Friday, December 25, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Complexity Syrup

Simple syrup = 1 cup sugar + 1 cup water.

Complex syrup = see below.

It's complex but incredibly simple. This is a variation on the syrup used in the LME Poached Pear recipe but is likely more versatile.

Reason being is that you start with a sweet(er) wine.

I used this as a base for some whip cream tossed with strawberries. Quarter your berries and whip up the cream just before you get stiff peaks - you want to avoid stiff peaks here. Add about a TBS of Complex Syrup per ½ cup of cream whipped and gently mix in. Toss in the berries and you have a fantastic dessert. You can also use this:

- On other fruits
- As a sub for balsamic vinegar in salads
- On a cheese plate to complement heavy, stinky cheeses

3 cups red, sweet dessert wine (Port, etc.)
1 cup cold water
3 TBS honey
1 bay leaf
6 cloves
1 TBS whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 TSP fresh ground nutmeg

Add all the ingredients to a small pot and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Once there, reduce heat to medium and gently boil until the contents have half evaporated.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into another pot. Bring back to a boil like before, then reduce to medium.

Once the liquid is nearly 80% reduced, keep an eye on it as it may erupt out of the pot. If this is happening, it means you're almost done so turn down the heat to medium-low. Reduce further until it's almost all foamy. When you remove it from the heat you should have a syrup left, and only about 3 TBS.

Cool prior to use. A little goes a long way too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Greco Chicken Sandwich

Left over chicken. What to do with it?

My mother always turned it into chicken salad which, to this day, I'm not fond of. But my buddy Jim brought some precooked chicken over to us from Canales Brothers Deli (I was a bit under the weather) and I made some pita sandwiches out of them the next night.

The problem with the pita is that bites aren't universal. You get a bite of this, bite of that, and on a rare occasion a bite of the whole thing. This is not a complaint, but rather an observation. I'm a whole kind'a bite kind'a guy. Hence the beauty of the sandwich.

Here's what I did. It's quick, easy, and damned tasty. Also pretty healthy when you think about it. This makes enough for two sandwiches.

1 half a large, boneless chicken breast, precooked (salt, pepper, garlic)
2 Roma tomatoes, each sliced into about 5 slices.
½ a cucumber, peeled and thick sliced (same dimensions as tomatoes)
2 kosher dill pickles, sliced lengthwise into 4 strips
Feta (your choice)
4 TBS Greek style yogurt (I used non-fat Fage Total)
1 TSP Herbs de Provence
2 demi baguettes (from Bonaparte Breads via Wagshal's) or hard, crusty sub rolls.
Extra virgin olive oil
Optional: pitted kalamata olives

In a small dipping bowl, add 1 TBS of boiling water into the Herbs de Provence. Let rest for five minutes. Mix the herbs into the yogurt.

Cut the chicken into long, thin strips. Drizzle with about 1 TBS of olive oil and let sit for about 5 minutes. Preheat a skillet to medium.

Cut your bread lenghtwise and toast to a nice, crisp brown. While toasting, quickly sear the chicken in the pan to just warm it up; you do not want to brown it. Add more oil to the pan if necessary.

On the bottom bread slice spread a generous amount (about 1½ TBS) of the yogurt-herb mix. Layer some chicken slices, feta to your liking, pickle slices, cucumbers, tomatoes, and drizzle with a little olive oil. On the top sandwich half spread about a TBS of humus or more. Add a few pitted olives, if desired. Place the top on and spike the sandwich with long picks to hold it together.

Cut n' serve.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Fall Apart Chicken Caccitore

Good and easy. And hearty. Slightly healthy too. This is a good Sunday dish as you can start it at 1, shove it in the oven, and it'll be done ~5ish. Frees up your afternoon to do shit you normally hate, such as raking leaves, honey-do projects, or watching Philly lose.

1 eight-part cut whole chicken*
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 garlic cloves, whole with paper on
8 fresh medium carrots, unpeeled, washed and halved
8 oz Kalamata olives (~1 heaping cup), quickly rinsed
8 oz jar of marinated artichokes, drained and quartered
1 box Pomi crushed tomatoes (26 ounces)
1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (26 ounces)
10 sprigs fresh parsley, minced
2 Parmesan rinds
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

*You can usually buy a whole chicken already cut up. A butcher worth their salt will do it for you too...and give you back your paid for backbone without asking. Or just buy the pieces you like: two breasts and four thighs would work great, even just four breasts.

Preheat your oven to 225. Yes, two hundred twenty five. You're braising here and 225 is perfectly OK for chicken. The goal here really is to heavily warm the chicken and not further kill it. Braising keeps the intramuscular fat intact so meats stay moist. When you cook too hot it melts the fat and you're left with tough tissue.

In a 5 qt Dutch oven preheat to medium 2 TBS of olive oil along with the whole garlic cloves.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken and generously salt and pepper. Brown the chicken, 2 -3 pieces at a time, in the pan for 3 minutes on each side and then set aside on a plate. Discard the garlic cloves.

Add the drained chicken fat from where the chicken is resting back into the pan and an extra TBS of olive oil. Add the onions and a big pinch of salt and saute until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the carrots and saute for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for an additional thirty seconds, then add olives and marinated artichokes. Saute for about 3 more minutes.

Add the tomatoes, parsley and Parmesan rinds. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the chicken, covering with the sauce. Bring back to a simmer, cover, and place in the oven. Cook for at least 3.5 hours, undisturbed.

The chicken is going to be fall off the bone tender - even the breast will be very delicate - so if you want to serve the pieces intact be careful stirring the pot around. You're wound up with big chunks of chicken in a hodgepodge of tomato sauce. It's quite delish.

Serve with pasta of your choice and lots of Parmesan cheese.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Faux Fond

Fond is necessary for any hearty sauce development. Fond is that stuff that sticks to the bottom of a pan after you've seared meats; the brown and black bits that you then add liquid to so it dissolves and then incorporates into the sauce that comes after it.

With non-stick pans, making fond is nearly impossible. And if you do/can with a non-stick pan, you're eating Teflon along with it since you heated the pan too high.

I was making a Carbonade the other day and the only large Dutch oven I have is non-stick. Stuck with not being able to make fond, I figured that since all fond is is burnt meat, why not just burn some meat bits.

What I did was mince some fat and meat - about 2 TBS. I kept these bits in the pan as I browned all the other meats, thus making very crispy, burnt meat bits.I threw in a couple of larger pieces (dime sized) for good measure.

