If you were enticed by that delicious looking and sound roasted chicken with herbs in the last post, then you will not be able to resist this cake, which is the perfect dessert to complement your main course. Again, this is from Art Smith’s kitchen.

Makes 12 servings
• 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 8 egg yolks
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter , cut into 8 pieces
• Grated zest of 2 lemons
• Pinch of salt
• 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups sugar
• 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter , softened
• 4 eggs , at room temperature, separated
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup well-stirred, canned unsweetened coconut milk
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 2 egg whites , at room temperature
• 2 teaspoons corn syrup
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 bag (17 ounces) shredded sweetened coconut (2 2/3 cups)

In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, combine lemon juice and 1/2 cup water. Add cornstarch, and whisk to dissolve. Add sugar, egg yolks, butter, lemon zest and salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and whisk 1 minute. Strain through a coarse sieve into a medium bowl. Let cool to room temperature, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until very cold. (Filling may be prepared up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.)

Position a rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans; tap out excess flour. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, then vanilla. On low speed, add flour in three 1-cup additions, alternating with two 1/2-cup additions of coconut milk, beginning and ending with flour, and beat until smooth, scraping bowl often with a rubber spatula. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites (with clean beaters) on high speed until they form stiff peaks. Whisk 1/4 of the whites into batter, and then fold in remainder. Spread evenly in pans.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Be sure pans don’t touch each other and that they clear sides of oven by 2 inches.

Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Invert onto racks and unmold, removing parchment paper. Turn right sides up and cool completely.

In the bottom of a double boiler, simmer water. In the top of a double boiler, combine sugar, egg whites, corn syrup, cream of tartar and 1/3 cup water. Place over simmering water. Beat on high speed with a handheld electric mixer until icing forms soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and beat in vanilla. Continue beating 5 minutes, or just until stiff peaks form.

Place one layer upside down on a serving plate. Spread with half of lemon filling. Place another layer on top, right side up. Spread with remaining half of lemon filling. Add the final layer right side up. Spread icing over top and then sides of cake. Press handfuls of coconut all over icing. (Cake tastes best the day it is made.)

This recipe and the previous one are actually part of Oprah’s Christmas menu, which can be found on her web site. I wish I had Art Smith to whip up these goodies himself!

Jeff SmithWith a dozen best-selling cookbooks tucked under his belt, Jeff Smith, is best known for hosting the popular American cooking show that began in Washington. The show was aired in PBS from 1988 to 1997.

Smith was a United Methodist who graduated at the University of Puget Sound in 1962 and Drew University in 1965. His first run at food ventures was the Chaplain’s Pantry where he held cooking classes to the public and stored deli and kitchen supplies as well.

Being in the celebrity status that he is in the world of cooking, Smith has had his share of controversies as well. Legal issues concerning sexual harassment in the 70s were just some of the trials that Smith had to go through.

Known to be the food genius that he is, Smith has authored several books under his wing including The Frugal Gourmet (1984), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine (1986), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American (1987) and The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome (1989).

jamie-oliver-picture-1This guy will never have his full share of controversy, will he? Jamie Oliver had the honor of serving the leaders of the world during the G20 summit in the UK, and this is what he had to offer them:

Starter: Organic Scottish salmon with samphire and sea kale, and a selection of vegetables from Sussex, Surrey, and Kent.

Main course: Slow-roasted shoulder of Elwy Valley lamb with Jersey Royals, wild mushrooms and mint sauce.

Dessert: Bakewell tart and custard.

Vegetarian option: Goat’s cheese starter followed by lovage and potato dumplings for the main course.

There are some things there that I am not familiar with, like samphire and lovage (ah, spank me!), but all in all, the menu looks fabulous to me. But no, some people are quite unsatisfied with the menu, saying that it is not representative of what British cuisine has to offer. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, in particular said:

The first impression I get from this menu is that it’s extremely British and very politically inoffensive. I don’t think it’s terribly exciting, but then I don’t think it should be on an occasion like this, when Jamie is trying to satisfy so many people.

I would have liked to have seen a few subtle multicultural influences in the menu to reflect modern Britain. It’s a very northern European menu and it doesn’t represent the very strong south-east Asian influences that do exist here.

