On New Year’s Resolutions

Last year I sat down and made new year’s resolutions, as one does. I had just read an article about the silliness of setting goals that are not quantifiable, so I avoided the usual “work hard at stuff” “lose weight” “be more like a dragon” resolutions that take over most lists. Instead, I ended up with a list of around 20 foods I wanted to make in 2014 and “go kayaking.” Although I don’t think this list resulted in self-actualization, it did lead to bagels, macarons, lemon tarts, two kinds of homemade ravioli, roasted chicken, a knife skills class, a six-layer cake, and a treacherous canoe trip around a lake in which the phrase “THIS IS WHY I BELONG INDOORS”  was uttered as we were almost swept out to sea. Since I am apparently entirely uninterested in setting non-food goals for myself, here are some foods I would like to make in 2015. Friends, this is your opportunity to invite yourselves over for dinner or dessert.

  1. CHEESECAKE. New York Style. In a springform pan. Perhaps in a waterbath, if I am brave.
  2. Lasagna, made all by myself. I’ve made it before but never on my own.
  3. This Lemon Crepe Cake. 
  4. Tiramisu
  5. Jalapeno Poppers, bacon wrapped, because I’ve never made or had them and I think I’d love them. Coming soon to a party near you.
  6. This Everything Bagel Spiced Cheese Ball
  7.  Tacos Al Pastor with the crispy cheese on one side like at Puesto (I just spent ten minutes reading through their menu and now I’m homesick for tacos)
  8. I want to make a croquembouche for no reason whatsoever

    Look at all that fine croquembouching

  9. Croissants
  10. Panna cotta because every season of Master Chef someone has to cook it and when I’m selected I do NOT want to be caught unprepared
  11. Lemon Meringue Pie
  12. I want this to be an even dozen, one a month, but I can’t think of anything else so TBD.

Any other suggestions? Anything that will change my life if I make it in 2015?


Daube de Boeuf with Belgian Ale (Food and Wine)

Beef Stew with Belgian Ale

Just looking at pictures of the stew is making me hungry again.

This is not your standard beef, carrots, and potatoes stew. It does have all those things. But it also has incredibly nuanced flavors of thyme and bay leaves, the richness of the Belgian Ale, and the delightful tangy-ness of dijon and vinegar stirred in at the end.

The recipe notes state that this stew is “food with a hug.” Oh, it is. All food should be food with a hug, really.

It’s not that much more work than a typical beef stew. It did take me a perhaps ridiculous amount of time to trim three pounds of chuck steak and cube it. (It took me 20 minutes. I asked Christopher to do it for another recipe and it took him THREE MINUTES. THREE. He is now the designated meat cutter in our house).

So once you get through cutting meat and tossing it in flour, you happily brown it in your dutch oven. Then, setting the beef aside, you brown the onions and garlic. Some stuff is going to stick to the bottom of the pan and that’s okay because it adds flavor. It also will smell really great in your house right now.

Then you add the Belgian ale!  I used something from Trader Joes that was explained as the “American Take on the Belgian Ale,” take from that what you will.

There’s an herb bundle. I, perhaps distracted by my ever present longing for tacos, purchased cilantro instead of parsley. So I sprinkled in a little bit of dried parsley instead. If I had to rank herbs, parsley would be last. It’s FINE but it’s boring and usually just gets plopped on top of something as a “garnish” and everyone just pushes it to the side where it wilts, forlorn. So if you do not have fresh parsley, it didn’t matter for me and it won’t for you.

I did manage to use fresh thyme with dried bay leaves, and wrapped them in cheese cloth. At this point I discovered there was no twine to be found in our house, so I had to get very creative with cheese cloth knots.

After that, you mostly just wait around for the stew to cook in the oven, adding the potatoes and carrots near the end. Once it’s completely done and you remove the stew, stir in the final spices – red wine vinegar and dijon. I used whole grain dijon.

This stew is great. It’s even better leftover. When you eat it, it’s like your food is reaching up from your soup bowl and wrapping you in a warm, happy, loving hug. The kind you get from cake or pie or tacos.

You should really make this stew.

Daube de Boeuf with Belgian Ale (Food and Wine, recipe by Andrew Zimmern)


  • 3 pounds trimmed beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 12-ounce bottle Duvel or other Belgian golden ale
  • 4 cups beef stock or low-sodium broth
  • 3 thyme sprigs, 3 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied in cheesecloth
  • 10 new potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Season the beef with salt and white pepper. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the beef and flour and shake well. Remove the beef from the bag, shaking off the excess flour. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add one-third of the beef and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 5 minutes; reduce the heat if the meat browns too quickly. Transfer the meat to a plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and beef.
  2. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the casserole. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the beer and cook, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the casserole. Add the beef back to the casserole along with the stock and herb bundle. Bring the stew to a boil, cover and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.
  3. Gently stir the potatoes and carrots into the stew, cover and bake for about 25 minutes longer, until the vegetables are tender. Discard the herb bundle. Stir in the Dijon and vinegar, season the stew with salt and white pepper and serve.

