Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pasta and Haddock Gratin

Sorry I've been MIA, we've had out of town guests, and I had to make a quick trip to Philadelphia so the cookin's been a little few and far between as of late. However I made up for it last night with this quick and delicious dinner. Mmm Mmm.

This is from that great little book I keep telling you people about 101 Simple Suppers, I can't sing the praises of this book enough.

12 oz penne or rigatoni
6 oz frozen spinach
1 oz butter
1 oz flour
2 C milk
1lb skinless haddock or cod fillets cut into chuncks
16 oz sharp cheddar grated
2 tomatoes, sliced
salt and pepper

1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water fora bout 12 minutes. Add spinach for the last 3 minutes of cooking time.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the butter, flour, and milk in a large pan until the mizxture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the fish and simmer for 5 minutes or until the fish is just cooked. Remove from heat and stir in three-quarters of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat the boiler. Drain the pasta and stir into the sauce. Pour into a 14 quart shallow ovenproof dish. Put the tomatoes on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Broil for 5-7 minutes, until golden.

Per serving: calories 750 protien 48g carbs 80g fat 29g saturated fat 17g fiber 4g

Rating = So God Damn Good

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Litter Bug

I have a wonderful food post, but I'm not going to post about until later because I want to write about a small incident that happened to me on the train this morning. Before I tell the tale I'd like to give a little bit of background on a few things.

First. Almost nothing irritates me more than littering. I find absolutely no excuse for someone who litters, especially in the City where trash receptacles are nearly every 50 feet or so. I also am a bit of a tree hugger, not crazy hippy run my car off of old McDonald's french fry oil kind of tree hugger, but still, I recycle everything, I unplug everything in my house (except the refrigerator, stove, microwave, and tv) after I am done using it, that means, the coffee pot, toaster, hair appliances, cell phone chargers, everything. (If you don't know how much power appliances can pull when they are plugged in, but not on, do a little research, it's startling.) We are also on the path of changing all of your light bulbs in the house to compact fluorescents so that we can cut down on the energy that we use at night with the lights on. Seriously, the list goes on with the little things that CB and I do everyday so that we can drastically reduce how much we negatively impact the environment.

Second. Do any of you watch Grey's Anatomy? If you do, a few episodes ago Callie learned that she could get people to do what she wanted by "staring" them down. I swear I've been doing this since I was 5 years old. I remember my mother saying to me when I was little "don't give me those eyes little girl;" so I thought it was funny when Callie started doing it to McSteamy to get him to do something she wanted.

Onto this morning's train ride. It wasn't that busy, I was seated in a double seat near the window, but no one was seated next to me. I saw a man get in the train and sit in the single seat across from me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that he waa going through the newspaper and throwing whatever sections of the newspaper he didn't want behind him under the seat. It was at this point that I became mesmerized with his actions and began my stare down technique (a little note here, the stare down technique only works if the person receiving the look has any friggin clue your giving it.) When the train got to park street, he neatly folded the pieces of the paper that he didn't throw on the floor and put them in his bag. It was at this point that I could not keep my mouth closed about the fact the he was LITTERING ALL OVER THE PLACE. So, I pointed to the newspaper he had put on the floor and said,

JB: are you going to leave those there?

Litter Man: Yup

JB: you know there are proper places to dispose of your trash?

Litter Man: I usually leave the pieces I don't want on the train in case someone else wants to read them.

JB: you usually leave them on the floor, so that if people want to read them they have to pick them up off the floor, why wouldn't you leave them on the seat?

Litter Man: fine, just because of you I'll take them with me you Self Righteous Bitch!

JB: Good, glad we got that taken care off.

