An Italian Sugar Rush

The last article I posted was all about forgetting about time. It was about leaving that sauce on the stove until it was good and ready. This post, however, is the complete opposite. Making torrone is one of the rare moments where I can be seen moving quickly, almost rushing. It’s such a rare event, that my family doesn’t know what to do with me. They laugh as I buzz around the kitchen, impatient while the sugar is melting and having a mild-panic attack as the hot candy hardens while I cut it, little stands of sugar freezing mid-air.

 
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This kind of torrone is not the typical variety that most people are accustomed to. It is not the white, nougaty candy that comes packaged in a pretty box. For years, I didn’t even know that type existed. All I knew was the dark, honey- colored, almond candy topped with “dottie sprinkles” that my great Aunt Mary made every year for Christmas. Maybe, like me, Aunt Mary got a kick out of the hustle and ‘danger’ of making torrone and that is how it became a family tradition that hasn’t been skipped in what I can imagine is well over 50 years. Torrone di mandorle e miele (as it is formally known) is a sweet adventure in what toasted almonds, honey, and sugar can be capable of doing. An adventure in how three ingredients can transform into cheerful, little bites of holiday bliss and memory.

 
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Almond and Honey Torrone

From: Christina Esposito

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups toasted, slivered almonds
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 orange
  • Dottie sprinkles (rainbow non-pareils)
  • Greased (buttered) glass/marble/pyrex cutting board (a non-wooden surface that can withstand high temperatures without breaking)
  • A wooden or metal mold

Directions:

  1. Before you begin, make sure that everything is ready to go. Grease your cutting surface and candy mold, get out the dottie sprinkles and orange, and pour your glass of drinking wine (optional). In French, gathering all of your cooking materials and ingredients before you actually start cooking is known as having your “mise en place”. Most of us don’t cook at home with everything carefully thought out and prepared ahead of time, but for torrone, having your mise en place is essential.
  2. Now, put the two cups of sugar in a medium to large sized pot over medium-low heat. Be sure to stir the sugar even at this beginning stage. Keep stirring until the sugar is melted. This might take a little while. First, the sugar will start to clump together. Then, it will darken in color and melt.
  3. When all of the sugar is melted and there aren’t any clumps, add the honey. The honey will make the sugar bubble and fizz a little- this is normal.
  4. Next, take the sugar and honey off the heat and quickly stir in the almonds. This will be a bit messy, but that’s okay. This is also the point where mild chaos might ensue because you need to work quickly from here on out!
  5. Pour the mixture into the greased candy mold. Being VERY careful, use the orange (which acts like a greased spatula) and roll it over the mixture to flatten it out. The candy will be super, super, hot.
  6. Once the mixture is flattened, liberally shake on the sprinkles. Use the orange once again to push the sprinkles into the candy.
  7. Continue to work quickly and carefully and begin to cut the candy into little squares. This must be done with haste because as you will find out, the candy is fast to harden and might even freeze in little strands in mid-air. Also be sure to eat a few pieces while the torrone is still kind of hot. You’ll regret it if you don’t!
  8. Once all the candy is cut and cooled, store in an air-tight container. Torrone lasts for a good three or four weeks so you can enjoy it during the entire holiday season!
  9. Note: cleaning the pot that you melted the sugar in will look impossible and menacing. I promise it isn’t. Just fill the pot back up the water and heat on the stove. The hard sugar and almonds will melt off into the water.

Countdown to Thanksgiving 6

Before Thanksgiving, we were all so geared for that first taste of the turkey, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes. The second and third bites were pretty fabulous too and I for one was really looking forward to The Sandwich the next day. But by day three leftover turkey is a challenge and most of us just want to see it disappear. When my producer asked me to come up with a leftover cooking demo for the last day of the Thanksgiving TV extravaganza, I thought turkey puff pastry turnovers. It took a lot of trial and error  (do you add stuffing or not, I wondered) to come up with the perfect combination. These turnovers are both beautiful, easy, and practical because you can also freeze them and pop them in the oven when whenever you want. And they include bacon too so how could you go wrong? They were a huge hit with Mark and the girls, and the staff at WTIC went crazy over them too. We hope you like them as well!

 

Question of the Day: What did you do with your leftovers from Thanksgiving?

