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"I made ____ myself!" - the Thrill of Home Cooking Victory

Probably not the best title I could think of, but it's the best I could do with a head cold.

I would say that in terms of home cooking, I am pretty much mid-level, "basic" meals type of cook. A lot of what I do is well within a comfort zone of "tried and true" dishes (Meats with simple sauces, pasta dishes, salads, etc). One of the dishes well outside of my comfort zone was risotto. When you get really good risotto at a restaurant, it's REALLY good- however, I've heard time and time again that it was time-consuming and difficult to recreate at home for a beginner cook.

Well, this week I was able to suck it up and give it a try. I managed to make a parmesean and pea risotto without burning anything/ending up with a gloppy mess of arborio rice and cheese. I know for most CHers this might not seem like a big deal, but I thought it was really good for me to just try making something that I previously thought I couldn't make myself.

Do any other CHers have stories like this? Maybe the first Thanksgiving dinner you made on your own, or recreating a restaurant favorite?

As for me, my next "goal" is homemade pie, without using premade pie crusts - scary! :o)

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  1. For me, that would be Epicurious' Double Chocolate Layer Cake...I had schemed and planned and dreamed of making that cake from the moment I read the reviews for it a few years ago...then, I had the house to myself one afternoon...I was so nervous about it but it came out just amazing and beautiful. Sons that night said "YOU made this??? YOU???" Then, I made it for a church meeting....they all said the same thing..."Val!? You MADE this yourself???" I still love to make that cake!

    8 Replies
    1. re: Val

      Can you pharaphrase of direct me to the recipe??

      1. re: chef chicklet

        Here's the link to it...it makes a huge cake and I always use three 9" pans, not about to order 10" ones...


          1. re: Val

            So I was actually looking for a cake to make for my grandmother's 80th birthday party...and this looks perfect, she loves chocolate cake.

        1. re: Val

          That cake looks and sounds AMAZING! Thanks for the recipe link

          1. re: gyozagirl

            This one is my next challenge, though...Epi's Celebration Cake...you work with transfers, which I've never done. You have to click on the picture to really see the gold transfer...someone made it and brought it in to work and it is just so beautiful--almost too beautiful to eat. I thought she could easily be a pastry chef! I still think that...she made her own ladyfingers one night because she couldn't find any in the grocery store for another cake she brought in..Crikey!!! Here's the Celebration Cake link...


            1. re: Val

              Oh I love chocolate mousse and cake! This is great, thanks Val!

              1. re: Val

                I love this cake. An added benefit is that you cut two cakes in half and only need three of them so you have one half to enjoy yourself! I've added nutella to the mousse and almond extract to the cake for a gianduia twist. Maybe I could sprinkle hazelnut liquor over the chocolate cake, too, next time...

          2. Bread.

            I fear no meal in the kitchen. When you learned how to cook a lot of things on a old-fashioned, cast-iron stove, fired by diesel fuel, adapting to gas take a little bit of thought, but then the wonder of how easay things are hits you.

            But baking, real baking still eludes me, for the most part. However, I have made bread, using a starter yeast that fermented in my kitchen for a while, and everything else froms cratch, and that was an achievement. Maybe someday I'll attempt a pie crust.

            1. Sauces.

              If I can pull off a bernaise or hollandaise without breaking, it's a cause for celebration.

              Usually involving large amounts of bernaise and hollandaise sauce.

              5 Replies
              1. re: monkeyrotica

                me too! And I so love it. Once in awhile I get lucky, but that's about it.

                1. re: chef chicklet

                  Am I wrong in thinking there's a "fix" for broken bearnaise and hollandaise sauces? In Julia? Must look it up.

                  I decided it was stupid to post this without looking it up. Sure enough, on p. 81 of MAOFC, she has a couple of remedies for sauce that curdles or separates. If there's anyone who doesn't have MAOFC, I'll post it.

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    Put an ice cube into breaking yoke infusion sauces.

                2. re: monkeyrotica

                  Mine was the ability to make great mole poblano. It took me 3 tries, but I finally succeeded.

                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                    Me too! I made homemade mac and cheese w/ peas and ham last night and was so nervous the whole time I made the bechamel but it ended up being delish!

                  2. Gravy was my first victory in the kitchen! I tried tons of times before I got it "right" and it was a very exciting moment. I called my boyfriend, my mom, and his mom!

                    1. Not one particular dish but I feel a sense of accomplishment when we're having a large dinner party and I look at all the food I've managed to put together (and having it all hot at the same time with one oven) on a nicely set table. Even better is if I no longer have curlers in my hair and I'm dressed.

                      1. I started cooking very young, we had a wood stove so maintianing the proper heat in the oven was very difficult. I made a cheesecake and dropped it checking it - I was 9 and we had hand beaters etc. I was crushed.
                        THe second time I nailed it. My mom was so nice to sacrifience the ingredients. We lived way out in the woods in Alaska and all that food had traveled along way.
                        Became a chef....I wonder why lol

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: coastie

                          That's a great story. Where do you cook?

                        2. This past weekend, I made caramel for the first time. We had picked tons of apples at our cottage, and I'm not a huge fan of apples on their own, so I decided to make caramel to dip them in. Started with the sugar and water, didn't stir it, as per recipe, and then kept it on really low because I was afraid of it getting too dark too fast. But all it did was evaporate and start becoming hard, with noooo colour. So I added more water, remelted it, and turned the heat on high, and finally got the colour I wanted!!!! Added the cream and the butter, and voila! My family ws so impressed! So was I! I had been really scared of trying it in the past so it was a major sense of accomplishment.

                          1. I'd be proud of myself if I made a risotto too but I've never had the chance to even try. I made a homemade pie once and I was so thrilled when it came out of the oven. It ended looking hideous: the crust was misshapen and glooped over the edge of the pie plate but it tasted delicious ( I made myself a blackberry-plum pie.) My second proudest moment: having 4 fresh baked loaves of whole-wheat bread come out of the oven and they were delicious, the smell of it alone made it worth all that hand kneading.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: digkv

                              I have finally mastered Risotto!! It was my crowning achievement about 2 weeks ago...I have a tendency not to have patience with my dinner, and Risotto definatly takes patiences.

                            2. I've made all the sauces, caramel, peanut brittle, risotto. But the one thing that had stymied me for a long time was Italian Struffoli. Little nuggets of fried dough drizzled with honey and piled in a pyramid. This delicacy is usually served as a sweet at Christmas.

                              One would think that it would be realtively easy to make. But, Oh No.... not for me. If they weren't like stones, they came out like golf balls. Finally, one evening when all the cousins had gathered, I brought out my latest attempt which was brilliant!! Perfect little balls of dough, light as air, covered in the very best honey I could find, piled about 12" high, with colored sprinkles all over. They couldn't believe I made them....
                              That was 25 years ago and I haven't made them since.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Gio

                                I was very proud the first time I made roast chicken. My secret is to blast-cook it at 475 degrees for the first 20 minutes, and then turn it down to 350, but baste it with tarragon tea (essentially chicken broth flavored with tarragon) throughout the process. The skin crisps up but the meat stays juicy.

                                My mother came to visit once and drank the tarragon tea that I had steeping, not realizing it was for the chicken. She said it was delicious, but I had to quick make some more.

