Salad with Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing

Like a lot of us, January is my month to get healthy and back on track after all of the debauchery I participated in during the holidays.  I’ve taken the month off from drinking alcohol- okay, I cheated with ONE Cadillac Margarita last week- and I’m really making the effort to put a lot of healthy stuff into my body- minus the sea salted, dark chocolate thingy I indulged in last night.  Hey, no one is perfect!

This recipe is super fast and easy to make and can turn the simplest salad into a sensational meal!  The dressing is the star and you can use it on any combination of salad fixings you choose.  I paired it here with some butter lettuce, avocado slices, cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion.  Add a side of chicken breast, shrimp or turkey and you have a complete healthy meal. The dressing also makes a great dip for veggies like raw broccoli or cauliflower.

Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing

Servings: about 4

Ingredients:

2 medium sized carrots peeled and roughly chopped or shreaded

2 tablespoons fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons shallots peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons white miso

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/4 cup neutral oil (like grapeseed oil or canola oil)

Directions:

In a blender, add all ingredients except the 1/4 cup of neutral oil.  Pulse ingredients until combined and you have a thick puree.  With blender running on a low speed, slowly add the neutral oil until everything is combined.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over salad or in a bowl for dipping.

Note:  All of the ingredient amounts are flexible and to be used as a guideline.  I sometimes add a little more or less ginger, rice vinegar, etc.  Taste as you are making it and feel free to adjust it to your liking.  I personally like it on the chunky side but you can also thin it down a bit with a tablespoon or so of water if you choose.

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WHO DAT? ME DAT!

I had the best intensions of starting out 2011 with some healthy recipes to get us all back on track.  But that will have to wait a bit because I just got back from my first trip to New Orleans- and I have some stories to tell…

My first stop in this incredible city was at The Sazerac Bar in the famous Roosevelt Hotel. This is the spot where the Sazerac was created.  They’re also known for their Southern Gentleman cocktail shown above which is Maker’s Mark and pure cane syrup poured over muddled blackberries and mint.  These are dangerous, very dangerous.

Next up was a streetcar to The Garden District to dine at The Commander’s Palace.  Once a brothel, this restaurant has won the Lifetime Outstanding Restaurant Award from the prestigious James Beard Foundation among many other honors.  It was here that I tried Turtle Soup for the first time (which was so kindly spiked with sherry) followed by an unforgettable Foie Gras served over (what else?) beignets!  Many exciting dishes followed but the one that I can’t get out of my head is the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle topped with Whisky Hard Sauce pictured below.  If you think all bread pudding is alike- Commander’s Palace will certainly put a rest to that kind of thinking.

No trip to New Orleans could possibly be complete without visiting Cafe Du Monde for a Cafe Au Lait and Beignets.  Having this for breakfast is so wrong, yet so right!  Open 24 hours a day, the sugar and the strong Chicory Coffee is a perfect way to start your morning and/or sober you up mid-afternoon.

After being rudely snubbed by the hostess of a “well known” restaurant (the ONLY time I felt any hostility in this wonderful city), I left in a huff, walked around the corner and plopped myself at the end of the line for Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter.  Thank you terrible hostess at the famous restaurant which I will not name (because it’s hard to pronounce that French word)- you did me an enormous favor!

After indulging in raw and chargrilled oysters, this Fried Oyster & Shrimp Po-boy below sealed the deal of making Acme Oyster House one of my favorite haunts in town.

Our last meal of 2010 was to be had at Cochon in the Warehouse District where we feasted on dishes such as:

Paneed Pig Foot with Pickled Green Tomatoes, Beets and Horseradish Cream…

Pan Roasted Shrimp with Grapefruit, Chiles, Tasso, Basil and Cornbread Black Eye Pea Cake…

Duck and Smoked Oyster Gumbo…

And a Roasted Pork Shank with Braised Red Cabbage and Green Apple Slaw.

Hearing about all of the fun we were having, my mother decided to make the trip to join us. Our first stop when she arrived was Pat O’Briens on Bourbon Street.  I don’t know how many of you have been bar-hopping with your mother, but it’s a very weird experience.  Strange as it was, we were having a blast!  Here we are indulging in some Milk Punch.

No one makes breakfast more of an event then Brennan’s in the French Quarter.  A dining experience not to be missed!  We decided on the “Typical New Orleans Breakfast” which included Brandy Milk Punch and Bloody Bull Cocktails, Community Chicory Coffee, Eggs Hussarde and, of course, Brennan creation and now world-famous Bananas Foster prepared tableside by our terrific waiter Cody who flamed the bananas in butter, sugar and rum then served them over vanilla ice cream.  Look how Cody doesn’t even flinch with a 4 foot blasting flame in his face!

