Tuesday, December 18, 2012

London calling

Okay okay, I know I'm the worst blogger ever but it was finals week in Spain too so cut me some slack. Anyway, now I'm going to fill you in on the edible portion of my very cold weekend in London which was also the last of my trips during my time in Spain.

Wait, WHAT?

In unrelated news, I'm living through denial so Gina Spinelli if you're reading this COME BACK TO ME. And I know you're reading this because you are faithful to me and like food.

Fear of goodbyes aside, London was incredible. Freezing cold, but incredible. I could stay there a week and not get bored. I might just go broke and/or freeze to death. I wore leggings under my jeans in order to keep warm and two things happened.

The first is that I had difficulty bending my joints.
Blooming tea with friends at dim sum.

The second is that I found out what I would look like if I had an ass.

ANYWAY, food in London is no longer just stodgy puddings and Yorkshire things with "crackling" whatever that is. I think it might be deep-fried fat but I'm not sure. Tommy and I had some incredible Thai food and more than a few plates of incredible dim sum. We also did the classic pub food thing (well, Tommy did) and sampled fish and chips with mushy peas. They didn't come wrapped in newspaper but I guess you can't have everything.

We also wandered the exquisite food halls of Fortnum Mason and Harrods which were every food-related wet dream I have ever had rolled into one, beautifully decorated, seasonally appropriate ball.

So okay, from the beginning:

Tommy and I knew off the bat that we needed to go get some food with actual spice since Spaniards seem to have a fear of crushed red peppers. I wanted pad Thai and was willing to stop t almost nothing to get it and luckily for us there was a Thai restaurant about 10 minute's walk from our apartment called Busaba Eathai. It was pretty packed already and smoky with the good kind of incense (not the kind that smells like Occupy Wall Street protesters and patchouli) and we were all kinds of ready to chow down on our first exotic cuisine in months.

We ordered quickly: Thai calamari, green curry rice and chicken for Tommy and vegetarian Pad Thai for me as well as a virgin (that was the only way they offered it) grapefruit mojito and a coconut water with lychee.

Service was relatively quick and the food was AWESOME. Best calamari I've ever had, hands down. It was perfectly chewy and crispy and lemony and garlicky and basil-y and a little bit sweet. Give me more right now.

Tommy's green curried rice was really good with some nice heat to it but the chicken was totally ordinary and definitely paled in comparison to the way the rice soaked up the spicy-sweet flavor of the curry.

My vegetarian Pad Thai was also really good, with fresh green beans and baby broccoli mixed liberally with the noodles and bean sprouts. It wasn't super greasy which I really liked but it still wasn't as good as the classic Pad Thai from a restaurant near my house.

The coconut water was super refreshing and the lychee was evident and sweet but not overpowering. The mojito I thought was only okay because I'm not wild about the mint-grapefruit combo but Tommy really enjoyed it.

We capped off the evening with a cold tapioca dish that involved the best coconut ice cream I've ever had and some seriously delicious blackberry puree. The tapioca actually tasted a little salty to me at first which I wasn't so sure about but it married nicely with the sweetness of the ice cream and the tang of the berry puree.

Onto Fortnum and Mason's and Harrods because they aren't really indistinct enough to be their own separate paragraphs. Basically I just wanted to buy everything I saw including some Waygu beef from Harrods that was like over 100 pounds (currency) per ounce or something ridiculous like that. Being that it's holiday season however, there were just far too many people around for it to be a fully enjoyable experience. I did buy Tommy a chocolate macaron at F  and M so he would stop whining about the macaron I ate in Barcelona and didn't share with him. Tommy returned the favor by buying us three beautiful, seriously overpriced chocolates at Harrods and we were thoroughly disappointed.

We bought a pink champagne truffle, a coffee truffle and a Drunken Sailor which had rum and candied orange peel in it. I hated all three. The pink champagne truffle didn't taste a bit like champagne, ditto the coffee truffle not tasting like coffee. The Drunken Sailor was so alcoholic it didn't even taste good and the candied zest bits were soggy. And these three chocolates cost poor Tommy about 7 US dollars. Hideous.