                              2. I'd say that I impressed myself when I started to do Chinese dishes well. After a class that took the intimidation out of it( this was 15 years ago or more). Making BBQ pork buns is always fun, and still surprise people. Just a steamed savory bun. Just a steamed savory bun. Yes, but not that easy to do well, for me anyway. Oh and moo shoo pork with homemade pancakes paper thin, was another!

                                20 Replies
                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  Like Captain above, I have no fear delving where angels fear to tread in the kitchen. But for some reason Chinese dishes escaped me. Now that we have an Asian market within a resonable distance, I find that having the right ingredients makes all the difference. I'm starting slowly, finding simple recipes on the net... and the meals seem to be pretty good. I learn more each day.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    Yes having access to the ingredients is a God send. You will get lots of help from all of us here.I still have questions. I needed help with kimchee not too long ago, i got amazing help from hannaone. Awesome recipe, and now I make it all the time.I never have to buy a "bad" jar wishing for that special kimchee thatI used to crave.
                                    I make my own. Italian, Chinese, Indian, you name it I love this site and have learned so much as well as being able to share my experiences.
                                    There will be no more lost recipes if we all share.

                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      Kimchee!!! I'm impressed. Do you bury it or use the fridge? Italian food is my heritage so it's almost second nature. Tonight I'm trying an Indian vegetable curry. We'll see how it goes. Fingers crossed...

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        Bury it? Heck no! I use a shelf in the garage, and then once its to the sourness I love, it goes into the fridge, so so so GOOD!
                                        hannaone 's reipe it is so delicious!

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          I tried kimchee several times when I lived in the midwest and had no access to it otherwise, and was never happy with the results. I may have to try again, tho I have moved back to NY and can get kimchee again...

                                        2. re: Gio

                                          Indian Food that is my new hot item. love it but I can do only a few...
                                          Butter Chicken now how could anything be better.

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            I didn't think you'd bury the kimchee... but I must say, I'd be tempted.
                                            The vegetable curry turned out very well, indeed! Patting myself on the back, in fact. It was eggplant based but I added a chopped red pepper into the mix. I'm in love with the taste.

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              Hey I am totally laughing, because as fellow(ettes) cooks I DID think about burying it. My DH would kill me though or have me committed.
                                              I would love a wonderful veggie curry. I am able to a marinade, I make gram masala for chicken tikka, a seafood curry (which is adjusted to my tastes) Please share your recipe????

                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                Here's the recipe I used...I forgot where I got it, though. However, this does reflect my additions, subtractions and multiplications:

                                                Baigan Ka Bhartha
                                                Serves 4 to 6 persons.

                                                1 large eggplant, about 2 pounds,cut into 2-inch cubes, I left the skin on.
                                                1/2 cup peanut oil
                                                2 onions, coarsely chopped
                                                4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used about 1 cup simple marinara sauce)
                                                1 red bell pepper, chopped
                                                2 jalpenos, chopped, seeds & pith included
                                                2 cloves garlic minced
                                                juice of 1 lime
                                                Kosher salt and freshly ground Tellicherry pepper
                                                Dry Masala:
                                                1 teaspoon paprika
                                                1 teaspoon red chili powder
                                                1 teaspoon turmeric
                                                1 teaspoon garam masala
                                                2 tablespoons coriander leaves for garnish
                                                Prepare eggplant and set aside from heat.
                                                In a wok or heavy skillet, heat oil just short of smoking.
                                                Cook eggplant cubes until soft, 7-10 minutes.
                                                Remove, set aside.
                                                To the oil add the onions, and cook until they become translucent.
                                                Add the tomatoes, etc, the lime juice, salt and pepper, and the dry masala.

                                                Return eggplant to pan and cook over medium heat, coating the eggplant as you stir, about 3-5 minutes.

                                                Turn out on warmed serving platter and sprinkle with the Garam Masala.
                                                Garnish with the coriander leaves and serve.

                                                I served this as a side along with basmati rice for ginger and lime marinated chicken breasts. Next time I going to serve naan as well.

                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  Thank you for taking the time to write this out Gio!! This looks to be terrific and so healty!
                                                  Am I correct that there is not any fresh or ground ginger is in this dish? Or is it in your garam masala recipe> I think I do use ground in mine. But I will follow your lead absolutely if you say no.

                                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                                    We've been in Vt for the weekend and just read your query. I can't remember if I used any ginger. The garam masala comes from Penzy's and it's downstairs and I have to look at the label to see if there's any ginger in the mix. Not right now though.... LOL.. I'm sure you understand. The chicken was marinated with freshly ground ginger, but I don't think I used any in the curry. I'll double check and let you know. In any case, the bit that was left over made a delicious mini sandwich the next day.... on hot buttered toast.

                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                      Re: Garam Masala: Chefchicklet, ginger is included in the list of ingredients for GM. However, it was undetectable to me in the finished dish. I'm definitely going to make this dish again and experiment with a variety of vegetables. Also, I think I'll up the heat next time. Love, spicy food!!

                                                  2. re: Gio

                                                    Hey Gio, chef_chicklet,
                                                    I just wanted to add that traditionally Baingan Bharta involves roasting/charring whole eggplants on a flame. Don't get me wrong, the recipe above sounds delicious! But if you have a little extra time on your hands and don't mind the clean-up, try roasting those eggplants on a low flame until the skin is charred. It helps to line the area around the burner with foil (cut a hole for the burner), to catch any dripping juice. Then peel the eggplant, dipping your fingers in a small bowl of cold water as you work. Once the peel is all off, chop the flesh into a mush. For the rest proceed as above.
                                                    The smokiness of this bharta will be something else. Also, you will cut down on the oil even more. I'm guessing you'll probably need only about 2-3 tablespoons to cook the other veggies.
                                                    I am such a busybody! :P

                                                    1. re: sweetTooth

                                                      I'm just revisiting this thread 3 months later. Thank you, sweetTooth, for the tip about charring the eggplant. When I made the Bharta I chopped the eggplant into a small dice. Now I see the that dish will greatly benefit from your advise!

                                        3. re: Gio

                                          Chinese dishes? Yikes. Been ages since I tried, and when I did it was on that old diesel stove. My crew members got forced to eat my experiments. Armed with my Chinese cookbook, I bought the ingredients listed for a few dishes, picked an afternoon and went to work cooking. Nothing ever came out tasting bad or totally unlike what one would expect the dish to taste like. However, none of the dishes ever came out looking like one would expect either. I don't think the stove created enough heat. Still, I got good reviews from my crew, as I recall it, and I think it was asked for again. They would not have been gentle with me, if the food was bad.

                                          Since then, I have made Indian, even my own garam masala, and some Thai skewers, but not tried Chinese again. Perhaps it is time.

                                          1. re: Captain

                                            Hmmmm.... Captain cooking for crew. Lucky crew!

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              One of my crew members once said that sometimes he loved having me on board, because I cooked some great meals, and sometimes he hated having me on baord, as he turned back to a huge pile of stuff I had gotten dirty and which were in the sink, and it was still not yet time to eat.

                                              However, my crew also knew there was another rule: If you cook, you do not clean. I enforced this rule at least once by ordering a crew member away from the sink and picking up the sponge myself to clean the dishes.

                                        4. re: chef chicklet

                                          Re: Chef Chicklet's Mu Shu Pork pancake message:

                                          Yeah, I have made those pancakes. If I remember, you roll out two balls of dough with oil between them and then pull them apart. Aieeeeeee! That was hard.

