It is a mad scientist’s power that comes from making something wonderful and brand new. A singular dish that was just a grocery list of disparate ingredients, moments or hours before. The golden, shimmering alchemy of cooking is one of the ways I fill my life with warmth and light. I cook home food; no molecular gastronomics, no loopy swirls on the plate. It is a remarkable thing to be confident in providing for yourself—not just surviving, but creating, often out of very little, a feast, nourishing and magnificent in its rustic simplicity.
ARTICHOKES WITH CAVIAR AND CREME FRAICHE
Whole artichokes, trimmed
2 oz black caviar
8 oz crème fraîche
Zest of half a lemon
Pinch salt and pepper
Small handful chives, chopped very finely
You can go fancy with the caviar and crème fraîche, or it can be black lumpfish and sour cream. The basic idea is combining the fresh, briny taste of the ocean with tangy cream, and mellow-sweet nuttiness of artichokes. It’s an hors d’oeuvre my mother used to serve at parties in the 1980s, and while it has a certain “Bright Lights, Big City” feel to it, I think it’s refreshingly retro now.
Steam the artichokes upside down in a colander/steam basket fitted in a big pot with an inch or so of salted water, for 20 minutes or until they’re tender enough to pluck off a leaf easily. While they’re steaming, mix together everything and pop in the fridge to chill for a minute. When the artichokes are ready, set them out, pluck and dip! It will astound you.
WILD MUSHROOM SOUP
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 oz dried porcinis
2 cups fresh wild mushrooms (chanterelles, morels, shiitakes, oysters), clean and sliced
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1/2 dried thyme
1 red onion, finely diced
5 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon
Handful fresh parsley
Gorgeous, blustery fall days call for a proper mushroom soup: rich and earthy, but never too heavy, and here it is.
Pour a half-cup of hot stock over the porcinis in a small bowl and set aside. Place a large pot over medium high, and add the olive oil and the fresh mushrooms, spooning around to coat. Turn the burner down to medium.
Next goes in the onion, garlic powder, dried thyme, and some salt and pepper. Stir around for a few minutes, then take the porcinis out, chop them roughly, and add them to the pot. Strain the stock of any dirt or grit, and add back to the pot, too. Cook over medium for about 15-20 minutes.
Taste-test for seasoning, adjust, then add the rest of the chicken stock. Bring to a boil , reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, puree about half the soup with a handheld immersion blender, add the mascarpone, and blend again. Serve with parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Sing showtunes! It’s terrific.
ROOT VEGETABLE MASH
1-2 yukon gold potatoes
1/4-1/2 cup greek yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
It’s the most warming, restorative thing to put into your body after any kind of day. It’s the king of comfort food, and the similar-yet-different tastes and textures of various root vegetables are a sublime experience.
Wash and chop everything into bite-size pieces, while waiting for a large pot of salted water to boil. The trick here is to make sure everything cooks evenly, and to that end, dump the turnips in first, as they are the toughest. Then go in the carrots, potatoes, parsnips, and leeks. Chop one group, add to pot, and move on to the next.
Cook it all at a rolling boil for about 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Drain, rinse the pot with hot water, and dump the roots back in. Mash up, add greek yogurt, and salt and pepper to taste. Add herbs or butter or hot sauce or any other zippy spice you like. This version is bare-bones basic, but goodness knows it’s all you need.
PINK PEPPERMINT ICE CREAM
1 can evaporated milk (chilled)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp peppermint oil
8-10 drops red food coloring
Candy canes, star brites mints, fancy mints, whatever
It’s the prettiest holiday dessert, and a zingy palate cleanser at that! Just a cup of sugar and can of milk results in clouds of ice cream, and the whole thing is so easy I can barely call it a recipe. Once you get the basics down, you can do any flavor ice cream you want at home, and your whole world is going to be different.
Ready? Let’s go!
Pour chilled milk into a thin aluminum bowl, and whip it on high for a minute until it’s all frothy. Add the confectioners’ sugar slowly while mixing, then the mint oil. Beat it until it thickens and starts to come to soft, melty peaks. Stick it in the freezer for an hour.
Pull it out after an hour and run the mixer through it. Add the food coloring and beat for a minute. Return to the freezer.
Repeat this mix-freeze-mix process four more times. When you’ve whipped it for the last time, fold in your fancy, pink-striped peppermint shavings, transfer to a freezer-safe container, and freeze overnight.
You’re done! You’re a genius. Happy holidays to you.
Find more of Emily’s recipes at http://dearemilycaulfield.wordpress.com