One of the great joys of my life in food is meeting other food writers in amazing places. This winter, I had the great pleasure of spending an amazing week at a writing workshop in Tepotzlan, Mexico at Cocinar Mexicano. Iconic food writer Betty Fussell lead a spectacular group of women through the birth of some great writing projects. Tepotzlan is nestled in the mountains of central Mexico and the stunning scenery lends a magical air. And it is the loudest place I have ever visited. I was there for the festival of the Three Kings, which went on for days, but there were several other festivals that week as well. Locals assured us that with the different barrio festivals, saints’ days and general holidays, there is pretty much a festival every week of the year. The sounds of bands playing in processions, cars honking in celebration, dogs barking with excitement, church bells pealing and intermittent bursts of fireworks makes the town a cacophonous but joyous place. The experience inspired me and opened my mind and really got my creative juices flowing.
Adding to the wall-to-wall inspiration was some of the best food I’ve had the pleasure to eat. The central market is bursting with chilies of every type, fresh and dried, and more varieties of corn than I can begin to list. Stallholders make and sell fresh tortillas made to order from that corn, filled with all manner of delicious things. I ate squash blossoms every day, sampled several delicious mole sauces, experienced huitlachoce, a rich, mushroomy corn fungus, in all manner of dishes and even crunched on some fried crickets. I learned to make tamales and tortillas myself, and reveled in devouring the results.
But I knew pozole was the dish I would try to re-create at home. I had a number of versions of this classic Mexican hominy soup, at the cooking school, the lovely hotel and in the market. Some were red with chiles, others were so rustic, the bones were still in the bowl. I had it with pork, chicken and a combination of the two. The prettiest and freshest version was served by the wonderful cooks at Cocinar Mexicano, a simple, rich, flavorful broth with tender meat and hominy , served with a beautiful array of toppings. And this dish is all about the toppings. Bright and colorful with different textures, they elevate this soup. This is interactive eating at its best. I had never had radishes as a soup garnish, but I am a convert and I promise the slight peppery crunch adds a wonderful touch.
Posole (Mexican Chicken and Hominy Soup)
When I make stock and want to include the meat in the finished dish, I use chicken pieces instead of a whole bird because you end up with more meat. You’ll have some leftover, which is never a bad thing.
3 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 ounces salt pork
1 large white onion, cut in half
3 celery sticks, cut in half
2 carrots, cut in half
1 jalapeno pepper
1 red pepper, like Fresno
1 head garlic, cloves separated
7 – 8 stems cilantro
2 limes, cut in half
1 (30-ounce) can white hominy
Finely diced radishes
Finely diced red onion (I soak the diced onions in water about 30 minutes to take away the bite)
Crumbled queso fresco cheese
Crispy fried tortilla strips or crushed chips
Place the chicken pieces, pork and vegetables, cilantro and lime in a large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven or stock pot. Add 12 cups of water. Bring almost to a boil over high heat, turn down to low, cover the pot and simmer for 4 – 6 hours, until you have a nice, rich stock.
Line a large colander with cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. Remove the chicken pieces to another bowl or plate, then carefully strain the stock through the colander. Let the stock cool, then skim the fat from the top. I always refrigerate the stock, then simply remove the solidified fat from the top of the liquid.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones, removing any fat or gristle as you go. Shred the chicken into thick strands.
You can make the stock up to two days ahead. Place the chicken meat in a ziptop bag, cover the stock and keep in the fridge.
When ready to serve, transfer the stock to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Rinse the hominy thoroughly and drain. Add to the simmering stock, cover and cook for 30 minutes until the hominy is tender. Add about 4 cups of shredded chicken and simmer until heated through.
Spoon the soup into large bowls, making sure there is plenty of hominy and chicken in each bowl.
Serve with the beautiful array of toppings for everyone to add as they please.
