Tuesday, November 23, 2010



  • 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 16 fluid ounces (2 cups) half-and-half
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6 ounces grated Parmesan


Peel and dice potatoes, making sure all are relatively the same size. Place in a large saucepan, add the salt, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a rolling boil. Cook until potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork.

Heat the half-and-half and the garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain off the water. Mash and add the garlic-cream mixture and Parmesan; stir to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes so that mixture thickens and then serve.

The type of potato - High starch or low starch

Potatoes are basically water and starch. High starch potatoes like russet and Yukon Gold are often used because the more starch, the fuller the actual cells of the potato resulting in a fluffier texture. Some say they tend to be creamier than other potatoes.

Low starch potatoes like round whites are more waxy and some chefs say better for mashed spuds because they absorb less water and hold up better when cooking. They also think they have more flavor and less "starchy" taste.

How you cook the potatoes

Without going into the science of it, always start your potatoes in cold water with salt added to it. How much water? Just enough to cover the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a knife. How long it takes depends on how many potatoes you are cooking.

When done, drain them immediately! Do not rinse, just drain and put them back in the pot and return the pot to the stove on low heat. This will make a huge difference because the low heat will allow some of the excess water to evaporate leaving you with less water and more potato resulting in more flavor.

How to mash the potatoes

How you mash your potatoes will greatly effect the texture and style. There are several tools and methods all having different results. For example, the most common masher in America is the Wire Masher. With it you can create either a smooth or textured mashed potato depending on how much you work.

If you are looking for really smooth mashed potatoes (the way I like them) you can try a Potato Ricer. Looks just like a giant garlic press and "rices" the potatoes that you then combine with your other ingredients for extremely smooth potatoes.

If you are looking for fluffy, airy potatoes, try an electric mixer. Often used in restaurants to stretch how far a potato can go, the mixer whips air into the potato giving them more volume and staying power.

What to add

As important as type of potato, how you cook them them & finally mashing technique is what you add to them. Makes sense if you add cream over milk the end result should be creamier flavor. Instead of butter, some chefs have told me they use olive oil or duck fat.

Then there are the fun extras given to me by visitors to my web site with some mentioned below. I'm talking about cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, hot English mustard, turnips, parsnips and whatever else you may find in your family's secret mashed potato recipe.

Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes


  • 3 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes and place them in a large pot. Cover the potatoes with cold water and add enough salt so the water tastes quite salty. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the potatoes fall apart easily when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan, making sure it doesn't boil. Set aside until the potatoes are done.

As soon as the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander. Place a food mill fitted with a small disc/blade over a glass bowl. Process the potatoes through the food mill, turning the handle back and forth to force the potatoes through the disc. As soon as the potatoes are mashed, slowly whisk in enough of the hot milk/butter mixture to make the potatoes very creamy. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and the sour cream and pepper and whisk to combine. Taste for seasoning and serve hot.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Chocolate Chip Cookie

It may be hard to believe, but before the 1930s no one had ever had the pleasure of biting into a chocolate chip cookie. Why? The sweet world-famous treat had not been invented yet.

Ruth Graves Wakefield was the woman responsible for coming up with the concoction. Ruth graduated from the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts in 1924. After graduation, she worked as a dietitian and food lecturer. In 1930, Ruth and her husband Kenneth Wakefield purchased a Cape Cod-style toll house located halfway between Boston and New Bedford, on the outskirts of Whitman, Massachusetts. The house had originally been built in 1709, and at that time it had served as a haven for road-weary travelers. There, passengers paid tolls, changed horses and ate home-cooked meals.

More than 200 years later, the Wakefields decided to build on the house's tradition, turning into a lodge and calling it the Toll House Inn. Ruth cooked home-made meals and baked for guests of the inn, and as she improved upon traditional Colonial recipes, her incredible desserts began attracting people from all over New England.

