Friday, January 29, 2010

Super Bowl Meat Balls with Devil’s Own Dip … and a Thank You Giveaway*****

Wikipedia tells me Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. Bet that got your attention foodies (George Clooney helped too)!

Leatherheads, George Clooney

Football is one of the world's most ancient games, but American Football only dates to the 1890s, popularized in high schools and colleges as well as on the professional field.

The sport took center stage in 1967 when the Super Bowl was born. On January 12, 1969 when the Baltimore Colts were beaten by the New York Jets of the fledgling American Football League the audience exploded. The next year, the leagues merged, and over the next 40 years the Super Bowl has become America's most watched sporting event –– it's become a gathering of friends and family nearly as essential as Thanksgiving dinner or the 4th of July barbecue.


"Following Apple Computer's 1984 commercial introducing the Macintosh computer, directed by Ridley Scott, the broadcast of the Super Bowl became the premier showcase for high concept or simply extravagantly expensive commercials.

Budweiser Clydesdales

Famous commercial campaigns include the Budweiser "Bud Bowl" campaign, and the 1999 and 2000 dot-com ads. Prices have increased each year, with advertisers paying as much as $3 million for a 30-second spot during Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. A segment of the audience tunes in to the Super Bowl solely to watch the creative commercials.

Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 holds the record for total U.S. viewership, attracting an audience of 98.7 million and ranking second only to the final episode of M*A*S*H* for total audience."**

I used to host a Super Bowl party for couples. I lived in a loft that was long and narrow at that time. The men were at one end with their favorite foods and beer, and the girls were at the other watching a chick flick and eating a lot of chocolate and fancy finger foods with wine and champagne. Everyone brought favorite dishes and shared.

I give you one of mine… for the boys in the front room. Go football!

Mom’s Meat Balls with The Devil’s Own Dip

1 lb. ground beef

1 t. salt

1/2 t. sage

1/2 t. thyme

1/2 t. garlic powder

1/2 t. pepper

1/4 c chopped onion

1/2 c flour

1/4 c oil

Season beef with spices and salt and add chopped onion. Roll into balls.  Roll in flour and fry in oil till just brown.

1 egg

1 Tb water

1 c panko crumbs

1/2 c finely chopped pecans

1/2 t salt

oil for deep frying

Roll the already fried balls in blended egg and water then roll in combined panko and pecans and fry until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or room temp for an appetizer with the dip.

Devil’s Own Dip:

1/4 c soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced 

2 T. Brown sugar
2 T. Rice vinegar
1/4 t. 5 spice powder

1 egg

1 T Dry mustard (more if you want it hotter!)
3/4 c oil (Safflower or canola)

3 T toasted sesame oil

Boil first 4 ingredients gently till reduced to 1/4 cup, then add 5 spice. Cool. Add egg to processor, then mustard and process for 30 seconds. Add oil gradually to make a mayonnaise. Add the reduced sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

This sauce is also good for cold roast beef, chicken fingers even shrimp! It’s a great sauce –– I often make double to have a little extra! I’ve had this recipe for years and years so I’m sorry I can’t give credit where credit is due –– and it is due!

** Thanks to Wikipedia for all the Football info!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cosimo de Medici's Divine Jasmine Chocolate

Did you ever see a fairytale of a film called Chocolat ? In it, the luminous Juliette Binoche plays a mysterious woman who owns a chocolate shop.

Its confections have deliciously magical properties and can awaken desire, unlock hidden yearnings, or instill courage depending on the needs of the customer. I cannot promise such outcomes with this Jasmine Chocolate, nor can I promise Johnny Depp will come swaggering through your door but I can tell you:

this chocolate is as close to it as you can get to romance in a cup, and you have time to get all the goodies you need to make it for Valentine’s Day!

Jasmine chocolate did not spring from a romantic icon like Binoche. It started with a rather porcine Cosimo III de' Medici (1642-1723), who became Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1670. He was a weak ruler with at least one strength: an unwavering determination to put to an end to Spain's supremacy in making chocolate.

