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dinner of the decade.

the archives.

Dinner #1: Pan-roasted quail, grilled eggplants, and clafoutis

Dinner #2: The dreaded black turkey

Dinner #3: Pâté and crackers, barley "risotto" with wilted escarole, bread of course, and for dessert, Mummy's lemon chiffon pie.

Dinner #4: Party fare for the holiday season! Mulled Wine, Cheese Crackers, Goat Cheese Tarts with Red Onion Relish, Spiced cashews and pecans, Peapods, Artichoke Dip, Mushroom Puffs, and for dessert, Mincemeat Tarts and Gingerbread People.

Mincemeat Tarts

(I am putting these first as the filling requires several days to blend)

3 large granny smith apples
1 cup mixed dark raisins, sultanas, and currants
grated zest of a large orange
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp cloves
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup oil (traditionally, you should use grated suet, but I wanted to keep it vegan)
½ cup calvados

Peel, core, and chop the apples into small bits. Mix with raisins, currants, sugar, and oil or suet. Season with zest and spices. Sprinkle with ¼ cup calvados, cover and chill for three days, stirring once in a while (I keep it in a tupperware container in the crisper and give it a shake every so often).

When ready to bake tarts, transfer the mincemeat to a saucepan and cook, stirring, over low heat for twenty minutes, or until apples are soft. Stir in remaining ¼ cup calvados, and divide among 12 tart shells. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes.

Mulled Wine

3 litres red wine
handful cinnamon sticks
nutmeg & allspice
a few cloves
the zest of an orange, peeled off in long strips and twirled

Combine all ingredients. When ready to serve, warm over low heat - not hot enough to simmer, just enough to heat it through and blend the flavours.

Cheese Crackers

1 container Imperial cheddar (crumbly spreadable stuff in a red package - about 1 cup)
½ cup butter
1 cup rice flour
1 cup fresh rice crispies

Blend cheese and butter till smooth. Stir in flour; when blended, add rice crispies. Form into a log (or two) an inch or so around. Wrap in waxed paper and chill (you can even freeze them at this point).

Cut into ¼-inch-thick slices, and place on cookie sheet. Bake until edges are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes at 350F.

Goat Cheese Tarts with Red Onion Relish

for the pastry:
¼ cup butter
¼ cup lard
1½ cup pastry flour
pinch salt
lemon juice
ice water

Cut the butter and lard into small pieces and chill. Combine the flour and salt. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter and lard quickly into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mixing with a fork, squeeze a bit of lemon juice into the mix and a spoon of ice water. Gradually add just enough ice water to make the pastry hold together in a ball. Chill.

for the filling:
1 package goat cheese (3 ½ oz)
1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
2 eggs
nutmeg & black pepper

Blend the two cheeses with a wooden spoon. Beat in the two eggs, and season with a grind or two of black pepper and a few grates of nutmeg.

Roll out the chilled pastry into a rectangle no more than ¼ inch thick. Cut into 12 3-inch squares and use to line tart cases. Spoon the cheese filling into the pastry and bake for a while in an oven. I really should have written this down at the time. Let's say, 350F (always a safe bet) for 15-20 minutes, watching carefully. Maybe I should make these again and pay closer attention.

for the red onion relish (adapted from More Put A Lid On It):
2 red onions
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Slice the onions as thinly as possible. Combine with the sugar in a heavy bottomed pot, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes covered, then uncover and cook for 15 minutes more. Stir in vinegar, and cook, uncovered, for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool.

Spiced Cashews

2 cups whole raw cashews
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
¼ cayenne
¼ cinnamon
¼ nutmeg
¼ chili powder

Spread cashews in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Warm in the oven of 10 minutes at 350F. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with mixed salt and spices. Toss to coat. Return to oven for 10 minutes more.

Spiced Pecans

2 cups pecan halves
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp mustard powder

Spread pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Warm in the oven of 10 minutes at 350F. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with mixed salt and spices. Toss to coat. Return to oven for 10 minutes more.


fresh snow peas
1 package cream cheese

Trim the snow peas and blanch in boiling water for a minute or two.

Cream the cheese till smooth, adding dill to taste.

Pop open the pea pods with a paring knife (the peas themselves should stay inside), and fill with dilly cream cheese using a piping bag.

Artichoke Dip

(adapted from The Etiquette Grrls)

1 tin artichokes (8 oz)
6 oz asiago cheese, grated
1 cup chopped fresh spinach, packed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup mayonnaise
lemon juice
black pepper

Drain the artichokes and chop well. Mix in other ingredients, blending well. Scoop into two 2-cup oven safe dishes (you can save one in the freezer for another time, or keep it in the fridge for when your guests ask for more!). Bake for 25 minutes at 375F. Serve with sliced baguette.

