■ Whole Dried Limes (
■ Florida Seasoned Pepper (Penzey’s)
■ Fox Point Seasoning (Penzey’s)
■ Sunny Paris Seasoning (Penzey’s)

Happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2016

All This in One Pan? It’s a Holiday Miracle!
What’s cooking? Sheet-Pan Skirt Steak in a Balsamic Marinade with Broccoli and White Beans

Kitchen Goddess note: I know, I promised you some ideas for hors d’oeuvres to help your holiday hosting. But then I came across this dish and got so excited I had to move it to the front of the line. No worries, though – as I always tell my guests, the hors d’oeuvres will be ready soon...

The holidays are sort of a feast/famine roller coaster at our house. There’s that slow climb through testing four veggie recipes for this blog, climaxing with the Thanksgiving bonanza, followed by no dinner at all until a delicious turkey soup emerges from the leftovers. Then a steady slide downhill after all that cooking, when I can’t get energized about even turning on the stove. That’s when we have a week of takeout.

I’m finally rested from Turkey Day, so I decided to treat my hubby to a steak dinner. And about that time, I was perusing my pantry and noticed it included six bottles of balsamic vinegar. That’s right, six. Three of regular balsamic, two of fig balsamic, and a blueberry balsamic. Am not sure how I got to that point – probably the same way that I might end up with 30+ rolls of toilet paper: I’d notice one day that we’re low, and the thought is like an earworm – you know, one of those bits of music that play over and over in your head until you want to shoot yourself? Only in this version, every time I’d go to the store, I’d “remember” we need toilet paper. So I must have been through a period of “remembering” balsamic vinegar.

In any case, when I happened upon this recipe that used a half cup of the stuff, I had to try it. What a discovery. And at the rate I expect to repeat this meal, I’ll be needing more balsamic in no time.

How many ways do I love this dish?

1. The whole meal cooks in one pan. Get that? The whole meal. One pan. (Okay, you’ll also want a big bowl for tossing the broccoli, but let’s not quibble over numbers.)

2. The process – which included trimming and slicing the broccoli – took less than an hour from start to finish.

3. The deliciousness factor is way high because the meat juices drip down to flavor the beans and broccoli as they cook. Mmmm... And the marinade also works as a sauce for the cooked steak and the veggies. For maximum flavor, do yourself a favor – a flavor favor! – and get fresh oregano.

4. The concept is terrifically flexible: the meat can be hanger steak or skirt steak or flank steak, the veggies can be broccoli or broccolini or (according to reviews) Brussels sprouts or asparagus. And the beans can be any canned white beans: Great Northern, navy, cannellini. (Just FYI, the Kitchen Goddess’s faves are the cannellini, but all the store had this time was navy beans.)

My hanger steak, about 1.35 pounds
Kitchen Goddess note on meat: Of the three beef cuts used for this type of cooking, skirt steak and hanger steak come from the diaphragm. Both are prized for their flavor; of the two, hanger is thicker and more tender, so supposedly needs marinating for less time. That said, my butcher had only hanger available, and it was still a bit tough after marinating only 30 minutes. Next time, I’ll marinate a full hour. Actually, next time I’ll get skirt steak. Flank steak is leaner and not quite as flavorful, but responds well to marinating. All three – hanger, skirt, and flank meat – should be cooked quickly and at high heat. They’re best served rare or medium-rare, and should be cut in thin strips across the grain to improve tenderness.

Sheet-Pan Skirt Steak in a Balsamic Marinade with Broccoli and White Beans

Adapted from Rhoda Boone in, August 2015

Serves 4.

4 large garlic cloves, divided
½ cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh (!) oregano leaves, divided
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1½ pounds skirt steak (or hanger steak or flank steak – see note above; if you use skirt steak, which is long and thin, cut it into two short pieces, for ease of broiling)
1 pound broccoli or broccolini
1 can (15-ounce) white beans, drained and rinsed

Special equipment: An ovenproof wire rack that fits inside an 18x13-inch rimmed baking sheet

Finely chop 2 of the garlic cloves. Put the garlic into a large jar or medium bowl and add the vinegar, mustard, 1 tablespoon of the oregano, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon of the pepper, whisking to combine well. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup of the oil, whisking constantly to emulsify the mixture. Set aside ¼ cup of the vinaigrette for serving.

Place the steak into a half-gallon zip-lock bag and pour in the remaining vinaigrette. Seal the bag and massage to coat the meat with the vinaigrette. (Alternatively, you can place the meat in a shallow glass dish and pour the marinade over it. But that would mean dirtying another dish, wouldn’t it?) Let the meat marinate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

While the meat is marinating, use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layer of the broccoli stems, and slice the broccoli lengthwise in pieces about ¼ inch thick. (If you have broccolini instead, slice only the thickest of the stems.)

