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On the Road: The Drive from Rome to Naples

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 11.57.57 AMNote: In March Christina and I spent about two weeks in Rome and Naples. A principal reason for our trip was the impending opening of the One Day in Pompeii exhibit at The Franklin Institute where we provide food services. Ours was a journey to understand the culinary context of Pompeii today and be able to present that at The Franklin Institute during the run of the exhibit. Pompeii is located in Italy’s Campania region. It sits at the base of Mt. Vesuvius, across the bay from Naples. One Day in Pompeii opens today, November 9th and will run through April 27th. I began this series of posts in Rome and there is more to come of that part of our trip. But I wanted to skip ahead to catch up with the exhibit opening. At the bottom of this post you can see the result of our trip — the menu for the VIP opening of the exhibit.

As Christina and I bid adieu to our feathered neighbor across the narrow alley from the window of our lovely Roman Hotel Raphael, we hit the road south to Naples in March with a plan to return to Rome six days hence.

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First, a word about driving in Italy. If you were a traveler simply visiting Philadelphia, there would be no reason to rent a car. Likewise Rome. And if your plans included travel from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. you could easily take the train. But if you were in no rush and wanted to catch the beauty and spirit of the Chesapeake, maybe with a stop for lunch along the way, then renting a car would be the way to go. Our travel plan was to punctuate our extended visit to Rome with a trip to Naples and Pompeii. Naples sits across the Bay of Naples, nearly in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano that rained destruction and death on Pompeii that fateful day in  79 AD. In addition, Christina had long wanted to visit Nusco, the ancestral home of her grandmother, in the mountains about two hours east of Naples.

Prior to leaving for Italy, many a person had counseled me to avoid driving in Italy. Despite being a confident driver, I had modest concern about our road trip. Maybe the counsel I received was the result of their Italian driving experiences prior to the ubiquitous GPS. I found that with a GPS, driving, even within the challenging environs of Rome and Naples, was eminently manageable.

Now for the trip to Naples.

It is said that all roads lead to Rome. Conversely, lots of roads lead out of Rome, Italy’s largest city, to Naples, its third largest. There is the A1 autostrada that takes about 2 1/2 hours, depending on traffic out of Rome and into Naples. We took the decidedly slower — about four plus hours driving time — but more interesting route the runs mostly along the Mediterranean coast. Despite efforts to arrange to have our car rental delivered to our hotel, the pick-up of our Audi turned out to be at the airport. (There are less costly — fifty bucks to the airport, and more convenient pick-ups but that’s a long story.) We set our GPS for Naples and were off.

Rome itself is situated about twenty miles west and up river from its harbor city of Ostia. Ostia is Latin for “mouth” and it is the mouth of the Tiber River that links Rome to the sea. Ancient Rome’s location on hills well-inland from the sea was a strategic response to insulate itself from sea-prowling marauders.

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The first hour or so of our journey was interesting in a non-scenic way as it took us through the extended suburbs and exurbs of modern metropolitan Rome. It was not until Terracine that we got our first full bore view of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

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I had forgotten how mountainous Italy is. Perched high about Terracina is the ancient Roman Temple of Jupiter Anxur, built in the 1st century BCE. At the time of the building of the temple, Rome had already dominated the region for four hundred years. Towns like Terracina that dotted the coast moving out from Rome were integral to Rome’s “necklace” of strategic protection from hostile invaders.

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Italy is divided into twenty administrative regions — somewhat akin to our states. Lazio, where our journey began, is bordered on the north by Tuscany, Umbria and Marche and to the east by Abruzzo and Molise. To the south is Campania. Rome is the capital of Lazio and Naples the capital of Campania.

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The Tyrrhenian Sea is the body of water that separates long portions of coastal Italy from the Mediterranean. It is nestled between the west coast of Italy, and the islands of Corsica on the north, Sardina in the center and Sicily. The eastern sides of these islands sit on the Mediterranean.

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By mid-afternoon we arrived, hungry, to Gaeta, a small city that sits at the southern end of Lazio, 75 miles from Rome and 50 miles from Naples. Gaeta sits on a promontory surrounded by water on three sides and mountains on its fourth. Like Terracina, Gaeta played an important military role for ancient Rome. Gaeta’s culinary distinction is that it has given its name to the small, distinctive dark, oval olives — Italy’s black pearls — cultivated in olive groves stretching out from the port city. Gaeta olives are brine-cured and have a pleasantly bitter taste.

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Gaeta thrives as a summer destination for Italians. In mid-March it felt nearly deserted. Absent any forethought as to where to eat, we wandered into an empty and unpretentious restaurant located along the boulevard that separates the harbor from the city. We were greeted by the proprietor who brought us a generous bowl of the eponymous olives and menus. In the distance was a lone elderly gentleman watching TV.

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Before long we were joined by a young Italian with skateboard in hand. He sat at the far end of  long table across from a middle-aged women engaged in some sort of bookkeeping. Out of the kitchen came an older, apron-clad woman who spoke to him, naturally, in Italian. As time passed we came to understand that grandpa was watching TV, grandma was cooking, mother was doing the books, dad was our waiter and the young skateboarder, their son.

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Our simple lunch included a shallow bowl of steamed seafood — mussels, clams, shrimp and squid — in a tasty broth.

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A lightly dressed salad of tender lettuce and radicchio, tomatoes, roasted peppers and, of course, Gaeta olives.

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Grilled vegetables sparely presented.

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And crisp-fired calamari with a squeeze of lemon. Nothing remarkable. But totally enjoyable…especially given that we were hungry!

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Leaving Gaeta, the sky resembled one you might find in 14th Century Italian painting of the apocalypse.

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Campania is the ancestral home of buffalo mozzarella — produced from the milk of domesticated water buffalo. Compared to cow’s milk mozzarella, its flavor is not as sweet, more tangy — slightly sour — and stronger — still creamy and delicious.

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About twenty-five miles north of Naples, Madrogone is smack in the heart of buffalo mozzarella country and its streets are lined with shops proudly advertising their local culinary triumph.

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With the aid of our GPS, we arrived in Naples late in the day to a traffic jam typical of rush hour in many cities throughout the world and worked our way to our harbor-front hotel, Hotel Romeo.

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No Roman Legionnaires here. Instead, we were greeted at the hotel entrance by samurai warriors! Hotel Romeo was designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese modernist architect,  Kenzo Tange and developed by his son Paul. Counted among Tange’s works of distinction is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Hotel Romeo will likely not be counted among Tange’s works of distinction.

The days ahead in gritty, crowded, graffiti-covered, littered and wonderful Naples would add to the dystopian feel of our sleekly modern hotel more comfortably nested in Tokyo than Naples. More about Hotel Romeo in a future post.

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After our day-long trip, it was thrilling to arrive to our room overlooking the bustling Naples harbor and the darkness beyond.

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Past ready for dinner, the hotel recommended a bustling restaurant a few blocks away — Ristorante Europeo di. A. Mattozzi. While Naples gets its share of tourists, it is nothing like Rome and this restaurant would not likely find its way on to many a tourists “must-dine” locations. But it was fine in the way that it’s hard to get a bad meal in Naples.

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A central joy of travel is discovery, of art and architecture, history and culture…and, of course, wine and food. The universe of Italian wine is confusing with a cacophony of grapes and place names.  Rome has its native wines, but nothing distinctively special. Campania has a richer cellar. We settled in to dinner with a locally produced falanghina, named for its grape. Falanghina is an ancient grape that today produces a crisp and aromatic wine with excellent acidity and ideal accompaniment to the sea’s bounty that figures prominently in Neapolitan foods.

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We began with a generous antipasti of assorted salamis, meatballs, sun-dried tomatoes & a ricotta torta and a classic Insalata Caprese made with little balls of creamy, fresh local mozzarella, tomatoes and sweet lamb’s lettuce. Pasta e Ceci, pictured above, included assorted shapes of dried pasta and smashed and whole chickpeas in a simple sauce made with olive oil and the cooking liquid of the chickpeas.

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I enjoyed a hearty Polipetti affogati in cassuola — octopus stewed with tomatoes.

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Christina took a lighter route with a simple grilled local sea bass served with thin-sliced potatoes.

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A short walk back to our hotel and a last look at Naples harbor by night before drawing the curtains and settling into a well-earned sleep. Naples awaits.

The following is the menu we served Thursday evening at the VIP opening of One Day in Pompeii.

A Neapolitan Feast in Celebration of the Opening of One Day in Pompeii

Il Positano – Prosecco with a touch of rum, honey & lime
Wines from Campania • Greco & Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio
• Italian beers, sodas & San Pelligrino
Roasted Olives  • Toasted Hazelnuts with Sea Salt

Butlered Hors d’oeuvres
Arancini with roasted sweet pepper mayonnaise
Wild mushroom polenta “croquettes” with gorgonzola
Salsify with prosciutto & Reggiano Parmesan
Bruschetta with grilled radicchio, house-made ricotta,
spiced walnuts & fried rosemary
Neapolitan meatballs

Butlered “Small Plate”
Salted cod, whipped potatoes, roasted garlic & olive oil
Black olive tapenade  • Served in egg shell

Small Plate Stations

Margherita Pizza
Thin-crusted pizza with San Marzano tomatoes,
fresh Buffalo mozzarella & basil
Tri-color chopped salad with anchovy aioli

Braciole di Pollo
Pancetta-crusted chicken, chard, sun-dried tomato
& pecorino with polenta

Melanzane a Beccafico
Grilled eggplant stuffed with sweet peppers,
grated lemon peel, pickled eggplant, raisins & rice
Topped with almonds, breadcrumbs, lemon, parsley

Fruiti di Mare
Gemilli with mixed seafood, artichokes,fennel,
green onions, olives, chilies & capers

Sweet & Coffee
Butterscotch budino with caramel & sea salt
Biscotti with dried figs • Pinenut cookies
Pumpkin-date tarts  • Lemon bites with fennel pollen
Ricotta cheesecakes with candied orange peel

Vesuvio
Chocolate “volcano” torta stuffed with
hazelnut mousse, hazelnut praline & black currant sauce

Dessert Station
Sfinci — Sweet fritters with citrus syrup
Italian roast coffee – regular & decaf

Next: The Amazing Streets and Back Alleys of Naples (We’re not in Rome anymore.) Plus Pizza!

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Happy Holidays from At Home

Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Holidays.

More from me in 2012.

Warm regards,

Steve

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Merry Christmas

Christina, Noah and I are off to Larry’s — my brother-in-law and cook extraordinaire — where on Christmas Eve we will enjoy an ocean-full of fishes. The warmth of a family Christmas is relatively new to this Jewish kid from Yonkers — a result of my union with Christina. Our apartment is joyfully aglow with lighted tree and ornaments. My personal contribution to our Christmas eve fishes is a Deconstructed Seafood Gumbo. (I still have to pickle the okra today for this.) Look for a post next week on details. While there is great joy in being a host, it is certainly easier being a guest.

Merry Christmas to all

…and for holiday hosts, best wishes for for one relaxed hour prior to guest arrival!

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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A Dozen Entertaining Holiday Stocking Stuffers Redux

This is a re-post of my suggestions for stocking stuffers — every bit as useful this year as last.

Everything on this list makes an excellent stocking stuffer and welcome addition to the kitchens of home entertainers. (Well, the grill press would need a very sturdy stocking and the Repositonable Labels a very wide stocking.) The side margins of At Home by Steve Poses are filled with advice like this on equipment as well lots of other advice designed to inform and inspire.

1. Dough Scraper
I use my dough scraper to scoop up and transfers chopped vegetables from my cutting board to bowl or pan. I also use it keep my prep area clean and tidy. It is an invaluable assistant. I would not think about prepping vegetables without it. See my Setting Up for Prep on Page 21 of At Home or see the dough scraper in action on my Setting Up For Prep video. View Video.

2. Stainless Kitchen Tongs (Spring-Action)
Everyone needs a pair of stainless steel spring-loaded kitchen tongs. Kitchen tongs are an extension of my hands when handling anything hot. Much more handy than a kitchen fork or spatula. Read more about how I use Kitchen Tongs on page 182 of At Home.

3. Microplanes
These super-sharp graters come in a variety of sizes. They are perfect lemon zesters — removing only the zest and leaving behind the bitter white pithe. I use my microplane to grating a little nutmeg or big hunk Reggiano Parmesan. Read more about Microplanes on page 129 of At Home.

4. Instant Read Thermometer
Thermometers are your x-ray vision. They enable you to see inside anything you can poke and tell you the temperature. Use them to tell if your premium sirloin steak on the grill is medium rare and if your Mac ‘n Cheese heating in the oven is sizzling hot inside. Read more about X-ray Vision: Instant Read Thermometers on page 167 of At Home.

5. Electric Spice Grinder
The best way to extract maximum flavor from spices is to toast whole seeds and pods in a dry pan over moderate heat until they release their fragrance, allow to cool and then grind in an electric spice grinder. (These are commonly sold as coffee grinders.) I regularly grind small batches of black peppercorns and keep a small wooden box of fresh ground pepper next to my stove. I strongly advise against ever using pre-ground pepper!

6. Juice Reamer
A juice reamer – typically wood – is about 5 inches long with a pointed end with grooves along its sides. This turns out to be the ideal shape to extract juice from a lemon or lime — much more effective than squeezing.

7. Repositionable Labels
Repositionable Labels are Post-It’s for Kitchen Professionals and an indispensable tool for the Organized Entertainer. I use them for everything from making and arranging my prep tasks, arranging (and re-arranging) my work schedule — allayed on my refrigerator or kitchen cabinets — to labeling my platters and bowls so I know what goes in what. Make sure you get the removable type. Pictured here are Avery #6460. For a fuller explanation see Page 12 of At Home. In addition to a pretty bow, you may need to include some explanation as to why in the world you would give these as a gift. But trust me, they will revolutionize the life of an entertainer.

8. Flexible Fish Spatula
People unnecessarily fear cooking fish. Turning a fish filet in a pan can be a challenge — unless you have one of these flexible fish spatulas.

9. Silcone Pastry/Basting Brush
Silicone pastry brushes are ideal for basting as they remain pliable while holding up to heat. They also are simple to wash in the dishwasher.

10. Grill Press
This weight with a stay-cool wooden handle improves and speeds your grilling by pressing against the top of whatever you are grilling, increasing contact of the underside with the grill and helping form a better grill marks and crust. Also excellent for cooking burgers in a pan or grilled cheese.

11. Remote Oven Thermometer with Alarm
The only infallible way to know whether a roast is done is to know its internal temperature. Using a guide of minutes per pound is just not reliable because oven temperatures are often not true and roasting time depends on the starting temperature of what you are roasting. (Ideally you should bring a roast to room temperature before roasting.) Certainly you can use a simple meat thermometer and check often, but these useful gadgets have a probe that goes inside the roast and an external thermometer that sounds the alarm when you have reached your programmed temperature.

12. Timer
The less you have to think about and remember when cooking the better. Read about The Value of a Timer of Timer on Page 159 of At Home.

At Home – The Perfect Gift f
Of course, the best gift you could give would be At Home — the book with the companion website. But at 500 pages and three plus pounds, it surely would not fit in a stocking. At Home is not available in bookstores but only at our on line store or at Coopermarket at 302 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd and the Joseph Fox Bookshop at 1728 Sansom Street in Philadelphia.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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At Home’s Top 5 Serious Holiday Gifts for Home Entertainers: Redux

If you are planning to entertain for the holidays, I hope you are planning ahead and spreading your tasks over time and resources (ie. other people). A fundamental At Home Principle is to do as many entertaining tasks as far in advance as possible because, as I say: If you leave everything to the last minute, you’ll only have a minute to do everything.

This is a re-post of suggestions from last holiday season. They are classics and worth re-posting. I also plan on re-posting my suggestions for stocking stuffers.  See dates and locations of upcoming book signings below post about holiday gifts.

What to get the home entertainer you love? Or what a much-loved home entertainer might suggest to those who love them. Use this list as a guide to your shopping or pass it along as a not so subtle suggestion to those who love you.

#5. Ice Cream Maker

You can store-buy excellent super-premium ice cream, but nothing in stores compares to what you can proudly make at home with an ice cream maker. Making ice cream is easy. Once you master the basic technique of making a custard base, your only limit is your imagination. My first at-home dinner date with Christina concluded with my homemade lavender ice cream — lavender picked from my garden. I guess it worked. A big batch  of my homemade lavender ice cream was dessert at our wedding last November. Another  favorite is my Thanksgiving-perfect Pumpkin Pecan Praline Ice Cream. And for the Christmas holidays, I love my Peppermint Ice Cream.  See the recipe below. At Home features a Mastering Ice Cream lesson, recipes for the above referenced ice creams plus Bing Cherry Vanilla and Sour Cream ice creams.There are also recipes for Pink Grapefruit, Pomegranate, Pineapple-Coconut and Wine-Poached Peach Sorbet.

I use a large electric Cuisinart ice cream maker that retails for about $250. I see that Cuisinart has since introduced a less expensive version that retails for less than $100 and makes two quarts — as much as my more expensive version. I have also been perfectly successfully making ice cream with the inexpensive variety that does not have an electric compressor, but does have an electric motor to turn the ice cream. You simply pre-chill the ice cream’s freezing container in your freezer and it’s ready to go. It’s limitation is that you can only make one or one and a half quarts — depending on the brand — and you cannot make successive batches.

Peppermint Ice Cream Sundaes
A word of caution: Serve this special ice cream treat one Christmas and folks will want it from you every Christmas. It’s the gift that you’ll have to keep on giving. Crushed candy canes provide a festive look and crunch to the ice cream. Garnish your sundaes with miniature candy canes stuck into the ice cream, hooked ends up. The ice cream is very rich, so keep servings small.

do ahead Ice cream can be made up to two weeks ahead. Sauce can be made up to a week ahead and refrigerated. Microwave briefly to loosen before serving.
11⁄2 cups crushed candy canes (about 15 51⁄2 -inch canes), divided
milk chocolate sauce (see p. 420)
8 egg yolks
11⁄2 cups sugar
pinch of table salt
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 pint heavy cream
1 pint half and half

1 In a mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar and salt. Whisk until pale and creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in peppermint extract.
2 In a small saucepan, combine heavy cream and half and half over moderate heat and simmer until nearly boiling. Remove immediately from heat.
3 Add cream mixture in a slow, steady stream to yolk-sugar mixture, using a whisk to stir continuously. Transfer combined base mixture to a large measuring cup and reserve the bowl for the following step.
4 Slowly pour base mixture back into the pot over low heat. Stir constantly until lightly thickened. Do not boil. If using a thermometer, bring to 170º, about 10-12 minutes. Otherwise, heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. To check, put spoon in mixture, remove and run your finger down the back of spoon. It should leave a distinct, clean line for a moment. Remove from heat at once and pour into the reserved bowl to stop cooking.
5 Chill custard completely, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
6 Freeze ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once it is ready, turn frozen mixture into a bowl and fold in 1 cup crushed candy canes. Place in freezer for at least 4 hours for final freezing.
7 Top ice cream with chocolate sauce and remaining crushed candy canes.
serves 12

#4. Enamel Over Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Braising is a cook’s great pleasure. And a heavy enamel over cast iron Dutch oven is the perfect pot to braise.

