Cheese Burger in Paradise

Photo by David Bishop

No backyard barbecue or summer party is complete without the quintessential All-American Burger. Though burgers are ubiquitous in America they are not always divine. Careful attention to detail of every ingredient is the secret to making truly great burgers, both for taste and for visual appeal.

Start with the bun. It should be as fresh and delicious as possible, preferably baked that day. Whichever is your favorite, plain or seeded, egg or potato dough, a bit of grilled toasting on the insides will add another layer of flavor. Try brushing the grill side of the bread with butter, mayonnaise or mustard for greater intensity.

So many times I see meat patties disproportionate to the size of the bun. It is essential for flavor distribution as well as artful compositional balance that the patty be formed with careful consideration of the bun size and shape.  It is especially important that the patty spans at least, but not much more than, the diameter of the bun. Taking that first anticipatory bite only to find yourself with merely a mouthful of bun and condiments is such a let down. I like to have the “meat” of the sandwich, whether it is really meat, a savory vegetable patty or a succulent grilled marinated portobello mushroom, in every bite. The first rule of thumb in making it so, is that meat patties tend to puff thicker and shrink in diameter when cooked. Ergo, when forming your patty, make it thinner and wider than you intend for it to be when finished cooking.  When I do them for film, I do a test patty, weighing and measuring the before and after to find the optimum raw size. I have also found that ground beef at about 85% makes both a very juicy burger and a patty that cracks and deforms the least. I always make sure that the edges (only the edges) are compressed well while forming the patties to help minimize cracking and to hold in the juices.

We all adore flame grilled barbecue flavor. If you don’t have access to outdoor space, electric grills are available or try using your broiler. If the sides don’t get the char you would like, take a propane or butane torch to them. Available at your local hardware store, small hand held torches are handy for many kitchen cooking tasks. As with any indoor flaming, be sure to have proper ventilation.

To really make a superb meat patty, try seasoning the ground meat before you form the patty for extra flavor. Salt, pepper, or one of my favorites, sauteed minced shallot, make a great start. Add whatever seasoning you like best, just don’t make the bits too big. Cheese, peppers, eggs, bread crumbs, herbs, spices, dried fruit, vegetables…all are eligible innovations at the right place and time.

Whether they are old stand-by’s or new favorites, condiments, like the patty and bread, need to be of the freshest, ripest and best quality, and be distributed evenly over the sandwich for admirable results. Go wild and grill up some thinly sliced juicy ripe pineapple, slather with scallion, jalepeno & nutmeg laced mayonnaise, and add fresh cilantro sprigs to a chicken, turkey, crab or shrimp burger.

I particularly like to put the big three saucy burger toppings, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, in squeeze bottles for easy application. I find store bought ketchup & mustard sometimes too runny, so I drain them first. Just empty the bottle or jar onto a sheet pan lined with about 10 layers of paper towels and wait about 10 to 20 minutes. The ketchup or mustard closest to the toweling will be thicker. Using a rubber or metal spatula, scrape the contents off the tray into a bowl and whisk until homogenous. Empty the bowl into a zip lock bag, sealing the zipper and cutting a little off one bottom corner, then ease the contents into the squeeze bottle. The mayonnaise has a little bit different story. I find off the shelf jars of it to be lumpy. I empty the jar into a bowl and whisk the mayonnaise until smooth, then fill the squeeze bottle like I do the others.

There are no hard and fast rules. It’s all about what you and your audience like. I am happy to answer any questions you might have at http://www.marilindahodgdon@gmail.com

Also check out my articles on the Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marilinda-hodgdon/  and my professional web site at www.marilinda.com


Puff Pastry Cherry Pie

Photo by David Bishop

A box of frozen puff pastry sheets from the store is one of my favorite go tos for creating easy and beautiful, delicious confections. Add some seasonal fresh fruit to the rich and buttery pastry, and voila, a treat everyone will love. Cherries macerated in cognac and sugar elevate this dessert to elegant status, while topping it with semi sweet whipped cream or vanilla ice cream makes it irresistible.

