Archive for January, 2008


New Years Eve and a 1K Week

I checked my stats yesterday and noticed that Good Home had over 1,000 hits in a week for the first time ever (that’s a lot for my blog). It was the week of New Years, so to celebrate I thought I’d share a pic or two from our New Years celebration.

New Years Eve Dinner

We stayed home New Years Eve. Linda and Jim, and John’s brother Ben and our sister-in-law, Lise came over and we cooked non-stop from 6:00 to 9:00 when we finally ate. We had the best time. Lise and Ben brought divinity and pecan rolls they’d made with Lise’s mom. Linda and Jim brought steaks as thick as your arm for us to cook. John and Ben made Steak Au Poivre, which is steak coated with cracked peppercorns; seared, then laced with a flaming cream sauce. I think its either a Jacque or Julia recipe. If enough people say that want it (I don’t know how many meat lovers I have reading), I’ll see if he will write it down for me to post. Steak lovers can die without regret once they’ve eaten it.

I love this picture of Ben and John stoking up the cream sauce. We love fire in the kitchen.

Heh, Heh, Fire

Linda recreated a salad from a description Ben and Lise gave her of one they ate a restaurant in Dallas. Ben, what was that place called? It had candied pecans and blue cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. I think apples, too. We improvised the candied pecans, which were tasty as snacks. I keep thinking one day I’ll make a huge batch and give bags of them out as Christmas gifts.

Since we were eating hunks of meat the size of dinosaurs, and pan fried potatoes, too, I roasted pears for dessert, a simple and light recipe I adapted from one we heard on NPR’s Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetta Kasper (She doesn’t know it, but I claim Lynne as my radio girlfriend. I love her.). The recipe is below. It’s easy and pretty, too. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures.

Everyone left by 11:30 p.m. and we were snug in bed by 12:00. A perfect New Years Eve!

Roasted Pears

Adapted from Sally Schneider’s book The Improvisational Cook. Sally recommends using lemon juice (instead of orange juice), and didn’t include the orange zest, but oranges were what I had. I’m sure the lemon version is very good, too, but the orange wasn’t bad if I say so myself. And the zest is pretty.

Serves 6

6 not-quite-ripe pears such as Comice, Seckel or Bartlett, halved (with stems left), peeled
and cored, except for stem (The stem looks nice and I think helps hold things
Juice from one fresh orange
Zest from one fresh orange
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
Balsamic vinegar (Optional, but I highly recommend it, especially if you use orange juice. The tanginess will spice things up a little.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F
2. Arrange pears, cut side down, in a baking dish. Drizzle with fresh orange juice. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with the tip of a sharp knife or a small spoon then mix the seeds with some granulated sugar and the orange zest. Sprinkle lots of the orange-vanilla sugar on the pears. Dot with butter.
3. Roast the pears until caramelized, for about 40 to 50 minutes turning them over half way through baking. (I actually guessed on this time, the recipe doesn’t really say how long to bake them.) Baste pears with liquefied sugar mixture before returning them to the oven. If desired, just before serving, drizzle a few drops of fine aged balsamic vinegar on the pears.

Serve one or two pear halves with a scoop or two of good vanilla ice cream. Drizzle the sugar mixture from the pan onto the ice cream and pears. Orange peel makes a pretty garnish.


Good Lard! A Better Biscuit

Okay, since November I’ve continued to play with my biscuit recipe and process. So here is a better and more convenient version of my earlier recipe.

After reading some historic cookbooks I decided to try lard as the fat instead of butter and shortening, and I must admit, it made a big difference in texture and form (rose higher and was easier to handle). Tasted just as good, too.

To make things easier I pre-measured my own “self-rising” biscuit mix, which basically means I stir together 2 cups flour, 3 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and 1 scant tsp. salt together and put the mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator until I am ready to bake. The refrigerator keeps the ingredients cool, which is a plus when baking biscuits. I’m also keeping my lard there, too.

So here is what biscuit making looks like for me now.

What you’ll need (plus you’ll need a biscuit cutter, which I forgot to put in the picture):

What You Need for Biscuits

Preheat oven to 450.Dump pre-measured dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse a couple of times just to mix them. Then scoop out 5 tbs. of lard and put those into with the dry mix.

Adding Lard</

Pulse the dry ingredients and lard until it looks like this, more or less no lard lumps bigger than a pea.

Texture with Lard Cut In

Put the mixture into a mixing bowl and pour a scant cup of plain yogurt on top (you can also use buttermilk, but this is what I had). Then mix it with a fork or spoon until the mixture comes together to make a shaggy dough that looks like this:

Shaggy Dough

If the mix is too dry to come together, add a tablespoon or two more yogurt.Dusting

Dust flour onto your kneading surface (John bought this handy skimmer that works really well for dusting). Dump your dough onto the surface and knead it no more than 10 times. To avoid handling the dough too much (and sticky fingers), you can use a bench scraper to fold the dough onto itself.

Layering Dough

I love the bench scraper. It also helps with cleaning the flour off of the counter later. Add a little more flour to the surface and your hands if the dough is too sticky.

Roll or flatten dough with your hands until it is about ¾ inch thick. The marble pastry roller stays cool (thanks for the tip, Beth!) and because it is heavy only requires a few strokes to get to the dough to the right thickness.

If you want biscuits that rise in the oven, cut them with a sharp, stiff, straight-sided biscuit cutter. Dip the cutter in flour and then push straight down on the dough with no twisting. I finally broke down and bought some good biscuit cutters at William Sonoma. Oh, and once a biscuit is cut, gently place it on the ungreased baking sheet – no shaping the biscuit to make it more round, or whatever, since that will gum up the sides and keep it from rising evenly. (I had a few biscuits that rose on one side and not other because I was too handsy.)

Brush the tops of the unbaked biscuits with milk or melted butter. I used melted butter this time. (John got me this silicone brush for Christmas and I love it – no more bristles on my food and MUCH easier to clean).

Brushing with butter

Pop those babies in the oven (middle rack) and don’t open the door until the tops are good and brown (ovens are different, so times are different). 8-10 minutes? While biscuits are baking, put together a mix of the dry ingredients and put them back in the refrigerator so they’ll be ready for next time.The finished biscuits should look something like this:


Nothing healthy about lard, but it sure made for some flake-tastic biscuits. Oh, and if you can, buy lard where people buy lard frequently so you know you are getting fresh stuff. Our nearby Hispanic grocery replenishes its stock often. My friends in Indy and in Arkansas shouldn’t have to worry too much about whether the lard at their stores is fresh. If you live in New England, you may want to check the date.


Wish I Could

Post that is, but right now I’m in the middle of my post holiday slump.  It’s been gray and wet here for two weeks straight, which has made me a slow mover.  I should be posting on light boxes for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  But right now I’m in the middle of getting Christmas put away.  John helped me take the tree down last Saturday so its out, but my ornament boxes and little Fir needles are everywhere (even on the kitchen sink backsplash!).  I’m seriously considering limiting any future holiday decorating (beyond the tree) to wreaths and fresh and artificial greenery.  That way I just have to put the wreaths and faux green away and walk around with a trash bag for the real stuff.  Still planning a mid-winter look.  Have a few things in mind.  No hurry though.  Spring won’t be here before I know it.  Waaah!