Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cooking Club!

Every woman should have a cooking club. Even if a woman loathes cooking, she should have the equivalent of a cooking club. Below is the description of what we do and what works for us.

Cast of Characters:

Dawn – A no nonsense career woman who keeps the trains running on time and quarterbacked getting the club off the ground. She was the first one I met, coordinated our first group meeting and kept things going when we all had a lot on our plates and almost let the club go. Dawn is a master at planning, keeping things organized, picks great menus and is a hostess du jour in that everything is always well thought out and nothing is left to chance.

Catherine – A wealth of knowledge and smarts. Catherine is the baby of the group and at the ripe age of 26, has traveled extensively and lived for a stretch of time in France. She is absolutely fearless in the kitchen and loves manual labor. She thinks nothing of whipping egg whites into stiff peaks with nothing but a hand whisk if the need arises. If there is something that the rest of us are not able to do or are a little nervous about, we always turn to Catherine and guaranteed she will make it happen. She is a phenomenal hostess and I have actually witnessed her hosting a party and getting several homemade appetizers and desserts out at the correct temperature all at once.

Chris – This is our creative artist of the group who is about to surpass all of us in technique and speed since she just started cooking classes. Chris’s knowledge of cooking resources and technique is pretty extensive as she combs the food blogs, books and TV shows and comes back to us with her findings. Being a jack of all trades, she is also great with design, decorating and web manipulation so, she has been invaluable in giving me tips on my own blog. Finally, she is my partner in crime in trying new restaurants and totally fearless about trying something new.

Amanda – ok, that’s me and sometimes I feel more like a court jester with the personal drama I sprinkle on them every time we come together. That aside, these ladies are all about the cooking and I am definitely the baker of the group. They have gotten into the routine of just handing me the dessert recipe and letting me run with it and so far, this has worked out well.


There is no right or wrong way to do a cooking club. If you want to get together with your girls, order pizza, talk and call it a cooking club, have at it. The one I am part of has worked for us for four years but I think it is more because we all get along, share a passion for cooking and we have many common interests and goals. We connected through the Cooking Light website and not being completely nuts, decided to meet at a coffee shop rather than just start handing out addresses and showing up at each other’s apartments. Basically, we interviewed each other a couple of times and finally set a date to come together at Dawn’s apartment to cook.


Whoever is hosting is responsible for picking the menu, making copies of the recipes and buying the food. We all show up at the designated home, cook the menu, eat and pay the hostess back for the amount of the food split four ways.


There have been girls that we have invited who have come and gone but the four of us have always remained the same. We have been with each other through the birth of a child, a loved one who was taken too early, two marriages, one divorce, more than a few job losses and changes and dating disasters and missteps. Food and cooking, for us, is our connection but also something we do while talking about what is going on in our lives. A great source of comfort and joy that I believe every woman should have.

October 2009 Menu and Corresponding Recipes:

Halibut Ceviche
Recipe by Rick Bayless

1 pound fresh, skinless halibut or other ocean fish filets, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
1 medium white onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
Fresh hot green chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped pitted green olives (we left these out)
1 t 2 tablespoons extra –virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 large or 2 small ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced (we left these out)
Tostadas or tortilla chips for serving

In a 1 1/2 quart glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion. Use enough juice to cover the fish and allow it to float freely; too little juice means unevenly cooked fish. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours, until a cube of fish no longer looks raw when broken open. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, green chiles, cilantro, olives and olive oil. Stir in the fish and season with salt, usually about half a teaspoon. Add the orange juice. Just before serving, stir in the avocado.

Burritos with Duck Breast and Chili Corn Sauce
Recipe from “Emeril’s TV Dinners”

1 whole duck breast (about 1 pound)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup minced yellow onions
1 cup fresh sweet corn kernels (from 1 medium-sized ear)
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked long-grain white rice
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup duck stock (we used beef stock)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Vegetable oil for frying
6 large flour tortillas
12 toothpicks if needed (yes, they are definitely needed)
Essence to taste
1 recipe Chili Corn Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup sour cream with cilantro chopped in

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season the duck breast with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large oven-proof sauté pan over medium heat. Place the duck breast, skin side down, in the pan and cook until the skin is crispy and brown, 10 minutes. Turn the duck breast over and cook for 10 minutes more. Transfer the pan to the oven. Roast for about 5 minutes for medium-rare; 8 minutes for medium; 10 minutes for well done. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for about 2 minutes. Let cool and remove the skin. Shred the meat and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the corn, shallots and garlic and cook stirring for another 2 minutes. Add the duck, black beans and rice and season with the chili powder and cumin. Add the duck stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid has reduced by two thirds, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and reseason with salt and pepper if necessary, Stir in the cilantro, cool completely.

In a large heavy deep pot or an electric fryer, heat 4 inches of vegetable oil to 360 degrees. Spoon 3/4 cup of the filling into the center of each tortilla, Lightly wet the edges of the tortilla with water, then fold in the sides of the tortilla and roll it up tightly, forming a burrito, making sure that the sides are completely sealed. If necessary, secure each end of the burrito with a toothpick. Place the burritos, a couple at a time, in the hot oil and fry until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Turn them with a spoon for even browning. Drain on paper towels and season with essence.

To serve, spoon equal amounts of the chili corn sauce in the center of each serving plate (whoops, we slathered the sauce on top of the burrito – sorry Emeril!) Place the burrito on the sauce, then garnish with a sprinkle of the cheeses and dollop of cilantro sour cream.

Chili Corn Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups fresh sweet corn kernels (from 3 medium sized ears)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 cups heavy cream

Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add the corn, garlic and jalapeno and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream, bring to a gentle boil, and cook until the cream reduces by one fourth, 6 to 8 minutes. In a blender or using a handheld blender, puree the sauce until smooth, Season again with salt and pepper. Serve the sauce hot with the burritos.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream
From “Emeril’s TV Dinners”

One 12-ounce box vanilla wafers
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups eggnog
2 cups mashed cooked fresh pumpkin (we baked the oven for about 45 minutes to loosen the pumpkin insides and then scraped them out)
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Pinch of round ginger
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 pound pecan halves, toasted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor, combine the vanilla wafers and chopped pecans. Process until the mixture resembles course crumbs. With the machine running, add the butter and process until blended. Press the mixture into the bottom and us the sides of a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan and bake until golden, 10-12 minutes.

In a large saucepan, combine the eggnog, pumpkin (I used a food processor to puree the pumpkin), brown sugar, egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ginger and mix well. Place over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the gelatin over the mixture. Whisk until the gelatin dissolves, then stir in the vanilla extract. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer in a medium-size mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar and continue to beat until the peaks are stiff. Fold the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Spread evenly over the crust and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

With an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/2 cp sugar until medium peaks form. Stir in the bourbon. Spread the whipped cream evenly over the top of the pie. Garnish with pecan halves.

1 comment:

  1. :) Thanks for the compliments!

    I will physically vouch for the fact that all of these recipes - especially the pumpkin chiffon pie - are absurdly good!