Anyway, the second night we went and got dim sum with one of Tommy's friends from BU and it was so freaking good. We ordered almost exclusively off the appetizer page and ended up with: pineapple spare ribs, chicken and mango spring rolls, crab wontons, a bento box of surprise and fried rice with steamed shrimp and pork.

Ugh yum.

Best spare ribs I've ever had in my life, falling off the bone tender with this sauce that was perfectly sweet and savory at the same time. The pineapple kind of fell off but it was still good since it was soaked in the same sauce. I'd like a full rack of those now please.

The crab wontons and the spring rolls weren't really my favorites because they were a bit greasy for my taste and lacking in flavor but the mango sauce that came with the spring rolls was truly tasty and I could have eaten it with a spoon.

The fried rice was really flavorful by contrast with lots of small shrimp and chunks of chewy pork as well as fresh veggies and eggs.

The surprise bento box had a mixture of veggies (ginger, scallion, eggplant, carrot etc) and king prawn inside the same kind of wrapper that pot stickers are in. I think the king prawn package dipped in some spicy sauce was one of my favorite things I ate all trip.

The last night we found a cool little out of the way pub so Tommy could get some fish and chips. I couldn't eat anything I wanted on the menu since it was all deep fried but it was fine. Tommy's fish was a nice big serving of flaky white fish that was expertly breaded, not clumpy at all. There were some bones going on but not too many. The chips were sort of average and the mushy peas were totally boring. Like literally, just overcooked peas as far as I can tell. Yawn.

We also ordered an English pudding which seemed pretty advanced for the simplicity of the pub we were in. It started with a layer of apple-rosemary compote on the bottom followed by creme fraiche and topped with blackberry curd and crushed amaretto cookies. I know this sounds like a revolting combination but it all really worked nicely. The tartness of the creme fraiche played against the blackberry curd and the savory flavor of the rosemary added a cool level of depth while the amaretto cookies brought in some much needed crunch.

That's pretty much all of the culinary offerings we managed to sample in London but we also braved wine gums (taste like vegetables) and devoured way too much Cadbury Milk (better than Godiva).

Now it's time for our final dinner of lamb chops and champagne and off to the good old U S of A bright and early tomorrow.

Holy shit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sup, shorty?

To be totally honest, I have no idea what a 'shorty' is. I am the whitest white girl imaginable. I had to go on urbandictionary.com to find out what 'dime' meant. My dictionary of street colloquialisms could be comprised on a single note card. But anyway, I know the term exists and I couldn't think of anything else funny to say about these unbelievably dank peanut butter chocolate chip shortbread cookies I made so there you are. If someone would like to enlighten me as to what a shorty is and whether or not I can become one, please do so.

I really hate refrigerator cookies usually because in the time it takes to solidify the dough I am either
a. past the point of wanting to eat cookies because my patience is on par with that of a chimpanzee with ADHD or
b. about to rip the door off of the fridge so I can get at what will soon be the tastiest snack ever IF ONLY IT WILL HARDEN

But these were so easy they were worth the wait and you didn't have to wait suuuuper long, comparatively. Also our fridge is commonly part freezer due partially to shitty European appliances and partially to the sub-zero temperatures we have recently been experiencing.

I recommend making a double batch of these bad boys because they are so easy it won't take you any more time than making a single batch and also because these will FLY. They are some of the best cookies I have ever tasted, even the sort of burned ones that suffered at the hands of our wait for it...shitty oven.

Don't balk at the absurd amounts of fat and sugar in these cookies. It's what makes shortbread shortbread. Delicious, mind-blowing, world-peace-achieving short(y)bread.


1 stick, (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temp
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour 
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
scant 1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

1. Cream the butter and the peanut butter together in a stand mixer, with a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon.  Beat in the vanilla.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients together and add to the butter mixture. Mix until the dough comes together.

3. Stir in the chips, and turn the dough out onto a piece of waxed paper.  Gently pull the dough together and form it into a log.  If it is still crumbly, work it with your hands until it holds together smoothly. Roll it up in the paper, smoothing the shape as you go. Twist the ends securely and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.

