25 Recipes #8: Sexy Mayonnaise

The last time I tried to make aioli, it was 2006. Shane and I had only been dating a few months, and I was living in an apartment with a kitchen that I’m 90% sure had previously been a closet. On the night in question, we made fish cakes from my Spanish cookbook and asparagus, both a great success, but the aioli (or allioli in Catalan) was just a soupy oily mess. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but for five years I tried not to think about it.

That is, until Friday night, when I was trying to come up with a horseradish condiment for the birthday hot dog spread – and decided to take another stab at aioli.

Sexy Mayonnaise

And oh. my. god. did I make some sexy mayonnaise. The key – and perhaps what went wrong the first time – is time. If you want sexy mayonnaise, you gotta take it slow. Add the yolks and the vinegar to the mixer and turn the beaters up all the way, then at an impossibly slow pace, drizzle in the olive oil. You might get bored standing there, measuring cup in hand, but it will be so worth it when you see the yolk, oil, and vinegar start to bind together and get creamy. Whip in a bit of water, then add horseradish to taste – but not too much, as the flavors will mellow in the fridge. And then slather it on anything you’d like – a fancy hot dog, perhaps? A breakfast sandwich? – or add it to cole slaw for a subtle kick. I had to use a bit of regular mayo in the cole slaw, and let me tell you, once you’ve had sexy mayo, there’s no going back.

Sexy Mayonnaise

Horseradish aioli
Recipe adapted from A Cat in the Kitchen

2 egg yolks
200 ml mild olive oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp warm water
2 tbsp prepared horseradish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using a stand mixer or electric beater, whip egg yolks and vinegar together. Drizzle the olive oil into the mixing bowl in a thin stream, beating constantly. This should take several minutes. When light and creamy, add a tablespoon of cold water, still beating constantly. Add horseradish a half tablespoon at a time, beating constantly, more or less to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste, then refrigerate. Makes between 1.5-2 cups of the sexiest mayonnaise you’ll ever taste.


25 Recipes #7: Mussels

I had mussels for the first time at Granville Moore’s, an unassumingly wonderful Belgian restaurant on H Street in DC.  I regret now that I was put off by the Moules Marinere and instead had a salad.  Since moving to Ann Arbor, however, I have seen the error of my ways, embracing The Earle’s mussels as the best and most affordable happy hour dinner in town.


I added shellfish to my 25 Recipes list with mussels specifically in mind. They’re not difficult to make at all, but the whole live in the shell thing had me intimidated.

The Non-Mussels

Other than the debearding, the recipe (from another excellent Belgian restaurant in DC) was a piece of cake: maybe 20 minutes from the start of prep to the delivery of steaming bowls of PEI mussels to the table.


My one issue with the recipe was that it called for a pound of mussels per person – so I doubled it to serve two. Now, when we go to The Earle, we usually share two dozen mussels. Two pounds and two dozen are very different numbers – in fact, we each had around 1.5 dozen mussels each, with nearly two dozen left over. We’ll definitely make this recipe again, but won’t bother doubling it.

Provençal Mussels with Tomato, Garlic, Capers, and Basil from Robert Wiedmaier of Brasserie Beck

25 Recipes #6 Take 2: Pie from Scratch

I meant to tell you about this pie weeks ago, but then I went out of town and then I came back and then, well, now I have no good excuse.  Especially when the pie looked like this:

Chicken Pot Pie

But wait til you see what was inside!

Chicken Pot Pie

Much better than failure fridge pie in all respects – faster, prettier, tastier, AND better for us! I love that chicken pot pie is basically chicken soup that has been thickened a little, then baked in a flaky crust. In this case, I baked individual pot pies in ramekins with only a lid – then used the remaining crust and filling to bake a tart-sized pot pie which we froze for later enjoyment.

Crust: Basic Pie Dough from Williams-Sonoma
Filling: Chop your desired filling into bite-sized pieces and saute until almost soft. Add cooked chicken (or your protein of choice, or no protein) and enough broth to just cover the filling, then simmer for a bit. Thicken with flour or corn starch, then add to prebaked pie crust (if you’re using two crusts) or individual ramekins. Top with crust, then bake 25 minutes at 375, or until top crust is flaky and golden.

25 Recipe #6 : Pie from Scratch

So, despite the fact that I won the pi/e day competition at Gelman two years ago, I’d never made a pie entirely from scratch until last week.  Sure, I’ve made lots of scratch-filling pies, but I’ve always relied on the trusty roll-out Pillsbury crusts from a box.  Lazy, I know, but why mess with a good thing?

Well, the time has come, and last week I made my first pie entirely from scratch.  What kind of pie?  A BEER pie. See, the dudes were here, and they have a long history of demanding fridge pie, and we were making a beer-heavy dinner, and it was the eve of pi/e day, so what could I do?


