Category Archives: Food

Bacon in the Oven

Another guest blog from my amazing daughter!
by Laura Goodbody

uncooked bacon on a sheet pan, ready for the oven
uncooked bacon on a sheet pan, ready for the oven

What do you think of baking bacon?

The traditional way to cook bacon is on the stove top in a frying pan or griddle. I have a few problems with that method:

1. It’s really messy. the stove gets spattered with grease — as do your hands and even your clothes.

2. It makes the whole place smell like bacon. For hours and hours. I know most people love the smell of bacon and I do too…for a short while…in the morning. After I cook bacon the old-fashioned way, its odor lingers not only in my house but on my clothes and hair.

3. It limits how much you can cook at a time. Unless you only want to cook about five strips of bacon, you have to do many batches in a pan to get enough bacon for a larger-than-two-person crowd.

after about 15 minutes....getting there!
after about 15 minutes….getting there!

So recently I have gotten into cooking bacon exclusively in the oven on a sheet pan. I like it because you can put the pan in the oven and walk away for 15 minutes, leave the bacon to itself. All you need to do to is flip it once at this 15-minute interval to make sure it doesn’t burn. It’s done after about 20 minutes in a 350°F oven.

Before I tried this approach I read some internet recipes. It seems that the primary complaint about oven-cooked bacon is that it turns out dry. I haven’t found this at all. My baked bacon produces plenty of grease to keep the bacon moist throughout the cooking process. It is a little more difficult to assess the done-ness of the bacon than on the stove top, where you are constantly tending to it, but overall I’ve been very happy with the results.

come and get it!
come and get it!

So, what do you think about baking bacon? I’ve become a convert to this method because it’s cleaner, takes less attention, and still produces one of the most delicious foods of all time.

copyright © Laura Goodbody

29th Birthday Party!

by Laura Goodbody (guest blogger)

The table, all set and ready for guests
The table, all set and ready for guests

Earlier this week was my [first] 29th birthday. To celebrate, I wanted to have a small party at our home in Boston with friends who live in the area, both old and new. I was lucky enough to have 12 lovely guests arrive at the apartment last Saturday night to start my final 20-something year off right.

When I considered what kind of party I wanted, I thought about incorporating something I love to eat. That was easy: Cheese. As a diabetic, there aren’t many foods I can eat without considering their carb counts and then treating with insulin. However, cheese is one of those foods that is almost all protein and therefore does little in the way of affecting my blood sugar. The fact that I’ve been a cheese-ophile for years, even before getting diabetes, is icing on the cake (whey on the curds?). Additionally, I was inspired by a friend’s birthday party in the winter where a little contest was held to identify wines; I decided it would be fun to have a wine and cheese pairing party (wine being one of my other favorite food interests).

I knew I could provide a spread of delicious, special, different cheeses, paired  with a wine chosen to bring out the flavors of the cheese. But how could I work a game or similar activity into the party? I wanted there to be something for guests to chat and interact about and to have fun with. Two weeks pre-party I came up with this: I’d have two wines accompany each cheese; one would be the recommended or “correct” pairing, and the other not. Guests would get a little ballot and, after tasting both wines with each cheese, guess which was meant to complement the delectable dairy.

So many choices!
So many choices!

The week before the party, I consulted a very helpful and enthusiastic man at the cheese counter of my local Whole Foods Market. He jotted down five ideas for cheeses, the flavors progressing from mild to strong. He recommended  1.5 to 2 ounces of cheese per person and said five varieties is a customary number when making a cheese plate. The day before the party I returned to the cheese counter (aka my happy place) and got to purchasing.

These are the cheeses I left with, in the order in which they were served:

  • La Tur. A dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk from the Piedmont region of Italy. Runny and oozing around the perimeter with a moist, cakey, palette-coating paste, its flavor is earthy and full, with a lingering lactic tang.
  • Bonne Bouche. Hailing from Vermont, this cheese is aged for 4 weeks. Made with pasteurized goat’s milk, the curd is carefully hand-ladled into molds, lightly sprinkled with ash, and aged just long enough to develop a wrinkly rind.
  • Ossau-Iraty. This is a harder cheese made of sheep’s milk in the Aquitaine region of France. Hand-selected for crumble and crunch at 10-12 months, this raw sheep cheese has a distinct flakiness and deep, lingering, caramelized flavor.
  • Clothbound Cheddar. A delicate balance of sharpness, slight nuttiness, and a caramelized sweetness, this cheese comes from Vermont. Produced from the pasteurized milk from a single herd of Holstein cows, this cheese has a firm, slightly crunchy paste that’s never waxy.
  • Colston Bassett Stilton. This is a cow’s milk from Nottinghamshire, England. What makes this variety unique is the use of traditional animal rennet, not to be found from any other Stilon maker. Each bite is exceptionally buttery in texture with a clean, mineral tang.