 

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Turkey Cranberry Puff Pastry Turnovers

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry sheets defrosted
  • All purpose flour for rolling out the dough
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 pound or more leftover turkey cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 8 or more tablespoons leftover gravy
  • 8 tablespoons homemade or canned whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 6 strips cooked crispy bacon, crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped sage or rosemary (optional)
  • 1/3 cup or more crispy shallots* (see our recipe for butternut squash soup for recipe)

Directions:

  1. Roll out one sheet of puff pastry out on a floured surface to 14X14 inches. Square off the edges of the dough using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
  2. Cut both the length and width of the dough in half so there are 4 equal parts. You will have four 7 X 7 squares.
  3. Whisk 1 teaspoon water and 1 whole egg in a small bowl or ramekin and set aside.
  4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Carefully move the puff pastry squares on to a separate piece of parchment paper.
  6. Place two to three ounces of turkey and two tablespoons each of both gravy and cranberry sauce on each diagonal half of the square. Sprinkle evenly with bacon, shallots and ¼ teaspoon of herbs (optional) on each half of diagonal halves as well, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the square.
  7. Brush the entire border of each square with egg wash and fold over
  8. Use a fork to seal the edges and to assure the filling won’t leak out while the turnovers bake.
  9. Cut the parchment paper around each turnover leaving a 2-inch border. Carefully pick up each by the edges of the parchment paper and place them on the cookie sheet (they will be very fragile, and tend to lose their shape if you lift them with your hands on to the cookie sheet.)
  10. Carefully brush each turnover with egg wash.
  11. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  12. Serve immediately with a green salad and roasted vegetables.

Countdown to Thanksgiving 4

pumpkinbacon

 

This Pumpkin Fondue is one of our absolute favorite recipes of all time. We’ve posted this one before, but in light of the demo it on TV the other day, I decided to bring it back from the archives. It’s too important to miss! If your Thanksgiving menu is still flexible, we highly encourage you to check this one out! Scroll down for the recipe and a video of the TV segment!

 

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Pumpkins Stuffed with Everything Good – Our Way

From: Heide Lang, Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

  • 8 strips bacon (¼ cup shallots may be substituted for vegetarian version
  • ¼ pound stale bread cut into cubes
  • ¼ pound cheese, such as gruyere, emmental, cheddar, smoked gouda, asiago, parmesan, or any combination, cut into ½ inch cubes 
  • 3 cloves of garlic pressed or minced 
  • 1/8-1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions 
  • 2 teaspoons or more fresh herbs (i.e., parsley, rosemary, thyme) 
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1 sugar or Cinderella pumpkin weighing about 3 pounds 
  • 1 cup or more heavy cream 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sautee shallots until they are crispy (about 15 minutes), or fry bacon until crispy. Set aside.
  3. Combine chunks of bread and cheese, along with dried cranberries (this is optional, but will add beautiful color to the fondue). Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Add bacon or shallots to the bread and cheese mixture. Combine well.
  5. Add any herbs you choose, along with the chives or scallions, and garlic. Toss well.
  6. Using a very sturdy knife, cut off the cap of the pumpkin, just as you would a jack-o-lantern.
  7. Scoop out the stringy pumpkin and the seeds and generously salt the inside of the pumpkin.
  8. Pack the filling tightly into the pumpkin (there shouldn’t be any air pockets).
  9. Pour in cream until the bread mixture is saturated and there is a bit of liquid on top (but be careful not to have the bread “swimming” in heavy cream).
  10. Put the cap back on and bake until the pumpkin is soft, about 60-90 minutes. Check the pumpkin after 45 minutes to see how soft it is. Continue baking until the ingredients are bubbling and the meat of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Do not let it burn, or the pumpkin will turn black and collapse as it cools. You don’t want all your good work ruined!
  11. Place a large spatula under your creation and move it gently to a beautiful platter.
  12. Serve as a side dish or an appetizer on small plates.

Countdown to Thanksgiving 3

Tim Lammers, a delightful anchorman at Fox News in Hartford, was very skeptical when I told him we were making mashed potatoes with turnips for the show last week. Turnips, as vegetables go, are not very pretty in their raw form, and many people put in them in the same category as Brussels sprouts (which we will be making later in the week as well!) He was surprised and delighted at just how delicious the potatoes tasted. As a bonus, we also prepared a roasted pear puree, which adds a lovely sweetness to mashed potatoes and cut the richness of the Thanksgiving meal. Here are all the recipes we made.

