Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cheese Fondue, my way

This has to be the mot nontraditional cheese fondue ever- super basic. But it was a cold night, and I wanted something easy and comforting that would cook itself- and it was delicious! The dish itself is simple, but the key is to use quality ingredients that you like the taste of.

  • 2-3 varieties of soft cheese- I used Gruyere and a soft Cheddar, but honestly, go with any soft, easily melting cheese you like to eat- if you like the taste of the cheese, of course you will like it in the fondue! I used about a cup of each, shredded- you MUST shred- makes it easies to melt and mix with the other ingredients.
  • 1-2 varieties of white wine or light, pale cider- you can use any that you like to drink- please DO NOT use a wine with high color (pink/brown fondue??? I think not!) and DO NOT use a wine sold "for cooking"- buy a bottle of what you want to drink with your meal, use some with the fondue, and drink the rest with your meal- no waste! I used a quarter cup of a California white I had lying around, and a quarter cup of Korbel champagne- the latter was a really good idea- it tasted great in the fondue.
  • black pepper and garam masala (!!) to taste. I didn't want to add nutmeg, which would have been the usual thing to do, but you could. You could also add garlic powder, oregano or rosemary- just make sure you don't use more than 2-3 spices (the more the spices, the greater the risk of muddy flavors), and do not replace black pepper with another spice- please :)
  • Dippers- different TOASTED breads- sourdough, rye, a robust white. Also crisp apples- whatever you like!
  • Fondue pot- I just used a regular small, heavy bottomed pan, but if you are serving to your guests, you may want to get something pretty, since we are cooking and serving in the same pot.


  • Take a small, but heavy pan, and boil the 1/2 cup of wines you are using.
  • As soon as the wine mix comes to a boil, reduce to a medium heat.
  • Add your cheeses, crushed black pepper and garam masala- go easy on the latter- you want to taste the cheese at the end of this.
  • Let the cheese melt itself- it should take about 5 minutes, during which time, you should not fuss with the fondue.
  • After five minutes, give the pot a stir, to see if more melting is required- if you see that the cheese has gone grainy on you, do not worry- just leave it on the heat for another 5 minutes or so, on low heat. As soon you have the consistency you desired, its time to eat- get dipping!


  • Sorry no photo again- was too busy eating to remember :)
  • You shouldn't need to add any salt- the cheese would have enough.
  • You could also add fresh herbs and fresh garlic- just make sure you crush them really well, and add them after the wine has boiled, but before adding the cheese- it will mix better.
  • The fondue should remain warm and edible for about 15 minutes- if you are using a fondue pot with a warming attachment, that's great, but if not, you may want to reheat every 15 minutes.
  • Leftover fondue heats up perfectly- just make sure you put the pot on gentle heat first, and slowly move to medium heat once it melts a bit. The morning after, I used it for a open-face grilled cheese sandwiches, with sun-dried tomatoes- yum!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jacket potatoes

Been really depressed lately, and don't feel like cooking. But I cant keep the husband on frozen pizza forever, so i try to do something simple that can work itself out in the oven.
Which brings us to potatoes- I usually have a stock of boiled potatoes in the fridge, as taught by an older aunt in my infancy. Thrown with spices and coupled with other vegetables/meat can get a full meal on your table in a few minutes.
But baking a potato is a different deal. There are myriad opinions on what are the best potatoes for this, but most recipes call for large, thick skinned potatoes, and all take about 2 hours to do- that's way too much time for me. Plus, I dont like their hard casings- they just dont crisp up as well.
Quite by accident, I started using the long white potato, also known as White Rose/California Long White/ American Giant and Wisconsin Pride. It is an oval shaped potato with a thin outer skin that is light tan in color and smooth overall with few, very small eyes. The inner meat of the White Rose has a medium starch level, and I find that it stands up well to most cooking processes, resulting in a firm and creamy cooked product.

photo source:

Choose potatoes that are firm and plump, avoiding those that have shriveled skins, sprouting eyes, soft spots, blemishes, and green spots. Store in a cool dry place- NEVER the refrigerator. They will keep at room temperature for up to two weeks or longer.

I figured that because of the thin skin, chances were this would cook faster as well, and it did- total cooking time- 1 hour (including prep), half of the usual time.

- long white potatoes, as many as you want to do
- light olive oil, butter, salt and pepper to taste.

- Thin cut chives, sour cream, bacon bits, salsa, tapenade, garlic salt.


  • Turn the oven on to about 425 degrees, and let it warm up.
  • Important: Wash the potatoes, and gently remove any dirt, then dry REALLY WELL on paper/cloth towels.
  • Important: Wrap up potatoes individually , and really tightly in aluminium foil pieces.
  • Throw in the potatoes in the oven, and walk away for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 minutes, take out one of your tin-foiled potatoes, gently open (so as to not tear the foil- you may need to put it back)- and insert a thin knife/chopstick through the thickest part- if it cuts through without much resistance, the potato is done.
  • In this state, the potatoes can be stored in the fridge for easily a week, without a problem, but the jacket potato is best eaten straight from the oven.

