Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pudding Savant

Hello Chickens!  Just a quick note today because I have a new recipe that just. Won't. Wait.

Remember the Dark Chocolate Pudding from this post?  Which, if you have made, you love me, and if you have not, you should.

Well, now that I've got the chocolate thing down, it seemed time to branch out into caramel...

Oh yeah.  I went there.

You're welcome.

Deep Caramel Pudding

1 qt half and half
1 T vanilla
1/2 t salt
1 16 oz jar of high quality caramel or dulce de leche or cajeta
7 T corn starch

Sift the cornstarch into the half and half.  Whisk in salt and vanilla.  Put in saucepan over medium heat and add dulce de leche or caramel.  Whisk until caramel melts into the mixture, and then cook, stirring, until the pudding thickens to your desired consistency.  Pour into six ramekins and cover with plastic wrap touching the surface so that no skin forms.  Serve chilled with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and unsweetened whipped cream.  Also good wish crushed pretzels or chopped salted marcona almonds on top.

For serving more than 6, I recommend making one batch of the dark chocolate and one of the caramel and pouring them side by side into the ramekins for two taste sensations in one dessert.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, November 28, 2011

Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Suzanne who has won the Orka silicone oven mitt!  Suzanne, send me an e-mail at staceyballisinfo (at) gmail dot com and I will get you your prize in time for the next batch of holiday cookies.

I hope all my chickens had a great holiday, it was a wonderful weekend here and I was sad to see it end.

But I also tried a new trick that I HAVE to share with you all.

As you know, my dear friend Chef Denise, who owns the extraordinary Flavour Cooking School in Forest Park, IL is often a source of terrific cooking tips and tricks for me.  Recently she had talked about a method of cooking Prime Rib that intrigued me.  She said the best way to get perfect medium rare without well-done edges or that inch of gray around the outside of the slices, was to slow cook the roast at 200 degrees.

So when we knew that two of our favorite people were coming over for a post-Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night, prime rib seemed the perfect antidote to a weekend of turkey.

I bought a 3 rib roast, let it come to room temp, and seasoned it well with kosher salt and ground grains of paradise.  Then I seared it on all sides in a very hot pan with a little canola oil.  And popped it in the oven at 200 degrees.  The time will vary depending on the size of your roast, but mine was about 7 lbs and the roast was finished in about 4 hours.  The best thing to do is to use a leave-in electronic thermometer.  When the roast hits 125 internal degrees, take it out of the oven and tent it with foil.  It will come up to around 130-135 on its own outside of the oven.  You have to let it rest for 30 minutes before carving so that the juices redistribute throughout the meat. 

The roast was tender, juicy, and perfectly pink from edge to edge.  Not to mention delicious.  I will never make a rib roast any other way from now on, thanks Chef D!

If you have a holiday dinner party coming up, I can't recommend this method more.

Anyone else with a new tip or technique to share?

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving with Contest and Recipe

Hello Chickens!  I hope that you are all gearing up for a very happy day of celebration.  If any of you are still in any way panicked about the big day, and in need of assistance, I turn your attention to last year's post which may be helpful...  A Polymath Thanksgiving Primer

This year, instead of a traditional Thanksgiving recipe, I wanted to share one that was inspired by my godmother Susan and Charming Suitor.  She is the queen of chocolate, and the darker the better.  He is the king of all pudding. Susan doesn't want any nuts or fruits or flotsam and jetsam to mar perfect chocolatey goodness, and CS will eschew all manner of cakes, pies, and other baked sweets if he can just have pudding. 