The amount of cherries you need depends on the size of your dish. Test the amount you need in the pan you choose to use. Pit about two cups of cherries. This is made enormously easier with a sweet little gadget I found at both Bed, Bath and Beyond and at Sur La Table, made by Progressive. It pits 4 cherries at a time cleanly and neatly with the push of the lid and without staining your fingers and kitchen surfaces  Mix the cherries into a medium size bowl with 1/4 cup of cognac, a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of all purpose flour. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes.

While the cherries are soaking up the good stuff take the time to prepare the pastry. Following package directions, take out only as much pastry you will use, one sheet in my case. Seal the rest and store in the freezer until you need it next. Lightly flour your working surface and the pastry sheet and cover it with a dish towel while it thaws, about 1/2 hour.

Choose a baking vessel that is appropriate in size and style for the occasion. I used a pre-seasoned cast iron Au Gratin baking dish From Sur La Table to make a pie for two. Trace the outline of your dish on a piece of paper and add two inches diameter for the crust. Cut out the paper form and lay it onto the pastry. If your form is bigger than the sheet of pastry, you may need to roll the pastry out a bit with a rolling pin, making sure you sprinkle flour as needed to prevent the pastry from sticking to your rolling pin, surface or hands. Cut the pastry oval out with the tip of a very sharp knife, tracing the paper, and lay it evenly over the baking dish. Gently form it to the bottom and sides.

Fill the pastry with the cherry mixture, including the liquid, piling it high. Form the edges around it. Beat an egg with a teaspoon of milk and brush the pastry top. Sprinkle both the pastry and the cherries with about a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Bake it in a preheated at 425’F oven for about 10 minutes until it is puffed and browned. To prevent over browning while finishing the internal cooking, turn the heat down to 325’F and bake for another 10 minutes.

Garnish with lemon zest when cooled.

Styling Tips

  • Before baking, use a thermometer to validate the oven’s temperature. If the thermometer is new, check it against two other thermometers. Most ovens aren’t accurate to the dial settings.
  • A pizza stone helps keep the oven temperature from fluctuating wildly, which most ovens do. Adjust a shelf to the middle of the oven and place the stone on it while the oven is cold, to prevent breakage.
  • Make sure the oven achieves 425’F before putting the pie in the center on the stone. The stone will also help the bottom crust cook thoroughly and prevent sogginess.

Check out my new column with the Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marilinda-hodgdon/ and my professional site at http://www.marilinda.com

Roasted Quail on Crispy Pasta Nest

Photo by David Bishop

Quail is one of my favorite poultry choices. The meat is delicate in both texture and flavor. Most quail available for purchase is boned except for the legs and wings. I used a half of apricot to plump up the breast for structure, flavor and juiciness. Using white sewing thread, I stitched the opening and trussed the legs. The cute little birds are seasoned with white pepper, seared in butter and roasted at 400′ F for about 15 minutes, glazing with a pastry brush during cooking at least 3 times, until browned and tender. I usually brine poultry before cooking for flavor and tenderness. If you choose to do this, be sure to brine the meat before it is stuffed and dry it well. As an appetizer use one bird per person. For an entree 2-3 birds each.

I chose to present the quail as an appetizer on a nest of fried spaghetti for drama, and garnished with pine nuts, fried zucchini flower, chervil and sauteed apricot pieces.


  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 small onion cut into pieces (optional)

Dissolve the salt and chill the solution. Soak the quail for one hour in the refrigerator, making sure they are completely covered . Dry thoroughly before stuffing.


  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice with pulp
  • 1 cup honey

Whisk the juice and honey together. In a sauce pan reduce the mixture over medium heat by half, being careful not to scorch, Brush it on the quail before, during and after roasting. Roast on a parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan at 400’F for about 15 minutes, until browned and tender. Serve with the remaining glaze.

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Kaleidoscopic Lollipop

Photo by David Bishop

Many years ago I was hired for a food styling job for a Dominoes Sugar billboard campaign. They supplied me with their recipe for hard crack candy, which can be used in making lollipops. The premise of the campaign was that anyone can make them, and that free form lollipops are fun. Given the parameters of both holiday and everyday themes, they asked me to come up with forms that would serve their vision and could be incorporated into their ads. I used regular lollipop sticks for some and knotted ribbons in others, for hanging adornments, ie. Christmas trees. I had tons of fun creating many lollipops and learned so much in the process.

