Melanie’s Pulled Pork

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Enjoy the following recipes from Melanie Underwood.  OTK enjoyed the following two lunch dishes at her house in New York.



Yield: Serves 8


1 (5-pound) boneless Boston butt, room temperature

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

¼ cup cumin

¼ cup chili powder

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup paprika




Preheat oven to 250˚ F

1. Rub pork with oil and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl stir together  cumin, chili powder, brown sugar, paprika, salt, and pepper and rub all over the pork.

3. Place pork on a rack, fat side up,  and bake in oven until very tender, about 6 -7 hours total. After 3 hours of cooking, remove pork from oven and pour the half of the mop on the meat. Return to oven and continue cooking another 3- 4 hours. You will know the pork is ready when you can take two forks and pull in opposing directions and meat is soft and falling apart. Remove from oven and pour remaining mop over meat and allow to rest at least 15 minutes.

4. Shred with forks and toss with sauce (see recipe below). Serve with buns and slaw.

For the Mop:

2 cups cider vinegar

¼ cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

In medium bowl combine vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Barbecue Sauce

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

6 tablespoons minced onion

1⅓ cups cider vinegar

1⅓ cups ketchup

1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add in onion and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add in remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Turkish Food Recipe

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Casserole of Roasted Eggplant and Chicken

(Firinda Kozlenmis Patlicanli Tavuk)


1/2 pound chicken breast cubed

2 large eggplants

3 garlic cloves

4 ounces sliced mushrooms

1/2 whole milk or cream, or a mixture



1 stick of cinnamon

3/4 cup Turkish cheese (Kashar, or Mozzarella) shredded



Roast the eggplants by putting them on a tray in a 400º oven.  Be sure to perforate the eggplants with a fork and make holes for the steam to escape while they roast for 2

5-30 minutes till softened and charred.  Then peel and remove seeds if needed and put in a colander to drain.  Dice the roasted eggplant and

put in a greased oven casserole dish (not too large), and season with salt and pepper.

Sauté the cubed chicken in a skillet in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the cinnamon stick  till chicken cubes are white but still tender.  Do not brown. Then, add the garlic and sliced mushrooms till softened and the water is reduced out. Add the milk and season with salt and pepper. Remove cinnamon stick and add chicken to the eggplant in the casserole. Sprinkle the cheese on the top.

Return dish to oven and bake about 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbling and golden. Excellent served with a side of rice.

SUGGESTED VARIATIONS: If you wish, you can halve the roasted eggplants and stuff the chicken and mushrooms inside each half and top with cheese.  Feel free to add other vegetables while you sauté the mushrooms– such as red peppers, or cooked okra, or zucchini. Experiment with seasonings such as sumac and cumin and oregano, too.

Finger Guards



Deglon Finger Guard Digiclass

If your knife skills are not quite up to par, you might just want to check out the newest gadget to aid the less-than-confident slicer and dicer.

Given that the best tools in the kitchen are attached to the ends of your arms, many cooks want to be sure that their hands and fingers are well-protected.

Deglon, famed upscale French knife makers since the 1920′s, has created a stainless steel finger shield worn as an adjustable finger ring.  Cooks simply attach the guard to their middle finger, place the bottom edge of the shield on top of the food to be sliced, position the knife against the gadget’s edge, and chop away.  The device holds the food in place, thus eliminating the chance for finger slippage or skittering scallions.

The finger guard is dishwasher-safe and is of a superb welded technology designed to be a long lasting and reliable kitchen tool.


Purists may consider using the finger guard cheating, but for many cooks, any device that is well-made, speeds the plow, and builds kitchen confidence is worth it.  The Deglon shield sells for $9.95 and is sure to keep fingers firmly attached.


                                                                                                      51GUiYPMu1L._SX450_            515GAwGq9xL


For Avocado Eaters

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Consuming Avocados Associated with Overall Better Health Indicators


When it comes to a healthy profile, avocado eaters show stellar outcomes, even though they eat higher amounts of fat overall.   Smaller waists, higher levels of good cholesterol, low BMI readings, and general superior nutritional intake put lovers of avocados high on the Healthy Eating Index.

The study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) appeared in the January 2013  issue of Nutrition Journal.  According to Medical News Today, “… the survey data (NHANES 2001-2008, 17,567 U.S. adults ages 19 years and older) revealed that the 347 adults (50% female) who consumed avocados in any amount during a 24-hour dietary recording period had several significantly better nutrient intake levels and more positive health indicators than those who did not consume avocados.”

The research was based on the average daily consumption of one-half an avocado. The study also indicated that people who regularly eat avocados have half the chance for developing metabolic syndrome than those who do not consume avocados. Metabolic syndrome is a condition determined by the confluence of key risk factors that, when found together, can lead to diabetes (type-2), heart disease, or stroke.

