Saturday, January 23, 2010


Hello Everybody,
Spectacularly Delicious has a whole new look.  You can find all the recipes here and of course many new ones to come.  SD has its own URL now too,
Hope to see you there soon!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Admittedly sweetbreads aren't for everyone and even those who savor this special treat might not be up for making them at home. If you do like them, rest assured that this dish will pay off in spades. These tender bits of innards (if you have to ask...) usually pop up on French or Italian menus, often in a straight-forward saute, which can be lovely, or maybe fortified by a Marsala sauce. And recently, with the offal craze still in its ascendancy, in more elaborate preparations. Prepared here, you get the true taste of pure veal. It's an "a ha!" moment justifying the bit of extra effort.

These earn the international mantle because of the traditional French advance work (blanching, weight to remove excess liquid, simmering in stock) with a detour to the east for some chili paste and green curry, then a return to Europe for a cream and Parmesan finish.

I've always been intrigued by crazy sounding recipes. In this case it reads weird but is wonderful. Other instances have proved as repellant as they initially sound. My first disappointment came from The Bell Jar. Sylvia's roommate is addicted to avocado halves filled with hot grape jelly. Hoping for some felicitous combination I gave it a try. It's even worse than you'd imagine. There's another surreal-sounding one I treasure, though I've never attempted it. From a cookbook billed as authentic Celtic fare, it calls for an entire turkey breast smeared with liverwurst and topped with sweet cherry sauce. Funny perhaps, but also just wrong.

International Sweetbreads are just right. The required leap of faith pays off handsomely, the curry and chili balancing and blending with the cream and Parmesan, intensifying the original flavor, making veal sweetbreads even vealier. If you enjoy the succulence of a tender young veal chop this one will knock your socks off.

This originated in a mid '80s New York Times Magazine. I carefully clipped just the recipe so the attendant source information is lost. The statute of limitations must have expired by now so I claim this one as my own.

International Sweetbreads

1 pair (about 1 1/2 lbs.) veal sweetbreads
salt and ground pepper
1 peeled carrot, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
small handful of celery leaves
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
6 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 chicken stock
2 T. butter
1/2 lb. thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
1 t. Thai green chili paste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 c. grated parmesan

Prepare the sweetbreads: Submerge in a bowl of cold water and let soak in the fridge for several hours. Drain. Place them in a sauce pan in enough fresh water to cover. Bring to a low boil for 6 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, pat dry. Place in a shallow pan and weigh down with a smaller pan filled with water or heavy cans or a clean brick if you have one. Refrigerate at least two hours, the longer the better, up to overnight.

Remove sweetbreads from pan, discard accumulated liquid. Bring the chicken stock to a boil with the carrot, onion, celery leaves, garlic and herbs and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sweetbreads, bring back to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Lift the sweetbreads from the pan, let cool a bit, then pick over and cut off any unsightly membranes and the bits and pieces around the edges that aren't so pretty. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Strain the flavored stock and reserve 1 cup.

Saute the shiitakes in the butter 'til lightly browned. Add the curry paste, saute for a minute, then add the reserved stock and reduce so just a 1/4 cup of liquid remains. Add the cream and the sweetbread cubes. Simmer and reduce again until the sauce is thick and clingy. Remove from heat, salt and pepper it and stir in the Parmesan.

Voila! Mangiare! And มีความสุข! (which I think is Thai for enjoy).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Funny how food trends creep up on us until they all at once over take the popular consciousness in a mad rage, then subsequently settle back down when the next big thing comes along. So it was for tapas. Tapas tapas tapas. They had their time in the spotlight a while ago. But they did leave their mark, with the whole "little dish" concept now being employed in all manner of restaurants.

Penelope Casas' "Tapas - The Little Dishes of Spain" (1985) was my guide into the then brave new world of tapas. Of all the terrific recipes in this book, and there are many, these tasty meatballs have stayed in active rotation in my repertoire. The sauce of ground almonds creates a dense, flavorful coating, thick enough to eat with a fork. A great party food served with little plates or a substantial main course for six people.