Spring is the perfect time for brunch. With Easter starting things off, there always seems to be an explosion of daytime events. Graduations and weddings and all the celebrations that go with them. And I love a good family brunch. You can wear a nice dress, but don’t have to worry about high heels and punitive undergarments and retouching your lipstick every ten minutes. I still look forward to finding my fun spring dress like I did when I was kid. And the food. A generous buffet spread, with everyone roaming around and eating and chatting – and eating some more. This may be my favorite form of entertaining.
This dish fits the bill perfectly. It is rich and elegant, but with a light, fluffy texture that will amaze. And you can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven before the brunch, so no early morning scrambling in the kitchen. Leeks, brie and wine bring up the sophistication level, and it is a happy change from a typical egg-cheese-sausage morning casserole. And it also has no meat, which is great if there is a ham, bacon or sausage on the table too. Now, I have given you lots of reasons this is a perfect brunch dish, but in the recipe testing process, I served it to my book club for dinner and it was a hit. A little green salad on the side and a glass of crisp, cold white wine…you’re in for a treat.
Leek and Brie Bread Pudding
16 ounce loaf soft Italian bread (no hard crusts)
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts
4 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup white wine or vermouth, plus 2 Tablespoons
8 ounces brie
1 Tablespoon salt
Generous grinds of black pepper
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped marjoram or thyme
4 cups milk
Cut the bread into rough, bite-sized cubes and spread out on a baking sheet or tray. Leave to dry for a few hours (but not until crisp or hard).
Meanwhile, slice the white and palest green parts of the leeks in half, then into thin half-moons. Place in a colander and rinse very well under cold running water. Melt the butter in a sauce pan with a lid, shake most of the water off the leeks and add them to the pan. Stir to coat, then add ¼ cup wine or vermouth and ¼ cup water. Stir well, cover the pan and cook the leeks, stirring frequently, until they are wilted and soft, about 20 minutes. Make sure the leeks don’t brown – you can add a bit more water if needed. When the leeks are soft and jammy, leave them to cool.
Trim the rind off the brie, removing as much of the white rind as possible without sacrificing too much cheese. I find a long serrated knife works best, and the cheese needs to be very cold and firm. Cut the brie into small pieces. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Spread the bread in the dish. Spread the leeks out over the bread, tucking them in between the cubes and distributing them evenly. Distribute the brie pieces throughout the bread and leeks, tucking them down between the cubes of bread and leeks.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Add the salt, pepper, the remaining 2 Tablespoons wine or vermouth, mustard and herbs and whisk well. Add the milk and whisk until completely blended. Pour the milk mixture over the bread cubes slowly, making sure it is evenly covering the bread cubes. Push them down under the liquid if needed. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°. Take the dish out of the fridge to take the chill off while the oven is heating. Cook the bread pudding, covered, for 50 minutes to an hour until it is set and puffed up.
Serves 8 – 10
I doubt this a traditional Irish dish at all, but when I was whipping up a pot of Irish Stew, I wanted a nice, cheese-y accompaniment. Welsh Rarebit is the great British snack of a beer-laced cheese sauce on crusty bread, so I figured I give it a go with Guinness. These are perfect with the stew, but also make a nice treat on their own as a snack, or a light lunch or supper beside a big salad. And they’d be pretty good with Corned Beef and Cabbage Cooked in Beer.
½ cup Guinness or other stout beer
2 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
¼ teaspoon English mustard powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
14 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese (preferably Irish), grated
8 slices crusty white bread
flaky sea salt, like Maldon
Pour the Guinness into your measuring jug and let the foam settle. You want ½ cup minus the foam.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then whisk in the flour until you have a smooth paste and it is pale in color. Whisk in the milk and Guinness and stir until thick, smooth and creamy. Stir in the mustard powder and Worcestershire. Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring to melt completely after each addition. When all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, set it aside to cool down and firm up a little.
Preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Slice the bread into thick slices. Use a spoon to spread a thick layer of cheese sauce on each slice. Sprinkle the tops with salt and place on the baking sheet. Broil the rarebits until the cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, about 6 minutes. Watch very carefully.
Let the rarebits sit a few minutes, then slice each piece in half and serve.
Like many traditional dishes of the British Isles, my first taste of Irish Stew was in the dining hall of my college at Oxford. And it wasn’t a particularly good experience. Tough meat, watery broth, soggy vegetables. But I never gave up on the notion; I just think I liked this dish in theory more than in concept. But a warming, hearty lamb and vegetable stew is just a plain good idea, so I stuck with it.
I have read many Irish Stew recipes over the years and they are all pretty simple and plain, which I think is a hallmark of Irish cuisine. And I’ve made many versions too, but I always felt they needed a little oomph. So I’ve added some bacon for smoky saltiness and browned the meat for extra richness. Some of the impetus for sticking to the dish is that I now find beautiful pasture-raised, local lamb, and good meat makes all the difference. I love the contrast of peppery parsnips and sweet carrots and of course, no Irish Stew would be complete without potatoes.
If you don’t find ready to use stew meat, ask the butcher counter to cube lamb shoulder or leg for you.
3 pounds lamb stew meat, in 2-inch cubes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 pound bacon
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 cups beef broth
3 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 yellow potatoes
chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Pat the lamb cubes dry with paper towels. Mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a large ziptop bag, then drop in the lamb and shake it around to coat each cube with flour.
Cut the bacon into small pieces and place in a large (5-quart) Dutch oven. Cook over medium high heat until the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain using a slotted spoon. Let the bacon grease cool a bit, then very carefully pour it into a glass measuring jug. Carefully wipe out the pot, cleaning out any burned bits.
Return the pot to the stove and heat ¼ cup of the bacon grease. Remove the lamb cubes from the bag, shaking off any excess flour and cook them in the bacon grease until browned on all sides. You will need to do this in batches, removing the browned pieces to a plate. If needed, add a little more bacon grease to the pot and heat it up between batches.
When all the lamb is browned and removed from the pot, add 2 more Tablespoons of bacon grease and the chopped onions and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent. When the onions are soft, add ¼ cup of water and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cover and cook until the onions are soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a further 2 minutes. Return the lamb and about ¾ of the cooked bacon to pot. Pour in the beef broth, add the bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil. Stir the stew well, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 1 ½ hours.
Peel the parsnips and carrots and cut into bite-sized chunks. Add to the simmering stew. Scrub the potatoes, but do not peel, and cut into nice chunks. Add these to the stew as well, give it all a good stir, cover the pot and cook for a further 30 - 40 minutes or until the potatoes, carrots and parsnips are tender.
At this point, the stew can be made up to a day ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated. Reheat over medium just until warmed through. Fish out the bay leaves and thyme stems before serving.
Serve in big bowls, topped with the remaining bacon pieces and a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.
It’s Mardi Gras time, and so it’s time for crawfish. Crawfish Cornbread is a recipe I have seen in many Louisiana community cookbooks over the years, and I’ve whipped up a batch or two in my time. I have no idea if this is a traditional Cajun recipe, or started it’s life on the back of corn bread mix box, but that doesn’t matter to me, because it is a sound idea that results in a delicious dish.
I’ve altered my version so it is packed with crawfish and has a nice level of spice. I use frozen crawfish tail meat, which is easy to find around here, but if you happen to have some fresh daddies around and want to pull out all that juicy flesh, please do so. This cornbread is lovely beside a bowl of Red Beans and Rice, but cut into small squares it makes a nice nibble. It is even hearty enough to serve with a nice green salad for a meal.
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 (12-ounce) bag frozen corn, thawed
2 pounds crawfish tail meat, finely chopped
1 (4-ounce) can diced jalapenos
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
Stir the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and creole seasoning together in a very large bowl. Stir in the eggs and oil and mix thoroughly. Add the onion, cheese, corn, crawfish and jalapenos and stir until everything is completely mixed together and evenly distributed.