To paraphrase a maxim: Give a man a fish and he has food for a day. Teach a man to fish and he has food for a lifetime. That’s my approach to much of At Home where I aim to teach you how to cook or improve your technique and not simply provide you with recipes — though there are 432 of those. At Home’s Chapter 10: Braises, Casseroles & One-Dish Entrees includes Mastering Braises, an primer that will give you all you need to braise for a lifetime. Braising recipes include Beef Bourguignon, Lamb with Fava Beans, Pearl Onions & Minted Creme Fraiche, Black Beans with Smoked Ham Hocks and Soy & Honey-Braised Pork Belly.

My favorite braising pot is my 9-quart orange Le Creuset enamel over cast iron. I also have one about 2/3rd the size, but braised dishes freeze so well that I never fear making too much. The 9 quart costs close to $300 as a list price. Pricey, but lasts a lifetime.

An At Home margin note than runs alongside Mastering Braises.

Technique
Braising Tips From the Babe Ruth of Braising
Here’s a quote from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food that I find helpful: “But the magic word in the magical phrase is mijoter. It describes the condition of near suspension in which there is, nonetheless, a whispering movement, a tiny bubble rising here and there to break the stew’s surface— and it means, at the same time, a slow ripening. The comfortable satisfaction felt upon lifting the lid and glancing at the stew’s surface—a sense that, merely because a liquid’s surface is sustained at precisely the right point of hardly perceptible movement, all is well, the stew’s progress out of one’s hands and its success assured— is familiar to all cooks.”

#3. Cast Iron Grill Pan

About four years ago I moved into Christina’s Center City apartment. Lots of benefits came with the move, but not included was the benefit of a yard and outdoor grill. I was an all-season griller and I still am — thanks to my cast iron grill pan. Let it sit over heat for ten minutes and it gets searingly hot. A grill pan produces grilled foods equal to what you would do over the outdoor grill — minus a little all-weather cooking romance. Like the enamel over cast iron pots above, a grill pan will last a lifetime. Cleaning occasionally requires a screwdriver to scrape between the ridges to remove the garlic bits from the marinade that feel away and became encrusted. A 12-inch square Lodge Cast Iron pan costs only about $40.

At Home has an entire chapter devoted to Easy Entrees: From the Grill. Here’s a favorite:

Thai Thighs
Chicken thighs pack far more flavor than breasts and are much more forgiving of overcooking. They take to the grill particularly well. Given their low price and myriad assets, they’re pitifully underutilized. The sugar in this marinade makes for an extra level of caramelization—and a messy grill. You can also use any of the marinades in this chapter and follow the marinating and grilling procedure below.

do ahead Thighs can be marinated up to three days ahead. It’s best to cook them the day you are serving them.

2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 bird’s-eye chiles or 1 jalapeño, seeded, ribbed and sliced
1⁄3 cup lime juice
1 stalk lemongrass
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
leaves from 5-6 fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)
1 lime, cut into 6 or 8 wedges, for garnish

1 Cut the root tip and dry end of the lemongrass stalk, leaving a length of about 8-10 inches. Peel away the outer leaves, leaving the tender core. Finely chop.
2 Combine lemongrass with ginger, garlic, chiles, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Add chicken. Toss well and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
3 Just before grilling, add oil to marinade. Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from marinade, and allow marinade to drain off, but don’t wipe it dry. Place chicken on grill, smooth side up, and grill until nicely charred, about 4 minutes. Turn and grill the other side, about 4-5 minutes.
Serve whole or thinly sliced, either hot or at room temperature. Serve with lime wedges. Tear cilantro and sprinkle it over the chicken.
serves 6-8

#2. Large Wooden Cutting Board

I am a lucky guy. My entire kitchen counter is wooden cutting board. Absent having wooden counters, there is nothing like a large, thick, hard maple cutting board. Checking the internet, I found an ample 18-inch by 24-inch by 2 1/4-inch hard maple cutting board from Butcher Block for $138. Look for it locally as shipping is probably pretty steep for this heavy sucker.

