Beth Dooley's absorbing article on cornbread in this week's Taste reminded me of a favorite recipe.
It's for scones -- although they're billed as "cakes" -- and it's from a cookbook by Los Angeles baking titan Nancy Silverton. The easy-to-prepare formula calls upon the complementary flavors of cornmeal and rosemary -- such a harmonious flavor combination -- and the end result gracefully skirts the line between sweet and savory. Try them, you'll love them.
The recipe's source, Silverton's "Pastries from the La Brea Bakery," belongs on every baker's kitchen bookshelf. If for no other reason, buy it for the bran muffin recipe to end all bran muffin recipes, or for the page-turning chapter that Silverton lovingly devotes to doughnuts.
Oh, and that cornmeal from Riverbend Farm (pictured, above) that Beth wrote about? It's amazing, truly one of the region's great farmstead products. After test-driving this golden, fragrant reminder of late summer -- when I opened the package and that corn perfume hit my nostrils, my mind immediately flew to August -- I'll never bake with shelf-stable cornmeal, ever again.
Makes 12 scones.
Note: Author Nancy Silverton suggests using extra-large eggs. From "Pastries from the La Brea Bakery" (Villard Books, $35).
3 3/4 c. unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping dough
1 3/4 c. yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp. plus 1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. mild-flavored honey, such as clover
1/2 c. plus 2 tsp. heavy cream, plus extra for brushing tops of scones
24 small tufts of fresh rosemary for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade (or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment), combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, chopped rosemary and brown sugar and process (or mix) on low until incorporated. Add butter and pulse on and off a few times (or mix on low), until mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in eggs, honey and cream and whisk together the liquids. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. On a lightly floured work surface, turn out dough and knead a few times to gather it together into a ball. Roll or pat dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out scones, cutting as closely as possible and keeping trimmings intact.
Gather scraps, pat and press the pieces back together and cut out remaining dough. Place scones 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with cream and poke 2 small tufts of rosemary into the center of each.
Bake until slightly browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring scones to a wire rack to cool.
Which cookbook was the best-seller last year, as listed in Publishers Weekly ? Well (no surprise given the photo here!), it was Ina Garten and her next volume in the Barefoot Contessa lineup. At more than 400,000 books sold last year, she was significantly ahead of the other authors, even if you add up the sales of the two Pioneer Woman books written by Ree Drummond (which totaled more than 360,000 books).
Any favorites on this list? Note that all but blogger Deb Perelman either have their own TV show or are regulars on other shows.
1. Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten. Clarkson Potter. 428,105
2. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond. William Morrow. 267,909
3. In the Kitchen with David by David Venable. Ballantine. 264,953
4. Eat More of What You Love by Marlene Koch. Running Press. 132,796
5. Great Food Fast by Bob Warden. Quail Ridge Press. 122,665
6. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Knopf. 114,547
7. The Chew by The Hosts and Staff of ABC's The Chew. Hyperion. 109,020
8. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond. William Morrow. 103,751
9. Weeknights with Giada by Giada De Laurentiis. Clarkson Potter. 95,040
10. Hungry Girl to the Max! by Lisa Lillien. St. Martin’s Griffin. 86,656
You've only got hours to shop if you're still hunting for a Christmas gift. (Really, you still have shopping left?)
If you've got a cook with an attitude (think "more naughty than nice") -- or at least one that doesn't mind crude and rude in a sense of humor -- any of three new books may strike a fancy. Two of them are by anonymous writers.
A reprint of Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" -- what's billed as an "Insider's Edition" -- is out with Bourdain's handwritten comments, though the notes are few, far between and generally not very insightful. A press release says that 50 pages are annotated. (That includes many lightweight comments such as the one at left.) The handwritten intro -- three pages of scrawl, would have filled less than a single page of type, so "annotation" is a bit of a misnomer. Still, his story of what he calls the "culinary underbelly" holds up amazingly well after 12 years, though a few historical references may be obscure to up-and-coming cooks who are unfamiliar to such references as Hunt and Liddy or Patty Hearst.
Bourdain's memoir of his time in the restaurant biz is always blunt, often crude and definitely opinionated. He set the tone for many other food memoirists that followed.
Tired of Anthony Bourdain? Then perhaps Ruth Bourdain may be to your liking. The anonymous Twitterer, a parody mashup of Anthony Bourdain and Ruth Reichl, has come out with a book, "Comfort Me with Offal: Ruth Bourdain's Guide to Gastronomy." The title is a takeoff of Reichl's memoir "Comfort Me with Apples." The book is as irreverant and crude in its humor as Ruth Bourdain's 140-character (or less) thoughts found daily on Twitter. Let's just say that there's very little I could quote from the book for a newspaper blog. Who is Ruth Bourdain? Well, New York magazine and I (as reported a year ago) think it's Robert Sietsema, restaurant critic of the Village Voice.
Have a "Fifty Shades of Grey" fan on your list? "Fifty Shades of Chicken: a parody in a cookbook," may be the gift for you to present. This, too, has a pseudonym for an author, FL Fowler (who else?). The book offers vignettes of Miss Hen, a young "unexplored" chicken, at the mercy of Mr. Blades, the cook, who teaches her the pleasures of being whipped up for dinner. It is a one-note joke carried through 50 recipes, which include Mustard-Spanked Chicken, Hot Rubbed Hen, Extra-Virgin Breasts, Spatchcocked Chicken and many more that will make the occasional cook blush, with food porn pictures of the recipes, plus the occasional Chippendale shot of the cook.
Buyer beware: Choose carefully if you're gifting any of these books.
With yesterday's snowstorm, a warm and comforting Sunday supper felt just right, and what's more warm and comforting than stuffing?
This is a favorite recipe of mine, adapted from the 2006 edition of Allysa Torey's go-to Sunday supper cookbook. I've made it so many times that my well-worn copy's binding is cracked to automatically open to page 84. Many other pages (the crostini with goat cheese and tomatoes, the lemon-tarragon chicken, the summer squash-sweet corn casserole, the peach crumble) are similarly splotched with food stains and spills. That's always a good sign, right?
I've made a few alterations to the recipe over the years. The major one is adding a few eggs, to bind the stuffing together and give it a richer bite (if you prefer your stuffing egg-free, increase the amount of stock to 2 cups). If I don't have the exact herbs on hand, I'll substitute others, although sage is a must. The chives in my refrigerator were looking pretty desperate, so for last night's iteration I tossed in marjoram and savory, and it was as good as always.
(By the way, Torey calls it dressing, but this Minnesotan prefers stuffing, even though it's not getting anywhere near the cavity of a bird.)
I'll cop to using Jiffy brand muffins. Why not? They're inexpensive (I think I paid 63 cents per package at Lunds, and the recipe requires two boxes), and it mixes up in, well, a jiff. The package's instructions call for an egg and milk; we had some half-and-half in the back of the refrigerator -- it was a miracle that it hadn't reached its expiration date -- and I used that instead of the skim we always keep on hand. Note to self: Always do this.
I didn't have the foresight to bake the muffins on Saturday, so I dried them out a bit by crumbling them on a sheet pan and baking them for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. For bread cubes, I pulled some out of the freezer -- leftovers from Thanksgiving's stuffing-a-thon -- and gave them a nice toasted texture by baking them for 10 minutes, also at 350 degrees.
I didn't do it last night, but sometimes I cut up bits of butter and toss it over the top of the stuffing before it goes in the oven. I usually add more herbs than the recipe calls for, as much as doubling the amount. Oh, and because the stuffing can run a little on the sweet side -- it's the corn muffins -- I occasionally flip the corn muffin/bread cube ratio.
That's the thing with this recipe: It's forgiving. Last night, post-shoveling, we served it with roast chicken, and it was delicious. As always.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Note: To toast pecans, place on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake 10 to 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven, until fragrant and lightly browned. Adapted from "At Home With Magnolia: Classic American recipes by the owner of Magnolia Bakery" by Allysa Torey (Wiley, $29.95).
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 c. (about 1 medium) chopped yellow onion
1 c. chopped celery
1/4 c. freshly chopped chives
1 tbsp. fresh chopped sage
1 tbsp. freshly chopped thyme
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 c. coarsely crumbled corn muffins (about 8 to 12 from your favorite recipe, or from a muffin mix such as Jiffy), left out, uncovered, at least overnight, to dry
2 c. cubed white bread, left out, uncovered, at least overnight, to dry
1 1/2 c. (about 2 medium) peeled, cored and chopped Granny Smith apples
1 c. coarsely chopped pecans (see Note)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c. chicken or turkey stock
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and stir in chives, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and allow to come to room temperature. Add crumbled corn muffins, cubed bread, apples and pecans and lightly toss. Add eggs and chicken (or turkey) stock and toss until just combined.
Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove aluminum foil, rotate pan and bake until golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
The James Beard Foundation needs you. Well, your opinion anyway.
Winners of the foundation's annual restaurant and chef awards won't be announced until the evening of May 6, 2013, from the stage of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City's Lincoln Center. But now's the time to tell the foundation which restaurants and chefs should be up for consideration in 21 categories, including Outstanding Bar Program, Best New Restaurant, Rising Star Chef of the Year, Outstanding Pastry Chef and Best Chef: Midwest.
Go here and share your opinions. Registration is easy, requiring a name, ZIP code and email address. It's fast, and it's free. Deadline is Dec. 31st.
When the foundation's annual book awards winners are announced in New York City on May 3rd, e-books will be included in the same categories as print books, a first. "The James Beard Book Awards are designed to recognize excellence, and we'll be looking for it regardless of whether it comes on paper or on a screen," said book committee head Matt Sartwell.
In addition, the foundation's Restaurant Design award will now recognize two categories of entries: Restaurants of 75 seats and over, and restaurants of 75 seats and under. And for the first time, restaurants and chefs in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will be eligible for consideration in the foundation's restaurant and chef awards.
Nominees in all book, journalism, design, broadcast media and restaurant and chef categories will be announced on March 18, 2013.
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