                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                            I did this too, but I didn't think it was that hard, I was delighted with the results...I wonder why I never did it again...

                                          2. re: chef chicklet

                                            You should be proud of yourself for mastering Chinese dishes! I love Chinese food, and can never quite seem to get it right.

                                          3. Once I got it in my head to make mole. Found a recipe, but started fiddling with it almost immediately. Everything I changed I wrote down.

                                            It took HOURS, but was delicious when it was done. that was a Saturday afternoon when I really didn't have anything else to do. I don't think I'd attempt it again unless I had lots of time and was really in the mood to cook, but just having done it was an accomplishment to be proud of.

                                            1. Making Buche de Noel - I'm not a big baker, and there are an awful lot of components, but I get an incredible satisfaction out of it.

                                              Also - learning to fry well - that's a recently acquired skill.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                That was one of mine. I have done it a few times, complete with merengue mushrooms.

                                                1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                  for a few years between about the ages of 12 and 14 I would make a buche for christmas. It took all day and in the end it looked like my kitchen had exploded (I'm sure my parents loved that), but it was always very satisfying. I haven't done it in a while though... maybe this year!

                                              2. Oh, another one for me was when I made my first batch of fruitcake. It's especially satisfying when my mom calls me up before I'm heading for their house and asks me if I have any that I can bring with me.

                                                1. S'mores--with the graham crackers and marshmallows from scratch. A lot of work but boy were they freaking good.

                                                  1. I finally was able to perfectly recreate my mother's famous potato salad. She passed away about 3 years ago leaving behind a very vague recipe. Everytime the family got together, we eagerly awaited her potato salad, so when she passed, it was left up to me to bring the treasured dish. It took about two years, but last Easter I finally got it right!! For my family, it's like having Mom at the table with us.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: sheilal

                                                      Mine was like this too, it was my Grandmother's chocolate cream pie. Everyone looked forward to it, and she never made enough of them for us. When I finally pulled it off and it came out perfectly, I was so dang happy. Now, mine is better than hers was because I use high quality cocoa.

                                                      1. re: GenieinTX

                                                        I know just where you are coming from. Slowly learning Mom's traditional holiday foods has been really important. I've mastered chicken soup and brisket and am working on gefilte fish (for the uninitiated, basically big fish meatballs)--did it once with Mom and took copious notes--she thought I was insane when I started measuring everything as I dumped it in the bowl, since she doesn't measure anything with her homemade recipes. I know there are things that are harder technically, but I really do not want to lose tradition.

                                                    2. Croissants. Took forever, but they were absolutely fantastic. Made them the first time in an underheated apartment during a Michigan winter (I was a poor grad student) and they turned out perfectly!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: jvozoff

                                                        The same thing happened for me when I made croissants! But my most triumphant moment was probably making a white chocolate and strawberry cheesecake (it's on Epicurious, and it's amazing) for an event, and someone asked me (after seeing and then tasting it) where I got it, and I said "Well, I got the recipe..." and he interruped with "YOU MADE THAT?" Such a proud moment.

                                                        And you all should make that recipe, it's just that good.

                                                        1. re: jvozoff

                                                          Bagels! They also took forever in an underheated Michigan apartment during winter as a poor grad student, but boy, they tasted a lot more like NY bagels than anything else in Ann Arbor.

                                                        2. I have fond memories of my own first risotto, also parmesan and pea, and very satisfying. Had another Home Cooking Victory when I made potato gnocchi from scratch, following Lidia Bastianich's recipe. Quite time consuming, but none of the steps were difficult, and those little ridgy poufs were light as air and looked so cute! What a treat to serve!

                                                          1. Congrats on the risotto! My wife keeps asking me for a mushroom risotto, but I, too, had heard how finicky it was to make and so I've shied away from it. If you can do it, then perhaps I can as well.

                                                            As a side question for everyone: Am I the only cook in the universe who finds recipe prep times ridiculous? I have NEVER been able to prep a recipe in the time alloted by a recipe writer. Ever. Chopping the veg, peeling, cubing the meat, searing, making the sauce, whatever--it all takes waaaaaay more time than what the recipe indicates.

                                                            My last effort was recipezaar's Rio Grande Valley Style Carne Guisada, which had cook time as 2.5 hrs and prep as 15 minutes. Yeah, right! Arrgh. True, I was quadrupling the recipe, but even so....

                                                            (Good news: My version, which incorporated some changes, was better than the original!)

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: KenWritez

                                                              You are not the only one. I was beginning to think that perhaps I am particularly slow and obsessive, but thankfully, I guess not.

                                                              1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                                Same here! "30-minute meals" take me at least 45 minutes to an hour. I thought I was just a meditative cook.

                                                              2. re: KenWritez

                                                                Oh Pah-leeeze. Don't base your prep time on those published items. Take your time, I say, and get every thing in order as it suits you. Time begins when you actually get to the stove and skillet. Buon appetito!

                                                                1. re: KenWritez

                                                                  I can usually do the prep in 2/3 to 3/4 of the time alloted by the recipe, but that can be traced to my time in commercial kitchens. A very sharp knife, well organized mise-en-place and proper technique make all the difference

                                                                  It's amazing what you can learn to do when you are weeded in orders during a Saturday night service.

                                                                  1. re: KenWritez

                                                                    The only trick I can tell you about risotto is not to undercook it, if they tell you a certain amount of time to stir, don't listen to it. It depends on how hot your stovetop is while you're cooking it. Have a bite of the rice when you think it's getting done. Not done? Keep adding liquid and stirring. Use a wooden spoon to stir, and make sure you have more broth/stock than you think you'll use. You'll be surprised how much that arborio will drink up! At least 3x the amount of stock is about right compared to the rice. Sautee some mushrooms on medium heat with olive oil for about 5 minutes and they're done. Throw them in the rice at the end. And don't forget to salt and pepper the rice while cooking. You have to make it a couple times to be comfortable with it, and don't let things distract you or you'll end up with some burnt rice.

                                                                    1. re: KenWritez

                                                                      I normally triple prep times when I look at a recipe...They lie!!

                                                                    2. Sourdough bread with home made starter. I created the starter from rye flour. Once you have the starter you can make bread, sourdough waffles, pancakes. etc.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Antilope

                                                                        Very impressive. I am scared of bread. I may have to try it someday.

                                                                        1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                                          Oh, no, bread isn't scary! What did it for me was the old "Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book." It explained why bread has to be kneaded, as well as exactly what the dough is supposed to look and feel like when it's been kneaded enough. I find kneading bread to be a very good activity to keep the hands busy so the mind can go off on a little trip. And sourdough is even better (except that you have to keep making it, even when you're not in the mood).

                                                                        2. re: Antilope

                                                                          Reliably making crusty sourdough is quite a accomplishment. There is a fine line between well risen and fallen, as the acid responsible for the sour tang can also break down the gluten if to rise left too long.

                                                                          Rye is tough, as they isn't much gluten to start with.

                                                                          1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                            I just used the rye to get the starter going. Organic rye flour contains natural sourdough yeasts. After several days of feeding the starter, I switched the flour feeder to all purpose white flour. I make sourdough from ap flour.