Well, if you’ve ever made pie under pressure in a crowded kitchen when you’re on a time deadline, you’ll know this was a questionable idea. The custard wouldn’t simmer, and then it wouldn’t set. I couldn’t get the camera to focus. I couldn’t get the damned pie to cool. Eventually we gave up on the idea of sharing beer fridge pi/e, put it in the freezer, and I went to bed.

The end result? A tasty pi/e that never quite set. The custard went icy in the freezer, and started to separate as it thawed in the fridge. My fatal error may have been using less than full-fat dairy, or it might have been not using a wide enough saucepan, or it may have just been hubris. All I know is that Mike and Bill each enjoyed big slices of beer fridge pi/e for breakfast with coffee, and Shane and I had about one slice each before giving up. The remaining half of the beer fridge pi/e went out to the curb on trash day.

While I’ll certainly be making pie from scratch again soon – I’m over my fear of crust – I don’t think it’ll be this one.

Beer Cream Pie from Beer at Joe’s

25 Recipes #5: Pot Roast

Another week, another delicious thing simmering away in the kitchen.  This time it was pot roast, a long slow braise making the most of an inexpensive piece of meat.

Pot Roast Before

Pot roast is one of those 50s housewife kind of meals that I imagine my mom ate growing up.  My grandma was – and still is – a total 50s housewife, complete with red lipstick and meat-and-potatoes meals on the table when her doctor husband came home from the office.  I can easily imagine pot roast, carrots, and potatoes on the table with a green salad and pie for dessert.  I don’t remember ever having pot roast growing up – my dad’s not a meat-and-potatoes guy – but I’ve had a taste for it since we shared a portion at Knight’s a few months ago.

Pot Roast Plated

Nothing fancy here: the meat and veg get a quick brown, then a slow cook in the oven for a few mouth-watering hours, until you almost can’t stand it and have to take a peek.  It’s fortunate that I did, as while the recipe called for three hours in the oven, our roast was D-O-N-E at 1:45.  While the meat rested, I reduced the hell out of the pan juices, and about 15 minutes later – and an hour ahead of schedule – we sat down to a fantastic meal.

Perfect Pot Roast from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, who recommends 3 hours for 3#, 4 hours for 4-5#.  I would STRONGLY recommend checking your roast with a meat thermometer at the halfway point, as our 3# roast was well beyond the temps for well-done after 1:45.  Nothing that a little gravy couldn’t fix, but it would have been INEDIBLE if we’d let it go another hour.

25 Recipes #4: Ragù alla bolognese

Sunday night’s bolognese was wildly easier and wildly more delicious than I anticipated. Ragù alla bolognese was on my 25 Recipes list in part because I keep hearing about pots of bolognese simmering away at Shana’s house – and part because while I can make a solid marinara, I really should branch out a bit in my tomato-based sauces.

Here’s the first thing I learned: there are two basic ragùs: bolognese and napoletana.  Both start with a soffrito and derive most of their flavors from the meat, but as is the way with regional cooking, the recipes diverge wildly from there, resulting in sauces that are defined by their differences rather than their essential natures.  An authentic bolognese has only a minimal amount of tomatoes, while napoletana is rich with velvety tomatoes, a byproduct of the longer growing season in Naples.  The meat is more finely chopped in a bolognese, while the soffrito of a napoletana contains more onions and herbs.

Three Meats Four Dice

Both sauces are characterized by a long, slow preparation, making them perfect for a lazy Sunday – or for a snowy night when plans have been canceled and you can wait another hour for dinner while a pot simmers away, filling the house with amazing aromas.  The longer the simmer, the better, but I started prep at 5:30, and by 7:30, we were fiending for a taste.

Meat and SoffritoSimmer Down

Ready to goFusilli Bolognese

And oh my gosh, was it worth the wait.  Shane literally groaned upon taking his first bite – always a good sign.  The sauce tucked itself into the grooves of the fusilli – Meijer’s upscale store-brand, made using the traditional bronze die process that results in a substantially better texture. We halved the recipe and would’ve eaten the entire thing, had good sense and an awareness of the caloric punch of beef AND pork AND veal AND heavy cream not prevailed.  Besides, if it was this amazing for dinner, just imagine how good the leftovers will be for lunch?

Recipe: Pasta Bolognese from Food and Wine

25 Recipes #3: Carnitas

Or, as I referred to it, Chipotle at Home. Because seriously, it smelled like Chipotle up in our house.

