Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mike's FAMOUS Eggnog

Back by popular demand...Mike Famous Eggnog. This is a holiday must! My email inbox has already been flooded with requests for a re-post, so here it is!

Below is the genesis of this holiday party starter told by Mike himself...

Christmas Eggnog

I never cook anything. Most of my friends and family are wonderful cooks so I try to be what every chef needs--an enthusiastic eater and kitchen helper. One thing I do prepare each Holiday Season is the eggnog. I first made this eggnog when I was in college and worked occasionally as a bartender for private parties. When a call came in to the student employment office for a bartender to mix large batches of eggnog for a Christmas party in Woodside I was the only one who claimed to have eggnog experience. I had, of course, lied about my experience and had never drunk a cup of eggnog. This extreme confidence in the face of total ignorance got me the job.

The first research I did was to buy a carton of dairy eggnog, pour it into a cup, and add a good dose of whiskey. It was terrible. It ruined the whiskey. I then indulged in some real research in the card catalog of the main library. After noting the Dewey Decimal numbers for the cookbook section (641.5) I plunged into the stacks and fumbled through all the dusty books until I recognized one from my mother's kitchen--the Joy of Cooking. It had a drink recipe for "Eggnog in Quantity" and I was saved. I couldn't check the book out because I had some unpaid delinquent fines so I wrote it all down (I still have that piece of tablet paper).

Two days before the party I called my employer and with all the authority I could muster gave her a specific list of all the required ingredients, stated that there could be no exceptions, and said that I would need to be at work in her kitchen three hours before the party to prepare properly. The eggnog was so well received that I was given a big tip and hired to do it again the following year. I have been making it for friends and family ever since.

Merry Christmas,


Eggnog in Quantity

• Be sure to use good fresh eggs. The best eggs have a firm orange yolk and are from hens that have access to free range.
• Use heavy whipping cream. This is not a drink that is successful in a low fat version.
• Use good quality liquor. I use a combination of liquors to spread out the flavors. The saying that "nothing succeeds like excess" is especially true when it comes to adding booze to the eggnog. The Brits say that "Christmas brandy will make you randy", so add an extra splash.
• Use fresh nutmeg kernels and grate onto each serving as desired.

Beat separately until light in color
12 egg yolks
Beat in gradually
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
Add very slowly, beating constantly
2 c. dark rum, brandy, or bourbon
These liquors form the basis of the "nog", and you may choose one
variety or mix to taste.

Let mixture stand covered for 1 hour to dispel the "eggy" taste.

Add, beating constantly,
3 cups of liquor (I use a combination and include some Kahlua)
2 quarts whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla (or to taste)
Refrigerate covered for 3 hours.

Beat until stiff but not dry
12 egg whites

Fold egg whites lightly into the other ingredients. Serve sprinkled
with fresh nutmeg and cinnamon to taste.

Yield is about 1 gallon. I always make a double batch. With all that liquor it keeps very well refrigerated. The egg whites will separate after standing so fold them back in. A jar of this eggnog makes a great holiday present. Have a cup while opening your presents. You'll love them all!

This is a very rich, high-cholesterol, high-octane eggnog. Do not operate heavy equipment after drinking.

Creamed Onions

Since our family has grown to include significant others, children and friends, my mom asked everyone if there were any traditions that they would like to incorporate on Thanksgiving. My step father said that his family always had creamed onions so my brother in law took a stab at it this year and it was actually one of my favorite bites of the meal. He used this recipe as the base but added some stone mustard and Parmesan cheese. They were delicious. I just wish he made more of them...

Creamed Onions
  • 2 lb white pearl onions, left unpeeled
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse fresh white bread crumbs (from 1/4 lb bread with crusts removed)

Blanch onions in a 3-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute, then drain in a colander and transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Drain and peel onions.