Some of the foreign guests might raise an eyebrow to the idea of mint sauce with lamb, but as long as Jamie keeps it fresh and doesn’t make it vinegary, like some of the shop varieties, people won’t find it offensive.

Who finds mint lamb offensive? Maybe vegetarians? Anyway, from what I heard, the dinner went off quite well.

With Thanksgiving barely over and leftovers still smouldering in the fridge, theres no better time to start thinking and planning for the next big day ahead – Christmas!!

Ok, call me a bit of a sadist, but unlike Thanksgiving which really only involves a singular meal (maybe you were even lucky this year and played guest and not chef) , Christmas is so much more, especially so if you have a family with little children.

You know what I’m talking about – stockings, tree, decorations, outfits, parties, pantomimes and presents – to a list which seems to get longer every year! So yes, early preparations for this particular holiday does make good sense.

And since this blog is about chefs and therefore food, I’ll be posting about some of my favourite celeb chefs’ Christmas menus. Depending on your mood, gathering and needs this year, you can decide early on what tickles your fancy most. After all, Christmas is the season for celebration, joy, and splashing out indulgently – as Nigella so rightly reminds us in her Christmas Menu below.

I think the mistake people make most when entertaining is to get too fancy with the food. No one is ever too sophisticated for the basic pleasures of home cooking, and there is something about those old favorites that makes everyone feel a little leap of joy in the heart………The whole point of a feast is that it is unnecessarily abundant
Nigella Lawson

Nigella’s Rustic Christmas Menu

Crab Cocktail
Seasonal Breeze
Perfect Roast Potatoes
Petits Pois � la Fran�aise
Green Bean and Lemon Casserole
Standing Rib Roast
Chestnut Cheesecake

For recipes, start HERE.

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gourmet burgerCelebrity chefs can turn anything into a gourmet meal — even the lowly burger.
Of course, it comes with a gourmet price tag. The $5,000burger is made of Kobe beef, foie gras and black truffles, and served with a 1990 bottle of Chateau Petrus. (Or you can skip the wine and order the champagne cocktails with 24K gold flakes.)

Gee, wonder what kind of toy they give away with that? A diamond?

Chef Mary Berry started out as a broadcaster and is known to be one of the well-respected cookbook writers that the United Kingdom has produced. She is also known for her signature cakes which sold over 350,000 copies. Chef Berry typifies the role of a plain housewife who should know her way around the household, something that most of her avid viewers have followed in her shows over BBC.

Chef Mary Berry

Outside her evident signature trait of making extra ordinary cake recipes, she has also written over 40 cook books including The Aga Book. Her approach towards cooking is branded as family style emphasizing on healthy recipes that focus on fresh ingredients rather than cholesterol animal fats, something that most people of today are quite particular about. With her exposure on various TV shows, Chef Berry has gained headway and prestige, all through her continuous efforts through tri-media, including magazines that are bought worldwide.

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Taking his cue from the family business Chef Cesare Casella enrolled at the Culinary Institute Ferdinando at the age of fourteen. After graduation, he applied his knowledge to their family restaurant which eventually became a famous regional destination spot. After some time, all of Chef Casellas work had paid dividends, attracting various personalities who have acknowledged his fascinating dishes that have become a signature trademark for him.

Chef Cesare Casella

His rise to stardom started to accumulate by the year as he was eventually named the Executive Chef of Coco Pazzo that produced sister restaurants Il Toscanaccio. But seeing that he should also find security for his talent, he opened his own New York Restaurant in 2001, Beppe and in Maremma in 2005.

He has also written three books, Diary of a Tuscan Chef, Italian Cooking for Dummies and True Tuscan. He has also appeared in various food networks where he showcases his unique style of cooking that has been acknowledged worldwide.

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Expedition 13 Emeril_Lagasse Packets.jpg
When someone’s food is chosen to be served at major occasions or for certain people, it is definitely a singular honor to be chosen. There is nothing like being asked to cook for some of the people with the toughest and riskiest jobs – our astronauts.

The honor has been given to celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray. Their recipes were analyzed, tested, processed, dehydrated and packaged into food packets for space. The astronauts then got to enjoy the taste of these special dishes which must have made a nice break from the regular fare.