Before I get to the delicious parts of this meal,I want to start with a confession.  For the first time in a while, I had difficulty working with a piece of meat.  Not technical difficulty, though it wasn’t the easiest cut to butcher – an emotional/visceral response to what I was working with.  David Lebovitz’s recipe called for a 4-5 pound boneless shoulder cut, but I opted to use a picnic shoulder since, well, that’s what we had on hand.  The picnic shoulder is a fatty bone-in cut, so there was a considerable amount of cleaning necessary – and after all of that, a clearly articulated joint.  I had to put down my knife for a second.  Thank you again, Mr. Pig, for your happy brief life, and for the many delicious and nourishing meals you have provided for us.

After that, however, making the carnitas was easy as pie.  Our four pound picnic shoulder yielded about 2 1/2 pounds of usable meat – at least for this recipe – so I tweaked the recipe a bit, and probably would make further adjustments for future preparations.  First, the meat is browned in a bit of oil in a large heavy pot.


Remove the meat to a tray lined with paper towels to blot up the excess fat.  Pour about a cup of water into the pot and scrape up the crusty bits of goodness from the bottom.  Stir in the spices:  chili powder, ground cumin, bay leaves, a couple of thinly sliced cloves of garlic, a cinnamon stick, and a diced dried chili or two.  Add the pork back to the pot, and pour in enough water to cover the meat 2/3 of the way.


Braise uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about two hours, checking halfway.  The original recipe called for 3 1/2 hours for 4-5 pounds of meat, so I roughly halved the time, and added more liquid after an hour as it was looking pretty dry.  After two hours, the meat was cooked through and verging on dry but it wasn’t yet dinnertime, so I added another 1/4 cup water, turned the oven down to warm, and put the lid on to trap the moisture and heat.

Since there was no way that the three of us were going to eat 2 1/2 pounds of meat, I prepared several other components to fill out the meal and provide the fixings for several lunches worth of homemade “burrito bowls”.  First, a couple of onions and a red pepper sweat slowly over low heat in a covered pan:

Slow-sauteed peppers and onions

Second, an attempt at Chipotle’s cilantro lime rice, except that I had neither cilantro nor lime.  Instead, we had white rice that was boiled, steamed, and tossed with minced green onion:

Green onion rice

And finally the pièce de résistance:

Et voila, carnitas!

Gloriously flavorful – if slightly dry – carnitas, which we devoured nestled in corn tortillas and topped with rice, veggies, salsa, and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.  The 2 1/2 pounds of meat yielded enough for dinner for three plus four substantial lunch portions.  We – OK, I – devoured the veggies, so we substituted corn in our subsequent lunches, along with the rest of the rice, shredded cheese (or crumbled City Goat), and salsa.  This was the first of my 25 Recipes that really knocked it out of the park, and I can NOT wait to make this again.

Carnitas from David Lebovitz
Cilantro Lime Rice from Chipotle Fan

25 Recipes #2: Goulash

I’ve been cooking up a storm since we got home from Cleveland last Wednesday – I just haven’t been blogging about it. I made hummus and fresh pita bread for our friends’ New Year’s party – the latter was perfect, unlike earlier pita efforts. We were both somewhat worse for wear on Saturday, and the Barefoot Contessa’s fresh pea soup was just the thing for our troubled stomachs. On Sunday, I made the first recipe from my new Essential New York Times Cookbook: mushroom caps stuffed with sausage and duxelles – simple but incredibly flavorful, and destined to be on our table many times in the future. I also took on the second recipe from my 25 Recipes list: goulash.


I’m not sure how goulash got on our list exactly. I approached it with a bit of trepidation, as Shane grew up in a city whose cuisine is as influenced by Eastern Europeans as my hometown’s is by the Swedes.

I was concerned because there seems to be a great deal of disagreement about what constitutes authentic Hungarian Gulyás. Many recipes call for tomatoes, while others swear that goulash never contains tomatoes. Some recipes call for potatoes to thicken the stew. Others suggest serving the stew over dumplings or egg noodles. The goulash I remember from my childhood always involved ground beef and elbow macaroni, and is apparently known as American Chop Suey in some parts of the country..

Browning the beef

Fortunately for me, Shane doesn’t have any particular memory of a specific goulash, so I was safe to proceed. The one thing all goulash recipes seem to agree on is the paprika, which gives goulash its characteristic color and savory smoky flavor. The paprika differentiates goulash from more pedestrian (but no less delicious) beef stew. In this goulash, the paprika is cooked in bacon fat already used to brown your beef and saute onions and garlic.

Sauteeing onions and garlic

Add everything to the pot – the browned beef and bacon, plus stock, diced red peppers, tomato paste (oh, the heresy!), seasonings, and water (or beer) enough to get the right consistency. Let it all simmer for an hour or so – enough time for me to shred and then prepare some pasta – and you’ve got a warm and hearty dinner. I was going to add ‘flavorful’ to that list of adjectives, but I was honestly underwhelmed by this recipe. It was good but not remarkable, which is probably the case with most comfort foods.