                                                                        3. Fried chicken and gravy. I've always been paranoid about cooking the chicken at the right temperature, not over browning, etc. But then I used Paula's recipe with the hot sauce egg wash and double dip in seasoned self-rising flour. Perfect! Deep frying is the trick I think. Golden crust, juicy chicken... amazing.

                                                                          For the gravy it was really about mastering a quick roux. Now I make homemade gravy with any meat drippings I have. Delish!

                                                                          1. This is funny -- after reading the title of your post, but before reading the post itself, I thought "risotto!" After tasting the real deal in Italy, and falling in love with it, I was determined to make it. After a certain amount of trial and error, I now make risotto that is right up there with the best I've tasted. I'm quite pleased with myself.

                                                                            1. Spanakopita. You know, that Greek Spinach pie thingy. I was always intimidated by the horrific stories of handling fillo dough and how it would dry up or crack etc. Long story short, I made the best spanakopita ever ! Moist, goats milk feta, quality evoo, country-style fillo. Very simple to prepare and just deliciousness on a plate. Most of the ones I've had when dining out have always been dry and reheated. I reheated mine the next day, and it still came out on top. I'm a natural at this. : )

                                                                              14 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                The first real "special dinner' I ever made, which included not only one but two things I was proud of - a lemon-scented creme brulee (we had a torch even!) and bearnaise sauce that came out perfect. I'm also very nervous around protien, always have been for some reason, so the two filet mignon steaks I did I was pretty proud of too.

                                                                                1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                  I think working with filo is filled with warnings and "make sure it's not torn" statements. I find that it works every bit as well if you just do the best you can and use the torn pieces, fitting them in wherever possible. Spanikopita, etc. turn out really well when you relax a bit and don't give up because some of the filo dried out a bit or cracked.

                                                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                    I don't even bother patching -- just keep layering and it will work.

                                                                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                      I agree.

                                                                                      It's also important to score the spanakopita into serving size pieces before placing it in the oven. I'm still surprised at how simple a recipe it was. As with most recipes, *always* use quality ingredients, and usually you'll achieve quality results.

                                                                                    2. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                      Cheese Boy -- I too count phyllo dough creations among my culinary wizardry, and they always knock the socks off anyone who samples. I fill mine with all sorts of goodies -- spinach of course (no egg in my spanakopita, although some like it that way). I also fill phullo with creamy cheeses and mushroom, asparagus and swiss, broccoli and parmesan for a big strudel as a main course for a vegetarian entree. I brought a giant mushroom strudel (Moosewood cookbook) to Thanksgiving last year.

                                                                                      For appetizers, I like to play with the shapes and sizes. The triangles are the easiest, but with a helper I will make logs too, tucking in the ends as I go which can be much more tedious. I always cover the phyllo I'm not using with a slightly dampened dish towel and try to work quickly, and I use LOTS of melted butter, and if one tears I try to sneak it in where it won't be seen. With all of those layers, no one can tell.

                                                                                      I first made phyllo snackies an hour before hosting the first meeting of a culinary-literary book club -- even the dieters gobbled up turnover upon turnover. That first time I made red pepper-blue cheese-mushroom triangles. Mmmmm!

                                                                                      1. re: foxy fairy

                                                                                        Foxy, you've inspired me to try experimenting with new fillings.
                                                                                        I'm going to keep it vegetarian so the fillo doesn't get drenched with animal fat. Animal fat and fillo are a bad thing.

                                                                                        I'd love to try something here with rabbit though. A rabbit encrusted ________ .

                                                                                        1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                          Here (photo link at bottom), I used the filling from the mushroom strudel in Original Moosewood (cream cheese cut into hot sauteed mushrooms, plus sour cream or yogurt, fresh dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper). mmmm. We can polish off 20 of these triangles (and we're two relatively small people) in about eight minutes. It's hard to bring these to parties because we want to inhale them all ourselves! Actually, last year I brought some of my asparagus phyllo triangles to a dinner party, and I could see the host getting nervous that everyone would fill up on those with no room left for the entree! :)

                                                                                          Definitely don't forget the (slightly( damp towel to cover the stack of phyllo sheets as you work. What I like to do is clear a BIG work space. Then, working with a helper, we have the melted butter and brush ready, and take out four sheets. Working **quickly**, spread each with melted butter, fold in thirds the long way, then cut in half. Then I brush that with butter again. Put 1Tbsp filling in bottom and fold them up (like when folding a flag -- at least, the way my grandfather taught me to do so). Set on greased cookie sheet.


                                                                                          1. re: foxy fairy

                                                                                            Cut the folded phyllo in half length- or width-wise?

                                                                                            1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                              The first time you fold it in thirds the long way, so you end up with one long column of phyllo with three layers (like in elementary school, when the teachers had us make columns out of a piece of lined paper, remember?). Then, once you have the column, cut that in half the other way, keeping the width the same but you'll end up with two shorter columns... does that make sense? ;) Even the first time I described it, I was trying to figure out how to word it without being confusing.

                                                                                              1. re: foxy fairy

                                                                                                FF, how long do you bake these for and what kind of heat? I've got the length-wise width-wise part correct -- just need time and temps now.

                                                                                                1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                                  Cheese Boy -- Oops! I just caught your request - I cook mine at 375 for ten to twelve minutes. Have you tried any yet???

                                                                                                  1. re: foxy fairy

                                                                                                    FF, I wanted to be sure not to burn them. I've got all the info I need now. Thanky thanky !!!

                                                                                                    1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                                      Can't wait to hear how they turn out. If you make these for Thanksgiving (or any occasion in the world) they will disappear immediately and everyone will tell you to open a restaurant or catering business :) I just tried a new combo Sunday night, using whatever veggies and creaminess (yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream) I felt like combining from my fridge. These are so versatile, which I think is the secret surprise of phyllo! Please let me know how yours turn out...

                                                                                      2. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                        That's awesome! That is definatly a hard dish to master...I'm still working on it!

                                                                                      3. As a grad student in the middle of teaching myself to cook, I gewt the pleasure of many of these moments.

                                                                                        I've made risotto twice now: first a basic parmesan, which was good but too sticky; second, butternut squash that, with SO's help, was DELICIOUS.

                                                                                        My biggest victory however, was the humble dish of roast chicken with stuffing, a la Julia Child. Though it's a classic, I'd never cooked anything <i>whole</i> before, nor eaten it outside of Thanksgiving.

                                                                                        With my neurotic doting (as Julia mandates), we ended up without leftovers. Perfectly moist chicken, and the Best Stuffing Ever!

                                                                                        1. gyozagirl, I had the same fear of pie crusts! I've made many tarts, but tart crusts are considerably more forgiving than pie crusts. But this past weekend--autumn FINALLY having arrived after a seemingly endless summer--I made my first-ever apple pie from scratch. The filling was a combination of local Jonagolds and Northern Spy apples, and I made my own crust! Half-butter, half-lard--it was soooo flaky! Even with my mistakes (I forgot to dot the filling with butter before placing the top crust on, I forgot to sprinkle sugar on the top crust before baking, I forgot to put the pie shield on the protect the edges until later on in the baking). The pie was fabulous! I was so impressed and I took pictures and emailed them to my far-away friends and family.

                                                                                          I am so impressed with your risotto tale. Perhaps I will now be inspired to try risotto.

                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                                            Make me jealous--you got Northern Spy apples. Hard to find. I may have to go to the Union Square Farmer's Market in Manhattan to get some. The BEST apples for pie.

