Edible Brilliance

PeachCherryGalette2 2I am a total sucker for food magazines – the too-good-to-be-true photography, elaborated by mouth-watering tales and anecdotes, with star-studded chef contributions…there’s always at least one dish that catches my eye, and receives a “must-make-now” bookmark. I was sifting through some old magazines and happened across a gorgeous galette. This term is used to describe a variety of free-form pastries and cakes found in French cuisine, and is often typified as a “rustic” creation. In reality, most galettes are far from rustic, as the beauty of this dessert is its imperfection. So when I was asked to make a summery dessert for a cookout with my boyfriend’s family, this Ginger Peach and Cherry Galette was my response…and it was truly stunning.
PeachCherryGalette3 2This galette calls for a sweet pâte brisée (or a pastry dough), which incorporates a touch more sugar and eggs than your standard crust. The eggs (inevitably) make for a very sticky dough, so you will want to take that into account when rolling and transferring the pastry to a pan. The texture is also softer than your typical pastry dough, and comes together in much less time. Even so, it is still important to keep your ingredients as cold as possible during the preparation (a cardinal rule for ALL doughs).
PeachCherryGalette4 2The original recipe only called for peaches…I just happened to have poor luck at the market, so 2 of my 4 peaches were rotten. Thankfully I had a bag of fresh cherries in the fridge that I had been become quite addicted to, so this was the perfect solution for both the galette and my self control. The result was a colorful, fresh, and stunning dessert – you can use any fruit you like (except for watermelon or cantaloupe…that would be odd), and even change up the spices. Click HERE for the recipe to this beautiful summer treat!
PeachCherryGalette1 2Edible brilliance is the goal of any chef, and placing a work of art upon a plate after hours of prep can feel like an immense accomplishment. I thought a foray with “color” would be suitable for this musical pairing, which led me to a French composer whose style is notably playful, light, and full of tonal vibrancy: Jean Françaix. Having been born into a musical family, Françaix’s talent was fostered at an early age. His studies with Nadia Boulanger and Isidore Philipp led to a prolific career, and his music consequently flourished – Maurice Ravel had said of the young Françaix

“Among the child’s gifts I observe above all the most fruitful an artist can possess, that of curiosity: you must not stifle these precious gifts now or ever, or risk letting this young sensibility wither.”

The piece I chose for this pairing is Françaix’s Concertino pour piano et orchestre – composed in 1932, the work is less than 10 minutes in length, and is true to the composer’s neoclassical and witty style. The recording included below is by the composer himself (he often performed his own works for piano). Like this galette, the colors and texture are quite visceral. It’s a lovely little piece, and I hope you enjoy it!

Sources Cited:
“Jean Françaix,” Wikipedia.com

A Colorful and Beautiful Occasion

turkeyday4When people are falling asleep on your sofa from the dreaded food coma, you know that you’ve hosted a successful Thanksgiving meal. Last year I had 16 people crammed into my apartment…this year there were only 9 of us, and it is was the PERFECT size. The dinner was potluck-style, which resulted in a stunning spread: Parmesan Pumpkin Biscuits, White Bean Gratin, Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Beef Bourguignon, Salad with Roasted Squash, Truffle Mashed Potatoes, Onion Pancetta Stuffing…swoon. I relinquished the need to make the 20+ dishes I hoped to, and instead invested all of my energy into the main event: the Salted Roast Turkey with Herb and Shallot Gravy.
turkeyday1This was a big bird…which made for some comical “behind-the-scenes” drama (picture a 5-foot person woman to lift this thing…you get the picture). The recipe was quite different from last year’s turkey – rather than soaking the bird in a brine, I used a “dry brine”. In other words, the bird was seasoned with a salt mixture and left overnight – I read multiple criticism on wet brining for its lack of flavor and odd texture (considering the meat has, essentially, been waterlogged). A dry brine is intended to produce a similarly succulent bird while also imparting a more flavorful seasoning in the meat (herbs and zest, in this case).
turkeyday2The turkey was, needless to say, divine – it was full of flavor, quite tender, and (if I do say so myself) really beautiful. You can find the recipe for this gorgeous bird HERE. So now the question on whether or not I stick with this technique or return to the full brine…I’d have to say this newer method has won me for the following reasons:

  1. Ease of preparation: rather than having to manage a bag filled with COLD, salty water, I was able to season the bird and let it rest on a baking sheet in the fridge (no kitchen sink catastrophe this year, ha!)
  2. Flavor: while most people opt for smothering their turkey with gravy and/or cranberry sauce, the meat was actually quite good on its own. The multitude of leftover salads, sandwiches, etc. that I’ve been enjoying since Thanksgiving can speak to that.
  3. Make-ahead items: the stock, herbed salt, and mise-en-place were things I could do WAY before the actual day. This, my friends, is a key strategy to being a successful (and sane) host.

turkeyday3Okay…so I didn’t JUST make the turkey (it’s no secret that I am a little crazy when it comes to hosting…) but I also didn’t make anywhere near as much as I did last year. A stress-free host = the perfect party. One of my 2012 solutions? Appetizers. These don’t have to be fancy – your guests (most likely) won’t have eaten anything all day, so anything edible will do, haha! In all seriousness, give your guests food that will appease their ferocious hunger, while still leaving enough room for the big event. My personal favorite were the Orange Chipotle-Spiced Pecans, which you can find the recipe for HERE! I also had cheeses, sausages, sweet potato bites…to name a few.
CandiedPecansIf there is one thing I insist on making (other than the turkey), it’s pie. This is where I can really let my creative juices flow, trying new flavor combination and what not. I went for a classic here: Bourbon Pumpkin Pie. I used an actual sugar pumpkin (instead of canned) – the result was a pie with more depth of flavor, and less of that off-putting texture that canned varieties can impart. The crust is one of my favorite recipe – it’s not elegant, but it is SO good. If there is one thing you can rely on in my kitchen, it is always taste over appearance. Click HERE to learn more about this irresistible pie!
PumpkinPieMoral of the story? It was a great night – there was more food than 9 people could ever hope to eat, great conversations, and wonderful company (clean-up was another story, but this is a cooking blog…not a Clorox ad). Would I do it again? Absolutely. Would I do it again as soon as next weekend? Absolutely not, haha! What’s truly great about Thanksgiving is its distinction from all other meals – it’s the one time of year that a bountiful feast is merited, and we can celebrate everything that we have to be thankful for.
turkeyday5As I continue to grow and make Boston my home, I realize just how lucky I am to have such wonderful friends and family – their continued love and support make every moment worthwhile. It was this very realization that inspired my musical pairing: Variations on an Original Theme ‘”Enigma”, Op.36, by Edward Elgar – he dedicated the work to his “friends pictured within”. What’s perfect about this pairing is the implication of an actual “variety” – this meal was a colorful assortment of personalities and tastes. From a simple melody emerged this beautiful, fully developed composition consisting of 14 variations. The most renowned is arguably “Nimrod,” which is of course a tearjerker to the “nth” degree. I chose this work not only for its familial genesis (both his wife and friends served as an impetus for its creation) but for its overall multiformity. No Thanksgiving meal should ever feel “dull” or “uninspired”, for it is a meal that brings people together – it embraces diversity. I’ve included two recordings below: the first is with Leonard Bernstein at the podium conducting the first 7 variations, and the second with Daniel Barenboim conducting “Nimrod” (grab those tissues folks…) I hope that all of you had a beautiful Thanksgiving, and were surrounded by loving friends and/or family – enjoy this beautiful work 🙂

