This time of year lights up my cooking ambitions like no other time of the year. Pumpkins, squashes, mushrooms, onions, apples, potatoes — the foundations of fall comfort food. I was inspired by a woman in my French class who reports that she cooks a different meal every night of each month (she doesn’t repeat a recipe in a 30-day period). C’est une bonne idea! Yes, but .. that’s a lot of food. I aimed for 15 new recipes in 30 days. So far, so good. I started with a coconut milk vegetable potpie, a beurre blanc served atop sole and shrimp (easier than I thought), potato apple fritters with apple-cilantro salsa (potato and apple were made for each other), and sautéed shiitakes and shredded spinach on a bed of soft polenta — very comforting. More to come. The experiment was enough to nudge me out of a cooking rut. Shaking up the meal rotation is more inspiring than daunting although an every other night novelty is fine with me.
In the meantime, a cookie recipe contest caught my eye. It was the Port that did it. Fonseca Bin 27 port is calling for cookie recipes that pair well with … port! I love a glass of Port to close out the evening and began mulling over flavors that would complement the post-prandial drink. This is a test! I am modifying a favorite recipe for Cheddar Coins spiked with cayenne by adding some dried cranberries to the mix for a savory-sweet treat that I think should win first prize. That happens to be a Kitchen Aid Dual Fuel Double Oven Range and Professional 600 Series 6-quart Bowl Lift Stand Mixer! That’s enough to send me to the kitchen. Winners also get cooking classes with Dorie Greenspan and Jacques Torres.
Cheddar Cranberry Shortbread
Makes 3 dozen rounds
1 1/3 cups flour
1 ¼ cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp sea salt
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
2 T half-and-half
1/3 cup finely ground pecans
½ cup dried cranberries (chop finely in food processor)
1. Place flour, cheese and salt in food processor and blend well. Add butter pieces, and blend until the dough is coarsely mixed and approximates the size of peas. Pour in egg yolk and half and half. Pulse again. Add pecans and finely chopped cranberries and blend until completely combined. Combine dough into a large ball and gently knead. Divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a 1-inch diameter cylinder or log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.
2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the chilled logs into ½”-rounds, and bake for 16-18 minutes until slightly browned around the edges. Do not over bake. Serve with port, of course!