So, that was my commute this morning. And you know what, it made my freakin day. Because of me, that man was embarrassed enough to do the right thing. And I whole heartedly think I am a bitch, I'M A BITCH FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Almond Scones...So Damn Good

Just like Britney Spears, this picture does not do this scone justice. Speaking of Britney, what the hell happened to that girl? I remember when I first moved to Boston back in 99' my roommate HL and I would rock out to Britney while clowning around the house, or working on our fitness at the gym. HL even made me a mix CD which included some Brit Brit songs on it, which we would play over and over again. This cd also contains the likes of the Backstreet Boys, Destiny's Child (back when Miss B could share some of the spotlight, but I guess that didn't work out so hot for her, because now Miss Jennifer Hudson and her American Idol third place ass is stealing all of Miss B's thunder around DreamGirls, you go Jennifer) it was also ripe with Eminem, who to this day I still think is a genius. I still listen to that cd and when I do, I always think how great that time of my life was. It's funny, because I'm at a point where I feel like every new year is the best year of my life, it just keeps getting better and better, every year. How amazing is that. How truly fucking amazing.

Well, the wheels have officially fallen off this post. I apologize, where was I, oh, the scones, that's right, the scones. The other day CB bought an almond croissant at the little coffee shop down the street from our house. I had a bite and thought, why have I never made an almond flavored anything? So, here we are, now I have, and I must say, that these were the best scones I have ever made; flavorful, light, sweet, awesome. Try them.


3 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sweet butter
1 Tablespoon almond extract
1/2 cup half & half

Mix all dry ingredients. Cut in butter until coarse; do not over-mix. Add almond extract and mix in half & half. Form a round shape on floured surface with rolling pin with thickness of about 1-1/2 inches. Use cutter to make 8 to 10 scones. Place on a baking sheet, brush with milk, sprinkle sugar, and add sliced almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until golden in color

Rating = So Damn Good

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Have you tried...Montasio?

A few weeks ago I was in the Federal Hill area of Providence visiting one of my favorite Italian specialty stores, Venda Ravioli. While there tasting all of the wonderful sampling I decided it was time for another episode of have you tried this cheese featuring one I had never heard of before, MONTASIO. It's a fun cheese to pronounce don't you think, MonTASioooo. Hmmm. ok, I'm very easily amused. On with the program.

Montasio, Italy's oldest table cheese is named after a mountain in the northeast corner of the country, It is a cow's milk cheese that is sold in three distinct ways based on the time it is allowed to age. It can be aged anywhere from 60 days to 10 months, these three phases of aging are referred to as fresh, middle and aged. I purchsed the aged Montasio. If I had purchsed the fresh Montasio it would have been soft and smooth, but because I opted for the aged it was drier and more granular, similar to a very strong parmesan. The fresh cheese is said to be sweet, and as it ages it taked on more of a bite, which I heartly agree with. This cheese for me at least was not one that I would cut up and serve with crackers, it was far too strong. I think that the fresh cheese could be served as a table cheese, but with the more aged cheese, I would most likely only serve it grated over pasta or as an accompaniment to a dish.

Wine Pairing: Sauvingon Blanc

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wild Turkey Bread Pudding

I've been hankering for bread pudding lately. Ever since I visited New Orleans last year I've had a weakness for anything with pecans or bourbon in it; bourbon pecan sweet potato mash, bourbon bread pudding, pecan sandies... the list goes on. I've never cooked or baked with bourbon before, so I started perusing some of the blogs that I read on a regular basis and found this recipe for bread pudding from the Bon Ton Cafe in New Orleans from Elise's blog, Simply Recipes. I was so excited to find this recipe and more excited to make it. I absolutely loved the food when I was there, and I absolutely loved going to all of the fabulous restaurants that line the streets of the French Quarter.
I used her recipe almost to the exact, but I also added a half cup of chopped pecans and reduced the bourbon in the sauce by half. I was really glad that I did because it was super strong.

Bread pudding
1 loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch squares (about 6-7 cups)

1 qt milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup raisins (soaked overnight in 1/4 cup bourbon)
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Soak the bread in milk in a large mixing bowl. Crush with hands until well mixed and all the milk is absorbed. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, and spices together. Gently stir into the bread mixture. Gently stir the raisins into the mixture.

3. Pour butter into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan. Coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well with the butter. Pour in the bread mix and bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, until set. The pudding is done when the edges start getting a bit brown and pull away from the edge of the pan. Can also make in individual ramekins.

This is the bread pudding before it goes into the oven to cook.