#1. Shun Classic Knives

Excellent knives comes right after excellent organization as the key to turning prep work from a chore to a pleasure. My recommendation is to buy the best knives you can afford. I have used many different knives in my forty plus years doing what I do. My all-time favorite are Shun Knives. I much prefer these Japanese knives, that trace their origin to the ancient samurai tradition, to the heavier German premium knives. Razor sharp, Shun knives hold their blade well and a few strokes of a honing steel restores their sharpness. And their sculpted wooden handle fits comfortably in your hand.

Basics are the 10-inch Shun Classic Chef’s Knife and that’s the first knife I would give to a cook you love. This lists for about $169, but is typically on sale. Next, a Shun Classic Paring Knife listed for $75. Any cook will love these for a long, long time.

My favorite knives — the Shun Classic Chef’s Knife and Paring Knife

Give the Gift of At Home

Of course, I would be remiss in not suggesting the gift of At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining. Many blog subscribers already have At Home so already know how good a gift it is. And since it is not generally available in book stores, you can have reasonable confidence that it is a gift that is not already on the shelf. It is also the ideal “guide” to guide you through the holiday entertaining season.

At Home is available on line. Click here.

Upcoming Book Signings
You can also purchase At Home, get it personally inscribed and save shipping by coming to a book signing.

Reading Terminal Market this Saturday, December 11th
I will be at Reading Terminal Market this Saturday from 11 AM to 4 PM signing books in the Center Court. If you have not been to Reading Terminal Market lately your are missing the single best food destination in Philadelphia. I will also be sampling White Bean and Caramelized Fennel Dip from At Home (Page 78). If you bring your copy of The Frog Commissary Cookbook, you can purchase two copies of At Home and get the second copy for half price. That way you can buy one for a gift and keep the second one for yourself or just get a deal on buying two gifts! I am working on a possible additional date at Reading Terminal so check back here.

Ardmore Farmers’ Market on Thursday Thursday, December 16th
I will be at the Ardmore Farmers’ Market on Thursday, December 16th from 11 AM to 4 PM.

Other Places to Purchase At Home
Green Aisle Grocery
The pioneering Green Aisle is located at 1618 E. Passyunk Avenue, between Tasker and Morris. It is also a wonderful place for locally sourced foodstuffs for home and holiday giving.

Coopermarket
Coopermarket’s proprietor is Beth Cooper, a long-time friend. In addition to purchasing At Home, it’s a great place to bring home delicious prepared foods for the holidays. Coopermarket is located at 302 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd.

Joseph Fox Bookshop
For many years while I operated The Commissary on the 1700 block of Sansom Street, the Joseph Fox Bookshop was a neighbor. It is Center City’s great independent bookshop and the only bookshop carrying At Home. A book makes a perfect holiday gift because your selection of a particular book for someone you love is an indication that you know and understand who they are. You can count on the books at Joseph Fox to be lovingly curated by the Fox family. The Joseph Fox Bookshop is located at 1724 Sansom Street in Philadelphia.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Thanksgiving Redux — Leftovers 101:Turkey

If you are up early today you can catch me talking about Thanksgiving Leftovers on Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia. I will be on both the 8 AM and 9 AM segments.


Happy Day After
I hope you had a delicious enough Thanksgiving. If you were a guest, I hope you helped your host. A host? I hope you got all or most of your one relaxed hour. Hosts, maybe take a moment to think about and write down what you might do differently next year — especially if you felt in any way overtaxed by your efforts. Regardless, my guess is you ate too much. Welcome to the club.

Leftovers 101: Turkey
Lucky is the host who has leftover turkey. Leftover turkey is so coveted that family members sometimes expect post-Thanksgiving care packages to go. I strongly suggest roasting a bigger turkey than you need whenever possible—and that you roast a turkey at home more frequently. First and foremost, use leftover turkey for a hot turkey sandwich. Don’t bother trying to reheat the turkey. Just place it open-faced on rustic bread and drizzle it with very hot leftover gravy. Cold turkey combines nicely with cranberry sauce, lettuce and wheat bread for a cold turkey sandwich. Or, cook up some bacon for a turkey BLT on toasted bread. Cube leftover turkey and combine with mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, pecans, celery and scallion for turkey salad. Substitute turkey for chicken in croquettes (see At Home page 270). Use turkey in corned beef hash (At Home page 378). Finally, use the carcass and final meat pickings for turkey chowder featured below.

Turkey Chowder
The perfect day-after Thanksgiving solution to leftovers (after your Dagwood sandwich, of course), this comforting soup swirls turkey and corn in a creamy herbed broth.

do ahead Stock can be made up to one month ahead and frozen. Chowder can be made up to three days ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stove before serving.