CS and I were having a couple of pals over for Monday night dinner, and I needed a dessert that was quick and easy.  I had spotted a Jean-Georges recipe for a dark chocolate pudding a week or so back, and I thought it would be the perfect thing to play with.  A few little tweaks and we have a very grownup pudding that is dark enough to make Susan smile.  And a handy thing if you need a last minute dessert for your holiday:

Super Dark Chocolate Pudding for Susan and CS
adapted from Jean-Georges Vongrichten
½ c granulated sugar
½ c Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder (or the darkest cocoa powder you can find, Ghiradelli works too)
5 T cornstarch
Pinch salt
1 t instant espresso powder
1 qt half and half
3.5 oz dark chocolate, (85-90 % cacao) chopped
1 t vanilla

 Sift all dry ingredients together.  Whisk in the half and half and strain into a large saucepan, just to catch any possible lumps, because you want the smoothest pudding ever.  Cook over medium heat, whisking upretty constantly, until the pudding starts to bubble and thicken, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and vanilla.  Whisk until chocolate is fully melted and incorporated.  Pour into a large bowl or into six ramekins and cover with plastic wrap, preferably with the wrap touching the top of the pudding so that a skin does not form.  Chill until set, about 4 hours for a single bowl, 2 hours for individual servings.  Serve with very lightly sweetened whipped cream, and maybe a couple little shortbread cookies on the side.

It's been a while since we had a giveaway, so I thought we would have a small one in honor of the holiday.

Share your best Thanksgiving tip or recipe in the comments section, and I will choose one at random to receive this fabulous Orka 11 inch Silicone Oven Mitt:

Blue OrkaPlus 11" Silicone Oven Mitt with Cotton lining
So, share with the class between now and 11:59PM on Sunday night, and I will announce the winner on Monday.

And seriously?  Make the pudding.  You can thank me later.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday.  Know that I am always thankful for you.

Yours in Gratitude and Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cocktail Party, Nu?

Hello, Chickens!  I hope Fall is as glorious where you are as it is here in Chicago.  I love the brisk air, the falling leaves, the football...well, some of the football, I am a Bears fan after all, which is ruinous at best. 

Remember last fall when I catered this party for my Dad? It went very well, and all the staff and board members had a terrific time.
So this year he asked me to do it again.  Since we had gone full on gourmet for last year, this year I wanted to do something where I could riff on a theme.  And being a Jewish organization, what could be more fun than cocktail party versions of items you might find at a classic Jewish delicatessen?

Charming Suitor was a huge help, brainstorming with me about what items would be delicious and how to miniaturize and elevate them to their highest potential.  Here was the result:

Some tips I've shared before....I like to stick with white and wood for serving pieces.  They show off the food to its best advantage, and pieces are usually readily available for very little money at places like Target and IKEA and Home Goods.

For a theme party like this one, pick your theme, make a list of all the foods you associate with that theme, and then think of how to make a one or two-bite version.  Be sure to remember dietary restrictions, and make sure you have options for vegetarians besides crudites. 

Mini Matzo Ball Soup in Espresso Cups

These were dead easy.  Made my regular matzo ball recipe, but made the balls with a scant 1/4 tsp. of batter.  They were about the size of a marble once cooked.  I skewered each one with a blanched sliceof baby carrot and put the skewers in espresso cups filled with chicken consomme.  Guests ate the matzo balls and carrot off the skewer and then drank the soup.

Borscht Bites

Borscht is a classic, and beets are in season.  I took red and golden beets, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and orange zest and wrapped them tightly in foil.  Then I roasted them at 400 for about 40 minutes until they were tender.  I peeled and cooled them, cut into cubes and topped with a squirt of sour cream seasoned with salt and lemon zest, and a sprinkle of chopped chives. 

Deviled Eggs with Chicken Bacon

I made a simple deviled egg, and topped with a piece of crispy chicken skin.  I just asked my butcher for some pieces of skin, they should have this from making all those boneless skinless breasts everyone loves.  I took the skins, and laid them on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I put another piece of parchment on top and weighted it down with a second sheet pan.  Bake at 400 for about 20-30 minutes until the fat is fully rendered and the skin is golden brown and crispy.  Let cool and break into small pieces for garnishing your eggs.  Will store for a couple of days in a ziploc bag.

White Anchovy Herring Canapes

I'm not a huge fan of herring, but it is classic.  So I updated it by using a marinated white anchovy instead.  Rounds of basic cocktail rye topped with a sour cream horseradish sauce, then a half an anchovy, a little slice of pickled red onion, and a sprig of dill.

Mini Chicago Hot Dog Buffet

No Chicago deli is complete without Vienna Beef dogs on a soft bun "dragged thru the garden" on the menu.  And lucky for me, they make a miniature version, just three inches long!  Your favorite bakery can custom make the rolls, or you can cut regular sized ones in half.  The toppings for a Chicago Dog are:  Yellow mustard (preferably Plochmans), neon green pickle relish, chopped onions, tomato slices, pickle spear, sport peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt.  Sauerkraut is an acceptable addition.  Ketchup is strictly forbidden for anyone over the age of 8.  To keep with the mini theme, I used cherry tomatoes and small pickles.  The condiment holder is actually a bar tray used for drink garnishes, and I got it at a local restaurant supply house.

Mini Noodle Kugels wth Apple Compote and Creme Fraiche

Sweet noodle kugel is a favorite at all the holidays, my recipe is here.  To make a smaller version, I swapped out extra fine egg noodles for the usual wide versions, and baked in a mini muffin tin.  Instead of the traditional toppings of apple sauce and sour cream, I upgraded to an apple compote I made by cooking a small dice of apples in a little bit of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon until the juices caramelized.  A little creme fraiche and these one-bite wonders disappeared quickly!

Chicken Liver Mousse

I can't do the organ meats, remember?  But chopped liver is as deli as can be.  Lucky for me, Charming Suitor came to the rescue with this fluffy and delicious chicken liver mousse.  He sauteed the livers in chicken fat with shallots, and then pureed them with some cream until smooth.  He seasoned to taste with salt and pepper and then let the puree chill completely.  He whipped some more cream to soft peaks and folded the chilled mousse into the cream for a very light texture.  I scooped the mousse onto Chinese spoons and topped with fried shallots and chopped chives.

Mini Bagels

I halved mini sesame and poppyseed bagels and gave them a generous schmear of chive cream cheese. A slice of lox and sprig of dill, and DIY garnishes of sliced baby cucumber, sliced cherry tomato, and capers.

Hummus and Crudites, Pumpernickel Pretzels and Beef Sticks

You always need some easy nibbly bits at a party like this.   I filled in the buffet with hummus, with baby zucchini, baby carrots and snap peas for dipping, as well as beef salami sticks and fabulous Pumpernickel Onion Pretzel twists from Snyder's, which were as big a hit as anything I cooked!

So, what are your favorite foods that you have miniaturized for a cocktail party?  Do share with the class....

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Thursday, September 22, 2011


The fabulous Amy Sue Nathan over at Women's Fiction Writers did an interview with me a while back, and it went live today!

Check it out, and be sure to pop around and check out the rest of the site while you are there!


Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, September 12, 2011

Salad Bar Minestrone

Welcome to Fall, Chickens!  Didn't that just sneak right up on all of us?  I could have sworn I was just getting the hang of summer.

But football is on the agenda, kids are back in school, and crisp has returned to the vocabularies of weatherpeople everywhere.  Which means that it is time to think about cooking again.

I never really think about what I do in the summer as cooking.  It feels more like assembling.  And grilling, of course.  And don't get me wrong, I love summer foods...all the thrown together salads with the abundance of available and interesting produce.  Endless ears of local sweet corn.  Charming Suitor and I have been having a passionate love affair with steamed artichokes dunked in peppery dijon vinaigrette this summer, sometimes tucking into the succulent leaves and meaty hearts as our whole dinner.  Delicious and virtuous, such a rare combination.  CS is a serious grill master, and this summer has been filled with perfectly juicy chops and steaks and burgers.

But Fall....Fall is for COOKING.  Long braises, hearty stews, crispy skinned roasts.  The kind of cooking that fills the house with amazing smells that make the neighbors jealous. 

I love soup.  All kinds of soups.  One of the things I love about them, as someone who is always trying to be healthier and manage some weight loss, is that they are filling and can be very good for you if you stay away from chowders and cream soups.  If there is a vegetable soup on the menu, I'll always pick that over a salad to start, because it fills me up better and helps me deal with my entree in moderation.

Since I work from home, lunch is often a bowl of soup and maybe a chunk of cheese and piece of fruit.  One of my favorite soups to make is what I call my salad bar minestrone.  It plays into my very lazy nature by providing all my ingredients pre-prepped and cleaned and ready for the pot.  It also means I don't end up with a fridge full of half-used veggies that I have to figure out a use for.  It comes together in about a half an hour, and will feed CS and I lunches for a week, but freezes beautifully if you live alone or don't like to eat the same thing several times in a row. 

This is a technique more than a recipe, so alter for your personal taste!  And if you find a combo you love, share with the class.

Salad Bar Minestrone

8 c assorted veggies from your salad bar, in fairly equal proportions:  I use the following, but you should use what you like. (I don’t like mushrooms in this soup, they make the broth sort of muddy)

                Shredded red cabbage
                Red onion
                Zucchini and/or Yellow Squash
                Broccoli and/or Cauliflower

1 jar of your favorite marinara or tomato basil sauce, I love Rao’s
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
½ - 3/4 c small whole wheat pasta, like ditalini or orzo
¼ c flat leaf parsley, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Water or stock

Dump all of the veggies excluding the potato into a large stock pot.  Add the jar of marinara and enough water (or good chicken or vegetable stock if you have it on hand) to cover the veggies by about 2 inches.  Stir well, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.  When the soup is bubbling, add the red pepper flakes if you like, and salt and pepper to taste.  When the broth tastes great, add the pasta and potato and cook for another 12-15 minutes.  When the potato and pasta are cooked through, taste again for seasoning, stir in the parsley, and let cool before storing in fridge or freezer.

If you have any leftover cooked veggies in your fridge, you can add them when you add the pasta and potato.

Use what you have!  No jarred pasta sauce?  Grab a large can of crushed tomatoes.  Have some fresh herbs on hand, or some slightly sad wilty veggies in the crisper?  Use ‘em up.  Prefer a grain to pasta?  Try barley or farro or brown rice.  Want it soupier? Add more water or stock.  Heartier and more stewlike, add less.  Have some pesto around?  Stir it in.  The most important ingredient is fluidity, let your taste buds and mood guide you.

 Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Remember Them

On this tenth anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, I think the simplest offerings are the best.  We all have our personal stories of where we were and what we did and who we lost on an individual level and what we lost as a nation. 

I hope that on this anniversary you each honor the day in your own way, in whatever way is most meaningful to you.  I hope you are with people you love, and that you hold them close.  I pray that you take the time to remember in these times of political division that we are greater together and that tolerance of each other, and our diversities is our best hope for a unified and peaceful future.  I hope your day includes not only a moment of reflection on behalf of the lives lost, both on the day itself and in the wars that day has spawned, but that you also take time to breathe, to laugh, to love as hard as you can in these all too brief moments we are fortunate to have.

And because I can say it no better, I wish us all peace.

A traditional Jewish prayer is often offered on days like this.  I think it says everything in my heart.

At the rising of the sun and at its going down We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
Yours fondly,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Outside the Box

Just a quickie today to say hi and share a thought…

Charming Suitor and I are finally starting to see a light at the end of the Purge and Merge tunnel, and for the first time, we’re reasonably sure it isn’t a train!  We’ve been working very hard to get this place feeling like us, and slllloooooooowly the apartment is becoming truly ours.
The floors have been covered in CS’s beautiful rugs.  We’ve got him set up with a cozy man-cave where he can rock out on his bass, or watch the eleventh basketball game of the day when I can’t take one more free throw.  The little knick knacks and treasures we picked up on our honeymoon are displayed proudly.  Every room is slowly being integrated, so that we are fully blended.  Having our “peanut butter in my chocolate, chocolate in my peanut butter” moments if you will.

I know that many of you are facing the same dilemmas we have when you decide to co-habitate with your sweetie.  And I know I have shared before some of my philosophies about making that process easier emotionally.  So today I wanted to share one of the smaller touches and, I think, most interesting of the discoveries we’ve made as it relates to getting your décor just right.
I’ve never been an art collector.  In this apartment, where the walls are big and the ceilings high, I always went with more of a “random crap hung on the walls to take up space” than “thoughtfully chosen works of art to display”.  But CS went to art school, and has been collecting since he was a pup, we have dear friends who are artists whose work we love, and we love to support them.  For an engagement gift, I gave CS a piece done by one of our best friends that he had commented upon when we were at his studio.  So all of my EBay treasures were pretty easy to take down to make room for actual real art by real artists.  Except for one room.

The dining room.  Where all the walls were adorned with a collection of antique gilded Florentine wooden trays.  These traditional Italian decorative pieces are hand painted, and I’ve been collecting them for over 20 years.  I loved how the gold would pick up the lighting in the room, especially candlelight, when I had dinner parties.  They are all shapes and sizes and interesting patterns.  People always commented on them.  But there was no way to give up four optimal art walls for the sake of my trays; it truly would not have made sense.    I figured it was just going to be one of those sacrifices, and looked to the heavens for strength.  Where I was faced with my ceiling. The one with the rafters that make 20 inset open squares.
Oh no, she didn’t. 


CS and I picked the 20 best of the collection (feel free to insert mocking/threatening of Hoarders appearance here, and no, I will not tell you how many didn’t make the cut) and found some appropriate mounting brackets.  It nearly put my poor hubs in traction getting them installed.  But we both LOVE the way they look up there, it is a really wonderful design feature, and while there was a brief moment of worry when we were getting ready to begin the project, after the first one went up we knew we were on to something.

So my recommendation is to be willing to think outside the box, repurpose, reimagine, and while you may lose some beloved décor items in order to keep your beloved happy, you might be surprised at what you can keep if you are willing to move it somewhere unexpected.  Even the ceiling!
What are some of your special decorating touches that you just love?
Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What I've been doing

First, we did this

And then we did this

And then we did this

  There were these

And a lot of this

And then we went here

 And ate this

And we became this

Cutest. Merged Family. Ever.

Now I am frantically working on the new book, which is due August 1 so that I can get it in your hot little hands in July 2012. 

More news as I have it.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wedding ceremony at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Club
Flowers by Cornelia McNamara http://www.corneliamcnamara.com/
Pictures by Zhao Photography http://www.zhaophotography.com/
Cake by TipsyCake http://www.tipsycakechicago.com/
Embroidered handkerchiefs by http://www.sewcrazyinchicago.com/
Wedding dinner in the private room at MK http://www.mkchicago.com/
Menus and other custom printing by With Grace  http://www.withgraceshop.com/
Dress designed by Mark Botelho, information available upon request

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Wedding Dinner and a Recipe

When Charming Suitor and I planned our wedding, the one word that kept coming up was intimate.  We are both blessed with large extended family, and oodles and oodles of friends, and we knew that we only had two options, a wedding for 50 or a wedding for 350.  There would be no way to find anything in between.  And since we only had 4 months from engagement to wedding date, not to mention that neither of us wanted a huge unwieldy event, not to mention a limited budget, 50 it was.  And we knew right away that we weren't going to do a traditional party.  All we wanted was a ceremony, followed by cake and champagne.  No dancing, no sit down meal, no receiving line. I kept saying "All Bread, No Circus."

We also knew that we wanted our newly combined family to celebrate later that evening with a truly spectacular meal.  After all, food and wine were the things that intially bonded us, and continue to bring us much joy.  We cook well and easily together. Even a basic weeknight dinner becomes a delight to prepare and share.  Our entertaining sensibilities are in sync, and when we have people over we are a great team. 

When CS agreed to turn my place into OUR place, I offered him the back room as a home office.  He smiled and said that he didn't want a home office and was delighted for us to go ahead on the Kitchen Library project that New York Penny and I had envisioned and dreamt of.

I never get tired of looking at this room.
When we got engaged, my mom had booked a reservation at one of our favorite restaurants, MK.  Michael Kornick's fine dining place has never let us down, I have celebrated birthdays there, entertained out of town guests, and always have had delicious meals and amazing service.  It was only a little disappointing, but mostly hilarious when we arrived, having been engaged for less than 20 minutes, to discover the place overrun with firemen.  There had been a glitch in the fire system in the kitchen, which had gone off accidentally, spraying the whole kitchen with chemical foam, and rendering the place finished for the night.  We walked up the block to Kiki's Bistro for a lovely celebration.  

But when we started thinking about our wedding dinner, we returned to MK. They have a private room upstairs, and since we were going to only be 16 for dinner, we decided to book that room so that we could have everyone at one big table.

We knew we wanted a tasting dinner, small plates of wonderful tastes, which would mean going a little off the beaten path for the restaurant.  They stepped up immediately, and we had so much fun making all the plans.

The menu, which we were able to work on with dreamy Exec Chef Erick Williams, fell out as follows:

Amuse Bouche:  Espresso cup of chilled creamy Spring Pea soup with confit lemon
Salad:  Roasted golden and chiogga beets, frisee, orange segments, goat cheese with an orange-walnut vinaigrette
Fish:  Seared diver sea scallops on a bed of celery root horseadish puree, with sauteed black trumpet mushrooms and diced celery root and parsley coulis
Pasta:  House-made fettucine in a light lemony butter sauce with fresh asparagus, fava beans, and peas with chile and pecorino
Game:  Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast over minted artchoke farro with an orange-black pepper duck sauce
Meat: Veal stip loins over creamy polenta, with sauteed tuscan kale, caramelized cippoline onions and saba
Sides:  Roasted asparagus with lemon, and sauteed seasonal mushrooms
Desserts:  Alternated around the table were two different duos, so that every couple could taste four desserts!  Duo 1 was a small vanilla creme brulee and a small lemon tart, and duo 2 was a small chocolate caramel tart with a small banana souffle cake.  Everyone was served a tiny 2 oz. vanilla malted milkshake with their dessert.

Since gougeres had been a discussion in our first e-mail exchanges, we requested them in the bread basket, and they accommodated us deliciously.  We also asked for 3 non-alcoholic mocktails, since five of our guests were not drinkers, and for them to add hot chocolate to the coffee/tea service options, because Little Sister is a big hot chocolate fan.  The whole thing was very personal and very us, and every mouthful was perfect. 

Let the festival of delicious begin!
We couldn't have asked for a better evening, our newly merged family all at one table having a very special meal.  We want to publically thank the entire team at MK, especially their event coordinator Kate and Chef Williams for making it exceed our not insignificant expectations.  We look forward to many more celebrations with them over the years, and plan on having a standing reservation for our anniversaries!  (And before you ask, no, we did not get any discounts or special deals because I am writing about them on this blog, in fact, when I send this to them it will be the first they will know of the existence of the blog at all.) 

In honor of the meal, I thought I would share a recipe that is near and dear to my heart, Gougeres.  Gougeres are a small French cheese puff, very easy to make and addictive to eat.  In one of our earliest e-mail exchanges, I asked CS about what he might make for a dinner party, and one of the first things he said was gougeres.  Since they are one of my faves, I immediately complimented him on his choice, and it really began our discussion of food and entertaining and travel which has continued to this day. 

When he asked me to be his date for New Year's Eve a few weeks later, joining him at the home of Hostess with the Mostest and Big John, two of his dearest friends whom I had yet to meet, I was a little nervous, but excited.  He asked HM about the menu, and when he found out her appetizer was going to be a Spicy Tuna tartare, which he already knew was on my No-Fly List, he asked if he could also bring an appetizer.  And he made Gougeres, so that I would have something to nibble on.  He didn't make a big deal about it, he just quietly made sure I was taken care of, that I would be comfortable.  I think that might be the moment I fully realized that I was falling in love with him. 

Make these for your family, or your sweetie, or just for yourself.  They are little nuggets of love and yummy.

Charming Suitor Gougères

1 cup water
4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
6 ounces grated Gruyère, cheddar, emmenthal, or other nutty full-flavored cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees if you plan to make the gougères right away.

Bring water, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Place the flour in the bowl of a mixer, add the boiling water mixture and mix with a paddle, if available (not a whisk), or use a wooden spoon in a bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until the dough is very smooth. Add in the cheese and mix well until dough is thick and cheese has pretty much melted into the dough. Place the dough in a large Ziploc bag. I find this easier than the traditional pastry bag method. You can just cut off the corner of the bag, pipe the gougères, and then throw it away. If you prefer to use a pastry bag, feel free, just use a medium plain tip.

Line 2 large baking sheets with either silicone baking mats or parchment paper, and pipe the dough in small mounds onto them, about 1 inch rounds, leaving an inch and a half of space between them. Sprinkle each with a few flakes of kosher salt, and if you want, some extra grated cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and puffed about 3 times their original size. Don’t open the oven door for for the first 10-12 minutes or they may deflate upon themselves. They will still be delicious, but not as pretty. Serve and eat IMMEDIATELY! Best when hot out of the oven.

If you want to freeze them to bake later, pipe the gougères a directed, sprinkles them with grated cheese (will help them not stick to each other during storage) and freeze them overnight. You can then store in a bag for when you want them. To serve: Let the frozen gougères thaw at room temperature while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees (about 15-20 minutes). Sprinkle the thawed or refrigerated gougères with salt and bake 25-30 minutes, until golden and puffed.

These invite experimentation, not only with cheese, but also add ins.  Try adding a tablespoon of minced fresh herbs to the dough, or crispy bacon bits.  Sauteed shallots are delicious, as is cooked fresh corn off the cob.  They also invite filling!  A suprisingly tasty bite is to make the gougeres with cheddar and pop in a classic sweet and sour meatball.  It makes for an amazing one-bite slider.

If you have a recipe of something that bonds you to someone special, share with the class.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Little bits of joy

Hello Chickens!  As many of you know, last Sunday, May 1, my Charming Suitor and I said I Do. 

Cookin' in the kitchen!
There was a lot of crazy leading up to a perfect weekend of family and friends and love and laughter.  In one fell swoop I gained the very special gifts of a husband, another set of parents, a sister and brother, and even nieces!  When the wedding pics come back, I will share more, but for now, I wanted to share some of the little details and recommendations that came out of the experience, before they leave my head.

1.  GET THESE BAGS:  http://mymojuba.com/bride-mojuba/inside-bride

Full disclosure:  The creator of these is a longtime friend, and was a wedding planner for years.  She meticulously researched the best little "insurance policies" that everyone needs on hand on the big day.  Things like a top quality emergency stain remover kit, band aids, clear nail polish...even the things you wouldn't think of, like plastic straws for drinking without smudging lipstick!  Jackie's wedding present to Charming Suitor and I were these bags, and we both were SO glad we had them.  I had a tiny snag on my dress...in the bag?  Tiny scissors, it was gone in a flash without a trace.  Had forgotten my "something blue", a cool strand of blue suede peppered with little Turkish eveil eye beads for luck, wound it around my bouquet and we were back on the good luck train.  Charming Suitor used his like a briefcase, organizing all the checks to pay vendors, collecting gift envelopes, and keeping his wallet etc. in a safe place.  The best gift you can give to a bride or groom, or yourself if your big day is coming up.

2.  Flip Video

Someone you know has one.  Ask them to tape the ceremony if you aren't hiring a videographer.  We are so glad my mom handed hers to one of our friends, because we have been able to share the ceremony with some family and friends who were unable to attend.

3.  Don't be afraid to ask for unusual details.

We were able to make the day special and personal by working with our vendors on some details that were special to us.  Because the event was so small, and because we are well equipped for entertaining at home, we were able to use our own china, silver, linens and glassware for the reception.  It was very cool to see a friend eating our wedding cake off of my great-grandmother's china!  We asked the restaurant where we had our wedding dinner to put gougeres in the breadbasket, since they were an early funny bonding thing between CS and I.  Everyone will be honest about what they can and can't do for you, but it never hurts to ask.

4. Let go.

In the weeks leading up to the big day everyone around us kept remarking on how calm we were.  Our standard response was this:  We wanted to be husband and wife.  We didn't give a flying fig about being "bride and groom".  Of course we wanted the event to go well, for the guests to have a good time, for all the planning to result in events that go off without hitches.  But at the end of the day, the promise we made to each other was that the day was a lovely necessary step in getting us to our life together, and not the other way around.  So we made a conscious decision not to care about whether the cake fell off the table, or if it rained, or if we flubbed our lines.  And it worked.  By focusing on the big picture, and making sure that we genuinely felt that if anything went wrong it would be hilarious and not heartbreaking, we could be calm, cool and collected.  We had butterflies of excitement, not nervousness.  We were able to be fully present in the moment, because we weren't thinking about how the event was moving along.  I'm not saying you shouldn't embrace the fun of being the center of attention for a day, we planned the heck out of this wedding weekend, and loved being on the receiving end of such love and warmth.  I'm just saying that the day is the "amuse bouche" of your partnership, the tasty little mouthful that starts the meal off right, and that the rest of your lives together is the meat and potatoes. 

Any other marrieds with good advice for getting through your big day?

Stay tuned for more details, some in depth discussion of a spectacular wedding dinner, and pics as we get them.

Yours in Good Taste,
Mrs. Polymath

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kitchen Library Tour

It gives me tremendous pleasure to present to the world, our Kitchen Library.  While Charming Suitor and I both know that it will continue to change and develop as we use it, for the moment, we are really enjoying how it has changed our cooking and organization.  Monday will be the real test, as we are hosting our first Passover together, and will have fourteen family members around our table.  I think it is going to make all the difference.

Let the tour begin!

The view from the door....c'mon in!

Yep, that is our President on my apron.  And just enough wine glasses....

Le Creuset, Emile Henry, and cast iron galore. 
I love how the colors pop against the chocolate wall!

One of Charming Suitor's beautiful hutches. 
And can you see the gorgeous Japanese tea set in the middle on the right? 
Just got it from my five extra moms at my bridal tea that they hosted. 
My extra sisters gave me the amazing tea box that is sitting on top,
full of really special teas. 
My daily afternoon tea break just got REALLY FANCY!!!

Pots and pans and bakeware, oh my!

Can you say small appliances? 
The hole is where the rice cooker goes,
it was in use at the time of this photo.

Cookbooks at the ready for inspiration,
and the now-famous not-yet-patented shoe rack pot lid solution!

Found the perfect unobtrusive stepladder,
folds totally flat and the wood matches Charming Suitor's stools.
I wish there was a different way to say that. 
It sounds wrong.  But you know what I mean.

Charming Suitor's rolling cart zips right out the door if we need a kitchen island,
or serves as a great place for staging equipment. 
And I love this rug like it's my job.
 I think it makes the whole room feel so luxurious.

The final touch!  CS installed a new dimmer switch (he is very handy!) to create mood lighting,
and I surprised him with this Arts and Crafts switchplate, since that is his style. 
Hope the project is inspiring to you...there are a couple more features I will be highlighting in the future, especially a certain very special piece of art that we are very excited about.   But this is pretty much where we are at for now.

Coming soon...are we crazy enough to keep the momentum going and tackle the whole kitchen?  We just might be.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath