Archives for May 2010

white chocolate brownies

With the pace of life picking up as it has been lately, I haven’t had many opportunities to bake desserts. Nearly all of my baking lately has been associated with Tuesdays with Dorie. Making a dessert that someone else chooses for you is fine when it’s one recipe in many, but when it’s all that you ever get to bake…well, it’s tempting to tweak the recipe to something that’s more fun for you, whether the fun is in the eating or the making.

For these white chocolate brownies, it meant skipping the meringue, raspberries, orange zest, and ground almonds for various reasons, most having to do with laziness. It certainly sounds like I was trying to make these as bland as possible, doesn’t it? To play up the mild sweet flavor of white chocolate, I used vanilla sugar instead of regular sugar. I also used cake flour instead of regular, thinking that the lower gluten content of cake flour would mimic the combination of higher gluten all-purpose flour and no-gluten ground almonds.

After baking, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to present this as a cake or as brownies. The white chocolate flavor is subtle, although you can find it if you’re looking. The texture is light and fluffy and moist, just like a perfect vanilla cake. In the end, I defaulted to laziness again. Brownies don’t require any additional topping like a cake would, so these are brownies. Good brownies, in a light fluffy cakey kind of way. Plus, if I ever need a white chocolate cake recipe, I’m good to go!

Marthe chose this recipe, and she has it posted. Other than the changes listed above, I doubled the salt. A lot of TWD members had problems with their brownies coming out of the oven undercooked after the recommended baking time, but since I skipped the meringue and made a quarter of the recipe, the baking time in the book wasn’t relevant to me anyway.

One year ago: Cappuccino Muffins
Two years ago: French Chocolate Brownies

spinach artichoke pizza

I learned a fun fact at work the other day. The word bikini comes from Bikini Atoll, where a nuclear test bomb had recently been dropped. The designer of the bikini expected his new fashion to be “explosive”, and nuclear anything was all the rage back then. Yes, only sixty years ago, bikinis were nonexistent.

Now that they are available, I have a few, and they’re cute, and I want to wear them. So spinach artichoke dip, always tempting me from restaurant menus, generally has to be avoided. Dipping bread into a bubbling pot of cream cheese, mayonnaise and mozzarella will have me exploding right out of my bikini.

The flavors, however, are a natural for pizza. Keep the bread, but make it whole wheat with my favorite whole wheat adaptation trick. Replace the cream cheese and mayonnaise with a thick béchamel, and the rest of the ingredients – spinach, artichoke, mozzarella, parmesan – are reasonably healthy and adapt perfectly for pizza.

Okay, so here’s the problem with my “make healthier food –> wear bikini” philosophy. If the healthy food is this good, I’m going to end up eating more of it than I should! I mean, bread topped with cheese, artichokes and spinach? Of course that was irresistible. Of course I’m going to need several slices to be satisfied, and of course I’ll still look longingly at the leftovers. Okay, so maybe I’ll end up looking longingly at my bikinis this summer, but at least I’ll be satisfied with my one-pieces suits.

One year ago: Potato Galette
Two years ago: Orange Vanilla Opera Cake

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Spinach Artichoke Pizza

Makes 2 12-inch pizzas or about 6 servings

You can use frozen artichokes instead (they’re not available in my town), although I’ve never been sure if those need pre-cooking before they’re added to pizza. If you used canned artichokes, I recommend rinsing them, because they’re canned in citric acid, and the acidity was a little distracting.

Of course you can make pizza without a pizza stone. Just use a baking sheet (possibly preheated). However, if you make pizza or rustic breads often, a pizza stone is a small investment for a large increase in perfectly crisp crusts.

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cup milk (any fat content)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ ounce (¼ cup) parmesan plus 1 ounce (½ cup)
7 ounces fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped
½ recipe (whole wheat, if you want) pizza dough or 1 pound of your favorite pizza dough
6 ounces (1½ cup) shredded mozzarella (skim works great)
1 (14-ounce) can artichokes, drained, rinsed and dried, quartered

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 525ºF.

2. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the flour; continue cooking and stirring for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Stir in the salt and ¼ cup (½ ounce) of the parmesan.

3. Meanwhile, add the spinach (if the spinach isn’t damp from being washed, also add a couple tablespoons of water) to a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Cook and stir until the spinach just wilts, about 1 minute. Remove the spinach from the pan and place it in a clean kitchen towel. Squeeze the spinach as dry as possible, then add it to the béchamel from step 1.

