Figgy Jam

31 Comments

Figgy Jam! Just the name alone conjures Christmas spirit! And it’s December – time to plan cheese pairings!

Personally, I think a jam, paste, or curd is a wonderful addition to a cheese platter, because it enhances the cheese. This one has a little savory component to it, but it’s not a chutney. And, it’s really not a jam, because it’s not that sweet.


Just as the Spaniards are so good at pairing their beloved Manchego with quince paste, I make my figgy “jam” to pair with cheeses like Chèvre, Brie, and my favorite stinky cheese of all time – the famous Époisses from the Burgundy region of France.

I love dried figs, but I have to admit something. When I eat a dense fig jam, it can sometimes feel like I’m chewing sand because of the seeds. So to the figs, I added dates and dried cranberries. That way, I will have the figgy flavor, but not so many seeds.

And the cranberries provide a more scarlet color, which fits the holidays.
So here’s what I did:

Figgy Jam

1 pound dried fruit – chopped figs, chopped dates, and dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup ruby Port
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

On a scale, weigh out the fruit you’re using – in this case, figs, dates, and dried cranberries.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot including the cinnamon stick.

Cook the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Pretty much all of the liquid will have been absorbed; you want the dried fruit hydrated, but also have a little liquid left over in order to process the jam.

Let the mixture cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, then put the mixture in a food processor. Pulse, scrape, pulse, scape, and continue, using a little more orange juice if necessary. I don’t make a paste – I prefer to have a little texture.

Place in jars and store in the refrigerator. Alternately, freeze the jars and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

The jam is best at room temperature served with a variety of cheeses, crackers, breads, and more dried fruits!

There are brie logs that would make lovely canapés.

Also, the figgy jam could be put on a brie wheel of any size, warmed slightly. Then you get the combination of oozing cheese and the figgy jam.


I drizzled a little maple syrup over the brie as well.

The jam is also good with goat cheese.

However you use it, you will love the combination.

The figgy jam isn’t terribly sweet, so it’s also good on toast in the morning!

Christmas in your Mouth!

60 Comments

Okay, weird title, but there’s no other way to describe this after-dinner drink. It just tastes like Christmas, which I happen to love.

I’ve mentioned quite a few times over the years that I’m no mixologist. I’ve made some good margaritas, but it seems like when I try to make something creative, it’s terrible.

Actually, it’s not that my skills are completely lacking because I’m typically following recipes, but I don’t enjoy a lot of cocktails, especially if they’re terribly strong. Like martinis. So whatever I might make and dislike, which seems to happen often, I pass on to my willing husband.

Typically when the weather turns cold, I stock up on seasonal liqueurs. I love Amarula, Eggnog, Bailey’s, various chocolate liqueurs, and so forth. Some I will put in coffee or hot chocolate, or some over ice in lieu of dessert.

One night I got super creative (sarcasm) and combined all of two different liqueurs together for my husband and myself. We both thought that this drink was so good that we haven’t been able to stop drinking it!!!

It’s good, it’s pretty, and it’s Christmas in your mouth. You’re welcome.

Christmas in your Mouth
Makes 2 drinks

2 – 8 ounce cocktail glasses
Small ice cubes
4 ounces Buttershots
4 ounces Rumchata

Fill the glasses with ice.


Divide the buttershots and Rumchata evenly in both glasses.


Stir and serve.

You can add some freshly grated nutmeg if you’d like.


And, it’s Christmas!

Smoked Trout and Shrimp Pate´

68 Comments

Although I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon, I probably would have balked at the idea of smoked trout, until I actually had it. And it’s spectacular.

Our younger daughter went to summer camp outside of Estes Park, Colorado two years in a row, and one time when we dropped her off, we stayed in cabins on a large, beautiful property. There were hiking trails and a large fish pond. They sold their own trout they smoked themselves on property.

The smoked trout was so good that we brought a bunch home in the ice chest. I just ate the smoked trout like one would enjoy kipper snacks – on crackers.

When I discover the paté recipe, shown below, I’m glad I didn’t hesitate to make it. It’s wonderful, in an unexpected way. I’m guessing this was cut out of Gourmet magazine, but I can’t find it online anywhere to confirm.

As the recipe states, cutouts of pumpernickel bread are fabulous, but so are any hearty crackers.

The recipe uses both smoked trout and baby shrimp, both of which I found canned.



The recipe is so easy because it utilizes a food processor for the room temperature cream cheese, lemon zest, trout, and shrimp.

Then it’s just a matter of folding in the green onion; I saved the capers to serve separately.

Serve the paté at room temperature.

Serve it with breads, crackers, and veggie sticks.

If you make individual canapes with the paté, buy an extra can of shrimp and put one baby shrimp on top of each canapé.

And don’t overprocess the mixture in the food processor. You want some texture.

You can serve the paté in a serving bowl with a server, or mold it in a bowl the day before serving and unmold onto a platter.

David Chang’s Short Ribs

60 Comments

Soon after starting my blog, I discovered sous vide, and knew I had to own a machine. Because it was a big purchase, I asked for one as a Christmas present. I won’t complain about how many years it took for me to get one, because I now have one and use it constantly. Even more than I thought I would.

I especially love it for “inferior” cuts of beef like brisket, hanger and flank steaks. Often I sous vide pork loin and chicken breasts. I can cook all of these meats “properly,” but their sous vide counterparts can’t be beat with traditional methods in my opinion.

Which brings me to short ribs. For some reason, I’ve never thought to sous vide them. I think because I always enjoy the process of making short ribs, sometimes in a traditional way with red wine and herbs, other times with Southwestern adobo flavors. I’ve also used short ribs in a sauce for giant pasta, and in cheesy sandwiches with pickled onions. The rib meat has many uses.

Then I read Momofuku, by David Chang. Published in 2009, it tells the delightful story of David Chang, who at 27, opened his first restaurant, Momofuku.

As I read through the book, which covered recipes from each of his four restaurants, the three others being Ko, Momofuku Milk Bar, and Ssäm Bar, I realized these were recipes that I would not be making. However, the stories are hysterical, scary, on-the-edge-of-your seat crazy about life as a restaurant owner.

Then I came across his recipe for sous vide short ribs that really intrigued me.

From the book: “Low-temperature cooking affords cooks an accuracy and a measure of control over the oneness of meat that we have only dreamed about since humans first witnessed the marriage of meat and fire.”

When he first was exposed to sous vide cooking at a restaurant, David Chang originally thought that it was a “cop out,” a way to not really have to know how to cook a steak.

“Then, I grew up a little bit and came to realize that sous vide cooking is amazing magic. (Or at least it can be; all good techniques can be poorly used.)”

But I don’t think he realizes the sous vide options for the home cook.

In Momofuku he writes: “This recipe is not a reasonable proposition for the home cook unless you are willing to buy a vacuum-sealing machine and fabricate a water circulator situation. And even then, 48 hours is a world of time to cook something.”

This is a photo of my sous vide, which has gone up only a little in price over the years. I like it because it’s a smaller size; perfect for a small family.

Now, Mr. Chang is right in his opinion that you can’t just set your sous vide and leave town. I sometimes worry that my electricity will go out during sous vide’ing. I’m lucky it hasn’t. But maybe it’s the 9 years since his book was published, that sous vide has made it into home kitchens, thankfully.

So the only thing that I hesitated about following David Chang’s short rib recipe was his suggested accompaniments to the short ribs: dashi-braised daikon, pickled carrots, and pickled mustard seeds. Not the prospect of cooking meat for 48 hours.

David Chang’s Short Ribs

2 2/3 cups water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons usukuchi (light soy sauce)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pear juice
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon apple juice
2 1/2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
10 grinds black pepper
1/2 small onion, 1/2 small carrot
3 scallions, whites only
2 garlic cloves
8 pieces bone-in short ribs, trimmed

Combine the water, soy, pear and apple juices, mirin, sesame oil, sugar, pepper, onion, carrot, scallions, and garlic in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.


Reduce the heat so the liquid simmers gently and cook for 10 minutes.

Strain the solids out of the marinade and cool it in the refrigerator.

Combine each short rib with 1/2 cup marinade in a vacuum-sealable bag and seal it. Then seal the bagged rib in a second bag.

Set your sous vide to 140.2 degrees F. Add the bags of ribs and cook for 48 hours.

When the ribs are done, remove them from the water and plunge the bags into a large bowl of ice water. Refrigerate the bags.

Cut the ribs out of their bags over a mixing bowl to catch the braising liquid; set the ribs aside.

Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil over hi heat and reduce it until you have about 2 cups, no more than 10 minutes. Reserve.

Slide the bones out of the short ribs. Trim off any large, obvious pieces of fat, and trim the ribs into neat cubes or rectangles.

Prepare a skillet over high heat with a little grape seed oil. Sear the ribs on all sides, repeat batches.

When ready to serve, put a couple of tablespoons of the reduction in the center of the plate and top with the ribs.

Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Oh these ribs!


I knew the rib meat would be tender, but the flavors!!! You can taste every ingredient in the marinade.

And the liquid is fabulous. I actually strained it twice. I’ll be making these ribs again. Thanks David.

Mulled Wine

49 Comments

When I think of mulled wine, I think of my daughter and I visiting my other daughter in December of 2010 in London. Everything was Christmassy, and it was cold, as expected. The first thing she did when we met up at her flat was to prepare mulled wine. It was so charming and thoughtful.

But I had no idea that mulled wine is so popular in London, at least during the cold months I presume. In fact, every single pub we visited, which was daily, served mulled wine.

Here is a special photo of us three gals at The Marylebone, after warming our spirits with mulled wine.

Those memories, of the beautiful quaint pubs, the Christmas markets, the mulled wine, fabulous meals, but mostly of being with my two daughters at a special time of year, were so important to me, that once home, I haven’t wanted to make mulled wine. I needed to preserve those memories some how. Until now.

Out of curiosity, I sought out recipes for mulled wine online, and they’re basically all straight forward. In fact, you can simply mull wine with purchased mulling spices! If you don’t know, the act of mulling is simmering or steeping the wine or cider.

I found a recipe on Epicurious along with a blurb written by Katherine Sachs that offered a bit more information when proceeding with mulled wine, with more options.

Katherine writes that “In Germany it’s called Glühwein and it’s occasionally made with with fruit wine; it’s Glögg in Scandinavia, and usually served with a spiced cookie or cake; in Quebec they mix in maple syrup and hard liquor and call it Caribou.”

I need to look into a Caribou. But on to mulled wine…

For a stronger pot, add some liquor, such as brandy or spiced rum. Mulled wine can also be made with white wine, such as a Riesling or Grüner Veltliner, if you prefer that style.

Mulled Wine
Serves 2, 3, 4…

1 bottle of good red wine, like a pinot noir
2 cups apple cider
1 cup ruby port
A couple slices of orange rind
4 cinnamon sticks
20 whole cloves
2 crushed allspice
Star anise and cinnamon sticks and orange slices for serving

Pour the wine, cider, and port into an enamel pot. Add the orange rinds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and allspice.

Start heating slowly on a low-to-medium setting. You want to steep the wine, not boil or reduce it.

After about 30-40 minutes it will be done. Sieve the mixture if you don’t want the little spice bits.

Serve in cups with a cinnamon stick, star anise, and slices of orange.

I purposely didn’t shake the bottle of apple cider. I didn’t want the mulled wine to look murky.

This is especially important if you chose to serve the mulled wine in a glass cup. You want it pretty and burgundy, not brown and murky.

The mulled wine would work well in a carafe, so you don’t have to keep it on the stove. Just serve!

Hope you enjoy this recipe.


I have prepared mulled port before and that is slightly sweeter than mulled wine, but definitely still warming and flavorful. It was mulled with clementines.

Foie Gras

62 Comments

If I were ever asked what my last meal would be, it wouldn’t be a difficult answer. Foie gras, seared gently and cooked medium-rare, served with a compote of sorts and some toasts. It’s heaven on a plate to me.

Sadly, I can count the number of people I know who love liver as much as I do on one finger. So as a result, I’ve rarely prepared it.


Fortunately, I am able to buy beef liver where I live, and do enjoy it on occasion, typically with eggs and lots of browned onions.

And, I am able to purchase chicken liver in order to make chicken liver paté.

But there is just no comparing a slice of beef liver, or puréed chicken livers to the wonderfulness that is foie gras, and it was high time I purchased it.

My source for foie gras is the wonderful store and website D’Artagnan. The founder of D’Artagnan is Ariane Daguin, and her story is inspirational.

I purchased two lobes from D’Artagnan – one to cook sliced, and the other to make a paté for the holidays.

I chose to serve the foie gras with beet pancakes, which I made simply with grated beets, chopped shallots, egg, and flour.

Because fruit pairs so well with foie gras, I poached apple slices in a combination of apple nectar and maple syrup until soft, then reduced the liquid until syrupy.

Sometimes there is confusion, as one can make paté from liver, or one can make paté from foie gras, as my friend Stéphane did when I visited him at his home five long years ago. I got to help a little!

To prepare the foie gras, slice the lobe gently but firmly. Place the slices on a plate, and season with salt and pepper.

I like to cook foie gras in browned butter. I prefer a lighter sear, so I immediately turned down the fire after turning over the foie gras slices.

It only takes a few minutes per side, depending on the thickness. As I mentioned, I love foie gras medium rare. To the plate with 2 slices of foie gras I added a beet pancake, some of the nectar-poached apples, and then poured on a little syrup.


The combination was perfection, if I may say so myself!

I included the beet pancake for color, but one could place the foie gras slices on bread slices optionally.

If all you’ve heard about foie gras is the inhumane treatment of ducks and geese, please read this article by my favorite Serious Eats writer J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT. The article is well-researched, educational, and also based on personal experience.

Croissants Breakfast Boats

64 Comments

I happen to love Instagram, and I follow Cheesy, which probably isn’t surprising to those who know me well. Cheesy posts just that – photos of cheesiness!

And, one day I saw these – hollowed out croissants, baked with eggs, cheese, and bacon! At least I’m assuming that’s how they were prepared. I searched online and saw many similar recipes, but never found this photo.

Aren’t these boats beautiful? During the holidays, I typically have croissants on hand and save them for various purposes. To use as is, obviously, or for baked French toast or bread pudding. The Williams-Sonoma croissants are really nice to have on hand; you can bake one or a dozen at a time.

So here’s my version of croissants breakfast boats, and if anyone knows to whom to give credit for the photo of his/her boats, I’d appreciate it!

Croissants Breakfast Boats

4 baked croissants
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt
Pepper
6 eggs at room temperature
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Prepared diced bacon
A few green onions, sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Slices of black olives (optional)
Slices of sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
Cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

Turn each croissant on its side and slice a “hat” off of the top. Discard the hats, then using your fingers, pick out the dough until you have a nice boat. Try not to make any holes!


Place the prepped croissants on a jelly roll pan and preheat the oven to a roast setting.

Place the onion and red bell pepper on another jelly roll pan, drizzle with oil, and generously add salt and pepper.

Roast the veggies in the oven until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them cool. Change the oven temperature to 350 degrees.


Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and cream with the salt and white pepper.

When you’re ready to bake the croissants boats, stir about 3/4 of the roasted veggies into the eggs and stir. Have all of the goodies prepped and ready.

Gently, using a ladle, pour the mixture into the croissants. The only reason I spilled was that I was pouring with my left hand so I could take a photo with my right!


Place in the oven and bake just until the eggs are firm, about 18 minutes; you don’t want rubbery eggs.

To serve, sprinkle with bacon, feta cheese, and chopped green onion, plus the leftover veggie mixture. Optionally, include the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes. Or, keep them plain and offer the goodies on the side.

Instead of bacon you could use good ham or Prosciutto or sausage.

The options are endless for these breakfast boats!

The best part was finding out that I could pick up the breakfast boats and eat them like a sandwich!

But the prettiest these are is when you can see the beautiful yellow egg filling, so next time I might stir more of the goodies into the whisked eggs, and not worry about “toppings.”


And there will be a next time!

Spaghetti Bolognese

108 Comments

This post came about in a funny way. My virtual food blogger sister-friend Linda Duffin, of the impressive blog Mrs. Portly’s Kitchen and I were commenting back and forth one day discussing the cooking of our mothers.

Linda wrote, “And don’t get me started on her spag bol.” Now, Linda is British, and I’ve spent many months-worth of time in the UK, or whatever it’s called now, and I have always tried local specialties in the various countries, whether Cullen Skink, Bedfordshire Clanger or, my favorite – Spotted Dick. But I’d never heard of Spag Bol.

Linda, probably thinking I’m an unsophisticated daftie, explained that spag bol was simply short for Spaghetti Bolognese. Of course.

Which then got me thinking that I’ve never made spaghetti bolognese in all of my years cooking. The cookbook I immediately grabbed, was Giuliani Buglialli’s Buglialli on Pasta, published in 1988.

Buglialli is so strictly Italian, and he’s so familiar with Italy’s regional cooking, that I knew he would be the proper resource. When I call him strict, I’m not kidding. He practically yells at you from the pages of his cookbooks if you dare grab a chunk of Parmesan.

“One should not indiscriminately sprinkle Parmigiano over everything if all dishes are not to melt into an unappealing sameness.”


On his research in studying and documenting authentic Italian recipes: “Arriving at an authentic version of a recipe with a long tradition requires work. The dish as prepared at one regional restaurant or by one family from an area is not necessarily an authentic version of that region’s preparation. It is important to compare many different sources, printed and oral, especially the oldest available ones. But let us not forget that even some Italian grandmothers are poor cooks.”

I find him really entertaining, and I love his passion. And there it was, in the cookbook, Tagliatelle al Ragu alla Bolognese.

“The famous Bolognese ragu is one of several meat sauces and the most popular. Its distinctive features are the sautéing of the meat together with the aromatic chopped vegetables, the omission of garlic, the combination of snipped, chopped, or ground beef and pork, the use of white rather than red wine, and the use of heavy cream.”

Furthermore: “I should like to remind once again that pasta with meat sauce is not automatically alla bolognese. Only those pastas specifically using a Bolognese meat sauce are such; the many employing such sauces from other regions would never be considered alla bolognese.”

I looked online for any recent information on Buglialli, and did find his website, called Buglialli Foods of Italy, and under his cooking courses, held at his farmhouse in Tuscany, none are listed beyond 2015. If he is still alive, it’s estimated that Buglialli is approximately 80 years old. Seems like his date of birth was always kept a secret.

Ragu Alla Bolognese
printable recipe below

1 medium-sized red onion, peeled
1 medium-sized carrot, scraped
1 large stalk celery
3 ounces pancetta, cut into cubes
6 ounces lean boneless beef, in cubes
6 ounces boneless pork, in cubes
4 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ripe, fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup lukewarm beef broth
3/4 cup heavy cream

Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery.

Coarsely grind the pancetta, beef, and pork all together in a meat grinder. (I used my food processor.)

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy, flameproof casserole over medium heat. When the oil mixture is warm, add the chopped vegetables and ground meats, and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon.

Pass the tomatoes through a food mill, using the disc wth smallest holes, into a glass bowl.

Add the wine to the casserole and let it evaporate for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.


Then add the broth. Cover the casserole and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon.

Add the cream, mix very well, lower the heat, and reduce for 20 minutes; for the last 5 minutes, remove the lid.


Remove the sauce from the heat and let rest until cool, about 1 hour.

Tagliatelle Al Ragu Alla Bolognese, from Bologna

Cook the pasta according to package directions, although Buglialli suggests fresh tagliatelle. (I used pappardelle.)

Place 4 tablespoons of sweet butter in serving bowl; add a little boiling water to melt the butter.

When ready, drain the pasta, transfer to the serving bowl, and mix well with the melted butter.

Pour the sauce all over, mix and serve immediately.

Pass freshly grated Parmigiano cheese at the table.

This ragu is fabulous. If you close your eyes, it’s like you’re eating blended lasagna!

My only regret is not making a quadruple batch of this lucious sauce.

 

Olive Bread

65 Comments

My first experience with yeast was not using it, even though I was supposed to. I’d followed a recipe in the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook, except not really. It was my thing to do when I was 11-12 years old, to get up early on Sundays and bake some kind of coffee cake.

I chose a recipe for yeasted cinnamon buns that morning, but when it came time to the yeast, being that I didn’t know what is was, I ignored it. I also noticed this kneading thing, which seemed like it would take too long, so a win-win for me.

Until my mother came downstairs and I proudly announced that I’d made these buns, and would she do the honors of removing them from the oven. Well she almost dropped that baking dish. What should have been cinnamon buns were round, heavy bricks. And then I learned about yeast.

When I started teaching myself to cook, I learned how to bake bread by following recipes. When you do it on your own, there’s no fear, even though I have memories of my mother not even letting us walk through the kitchen if she had bread rising. Heck, we were hardly allowed to exhale.

But it seemed pretty easy to me, a few ingredients, some kneading, and I even walked around my kitchen while my breads rose. It’s just not hard to bake bread.

Then a cookbook entered my life called Supper Club chez Martha Rose, which was published in 1988. This book wasn’t extraordinary by any means, but it was a fun read, because it was Martha Rose Schulman’s actual experience with her supper club in Paris that she started in 1983 after she moved to France from Austin, Texas.

Her supper club menus are organized by months, which I love. Some menus reflect her love of Texas, but most all as a Francophile, a lover of Mediterranean flavors. But what got my attention was what she did with her yeasted breads. She added stuff to them!

I’d always made whole-grain bread, because I believe that bread should be nourishing, not just pretty. But when I first saw pesto bread in her cookbook, it was my Hallelujah moment! It was Martha Rose Schulman that changed my life with bread baking. And I’ve never looked back.

So for all the years my husband required bread, for all of the years I catered, and was a private chef, I put stuff into the breads I baked. It could be nuts, it could be grated zucchini, tomato paste, onions and cheese, or chili powder.

Ms. Schulman also had country bread with olives in her cookbook, and today I’m making my version of olive bread for you.

Olive Bread

2 ounces warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
8 ounces whole milk, warmed
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
Extra white flour, for kneading
5 ounces mixed olives, drained

Place the water in a large, warmed bowl and add the yeast and sugar. After the yeast softens stir the liquid, then set aside.


After the yeast bubbles up, about 5 minutes, add the warm milk. Then add 1 cup of white flour and whisk well.

Cover the bowl and place in a warm place for one hour. Meanwhile, chop the olives coarsely and make sure they’re free of any liquid; set aside.

Add one cup of whole wheat flour to the slurry, and whisk or stir in well.

Place a generous amount of white flour where you’re going to knead, and remove the dough from the bowl. Begin kneading the bread, using only as much flour as needed. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth.

Grease the bottom of a large clean bowl, put the dough in it, then turn the dough over so the top is coated in the grease. Place this bowl, covered with a towel, in the warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the chopped olives where you knead, then “pour” the dough over the top. Using only a little flour as necessary, gently force the olives into the dough until they’re evenly incorporated.


Form a ball with the dough and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Set it in a warm place for 15 minutes, then put it in the oven.

Bake the bread for at least 25 minutes. Times and ovens vary. If you want to check on the internal temperature using a thermometer it should be at 195 degrees F. Anything much less than that and the bread will be doughy on the inside.

Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

I served the bread with a soft goat cheese; the slices can also be toasted first before serving.

If you love olives, this is a great bread. And it goes so well with cheese and charcuterie.

Chicken with Samfaina

65 Comments

Many years ago my husband and I flew to Madrid, Spain, rented a car, and made our way around the northeastern regions of Spain. We then drove over the Pyrenees into France, visited my sister and husband in the town where they live part-time, and then made our way back to Madrid.

During the first leg of our adventure, we stayed at a hotel in Catalonia, called the Parador de Cardona. If you’re not familiar with paradors, they are government-run hotels that were once castles, monasteries or fortresses. They get revamped with modern conveniences, but the structure is the same.

Here are a few photos this particular parador.

We drove up to the hotel, which was harrowing enough because we had to maneuver the car on the steepest driveway in the world, barely wide enough for the little rental car, but we finally made it. This photo from the website shows how high up the parador actually is from the village of Cardona.

When we asked to check in, the pretty young woman said something to us. No comprehension. My husband and I just stared at each other. We had a split-second conversation that went like this:

“Hey, you know Spanish.”
“Well you know French.”

Well let me tell you, neither of us recognized one damn word she said, or anyone else said during our stay. So do not believe anyone that the Catalon language is a mixture of French and Spanish. It is not.

But our stay was spectacular, and you really felt like you were living in a different century. We discovered Arbequin olives at this hotel, which mostly grow in Catalonia, and were generously served with cocktails and wine.

Back home, I decided to buy a Catalonian cookbook and the one I chose was Catalon Cuisine, by Colman Andrews, published in 1988.

The recipe I chose to make first from the cookbook is Roast Chicken in Samfaina. Samfaina is, according to the author, “a kind of baroque sofregit.” Okay. But then he writes that it’s virtually identical to the ratatouille of the Cote d’Azur, but also that samfaina is “the most important, unique and incorruptible dish which Catalan cuisine has brought to gastronomy.” I’m confused.

Wherever its origin, the samfaina must be prepared first.

Samfaina
Makes 6-8 cups

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 pounds onions, halved, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pound Japanese eggplant, skin on, cut into 1” cubes
1 pound zucchini, skin on, cut into 1/2 – 1” cubes
8 medium tomatoes, seeded and grated
1 1/2 pounds red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, cut into strips
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a cassola or Dutch oven and add the garlic, onions, eggplant, and zucchini. Stir well so that all vegetables are coated with oil.


Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes on low heat. Uncover and turn heat up slightly, cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Stir occasionally.

Add the tomatoes and peppers, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until the liquid has again evaporated and the vegetables are very soft.


Season to taste.

Roast Chicken with Samfaina
Pollastre Rostit amb Samfaina

1 – 4-5 pound roasting chicken
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
5 cups samfaina

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the chicken into 6 or 8 serving pieces, rub all surfaces well with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Then roast skin side up for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the skin is golden-brown, and the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a fork.

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan, and set aside, keeping it warm. Pour off any excess fat, then deglaze the roasting pan with a few tablespoons of water. (I used some white wine.)

Add the samfaina to the pan, and stir well; then add chicken, and simmer briefly until heated through.

I’m not going to tell my mother this, but I’ve had ratatouille, and samfaina is better. Why? I have no idea. My tomatoes were really ripe perhaps.

The samfaina was actually sweet, in a good way.

This is a spectacular dish. Not terribly pretty, but comforting, hearty, and flavorful. I will be making this again!