Caesar Salad

Tonight we are fortunate to be alone. We have had plenty of Christmas with the family and lots to eat and drink, but the children have been dispatched and the reveling has diminished. It is now the lovely wife and I and our expanding waists. We haven’t had dinner and are going to have a little bit of a little roast, as is tradition. But, instead of stodgy potatoes or any other fixins, we are going to enjoy a simple and refreshing caesar salad. I realized that I have never done a proper caesar salad here. I did a grilled one once, but the straight caesar is a standard around here and for good reason. It is easy, tasty, good for you and incredibly satisfying.

Ingredients

  • 1 Head Romaine Lettuce, washed and dried
  • 1 Tin Anchovies
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Egg (If you don’t mind raw egg, if so skip it)
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Vinegar (whatever you have. I like balsamic)
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Lemon
  • Croutons
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Salad Bowl
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Grater
  • Small Bowl
  • Hand Juicer
  1. In a small bowl, soak the garlic cloves in the olive oil for 10-20 minutes.
  2. Mince the garlic.
  3. Combine the garlic, anchovies, egg, mustard, vinegar and oil with salt and pepper and the juice of one lemon in the bottom of a salad bowl and mix well.
  4. Toss the romaine, cheese and croutons into the dressing and serve immediately.

Red Velvet Cake

Tonight is Christmas Eve for most of us. My friends in the UK and Europe are long since tucked in and my Chinese and Australian friends are already nursing hangovers or opening presents or both. Most of us are extremely fortunate to have good health, make a good living and have interesting and successful lives filled with lots of friends and family. This is the season of giving. Please give what you can to those not as lucky and fortunate as you. Be careful, be thankful and be gracious. From my warm hearth to yours, Merry Christmas!

I know, I know another sweet thing. It is Christmas after all and this is the perfect Christmas cake. There are many variations of this cake floating around. What makes this one special is the icing and my lovely wife makes it so well.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/2 Cups Butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 Cup Buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 Large Eggs, room temperature
  • 4 Teaspoons Red Food Coloring
  • 1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For Icing

  • 16 Ounces Sour Cream
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Coconut
  • 1 Cup Sugar

Tools

  • 2 Large Mixing Bowls
  • Fine Sifter
  • Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
  • 3 Cake Pans, buttered
  • Whisk
  • Small Mixing Bowl
  • Wire Racks
  1. Pre heat the oven to 350.
  2. Butter and lightly flour the cake pans.
  3. Sift the flour, sugar, soda, salt and cocoa into a mixing bowl.
  4. In the other large mixing bowl whisk the melted butter, eggs, buttermilk food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.
  5. In or with a mixer, combine the dry and wet ingredients just until a batter is formed.
  6. Pour batter into the three cake pans, divided evenly.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then switch positions and bake for another 15 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out dry.
  8. While baking, combine the sour cream, coconut and sugar in the small mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
  9. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool on wire racks.
  10. Stack the cakes on a cake stand and ice. We like ours iced on the top and sides.
  11. Refrigerate and keep refrigerated until gone (this won’t last long). If you have the option, it is better the next day.

Monkey Bread

Our kids might flip out if there weren’t presents under the tree, although not necessarily. They might be upset if we did not open the “surprise” gift of pajamas on Christmas eve, although maybe not. If there were not Christmas dinner or burritos on Christmas Eve they might not notice. But, if the steaming, gooey sweet monkey bread was not ready first thing on Christmas morning…I shutter to think.

If you haven’t had this tradition in your family, now is a good time to start. There is not much to it and grown ups will probably enjoy only a bite or two, but the kids will love it. There is something about tearing it apart that appeals to the under 10 (or 20 or 30) set.

Ingredients

  • 24 Frozen, Uncooked Dinner Rolls or Regular Rolled Biscuits
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Small Butterscotch (regular) Pudding Mix
  • 1 Large Vanilla Pudding Mix
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Chopped Pecans (or any other nut) (optional)

Tools

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Sauce Pan
  • Bundt or Tube Pan (non stick is always good)
  1. Butter the pan.
  2. Mix all of the dry ingredients together.
  3. Place the nuts evenly on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Cover with 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture.
  5. Melt the butter.
  6. Dip each roll in the butter then roll them in the remaining sugar mixture.
  7. Arrange in the pan to complete a circle.
  8. Pour any remaining sugar mixture into pan.
  9. Cover with dish towel and let rise to double.
  10. Pre heat oven to 350.
  11. When doubled, but not overflowing bake for 25-30 minutes until browned.
  12. Flip over onto plate and serve warm.

