Oct 31, 2011

Win The Food Stylist's Handbook!


We had a wonderful time teaching in Atlanta. We always enjoy sharing food styling knowledge, and sometimes the combination of students just makes magic happen. This was one of those times.

Christina Arpante of Mele Cotte joined us, and has summed up the weekend better than we ever could. 

Click here to read her post and make sure you enter to win The Food Stylist's Handbook!

Oct 29, 2011

Oven Roasted Turkey and Herbed Giblet Gravy

Oven Roasted Turkey

1 16-20 pound turkey, thawed or fresh
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped

Other equipment needed
aluminum foil
baster or long-handled spoon
carving knife
instant-read thermometer
large roasting pan
paper towels

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Remove the giblets from the turkey and reserve for the gravy.

Rinse the cavity and dry well with paper towels. Heavily season the cavity with salt and pepper.

Rub the turkey well with olive oil, massaging the oil into the skin.

Lock the wings in place by twisting the wing tips behind and under the back of the turkey.

Place the turkey on its side in the roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour, basting every 30 minutes with the drippings.

Remove the pan from the oven, turn the turkey over on its other side, and roast for another hour, basting every 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, and turn the turkey so its breast-side up. Add the onions, carrots, can celery to the bottom of the roasting pan. Return to the oven and roast another 2-3 hours, basting occasionally, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees. If the turkey is beginning to brown too quickly, cover with foil until fully cooked.

Remove the turkey from the roasting pan, and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Reserve the pan drippings and vegetables for the gravy.

Let the turkey rest in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. While the turkey rests, finish the Herbed Giblet Gravy.

Helpful hint:  Turning a turkey is no easy feat. For best results, use oven mitts covered with plastic freezer bags to keep them clean, or use silicone waterproof oven mitts, which are safe up to 500 degrees. And have a friend act as a spotter!

Herbed Giblet Gravy

Giblets from turkey
3 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock
3 Tablespoons pan drippings from turkey
Reserved vegetables from turkey
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Remove the liver from the giblets. Place giblets in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, adn simmer 2-3 hours, or until tender.

In a separate stockpot, pour in chicken stock and bring to a simmer over high heat.

When the turkey is done, remove the turkey and vegetables from the roasting pan. Reserve drippings int he pan, and place on a burner over medium heat. Add the reserved vegetables from the pan and saute from 2 to 3 minutes.

Ladle in just enough hot stock to cover the bottom of the pan, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the drippings with the flour. Stir continuously over medium heat to make a roux. Cook until golden brown to remove any raw flour taste.

Ladle more stock into the roux, whisking to form a smooth liquid. The whisk the roux back into the chicken stock, whisking well to remove any lumps.

Strain the giblet broth into the chicken stock mixture. Bring to a boil to thicken, reduce the heat to low, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the gravy is simmering, chop the giblets into bite-size pieces and add to the gravy, if desired. For a smoother gravy, omit the giblets.

Stir in the fresh chopped thyme and continue simmering for at least 15 minutes, or until the gravy is thickened and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Helpful hint: If you have more drippings than the recipe calls for, don't throw them out! Use all the drippings created from the turkey, just use less stock.

Oct 28, 2011

Life, Regret, And Eggplant, by Denise Vivaldo

I see Michael walk in. I try not to look. I’m glad he’s alone. My eyes fill with tears the moment he waves hello. I don’t want to cry anymore today but I can’t stop. I feel so guilty and jealous. I don’t know who these tears are for. Maybe Lonnie was right. Maybe I should have moved in with Michael. He made the best eggplant Parmesan I’ve ever tasted.

It’s cold in the mausoleum. I can’t stop shaking. The minister is so worried about death, yelling about hell, fire and brimstone.  Nonsense. He didn’t know my friend Lonnie. If he had, he wouldn’t talk like this. Lonnie’s in heaven. He was too good for this earth. And in a year or two, I’ll forgive him for breaking his promise. When you promise to be friends forever, it means you both have to stay alive.