 

 

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Question of the day: What are your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes?

 

 

Mashed Potatoes and Turnips with Roasted Pear Puree

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 ripe bosc pears, peeled, quartered, cored
  • 1 basic mashed potato recipe (see below)
  • 1 pound turnips peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine honey, lemon juice, melted butter and pears in medium size bowl. Toss to coat evenly.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and place pear mixture in a baking dish so that all the fruit is in one layer.
  4. Roast pears for 30 minutes and then toss the pears in the juices.
  5. Continue roasting for about 30 minutes until the pears are very tender (this will vary depending on how ripe the pears are).
  6. Transfer pears with liquid to a food processor and puree until smooth or puree directly in the dish with an immersion blender. Set aside. (Pear puree can actually be made up to 2 days ahead).
  7. In the meantime, prepare basic mashed potato recipe. (See next recipe)
  8. Place turnips in a separate pot of salted boiling water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
  9. Puree turnips until smooth and combine with mashed potatoes.
  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Re-warm pear puree and serve together by placing the potato mixture in a serving bowl and swirling in the pear puree. Alternatively, serve separately, and let your guests determine how much puree they would like.

Basic Mashed Potatoes

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds russet potatoes peeled 
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 teaspoon or more of salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut the potatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. You want to make sure the potatoes are the same size so they cook evenly.
  2. Place the potatoes in cold water, bring to a boil, and then salt the water (the water should taste like the ocean in order for the potatoes to be properly seasoned). (Water should always be salted once the water is boiling. Otherwise, the salt will sink to the bottom and stick to the bottom of the pot.) Lower the temperature to a simmer and cook until a fork easily goes through the potatoes, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.
  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and “dry mash” without the milk or butter for 2 minutes over a low flame.
  4. Add the butter and gently mix into the potatoes without mashing (you don’t want to over mash the potatoes or they will be gluey).
  5. Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and warm milk.
  6. Gradually add warm milk and cream to the pot and mix thoroughly.
  7. Add pepper and additional salt to taste. Mash potatoes until smooth or coarse, your preference.

Italian Genovese Sauce: Time to Get Cozy

“Sometimes, the best meal requires you to forget that time exists”

–Elizabeth Bauermeister, The School of Essential Ingredients

                                                                                                       

Cooking is all about time. When to throw in the pasta, when to take out the casserole, how to make a dinner for a family of six in forty-five minutes. But what happens when there is no limit on time? When you have all day to make a meal, as if time doesn’t exist.
Neapolitan Genovese Sauce via The Road Home

 

For Neapolitans and their immigrant descendants, what happens is Genoaise. Or, for those not familiar with Neapolitan dialect, sauce Genovese. Genovese is a mysterious sauce, steeped in time and history. No one can agree on the origins of a dish named after Genoa but created in Naples. Perhaps it’s the mystery of the dish that makes it so alluring. For me, it’s the magic of leaving onions, pork, and stock to simmer and discovering three hours later that something new and comforting has taken its place.

 

Neapolitan Genovese Sauce via The Road Home

 

There are dozens of variations of Genovese sauce (mine clearly being the best!) but all Neapolitans agree on one thing: that Genovese sauce is not meant for Spring and Summer. It is not a dish that you serve to friends at a picnic or for a buffet. Genoaise is Fall and Winter. Fall for when you need a dish to slow you down and bring the colors of the leaves outside your window to life. Winter for when you need a warm, long hug after a day of snow shoveling and driving on half-plowed roads. Genovese nudges you to discover coziness and revel in it as if nothing else existed.

 

Neapolitan Genovese Sauce via The Road Home

 

So, I will leave you to try this sauce for yourself, with a reminder to take things slow every once in a while and let the simplicity of fresh pasta, grated cheese, and cooked down onions heal you.

