When I was a caterer, I learned one of the most important rules of setting up a buffet table: Tall is Good. Height gives the table some drama. You can accomplish this with a big floral arrangement, or by putting the platters on boxes to lift them up. Or...you can do it with the food. These beautiful bread sticks, decorated with savory seeds, will be a conversation piece, both for their looks and their flavor.
During the holiday season, even those of us who already love cooking seem to expend a little more effort making meals for friends. To me, there is nothing that says "made with love" than homemade dinner rolls on a holiday table. The aroma of just-baked bread in the kitchen on Christmas morning is as wonderful as any fresh-cut Christmas tree--spoken like a true food fan. I have a big collection of buns, rolls, and breads (to be revealed in Ballantine's THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF SIDE DISHES next fall), but these fluffy potato have rolls become my favorite, and they will riding shotgun with my baked ham this year. Take a look at this tall beauty...Read on to find out why potato rolls are so wonderful. (Photo by Ben Fink.)
As I work my way through the 500 recipes in THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF SIDE DISHES, it is easy to repeat myself: "This is the perfect cold weather side dish." The truth is that there are a lot of perfect side dishes, which is just one reason why they are so beloved. But consider this dish. Roasted Brussels sprout, sweetened with maple syrup, balanced by salty crisp bits of bacon. It does give one pause. And if you can find a side dish that is a better match with a holiday roast pork or ham, not to mention a roast chicken, I'm willing to discuss the possibilities. (Photo by Ben Fink.)
Side dishes: Are they the best part of the meal? There a many people who think so, especially during the holidays when cooks go to extra efforts to create festive dishes for the big roasts that are (supposedly) the main attraction of the dinner. For my new side dishes book to come out in Fall 2014, I have been creating a large array of recipes that run from humble (but delicious!) weeknight fare to ones that are fit for company. This caramelized onion tart is a showshopper. The recipe follows... (Photo by Ben Fink.)
It's that time of year again. I have already made five turkeys for various recipe development clients, so I am staying in practice, even if I not teaching Thanksgiving this year. (I promise that I will be back in the saddle next year.) If you have any holiday cooking questions, leave your query here in the comments section, and I will get back to you ASAP. Happy Thanksgiving!
I often get questions along the lines of "What is it exactly that you do?" Some people have a difficult time imagining a life of a cookbook writer, especially one who loves working with other people to create the book at hand. Many of my writer friends would never consider co-authoring a book with someone else, much less ghostwrite. Well, to each their own. I love learning new things from my clients, but most of all, I love being the guy who comes in on a white horse to wrangle the book into shape.
I have a burning question: Why would anyone serve canned cranberry sauce when homemade is so easy and delicious? Essentially, you toss fresh cranberries and sugar in a pot, bring it to a boil, and gussy it up with various flavors. Every year, I create at least one new cranberry sauce and each year, I declare that one my favorite. This Thanksgiving, I am making this beautiful, garnet-colored sauce, a recipe that I developed for Driscoll's Berries. The bright red of raspberries complements the darker scarlet of the cranberries, and the flavor is sensational.
Thanksgiving may mean a beautifully roasted bird, but also means countless questions on how to get the turkey and all of those side dishes and desserts on the table! If you have any questions on how to pull off this most food-centric of all American holidays, please post it here and I'll get back to you.
One of the rules of blogging is to never apologize or explain when you've been away from posting for a long time. Well, rules are made to be broken. I just want to say that I have been very busy with publishing projects, one after the other, and one can only spread one's self so thinly. One of these books, THE ESSENTIAL JAMES BEARD COOKBOOK, was published just as Sandy hit. Another book I worked on is THE NORDSTROM FAMILY TABLE COOKBOOK, with Nordstrom executive chef Michael Northern and his amazing talented crew of chefs from around the country. Coming up next year, look for THE MODEL BAKERY COOKBOOK, from the famous Napa Valley family-owned destination bakery, and a few other books where I am behind the scenes doing my thing as a general helper-outer. I am continuing to look for a way to reprint KAFFEEHAUS.
Thanks to everyone who contacted me directly, especially those of you who have attended my classes over the years at Chef Central, The Silo, Adventures in Cooking, and Draeger's. After teaching Thanksgiving cooking classes for over twenty-five yeas, I thought that I should treat myself to a year off. I am gearing up for another holiday-related cookbook that will put me back in the fray, so you just may see me at a some of the venues again.
There...we are caught up. So send over those holiday questions.
Still trawling for Thanksgiving menu ideas? Check out the recipes that I've created for Driscoll's Berries. I've cooked up appetizers, side dishes, and desserts--all easy and delicious. (OK, the individual appetizers are a little fiddly, but it's a holiday.) I'll be posting them in the next couple of days, but I am especially fond of these Brussels sprouts. I love the way the sweet berries balance the earthiness of the sprouts, and you will, too.
At the request of my buddy Guy Bower (I love being on his radio show at KNSS AM Wichita), here is a great Manhattan Clam Chowder. It is one of my favorite lunch dishes, but really, it is hearty enough for supper, too. I use clam juice and a container of refrigerated clams here for a very easy meal. Just be sure to cook the potatoes separately, as the acids in the tomatoes keep the potatoes from softening properly.