                                                                                            I too may have to try risotto. Anyone with a favorite recipe to share?

                                                                                            1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                                                              I think simple is best when you start with risotto, and if you have or can read the recipe in Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook, published back in 1984, then you will have a great blueprint to follow. That's what I did the first time.

                                                                                              Now, I use some type of onion, usually a shallot, and brown it, then add a bit more oil, add the rice, let that toast a bit, add some white wine, and then slowly bit by bit add chicken broth. As the rice expands and the liquid disappears, more liquid is added. Keep stirring, until done.

                                                                                              Once, my then girlfriend was not ready with the rest of the meal when the risotto was done, and I kept and kept stirring for antoher ten or fifteen minutes. I was a bit soft, but people still seemed to enjoy it. It got good reviews, but was not as godo as it should have been, IMO.

                                                                                              I never found it a difficult thing to cook, but it is a lot of work and time consuming. The first time I made it, my Engineer at the time was from the Bayous of Louisiana. He first spoke in Patois. When he saw me making rice the exact opposite way from which he learned, he asked if I was doing it correclty. I passed him my copy of Marcella's book, and he read it and said if the book was right that I was doing it right. A month or so later, I had to make it again with him watching, so he could bring it home to make for someone. On another note, he made the best jambalaya I think I ever had.

                                                                                              1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                                                                Rissotto is fun to do... my favorite is Asparagus. Here's my recipe, which is pretty adaptable to what's in season:

                                                                                                1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                                                                  I usually just use the basic risotto recipe from Joy of Cooking and add veggies, usually peas and/or mushrooms on occasion. Sometimes I make the Milanese version with saffron instead.

                                                                                              2. Jfood's proudest kitchen moment was tarte tartin. He committed to making one for a Thanksgiving dinner and mrs jfood was somewhat skeptical. It was an away game so this was the jfood contribution. Pressure on. And no cast iron skillet.

                                                                                                The fear when you take the tarte out of the oven, look at the pastry on top and say, "Now what do I do?" then take a deep breth, figure out the eye-hand-arm coordination to flip that puppy so warm apples do not go all over your shirt and then close you eyes and slowly open them to see how it looks is the longest timeframe in the kitchen. And the to see it came out, Nice.

                                                                                                Pass the vanilla ice cream please.

                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                                      Jfood, did the nonstick seem any worse having been used in the oven? I've always shied away from doing this and wonder if that caution is unnecessary. What temperature did you bake the tarte tatin at? Thanks!

                                                                                                      1. re: sweetTooth

                                                                                                        Nope. Remember the pan is full while "baking".

                                                                                                        In fact jfood has a favorite quick fish recipe in which he brings a NS hot, sears a piece of salmon (skin side up) in EVOO, flips it, adds some veggies (blanched and halved brussel sprouts are great) and places in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 to finish. comes out perfect.

                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                          Thanks, Jfood. I might try that tarte tatin after all! Was never very confident of trying it in my calphalon one skillet. It's perfect for most other things, but baked caramel.... yeah, I'll try the NS first.

                                                                                                1. Green Tea cake w.Red Bean filling with a Meringue Frosting from scratch. I can't believe I did it, and probably won't do it again (definitely get canned red bean filling anyway), but it was worth it =)

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: reannd

                                                                                                    This sounds good--I love red beans. Do you have a link to the recipe? Thanks.

                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                      kinda made it up myself (found a matcha chiffon recipe via google, and a red bean paste same way. got the meringue coating idea from some other cake recipe id seen online)

                                                                                                      .. went a little like this:

                                                                                                      1) Matcha (Green Tea) Chiffon Cake
                                                                                                      1 ¼ cups flour (run through a sifter 2x to make it lighter)
                                                                                                      1/3 cup sugar
                                                                                                      1 tablespoon matcha (green tea powder.. I ran loose leaf green tea in my coffee grinder)
                                                                                                      1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
                                                                                                      ¼ teaspoon salt

                                                                                                      ¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
                                                                                                      2 egg yolks, room temperature
                                                                                                      ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cold water
                                                                                                      1 teaspoon vanilla extract

                                                                                                      3 egg whites
                                                                                                      ¼ cup sugar

                                                                                                      Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 8" pans with parchment paper (or grease/flour them).
                                                                                                      Sift together the cake flour, matcha (tea) powder, baking powder and salt. Mix with the sugar.
                                                                                                      In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, water and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
                                                                                                      Place the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and whip using a handheld or standing electric mixer on low speed until they begin to froth. Once the whites become foamy, begin gradually adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is incorporated. Continue beating, gradually increasing the mixer speed, until stiff peaks form.
                                                                                                      Fold the meringue into the mixture in three additions.
                                                                                                      Pour the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and spread a thin, even layer using a large offset metal spatula. Tap the pan on all four sides against the counter to get rid of any air bubbles. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 6 minutes, rotate the pan and bake for another 5 minutes until the edges just begin to turn golden and the cake has risen and is soft and springy to touch. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the sheet pan to loosen the cake. Carefully remove the cake from the sheet pan and onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.

                                                                                                      Red Bean Filling goes in between cake layers after cake is cooled.

                                                                                                      2) Red Bean paste
                                                                                                      1 cup dried red beans
                                                                                                      1/2 cup light brown sugar (I used splenda packets, maybe 6 or so)
                                                                                                      2 tablespoons oil

                                                                                                      Place the beans in a large pot. Cover with water and boil until soft (warning: this can take about 2 hours, depending on your beans) adding additional water if needed. Drain. Mash the beans with the sugar. Heat the oil in a pan, add the beans and cook until all of the moisture has cooked out. Store in an air tight container.

                                                                                                      3) Meringue Topping was:
                                                                                                      2 egg whites
                                                                                                      2/3 c sugar
                                                                                                      very very small amount of cream of tartar

                                                                                                      Beat the egg whites in a clean clean clean bowl until they get foamy. Add sugar 2T at a time, but don't add new sugar until the old on is totally dissolved. I usually wait 2 minutes between. By this time you have been beating these eggs for like 10 min or so. Beat for 2-3 more minutes just because. Add whatever flavor (vanilla, almond) once you've done this and then stir it just a few times.

                                                                                                      Then frost the cake, or the stuff them on a cookie sheet for the meringue cookies instead.

                                                                                                      Bake in Oven @ 325deg, maybe 15-20 min.

                                                                                                      1. re: reannd

                                                                                                        Thanks! Good idea on grinding up green tea to make matcha. I don't know if I'd want to buy a box of it to make a cake. I'll have to give this a try when I have time. Maybe I'll do a chestnut frosting. I can't wait to try it!

                                                                                                  2. These I've only made once, but they came out looking and tasting very professional:

                                                                                                    apple struedle--I love how you beat the dough!

                                                                                                    an invention: Smoked Salmon/White Cheddar/Chipolte Cheesecake--grand prize at a local cheesecake competition.

                                                                                                    Buche de Noel

                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                      I am in awe of anyone who can make good strudel.

                                                                                                      1. re: Captain

                                                                                                        you can do it! just takes patience and time.

                                                                                                      2. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                        Willing to share that award-winning cheesecake recipe?
                                                                                                        I have a ton of smoked salmon in the freezer and that sounds great. Perhaps, even manly enough to pass off as part of a football party spread.