Neapolitan Genovese Sauce via The Road Home

Genovese Sauce

From: Christina Esposito

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 – 2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 or 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, sliced 1/8” thin (about 6 small – medium sized onions)
  • 4 – 4.5 cups of beef stock or broth (enough to cover the meat and onions)
  • Splash of tomato sauce (1/8 cup) – Optional
  • Pecorino Romano grated cheese
  • 1 pound fresh pasta (fettuccine)

Directions:

  1. Sear the meat (you can use either beef or pork, but I’m partial to pork because it tenderizes so beautifully with this sauce). Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a medium sized sauce pot and jack the heat up to medium high. While the oil is warming, salt and pepper the meat. Then, when the oil is shimmering, like seeing heat in the desert, add the meat. This should make a loud noise, but that’s good- it’s the noise of juices being sealed into the meat. Remember to rotate the meat around to get all the sides nicely browned. The goal is to brown the meat, not fully cook it.
  2. When the meat is seared, add ¼ cup of the beef stock to scrape up all the bits of meat and ‘brown stuff’ from the bottom of the pan. This brown stuff is ‘fond’, the meat drippings that will melt into your sauce and make it go from good to great.
  3. Add the garlic. Let it cook for just a minute so it releases its scent.
  4. Add the onions and rest of the beef stock (so that the onions and meat are just covered with stock). Throw in a dash of tomato sauce too if you have it and simmer away! Let the sauce simmer for as many hours as you have to give, stirring it every now and again. If the stock evaporates and sinks way below the onion level add some more. Don’t forget to season and remember that the stock may already be salty.
  5. When the onions and meat are beyond tender, it’s time to puree the sauce (at least two to three hours later). Take the meat out and set aside. Then, with either an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender, puree the onions and broth together.
  6. Mix sauce with the fresh pasta and serve with the cut meat on the side. Sprinkle liberally with Pecorino Romano. Sigh with happiness.

Cookies on the Fly

Last night, my Sharia class had the most depressing movie party a class could ever have. I had briefly mentioned I might make Baklava, to lift the mood but (spoiler alert) Baklava takes like a year make, and I had literally no time. Cookies, on the other hand, take 10 minutes and de-stress like none other. I can’t write a real post because I still have no time. So, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, speak for yourselves.

 

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies via The Road Home

 

 

Do you have no time? Do you make cookies? Tell me all about it in the briefest comments you possibly can 😉

 

(Recipe Below)

 

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies via The Road Home

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep Time: 10 Mins Cooking Time: 10 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • Hefty pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup butter @ room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (optional because I forgot to buy it and it turned out fine) (not really optional though) (also, I suspect Jack Daniels or Jameson would make a great substitute – somebody should try it out)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and soda and spices.
  3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar on high, until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Mix in egg, vanilla and pumpkin also for about 3-4 minutes, until blended. Don’t freak out if it looks curdled, it will do that, and it will be ok.
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients until just mixed. Then slowly mix in chocolate chips.
  6. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheet.
  7. Bake until edges are golden brown. The recipe I was working off said 10 minutes, mine took like 25. Start checking at 10 – you’ll know.
  8. Cool on sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to baking rack and eat them all!

5 Halloween Traditions

As I think mom has already made clear, we’re kind of fans of Halloween at our house. That means even five days later we’re not ready to let it go. So when election day reminded me of one of my favorite halloween traditions, I seized the opportunity to wax poetic.

 

 

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One of the great things about the holiday is everybody’s quirks come out in costumes or traditions. No two people ever celebrate it quite the same. This year I couldn’t spend Halloween at home, but the upside is I’ve gotten to learn about (and participate in!) so many great new traditions – even within a pretty tiny sample size. Here is a wrap-up of all my favorite halloween traditions, old and new, that are sweet, quirky and all around awesome.

 