4. Slice the log into slices with a sharp knife, about 1/3 inch.  If a slice crumbles a bit, just mash it back together.

5. Bake on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet at 325 for about 12-14 minutes.  The cookies will not be browned, and they may look undone, but don't overbake. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack (REALLY).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A very Bite Me Thanksgiving

Stepford Pie
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone and I gotta say, despite being far away from my home and family and the usual traditions, this year's Thanksgiving is up there in my top five. We did a small dinner with the people in our apartment building plus a few out-of-towners and a few others too. Despite some last minute terror that the turkey would not be big enough (it was) and the fact that I made 2lbs. of biscuit dough that ended up bitter as a recent divorcee, the night was a total success.

And yeah, the food was BOMB.

I don't have recipes for everything that got eaten nor do I have photographs of everything (yet) but this will certainly be added to so that eventually most of the menu with recipes and photographs will be featured here.
Not to get all sappy on you but experiencing a landmark day in a foreign country with (mostly) foreign people really helped me think about what I'm actually grateful for, and not just my car and crap like that. As a true creature of comfort and habit getting out of my little bubble made me realize just how much I have to be thankful for every single day of the year. Plus I got to FaceTime with my best friend for the first time in months yesterday. A fantastic moment in an all-around fantastic day. Now without further ado...


Herb roasted turkey with gravy
Vegan mashed potatoes
Sweet yams with crunchy granola topping
Classic green bean casserole
Ultra cheesy baconcentric mac and cheese
Cranberry orange relish
Vegan stuffing
Corn pudding with white cheddar and thyme
Apple pie
Dark chocolate pumpkin pie
Pie crust cookies
Golden grahams s'mores bars
Spiced peaches

A note about roasting a whole turkey: If you had success with roasting a whole chicken, you'll be just fine. Tommy and I got our bird sans head/feet/wings from our butcher but Tommy was tasked with the unhappy job of plucking the remaining feathers...and scooping out part of the esophagus. Glorious Europe. In any case, the recipe for a basic turkey is ridiculously simple. It just involves planning ahead. A stuffed turkey takes 20 minutes per pound to cook, an unstuffed turkey takes 16 minutes. Either way, a turkey needs to rest for at least 30 before carving to let all the juices set up. The temperature of the bird will continue to rise between 10 and 15 degrees F after it's out of the oven so keep this in mind, otherwise you'll have an overcooked bird. Tommy was in charge of carving and did a masterful job. Plus he looks really pretty in an apron.

Herb-Roasted Turkey with Gravy

1 16-18 lb. turkey
20 sprigs fresh parsley
20 sprigs fresh rosemary
20 sprigs fresh thyme
20 sprigs fresh sage
1 onion, halved lengthwise
1 head garlic, halved lengthwise
1/2 c. EVOO
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Set the turkey in a large, lightly oiled roasting pan. Shove all of the herbs, the onion and the head of garlic in the body cavity. Rub the skin all over with the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.

2. Roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 2.5-3 hours. If the skin of the turkey starts to look very brown, cover with foil.

To make the gravy:
Okay, so no one told me that making gravy is actually kind of hard. God bless Tommy, because he took over for me while I was mashing myself into a dress and painting my face in order to look like a real human being and not one that had spent the last 8 hours in a kitchen. I'm not really sure how he did it, but it turned out great. Here are the instructions that Food and Wine gives in order to make gravy. I didn't take pictures during the process because I was too busy incurring grease burns and wondering what the hell I was doing and if it would work. Also I probably would have dropped my camera into the stock pot.

3 cups of stock (chicken or turkey)
3 tbs. butter
3 tbs. flour

1. Remove the turkey to a cutting board to let rest. Pour the pan juices from the turkey into a heatproof bowl and skim off the fat.

The aftermath.

2. Set the roasting pan over 2 burners on high heat until sizzling. Add 1 cup of stock (chicken or turkey) and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom and side of the pan; add to the pan juices in the bowl.

3.In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Add the pan juices and remaining 2 cups of stock to the saucepan and cook, whisking, until the gravy is thickened and no floury taste remains, about 5 minutes. 