Put onions and 1 teaspoon salt in same pot and add fresh water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until onions are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well in colander and transfer to a buttered 2-quart baking dish.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cream in a stream, whisking, and bring to a simmer, whisking. Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in pepper, nutmeg, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pour sauce over onions.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, then add bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

Sprinkle toasted crumbs evenly over onions and bake until sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ken's Beans

The great thing about working in the wine business is that you meet a ton of foodies. They come in all shapes and all sizes and are always willing to share tips and recipes. Last night, I had a gentleman come in and we got to talking about southern food. I told him about my shrimp and grits recipe and he shared his baked beans recipe that 'can't be beat'. This looks like an easy dish to pull together that has a lot of substance and flavor. I am looking forward to making it.

Ken's Beans
1 pd ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper
1 celery stalk
1 large can of pinto beans
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar

Heat beans in a large pot. Cook ground turkey in saute pan until browned. Add onion, celery and green peppers in same saute pan and cook to soft. Mix all together with beans and simmer for 25 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and a teaspoon of sugar.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tart

Thanksgiving is my Aunt's favorite holiday and it's packed with a ton of tradition. We begin with the family and friends football game at the local grade school. After a little workout and shower we hit the champagne and salmon locks. The main event usually happens around 4pm and I have at least two helpings. One of my favorite side dishes is a caramelized onion tart. Since I'll be eating at my mom's house for the first time in 14 years, I will miss out on one of my favorite Thanksgiving treats. So I scoured the Internet and found this recipe so I can make this dish at home.
Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tart
  • 4 slices bacon , cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 small onions , cut in half lengthwise and thickly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves , chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 (8-inch) frozen pie or tart shell
Preheat oven to 350°. Cook bacon in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat until fat is mostly rendered and bacon is crisp around edges. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and set aside, leaving 1 tablespoon bacon fat in pan. Crumble bacon after cooling.

Add onions to pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 8 minutes. Turn heat to medium-low and add 1 tablespoon thyme and pinch of salt. Continue to cook until onions are soft and deep golden brown, about 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, combine ricotta, egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pinch of pepper, 1 teaspoon thyme and 1/4 cup Parmigiano in a small bowl. Stir well to combine.

Spread ricotta mixture evenly on the bottom of tart shell. Arrange onions on top of ricotta and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Parmigiano. Sprinkle bacon over top. Transfer to oven and bake until edges of filling are golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.


Monday, November 17, 2008


Most of my food cravings usually include cheese. Even though San Francisco is a great town for ethnic foods, I miss Chicago's Greek Town. A dinner at the Parthenon can't be beat and they actually claim fame to the dish I love so much- Saganaki.

Saganaki is Greek fried cheese. When you order it, the waiter brings it to the table, flambes it and then squeezes fresh lemon juice all over it just before serving. It's freakin' awesome. Dip your bread in all the goodness and sip a glass of crisp white wine. Heaven.

I've never made Saganaki at home but I have these great Calphalon tapas dishes that are perfect for it so I figured to give it a shot. I tried flambeing the dish table side but it was a bust. Second time around I flambed it on the stove and it turned out perfect.

  • 8 (1/2-inch) slices Kasseri cheese
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups brandy
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 8 rounds of pita bread, brushed with olive oil, grilled and quartered
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives

Season both sides of the cheese with salt and pepper. Place the cheese in a shallow dish and cover with brandy. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Remove the cheese from the pan, reserving 1/4 cup of the brandy and dredge in the seasoned flour, coating completely. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Pan-fry the cheese for 2 minutes on each side. Add the reserved brandy and carefully flame the liquor, shaking the pan back and forth several times. Add the lemon juice. Remove from the pan and serve with the pita bread and olives.

If you haven't started planning your Thanksgiving menu you better get started. Lucky for you, all the cooking mags are packed with holiday recipes and I'm sure you can dig up some family favorites that have been passed down for generations. Thanksgiving is not the holiday to procrastinate.

This recipe is a spin on a classic side dish that we are all probably familiar with. If the chili powder turns you off, simply skip it and just leave the pecans plain. Either way you can't go wrong with these flavors.