4. Divide the dough and shape each portion into a ball. Let the balls of dough relax for 10-30 minutes. Work with one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, just piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots.

5. Dust a pizza peel (or the back of a large baking sheet) generously with cornmeal and transfer the round of dough to the peel. Rearrange the dough to something reasonably circular; stab it several times with a fork. Spread ½ of the spinach mixture over the dough, then top with half of the mozzarella, half the artichokes, and half of the remaining parmesan.

6. Transfer the pizza to the hot baking stone, and bake for about 6-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is spotty brown. Let the pizza cool on the peel for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

turkey burgers

Working full-time sure is…time-consuming, isn’t it? I haven’t figured out yet what has to give. (First choice – chores!) Cooking, blogging, photography, gardening, exercising…sleeping. It’s hard to balance everything. It’s possible that I should cut down on meals that require grinding your own meat, huh?

Well, I would consider that, except that these burgers were so perfect. I made beef burgers a week later (also with home-ground meat – stop the insanity!), and I enjoyed the turkey burgers so much more. And I love beef, so it wasn’t a prejudice.

But once you add good buns and your various toppings, the turkey burgers don’t taste significantly different from beef burgers. These have about half the fat of good beef burgers, so that’s another advantage, although what I mostly care about is that I thought their texture was smoother and more cohesive, and their taste was at least as good.

Grinding your own meat isn’t as hard as it might sound, and you almost definitely have the equipment. All you have to do is cut your meat into chunks, freeze it until it’s firm, and process it in the food processor. Then you mix in a few tasty additions, sear them up in a pan and enjoy a perfect burger. Make some extra to freeze, just in case Future You has a rough day at work and needs an easy meal.

One year ago: Croissants (Tartine)
Two years ago: Franks and Beans

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Turkey Burgers (not really adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Cooks Illustrated recommends 6 ounce burgers; I prefer mine significantly smaller. If you do too, don’t forget to reduce the cooking time.

2 pounds skin-on, bone-in turkey thighs or 1½ pounds skinless, boneless thighs
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

1. If using skin-on, bone-in turkey thighs, remove the meat from from the skin and bones. Cut the thighs into 1-inch chunks and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until somewhat firm, about 30 minutes.

2. Working in 3 batches, place the semifrozen turkey chunks in a food processor fitted with the steel blade; pulse until the largest pieces are no bigger than 1/8-inch, twelve to fourteen 1-second pulses.

3. Transfer the ground meat to a medium bowl. Stir in the salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard until blended and divide the meat into 4 portions. Lightly toss one portion from hand to hand to form a ball, then lightly flatten the ball with your fingertips into a 1-inch-thick patty. Repeat with the remaining portions.

4. Heat a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron or stainless steel with an aluminum core) over medium heat until very hot, 4 to 5 minutes. Swirl the oil in the pan to coat the bottom. Add the burgers and cook over medium heat without moving them until the bottom of each is dark brown and crusted, about 5 minutes. Turn the burgers over; continue to cook until the bottom is light brown but not yet crusted, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Reduce the heat to low, position the cover slightly ajar on the pan to allow steam to escape, and continue to cook 5 to 6 minutes longer, or until the center is completely opaque yet still juicy or an instant-read thermometer inserted from the side of the burger into the center registers 160 degrees. Remove from the pan and serve immediately. (Alternatively, grill the burgers over a medium-low fire (you can hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill surface for 5 seconds) until dark spotty brown on the bottom, 7 to 9 minutes. Turn the burgers over; continue grilling 7 to 9 minutes longer.)

strawberry chocolate ice cream pie

The rest of the country (hemisphere, I suppose) is gearing up for summer. Here in the desert though, we’ve been there for a while. This weekend Dave and I hiked over seven miles in 90 degree weather. It’s a dry heat though! (Actually, the hike wasn’t bad at all – it was either shady or windy the whole time, so although we were hot, we weren’t dying. And the dry heat does make a difference.)

the beginning of homemade chocolate ice cream

Ice cream pie is perfect for the weather we’ve been having. The specific ingredients called for here aren’t perfect for me though. I eat so many bananas as snacks that the idea of adding them to chocolate ice cream for dessert didn’t sound appealing. Strawberries, however, can be added to most any dessert.