Preheat the broiler and thinly slice the remaining 2 garlic cloves. In a large bowl, toss the broccolini with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 tablespoon of oregano, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Lay the broccoli out on a rimmed baking sheet, and broil it about 4 inches from the heat for 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven.

Stir the beans into the broccoli and scatter the sliced garlic on top. Set the wire rack on top of the beans and broccoli. Remove the steak from the marinade and allow excess to drip off. Place the steak on the rack and discard the marinade.

Broil the steak about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. (If you use hanger or skirt steak, which are thicker, let them cook an extra minute per side.) Remove the pan from the oven and let the steak rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, divide the broccoli-bean mixture among four plates. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and serve with the reserved vinaigrette alongside. (Caution: The balsamic vinaigrette has a fairly strong flavor that can overwhelm the broccoli/beans, which have already been flavored by the meat drippings. So taste first before you pour on more sauce.)

Note that if you are more organized than the Kitchen Goddess, you can make the vinaigrette up to 3 days ahead.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

So-Easy Sides for a Thanksgiving Marathon: Day 4
What’s cooking? Cheesy Scalloped Potato Cups

The big day is almost here, and the Kitchen Goddess wants to once again take an opportunity to tell you how thankful she is that you stop by now and then. Writers need readers, just as cooks need eaters. But the reading part is much less obligatory, so I truly appreciate the time you spend here at Spoon & Ink.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for: the carbs. Did you know that the first potatoes were found in southern Peru and northwestern Bolivia, some 7000-10,000 years ago? Me neither. Today, it’s the world’s fourth largest food crop, following maize, wheat, and rice. Ah, I love Wikipedia.

These potatoes, on the other hand, came not from South America but from Cook’s Country, an offshoot of America’s Test Kitchen. While I generally find their approach to cooking to be a bit tedious, I thought the idea of these individualized au gratin “cups” was very clever indeed. And not surprisingly, the taste is quite good. It’s hard to really screw up a potato-cheese combo, but there’s a lot to be said for getting one that doesn’t stick to the pan yet maintains that creaminess you can’t usually get without a big, goopy casserole and a whole lot of butter.

My potato cups didn’t get as brown and crispy as the Cook’s Country version, but perhaps with a thicker coating on the muffin tin, or perhaps more time in the oven... The Kitchen Goddess was  a bit pressed for time and needed to get this post finished. But she was gratified to notice that at least one other blogger who posted this recipe had even paler results.

The only other warning I will offer is that you find a casserole dish larger than the 1½-quart Pyrex dish I used for microwaving the potatoes with the half-and-half. I figured I just needed a dish that would hold the mixture. But it turns out that when you microwave cream continuously for a long time – 13-15 minutes – it boils furiously at some point and will make an unholy mess in your microwave when it boils over, even with a lid on the dish. The Kitchen Goddess felt vexed and humiliated. Grrrr...

Now, that unhappy part of the experience will not keep me from making these cups again. As I said, the taste is very good, and the convenience factor on serving them is outstanding. But next time, I’ll use a larger dish and stop the cooking every 3-4 minutes to stir the mixture down. It might take a bit more time in the microwave, but I won’t mind that. The Kitchen Goddess doesn’t like being vexed.

Kitchen Goddess notes: I know, most of this post seems like one long note, but this is about the choice of ingredients. So listen up.
(1) You want a potato that keeps its shape on the outside but cooks up dry and fluffy on the inside. Russets are ideal.
(2) Do not use pre-shredded cheese for this recipe. Or any other recipe, for that matter. Bagged cheese has additives – like potato starch, cellulose (wood pulp!) powder, and calcium sulfate – to keep it from clumping. The Kitchen Goddess cooks with pure cheese, and hopes you will do likewise.
(3) Grated Parmesan is a salty cheese-flavored substance that comes in cans, and also contains wood pulp. This recipe calls for grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, one of the world’s truly great cheeses. So buy some and grate it yourself. Or your grocer might grate it on site and sell it in plastic containers, and that’s ok, too.

So enough of the preachy stuff and on to the food. And have a glorious Thanksgiving!

Cheesy Scalloped Potato Cups

Adapted from Cook’s Country.

Serves 12.

Special equipment: non-stick muffin tin, and a microwaveable dish that holds at least 2 quarts

½ cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
1¼ cups half and half
1¼ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5½ ounces (about 1⅓ cups) shredded sharp cheddar (Feel free to mix it up with this cheese – I used 4 ounces Welch cheddar and 1½ ounces Gloucester, and it was divine.)
1¼ ounces (about ⅔ cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 teaspoons cornstarch
PAM, or other cooking oil spray

Preheat oven to 425º. Set a rack at the lowest position in the oven.