Seems to have worked.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent (Adult) Chicken & Rice

The reasons why our mothers made chicken and rice - that classic cream o'mushroom + rice + chicken mix - are simple. It was quick, easy, and could cheaply feed an army of hungry kids.

It's a guilty pleasure to us all, still. No one wants to admit they love White Trash Cuisine but this dish is one of the hallmarks.

I was mouth-agape/appalled at Paula Deen's take on this. No where does she have fresh anything (except the onion) and to top it all off, you use precooked chicken in it. To her credit, though, to give her dish some pseudofresh crunch she adds in water chestnuts...canned, of course. It's probably the only thing with crunch that comes in a can but I thought it was a neat addition. Still, welcome to the sad state (or future) of American cooking.

This one here, folks, is good enough to feed to guests and doesn't take too much work. You'll need a very large pan for this, either a roasting pan or a 10 x 15. This will not fit in a 9 x 13.

And yes, it still uses canned soup.

1 eight-part cut whole chicken*
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can Progresso Creamy Mushroom Soup
1 can Campbell's Condensed (of course) Cream of Celery Soup
2 cups Jasmine rice
1½ cups dry white wine
10 Shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced into ½" strips
8 carrots, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
4 rutabagas, peeled and cut into ½" cubes
6 parsley sprigs, leaves minced
2 thyme sprigs, leaves minced
3 ounces sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
1 TBS butter
Extra virgin olive oil

* You can buy whole chickens precut if you want to save time.

Preheat your oven to 325.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken parts. Generously salt and pepper the pieces. In a large skillet add the butter and heat to medium high. Brown the chicken parts, 2 - 3 at a time, for about 3 minutes each or until the skin has browned. For the legs brown each side. Set pieces aside.

[If you notice in my picture, the leg bone near the ankle is exposed. You can do this by cutting a ring around the ankle of the leg prior to cooking with a very sharp knife so you cut through the tough, white tendons. What results is a big, mega-tender, meltingly delicious ball of chicken meat on the end of the bone.]

In a large bowl add the two soups together, the parsley and thyme, and 10 ounces of water (one Campbell's can). Stir to mix and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium and add about 1 TBS of olive oil and the onions. Saute for about 8 minutes, until the onions are nicely yellowed and near translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, then add the rice and stir to mix for two minutes.

Add the white wine and simmer an additional two minutes and then the carrots, rutabagas, water chestnuts. Saute one more minute and then add the soup mixture. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.

Lightly butter the roasting pan. Pour in the rice/soup mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Set the chicken pieces, skin side up, on top of the rice with the larger pieces toward the ends of the pan. Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes.


[Or, in Deenish, "VOH-WAH LAH!"]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Easy Migas

"If that dog gets near my fuckin' breakfast I'm gonna kill him." - JKF, October 11, 2009.

My wife, JKF, has that in common with the dog b/c if you get near his breakfast he's likely to kill you too.

JKF also introduced me to migas, which is a Mexican style of scrambled eggs with tortilla's in them. It's a great way to use up staled corn tortillas...if you have them.

And most often, one doesn't. But tortilla chips work just fine.

I should not be eating eggs. If you haven't guessed it by the blog here, I pretty much eat anything with reckless abandon and I shouldn't. Eggs are LOADED with cholesterol. I mean, they're a cholesterol delivery vehicle. One egg gives you about 80% of your daily USDA recommended cholesterol intake. Now think about a three egg omelet with cheese, ham and fried in butter. Buttered toast on the side and you're done.

Egg whites, however, are virtually cholesterol and fat free. But they taste like egg whites and are watery and just ick scrambled up.

Compromise here: 2 parts egg white plus 1 whole egg. Sure, it's still running high with fat & cholesterol but tastes pretty damned good. In this recipe, which is for two, I use 5 whites plus 1 whole, which still works pretty well.

5 egg whites + 1 whole egg [extra large sized eggs], scrambled
3 TBS chopped onion
1 Jalapeno pepper, minced
1 big handfull of tortilla chips
¼ cup of cheese of your choice (fontina used here)
Canola oil
Salt & pepper

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add a TBS of canola oil to the pan and the onion. Saute for about 3 minutes. Add the Jalapeno and saute for an additional minute and then add the eggs all at once.

Let the eggs sit for about 30 seconds, just until it's solidifying on the bottom. Crush the chips with your hands and add to the eggs, continuing to cook the eggs the way you normally make scrambled eggs. With 30 seconds left on the clock, remove from the heat, add the cheese, toss to mix and voila.

You can eat these alone or put them in a tortilla to make a breakfast taco. Judy went for the taco but I went with a bagel on the side since they were fresh from the Old Georgetown Bagelry.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Italian Chicken Sandwich


Look at that. Will you just look at that and tell me you're not going all Pavlov on me right now?

My friend Barb gave me a packet of Louie's Italian Beef seasoning a few months back. It had been sitting in my cupboard for awhile; I don't make Italian Beef (or pork) during the summers as it's a slow cooking kind of thing and best enjoyed in front of football.

But the other day I made a beer can chicken. Notice no recipe for that is posted here since it wasn't that special. I prefer my brined chicken to beer can any day. While beer can is good, brined is better.

So I had this left over chicken: a breast and two hind quarters. How could I make this taste good?


The bread here is just as important as anything else. I got some baguette from Bonaparte, which I've rediscovered after a long absence. Their baguette is somewhat chewy but when toasted crusts up just right. It was an excellent chicken and broccoli delivery vehicle for the evening.

1 cooked chicken breast and two cooked chicken hind quarters
2 heaping TBS of Louie's Italian Beef seasoning
1 bunch broccoli rabe
6 cloves garlic
Aged Italian provolone cheese (don't get the American crap)
Extra virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper

Remove the skin from the chicken and debone the meat (save the leg bones). Cut and pull the chicken as best you can; you want nice, thumb sized pieces.

In a 2 quart pot add 1.5 cups of cold water, bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Add the seasoning and two cloves of garlic (peeled and smashed) and stir. Add the chicken and leg bones and stir to mix. If too thick (like sludge) add some additional water. Cover and set to simmer for at least 1 hour. Meanwhile....

Bring 4 quarts of water to boil. Peel the leaves from the broccoli rabe, cut off about the bottom inch of stem and rinse. When the water is boiling, add about 2 TBS of salt and blanch the broccoli for 1 minute. Strain into a colander and rinse under cold water until cool.

