Lucky New Year Hoppin’ John Risotto

Black eyed peas bring good luck for the New Year – stirred into risotto!

Lucky New Year Hoppin’ John Risotto

Though I’m not from the South myself, I absolutely adore many Southern food traditions, and one of my absoute favorites is the annual New Year’s Day feast, including greens for prosperity and blackeyed peas for further abundance and luck! (The Urban Luddite also informs me that you DON’T want to eat chicken on New Year’s, as it represents regret and backwards motion.)

I’ve been a little gunshy about risotto innovations ever since a first attempt left me seriously scarred. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it came down to a whole series of Don’ts. I’m reluctant to even talk about it, since I wouldn’t blame you for never trusting my cooking judgment again after hearing about this, but I feel compelled to warn you. For the record, if you’re out of white wine or even vermouth, DON’T think beer will make for a fun new flavor sensation. And if you’re also out of vegetable or chicken stock, DON’T for a minute think that leftover french onion soup will pair nicely with the beer. And when you taste the bitter, nasty heinousness that results, DON’T try to cover up the heinous with endless amounts of cheese and heavy cream. It just wastes perfectly good cheese and heavy cream.

Man, I’m still just aghast at the memory. However bad you’re imagining it was, after that description – trust me, it was worse. Easily the worst thing I’ve ever cooked in my life.

So when it came time to try this New Year’s Day risotto idea, I have to admit I was nervous, and played it pretty conservative. But I’m happy to report that it turned out beautifully after all.

— posted by Anne

Read More »

Julia Child’s Easy Elegant Cheese Tartlets


Julia Child’s Easy and Elegant Cheese Tartlets

I decided to invite Julia Child to my Oscar Night celebration. And why not? I know, I know. She never won an Oscar. But. Easy and Elegant are two qwords which define her cooking. Perfect for the Oscars!

I love Julia Child. I often pause in my kitchen and repeat the phrase that Christians coined: WWJD? – but when I’m  in my kitchen “WWJD” means “What Would Julia Do?” Whenever I feel discouraged about my cooking prowess, I snuggle on my couch late at night and watch an episode of The French Chef. I laugh out loud every single time, and am instantly strengthened and renewed. When truly serious discouragement hits me, I bring out the big guns: Saturday Night Live’s French Chef Skit: “You’ll need a knife . . . a very, very, very sharp knife. . .” I dare any cook who watched Julia to watch this and not laugh out loud!  It was during one of those late-night couch sessions that I saw her make cheese tartlets. I took copious notes, and I’m glad I did, because I have not been able to find this recipe written down anywhere. It’s not in any of her cookbooks!  You’ll just have to trust my note taking on this one.

For my Oscar Night celebration this year by making her cheese tartlets. Yes, I know. They are neither low-fat nor low-calorie. But. It’s the Oscars! Let’s Celebrate! I am certain that Julia would agree.

These are a masterpiece. Truly. I dare you to make appetizers that are as simple and yet sophisticated as these. It is impossible. They are the perfect blend of rich, satisfying flavors and melt-in-your-mouth comfort. If you have a favorite pie crust recipe, use that, or check out my miracle Never-Fail Pat-in-the-Pan Pie Crust. The best pie crust I’ve ever eaten!

Bonus: they take only minutes to throw together. Another bonus: they are very forgiving, and can be served warm or at room temperature. Add these mini-tarts to your Hostess Bag of Tricks. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Read More »