My mother had a passion for unique & interesting Christmas tree ornaments, so I wrapped selected be-ribboned lollipops with waxed paper and stored them boxed in plastic in a cool dry place until Christmas, as a present to her. The translucence of these colored candies lend a lovely light quality to any occasion. The stick versions make fun centerpieces in a vase, or wrapped in translucent candy bags, tied with ribbons as party favors. The accouterments (sticks & bags) can be had at gourmet cooking stores.

I will guide you through the process of making free form lollipops with all the helpful styling and safety tips I learned along the way. Here is what the ad looked like.

Domino Lollipop Print Ad

To recap the recipe, directions and tips:


  • 2 cups granular cane sugar
  • 2/3 cup clear corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Flavoring and food coloring, as desired
  • Colorful Ribbons, lollipop or ice cream sticks

For safety sake, fill a large bowl with ice and water as an ice plunge, and have it nearby in case you splash any hot candy on your skin. If you do, plunge your skin immediately into the ice water. Prepare sheets of aluminum foil on cookie sheets or straight on the counter, to receive the liquid candy. Have lollipop sticks, knotted colored ribbons and small candies ready to stick into hot candy lollis. The candy cools right away, once poured, so do them one at a time. You can re-heat the candy in the Pyrex in a microwave oven if the liquid gets too thick to pour easily.

  1. In a metal sauce pan, combine the first three ingredients together, stirring over low heat until they are completely dissolved.
  2. Increase to high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil for about 15- 20 minutes, without stirring, (the quicker the better to avoid discoloration) . Using a candy thermometer, or fryer thermometer, let the mixture just come to 300′ F, hard crack candy stage. Remove from heat.
  3. Blend in flavoring and color, stirring carefully.
  4. Half way fill a one cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup to use as a pouring vessel. Never over fill your poring vessel!
  5. Pour shapes according to your own imagination and quickly add ribbons, sticks and candies.
  6. Let cool to room temperature.

Here is are some simple yet pretty versions

Lollis with Flavorful Seeds

Photo by David Bishop

To make them Kaleidoscopic, as pictured in the intro photo, use the above recipe and directions to make sheets of your personal color palette, tinted hand poured candy onto smooth flat surfaces of foil. Let them cool to room temperature and break into small pieces. Place the pieces of each color separately onto appropriately large trays or plates, so that you can see the individual pieces.

Make a batch of clear, uncolored candy and pour shapes, one at a time, on foil as before, placing the sticks in immediately, and adding the colored shards in the patterns you desire. Re-heat some of the clear candy, and pour over your colored pieces to ensure they adhere to the clear base lolli.

Flavoring suggestions:

Extracts of; orange, lemon, grapefruit, vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon, hazelnut, almond, rose and lavender, or whatever you think of or find.

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Chicken Yakitori with Sesame Seeds and Seaweed Salad

Photo by David Bishop

Chicken Yakitori is sort of redundant since the word Yakitori in Japanese means skewered grilled poultry. Traditionally, Yakitori can be grilled with salt only or with a sauce called Tare. Hence, “Yakitori no Tare” is griled poultry with tare sauce. We westerners just call it Chicken Yakitori.

Like BBQ sauce, Tare is often also served on the side for dipping.  You can buy it ready made in a bottle or make it yourself. It can be used on any protein or vegetable sturdy enough to skewer and grill or you can also use it under a broiler or in an oven, for more delicate foods like flounder or ripe peaches.

For a deeper flavor use it as a marinade before grilling and continue applying with a brush or squeeze bottle several times during cooking. The basic ingredients for Yakitori Sauce or Tare are; sake, soy sauce, mirin (a naturally sweet cooking rice wine), and sugar. You may also add any kind of stock you see fit for your choice of food.

Great as a party pleaser, here is my recipe for “Yakitori no Tare” and suggestions for cooking and presentation. Don’t forget to soak your skewers in water while preparing the other ingredients.