Serve with bourbon whiskey sauce on the side; pour on to taste. Best fresh and eaten the day it is made. Makes 8-10 servings.

Bourbon Sauce:
1/2 C (2 stick) butter
1 C sugar
1 egg
1 C Kentucky bourbon whiskey

In a saucepan, melt butter; add sugar and egg, whisking to blend well. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Whisk in bourbon to taste. Remove from heat and let cool. Whisk before serving. The sauce should be soft, creamy, and smooth.

The whiskey sauce on the stove top. (above)

Finished (below

This recipe comes in at = So Damn Good

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rosemary, Sea Salt, Pepper Crusted Pork

So, even though we are in the middle of January, my herbs seems to be doing rather well in their little clay pots. One wall of the kitchen is a sliding glass door that leads to the deck. When the sun is shining the kitchen becomes extremely warm for a few hours as the suns rays pour in through and are magnified by the glass. This offers a wonderful area for my plants to thrive; the magnified heat seems to help them stave off the cold that takes over the house after the sun goes down. My rosemary plant seems to be doing the best out of all of the herbs, it just doesn't seem as fickle as the basil or even the oregano, and every time I cut it back it seems to grow in wild directions. It's great. So, for this rub I decided to cut back the rosemary and chop up the fresh leaves, I combined that with sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder and olive oil. I then rubbed it all over the pork loin and let it marinate for about 10 hours. After the ten hours had passed I just placed in a 400 degree oven for an hour. I only wish that his dish had made drippings for pan gravy, because even though the meat was fragrant and flavorful because of the marinating, it did seem a little dry when served alone with starch and veg.

This recipe rates in at = Damn Good

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mexican Style Whole Slow Cooker Chicken

Just before Christmas I purchased this book,Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook from Amazon. I was purchasing the Season I DVD of The Office for CB, I needed to spend $5 more dollars to get the super saver free shipping, so I threw this book in my cart for $11 and with the free shipping and whatnot the grand total for the book was about $5. Not too shabby.

Anyway, I'm in love with my slow cooker, but I very rarely use it because I'm one of those OCD people who has to check every outlet to make sure nothing is plugged in before I leave, I check the stove, like fourteen times before leaving for work (seriously, not kidding) I check things over and over again, so the thought of leaving something plugged in and hot while I'm not home and within arms reach of the fire extinguisher is very difficult for me. Monday, I decided to face this fear head on, it was a holiday for me, but if you've read any of my previous posts you know that work has been a bit of a friggin mad house lately and I am apparently orderly numero uno, so even though it was a holiday I had to go in for about four hours to get things ready for this weeks shit fest of proposals and interview stuff. Before I headed to work I decided I decided to try to make the Mexican Style Whole Chicken recipe out of the slow cooker book. CB's new year's resolution is to bring lunch to work more often so that we can save money, or at least not waste money on lunch during the week. So, the whole chicken seemed perfect for him to make chicken sandwiches, chicken salad etc., and it also gave me the opportunity to leave the slow cooker going for four hours, without me being home, easing myself into leaving it on for a whole 8 hours during a regular workday.

I started by preparing the bird which consisted of cleaning the terrible horrible carcass. I say this because I've never done this before, and the chicken seemed too infant like in my hands, and the fact that I could see it's little spinal cord when I was cleaning it made it almost impossible for me to work with it. However, once I was done cleaning it and was now only looking at the outside of the bird, it seemed much easier.

I salt/pepper the inside and outside of the bird, then cut a lime and squeezed the juice from the lime all over the out side of the chicken, then put the lime rinds inside the cavity. I then put two whole cloves of garlic inside the chicken and a big handful of cilantro springs. This is what it looked like at that point.

Then I simply put the slow cooker on low and cooked for 8 hours. When the chicken was done it completely fell off the bone in the slow cooker, I needed to take it our in pieces. And the meat was very juicy and had a wonderful cilantro flavor. The chicken also made a lot of stock which I made into a nice gravy, which also retained some of the cilantro flavor and made for an interesting accompaniment to the chicken. I highly recommend this way of cooking chicken.

