New Years' Hoppin' John Risotto

 This is the year I decided to do it.  That famous and traditional (in the American South anyway) New Years' good luck, Hoppin' John business.  With a West Coast riff.  Well what else do you expect from a California girl, transplanted in Hawaii??  The unconventional I hope.  May bother sincere Southerners and Italians alike. 

Hoppin' John with the rice cooked right in it, a risotto, spiked with black-eyed peas, where you add the broth in two big glops, instead of dribbling in a bit at a time, stirring, dribble, stir, etc. This fabulous idea is the brainchild of Charlene Rollins of New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, in Talent Oregon.  Another West Coaster of course.  It comes to us via Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Today cookbook.  An amazing cotillion of diverse recipes from all over the dad blamed place, which I will never, even if I live to be 200, be able to work my way through.

And, by the way, this post is dedicated to my friend Nancy, a native of Mississippi, who this very evening is leaving Hawaii after only 10 days?? and returning to Alaska?? to teach probably ungrateful hooligans, which is another story. When she (and her husband) retire in a year or so, they'll be here to stay.  Hey Nancy, have some Hoppin' John on me.  Though, as we're having it for New Year's Eve, I guess any left for tomorrow, as per tradition, will be Skippin' Jenny. I don't make this stuff up.  Or Skippin' Town Nancy.

Our lovely version includes, apart from the requisite rice and black-eyed peas, caramelized onions, pancetta, and bacon, so how could you go wrong.  Though, I couldn't find pancetta, and just substituted coppa for it. All you need for...


Extra Holiday Brisket? Make Shredded Beef Tacos

  Okay, so I made extra.  But having more than enough is a good thing.  Especially with something as delicious as braised in brown ale Beef Brisket.  I got the recipe from Adam's site, the Amateur Gourmet, who truth be told, is no longer all that much of an amateur.  We had a sort of pot luck Christmas dinner, in that people brought things, without any duplication, and pretty much all the niches were taken care of.  Shredded pork, leg of lamb, and my brisket being the meat section.

After resting in the fridge, the fat is easy to remove, the beef can be shredded, and a bit of seasoning tossed in.  Well, lots of zippy Mexican style spices, onion, garlic, and a few tomatoes were all fried together.  Now you have the basic filling for some super tacos.

Serve with little side dishes of things people can add as they like: diced onion, cilantro leaves, hot sauce, roughly shredded lettuce, grated Oxaca cheese (or Monteray Jack).  And, of course the warmed corn tortillas.


Happy Christmas! Hawaiian Gold Bars

 This recipe is sooo old.  How old?  It's written on a recipe card.  In an actual file box.  That's how old.  I've made it many times over the years, varying only the type of nuts I used and the kind of jam.  To be honest, the recipe was formerly named California Gold Bars, however we are no longer in the location of my birth.  For quite some time now, so a new name was in order.

A rich shortbread bar, the crunch of nuts, with preserves sandwiched in between two layers.  Quite good, if I do say so.  An added benefit is the seductive aroma drifting through your house, of butter and jam baking together.  If you happen to have a house for sale, you might put these into the oven and hold an open house.  Can you tell I'm married to a Realtor?  On to the recipe...


Sexy Pumpkin Moons with Brie and Marjoram

 It happens a lot. I'll read something online, somewhere out in the blogosphere, and go merrily on my way.  Then, later (could be the very same day) I'll wonder where did I just read that bit?  Who said it?  And, in reference to what?  Which is how it happened that I "read somewhere," that "someone said," that marjoram is the sexy herb.  Yes indeed, and it made me think.  I don't have any of that herb.  Never use it.  Could it change my life?  I looked marjoram up in my Rodale's Herbs, and discovered that it was popular at Greek weddings, being as how it was precious to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  You see, right there the root of the rumor.
How sexy is that marjoram?
I seem to have been in an herbal rut.  Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Okay, a few Asian ones thrown in.  And, Oregano, dill, chives, and basil.  But, you know what I mean.  I don't ever use tarragon either.  So, after a trip to the Nursery where I picked up some lonely looking pots of marjoram and tarragon, we are set to begin broadening our herbal horizons around here. New relationships loom.  I'm sure there are a lot more I would take in, if they could only be found in this remote region of the galaxy.