In a large saute pan add about 4 TBS of olive oil and heat to medium. Shave or mince the remaining garlic and add to the oil with ½ - 1 TSP of red pepper flakes, 6 - 8 cranks of pepper, and two big pinches of salt. Saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the broccoli has become tender but still has crunch.

Remove the inner crumb from the top half of your sandwich bun/roll. Toast the roll and prepare your sandwich with chicken (a lot - watch the bones), broccoli (a lot - and get that oil on there too), and a good helping of thick cut provolone.

Have a good time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Fried Artichoke Fried Pasta

I made this as a side dish for our left over Four Figgy Chicky last night. Turned out very tasty and easy to put together. Plus, how can you go wrong with fried artichoke hearts?

The artichokes themselves are great on their own - they'd make a great appetizer...which we ourselves had four of prior to dinner.

Half a box of spaghetti
1 12 ounce can of artichoke hearts in water
1 large tomato
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc used here)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese

Cook the spaghetti right to al dente. Once there, immediately drain and transfer to a bowl full of ice water. Set aside.

Peel the tomato using a veggie peeler or a ton of patience using a paring knife. You could also "shock" the tomato in boiling water for 15 seconds then plunging into an ice bath too. Either way, get the skin off the tomato. Remove the seeds and cut the flesh into ½ inch chunks. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat about 2 - 3 TBS of olive oil over medium. Drain and rinse the artichokes. Cut each 'choke in half along the length of the 'choke. Sprinkle the open half with salt and pepper and then dredge each half in the flour. [That's right - no additional egg dredge here as I'm keeping the mess down and the process simple.]

Once the oil is hot (water drops should spatter when added) place the artichokes, cut side down, into the pan. Let fry for about 3 - 4 minutes; turn one over to check for doneness, which is when the 'choke has a nice light brown crust on it. Flip the chokes and repeat. Remove the chokes onto a paper towel and immediately sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese.

Add the garlic to the hot oil; it will begin to turn brown. RIGHT when this starts to happen add the tomato (and any residual juices on the cutting board) and toss to mix. Cook an additional minute to heat the tomato through and then add ½ cup of the wine.

Let the wine simmer off to half then add the remaining wine. Simmer down to half again and then increase the heat to medium high.

Drain the cold pasta and remove as much water as possible - add the pasta to the pan. Careful here as it will spit a bit. Toss to mix as you gently/lightly/oh-do-delicately fry the pasta, about three minutes.

Plate the pasta and place the 'chokes on top of the pasta nest; add additional Parmesan if desired (and when is it not?).


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Four Figgy Chicky

And there I saw them, probably the last ones I'll see for awhile: fresh figs.

I love fresh figs. Plain, wrapped in melon, served with cheese, hot, cold, you name it. If there were a natures candy, these would be it.

While perusing through The Silver Spoon, I found a recipe for chicken stuffed with mushrooms, ham, and mascarpone. Looked pretty tasty but it a) required two ovens to really get it going and b) didn't have figs.

With some modifications, here's what I came up with. The amounts, funny enough, are pretty easy to remember. And while the recipe looks long this actually comes together pretty fast.

4 boneless chicken breasts
4 fresh figs
4 slices cooked ham
4 large mushrooms
4 TBS mascarpone
4 sprigs fresh parsley
4 TBS butter
4 garlic cloves
¼ cup kosher salt
A lot of toothpicks

Brine the chicken: In a two quart bowl add 1 quart of cold water and the salt. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat end of a knife (it's OK to keep the skins on) and add to the brine. Stir to dissolve the salt.

Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry. Cut off the tenderloin, if present, from the breasts. Take each breast and slice horizontally to about ½ inch from the end and unfold. Sandwich each breast between two pieces of wax paper and pound with a mallet until the chicken is about ¼ - ½ inch thick. Don't beat the shit out of it; be gentle in your pounding since you don't want to tear it.

Place the chicken in the brine - tenderloins too as they're your snack while cooking - and set in the fridge for 20 minutes. Meanwhile....

...remove the stems from the mushrooms (and discard) and slice each mushroom into 10 even pieces and mince the parsley. In a skillet add 2 TBS of butter and bring to a bubble. Add the mushrooms and a big pinch of salt and gently saute over medium heat just until the mushrooms begin to turn brown. Add the parsley, stir up for about 30 seconds, remove the mushrooms and set aside keeping the leftover fat in the pan. Meanwhile...

...take each fig and slice into four, round pieces. In a small skillet add 1 TBS of butter and bring to a bubble over medium heat. Add the figs and let brown on each side for about 4 minutes; you should get a nice crust on these. Remove the figs and set aside.

The dog, at this point, knows something good is going on and assumes the feed-me-I'm-you're-best-buddy-pose.

Now, here's where the bitch of this process comes in: stuffing the breasts. Lay each breast flat on a cutting board. On one side of the breast add a slice of ham, ¼ of the mushrooms, ¼ of the figs, and 1 TBS of mascarpone. Fold the other half of the chicken over and using toothpicks - and a lot of creativity - seal the chicken to make a pouch. By my fourth one I finally got this to kind'a work.

Further proof it doesn't have to look good to taste good. You could also use kitchen twine to do this (as my buddy John suggested this morning) but I wasn't thinking. Next time I'll most likely do that. Note that I'm using big toothpicks - they're actually small bamboo spears about 5" long that you can find in many Japanese markets. Very handy.

In the same skillet you cooked the mushrooms add the last TBS of butter (extra if there isn't enough from the mushroom saute) and brown the butter over medium heat. Cook the breasts two at a time; if your skillet is large enough do four but you want at least 1 inch between pieces. Each should cook about 3 - 5 minutes per side; cover the chicken while cooking so it retains the heat. Since your chicken is pretty thin and the insides are a little warm too it will cook fast. If you have space in the pan throw a few of the tenderloins in just to cook them.

Remove the toothpicks prior to eating (duh) and serve with pasta, if you like.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Marinated French Toast

It sounds disgusting, but it's not. And 'marinated' may be too strong a word here anyways.

I love French toast and I hardly make it because when the urge comes, I usually succumb to traditional bagel, eggs and sausage for some strange reason. But yesterday afternoon I was craving French toast.

