Root Vegetable Gratin

This dish has been a hit with family members and friends for several years. It's a little labor intensive, but worth the effort. Even kids find it delicious, just don't tell them up front that it's made with parsnips and celery root!

4    parsnips (the size of a large carrot); rutabaga can be used if you can't get parsnips)
1  celery root (tan, rough skinned about the size of a grapefruit)
1  pound sweet potatoes
1.5 pounds Yukon Gold (or similar) potatoes
2 small cloves garlic or one large
1/2 cup chicken or turkey stock
2 cups heavy cream
Whole nutmeg and grater

A mandoline, electric slicer or a steady hand and sharp knife are important to this preparation. 

  1. Peel parsnips and cut into large pieces, cutting around the core. 
  2. Peel celery root and sweet potatoes and cut into large, manageable pieces, a couple inches in size (a handful or small fist size). 
  3. Using mandoline, an electric slicer or a sharp knife, slice vegetables into 1/8" thick slices. 
  4. Lastly, prepare potatoes in same manner. 
  5. Add all vegetable slices to a large bowl and combine with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, a healthy grinding of fresh black pepper, the stock, and 1 cup of cream. Grate nutmeg liberally into mixture. 
  6. After combining, add more cream, up half a cup, to ensure mixture is moist and well coated, but not runny or pooling with liquid. 
  7. Coat a gratin dish(or any ceramic dish) with butter, add vegetables in an even layer. 
  8. Cut a piece of parchment paper (or foil) to fit the dish, butter it liberally, then place atop vegetables. 
  9. Cook at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes, ensuring that vegetables are tender. 
  10. Just before serving, drizzle the top of the vegetables with cream, and place under broiler until slightly browned.

This dish can be baked in the morning (or prior evening). Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate. Reheat at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes, then do final browning.

Eggs with Toasted Breadcrumbs

First - my sincerest apologies for the long break between articles. Many of you may know that I've returned to the corporate world from the consulting world....I thought I was working long, hard hours before, but now......:)

Here's a simple dish inspired by Judy Rodgers of the Zuni Cafe (in S.F.). Toasted breadcrumbs along with fried eggs seems like an obscure combination - until you've tried it. Then it will seem to be an obvious combination, and one you'll return to often. The gentle crunchiness of small breadcrumbs with fried eggs is surprising. I've also used crumbles of leftover grilled polenta in this dish. 

Eggs with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Herbs
  1. Coarsely grind a few slices of rustic bread. Alternately, use Japanese panko breadcrumbs. Reserve a few tablespoons of crumbs.  
  2. Add a few leaves of fresh herbs (thyme is great). 
  3. Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick or stainless skillet. Add the bread crumbs. 
  4. Right after the crumbs begin to brown, break 2, 3 or 4 eggs into the skillet, sunny-side up style.
  5. If you care to flip the eggs, sprinkle a the reserved crumbs over them first. 
  6. Top with an herb sprig, or a thin slice of crispy pancetta or bacon. 


Monkfish and Shrimp Braised with White Beans, Fennel and Tomato

This is a brilliant dish from Judy Rodgers' Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and is far easier to make than the end result implies. 

Saute fennel then a little onion. Add white wine, tomatoes, garlic, chili, saffron and a splash of liquor such as ouzo, pernod or sherry. Add fish or chicken stock. Then add cooked white beans. (Here's a simple way to cook the beans, introducing lots of flavor)

Sear and broil the monkfish and shrimp - then toss over the vegetables/beans.

Tom's Chris Steak House - Photo Menu

Special thanks to Tootsie Urwiler for these incredible photos. See her work at

Roasted Corn, Bacon and Cheddar Gougeres

Antipasti: Cravanzina Two Milk Cheese, Aged Provolone, Molinari  Salumi

Verdure a Scapece: Marinated Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini, Squash, Cauliflower, Red and Yellow Peppers and Olives

Caesar Salad, Garlic-Rosemary Croutons, Crispy Pancetta

Entree Plating

Summer Vegetable Scafata: Asparagus, Artichoke, Baby Carrot, Fennel, Haricot Vert, Leek

Spinach with Roasted Shallots and Garlic

Grilled Calamari Steak with Tangerine Vinaigrette and Fennel

Hazelnut Panna Cotta Topped with Amaretti Crumbles and Raspberry

KHS Homecoming 2011: Tom's Chris Steak House

If you've been following this blog you might recall the 'fine dining' menus for my daughter Nora and her friends for their high school homecoming festivities. Parents participate as waiters and kitchen staff. It's been a blast. As usual a mix of couples, singles, long time friends and new faces among the kids resulted in new and energetic parental labor.