Sources Cited:
“Enigma Variations,” Wikipedia.com

Rhapsody in Ribs

Barbecue and Fourth of July are the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of culinary traditions – it’s hard to picture  one without the other. This was my fourth year celebrating Independence Day in Boston, and this city just comes to life. The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is one of THE largest celebrations in the United States, and is a tradition viewed by Americans across the nation. While the live show is truly spectacular (and one every Bostonian should experience at least once), the 500,000+ spectators makes it somewhat of a stressful endeavor…so after having trekked out to the Charles for the past 3 years, my friends and I vied for an at-home Barbecue Cookout and viewing of the Boston Pops show.
Ribs – they are an iconic Fourth of July tradition, and resonate with appetites across the nation. For this dish, I chose baby back ribs. A cut from the top of a hog, they are (unfortunately) much tougher than the more tender pork loin. Because of this, grilling baby back ribs can quickly go from perfect to beyond repair. The trick is to start the cooking process before the ribs hit the grill – the low and slow roast method. What’s even better about this method is that the meat doesn’t need more than 10 to 15 minutes on the grill (as opposed to hours), leaving you more time to relax with your guests.
A great rib needs a great sauce, and this was a great sauce – I like to think that whenever bourbon and brown sugar are combined, a rainbow appears; that is how perfect they are together. It is sweet with a hint of spice (earthy or floral, depending on your bourbon). Making it the day ahead will a) save you time and b) make the sauce 10x better…so basically it’s a win-win situation 😉 Whether grilling for a few or a crowd, these Bourbon and Brown Sugar Ribs are sure to please (thanks Teej for the above photo!) Click HERE to get the recipe for this barbecue classic.
In addition to the ribs, I made some Honey-Sesame Chicken Skewers that were to die for! Tender, packed with flavor, and SO simple to make, they were an ultimate hit. The marinade is what gives these skewers their unique edge, with ingredients including sake, sesame oil, and even puréed pears! The original recipe called for chicken breasts, but the cheaper, more tender thighs were my pick; a solid choice when hosting for a crowd. Trust me, you HAVE to try these – they are absolutely magnificent. Click HERE to see the recipe for these uh-mazing skewers!
As a nod to the Boston Pops Fireworks show, I made my vegan entree a New England classic – Vegetarian Maple Baked Beans (only without bacon, of course). The combination of soaking the beans and cooking in a slow cooker spans over several hours, but most of this has no need for supervision (in other words, you can leave for work and have a meal ready to go by the time you get home!) These beans are (as the title suggests) inherently sweet, and made the perfect side dish vegetarian dish to complement the spread – click HERE to view this recipe!
The traditions of Independence Day bring to life a narrative of victory and celebration that has a universally contagious spirit. With this in mind, I wanted to showcase an American composer whose music can enrapture any audience (using pizzazz that is all-too-familiar of any Fourth of July celebration). That led me to George Gershwin and one of his most iconic works: Rhapsody in Blue. Composed in 1924, it has easily become one of the most popular American compositions. The amalgamation of jazz and classical is a beautiful display of our nation’s diversity and vivacity, which Gershwin shared as his inspiration:

No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness…

What’s even more wonderful about this story is that he was on a train to BOSTON when he came up with the idea for this piece – how perfect is that?? The piece is concerto-esque as it features solo piano, originally written for jazz band and later scored for full orchestra. The piece opens with a “famous opening clarinet glissando…that has become as familiar as the start of Beethoven’s Fifth” (according to one columnist with the American Heritage). The full gamut of Gershwin’s style is shown, from graceful melodies of to large-scale harmonies. Such can be said of the gamut of my own culinary talents for this barbecue 😉 I’ve included a recording with another iconic American composer conducting and soloing on piano: Leonard Bernstein – enjoy!