Last night we had some friends over for a tapas-style dinner and served these beauties alongside of asparagus broiled with tiny cubes of smoked ham; mushrooms sauted in olive oil with garlic, giant white beans and lemon juice; carrots braised in tonka bean-scented broth, and a gratin of fennel. It was really good last night -- as were the leftovers today at lunch.


3/4 c. panko bread crumbs
3/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. dry sherry
13 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 lb. ground beef
3/4 lb. ground pork
3/4 lb. ground veal
2 eggs
5 T. minced parsley
2 1/2 t. salt
freshly ground pepper
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 c. slivered blanched almonds
1 14 1/2 oz. can beef broth
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 bay leaf
2 scallions, chopped

Soak the bread crumbs in 1/4 cup of the white wine. Finely chop 3 cloves of garlic and combine with the bread crumbs, meat, eggs, 3 T. of parsley and the salt and pepper. Form into ping-pong sized balls.

Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and cook through in a hot (ideally convection) 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 14" paella pan, saute the onion and carrots in the olive oil until soft. Stir in the remaining white wine, the sherry and the other 10 cloves of garlic thinly sliced. Boil until most of the liquid has evaporated.

In a food processor grind the almonds as finely as possible. With the blade running, pour in the beef broth in a thin stream. When well mixed, pour into the paella pan, bring to a boil and add the remaining parsley, peas, bay leaf, scallions and more salt and pepper as needed. Slip in the meatballs, gently mixing them around so they are coated with the sauce. Lower the oven to 300 degrees, cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Are you a recipe filer, tearing them out with every intention of trying them soon? I came across a doozy today by Patricia Wells in the New York Times Magazine...
from 1986. Ironic thing is the topic was three-star restaurants in France being handed down to the new generation eager to put their stamp on the signature dishes responsible for putting the places on the map in the first place. Very much a mid-'80s moment. So here goes, for my first time, PW's just-off-the-press updated classic, a mere quarter century later. Not to worry, the French prove yet again that quality endures.

"Hostellerie du Cerf's Salmon with Lentils, Bacon and Horseradish Cream" was squirreled away because adding bacon and creme fraiche to salmon seemed too good to pass up. l took a few liberties: bringing red peppers into the picture, lemon juice and vinegar to add some zing to the lentils (in place of the indicated Riesling) and beet horseradish gives a bit of sweetness and a nice shot of color. Since I couldn't get my hands on chervil, I topped it with a sprinkling of sage. The acid and herb balance the richness of the other ingredients, even making it seem almost virtuous.

Though generally I gravitate towards the opulence of big platter presentations, composing individual plates here is much more dramatic.

Hostellerie du Cerf with Patrcia Wells

1 c. dried green lentils
2 T. butter
1/2 red bell pepper cut into small dice
1 carrot cut into small dice
1 small onion finely minced
1 celery stalk cut into small dice
1 leak, cleaned well, sliced in small thin strips
1 bay leaf
1/4 t. dried thyme
a few springs of parsley
3 c. chicken stock
1/2 t. salt
grind of black pepper
1 T. red wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 cup creme fraiche
3 T. pink horseradish

4 oz. pancetta, diced
4 thick cut samon fillets
finely chopped fresh sage for garnish

Prepare the lentils. Melt the butter and saute the red pepper, carrot, onion, celery, and leak on low until soft, about four minutes. Add lentils, s&p, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and stock, bring to a low boil. Cover and simmer until tender but not mushy, about 40 minutes. Pick out the parsley and bay leaf, stir in the lemon juice and vinegar, taste and add more s&p if needed. Keep warm.

Saute the diced pancetta into crisp lardons, drain on paper towels.

Prepare the horseradish cream. Blend the creme fraiche with the horseradish and over medium heat bring to a low simmer. Turn down the heat, keep the sauce warm.

Broil the salmon fillets til just done, still pink in the center.

To assemble: bring the lentils and pink cream sauce back up to a nice hot serving temperature. Make a small mound of lentils in the center of each plate, the broiled salmon across. Spoon the cream sauce around the lentil pile. Shower with the lardons and sprinkle with chopped sage.