In 2009 it was "Looks Like a Kid's Menu" in which 'kids dishes' were taken to an innovative and high level - such as a recreation of Grant Achatz's PB&J and a 'deconstructed hamburger with a constructed tower of chili cheese fries'.

Last year the menu was "Tastes From (Almost) Every Continent".

Yesterday's event went down the path of 'high end steak joint' - with Italian influences. My good friend Chris Day again tended the grill and prepped with me for hours and hours. So we labelled the effort as Tom's Chris Steak House. The menu is below, with links to several similar from here or Be A Better Cook. Other recipes to follow in due course. Wow - I like that unintended pun.

My friend Tootsie Urwiler did a professional photo shoot of the event. We'll share a complete photo essay / multimedia thing soon as we work through the hundreds and hundreds of great shots she captured. Here's her website - 

Tom’s Chris Steak House

An evening of fine steakhouse dining inspired by the elegant style of Mario Batali’s Babbo and the comfort of Frankie’s 457 Fourth Street Spuntino. These two ends of the dining spectrum have been transplanted from New York to Texas for our honored guests.  

Apple – Ginger Spritz
Pomegranate and Soda

Roasted Corn, Bacon and Cheddar Gougeres
Antipasti: Cravanzina Two Milk Cheese, Aged Provolone, Molinari  Salumi
Verdure a Scapece: Marinated Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini, Squash, Cauliflower, Red and Yellow Peppers and Olives

Caesar Salad, Garlic-Rosemary Croutons, Crispy Pancetta

Grilled Calamari Steak with Tangerine Vinaigrette 
Cheesy Grilled Polenta
Spinach with Roasted Shallots and Garlic
Summer Vegetable Scafata: Asparagus, Artichoke, Baby Carrot, Fennel, Haricot Vert, Leek

Hazelnut Panna Cotta Topped with Amaretti Crumbles and Raspberry

Family Dinner for the staff:  Texas Hill Country Sausage and Seafood Gumbo (Shrimp, Crawfish, Crab).

Romesco Sauce over Tilapia with Roasted Asparagus

Romesco Sauce, as published in Zuni Cafe Cookbook. Fresh bread crumbs, garlic, toasted hazelnuts, toasted almonds, fresh tomato, paprika, roasted ancho pepper, olive oil.....baked, then combined with fresh stock.

The Best Wine Value I've Ever Found

My friend Bill is a serious wine collector. And he won't go near California Cabernets, owing to the excessive prices.

However, if we could all buy wine like the bottle above, there'd be no argument with Bill.

After buying a few other things at a grocery store, on a Sunday when liquor stores / wine shops are closed, I ran across the following:

Mount Veeder Winery - 2007 Cabernet

A favorite Cab, from a winery / producer which Margie and I have visited in Napa
 (disregard the big corporate background involved)  

Fairly ridiculous list price at the grocery store: $49.99 - overpriced by about $14 or so

How evah......this bottle was conspicuously on some sort of "super-discount-for-some-reason-we-need-to-dump-it" display

I nevah pay much attention to such displays, and have never bought anything from one. 

Unexplained discount at checkout - $12.00

Discount from being on remainder shelf: 50%

Net cost: $18.99

Drinkability, Taste, Quality - 100%

Enjoyment - Full. 

Reason for 50% discount - scraped up label on back of bottle.

Seared Lemon Rosemary Tuna

These days it's easy to find 100% contrary points of view. Politics. Religion. Fish. But it's hard to engage in a sustainable fishing debate when your good friends bring their hand caught Gulf tuna over.

In this treatment I coated the tuna with salt, very finely chopped rosemary and lemon zest. Sear on a very hot grill  for no more than 2 minutes per side. Or use a  grill pan if it's so intensely hot outside that you don't want to fire up a grill.

Clockwise from the top of  this little appetizer spread are:

  • Chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Mixed olives with Feta
  • Hot Spanish Chorizo slices
  • Sticks of Asiago

BBQ Chicken - Totally Indirect Heat

We did this simple BBQ chicken a few weeks ago. Since it wasn't a few days ago, I've since forgotten where I read about the specific cooking technique. For some reason, I don't recall seeing this exact approach for grilled BBQ chicken:

Use Indirect Heat for 100% of the cooking time

Almost all grillers know that direct heat and chicken doesn't work. But I don't recall a recommendation for 100% indirect heat. The approach I think I've seen most often is to char / brown first, then use indirect heat.

