Growing up, Sunday meant carry-out from Hollyhock Hill, a popular family-style restaurant on the North side of Indianapolis. Fried chicken with all the fixin’s and a late afternoon meal with family. I’m not sure when we stopped doing that with regularity, but I imagine it had something to do with everyone’s schedules taking them in different directions. About a year ago, my family decided to resurrect Sunday dinners and it has been a wonderful thing. I thought I’d share this sort of intimate gathering with you, because I can’t think of entertaining that I enjoy more.
Sundays now rotate between the homes of various family members. We take turns hosting. Dinner is at 6:30 and if you can come, you bring something. If you can’t make it, not a big deal but I’m finding that everyone largely enjoys it and has prioritized gathering.
Sometimes we have a theme (This past weekend was Greek. Opa!) but often it’s just tasty, down-home fare. Since there are about 10 regular attendees, I’ve been working on a delicious version of meatloaf in a double-batch quantity. I’m going to share the recipe with you. If you are entertaining, great! Make it as is. If not, you can freeze one of them to use later or simply cut the recipe in half.
I’ve served it with both baked and mashed potatoes and a green salad. Leftovers make an excellent meatloaf sandwich. This version uses lean beef, lots of seasoning and doesn’t dry out. Let me know what you think and if it inspires you to gather with family and friends.
Elizabeth’s Maple-Glazed Meatloaf
2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
2 cups of dried, seasoned bread crumbs
1 white onion, diced
1 cup of milk
¼ c ketchup
2 T Worcestershire salt
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t black pepper
For the Glaze:
½ cup ketchup
2 T apple cider vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the meatloaf and mix very well to incorporate the bread crumbs and milk. This is a fairly “wet” mixture but won’t disappoint.
Divide the mixture between two (lightly greased) loaf pans and shape the tops to resemble smooth loaves of bread.
In another bowl, combine the ingredients for the glaze and whisk together to combine. Pour half of the glaze onto each of your meatloaves and use a basting brush to cover each with the mixture.
Place both loaves on the center rack of a 350-degree oven. Bake for 55 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Sometimes the very best parties are the simplest. Enjoy.
A few weeks ago I shared my love of Sherry. Right on the heels of Sherry seems like the perfect time to mention another fortified wine: Port. Red Port is a blend which uses many grape varieties and comes from the Duoro river valley in Portugal. A “vintage” designation is given to those wines from the best years. They are great during the holidays and cold weather, but actually appropriate throughout the year. Sub them for an after-dinner drink, or even a stand-in for dessert.
2011 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port is a crowd-pleaser. It can be described as a classic. A smooth but meaty option with heaps of black cherry. It is a delicious mouthful and great with chocolate and caramel. A little pricey at $49 for the smaller, 375mL bottle.
2008 Dow’s Port, Quinta Senhora da Ribera presents a deep, dark color with spiced berries on the nose. The finish is at once bright, long and lingering. An intense and concentrated wine. Lovely with dark chocolate. $75
2016 Kopke Vintage Porto is another black beauty. Kopke is the oldest port house in the world, founded by a German diplomat in 1638. The hand-stenciled bottles stand out on a bar and add a sentimental nod to tradition. Very dark in color with aromas of black fruit in the glass and one of my favorite flavor combos: cocoa, violet and black pepper on the tongue. An aggressive mouthful, Kopke layers balance, flavor and tannin beautifully. Big, long finish. About $60
The aforementioned will be a hit with dark chocolate, caramel and fruit desserts but work with dinner, too. Berry flavors can be a terrific match with savory fare like roasted meat, blue cheese and duck. Cheers!
@TaylorFladgate @DowsPort @KopkePorto #PortWine #Portugal
Winter has officially arrived, making it the perfect time to explore Sherry. It’s definitely appropriate year-round but is a fortified wine (read higher in alcohol) which gives the “warming” effect that’s perfect in cold weather. I’m not talking about the grodie stuff your mom used for cooking. Sherry is Spanish in origin and made from white grapes (usually the Palomino grape). The wines range from table styles such as Manzanilla and Fino to much heavier versions like Amontillado and Oloroso.
If you’re new to Sherry, start with a very old brand, Emilio Hidalgo. An excellent choice is their Bodega Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla. A nice, dry table wine, it is well-known as a standard by which others are judged: an excellent jumping-off point. It’s about $15. Tastes like apples, with a little bit of herb and salted almonds.
