Vermont Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Made with extra sharp Vermont Cheddar, homemade crackers taste better than any you’ve ever bought in a box. Remarkably, they cost about the same. The real proof is the taste. These crackers are baked long enough for the cheese to start caramelizing. The dough is smooth, pliable, and far easier to work than pie pastry. The potato flour blocks the formation of gluten, which not only helps produce a superior cracker, but easily modeled dough. It can be rolled very thin, and still be handled without falling apart or being sticky. If you like big results with little effort try these crackers. Continue reading

Old-Fashioned Apple Strudel with Homemade Pastry

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain. The same applies to the difference between using frozen phyllo and making your own strudel dough. Making your own requires some patience, but the results are worth the effort. It’s fun, and absolutely amazing to stretch a simple mixture of flour, water, and oil into an enormous sheet of tissue-like pastry. The filling steams while sealed inside the flaky envelope and develops a texture unlike that of apple pie, which vents steam during baking. The vapor-thin layer upon layer of pastry crisp into an enclosure that defies description. As usual, these simple combinations are the ones that endure the centuries. Continue reading

Polenta Bites Stuffed with Smoked Mozzarella

When you bite into this polenta-based hors d’oeuvre, there is the surprise of warm, gooey smoked mozzarella inside. Topped with a dollop of concentrated tomatoes, garlic, and basil, these little snacks are hard to resist. Fancy enough to serve at a wedding reception, they are also right at home on a Super Bowl buffet. Continue reading

Lasagna with Three Cheeses, Two Meats and Homemade Pasta

Lasagna is one of the ultimate comfort foods. When made with homemade pasta it is light as can be, even if it has an extra layer. If you live in an urban area you probably know a store where you can purchase sheets of fresh pasta. If you live in the last fort on the edge of the frontier, you’ll have to break out the hand-cranked pasta machine. Either way, there just isn’t any comparison between tender fresh pasta and boxed supermarket pasta. Continue reading

Roti: Indian Flatbread

In terms of baked goods, roti has to rank among items having the greatest result for the least number of ingredients. If you are counting just flour and water that makes 2 ingredients. Traditionally, it is unsalted and therefore serves as an excellent foil to highly spiced or salty foods. It is an essential accompaniment for curries of all kinds. Roti can also be used for sandwiches—either wrapped in the entire flatbread, or cut in half and stuffed with your choice of filling. Use roti instead of tortillas to hold any number of grilled meats, vegetables, and sauces. Continue reading

Brined Garlic Dill Pickles

These are the real deal. Anyone who grew up eating the kind of pickles you fished out of a barrel with a pair of tongs understands.  I remember stopping by a tiny Polish-owned delicatessen while doing my paper route for a plump dill pickle to gnaw as I rode my bike. Brined pickles do not rely on vinegar as a preservative, but a saltwater solution that helps the cucumbers to ferment naturally. In my opinion, the perfect pickle is crisp, crunchy, and redolent of garlic, fresh dill, peppercorns, and mustard seed. The main obstacle in achieving this delicious result resides in an enzyme located in the cucumber’s blossom end. Centuries of trial and error found that the inclusion of leaves from grape, horseradish, cherry, or oak prevent cucumbers from softening in the brine. Continue reading

Bread Pretzels with Cheddar-Heady Topper IPA Fondue

This recipe is a tribute to my favorite brewpub, The Alchemist of Waterbury, Vermont. At the end of August, when tropical storm Irene flooded downtown Waterbury, water inundated their building destroying everything inside. Thankfully, they plan to rebuild and open this winter. One of my favorite menu items is their platter of bread pretzel pieces served with a fondue of beer and cheese. I don’t have their recipe, but I wanted create one using their Heady Topper IPA, now available in cans, in the dip. The extra hoppy flavors of this ale sing a duet with the earthy, herbal qualities of Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar. Continue reading

Lamb Steaks with Cracked Peppercorns and Blueberries

These lamb steaks have a snappy coating of cracked peppercorns and a buttery sauce flavored with red wine, blueberries, rosemary, and red currant jelly. Serve these steaks with a simple and colorful assortment of roasted root vegetables. Choose a wine featuring a berry or plum flavor such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. If you prefer a malt beverage, try an American style brown ale to go with the lamb and sauce. Continue reading

Lemon Jelly Belly Cookies

Sometimes I take requests. This one came from a friend who bakes incredible boxes of assorted cookies for charity fundraisers and holiday gifts. She asked for a lemon cookie recipe and I immediately thought of Meyer lemons, which are sweeter and less acidic than your typical lemons. This recipe has a double-dose of Meyer lemons—in the dough and the jelly. Making the jelly as an additional step is a bit time-consuming, but it is worth it since you will end up with 3 half-pints of jelly and you only need ½ cup for the cookies. Of course, if you’re making cookies by the hundreds, you may need it all. They are named Jelly Belly cookies because the jelly sits in the belly of the cookie.  Continue reading