Now that I had the cheeses, it was time to move on to the wines. I am a white wine drinker so I wanted to pair these mostly with whites or sparkling wines so I could enjoy everything to the fullest. I searched online for recommended pairings and matched them to what my cheese man friend at Whole Foods had suggested. The morning of the party, my husband and I went to the liquor store and enlisted the help of Handsome Scott*, the wine guy. We ended up buying six wines: one for each cheese, then a specific two for the Stilton. Here is what we got, in no particular order:

  • NapaValley Merlot, Angels Landing 2010
  • Cotes de Provence Rose, Domaine Houchart 2011
  • New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Ninety + 2009
  • Gancia Prosecco Brut
  • Graham’s ReservePort, Six Grapes
  • AlexanderValley Cabernet Sauvignon, Baus Family Vineyards 2009

cardsWe also purchased a bottle of Ninety + sparkling rose as the prize for the winner of the pairing contest (who happened to be my wine-and-cheese-savvy cousin, Kate). We bought two bottles of each variety which proved to be exactly the right amount for the 14 of us.

Can you guess which wine is meant to be paired with which cheese?  Answers at the bottom!

Next, at home, we created cards that described each cheese and each wine. I pasted these descriptions onto index cards (for the wine) and little table tents (for the cheese). We set up a table on our roof deck, overlooking the gorgeous city of Boston and the Charles River, complete with cheese, wine, a few different kinds of crackers, grapes, and almonds. The result was a lovely, elegant spread that invited everyone to eat, drink, and be cheesy.

Though this party wasn’t quite as inexpensive and low-maintenance as I originally anticipated, it was a really fun way to celebrate my birthday. Everyone loved the competitive aspect, which naturally encouraged conversation among guests. I loved eating tons of cheese and drinking wine for my birthday. This is a great way to enjoy a summer evening and do something a little out of the ordinary.  Bon appétit!

Answers to wine & cheese pairing contest:

  • La Tur : Prosecco
  • Bonne Bouche : Sauvignon Blanc
  • Ossau-Iraty : Rose
  • Clothbound Cheddar : Merlot
  • Stilton : Port

*Not his real name.  Most people probably just call him Scott.

copyright © Laura Goodbody

First Summertime Dinner

(Another wonderful guest post from my fantastic daughter, Laura!)

img_1673There are a few ways I know it finally is summer: Wearing flipflops outdoors without worrying about being cold; the end of the schoolyear; and cooking with tomatoes.

Last night we had one of our favorite couple friends over for dinner. We typically go out to eat with these friends, but because Brian and I have two restaurant dinners planned for the weekend, I suggested I cook. Also, I’m on summer vacation so I have a lot of time on my hands, which makes preparing a full dinner much more appealing.

Lisa and Lynn, our guests, are vegetarians which is great, especially this time of year, but Brian and I are solidly carnivores so contemplating a main dish that would please and satisfy us all was a bit of a head scratcher. At first, I was dead set against cooking pasta because I feel like vegetarians must constantly be relegated to eating pasta when they go out to eat, whether at  restaurants or private homes.

I looked through a lot of cookbooks and wrote down ideas (stuffed peppers with couscous? a big entree salad? sesame noodles? Shoot, that’s pasta…). I was thumbing through The Garden Entertaining Cookbook by none other than Mary Goodbody (and Barabara Scott-Goodman) and my eye kept being drawn back to the recipe for fettucini with cherry tomatoes and basil. I decided to go with it, succumb to the pasta draw, mainly because I’d be able to make a light, summery cherry tomato sauce.dscn0280

I couldn’t help but be excited about the prospect of creating a dish with red and yellow cherry tomatoes, the kind that pop in your mouth when you eat them raw, and sweeten up the sauce when cooked and thrown together with pasta. Seeing them washed and halved made me feel supremely summery and I had to photograph them, which is what led to this blog post.

When you decide to open up your copy of The Garden Entertaining Cookbook and try this delicious recipe, a few things to keep in mind: First of all, use fresh pasta but remember to cook it for 1 to 2 minutes only. I overcooked the pasta (or, ah hem, my husband did…but what’s the difference, what’s his is mine and all that) so it was sticky and a little clumpy. We used fresh angel hair, my favorite thickness, and because the sauce is so light it is important to keep it non-sticky and slippery to pick up all the flavor from the sauce.