Rachael Ray contributed her Swedish meatballs, spicy Thai chicken and vegetable curry recipes. Chef Lagasse on the other hand sent our astronauts some green beans, jambalaya, mashed potatoes with bacon, rice pudding and fruit. The astronauts of expedition 13 also appeared briefly via satellite last August on Chef Lagasse’s show “Emeril Live”.

Will other celebrity chefs be sending up their dishes? No word has yet been said. It is sure though that our astronauts love the food.

The year is about to end and you’d like to say goodbye to 2006 with a bang, and something delicious and different on the table. Only question now is, what to cook? Don’t give yourself a headache, check out some of the recipes the chefs recommend for this special dinner.

Rachael Ray.jpgIf you’ve only got 30 minutes, then who better to ask than Rachael Ray who hosts 30 Minute Meals. Her Crab Salad Bites on Endive are easy to make and a delicious way to get started at your party.

bobbyflay.pngIf pasta is something you want on the table and stay in the seafood theme, why not try some of Bobby Flay’s Sea Bass with Potatoes and Tomatoes in Parchment with Angel Hair Pasta. This is absolutely delicious and healthy. Chef Flay also recommends the Arugula Salad with Lemon and Olive Oil to go with this dish.

Tyler Florence.jpgA fancy dinner doesn’t have to be hard to make. In fact Tyler Florence says you can make this Filet Mignon with Mushrooms and Sauce Pinot Noir in just 20 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how quick and easy this recipe is and how wonderful it tastes.

Don’t forget to get some good champagne to welcome in the new year with. Put on your party hats, enjoy the food and the fireworks and sing Auld Lang Syne.

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Are you tired of having turkey for christmas dinner? You are not the only one. Traditions are great but every now and then it is nice to have a change. Turkey at thanksgiving is enough for some.

Instead of taking out the turkey, just add a few dishes as alternatives. You can try Rachel Ray’s Christmas Pasta for one. It is loaded with all sorts of meat, perfect for those who don’t want fowl or fish. You don’t even need to worry about any leftovers. This dish just tastes better with every reheat. Do note Rachael Ray’s reminder: cook only as much pasta as needed. That comes to about half a pound for every 3 people.

If you really want to keep the turkey off the table this year, how about some of Giada de Laurentiis’ Spicy chicken instead? It’s an easy dish to make that doesn’t take too much work to cook and it adds a little kick to your christmas meal.
Here are the recipes for these two dishes:

Rachael Ray’s Christmas Pasta

1/4 pound pancetta, thick cut, chopped into small bits (Italian cured pork, ask at deli counter)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1 pound combined ground beef, pork and veal
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup good quality dry red wine
1 cup prepared beef stock, paper container or canned
2 (32-ounce) cans chunky style crushed tomatoes
Handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon (a couple of pinches) allspice or cinnamon
Coarse salt and black pepper
2 pounds penne rigate, cooked to al dente
Grated Pecorino Romano, as an accompaniment
Fresh, crusty bread, for mopping

Heat a deep pot over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and brown to render the fat. Transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. To the pan add the oil, and the meats and brown and crumble them for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, and pancetta bits.Chop carrot, celery, and onions near the stove and add to the pot as you work. Cook vegetables with meat 5 minutes and add wine. Cook for 1 minute; add stock and tomatoes to the pot.

Stir in parsley, allspice, or cinnamon and season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cook 10 to 15 minutes, minimum, before serving. Reheated sauce only improves.

Toss pasta (cook off only as much pasta as you need at the time: half a pound for every 3 people) with a couple of ladles of sauce to coat, then top bowl with extra sauce. Top pasta with lots of cheese and pass bread at the table

Giada de Laurentiis’ Spicy Chicken

4 chicken thighs with skin and bones
2 chicken breasts with skin and bones, halved crosswise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Chili Oil, recipe follows
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pitted, coarsely chopped green olives
4 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
2/3 cup dry white wine

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the garlic, olives, 3 tablespoons of parsley and capers. Add the wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.Transfer the chicken mixture to a platter. Spoon the sauce over. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley and serve.

Chili Oil:
2 cups olive oil
4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakesCombine the oil and crushed red pepper flakes in a heavy small saucepan. Cook over low heat until a thermometer inserted into the oil registers 180 degrees F, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Transfer the oil and pepper flakes to a 4-ounce bottle. Seal the lid. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 2 hours

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