Portrait 1660 Justus Sustermans

Indeed, the Spaniards managed to turn the New World’s bitter potion into a delicious sweet drink. Not to be outdone, the Grand Duke told his court scientists to develop new and more exciting recipes in his food laboratories.

It was there that Francesco Redi, a scientist, poet, physician and apothecary to Cosimo created this renowned jasmine chocolate drink.

"Cosimo turned his love for chocolate into a political tool". As Redi wrote in his letter, seen at an exhibition at the Civic Museum of Monsummano Terme in winter 2006 Its curator, Ida Fontana said "he counterposed to the Spanish perfection Florence's exquisite gentleness."

Portrait by Baldassare Franceschini

She continued, "Offered only to very important guests, the jasmine chocolate soon became the most sought-after drink at the European courts..." but the recipe remained a state secret until the Medici dynasty ended with the death of Cosimo's son Gian Gastone (a glutton who rarely left his filthy bed-a sad ending to a great family).

1764 Sevres Chocolate Cup

"At that time, chocolate was taken almost boiling and sipped very slowly from small [bowl-like] cups called "chicchere." Not one, but two napkins had to be used in the drinking ritual"said Fontana.

It took 12 days for the Grand Duke to make jasmine chocolate. "It wasn't an infusion, neither was it water flavored with jasmine. Making jasmine chocolate wasn't a simple preparation of food, it was an operation of botanical-gastronomical engineering," said Danielo Vestri, a chocolate maker who has reproduced the Medici recipe.

1725 Meissen Chocolate cup

"Layers of fresh jasmine flowers and chocolate were put one over the other. The process had to be repeated every 24 hours for 12 days. In this way, the jasmine petals provided the cocoa dough with a flavor never tasted before" Fontana revealed - not unlike the classic enfleurage method of capturing scent with odorless fat, straining and replacing the flowers in the fat till the perfect strength of enfleurage pomade is attained.

"It is simply delicious. And it is easy to digest: the cocoa dough was melted in water, not in milk. The Medici did not only influence the arts, but also chocolate. People at my shop go crazy for jasmine chocolate," Vestri said.

My version of the Medici chocolate formula uses fabled ambergris from Ambergris Co., NZ(which I wrote about here) and Jasmine Absolute (absolute being a highly concentrated plant extract) from Mandy Aftel at Aftelier Perfumes. She uses organic and wild-crafted sources and what she comes up with captures the heart and soul of jasmine in a bottle… the tiniest drop of which perfumes the cup. If you want to be adventurous you could also try her amazing Rose Absolute (which puts rosewater to shame) in your chocolate. It took her years to find the perfect rose and she did… from a small grower around Istanbul. Although she makes perfumes she also has an incredible selection of Chef Absolutes and Essential oils that can add clear new notes to your food and has written about using them in food in a book called Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Foods and Fragrance.

Jasmine chocolate

6 ounces water, boiling

1 oz 100% chocolate, shaved (around a ¼ c)

1 ½ t sugar or honey

¼ tsp vanilla

1 slight drop of jasmine absolute

Green pea size piece of ambergris

To the boiling water add the shaved chocolate and stir till incorporated. Mash the ambergris into the sugar/honey and add to the chocolate. Stir to blend. If you have a cappuccino maker give it a minute with the steamer, then store, covered on the counter overnight. It will have developed a velvet texture that you may want to drink room temperature. If not, give it another go with the steamer or heat in a double boiler gently and whisk into a foam. Add one tiny drop of jasmine to the chocolate. Take care to gather up the ambergris that can deposit waxy specks that can cling to cups and pan as you pour the chocolate into two small espresso cups or one large. FYI: 1 small cup is only 82 calories, the whole recipe is 164 calories!

Or you could….

Make the above recipe. Add 4T heavy cream and 4T Armagnac or Cognac plus an extra 1 t of sugar or honey. Serve in cups or stemmed glasses.