Pink Applesauce Pancakes – Martha Stewart Living, October 2014

Apple picking

Apples in the wild

Has anyone else gone apple picking? I did, in October, for the first time. I picked four apples, right from the tree. I only screamed once, when a leaf landed on my shoulder, because it was (1) QUITE menacing and (2) potentially a large bug trying to burrow into my hair. There were a lot of trees. There were also a lot of abandoned apples lying around on the ground that made me feel a little sad, especially when people stepped on them to hear them go “squish.” There were a lot of babies and children at the apple orchard that were not on board with this excursion into nature. There were a lot of people taking pictures with a tractor wearing clothes that were not ever intended for use while tractor-ing.

Some that was fun and I now have a bushel (A REAL APPLE TERM, APPARENTLY, not something just in old timey songs, who knew) of apples in my fridge. I have eaten two of them.

I also still have applesauce from my LAST apple endeavor.

I am awash with apples.

Soooo, if you, like me, you made applesauce a few weeks ago, served it with pork chops, then let it languish in your refrigerator, then picked a bushel of apples because you don’t plan ahead or think things through, you need a way to use some apples up.

Martha, wonderful Martha, suggests Applesauce Pancakes. They are great. They are also not those terrible pancakes you read about that are like OH JUST PUT APPLESAUCE INSTEAD OF BUTTER NO ONE WILL KNOW. No. Everyone knows. Everyone can taste that deceit. No one wants applesauce instead of butter and eggs, it makes your baked goods taste like sadness.

Applesauce Pancakes

THESE pancakes have butter, eggs, AND applesauce. They are delicious, they are dense. There is a hint of apple. They are made just like regular pancakes, but with applesauce.

Apparently I threw away our syrup when we moved, so I opted for Martha’s serving suggestion. BEAR WITH ME, this sounds very strange. But – you take a pancake, layer it with sour cream. Add a pancake, layer it with applesauce. Repeat.

I was a little skeptical of the sour cream so I added about a tablespoon of sugar to it. That was good but not necessary. The combination is really good. It’s sweet and tangy and fallish, more like eating a fancy dessert than a nice fall Sunday morning breakfast.  It’s sort of German tasting, the applesauce pancakes with sour cream and applesauce.

Applesauce Pancakes

(Martha Stewart Living, October 2014)

My Notes:

  • I cut the recipe in half because there are only two people living in my house. They’re pretty filling.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup Martha’s Pink Applesauce, plus more for serving
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for griddle
  • Sour cream, for serving


  1. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add eggs, milk, applesauce, and butter; whisk just until combined (batter should be slightly lumpy)

  2. Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Brush lightly with butter. Working in batches, pour batter onto griddle 1/2 cup at a time, spacing pancakes 2 inches apart. Cook until bubbles appear on top and edges are slightly dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown on underside, about 3 minutes more. Repeat with remaining batter, wiping griddle clean and lightly buttering between batches.

  3. Layer sour cream and applesauce between pancakes; serve with more of each on the side.

Orange and Rosemary Brined Pork Chops with Pink Applesauce – Martha Stewart Living, October 2014

Orange and Rosemary Brined Porkchops Homemade Pink Applesauce


Have we discussed how amazing brining is? You mix some water and seasonings and salt together the night before, dump them in a bag with the meat, then go to bed. The next day, when you walk in the door after sitting in a horrific hour plus of traffic because someone got pulled over and didn’t bother moving to the shoulder of the road, and everyone stopped to look, all you have to do is toss the meat in a pan. The result is juicy, tender, well seasoned meat.

Adding to my list of delightfully brined meats is this orange and rosemary brined pork chop recipe from Martha Stewart. It’s so good, and so easy.

If you wanted to continue merrily down a path of ease, buy some applesauce from the store and serve it with the pork chops. If, however, you’ve whimsically purchased a four pound bag of apples because you were lured by the Idea of Fall, you should make Martha Stewart’s Pink Applesauce. I chose a cozy Sunday evening for the applesauce cooking project, because a Tuesday is no night to make homemade applesauce.

This applesauce is delicious and fallish. And it’s PINK. The best part of the pink applesauce is that the pink color is created through sheer laziness. You do not have to peel a single apple, the peels are what give the applesauce that great pink color. I cut the cores out of my apples and tossed them into a pot, then just let them cook for about 45 minutes. Not being in possession of a food mill, I pressed the results through a strainer, which didn’t take very long at all.

So, yay, this applesauce is GREAT and you should definitely make it. It’s fairly quick and hands off. You can use any kind of apple and flavor it in different ways to suit your taste. My apples were a bit sour and I had only a wee bit of lemon juice, so I skipped most of the lemon juice. The applesauce is good all on it’s own, or served with the amazing brined pork chops above.

Has anyone tried brining meat before? Or making applesauce?

