… and to all a good meal!

This Christmas has been one of relaxation in our household, which is not a bad thing at all considering the busy year it’s been. The week has been very low-key, filled with cooking, shopping and lots of cozy fires in the fireplace. Nice.

During the past 10 days or so, I’ve been busy making holiday treats of various shapes and sizes — milk chocolate pots de crème for our Christmas dinner finale, white chocolate Oreo fudge and peppermint meringues to name a few. I found this recipe for cookies and crème fudge on allrecipes.com and have been making the heck out of it this season. With just three ingredients to worry about, it’s super easy to make, looks very pretty all packaged up in a holiday tin and tastes awesome. For the last batch I made, I used the holiday Oreos with the red filling, thinking they would look beautiful nestled into the white chocolate fudge. However, the color ended up bleeding out into the fudge, turning it sort of an alarming shade of red, but I threw in a little peppermint extract and called it festive. A brilliant and quick-thinking move on my part, if I do say so myself.

Since it was originally just going to be a quiet Christmas Day with hubby, the toddler and me, I didn’t go overboard on my dinner plans. My dad ended up joining us, which was fine, but for once, I was secretly glad not to have to cook a big meal for a tableful of folks.

For our main course, I ended up buying a turkey breast, which I stuffed with lemon slices and thyme sprigs and threw into the crockpot. It was delicious – moist and juicy with great savory flavor, and I used the stock that was released to make a scrumptious gravy. For sides, we had wild rice with dried cherries, apricots and almonds, and a panful of Brussels sprouts that I sautéed with garlic and olive oil, then steamed and topped with bacon. I’m telling ya, if you don’t like Brussels sprouts, I can convert you. Really, you can’t go wrong with almost any vegetable by sautéing it in olive oil and garlic, then topping with bacon or cheese. Alternately, roasting it in the oven until it turns brown and crispy works, too. Try it next time you have broccoli or asparagus on hand. Yummy.

Christmas dinner spread

Hubby really wanted to make Yorkshire puddings, something we’ve talked about for ages but never actually tried. For non-British readers, Yorkshire puddings aren’t really puddings at all, they’re like a popover/dinner roll thing that caves in the middle to create a little bowl of dough, into which you then spoon a big ladleful of gravy or jus. You see them often served abroad at carvery lunches in England or with roast-and-potatoes-type meals.

I looked up a few recipes and thought they all sounded deceptively simple. Hm. This immediately made me somewhat suspicious, but I was willing to give it a try. The batter is just milk, egg and flour, stirred together and left to sit for 30 minutes or one hour, depending on the recipe you’re using.

The next step is to coat your muffin tins with oil or a little of the drippings from your roast (I used bacon grease), spoon in a little batter and off you go. The puddings are supposed to puff up as they bake, then collapse in the middle as they cool to create the bowl shape. Mine didn’t collapse; they just stayed puffy in the middle. They tasted good, but there was no way you’d have been able to use them as edible gravy vessels. I’ll try them again, though, maybe throwing in some parmesan cheese and herbs next time.

the failed Yorkshire puddings

I spent a good chunk of my Christmas loot on new cookbooks! Shock of shocks, I did not previously own a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, but I do now. Along with an awesome slow cooker recipe book I found on the bargain rack for $5, and a series of Culinaria books on Germany, France and Italy. What could be more perfect! They contain not just recipes, but tons of cultural information and profiles on various cities and regions. I can’t wait to dig into them.

Elsewhere in the week, we’ve been talking about making paella for awhile. I researched online and came up with a Gordon Ramsay version that sounded promising. Gordon definitely hooked us up on the shepherd’s pie, so I figured his paella would fit the bill as well. Plus, he’s looking kinda hot now that he finally got those weird craggy lines fixed on his chin… His recipe called for a slew of shellfish, which I had to leave out if I had any hope of hubby eating it at all. And the onion as well, of course, but that goes without saying.

Gordon’s paella calls for rice, tomato, spices, chicken, chorizo and some veg. That’s about it, really. Nothing too intimidating. I’d never cooked with chorizo before, and I had exactly one kind to choose from during my shopping excursion at Kroger, so I hoped for the best. It looks like a regular cased sausage, but I found as I sliced it up and tossed it into my pan, it completely melted away into the sauce. It definitely left a kicky flavor behind, but no chunks of nicely browned sausage to bite into like I was hoping for. Alas. Next time I’ll know to use a hard sausage or include some chunks of ham as well for texture. Everything else came together nicely. It was really just exactly like a risotto, which I’ve made many times over.

