S’mores Brulée

In my latest episode of the Starving Artist I break out my kitchen torch – I got it as a Christmas present a few years ago from my Aunt Judy. I highly recommend getting one – you’d be amazed all the things you can find to torch. But I think when most people think of a kitchen torch they think of creme brûlée. You know, creamy cold custard served in a ramekin, topped with sugar, and torched for a crunchy caramelized top. Delicious? Yes. But I’m the starving artist. I don’t have time or money to make custard – please. So the question is: what DO I have time and money for? What creative and affordable thing could possibly fit into a ramekin?

S’mores. What could be better? Watch the video to see how it’s done.

Here’s the recipe in PDF form: S’mores Brulee – Recipe PDF

One thing I discovered after we shot the video is that using marshmallow fluff instead of mini marshmallows actually makes it a lot easier to eat. And I realize that not every starving artist has a torch, so if you want to do this recipe without one, just place the ramekins on a sheet pan and stick it under your broiler for a minute or two until the top gets your desired black. Yum! ,

Mammoth Eating

Mammoth Lakes

This weekend I’m blogging from Mammoth Lakes, CA, a popular destination for skiing. Those of you who know me are probably thinking “you? Skiing?”. Hahah – no. My dear friend David has a stunningly beautiful family home up here with a view unlike any I’ve ever seen. He is gracious enough to invite a small group of us up here a few times a year for camaraderie and merriment. Though I may not be into skiing, I am into sitting by a fire with a book, flirting with questionable men in local establishments, and of course, I wouldn’t be the starving artist if i wasn’t going to be cooking for all my friends.

Today I’m headed out on my own to sample a local haunt for my favorite meal – brunch. Then it’s back here to get cooking for when the skiers come home. And perhaps a little lounging in between. ;-)

Be sure you’re following me on Instagram, @starvingartistf, for all my culinary exploits and general shenanigans. Facebook too!

What the Hell Is Going On

Starving Artist Lighting

DP Travis putting the final touches on my permanent kitchen lighting design

Hello, dear followers. Yes, it has been nigh on 60 days since my last post to the starving artist. By now you must be thinking the blog (or perhaps I) am dead. Well, fear not – we are both alive and well. There is in fact a lot going on behind the scenes over here. First and foremost, I am still cooking up a storm. The new year has brought a renewed sense of health and diet – a new outlook, new goals, new tactics, and delicious new recipes. Much more detail in the coming weeks. Just last week my amazing new crew for my starving artist videos came to my apartment and installed a permanent lighting design so that I am now camera ready. Our first shoot is scheduled for Feb 8th. I have at least one additional video from the previous shoot that will go up before the newest video. I can’t say enough good about the crew that has been assembled for the shoots – can’t wait for you all to see the fruits of our labor.

In addition to all of this, I’m currently in the process of reorganizing and updating the design of my blog. Right now I’m amassing recipes and articles that fit to a posting schedule so that you all can know what to expect and when. The newly revamped blog will have weekly posts about healthy eating (including paleo and vegan-friendly recipes), new restaurant finds in LA, ‘Music Mondays’ which will have articles on what I’m doing/seeing/learning/experiencing with my music pursuits, cheat day recipes and destinations, and of course more videos. I’ll be rolling this all out in stages, so be sure to subscribe for the latest updates from your favorite sassy chef.

Smoked Salmon and Edamame Salad

Just a preview from my Instagram feed – salmon and edamame salad. Click the pic to follow me for tons of delicious updates :)

While all of this happens, please join me on instagram, twitter, and facebook, where I’m posting new pics, finds, and recipes ideas constantly. Soon all of it will have corresponding blog posts.

Thanks to all of you for your continued interest and support. I’ll be seeing more of you soon!

Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce

Fresh Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce

this is what it looks like when it’s done cooking

Are you in need of a last minute recipe to bring to a thanksgiving potluck? Are you looking for a recipe that spices things up without taking you so far from those learned thanksgiving flavors? Do you just like to read what I type and hear my voice in your head? Then this is the post for you.

So I know we all have a special fondness for the can-shaped blob of cranberry sauce that we crack open and slop into a bowl just before you sit down because you almost forgot about it. Believe me, I get it – I still make stuffing from a box after the teachings of my grandfather. But did you know that fresh cranberry sauce is literally the easiest thing on earth to make? Everything you need to make it sauce is already in the cranberries, so there’s no need for corn starch or other thickeners; just cranberries, sugar, and water. Done. But of course with something this simple, I can’t resist the opportunity to jazz it up just a touch. My secret ingredient? Ginger. Combined with a splash of red wine and fresh orange juice, and will surely put that old jelled can to shame.

A fair warning, you may think this recipe calls for a lot of sugar – not at all. The tartness of cranberries cannot be overstated. Be sure to taste once it’s cooked. Also, I like to puree my sauce as some of the fibers that don’t break down from the cranberries can be a bit unpleasant to eat. Pureeing gets rid of this problem, but if you’re down for chunky rustic sauce, skip the puree and leave it just like the photo.