Ultra-Decadent, Baconcentric Mac and Cheese

At the last minute, Tommy decided he wanted to make something other than cranberry orange relish so he pulled out all the stops and whipped up this mac and cheese with an entire package of Oscar Meyer bacon in it. Needless to say, it was unbelievably delicious. Here's the caveat though, it doesn't reheat well at all. The cheesiness had utterly dissipated by lunch on Friday afternoon so you'd do best to eat this all the same night. Considering the ingredients are mostly animal by-products and pasta that have been baked into a gooey bubbling mess, I don't think it should be a problem

1 pack of bacon
8 oz. pasta
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 c. shredded cheddar cheese (mix of yellow and white)
2 tbs. butter
3 tbs. flour
2 c. milk
1/4 c. breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.

2. In a large pot with boiling salted water cook pasta until al dente. Drain. While the pasta is cooking, saute in a medium saute the chopped onion, and minced garlic. Take off heat and add chopped cooked bacon and set aside.
3. To make the sauce, in a medium saucepan melt the butter  over low heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Gradually add milk and continue stirring until thickened. Stir in 2 cups of the grated cheese and stir until melted.

4. Combine cooked pasta, sauteed vegetables and sauce. Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish. Add the last cup of grated Cheddar cheese to top of mixture as well as the breadcrumbs, sprinkled evenly over the top.

5. Bake uncovered in preheated oven until cheese on top is melted and brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Vegan Stuffing

All right, I know what you're thinking: gross, vegan stuffing? Doesn't that go against all Thanksgiving traditions? But my answer is no, friends. You couldn't even tell that this stuffing is vegan and it tastes unbelievable too. My family usually gets the pre-cut, pre-seasoned breadcrumbs from McCormick but they don't have those in Spain so I did it myself with some seriously stale bread and fresh herbs and the result was far and away better than the packaged stuff. So while it does involve a little more work (and I did cut part of my thumb off while slicing the bread), the juice is ultimately worth the savory, delicious squeeze.


12 c. stale bread, cubed
1/2 tsp. each parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
3 ribs celery, diced
3 medium carrots, sliced into rounds
1 c. mushrooms
Handful of cippolini onions (also known as pearl onions)
3 tbs. olive oil
Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt
4. c. vegetable stock

1. Mince all the herbs finely. In a large pan, saute all of the vegetables and herbs in the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.

2. Combine the cubed bread and vegetables and mix well. Spread into a 2 quart casserole dish and pour the stock evenly over the top. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes and serve hot.

Corn Pudding with White Cheddar and Thyme

Another Food & Wine classic, this corn pudding kicks your average corn-on-corn pudding to the curb with the addition of fresh thyme and white cheddar. I actually would have been fine with a little more thyme in the recipe because I couldn't really taste it all that much but it's up to you. The recipe is somewhat labor intensive but it can also be made mostly the night before. Just refrigerate it overnight (after step two) and bring to room temperature before you bake it.


4 tbs. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tsp. minced thyme
4 c. frozen corn kernels (about 20 oz.), thawed
1/2 c. stone-ground cornmeal
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
5 large eggs
3 c. half and half
1 c. shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

1.      Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-13-inch shallow ceramic baking dish. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion and thyme and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened, about 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Add the corn and cornmeal and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and let cool.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the half-and-half. In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup of the custard with 1 cup of the corn mixture and puree until smooth. Whisk the puree into the custard. Then stir in the corn mixture, cheese, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper until well blended.

3. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes, until the pudding is slightly puffed and just starting to brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Cranberry-Orange Relish

This was my favorite thing we had at Thanksgiving dinner. The recipe comes from Tommy's mom and is fantastically simple and delicious. I want to eat this stuff every morning: plain, on toast, in my oatmeal. Too bad it has an entire cup of sugar in it...wonk. This is something you need to make ahead of time because it's best when all the flavors dance around in that Tupperware for a few days resulting in a glorious red-orange combination. By the way, a single cup of cranberries in Spain will run you almost 5 euros so be thankful you can get them by the frozen bushel for like 80 cents a pound at Costco. This is utterly fantastic on a leftovers sandwich by the way.

2 c cranberries
1 c sugar
1/2 orange, seeded

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and chop into small pieces but do not blend. Let sit for a day or two in the fridge to let all the flavors combine.

Vegan mashed potatoes

One of the girls who lives in my apartment building can't eat dairy at all, like not even a little bit, so she volunteered to make the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner so that even the diet-restricted could enjoy them. This pleased me as I can't eat regular mashed potatoes either as the main ingredients are potatoes, butter and heavy cream. Andrea's vegan mashed potatoes were UNREAL. You would never know that they were vegan or that they had cauliflower in them. I don't know how the girl did it because they were silky smooth and perfect. She used 20 potatoes and a whole head of cauliflower to make mashed taters for a crowd so I'm going to downsize the recipe here a little bit. Feel free to substitute vegan spread for margarine or butter if that's your thing. Also feel free to include more or less garlic. Either way, these were some unbelievably tasty mashed potatoes and it was great to be able to eat them and not have to worry about getting sick later.

6 potatoes, peeled
1/4 head cauliflower
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs. vegan butter spread
1/4 c. soy creamer
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil the mashed potatoes and cauliflower until they are soft to the touch, about 10-15 minutes (depending on the size).
2. While the veggies are boiling, saute the garlic in the butter spread until translucent. Add the soy creamer and whisk well.
3. Combine the potatoes and cauliflower in a food processor and puree (or mash by hand) while slowly adding the liquid ingredients. Season to taste with Kosher salt and pepper.

The "Classic" classic green bean casserole

So this is going to sound weird but I had never actually tried green bean casserole before this Thanksgiving. I think it's because my mother has an aversion to canned vegetables and also because she might have been force-fed one too many casseroles as a child of the 70s when everything was either a casserole, a Jell-o salad or both. One of my guy friends in the apartment building contributed the green bean casserole and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all and I guess is a really classic part of most Thanksgiving dinners. Chalk it up to the Suss family defying tradition at all cost.

3 cans of green beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup (preferably Campbells)
Pepper to taste
1/4 - 3/4 c. milk (depending on how runny you like it)
1 can French fried onions

1. In a medium sized bowl, combine the soup, milk and pepper. Whisk to combine. Add the green beans and half of the fried onions.
2. Place in a casserole dish and bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the rest of the onions on and bake for another five minutes or until they start to brown. Serve hot.

Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

At my family's Thanksgiving dinner, I'm always in charge of the dessert. No matter what, I make a pumpkin pie but recently I've been branching out to things like blueberry pie and a truly heinous pumpkin spice rice pudding with brandy-soaked cherries. Ugh. Anyway, this year I found a recipe for chocolate-swirled pumpkin pie on Food & Wine (obviously) and it looked unreal...and it was. Unquestionably the best pie I think I've ever made, or eaten. Not to toot my own horn. I'll include the recipe for traditional pumpkin pie here as well. The secret to my family's pumpkin pie is the addition of good maple syrup. It gives the flavor an extra push and even my friends in Alicante who said they usually don't like pumpkin pie were heavy into this one. I also learned how to cook fresh pumpkin since the whole of Spain was out of the canned variety and I'm glad I took the plunge because the flavor was so much sweeter and more intense that it was worth practically ruining our strainer and incurring a serious steam burn. Basically all you have to do is steam the pumpkin over boiling water for about 45 minutes or until it's totally mush and then beat it a little bit to make sure there are no lumps. Easy as...


4 large eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbs. cornstarch
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
Pinch of salt
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
1 recipe pie dough (double if making pie crust cookies -- see below)
1/2 c. heavy cream
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
*I used more than 3 oz. because I brushed the bottom of the crust with more melted chocolate because I though a higher caloric content was necessary.

1. Follow the instructions for making flaky pastry crust/pie dough. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 13-inch round a scant 1/4 inch thick. Fit the dough into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Trim the edge to 3/4 inch; fold the dough under itself and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate the pie shell for 10 minutes.

2. Line the pie shell with foil and fill with uncooked rice. Bake in the center of the oven until nearly set, about 25 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake until the crust is pale golden, about 10 minutes longer. Let cool slightly.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, cloves and salt until smooth. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, then the cream. If you're going to brush the bottom of the crust with chocolate, now's the time to do it.

4. Transfer 1 cup of the filling to a bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate. Working near the oven, pour the rest of the pumpkin filling into the crust. Dollop the chocolate filling on top and swirl it in with a butter knife.

5. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes, until the custard is set. Cover the crust with strips of foil if it browns too quickly. Cool the pie on a wire rack completely before serving.

Maple Pumpkin Pie
1 recipe flaky pie crust
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
*Or 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. allspice, 1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1. In a large bowl, slightly beat eggs. Add brown sugar, flour, salt, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup and evaporated milk. Stir well after each addition.

2. Pour mixture into the unbaked pastry shell. Place a strip of aluminum foil around the edge of the crust to prevent over browning.

3. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove the strip of foil about 20 minutes before the pie is done so that the edge of the crust will be a light golden brown. Cool pie completely on a wire rack and serve with fresh whipped cream.

Pie Crust Cookies

A friend of mine in Alicante told me about these fantastic little cookies that are a great way to use up spare pie dough (or placate the non-pie eater in your life at holiday time). You could totally use a cute cookie cutter to shape these but I just use a drinking glass. The key is to not overbake these little suckers. They're good when they're crispy but not as tasty when slightly burned. 

1 recipe pie crust
1/4 c. white sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

1. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pie crust out to about 1/8" thickness and cut into circles//hearts/stars/rainbows/clovers/blue moons. 

2. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Sprinkle generously on top of the cookies. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 8 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.

Spiced Peaches

One of the girls who came to dinner brought spiced peaches for a lighter dessert option. I had also made spiced peaches earlier in the week and I combined  the two recipes to make this one. I eat them for breakfast heated up but you can also smother them in lightly sweetened whipped cream and call it a day.

5 large peaches, peeled and diced
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 tbs. honey
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice

1. Combine all ingredients in a small pot and simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until fragrant, stirring often. Serve warm.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pluck you

I was a strict vegetarian for 4 years and an active member of PETA for none of those years. Even before I stopped eating meat, I was not a fan of touching or even looking at the raw stuff before it appeared on my plate brilliantly cooked by one of my parents.

My mom still doesn't even love touching raw meat so maybe it's a genetic thing.

Anyway, if you've been to dinner at my house, chances are you've seen me pick up a chicken breast with a fork, season it using a small spatula, throw it into a frying pan/baking dish/etc. and then wash my hands repeatedly.

For whatever reason, I don't have the same problem with raw fish. Probably because my body composition is at least 30% sushi.

The meat situation in Spain has forced me to get over my squeamishness. If you want a boneless, skinless breast you're going to have to pay a premium for it. I also discovered that chicken breast, in comparison to other parts of the body, is relatively flavorless, no matter what you do to it. The previous restaurant critic at the Post-Gazette told me she hates chicken breast for this reason and I didn't believe her until I cooked a whole chicken for the first time and realized that every part of the chicken EXCEPT FOR THE BREASTS became a crispy inferno of lemony, thyme-scented goodness.

Well fan me with a brick. I'm a convert.

So yeah, Tommy and I bought a whole chicken (sans feet and head) and let me tell you they are some kind of cavalier about gutting and plucking their poultry over here because I ended up with not an insubstantial amount of plumage on my hands and half a kidney to boot.

Singeing the night away
Not being raised on a poultry farm, I was totally at a loss as to how to remove the feathers from my dinner so I did what any sensible suburban girl would do: I Googled it. Which is how I ended up dunking my stupid chicken in a sink full of simmering water and then singing the remaining feathers off over our gas stove.

And then I had to (and this literally made me gag) scoop out the remaining innards of the chicken praying to every major and minor deity I could think of that I would not throw up on our dinner before it even went in the oven.

I didn't, and thank god for that because once I was done shoving all manner of delicious things into the chest cavity and roasting it for over an hour it turned out to be one of the best dinners I've made while in Spain.

So if you're in the States you probably don't have to worry about plucking chickens but I do highly recommend you buy them whole because they're cheaper and go further and plus, taste a lot better. I've made one chicken with your basic herbs and then one BBQ and I'll put the recipes for both down here.

The prep is pretty easy but there are a lot of steps to it so don't get freaked out. Anyone can make this chicken, provided they have a little patience.

Don't be squeamish now because if I can do it, you can too. Don't be a weenie.


For herbed chicken:
1 whole, medium (3-4 lbs.) chicken
1 lemon, halved
Kosher salt
1/4 c. EVOO
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 cloves garlic
cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp. herbs du Provence or other herb mix

For BBQ chicken:
1 whole, medium (3-4 lbs.) chicken
4 cloves garlic
1 c. BBQ sauce
1/4 c. EVOO
Kosher salt
cracked black pepper

1. If there are still downy feathers on your chicken, you can singe them off over an open flame and then rinse the bird to get rid of the residue. Larger feathers you can pluck by hand after submerging the chicken in boiling water for a few seconds to loosen them.

The Cave of Wonders
2. For either chicken, shove a good handful of Kosher salt into the chest cavity and shake it around until it's coated. I don't know why you're supposed to do it but my mom always does and she is the preeminent chicken cooker in my house.
For the herbed chicken: shove the halved lemons, rosemary, thyme and 3 of the cloves of garlic (halved) into the cavity.
For the BBQ chicken: shove the halved garlic in there.

3. Make a slit down the bird's backbone and slice directly under the skin (above the muscle) on either side so you can shove the other halved clove of garlic in there.

4. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, cracked pepper, a pinch of salt (and the herbs du Provence if making the herbed chicken) and spread evenly over the entire chicken, coating well. Rub with another clove of garlic if desired.
For the BBQ chicken: Spread 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce evenly over the bird. Reserve the other half for later use.

5. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour and a half, or until juices run clear. You can also insert a knife near the wing joint and check for doneness this way.
For the BBQ chicken: halfway through the baking process, spread the other 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce over the chicken.

And there you have it, a whole chicken. Once you do it the first time, you won't believe how easy it is. Plus, you can just shove it in the oven and basically forget about it and you have dinner about an hour later, plus leftovers to be sure. Plus, if you make this and it isn't fall off the bone tender you can kick me in the shins upon my return to the U.S.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chip off the old block

I bet you didn't know that if you have really gross cured chorizo you can slather it with a myriad of spices and bake it until it's crispy, and, once dunked in French's mustard, you will have a mostly edible chorizo chip.

This probably works even better with sausage you wanted to eat in the first place.

But we had a plethora of sausage we just didn't want to eat. And it didn't taste any better sauteed with some eggs and peppers.

It didn't even taste good with hot sauce.

So we got desperate.

...Desperately crafty that is.

We also made use of the end of the thyme fried almonds by stealing the loose thyme and salt from the bottom of the tupperware.

Basically we just sliced this crappy chorizo really thinly and smeared it with more spices and then baked it and suddenly we had a whole new dish on our hands.

Oddly, some of the cured chorizo in Alicante smells awfully like Tommy's Sperrys he's had since freshman year of college. And that is not a pretty scent.

So anyway, like I said, if you actually liked the chorizo (or sausage or salami or other hard cured deli meat) you had to begin with, you can probably skip the seasoning step and skip straight to the baking/chowing down step.

If your chorizo is bootlike or not flavorful enough, feel free to do as we did and you will likely be pleased with the results.

Make sure to slice the chorizo really thinly (if it's not already machine sliced) because the crispiness is the good part.

10-15 thin slices of chorizo, salami, etc.
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. powdered garlic
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of salt

Mustard for serving.

1. On a large baking sheet, arrange the sliced chorizo and sprinkle with the various spices.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until crisp. Serve immediately with mustard.

I went to Barcelona

and all you got was this dumb fantastic blog post.

Sorry for the silence kids, it's been a hectic weekend. And by hectic I mean trying to sample as much of Barcelona's gastronomy as I physically could.

I consider my mission mostly successfully accomplished.