Mushroom Puffs

4 TBS oil
2 onions
a few sprigs fresh thyme and rosemary, minced
1 lb mixed mushrooms
salt and black pepper
1 package puff pastry (or you can make your own, but I was getting tired)

Thinly slice the onions and sauté gently, along with the minced herbs, until starting to turn gold. Thinly slice the mushrooms and add to the onions. Cook covered over low heat for five minutes, then uncover and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Roll out the puff pastry into a square no more than ¼ inch thick. Slice into nine squares, then slice each of these into a triangle. Move carefully onto a cookie sheet, and spread mushroom mixture over all. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 or until puffed and golden.

Gingerbread People

½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 TBS baking powder
1½ tsp ginger
½ tsp salt

Cream together butter and brown sugar. Beat in molasses, egg, and vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients and blend in gradually. Form the dough into a ball and chill for at least a half hour (I usually freeze half the dough at this point).

When ready to bake, roll out the dough on a floured countertop as thin as can be - about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and transfer carefully to cookie sheets. Cook at 350F for about 7 minutes depending on whether your people have spindly legs - I use mini gingerpeople cutters, and they cook quickly!


2 small onions
4 oz mushrooms
¼ lb butter
½ lb chicken livers
fresh tarragon
salt and pepper
¼ cup sherry

Mince the onions and mushrooms as finely as possible. Sautée gently in butter over low heat until soft. Turn up the heat just a bit, and toss in the chicken livers and minced tarragon to taste, tossing until the livers look just cooked.

Throw into a blender with the seasonings and sherry (or, if you are like me, and don’t own a blender, and are even strangely proud of the fact, chop as fine as possible and try to force through a sieve with a wooden spoon, and then beat it all together). Pack into a dish (this recipe fills two individual-size soufflé dishes), and chill several hours before serving.

If you want to make it nice, top with whole tarragon leaves and a thin layer of clarified butter.

Sesame Crackers (to go with, of course!)

1 cup flour
¼ cup sesame seeds
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
¼ cup butter
¼ cup cold water
beaten egg for brushing and salt for sprinkling

Combine dry ingredients. Rub in butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Blend in water with a fork until it resembles soft dough.

Roll out thin thin thin. Cut into two inch rounds, prick with a fork, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or use one of those great teflon things). Brush with egg and sprinkle with salt. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350f.

Wilted Escarole with Pan-Roasted Garlic

1 head escarole
12+ cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
½ lemon (the juice thereof)
lemon wedges

Slice escarole crosswise into ribbons about 1½ inches wide. Rinse and drain well.

Peel the garlic and slice legthwise any biggish cloves. Heat oil over medium low; when warm, reduce heat to very low and add garlic. Cook, partially covered, for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When garlic is tender, turn heat to medium high and add escarole. Toss until it just begins to wilt, about a minute. Then add lemon juice and toss some more.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges. Serves 2-4 depending on how hungry you are.

sort-of Risotto, except made with Barley (and three kinds of mushrooms)

6 shallots
¼ cup olive oil
a good sized pinch of nutmeg
1 cup barley
2 porcini mushroom stock cubes*
3 cups boiling water
2 portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
¼ cup grated parmesan
salt and lots of pepper

Thinly slice shallots and sautée in oil with nutmeg over medium heat until caramelised. Add barley and toss for a minute or two.

Dissolve stock cubes in boiling water. Add about ½ cup to barley, stirring madly. Add ½ cup more when that has gone, and toss in mushrooms. Continue adding stock as it is absorbed and barley is cooked, about 30 minutes. Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper.


½ cup warm water
1 tbs sugar
¼ tsp ginger
1 tbs yeast
1 ½ cups warm milk
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt
6 cups hard flour (or flour mixed with gluten)
salt water

Dissolve sugar and ginger in water. Add yeast, allow to sponge (10 minutes).

Mix with milk, remaining sugar, and salt. Add flour gradually. Knead 10 minutes, place in a greased bowl, cover, and allow to double (2 hours).

Punch down, knead, shape into three long loaves, slash tops, let double again (2 hours).

Brush with salt water, and place a tray of salt water in the bottom of the oven. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce to 325f and cook 25 minutes more, or until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped.

Grilled Eggplants

3 or 4 baby eggplants (say, 3" long)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil

Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Score the flesh deeply (making certain not to break through the skin) in a criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle generously with salt and place cut-side-down in a colander to drain. Leave for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, mince the fresh rosemary and garlic together. If you have a mortar and pestle, use it. Drizzle in the oil gradually. Let it sit so the flavours run together.