Sweet Potato Gratin with Chile-Spiced Pecans

  1. 5 pounds sweet potatoes
  2. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 2 cups pecans (8 ounces)
  4. 2 tablespoons sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  6. Kosher salt
  7. 1/4 cup honey
  8. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  9. 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  10. 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  11. 1/2 cup heavy cream
  12. Freshly ground pepper
  13. 2 cups mini marshmallows


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Roast the sweet potatoes on a large baking sheet for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt the butter. Add the pecans, sugar and chipotle powder and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar starts to caramelize and the pecans are well-coated, 8 minutes. Spread the pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and let cool.
  3. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor; discard the skins. Add the honey, cinnamon, allspice and cloves to the processor and puree. Add the cream and puree. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Scrape the potatoes into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; scatter the marshmallows on top. Bake in the top third of the oven for 25 minutes, until the marshmallows are golden. Sprinkle with the pecans and serve.

Make Ahead

    The sweet potato puree can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature and top with the marshmallows before baking. The spiced nuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chicken Cordon Bleu over Bacon Brussels Sprout Hash with Chicken Jus and Cranberry Chutney

As you all know, I am a Food Network junkie. However there are a few shows that I don't really love as much of the others. That's why I was shocked that after I watched a complete episode of Tyler's Ultimate that I was dying to make this dish. In my opinion, shoving cheese and prosciutto in anything is always a good idea. But when you add a buttery, crispy crust and serve it over a bacon brussels sprout hash with chicken jus and and cranberry chutney, I cannot resist.
This is a fantastic fall meal and the ingredients are affordable.

I added butternut squash to the hash and added more sugar to the cranberries. Instead of mincing the garlic and tossing it in the panko, I used a garlic press. Lastly, my veggies took about 10 minutes longer but I had a larger quantity due to the addition of the butternut squash.

Chicken Cordon Bleu
  • 4 chicken breasts skinless and boneless
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
  • 1/2 pound Gruyere, grated
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay the chicken breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic and lay 2 slices of prosciutto neatly over the top to cover the breast and sprinkle a quarter of the cheese over the prosciutto. Tuck in the sides of the breast and roll up tight like a jellyroll inside the plastic wrap. Squeeze the log gently to seal and twist both ends tight to form a nice log. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Mix the bread crumbs with thyme, garlic and kosher salt, pepper, and melted butter. The butter will help the crust brown. Beat together the eggs and season so the flour, the eggs and the crumbs are all seasoned.

Remove the plastic wrap. Lightly dust the chicken with flour, dip in the egg mixture and gently coat in the bread crumbs. Lightly coat a baking pan with olive oil and carefully transfer the roulades onto it. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Cut into pinwheels and serve on top of Brussels Sprout Hash with Chicken Jus and Cranberry Chutney.

Bacon Brussels Sprout Hash with Chicken Jus

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 pints Brussels sprouts, cut in 1/2
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, split down the middle
  • 1/2 pound red pearl onions, peeled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped

Set a large saute pan over medium heat and add a 2 count of olive oil. Cut bacon into long strips and add to pan together with thyme. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes to render the fat then strain and set aside. Add Brussels sprouts, potatoes and pearl onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook until slightly browned. Add chicken stock and steam for 3 to5 minutes until liquid has evaporated and vegetables are tender. Add balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Cook until balsamic has reduced then fold in fresh parsley and bacon.

Cranberry Chutney

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup full-body red wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Add ingredients to a small saucepan and set over low-medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes until the cranberries are just cooked through and tender. You want them cooked through but not falling apart.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Broccolini with Pecan Brown Butter Sauce

I discovered broccolini too late in life. This unique vegetable was developed in Japan and looks like longer and skinnier broccoli. It's down right yummy and can be found pretty easily in stores. This would make a perfect side for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and was just featured in the holiday issue of Bon Appetite.