For those of you with jasmine curling around your veranda and a supply of cocoa beans, here’s the original recipe:

Cosimo de Medici Chocolate

10 librae of roasted cocoa, cleaned and coarsely minced (1 libra = 12 oz.)

fresh jasmine petals 

8 librae white sugar

3 ounces vanilla flowers 

6 ounces cinnamon 

2 scruples (7.76 grams) ambergris

Put layers of cocoa and jasmine flowers in a box, one layer over the other. Let it rest for 24 hours, then change the jasmine flowers with fresh ones. Repeat 12 times. Add the other ingredients and combine them on a warmed marble surface until the chocolate dough forms.

18th c Mexican Cocoa Cup

If you would like to see how the “dough” was formed with the cocoa beans and a rolling pin, watch this video from Colonial Williamsburg:

Chocolate “Dough” from Art & Mystery of Food

Monday, January 18, 2010

Amazing Grace

With so much pain in the world right now, I wanted to share an amazing video with you, sent to me by my wonderful friend August. It is perfect for Martin Luther King day and will lift your spirit as it has done mine. It comes from a man named Whitley Phipps who runs The U.S. Dream Academy for children of prison parents who are at risk of walking down the same path.
It tells the story of the hymn, Amazing Grace and even a heathen like me was moved.

I thought this would be a perfect time to say thanks to the gracious and so talented Sarah at All Our Fingers in the Pie for giving me my first peer to peer award:

For a novice blogger who is just learning the ropes recognition is much appreciated.

Yesterday was very trying as I was feeling unbelievably frustrated with my old dark house and the rain and no light for my pictures and wanted to throw the camera through the window. But today, I found wonderful presents that made my spirit feel lighter... the video that I share with you and another award from the lovely Chapot of Dans Ma Coquerie, Recettes De Cuisine who sent me:

"The second award comes from the blog Aux délices des gourmets, a blog full of charm and so refreshing"
I was listed on Chapot's gift list.

So, to give back to all of my favorite bloggers (and the list is growing so quickly with so many brilliant and beautiful folks out there), here is my list of just 7 isn't easy to choose, and I couldn't so I made it 11!

You have all inspired me and delighted me and encouraged me and for that I am most grateful. Amazing Grace!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

AMBERGRIS: The Lost Chord Found


It would be simple to tell you that Ambergris is a soft, gray, stone-like matter originating in the intestine of the Physeter catodon (sperm whale) that is used as an anchoring note in perfume. But that would be doing this magical substance such an injustice and there is so much more to tell. Thanks to the wonderful Ambergris Co., NZ I have gotten to know its alluring ways and can tell the tale.

Ambergris is a dusky jewel created in a whale’s stomach like an oyster creates a pearl by surrounding an irritant. It is formed around the sharp beaks of cuttlefish/squid (that are one of their favorite foods) and other sharp objects in the whale’s stomach to ease the passage out of the mighty beast. Being exponentially larger than an oyster, chunks of this miraculous substance have been found as large as 1400 pounds. What are most often found are lumps of 15g to 50 kg that are light and grayish in color. In fact, fresh Ambergris is rather revolting stuff. It is the gentle action of sea and salt and sun that metamorphoses ambergris into an exquisite perfume in a transformational ocean voyage that takes years.

Although it can be taken from a slaughtered whale and artificially aged, thankfully it is now nearly always harvested on beaches around the world by fortunate beachcombers who recognize the soft gray rocks. At nearly $10,000 a pound, it is a treasure indeed and terribly rare. Most of us know the scent of ambergris only through perfumer's chemical recreations.

Christmas 2009, Heston Blumenthal made a great deal of fuss about using authentic ambergris in his Christmas dinner for the BBC. He prepared it in a cucumber geleé with a caviar sorbet to great acclaim from those lucky enough to partake in the extraordinary meal.

What is it that makes Ambergris so special? As Elena at the brilliant blog Perfume Shrine says:Natural ambergris has a wonderful tinge of saltiness, almost brine-y, encompassing elements of skin-like musky tones, and even a subtly sweetish accent. Its greatest attribute is its capacity for rendering a composition rounder, especially in oriental perfumes or in floral compositions where it melds the notes into one and brings out their best qualities. It clings on to fabric too, through repeated washings even, becoming ever sweeter with time. Therefore it is prized for its fixative power: the ability to anchor more volatile notes and make them last.

What many people do not know is that Ambergris was not only used as a perfume but had a subtle role as an ingredient in food and drink for many centuries. No wonder, since ambergris makes everything it touches more of what it is... an amazing quality. One reads of its use in recipes of the Renaissance but it appeared more often in earlier books, under the influence of mediaeval Arab traditions (The Arabs regarded ambergris as an aphrodisiac and used it for this purpose). Its use survived in France into the 19th century as an additive for chocolate as a drink, witness a famous passage in Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) hailing chocolat ambré as one of the most effective restoratives.

La Chocolatiere, Liotard 1744

"This is the appropriate place," says Brillat-Savarin, "to speak of the properties of chocolat ambré, chocolate with ambergris, properties which I have verified through many experiments, and the results of which I proudly present to my readers. Therefore, let every man who has drunk a few too many draughts from the cup of pleasure, every man who has spent a good portion of time working that ought to have been spent sleeping, every witty man who feels he has temporarily become dull, every man who finds the air close, the time long and the atmosphere oppressive, every man who finds himself tormented by an obsession that takes away his free thought, let all of them, we say, administer to themselves a good half litre of chocolat ambré, at the rate of 60 to 72 grains of amber per half kilogram(pound), and they will experience a marvel."

In The Physiology of Taste Brillat–Savarin also praises ambergris chocolate as the “chocolate of the afflicted.” “I knew that Marshal Richelieu, of glorious memory,” he writes, “constantly chewed ambergris lozenges; as for myself, when I get one of those days when the weight of age makes itself felt––a painful thought––or when one feels oppressed by an unknown force, I add a knob of ambergris the size of a bean, pounded with sugar, to a strong cup of chocolate, and I always find my condition improving marvelously.”

Chocolatiere, 1759

Worldwide Gourmet tells us "It was from Madame d'Arestrel, superior of the Convent of the Visitation in Belley, that Brillat-Savarin learned the art of making a good chocolate, a mixture of Caraque, Sainte-Madeleine and Berbice. " 'Monsieur,' Madame d'Arestrel said to me over 50 years ago, 'When you would like to have some good chocolate, have it made the night before in a faience coffee pot and leave it. Resting overnight will concentrate it and give it a velvetiness that makes it even better. The good Lord cannot object to this little refinement, since He Himself is all excellence.'"

18th century Meisen chocolate pot

Antonin Carême, the famous cook to Talleyrand, Tzar Alexander and the Prince Regent of England, refined the recipe even further by adding cognac, honey, fresh cream and toasted almonds.

18th c chocolate cups

Larousse Gastronomique laments “such chocolate no longer exists.” It's a pity that ambergris figures only as a memory in confectionery and perfumery today. Hunting some down for your own taste buds is well worth the effort, however. Whether added to coffee or chocolate, I can attest to its rewarding effects and its abiding aroma that mysteriously lingers through the day. Once savored, its bouquet is forever seared in one's memory."

Also from Brillat-Savarin via Worldwide Gourmet:“Happy chocolate, which after crossing the world, 
In women's smiles 
Finds death in a melting delicious kiss from their mouth."

Chocolate Ambre for 2

6 oz boiling water

1 oz shaved 100% chocolate

1 tsp sugar OR

1 tsp. mild honey (Champlain Valley Apiaries)

1 bean sized piece of Ambergris

Crush the Ambergris into sandy particles with the sugar (or in the honey) and put it and the boiling water into a large heat proof cup and stir until dissolved.

Next add the shaved chocolate and stir until dissolved.

Store the chocolate, covered at room temperature overnight. The chocolate will swell and the mixture will become velvety. At this point you can either use a Cappuccino steamer to froth and warm the chocolate or heat it gently and whisk into a froth ( a double boiler would do so that you could leave the chocolate in its cup). Take care when you pour the chocolate that you do not lose the grains of Ambergris. Another alternative to this is to heat the Ambergris in the bowl of 1 or 2 spoons over a low flame… this only takes seconds so take care! Then put the spoons into the hot chocolate and let sit with the chocolate overnight. Use the spoons to drink the chocolate licking the spoon decadently, the Ambergris becomes waxy and stubborn on the spoon… but the work is worth it… serve in small espresso cups.

