I’m pretty proud of the Xmas Eve Eve dinner I whipped up this year, but nightly leftover turkey & caramelized onion mayo sandwiches got boring really fast. I still had a good amount of grapefruit & tarragon poached salmon, sautéed mushrooms and extra gruyere, caramelized onions and fresh herbs from my scalloped potatoes and they sounded like a great combo for a hearty brinner omelette. As you can see, in the last year I perfected my omelette-making game…
Last year, my family kicked off a new Holiday tradition of sharing a meal on Christmas Eve Eve at my house in South Philly. With so much running around on Christmas Day, it’s nice to gather with just my parents, sister and our boyfriends without having to rush off to the next gathering. This year, Dre’s mom joined us from Baltimore and it really felt like the family was complete.
Someone, however, was missing this holiday season… my lovely Grandma. On December 20th, she passed away peacefully in her sleep. It’s still too fresh of a heartache for me to share very much right now, however the food love she inspired in me certainly shines through in this year’s Xmas Eve Eve dinner, from the Dutch oven I used to the trivets & tablecloth. I know she was there with me in the kitchen all weekend.
And so I present, my Xmas Eve Eve Dinner Menu 2012:
Oven Poached Salmon w. Pink Grapefruit & Tarragon Sauce
Emeril’s Potluck: Comfort Food with a Kicked Up Attitude – Recipe
Cider-Brined Roasted Turkey w. Star Anise & Cinnamon
Bon Appétit November 2011 pg 94 – Recipe
Butternut Squash & Corn Bread Stuffing Muffins
Caramelized Onion Scalloped Yukon Gold & Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from two recipes:
Bon Appétit November 2008 – Recipe #1
Bon Appétit December 2012 – Recipe #2
Broiled Asparagus w. Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette
Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook
Sautéed Shiitake, Cremini & Buna Shimeji Mushrooms
Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Generic Brown & Serve Dinner Rolls
I’m only one woman!
I put the rest of the fam in charge of booze, hors d’oeuvres, & dessert once again. Dad & Mary Ann are always on point with their beer & wine selection. Im polishing off the final, and aptly named, Evil Twin Before, During and After Christmas Beer as I type. Kerry & Rich made mini crab cakes, citrus-goat cheese endive and classic lil smokies & BBQ sauce. Dessert was a selection of cakes including an out-of-this-world Yule Log filled with fresh strawberries that Dre’s mom brought and Kerry’s chocolate chip bread pudding a la mode. And another holiday feast has come and gone…
This summer, I had an especially good reason to be in my kitchen – my share from Greensgrow Farms. An urban farm tucked amongst residences off of Port Richmond’s Aramingo Ave., Greensgrow Farms is a shining gem of hope in the effort for more farm to table/home options. Lush latticed chain link fence surrounds a full city block of greenhouses, vegetable starters, fresh herbs, flowering & fruit plants – just about anything you could imagine to fulfill your urban gardening needs.
Every other week, my sister and I split a surplus of vegetables, fruit, & dairy from the self-serve farmstand. I had alot of fun exploring the freshest of ingredients, especially those I’ve never cooked with before. Along the way, I managed to capture some moments for your viewing pleasure and in the hopes of encouraging you to eat & buy local.
I love every part of the current surge in farmer’s markets, CSAs, urban farms, eating local, and eating fresh. It feels good to be a part of the Greensgrow CSA and to cook with meaningful ingredients. I’m just as excited to be hosting a Farm to Table Dinner at Marathon in early October with produce supplied by and benefiting Emerald Street Urban Farm.
On Day 4 of my staycation between jobs, I whipped up an umami-packed dinner for Dre & me. On Day 2, I took an Asia Mart adventure with Sarah in search of fun ingredients for the meal. I try to be somewhat adventurous each time I go to an ethnic market, so I picked up some bunashimeji (aka beech mushrooms), fresh vegetable noodles, & a new jar of hoisin. The beech mushrooms are so tiny and too cute! I filled them out with sliced creminis and enhanced them with the depth of fresh thyme from my Slug City.
I begin by sweating shallots with a bit of olive oil in a pan and added the mushrooms & thyme. I tossed them as they sauteed for about 10 min and finished it with white truffle oil. I love truffle. I love the smell. I love the taste. I LOVE TRUFFLE!
While my mushrooms cooked, I heated an awesome new grill skillet that Sunshine passed along to me. I marinated some chicken breasts in hoisin, ginger, & soy and seared them for deep grill marks on both sides until cooked through. The noodles took a quick dip in boiling water and were a perfect pillow for a pile of savory truffled mushrooms. This may be one of my favorite dishes I’ve made… and 5 years ago you couldn’t dare get a mushroom near my plate!
This past weekend, Dre & I went on a mission to the bookstore for Dalai Llama wisdom, food rules via Michael Pollan, & hopefully a continued subscription to Cook’s Illustrated. He headed off to work at 3 and I ventured across Broad is pursuit of a long-overdue Saturday w/ Sarah.