2 Ways to serve this:

1- Serve one potato per person, and let them open the foil jackets, which will keep the potato warm. I like this with lots of butter, salt and pepper, but you can of course go the traditional way, and serve with all the optional accompaniments.

2- If you want to fancy this up:

-take the potatoes out of the foil when cooked, and prick all over with a fork.
- Baste the potatoes with olive oil and butter, and sprinkle with garlic salt/seasoned salt/reg salt and pepper.
- Replace into the oven (without any foil) at 450 degrees, for 5 minutes, turning the potatoes once.
- 5 minutes later, the potatoes' would crisp up all over and go slightly red/brown. Take out , split in half, and serve with more butter and the optional accompaniments if desired.

The baked potatoes in the fridge

  • Cooking and storing these is not a good idea, but if you are doing this, unwrap from foil and reheat in a microwave for about 3 minutes on high. THEN throw into a 425-450 degree oven to crisp up for about 5 minutes (serving method 2 above).
  • Extra potatoes make great mashed potatoes/hash browns/croquettes, so there is no waste :)

PS: No photos- only remembered after they were eaten!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Khursheed Hughes, RIP

Naani (maternal grandma) finally passed away yesterday after suffering from intestinal cancer for 2 years. Its hard for me to come to terms with, since she was the binding factor for the entire family.

My best memories of her are from Christmas- every Christmas was to be spent at her two-bedroom house in Allahabad, with all of us grand kids, her 6 daughters and 1 son and their spouses cramped joyfully in our sleeping bags. Breakfast would begin with lamb kebabs and parathas, a huge biryani for lunch and at least for us kids, cakes and cookies for dinner, through the festive season. Music would blare in the street 24-7 and huge bonfires burned in the backyard at night. hristmas was fun with midnight mass and early service, when we'd visit the ancestral graves at 5am, to dress them with flowers for Christmas.

And she would mastermind the whole thing. She would begin calling her daughters about a month before Christmas, and begin preparations, from extra bedding, to the tree, to the all important cake drenched in rum. And every one would pitch in, with the madness stopping after new-year, when she would be busy arranging taxis for all of us to the train station, with memories of her lingering till the next time we met.
That wont happen this Christmas.

That will never happen again.

The family wont be the same again- this is the moment we have begun to drift apart, each in our nucleus of pain. Oh we will try for sure- we will all try to be in touch- but with her gone, so is the glue that called us all back to the same fold.
She will never whisper conspiratorially to me that I am fatter than ever and need to lose weight, while insisting that I finish the last piece of deep fried rohu.

She wont pick up the phone when I call, and ask me exactly how much money I make now, and insist that I send her our latest photos.

I don't think she was able to see the last set of photos I sent her. She would have liked those.

She wont advise my husband to tolerate my short temper (oh grandma!) and subtly inquire when we plan to have kids.

She wont be visiting here again, and demand to be taken to Vegas yet again- she loved that city, loved the lights and the din.

She wont talk gardening again with me- we wont visit Huntington Gardens, she wont attempt to cadge seedlings from the neighbors.

"Dil ko samjhane ke liye khayal accha hai" (It is easy to use this thought to placate ourselves) that she is now free from pain and close to God. We are just going to miss hearing her voice, and being babied- I hate growing up like this.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election night happy night

The exit polls look beautiful!


Right now I see Obama at 324, he even swept Virginia- :D




Grumbling: Louisiana and Tenessee, which both states I have done business with for a few years went Republican- ugh- why my friends why?

Update at 8:22pm PT: Just finished watching McCain g'bye speech- finally some graceful behavior from a man who used to be a fabulous person to listen to (oh what happened to you John? why did you turn weird on us?). I am almost reassured that Palin wont be seen or heard any more- thank God.

Update at 8:25pm PT: 338!- he got Nevada too. I cant wait to see what the map looks like at the end of this :)

8:59pm PT: Obama began his speech in Chicago!!! Shhh.. lets pay attention now...
Yes OB yes- I was afraid too- I was scared it wouldn't happen. Lets hear for change now! What ever you say OB, we are GLAD Palin is out of the picture. whew. Clappings!!!!!! OK enough w/ the thank yous now- its getting Oscar-y :B "Yes we can"- oh you are so lyrical sir- clappings!!! Oprah in the crows- clappings!!! Hug Biden- go on- thunderous clappings :)

This is beyond race, beyond parties- Obama and the results of this election are the right thing to have happened. Woohoo!