The Last Phase is the Most Glorious

The growing season is pretty much over here in Colorado. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden there will still be the occasional snow-covered leaves of kale to harvest, or maybe one last head of cabbage to pull from the cold, hard ground. This Saturday the lot where farmers stands piled high with produce all summer was empty. Living at Zone 5 on the plant hardiness map teaches you to really savor the seasons. Winter is long, and when spring finally arrives at the end of May she’s slow to reveal herself. It seems like all we get is radishes and salad greens forever, until August when summer arrives and gives us everything all at once: peaches, corn, tomatoes, strawberries, peas, zucchini, squash, carrots, cucumbers. The bounty of summer overwhelms us and we hardly have time to appreciate it all. September and October lull us into complacency with seemingly endless offerings of pumpkins and hot peppers, but apples and pears freshly plucked from the tree hint that a change is coming. Autumn turns abruptly to winter here in Colorado, and the first snow in October snaps us back into reality- the barren season of our Zone 5 winter is approaching. A visit to the final farmers market of the season reveals the beauty of nature even at the end of the growing season in November. I’m reminded of a favorite line from the movie, The Calendar Girls:

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Kosher Thanksgiving: Challah Stuffing with Mushrooms and Hazelnuts

Kosher Challah Stuffing with Mushrooms and Hazelnuts (c)2012 La Domestique

Kosher couldn’t be farther from the pulled pork sandwiches and steaks smothered in creamy sauces I grew up eating in Arkansas. So when I was asked to develop a Thanksgiving menu abiding by the laws of kashrut, I felt overwhelmed and intimidated. Growing up I didn’t know anyone who was Jewish, let alone kosher. Clueless as I was about this way of living, I knew it was more than a special diet. Setting out to create a kosher Thanksgiving, I had a lot of respect for Jewish culture and the importance of preparing food in their rituals. During my research I carefully studied the rules to keeping kosher: no mixing meat and dairy, only eat fish with fins and scales, pork and rabbit are prohibited, etc. I knew it was more than a bunch of rules, and to create kosher recipes that embraced Jewish cuisine I would have to really get to the root of the rituals. Why do Jews go to such lengths to keep keep kosher? It’s not just about what to eat, but how the food is prepared every step of the way, from slaughterhouse practice to kashering the home kitchen. Kashrut (following kosher laws) is a serious commitment for a household.

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Pear, Cheddar, and Caramelized Onion Tart

Pear, Cheddar, and Caramelized Onion Tart (c) 2012 La Domestique

I’ve been busy in the test kitchen developing holiday entertaining recipes for a client, and today I’d like to share a savory tart with you. The components can be prepared ahead of time (the pastry pre-baked), later assembled and baked just before serving. High-quality puff pastry can be found in the freezer section of the grocery store, and bakes up into a flaky, buttery tart base. The toppings are a combination of four autumnal ingredients: slow-cooked caramelized onions for rich sweetness, thyme contributes a woodsy note, and Bosc pears, a baking fruit with crisp, juicy texture, combine beautifully with the nutty, sharp flavor of aged cheddar. Slice the tart into squares and serve it at casual gatherings with cocktails, beers, or mulled wine. It’s a delicious small bite that “tastes like more” as the husband would say.

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Election Day Chicken Drumsticks

Pomegranate Glazed Chicken Drumsticks (c) 2012 La Domestique

Sweet and sour glazed chicken is a dish democrats and republicans can all agree on. Tuesday, November 6, our country will elect the next President of the United States of America. Many of us will gather, family and friends, to watch election coverage on television. There will be heated discussions over the dinner table and cheers (or tears) as results roll in. Pomegranate Glazed Chicken Drumsticks is a festive appetizer, perfect for serving a crowd. An economical finger food, drumsticks pair nicely with beer, cocktails, or a big bowl of party punch. Inspired by the technique from Giada De Laurentis’s Balsamic Chicken Drumettes, I created my own sweet and sticky glaze with the exotic flavor of pomegranate molasses. If you’ve never cooked with pomegranate molasses, it’s syrupy and tart, a reduced pomegranate juice found in the Middle Eastern section of large grocery stores. The combination of pomegranate molasses, orange juice, cinnamon, brown sugar, and garlic, makes for a deeply flavored, sweet, fruity, and gently spiced marinade that tenderizes and flavors the chicken, caramelizing deep golden brown and crisp in the oven.

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Halloween Barmbrack, an Irish Tradition

Halloween Barmbrack (c)2012 La Domestique

Barmbrack – such a strange word to those of us who didn’t grow up in Ireland. Originating from the Gaelic language, bairín, is a reference to the yeast of fermented bear and breac, notes the speckled appearance of currants and golden raisins. This sweet bread is leavened with yeast, enriched with milk and butter, and infused with cinnamon and nutmeg. Tokens are wrapped in parchment, then folded into the bread dough to be discovered later when the bread is sliced. My Irish husband’s favorite Halloween memory is of gathering at the table with his family to slice into the barmbrack. Each token symbolizes a different prediction for the future. Find a ring in your slice and you’ll be married soon. The matchstick predicts an unhappy marriage. A pea foretells poverty, a coin, wealth. It’s great fun to see who gets what, laughing at the good and the bad (which is very Irish).

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