I’m glad I recalled that David Ansill (of Pif & Ansill restaurant notoriety) had revamped the menu* at the relatively new Ladder 15 – 1528 Sansom Street. Our waitress was great and beyond adorable, so I took her recommendation on the Pear Complex from their (also newly revamped) cocktail menu. DELICIOUS! We started off the meal with the Curried Lamb Empanadas. The three rich, crispy, & dense pockets were savory and perfectly paired with an Apple Chutney & Mango Yogurt.
Ahh, the new buzz menu item around Phily – the Ladder 15 Burger! This burger is on a new level of decadence. Eff a kobe burger… a sizzling bone full of marrow & truffle sauce are where it’s at! For those that can’t handle it, they have a classic burger, too. Both are paired with perfectly crisp fries & parmesan mayo dipping sauce… with caviar on top?!?!
Ansill’s self-titled restaurant (that unfortunatley closed last Summer) had a buzz menu item of its own – Korean Tacos! I never had the opportunity to try them, so it was exciting to have a second chance. The order came with (2) soft tacos – a Pork Belly one & a Braised Short Rib one. They were of a richness beyond my imagination with a fatty Korean BBQ marinade, kim chi, scallion, & sesame seeds. I WILL be back for these again soon… and to try whatever flaming dish I envied as it was delivered to another table.
The highlight of the experience was not one, but two visits to our table by Chef Ansill. He made a welcome point to show Sarah his vision on topping off the Burger 15 and popped over again to see how we were enjoying everything. Now that’s a chef I can surely respect & support!
*Check out Ansill’s full new Ladder 15 menu HERE!
I prefer to cook what my dinner guest craves, so I indulged Dre’s request for baked ziti. I was low on spaghetti sauce and had some veggies that needed to be eaten. I blanched broccoli florets, sauteed mushrooms, onions, & garlic, opened a large can of crushed tomatoes, and warmed them together with seasonings in a saucepan.
While the sauce simmered, I decided on large rigatoni and boiled them until al dente in salted water. I like fat noodles when making baked pasta dishes as they tend to fill with your sauce when tossed. The jumbo macaronis for my Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese worked great! I folded ricotta cheese & shredded mozzarella into the warm sauce, tossed it with the cooked rigatoni, and dumped it into a greased casserole. Once the sliced mozzarella I tiled on top began to brown & bubble, I pulled it from the over and served Dre a big, hot scoop of Baked Toni.
- Crushed Tomatoes – (1) large can
- Broccoli - (0.5) head, trimmed into small florets & blanched
- Mushrooms – (1) cup, sliced
- Garlic – (1) T, minced
- Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
- Dried Basil – (1) T
- Red Pepper Flakes – (1) tsp
- S&P - to taste
- Ricotta – (1.5) cups, part skim
- Shredded Mozzarella – (1) cup, low moisture – part skim
- Fresh Mozzarella – (6) oz, sliced (or enough to cover most of the dish)
- Grated Parmesan - to taste
- Rigatoni – (1) lb, cooked al dente & tossed w/ olive oil
- Olive Oil - as needed
- Heat about (2) T of Olive Oil in a saute pan. Add garlic & onion and cook until caramelized, about (5) min.
- Add mushrooms & saute until browned on both sides, about (3) min per side.
- Dump entire contents of the canned crushed tomatoes into a sauce pan. Add cooked mushrooms mixture, blanched broccoli, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and S&P. Stir and bring to a simmer.
- While sauce simmers, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, about (10-12) min.
- Drain rigatoni and return to stock pot. Add a bit of olive oil & toss to prevent sticking.
- Remove sauce from the heat and dump into a large mixing bowl.
- Fold in ricotta & shredded mozzarella cheeses unti combine.
- Add rigatoni and toss to coat completely.
- Pour the rigatoni & sauce mixture into a greased casserole dish.
- Tile sliced fresh mozzarella on top.
- Bake at 350 degrees for (25) min or until the cheese is browned & the casserole is bubbling.
- Let cool for about (3) min and serve with grated parmesan cheese.
Matt Mayhem is one of my all-time favorite people and my longest friend in my time living in Philly. Each year we get together to celebrate our friendiversary and this time it was a bit of reunion. Life gets away from us sometimes, but great friends never fade. There are very few people I truly trust to have my back, and, possibly even less that I trust in my kitchen. Matt’s a lucky guy to fall into both categories!
Matt scooped some ingredients from Reading Terminal Market and I scooped him on my way home from work. It was nice for once to focus on pics and eating, instead of always being the cook (not that I usually mind!). I was so pleased to sit down to a meal I wouldn’t usually think to prepare, either. Matt artfully seared Duck Breast, sauteed Zucchini-Honeycomb Mushroom Egg Noodles, & tossed a Blood Orange-Mango-Dandelion Salad with a Grapefruit-Shallot Vinaigrette for a truly fresh, delicious dinner. Thanks for the yummies & 6 years of friendship, Mayhem!