One of Ruth's favorite recipes was for Butter Drop Do cookies. As she prepared the batter one day she discovered she had run out of baker's chocolate. She found a semi-sweet chocolate bar that had been given to her by Andrew Nestle, and so she cut it into tiny bits and added them to the dough, expecting them to melt as the cookies baked in the oven. However, the chocolate did not melt. Instead, it held its shape and softened to a delicately creamy texture. Needless to say, the cookies Ruth had created became very popular with guests at the inn, and soon her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper, as well as other papers in the New England area.

Meanwhile, Nestle saw sales of its Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar jump dramatically, and Ruth and Nestle came together to reach an agreement that would allow Nestle to print the "Toll House Cookie" recipe on its packaging. Part of this agreement included supplying Ruth with all of the chocolate she could use for the rest of her life.

Nestle, meanwhile, began scoring the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar, and packaged it with a special chopper for easily cutting it into small morsels. Then, in 1939, Nestle had a better idea, and began offering Nestlé Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels. The rest is "chocolate-chip" history. Ruth continued to cook up a storm, producing a series of cookbooks including "Ruth Wakefield's Recipes: Tried and True," which went through thirty-nine printings. She and Kenneth sold the Toll House Inn in 1966 to a family that tried to turn it into a nightclub. In 1970 it was bought by the Saccone family who turned it back into it's original form. The Toll House burned down, however, on New Years Eve in 1984.

Ruth Graves Wakefield passed away in 1977.

Here is a great chocolate chip cookie recipe from the net. It makes 3 to 4 dozen delicious cookies.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt, ideally with a wire whisk, and set it aside.

In a large bowl, mix the butter, brown sugar, and white granulated sugar with an electric mixer to form a granular paste. Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix at medium speed until thoroughly mixed.

Blend in the flour mixture, then the chocolate chips (and optional walnuts), at low speed until the ingredients are well distributed.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 17 to 19 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for a minute or so, then remove to wire racks or other cool surface with a spatula.


Chocolate Chip Cookies:

6 ounces brown sugar
6 ounces sugar
9 ounces softened butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
13 ounces bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
12 ounces lrg chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 F. Cream the butter, sugar and then the eggs and vanilla. Sift the flour and baking powder and mix into the batter. Once combined add the chocolate chips.

Using a spoon or scoop place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Once slightly browned around the edges remove the cookies from the oven and cool.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


The Celery Vase: A Prominent Way to Serve an Exotic Vegetable
by priceminer (08/04/09).
An example of an early American Pattern Glass celery vase. This over-sized goblet with crimped lip, in the Venus & Cupid pattern, was produced by Richards & Hartley between 1875-1884 and by U.S. Glass after 1891.

An example of an early American Pattern Glass celery vase. This over-sized goblet with crimped lip, in the Venus & Cupid pattern, was produced by Richards & Hartley between 1875-1884 and by U.S. Glass after 1891.

According to the early nineteenth century writer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in “The Physiology of Taste,” gastronomy required “intelligent knowledge of whatever concerns man’s nourishment.”

Brillat-Savarin’s 1825 treatise on the fine art of foods was the first treatment of dining as an art form. The newly developing interest in food appropriately reflected a growing awareness of gastronomy that flowered during the Victorian period. However, 19th-century consumers must have taken the author quite literally when they read, “the discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.”

Of the multitude of dishes—on which food was served, as opposed to the food itself—offered to the middle-class consumers, perhaps one of the most unique was the celery vase. During the 19th century, middle-class households sought to establish their position in the community in a variety of ways. Perhaps the greatest indicator of one’s status was offered in the dining room. By serving a variety of exotic foods, a hostess could solidify her husband’s situation as “having arrived” at a high rung on the social ladder.