Getting back to the eggplants. They should have divulged themselves of all of their nasty brown fluid by now. Give them a squeeze to make sure, then rinse them with lots of cold water and drain on paper towels. When nice and dry, paint them with the rosemary-garlic oil. Use about half of it, and set the rest aside.

Turn on the broiler to 400f.

Arrange the eggplants prettily on a cookie sheet and slide them into the oven. Set the timer for ten minutes, at which point you will paint them with the rest of the rosemary-garlic oil, put them back in for five minutes. And voila!

Pan Roasted Quail.

6 quails
6 thin slices pancetta
6 leaves of fresh sage
some olive oil
½ cup white wine (and another ½ later)

Rinse the quail and pat them dry, like you would any bird. Wrap each slice of pancetta around a sage leaf, then use to stuff the birds. In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, brown the birds on all sides. this should take about ten or fifteen minutes. Then pour the ½ cup wine over them, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Let them cook for forty-five minutes, turning once.

When your forty-five minutes are up, uncover the birds, turn them over once or twice, and dole them out onto warmed plates or a platter. Toss the remaining ½ cup wine into the pan to deglaze. Pour the wine and drippings over the quails, and serve with grilled eggplants and asparagus.

The Dreaded Black Turkey

This really qualifies as a "dinner of the decade." I made this for christmas 1998 with my friend Elizabeth, and I think it will be ten years before either of us have sufficiently recovered to try it again. I can (as can our guests), however, guarantee that it is the best turkey recipe in the world. I have made a couple of little changes - doubling the paste recipe (we ran out), and halving the stuffing recipe (when we made it, we had enough to fill the turkey, two chickens, one large roasting dish and two small casseroles. Also, we had too much to fit in even my largest bowl - we had to mix it by dumping it into a large plastic bag, which elizabeth held while I reached in to toss with my bare hands).

Also, we skipped the Ramos Fizz and went straight to martinis (something about gin mixed with whipping cream just didn’t appeal...)

In the original words of the inimitable Robert Benchley...

Black Turkey, circa 1963

For about a dozen years, at the approach of turkey-eating season, I have been trumpeting to all who would listen, and to a good many who would rather not, that there is only one way to cook a turkey. This turkey is not my turkey. It is the creation of the late Morton Thompson, who wrote "Not as a Stranger" and other books.

This recipe was first contained in the manuscript of a book called "The Naked Countess" which was given to the late Robert Benchley, who had eaten the turkey and was so moved as to write an introduction to the book. Benchley then lost the manuscript. He kept hoping it would turn up - although not as much, perhaps, as Thompson did, but somehow it vanished, irretrievably. Thompson did not have the heart to write it over. He did, however, later put his turkey rule in another book. Not a cookbook, but a collection of very funny pieces called "Joe, the Wounded Tennis Player."


This turkey is work... it requires more attention than an average six-month-old baby. There are no shortcuts, as you will see.

Get a HUGE turkey (we used a twenty-five pounder for twelve people) - I don't mean just a big, big bird, but one that looks as though it gave the farmer a hard time when he did it in. It ought to weigh between 16 and 30 pounds. Have the poultryman, or butcher, cut its head off at the end of the neck, peel back the skin, and remove the neck close to the body, leaving the tube. You will want this for stuffing. Also, he should leave all the fat on the bird.

When you are ready to cook your bird, rub it inside and out with salt and pepper. Give it a friendly pat and set it aside. Chop the heart, gizzard, and liver and put them, with the neck, into a stewpan with a clove of garlic, a large bay leaf, ½ tsp coriander, and some salt. I don't know how much salt - whatever you think. Cover this with about 5 cups of water and put on the stove to simmer. This will be the basting fluid a little later.

About this time I generally have my first drink of the day, usually a RAMOS FIZZ. I concoct it by taking the whites of four eggs, an equal amount of whipping cream, juice of half a lemon (less 1 tsp.), 1/2 tsp. confectioner's sugar, an appropriate amount of gin, and blending with a few ice cubes. Pour about two TBS of club soda in a chimney glass, add the mix, with ice cubes if you prefer. Save your egg yolks, plus 1 tsp. of lemon - you'll need them later. Have a good sip! (Add 1 dash of Orange Flower Water to the drink, not the egg yolks).

Get a huge bowl. Throw into it one diced apple, one diced orange, a large can of crushed pineapple, the grated rind of a lemon, and three TBS of chopped preserved ginger (If you like ginger, double this -REB). Add 2 cans of drained Chinese water chestnuts.