Overall, avocado eaters had healthier diets. Their weight was lower by nearly 8 pounds, though total caloric intake was comparable to those who did not eat avocados. They ate more good fats ( 12% more polyunsaturated fats and 18% more monosaturated fats), thus creating an overall  11% higher fat intake than non-consumers

Investigating the role that avocados play in fighting obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease and the overall absorption of nutrients will continue under the auspices of the Hass Avocado Board, which will bankroll more clinical research, according to its Executive Director Emiliano Escobedo.  The future of the avocado looks strong as it may hold the key to preventing the most prevalent and rampant of modern diet-related diseases.                       –MELorden


Cookbook Review: The Bible on Macaroni and Cheese

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Macaroni and Cheese by Marlena Spieler, photos by Noel Barnhurst (2005)

Chronicle Books (132p)  $16.95

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What I like about Spieler’s book is that she elevates the culinary possibilities of the dish yet keeps it recognizable.  She not only explains the science of  its preparation and the challenges of combining cheese, sauce, and starch,  but she also offers creative and tantalizing versions that maintain the integrity of this now yankee-doodle-dandy classic.  Mac and cheese is more than a kid-friendly casserole– it’s a feast fit for fine dining.  This cookbook is one of the early celebrations of  the ultimate comfort food that contributed to the popular rise of shops and restaurants dedicated to macaroni and cheese.  See the selected recipe below and give it try for yourself. 

Marlena Spieler’s cookbook about macaroni and cheese offers easy, cheesy, and refined variations on this cozy American standard. A simple, inexpensive dish that most kids would happily eat everyday, is amped up in sophisticated yet accessible adaptations that venture far beyond the old boxed and orange-powdered variety.

Spieler’s recipes extol the unpretentious quality of this hearty comfort food.  First described in an English cookbook from the 1790’s, and later popularized in America by Thomas Jefferson, the humble origins of “macaroni pie”  emerge among mid-19th century street vendors in Naples. Spieler’s recipes celebrate the versatility of the dish and extend its potential from street eats to center table.

The endless varieties of combining a toothy pasta, tangy cheese, and creamy sauce make mac and cheese a global experience: “ Aim a dart at your world map and chances are, wherever it lands you will find a cheese and a pasta that will be good when layered and baked together…” says Spieler, who takes cooks on a mac and cheese world tour from Bavaria to Turkey.  From savory to sweet, recipes include a Moroccan-spiced butter and goat cheese version, a Cajun mac and cheese, and apaneer chalan-inspired Indian interpretation.  Cooks can create renditions featuring truffles, artichokes, healthy greens, spring peas, or walnuts.  For a hearty main dish, recipes incorporate turkey, ham, tuna, and lobster.  A lemon-scented Greek pasta pudding and a cinnamon raisin Jewish noodle pudding elevate mac and cheese to a delicate and satisfying dessert.

Spieler advises cooks to get to know the flavor and melting quality of cheese.  She provides full descriptions of ten categories of cheese as well as artisanal sources. High on her list are cheddar, gouda, Swiss, and fontina.  The classic Béchamel sauce, that creamy unifier, is given its own page. Spieler also encourages the use of ricotta, goat cheese, mascarpone, and egg-based custards as yielding equally superb cream sauces.  Over  31 types of pasta are identified along with hints on how to properly select and prepare pasta for success.  Cooks can choose from speedy stove top or baked versions, whose layered approach makes for bubbling crusty toppings and excellent leftovers.

Marlena Spieler thoroughly explores macaroni and cheese “as a concept.” In the process, she invites the mac and cheese lover to think outside of the (blue) box by putting a delightful and creative twist on the comfort food of our youth.     —MELorden


Cicatelli with Pumpkin and Sage 

For a root vegetable inspired mac and cheese, try this quick winter squash-based  stove top version.  Chunks of herbed, buttery squash and a sturdy al dente pasta are united by a silky sauce of fontina and creme fraiche.

(4 servings)

from Marlena Spieler’s Macaroni & Cheese

• 1 pound pumpkin, hubbard, or butternut squash, peeled or  kabocha  (unpeeled, if  desired), cut into bite-size pieces (about 3/4 inch)

• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil

• 8 to 10 young flavorful sage leaves, thinly sliced

• 6 cloves garlic, chopped

• 8 ounces cicatelli, malloreddus, gemelli, or another chewy pasta

• 3 to 5 tablespoons crème fraiche, or as desired

• 6 ounces fontina or another white flavorful cheese, shredded

• 4 to 6 tablespoons freshly grated aged Asiago or Parmesan

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 4 ounces prosciutto or Serrano ham, cut into strips or diced

Here is a classic combination of earthy, sweet pumpkin or hubbard, kabocha, or butternut squash ; bitter, herbaceous sage; chewy pasta; and rich cheese. While pumpkin and hubbard and winter squash need to be peeled, the dark green peel on kabocha may be eaten. The cicatelli are like fat closed shells, a bit like the Sardinian malloreddus pasta. If you can’t locate either of them, gemelli– “twin” pasta lengths twisting around each other– are delish. A shredding of prosciutto or jamon serranoadds a salty, refined edge.

