Monthly Archives: December 2011

Corn Casserole

 I should be mortified that I’m putting this “recipe” here, but honestly it’s so good I think I get a pass.

 

I dare say this barely qualifies as a recipe.  Anyone with even little to no cooking experience can dump out the contents of a box, mix it together, throw it in an oven and (hopefully) pull it out before it burns;  but let me reiterate- this thing is so yummy it makes up for its ridiculous simplicity and albeit slightly “white-trashiness”.

This alongside a piece of glazed ham is divine.

 
  
 
 

Praise the Braise…

It’s no secret that winter is my least favorite season, however it does get serious bonus points for the kind of cooking that it ushers in… the braise!  Culinary comfort, the only real benefit of freezing temperatures.

Braises are perfect for winter.  It’s a long, slow process (which is how winter feels to me) and it is usually comfort food cooking.   What is a “braise” exactly?   In its most basic definition, it’s cooking something (usually meat) in a liquid (usually stock, wine or a combination thereof) for a long period of time on a low heat.  Most often, braises are tough cuts of meat that benefit from long, slow cooking turning them into the most succulent and flavorful of meals.

Another benefit of braising is,  it’s easy.  Many braises are one-pot meals, some with a side of starch (and we all know how I love that…) which means you aren’t left with an entire sink of dirty dishes, something else I can really appreciate.

I have a particular pot that I use for braises, it is a Le Creuset enameled cast-iron pot.  I have had this pot for almost 15 years.  It has made hundreds of meals and looks almost the same as the day I bought it.   This is one very good example of “you get what you pay for”.   These are expensive, but it is something you only buy once.

I wanted to do a post about braising and was searching for short ribs that would make the cut.  It took some time, but I found locally raised organic meat with beautiful marbling and so in went the ribs… deciding what to put with them was easy.  I had been craving rutabaga, which I know is not something you hear everyday, so once I had my veggies I was ready to get this braise going.

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Move over Swiss Miss…

No offense to Swiss Miss, but it pales in comparison to the real deal.  It will do in a pinch, but during the holidays it’s nice to make something special. 

I usually make this treat “to go”…  I put it in big travel mugs and we sip it as we stroll the neighborhood looking at the Christmas lights.

The peppermint schapps in it is delicious, but you might want to skip it if you’re making it for kids…

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My Darling Clementine…

There is something inherently “Christmas-y” about clementines.  I suppose it has something to do with their season being around the holidays or perhaps because every Christmas for as long as I can remember my Mom put an orange in the toe of our stockings…

The bright citrus aroma of this sweet little seedless fruit just makes the house smell festive and when the mercury drops and you are puttering around the house,  this is the perfect baking endeavor. 

This cake really isn’t much work at all; the food processor does all the chopping for you and all you are left with is a little stirring and let’s be honest, that isn’t very taxing at all.

This recipe is basically Nigella Lawson’s with a few slight changes, who got her inspiration for this cake from Claudia Roden.  I discovered this cake over a decade ago and I’ve made it every Christmas since then.  It is perfect with  coffee or tea, great as a light dessert or pretty much anytime you want a little sweet.  I find it gets even better the next day, if you can stand walking past it for 24 hours without diving into it.

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‘ Tis the Season…

Christmas cookies are perhaps the very best part of the holiday season.  I get a bit overzealous when deciding how many varieties I can feasibly make.   Others try to be the voice of reason, but nevertheless I get swept up in a cookie frenzy wanting to bring out all the old favorites and at least a few new recipes that look promising.

The one classic (besides gingerbread) that can’t be left out are sugar cookies.  They are almost everyone’s favorite and decorating them is something everyone can take part in.  I usually gather every last sprinkle, every kind of decoration and all of the luster dust I can find for this particular project, as I tend to get a little “Martha Stewart” during the whole process…

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Butternut Squash Risotto

Risotto is one of those foods that require demand a long, leisurely approach.  On a cold winter afternoon when the wind is blowing outside and the last thing I want to do is brave the cold, THIS is the kind of food that happily keeps me indoors and in front of the stove.

This is comfort food on every conceivable level. On days when you need a bit of a mental break, I whole-heartedly recommend making risotto… 20 minutes of stirring while you lovingly watch the pot of rice in front transform into something ethereal you can be just what you need.

The whole key to risotto is the slow process allowing the creaminess of the rice to come out and that can only be achieved by not rushing it.  Knowing this going into it makes the constant stirring a welcome change of pace from the frenzied dinner preparation most of us normally experience.

Don’t let the thought of the stirring deter you from making this,  it really isn’t more than a bit of pouring in stock and stirring for the better part of the cooking.  Some people find it a bit off-putting to be tethered to a stove for a period of time,  but if you have children that are a little older have them do the stirring for you.  Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is the best way for them to learn.

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