As I was stirring hot stock into the rice, chicken and veggies, I was struck that many different cultures share a go-to chicken and rice comfort food just like this. In America, what is possibly more comforting than a steamy bowl of chicken and noodles? In Italy, you’ve got risotto; in France, coq au vin; in India, chicken tikka masala. There’s arroz con pollo, pilaf, dumplings, chow mein, you name it. Wherever there is chicken, there is chicken and rice.

The paella turned out very spicy, but good. We enjoyed it with a bowl of olives, garlic bread and some Manchego cheese (that was the only disappointment of the meal). I stirred through a handful of shrimp into my own bowl, which added a lot, I thought.


my bowl

Would love to make paella again, this time with all the seafood… maybe a girls’ night dinner in the offing?? Although I still need to have the gals over for an Italian spread inspired by our trip to Milan. I’ve already got that one all planned out in my head – bruschetta, pasta, grilled steak with parmesan and arugula, and tiramisu for dessert.

The New Year looms ahead. I’ve been writing my blog now for a whole year! Here’s hoping my few and faithful readers have enjoyed hearing about my food exploits as much as I’ve enjoyed experiencing them. Happy 2010!!!

Chocolate sex

Hey ladies – I’ve found it. The ultimate chocolate dessert. I told my husband last night that this dessert is so good, I could have sex with it. Like many husbands (I’m sure… I hope), mine is always complaining that we don’t have enough sex. I fear he might have been slightly pissed off about my contemplating sex with a dessert as opposed to seeking opportunities to have more sex with him.

I’ve always been a fan of creamy, custardy foods (see my previous post about Zest’s French toast), and am currently exploring a creme brulee/pots de creme fixation. I’ve downloaded a bunch of different flavored versions to try, but the chocolate pots de creme recipe below is my favorite thus far. They aren’t hard to make, they just take a little bit of time and, be forewarned, you will dirty some dishes in the process. I made my first attempt in ramekins; last night, I got creative and used little espresso cups. Very cute presentation, and it pays to make these in small portions because they are sooooo rich. Trust me, a little goes a long way. Don’t pay any attention to the calorie count. When you need a little slice of chocolate heaven, give this a try.

I’m open to other pots de creme or creme brulee recipes or suggestions… Feel free to send a comment!

Dark Chocolate Sex, er, I mean, Pots de Cremes

This makes about 6 ramekins or 10 espresso cups worth of chocolaty goodness.


  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. whole milk (or, I’ve just used 2 1/2 c. of Half and Half instead of the milk and cream mixture
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 7 oz. really good quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 tb. white sugar


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Bring the cream, milk (or Half and Half), cinnamon and vanilla to a low simmer in a saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chocolate pieces until they are completely melted. (It will look like an outrageously good hot chocolate at this point.)

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together with a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Ladle a scoop of the hot chocolate cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper, then pour all of the egg yolks into the saucepan and whisk vigorously to fully blend. Whisk fast, or you’ll end up with chocolate scrambled eggs!

Pour the whole custard mixture through a sieve into a bowl and let cool slightly, stirring occasionally to get rid of as many air bubbles as you can. Pour the custard to fill 3/4 of the way up your ramekins or bakeable espresso cups.

Place the filled ramekins or cups into a glass baking dish and carefully pour enough boiling water into the baking dish (not the ramekins) to come about halfway up the containers and create a water bath for even cooking. Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and poke a few holes in the top to allow steam to escape. Transfer it to oven and bake at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. Custards should look set around the edges, but still be slightly jiggly in the middle. (Kind of like your thighs after you’ve just eaten five or six of these in a row.)

Uncover the custards and let cool to room temperature (about 30-45 minutes), then cover with foil again and refrigerate for at least 3 hours until well chilled.

The pots de creme look lovely when served with whipped cream and topped with a chocolate-covered espresso bean, or dusted with powdered sugar and topped with a fresh berry.

It even looks a little bit like a boob, which I suppose is appropriate in keeping with the sex theme...

It even looks a little bit like a boob, which I suppose is appropriate in keeping with the sex theme...