Spread the cornbread into the prepared pan, smoothing out the surface. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes until golden and firm and a tester comes out clean. Let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving warm.
Serves 8 – 10
Red Beans and Rice are a classic of the Louisiana cooking canon. And I assume every Louisiana cook has there own version that they would assert constitutes the only way to properly make the dish. And I’ll tell you, the same can be said of me. No, I am not from Louisiana and I don’t have roots there, but I love the food and I cook my own version of red beans and rice – the way I like. So I’ve been reluctant to share the recipe, because I may be brought to task for not cooking them in the traditional way. But as I see it, that’s kind of the point of a country, homey comforting dish. You do what you like, with out the constraints of technique or the weight of history. But with Mardi Gras on the doorstep, I thought I’d better share the dish I make most often from my Louisiana repertoire.
My red beans are full of flavor, and full of delicious pork. I cook the beans with lots of flavorful additions, then use that cooking liquid in rich sauce. I like a little creaminess in my red beans, the rice just soaks it up so well. And underlying everything is the beautiful trinity of Louisiana cooking, celery, onion and green pepper. This makes a big ol’ pot, and I like more red beans than rice, so cook a little extra rice if you are so inclined. Make a batch of King Cake Bars and you’ve got a Mardi Gras party!
Tasso is a spiced, smoked Cajun style pork. If you can’t find tasso at a specialty market, use a piece of smoked ham or a ham hock and some creole seasoning. If you can’t find Andouille, use any smoked sausage like kielbasa.
Red Beans and Rice My Way
1 pound red beans or kidney beans
3 stalks celery
1 large yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
6 ounces tasso or smoked ham or ham hock plus 2 teaspoons creole seasoning
1 green bell pepper
14 ounces Andouille sausage
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
salt to taste
1 ½ cups long grain white rice
3 ½ cups water
hot sauce for serving
For the Red Beans:
Sort through the beans, picking out any debris or broken beans. Rinse well then place in a bowl and cover with water by about 3 inches. Soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the soaked beans and place in a large pot. Add the carrot, broken in two, one celery stick, also broken and half of the onion. Cut through the circumference of the onion and put the root end in the pot, it will hold together better. Add the garlic, bay leaves and tasso. Cover with 10 cups of cold water, bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, reduce the heat and cover the pot. Cook until the beans are tender, about 1 – 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
While the beans are cooking, finely dice the remaining onion half, 2 stalks of celery and the green pepper. Cut the Andouille into bite-sized pieces.
When the beans are tender, place a colander over a large bowl and drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves and garlic and set the tasso aside. Wipe out the cooking pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter over low heat, then add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until it is absorbed into the vegetables. Stir in the Creole seasoning. Pour in 3 cups of reserved cooking liquid from the beans. Stir until the sauce has thickened, about 4 minutes, then add the andouille and stir to coat. Return the beans to the sauce and stir gently to coat. Dice the tasso into small pieces and add to the pot, stirring gently again. Simmer over low heat until everything is warmed through, making sure the sausage is cooked through.
For the Rice:
When ready to serve, cook the rice. Stir the rice into the water in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan. Set aside for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.
Spoon the rice into nice, big bowls and scoop the red beans over. Serve with some hot sauce on the table.
Serves 6 – 8
No self-respecting Southerner, I boldly say, would let New Year’s Day pass without at least one bite of black- eyed peas. They bring luck and good fortune for the New Year, and everyone can use a little bit of that. Hoppin’ John is traditional in many quarters, but peas slowly cooked with a piece of pork are the norm for many. I like to vary my black-eyed pea intake, from my classic recipe to a big bowl of Good Luck Gumbo. But no matter how you eat them, cornbread is the traditional accompaniment to black-eyes. So here’s a recipe that kills two birds with one stone, and is tasty to boot.