Turkey Stock
4 ears corn, husked and cleaned (or 17-ounce can corn, drained)
2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise
2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 small onions, quartered
1 head garlic, halved
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh parsley
6 peppercorns
1 roasted turkey carcass
Chowder
1⁄2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
4-6 cups cubed turkey
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

1 Make stock: Bring 21⁄2 quarts water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add corn and cook for 3 minutes. Remove corn and run under cold water. Working over a bowl, scrape cobs with a knife to remove kernels and any residual milk. Reserve corn and residue.
2 Return cobs to the pot with celery, carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaf, parsley, peppercorns and turkey carcass. If needed, break up the carcass to submerge it. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Lower heat and simmer for at least 3 hours. Strain and discard solids.
3 Make chowder by melting butter in a large stockpot. When foaming subsides, add chopped celery, carrot, onion and garlic to pot and cook over moderately high heat until vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.
4 Add flour to pot and stir to form a paste. Cook for a few minutes. Gradually add 8 cups turkey stock and heavy cream to pot, stirring to prevent lumps. Stir in thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in turkey, corn and milky residue. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

A note about the following recipe: Ideally, you’ll take a quick trip to the market to pick-up a few ears of fresh corn. It’s not corn season around here, but it is somewhere and fresh corn still often makes it way here. The recipe uses the cob from the fresh corn to enrich and sweeten the stock. But, feel free to use canned corn (my personal guilty snack food pleasure). It will still make a great soup — served to holiday guests, enjoyed by family next week, or frozen for a cold winter’s day.

 

At Home’s Leftover Turkey Salad with Apples, Pecans and Cranberry Mayonnaise
There’s a good chance you will have everything you need for this leftover from your Thanksgiving dinner or in your produce drawer. Maybe you won’t have pecans in your pantry? You could substitute walnuts, pinenuts or pumpkin seeds or just skip the nuts.

Do Ahead Well, doing this before Thanksgiving would contradict the “leftovers” principle, but you could certainly do this salad on Friday after Thanksgiving and serve it for Sunday lunch.

4 cups cubed roast turkey or turkey pulled from carcass, mix of dark and light meat
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced scallion
1/2 cup peeled and cubed apples, Granny Smith preferred
1/2 cup toasted pecans – lightly chopped
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. In a mixing bowl, combine cranberry sauce,mayonnaise, salt and pepper and mix.
2. In another bowl, combine turkey, celery, scallion, apple and pecans. Add  cranberry mayonnaise and mix well.

Serves 6-8

Serve along with field greens or turn it into a delicious sandwich with lettuce and some extra cranberry mayonnaise.

Tomorrow’s Post: Scenes from My Thanksgiving

Start Your Holiday Shopping with At Home
Order At Home: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining at home! Otherwise, in the Philadelphia area, At Home is available at Franklin Foodworks, our restaurants in The Franklin Institute, Coopermarket at 302 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd and in Center City at the Joseph Fox Bookshop, 1724 Sansom Street. The nearly 500 page book includes a digital key that provides access to At Home On Line. At Home is not generally available in bookstores.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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At Home’s Thanksgiving Redux: A Guide for Guests

Most home entertaining advice focuses on the host. But guests play a major role in making home entertaining better and easier for everyone. This post is a re-issue from last Thanksgiving — just as valid today. If you are a host, use this as a guide to how your guests can help make this Thanksgiving more fun for you. And if you are a guest — and many more of you will be guests than hosts — pass along to other guests and use it to figure out how you can share both the burden and joy of entertaining at home…even if it’s not your home!

At Home’s Guide for Guests

There’s some misguided moral notion—perhaps a hangover from that first Puritan Thanksgiving—that working to the point of fatigue is good for you. Wrong. You already work hard enough.

If you’re hosting, you’ve opened your home to friends and family for this holiday and you’ve probably taken on the lion’s share of cooking. Distributing the remaining work on the big day will give you more time to spend with your loved ones. Best of all, everyone will feel they’ve contributed to Thanksgiving.

In getting ready for Thanksgiving, people put too much thought into how to cook the turkey (there are lots of perfectly good ways to cook a turkey) and not enough thought into how to spread the work. The result: Well-cooked turkeys and exhausted hosts.

My mission is to increase home entertaining by making it better and easier, so I’ve put together the following list of rules and roles for guests. Please share the suggestions below and enjoy a better and easier Thanksgiving.

Three Rules for Thanksgiving Guests

1. Don’t arrive early.
The early guest is the unwelcome guest. Hosts should always have one relaxed hour prior to guest arrival. In arriving early you disturb that hour and essentially demand that the host put down their oven mitts and pay attention to you. A carefully crafted schedule goes right out the window. Not cool.

2. Stay out of the kitchen.
Even the most experienced host needs to focus on the tasks at hand. In this case, the task at hand is the complex coordination of multiple dishes in and out of the oven—not entertaining guests who wander into the kitchen to chitchat. Unless you’re explicitly invited into the cook’s lair to help, find another place to hang out.