By the way, remember the post I did on ginger syrup? This would be an excellent opportunity to use it!

Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce Puree

Pureed.

Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce – RECIPE PDF

Are You Ready?

20131126-175204.jpg

Well, it’s two days before the big feast and I have just one question for you: are you ready? It should come as no surprise that I host a gathering every year for at least 15 people. It’s a tradition that started my first year in LA when, while in the middle of my program at USC, I realized there would be no real time for any of us to travel anywhere for the big feast. So, around the second week of November, I stopped in the doorway of my roommate’s and said, “Brooks. We’re hosting Thanksgiving,” and then kept walking. Such a good sport that Brooks. About half my class ended up at my apartment for the big day. It was perfect. This will be my fifth year and it’s still my favorite.

Now I know many practice the potluck style Thanksgiving: the one who hosts makes the turkey and stuffing and everyone else fills in the sides. Mine is slightly different. Instead of asking everyone to contribute to the meal, I ask everyone to bring $10 and alcohol to share (if they so desire). I do 90% of the cooking and ask a few friends who want and are able to contribute to fill in some of the extras. I do this for two reasons. One, being in the spirit of a true “orphan” thanksgiving, I want to be able to welcome anyone whether or not they are able to cook. Many friends are relieved that they can just show up and eat and those that desperately want to contribute can. The other reason? Quality control…. don’t give me that look, you know exactly what I’m talking about. As I already said, not everyone can cook. When it comes to thanksgiving, you can’t risk those favorites you only get on this one day… not on my watch anyway. Besides, I’m a starving artist – I can’t really afford to drop all the money I do on this meal. Having the donation in place ensures I won’t be evicted next week… well, mostly…..

Here are some random anecdotes and wisdom I’ve gathered over the years:

1. There is never too much turkey. I always cook a breast the day before, slice it, and stash it in the fridge. That way, if something goes wrong with the big bird on the big day or more people show up or everyone wants more turkey, you have a backup at the ready.

2. To hell with brining. Everyone everywhere talks about brining. Really? Do you really think I’m going to brine a turkey? My secret: butter. I make a compound butter with poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper and slather every inch of the bird. And even more importantly I get a lot of it under the breast skin. Helps keep the white meat moist and flavorful and I don’t have to deal with soaking my bird in a salt solution in my bathtub (I don’t have one).

3. Chicken stock and butter are your best friends. I get them both at Costco: a four pound pack of butter and a 6 carton pack of chicken stock. I use all of it.

4. Start early. I do as much as possible in advance, partially because my starving artist kitchen is tiny and can only handle so much at once and partially because I like to leave myself plenty of time to screw something up. Tuesday I do all my dessert baking, Wednesday I do all my sides and casseroles (while the stores are still open!). I save Thursday for the absolutely necessary. The big turkey, of course, mashed potatoes (they do not reheat well), and crescent rolls. Everything else can be warmed in the oven while the turkey is resting.

5. Chinet. This is where I get really starving artist. I know we all have this Norman Rockwell vision of thanksgiving at a long table with all the coordinated china and glassware… I simply don’t have enough dishes for 20, nor do I have the inclination to CLEAN that many dishes. So, I go for the high quality Chinet paper plates and high quality plastic forks (they are the only ones that can stand up to t-day cuisine). No muss, no fuss, no one cares, we all just want to eat.

6. If you’re in need of last minute serving platter or a roasting pan, try Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I know, it seems so counterintuitive. But see that huge white platter in the photo? $9.99. See that new roasting pan? $15. Even if it’s terrible, it’s only $15, I can buy another next year. And oh yeah, the set of two gravy boats? $9.99. BBB. Who knew.

7. Good friends will join you for dinner, best friends will stay late and help you clean. I rarely need help cooking – there isn’t enough room in my kitchen anyway – but the aftermath of feeding 20 people thanksgiving dinner? It’s… pretty astounding, even with paper plates. Don’t be shy. Ask for help. Guilt trip if necessary.

8. Keep it simple. You know I of all people am about trying new things and coming up with creative flavors. For me, thanksgiving is about remembered flavors, not brand new ones. This is the one time a year I have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, etc. I don’t really need or want modern/exotic/abstract interpretations, I want my effin turkey. So does everyone else.

9. Go with the flow. This might sound cheesy, and it kind of is, but there’s no other way to sum it. Every year I host, inevitably there are a bunch of people who forgot to RSVP or wait til the last minute to make plans or hear what’s going on and want to join. So what I thought was 12 is now 20. And then there are people who dont show, and people who come late. And you know what? I love it. It’s all wonderful. You plan the best you can and then you just let it go. And I think that’s why I love this holiday so much.

Need a quick, easy, and show stopping recipe to bring to your potluck? Tune in tomorrow!