  • 1 1/3 cups soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup sake
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1/8 cup honey

Mix all the ingredients together and bring to a low boil for about a minute and let cool. Set a little aside for dipping. Use the rest for marinating and brushing while cooking.


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch cubes
  •  1 yellow bell pepper cut into 1 inch dices
  • 8 scallions
  • 8 6 inch long, thin bamboo skewers soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
  1. Using only the centers of the scallions, cut 16 one inch lengths of the medium green parts of scallion. Reserve the dark green and white parts for other uses.
  2. Alternate dark and white meat and vegetables onto soaked skewers, taking care to center the skewer in each piece so there is no breakage.
  3. Marinate in the sauce for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  4. Grill gently over medium low heat for about 5 minutes each side, basting with sauce every few minutes.
  5. Check for doneness and cook more if needed. Cook until just done.

Serve on a bed of seaweed salad and garnish with blacks sesame seeds. Cold premium sake or cucumber garnished Saketinis are great with this dish on a hot summer day, or anytime.

Check out the link to my blog on the Huffington Post

Polenta Crostini with Pickled Onions and Gorgonzola Crumbles

Think of a mouth full of creamy and savory polenta deliciousness with a wisp of its grilled crunchy surround.  Top it with a tart, juicy, sweet layer of fruity wine pickled onion, and add the rich pungent fullness of ripe gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and grassy aromatic fresh herbs. This beautiful and delectable “Crostini”, Italian for “little crust”, my rendition made with polenta, is enigmatic of traditional Northern Italian Cuisine, morphed by international fusion. It is perfect for any size party because of its wow factor and ease of assembly.

Currently, polenta is known as a corn based recipe, though originally it was made from aggregate grains and legumes mixed with various flavorings of vegetables, meats, herbs and spices. The beauty of its contrivance is that it can be as simple and easy or as complex as you choose it to be. What counts is flavor and eye appeal. You can start from scratch, buy a quick cook variety, or buy a tube of pre-made polenta. Which ever you choose, follow package directions and add some of your own imagination and flavor. Slice and grill the chilled firm polenta as a platform for countless accouterments. Build your own creation from there.

Keeping in mind that the basic proportion for cooking polenta from scratch is three parts water or broth to one part corn flour, here is my rendition of a fun, beautiful and delicious grilled or pan fried polenta appetizer.

Polenta Recipe

  • 2 cups yellow corn flour
  • 6 cups salted water to taste, or light colored broth
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper, no seeds or ribs
  • 1/4 cup finely minced jalepeno pepper, no seeds or ribs
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, parsley, or your herb of choice
  1.  in a 3-4 quart pot, saute vegetables in half of the olive oil on medium low heat until soft, reserving chopped herbs.
  2. Add water to the pot, turning up the heat to bring it to a boil.
  3. Add the corn flour slowly while stirring until the mixture amalgamates and thickens, lowering heat as needed to avoid sticking, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Stir chopped herbs into the mix quickly.
  5. Pour onto a greased 1/2 sheet or jelly-roll pan and smooth with an off set spatula to even out the thickness.
  6. Let cool until very firm, about one hour. You can speed the process in the refrigerator.
  7. Cover with waxed paper and turn out onto a cutting board rapping on the bottom of the pan sharply.
  8. Cut into desired size and shapes with a knife or cookie/ biscuit cutter.
  9. Grill in a well oiled pan, or under or over a flame until golden brown and crusty.

Wine Pickled Onions


  • 2 small red onions
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice or any clear red pure fruit juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves (6-8)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked allspice berries (3-4)


  • 2 small white onions
  • 1 cup white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
  1. Julienne onions into points by cutting them in half length wise, peel off skin and tough outer layers, then continue slicing them end to end into crescents with the widest center measure at about 1/4 inch.
  2. Separately, in two one quart sauce pans, bring all ingredients of red and white pickling elements, except the onions, to a boil stirring to homogenize the flavors.
  3. Add the onions to their respective pickles, and continue to boil, reducing the heat slightly to slow evaporation, until they absorb color and  flavor but are still slightly crunchy, 5-10 minutes.
  4. Drain, reserving liquid for another time. Cool separately on two trays to keep colors from touching each other, single layer in the refrigerator.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap, once cooled. Keep refrigerated until use.
  6. Store leftover pickled onions in sealed jars with a small amount of their liquid. They are delicious added to many dishes.