Sources Cited:
“Rhapsody in Blue” Wikipedia.com

Love It or Hate It

When it comes to my department at work, food is a very important point for discussion. We are all big foodies, and often swap recipes and stories just before the start of our weekly meetings. This past week, we had our annual team retreat to brainstorm strategy, content, and the next steps in everything we do as a department. The retreat was held in my apartment, and I took this opportunity to showcase two delicious vegan dishes I’d been wanting to try: Kale Salad with Avocado and Sweet Potato and Tuscan Stuffed Mushrooms with Pine Nuts.
Kale is a power food that is often left behind – it’s more bitter than your average green, and has a tougher texture as well. That being said, it is loaded with vitamins and nutrients to the max! My solution to bitter greens is finding the right balance of a) sweetness or b) salty goodness (like bacon, which makes most things taste amazing). I vied for sweetness with this salad and chose my southern favorite: the sweet potato. Creamy chunks of avocado and a sprinkle of dried cranberries made this dish a true winner – click HERE to see the recipe for this healthy, nutrient-rich salad.
Mushrooms are also a food with its fair share of both fans and critics – some people swear by their earthy taste, while others can’t stand it. I grew to love mushrooms during my veggie days, and (thankfully) never lost that appreciation. You can make any stuffing for mushrooms, from a nutty quinoa salad to a spicy sausage filling. Based on what I had on hand, I took a little inspiration from Tuscany for these and stuffed them with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red pepper and fresh basil – click HERE to see just how simple and delicious these can be! 
There are a number of composers whose critics are just as vocal as their fans, but the one who especially comes to mind (for me) is Paul Hindemith. The reason for this choice is his musical departure from diatonic tonality, resulting in harmonies based on free-form scales and notational structures. In fact, there are currently music teachers who refuse to even teach Hindemith given their own aversions. For this pairing, I chose the Viola Sonata, Op. 11 No. 4 – it is the fourth of his sonata series, and perhaps one of my personal favorites (though others, as expected, would disagree). The sonata has three “movements” that are performed without pause. The first is “Fantaisie”, and takes harmonic experimentation to a whole new level – it navigates through nearly ten different keys over just 41 bars! This is perhaps my favorite of the three movements, being extremely beautiful and almost haunting in character. The second, “Thema mit Variationen,” is  much more playful and energized. It changes the established downbeat throughout, allowing the melodies to flow without rhythmic constraint. The final movement, “Finale (mit Variationen)”, unleashes a series of classical forms that bring the piece to an uncertain yet glorious conclusion. Overall, it’s a very cool piece that some people love, and some people hate.

My friend Erin Nolan (violist) said one of her instructors recommended to approach Hindemith as one would approach Bach: in a methodical manner…so perhaps I can recommend to try cooking kale as you would spinach, and mushrooms as you would meat – just a thought 😉 The recording below is by a violist Erin recommended for his beautiful tone, and I definitely agree: Lawrence Powers. Enjoy!


Sources Cited:
“Paul Hindemith,” Wikipedia.com
“Viola Sonata, Op. 11 No. 4 (Hindemith)” Wikipedia.com

Challenge Accepted

Iron Chef has transformed the way we perceive culinary challenges – the “blood, sweat, and tears” of cooking finally has a stage, and food’s competitive qualities have been taken to a whole new level. The show certainly left an impression on my mom: a business-savvy, energetic woman who loves the prospect of a challenge. So naturally, my visits home are often paired with an Iron Chef-like arrangement. My most recent challenge: Cornish Game Hens…well, that took me through a loop considering a) I had never prepared these before, and b) couldn’t even begin to imagine how they were suited for spring fare. After stumbling through several menu options, I finally landed on one that suited my standards: Roasted Cornish Hens with White Wine-Scallion Sauce.
Cornish hens are a peculiar kind of bird: they aren’t actually a game bird, but in fact a hybrid of Cornish Game and the Plymouth Chicken. Though identified as “hens,” these birds can be either male or female, and often weigh no more than 3 pounds. I was pretty floored when my mom asked me to prepare these hens for the dinner party she was hosting, especially since I’d always thought of them as that “other” holiday bird (i.e. the simpler alternative to roast turkey).
My trick in making these hens “Spring-friendly” was a combination of REALLY fresh herbs and seasonal ingredients, like scallions and shallots. Complementing these birds with strong flavors is vital considering the meat has a rather dull taste on its own. Rather than stuffing them with actual stuffing (a holiday trend), I threw in a few aromatics to help infuse the meat with more flavor. The result was an elegant, flavorful dish that had all the right notes of Spring. Our guests enjoyed nearly every last bite of their individual helpings (yet in all honesty, I’ll probably reserve future attempts with Cornish hens for the colder months) – click HERE to see the recipe for this unique dish.
For dessert, I wanted to make a cake that packed a punch but was a lighter afterthought to the entree. I’ve got a crush on vanilla beans, so shelled out $14 for TWO beans (that’s not a typo) and made a Golden Vanilla Bean Pound Cake that was out-of-this-world good. The trick with this cake is having your butter and eggs at ROOM temperature. Yes, this means shelving your fears of leaving them unrefrigerated and just letting them sit out – if I can leave you with any piece of advice when it comes to baking, this is it.
In line with the menu’s seasonal trend, I topped each slice with sherry-macerated strawberries that paired beautifully with the cake’s buttery, golden texture. Feel free to pair it with whatever strikes your fancy – ice cream, caramel, etc. Though simple to make, this cake is definitely not simple in taste, and makes for the perfect weeknight indulgence – click HERE for this heavenly treat.
For this pairing, I thought it appropriate to pair a piece of music that took on a classic, venerable topic and gave it an avant garde spin. That led me to Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. In folklore, the firebird is (more often than not) a coveted prize that induces a challenging quest by the story’s hero. Stravinsky acknowledged his own reservations on the “challenge” of composing the music for this ballet (similar to my reservations on preparing this dish):

The Firebird did not attract me as a subject. Like all story ballets it demanded descriptive music of a kind I did not want to write..However…I know that, in truth, my reservations about the subject were also an advance defense for my not being sure I could.”

The music is an entirely different matter – even though it was his first, it is perhaps the most widely recognized and acclaimed of Stravinsky’s ballets (even more so thanks to Disney’s Fantasia 2000). The opening passage (alternating between thirds and seconds of a tritone in the cello, bass and viola lines) set the “supernatural” setting of the hero’s quest, which ultimately ends in a truly majestic Finale (an ending that is admittedly uncharacteristic of Stravinsky). Yet the piece still demonstrates what will become the composer’s greatest qualities in later works. The primitive style that would take on a whole new level in Rite of Spring finds a starting point in this work, with metric dynamism that keeps demands a keen concentration from performers and listeners alike. Two examples being the offset downbeat of the Danse Infernale, and the 7/4 time signature of the Finale. Additionally, the orchestration of the work was substantial for the time, with Stravinsky even claiming it to be “wastefully large.” Despite this claim, the orchestral force brings a rich quality to the piece that has truly come to define the music. For the recording, I found a fabulous video of Claudio Abbado with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra‬ – enjoy!


Sources Cited:
– “Cornish game hen,” Wikipedia.com
– “Firebird (Slavic Folklore),” Wikipedia.com
– Huscher, Phillip. “Program Notes: Igor Stravinsky – The Firebird” Chicago Symphony Orchestra
– “About the Piece: The Firebird (complete),” LA Phil

Easter’s Cutest Traditions

When you travel as much as I do, you tend to lose track of the various holidays. Fortunately, we’re often bombarded with constant reminders whenever making the weekly CVS/supermarket run (whose shelves are lined with seasonal frippery months in advance). When Easter rolled around, I had a different reminder: my roommate Jenn had decided to give her Artist Diploma recital on Good Friday. She asked me to bring some form of dessert, and it was all too easy to give in to Easter’s colorful traditions with these Mint-Chocolate Birds’ Nests.
I never imagined I would be placing a package of crunchy chow mein noodles into the same camera shot as a bag of Cadbury chocolate eggs…yet here they were – two food products whose chance pairing make an adorable, crunchy delight. The only time I’d ever used chow mein noodles had been as topping for a chicken stir-fry…a far fetch from chocolate. Though labeled as “noodles”, they are actually cracker-like in both taste and consistency. This otherwise bland flavor makes them an easy complement for a variety of dishes.
These are extremely simple to make, and can be assembled in a matter of minutes. The first time I made them was with butterscotch and peanut butter. Looking for a new flavor profile, I added a dash of peppermint extract…and oh my God they were good! The perfect combination of crunch and sweet, these are a quick and easy way to entertain and delight your friends – click HERE to see how to make these adorable treats.
Considering I made these for my roommate’s recital (which was a phenomenal concert!) it was only fitting that the musical pairing be a piece she performed. Her program began with two Good Friday arias, and I chose the first of these for my pairing: “Endlich wird mein Joch” from Cantata BWV 56.  Bach composed this cantata in October of 1726 during his time as Cantor at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. “Endlich” is one of the more uplifting arias from this otherwise somber cantata, celebrating the “end of suffering”. The translation is as follows:

Finally, finally my yoke
Must again be lifted from me.
Then I shall battle in the Lord’s power,
Then I shall be like an eagle,
Then I shall ascend from this earth,
And soar inexhaustible.
Oh, may it happen yet today!

The joyous tone of the piece perfectly complements these delicious treats, with the lyric “like an eagle” serving as the obligatory literal piece 🙂 She performed the piece with my very dear friend Tim Wilfong singing the baritone line (who did a fabulous job!) The recording below is with oboist Marc Lifschey (one of THE American oboists, according to Jenn) and baritone Mack Harrell. Enjoy!


Sources Cited:
“Cantata #56 ‘Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen'”, Bellingham Festival of Music
“Helmut Rilling interprets Bach Cantatas,” www.drmm.net

A Dish of Epic Proportions

Despite my endless rhetoric on the difficulties with cold weather, winter does allow me to indulge in some of my favorites: hot tea, fuzzy socks, curling up by a fireplace, and of course, rich and hearty stews. When I decided to invite some friends over for dinner, it just so happened to be one of those bone-chilling evenings that begged for a rich meal. I had been dying to make a seriously good chili for a while, and this was the golden opportunity. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the godfather of all chilies: Slow Braised Chili con Carne.
Chili con carne (chili pepper with meat) is a stew meant to be thick and hearty. Most standard chilies use ground beef, but this one calls for whole chuck. The difference is undeniable, and the payoff is unbeatable. For the “chili” part, there were no less than THREE different varieties, all pureed into a sinfully spicy mix that is added to the pot at one’s own discretion (my personal taste used practically all of it).
While the standard ingredients were phenomenal, it was the two “B’s” and “C’s” of the recipe that set this chili apart: Bacon and Beer, Coffee and Chocolate. For those of you thinking that I’m utterly insane, I cannot emphasize how much you will fall in love with the chili. The bacon is an obvious plus (everything’s better with it), while the beer helps to tenderize the chuck. The coffee intensifies the meat’s flavor (yet is indiscernible itself), while the chocolate (added at the very end) provides a beautiful depth. The result is one of the richest, most delicious chilies you will ever try (there were no leftovers, not even a bite) – click HERE to see how to make this epic stew.
As I mentioned earlier, this is an epic chili. It embodies a number of flavors, yet manages to transform them into an intoxicating whole. This immediately called to mind the term Gesamtkunstwerk, German for “total work of art.” This was an aesthetic pioneered in opera by the German composer Richard Wagner. Wagner embraced the rich textures and harmonies of  large-scale works, coupling visual and dramatic elements with his music to augment the overall experience. For this particular dish, I chose the Ouverture from Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer – an opera based on the legend of a man doomed to sail the oceans for all eternity until he finds true love. Like the legend, this dish requires a great deal of patience and time – its richness also perfectly complements the complexities of Wagner’s scoring for the work. The recording I’ve included is with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under direction of Sir Georg Solti – enjoy!


A Festive Feast

Christmas dinner – a meal nearly as stressful as its Thanksgiving precedent. The setting: a cozy apartment in sleepy Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Cast of characters: my mom and stepdad, my sister Sarah, and her boyfriend Grant (the latter three possessing a strong appetite for southern-style food). With all of its familial expectations, a great amount of pressure is placed on the designated chef for Christmas dinner. Being the crazy person I am, I (naturally) volunteered to be said chef. Though I was only cooking for four other people, I knew this meal had to be an outstanding occasion for all parties involved. Avoiding the hackneyed honey-baked ham or roast turkey, I decided to go with a more humble, hearty feature: Spice-Rubbed Roast Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Gravy.
History doesn’t delegate a specific type of game or meat for the holidays – goose, turkey, oysters, ham, pot roast, pheasant, suckling pig, fish, and more have graced Christmas tables around the globe. These dinners tend to reflect more extravagant renditions of traditional cuisine, celebrating family and faith with a bountiful feast. American traditions most closely reflect those of the UK: a roasted entree paired with ample side dishes, including mashed potatoes, roasted squash, braised greens, cookies and pies, etc.
While I relish experimental menus, I went with a  traditional one for this dinner. I managed to sneak in a few unconventional touches to the tenderloin. For the gravy, it relies on a red wine reduction that is brimming with flavor. You can opt to keep the aromatics (shallots and mushrooms respectively), though I followed the recipe and discarded them for a smoother sauce.
The meat itself is spiced with fennel, caraway and thyme – the latter is arguably a beautiful pairing for any rich meat, yet the fennel and caraway gave the meat an aromatic depth unlike any I’ve experienced. As you can tell, we went for a rarer cut, yet roasting times will vary depending on your personal preference. Regardless, I can guarantee this recipe will create a beautiful centerpiece to your Christmas dinner – click HERE to see how to make this flavorful roast.
Kale is endorsed as one of the healthiest greens available to consumers today…this recipe is perhaps not the healthiest realization of the green’s potential, yet it is pretty darn amazing. I mentioned my Georgian sister was present – the bitter edge of kale was a far-fetched bet with this one. So I chose a recipe that would appeal to her “Southern roots” with Southern-Style Braised Kale.
What makes is Southern? Bacon. The remarkable thing about this seemingly simple ingredient is it can truly be a chef’s secret weapon – a dish can go from sophomoric to superb. This recipe is a standard for collard greens, but proved to be remarkably successful with kale. To see how to give kale a “southern touch,” click HERE. We also served basic mashed potatoes and a personal favorite of mine, Orange & Fennel Salad with Citrus-Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe can be found HERE).
The musical pairing for this meal may seem cliché, yet it was too perfect: Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (especially considering I had just seen it at the Boston Ballet). While its original premiere in 1892 wasn’t markedly successful, it has since become one of the most celebrated works by the composer. Its themes are recognizable by nearly anyone (particularly The March and Sugar Plum Fairy), and no Christmas would be the same without it. Its variety of characters and themes pairs all too well with the colorful, unique traditions of Christmas dinners across the globe. I hope all of you had a beautiful holiday season, and wish you the happiest New Year – enjoy!