Not too long ago the New York Times said offering "bon appetit" is considered gauche in the highest circles of French society. Really though, does this mean we should call out out "dig in!"? I think we all know the correct answer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Who doesn't love a dumpling? And the fun of going to dim sum in Chinatown, selecting the most intriguing (and least threatening) offerings as they pass by? The best part is when you take a chance and try something new and it's really, really good.

I've heard dizzying stories from friends who've been to Hong Kong (the epicenter of dim sum cuisine I believe) and the nearly-indescribable variety and artistry of the dumplings there. But I wonder if the exotic variety, the precise construction are stumbling blocks for anyone who dreams of trying this at home. Let me tell you a secret: spectacularly delicious dumplings are easy (gasp!) and fun to make at home.

My first immersion into dumpling culture was more focused; early on Steve and I were lucky to spend some months in Tokyo and became gyoza and shui mai addicts. Unlike other disciplines such as sushi, yakitori and noodles where the variety is endless, our first experience was that dumplings pretty much came in two forms: the crescents of pork and cabbage-filled, pan fried gyoza and the little steamed drums of pork or shrimp-filled, steamed shui mai.
The best ones were found, as so many good things are, in little street side booths and tiny sit-down counters. The advantage was being able to see how they were put together and it just didn't look that hard. So I tried. And it worked. Classic Japanese gyoza and shui mai recipes are straight forward and pretty much guarantee flawless results.

All that said, back home in New York the Chopstix cookbook (from the L.A. based restaurants, published in 1990) shook my world. It's the glorious photographs that grab you first, then the vivid descriptions. Authors Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison make an irresistiably compelling case for their creations is just a few lines. In I dove and and I've been collecting unusual dumpling recipes ever since.

Dumplings are fun, easy and best of all, deliver that wonderful, "OMG this is so good!" experience. A good a place to start as any are these these chicken and carrot-filled dumplings, slathered with an eye-opening pesto bursting with a surprising combinatlon of flavors: cilantro, basil, spinach, orange, sesame, and of course the holy trinity of Chinese cuisine: ginger, garlic and soy.

Firecracker Dumplings
From Chopstix cookbook

1 c. chopped carrots
2 scallions
1 lb. ground raw chicken
1 T. soy sauce
2 t. dry sherry
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. Chinese chili sauce
1/4 t. salt
1 T. white sesame seeds
30+ wonton wrappers (the square ones; most packages are a couple of inches tall, which will be plenty)

Asian Pesto:
12 oz. spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 t. minced ginger
1 t. orange zest
handful of cilantro
handful of fresh basil leaves
1 scallion
1 T. soy sauce
2 T. dry sherry
2 T. white vinegar
2 T. sesame oil
2 t. hoisin sauce
2 t. sugar
1/2 t. Chinese chili sauce

Start with the pesto. In a food processor mince the spinach, garlic, ginger, orange zest, cilantro, basil and scallion. When everything is mulched up well add the add the soy, sherry, vinegar, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, sugar and chili sauce. Puree for one minute for a thick, smooth pesto. Set aside.

For the dumpling filling process the carrots and scallions into tiny bits. You distinguishable pieces but not a mush. Lightly toast the sesame seeds. In a large bowl stir these together with the chicken, soy, sherry, sesame oil, chili sauce and salt. Mix very well.

Start your assembly line. Coat a large sheet pan with a bit of oil or a shot of Pam. Fill a small bowl of with water to dip you finger in. Lay out six wonton wrappers on a dry countertop. Put a generous teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Dip your finger in the water and moisten all four edges of the first wrapper. Fold it over the filling, pressing the edges together, creating a triangle. With another dab of water, fold one of the long corners over the opposite one, pinch to close. Place it on pan and proceed with the rest until you've got a small army of uniformly-shaped dumpling.

Bring five quarts of water to vigorous boil, then gently drop the dumplings in one at a time. Carefully stir so they don't stick. In three to four minutes they all will be floating, the wrappers clearly adhering to the filling. Drain, toss with the pesto and garnish with strips of orange zest.

