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rye + whole wheat buttermilk bread

If we ever win the lottery, the first thing I would do is design a kitchen with a special counter about 18 inches below counter height for kneading bread. I know this sounds crazy, because who wins millions of dollars and then thinks about how much easier it will be for her to knead bread now that she’s on Easy Street? Obviously, I was meant for a life of poor obscurity and drudgery. Or! I was destined to live in a paradise that smells constantly of freshly baked bread, where a 5-foot-tall baker can knead to her heart’s content with perfect leverage, suffering nary a knot in her shoulder.

Especially when you like to bake breads with whole grains, kneading at “counter height” (I swear counters are designed for people over 6 feet tall) for 15 to 20 minutes can be a challenge. I usually stand on one of the bottom rungs of our stepladder when I knead. It gives me a little bit of an advantage that really pays off in minute 12 of the kneading process. This bread, all I can tell you, this bread is worth it. And don’t even think of quitting kneading too soon in the process. You want all those whole grains to form long, smooth strands of gluten. It is what makes this bread so special when you pull it apart, fresh out of the oven. This has to be at least as good as winning the lottery.

I’m not sure what gives this bread its tender soft interior paired with a shattering crisp exterior. I suspect the buttermilk—the only liquid in this bread—is the secret. While I love the flour mixture I recommend below—one-third white, one-third wheat, one-third dark rye—you can combine the flours any way you like. If you eliminate white flour all together, you will need to extend your kneading time and rising may take a bit longer, especially the first time around. The instructions below walk you through how to braid these loaves, which I highly recommend so that you can pull bits of the loaf off and eat them warm, with fresh butter. (Save the second loaf for the prim practice of slicing the next day, for toast and sandwiches. Eating your civilized toast you will reflect wistfully on your savagery the day before.) However, you can also simply form each half of the dough into a loaf, plop it into the pan, and bake it like a normal loaf of bread. No one here is judging you. Anybody who kneads bread for the 15 to 20 required minutes can do whatever he or she wants, in my book. Bonus points if you’re short and your counter is high.

Rye + whole wheat buttermilk bread

Adapted from thirschfeld’s recipe on food52

Makes 2 loaves

  • 2.5 cups buttermilk, heated to about 95 degrees
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dark rye flour (finely ground)
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons fine salt or 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, very soft

1. In a large bowl, mix warmed buttermilk (it should feel about the temperature of your finger, or use a meat/candy thermometer), honey, and yeast. Whisk to dissolve yeast.

2. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the all-purpose flour, then the rye flour. Stir until well mixed, then add salt, egg, and butter. Stir until mixed again. Add about 1 cup of the whole wheat flour and stir until mixed it. (Dough should be getting very stiff.) If you can add more flour in the bowl, add it 1/4 cup at a time, until you can no longer mix it in.

3. Sprinkle some of the remaining whole wheat flour from the measuring cup onto the clean counter. Dump dough onto counter. Begin to knead, mixing in the remaining whole wheat flour as you knead. Use all-purpose flour to continue lightly flouring the counter if dough sticks. Knead until dough becomes smooth, strands of gluten have formed, and dough’s texture is soft like baby skin. This takes at least 15 minutes.

4. Form dough into a smooth ball and place in a large, oiled bowl. Cover with a warm, damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in bulk. (I use a giant measuring cup for this so I can see the dough has doubled. And I use the “proofing” setting on my oven set to 95 F.)

5. Punch dough down, form a ball, return to bowl, let rise 1 more hour, until doubled in bulk again. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

6. Punch dough down and turn out onto counter. Divide in half. Divide each half into three balls. (I use my kitchen scale to get symmetrical pieces.) Roll the first three balls into thick ropes a bit longer than your loaf pan. Pinch the ends together tightly and braid the ropes, pinching them together again at the end. Snuggle the braid down into the first loaf pan. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

7. Cover pans and return to a warm place. Let them rise again for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled again. Preheat oven to 375 F. When bread has risen for the last time, remove all coverings from it. If desired, brush with some well-beaten egg and sprinkle with rolled oats or a rolled 7-grain mixture. Pop loaves into the oven on a baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes, until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom. Remove loaves from pan and let cool as long as you can. Pull apart braids or slice, as you wish.