Ahhh, this one is an old friend from early in my restaurant days. I discovered it at a tasting I hosted in 2002 and it became a year-long obsession. One of the kitchen guys and I polished off a bottle per week between the two of us. Bodegas Dios Baco 20 Year Old Amontillado Sherry. This will set you back $80ish. Keep in mind that this is a sipper so a bottle goes a long way. It makes a lovely offering with nuts and hard cheeses or with dessert after a meal. Or whenever, actually. It has a light mahogany color and tastes like nuts and caramel. Serve it at room temperature.
El Maestro Sierra offers two Oloroso styles. My favorite is this big boy: Oloroso Extra Viejo 1|7 VORS (El Maestro Sierra). This is high in alcohol at 22% and is very intense with dried fruit (apricot & figs) and roasted nuts (almonds and hazelnuts). Complex with cinnamon, dark chocolate and butterscotch. An enormously long, lovely finish. Extremely limited production. ½ bottles hover around $100
Pro Tip: An opened bottle of table-style Sherry will last nearly a week in the fridge. Amontillado and medium-sweet Sherries will last for 2-3 weeks and Cream Sherries can last up to three months.
#BodegaHidalgo #BodegaDiosBaco #ElMaestroSierra
Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon is my go-to. There's simply no reason to re-invent the wheel. A traditional French beef stew, featuring carrots, onions and mushrooms with loads of Pinot Noir. Hers is the best I've ever had and I thought I'd share it with you. It sounds fancy, and while it's certainly impressive, Bourguignon is also simple. Give it a try and add it to your repertoire. You're welcome.
Full disclosure: this recipe isn't difficult, but it is lengthy. I usually make it a day or two before I'm going to serve it. As it sits, it gets even better.
Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon
YIELD 6-8 bowls INGREDIENTS
Pro Tip: Use French Pinot Noir for most delicious results.
Pro Tip: For an impressive presentation, serve your stew in a hollowed bread boule that's been toasted for a few minutes in the oven.
One of my earliest holiday memories is learning to make eggnog with my Maternal Grandmother. She lived in Shelbyville, Indiana and drove up to spend Christmas with my family in our home in Indianapolis. It was 1979 and I was 5 years old. My Grandmother brought with her an old cookbook, which had been my mother’s: The Better Homes & Gardens Junior Cookbook (Pictured above). We used the recipe in that book and made a delicious, frothy nog that wedged pleasantly in my mind. The recipe that follows is loosely based on that recipe that I made a million times. It has been updated with more, ahem, “grown-up” flavors.
a dozen eggs
12 T white sugar
1 pint whipping cream
1 t vanilla extract
4 cinnamon sticks
Freshly ground nutmeg
12 T Bourbon
When you are entertaining this holiday season, give this golden oldie a whirl. You’ll be shocked at how delicious it is and what a festive cocktail it makes at your holiday party. Of course, you can omit the bourbon for a “virgin” version.
Cheers to making memories with your loved ones!
December brings with it a host of special events. From neighborhood open houses and office parties to New Year’s Eve its best to have a little something in hand for your host. The I’m recommending are all bottles I’d be happy to receive. Starting at well under $20, there is an appropriate selection for any occasion.
A fun little Italian wine, Olianas 2017 Cannonau Di Sardegna DOC comes in at $13ish and isn’t one you’ll find everywhere. I always enjoy a wine that’s a bit obscure because it implies that the giver has put a bit more effort into selecting it. This one isn’t going to be the 15-case display inside your wine shop. It will impress with rich, bold flavors like chocolate, fragrant tobacco and hints of myrtle berries (menthol). A big mouthful of silky red wine.
For a fancy affair, seek out 2015 Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. With 86% Cab juice and about 10% Merlot, this beauty smells like black currants & strong coffee. It’s got a solid tannic structure but the tannins themselves are subtle and feminine. In the mouth, you’ll get flavors of bramble fruit, ripe black cherries and cocoa with a gorgeous spicy finish that won’t quit. $55
My most recent wine crush (pardon the pun) is another California wine from St. Helena in Napa Valley. 2015 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc makes a statement. What it says is, “I’m a very structured and concentrated wine, with firm tannins.” Each sip grips you with dark berries, tarragon, chervil and scads of chocolate and leather. This lovely is a big mouthful that stands up nicely to heavier holiday fare. $65 Worth. Every. Penny.
