Recipe – Spiced cranberry sauce

B says this was the star of our Thanksgiving dinner. Deep, complex flavor, with what some might think was too much cardamom. Not us.

Spiced cranberry sauce in jelly jar in foreeground, pears, fruit bowl in background


Spiced Cranberry Sauce

1 pound fresh cranberries, washed
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
Zest and flesh (not the white pith) of 1 navel or juice orange; flesh chopped fine
1 ripe pear, cored, chopped
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Combine cranberries and vinegar in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until cranberries start popping.

Add rest of ingredients, bring back to a boil, then lower heat to barely simmer. Cook, continuing to stir often, until sauce is thickened, 10-15 minutes.

Let cool to room temperature then refrigerate.

Recipe – Texas potato salad

In honor of the 4th of July, we’re making a batch of creamy Texas-style potato salad.

My personality, when tasked with creating meals, goes something like this: Is there a way we can make this more difficult? Because let’s do that. I don’t mean to complicate things. It’s just – why buy pre-packaged potato salad when you can spend your morning boiling potatoes and flipping out because there’s no dill in the house?

— Sloane Crosley

This really isn’t that difficult unless you decide to be authentic (see note below).  I don’t know if they still make it this way in Texas, but it’s how we do it here: Lots of mustard, a little sweet relish and dill pickle juice, and chopped hard-cooked eggs added at the last.

Chopped celery on a cutting board in front of mayo, sweet relish, and pimentosPotatoes, celery, and red onion in a metal bowl

Mama used Miracle Whip for the dressing but it’s too sweet for me. I use half sour cream, half mayo instead, something I learned cooking at the Bay View Inn in Petoskey, Michigan. It makes it creamier and adds just a little sour to balance the sweetness of the pickle relish. If you like more sour, use the green olives instead of just pimentos.

potato salad

Note: To be truly authentic, boil Russet potatoes whole in their skins, then peel with your fingers while still very hot. You can hold them with a paper towel but you’ll still burn your fingers.


6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced fine
1 tablespoon red or yellow onion, diced fine
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon juice from the dill pickle jar
1 4-oz. jar diced pimentos, drained OR a similar amount of chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
lots of ground black pepper
3/4 cup real mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
mustard to taste – I start with a couple of tablespoons
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut in large pieces

Cook the potatoes in salted water to cover until they’re tender. Drain thoroughly and let sit a few minutes to dry and cool a little.

Meanwhile, chop the celery and onions and add it to the pot of drained potatoes. The heat from the potatoes will steam and tenderize the celery and onion so they’re not quite so crunchy. Add the relish, pickle juice, pimentoes and/or olives, and black pepper, and toss. Squirt on the mustard and add the mayo and sour cream. Stir until mixed and check the seasonings, adding more mustard, salt, and pepper as needed, remembering that the flavors will fade when the salad is chilled. When you’re happy with the seasoning, gently fold in the eggs. Chill immediately, serve cold.

Pie Crust Perfected

PEACH PIE! And strawberry-rhubarb. We’re in pie-making mode thanks to a new pie crust method.

The official pie crust in my house has always been from a recipe in an early edition of  The Joy of Cooking, my very first cookbook, purchased when I was sixteen and a brand-new freshman at a small community college in West Texas, 1,000 miles from home.

Joy of Cooking was the textbook for a home economics class which I hated and which was the only college class I ever dropped. The funny part is that ten years later I ended up with a bachelor of science degree in food and nutrition, from WSU’s College of Home Economics.

That recipe has been replaced, thanks to Cooks Illustrated and Inspired Taste. The new method makes a pie crust that’s flaky and delicious EVERY TIME. I highly recommend it.



Pie crust

2.5 cups white flour, separated
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut in 1 tbsp slices
6 tablespoons ice water

Combine 1.5 cups flour and salt in food processor. Top with cold butter, process for about 15 seconds until it almost forms paste. Add last cup of flour and pulse 3 or 4 times until it’s combined. Put it in a bowl and sprinkle with 6 tablespoons of water, pressing the dough together as you sprinkle. If it doesn’t form a dough, add a little more water.

Split in half, form into disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes to an hour.

Peach filling

7 cups peach slices (thawed if frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup minute tapioca
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch salt

1 tbsp butter in small bits

egg wash, coarse sugar

Stir together filling (first eight ingredients), let macerate half an hour. Build pie as usual: put butter on top of filling, add top crust, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 1 hour 425 degrees.

Strawberry rhubarb pie

Strawberry-Rhubarb filling

2 cups rhubarb cut in one-inch pieces
3 cups strawberries, cut in half
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp minute tapioca
pinch salt

1 tbsp butter cut in small bits

egg wash, coarse sugar

Stir together filling (first five ingredients), let macerate half an hour. Build pie as usual: put butter on top of filling, add top crust, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 15 minutes at 425, lower heat to 350 and bake an additional 40-50 minutes.


Strawberry rhubarb pie with vanilla bean ice cream



Jay Raynor – Le Cinq restaurant review

The dining room, deep in the hotel, is a broad space of high ceilings and coving, with thick carpets to muffle the screams. It is decorated in various shades of taupe, biscuit and fuck you. There’s a little gilt here and there, to remind us that this is a room designed for people for whom guilt is unfamiliar. It shouts money much as football fans shout at the ref. There’s a stool for the lady’s handbag. Well, of course there is.