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stuffing

This is another one of those posts that, for me, is a marvelous journey of discovery. I have been making stuffing without a thought for measuring or weighing, or even without paying much attention to what I was doing, or how, with what ingredients. This recipe is how I’ve made stuffing in my own home for quite some time. It is the same method my grandmother and my mom use, but with herbs, which they never use in their stuffing, and which I don’t use when I make it at Thanksgiving, or Christmas. The other night I decided, what with the loaf of stale bread kicking around the house, we should have stuffing with the roast turkey breast I was making for supper. As I was picking through the crisper to find the celery, it occurred to me that even though stuffing is the most pedestrian thing in the world, it would be fun to do a blog post and share the recipe.

But then I realized that, duh, there is no recipe. My grandmother and mom make it by eye, which is how I was taught to make it. (David Lebovitz wrote a marvelous little essay—with a great recipe—that addresses this style of home cooking in France, where they say au pif, or “by the nose.”) Ultimately curiosity got the best of me and I measured everything, as you see here. I was stricken with a burning desire to know how much bread is in the stuffing when I make it in a 9 x 9 pan, how much celery, how much onion? I am 100 percent certain that there is nothing revolutionary about this recipe. But can we really sniff at a dish that is warm and somewhat gooey savory comfort topped with crunchy, crispy bits of deliciousness—and which uses stale bread and pantry staples. No, I say, we cannot sniff at it.

If you have your own stuffing recipe for use outside the bird, fantastic! If not, give this one a spin next time you don’t want a side dish of rice or potatoes or what have you. Soon enough we will have tomatoes aplenty, and will replace our cold-weather stuffing with panzanella to use up our stale bread. Until then, enjoy your stuffing while you can.

Stuffing

  • 8 cups bread, cubed or torn in 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
  • a bit of kosher salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • up to 1 cup of water
  • nonstick spray

1. In a large skillet, warm olive oil, onion, and celery over medium-high heat. Cook until onion is translucent and vegetables are soft. Add rosemary and sage, salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat.

2. In a large bowl, combine bread with mixture from skillet. Toss well. Then drizzle all the stock over the bread mixture, mixing and tossing with your hands to combine very well. Let the mixture rest and absorb the stock while you prepare a 9 x 9-inch metal baking pan by spraying it with nonstick spray. Preheat oven to 425 F.

3. Return to bread mixture and mix it again with your hands. Then drizzle in the water gradually, just until bread is moist but not overly wet. Depending how dry your bread is, you may use only 1/2 cup of water, or the full cup. You want it to be moist but not soaking wet. It should still have a spongy bread consistency—you don’t want it so wet that the bread’s structure just collapses.

4. Pour stuffing into the prepared pan and pop it into the oven. Let it cook for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and use a spatula to toss the stuffing, moving the browned bottom and sides to the center and letting the pasty portions go to the bottom and edges for their turn to brown a bit. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes or so. How long you cook it now is a matter of personal preference. If you like softer stuffing, remove it before it is too dry. If you want to crisp it up more, toss it at least one more time while it cooks, and leave it in the oven a bit longer.

5. If the stuffing at this point is not nice and brown on top, run it under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until top is crispy and brown.

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simplest vinaigrette

In a lot of ways this feels like a totally bogus excuse for a post. Everyone knows how to make delicious salad dressing out of what’s in the pantry, right? Oddly, this is probably my most requested recipe, so I thought I would post it here. I have to give a hat tip to my sister, Hope, who taught me to make salad dressing. My attempts at making salad dressing were all over the place before she took me in hand. She tends to be rather orthodox in her approach to most things, and she was very clear on what needed to go into vinaigrette. Nothing earth-shattering—but there was nothing on her list that could be left out, and nothing else she thought should be added, either.

Over the years, I have come to believe that it is true—the ingredients in salad dressing are simple and available in your pantry, but it’s not something I am ever tempted to go messing around with. True, I use a different vinegar each time (I keep white balsamic, apple cider, sherry and rice vinegars in the pantry), but the rest stays the same each time. I have never measured what goes into the dressing until now. So when my mom called the other day for the “recipe” I kind of stammered out what I thought was in it—but like everyone else I do it totally by eye.

So you can take this recipe or leave it. I bet your vinaigrette is really delicious, and you like it just the way you make it. But if not, shake this up in a little jar and use it throughout the week. There is never a good reason, in my opinion, to pay for bottled salad dressing. If you adopt my point of view you can have not only great salad, but also a satisfying sense of thrift and moral superiority to boot. (Just kidding. Kind of.)

Simplest vinaigrette

This quantity makes enough for a generous salad for four.