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  1. Candy Marketplace
    This is not the name for this tradition; it doesn’t have one. Until a year or two ago, there wasn’t a single Halloween I didn’t spend with Ellie, one of my bestest friends in the world. After collecting candy and rocking the vote (see below), every year until we were… gosh, 18, maybe? we scurried upstairs and dumped out every piece of candy and traded and bargained it. I usually ended up with Reese’s cups until July and if I wound up with a single piece of non-chocolate candy, I could consider the night a complete failure. Ellie wrote an actual essay for school on this one once. It’s a big flipping deal.
  2. Political Pumpkin
    Also not the real name. This one started in 2004, when L and I decided it was our civil responsibility to tell everyone in the neighborhood to vote. We threw in our candidate if they had a supportive lawn sign or bumper sticker. As 12-year-olds go, we were cool cats.
  3. Mummy Food
    Halloween is not about real food. If it’s not processed, it’s not allowed in the house. Over the years I’ve seen my fair share of awesome halloween recipes (witch hats, pretzel fingers, graveyard cake) but my favorite was always the mummy food. My mom was a big fan of the mummy dog (hotdog in Pillsbury crescent roll) but last year I was first introduced to mummy meatloaf, with criss-crossed noodles on top. This, friends, is why you babysit.
  4. Secret Santa 
    I brag about my internship a LOT because I really, really love it. I love it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the yearly secret halloween draw. Everybody in the office is secretly responsible for buying somebody else a costume. We exchange a few days before, and at lunch on Halloween, we all go down to the park and frolic. Not much gets done. It’s a good day.
  5. Tricky Treats
    I know a really wonderful mother (other than my own) (the same one, in fact, behind the mummy meatloaf!) who told me last Halloween that back when their family was living in London, the grownups used to take along Diet Coke cans filled with champagne as they took their kids trick or treating to the city’s finest townhouses. This one sums up Halloween perfectly – pushing the rules, treats for the whole family and (lets face it) spying on the rich and fancy neighbors.

 

Hope everyone had an awesome halloween. Only 360 days left until the next one – plan your costume before it’s too late 😉

 

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Easy Ghoulish Treats

Most people think I’m a little bit strange when I tell people that Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s really simple. I adore the foods of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Easter, not to mention all the glorious casual picnic foods from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but I just love the theatre and whimsy of Halloween.

 

Witches Brew Punch with Dry Ice – epic halloween trick/treat | The Road Home

 

This great holiday, after all, is not about gifts or how perfect the table looks for relatives. It’s about fun, and magic, and theatre. It transcends age. We will have 8-year-olds and 16-year-olds side by side at our house all enjoying the same silly food and wearing goofy costumes. What could be better? I get to take my apron off and think solely about what would make kids of all ages happy. The pressure is off to be perfect. All anyone cares about is that the offerings are funny, maybe a little “scary” and of course colorful.

 

Clementine Pumpkins | The Road Home  – cancels out the candy right?

 

So here’s part of our line-up for All Hallow’s Eve at our house. We’ll offer our friends and fellow trick-or-treaters Mad Scientist Bubbly Brew, followed by cauliflower brain dip, and darling little “pumpkins” made of clementines and celery. There will be other things, but these are my favorites. I hope this sampling of our Halloween inspires you to think like a child even for just one day. Happy Halloween everyone!

 

Witches Brew Punch with Dry Ice – epic halloween trick/treat | The Road Home

Halloween Cauliflower Brain with Guacamole - gruesome but great | The Road Home
Witches Brew Punch with Dry Ice – epic halloween trick/treat | The Road Home

Have you got any special halloween foods you make at your house? We’d love to hear about them! Comment below to let us know!

 

 

Clementine Pumpkins

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • One dozen or more Clementines
  • Several stalks celery

Directions:

  1. Peel Clementines and place on a fun Halloween platter.
  2. Cut a stalk of celery into small pieces for the pumpkin stem. Stick a celery piece into the top of each peeled Clementine and serve!

Creepy Cauliflower Brain Dip with Guacamole

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

    Guacamole

    • 4 ripe avocados peeled and pitted
    • ½ cup chopped onions
    • 1/8 cup fresh lime juice
    • ¼ cup cilantro (optional)
    • 1 4 ounce can finely chopped seeded jalapeno chilies**
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ¾ teaspoon pepper
    • 1 cup of tomatoes, diced and seeded (or canned diced tomatoes in the winter)

    Brain

    • 1 large cauliflower
    • 1 package of red licorice string

    Directions:

    1. Place all guacamole ingredients but tomatoes in a food processor or in a medium sized bowl. Puree in the food processor or puree in bowl using an immersion blender until very smooth.
    2. Drain tomatoes thoroughly through a sieve and gently blend into the avocado mixture using a spatula.
    3. Remove all of the leaves from the cauliflower and remove the stem so that there is a hollow area, but most of the florets are intact. (Use toothpicks to hold the sides together if it starts to fall apart).
    4. Put the hollowed out cauliflower into a snug fitting bowl. (For a really scary presentation, wrap the bowl in cheesecloth stained with red food coloring.)
    5. Fill in with the guacamole and decorate the florets by weaving the licorice between the florets to make the veins and arteries.  You may also sprinkle a bit of red food coloring on the “arteries” as well but be careful not to overdo it.