1 whole roaster chicken (3-4 pounds) juice of one lime handful of fresh cilantro sprigs salt and pepper

Clean the chicken inside and out, pat dry and then season with salt and pepper. Put chicken in slow cooker and cover with the juice of the lime, then place rinds in cavity. Place the garlic clove and fresh cilantro in cavity as well. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Good Grief there's a lot of Garlic in these Mashed Potatoes

Vampires look out, these mashed potatoes are laced with garlic, actually, laced is far too subtle of a description for these; they are veritably jam packed with garlic. Mmm Mmm, come over here and give me a kiss; what's that you say? my breath smells like someone just ran over a garlic patch with a lawn mower. Seriously, that happened to me once, well, not exactly that. When I was a teenager filled with angst and sure the world and all its inhabitants were against me my mother asked me to mow the lawn for her one afternoon. I obliged, but not realizing that green onions look rather like grass, and when mixed with weeds and growing over their boundaries into the lawn itself, are almost indistinguishable from grass, I mowed over my mother’s whole patch of scallions. The yard, me, the neighbors we all smelled like green onions for days. I don't think she ever asked me to mow the lawn again, I'm pretty sure that she thought I did it on purpose, but I didn’t I just didn't realize that things that looks very similar to grass, were not indeed grass. Yeah, good times.

So, I simply boiled some potatoes with the skin on and when tey were fork tender added the pan sauteed garlic (sauteed in butter) and a little cream and salt and pepper. Yes, these potatoes pack a punch, right in the kisser.

Scale = Damn Good

Friday, January 12, 2007

Update: I'm a WINNER

So, again with the no food post, but I just have to let you know that I found out yesterday that, I, we, us, won one of the big jobs we were pursuing. Yeah - I can feel the accountants jump off my back one by one. We are still waiting to hear from one other college, but they have informed us that it will be at least three weeks until we hear, due to scheduling conflicts among the board of trustees.

The interview however went smashingly well and I would be surprised if we didn't pull the upset among the big hoity toity *starchitect* firms we are up against. Keep your fingers crossed for the next three weeks, even if they get all cramped and disfigured damn it, I want this job.

Also, I have been thinking a lot about how I quantify the level of satisfaction I have with some of the recipes I prepare. It seems that I have created my own little rating system whcih I will now share with you so that when I make reference to it in future food posts you will understand what the hell I mean.

Good = is just that good, I'm not doing back flips, I may make it again I may not.
Damn Good = better than good, definitely added to the arsenal of acceptable recipes
So Damn Good = do you see a pattern here
So God Damn Good = think, When Harry Met Sally

This rating system will be used in all further posts so that you can get an idea of where the recipe is among the scale.

And now, to leave you with a little nugget from my friend Stewie from Family Guy. "Soooo Broccoli, Mother says you're very good for me. But I'm afraid I'm no good for you."

PS, Broccoli doesn't make it onto my scale because I think it tastes like farts.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Rats at Dawn

So, I don't have a food post today. I'm working on two amazing projects for two local colleges this week, trying to win two architectural jobs for my office to design. It's tough work and it's stiff competition but boy, if we win them will I be the cock of the walk at the office for a day or two and then people can get off my friggin back about the backlog and the fact that the six month forecast doesn't look good and jobs are in construction and fuckety fuck fuck fuck we need more work.

So, I don't have a food post because I've been slaving the day away like Bob friggin Cratchet under the mean old thumb of Ebenezer Scrooge and I got home latelast night and left for work this morning whilst it was still dark. It was an odd morning; I got on the train at what apparently is the same time as all of the construction workers doing the various jobs around the City slough off to work. There I was, on the train blackberry in hand, while lunchbox toting; carhart wearing, potty mouth spurting construction workers filled the train. Now, I love an occasional flippant swear as much as the rest of the urban population, I just didn't need to hear it for seven stops, in the pre dawn hours. It took everything out of me this morning to not tell one particular man that he needed to use his "indoor voice" and if he could keep the FUCKs to a minimum before the sun rose that would be great. Now wait you say - didn't you just use the word fuck no less than three times in your opening paragraph, yes I did, but here's the difference, if you don't like it, stop reading, no one's making you read this blog, I on the other hand had to be on that train because I needed to be to work by 7:15 to practice the presentation at 7:30. So there.