#OlianasCannonau #FrankFamilyVineyards #EhlersEstate
I’ve been on a molasses kick lately. Which is great since cookie baking season is officially upon us. Ever hosted a cookie exchange? Here’s your guide to planning and hosting a fun get-together that streamlines your baking this holiday season. For those unfamiliar with this long-time holiday tradition, a cookie-exchange has each guest make several dozen of just one kind of cookie, then invitees can sample and swap equal amounts of cookies with other guests. #winwin
Be sure to offer a few weeks’ notice to guests since there is prep-work involved for them to attend. In your invitation, be sure to ask each person not only for an RSVP, but also have them let you know what they plan to bring so there aren’t duplicates: that’s no fun. The amount is up to you, but generally speaking, 5 dozen is a good number. Advise guests of the quantity they’ll need to bring and ask them to have printed copies of their recipe available.
Once the big day arrives, have platters and baskets set out for guests to display their cookies. Also provide “name cards” for each cookie being offered. List the name of the baker and the name of the cookie. It’s also a good idea to note any common allergens, like nuts on the name cards. Place copies of the recipe for each nearby the corresponding plate.
Plenty of plastic bags or aluminum foil are a must so that swapped cookies can be repacked for travel. When asked for cookie travel tips, my dear friend, Diana Anzorena, owner and cookie artist of Pretty Sweet Confections by Di says, “When I prepare my cookies…I wait until the icing it completely dry (about 24 hours). I wrap them individually in cellophane bags and twist tie them. Then I choose a box or tin where they will fit without a lot of room to move around”. This is great advice if you are giving cookies as a gift. Pretty Sweet Confections by Di is on Facebook under that name & her custom cookies are un-rivaled, gorgeous creations. Go to her page for inspiration!
Offer coffee, milk (obviously, right, since we’re talking about cookies?) and something festive like mulled cider or cocoa for your gathering. Definitely consider an additional small and SAVORY snack (think cheese or veggie plate) to cut through all that sugar.
Each guest goes home with the same number of cookies they came with but will have an assortment to gift or enjoy. Best of all, you’ve made time to spend a fun few hours together.
Here are my three favorite cookie recipes to jump-start your planning:
Grandmother’s Mexican Wedding Cakes
1 c softened butter
6 T sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 c sifted all-purpose flour
1 ½-2 c finely chopped pecans OR walnuts
1 c confectioner’s sugar
-Heat oven to 325 degrees
-Cream butter VERY well then add sugar and cream again.
-Stir in vanilla extract, then flour and finally nuts.
-Roll into 1 ½ inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (about 2 inches apart)
-Bake for 8-12 minutes until they are a delicate yellow color.
-While warm, roll in confectioner’s sugar and allow to cool before serving.
Grammy’s Sugar & Spice Cookies
¾ c shortening
1 c sugar
2 c flour
2 t baking soda
¼ t salt
1 t cinnamon
¾ t ground cloves
¾ t ground ginger
1 c confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
-Heat oven to 375
- Cream shortening and sugar, then add remaining ingredients except confectioner’s sugar.
-Mix together and form into 2” balls.
-Place the balls 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet
(or one fitted with a silicone baking mat).
-Bake 10 minutes for a softer cookie and 12 if you prefer crunchy.
-Place confectioner’s sugar in a shallow and when cookies are still warm,
roll each side so that they are” dusted.”
Mia’s Favorite Oatmeal Cookies
2 sticks of salted butter, softened
1 ¼ c firmly packed brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t ground cinnamon
½ t salt
3 c quick cooking oats
-Heat oven to 350 degrees.
-In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.
-Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
-Combine remaining ingredients in a second bowl, mix, then add to wet ingredients.
-Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
-Bake 8-10 minutes.
-Cool for one minute before removing to wire rack, then cool completely.
Yo, shameless plug for my private events. Thanks to those of you who have already scheduled. Can't wait! For those who've inquired, I've attached the basics and please feel free to share. Cheers :)
As the air turns crisp, we seem to long for comfort foods. Heavier, warmly-spiced fare that's often associated with the holidays. One of my favorites is traditional gingerbread. My first memory of it was when I was very small and visiting Colonial Williamsburg for Christmas with my family. One of the shops (Raleigh Tavern because I looked it up to see if it still existed) offered thick, chewy but crumbly cookies. They are served slightly "dusty" with flour. At any rate, I was less than 5 years old and remember little else of the trip. I believe the experience spurred my love for all things molasses: gingerbread, molasses cookies and gingersnaps.
My dilemma is that gingerbread isn't terribly good for you, like any dessert. So, I've been playing around with a version that I can make in a hurry, quick-bread style. Much faster than a rolled and cut cookie, the resulting recipe is healthy enough that I leave it out in my cake dome for the kids to enjoy at their discretion.
Take note: My version does contain a bit of dairy but you could eliminate it by substituting almond or coconut milk.