Oh, except maybe not one that’s going to be stored in the freezer like this. Sliced strawberries between the crust and the ice cream turned into ice cubes in the freezer; I should have given them a dip in vodka before freezing them to keep them from freezing so solidly. Other than that, what’s not to love about this dessert? I don’t need to tell you that chocolate ice cream and strawberries are a tempting combination – especially when it’s a hundred degrees out.

Spike chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Chipster-Topped Brownies
Two years ago: Pecan-Honey Sticky Buns

quinoa tabbouleh

I have annoying eating habits at work. Carrots – crunchy. Bananas – smelly. Hard-boiled eggs – crunchy (during the peeling) and smelly. My officemate is very tolerant. And on our first day in the office together, she asked me, “So is that how you stay thin? By eating healthy all the time?” Hmm…

  1. Call me thin some more, if you will. I will use it as an excuse to skip my workout this evening.
  2. Define “all the time.” Because…no. Not so much.

She asked me what I normally make for dinner, and I was at a loss for an answer. I’m a food blogger; I repeat dinners maybe once every couple of months. The quickest way I could think to answer that question was to give her the link to my blog. My third day at work, and I already outed myself as Food Obsessed.

She asked me what I was making for dinner that night, and when I answered, she asked what quinoa was. I was reminded: I’m the weird one when it comes to food. And so are you, probably, if you’re reading a food blog. I wonder what percentage of people in my small isolated desert town know what quinoa is?

Which is sad, because, as you know if you are also one of the Food Obsessed, quinoa is what all of the other whole grains (I know, I know, not technically a grain) want to be – hearty and healthy, but fluffy and slightly sweet, the way most grains don’t taste until they’re refined. Mixing it with vegetables, herbs, and feta makes it even healthier, which is perfect because that way I get dessert.  No one can eat healthy all the time, right?

One year ago: Strawberry Lemon Sorbet
Two years ago: Ricotta Spinach Tofu Ravioli

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Quinoa Tabbouleh (adapted from Bookcook via the kitchn)

Makes 3-4 main course servings

Some things: I didn’t quite follow this method to mellow the bite of the onions, and my method did not work. The leftovers were particularly intense. Soak the onion in water! You may want to add the garlic too, although I have no evidence that this method would work for garlic. It just seems like it could.

The original recipe includes mint, but I don’t usually like mint with savory food. It also called for olive oil, and I intended to add it but after tasting the salad, the oil didn’t seem necessary. And less oil in dinner means more cookies for dessert.

The standard directions for cooking quinoa seem to be 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water, so I’ve left that as it was in the original recipe. But I’m suspicious: my pot had a lot of water left in it at the end of cooking that had to be drained off. Next time I’m trying 1½ cups water for 1 cup quinoa.

I know traditional tabbouleh is more parsley than grain, but it’s also more side dish than main, which wasn’t what I was going for.

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
½ red onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced ⅛-inch thick
1 bunch parsley (about 2 cups), minced
8 ounces feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Rinse the quinoa well under cold water. Put it in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl to cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover the diced onion and a pinch of salt with water. Let the onion soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

3. Drain the onions; add them to the bowl along with the garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and feta; stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning (more salt? more lemon juice?) and serve.

cherry-cherry bread pudding

Seasonal fruit – I like it. I eat the strawberries in the spring and the blueberries in the summer and the apples in the fall and the apples, still, in the winter. I do not eat the apples in the spring. And apparently I shouldn’t eat the cherries in the spring either, because these were the most terrible, tasteless, watery cherries I’ve ever had.

I was vaguely hoping that baking them would concentrate their flavor enough so that they, you know, had some, but no, that just gave me cooked terrible cherries. Poor bread pudding, ruined by bad cherries. I guess I should have gone for the apples after all.

Now the bread pudding part, that I certainly enjoyed. It’s bread, it’s custard – it’s French toast! I’ll make it with the apples in the fall to enjoy this recipe in all its glory.

Elizabeth chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted. I used 1 cup (terrible!) cherries, pitted and halved, in place of the caramelized apples, cherry jam instead of apple butter, and all whole milk rather than a mixture of milk and heavy cream. And I forgot to add a dash of salt to the custard, which I regretted.

One year ago: Mango Bread
Two years ago: Traditional Madeleines

cream cheese spritz

I was so disappointed a few years ago, when I was sure I had a great family recipe to share, something everyone I knew who’d tried it had loved, something I hadn’t seen before on other cookie plates, something that had been a classic in my family for as long as I could remember.