After picking up a loaf of challah from Morty's - which a) took nearly 10 minutes for some strange reason, b) wound up not being great challah, and c) both of which should be inexcusable if I have to wait 10 minutes for a cold loaf of bread - I was trying to solve the classic problem of French toast that no one but me thinks is a problem: how to get the cinnamon flavor in the bread.

When you whip up the egg and milk mixture for French toast, upon adding the cinnamon it doesn't dissolve. This is for one simple reason. Ground cinnamon is a very fine, dense powder and doesn't absorb water very easily...kinda' like pepper. Now you have bread coated in egg/milk/cinnamon and when you cook it the cinnamon sticks to the outside leaving plain tasting bread.

Thinking of vanilla ice cream, part of getting vanilla into the ice cream is having the whole bean sit in the hot milk. So why not do the same with cinnamon sticks in milk then use the milk for the French toast?

B.I.N.G.O. Did I hit the nail here on the head or what? I should copyright this shit here. Maybe even patent, eh? It's pretty new, novel I would say, and a bit non-obvious.

1 loaf bread (challah, Italian, whatever)
1½ cups of milk
3 whole cinnamon sticks
2 - 3 eggs*
1 TBS sugar
Unsalted butter
Powdered sugar (optional)

In a one quart sauce pan, add the milk, sugar, and cinnamon sticks and bring to a simmer (not boil) over medium heat. Once simmer has been achieved, remove from heat, cover, and let rest for 30 minutes. Go for a run or something (that's what I did...believe it or not).

Cut the bread into thick slices - near one inch if you're into that.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the milk into a large bowl. Add two eggs (for more crispy toast) or three eggs (for more eggy), a pinch of salt, and whip up.

Heat pan - cast iron if you've got it - over medium heat and add a big honkin' amount of butter to it (about ½ TBS per slice of toast) and heat until the butter starts to bubble. Dip the bread fully into the mix and sit for about three seconds, flip, and dip and hold for about three seconds. Add immediately to the pan.

Cook the toast on each side until well browned and serve immediately. Garnish with powdered sugar if desired.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Vanilla Tomato Sauce

Vanilla extract.


I wanted a good, basic tomato sauce that I could easily use on pizza or as just tomato sauce. The...issue?...with pizza sauce is that it needs to be a tad sweeter than regular tomato sauce. "Need" might be a strong word here as it comes down to personal preference, but in my opine a pizza sauce should be a smidge sweeter than that you put on (or in between) your pasta.

I've gotten away from using refined sugar in my tomato sauce, and not b/c I'm an anti-refined sugar type (I'm anything but). When I read a Batali recipe that uses carrots to sweeten the sauce I said, "Yup, that fat bastard nailed it on the head!" I tried it and VA-VOOM! and from then on I've been using carrots as my sweetener in my sauce.

But the sauce still lacks something. It's not sweetness - it has the right tinge. It's also not any animal-based fat; a good tomato sauce should stand on its own without the fond and drippings from the Holy Trinity: sausage, pork and the blessed meatball.

So while sauteing the onions for this and thinking about a fantastic slice of peach pie and vanilla ice cre.........VANILLA!

I'm not kidding. It's not a lot of vanilla - just 1 TBS per 50oz of tomatoes - but man does it mellow out that tangy edge of tomato sauce and brings out that tomato flavor we all crave.

[Except for those weird-o's who don't like tomato sauce.]

1 box Pomi crushed tomatoes (26 ounces)
1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (26 ounces)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 TBS kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, shaved into thin slices
1 TBS vanilla extract
5 large carrots, peeled and cut in half, lengthwise
12 - 15 basil leaves, whole
2 TSP minced parsley

In a 3 quart pot bring the olive oil up to medium-low heat. Add the onion and salt and let gently simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes, until the onion is very, very soft. Add the carrots and garlic, mix, and simmer for another 3 - 4 minutes until the garlic softens. Add the vanilla extract and simmer an additional minute or two.

Add both boxes of tomatoes (carefully - they'll likely splash), stir to mix and then add in the basil and parsley. Turn heat up to medium to get to a simmer, then reduce to medium-low or low just so the sauce bubbles. Let sit for 1 - 2 hours.

Discard the carrots - or leave or eat them - and then you're done.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Hatch & Spinach Pesto

This is likely going over some pasta with shrimp and scallops but I can think of half a dozen other uses as well. Just alone over pasta would be enough, come to think about it.

When I make pesto I use cashews instead of pine nuts. The reason is simple: it's different. I also find that cashews tend to impart a more buttery texture to the pesto which gives it a nice mouthfeel.

Also, before embarking on adding peppers to this you need to judge the heat of them first. The heat here will build on you the more you eat of the sauce. In addition, the next day the flavors will have mellowed out with each other and result in a better tasting - and likely hotter - sauce. As there is a lot of fat in this (it is pesto, after all), said fat will line your mouth and deceive the presence of most of the heat...until it washes off your tongue and the capsaicin is left sticking to it as you eat more.

Resist the urge to add more garlic: the highlight of this pesto are the chilies. I know I know, I too am part of the more-garlic-is-better crowd but this is one area where less is, in fact, more.

10 oz baby spinach leaves
1 packed cup of fresh basil
2 - 4 roasted Hatch or Anaheim chili peppers
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup unsalted, roasted cashews
4 TBS grated Parmesan
~1 cup extra virgin olive oil
~1 cup of boiling water

Quick blanch the baby spinach by setting it in a large colander over the sink and pouring 2 quarts of boiling water over the leaves. Immediately run cold water over the spinach to cool. Squeeze out as much water as you can and then lay the leaves on a kitchen towel and roll the towel to dry the leaves. Give the towel a gentle twist to aid this.

Remove the skin and seeds from the chili peppers and dice into dime sized chunks.

In a food processor add the cashews and pulse a few times until they're chopped up. Add the basil, spinach, chili peppers, and peeled garlic cloves to the processor and run for about 30 seconds, stopping to push the mixture down the side. Do this about two times. Add the cheese, ¼ TSP of salt and pulse to mix.

With the processor running add the olive oil in a steady stream. You're nearly done adding oil when the pesto is no longer sticking to the sides of the processor and has become a smooth sauce with the consistency of...pesto. When this happens add another ¼ cup of oil. Finally, add about 2 - 3 TBS of boiling water to help incorporate and smooth out.