Chicken Liver Bruschetta

My last rant (sort of) of the season. I have been watching the debate about gun control with muted intrigue. I have an opinion and have had most of my life, but I was really curious to see what the fall out was going to be.

The 700 pound gorilla that is suddenly sitting in the room in this debate has been overlooked, or at least ignored. Sometimes obvious things slip right by most people. For instance, there was an opinion piece by the TV critic for the LA Times today about the speech made by the EVP of the NRA. She stated that regarding the ban, President Obama “didn’t want to waste his currency of compromise in a fight he didn’t think he could win.” The assault weapons ban lapsed in 2004, 5 years before Obama took office.

Back to that big gorilla. No offense to most of my readers, but MOTHERS are the gorillas. Killing a classroom full of first graders will piss off the mothers of the world faster than anything. If you think the laws on drinking driving changed drastically and quickly after Candy and her MADD got into the halls of congress and the various state houses across the land, you just wait until they take on guns. I don’t care what your position on this is, guns are now done.

In nature, mothers are always treated carefully. Predators stay away from a mother with her young and the father will do anything to keep them fed and warm, not because of some parental obligation but the scorn of the potentially irked mother. Even hunters know better than to mess with a mother. I guess this is so close to home that the hunters in the NRA have missed it. Or maybe its that the NRA is not actually made up of hunters, but of political mouthpieces bought and paid for by the manufacturers of weapons.

I have no reason to voice my opinion. I will now leave it to mom. Good luck gun dudes. You will not stand a chance and you know it.

My lovely wife has been bugging me to make this for her since the first chilly night. It is a wonderful starter for parties or a cold night by the fire.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Lb. Chicken Livers, washed and trimmed
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Piece Pancetta, diced
  • 1 Large Shallot, diced
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Chili Flakes
  • 1/2 Cup Red Wine
  • 1 Tablespoon Capers
  • Italian Parsley, chopped for garnish
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Rustic Bread or Baguette

Tools

  • Sauté Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Food Processor
  1. In a sauté pan heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the pancetta and sauté until soft.
  3. Add shallots and sauté until soft.
  4. Clean the chicken livers and chop them into chunks. Salt and pepper.
  5. Add chicken livers and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes on each side.
  6. Add wine, rosemary and chili flakes.
  7. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated, about 15 minutes.
  8. Place mixture in food processor or blender. add capers (optional). Process briefly. I like it chunky.
  9. Either refrigerate or serve as is.
  10. Toast bread.
  11. Drizzle bread with olive oil.
  12. Spread chicken liver spread on toast.
  13. Sprinkle with salt, parsley and a drizzle more oil.

 

My Mom’s Ginger Cookies

My brother and sister did a really amazingly sweet thing for me. I called both of them last week and asked if they knew the recipe for our mom’s ginger cookies. I had tried to reconstruct them and even with the help of the internet I was at a loss. Neither knew the answer but my brother said that he would have a look through my mom’s stuff.

Today, a very heavy box arrived at my door. I thought my brother had sent their annual Christmas box of goodies, although it was quite weighty for a tin of peanut brittle and a gift or two. When I opened it there was a card on top, another mystery. It turns out that my brother and sister boxed up all of my mother’s cookbooks and hand written recipes and sent them to me. I was floored and quite touched. I sat all afternoon and went through all of the books since each contained several clippings and hand written recipes. On one of the last pages of the last book, appropriately titled “The Family Tree Cookbook” I hit pay dirt. The evasive Ginger Cookies recipe in all of it’s glory and in my mother’s practically illegible scrawl. Fortunately, I speak scrawl. Here it is. The white icing recipe is still missing, but there are plenty to choose from on the internet. Anything with butter, powdered sugar and a dash of milk will do.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup Shortening (crisco of course)
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Small Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Molasses
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 2 Cups Flour, sifted
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cloves
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