Kitchen Assistant

Either way, Mina was happy to supervise, Shane was happy to eat it up, and I’ll be happy to make it again. Maybe we’ll try a more authentic recipe next time.

Goulash from Smitten Kitchen – 1/4 recipe with egg noodles and some bread was enough for three portions

1216 Tuna Noodle Casserole Attempt #1

I’ll be honest: I’m looking forward to the end of the Kitchen Diaries project.  It’s not that I don’t like posting about our food – I’m just looking forward to telling you about just the good stuff, the recipes and meals I recommend, the things I’m definitely interested in eating again.  Tonight’s dinner is a good example of this – it was a fine recipe, probably better than the original, but still needs some refinement before I feel comfortable recommending it.  Instead I give you what I made, amended with notes at the bottom, and will look forward to giving you a real knock out version of this sometime in the future.

Tonight was my first stab at the 25 Recipes challenge – specifically at fancying up tuna noodle casserole. I started from this Martha Stewart recipe, as it didn’t call for canned soup and added in a couple of vegetables – a step in the right direction. Shane doesn’t like artichokes, so I left them out, instead adding in a handful of slow-roasted cherry tomatoes from the freezer. I subbed 2% milk for whole, and two big shallots for the scallions.

Tuna Noodle ingredients

Olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
6 oz wide egg noodles
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 large shallots
1/4 cup slow-roasted (or sun dried) tomatoes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 5 oz cans tuna packed in oil, drained
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Making the sauce

Preheat your oven to 400. Lightly oil or spray a baking tray. Saute your veg – in this case, shallots and peppers – in a tablespoon or two of oil, and season liberally with salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Add 1/4 cup flour to thicken, then gradually add 2 1/2 cups milk and stir til combined. Bring to a simmer.

Noodles and tuna

In a separate pan, cook your noodles until just before al dente – or about two minutes short of the recommended cook time. Drain, then return to the pan. I tossed the noodles with the drained tuna in hopes of preventing giant noodle knots, which didn’t really work.

Ready to bake

Add the sauce to the tuna and noodles and stir to combine. Pour everything into your prepared tray, then top with the shredded Parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until everything is golden and bubbly and the noodles on top have crisped up a bit.

Ready to eat?

Should yield 4 large servings – dinner-sized portions if you’re not eating anything else – or 6 smallish servings, which would be good with a salad or another small side dish.



  1. I seasoned the heck out of the veg, but the resulting casserole was surprisingly bland. More seasoning next time, please!
  2. More vegetables next time – perhaps peas and mushrooms instead?  The orange pepper added very little flavor or texture to the dish.  The tomatoes were good, and if I were making this just for me, I’d probably add some olives, both of which would make it more “Mediterranean” than the Martha Stewart original
  3. While I’m sure it would’ve been richer with whole milk, I’m fine with the 2% substitution.
  4. The crispy noodles on top were the best parts.  Maybe add some caramelized onions or – in keeping with the spirit of the processed-foods original – French fried onions?

1204 25 Recipes Challenge

Two things of note today.  First, we went to Detroit for the afternoon, where we did some shopping at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair and had lunch at Slows, where Shane ate this sandwich:

The Reason

Second, Ms. Little Big posted earlier in the week about a cooking challenge she was taking on – tackling (and blogging) 25 dishes you haven’t made but have always wanted to try. I’m into signing up for things that will challenge me to do things I should be doing anyway – see my 12 Books challenge – and with Shane on board, here is our list in no particular order:

  1. Homemade pasta
  2. Gnocchi – which I’ve made before, but from potato flakes ::shudder::
  3. Tuna noodle casserole – updated to not involve canned soup
  4. Goulash – fancied up from our childhood memories of ground beef and macaroni noodles
  5. Ragù – in both the bolognese and napoletana forms
  6. Crab rangoon
  7. Spring rolls or egg rolls
  8. Pho or hot pot
  9. Pot roast
  10. Cured meat – prosciutto, pancetta, etc
  11. Carnitas
  12. Shellfish, possibly with pasta, definitely still in the shell
  13. The long-lost Bonnaroo sesame gingerdilla
  14. Confit
  15. Something lactofermented
  16. Something pressure canned
  17. Cream ale
  18. Nachos
  19. Aioli
  20. A successful loaf of No-Knead Bread
  21. Curry crackers
  22. Sweet potato biscuits
  23. A totally from scratch pie
  24. Caramel
  25. Escoffier’s mother sauces: velouté, espagnole, béchamel, and hollandaise