Lou's Most Excellent Spicy Tequila Succotash

I never say this when I make something before it's done, but while scooping this into the bowl - before I even tasted it - I said to Judy, "This is gonna be f'ing good."

Turns out I was right. So right that this morning Judy wanted this as her side dish for her sandwich this afternoon instead of Cheetos, which are pretty hard to pass up.

A lot of things went into this and I think some could even be left out if you don't have them, such as the parsley, chives, and Romano cheese. Otherwise this comes together pretty quick and is a different take on the classic succotash.

Two ears fresh corn
One medium zucchini
Two roasted Hatch or Anaheim chili peppers
One jalapeno pepper
3 TBS Tequila
1 TBS butter
2 TBS heavy cream
2 TBS grated Parmesan
1 TBS grated Peccorino-Romano
1 TBS minced parsley
1 TSP minced chives

Shuck the corn and cut off the kernels, set aside. Cut the zucchini in half, then quarter each piece and halve each of those; you wind up with each piece cut into eighths. Cut the inner wedge/seeds out of each by running a knife up each piece so you are only left with the skin of the zucchini with about ¼ inch of flesh. Dice the zucchini into corn-kernel sized chunks.

Remove the skins and seeds from the chili peppers; cut into dime sized chunks. Remove the seeds from the jalapeno and finely dice.

In a large, non-stick skillet heat to medium-high. Add the butter and allow it to brown, then add the corn and zucchini bits. Allow to sit for 3 - 4 minutes undisturbed, then quickly toss. Check to see that the vegetables are browning. If they aren't, let them sit longer prior to tossing. Do this for about 10 minutes; check for doneness by eating a corn kernel. Add the peppers when the corn is done and cook an additional 3 minutes.

Add the Tequila and mix, let simmer off for 3 - 4 minutes and then add the cream. Toss in the cheeses, mix, then add the herbs. Add salt to our case we didn't need any as all the flavors worked without the need.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Roasted Hatch Chilies

It's that MOST, won-der-ful tiiiiiime, of the year.....

It's Hatch Chili Pepper season and usually here in DC we get screwed on the deal: in the past we've smuggled them out of Texas by checking a case of them in as luggage...much to the strange stares of everyone.

But this year I FOUND some at Whole Foods and quickly swiped most of them up, screwing anyone else that might want some. So you may be asking, "Lou, what's so special about these Hatch Chilies?"

Well, it's a terroir thing: they only come from Hatch, New Mexico and there's something in the heat, soil, handling of Anaheim peppers there that turn them into Hatch Chilies. They're hot yet buttery smooth and form the foundation of all good things needing chili peppers. From enchiladas to scrambled eggs these things add that extra something special.

But before they can be eaten they must be roasted, and that's why we're here today.

Roasting Hatch Chilies, or any pepper for that matter, is pretty simple. You can do this in an oven, over a gas stove, or the real tasty way by over a raging fire. The fire is preferred because what you want to do is get the peppers to sear and blister; the skin of the pepper isn't too pleasant on the palate. Also, roasting them bring out their great flavors.

Wash the peppers first and get a kitchen towel that's soaked and squeezed damp in water. You'll need one towel per 10 peppers. Set up a little workstation as such:

With the fire now raging in the grill, put your peppers on. They'll start to pop and smoke up a bit almost immediately. You want to char these little bastards pretty good but not cook them through. All you're really trying to do is get the skins off. They're going to blacken pretty good but there will be some peppers - notably the curved ones - that just won't fully blacken in some parts. Don't force the matter because you'll wind up cooking it through instead.

When nicely toasted, place the peppers in the center of the damp towel and fold the towel over them in thirds. Soon you'll see steam coming off the towel and the smell of fresh roasted peppers will fill the air...even if you're outside. Allow the peppers to cool to room temperature underneath the towel. Start your next batch if you've got 'em.

When done, you can use the peppers immediately or store for later use. Prior to using the peppers you'll need to remove the skins, which should come just right off. If storing, put anywhere from 2 - 6 peppers in a Ziplock bag (skins on), remove as much air as possible, and freeze until you're ready.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Arugula & Scallop Risotto

I had a vegetarian version of this at New Heights recently and it was fantastic. We had a great time there - Sietsema from the Post recently gave it a very good review - but the service was pretty downright lousy. The food, however, was phenomenal.

Never in my life have I ordered a vegetarian entree unless it was eggplant parm or I was forced to go to a vegetarian Indian restaurant. I'm not a "meat & potatoes" guy but I do like my protein to come from things that once moved about. Thus, starting with a tomato salad and then the arugula risotto even raised eyebrows from Judy, my wife.

I've been thinking about that risotto for the last few days and now I'm doing it. Risotto is an überbitch to make as it takes constant babysitting. It's technically easy but you just have to tend to it constantly; be prepared not to leave your stove for about 30 minutes straight once you get going on this. But an added bonus to this dish is that it's moderately healthy: sure there's some fat from the butter and olive oil but with all the veggies going on you should get *some* credit here.

Risotto - and anything you wind up putting in it or on it - turns your kitchen into a mess. I had the processor out, several pans, lots of bowls, cutting boards, etc. Get ready for clean-up. This all said, don't be scared and here we go:

5 oz baby arugula, cleaned
5 basil leaves
6 sprigs of parsley
3 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
Extra virgin olive oil
Kernels from a half hear of corn
4 cups of chicken stock (or broth), simmering
6 large diver scallops
4 fresh, ripe figs, halved (I prefer the Calimyrna but any will do)
4 baby yellow squash, quartered and cut into dime sized pieces
1½ cups of risotto (arborio)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons clarified butter (regular butter or olive oil will work)
¼ cup + 1 TBS freshly grated Parmesan
Dry white wine, at least 1 cup (Pinot Grigio or Orvieto work)
1 70 pound black lab

In a food processor add the arugula, basil, parsley and garlic. Pulse for about 10 seconds in 1 second bursts. Add about 3 TBS of olive oil and run the processor until the mixture becomes a paste, almost pesto-ish. Remove from the processor and stir in the ¼ cup of Parmesean cheese. Set aside.

Heat a large, high walled pan (a Dutch oven if you've got it) up to medium high. Add the clarified butter; if using olive oil or butter only heat up to medium. Wait till the fat begin to shimmer and then add the baby squash with a big pinch of kosher salt. Toss in the oil and let sauté, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes. Toss the veggies again - they should be browned by now - and cook a little longer to even out the brownness. Add the corn kernels, toss to mix, and then remove all from the pan into a separate bowl.