I move outside with the crowd, into the sunshine. It’s been three years since Lonnie, Michael and I were classmates in cooking school, and now the two of us are not so shiny, baby chefs. We make plans for lunch. Jesus, I’m glad Michael is alone. I heard he went back to his wife. I’ve never determined if after a couple was legally divorced and then proceeded to move back in with each other if that’s a win, lose, or draw. Maybe she couldn’t live without his eggplant Parmesan. I do know that dish is better served the second time around.

As soon as I get to the restaurant, I head for the bar. A glass of wine might help. It can’t hurt. Could I feel any worse? I am scared to talk to Michael. I see my reflection in the mirror behind the bar. I look bad. I need lipstick. I have no color in my cheeks. I can pull myself together. I hate this. Michael must not see me like this. What is wrong with me? Michael is my past. I left. I moved on. And the only thing of any importance is Lonnie. He’s dead.
I must find my lipstick.

I look better. I will take charge of these emotions. I’m upset. I’m sad. That is understandable. But, what, regrets? No. Not me. I don’t do regrets. The entire country of Italy may indulge in regret, but not me. Besides, they have the Pope as a support system. Regrets are just holes in my shoes on a rainy day. Okay, today I feel like I’m walking in a river. I switch to coffee. Michael shouldn’t scare me. We probably don’t have anything to say to one another. I’m fine. The cappuccino tastes great. Nothing like a corner table in North Beach to make me feel better. This is my homeland. .

I feel like I have two heads when Michael sits down next to me. Both mouths are talking too fast. I hope I put on enough lipstick for four lips. I remember things that I want to tell him. His laughter rekindles my passion for him. I wish for a moment that we are still lovers. Shit, he should’ve waited for me. I would have come back. I only wanted a couple of years to travel on my journey. He said he’d love me forever. Of course, when he said that when he was naked. Then he got dressed and went back to his wife. A classic Italian man; marriage is a piece of their heart. I hope he doesn’t hate me for not trying to stop him. Now I’m laughing like a crazy woman…well, that fucking shoe fits.

I remember Lonnie. My beautiful black Tom Selleck whose Baptist parents didn’t know he was gay until he died of AIDS.  Lonnie wouldn’t mind, but the huddle of WASPS seem to be staring. We start our own memorial service at our little table.  We need dishes of food and wine to toast with. I begin.

Lonnie and I took our cooking final together. We signed up for the first testing day. We had to get it over with. We kept telling each other it didn’t matter if we passed or failed, we weren’t going back to the culinary academy. We had to get on with our dreams. We made a pact. My dream was to be a chef on an oil rig in the Indian Ocean. His dream was to own a restaurant where all his friends could work. Lonnie told me to stay put and marry Michael, and I told him that friends would make the worst employees and he’d go bankrupt. We could only agree on one thing; that we’d be friends forever. I pass the picture of Lonnie and me from graduation day to Michael. Our heads together, smiling, with those silly, graduation medals, we were a step closer to our dreams.

I finish. I do not look at Michael. I can hear him crying. When it’s Michael’s turn he tells the story of a romantic dinner he had planned for him and me. At the last minute, I brought Lonnie with me saying it was more fun to be with both of my best friends. I couldn’t bear Lonnie being alone that night. Michael said that he knew that living with me would be a lesson in sharing. I remember him asking me if I’d always be bringing home strays. Lonnie and I sat by the fire, drinking cheap Dago red. We wanted to help cook but Michael said no, most of it was done. He was making eggplant Parmesan.

Being a Baptist, I asked Lonnie if eating purple vegetables with two Italians might be against his religion. Was he allowed to have that much fun? He admitted to having never eaten eggplant. We told Lonnie that eggplant is ancient food. It has survived by complimenting every taste it is thrown together with. And you can eat it hot or cold, grilled, sautéed, or baked, like tonight. Use eggplant when you can’t afford veal, and if you bake the eggplant Parmesan long enough nobody will be able to tell the difference. Eggplant, the name makes people laugh. I told Lonnie the Chinese say it makes men impotent. Michael and I swore that theory untrue. The three of us drink too much. I kept saying it was better the second time you had it and Lonnie asked if I was still talking about the eggplant. I explained that the eggplant holds its own on the second day. You know why it’s there. And to make it stretch you could always chop it up, add olives and call it caponata.