That evening we all walked back over to the Warehouse District and dined at Chef Emeril Lagasse’s eponymous restaurant: Emeril’s.  Memorable dishes included Homemade Andouille and Boudin, Barbecued Shrimp, Angel Hair with Smoked Mushrooms, and Seafood Gumbo.  My sweet-tooth kicked into overdrive when they brought out an Emeril Original – Banana Cream Pie with graham cracker crust, caramel sauce and chocolate shavings.

On our last day, after getting our daily Cafe Du Monde “fix” we headed over to The New Orleans School of Cooking for an unforgettable cooking class taught by well know local Chef Kevin Belton.  A 6’9″ former NFL football player-turned-chef, he knows more about Cajun/Creole cooking than anyone you’ll meet.  We had so much fun and I highly recommend this class to any curious cooks visiting New Orleans.  Chef Kevin showed us how to make some of the classics: Red Beans and Rice, Pecan Pie, Cornbread and authentic New Orleans Pralines.

Oh gosh, I haven’t even mentioned so many other treasures- like John Besh’s amazing restaurant August serving up some of the finest dining in the city.  And Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – the oldest continuously operated bar in the United States serving the best Hurricanes in town.  And I challenge you to go into Laura’s Candies and not leave with a bag of something special (psst- they ship!)

So now I’ve returned to LA, and I’m getting back on track with bowls of cucumber salad, steamed fish, and a constant wearing of gym clothes since that’s where I’ll be most of January working off my New Orleans vacation.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  I think every now and then we should all follow some advice I found on Brennan’s Menu Page…

HAPPY 2011!!!

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From my kitchen to yours, Happy Holidays!!!

Since launching the blog in November, I’m overwhelmed by all of the support from you, the readers.  Thank you so much for reading and sharing your passions for food as well. Wishing all of you a terrific new year and stay tuned for even more food love in 2011!  Xoxo, Jessica

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Lucy Waiting for Santa…

The Best Pumpkin Pie!!!

pumpkin-pieI’ve been trying to perfect my pumpkin pie recipe for quite some time.  I kicked it into overdrive about two weeks ago, turning my home kitchen into one big pumpkin lab experiment!  I tested fresh roasted pumpkins against the canned stuff on three different tryouts and, much to my surprise, the canned pumpkin far surpassed the fresh every time in flavor, texture and consistency.

And did I mention how in love I am with my new Emile Henry Artisan Ruffled Pie Dish?  Not only is this the prettiest pie dish ever, but it baked my crust to absolute perfection!

 

Pumpkin Pie

Servings: about 10


Ingredients:

1 Flaky Pie Crust , fitted into a 9-inch pie dish (recipe below)
4 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, 100% pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4  teaspoon ground clove
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 scant teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2  teaspoon fine sea salt
1 scant teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Prebake the pie crust (see Flaky Pie Crust Recipe below) and cool crust completely.

While crust is cooling, preheat oven to 400 degrees and begin to prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a wire whisk.  Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine.  Next mix in the maple syrup and molasses, followed by the sour cream, spices, salt, vanilla extract and finally the heavy cream mixing with a whisk until thoroughly combined.

Pour mixture into baked pieshell crust and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 45-50 minutes, until center is almost set and a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  If the crust edges are browning too quickly, fit a ring of foil around the rim.

Let pie cool completely on a rack before serving.   Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Optional: For decorative piecrust cutouts, make an extra 1/2 recipe of pie crust dough.  Roll out 1/2 recipe disk into 1/8th in thickness and cut out your favorite shapes using small cookie cutters or freestyle with a knife.  Place cutouts on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, brush lightly with eggwash and sprinkle with just a touch of sugar.  Bake for about 7-12 minutes until golden brown. Let cool completely and then decorate as you wish onto pie.

I’ve been making this pie crust since I was 16 years old.  My secret addition is to use equal parts of COLD butter and shortening for a crust that’s flavorful AND flaky.

Flaky Pie Crust (for 1 crust pie)

Yield: For an 8 or 9 inch pie shell

This recipe can be easily doubled for a 2-crust pie.

Ingredients:

1 1/4  cup sifted all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 cubes

1/4 cup  cold vegetable shortening, (like crisco) cut into roughly 1/2 in cubes

3-4 tablespoons ice water

1 egg

1 tablespoon of water

Directions:

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt.