I also added two things to this wonderful recipe: the tops of a bunch of broccolini and some shallots. The sauce cooks quickly, about 5 to 8 minutes, so timing the pasta is essential. I prepared a simple side salad with an amazingly sweet yellow bell pepper and a garlic-mustard vinaigrette.

dscn02771Finally, to make everyone happy and ensure all participants got enough to eat, I made dessert. As much as I love my mom, her recipes, her cooking, and her expertise, I am the first to say that the brownie recipe on the inside of the Baker’s Chocolate box is the all-time best brownie recipe out there. People who use mixes to make brownies frustrate me, not only because I detest baking mixes (thanks for that legacy, Mom!), but because Baker’s one bowl brownies are JUST as easy as any mix from the store! There are just as few steps and 10x the taste. I added some crushed, chocolate-covered pretzels to the top in lieu of nuts; the brownies were a hit. Served alongside some raspberry sorbet, this meal was complete. Summer has officially begun.

Here is my slightly altered version of this lovely recipe:

Fettucine with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil
4 servings

3 pints red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil

1 bunch broccolini, stemmed and just the “tree tops” reserved (I blanched them for 1 to 2 minutes to give them a head start, since tomatoes cook faster.)

¼ cup white wine
¼ cup chicken broth
Dried red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 packages fresh angel hair pasta
Handful + fresh basil leaves
Shaved parmesan cheese

1. Wash and prep the veggies

2. When you’re ready to eat, saute the garlic and shallots in olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Stir and cook about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes before the garlic burns. Stir gently and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Add the broccolini, wine, and chicken broth. Flavor with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Lower the heat and let everything cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the pasta to a large pot of boiling water. Leave in the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes only!

6. Serve immediately and garnish with basil and cheese.

copyright © Laura Goodbody

A Delicious Disaster

As fancy as it gets at the farm
As fancy as it gets at the farm

After all the years I have lived, the meals I have cooked, and the cookbooks I have written, you’d think I’d know how important it is to plan before you cook. This doesn’t have to be tedious, but it’s helpful if you know what you are going to do before you do it.

Right?

Christmas Eve dinner is a fancy one at the farm — or as fancy as anything at the farm can be. Good china, the crystal wine glasses from Ireland, and matching red napkins used pretty much only once a year. This year we decided to have pork, roasted potatoes, wilted greens, and a green salad.  My sister and I bought what we needed but when it came to the pork I asked Dick and Jill if I could take a roast from their freezer.

Trouble was, when I dived into the freezer there wasn’t that much pork. This year’s animals were sold went to friends and so the pickins’ were slim: a very large loin or a reasonably sized pork shoulder. I went for the shoulder.

I let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator and the next day made a rub with whatever I could find in the rather scanty spice cupboard: paprika, 5-spice powder, thyme, and cayenne as well as salt and pepper. The roast sat out for about 90 minutes, nicely and liberally rubbed, and then I put it in a slow oven.

Here is where I went terribly wrong. I had no real idea how much the roast weighed. I figured four or five pounds, an educated guess. I also guessed it would need 20 minutes to the pound. I never checked to see if it was completely thawed. Boy, did I go wrong.

The oven at the farm is old and unreliable. It doesn’t hold its heat too evenly. Plus, it’s the only oven we have, and so the roast shared it with the potatoes, which we removed for some hors d’oeuvres that needed heating. The door was opened and closed, the heat raised and lowered. The roast looked great, it smelled better. Appetites were whetted.

I hung out in the kitchen swilling a very strong old fashioned and checking the temperature of the meat more often then I should have. Finally! The thermometer registered 150°F. Yea! Dinner was served.

The family meandered from living room to dining room. The screen was put in front of the fire, wine glasses were filled, and the salad was tossed.

potatoes ready for the oven
potatoes ready for the oven

I let the pork rest for a few minutes and then carved it. Two or three slices in.  Pink, pink pork! And so it went for the next 30 minutes. The pork was put back in the oven, my good-natured family ate small pieces of pork alongside their larger helpings of potatoes, greens, and salad. I jumped up and down from my seat, slicing more pork from the roast until I hit the pink meat near the center. Back to the oven.

It was comical. But it was inexcusable. I know better. I was being lazy. I was relying on magical cooking. Pork shoulder should be braised, cooked slowly and cooked long.

In the end, the meat was tasty, but it was not what I had hoped. I can’t say it wasn’t what I had planned because I didn’t plan.

My mistake.

Copyright © Mary Goodbody