Archive for December, 2011

Melt Away the Stress of Holiday Entertaining

Raclette Recipe

I have a rather large family, and they all love to eat. We divide and conquer on the holidays, with different family members hosting certain holidays. My holiday to host is Christmas Day. (My mother gets Christmas Eve, the most sought-after holiday. Apparently, I haven’t earned it yet. I’m not bitter or anything.)

My wife and I visit her family Christmas morning and usually get home at about 11 am. This can make for a stressful cooking situation to say the least. But we cook simply, prep in advance and use fresh high-quality ingredients so my time is spent just making them shine. We serve a great roast coated in herbs, chunky pieces of Maldon Salt and crushed garlic; basic roasted root vegetables tossed in olive oil and thyme; sautéed greens with nutmeg; and crusty bread with compound butters. All of this food is easy to finish off quickly and tastes delicious. But when it’s time to really impress, to make the occasion special, I bring out the fermented curd, the coagulated aged milk, the king of all things edible: the cheese!

And I still keep it simple.

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Russian Quick Buttermilk Oladyi (Buttermilk Pancakes)

Buttermilk Pancakes Recipe

Not to start another competition of sorts (the Cold War is not that far behind us), but Russian oladyi (aka pancakes) get me far more excited than their American cousins. Somehow, mysteriously, they manage to feel lighter, and their diminutive size, topped with briny salmon roe and sour cream, or jam and sour cream, makes them so much more fun to eat. It doesn’t hurt that they look all festive and decorated — just what the season ordered.

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Holiday Desserts: Coconut-Frosted Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake Recipe

Too often carrot cake seems like a throw back to the 70s, when they were dense and tasted ultimately too good for you. This version is moist, sweet and has a complex combination of spices and zest that all come through. Adding a bit of lemon to the icing brings out the bright flavors of the cake and the Lyle’s Golden Syrup kicks over the top. I think the creamy topping is key to the success of the carrot cake! In fact, I make a really large batch and always have a bit left over to spread on toast.

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Sweet Potato Fritters

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Potatoes in almost any shape or form are an edible treat because they’re so versatile and loved. Whether boiled, steamed, baked or fried, we can always turn to potatoes for comfort, particularly when the weather drops to a cooler chill. Plus, they are easy on the pocketbook, which make them as close to perfect as you can get.

This is the season of the sweet potato, a celebration of the humble root in its sweeter form, and we’re ready to cook them up with a vengeance. To start, a favorite snack or side dish we love to indulge in is Sweet Potato Pancakes (or fritters). The delicate sweetness of the potatoes crisped up to a golden fry is not only easy to make, but a great treat when you’re craving comfort foods.

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Hanukkah, Mexican-Style

We made Chef Julian Medina's Potato-Jalapeno Latkes at home. Even without a mandolin, they were excellent.

Food was not usually a highlight of the Hanukkah parties of my youth (it was the presents). Never the biggest fan of greasy, leaden latkes, I’d just consume several dollars’ worth of chocolate gelt, winning as many of the foil-wrapped coins as I could in games of dreidel.

Recently, Chef Julian Medina has completely transformed my idea of “Hanukkah food” with a preview of the Mexican Hanukkah menu he serves at his New York City restaurants [Toloache 50, Toloache 82, Yerba Buena and Yerba Buena Perry] throughout the eight-day Festival of Lights. Lucky for us, he’s shared a couple of his most popular Hanukkah recipes so we can all jazz up our own holiday festivities with a little Mexican flair.

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Oatmeal Cookies From Candace Cameron Bure

Gear up for holiday baking with Cooking Channel. Your favorite celebrities, chefs & Food People have opened their kitchens to share their best cookie recipes. From Cookie Monster’s sugar cookies to Kelsey’s Peppermint Meltaways, we’ll keep you baking all season. Visit our All-Star Cookie Swap, then head over to for great takes on holiday baking from Food Network chefs.

Most of you might remember Candace Cameron Bure from her days as DJ Tanner on Full House — at least that’s how I remember her. These days she’s a best-selling author, mother and avid philanthropist. This holiday season, she stars in The Heart of Christmas, which premiered on GMC on Saturday, Dec. 4. Her New York Times best-seller, Reshaping It All, chronicles her lifelong struggle with food and the physical and spiritual changes that she underwent to make the public transformation from chubby child star to one of the hottest moms in Hollywood . Candace is an avid supporter of many causes, such as, Compassion International, Sheraton House and Children’s Hunger Fund, and she’s also the national ambassador for National House of Hope.

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Kugels for Hanukkah

Noodle Kugel Recipe

There are as many different kinds of kugels as there are Jewish cooks. Kugels have a long culinary history: There’s evidence they’ve been around for centuries. The early ones were made from bread and flour and resembled bread puddings, and they would have been savory, rather than sweet, since sugar wasn’t readily available in Europe until the 1600s. About 800 years ago German cooks replaced the bread mixture with noodles, later adding eggs, cheese and milk, thereby transforming the kugel into a creamy casserole. Kugels have been evolving ever since.

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Giveaway: The Whole Hog Cookbook

Bacon and Cheese Puffers

Get your holiday party started with savory, irresistible Bacon and Cheese Puffers from The Whole Hog Cookbook. Photograph by Chia Chong.

For cool new holiday recipes or a last-minute gift for the pork lover in your life, The Whole Hog Cookbook by Libbie Summers is a great find. Libbie is a recipe developer and food stylist for Paula Deen, and I was excited to chat with her about her unique new cookbook.

Libbie was inspired by her hog-farmer grandparents, especially her “sassy grandmother,” to write a book covering the whole hog, not just bacon and pork chops. “I have no recollection of them throwing anything away,” she says. But it’s also about the rich flavor and fat that runs through unexpected pig parts, like the shanks and the hocks. Of all the unusual recipes in her cookbook (chitlins, anyone?), Libbie hopes people will try making pork cracklings – she takes a bucket of them on the road with her to book signings and they’re a sure crowd-pleaser.

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Meatless Monday: Curried Deviled Eggs

curried deviled eggs

The secret to winning deviled eggs is in the spices.

I’m about to reveal the secret to prize-winning deviled eggs: curry powder. For real. No one expects the combination of eggs and curry and when you serve these, expect reactions like, “These are incredible, but what’s in them?” And should you happen to have a deviled egg competition at your office, you’d probably tie for first place if you entered with a curried deviled egg.

Regardless of any competition, you’ll surely be involved in some holiday revelry in the coming weeks, and if you have a meatless diet — on Mondays or always — you’re used to suffering at holiday parties, camped out next to the crudites, watching all of the meat-lovers feasting on sliders, bacon-wrapped scallops and sausage-stuffed mushrooms. Don’t let that happen this year. Pick up a dozen eggs and make an appetizer that will delight vegetarians and have meat-lovers shunning the platter of mini meatballs.

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Bacon Potatoes au Gratin

Bacon Potatoes au Gratin Recipe

Comforting. Elegant simplicity. Potatoes au gratin’s soft layers of creamy potatoes topped with a golden, slightly crispy crust embodies the definition of comfort food. Especially with a couple layers of bacon nestled in between the potatoes.

Using just a few common kitchen ingredients, and with a little technique and time, one can create an unforgettable dish. Potatoes au gratin isn’t complicated to make, but does benefit heavily from a bit of attention to detail.

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