But, a quick internet search indicated that everyone knew about cream cheese spritz cookies already! It’s on every well-established recipe website, in every magazine at some point in its history, in so many blogs, and hey! It’s in this blog now too. And not even at Christmastime! Yes, I make cream cheese spritz year round, because they are so darn good.

That being said…there are other spritz cookie recipes out there that are worth making, right? Please let me know if you have any! It would be nice to get some more use out of my cookie press. Although, even if I only use it for this one recipe, it’s worth having just for that.

Poor deformed cookies. Clearly I need more spritz practice.

One year ago: Basic Lentil Soup
Two years ago: Snickery Squares

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Cream Cheese Spritz

I’ve tweaked the amount of butter and cream cheese from the standard recipe, just so that it uses a more convenient amount of cream cheese. Also so that it’s even cream cheesier, which is never a bad thing.

14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2½ cups flour (12 ounces) all-purpose flour

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

2. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and add the butter and cream cheese to the mixer bowl (or a large mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer). Beat on medium-low speed until the butter and cream cheese are soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the salt, then, with the mixer running, slowly pour in the sugar. Continue mixing on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until thoroughly incorporated, about 1 minute, stopping the scrape the mixer bowl as necessary. Reduce to mixer speed to its lowest setting and gradually add the flour, mixing just until incorporated.

3. Fill the cookie press with the dough. Spritz the cookies onto the prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until they no longer look wet on top and the edges are slightly browned. Let the cookies cool for several minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to wire racks to cook completely. Sealed in an airtight bag, the cookies will keep for several days.

grilled artichokes

When it comes to groceries, I’m not particularly thrifty. I don’t know if my old grocery store (the much-missed Wegman’s) even had sales, and if they did, it wasn’t on anything I was buying. I see more sales at my new grocery store; I don’t plan my shopping around them, but I can’t always resist them either.

Fresh artichokes for 69 cents each! That is a deal that is not to be passed up, especially when I was keeping an eye out for some fancy sides to compliment my celebration lamb.

When Dave and I grill, we like to cook the whole meal on the grill, so I definitely wanted to grill the artichokes. Katie’s recipe uses the perfect approach, because the artichokes are steamed in foil packets first, and then unwrapped and seared over a hot flame. The artichokes end up both perfectly tender and decorated with beautiful grill marks.

Artichokes aren’t as time-consuming to prepare as I used to think, but they’re still pretty messy to eat. You remove individual leaves and scrape the meaty edible part off with your teeth, until you get to that delicious heart. Artichokes are good on their own, but they’re even better with a decadent dipping sauce; we used the sauce that was served with the lamb. It made a perfect compliment to perfect artichokes that accompanied a perfect meal.

Two years ago: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans

Grilled Artichokes (adapted from Good Things Catered)

Katie added extra lemon to the packets and served the grilled artichokes with cherry tomatoes. It makes for a beautiful presentation, but didn’t compliment the flavors I was serving these with. However, it serves as a great example of how easily this recipe can be adapted to the meal you’re serving.

Serves 4

8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
4 globe artichokes
salt and pepper
1 lemon, quartered
about 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Prepare a two-level fire, where one side of the grill is hotter than the other.

2. Tear off four 12-inch pieces of aluminum foil. Place two cloves of garlic in the center of each square of foil.

3. Working with one artichoke at a time, cut the stem off and the top 1½ inches of leaves. Cut the sharp tips off of the outside leaves. Halve the artichoke and carve out the fuzzy purple choke. Place the artichoke halves in one square of foil, season with salt and pepper, squeeze one lemon quarter over it, and drizzle with about 1½ teaspoons of oil. Enclose the artichoke in the foil. Repeat with the remaining three artichokes.

4. Place the foil packets on the cooler side of the grill and cook, rotating occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, until the center of the artichokes are tender. Remove the artichokes from the foil and place, cut side down, on the hot side of the grill. Cook for about 2 minutes, until seared.

5. Serve immediately, with a dipping sauce if desired.

quick classic berry tart

I can’t be the only one who prefers recipes that use whole eggs instead of egg parts. It isn’t just a mild packrat tendency, although I’m sure that’s part of it. I buy the expensive eggs – the ones that are hopefully (but questionably, I know) from slightly less mistreated animals. Throwing away egg whites is throwing away money. And sure, you can freeze egg whites (because it’s always egg whites I have leftover; delicious rich emulsifying egg yolks I can almost always find a use for), but what’s the point of gathering a collection of frozen egg whites that I’ll never use?