Pumpkin and Feta Lune (moons) or Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce was what I had in mind.  Though, we've all been seeing takes on that combo just about everywhere lately.  Pumpkins are ubiquitous at this time of year, so it's not surprising. You buy a pumpkin, and voila, next day left-over pumpkin.  We're just going with the flow.  My love theme take used marjoram instead of the more traditional sage, and a good splash of Amaretto di Santo in the butter, in place of Mario's crumbled Amaretti cookies (I'm working my way through the Babbo Cookbook).  Besides, it says right on the bottle that Amaretto is known as the drink of love. 


Loose Canons .... er... Eggs Benedict

 If you can eat breakfast at the venerable Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki, overlooking the sea, with crisp white linens on the table, flowers, and charming wait staff at your beck and call, that is the absolute best way to have Eggs Benedict.  However, we can't always get over there, and must do it ourselves. Sigh... Especially when it is the Month's challenge for Daring Cooks.  I have made this before, awhile back, so the process wasn't totally unfamiliar, but still always a bit of a trial, the poaching part anyway.  Yes, I have finally joined up.  So I can be more daring. 

For December, Jenn and Jill have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg.  They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato and Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I chose to do the (not so) simple Eggs Benedict recipe.  Then, wanting to challenge myself more, made up a batch of sourdough English Muffins, and did it all again.  Just to see the difference.  As far as poaching goes, I've been eating eggs every day trying to get it right, having decided that the egg poacher wasn't strictly poaching, since the eggs do not touch water.    Now I remember why it was I had to have that egg poacher. Poaching is not a challenge, just poaching EGGS.


Guavas in Coconut Cobbler

 These were guavas I had frozen from our summer overload.  Cleaning out the freezer, I determined to use them, like now.  Doesn't Guava Cobbler sounded like a good idea for breakfast.  And, dessert later.  If there's any left.

Remembering the 1/2 cup or so of coconut milk left from that Adobo, it seemed a natural substitution for  cream in the Cream Biscuits topping crust

The Cream Biscuits are from Alice Waters' fine cookbook, The Art of Simple Food.  The Guava Filling is from the school of trial and error.  I always forget just how tart guavas are, so extra sugar is necessary. Her recipe for Peach Cobbler calls for "1 tablespoon sugar (if needed)."  Think closer to rhubarb here.  But, I suppose where one grows, the other does not.


Chicken (or Pork) Adobo

 Years ago, in a land far far away - actually it was the Island of Oahu, on the North Shore where that famous big winter surf is, we lived in a little beach house (a rental) right on the edge of the sea.  In fact, during a few bad storms the water washed sand up into the yard and the occasional wave gave a slap at our sliding glass door.

Next door to us lived a very interesting neighbor, a former Las Vegas nightclub entertainer.  He was a limbo dancer, who had performed under that flaming, and very low bar.  A Filipino man with an ever changing line up of pretty young (live in) baby sitters for his two kids.  To make a long story shorter, over the course of time, he shared a few of his recipes with me.  One, being Pork Adobo.  I've since used the recipe for chicken as well, and have added in various vegetables. 

I will give his original recipe, which is the pork version, as it has the fat rendering information, which was something I was unfamiliar with at the time and found useful.  You don't have to cook all the veggies in the vinegar and shoyu broth, but can add some in later, as I did here with the cubes of butternut squash.  The peppers were cooked with the chicken.


Cauliflower and Pennes from Heaven

Adam, the cute and funny Amateur Gourmet, posted about this winning combination last January.  I just got around to making it when finally, some nice looking cauliflowers were spotted in our market.  And, believe me, it is a fairly rare occurrence around here.  The cauliflowers we usually see have splotches of gross mold on them.  Not very appealing.

If produce is not healthy looking and wearing happy faces, I don't think I'm up to making it all better in my kitchen.  You need to start with something that's good.  Same with people.  If the attitude is off, I stay away.

Like today.  I was helping at our Church Bazaar (in the fruits and plants area) and a chef guy who had made the Thai Curry was talking to us.  He said the curry was all sold out.  This was before noon even.  Later I went over to see what food was still available, and there were two big pots of curry - two different kinds.  You have to wonder what that was all about??