Not a fish fan? The salmon can be replaced with shredded cooked chicken.
Culinary School flew by at such a rapid pace that I barely remember the basics. Today, 11 years later, I couldn’t tourne a potato to save my life, even though we spent weeks perfecting our technique. Knowledge was imparted by Chef, 90% of it sadly unretained by this student.
Someone recently asked me what defines a soup as “chowder” and, as that definition was probably somewhere in my missing 90%, I didn’t have a sufficient answer. Does using seafood make it chowder? Nope. Seafood is a standard ingredient, yes, but not a requirement. Does adding cream make it chowder? Chowders are often finished with cream, but they don’t have to be.
According to The Professional Chef, the tome we relied upon in school, chowder is defined as, “a soup that is thickened with flour, roux or potatoes.” Thank goodness “potatoes” were in that mix, because I’ve been calling this recipe “chowder” for years.
Who knew I could be validated by a potato.
Salmon Corn Chowder
A hearty soup loaded with salmon, bacon, sweet corn, and, of course, potatoes.
- 4 slices bacon, diced
- ½ onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- ¼ cup brandy, white wine, or dry sherry
- ¾ lb. potatoes, cut into ½” cubes
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups frozen or fresh corn
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups cooked salmon, cubed
- salt and pepper
- In a large pot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside. Add onion, carrot and celery to the bacon fat and cook until softened and beginning to brown.
- Add bay leaf, thyme, and brandy; reduce, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add potatoes and chicken stock, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
- Add corn and simmer until corn is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Add heavy whipping cream, salmon, and reserved bacon. Simmer 10 more minutes, remove bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
Sunday, my guy and I binge watched five hours of Better Call Saul, not leaving the couch, not getting out of our PJ’s – entirely guilt free. This is the new normal in the midst of COVID-19 and a shelter-in-place quarantine.
Another result of my self-quarantine is creative recipe concoctions using only on-hand ingredients. Friday, during lockdown, I cleaned out my liquor cabinet and found a number of bottles, barely used, from last year’s various cooking and baking recipes (How did I accumulate THREE different kinds of Sherry?). I gathered up the most promising flavors, experimented a bit, got tipsy in the process, and came up with this winner.
Stay healthy everyone!
Bakewell Alexander Cocktail
Rich and creamy chocolate almond cherry cordials – taste like dessert in a glass.
- 1 part whole milk or cream
- 1 part chocolate liqueur (such as Mozart brand)
- ½ part almond liqueur (such as Disaranno)
- ½ part Kirsch
- Good-quality maraschino cherries (such as Luxardo)
- Freshly-grated nutmeg
- Pour a bit of the syrup from the maraschino cherries in the bottom of a glass.
- Combine milk, chocolate liqueur, almond liqueur and kirsch in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake well and strain over cherry syrup.
- Garnish with a maraschino cherry and freshly grated nutmeg. Serve.
“How often do you blog?” he asks.
“I try to post twice a week,” she unthinkingly replies, “Every Monday and Wednesday.”
Her answer was honest…albeit, incorrect. She USED to post twice a week, yet she hasn’t done so in a year. In December, Mardi Gras for most dessert bloggers, her fingers didn’t type a word. In 2019, her unique views didn’t surpass the previous year’s count, a first.
It’s not only about the statistics.
She compares her dull flat-lays to the avante-garde images in her head – a bowl of soup precariously teetering on a see-saw (quirky and unexpected), a slowly melting chocolate truffle on a tongue (sexy, gothic and moody) – and is chagrinned. Her intros are stilted and forced – telling, rather than showing. Her words only seem to flow when in the midst of upheaval – not a sustainable situation. Unsatisfied with her results, she wonders if she’s stuck in a pattern that doesn’t suit her anymore.
But who is she without her blog, her constant companion for the past 11 years? She considers her options and decides, before killing it off completely, to seek CPR – her first remedy – a writing course to revive words that have flat lined.
Apple Molasses Spice Cupcakes
Moist cupcakes with the unexpected flavors of cardamom and 5-spice garnished with walnuts and rich cream cheese frosting, if desired.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon cardamom
- ½ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
- ¼ teaspoon clove
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup molasses
- ½ cup brown sugar (packed)
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- ½ cup boiling water
- 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 ” pieces
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- Cream cheese frosting (optional)
- Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Line cupcake tins with papers.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, soda, spices, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together molasses, sugar, egg, oil, ginger and water. Add molasses mixture to flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Fold in apples.