[Why clarified butter? Well, a) I had some and b) you can heat it hotter than regular butter and olive oil. And it tastes good too.]

Add the figs to the pan with the fruit side down and let cook undisturbed for about 3 - 4 minutes; you want them to sizzle. Remove from the pan once they begin to show signs of caramelizing...which you just want to reach but not achieve...if that makes sense. Set the figs aside. Tell the dog - again - to get out of the kitchen.

Turn the pan heat down to medium-low and let stabilize here for about 5 minutes. Add an additional TBS of butter and the onion and a big pinch of kosher salt. Sauté - constantly turning - until the onion is translucent, which is about 8 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium and get the onions sizzling - once this happens add the risotto and stir for about 90 seconds, coating the rice with the oil and onions. Add enough broth - about 1.5 cups - to this so the risotto is completely covered by broth but not drowning in it. Call the dog into the kitchen (you'll want his company now) and gently stir.


More and more.

When you're able to take your spoon and move it from one side of the pan to the other through the risotto and it stays parted from where you started, add more broth as you did before.

And slowly, gently stir.

But in between that....

Heat a skillet up to medium high. Add a smidge of clarified butter - just enough to lightly coat the pan. Sprinkle some sea salt on each side of the scallops. [Don't forget to stir and check your risotto....] When the pan is hot add the scallops - they should sizzle. Leave them be for about a minute then flip. Cook an additional minute or more pending your doneness preference. I like mine on the medium-rare side b/c they taste like scallops. Overcook a scallop and you might as well eat an eraser.

The risotto should be near done. Take a small sample; it should be nutty in flavor with a little bit of crunch. If you're there, you're done. If it's too hard, add more broth and keep stirring.

When you're there turn off the heat and add herb mix to the risotto, stir to mix, and then add the corn and squash. Gently stir to mix.

Get the drooling dog with the ferociously wagging tail out of the kitchen. Plate about one cup of risotto in a small mound and sprinkle with additional Parmesan if desired. Top with the scallops and figs. Grab a fork and go to town.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Grilled Lamb

Where your cute-soon-to-be-delicious lamb was born, raised, and ate affects just about everything about how Mary's Little Meal will taste. Firstly, a 'lamb' by most countries definitions is a sheep that is less than one year of age. Some countries get more specific; Australians further subcategorize lamb by how many teeth they have prior to slaughter. Lamb from Australia and New Zealand is often cheaper and has a more gamey taste than American lamb, which tends to impart more beef-like characteristics and is milder. Icelandic lamb - and there are a lot of them for which I can personally attest - sort of falls in the middle between the American and Aussie/NZ lamb. It's milder than their southern cousins but also leaner than the fatter US compatriots.

For Sunday dinner I decided on lamb as we were having Jim and his son Sam over. Lamb chops and ribs are easy to cook on the grill and prep'd in this manner represent a great, summery dish along side tomato/cucumber/feta salad, corn on the cob, and grilled raddichio. I wanted to do all ribs but some jackass who went to the Dupont Farmers Market that morning decided to buy nearly all of the ribs from Virginia Lamb before 9:15...only 15 minutes into the markets open. I thus was only able to get a 10 rib rack.

Either way, I picked up a few chops to top things off.

The "marinade" is quite simple:

1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil + extra
1 sprig of fresh mint
5 - 8 fresh basil leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
5 sprigs of parsley
2 cloves of garlic

Separate the herb leaves from their stems and put in a big pile on your cutting board. Add about 1 TBS of olive oil to this and using a rocking motion mince the herbs until none are larger than 1/8 of an inch. [By adding some oil to the mincing procedure this not only helps keep the herbs green but makes it a little easier by keeping them together.] Put this paste into a small container and add the rest of the olive oil. Mince the garlic and add to the herb mix. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Prepare the lamb. Cut the lamb rack into riblets of two each. Some like to do each individually; this is a pain since you have more to tend to on the grill and you REALLY risk over cooking them. Rinse all the lamb under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Lay all the pieces closely together on a large platter with the cut side of the riblets facing up.

Lightly salt and pepper one side of the lamb. Using a sharp paring knife, stab each piece once in the thickest, meatiest area. With a small spoon and your fingers, add about 1/2 teaspoon of the marinade into the hole. Rub half of the remaining herb paste into the lamb. Flip the pieces over and repeat. Set in the fridge for at least two hours but not more than four, uncovered.

One hour before cooking remove the lamb from the fridge; get your fire going. I've recently been experimenting with cooking only with wood. It's great because you get a real hot fire and it winds up being easier to manage in terms of heat and length of burn. However, it does take some management and as I lost attention to it yesterday it wound up nearly burning out. Have no fear though - throw another log on the fire and it's up and ready in 15 minutes.

Put the lamb on the grill over the fire. You don't want high flames here so wait until it's died down a bit. The lamb will cook fast...assuming you want it rare to medium rare. If not, stop reading this recipe and go to McDonald's. Sear each piece about 2 minutes on each side - you be the judge based on chop thickness - and remove to the cool side of the grill. My buddy Jim grilled his radicchio shortly thereafter. In the interim, Bailey The Bad Dog decided to lap up the butter off the table - a good half stick of some nice Icelandic Smjör while we screwed around with the lamb.

I was wondering where he'd went.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Insalata Caprese

There's really nothing to make here: you either have good tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and olive oil or you don't. Any one of these four legs of the stool go missing and it all falls down.

For this I used three different types of heirloom tomatoes (even the Roma's were an heirloom variety). Any good farmers market will have them this time of year; I got mine at Whole Foods since the damned Dupont Farmers Market is open on Sunday and not Saturday, which is when I went shopping. At least I tried to go local.

Buffalo mozzarella works best for this dish but if you can't find it choose your best cow's milk variety. Cut the cheese fairly thick and let sit on a cutting board for about 5 minutes to let residual liquid drain off. Cut the tomatoes to the same thickness as the cheese and stack them how you please. Sprinkle JUST A LITTLE flake-style sea salt over the tomatoes, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with whole basil leaves.

These flavors carry their own. This is one dish were less is, in fact, more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Kitchen Tips: Kosher Salt

Mistakes happen, and a common one is the substitution of table salt for kosher salt.