Eggplant. It can survive anything. And has.  He shook his head. Making memories out of a single dish, and that cheap wine. It was all we could afford in school. Our laughter turns to tears. Michael is finished.

Now I need air. There is too much pain to breathe. I want Lonnie to be alive. I didn’t know we had a time limit, to friendship, to love, to forever. I see my tears in the mirror, I dart for the door.

I need the cool fog on my cheeks. I will run up the hill and be home. Sit on my window seat. It’ll be just like it was then. It takes a moment to remember that I don’t live here anymore.

Oct 21, 2011

Some Love For Our Work On Top Chef Just Desserts

You may remember us mentioning our food styling job for the Top Chef Just Desserts promo. We just had to share this write up from Brief Magazine.

To address the challenge of working under hot lights with delicate and  easily destructible dishes, Appel called in Food Fanatics, a company of food stylists, to create nearly 150 unique desserts that would fi t into the  color scheme. Using a combination of real food ingredients and, by Appel’s account, a “bunch of materials from Home Depot,” Food Fanatics whipped up dishes ranging from coconut layer cake to tiramisu, Rice Krispies treats and a plethora of fruit tarts. Although the desserts were delicious to behold, they were basically inedible.

“The ice cream looked like the most appetizing ice cream I’ve ever  seen in my life,” Appel said. “But I think it was made out of plaster or something.”

After three long days of prepping, Food Fanatics’ dessert logo materialized beautifully during the shoot on the floor of a soundstage with Appel’s crew successfully capturing it from high above. 

Excellent! What a nice way to start the weekend. Makes me want to teach food styling in Atlanta.

Click here to enjoy the article in its entirety. 

Oct 13, 2011

Huffington Post: Linda Evans Is Even Better Than Krystle

I met Linda Evans on the set of Dynasty in the 80's. Aaron Spelling Productions hired me as a food stylist. It was a big deal to work on Dynasty. Aaron had come to one of my parties, and loved my food presentations. His producer hired me on the spot. Actually, Aaron Spelling changed my career. He put me to work on several of his productions and taught me about the television business. You only had to watch him to understand his success. I am so lucky.

So, there in on the set in the midst of all the shoulder pads, wigs, Cristal champagne, cameras, and what seemed like a cast of thousands, stood Linda Evans. I will always remember her politeness. No diva present, she simply sparkled.

Click here to enjoy the post in its entirety (and get the recipe for Linda's scrumptious artichoke dip). Please leave a comment if you are so moved! 

Oct 2, 2011

Ghostly Cupcakes

These easy treats are sure to delight children of all ages, and they also make a fun party activity by simply letting kids place the eyes and mouth!

Ghostly Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix, batter prepared according to package directions

12 cupcake liners, preferably orange

1 (16 ounce) can cream cheese frosting

Red and yellow food coloring

6 chocolate cookies, crushed

1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

15 marshmallows, regular size

6 mini Tootsie Roll minis, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cupcake liners into muffin tin and pour in cake batter to fill 2/3 of the way up. Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Let cool before decorating.

Stir drops of yellow and red food coloring into frosting until it is a bright orange. Spread on top of cupcakes. Sprinkle with crushed cookies.

Press a marshmallow into the center of each cupcake. There will be 3 marshmallows left over; cut these into 4 wedges. Place a wedge, gooey side down so it will stick, on top of each marshmallow.

Spread whipped topping around marshmallows to make the ghosts.

Shape and flatten pieces of tootsie rolls with your fingers to make eyes and mouths.

Just before serving, place eyes and mouths on ghosts.

Makes 12 cupcakes