    Mad Scientist Bubbly Brew

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • Clear glass container or punch bowl
    • Artificial green or red drink, such as Gatorade or Hawaiian Punch (You may also use a clear liquid like seltzer or Sprite, died with food coloring, if you want)
    • Gummy worms, plastic spiders or any other creepy creatures you wish
    • Dry ice

    Directions:

    1. Fill container or punch bowl with a green or red beverage.
    2. Place gummy worms, spiders, etc, on the edge of the bowl.
    3. Add a few small pieces or pellets of dry ice, just enough to get the brew bubbling and smoky. If it comes in a big brick, you will need to chip pieces off of it. (Do NOT pick up dry ice with your bare hands. Use tongs to handle it or protective rubber gloves if you must pick it up with your hands.)
    4. Serve immediately, adding additional pieces of dry ice every 10 minutes, or as needed.

    Cozy Spuds for Chilly Days

    One of the best things in life is when you get to try brand new dish or ingredient you didn’t even know existed. I was driving Gabrielle back to school for the fall semester (actually it was our second trip the week after labor day because Gabrielle can never fit all of her stuff in the Honda Odyssey in one trip!) and we decided to have a leisurely lunch in New York before saying goodbye. We set very simple but specific parameters for the meal. The restaurant had to be cozy and unpretentious. We didn’t care if it was famous at all, but it had to serve real food. So Gabrielle put our conditions into the magical search known as Google and out popped Petit Abeille. This tiny restaurant seats only about 20 people and it was a bit gritty and cramped, but the aroma of onions and fried things from the open kitchen made us feel like we were in our own kitchen. It smelled like home cooking, a rarity I’m afraid for most restaurants.

     

    Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    There were many great things on the menu, including lot of offerings featuring real Belgian waffles, including one with fried chicken, which we naturally ordered.

     

    Fried Chicken to Accompany Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    There were the usual omelet brunch yummies as well, but our eyes were especially drawn to the chalkboard, which explained a food we had never even kind of heard of.

     

    Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    We ordered a second fried chicken with stoemp and it was heaven. I love fried chicken sometimes more than life, but I practically ignored my chicken and just inhaled the potatoes. What a brilliant idea and a damn nearly perfect fall food. You have potatoes, cream, butter, and root vegetables all working together to create a cozy rich feeling in your mouth and tummy. And the potatoes were properly salted too! Go Petit Abeille!

     

    Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    Stoemp is a richer version of a similar dish from the Netherlands called Stamppot, which also consists of mashed potatoes, other vegetables (especially root ones), cream, butter bacon, onions or shallots, herbs and spices. You can use any combination of dairy fat, onions/shallots and vegetables you like, but I decided to use two vegetables – kale and spinach – that I don’t really love because I figured all the cream and butter and bacon would more than offset bitter or “good for you” taste from the vegetables.

     

    Stoemp – Belgian Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, Caramelized Onions and SO. MUCH. BUTTER. | The Road Home

     

    I couldn’t wait to get home to work on my own version of stoemp, which was good the first time around, but needed more butter, bacon and cream. What doesn’t, really? Here’s my final version, with an added bonus. Most people don’t know this, but there is actually a science to making mashed potatoes. This recipe shows you how to make proper mashed spuds. Russet, Idaho and Yukon make the best mash because they are not waxy and are less likely to lump together. Here, we use russets because I think they yield the tastiest and smoothest mashed potato. You should also dry mash your potatoes first and coat them with some fat (usually butter) before adding milk and cream. It keeps the potatoes from getting gluey and weird as long as you don’t over mash and can live with some lumps.

     

     

    Stoemp – Road Home Style

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • 6-8 strips bacon (local, if possible)
    • 1 large onion or two medium onions coarsely chopped
    • 4 pounds russet potatoes peeled
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • ½ cup heavy cream
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves
    • 1 cup chopped fresh kale*
    • 1 teaspoon or more of salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper

    Directions:

    1. Heat a medium size saucepan and add the bacon. Cook until crisp over medium heat.
    2. Remove bacon from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the fat.
    3. Crumble the bacon with your fingers when cool, and set aside.
    4. Drain all but 3 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan.
    5. Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook until they are brown and have caramelized, about 30 minutes.
    6. Add the kale and spinach to the onions and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
    7. Cut the potatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. You want to make sure the potatoes are the same size so they cook evenly.
    8. Place the potatoes in salted cold water* and bring to a boil. Lower temperature to a simmer and cook until a fork easily goes through the potatoes, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potato.
    9. Drain the potatoes in a colander and “dry mash” without the milk or butter for two minutes over a low flame.
    10. Add the butter and gently mix into the potatoes without mashing (you don’t want to over mash the potatoes or they will be gluey).
    11. Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and warm milk.
    12. Gradually add warm milk and cream to the pot and mix thoroughly.
    13. Mash potatoes until smooth or coarse, your preference.
    14. Mix in the bacon, vegetable mixture, salt and pepper until combined well.
    15. Stoemp is best served fresh, but may be made several hours ahead of time.

    * You may also add any other root vegetable or greens you like.

      ** Add enough salt so that the water tastes like the ocean. You can always add more salt to the dish once it is assembled, but potatoes like everything else tastes MUCH better when properly cooked with salt during the process instead of after the fact.

        Smoked Basmati – No Ordinary Grain

        I don’t know about you, but I often become obsessed with one food. I’ll suddenly make carrot soup every week or try salmon 10 different ways in a single month. Right now, I’m on a rice kick, which is surprising since I didn’t love rice growing up – we ate mostly meat and potatoes.  When we had rice, it was always plain without much seasoning, so it was kind of boring. For years, I avoided making rice, and when I was forced to, it was almost never fluffy and flavorful.

         

        Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

         

        I forced myself to learn how to make perfect rice now that I cook so many Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian dishes. Many cultures prepare rice in many different ways – one day soon I’ll show you how to make Persian jeweled rice (if you beg me enough and maybe make me cookies) – but there is very simple fool-proof way of making any long-grain rice that is perfect every time. The key is that every grain must be coated in some sort of oil or fat.

         

        Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

         

        We are lucky enough to live near Sayad (http://www.sayadmarket.com), a great Middle Eastern grocer and a great place to buy ingredients, including many types of basmati rice. I came across this smoked rice – which apparently Persians love – called Scheherazade Black Label (I know, right?  You’d think we were talking Scotch!). The rice is grown in India, but smoked in Germany with a special blend of woods. It smells like the best bonfire ever. It almost looks like pasta and the aroma of burning timbers hits you immediately when you open the bag. Fortunately, I you can also get this extraordinary rice online at Kalamala (http://www.kalamala.com/products/basmati-rice-black-label), a great resource for Middle Eastern products, and it is also available at Amazon in smaller quantities. This amazing rice is also the longest in the world with the grain averaging nearly 20 mm (almost ¾ inch) long. And on top of everything else, it is incredibly fluffy. The grains curl but they don’t break. It isn’t everyday I would describe rice as beautiful, but it really is.

         

        Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

         

        So go buy this rice online or visit a Middle Eastern store, and use this fool-proof recipe to make this any basmati rice you like. And then make Khoresh-e Fesenjan Ba Jujeh, Persian Chicken Pomegranate stew we told you about earlier this week (if you do, please let us know!)

         

        Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

         

        Do you know of any other unusual rices or do you have an unique preparation? Let us know so we can share the joy of rice with others!

        Cardamom Scented Basmati Rice

        From: Heide Lang

        Ingredients:

        • 2 cups basmati rice*
        • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
        • 3 ¼ -1/3 cups water (depending on the brand)
        • 1 teaspoon salt
        • 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons cardamom**

        Directions:

        1. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh colander 4-5 times until the water is no longer cloudy. Drain well.
        2. Melt the butter in a 4-6 quart heavy bottom pot over medium heat.
        3. Add the rice and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until all the grains are coated with butter.
        4. Stir in the water and salt and bring the rice mixture to a boil.
        5. Mix one more time, and then reduce heat to low.  Place a sheet of parchment paper between the lid and the pot and cover.
        6. Let rice cook for 18-20 minutes (depending on the brand of rice) until the liquid is absorbed.
        7. Take it off the burner and let the rice stand covered for 10 minutes (Do not lift the lid or stir!).
        8. Uncover rice and add cardamom. Fluff rice and serve.

        *This recipe works for jasmine scented rice as well.

          **You may also leave out the cardamom if the dish you are serving is complex and does not need a boos of additional flavor.