Sources Cited:
“Christmas Dinner,” Wikipedia.com
“The Nutcracker,” Wikipedia.com

Crooning for Christmas Cookies

I should start this post by saying Merry Christmas!!! There really is no such thing as too many cookies, especially during the holiday season. Everyone from children to Santa Claus relish these seasonal treats, and Christmas morning just wouldn’t be the same without the smell of freshly baked goods lingering in the air. As you can glean from my previous posts, my baking skills have been amped to the max for the past several weeks. While cutouts are a staple of the season, Thus, the cookie chronicles continue with a pair of recipes that are out-of-this-world amazing – boozy Rum Balls and irresistible Peanut Butter Balls (or Buckeyes).
Considering these are no-bake cookies, many assume that rum balls will knock you off your feet after just a few bites. Though it’s true that the rum isn’t “baked out”, it’s highly unlikely that you will feel the effects of the alcohol. That being said, I do add a “touch” more to mine (including a splash of Kahlua for added depth). The two must-have ingredients for rum balls are chocolate and rum (naturally), while the remaining add-ins can vary. Most recipes call for crushed biscuits, ground nuts, and a binding ingredient of some kind (jam, corn syrup, etc). Though many imagine these cookies as an American tradition, they are enjoyed across the globe: from Australia to Canada to Denmark! I can guarantee that you’ll love these boozy treats – click HERE to make these treats a holiday tradition in your home!
The combination of peanut butter and chocolate will rarely disappoint – you will be disappointed, though, to discover that these will be the first cookies to disappear from your holiday spread. These mouthwateringly delicious treats are, according to my coworker David, practically gourmet versions of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They are SO easy to make, yet the chilling time does require a labored patience while waiting to eat one. The state of Ohio calls these “Buckeyes,” leaving the tops without chocolate to resemble the nut of the Buckeye tree (Ohio’s state tree). They have naturally become a football tradition for the Ohio State Buckeyes. If you love Reese’s, then I promise these are for you – click HERE to discover the easiest, most delicious holiday cookie you’ll ever find!
As you have read, both of these recipes create cookies that are irresistibly delicious – despite their bite-sized form, they are both rich, decadent cookies. Last night I attended a Christmas Eve service and discovered the perfect pairing – Poulenc’s O Magnum Mysterium (O Great Mystery), from his Quatre Motets pour le Temps de Noël. The text is a responsorial chant from the nocturnal Matins of Christmas – the prayer service that is celebrated at midnight on Christmas Eve. The work is sung a cappella, yet is filled with rich, touching harmonies that reach right into your soul. I’ve included a recording of the Robert Shaw Festival Singers – I hope you enjoy it, and Happy Holidays everyone!!!


Sources Cited:
“Rum Ball,” Wikipedia.com
“Peanut Butter Balls,” Joy of Baking