Of course there is.


August in Reno — Times Three

For the third year in a row, the three of us met in Reno in August: 3×3=9, my lucky number! No wonder we had such a good time.

Sisters mountains in oregon
Sisters Mountains in Oregon

Sister Mountains in Oregon

Deep fried mushrooms at the Frosty Mill in Susanville, CA
Deep fried mushrooms and zucchini at the Frosty Mill in Susanville, CA




By the pool at the Eldorado, Reno
At the Eldorado: The joy of a swimming pool in hot weather! And a cold Blue Moon.
Baseball at the Reno Aces ballpark
Baseball and beer at the Reno Aces ballpark
Dried grass at the Reno arboretum
Dried grass at the Reno arboretum
 Tiny drone over Lake Tahoe
Tiny drone over Lake Tahoe
Best lunch ever at Jake's on the Lake, Tahoe.
Best lunch ever at Jake’s on the Lake, Tahoe.

Best lunch ever at Jake's on the Lake, Tahoe.

The seafood special at Jake's
The seafood special at Jake’s
Fried calamari with excellent sweet n sour dipping sauce
Fried calamari with excellent sweet n sour dipping sauce
Standing in Lake Tahoe - happy feet!
Standing in Lake Tahoe – happy feet!
Coconut cake from the Eldorado bakery counter
Coconut cake from the Eldorado bakery counter
I love casino bathrooms
I love casino bathrooms
Downtown Reno, next to the Salmon Stand - we'll eat there nex year!
Downtown Reno, next to the Salmon Stand – we’ll eat there nex year!
Jalapeño poppers at the skywalk at Reno Atlantis
Jalapeño poppers at the skywalk at Reno Atlantis
Favorite espresso stand, in New Meadows, ID
Favorite espresso stand, in New Meadows, ID



Recipe – Gizzards: an ugly duckling

chicken gizzards cooked with bacon, leeks, cream, and mustard


Thanks to Barb at Creative Culinary, we have a new favorite recipe for chicken — gizzards, that is. Yes, gizzards.

Like Steve Martin, I was born a poor black child. And when you’re poor and your mother’s a self-taught wizard in the kitchen, you learn early that gizzards and liver aren’t necessarily offal. 🙂

Gizzards are a chewy, cheap, entertaining source of protein, and since Bobby Flay and his ilk have caused wings to become hideously overpriced I’ve rediscovered the joy of the gizzard. Barb’s original recipe called for chicken thighs which would be delicious. But since this recipe is essentially French, and the French are notoriously frugal, I was sure the gizzards would work out well — and they did. Yum! or c’est délicieux.


Baked Chicken with Leeks, Bacon, and Mustard

Recipe: Gésiers de poulet

8 oz bacon
3 pounds chicken gizzards
Seasoned flour (white flour, salt, pepper)
3 leeks, sliced across and well-washed and drained
1 cup heavy cream
at least 2 tablespoons brown mustard

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Chop the bacon into bits and fry until crisp, reserving the grease. Set aside

Dredge the gizzards in the seasoned flour and brown in the bacon grease. Set aside.

Cook the leeks until tender in the skillet in which you fried the bacon and browned the gizzards, scraping up all the bits.

Add the cream and mustard to the leeks and bring to a boil. Add the bacon and gizzards and stir lightly. Cover tightly and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another ten minutes to brown.



Recipe – Texas red chili

red chili texas style

Per a request from B, we’re enjoying a giant pot of red chili tonight made the way Mama made it — with a couple of additions, of course. You know I can’t leave anything alone.

Usually I make green chili — chile verde — with pork and Hatch chiles, but every now and then B gets hungry for old-style red chili, so off I go to the grocery store for  RoTel tomatoes and, of course, McCormick’s Original Chili Seasoning Mix. They changed the package since the last time I bought it and I had a moment of panic in the grocery aisle. Where is my childhood?!!

Chile Pasilla MolidoThe hamburger was a gift from a neighbor whose freezer was overflowing with elk and venison, and with the addition of some chile pasilla molido and a couple of onions, we were ready to cook.

Two hours later, the chili turned out pretty well – but it will be better tomorrow. 🙂

Red Chili, kind of like Mama used to make

4 pounds hamburger, preferably a gift from a neighbor
1 heaping spoonful granulated garlic
lots of black pepper
2 large onions, diced
2 packages McCormick’s Original Chili Seasoning Mix
2 heaping spoonsfuls chile pasilla molido
1 large can RoTel Dice Original Tomatoes and Green Chilies
1 RoTel can of water
1 small can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
1 tiny can tomato paste
1 beef boullion cube

Brown the hamburger with the garlic and pepper so it doesn’t stink up the house. Add the onion and cook until it’s translucent. Add the chili seasoning mix and the chile pasilla molido and stir to combine well. Stir in all the tomatoes, the water, and the boullion cube, and simmer on low heat for at least an hour. Try not to eat it all the first day because it’s better after it sits.

It’s particularly good for breakfast with fried eggs and some homemade salsa ranchera on top.