All this to say that I didn’t really make Dorie’s classic berry tart. I made Tartine’s. Their pastry cream is the only I’ve seen that uses whole eggs instead of egg yolks. I like the silky light texture that results from the addition of egg whites. Likewise, their tart dough uses whole eggs, so I went ahead and made that too, instead of Dorie’s.

Of course the result was fantastic – every baking book has some variation of tart dough + pastry cream + berries, and for good reason – it’s an unbeatable combination. I’m confident this tart would be just as good with Dorie’s recipes; I’ve made both her pastry cream and her tart dough, and they’re wonderful. They’re especially great if you enjoy egg white omelets so you don’t end up with a freezer full of egg whites.

Christine chose this, and she has Dorie’s recipes posted.

One year ago: Tartest Lemon Tart
Two years ago: Florida Pie

stuffed butterflied leg of lamb

I got some big news last week. I finally got something I’ve wanted for a long time, and life is going to change drastically. I’m a little worried about when I’ll find the time to do the things I like to do – the baking, blogging, and exercising due to the baking – but I’m sure it will be worth it.

I’m not pregnant.

I do, however, have a job; a real one, with 40 hours of work per week and benefits and a retirement plan and everything. See, I’ve kept this on the down-low because I was embarrassed by it, but since I finished graduate school several years ago, I’ve been unemployed or partially employed. But those days are over now.

This was cause for celebration around here, which means that Dave and I have been drinking generous amounts of our favorite champagne. It also means we had an excuse for a fancy dinner. I got to decide whether that meal would be eaten in or out, and it wasn’t a hard decision for me – we don’t exactly live in area known for its restaurants, and spending Saturday night at home, drinking wine, watching the NBA playoffs, and grilling with Dave is pretty much my perfect evening.

What to make? Lamb, of course. I was deciding between two recipes, and Dave told me to pick the easier one. Yes, the easier option included trimming, butterflying, pounding, rolling, and tying the roast. And then I got to hand it off to Dave to cook…while I worked on the sauce. And the sides.

But in the end, what a great meal. Served with great wine, shared with a great husband, celebrating great news.

Two years ago: Hash Browns with Sauteed Vegetables and Poached Eggs

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Stuffed Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Caramelized Lemon Jus
(adapted slightly from Bon Apetit via epicurious; suggested by Cara)

Serves 4-6

You can probably tell from the photos that my lamb isn’t cooked to rare. Oops. Next time.

4-to 4½-pound boneless leg of lamb, shank end removed
salt and pepper
4 large garlic cloves; 3 chopped, 1 sliced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
20 fresh sage leaves (about), divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Trim the silver skin and as much fat as possible from the lamb. Butterfly the lamb by making one ¾-to 1-inch-deep full-length cut in each thick portion of the lamb (do not cut through to work surface). Cover the lamb with a sheet of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin or meat pounder, pound to an even 1- to 1½-inch thickness (lamb will be about 8×19 inches).

2. Remove the plastic wrap and season lamb evenly with salt and pepper, chopped garlic, and lemon zest. Top with 15 sage leaves, spaced evenly apart, then cover with the pancetta. Starting at a long side, fold the lamb in half. Tie the lamb tightly at 2-inch intervals into a long roll. Then, using a small knife, make slits in the lamb and insert a slice of garlic and a piece of sage leaf into each slit. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. (Lamb can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

3. Whisk the lemon juice and oil in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Brush the lemon juice mixture all over the lamb and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

4. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Place the prepared lamb on the grill and sear on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Continue to grill, brushing with the lemon juice mixture and rotating the lamb about every 5 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 130°F for rare.

5. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, cover it loosely with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice the lamb into ½-inch thick slices. Serve immediately with Caramelized Lemon Jus.

Caramelized Lemon Jus

1 large lemon, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
10 large fresh sage leaves
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup dry white wine
¼ cup vodka
2 cups beef broth

1. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Grill the lemon slices until charred, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate; chop coarsely.

2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sage leaves, garlic, and grilled lemon pieces with any juices, then the sugar. Cook until the shallots start to color, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and vodka. Using a long wooden skewer, ignite the liquors and let them burn off, about 4 minutes. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium; simmer until jus is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before serving.)