1 1/3 cup of skim milk (you can sub almond or coconut for a dairy-free recipe)
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup agave
1 large carrot, shredded
2 T apple cider vinegar
4 T melted coconut oil
4 T ground flaxmeal (this will work with your liquids to replace eggs)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 t allspice
1/4 t salt
3 t cinnamon
2 t powdered ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar
-Preheat oven to 400 F and spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray (I use organic coconut spray).
-Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
-Pour into bundt pan and allow to "hang out" for 5 minutes to insure the flax meal is doing it's job.
-Bake on middle rack for 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan before loosening the cake gently with a knife and inverting onto a plate.
PRO TIP: Serve warm with a small amount of fresh whipped cream to turn a slice from snack to dessert.
'Shrooming may have a different connotation for some of my "vintage" readers. We're not getting THAT wild today, but I am going to share a little of my newest obsession with you: gathering wild mushrooms. You need to know this about me: I obsessively love mushrooms. I once enjoyed a 6-course meal at Martini House, a landmark Napa Valley restaurant, that was entirely made of mushrooms. Yep, even dessert. 'Twas a tiny demitasse of frothy mushroom "cocoa" with an equally petite, sweet mushroom cookie atop. Such an interesting and delicious meal that it remains on my top 10 list.
Every Spring, as a foodie, I've looked for morel mushrooms with limited success but otherwise, I haven't historically foraged. I've begun to educate myself about the edible fungi in my area and find that I keep an eye to the ground wherever I go. Check out what I've discovered. I'm hopeful it inspires you to give mushroom hunting a try.
Because a case of mistaken identity could be very harmful, I'm sharing three unique sorts that are fool-proof for new foragers. Each is so unusual, that even their "look-alikes" don't really look much like them. They are Morels, Chicken of the Woods and Puffballs. A word of caution: if you aren't absolutely sure that you've identified any mushroom correctly, you should NOT eat it. Better safe than sorry.
Morel mushrooms are typically found in the springtime and have a distinctive honeycomb appearance (left). One of the most sough-after mushrooms in the world, they are prized by gourmet cooks, mushroom enthusiasts and chefs.
They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors anywhere from blonde to dark grey. What they all have in common are their honey comb-like exteriors and a hollow, whitish interior. Morels are so popular because they are incredibly delish. They have a meaty texture and a nutty, earthy flavor profile. They are hard to find, pretty expensive and well, they are exotic and sexy-looking on a plate.
Again, spring is your best bet and you'll want to look in fields, orchards and pastures or in an area that sustained fire damage the fall before. When you find them, cut the mushroom with an inch or less of stem (which you can also eat). Don't squish them as you gather. I like to use a basket so there's plenty of air circulation. After harvesting them, they keep about a week in the 'fridge. Like all wild mushrooms, morels must be cooked to be enjoyed. I like them best fried in a bit of salted butter.
Chicken of the Woods (right) is found globally and often called a "sulphur shelf." It is commonly thought to taste like chicken and is typically found in summer and fall. A large mushroom with bright orange coloring, it tends to lighten in color near the edges and overall gets lighter with age. An important characteristic to note when identifying this beauty is that it has NO GILLS and only pores. You are looking for young and succulent mushrooms. Avoid the largest and palest as they become woody and aren't good. C.O.W. mushrooms can be found on dead and living trees alike. This is a great culinary fungi. It can be diced and added to soup, baked, fried or used as a substitute for chicken. I enjoy these sautéed in wine and fresh thyme.
Puffballs! These jumbo bad-boys are everywhere right now and are generally a fall find. The one pictured is actually a bit smaller that the usual and was found a few days ago in the woods near my house. This is likely the most easily identified mushroom around. It looks like a volleyball sitting on the ground. White and round, you simply pick it up to harvest it. To know definitively that you have a puff, slice it open. There should be no gills. You'll see what looks like white marshmallow inside. Slice it and prepare it as you would any button mushroom. Sautéed and served with grilled beef is a win. I made this one with bucatini (hollow spaghetti), butter, mozzarella, garlic, salt and pepper. It was excellent. These beauties also freezes well, which is fortunate because of their size. Slice it up and stick it in a freezer bag to enjoy later. It should be noted that puffballs past their prime begin to turn yellowish and powdery on the inside. If you cut yours open and discover this, pitch it. It won't be good.
If you happen to live in Indy and walk the Moon trail north of Broad Ripple, there are tons of them (like more than 20) and they are gargantuan. As you head north, approaching the Blind School, look down toward your left and you'll see them a few yards off the trail. I was wearing sandals when I noticed them or I would've grabbed them all. If you harvest them, I'd better see a picture. Bon Appétit!
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.