Celery became one of these exotic foods important to the class-conscious consumer. This vegetable, like other foods considered elegant at the time, was important enough to require its own serving dish. Glass and silver celery vases (sometimes called celery stands) allowed for prominent presentation on the table. With leafy ends protruding, celery could be offered from a tall glass or silver vase akin to a flower vase, providing ease of serving and the height needed to give variety to the vast array of cuisine. 1

Celery as a food dates back as far as the 16th century when it was used for flavoring. During the next century, evidence indicates that the stalks were eaten, often dipped in oil. By the 19th century, the vegetable had grown in popularity, in part because of its reputation as a hothouse plant.

A 7-inch hobnail and opalescent cranberry celery vase by Hobbs and Brockienier, circa 1870-1897.

A 7-inch hobnail and opalescent cranberry celery vase by Hobbs and Brockienier, circa 1870-1897.

A member of the parsley family and native to Europe and Asia, celery requires blanching, or mounding rich, moist soil around the stalk to exclude light. Moreover, celery needs a long growing season with cool temperatures. Normally maturing several months after planting, celery is among the most expensive vegetables to produce even today.

Low baskets offered another, though less popular, means of presenting the vegetable for the table. Celery vases outsold baskets by a ratio, of 17 to 1, according to the catalogues of silver manufactures. Popular during the Victorian decades of the 1860s and 1870s, sales of these stands increased into the 1890s, when celery “boats” to “yachts” were listed in manufactures’ catalogues.

At the turn of the 20th century, celery stands or vases had disappeared from the tabletop landscape because of the development of a commercial process for growing the vegetable. Cultivating celery had been very labor-intensive, because it required blanching to preserve the white hue of the stalks, as well as the slightly sweet flavor. This new commercial process allowed for easier growing, thereby making the vegetable more available. Increased availability meant less cost, making it ordinary and no longer suitable for the status seekers of the middle-class.

A cobalt blue glass celery vase with a tri-fold fluted ruffled edge, circa 1898-1906.

A cobalt blue glass celery vase with a tri-fold fluted ruffled edge, circa 1898-1906.

With celery out of fashion, eager consumers sought other less common foods as status indicators and celery vases were no longer needed. Today, these vases appear in shops sometimes listed as “spooners” or simply as flower vases, but the knowing dealer and collector will recognize them for what they are: an indicator of the originality of the 19th-century manufacturers’ eager to find his niche in the fashionable, yet faddish, world of cuisine.


1. Susan Williams, “Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feast: Dining in Victorian America” (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996). 111.

— Originally published in the American Antiquities Journal

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Now for the BIG cakes











THIS is insane:


Now, remember, the dishes are ALWAYS part of the display:

The 5 worst cakes in the history of cake.

The 5 worst  cakes in the history of cake.

1: Roadkill crow

This cake would be perfect at a roadkill restaurant or for a halloween party. I especially like the subtle use of blood, it is just enough to know that the bird is not sleeping (well – that and its broken neck).
I’ve had a hard week and it’s affected my taste. Enjoy more sick cakes at your peril…

The 5 worst  cakes in the history of cake.

2: The divorce cake

I have one thing to say: where was this when I had my divorce party? I might have added the subtle touch of a knife to the brides intent grip. It’s the groom who gets it and that’s what counts. Nice.

The 5 worst cakes  in the history of cake.

3: Kitty litter
WTF?? Seriously this is insane. Kitty litter is something smelly, that you would prefer not to think about when considering a kitten in your life. What occasion do you need this for? Kitty birthday? Toilet training celebration? Please advise.

The 5 worst cakes  in the history of cake.

4: Carrie Cake
Beautiful yes? An alternative prom – coming of age ? See the movie and say no more….

The 5 worst  cakes in the history of cake.

5: Severed handy work…

The most amazing effort went into this highly detailed, graphic , You can see how it was prepared here

by Victoria Kenyon
(Ashaway, RI, USA)

Sugared Fondant Fruit for a decadently rich Almond Cake with Chai  Tea infused White Chocolate Ganache and Apricot Preserves

Sugared Fondant Fruit for a decadently rich Almond Cake with Chai Tea infused White Chocolate Ganache and Apricot Preserves


Click on any image below to view full size with description.

Click on any image below to view full size with description.