First, there is nothing really "kosher" about kosher salt. The salt gets its name because it's used in the koshering process, and in terms of meats it's used to pull the blood out of meat to make them kosher. Now, I'm not Jewish so I'm totally ignorant of kosher this and that. But, that's what I know. [Also, kosher salt tends not to have iodide in it too.]

As this picture shows, however, there is a definite size difference between a kosher salt flake and your typical table salt crystal. The kosher flake is that dandruff looking thing on the left. If you can't see the salt crystal, it's near the pen tip.

Since the kosher salt is bigger and "flakier" you get less actual salt per volumetric measure than you do with table salt; think of how a cup of lead weighs more than a cup of water. Thus, if you just use regular table salt in place of kosher salt, get ready for a dose of the Pacific Ocean in your mouth.

To substitute table salt (or vice versa, kosher), use 1/3 to 1/4 less table salt than kosher. The box of kosher salt will also tell you how much less to use and this can vary by brand so pay attention. In general, I use 1/3 less and if things aren't salty enough, I just add more salt at the end.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Mojito

The summer mojito is typically some sick concoction of corn syrup, artificial lime juice (if you're lucky) and cheap rum. It's too bad because when you offer a mojito to someone they'll say, "Ugh." Not mine.

In fact, my brothers out in Arizona, who are beer drinkers, wanted me to make something summery for them and I whipped up my take (which really isn't a take) on the mojito. A few weeks before I was bartending a friends party and this was the signature drink.

Over ice, on a hot and humid summer day, this is great drinkin' from inside an a/c'd house looking out at all the suffering fools who decided to brave it. Like those who decide to go for a run in 95 degree heat or some stupid shit like that.

[Makes one, 16 ounce mojito, which is all you may need. Like, since when does one measure booze in 'cups'?]

1/3 cup dark, aged rum
1 lime
1 large sprig fresh mint leaves, separated from stalk
Club soda (at least 8 oz)
Simple syrup (1 cup water:1 cup sugar, boiled till dissolved, cooled to room temp)
1 TBS granulated sugar

Roll the lime to soften and cut it in half.

In a 16 ounce tall, sturdy glass, add the mint leaves, sugar, and squeeze half a lime into this. Using a pestle or a muddler, grind the mint leaves into the sugar/lime juice until the leaves appear bruised and the liquid from the mixture turns a little brown. Do your best not to mash the leaves, you just want to bruise them up. This should take about 30 seconds.

Add the other lime half and push it with your muddler, further adding more juice from the lime. Top to the top with ice and then add the rum and about 2 TBS of simple syrup. Top this with club soda and mix with a spoon or whatever is around your person (often, this is the knife with which I cut the lime with). You'll need to use an agitating motion as you won't be able to stir due to the contents. If not sweet enough, add more simple syrup.

Drink immediately and often........or at least until your teeth get numb.

You can make these in bulk too. I've done pitchers of mojito's and this works quite well. The modification is to just not add the club soda until you serve each glass. In other words, mash it all up and pour into a pitcher, add rum, then some ice to keep cold. To each glass just throw a lime half into it along with the ice etc. etc. etc....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Excellent Key Lime Cookies

I found this recipe on the web the other day since Judy needed some cookies for the office.

They're quite easy and tasty; a nice summery cookie when chocolate chip just won't do.

How to Make Key Lime Thumbprint Cookies |

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Green Chili Mayo

This one is pretty simple, assuming you have some green enchilada sauce left over. This was pretty good, as evidenced by my finger in the stuff.

If you don't you could achieve a satisfactory result with the following:

1 small can of Hatch chili peppers, loosely drained
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ yellow onion, minced
¼ TSP salt
Up to 1 cup chicken broth
Corn oil

Sweat the onion in 3 TBS of corn oil until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, saute for 30 seconds more, then add 1 TBS of flour. Stir until blended and pasty; thin to a gravy with the chicken broth. Add the peppers, loosely cover and simmer for 15 minutes on low heat.

The Mayo

½ cup of Enchilada Verde sauce or the above quickie sauce
1 roasted poblano pepper, peeled and seeded
8 - 10 pickled jalapeno slices
¼ mayonnaise

In a mini food processor add the sauce, poblano and jalapeno slices. Process until smooth and nearly uniform in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Add the mayonnaise and then process an additional 30 seconds.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Mushmozz Chicken

Man I wish I could remember how I made this. I waited a week to write it up and what a mistake that was. It came together real quick.

If I were to do it again here's what I'd base it on:

- Brined chicken breast, but only brined with salt and garlic.
- Smoked mozzarella cheese
- Plum tomato, seeds removed, diced into dime sized bits
- Marinated mushrooms from the olive bar at Whole Foods, about 4oz.
- White wine (vino verdhe used here)
- Papardelle pasta
- Chiffoned basil
- Parmesan cheese

Pepper the chicken breasts and sear the chicken in about 2 TBS of olive oil. Remove the breasts then add the tomatoes and a splash of wine, saute for about 30 seconds and remove the tomatoes.

Begin cooking the pasta in boiling salted water.

Add about 2 TBS of the oil from the mushrooms to the pan, bring up to medium heat, then add 1 TBS of flour. Stir with a whisk to make a roux. Do this for about 2 minutes, until it bubbles profusely.

Add about 1 cup of wine to the roux and mix. Add the mushrooms. Return the chicken breasts to the pan, coat with sauce, and then top each with a generous portion of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. Add any remaining tomatoes to the pan. Cover the pan to melt the cheese.

Drain the pasta when al dente and reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Remove the chicken from the pan and plate; add the pasta to the pan and toss to mix. If necessary, add the pasta water to thin the sauce. Plate the pasta and add shaved Parmesan as desired.

It was pretty damned good...I should'a paid a little more attention.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Reuben Hot Dog

Glory, glory, halleluia.

No real recipe here - just an idea that I recommend it to all who are fans of the Reuben. I was going to put a slice of pickle in each one but in my drooling excitement forgot. The thought of Thousand Island dressing did cross my mind but I wanted to at least keep some of the hot dog in hot dog. There's always next time....

Hot dogs
Swiss cheese
1 cup sauerkraut
½ yellow onion, sliced thin
Celery salt
Whole pepper corns
PBR (optional)
Cheetos (optional)

Turn on your oven broiler and set a rack to the middle position. Meanwhile....

...combine the onion, sauerkraut, and 1 TSP of celery salt and ½ TSP of whole pepper corns in a small pot. Cover and heat over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times here and there.

