Archive for February, 2009

Orange-Almond FattyBiscotti

This recipe is the result of a mistake
Makes abut 3 dozen.

The other day I was baking cookies for a meeting at my office. Three batches of cookies. The first two involved creaming two sticks of butter with 2/3-cup powdered sugar. I’d never used powdered sugar to make cookies before and I can report that it works. These cookies were very good and I will post the recipes at a later date.
Well, the last cookie I was going to make was an orange-almond biscotti. I have made lots of biscotti and never found one that I truly loved. They were okay, but nothing to write home about.
I pulled the Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipe cookbook and turned to the orange-almond biscotti page. Away I went. I measured out the flour and the baking powder/salt combination.
On to the butter. Not looking at the recipe (don’t ever do that!) I took out two sticks of butter (16 tablespoons!) just like I had done earlier in the evening with the other cookies (what was I thinking?) and started to fluff it up. I added 1 cup of sugar to cream the two together.
Then I realized my mistake and noticed that the original recipe only called for FOUR tablespoons of butter. Geez, I had four times that amount!
One thing I’ve learned in baking is, “Don’t panic.  Think it through.  Maybe all is not lost!”
I took a step back and said, “How bad can it be?”
I decided to forge ahead and I increased the flour to  compensate for the extra liquid content in the extra butter.  Then I increased the sugar, extracts and the Grand Marnier to flavor the added flour correctly.
I was shooting for the same consistency of dough as other biscotti I had made. About 3-1/2 cups of flour made that happen.
I made the logs and baked them. They looked great.
Then I let them cool slightly and sliced them into cookies  about 1/2-inch to 3/8-inch thick. Back into the oven for the second baking to dry them out.
I wondered if these cookies would be like biscotti or more like cake.
They are softer than most biscotti (all that butter). But, they are biscotti-like and boy are they delicious (all that butter).
And with all that butter and all that taste, I decided to call them  FattyBiscotti.
Enjoy and just say the heck with the calories.

Recipe follows.

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How to Poach an Egg the Right Way

Poaching eggs is not all that hard. It just takes the right equipment and some time. And, don’t try to hurry the process. Before you start, take the eggs out of the refrigerator so they can come to room temperature. Or, put them in a bowl of warm water to take the chill of off them.
You will need a skillet that is about three inches deep. A sauté pan works great. Fill the skillet with about 2-1/2 inches of water and heat over medium heat until it boils. You want the eggs to sit on the bottom of the skillet and be covered with water.
While the water is heating up, add about one teaspoon salt and two tablespoons of white vinegar to the water. This will help stabilize the egg whites and make for better looking poached eggs.
Now, once the water starts to boil, turn the heat down until the water is just simmering.
If you have an instant read thermometer (here), the water should be about 160 to 180 degrees F. You do not want the water boiling!
Take your room temperature eggs and crack each one into a ramekin or coffee cup. When the water is the right temperature, place the lip of the cup about a half inch into the water and let the egg slid into the water. You can most likely cook two eggs at a time by using your right and left hand to slide the eggs into the water. If you want to cook more eggs at one time, get help.
Eggs take about three to four minutes to poach (it’s closer to four minutes for me). Watch the top of each egg and the white will creep up on the yolk. Then about a minute or two after that, the egg are done.
Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and plate up on slices of toast or toasted sourdough English muffin (here).

What is the difference between butter and margarine? And which is better for you?

Well first, butter is a natural product and margarine is manmade. Margarine was invented in 1869 by Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès. Butter has been around since the cows came home.
Nutritionally they are almost identical. And, they are very similar in many other ways too. Alan Davidson, author of The Oxford Companion to Food (Canada, UK), says, “Margarine, of the kind intended to resemble butter, can be among the most realistic of ‘imitation’ foods. [It] spreads, melts, and combines with other ingredients in just the same way as butter. Only a slight deficiency in flavor and a small difference in texture and ‘mouth feel,’ discernible when it is eaten as a spread on bread, give it away.”
Butter is made by churning cow’s milk until it coagulates. It has a fat content by law of 80 to 85 percent.
On the other hand, margarine also has 80 percent fat and is made from blends of vegetable oils, such as corn, soybean, safflower or canola. They use a chemical process called hydrogenation which replaces the double chemical bonds in those oils with single chemical bonds, making the liquid oils solid at room temperature.
However, that replacement process is never complete and we are left with what are called partially hydrogenated oil, also known as a trans fat. Trans fats are what make margarine solid instead of liquid at room temperatures. As we now know, trans fats are bad for you because they have been found to increase total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lower HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol).
Then again, you do not get away scot free with butter either. Because almost all butter is made from cow’s milk (an animal product) it is loaded not only with saturated fat but also contains cholesterol – something margarine doesn’t contain. And, as we know, saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for you.
So, the answer to the question is that you get to pick your poison: trans fat or saturated fat and cholesterol.
To me, it comes down to taste and butter wins every time.
Your taste may vary.

Paella in a Wok

Adapted from Taste by David Rosengarten

Serves 6 as a main course

Paella (IPA: [pa’eʎa]) is a Spanish dish usually cooked outside over a hot fire in a large shallow paella pan. For years I avoided this dish because of the special equipment needed.
Then about 10 years ago I ran into this recipe in David Rosengarten’s book Taste. I tried it and my family and I were hooked.
What makes this recipe so special that you make it on the stove top in a large wok. I have made a few changes to the original recipe. For example, I left out the snails. If you like snails, add in about 12 large snails with the shrimp.
Also, I have added mussels to the mix. Find the recipe for Mussels in Beer here. I fix the mussels in a separate Dutch oven and add a few to the dish at the end and server the remainder on the side.
This dish takes some work but it is well worth it. The presentation is wonderful and the taste is out of this world.

Recipe follows.

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Mussels in Beer

Adapted from a recipe at

Serves 4

I just love mussels. My family? Not so much.
But, whenever we are having a seafood dinner involving many different kinds of seafood, I usually can sneak in some mussels. This is a very easy recipe and the flavors the beer adds to the mussels are amazing.
I also use this recipe when I make paella and I will post that recipe later.

Recipe follows.

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BBQ Cole Slaw

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1971

Serves 6

There are hundreds of recipes for cole slaw. Some creamy. Some tangy. Some shredded. Some chopped fine (like KFC).
Most made with all cabbage. I always found any type of cole slaw made with all cabbage to be somewhat lacking. I could never put my finger on it until I ran across this recipe nearly 25 years ago.
The difference here is that this recipe calls for half cabbage and half lettuce. And the dressing uses catchup and Worcestershire sauce. The results is a crisp, clean, tangy, creamy delicious cole slaw. It goes great with anything off the grill. Give it a try the next time you throw some hamburgers on the barbie.

Recipe follows.

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Tripple-Stacked Sorbet or Sherbet Dessert

Sometimes simple is the best. And this dessert could not be any simpler. We have had this many times and it is always a favorate of my family and our guests.
I have made it with sorbet and sherbet. Both work. But, I think of the two, sorbet is a little more elegant.
This dessert involves three pints of sorbet or sherbet left out on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes and then each flavor scooped into a ceramic bowl, like Corning Ware, that is large enough to hold three pints. Scoop the flavors in each individually and on top of one another.
Then refreeze.
Flavors are up to you. I like raspberry, orange, and lemon. I have also tried mango, strawberry, and lime. The possibilities are endless.
To serve, just cut square sections of the dessert making sure you cut through all three layers.  Then scoop out the squares so you see all three layers.  Top with a sprig of mint if you wish.
Delicious, fast and easy. Your guests will be amazed and refreshed.
It does not get any better than that.