  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (cider, white balsamic or sherry vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 smashed garlic clove
  • coarsely ground black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients except for pepper in a small jar. Shake, shake, shake. Check bottom of jar to make sure honey is totally incorporated. Taste a little of the dressing and make sure it isn’t too tart or too sweet. (It depends on your vinegar.) Add more honey or vinegar as needed.

2. Shake immediately before pouring over salad greens. Toss vigorously. Grind medium or coarse black pepper to your taste, and give salad a final toss. Serve immediately.

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risotto

I have a terrible confession to make. I purport to be a food expert and post here three or four times a week under the pretense of being a (somewhat) seasoned cook. But. I have never made risotto until now. When my parents were visiting a couple of weekends ago, I took them to the marvelous Liuzzi Italian market near New Haven. I saw a package of arborio rice lurking on the shelf. And it haunted me. There were three different types of the Italian short-grained rice, positioned near the semolina and gnocchi, a vivid reminder that everyone who is serious about cooking makes risotto at least at some point and, most likely, repeatedly as part of their repertoire. So I apologize to all of you who are now thinking, “What? Risotto? As if someone needs to post a recipe for that! Duh! I make it in my sleep, like, every week.”

And the worst part? Now that I’ve made risotto I have found out that (1) it is easy to make, and (2) it only takes about 45 minutes. Also, (3) it tastes AMAZING. Somehow I was laboring under the misapprehension that risotto was massively time consuming and incredibly finicky. The bad/good news for you is that we will probably see several variations on the risotto theme here now that I realize that it is convenient and—how shall I put this?—sublimely delicious. To start with I tried the simplest version and more or less followed Marcella Hazan’s recipe in Essentials of Italian Cooking, which by now you must realize is my bible when it comes to any food Italian.

I suppose I should also confess that as a risotto novice, I discovered a few interesting things in this process. The first is that in most recipes, and certainly most Italian dishes, a flavor base for the dish is built by creating a brown fond with onion, garlic, other aromatics, sauteed in some type of fat in the pan, usually dissolved with a liquid—stock or wine, generally—at which point we proceed with the dish. Risotto is distinctly not handled this way. You heat the rice in the fat (a combination of butter and oil) at a low-ish heat so that nothing turns brown. When you add some finely grated or minced onion, you soften it only—no browning. One of the amazing and beautiful things about this dish is that somehow it is perfectly white yet intensely flavorful. The second is the simple idea that for this dish more than others, everything should be measured and laid out in advance—there are only five ingredients, so this is easy to do! The process is very simple, but because you have to keep stirring at all times, you need to have everything ready beforehand. Including a glass of wine to drink whilst you’re stirring, stirring, stirring.

Marcella’s recipe is double the one I show below, and serves six. Which means that half a recipe should serve three. (Or, maybe, two people who have been waiting all their lives to eat risotto they made themselves and somehow, gluttonously, consume the entire pot.) In any case, I am really hoping against hope that this post is not in vain, and that there are some others of you out there who have wanted to purchase your first vacuum-packed box of arborio rice and try to make risotto. You will be rewarded and, perhaps, a tiny bit obsessed afterwards.

Risotto

Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan

  • 3 cups chicken stock or a combination of chicken, beef and/or vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon onion, finely grated or minced very finely
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup young, or 1/4 cup aged, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated fluffily on a microplane

1. In a separate pan bring the broth to a simmer and leave it simmering.

2. In a very heavy, wide pot (I used enameled cast iron), place 1/2 tablespoon of the butter, all of the oil, and the onion. Turn heat to medium to medium-high. Cook this until onion is translucent but is not browning. Add the rice. Stir and toss the rice over the heat until it begins to turn opaque. If it looks like it may brown, remove from heat for a moment. Set a timer for 20 minutes and start it.

3. Use a measuring cup to dip the broth bit by bit into the pot with the rice. Start with 1/4 cup of the simmering broth. Stir, stir, stir, cleaning the bottom of the pot thoroughly with the wooden spoon, until all the stock is absorbed. When it has all evaporated, add another 1/2 cup of stock. Stir, stir, stir, cleaning the bottom of the pot, until all stock is absorbed. Repeat this cycle for 20 minutes, when the timer goes off. If you run out of stock in this process, and the rice is not yet done, use water.

4. When 20 minutes have elapsed, begin to taste the rice. It should be tender but firm when you bite it. As it becomes more and more tender, reduce the quantity of stock you incorporate in each addition. You should do this so that when the rice is cooked you do not have to continue cooking it to burn off the additional excess liquid.