Orange and Rosemary Brined Pork Chops with Pink Applesauce

(Martha Stewart Living, October 2014)

My Notes:

  • I did not use bone in pork chops, because I had regular pork chops in the freezer.
  • I used whatever variety of apple came in the four pound bag from Trader Joes, and one Gala apple from when I made a poor decision to get the apple instead of the baguette at Panera.
  • The magazine suggested adding cinnamon or bourbon to the applesauce for flavor. I still had some honey bourbon from my caramels, so I splashed some in. It didn’t make any difference whatsoever. Stick to cinnamon, save your bourbon.
  • I would never buy parsley for the sole purpose of decorating my pork chops. I did have some languishing in the refrigerator, so it made an appearance in the pictures. You can 100 percent skip the parsley.
  • The potatoes on the side were two potatoes, diced very small, and pan fried in olive oil with an onion, garlic, and rosemary until crispy.

Pork Chops:


  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup coarse salt
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 8 1-by-3-inch strips orange zest
  • 16 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 small sprigs rosemary
  • 4 bone-in pork rib chops (each about 12 ounces and 1 inch thick)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Flat-leaf parsley sprigs, for serving


  1. Combine sugar, salt, bay leaves, orange zest, peppercorns, rosemary, and 4 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved. Reduce to a simmer and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; let cool completely. Pour over pork chops in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover and refrigerate, turning once, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  2. Remove pork from brine; discard brine. Pat chops dry; let stand 15 minutes. Heat a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add pork, working in batches, if necessary, and cook until bottoms are deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of chops (without touching bone) registers 138 degrees, about 3 minutes more. Let rest 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve with applesauce.

Martha’s Pink Applesauce

(Martha Stewart Living, October 2014)


  • 4 pounds McIntosh apples, quartered and cored
  • 2 pounds red apples, such as Empire or Cortland, quartered and cored
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice


  1. White Applesauce: Peel apples before cooking.
  2. Sweet Applesauce: Add 1/4 cup sugar to apple mixture in step 1 before cooking.


  1. Combine apples, lemon juice, and 1 1/2 cups water in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are completely soft, about 40 minutes.
  2. Pass apples through a medium-mesh sieve or a food mill fitted with the fine disk to remove skins. Applesauce can be stored in refrigerator up to 1 week, or in freezer up to 3 months. To can applesauce, follow these instructions.

Tomato Ciabatta with Olives and Onions – Food and Wine, September 2014


Oh look, how the magazine said it would look. Photo Credit – Andrea Wyner

Lest I have somehow fooled you into thinking I am foolishly wasting my cooking and photography talents by having a different career, I present this incredibly flat ciabatta bread.

tomato ciabatta with olives and oniones


I had a few hours between brunch and an impromptu party, and as I flipped through the latest Food and Wine, I conjured an image of wafting into said party bearing delicious loaves of ciabatta bread, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, flavored with tomatoes and onions. It didn’t quite go as planned.

I hate to blame the recipe, BUT I am going to blame the recipe unless any baking warriors out there can take a look at this and go “no, Allison, it’s definitely you.” I have made a lot of bread in my time, and my friends, this dough is wet. Incredibly wet and incredibly sticky. There is a very high water-flour ratio. The vegetables that get added into the dough are cooked in olive oil and not drained, which adds extra moisture to the dough. (I did think, wow, this is a lot of oil into already stick dough, did try to avoid getting most of the olive oil into the dough.) I quadruple checked the measurements to make sure I was correct.

Whenever I follow a baking recipe for the first time, I try to follow the recipe exactly.  The recipe said “IT WILL BE QUITE WET,” so despite contemplating adding more flour, I decided to trust the recipe.

That was a mistake. The loaves didn’t retain their shape in the oven but spreeeaaaaaad out, resulting in a flat, fococcia-like loaf that transported terribly. I tried to wrap the bread in parchment, then foil, but nothing worked. Finally, I gave up and Christopher cradled the bread in his arms like a baby while we drove to the party.

However, despite my declaration of “Ugh, this bread is terrible and squishy,” upon slicing it, the bread was delicious. The partygoers turned bread guinea pigs were pleased by the texture (“YOU HAD ME AT SQUISHY!” my friend Anna declared) and the flavor of the bread is great. The cooked onions, olives, cherry tomatoes, and tomato paste give the bread the flavors of your favorite pizza. If I were to make it again, I’d add a half cup of parmesan cheese to the dough.

I would absolutely love to make this again, but I’d like some advice from anyone with bread experience. What’s wrong with this recipe? Is it the amount of flour? The water? The amount of yeast?

Tomato Ciabatta with Olives and Onions  

(Recipe by Ylenia Sambati, Food and Wine)


  •  5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
  • 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Three 1/4-oz packages active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
  • 3/4 cup fine semolina


  1. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat until lightly caramelized, 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and crushed red pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the olives and tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper and let cool.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the yeast, sugar and water; let stand until foamy, 10 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the 2 1/2 cups of flour and the semolina until the dough comes together; it will be quite wet. Stir in the cooled olive mixture. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel. Let stand in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°. Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Shape it into 2 rough 14-by-3 1/2-inch loaves and transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, until the loaves are lightly browned and risen; transfer to a rack and let cool completely.