- Pour batter into tins, sprinkle with chopped walnuts (if using) and bake until toothpick comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool completely and decorate with cream cheese frosting.
Hermit Bars – a heavily spiced chewy cookie studded with golden raisins and walnuts.
I’m currently re-reading back issues of Cook’s Illustrated. Staying true to its name, the back page of each month displays illustrated drawings of a specific variety of culinary ingredient or food category. The current issue in my hand is sporting an illustration of “Classic American Cookies.” I scan the line-up and check off the usual suspects– chocolate chip – yep, peanut butter – made them, oatmeal raisin – of course, snickerdoodles – baked my first batch at 12 . They took liberty with some. Outside of Oreos, is “chocolate sandwich” truly an American classic? Then one lumpy, Cliff-bar looking cookie catches my eye – Hermit Bars. Whaaaa??? What the hell is that? I’ve never heard of a hermit bar. Where could this hermit have been hiding all these years? A bit of cookie wiki and I soon learn they came from the New England area and, although ingredients differ, seem to be a chewy, heavily spiced cookie, similar to gingerbread – with any combination of raisins, currants, dates and walnuts.
What have I been missing? Well, a lot, it turns out.
These cookies are a heavily spiced, chewy bar cookie studded with golden raisins and walnuts.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon (scant) cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 cups All-purpose flour
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 cup golden raisins, softened in boiling water
- 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 3 Tablespoons turbinado sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw)
- ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13×9” pan.
- In a large bowl, beat together melted butter and sugar until combined and smooth. Beat in egg, spices, salt and baking soda. Gently stir in flour (batter will by dry) then add the molasses and beat just until fully incorporated. Stir in the raisins and walnuts.
- Pat dough evenly into prepared pan and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until just set. Do not over-bake. You want the final bars to be chewy. Cool completely before cutting. Combine confectioner’s sugar with enough water to make a glaze. Drizzle over cut bars.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
I’m a list keeper. I keep shopping lists, lists of books to read, lists of desserts I want to make, lists of writing topics, and my never-ending to-do list. Of all my lists, my favorite is one I’ve entitled “Things I Love” and it captures some of the things, from the silly to the sublime, that put a smile on my face. If you want to know what makes me happy, you can read my list here.
Looking back, I can’t recall why (or even when) I started this list. Remembering how crazed my work world used to be, I was likely attempting to bring a little contentment into my life. By reminding myself what truly brought me happiness, I could remember to appreciate these simple delights.
Christmas light displays didn’t make the list, but they’re a much-loved part of my holiday season. When I was little, my siblings and I would squeal from the station wagon’s back seat, “Pretty lights! Pretty lights!” whenever we’d drive by a festively lit house. As adults, we road trip to other neighborhoods – and other cities (Portland!?) in search of flamboyantly adorned holiday houses. If Jesus, Santa, Snoopy, AND a giant snow globe all make it into one tableau, our holiday is complete!
I’m thinking about Christmas light displays today because I’ve had a request to bake a few treats for a neighborhood holiday light stroll next month – a request I happily accepted. These sticky, spicy gingerbread cupcakes are my first contibution, adapted from Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread. My coworker, John, took a bite and said, “This is dangerous.” He then took a second bite and said, “This is really dangerous.” By his third bite, the cupcake was gone. Others agreed.
Sticky Gingerbread Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Dangerously sticky, spicy, not-too-sweet cupcakes topped with lashings of cream cheese frosting, salted caramel and candied walnuts.
- 1 cup Guinness Stout
- 1 cup dark molasses
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
- 16 ounces cream cheese, chilled
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- ⅓ cup good quality salted caramel, plus more for drizzling (It’s worth making your own!)
- 24 candied walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin tins. Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, and then cool to room temperature.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
- Fill muffin tins ¾ full and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 25 minutes. Cool completely.
- To make frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and salted caramel. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until creamy. If frosting is too soft, refrigerate for 15 minutes before piping.
- Frost cupcakes, drizzle with additional salted caramel, and garnish with a candied walnut.