I was glad to get off the train at my stop, and proceeded to walk down the nearly empty Boston streets, that were just beginning to be bathed in the rising sun when I noticed the smallest of rats, walking along the plaza at government center. He actually walked like he had somewhere to be, straight towards City Hall, I believe he actually cut me off. Maybe he was on his way to work, ruffling through trash, socializing with the other rats, completing his plan for world domination, who knows. It seems that the City is just different before the sun comes up.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Turkey Ravioli with Sage Cream Sauce

I'm starting to become comfortable enough in the kitchen to try making my own recipes every once and a while. Last night I decided to try and make home made raviolis using wonton skins, and then create a sauce using some left over ingredients from recipes I had made earlier in the week. For the raviolis I mixed ground turkey with half a jar of cranberry, apple, orange relish and some fresh chopped parsley. I placed a little less than a tablespoon onto each wonton skin and covered with an additional skin sealing with water so that the edges didn't separate. I then placed the wontons in boiling water that had a little olive oil in it to stop the raviolis from sticking together. I really didn't know what to do for the sauce, so I put a little butter in a sauté pan with onion, parsley and freshly chopped sage, after the onion had become translucent I added 1/3 of dry white wine and let it cook off, when the alcohol had cooked off I added enough cream to create a sauce for all of the raviolis.

The result was a very slippery, yet extremely tasty dinner, the turkey with the cranberry really tasted amazing, and the sage in the sauce really brought all of the flavors together. I will definitely be making my own raviolis again; however, I think I will look for pastry sheets for the next batch.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Cooks Illustrated: Perfecting Penne alla Vodka

We live in a row house in Boston, with only 6 units in our particular building. There are three floors, two condos on each floor, so essentially we only have one neighbor who lives across the hall from us, all of the other dwellers in the building live below us. In the 10 months that we have lived in our new place we have become pretty good friends with the neighbor across the hall, A, who is our age, and is a cardiologist. We've taken to just calling him "the cardiologist" and everyone knows who we are talking about. Most of the time I'm pretty happy with what I've done with my life, but then A comes home and he's the same age as me, and he saved lives everyday and well, I take people out to eat.

Oh well.

I like to cook a lot and he's a bachelor, so I leave little treats on his doorstep for him. Cookies, biscotti, etc. He sometimes works late shifts at the hospital so it's a nice surprise for him when he comes home to have something waiting on his doorstep. So it was great the morning before Christmas Eve when CB and I got up and opened the door and he had left a bottle of Belvedere vodka on the doorstep with a note saying that we were the best neighbors he could have asked for.

A few days ago I got my first issue of Cooks Illustrated (I absolutely love this publication) and there was a spread on Perfecting Penne alla Vodka I thought how serendipitous, I have a lovely new bottle of vodka with which to make this great recipe. And because A, "the cardiologist" was the reason that I had said bottle, we asked him over for dinner. This was an absolute awesome recipe and so very easy to make. Please try this at home.

The recipe is also further enhanced if you make yourself a martini with the vodka first, and then proceed with the rest of the recipe. Bottoms Up.

If possible use premium vodka, inexpensive vodka will taste harsh in this sauce (as said my ATK blind taste testers)
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 small onion minced (about 1/4 c)
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 C vodka (I used Belvedere)
1/2 C heavy cream (I used light)
1 lb penne pasta
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh basil
Grated parmesan for serving

Puree half of the tomatoes in food processor until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine pureed tomatoes and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around the edges, about three minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes to vigorous. Stir in cream and cook umtil hot, about 1 minute.

Add pasta sauce to penne pasta that has been cooked to al dente. Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, top with parmesan.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Shrimp Risotto with Baby Spinach and Basil

Mmm Mmm Mmmmmm! That's what I have to say about this recipe. After the disaster of the gratin the other day I was in desperate need of a culinary victory. Well, it came in the shape of this dish.
This recipe is from a fellow beanie and marathon runner who always seems to have the best recipes on hand. This one is from the March 2003 issue of Bon Apetit, and it's a winner, which is more than I can say for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame who bit the big one against LSU last night in their 41-14 loss.