Mix this altogether, and have another sip of your drink. Get a second, somewhat smaller, bowl. Into this, measuring by tsp, put:

2 hot dry mustard

½ turmeric

2 caraway seed

½ marjoram

2 celery seed

½ savory

2 poppy seed

¾ sage

1 black pepper

¾ thyme

2 ½ oregano

¼ basil

½ mace

½ chili powder

In the same bowl, add:

1 TBS poultry seasoning

4 large chopped onions

4 TBS parsley

6 good dashes Tabasco

1 TBS salt

5 crushed garlic cloves

4 headless crushed cloves

6 large chopped celery

1 well crushed bay leaf

Wipe your brow, refocus your eyes, get yet another drink - and a third bowl. Put in three packages of unseasoned bread crumbs (or two loaves of toast or bread crumbs), ¾ lb. ground veal, ½ lb. ground fresh pork, ¼ lb. butter, and all the fat you have been able to pull out of the bird.

(We diced two loaves of bread - too much! Recommend you use only one)

About now it seems advisable to switch drinks. Martinis or stingers are recommended (Do this at your own risk - we always did! -REB). Get a fourth bowl, an enormous one. Take a sip for a few minutes, wash your hands, and mix the contents of all the other bowls. Mix it well. Stuff the bird and skewer it. Put the leftover stuffing into the neck tube.

Turn your oven to 500f and get out a fifth small bowl.

Make a paste consisting of those four egg yolks and lemon juice left from the Ramos Fizz. Add 1 tsp hot dry mustard, a crushed clove of garlic, 1 Tbs onion juice, and enough flour to make a stiff paste.

(We used 8 egg yolks, 1 tbs lemon juice, 1 tbs dry mustard, 2 or 3 cloves garlic, and a grated onion. Grating onions is brutal, by the way, but just do it)

When the oven is red hot, put the bird in, breast down on the rack. Sip on your drink until the bird has begin to brown all over, then take it out and paint the bird all over with paste. Put it back in and turn the oven down to 350f. Let the paste set, then pull the bird out and paint again.

Keep doing this until the paste is used up.

Add a quart of cider or white wine to the stuff that's been simmering on the stove, This is your basting fluid. The turkey must be basted every 15 minutes. Don't argue. Set your timer and keep it up. (When confronted with the choice "do I baste from the juice under the bird or do I baste with the juice from the pot on the stove?" make certain that the juice under the bird neither dries out and burns, nor becomes so thin that gravy is weak.

When you run out of baste, use cheap red wine. This critter makes incredible gravy! -REB) The bird should cook about 12 minutes per pound, basting every 15 minutes. Enlist the aid of your friends and family.

As the bird cooks, it will first get a light brown, then a dark brown, then darker and darker. After about 2 hours you will think I'm crazy. The bird will be turning black. (Newcomers to black turkey will think you are demented and drunk on your butt, which, if you've followed instructions, you are -REB) In fact, by the time it is finished, it will look as though we have ruined it. Take a fork and poke at the black cindery crust. Beneath, the bird will be a gorgeous mahogany, reminding one of those golden-browns found in precious Rembrandts. Stick the fork too deep, and the juice will gush to the ceiling. When you take it out, ready to carve it, you will find that you do not need a knife. A loud sound will cause the bird to fall apart like the walls of that famed biblical city. The moist flesh will drive you crazy, and the stuffing - well, there is nothing like it on this earth. You will make the gravy just like it as always done, adding the giblets and what is left of the basting fluid.

Sometime during the meal, use a moment to give thanks to Morton Thompson.

There is seldom, if ever, leftover turkey when this recipe is used. If there is, you'll find that the fowl retains its moisture for a few days.

That's all there is to it. It's work, hard work - but it's worth it.

(What follows is not part of the recipe, but is an ingredients list to aid in shopping for this monster, or for checking your spice cabinet -REB)

Ingredients List:

1 turkey

6 celery stalks


buncha preserved ginger


2 cans water chestnuts

8 eggs

2 loaves' worth of bread crumbs

1 apple

¾ pounds ground veal

1 orange

½ pounds ground pork

1 can crushed pineapple

¼ pounds butter

1 lemon

onion juice

4 large onions

1 quart apple cider

Spice List:



bay leaf


caraway seed

black pepper

celery seed

poultry seasoning

chili powder

poppy seed



ground coriander






dry mustard


*Porcini mushroom stock cubes are available in Italy. Anytime someone goes to europe, make them bring you some. That flirty pâté guy at St. Lawrence market sells mushroom stock cubes too, but they aren’t specifically porcini stock cubes. is hosted by 1&1

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