Horseradish Cheddar Fondue

By Lisa

If you ask my kids, they will tell you their favorite restaurant is the Melting Pot, a chain of fondue restaurants.  Everything I wrote almost exactly one year ago remains true.  Yet in spite of the price, we have eaten there three times this year.  We didn’t anticipate that our promise to celebrate certain accomplishments would become  such an expensive one.

So, Santa thought it was time to leave a fondue pot for the family, which we used almost immediately to inaugurate a new tradition:  New Years Eve Fondue.

We all helped prep: cutting bread and dipping vegetables and apples and setting them on the table on small bowls. grating cheese in the food processor; chopping and measuring the aromatics and liquid; covering the table in butcher paper and then setting it.

Everything ready to go

We have the Cuisnart electric fondue pot, so when everything was prepped, we brought the ingredients right to the table to cook.  The pot gets up to temperature almost immediately, so if you have your prep under control, this is a very fast dinner, one you could even do on a busy weeknight. The fondue comes together in less than ten minutes, even if you make, like we did, enough fondue to feed a small regiment of Swiss gendarmes.

We took turns with the cooking: I sauteed the garlic, kids added the beer, then we all  added handfuls of cheese, the aromatics, and stirred until the fondue came together.

Then we ate.

It was one of the most pleasant, easy meals we’ve had this season. I reckon we’ll save about $600 a year in restaurant bills. There’s something about cooking together over a single pot, then eating out of a communal bowl that brings our family together in the way no other meal can. (True, the sticks help.)  I think the next time an ugly conflict rears it’s head, or I need a good bribe reward, I might suggest fondue for dinner and all will be well.  Really, it’s like family therapy.

Horseradish Cheddar Fondue

Makes enough for at least 8 hungry people, so adjust accordingly. Follow the directions on your fondue pot for cooking and warming.

  • 1 1/2 lbs mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups beer (we like Stella Artois)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 minced clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish mustard
  • 1-2 dashes tabasco

Ideas for dipping:

  • bread cubes
  • carrots
  • broccoli (lightly steamed if you prefer)
  • mild pre-cooked sausage
  • fennel and/or celery
  • apple wedges, cut in half
  1. Toss shredded cheese with corn starch and set aside.
  2. Saute garlic quickly in melted butter.
  3. Add beer and bring to a gentle simmer.
  4. Slowly add in cheese, stirring to melt evenly.
  5. Add mustard and tabasco.
  6. Serve immediately.

Raspberry Jam Tart

by Caroline

For a family that cooks and cares about food as much as we do, it was unsettling to face our lack of Christmas dinner traditions. I could happily sit down to a meal of Tony’s grandmother’s lemon-parsley stuffing, Tony’s porcini mushroom gravy (lately infused with his late father’s 1981 port), and some cranberry sauce. Yes, it’s clear we have family foods, but not, like Lisa’s family, a traditional menu we anticipate each year.

So I was a bit surprised when Eli, after bounding down the hall and into our bed Christmas Eve morning, said “This dinner is going to be my favorite!” Tony asked, “What are you looking forward to most?” And Eli responded, “Christmas after it!”

Well, who can blame him? And when I asked what he wanted for dinner, he listed stuffing and gravy, so that’s pretty much what we ate (oh, and some brussels sprouts and chard and caramelized onions and roast potatoes… but that’s another story). For dessert, I was planning just to offer up a plate of Christmas cookies, but this is where Eli had a specific idea: raspberry pie.

Ben, by then cuddled in bed with us, too, and thoroughly steeped in the contemporary food ethos, worried, “Are raspberries in season?”

No, but raspberry jam is always in season, and we even had some homemade jam made by a friend. Raspberry jam tart it was.

I poked around online awhile and took most of my inspiration from David Lebovitz’s recipe but I had cold butter, not soft (and didn’t see the point in softening butter only to refrigerate the resulting tart dough until cold enough to use). So I pulled my Joy of Cooking off the shelf and followed Irma’s lead. I did borrow Lebovitz’s idea of reserving some of the dough to make an easy top crust, though instead of rolling it into a log, chilling and slicing it, as he does, I pressed mine flat and cut out some Christmasy stars. I predict you’ll see this tart on my table again at Valentine’s Day, topped with some hearts.

This recipe makes enough dough for an 8″ tart (bottom crust and top decorations); if you have a bigger tart pan, it’s easy to scale up.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups of raspberry jam
1-2 tablespoons of coarse-grained sugar

Preheat the oven to 400.
Butter and flour the bottom of an 8″ tart pan with a removable bottom.

Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest together in a bowl or in the food processor. Add the butter and work in with a fork or pulse in the food processor until the mixture makes coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix until the dough just starts to come together in a ball.

Reserving about 1/3 cup of dough for the topping, pat most of the dough evenly into the bottom of the tart pan, letting it come up the sides a little bit. Spread with jam. Set aside momentarily while you make the topping.

Taking the reserved dough, press or roll it out on a floured counter or between sheets of wax paper until it’s about 1/4″ thick. Cut into desired shapes, freehand or using cookie cutters. Arrange the shapes on top of the jam, sprinkle them with the coarse-grained sugar, and bake until the crust is golden and the jam is bubbling a bit, 20-25 minutes.

Roasted Chickpeas

by Caroline

Where was I during the Great Roasted Chickpea Craze of 2010? Google the phrase and you’ll find that apparently everyone was making them, or eating them, except me. But though I’m late to the party, I am happy to be here, because this is a delicious and easy snack.

There seem to be two schools of thought about roasting chickpeas: you can dry roast them and then toss them with an herb or spice-infused oil, or you can roast them in a drizzle of oil with your flavorings. I looked through lots of recipes online and then came back to my bookshelf and used Mark Bittman’s recipe from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, which I have (of course) adapted a bit myself.

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained until as dry as possible
1 tablespoon minced garlic
salt and pepper
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 400.

Put the oil in an ovenproof skillet big enough to hold all the chickpeas in a single layer, and heat over medium heat. When hot, add the chickpeas and garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Shake the pan to coat the chickpeas well.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast, shaking the pan periodically, until the chickpeas begin to brown (15-20 minutes). Take out of the oven and sprinkle with the lemon zest and smoked paprika. Cool slightly and serve.

Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Cake

by Caroline

I spent all week at home with a feverish kid, and while it was sweet to slow down, to lie on the couch reading picture books and drifting into short naps, after a while the confinement began to wear on me. When he finally got better, I was out-of-proportion grateful, and excited to resume our regular life which included, this weekend, an invitation to a potluck. I knew exactly what to make for my week’s first trip out of the house: a coconut cake from Emily Dickinson.

I’d first read about the recipe this fall, in contributor Jeff Gordinier’s piece for The New York Times. A recent exhibit of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts, letters, and other papers from her daily life, included, perhaps surprisingly, her recipe for coconut cake. As Gordinier writes, “Somehow it’s hard to envision her even eating a meal, let alone taking delectable pleasure from it.” And yet, here is the recipe, in her beautiful, slant handwriting, and I knew I had to make it. The fact that it’s just a list of ingredients didn’t put me off; it read like pound cake to me, and so that’s how I approached it. I took it to Saturday’s potluck, where it was a hit. It’s not too sweet and just subtly coconut-y; it’d be a great vehicle for a fruit compote or a drizzle of chocolate sauce, but I like it best just plain.

Here’s how I did it:
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a standard loaf pan with parchment.

Whisk together in a medium bowl:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

In a large bowl, beat together
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter

Continue beating until light. Add, one at a time and beating after each addition:
2 eggs

Now add:
1/2 cup milk

Stir the flour mixture into the butter and then add
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Spoon the batter into the loaf pan and bake until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and let cool on a rack.

English Muffin Loaf

by Caroline

What’s not to love about a community cookbook, a crowd-sourced collection of family recipes from a school, church, or the local Junior League? I have a small collection of them, some from our preschool and churches my Dad has served, and some I’ve picked up at tag sales because the cover or layout appealed. This recipe comes from a cookbook I don’t actually own (yet!), the Cate School Community Cookbook, and I’ve eaten the bread often visiting our cousins who live and teach at Cate School. It’s one of those rare and wonderful finds: a quick, no-knead yeast bread. You can stir it together, pre-coffee, in your morning haze, and enjoy a piece with your second cup of coffee.

English Muffin Loaf
adapted from The Cate School Community Cookbook, 2002

5-6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups milk
1 cup water

cornmeal for dusting the pan

Butter two 8×4 loaf pans and dust with cornmeal.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine 3 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, salt and soda in a large bowl.

Heat the milk and water until warm and then add to the dry mixture. Mix well. Stir in remaining 2-3 cups flour, to make a stiff batter. Spoon the batter into the loaf pans, sprinkle the tops with more cornmeal, and cover with a damp cloth. Let the bread rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove promptly from the pans and let cool on a rack.

These loaves freeze well, and make delicious toast.