This recipe is very simple, though it has a couple of steps. It’s easily done while watching the football game, which I understand is a popular New Year’s Day activity, or while resting on the sofa after some late-night revelry. Season this to your own tastes, lots of spicy Creole seasoning or just a touch, tomatoes with green chile or without. I find country ham “biscuit slices” readily at most markets in vacuum packages, but whole slices are just fine. Chopped “seasoning pieces” are great for seasoning, but don’t make great eating, so avoid them. For some prosperity to go with your New Year luck, serve these with greens, like Foldin’ Money Cabbage.
Black-eyed Pea and Cornbread Skillet
For the Black-eyed Peas
4 ounces center cut country ham biscuit slices
Half of a small yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
12 ounces frozen black-eyed peas
3 green onions, white and light green part only, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 (14.5-ounce can) diced tomatoes with green chile (or plain diced tomatoes), drained
Salt to taste
For the Cornbread:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
For the Black-eyed Peas:
Cut the country ham into small cubes and put it in a saucepan with the halved onion, garlic and bay leaves. Pour over 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and ½ teaspoon of the creole seasoning. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are tender.
Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Rinse out the bean pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter in the pot, then add the chopped green onions and cook until soft and translucent, but do not brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until smooth and pale. Stir in 1 cup of the cooking liquid and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced slightly, about 8 minutes. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon Creole seasoning (or to taste). When the sauce has thickened, add the peas and ham and stir to coat. Stir in the drained tomatoes and cook until the sauce has reduced a bit more and just coats the peas, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
Brush a 10-inch cast iron skillet with oil. Scrape the cooked peas into the skillet and smooth the top. Set aside while you make the cornbread.
For the Cornbread:
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Stir the cornmeal, baking soda and salt together in a bowl using a fork. In a large measuring jug, measure the buttermilk, then add the egg andmelted butter and beat until combined. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spread the cornbread batter over the top of the peas in the skillet. Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is puffed, golden and set.
Everyone is up earlier than any other day of the year to see what’s under the tree. Wrapping paper ripping, bows flying, boxes everywhere. And somewhere in there, folks get hungry. Just a nibble before the big celebration. Something special, but simple. There’s just too much going on to whip up a gourmet feast. And the cookies Santa left behind just won’t do.
I’ve been making versions of this type of muffin for years, and decided it was finally time to work out a Christmas version. Because these are the perfect treat for a crazy, busy morning. Make the batter a day or two ahead, then simply scoop them out in the morning and bake. The deep ginger and molasses flavor sings of Christmas and the tart, sweet cranberries add to the festive flavor. I love the added hit of candied ginger, but feel free to leave them out or substitute raisins or nuts. These muffins are delicious straight up, spread with a little plain butter or some cranberry jam if you happen to have any around. But add this nutmeg-y butter with the flavor of eggnog to add to the holiday spirit. Make it ahead too, even a double batch for toast or waffles.
Merry Morning Muffins with Eggnog Butter (Overnight Gingerbread and Cranberry Muffins)
For the Muffins:
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup white sugar
½ cup molasses
1 ¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon warm water
1 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup crystallized ginger pieces
For the Butter:
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon nutmeg
For the Muffins:
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using an electric mixer. Beat in the molasses, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined.
Sift the flour and spices together and beat into the batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the batter is just mixed. Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water in a small dish, then mix into the batter. Stir in the cranberries and ginger until they are distributed throughout.
At this point, the batter can be refrigerated for up to two days, tightly covered.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Grease 12 muffin cups and divide the batter among them equally. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 12 muffins
For the Butter:
Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and nutmeg until combined and smooth. Scoop into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until firm.
The butter can be made up to a week ahead.
Makes ½ cup
This recipe was born from my love for chestnuts, and my overzealous purchase of them before Thanksgiving. I include chestnuts in my dressing, and when I see them on the shelves, I go a little nuts and always buy more than I need. So after that holiday madness dies down, I find ways to use them in other recipes. And by that point I have heard “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” on the radio at least once. This dish doesn’t take long to prepare, but makes an elegant, unique meal break during this crazy season. Time to take breath and enjoy time together.