One key to this approach is that the chicken be coated in a dry-rub first. I used my own smoked paprika rub which is most frequently used for brisket.

Yes - you can / should brush a little sauce or even honey over the chicken at the last second and cook over high heat briefly.

Herbes de Provence Flat Bread

Flat Bread with Garlic and herbes de Provence

I got a lot of positive email and FB comments about the recipe for Pizza Dough with herbes de Provence. Thanks!

It might be quickly obvious that the same dough makes a great flatbread if you don't use it for pizza. Obvious to others, not me. I used it for flatbread for the first time recently. Add a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Some grated hard cheese is good too.

The Cheese Stuffed Flatbread, shown below came from Ideas in Food. I didn't care for it as much as the herby one.

Printer Friendliness for 216 Recipes and Articles on What Tom Cooked!!

Apologies to my Kindle readers - this doesn't apply (yet) to Kindles. 

Many of you have asked for printer-friendly versions of my recipes and articles. For some recipes, but certainly not all, I've provided links to a printer friendly archive. 

I'm pleased to announce that ALL past and future articles on What Tom Cooked are now available in printer friendly format!!

Just look for the "Print Friendly" icon at the bottom of each article and click. Not only can you print, but you can edit out any section you don't want, email the article / recipe or even create a PDF. Way cool. 

Herbes de Provence and Garlic Pizza Dough

This is my go-to pizza dough, rich with garlic and herbs. At times I have bought a brand of herbes de Provence from Williams Sonoma that  comes in a decorative ceramic jar with a loose fitting lid. It's a pricey decision, but I will attest that the quality of the mixture is quite good.

I just checked out WS. A 1 ounce jar is $18. Whoa, I can't believe I ever rationalized that purchase (they've carried this product for years - and admittedly I always liked the rustic container).

BUT, there's a 2 ounce refill for $12.  That's actually a pretty good price.

Herb and Garlic Pizza Dough

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon yeast (if using a packet, reduce water to 1 1/4 cups and flour to 3 cups)
3 1/4 cups bread flour (all purpose is an acceptable substitute)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon salt

  1. Heat oil, garlic, herbes and pepper in a small pan until flavors are released. Immediately remove from heat and let cool. This can be done well ahead of making the dough. 
  2. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water and let sit for about 5 minutes. 
  3. Separately, combine the flour, cornmeal and salt. 
  4. Add the flavored oil to the water, then add the flour mixture about a cup at a time, mixing thoroughly until all ingredients are combined. Steps 3 and 4 can be done in a food processor, for speed. 
  5. Remove from bowl and knead dough for a few minutes until smooth. 
The dough can be refrigerated, but allow it to return to room temperature before rolling it out. It also can simply be stretched out by hand without a rolling pin, creating an even more rustic look and feel.

Divided into several pieces, the dough also survives well in the freezer for a few weeks or months.

Pizza with Carmelized Onions and Sausage

My kids like an occasional pizza night. Unlike some enthusiastic pizza lovers, I've never tried to achieve perfection in pizza making. Instead, I've got one really reliable and flavorful dough recipe that works for hand formed pizzas that can be grilled or oven cooked.

There are some fundamental techniques that are almost mandatory - such as oven tiles and a pizza peel if cooking in an oven. Cornmeal is needed for transfer to / from the oven.

There's one exception to my approach, which a recipe for Chicago-style deep dish pizza, which is summarized in this article snippet I shared last year. The dough technique was adapted from pastry making and published in Cook's Illustrated. But that's a whole 'nuther story.

What I like about this free-form pizza making:
All right, I'll publish my dough recipe with garlic, olive oil and herbs de Provence. Tomorrow. 

Independence Day Menu 2011

I Guess They Liked the Brisket

We had a few families over on Monday to celebrate Independence Day. 
By the way. Does it drive you nuts when a celebrity on national TV wishes you "Happy 4th of July"?  OK. Happy December 25th right back atcha'. 

Though our menu somewhat lengthy, any given dish was surprisingly simple in and of itself. Lemon Chive Potato Salad only had four ingredients besides lemon and chive. I tried a Maple Syrup Baked Bean approach (my son LOVES beans) from How To Cook Everything that only had mustard and bacon in it besides the beans and syrup. Fresh tuna from the keys was prepared several ways, all of which were simple and quick. 

Here's the whole menu with links to the recipes if I've already published them. If not, they're coming soon to What Tom Cooked or to Be A Better Cook.

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