5. As the rice is approaching doneness it will be extremely creamy, tender, and yet give some resistance when you bite the grain. At this point, stir in the cheese and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir, stir, stir, and remove from heat. Taste the rice and add salt if needed. (Don’t do this any earlier because the salt levels depend on how salty your particular cheese is.)

6. Scoop the rice into warmed serving dishes and serve right away.

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sunday pot roast

I am so glad I made this last Sunday. Because it now turns out I can share this with you in time for you to run out before the snow starts to accumulate (if you’re on the East Coast) and buy the cheapest cut of beef in your butcher’s counter to make this roast. It is the perfect meal for a snowy Sunday! Last weekend I got grass-fed top round roast for $4.99 at Whole Foods, which even at their meat counter prices is a bargain. The roast I bought was about 3 pounds. The top round (I have also used chuck roast and chuck shoulder for this recipe) is usually dry and bland-tasting, but a long, long braise like this is just the right treatment. It fell apart after roasting and was meltingly tender.

Anyway, this roast cooking in a slow, slow oven for half the afternoon will warm your kitchen up and provide a few days’ worth of meals. You can use a whole variety of root vegetables. As you can see in the picture, I used a handful of tiny potatoes, a few small turnips, and a few rutabagas. I also added carrots. You could also use parsnips, or celery root. Because this cooks for so long, I recommend leaving the skins on the potatoes, but peeling everything else and leaving it in fairly large pieces. Really this depends on the size of your largest, heaviest Dutch oven with a lid. If it’s big enough to make a significant moat around the meat, you can fill it with larger pieces of vegetables.

When everything has cooked for a really long time, I make a puree out of the vegetables. In the bottom layer of the pan, I put the aromatic vegetables that I do not include in the mash. In this case, onion, garlic, and celery. These add their flavor to the roast and the cooking liquid, but I separate them from the root vegetables for the mash and throw them away. They have given all their flavor to the sauce. Because of the presence of the carrots, this particular puree had a very warm hue.

When the roots are in the food processor, and the rest of the vegetables are strained from the broth, you can reheat the broth and thicken it into a sauce, either with a mixture of flour and water, or by adding back some of the puree, which is what I usually do. This method of cooking a roast is so forgiving—I learned it from the brasato recipe in Judy Rodgers’ wonderful Zuni Cafe Cookbook—that you could make this any number of ways with roaring success. And of course if you don’t feel like pureeing the vegetables, you might just as well eat them as they come out of the pan after cooking. Still delicious! Leftovers make great open-faced sandwiches with some of the sauce poured over, or torn into bits and mixed with the leftover sauce and egg noodles. In case you’re trapped inside for longer than you expected.

Sunday pot roast

Inspired by the Zuni Cafe Cookbook; Serves 6 as a main course

  • a 2 – 3 lb. beef roast, top round or chuck
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 to 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 branch fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried, minced rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into 2″ lengths
  • 5 to 6 carrots, trimmed and cut into 2″ lengths
  • 3 small or 2 medium turnips, peeled, left whole if small or cut in half if medium (roughly 2 – 3″ chunks)
  • 3 small or 2 medium rutabagas, peeled, left whole if small or cut in half if medium (roughly 2 – 3″ chunks)
  • 6 very small potatoes, scrubbed
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 300 F. In a large Dutch oven with a lid (large enough to hold the roast and all the vegetables surrounding it), place the roast, fat side down. (If your roast has no fat on it, add some olive oil to the pan and proceed starting with any side of the roast you like.) Turn heat to medium or medium-high (regulating as needed so that the fat does not begin to smoke). Brown the meat very well, at least 5 minutes on the fatty side. Turn roast and brown all sides.

2. Meanwhile put red wine in a small saucepan at medium-high heat, boil, and reduce by half, to 1 cup of liquid.

3. When meat is browned, turn the fatty side to the top. Add rosemary and thyme to the bottom of the pot, and then the vegetables to the pot in the following order: garlic, onion, celery, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes. Sprinkle all with coarse sea salt and a bit of black pepper.

4. Add reduced wine, and then add beef stock until liquid comes three-quarters of the way up to the top of the roast. Bring to a brisk simmer on top of the stove. Then add the lid and pop into the oven for about three hours.