Alternately, add a tablespoon of cognac and a dollop of cream for a stronger drink that could be served in a stemmed glass. Either way you will have an extraordinary treat.

***Lest you think this an extravagance, a few grams will more than suffice ( at $20 a gram) for a few servings of chocolate

Next, Ambergris and chocolate with jasmine… in the style of Cosimo de Medici III. Romance in a cup.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lobster a la Britannia from Delmonicos

With 3000 recipes, Delmonico's most famous chef, Charles Ranhofer’s Epicurean is an bottomless goldmine of 19th c classics. Think about it… if Julie of Julie & Julia fame had cooked The Epicurean instead of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, she would still be at it!! I thought I'd give you another one of his gems since I did have a Ranhofer extravaganza for New Years and I love to share!
Delmonico's Kitchen 1902
I know, you may be thinking that you need all of these guys in your kitchen to make Ranhofer's dishes but you don't! A few stocks and some simple-to-prepare white sauces and you're good to go.
Did you know that Ranhofer ran a locavore restaurant? Delmonicos had their own gardens in Brooklyn (yes, Brooklyn!) and championed the use of beautiful and diverse produce on their gargantuan menu. Lobster and oysters were still plentiful in NY in the 19th century. At one point lobster was so ubiquitous that it was fed to prisoners who would groan..."please no more lobster!!" Our pilgrim forefathers felt the same way. When they settled in the New World, there were vast numbers of these lumbering decapods that were impossibly easy to harvest from NY shores. They are not so plentiful these days but far more prized and, in Ranhofer's hands, ever so delectable. Remember, this was the man that perfected Lobster Newberg that was originally Lobster Wenberg after a sea captain who did the first version of the dish impromptu at the restaurant by ordering up a chafing dish and some ingredients. When he had a fight with Delmonico the name was forever changed to Lobster Newberg. Ranhofer polished the recipe to what we know today (recipe HERE).

Lobster a la Britannia
2 lobsters, 1 ½ to 2-pounds each
1 carrot
1 onion
A hand full of parsley, thyme
1 Bay leaf
2 T White Wine Vinegar
2 c mushroom essence*
2 c velouté*
¼ c glace de viande (reduce 2c. chicken or beef stock slowly till syrupy—if bought stock, make sure there is no salt!!!!! You should have between ½ -1/4 cup)
½ c Madeira (Charleston Sercial)
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ t. cayenne
¼ t. nutmeg
½ Lb. mushroom tops, sautéed and sliced
½ Lb. small artichoke hearts, cooked and sliced
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 T chopped parsley
After making the mushroom essence and the veloute and having the glace de viande ready, boil the vegetables and herbs in a large pot of water for 20 minutes Cook the lobsters for 7-8 minutes in this liquid to cover (put in one at a time and allow to return to a boil before adding the next one or kill first). Cool lobsters. Remove meat from claws and tail (reserve rest and shells for a bisque later on) and keep warm in a little lobster water. Take the creamy parts from the bodies and rub them through a sieve. Take Mushroom reduction, and velouté and reduce slightly. Add the Glace de Viande and Madeira and spices. Add the egg yolks and sieved creamy lobster and stir in over very low heat till thickened.
Place the lobster meat on a plate, ½ of the tail (split length-wise) and 1 piece of claw meat.
Place the artichokes and mushrooms on the plate. Spoon sauce over all. Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 main course.
Follow this recipe for *mushroom essence, couldn’t be simpler!
Mushroom Essence
Put one pound of mushrooms cut into quarters in a saucepan with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt and a pint of stock. Cook for 10 minutes, covered. Cool and strain. Use the delicious mushrooms for another dish
4 T Butter
4 T Flour
2 Cup hot chicken stock
Melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for a few moments taking care not to scorch the flour. Add the stock gradually and cook till thickened for 20 minutes.
Next time, my post will be about Ambergris from the lovely Ambergris Co. NZ This is such an exciting product… hopefully you will be able to get yourself some in time to make an unforgettable Valentine’s delight!
1", 2 gram piece of Ambergris
At $10,000. a pound... this is truly a dusky gem of the ocean... but don't worry, you only need a few grains to make an amazing dish!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Epicurean's Chickens a la Nantaise Sauted