Building Ingredients and Styling Tips

  • Grilled Polenta Rounds
  • Red & White Pickled Onions
  • Gorgonzola crumbles
  • Sprigs and leaves of your favorite herb for garnish

Building the appetizers are pretty self explanatory using the photo image as reference. Using your innate intuitive sense, somewhat alternate the white and red pickled onions a top the crostini rounds in a circular spiraling swirl. Top each round with a proportionate amount of Gorgonzola crumbles and garnish with small herbal leaves or sprigs.

Cocotte Eggs American

Cocotte Eggs American

Photo by David Bishop

This elegant, delectable & delightful breakfast, brunch or dinner entree is as soothing and delicious, if not as seductive, as it’s French predecessor. I was inspired by a recipe from our beloved Jacques Pepin, and changed it up a bit so that we can see all of the ingredients in a wider scope, then added more flavor and visual ingredients. The definition of Cocotte is an egg cooked individually in cream or butter in a small ramekin.

I used six inch stainless steel double handled personal braising pans because of the presentation possibilities. As a food stylist I gravitate toward palettes that can showcase the food in it’s entirety. The traditional Cocotte obscures most of the ingredients because they are on top of each other, like a parfait with opaque sides. I used 2 medium eggs instead of one large egg for symmetry and added various baby vegetables for; balanced scale and textural mouth appeal, color for eye popping lasciviousness, and flavor for the soul to savor and devour.

The end product is enticingly simple, easy and fast, while being lusciously delicious.

Ingredients per person/pan:

  • 1 slice of whole grain bread, toasted and buttered, cut into sticks for dipping into the egg dish
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1 tablespoon cognac
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sliced shallots
  • 3 sliced button mushrooms
  • 2 sliced baby zucchini
  • 2 sliced baby patty pan summer squash
  • 1/2 sliced red baby bell pepper (1 tablespoon)
  • 2 medium raw eggs
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese
  1. Heat pan on medium low heat with olive oil for a moment until it is just hot.
  2. Add shallot, squash, peppers and some seasoning. Cook until tender, about two minutes.
  3. Turn up the heat a tiny bit and add mushrooms, cooking them until they release their water and begin to brown a bit. Stir the mixture.
  4. Add cream and cognac, stirring the mixture again and tasting for balance. Add more seasoning if necessary. Simmer for a moment to thicken a little. It will thicken more in the next step.
  5. Make two welts in the mixture for the eggs.
  6. Crack the eggs into the welts and lower the heat a tiny bit.
  7. Garnish the cheese onto the eggs and veges.
  8. Let them braise in the liquid until they are cooked to your desired doneness of yolk, making sure that the whites are not still mucus like. You may have to spoon some of the liquid over the whites to ensure even cooking, without over cooking the yolks.

Serve hot with the side of toast sticks for dipping. Add the beverage of your choice, depending on the corresponding meal…Orange juice, Green tea, Prosecco… whatever your heart desires.

Medium Hard Boiled Egg in Chicken Stock Aspic

Photo by David Bishop

I have co-opted this twist on a traditional French appetizer of eggs in aspic, an old-school French charcuterie: the Oeuf en Gelée, as a pretty and tasty starter for Easter dinner. It’s simplicity renders it not only easier to achieve than the traditional and more complex old fashioned versions, it is also more visually successful.

The first part of the quotient is to negotiate making the best tasting and looking “hard boiled eggs” ever. I say hard boiled in jest because they are not boiled and are barely hard, rendering them vibrantly yellow, moist, tender and delicious.

Medium Hard Eggs

Photo by David Bishop

Most people hard boil eggs thoughtlessly, leaving them overcooked, dry, tasteless, and with an unsightly green sulfurous ring around the perimeter of the yolk. It takes only a little bit of stayed attention to greatly improve these issues.