3. Don’t do things halfway.
If you’re bringing something for the host, bring all the components. For example, if you’re bringing flowers, bring them arranged in a vase. Bring food on the platter in which it will be served, if room temperature, or in the casserole in which it will be heated. And don’t bring something straight from your refrigerator that needs to be reheated. At least bring it to room temperature, or consider heating it and bringing it warm. Remember to retrieve your platter or casserole when you leave.

Nine Ways Guests Can Help at Thanksgiving

Ideally, Thanksgiving is a team sport. Here is my suggested line-up.

1. Staff Photographer
A Staff Photographer will take responsibility for documenting the holiday and distributing photos via email or an online album (make sure they collect everyone’s email address before leaving). Ask them to bring a camera or make sure your own camera battery is charged. This is a particularly good task for a tech-savvy young person.

2. Music Director
If you know someone with particularly good taste and a good music collection, ask them in advance to put together a background music playlist and be responsible for playing it. Otherwise, simply ask this person to pick from your collection. The Director should also pay attention to volume and replenish music as needed.

3. Maitre d’
As in a restaurant, the Maitre d’ acts as host, warmly greets guests, helps with coats and takes care of guests with any special needs, including children and seniors. The Maitre d’ can also help take care of host gifts.

4. Head Bartender
A Head Bartender, preferably someone who knows something about liquid refreshments, should arrive 30 minutes early to set up the bar, procure ice and cut bar fruit. Your Head Bartender can also help you manage early guests (more on that below). If you’re serving a “house” cocktail, he or she can help you prepare it in advance.

5. Beverage Steward
This appointee gets the dinner table ready to receive guests by lighting candles, opening wine and pouring ice water before guests sit down. The Steward should keep a full pitcher of ice water ready and refill water and wine glasses as needed. Make sure your Beverage Steward knows where backup wine is located. The Beverage Steward could also be responsible for making or initiating Thanksgiving toasts. (If you don’t have a tradition of Thanksgiving toasts, this can be a nice addition to the proceedings.)

6. Sous Chef
A Sous Chef is an Assistant Chef. Depending on the size of your kitchen, you may want to designate only one Sous Chef or several. Make sure your Sous Chef understands that the kitchen is for getting the meal ready and not for socializing, and be sure to provide them with aprons. Sous Chef tasks can include:

• Hors d’oeuvres: Garnishes platters and oversees service of hot hors d’oeuvres.
• Buffet: Sets up buffet or brings platters to dinner table. Refills platters as needed.
• Gravy: Makes sure hot gravy is ready, served and replenished.
• Turkey Carver: This role is self-explanatory, but this person should be adept and experienced so as not to botch the main attraction.
• Dessert: Makes sure dessert is ready to go. Takes ice cream from freezer to temper, warms anything that needs to be warmer, puts cakes and pies on plates and organizes serving utensils.

7. Busser
The Busser should work in concert with the Prince or Princess of Pots & Pans (see below) to separate flatware and carefully scrape and stack dishes near the sink until ready for rinsing and washing. Under no circumstances should dishes be placed in the sink until they actually need to get wet. Cocktail glassware should go directly into an empty dishwasher along with any cocktail tableware before dinner. Dinner glassware should stay on the dinner table until the very end because glassware takes up lots of precious counter space.

8. Prince or Princess of Pots & Pans
As one of your most important appointees, a Prince or Princess should arrive 30 minutes early to wash, dry and put away any straggling pots and pans, empty the dishwasher and set up the busing area. The Prince(ss) should make sure one load of dishes is run during the meal, then empty the dishwasher and reload it. A critical task is to keep the sink free of dirty dishes and pots because, as I like to say, once your sink is full, you’re sunk. Make sure you have plenty of clean and dry towels for the Prince or Princess.

9. Minister of Leftovers
The Minister is responsible for leftovers, including to-go containers and bags. After dinner, it will be their responsibility to equitably divvy up leftovers and distribute them, making sure they leave a rightful share for the host.

Links Broken from Previous Blog

Numbers of people wrote to let me know of difficulties using the links in the previous blog connecting to Thanksgiving posts. My apologies. The links worked on the blog site. However, something happened to the links when the blog was distributed by Feedblizt. You can always go directly to the blog site by clicking on the title of the post. In general, the posts look best directly on the blog site. In addition, the site provides easy access to past blogs and the recipe library.

Here are the posts with the links — fingers crossed they work here!
The Do Ahead Thanksgiving
Setting Up for Prep + Thanksgiving House Cocktail
Video: How to Chop an Onion
At Home’s Football Sunday Do Ahead No Compromise Turkey Gravy
Thanksgiving Wine
Gingered Cranberry Orange Sauce
Noah’s Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

On the Radio

On Friday I chatted with KYW reporter Hadas Kutnitz about how to reduce the stress of holiday entertaining.
Listen to podcast

You can also listen to my visit last Thanksgiving with Marty-Moss Cohan at WHYY. Listen here.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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