Serve immediately on a platter so your guests may help themselves. This recipe makes pretty many, but don't be surprised when there are no leftovers.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


It was back in college that I started on my food journey. In my first apartment the height of my culinary sophistication was a dish called Monster Chicken. A split chicken, skin side up, a whole can of undiluted cream of celery soup spread over. Under the broiler (never turning it over) until it was a smoking, cinder-flecked eruption of sauce and chicken fat. Rice-A-Roni accompanied it. Important to note: this was not fare that ever appeared on the Sullivan family table, these recipes were passed on to me by college friends. Haven't turned out a Monster Chicken since the Reagan administration. No plans yet for a return, but never say never...

Then I started waiting tables at Kemoll's, one of St. Louis's most venerable institutions. Opened as a single room confectionery by Sicilian immigrants in 1927, during my tenure the original matriarch Gaetana still kept a sharp eye on the kitchen and the register. By then it had evolved into a top-notch dining destination, upholding traditional standards unheard of at the time. Fresh pasta made twice a week hanging to dry over wooden racks. Huge wheels of Parmigiano- Reggiano cut into cubes to fit the hand graters for tossing paglia e fieno and spaghetti carbonara table-side. A fridge dedicated just for big cold buckets of fresh clams, lovingly nourished with sprinkles of cornmeal until called into duty for a fritti or vongole.

The Mozzarella en Carozzas you'll encounter today are usually variations of sauteed grilled cheese sandwiches. Done well, exquisite, no question. However Kemoll's recipe is one of a kind. Rather than individual portions, Kemoll's stuffed an entire semolina loaf* with slices of fresh mozzarella, liberally spread with an anchovy-caper-lemon-parsley-olive oil emulsion and baked 'til the bread was crisped, cheese surrendered to the heat, the bold dressing permeating the loaf. Presented whole and served by the slice.

For a first course, bring this hottie out in a shiny copper baking dish to accompany a cool, crisp green salad.

*No mention of Kemoll's and bread would be complete without a shout out to Gaetana's daughter Joann Berger, creator of the beloved Pandora bakery. Sadly shuttered now, Joann is a good friend of my mom so we still have lucky occasions to enjoy her skills and largesse.

1 lb. loaf semolina bread
1 lb. fresh mozzarella
1 oz. canned anchovies (1/2 of a 2 oz. tin)
3 T. capers
1 T. butter
juice of half a lemon (or the whole lemon if it seems stingy)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
generous handful flat leaf parsley

Slice the loaf, down to but not through the bottom crust,. You need the loaf to hold together. 1 inch slices. Make an equal number of mozzarella slices and insert into the loaf.

In a blender emulsify the anchovies, capers, butter, lemon juice, parsley, pepper (enough salt already). Spread over the loaf, use a spatula to work the dressing down into the slices between cheese and bread.

25 minutes in a 400 degree oven should do it -- halfway through you can spoon up the dressing in the pan and baste the loaf again.

This one is easy to tell when done, meltingly beautiful and fragrant.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Pity the poor turkey. For one bright shiny November day it is fussed over, cosseted, the main topic of conversation and culinary concern -- the glistening, mahogany skinned behemoth lording over the Thanksgiving feast like Gulliver and the Lilliputians. Then for the other 364 days of the year it's pretty much relegated to the "I'm watching what I eat" category, a bland, dry mass reluctantly chosen solely for its low-cal, high protein status. Think about it -- even in a club sandwich turkey is the weakest link. Ditch it and add some avacado. Live a little.

Ahh, but remember Myrtle Allen and her Ballymaloe House in Ireland? If not yet cannonized as the patron saint of turkeys, Myrtle should at least be beatified, her Turkey White - Turkey Brown is as close to a miracle as a turkey's going to get. This transformative party dish is a revolutionary concept presenting the white meat and dark meat side by side in rich, individual sauces. Lemony cream sauce for the breasts, a rich bourguignon-style treatment for the dark.

To really do justice to Turkey White - Turkey Brown, you'll need two matching baking dishes. Corningware white is perfectly sufficient (but no clear glass, please, it gives away the surprise). Fancier stuff like Le Crueset is great if you're living large. If you've already got some old heirloom type pieces, more power to you. You're looking for two dishes the same size, 12" x 8" x 3" or larger.