                                                                                                        1. re: Honey Bee

                                                                                                          sure will do later today or tomorrow. Got to get moving now!

                                                                                                          1. re: Honey Bee

                                                                                                            Honey Bee, I'm going to post this on Home Cooking Board because I think it will have good general appeal especially with the holidays coming up. Thanks for the request.

                                                                                                        2. I'm enjoying this thread, but I have to admit that I find it interesting to see how many people are afraid of making risotto. I've never had a problem with it.

                                                                                                          But I will also admit that I am hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year and I am so afraid that I will ruin the turkey since I've never made one before! I even had the thought yesterday that maybe I should order a cooked one from a place near my house (oh the horror!). I won't do it, but it is my latest goal.

                                                                                                          That, and homemade bread. Not sure when I will attempt bread but I will hopefully at least be able to report back in a few weeks that my turkey was a success.

                                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: valerie

                                                                                                            Have you tried the no-knead bread? It really is hard to go wrong with it and so impressive with the crust.

                                                                                                            1. re: valerie

                                                                                                              Do a search for a Brown Bag turkey recipe. I've always heard that first time turkey roasters almost always have success.

                                                                                                              1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                Do not fear the big bird, especially if you can roast a chicken well. For me the turkey works best when I, brine it, stuff a bunch of fat (butter) under the skin before cooking, keep a small pan of water in the over, cook it first upside down, turn it over 1/3 of the way through, cover it with a cheese cloth soaked in butter, and then during the last 1/2 hour of roasting, remove the water, and coat the bird in a mixture of apricot (or another light) jelly and butter. the butter and sugar from the jelly melt and carmelize on the skin, and the bird looks awesome.

                                                                                                                Everything else, and I mean everything else I make the one or two days before, and I heat it up. I make the stuffing ahead and do it with juices and stock from roast turkey legs. Same with the gravy, but you really need to roast this stuff.

                                                                                                                1. re: Captain

                                                                                                                  Thanks...you make it sound so easy!

                                                                                                                  I am good at planning out (well, actually obsessing over) the timing of things and I do cook/prepare as much in advance as possible. We recently moved into a new house and I have a double wall oven, so that will make it a lot easier.

                                                                                                                  1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                    Well, nothing I ever made for Thanksgiving was tough to make, but it did take lots and lots of time. My sister showed up on Wed. night before it once, and asked "What can I do?" My response was "Nothing." Two pies, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, carrots, creamed spinach, an appetizer, etc. all were cooked. Turkey was in the refrig, thawed, just about ready to go. I saved mashed potatoes for her the next day.

                                                                                                                    I thought one big advantage of making it ahead was that I could mess it up and still try again. Took the pressure off.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Captain

                                                                                                                      Love your easy going approach to cooking, Captain. Much like mine in fact. It's the people we have around us that make the party...

                                                                                                                2. re: valerie

                                                                                                                  O, man, have I been there! Here's what worked for me: Follow Alton Brown's recipe for brined turkey. Brining is such your new best friend! Just make sure to thaw the turkey before you try to cook it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                    Yes, I plan to follow Alton's method. Seems like it's a winner.

                                                                                                                  2. re: valerie

                                                                                                                    Valerie, you sound just like me. I've no problem with risotto, but the idea of making bread freaks me out a little. I did my first Thanksgiving dinner a couple of years ago for about 8 people; I was so nervous I didn't eat anything! Once everyone left I scarfed tons of yummy food. I was so proud of myself I kept the piece of paper where I had the whole day planned. It was so detailed...quite silly actually. Very meticulous with the timing of everything since I didn’t have a microwave and only one little oven. My detailed plan even had stuff like, "Such-n-such has been cooking for 10 minutes now, you should have 10 minutes to kill, refill your wine glass and change cd." Hee hee, it was so much fun; I only got nervous when people started to show up.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Lemonii

                                                                                                                      I'm not nervous about the hosting/coordinating part. I've been making Passover dinners for the past few years and the first time I hosted it, I had 16 people. That was rough, but after that, it was easy. We're only having 6 adults and 4 children and for us, that's a small group. I actually just told my sister that if she knows anyone that needs a place to go, invite them -- I like a big crowd!

                                                                                                                      But I, too, make spreadsheets including everything from what the dish is to where and when it will be cooked (i.e. oven on this day, then reheated in toaster oven, etc.) to what serving platters it will go on and what serving utensils will be used. Keeps me sane!

                                                                                                                      1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                        I've been doing something for awhile that you might find helpful - I photocopy all the recipes I'm going to be using, and then tape them up on my kitchen cupboards.

                                                                                                                        1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                          Project management skills come in handy when you're cooking for a large group, especially when you only have one oven. I have it down on a timeline for when things go in and come out of the refrigerator, oven, freezer.

                                                                                                                          1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                            Nice Valerie! Even the utensils!! THAT'S organized!

                                                                                                                        2. re: valerie

                                                                                                                          Turkey is super easy to do...just make sure you get the insides out...

                                                                                                                        3. I made perfect potato gnocci. :)

                                                                                                                          1. My second biggest pump-the-fist-in-the-air moment was making a perfect bisteeya. First time out, after chucking protocol to the wind and melding a few recipes I had been studying. Too big of a hit, and I had to recreate what I had done a few more times within a month and a half (one for my daughter's class as part of a multicultural expo. The biggest thrill was being able to replicate the outcome. Very satisfying. Still a pain in the butt to make, but the bisteeya has become a cravable meal in the household.

                                                                                                                            Now I have to figure out what I'm doing wrong and make a good potatoes Anna.

                                                                                                                            1. I made Xmas dinner once. Catered for 17 family members

                                                                                                                              Cream of cucumber soup and roasted capsicum soup (served side by side in the same bowl with an Xmas tree piped on top with horseradish creme fraiche),

                                                                                                                              crab meat and camenbert mousse, wrapped in wilted butter lettuce

                                                                                                                              Whole Turkey with roasted chestnut and bacon neck stuffing, bacon and sage cavity stuffing.

                                                                                                                              Beggars Ham (honey baked ham in a salted bread crust that you hit with a hammer at the table. The crust shatters and voila, the steaming ham is revealed)

                                                                                                                              potatoes, glazed carrots, baked pumkin, vine ripened tomatoes stuffed with fetta and pasto.

                                                                                                                              2 salads.

                                                                                                                              Xmas pud with 2 sauces, brandy butter and custard,

                                                                                                                              Summer berry pudding.


                                                                                                                              I decorated the house with tartan bunting, fresh flowers, made all my own nibbles from scratch (roasted nuts, toffees White Xmas, various dips, etc)

                                                                                                                              I even had a table for the 6 kids and did mini-versions of all the grown up food.

                                                                                                                              Too bad only 2 people showed up and had to leave early, as they had another commitment.

                                                                                                                              True story.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: purple goddess


                                                                                                                                my story: I once organized a holiday cookie exchange with gals from work--the night of the event (at my home) I'd made 12 dozen cookies, coffee, tea, punch, built a fire, and it started to rain buckets. 8" deep rain water ran down the street....no one could've gotten out of their cars....they all stayed home; no one even bothered to call as I sat waiting....but they weren't FAMILY for gosh sakes. Are you speaking to them yet?!