Charles Ranhofer, Celebrity Chef of the 19th Century

Charles Ranhofer was one of America’s first Celebrity chefs and reigned at the end of the 19th century at Delmonicos restaurant in NYC. Although he died in 1896, his amazing 3000 recipe cookbook, The Epicurean, a Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art, Including Table and Wine Service , has kept his reputation alive.

"Ranhofer was sent to Paris at the age of 12 to begin his training by studying pastry-making, and at 16 became the private chef for the prince d'Hénin, Comte d'Alsace. In 1856 he moved to New York to become the chef for the Russian consul, and later worked in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans. He returned to France in 1860 for a short time, where he arranged balls for the court of Napoleon III at the Tuileries Palace, but then came back to New York to work at what was then a fashionable location, Maison Doree. In 1862, Lorenzo Delmonico hired him for Delmonico's, and it was there that Ranhofer made his real fame, though others say that he made the fame of the restaurant as well. At that time, Delmonico's was considered the finest restaurant in the United States. He was the chef at Delmonico's until his retirement in 1896, except for a short hiatus from 1876 and 1879 when he owned the "Hotel American" at Enghien-les-Bains," said Wikipedia.

Ranhofer invented or made famous a number of dishes that Delmonico's was known for, such as Lobster Newburg & Baked Alaska and had a talent for naming dishes after famous or prominent people--particularly those who dined at Delmonico's--as well as his friends, and events of the day.

One of the dishes from Ranhof’s cookbook, Chickens a la Nantaise Sauted is a real winner (Nantaise meaning in the style of Nantes, a city in Brittany). Although the measurements are a little sketchy, it was fairly easy to navigate with a little extra work. The results were fabulous. The chicken has that rich old-fashioned taste… and those croquettes are a brilliant idea!!!

Chickens a la Nantaise

2 boneless chicken breasts (the original recipe called for pieces)

2 T butter

½ c Mushroom broth*

½ c Madeira Wine (Charleston Sercial)

1 ½ c béchamel sauce*

½ c cream

3 small artichoke hearts

2 thin slices ham

1 egg, beaten

1 c breadcrumbs

6 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp chopped herbs

Chop the artichoke hearts and ham into small dice. Season with salt and pepper and moisten with ½ c béchamel. Make into tablespoon size croquettes and freeze for 20 minutes as they will be very sloppy.

Take them out and roll them into the egg, then the breadcrumbs and refrigerate till ready to use.

Get oil heated to 350º to deep-fry the croquettes.

Fry the chicken breasts in 1T butter till gently browned and nearly done and remove. Deglaze the pan with the mushroom broth and Madeira and reduce while scraping off the brown bits in the pan. Add the béchamel and the cream. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer the chicken gently till cooked through.

Sauté the shrimps in butter, add lemon and herbs. Keep warm and set aside.

Fry the croquettes in the oil till brown.

Place the croquettes and shrimp decoratively on the plate with the breast. Spoon the sauce over all. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Serves 2, generously

Mushroom Essence

Put one pound of mushrooms cut into quarters in a saucepan with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt and a pint of stock. Cook for 10 minutes, covered. Cool and strain. Use the delicious mushrooms for another dish.


5 T butter

5 T flour

3 cups hot milk

¼ c chopped onion

sprig of parsley

sprig of thyme

mushroom stems

Few Gratings of Nutmeg

Melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for a few minutes, taking care not to scorch it.

Add the hot milk gradually, whisking all the while. Let it thicken slowly with the herbs and onion and mushrooms, stirring it frequently. Strain it before using.

Delmonico's Menu from 1899, check out the prices!!!:

***Many of the facts about Ranhofer were taken from the nice folks at Wikipedia!

Chicken Breast on Foodista