Tag Archives | amanda hesser

December Can Jam: Cranberry Marmalade with Dried Apricots

cranberry chutney

I’m not quite sure how it’s possible, but we’ve reached the end of the 2010 Can Jam. I’m not sure if I’m still even eligible to participate, since I’ve gotten my posts up past the deadline the last two times, but it felt strange not to finish things off, so I’m posting a contribution nonetheless.

sliced oranges

As you might guess, due to Wednesday’s potluck, I’ve had The Essential New York Times Cookbook on the brain a bit lately. I’ve had my copy for about two weeks now and even before Amanda Hesser signed it, I found myself carrying it from room to room (granted, we really only have three rooms, so that isn’t as much of a feat as it sounds) so as to always have it near. You know, in case a recipe emergency struck.

cooking the chutney

When it was time to determine what I was going to make for the December Can Jam, it felt right to turn to my new best-friend-in-book-form and see what it had to offer. There’s a whole chapter devoted to Sauces, Dressings, Condiments, Rubs and Preserves, so there was quite a wealth to choose from. Keeping the theme ingredient (dried fruit) in mind, I settled on a recipe for Cranberry Chutney. It called for dried apricots and was quite seasonal to boot.

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Originally designed as part of a low stress Thanksgiving meal, it’s a chutney recipe different from those I’ve encountered in the past. It does not include onions or vinegar, so it doesn’t offer the pucker or sweet-and-savory aspect that so many of us have come to associate with the word chutney. That does not mean, however, that it isn’t worth making. I found it to be quite delicious, though more akin to marmalade than chutney (whole, chopped orange will do that a palate).

cranberry chutney with dried apricots

For once in my life, I followed the recipe fairly devotedly. The one place I deviated is that I did a bit of small batch canning with it. I kept one jar for the fridge (that’s the one you see above) and then filled as second (traditional, with a two-piece lid) pint jar with what remained and water bath canned it for ten minutes (using my handy little asparagus steamer). I did this because while it was quite tasty, there’s no way I’ll be able to work my way through two full pints quickly enough to merit that kind of refrigerator space. Because the recipe was written for Thanksgiving, it did not include directions for canning. However, the recipe is made of up a cacophony of high acid ingredients, so there shouldn’t be a problem. For even longer shelf stability, you could replace some of the honey with sugar.

The recipe is after the jump.

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Amanda Hesser Comes to Philadelphia for a Potluck

The Essential New York Times Cookbook

Last night, a collection of food bloggers, food writers and publishing folk gathered at Audra’s home in West Philly to meet, share food and celebrate Amanda Hesser and her extraordinary new book.

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It was a party many months in the planning. It all started back in August, when Audra and I went up to Brooklyn, to attend a canning party that the fabulous Kate from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking was hosting. It was there that we met Katarina, who was coordinating the publicity for the book. They were planning a series of potluck events around the country and had been looking for a Philadelphia connection. It was kismet.

Amanda, doing her demo

Audra provided the space and I used my various connections to obtain beer (many thanks to Victory Brewing and their social media guy Dave for bringing such a tasty collection of brews) and pull together a list of possible attendees.

Victory Beer

I must admit, I was pretty jazzed to meet Amanda. Seven years ago, when she was promoting Cooking for Mr. Latte I was working at a job I didn’t particularly like. I spent my days sitting in a basement office that smelled of mildew and the cigarette smoke that blew in from the loading deck 50 feet away. One morning, while answering emails and doing a bit of filing, I found myself listening to a interview between Marty Moss-Coane and Amanda on WHYY.

Amanda and Kristen

In that moment, hearing her talk about her book and the work she did at the New York Times, I felt like a light was coming on in my body. It had never occurred to me that one could actually make their living writing about food. After a lifetime of agonizing over my lack of passion and direction, I suddenly knew what I wanted to work towards.

Audra, Amanda and Marisa

I shared my little story of illumination with Amanda while she was signing my books (I totally made her lose her train of signing thought though) and she didn’t back away or think I was a crazy stalker. Thanks for that Amanda!

my NYT spinach salad

Part of the intention of the potluck was that everyone would bring a dish made from their favorite New York Times recipe. It didn’t have to be one that appeared in the book, just one that had run sometime in the last 150 years. I brought a spinach salad that was first introduced to me by an ex-boyfriend’s mother and has been a favorite of mine since I gushed over it at a lunch in 2003. Two days later, the recipe appeared in the mail, xeroxed from a New York Times cutting.

You finely slice two lemons (rind and all) and marinate them overnight in two tablespoons of sugar and a few pinches of salt (it’s essentially a quick preserved lemon). I recommend sharpening your knife before starting this task. Makes those paper thin slices much easier to do. Just before you’re ready to serve the salad, you dump the lemon and juice out onto a foil-lined cookie sheet and broil it until the liquid gets syrupy and edges of the lemon start to brown. You heap the broiled lemon mess on top of a bowl of hearty spinach, drizzle with olive oil and toss to combine. A little freshly cracked pepper and a bit of honey (if the balance of sweet to tart is out of balance) finish things off.

One thing to note is that this salad requires mature spinach leaves because the heat of broiled lemons cause the greens to wilt pretty quickly. Baby spinach leaves dissolve into mush far too quickly. I realize it might sound a bit intense, but the resulting salad tastes verdant, bitter, sweet and tart all at the same time. It’s a highly appealing combination that always sends people running to the bowl for seconds.

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Homemade Mayonnaise

jar of homemade mayonnaise

For years, I’ve been reading food books in which homemade mayonnaise is described in rapt, nearly euphoric terms. I recently read an essay (did anyone else read this? Where was it? Thanks to Taylor, the story has been found.) in which a woman describes how her aunt was known for her pimento cheese sandwiches and brought them to every major event in her community. The first step in making these beloved sandwiches was whisking the mayonnaise together from scratch. The sandwich maker stated plainly that the sandwiches weren’t worth preparing if you were going to resort to Hellman’s or Duke’s.

Thinking about homemade mayo, I’m also reminded of an essay in Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte, in which she recalls picking up Julia Child from the airport in France and they eat oeufs mayonnaise together at a small countryside cafe. The description of Child happily eating freshly made mayonnaise on eggs, french fries, baguette and from the tips of her fingers has always delighted me.

However, despite all these lovely literary evocations, until tonight I had never before made mayonnaise on my own. I’ve been talking about it for months, mentioning it as a possible Fork You topic, without settling down and trying it in my own kitchen. I followed a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, as I’ve always loved the way she writes about food, her instructions made me feel calm instead of anxious. I also was comforted by the fact that she offered several variations on how to save your mayo if it broke.

Mine did break at first, primarily because I chose to be lazy and use my KitchenAid mixer’s whisk to do the work (Nigella does offer it as an option, but also states that she always does it by hand). As I incorporated the olive oil, my burgeoning mayonnaise couldn’t hold another drop and became gloppy and loose. I tried Nigella’s suggestion of adding couple of drops of boiling water, but that did nothing to reconstitute it, so I broke open another egg, separated it and slowly incorporated my broken mayo into that yolk, hand-whisking it in. That worked perfect and I was rewarded with gorgeous, creamy mayonnaise. I used some to make egg salad, which I ate on top of a pile of baby arugula for dinner (Scott’s away and so my meals have become less structured in his absence).

I now have a half-filled pint jar of really delicious, homemade mayonnaise in my fridge. I think tomorrow night I’ll stir some minced garlic into some and turn it into aioli.

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