                                                                                                                              2. Risotto Milanese and Osso Buco

                                                                                                                                I followed the C.I.A. recipe to the letter (the brown veal stock was a b*tch) and was so proud. I had done risotto before, but it was my first braise and they both came out great.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: azhotdish

                                                                                                                                  Can you post a link to the recipe? This is my next adventure in cooking! TIA

                                                                                                                                2. The first time I made a souffle, I was very proud of myself. They really aren't as difficult as I thought they would be, more stress inducing than difficult I would say.
                                                                                                                                  I plan on making Osso Bucco next week I think since my Dad and husband love it, I'm nervous about that one too, but everyone has assured me it's quite easy.

                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                                                                                    I read a book about home life in Victorian England where they discussed how a lot of recipes that still have a reputation as difficult aren't so much with modern equipment. When you had a coal- or wood-fired stove with uneven heat and no more specific instructions than "hot oven," a souffle was very difficult. With an oven that's pretty much the same temperature throughout with the ability to hold a specific temperature, they're apparently (I've never made one) not such a big deal.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: saraeanderson

                                                                                                                                      That's so good to know and sounds like an interesting book. Do you remember the name of it?
                                                                                                                                      When I have made them, I end up thinking, "that wasn't so bad". I do think that for many people the timing of dishes is an issue and a souffle is one thing you really don't want to overcook. For example, DH is a great cook with meat, but if he has to time foods to come off the stove, oven and grill all at the same time he really stresses out.
                                                                                                                                      If your interested in trying to make souffle, my suggestion is to make one on a night you're doing a light dinner. For example if we have a large lunch/brunch over the weekend, I end up making a souffle and a salad for dinner. This way the souffle is the only thing I'm really making/cooking.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                                                                                        The book is called "Inside the Victorian Home" by Judith Flanders. I'm not exactly a history buff, but it's one of my all-time favorite books.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: saraeanderson

                                                                                                                                        When I was an au pair, my charges and I would make souffles because then I could say "when the souffle is in the oven, the house must be very quiet as otherwise it would fall!" I relished that silence so much, that we'd make a souffle a week.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: relizabeth

                                                                                                                                          What a great trick! I'll keep that in mind for the future...

                                                                                                                                      3. Perfect cream puffs. But the first three batches were more like frisbees, although the birds seemed to enjoy them.

                                                                                                                                        1. I've done a lot of first tries and have been pretty impressed with most attempts. My biggest Wow was when I made gyro meat. Not something I would have thought easy in the home kitchen but it was not too hard. Mole' is another task that does take some time but is worth the effort.

                                                                                                                                          1. Although it turned out to be ridiculously simple, I was greatly impressed the first time I made confit de canard and it came out just like in a restaurant. What an easy way to impress your friends!

                                                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: BobB

                                                                                                                                              Bob, the confit is on my list of "wannas!" My biggest hurdle seems to be not knowing where to get all the fat for the poaching. Care to share an more of your confit adventure? I'd be all ears.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                I agree with Bob - such a wonderfully easy thing to make but a real sense of accomplishment. I made it for the first time and converted some into rillettes as well. Don't know where you are located, but one thought is to use goose fat instead of duck fat, as it tends to be cheaper and available in larger containers. I still have the leftover duck fat from last year.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                  I love goose fat as well...gads, I smell a winter project coming on! I'm in the midwest, and perhaps out of ignorance have never noticed goose or duck fat for sale. I have cooked geese and jealously guarded all the fat for as long as I could, but I'm guessing I'd need more than a goose-worth (<---funny word, that) of fat for a confit project. Do you get yours mail order, and is it a killer expense when you find it?

                                                                                                                                                  Okay, salivating here. Sometimes this site just kills me!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                    I live in NYC, so it's pretty easy to find - a large tin of goose fat is under $20, I can find duck fat in smaller containers, but adds up to cost more. D'Artagnan is a good mail order source - where in the Midwest are you - I know there were posts about it in Minneapolis and maybe St. Louis.

                                                                                                                                                    Edit - I see you are in MSP -


                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                      Thanks MM, I shop those purveyors and will inquire. In addition,I might have to cozy up to some friends who hunt ducks and geese!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                        Hi, I'm interested where you get goose fat in NYC - far from easy, I've found it incredibly difficult so far. Any chance you could enlighten me? Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                    I roasted a goose and saved all the fat - it renders quite a lot! And if you need to you can top it off with a neutral vegetable oil like canola.

                                                                                                                                                2. The thread on confit brought to mind the Cassoulet. I didn't actually do my own confit of duck, but did follow the "long way" to make the cassoulet (it was hard to find the recipes that were not titled "shortcut cassoulet"). It was really wonderful, did as a course of a wine dinner... I didn't tell the picky eaters there were gizzards in the mix!

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: firecooked

                                                                                                                                                    Ah, the silent gizzard. Who hasn't done this at least once. :)

                                                                                                                                                  2. Nothing specific, but every once in a while I'll make something I've done hundreds of times & it's amazing.

                                                                                                                                                    This summer I bought the sweetest most delicious grape tomatoes in my local produce stand. I make a tomato salad (chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, vinegar & italian spices) mainly when tomatoes are in season. This one batch was heavenly - no leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                    Last weekend I made an eggplant salad (grilled eggplant scraped from the skin, chopped with onion & sweet pepper. Seasoned with salt, pepper & sometimes a little olive oil) with a large eggplant I'd forgotten about in my fridge. Again I forgot about it - burnt it on one side. The flesh was reduced, but so rich & smokey - again, no leftovers!

                                                                                                                                                    1. Last night I made Mozzarella Cheese for the first time... and it tastes GREAT!!!

                                                                                                                                                      next up, ricotta tonight.. then gouda later this week.

                                                                                                                                                      Stay tuned

                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: todd149084

                                                                                                                                                        I'm really interested in learning how to make my own cheese. Are you using a cookbook or internet source? If so, could you share? Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                                                                                                                          I'd like to know too... I may try making paneer as part of my Indian cooking classes (self-taught, using cookbooks!) :)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                                                                                                                            To make ricotta cheese just use a 4 to 1 ratio of whole milk to buttermilk (Use good quality as it tastes only like the whole milk, got my hands on some raw milk from WF). Put it on high heat and let it reach 180 with you constantly stirring with a spatula, make sure to scrape the bottom as it may burn on the bottom. When it reaches that temp (you don't really need a thermometer) it will get all cloudy and you'll see the curds separate you can tell if it's done. Remove it from heat and place the mixture in a strainer lined with cheesecloth, or a teatowel or paper towels. Don't press down on the curds and let it strain then pick it up by the cloth and tie it up so the cheese is like in a bag of cloth and let it hand for about 10 minutes, longer if you like dryer ricotta.

                                                                                                                                                        2. Chinese Roast (sometimes called BBQ) Pork gave me this thrill. Once, when I lived in New York, I was even able to make Char Su Pao -- the pork-filled sweet buns. Steamed kind only -- I was unable to find a baked recipe, which would have really been something. These wonderful Asian recipes are hard for me to do consistently since I did not grow up in a home in which Asian food was served. This, I think, is mostly because the spices are really different from the Italian food I was weaned on.

                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                                                                            I recently made Char Siu for the first time... with a mix. (shock shock horror horror) It was so good. A great weeknight dish and very authentic tasting.



                                                                                                                                                          2. Pho- almost as good as Mom's, but not quite. It was edible and I was thrilled.

                                                                                                                                                            Bread- from French to focaccia to Irish soda, all from scratch. My next goal is croissants.

                                                                                                                                                            Pavlova- after many, many tries, I finally had one that didn't collapse. I tried all the cooling methods and the one that worked for me was baking it, turning off the oven, and letting it cool overnight with the oven door closed.

                                                                                                                                                            I really have to tackle more Chinese recipes (yeah, I'm Chinese-American). My mother is the most fabulous cook ever. Her Chinese and Vietnamese dishes are out of this world. My goal is to be half as good. I didn't grow up cooking with her (stupid me), but I'm trying to learn everything one recipe at a time.

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                                                                                                                                                            1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                                                                                                                              I have to start by saying this has been such an enjoyable topic to read about, thanks for posting it! Pallea is one victory I remember. I researched every recipe I could get my hands on, compared, contrasted, and finally settled on which one I would use. It cost me a fortune to assemble all the necessary ingredients, including the pan, but in the end, it came out perfectly!!!! It is now one of my "wow" recipes I like to fall back on when guests come into town.

                                                                                                                                                            2. The first time I made a perfect buerre blanc sauce from Julia's MTAOFC. It didn't even break. I was sooo proud.

                                                                                                                                                              1. Gyozagirl, inspired by your post, I made a lovely batch of parmesan and pea risotto last night. Seemed appropriate to be stirring my cauldron on Halloween! Sautéed the shallots and garlic (and then Arborio rice) in achiote oil (see Daisy Martinez' recipe at www.daisycooks.com) -- not an Italian ingredient, but it sure gave the finished product a gorgeous golden glow. Wonder what our trick-or-treaters thought when I flung open the front door and they were enveloped in a cloud of savory aroma? My DH, who detests shallots and garlic, will not touch my risotto, and is still complaining about the smell 24 hours later, says it was a miracle they didn't run screaming! Oh, well, he has other sterling qualities. ;^)

                                                                                                                                                                1. I spent my youth in Alaska and was determined to make bread. The instructions said to use warmer water at higher elevations and, as my bread was not rising, I started boiling the water. My poor husband ate ten sandwiches for lunch for a year before someone put me out of my misery.

                                                                                                                                                                  I can now make bread.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. I have had many of these moments and expect many more. Risotto, roast chicken, braised lamb shank, bolognese, a perfect steak, fresh pasta, these are the kinds of things that come to mind as real breakthrough/proud moments. The world of food is so vast and I love the adventure of learning how to work with new (to me) ingredients and techniques. I hope to continue to explore for the rest of my days. The only risk is what? A bad meal? I figure I'll eat again, and trying something new makes even a bad meal a fine experience.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Oddly enought - mad my first leg of lamb last night - would have done alot better if I had a good thermometer - I was using a cheap one and the lamb was a bit rare. Better that than burnt I guess!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. Tofu from scratch. I was so pleased with myself...didn't matter that it wasn't quite as pretty as the store-bought stuff or that my co-workers were decidedly unimpressed...I MADE TOFU!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Risotto was terrifying the first time I made it - but after doing it, my reaction was sort of, "That's it?" I think a lot of the risotto preperation is mental, in that everyone tries to really make it seem complicated, but when you taste it, and it's done, it's perfect. There is nothing better than risotto al salto the next morning.

                                                                                                                                                                          Making gyoza from scratch (including the wonton wrappers). In France, nonetheless. It was terrifying, friends were coming, and I had no idea how anything was going to taste. My wrappers were a little thick, but I just put another bottle of wine on the table and there were no problems.

                                                                                                                                                                          Finally, the first mousse I made. That was terrifying.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Spaetzle! It's one of those things I crave often, but don't think to make at home. It came out delicious and fun to make, save for the messy clean up job sans dishwasher.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. I smoked my first beef brisket yesterday and was pretty happy with the result. I used my Weber Kettle grill with a probe thermometer stuck through a wine cork plugged into the lid.

                                                                                                                                                                              It was a 4.32 lb brisket and it took me about 5 hours total with 30 minutes grilling over low direct heat, and then smoking in indirect heat at 250 for 4 and 1/2 hours.

                                                                                                                                                                              Now that I have done it once, I am not so intimidated to do it again!

                                                                                                                                                                              It came out pretty good, although the brisket itself was a tad lean, so it was a little drier than I would have liked, but next time, I will hunt for a fattier brisket and trim it myself..

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                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Homero

                                                                                                                                                                                Mine is very similar Homero-
                                                                                                                                                                                You have this big hunk of meat, perhaps a curious spice blend, a fire to regulate for 4,5,6 hours...and when you nail it, that feels pretty darn good.
                                                                                                                                                                                I just did a pork butt- used ATKs technique and recipe, and used their western carolina sauce, and it was great.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Simple answer: making Nepali momos.

                                                                                                                                                                                Uncalled for reply: My thrills of victory have been techniques rather than dishes: cleanly and quickly filleting fish, making tortillas, making complex sauces, working dough, making good and clear stock; making traditional sushi, making dough stuffed things (empanadas, tamales, bierocks), making sun dried fruits and vegetables with my home-made dryer, and continually making my own yogurt, curry powder, mayo, chili flakes and powder, ... plus such things as steaming, wok-ing, grilling, poaching, smoking, roasting--as they are done in different ways around the globe.

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                                                                                                                                                                                1. Things I'm proud to say I've made (from scratch) and will again: sauerkraut, grenadine, tongue, tamales, pate, sourdough, yogurt.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Things I'm proud to say I've made from scratch and won't bother again (too much work for the results): beer, cannolli, English muffins, croissants.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Things I want to try: real strudel dough, charcuterie of all sorts, wine, hard cider, pit bbq.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Things I'm always surprised people are intimidated by: pie dough, tempering chocolate, biscuits, baking in general.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Things I'm intimidated by: real Asian, fresh pasta (made it once and it came out terrible).

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. I just made Kaiser Rolls that came out awesome! I rolled them and shaped them, and they looked and tasted great. They were for a BBQ we were having, and since we were making everything else from scratch (beer included!), I figured we need to make the rolls too.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I was worried about trying a new recipe, but since I use Peter Reinhert bread formulas frequently with great results, I figured his Kaiser Rolls would be no different. I used his recipe and shaping technique. After a few rolls, I had the shaping it down. And man, they looked so good all piled up. I felt like a pro.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I feel like I can do anything in the kitchen if I have the right frame/piece of mind. For me it's all about the focus.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I have yet to make pasta... but I feel the urge creeping up on me. I made bread a lot, but fresh pasta has level of scaryness to it!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Puff pastry from scratch.

                                                                                                                                                                                      And Chinese daan taat (egg custard tarts) from scratch.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Whoo hoo! Go, me!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. 35 years ago while i was in college, (okay, maybe 38 years ago) I decided to make Ris de Veau Financier vol au vent, which was probably the most complicated and involved thing I've ever made (even more than a number of Thomas Keller or Alain Ducasse dishes that I've done) and even though it took a day and a half to complete, it was actually worth it. The sweetbreads were delicate, and properly peeled, I might add, and the vol au vent came out perfectly; brown and airy and the lid even fit. I even went so far as to flute the mushrooms before adding them to the sauce. Anyway,it taught me there really wasn't much I couldn't cook if I was willing to put in the effort.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Hand pulled noodles. Took 9 messy suicidal times but finally got it right