  1. Have a large bowl of lightly salted iced water standing by to receive your cooked eggs and stop the cooking in their tracks.
  2. Put room temperature medium sized eggs covered in slightly salted tap water in a sauce pan or pot and put over medium heat.
  3. Bring the water to an almost boil, a murmur of a boil, a gently nearly bubbling boil. Pay attention and adjust your heat to make it so.
  4. Leave it as such for 8 minutes for medium eggs, 9 minutes for large eggs and 10 minutes for extra large eggs. If you are doing lots of eggs at a time, you can test one to make sure it is exactly what you want by plunging one into the ice water and cutting it in 2 two, (without shelling it).
  5. When you have the desired color, plunge the eggs into the iced water to stop the cooking immediately.
  6. Roll each egg onto a hard surface to gently crack the shells, and return them to the iced water for at least 15 minutes, letting the water seep into the space between the shell and the membrane. This will enable you to shell the eggs easily.
  7. Shell each egg carefully to avoid marring the surface of the egg whites.
  8. Use a thin wire cheese cutter or very sharp thin knife, to slice the eggs length wise.
  9. At this point you can use the eggs for many things, including deviled eggs and our featured “Jellied Easter Eggs”.

Now for the fun part. I found little old fashioned fluted tin molds that were exactly the right size for medium sized eggs. Traditionally, the molds are boring, straight sided ovals, but I like the fluted chocolate candy molds for such festive occasions.

Look at the size of your eggs compared to the size of your molds, making sure that there is ample space around the eggs so that the Gelée, or Jelly, fills that space so that the eggs don’t touch the edge of the molds. This is why I chose medium sized eggs, which are usually only available in organic, free range eggs, and are also, by the way, more yellow and tasty.

The next steps are the recipe for the Jelly/Gelée.

  1. For every cup of cold chicken stock, the clearer the better ( I use Kitchen Classics, available at Whole Foods and Food Emporium)) use 2 packets of unflavored gelatine.
  2. Quickly whisk into the stock, the powdered gelatine, making sure it is entirely wet, and let it plump for a minute or so.
  3. Either put the solution onto a double boiler or microwave it until the gelatine granules are all completely dissolved.
  4. Pour a tiny bit of the completely desolved gelatine stock into each mold and let it cool and set a bit before you proceed.
  5. Take a small graceful sprig of herb, such as thyme, and place it onto the center of the egg yolk and set the egg half into the jelly, cut side down. While holding it down with your finger, add more of the gelatine stock, until it fills the mold, making sure the egg doesn’t rise and separate from the bottom of the mold.
  6. Once you are sure that the egg and gelatine are in the correct posture, place the molds carefully into a level refrigerator shelf to gel for at least an hour or so.
  7.  Test them with a touch from your finger. They should be quite firm.
  8. The most intricate part of the process is the un-molding, though it is made easier because the molds are metal, and therefore conduct heat.
  9. Using a just above body temperature water bath, dip the molds of gelatine, one at a time, into the warm water bath, making sure that the water never, ever excels the top of the mold. You are merely freeing the gelatine molds through tansduction of heat, not flooding it.
  10. Touch the surface of the gelatine with your finger to test if it is free of the mold. You may have to dip it again into the warm water. If the water is too hot or you dip it too much, you may lose the details of the mold. As soon as you know it is free, turn it over and rap it onto the surface that you wish to deliver it unto.
  11. Your best devise for having a future choice to the final destination of your mold, is to smear a thinly, finger applied layer of cold water onto the back side of the mold, so that you can slide it onto any surface you desire. Don’t hesitate too long to decide, or the gelatine will impart itself onto whatever you have laid it on, making it difficult to move your creation.

My choice of presentation for this lovely personal appetizer is a bed of Boston or Bibb lettuce, on a small individual dish. You choose accordingly to your own design.

If you are vegan, or want an alternate design, you may apply the same directions to our same molds, with vegetable broth and without the eggs, as seen below. They are tiny, personalized sized molds, incorporating mini veges, and can be just as beautiful, if not more, and savory.