5. After one hour, turn the roast over, taking care that no vegetables are trapped beneath it. Return to the oven and turn heat down to 250 F. After another hour has passed, turn the roast over again and return to the oven.

6. Remove pan from oven, and remove roast from the pan to a cutting board and tent with foil. Using a fork or slotted spoon, place potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, carrots into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree contents to a smooth puree. If too dry, simply add some liquid from the pot 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste and correct seasoning.

7. Place a large bowl in the sink and place a fine strainer over it. Pour the entire contents of the Dutch oven into the strainer (there should still be celery, onion, and garlic remains in it, as well as the herbs). Wipe out Dutch oven if necessary and return it to the stove. Pour the strained liquid back into the Dutch oven and return to a boil to reduce and thicken it. (If you want something more like gravy, whisk 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour into 1/2 cup water, then pour into the boiling liquid in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Boil this for a few more minutes and it will become thicker. Or, you can thicken the sauce by adding some of the puree back to it.) Taste and correct seasoning.

8. Slice the roast. Into large bowls, scoop the pureed vegetables, a few slices of roast, and then pour the thickened pot juices over all.

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chicken broth

There are so many ways to make chicken broth. At home, we always took the carcass of a roast chicken plus anything that was scrapped after supper and submerged it in boiling water with a half an onion, some carrots, and some celery. This simmered for a long time and we used it for broth. I always made broth that way, but lately have adopted this method, which loosely resembles what I’ve read in many other cookbooks.

It’s true that there is no substitute for the rich color and flavor of the broth when you use raw chicken. Some people use wings and legs and toss everything, which you can do. I use a whole chicken, which I cut up into eight pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast pieces). Sadly I do not have a large stock pot that holds the whole chicken, so I divide it between two large soup pots and divide all the aromatics evenly between the two pots. If you have odds and ends of vegetable scraps (turnip peelings, parsnip ends, chard stems, onion peelings) you can quite happily throw them in with the rest of the ingredients and enrich your stock.

The key is to start with decently hot pans and render all the fat from the chicken before you add water. This creates a marvelous fond on the bottom of the pan and gives you a good amount of chicken fat for sauteeing your vegetables before you add the water. I do not skim the fat off of my chicken broth. It tastes so good, and I cannot believe that it can be bad for you! (This is obviously my totally uninformed opinion, but there you have it.) I tend to freeze this in small (1 cup or smaller) containers, as I use a little chicken broth in virtually everything—from pasta sauces to pot pies to fricassees. If you have a freezer full of good chicken broth, it makes it much easier to make supper our of what is in your fridge.

Chicken broth

  • 1 whole chicken, cut up (about 4 lbs) or 4 lbs thighs and wings
  • 1 onion, cut into eighths
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths
  • 2 clove garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 or so stalks of thyme
  • a large handful of parsley stems
  • salt, to taste
  • about 8 quarts of water

1. If you have a very large (12 quart or larger) stockpot, use it. If not, use two 4- or 6-quart soup pots. (If you are using two pots, for the rest of the recipe, divide all ingredients evenly between the two pots.)

2. Place chicken parts, with the side with the most skin down on the bottom of the stock pot. (Divide one of each chicken part between your two pans.) Turn heat to medium or medium-high—enough to render the fat and fry and crisp the skin to a golden brown. (If the heat is too low, the chicken will steam instead of crisp.) This takes at least 10 minutes. Flip chicken to the other side. Brown the second side. At any point if the chicken fat begins to smoke, turn the heat down a bit.

3. Place onion, carrots, celery and garlic in the pan. Make sure the vegetables come in contact with the bottom of the pan as much as possible. Let the vegetables caramelize. Stir occasionally, and try to loosen bits of chicken and skin that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.

4. When vegetables have just started to turn brown, add the rest of the ingredients, and sprinkle with salt. Pour in water, up to within about an inch of the rim of the pan. This should be about 8 quarts in total. Bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape loose all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

5. When the pot reaches a simmer, set it so it is just perking, with only two or three bubbles slowly breaking the surface every few seconds. Let it perk for four or five hours, skimming the scum from the surface at first. During this process, replenish the water periodically. (I keep a kettle at boiling to pour already boiling water into the stock to keep it cooking.) At the end you want the water to be an inch or so below where you started.

6. Taste the broth and adjust the salt. The broth should be palatable but not taste salty. When finished, strain chicken from the stock. Pour stock through a strainer into a fresh pan if you are going to use it right away. If you are freezing it, strain into small containers and cool before freezing.