6 cups (about) low-salt chicken broth
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice (about 9 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 6-ounce package baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Additional grated Parmesan cheese

Bring 6 cups broth to simmer in medium saucepan. Add shrimp. Turn off heat, cover, and let stand until shrimp are just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to small bowl; cover with foil to keep warm. Cover broth to keep warm.

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and stir 1 minute. Add rice and stir until edge of rice is translucent but center is still opaque, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook until wine is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add 3/4 cup chicken broth. Simmer until almost all broth is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Continue to add broth, 3/4 cup at a time, until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, stirring often and allowing almost all broth to be absorbed after each addition, about 25 minutes total. During last 5 minutes, add spinach in 4 batches, stirring and allowing spinach to wilt after each addition. Mix in shrimp, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and basil. Season risotto to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon risotto into shallow bowls and serve, passing additional cheese separately.

Makes 6 servings

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cookbook Swap Challenge #1 Caramelized Vidalia Onion and Potato Gratin with Fresh Sage

A few weeks ago Jeff from C for Cooking and I did a little cookbook swap. I gave him the cookbook I normally use, Everyday Italian and he gave me Bobby Flay Cooks American. This was a big challenge for me, because even though I am a food network whore, I've never watched any of Bobby Flay's shows nor tried one of his recipes. I thumbed through the book before the holidays not knowing which recipe to try because they all seemed so foreign to me. On Christmas my mom gave me a beautiful mandolin slicer (I guess she reads my blog and took note of the entry begging for one, Thanks Mom!) so I headed back to the book to see if any of the recipes called for ingredients that needed to be sliced on a mandolin. I cam across the Caramelized Vidalia Onion and Potato Gratin with Fresh Sage Recipe and knew this was the one I should try.

I should have known that this was not going to be a good experience when I reached into the drawer to pull out the mandolin and cut myself with one of the blades, after all bleeding was under control I began the process of trying to figure out how to get the blades on the slicer, and then how to get the onion in the thing and down the thing and sliced perfectly and then wham my finger slipped and I had yet another cut, except this one worse than the first and now it was stinging because there were juices from the onion on the blade and now the juices were in my cut and I was bleeding and what great fun. Why did I ever ask for this death machine in the first place? After what seemed like eons I finally got all the onions and the potatoes cut, and the onions caramelized I began the process of assembling the gratin which was rather easy now that all the ingredients were ready. I made the gratin and put it in the oven as directed and cooked it for the recommended amount of time, but when the timer went off and I took the gratin out of the oven it didn't even look cooked, the potatoes were still white and had not crisped at all, so I put it back in the oven for another ten minutes. When I took it out after ten minutes it still looked the same, no golden brown color on the potatoes, they still looked pretty raw. At this point I tried a little bit and was disappointed, because the potatoes on the top had a pretty good consistency, but the potatoes on the bottom still had snap to them and were not cooked all the way through. It was obvious that this dish needed a lot more time in the oven, but with all cutting and the bleeding and all it was already past 10:00 pm and I just wanted to go to bed. So I shut off the oven.

I was a little upset with my experience with this recipe, so I went to the food network website and read some of the reviews for the recipe and it seems I'm not the only one who didn't get the potatoes to crisp up, one person even said that they had to cook the potatoes for almost 2 hours, not the recommended 50 minutes before their potatoes took on the signature gratin brown color. But there were a few who had very good results from the recipe. I wish I knew what they did differently.

Oh well, for me Cookbook Swap Challenge #1 was a failure. I'm looking forward to Cookbook Swap #2 and hopefully redemption.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 Vidalia (or other sweet variety) onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced on a mandoline
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
6 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandoline
2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sage. Let cool slightly.

Make a layer of potato slices in a 10 by 10 by 2-inch casserole, season to taste with salt and pepper, spread 1/12 of the onion mixture over the potatoes and coat with 2 tablespoons of the cream. Repeat each step to yield 12 layers. Press down gently on the layers, place the dish on a sheet pan and bake, covered for 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and golden brown on top. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.