FROM THE COOKBOOK SHELF
I really like cookbooks that weave life experiences into the content. Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer (Agate Midway; November, 2013; $35.00/hardback) by Sanford “Sandy” D’Amato, one of America’s most respected chefs and restaurateurs, is the memoir of a life in cooking that includes more than 80 recipes and both personal and food photos in a beautiful and engaging way. D’Amato’s story is a great accounting of the way American culinary culture has evolved. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he studied at the fabled Culinary Institute of America in the 70s at a time when French chefs completely dominated the U.S. culinary scene. Through persistence, skill and the help of a mentor, D’Amato became one of the American upstart chefs leading the “New American” dining movement. Leaving New York and returning to his home city brought new challenges, all of which he overcame with his rise to national prominence. Sanford, the restaurant he opened in 1989 in a space that once housed his grandfather’s grocery store, has long been one of the highest rated restaurants in America. D’Amato has cooked for the Dalai Lama and the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, and was one of 12 chefs to cook for Julia Child‘s 80th birthday celebration. Order from Amazon.com.
COOKING DO’S AND DON’TS FOR YOUR FEAST
Ham, turkey, duck, beef and pork are all a beloved part of many holiday meals but because some of these meats are only cooked a few times during the year, there is a higher risk of preparation and cooking goof-ups that can compromise taste at best and at worst make people sick (one in six get food poisoning each year).
How long one can keep a turkey before cooking it is one of the most common questions posed to the Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry hotline around holiday time. They’ll even be there Christmas Day if you have a question. Call 1-888-674-6854. For fresh turkey in the refrigerator, plan to use it within one day or two. A frozen bird can last up to a year in the freezer.
In a survey of 1,011 American adults by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 39 percent said they used a meat thermometer at some point during the last year. And only 8 percent said they always used one. Even if you’re an experienced cook and think you can tell by color and texture if something is done, experts consulted said the same thing. You can’t. Consumer Reports’ food safety authorities are testing meat thermometers in their labs now. Stay tuned.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, December 2013.
NEW REASONS TO PICK FRUIT OVER JUICE
Choosing whole fruit rather than fruit juice might significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, “The whole is often better than the sum of its parts, and the evidence supports this here,” says Diane L. McKay, PhD, an assistant professor in Tufts’ Friedman School and a scientist in its HNRCA Antioxidant Laboratory. “The findings don’t mean you should eat nothing but blueberries and grapes,” McKay cautions. “Some fruits are higher in certain nutrients than others like vitamin C in strawberries or beta carotene in cantaloupe and the phytochemicals they contain will vary as well. Consuming a variety of different fruits will help insure you are getting adequate amounts of all the essential nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals provided by the important food group.”
Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, December 2013.
WHAT’S YOUR CHRISTMAS EVE TRADITION?
When I was growing up and even when we were adults coming home for the holiday, Mother served mac and cheese and baked ham. The Thaman choice on Christmas Eve is soup. Sometimes it’s one we have had before or it may be a new one such as Food and Wine’s lighter version French Onion Soup with Cheese Baguette Slice. Recipe called for dry white wine but I used vermouth because it doesn’t deteriorate like regular wine will do and can be stored in the refrigerator for an indefinite time. Recipe also included freshly grated Gruyere, but I used Swiss cheese because it’s cheaper (the choice is yours).
FRENCH ONION SOUP
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
• Kosher salt
• 1/4 cup vermouth
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 26-ounce carton of low sodium beef stock without MSG
• Four 1/2-inch artisan baguette slices (2 to a package where Chief’s Artisan breads are located)
• 1/4 cup Swiss cheese
In a large Dutch oven, heat oil until hot. Add onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are wilted and just starting to brown. Add a generous pinch of salt. And cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Add vermouth and soy sauce and continue cooking over moderate heat, scraping any browned bits from bottom, until evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add beef stock and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, until broth is well flavored and slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Season with additional salt, if necessary. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Arrange the bread on baking sheet and top each piece with 1 tablespoon Swiss cheese. Broil 6 inches from heat. Float a slice on top of each bowl of soup and serve immediately. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Source: Adapted from Food & Wine website recipe.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!