Note: The cooked chicken is delicious pulled apart warm, on bread, with a little grainy mustard or anything else you have in the kitchen. (Chopped gherkins, mayonnaise or aioli, what have you.)

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beef broth

I hope it’s not an insult to you that I am posting this recipe, and another for chicken broth that will soon follow. I simply realized that with the nip in the air in these parts, I would soon be turning to fall and winter recipes that require (well, at least, prefer) that you have a system for laying in a good supply of broth every month or so. The reason I make broth, which differs from stock in that it has flavors besides that of the meat used to make it (that is, a number of aromatics and herbs), is that I find it makes it easier to use broth to make well-flavored dishes quickly throughout the week. You can take a lot of shortcuts with your soups and stews if you have a full-flavored broth to begin with. A well-trained chef wants the intensity of a stock without the interference of aromatics and flavors that may not mesh with any given application. I am not so picky, and on any given evening am happy when I can skip a few steps to get to a hearty and warm supper.

If the weather turns ill, I recommend this as a productive project for combating cabin fever. The key here is simply to brown the shank very well to create a flavorful fond, and then to keep the whole pot of scraps and shank at just a simmer, perking away on the back of the stove for five or six (or more) hours. You just want the bubbles to occasionally break the surface of the pot, and as water evaporates, replace it with a bit of boiling water from a nearby kettle. Feel free to improvise with your aromatics and scraps. Generally I keep a lot of random vegetable scraps to make vegetable stock, but there is nothing to stop you from adding them here instead.

Last weekend, Ty was away, and I took the opportunity to put my three biggest pots to work on the stove to make both chicken and beef broth. (By the way, it has made me realize that I really should obtain a proper stockpot of the 12- or 16-quart variety.) The project yielded about five quarts of broth, which I view as a good day’s work. Since then, I’ve made beef stew, and will share that recipe soon as well. If you are in New Haven, grab your shanks at Four Mile River at the CitySeed farmers’ markets. Their tough (in a good way—you want lots of cartilage to make a good stock) and flavorful shanks make all the difference to the quality of the finished product. In any case, nothing can replicate the sense of satisfaction you’ll have looking at neat rows of containers of broth at the end of a fall Sunday.

Beef broth

  • 1 large beef shank (sometimes called a soup shank), about 2 inches thick and 5 to 6 inches across
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1- to 2-inch lengths
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1- to 2-inch lengths
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 4 to 5 thyme stalks
  • a large handful of parsley stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 or 2 allspice berries (optional)
  • 4 quarts of water, give or take
  • salt, to taste

1. Place shank in the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart stockpot. Over medium to medium-high heat, brown the first side very well. It should be dark brown and develop a crust, and the bone marrow should be melting and browning, as well as the edge of the bone.

2. Flip the shank to the second side and brown it well. Moderate temperature if fat begins to smoke considerably. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Put vegetables in contact with the pot and flick them off the top of the shank if they land there. Let them brown thoroughly to a light golden color, stirring occasionally.

3. Add thyme, parsley stems, bay leaves, and allspice berries if using. Sprinkle in some salt. Stir well and add the water, to within about an inch of the top of the pan. Scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, moving the shank around with a wooden spoon. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Then cut the heat back to low or medium-low, until two or three bubbles slowly break the surface of the pot every few seconds. Leave the pot perking in this manner for 5 or 6 hours. In the beginning, when scum appears at the surface, skim it with a metal spoon and discard it.

4. During this process, replenish the water periodically. (I keep a kettle at boiling to pour already boiling water into the stock to keep it cooking.) At the end you want the water to be an inch or so below where you started. After an hour or so, taste the broth occasionally, and add salt if needed. When finished, remove shank and strain broth into a clean pot. If not using it immediately, let it cool before pouring into containers and freezing.

Note: The shank meat picked from the bone is a tasty treat for the cook, with a bit of grainy mustard, gherkins, or whatever else you might have around. And it goes without saying how much the dog will love the shank bone.

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pork roast with potatoes + poblanos

One of the delights of Sunday suppers can be the leftovers. I love making something on Sunday that can extend into sandwiches, or stews, or sauces throughout the week. That’s why I often find myself on Sunday making something like a big batch of meatballs or a pot roast. For my money, a pork roast is one of the great Sunday meals. Pork sandwiches on toast with mustard or tomato jam are heaven. Odd bits of the roast chopped into a hash are marvelous, and just a sliver of cold pork out of the refrigerator is a tasty snack.