Add cold butter and shortening cubes to flour mixture and with a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut in fat until mixture forms clumps about the size of tiny peas (clumps will be uneven.)

Quickly sprinkle ice water 1 tablespoon at a time over all of the flour mixture, tossing lightly with a spoon until you can form the dough into a ball.  (Don’t overwork dough.)

Flatten the ball into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest refrigerated for and hour or longer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take the pie disk out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes just to soften a bit.

Choose a smooth surface to roll out the dough like a cutting board or counter.  Dust surface and rolling pin lightly with flour.

When ready to roll dough, remove disk from plastic and place in the middle of your surface.  Dust the top of the dough with some flour and begin to roll, starting at the center and working your way out on all sides. After a few rolls, turn the dough over, lightly reflour the board and continue to roll into a 12 inch circle of about 1/8 inch thickness.  Close up any cracks by pinching them together and smoothing out gently with the rolling pin.

To move the dough, fold it in half, then in quarters and place into pie dish.  Gently open up the folds and fit dough into the bottom of the pie dish.  Crimp edges with your fingers and cover up any holes or cracks at this time.  (A little water can be used to help with cracks just by dipping your finger in the water and gently pinching the dough back together.)

To prebake the pieshell (without a filling) line the shell with a piece of parchment paper or foil, then fill the pieshell with a layer of dried beans or other pie weights (pennies can also be used.)

Bake in oven for about 15 minutes or just until crust starts to brown.

While crust is baking, in small bowl, whisk together the egg and tablespoon of water to make an eggwash.

Remove crust from the oven, take pie weights out and brush the eggwash mixture all over crust (this will seal the crust preventing wet filling from making it soggy.)

Bake for another 8-10 minutes.

Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Whipped Cream

Yield: about 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy cream, cold
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, (use more or less to your taste)

Directions:

Chill a deep mixing bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Add heavy cream, vanilla extract and sugar to chilled bowl and briskly whisk by hand for about 3 minutes, until soft peaks form.  Be careful not to overbeat (cream will turn buttery.)

Note: You can also beat the cream using an electric mixer on medium speed (beat for about 30 seconds) but again, be extra careful to not overbeat.

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Oven Roasted Turkey:
The “Judy Bird” Technique

After finishing culinary school last fall, I took an internship in the test kitchen of The Los Angeles Times in the Food Section. It was there that I met senior food editor Russ Parsons who was in his third year of perfecting the “Judy Bird” technique.  I quickly learned he was referring to one of my all-time favorite chefs, superstar Judy Rogers of San Francisco’s Zuni Café.  Judy has been dry-brining chicken for years, and her famous “Roast Chicken with Bread Stuffing for Two” is worth the flight to San Francisco alone. Russ figured if it worked on chicken, it might work on turkey as well.  And was he ever right!  Simply put, this makes the most delicious turkey I’ve ever had.  And it’s so easy, you’ll think you’ve left out a step or two.

In a nutshell:  3 days before the big event, you rub salt all over the bird- about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for every 5 pounds.  I like to add some crushed herbs and pepper as well.  Last year, I used crushed fresh thyme and ground black pepper, which came out amazing! Crushed sage and pepper would also be a killer combo.  Seal up the turkey in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 3 days, removing it from the bag for the last 8 hours to let it dry out.  Take the turkey out of the bag, place it on a roaster and you’re ready to go!

The Judy Bird

Adapted from Russ Parson’s recipe in The Los Angeles Times.

Total time:

Give or take 3 hours (depending on your oven and the size of your bird) plus 3 days brining

Servings: 11 to 15

Note: This is more a technique than a recipe. It makes a bird that has concentrated turkey flavor and fine, firm flesh and that’s delicious as is. But feel free to add your own herbs and spices to the salt rub.  Remember that you should salt the turkey by Monday night at the latest to have it at its best by Thursday, though briefer salting times will work too.

Ingredients:

1 (12- to 16-pound) turkey
Kosher salt or any of the seasoned salts

  1. Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it. Measure 1 tablespoon of kosher salt or the appropriate amount of a seasoned salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you’d have 3 tablespoons kosher salt).
  2. Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Place the turkey on its back and salt the breasts, concentrating the salt in the center, where the meat is thickest. You’ll probably use a little more than a tablespoon. It should look liberally seasoned but not over salted.
  3. Turn the turkey on one side and sprinkle the entire side with salt, concentrating on the thigh. Use a little less than a tablespoon. Flip the turkey over and do the same with the other side.
  4. Place the turkey in a 2 1/2 -gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. Place the turkey breast-side up in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, leaving it in the bag but turning it and massaging the salt into the skin every day.
  5. Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface, and the skin should be moist but not wet. Wipe the turkey dry with a paper towel, place it breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.
  6. On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  7. Place the turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan; put it in the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and roast until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone, reads 165 degrees, about 2 3/4 hours total roasting. (Note: If desired skin browning is accomplished before temperature reads 165 degrees, tent the bird loosely with foil to prevent further browning.)
  8. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a warm platter or carving board; tent loosely with foil. Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. Carve and serve.
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Wild Mushroom and Spinach Bread Stuffing