Vegetable Aspic Salad Appetizer

Photo By David Bishop

Whatever you choose, may your life be filled with the joy and happiness of shared time together.

Baked Potato with Melting Butter Pat

Baked Potato with Melting Butter Pat

Photo by David Bishop

Light and Fluffy baked potatoes are not just great platforms for rich creamy butter and anything else you choose to put on them, they are beautiful and delicious in themselves. Achieving the quintessential textural potato pleasure is quite simple but often not done well. After decades of doing baked potatoes for photography and television, I have a very straight forward formula.

  1. Arrange your oven racks toward the center of the oven.
  2.  Pre-heat the oven to 400’F
  3. Wash the potato skins and do not puncture them.
  4.  Bake the potatoes for 30 minutes.
  5.  Turn them over and bake for another 30 minutes or until they are soft and give easily to the touch.
  6. Remove potatoes from the oven and roll them on a hard surface to loosen their interior texture.
  7. Using a fork, starting at one end of the top of the potato, penetrate the skin and flesh in a downward motion to the ends of the tines and with your thumb push against the potato and fork as you pull the fork towards you and your thumb. Continue this motion all the way around the potato top until the entire top of the potato is opened. I use a cocktail fork for more petite petals. Gently squeeze the potato to open it more. Fluff the interior of the potato with the fork. Insert a butter pat, letting it melt.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.


Turkey Meatball Appetizer Extraordinaire

Photo by David Bishop

Spoons from Sur Le Table

Everyone loves meatballs, unless you are vegetarian. They show up in every culture world wide. Almost all of these ethnic gems have a few ingredients in common: ground meat, eggs, carbohydrate bits such a bread crumbs, liquid such as milk or stock, onions and spices.

The important elements in all of the recipes are designed to render them light, tender and moist, enabling them to soak up sauce and flavor. Solid meat balls tend to be leaden and dry. This appetizer ensemble recipe is a Thanksgiving meal in a mouthful. The presentation spoons make them a hit at any dinner party. Makes 24


  • 1 Lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg,beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk or poultry stock
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/2 minced apple
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat oven to 350’F

  1. Saute apple and shallot in olive oil until tender.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients with your clean hands or a wooden spoon thoroughly.
  3. Form 24 balls of mixture, placing them on a parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan (cookie sheet). I use a one inch release style ice cream scoop and roll the balls in wet hands. Ice cream scoops come in a plethora of sizes and are one of my favorite dispensing and forming tools.
  4. Bake for about ten minutes until just firm.
  5. Cover and keep warm.


  • 2 cups Merlot wine
  • 2 cups veal demi glaze
  • 1/2 cup cherry jelly, jam or preserves
  • 1/4 – 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste. Start with 1/4 and adjust up when the sauce is fully cooked.
  1. Combine all ingredients and slow boil on medium low heat until the syrup coats a spoon, about 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Cover and set aside to finish appetizers.

Parsnip Souffle Puffs

increase oven heat to 400’F

  • 8 ounces each peeled half inch cubes of parsnip, sweet potato, and turnip.
  • 2 quarts of sea salted water, about 2 tablespoons salt.
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4 tablespoons potato starch
  1. Boil the vegetables in the salted water until quite tender, about 12- 15 minutes.
  2. Drain vegetables reserving water.
  3. Mash vegetables together until smooth. I use an immersion blender.
  4. Blend eggs and starch into vegetable puree.
  5. Place mixture, in small batches, into a pastry bag with a star tip.
  6. Pipe 1 1/2 to 2 inch rings of puree onto an oiled parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan. I would bake one or two as a test to make sure they fit the meatballs nicely and that the mixture is not too thick or thin. You can add more starch or reserved liquid to adjust. When you are sure what size ring you like, and the consistency of the batter is right, bake the rest off until the edges are beautifully browned.


  1. With a small spatula, carefully move parsnip puffs to the presentation spoons or tiny plates.
  2. Top puffs with warm meat balls.
  3. Generously spoon warm Cherry Merlot Glaze onto the heavenly bites and serve immediately.