Roasts cooked in the same pan with potatoes were a staple of my childhood. Mom put potatoes (and often carrots) into the roasting pan with chicken, beef, meatloaf, and pork. When you start the roast with the lid on (anathema, I realize, to many fancier chefs than I), the pan juices collect  and glaze the potatoes with tasty drippings. This helps cook the potatoes thoroughly (the easiest way for inexperienced cooks to ruin dinner is to neglect to leave enough time for potatoes to cook through) earlier in the process. Removing the lid after the first three-quarters of the cooking time allows the roast and potatoes to brown and the juices to thicken up into a nice sauce.

I have learned that October is a great month for experimenting in the kitchen here in Connecticut–everything seems to be in season at once. I happened to have a couple of poblano peppers in the refrigerator when I made this. They are quite tasty cooked in the pot with everything else. I don’t think green bell peppers would be as good, but red ones might be delicious, as well as really ripe tomatoes. I also love to add quartered turnips, just coming into season now in Connecticut, and you can never go wrong with carrots. Or cubes of butternut squash. (What was I saying about everything being in season at once? It’s like a cornucopia exploded in my kitchen.)

Pork roasted with potatoes + poblanos

  • one pork loin roast (3 to 4 lbs)
  • a few glugs of olive oil
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ancho chile pepper powder or paprika
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled, dried oregano
  • 1 – 2 lbs small potatoes for roasting, quartered
  • 2 poblano peppers, whole

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a lidded roasting pan or enameled cast-iron pan with lid, sear the roast on all sides until well browned. Salt the roast and sprinkle with the ancho chile pepper or paprika and oregano. Add quartered potatoes to the pan and the poblano peppers.

2. Place lid on pan and slide into the oven. Roast with lid on until internal temperature of the meat reaches 140 F. Remove lid from pan and continue cooking until internal temperature of roast reaches 160 F and roast is well browned and potatoes are cooked through. Quite a bit of juice should have accumulated in the pan by the time you remove the lid. If not, add a couple of glugs of stock or wine to the pan.

3. Slice the roast and chile peppers. Serve each person some roast, potatoes, and chiles, topped with the juices that remain in the pan.

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oven-barbecued chicken

At other times this summer I have lamented our lack of a grill. I’d like to spend more time finding end-runs around the grill (let me know if you have any clever methods), but this idea is one great discovery. You saute chicken parts until browning, remove them to the side, cook a molasses-based barbecue sauce in the same pan, then return everything to the oven to finish cooking. No smoky barbecue taste (although next time I will add smoked paprika to the barbecue sauce to see if it gives it a bit of a grilled flavor) but mind-bogglingly delicious chicken. This is definitely a barbecue sauce you want to make your go-to for all kinds of grilled meats; it is sublime. It is sweet, rich, tart, and clings like crazy to whatever you’re cooking with it.

The secret to this sauce is the most wonderful, mellow, sweet molasses ever. Ty’s grandparents, and now his extended family, own  Center Market in Cambridge, Maryland, which still carries what they call “Old-Time Barrel Molasses.” I call it Nectar of the Gods. I grew up in a family that used molasses in everything. I think this is because my dad’s father was from upstate New York, where molasses was used in everything instead of sugar. We always had molasses cake and molasses cookies around the house. So I love molasses. I eat it with a spoon out of the jar. My grandmother spreads it on her toast. And I realize lots of people don’t like it. But trust me, Center Market’s molasses straight from the barrel will change your mind about molasses. It has no trace of bitterness, and is just warm and toasty and sweet.

So, good molasses is key for this sauce. If you can’t get yours from Center Market, buy a nice, mellow brand from the supermarket, or use a mixture of two-thirds molasses and one-third honey. By the way, you could use any parts of the chicken for this, including parts with bone and skin on. If you use parts with skin, you will want to keep the skin on during the browning step, thoroughly browning and crisping the skin and rendering all the chicken fat. Then, when you put the chicken to the side to cook the sauce, you’ll want to remove the skin while it cools, so that it is skin-less when you return it to the pan and then to the oven to finish cooking. And if you are lucky enough to have a grill, grill your chicken naked and then douse it in the sauce afterwards and then serve your barbecue chicken. This sticky sauce would burn quickly on the grill and is best added after that whole business involving open flames.

