Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Of Ina and Mushrooms

Oh no, does anyone else see the resemblance? Anyway... One my favorite Food Network personalities is the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. I love that she looks like she enjoys what she cooks (that’s a jab at you, Giada), I love that she uses high quality ingredients to elevate simple recipes, and I adore that the fruits of her labor are usually lovingly produced for a gaggle of gay men who in turn, create her table-scape.

Image Courtesy of House Beautiful

Sometimes I even feel like Ina – always cooking for “Jeffrey,” imminently arriving from a long business trip. Alas, this post is not merely about my affection for Ina. At Thanksgiving, I made her recipe for sausage stuffed mushrooms and my god, they were a hit. The use of panko breadcrumbs and mascarpone cheese was such a great twist on a traditional favorite. Check out the recipe over at the Food Network website (or click link above) and make them for your next party. But again, the stuffed mushrooms themselves are not what this post is about.

A couple of days after Thanksgiving, I still had a large container of excess sausage filling for the mushrooms, so I did what any good "waste not want not" kind of girl would: I baked it into pasta. In fairness, you could bake anything into pasta and it would be pretty good. I often do rely on some sort of baked pasta when I’m in need of comfort food. But this particular dish was spectacularly comforting comfort food. Photos after the jump...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ladies' Holiday Dinner: The Tradition Continues

One of my favorite of all holiday traditions began about 3 years ago, I think at the suggestion of my friend Emily. She suggested that instead of gift giving, a small group of the ladies should take ourselves out for a really nice dinner. Year one, we went to Louis Fuller on the West Side. Year two, it was New Rivers, downtown. This year, the ladies descended upon Gracie's on Washington Street.

One of my favorite parts of the fine dining experience is taking it slow, enjoying the company of the people you're with, and lingering for a while in a comfortable chair in a beautiful setting. Gracie's is expert at providing just this type of service. And even better news, they've updated their menu to include a "$30" prix fix menu, as well as 5 and 7 course tasting menus. I've put quotes around $30 because the number is more of a starting point than a hard and fast cost. The prix fix menu includes 3 courses: a starter, a main course and a dessert. Some of these items have an upcharge that gets added to the $30. I'm not mentioning this to be cheap. Gracie's is exceptional, and worth every penny you spend. I just want you to know that you're going to spend more than you would at, say, your local pub. Anyway, onto the food after the jump.

Monday, December 7, 2009

One Sunday Down

Courtesy of

Yesterday was my first day of class in my adult culinary degree program at Johnson & Wales University. I know you know, I've been talking about it endlessly - about the knives I would receive, the uniform... about taking the tour of the kitchens and being near tears because I just felt so strongly that that was where I was supposed to be.

I arrived on Sunday morning at the ghastly hour of 6:45AM. But I was as excited and chipper as a 4th grader on her first day of school after summer vacation. My uniform was bright white and crisply ironed, my face free of makeup, just as the rulebook specified. I had my orthopedic shoes, my notebook at the ready and my pens tucked neatly in my sleeve pocket. I was greener than I had ever been in my entire life at anything. I had no idea what I was in for. (More after the jump.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Beef Stew Makes a Heart Happy

At the beginning of this week, there's nothing I wanted more than some good old fashioned comfort food. And what fits the bill better than Mom's beef stew? While I did stray a little from my Mom's recipe, the wonderful, hearty, beefy spirit of the thing was still there. In fact, John said it was the best stew I had ever made. Holla!

So what, you want details?