Maybe the best tip I can give you this Thanksgiving is: DON’T stuff the bird!  This was a hard rule for me to accept at first since I had been stuffing my turkeys for years.  What I’ve learned from some pretty fancy chefs is that stuffing the bird makes it virtually impossible to sufficiently cook the stuffing without overcooking the turkey in the process.
This dish is a combination of my mother’s recipe I grew up eating and a recipe I found in Bon Appetit a few years ago.  (Sorry Mama, but I just couldn’t leave a good enough thing alone!) The addition of wild mushrooms and spinach adds a lot of character that I think even Mom would approve of!

Wild Mushroom and Spinach Bread Stuffing

Adapted from Bon Appétit and my mother

Makes about 12 servings

Use a mix of the best wild mushrooms you can find. They elevate the stuffing from simple to sensational.

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2- 2 pounds assorted fresh wild mushrooms (such as chanterelle,stemmed shitake and crimini), cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cups chopped onions
4 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh italian parsely
4+ tablespoons chopped fresh sage
4+ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 10-ounce container of bag baby spinach leaves
12 cups (generous) 1-inch cubes of day old bread with crust( I use a combination of crusty breads like French, Sourdough and Italian), roughly cut into 1 inch cubes
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1-2 cups chicken broth

Directions:

Melt 1 stick butter with olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced wild mushrooms and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms are tender and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to large bowl.

Melt remaining stick of butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery. Sauté until vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes. Add all herbs; sauté 1 minute longer. Add spinach and toss until just wilted, about 1 minute. Add vegetable mixture to bowl with mushrooms. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead up to this point. Cool, cover, and chill.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish.

In large bowl, combine the vegetable mixture and the bread cubes.  In a small bowl, whisk eggs, salt, and pepper to blend well; whisk in 1 cup of broth. Add egg mixture to stuffing, tossing to combine evenly and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Transfer stuffing to prepared baking dish.

Bake stuffing uncovered until cooked through and brown and crusty on top, 50 to 60 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

*Tip: To save space, you can make your stuffing in the slow cooker.  Follow recipe as written, and instead of putting mixed ingredients into a baking dish, put them in a greased slow cooker or crock pot.  Cook on HIGH for 45 minutes and then switch to LOW for about 3-4 hours until cooked through.

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Braised Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts- you’ve come a long way baby!  Once the most globally hated veggie, this tiny cabbage has made it’s way back on the scene thanks to more chefs learning how to cook them properly and because growers are now planting sweeter varietals. The big secret to great Brussels Sprouts? Throw away that old recipe that practically tells you to start boiling the sprouts in October! You’re looking for an “al dente” texture- firm but tender enough for a fork to easily cut through. This recipe is a breeze and has converted the biggest BS haters at my table. And of course, cooking with bacon and butter never hurt any dish!

Braised Brussels Sprouts

Makes about 12 servings

Ingredients:

3 pounds brussels sprouts

1  pound  bacon, chopped into small 1/4 inch pieces

2 shallots, minced

2  cups chicken stock or broth

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon butter

Directions:

Trim the base off of each brussels sprout and cut each sprout in half.

In large saute pan, render the bacon until cooked and remove from pan leaving the fat in the pan. Add shallots and brussels sprouts and saute until they are just lightly browned and covered in the bacon fat. Add chicken stock or broth and bring to a simmer. Cover pan with lid and simmer for about 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.

Cook until tender and liquid is mostly or all absorbed. You want the sprouts to be “al dente” in texture- firm but tender enough for a fork to easily cut through. Return bacon to pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Finish with a dollop of butter in pan and coat brussels sprouts.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving Dinner: my absolute favorite meal to prepare! So it seems incredibly fitting that I’m launching this blog now, sharing with you some of my best-loved recipes for the most exciting cooking day of the year. My advice: buy the best ingredients you can find, have a game plan, and don’t forget to relax and HAVE FUN!  Because at the end of the day my friends, it’s just cooking.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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