Cook hot dogs as desired. For this recipe, and I usually do this anyways, I boiled them. I'm not much a fan of the pan seared hot dog but to each their own.

Arrange the buns on a baking sheet. Place a dog in each bun, mustard as desired, about two heaping forkfulls of kraut, and top with Swiss cheese (one slice each, halved, used here). Place the pan underneath the broiler and cook until the cheese melts and bun is toasty. Serve immediately with your favorite lunchtime beverage and side.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Berrymisu

"Paul loves berries...and chocolate," said his wife, Angela. It was Paul's upcoming 50th and Angela was writing for support in the mighty task of satisfying a group coming to celebrate. I volunteered myself for dessert:

> Dessert! ME ME ME!!! OOO! OOOO! I want dessert!!

Before I go on, a shout-out to Angela for providing these great pictures!

I came up with "berrymisu" because berries, especially blueberries, are plentiful in the DC region and I've found a new love for them (which means I'll be sick of them in about two weeks).

This recipe is a pain - there's a lot of work here. You could shorten things (such as buying ladyfingers instead of making Pan di Spagna) and leaving out the sides (raspberry coated chocolates and chocolate stuffed strawberries). In fact, if you left out these things the recipe is quite easy and quick. I've broken this down into subrecipes: pan di spagna, strawberry juice, ganache, and the 'misu' itself. Below is a list of everything you'll at least need:

16 large eggs
16 oz mascarpone
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 lemon
1 pound blueberries
1½ pounds strawberries
4 oz raspberries
6 oz 60% semi-sweet chocolate
Raspberry liquor
Unsalted butter
9 x 13 glass pan
Two 9" cake rounds
Canned air
Fine mesh strainer

Pan di Spagna
10 room temperature eggs, separated
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
2 TSP grated lemon peel
1 TBS vanilla extract
Two 9" cake rounds

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour your cake rounds.

Add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat until thickened, having the consistency of frosting. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the egg yolk mixture (about six foldings required), then fold the flour into this (again, about six foldings). Gently fold in the lemon peel and vanilla.

Spread evenly between the two pans and cook for about 20 minutes. Do the toothpick test; they will likely not be done so check again every three minutes. When done, flip upside down onto a wire rack and cool for two minutes. Remove the cake from the pans and continue to cool to room temperature (about an hour).

Straberry Juice
1½ pounds strawberries, hulled
1 TSP fresh lemon juice
2 - 3 TBS sugar

Quarter the strawberries and add to a blender. Add a ½ cup of cold water and the lemon juice to this and blend on the lowest speed until the berries are well ground up. Taste the juice - if not sweet enough add sugar as desired. Continue blending on low speed for about two minutes.

Line a fine mesh strainer with two folds of cheesecloth. Pour the berry mixture into the strainer (set over a large bowl to capture the juice) and let sit unoccupied for about 10 minutes. Lift the cloth from the strainer and gently squeeze the mixture into the strainer. Discard the cloth.

While the juice is straining using a spoon or spatula mix the juice in the strainer to alleviate potential clogs. When finished, clean the strainer and then restrain. I know this sounds ridiculous but just do it.

Store in the fridge until ready.


6 egg yolks, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
16 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 TBS grated lemon peel
1 pint heavy cream
2 TBS strawberry juice
2 TSP raspberry liquor

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow and slightly thickened. Add in the mascarpone and beat at low speed until mixed, then add the heavy cream and beat until thickened and creamy at medium speed. Add in the lemon peel, strawberry juice and raspberry liquor and mix until incorporated.


Cut the cake rounds in half, and then slice each one down its length to make a total of eight, half moon shaped cakes. Cut each shape into a rectangle by lobbing off at the round edges, saving the edges.

In a 9x9 dish, add 1 cup of the strawberry juice and 1 TBS of the raspberry liquor and stir to mix.

Line a 13x9 dish with two pieces of plastic wrap, with about 8 - 10" of wrap hanging off the longer edges. Press the wrap against the inside of the pan and into the corners so the inside is completely covered. Pour about ½ cup of blueberries into the bottom.

Quickly dip sections of the cake into the strawberry/liquor juice and press along the bottom of the pan, forcing the berries into it. This does not have to look pretty so no worries. If the cake breaks, no worries on that either. Repeat this until the bottom is covered.

Pour ½ of the mascarpone mixture over the cake and top with another 1 cup of blueberries. Repeat the cake lining procedure as before, cover with the other ½ of the mascarpone mixture with another cup of blueberries, and additional cake (not dipped). Cover the cake tightly with the overlapping plastic wrap; the cake will likely be taller than the pan - this is OK. If you have one, place another empty glass 13x9 pan on top of this and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours. [If you don't have another pan, put a cutting board on top of the cake weighted down with a 3 quart pot.]

Raspberry Covered Chocolates

6 oz 60% semi-sweet chocolate
2 TBS butter
1 TBS cognac

Gently rinse the raspberries under cool water and roll on paper towels to dry. Using the canned air, carefully blow out any remaining water inside the raspberries.

In a small pan over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter undisturbed until the ganache appears milky. Mix with the butter and then mix in the cognac. Set aside for 1 hour.

Arrange the raspberries, hole side up, in between the rails of a cooling rack.

Fill a small tipped pastry bag (or a small Ziploc, cutting of the corner prior to use) with the ganache. Fill each raspberry with ganache. Cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour and let come to room temperature prior to serving.

Chocolate Filled Strawberries

Strawberries (as many as you think you need)
Ganache from above

Using a sharp knife carefully hull the strawberry as you would the top of a pumpkin prior to carving. If you have a bird-beak knife this is much easier. Remove the green leaves of the strawberry and cut off/discard the hull; set aside the top.

Hollow out the strawberry as best you can with a small knife. Set each berry upside down on paper towels to let drain a bit. Fill each with ganache and replace the top of the berry, pressing into the ganache. Fridge for at least 2 hours, not longer than 6 as the berries will begin to discolor. Let the berries come to room temperature prior to serving.

Final Steps

Whip up 2 cups of whipping cream sweetened with 1 TBS sugar and 1 TSP vanilla.

Unlayer the overlapping plastic wrap from the berrymisu. Place a large cutting board on top of the cake and flip over; remove the glass pan and carefully peel back the plastic wrap.

Cut slices of cake and top with the whipped cream; pour about 3 TBS of strawberry juice on the plate and garnish with the berries. Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired.