Don Emilio’s and Fun with Tequila

Yes, I promised this post the other day, but there are times I feel like our charming hamlet is 40 miles from Mayberry, instead of 40 miles from the city!  Power outages, for us, are not merely a surge. They often have long-lasting effects (where IS that ‘gouging-my-eyes-out’ emoticon, anyway?).

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Whoa!

I thought it had been a few months since I posted.   Um, I meant to.  But January?  Shame on me, etc.*

Instead of backtracking and hoping to show that I really and truly have been living, eating, working and cussing in Westchester, I offer you this.  Since January …

One kid turned 21, moved into his own** place near campus.  He is now a Junior in college and if he’s reading this, wear your bike helmet, Firstie.

One kid, aka El Secondo, graduated high school (on time, woo hoo! With a shout-out and thanks to the efforts of the terrific CASSLE people at Briarcliff High School:  Mr. B., Mrs. B., Mr. Z., and the soon-to-be Dr. H, and all the wonderful counselors and teachers who cared about him) and is now happily installed at college.  Okay, he gets angsty every so often, but still.

One nest is now empty, and Mr. Foodbabe and I are enjoying it way, way too much.  Of course, we have the adolescent hound-dogs, Jean-Luc and Nigel, to deal with.   Awww.

So, blogstats:

Number of braces on Fabby’s teeth:  Zero!

Number of months “six to nine” is in orthodontist-world:  Fourteen.

Number of new addictions that are good for my health: One (50% of all new addictions)

Number of new addictions that are good for my closets:  One (see above)

******

Tomorrow:  Don Emilio’s, and fun with tequila.

(*Ooh!  I’m going to blame this on Facebook!)

(** if you call Mom & Dad pay for it, his own)

Bedford Post Inn: Way, Way Worth it!

And we now have a new favorite place for meeting friends from Connecticut —  The Bedford Post Inn, on Old Post road in ::wait for it…:: Bedford.

On Saturday night, Mr. Foodbabe, sick of  my cooking, decided we had to go out.   After some yick-yacking (mostly mine), we thought we’d try the BPI.  (I’d been boycotting it for a while; I was in a snit because I’d sent a resume and wasn’t called back for an interview.  Do you think age and general crankiness come through in a resume?  Or do I have a reputation for being “that person”?  but I digress.  )

We were warmly greeted by the valets (such nice young men!) and were directed to the Inn.  It was all of 5:45 and too dark to see much on the stone stairs and patios on the way to the dining room, but the parts we saw were charming.  Even though we’d called ahead and were told it was okay, the maitre d’ said they generally didn’t serve food in the bar.  The chef agreed (thank you, again!).

So we’re in the bar at a little table, roaring fire in the corner, Eric the Bartender and various servers checking on us and entertaining us with stories of John Boy the Farmer, Appletinis and the outstanding gins they have (I’ve seen a Hendricks or two, but never an Old Raj.  Cool!). It was welcoming and easy, without that annoying familiarity that too often accompanies that sort of service.  No one told us to enjoy or asked if we were working on something.  When we caught someone’s eye, we were helped.  Imagine what it was like for the “real” patrons!

The menu isn’t complicated, and we had a tough time deciding what to get.  Mr. Foodbabe started with ravioli — a trio of tender pastas, one filled with spinach, one with ricotta, and another with a soft egg yolk.  I’m not sure what entranced him more — the yolk in his ravioli, or my assurance that I could make that same type of dish at home.  My fruits, shoots and leaves — a nice salad — won my choice because of its name.  When I go back, if it’s still on the menu, I’m having the chiogga beet salad.

And when I go back, I’ll be hard pressed to not just order three courses of the pork.  Vanilla quince puree, pork loin and pork belly that melted in my mouth.  Even my husband, who is not really into it, loved it.  He had the crispy chicken, because he wasn’t sure about the black cod.  I don’t know why and I’m not sure he knows why. It sounded wonderful, though.

Sweets on the dessert menu were interesting but again, not too many choices.  That’s a good thing, btw.  We split a peanut butter mousseline with chocolate ice cream; it was a little soft by the time we got to it because we were visiting with some friends who’d come in for dinner.  Maybe when I go back, I’ll have three courses of the Meyer lemon meringue pie.

The Bedford Post Inn is a warm, friendly,comfortable place with great food and service.  We’ll be back as soon as we can get a table — at this rate, it’s going to be a while.  I wish them a thriving business — they deserve it.

Bedford Post Inn

954 Old Post Road

Bedford, NY

914-234-7800

***

Happy New Year to All.  My resolution is, once again, to stop saying the F-word.  Maybe this will be the year I keep that resolution?  Stay tuned …

Cooking for Men.

That is a concept I don’t completely understand, though I’ve heard it over and over.  When I was doing catering, I’d be told, “remember, this is for men.”   Ummm… how do you make food just for men?  Do you drop it on the floor?  Hide it in plain sight?  Serve it in a very cold, 70 degree environment?   It always puzzled me, so I’d ask the hiring person to be a little more specific about the food and the way it needed to be presented, to appeal “to men.”  I learned that Men like to eat a lot of beef, pork and sausages.  They like big portions.  They like sandwiches.  For anyone taking notes, Men do NOT like the following things:  Flavored coffee, bar snacks with flecks of green stuff on them, vinaigrettes, water chestnuts.  They DO like potato chip crumbs on casseroles, yellow cheddar cheese, tamale pies, buns for their sandwiches, and iceberg lettuce.  DO NOT give them Potatoes Anna.  DO give them baked potatoes with bacon bits.

Our family has, for years, gone to  Prescriptions For Fitness, in Chappaqua, for periodic ass kickings.   One of the trainers, a delusional man named Anthony, claims that men are better cooks than women. Once he had a one-sided cookoff with me and declared himself the winner, which is not fair since all I had to work with at the time was a microwave oven and a hot plate and also because I didn’t enter anything into his contest.  I suppose he did win that one, but still.  If I weren’t afraid of him, I’d have, well, not just wussed out on a blog. But I digress.

Last week, Anthony told my kid that he wanted me to bring him some food. Fattening food.  And he wanted it tout suite.  He may have said, “chop chop.”   This one was easy.  No bologna sandwiches, pickle loaf, thick slabs of bacon for these guys.  The trainers at PFF are Girlie-Men, and they’re getting cream puffs.  If you know any girlie-men, they will like these.

Cream Puffs:  Makes enough for about 18 Sissy Girlie-Man Trainers

Preheat oven to 400.  Equipment to have ready:
Two sheet pans lined with parchment paper
One spoon, scoop, or pastry bag with a large round tip.
One large mixing bowl
One saucepan, about 3 or 4 quart

¾ stick of butter, in about 6 pieces
One Tablespoon of sugar
One cup of water
One cup of all-purpose flour
Five eggs, beaten lightly

One egg beaten well with one tablespoon water, for egg wash.

Method:  In the saucepan, bring the water, sugar and butter to a boil.  When the butter has melted, take the pot off the heat and stir in the flour, all at once, until the mixture starts to clump up.  Return the pan to moderate heat and stir for about a minute.  This will release steam from the dough and allow it to absorb egg.

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Put the flour mixture into a mixing bowl (or the bowl of a mixer), and beat for about a minute, until the mixture is lukewarm.  Making a well in the center, and beating constantly, beat in about ¼ cup of the beaten egg.  When that is incorporated, beat in another ¼ cup of the egg, and then the last ¼ cup.  The mixture will go from looking choppy to looking glossy and smooth, and will fall from the spoon.  It should not be runny or stiff.

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Pipe or scoop the dough onto the lined baking sheets, about 2” apart, in the shape you want. For these guys, I did little round lumps so they could eat them with their pinkies extended.  Brush with the egg wash; if you get peaks on any of your blobs, the wash will bring them down with the rest of their blob.

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Bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes more, rotating the pans at least once during the baking time.  Puffs should be high and golden brown.  Cool on a rack.

To fill, either fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip and pipe each cooled puff full of cream, or slice the top off and fill the puffs.  Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top.  Don’t overfill; do remember that girlie-men generally eat with their pinkies extended.

*Note:  The puffs freeze well.  Cool completely and freeze on a sheet pan; when puffs are frozen through, simply put them into a plastic freezer bag.  Keeps for 2 months; thaw in the refrigerator.

The Key to Successful Vodka Piecrusts

is always, always use a new bottle.  Airline bottle sizes are just right, but do be sure that you are the one to break the seal.

because if you use a bottle that is already opened, some teenager may have opened it, used it for his own pie crust (ahem) and then put a little water into the bottle for, well, freshness or something.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Fabby

who was born on a Monday, but not last Monday, and who was a teenager once herself, but who is still  not amused.

Thanksgiving Countdown: Cranberry Sauce and Pie Crusts

Yesterday, I made cranberry sauce.  We always have the jellied kind in a can that Mr. Foodbabe likes and we both put on our sandwiches, but I also make a batch or two of this.  We freeze the leftovers for Christmas dinner, if there are any.  Leftovers, not Christmas Dinner, silly.

Into a medium-sized saucepan (about 2 qts), put

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One 12-ounce bag o’Cranberries — 3 cups.

About 3/4 cup of granulated sugar

three cups of water

Juice of 1/4 of an orange — about 2 Tablespoons.  I just whacked part of the orange off, squeezed in the juice, chopped the peel and pith and tossed that in as well.  (Make sure you leave the chunks nice and big so you can fish them out later.  Unless you like big chunks of pithy orange peel in your sauce.  not that there’s anything wrong with it …)

Aromatics:  One bay leaf, one cinnamon stick

Bag o’spices:  One teaspoon each white peppercorns, whole allspice, and whole cloves, put in a cheesecloth bag and whacked with the bottom of a pan to crush them just a little.

Over medium heat, stir until the sugar dissolves, and then let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the berries pop.  Take off the heat, stir and let cool.  Cover and chill.

Before serving, take out the seasonings and orange chunks, and stir.  Taste — it’s at this point that I add some vanilla extract (a half-teaspoon), and a little orange juice if I want it.  No, I don’t put in a cornstarch slurry to thicken things up. Sorry, Emeril!

***

I kind of fibbed when I wrote that we have the same thing for Thanksgiving every year.  I mess around with pie crusts.  I’m supposed to say, “experiment with different types,” but honestly, I mess around with them.

Standard in my kitchen is the 3-2-1 method (3# flour and dry ingredients, 2# fat, 1# water).  I like it because I just toss the flour and fat into a mixer bowl, mix them for a while, and then add the water and just combine it.  No dribbling ice water over a mound of flour and shortening, and tossing gently with a fork.  No pastry cutters when fingers and beaters work just as well. I’ve never had less than a good pie crust with this method, and it’s fine for pot pies, too.

But two years ago, I made cream cheese pie crust (Using the recipe from Liz Johnson at the Journal-News — an outstanding cook and extremely cool person), and it was freaking amazing.  This year, though, I’m going to make the vodka pie crust that’s all the rage this year.  tomorrow, we’ll take a look at them. If I’m feeling frisky, I’ll make the cream cheese AND the vodka recipes and compare them.

Fabby’s Blogstats:

Hours til Firstie is due home:  25

Pounds o’Hound that hurtled onto my bed this morning:  105

Ugliness factor of fish el Secondo ordered for his upstairs aquarium:  Extreme.

Amount of money Mr. Foodbabe won for me on his golf outing at the Mayacama last weekend:  $0.00.  (When he called me from SFO last night and broke the news, I told him that he needed to get a craps game going in the airplane’s aisle so he could bring me some $$$.  I think he just slept.)

Thanksgiving Countdown: Sandwich Rolls

for Thanksgiving, there are a few things things I do far ahead of time.  Turkey stock for the gravy (yes, chicken will do, but you know what a princess I am about this stuff …).  Pie crusts are do-ahead.  Bread for the stuffing — both corn bread and wheat bread — are already made and frozen.  Wines have to be tested ahead of time, and the cranberry-orange sauce needs at least a day to taste just right.

Biscuits and cornbread for eating are made Thursday, but for the PTS (Perfect Turkey Sandwich), bread can be made ahead of time. Bread of choice is, for us, this variation on hoagie rolls.  I make mine with a firm sourdough starter and some barm, and keep the dough a little bit moister than when I make regular sandwich buns, so the texture is a little rougher on the inside.

One cup firm sourdough starter

Two and a half cups barm

Four cups bread flour

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (this is optional, but do not use Nestle’s Quik or Malto-anything)

One tablespoon olive oil

About 3/4 cup warm milk (95-100 degrees F – I use non-fat with a shot of half and half in it.)

Put all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix dry ingredients for a moment or two on low speed.  Add barm and starter, then milk and olive oil.  When the dough is hydrated (meaning, no dry bits of flour remain – you may want to scrape the sides of the bowl, too), you can increase the speed to medium.  Knead for 4 or 5 minutes, adding a little flour to keep the dough from being too sticky and wet.  \

Put the dough in a bowl, oil, and turn the dough to coat.  Cover with plastic and let rise for 90 minutes or so, until the dough hasdoubled.

To proof and shape —

Lightly flour a clean countertop.  Turn dough out onto the counter and press lightly to deflate.  Divide dough into 4 ounce pieces.  (Flatten the dough into a rectangle, fold the sides up and over, and roll lightly into a rectangle, then a short fat baguette (for hoagie shape) or tuck edges  under to form a round. Do note my Graham Kerr Bash’n’Chop, with its handy ruled edges!)

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Line a baking sheet with parchment and a light coating of oil.  Place shaped rolls on top of the sheet and lightly oil the tops.  Cover with plastic and a towel, and let rise for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375, slash the rolls straight down the center – I use a serrated knife for this.  Brush tops of the rolls with cold water.  Bake for about 20 minutes — take their temperature when you think they’re done.  They should be about 195-200 degrees inside.

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Mine are now sliced and in the freezer.

**

I realize that most people don’t have firm sourdough starter or barm just sitting around. I also realize that most people won’t make this recipe.  However … if there is an outcry for directions on barms and starters, I’ll be happy to give them.

Sincerely,

Your Fabulous, Lazy, Foodbabe.