Oven-barbecued chicken

  • 6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or 4 to 6 boneless, skinless breasts
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup paste
  • 2 tb whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 c + 1 tb molasses
  • 3 tb cider vinegar
  • 1 tb soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • dash cayenne (or more to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Make the barbecue sauce: In a small bowl or 2-cup measure, stir together the last eight ingredients in the recipe list: ketchup, tomato paste, mustard, molasses, vinegar, soy sauce, chili powder and cayenne. Whisk vigorously to mix.

2. In an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold all the thighs (or other chicken pieces), pour the oil and heat until shimmering over medium to medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until just turning brown and then turn, cooking the second side until similarly browning.

3. Remove chicken from pan and place on a plate. Add the barbecue sauce mixture to the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring, for about 5 to 6 minutes, until thickening, darkening, and glossy. Remove from heat and place chicken back into pan, flipping and spooning sauce over.

4. Place skillet full of chicken in oven. Close door. Reduce heat to 325 F and cook for 25 – 30 minutes, or until internal temperature of chicken thighs reaches 170 F.

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tomatoes + butter + onion = sauce

I know, I know. This recipe is definitely proof that the world does not need another food blog, most especially mine. Everyone in the Food World, as it were, has posted this recipe. I guarantee I will not be the last. But I have to post it anyway, because it is so delicious and because it is quite timely. This is the time of year in Connecticut where you walk into farmstands and markets and find ridiculously large baskets of plum tomatoes for ridiculously low prices. They’re so tempting, those buxom, bursting little jezebels of the vegetable world.

With a minimum of trouble, this recipe will allow you to use one of those big baskets of tomatoes and preserve that fresh summer taste for sauce throughout the winter. I wound up at Bishop’s Orchards the other day and bought a basket with about 16 pounds of tomatoes, yielding 20 cups of sauce. Not a bad deal and it was an easy afternoon’s work. Even though we think of sauce as tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, maybe some wine, some basil, and who knows what else, if you have fresh end-of-season, overripe plum tomatoes, none of that ornamentation is necessary. I frequently wax poetic about my Italian cooking sage, and sometime taskmaster, Marcella Hazan. This recipe is further proof that her orthodoxy does have its payoff.

Lucky me, a friend had recently been to Amish country in Pennsylvania, and had generously brought me a pound of their lovely farm butter. Salty and slightly cultured, I knew the butter would be the perfect match in my batch of sauce. I used 10 ounces of it, and I must say that such a quantity of butter never met a more pleasant and purposeful end.  The butter in this sauce rounds out the acidity of the tomatoes perfectly, yet you would never characterize the sauce as buttery. It does cling beautifully to the pasta, though, and this must be at least in part due to the butter. I will not pry too far into the mysteries of this sauce, however. Just try it for yourself and you will feel the same unquestioning devotion.

Tomato sauce with butter + onions

From Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking

To make lots and freeze:

  • 8 pounds plum tomatoes, washed
  • 10 ounces fresh butter (20 tablespoons)
  • 4 medium yellow onions, halved

To make one batch for supper:

  • 2 lbs plum tomatoes, washed
  • 5 tablespoons fresh butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved

Instructions for any quantity:

1. Place a clean dishpan filled with ice and water in the sink. Place a large bowl or measuring cup (12 cups or more for large quantity recipe) next to the sink. Heat a stock pot (or several) with water until it comes to a rolling boil. Add tomatoes to the boiling water and return to boil for just 1 minute. Scoop tomatoes out and place immediately in ice water bath. Pour boiling water down the drain. Remove tomatoes from ice water and slip skins off, place in large bowl or measuring cup until all tomatoes are peeled.

2. In one of the large pots you used for boiling tomatoes, which is now empty, place the peeled tomatoes plus butter and halved onions. (If you need to divide tomatoes between two pots, be sure to measure them out evenly and divide butter and onion evenly among the two pots.) Bring to a boil and then turn back to a bare simmer. Stir occasionally and simmer 45 minutes, or until beads of fat appear on the surface of the sauce. Use the back of the spoon to break up large pieces of tomato.

3. Remove onion halves from sauce. Use a potato masher to obtain a pulpy sauce-like consistency. Taste and adjust for salt. (I used 3 teaspoons of kosher salt for the larger amount, but taste first as the quantity you’ll need depends on your butter!)

4. If using immediately, toss with pasta cooked al dente. If freezing, cool sauce to room temperature and put it in freezer bags. (I used 1-quart bags and put 3 cups sauce in each.)

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