If you don't want to read this whole blog post here's what you need to know:

High points were the Mercat de La Boqueria, eating a salted macaron from the famous La Colmena and the best seabass of my life at El Pintor.

Marzipan cherries at La Mercat
Low points were that every tapas place we went was super touristy and all the tapas were just deep fried something-or-others without much depth or history.

I also tried the famous Padron peppers that I had read and so much about, as well as both Estrella Damm and Damm Lemon beers which are from Spain. Unfortunately I only really liked the Damm Lemon because it reminded me of a shandy (beer and lemonade). The Estrella Damm was too bitter for me, and I don't even really like beer in the first place so this is sort of wasted on me. The padron peppers were also not my favorite, just because I don't really like peppers that much. But I'm glad I tried both because they're pillars of Spanish cuisine. Also because my fantastic editor from my days at the Post-Gazette told me to and he knows more about the world of food than I could ever to understand.

Noms on noms on noms
And now for an in-depth look at my whirlwind 36 hour trip to Barcelona.

So I spent 20 Euros on a gastronomy walking tour that resulted in me sweating profusely and being very grumpy because we stopped at about 9000 delicious looking chocolate stores and I DIDN'T GET TO BUY A SINGLE THING.

What is the damn point of a walking tour about food if there's no time for you to sample said food on said walking tour? Answer: there isn't one.

So the Mercat de la Boqueria is an outdoor mercado, much larger than the one in Alicante and with the added bonus of selling delicious looking fruit drinks and Catalan chocolate. At least 15 stalls were just gorgeous chocolates, candies and truffles and I am so glad I didn't bring my wallet to the Mercado because it would've ended badly.
Tomato heaven.

Barcelona is known for its Granjas, which are basically cafes that specialize in cakes and cheeses and also sell typical Catalan foods, like creme caramels, pastries and of course, coffee. We saw one of the oldest granjas, founded in 1870 and it was literally like stepping back in time: they kept most of the decorations from throughout the years. We didn't get to go inside but looking through the windows was like walking back through 50s-era advertising. Plus there was a really cute weimaraner sitting inside and I wanted to cuddle with it.

The chocolate shops were plentiful, and most of the ones we saw were established in the 1800s and early 1900s and are still family owned. The oldest we saw, Xocolateria Fargas opened in 1827 and still has a lot off the original cabinetry and stained glass on display, and they still sell mostly chocolates which I did not get to sample and I am still upset.

About the macaron: perfectly salty and from La Colmena, founded 150 years ago and about the size of my bedroom in Alicante. So worth the 90 cents. Tommy was pissed I didn't even offer him a bite but I'm sorry, macarons are too small to be properly shared and too good to want to share anyway.

Wait I'm not sorry.

The finest seabass of my life was procured at a beautiful restaurant called El Pintor where we nearly didn't eat because our reservation magically got cancelled. This could be my own fault as I was the one who called to make the reservation in the first place but still...I mean, shit. That would've sucked.

Anyway, despite the name and the location, El Pintor is a French restaurant which means that all of the dishes were soaked in butter. And my stomach said, "LOL AND NONE FOR GRETCHEN WEINERS" so I ordered fish instead of the braised lamb shank.

The real way to taste the rainbow.
But it was totally the best seabass I've ever had; buttery all on its own, perfectly tender and flaky and when paired with the fresh tartar sauce a true tour de force in the world of seafood. Let me say this now that homemade tartar sauce is unbelievably good and I will definitely be making it when I go home because it involves things I don't feel like buying in Spain. Like capers, which only come in 10-pound jars here.

My only complaint is that the vegetables I got with the fish were seriously overcooked and a little greasy. But I sort of ignored them anyway so it wasn't that big of a deal.

Mercat sausages
So there you have it, my weekend of gluttony in Barcelona. We also saw Gaudi's Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia church which were trippy and cool too. Gaudi must have done a lot of acid. I intend to model this year's gingerbread house on his designs which will almost certainly be a failure covered in frosting.

Also stay tuned because tonight will likely be a double feature WHICH WE ALL JUST FREAKIN' LOVE!