Broccolini with Pecan Brown Butter Sauce

* 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds broccolini (about 4 bunches)
* 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
* 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
* 1 garlic clove, chopped
* 1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
* Coarse kosher salt


Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add broccolini; stir to separate and cook 2 minutes. Drain. Transfer broccolini to paper towels to drain. Cool. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap broccolini in several layers of clean paper towels; enclose in resealable plastic bag and chill.

Melt butter in extra-large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, then pecans; sauté until shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; stir constantly until butter is browned and pecans are aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add broccolini to skillet and toss gently until heated through, about 7 minutes. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Transfer to platter and serve.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bacon-Pimento Grilled Cheese

My mother always has pimento cheese in the fridge and it's amazing that I don't weigh 500 pounds. Pimento cheese is a southern delight that is a simple mixture of my great loves, cheese and mayonnaise. Now, I like to dice up some fresh jalapeno or add some diced green chilies to the cheese as well. For a snack, try dipping chips into the mixture and wash it down with a glass of milk. Otherwise, go big and fry up some bacon and add some kick to an American classic, the grilled cheese.

Bacon-Pimento Grilled Cheese
for the pimento cheese:
1 lb cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 small jar pimentos, or 1/2 cup diced roasted red peppers
tabasco sauce, to taste

for the sandwiches:
sliced bread
bacon slices, preferably thick, center-cut

Make the pimento cheese:
- Stir all ingredients together, refrigerate a few hours.

For the sandwiches:

- Fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp and brown, set aside bacon on paper towels. If there is excess fat in the skillet, drain some of it off and set it aside, leave some fat in the skillet. Assemble the sandwiches: Spread pimento cheese on one slice of bread, top with a few bacon strips, top with the other slice of bread. Heat the skillet and fry the sandwiches until golden and crispy on both sides and the cheese is melted. Repeat with remaining sandwiches, using reserved fat if necessary.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

3 Cheese-Mini Macs

As some of you know, my sister and I celebrate Cheese Thursday's. Each week, we switch houses and one of us cooks dinner. The dish should include as much dairy as possible. Gluttonous, I know, but it is so fun and oh so good. Needless to say, I am always on the lookout for fun cheesy recipes. As I was browsing on my usually list of foodie sites this morning, I came across this playful recipe that would be great for a football party, a kiddie snack, a casual get together or a fun start to a weeknight dinner.

If you want to dress the recipe up play around with the cheeses. Gruyere, Gouda, Brie, Gorgonzola, Stilton and Fontina are all great melting cheeses that satisfy more sophisticated palates. They range from creamy to stinky so make sure you choose cheeses that compliment each other. In addition, pancetta, sauteed leeks, mushrooms, truffle oil and more can contribute some nice layers and textures. To dress down, embrace processed cheeses. Velveeta, Kraft Singles and Jack will bring out the kid in everyone. Lastly, feel free to add kick. Diced pimentos, jalapenos, red chile flakes, serrano peppers or green chilies can make your small bite range from mild to piping hot.


  1. 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  2. 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
  3. 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  4. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  5. 3/4 cup milk
  6. 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
  7. 4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
  8. 1 large egg yolk
  9. 1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, shaking off the excess water.
  2. Brush four 12-cup, nonstick mini muffin tins with butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano; tap out the excess.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt the 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until boiling, about 5 minutes. Add the cheddar and American cheeses and whisk until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolk and paprika. Fold in the macaroni.
  4. Spoon slightly rounded tablespoons of the macaroni into the prepared muffin cups, packing them gently. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano on top.
  5. Bake the mini macs in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Let cool for 5 min­utes. Using a small spoon, carefully loosen the mini macs, transfer to a platter and serve.


How to Carve a Bird

Call me old fashioned but when I cook a bird I always have a man carve it. I have found over the years that some young men have not been taught this privilege. That's why I dug up this video so everyone can be prepared for this year's Thanksgiving Feast. Video thanks to Epicurious.