I often get questions along the lines of "What is it exactly that you do?" Some people have a difficult time imagining a life of a cookbook writer, especially one who loves working with other people to create the book at hand. Many of my writer friends would never consider co-authoring a book with someone else, much less ghostwrite. Well, to each their own. I love learning new things from my clients, but most of all, I love being the guy who comes in on a white horse to wrangle the book into shape.
I have a burning question: Why would anyone serve canned cranberry sauce when homemade is so easy and delicious? Essentially, you toss fresh cranberries and sugar in a pot, bring it to a boil, and gussy it up with various flavors. Every year, I create at least one new cranberry sauce and each year, I declare that one my favorite. This Thanksgiving, I am making this beautiful, garnet-colored sauce, a recipe that I developed for Driscoll's Berries. The bright red of raspberries complements the darker scarlet of the cranberries, and the flavor is sensational.
Thanksgiving may mean a beautifully roasted bird, but also means countless questions on how to get the turkey and all of those side dishes and desserts on the table! If you have any questions on how to pull off this most food-centric of all American holidays, please post it here and I'll get back to you.
One of the rules of blogging is to never apologize or explain when you've been away from posting for a long time. Well, rules are made to be broken. I just want to say that I have been very busy with publishing projects, one after the other, and one can only spread one's self so thinly. One of these books, THE ESSENTIAL JAMES BEARD COOKBOOK, was published just as Sandy hit. Another book I worked on is THE NORDSTROM FAMILY TABLE COOKBOOK, with Nordstrom executive chef Michael Northern and his amazing talented crew of chefs from around the country. Coming up next year, look for THE MODEL BAKERY COOKBOOK, from the famous Napa Valley family-owned destination bakery, and a few other books where I am behind the scenes doing my thing as a general helper-outer. I am continuing to look for a way to reprint KAFFEEHAUS.
Thanks to everyone who contacted me directly, especially those of you who have attended my classes over the years at Chef Central, The Silo, Adventures in Cooking, and Draeger's. After teaching Thanksgiving cooking classes for over twenty-five yeas, I thought that I should treat myself to a year off. I am gearing up for another holiday-related cookbook that will put me back in the fray, so you just may see me at a some of the venues again.
There...we are caught up. So send over those holiday questions.
Still trawling for Thanksgiving menu ideas? Check out the recipes that I've created for Driscoll's Berries. I've cooked up appetizers, side dishes, and desserts--all easy and delicious. (OK, the individual appetizers are a little fiddly, but it's a holiday.) I'll be posting them in the next couple of days, but I am especially fond of these Brussels sprouts. I love the way the sweet berries balance the earthiness of the sprouts, and you will, too.
At the request of my buddy Guy Bower (I love being on his radio show at KNSS AM Wichita), here is a great Manhattan Clam Chowder. It is one of my favorite lunch dishes, but really, it is hearty enough for supper, too. I use clam juice and a container of refrigerated clams here for a very easy meal. Just be sure to cook the potatoes separately, as the acids in the tomatoes keep the potatoes from softening properly.
With the Mad Men premiere on its way, I am feeling very Don Draper these days (I wish people would quit mistaking me for Jon Hamm!) The Manhattan is a retro cocktail that is re-establishing itself. It has long been one of my favorites, but in recent years, I have been improving the drink by using high-quality ingredients. A Manhattan only has three ingredients, so they had better be great, as each flavor is strong. The traditional garnish is a maraschino cherry, and even that can be upgraded. Here's how I make the best Manhattan around...
On March 25, the long awaited (and long delayed) Season Five premiere of Mad Men will occur, and many fans will return to the tradition of the Sunday night Mad Men dinner. The key to these dinners is choosing food that you can prepare easily so you don't miss a thing on the television. My vote for dessert is Cherries Jubilee, which, if you want to show off, can be done in a chafing dish, or made ahead and warmed and flamed in the ktichen. The dish is traditionally made with kirsch or brandy, which you may not have in the house because they don't feature in many cocktails. Now, bourbon...that's another story! I have lately been adding Four Roses Bourbon (my favorite brand) to the recipe, and it goes down pretty easily! Here's the recipe, a sneak preview from my THE MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD SIXTIES COOKBOOK, which will be released in April.
It is a shame that Presidents' Day comes in February, when sour cherries aren't in season. They are the essential fruit for patriotic icon George Washington's equally iconic dessert. I just happen to have some in the freezer leftover from last summer's sour cherry picking frenzy. We have a cherry tree growing in our neighborhood, and my dear friend Linda West Eckhardt and I seem to be the only two people who want to risk life and limb (our limbs, not the trees) by climbing up a shaky ladder to grab the shiny pale red orbs. You will be able to find frozen sour cherries at the supermarket, or certain a big natural food store like Whole Foods. But the key word is "sour." Sweet bing cherries just don't have the correct flavor, color, or texture for sour cherry pie. Here is how to make the VERY BEST sour cherry pie.
When the weekend arrives, the "fast and easy" recipes are filed away, and I look forward to a meal that has been leisurely simmered on the stove, filling the house with comforting aromas. Spaghetti and meatballs is the kind of dish whose excellence seems to be in proportion to the time it spends bubbling on the stove. I am planning a dinner party this weekend, and was wracking my brain for a meal that everyone would enjoy. It didn't take me long to decide on this, my go-to spaghetti, from I LOVE MEATBALLS. (Photo by Ben Fink.)
When I was a caterer, I served mountains of caviar at parties...and at my own soirées, too! More than once I was faced with what to do with a pound or so of leftover caviar. Obviously, the answer was to make a pile of blini and invite friends over for an indulgent meal. If you are lucky enough to have some caviar for your New Year's Eve celebration, try this authentic recipe made with buckwheat flour and sour cream. And remember, these are pancakes that should not be served hot. In fact, the heat would warm the cold caviar. So make them a few hours ahead of serving, but keep them at room temperature. With some sparkling wine to wash it all down, blini and caviar are a fine way to bring in the new year.