Tools

  • 2 Mixing Bowls
  • Spoon
  • Baking Sheet
  • Plastic Wrap
  1. Pre heat oven to 375.
  2. Sift together flour and spices in one bowl and stir together.
  3. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water.
  4. Combine the egg, shortening, molasses and baking soda mixture.
  5. Stir in flour mixture until smooth.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  7. Butter a cookie sheet.
  8. Drip teaspoon size dollops evenly spaced on the sheet.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes until set. Do not burn.
  10. Repeat until done.
  11. Ice.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Caviar

My lovely wife and I are child free this Christmas. This is the first time in our history together that we have not had at least 4 of the 5 kids for Christmas day. But this Christmas we are sadly, yet blissfully child free. We will have our traditional Christmas eve and Christmas morning, but just shifted back by a day. On Christmas day itself we will miss them terribly until we make our first bloody mary. We will spend an afternoon at the movies and we will miss them once again when we return home, until we pop the first bottle of champagne and have our caviar. I somehow think we will muddle through.

If you are unfortunate enough to have to muddle through with some amazing caviar and a great bottle of bubbly, here are a few tips.

Ingredients

  • As Much Good Caviar as you can afford
  • Toast Points (the more bland the better) or Plain Crackers
  • Shallots, minced
  • Sour Cream
  • Capers
  • Hard Boiled Eggs, finely chopped

Tools

  • Sauce Pan (for eggs)
  • Toaster (optional)
  • Small Serving Dishes
  • Plastic, Mother of Pearl or Ivory (Heaven forbid) Spoons
  1. Place the eggs in cold water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, turn off and let cook for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  2. Peel and chop eggs.
  3. Prepare all of the other ingredients and place them in individual serving dishes. I use ramekins.
  4. Serve the Caviar directly from its container, either jar or tin.

The rule of thumb with caviar is that the better the caviar the less the condiments. The reason for the plastic or fancy spoons is that any silver or other metal spoon might impart some taste to the delicate caviar. If you are by yourself or just your significant other you may want to eat straight from the container and skip all of the stuff.

The toast can be rye, white, rustic, plain cracker or wheat cracker. Like the spoon, you don’t want anything interfering with the taste of the caviar.

If you can’t find or afford really good caviar, you can still enjoy the experience and tuck into the condiments. I have enjoyed many an occasion with a little dob of so-so caviar with the works. The salty delicacy is enjoyable for the ritual alone, and if you are lucky and flush enough to have the good stuff, all the better.

Prime Rib

Christmas day is busy and full of family, noise, fun, fights, drinks, sweets and general mayhem. Why complicate it further by trying to create a complex and time consuming dinner. This is what we do. It is dead simple, wonderfully tasty and all of our family loves it. Some kind of potatoes, a salad and/or other simple vegetables and all of the sweets already around the house and you are off.

Figure a pound per person and you will have plenty left over for sandwiches the next day. Don’t listen to the Martha types, by the bone in. It has the most flavor. If you are not a meat lover then skip this one. I try to consume very little red meat. For this I make an exception.

Ingredients

  • 5-8 Pound Prime Rib Roast
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Red Wine

Tools

  • Large Roasting Pan
  • Sauce Pan
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Whisk
  • Carving Knife
  1. Remove the roast from the refrigerator at least an hour before cooking. You want it to be nearly room temperature.
  2. Pre Heat the oven to 500.
  3. Salt and pepper the roast really well.
  4. Place in the roasting pan fat side up.
  5. Roast for 15 minutes at 500 then turn down to 325. Cook for about 15 minutes a pound. This should get you to medium rare. Check about 15 minutes before it should be done. DO NOT overcook.
  6. Remove from oven and place the roast on a serving tray or cutting board and cover with aluminum foil for at least 15-20 minutes to rest.
  7. Place the roasting pan on the stove top.
  8. Remove two tablespoons of the drippings to a sauce pan.
  9. Add butter and flour and whisk together until smooth.
  10. Add wine and about 1/2 cup water and cook over medium heat for a few minutes.
  11. Add back to the pan and stir the remaining drippings together.
  12. Pour into a serving bowl.