LightIy sauté the pumpkin in tablespoons of the butter or oil over medium-low heat until it browns lightly in spots and become, tender, but not mushy. About halfway through the cooking time, add half the sage and garlic. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and save about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

Toss the hot pasta with the hot sautéed pumpkin, and spoon in the crème fraiche and half the cheese.

Toss together over a medium-low heat on the stove with a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid.

Add the rest of the cheese, toss with the pasta, then toss in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, sage, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately, sprinkled with the prosciutto.

OTK is Getting Outtathekitchen


I’m heading off for a Food Safari to the Big Apple.  It’s time to rub elbows with some of the great food writers, bloggers, cookbook authors, and editors at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference this week. Along with some business will be the pleasure of stopping by the exhibit at  the Museum of Natural HIstory Exhibit: Our Global Kitchen.  There will be plenty of photos and adventures in food history as well as a look at some contemporary global food issues.

Adventures in dining and marketing will definitely be on the front burner, too.  And I’ll be in the kitchen with some great culinary movers and shakers from the local NYC scene, so look for some recipes, too.

I’ll post intermittently, and I hope you will join me on this journey.  I am looking forward to sharing this adventure when OTK gets outtathekitchen and hits New York City.   –MELordenScreen Shot 2013-01-17 at 10.47.15 AM

Spirits of New Orleans? We’re Talking Cocktails!

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Forget taking a ghost tour when you go to New Orleans.  If you want to get in touch with the real spirits that inhabit New Orleans, try some of the original cocktails that were born in The Big Easy.

Guest poster, Kit Wohl offers a peek into her newest book from her Classic series called New Orleans Classic Cocktails. 




by Kit Wohl

The oldest known American cocktail is credited to an enterprising pharmacist, Antoine Amédée Peychaud, who devised Peychaud’s bitters. Not surprisingly, it became an ingredient in his 1870s concoction. The French native established a pharmacy in the Vieux Carré, serving his libations in a coquetier, a French egg cup. Localization of the word resulted in mispronunciation — cocktail. This tale could be true, perhaps not.

The word cock-tail was noted for prior to 1870 in a newspaper north of the Mason-Dixon line. Earlier it had been used in a different context, and rudely so, in London. It didn’t refer to our spirited coquetier. There, it was simply a word. Here it’s a tradition.


A coffee bar down the block from Peychaud’s pharmacy was quickly renamed The Sazerac House to toast the cocktail. On everyone’s lips, the new drink was wildly popular, creating grins and new Sazerac bars around the city.

While the Sazerac was our first, it was certainly not the last in an ever-evolving array of fancy mixed drinks and cocktails. We’re still smiling.

~ Kit Wohl



sazeracMakes one cocktail

sugar cube

dash Peychaud’s bitters

3 ounces rye whiskey

1/2 ounce absinthe

lemon curl, for garnish

Many Sazerac bars emerged when Peychaud’s bitters was introduced, with only one surviving. The fanciful bar is in residence at the restored Roosevelt Hotel. Ingredients in the original recipe included cognac, absinthe, sugar and Peychaud’s bitters. Pernod and Herbsaint replaced absinthe when it was banned in America in 1912. Absinthe is once again back on the shelf after an evil scheme that labeled it as a poisonous hallucinogen.

In a cocktail shaker, saturate the sugar cube with the bitters and crush. Add ice, the rye and absinthe and stir. Strain the shaker into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish by twisting the lemon curl over the drink to release the oil then place it over the side of the glass.



One of New Orleans’ most revered cocktails, the drink was created by barman Henry Ramos in the 1880s. As governor of Louisiana, Huey Long often traveled with his bartender so he would always have his cocktail prepared just so. It dates to the Old Absinthe House at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville where a secret room was created to harbor pirate Jean Lafitte. Pirates still hang out in the bar, usually on Friday afternoons.

The Ramos Fizz needs to be shaken like mad, sometimes five minutes or more to properly emulsify the cream, egg, and spirit, producing an exquisitely frothy drink.

gin fizz closeup with fleur de lis

11/2 ounces gin

2 ounces half and half

2 ounces whole milk

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon simple syrup

2 drops orange flower water (available in the baking section of supermarkets)

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

 Using a shaker half filled with ice, combine all the ingredients. Shake as long as you can stand it. Pour into a chilled glass.

Photos by Kit WohlNOCC_jacket