In the bowl of your food processor, pulse the Panko crumbs 4-5 times, to get a fine consistency.

Grease the muffin cups well with the butter, covering the sides and bottoms evenly. (A pastry brush works well.) Coat the cups with the ground Panko.

Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. At this point, the Cook’s people would have you cut each half into thirds and then cut crosswise in ¼-inch slices, per the photo here. That’s all fine, but in my humble opinion, it is a bit precious. I think you could cut straight down in a grid, to get pieces that are still ¼-inch thick but closer to square shapes, which would be easier. It’s the ¼-inch thickness that’s important, for consistent doneness.

Combine the potatoes, half-and-half, salt, and pepper in a large, microwaveable bowl (covered), for 15 minutes, stopping every 3-4 minutes to gently stir the mixture and keep the cream from boiling over. If the potatoes are not tender after 15 minutes, run the mixture another 2-3 minutes.

While the potato-cream is cooking, stir together the cheeses and cornstarch in a bowl, and reserve ⅓ cup of the mix.

When the potatoes are tender, stir the cheeses into the potato-cream mixture until smooth. Spoon the mix into the muffin cups and top with the reserved ⅓ cup of cheese.

Cover the muffin tin with a sheet of aluminum foil that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Place the covered tin into the oven on the lowest rack, and bake at 425º for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Set the muffin tin on a rack and loosen the sides of the potato cups using a paring knife or icing spatula. Allow the cups to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. To remove the cups, place a rimmed baking sheet over the tin and invert the two. Tap the bottoms of the tin to release the cups. Let the cups cool 5 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

Monday, November 21, 2016

So-Easy Sides for a Thanksgiving Marathon: Day 3
What’s cooking? Lemony Green Beans with Frizzled Leeks

I was discussing my own Thanksgiving menu with a friend who’ll be joining us that day, and she said that while everyone enjoys having lots of choices, mostly she thinks they like simple, straightforward foods.

I tend to agree, although that thought doesn’t stop me when I find a dish that sounds really really good but is slightly offbeat. For instance, I’m still planning to make my mashed potatoes with kale-collards pesto.

But I’m going for the simple treatment on today’s green beans. And the sample batch I made
– for you, dear readers! – was so flavorful, I’ll also be serving them at my own table on Thursday.

What caught my eye was the word “frizzled.” It just sounded fun, and when a dish is fun to say, that’s a good start. The frizzled leeks followed through on that note, with a little bit of crunch and a toasty flavor that reminds me a bit of popcorn. Hmmm, maybe next year I should try popcorn on my green beans.

In any case, the frizzle process helps bring out the natural sweetness in the leeks. Combine that toasty sweetness with the lemony treatment on the beans, and you have a memorable combination, without a lot of work.

Kitchen Goddess note: My grandmother cooked all vegetables in a pressure cooker, so it was years into adulthood before I discovered how wonderful green beans could taste... if you didn’t cook them too much. So please, folks, do not steam your green beans more than 3 minutes. If you do, there’ll be no life left in them once they go through the second stage of cooking, and even the deliciousness of the frizzled leeks will not save them.

Lemony Green Beans with Frizzled Leeks

Adapted from Anna Stockwell at, September 2016.

Serves 6.

1 pound green beans (preferably the thin haricot verts), stem ends trimmed
1 cup canola oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts only
1 tablespoon lemon zest (1 lemon)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (For the juice and the zest, one fat lemon should do the trick. Just be sure to zest before you juice.)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus some for salting the frizzled leeks
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Garnish: lemon wedges

Prepare an ice water bath for the green beans. Using a basket steamer in a large, covered stockpot, steam the green beans – you may have to do this in two batches – for 3 minutes per batch. Working quickly, transfer the steamed beans to the ice water bath for 1-2 minutes. Drain the beans and lay them out on paper towels to dry.

Slice the leeks crossways (white and light green parts only!), ⅛-inch thick, and gently separate the slices into circles.

Set a deep skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the leek circles and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. [Kitchen Goddess note: The KG’s leeks got a bit extra frizzled because she left them in the oil for the full 5 minutes. They still tasted great. But you may want yours to be a little more golden. Just watch them carefully, starting at the 4-minute mark.] When your leeks have reached a color you like, transfer them to paper towels on a plate, and season them with salt.

Turn the heat on the oil down to medium and stir in the lemon zest, the green beans, the teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Using a large spoon or a spatula, toss the beans in the oil for about 5 minutes, to warm them through.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the lemon juice, continuing to toss the green beans. Move the beans to a serving platter reserving about ¼ cup of the lemon/oil mixture to pour over the beans. Sprinkle the frizzled leeks on top and serve with lemon wedges.

The beans can be steamed a day ahead of serving, then dried and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.