Chestnuts are nutty and slightly sweet and pair beautifully with woodsy sage and salty pancetta. I readily find packages of pre-diced pancetta at markets, but if you don’t, go to the deli counter and ask them to give you a couple of thick slices and dice those into bits. Thin sliced pancetta does not work as well. In the photos, I used a short, twisted pasta labeled “torcetti”, but any short, thick pasta will work, like fusilli or casarecce. Orecchiette would work as well. The chunks of pancetta and chestnut get lost in long pastas. And I will admit, this is enough pasta to serve 4 people with a salad and some nice bread, but for big eaters, it may only serve 2!
Pasta with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage
10 ounces dried pasta
4 ounces diced pancetta
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus several large leaves
4 ounces roasted chestnuts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta in a colander.
While the pasta is cooking, sauté the pancetta in a sauté pan, large enough to hold the pasta, over medium heat until it is cooked through and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Drop a few sage leaves into the hot drippings and fry until deep green then remove to the paper towels. (This helps flavor the sauce, and the fried leaves are a wonderful garnish). Drop the chopped chestnuts into the drippings and sauté until they are a deep tan color, smell nice and nutty and start to crisp up, about 5 minutes. Remove with the slotted spoon to the paper towels. Turn the heat off under the pan and let the drippings cool for a minute. Drop the garlic in the pan for just a minute (don’t let it burn or turn dark), then pour in the wine. Turn the heat on high and bring the wine to a boil. Sprinkle in about ¾ of the Tablespoon of the chopped sage. Cook until the wine is reduced by half and is thickened and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, lower the heat to medium and simmer until heated through and slightly thickened.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce in the pan and toss to coat, stir in the pancetta, chestnuts and remaining chopped fresh sage. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, with parmesan cheese grated over the top.
Serves 4 (or two if you are really hungry)
I considered calling this Christmas Panic Pie. It is the perfect recipe to have in your pocket for the busy holidays. It is simple, requires a few ingredients you can easily have on hand and can be dressed up elegantly or served simply. During the holidays, I always have a carton of eggnog in the fridge. It is one of my favorite holiday flavors and ingredients, and stashing some store bought pie crust rolls in the fridge or freezer means a delicious dessert is minutes away. Serve it for dessert at an impromptu family dinner, take it to the office party you forgot about, make it in a disposable pan, wrap it in cellophane tied with a ribbon and instant hostess gift. And if you are tasked with providing dessert for a huge crowd, it is easy to make pie after pie in a flash.
Serve this pie straight up, or pipe a decorative trim of whipped cream around the edges. Sugared cranberries would be a beautiful garnish. I say this serves eight, but when there are other sweets on offer, slender slices are enough.
Pastry for one 9-inch pie, homemade or store bought ready-to-roll
½ cup (1 stick) butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for sprinkling
1 ½ cups refrigerated dairy eggnog
Preheat the oven to 425°. Fit the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate.
Melt the butter and set aside to cool to room temperature. When the butter is cool, whisk the eggs in a large bowl until lightly beaten. Add the flour, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg and whisk until combined. Pour in the butter and whisk thoroughly. Add the eggnog in a drizzle while whisking until the filling is smooth and everything is fully incorporated.
Pour the filling into the crust and use a sharp pointed knife to pop any large air bubbles that form. Shape a piece of aluminum foil to fit over the pie before you transfer it to the oven, but put the pie in the oven uncovered at first. Sprinkle a little nutmeg over the top of the filling.
Bake the pie at 425° for 12 – 15 minutes, then cover the pie with the prepared foil and lower the heat to 325°. Continue baking until the filling is set, 30 – 35 minutes.
Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely. I prefer to chill the pie overnight, but it can be eaten at room temperature.