12 - 15 lb. whole turkey, butchered as indicated below

For the stock:
Turkey carcass (minus the skin), with neck, giblets, heart. Toss the liver.
A couple of carrots peeled and cut up
A few stalks of celery
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
bouquet garni of parsley, bay leaf and thyme
1 chicken bouillon cube

For the white meat:
Flour for dredging seasoned with salt and white pepper
butter for sauteing
heavy cream for the sauce
fresh lemon juice for the sauce

For the dark meat:
Flour seasoned with salt and black pepper for dredging
butter for sauteing
1/2 lb. sliced cremini mushrooms
2 thick strips of smokey bacon sliced into thin strips
1 c. frozen pearl onions
turkey stock
red wine
chopped fresh parsley and fresh thyme leaves

For the crust:
Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry (2 sheets in a box), thawed in the fridge
A scrambled egg with a bit of water to make a wash

Make the turkey stock -- allow a couple of hour and after you strain out all the solids continue to reduce it, you won't need more than 5-6 cups so the more concentrated the flavor, the better.

Have your butcher take all the meat off the bones of the turkey, saving the carcass, discarding the skin. The breasts come off in nice big lobes, the legs and thighs come out a little rougher, not to worry. Thinly slice the breast meat across the grain, scallopini-style, in smallish pieces, 2 - 3 inches or so. Cut the dark meat into 1" cubes. Keep white and dark separate.

Start with the breast scallops. Dredge in flour mixed with a moderate amount of salt and white pepper. (Black pepper visually mars the pristine sauce.) Working in batches, saute in hot butter til just barely done. They will cook further in the sauce and you only want the faintest bit of browning. Drain on paper towels as you go. Once you've got them all sauted, layer them in the first baking dish.

Here's where your experience and good judgement come in. You're going to make a sauce of reduced heavy cream and lemon juice. So start with about twice as much cream as you'd need to cover the turkey scallops in the baking dish, and reduce it down by half in a sauce pan. You want a thick, velvety texture. Add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice for each cup of reduced cream. Season with more salt and white pepper. Pour over the turkey scallops, using a spoon to lift up and jiggle the pieces so the sauce goes around and under every piece.

Next dredge the dark meat cubes in flour seasoned with salt and black pepper. Saute these in butter in batches as well, drain and place in the second baking dish. In the remaining butter saute the mushrooms and the bacon, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. When they look ready, repeat the mental calculations for how much sauce you'll need. Equal parts turkey stock and red wine, enough so that when reduced by half you've got enough to cover the dark meat cubes. Add the frozen pearl onions and the fresh herbs in the last couple of minutes of cooking down the sauce. Salt and cracked black pepper. If the sauce looks too thin, thicken it a bit with some flour or cornstarch. You're going for hearty but be sure to stop short of gloppy. Mix the sauce in and around the dark meat.

Unfold the thawed puff pastry on a floured surface. Roll out the rectangles so they're just an inch larger than the baking dishes. Brush the egg wash around the top edges of the baking dishes, place the pastry over the tops and crimp closed. Make it neat and even. If your puff pastry skills are more advanced, you could hold some back and make some decorative elaborations of your own design. Plain and pretty is just fine though. Cut some organized vents* in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape, and give tops a good going over with the egg wash.

Into a preheated 375 degree oven they go. Plan on at least 50 minutes to an hour if you're plowing through this at one go, while the meat and sauce are still warm. If you've done some of the work in advance and refrigerated it, you'll need to account for that timing-wise. You'll know it's done when the pastry is puffed and browned all over and the sauces are starting to bubble up in the vents or from little breaches along the sides.

And now the moment we've all been waiting for. Present the identical dishes on your table or buffet. Delve into the first and you're rewarded with elegant slices of turkey scallopini luxuriating in lemony cream sauce. Then help your guests to a spoonfull of its apparent twin. But wait! This one is an earthy stew of tender chunks of dark meat studded with the earthy goodness of mushroom, bacon, onion.

High drama...the element of surprise...clever concept...and completely delicious. What are you waiting for?

Send me a picture!

*Astute observers might notice that my steam vents were cut into a "W" and "B".  Little mix-up there, the W covered the brown meat and vice versa.  No matter, it added to the fun. But I will be more careful next time.