You will definitely find plenty of T-day recipes (plus leftover ideas) in the food blogosphere, so I will dance to a slightly different tune, and offer you a cookbook review instead…  


Anne Burrell strikes again with a new cookbook, “Own Your Kitchen: Recipes to Inspire and Empower.”   Knowing that on January 1st my annual New Year’s Resolution of  “No more cookbooks!”  will be in place, I ordered it on the first week of November.  I am obviously quite astute.  😉 However, after browsing “Own Your Kitchen,” I concluded that it would be worth breaking any New Year’s Resolution, no matter what the resulting karma may be.   I couldn’t wait to cook something from it, and with a dinner party approaching this dessert selection was winking at me:  a batch of  her Cappuccino Panna Cotta, that Anne describes in her delightful way:

“My version tastes like a coffee milkshake…YUM!  It’s super cinchy to make but very impressive and a perfect do-ahead… Dress it up with a little chocolate sauce and voilà, it’s fancy!”

Cappuccino Panna Cotta

(from Own Your Kitchen, re-printed with permission from Anne Burrell & Random House LLC)

for the panna cotta:
4 sheets of gelatin (*)
3 cups heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
½ vanilla bean
½ cup chocolate-covered coffee beans, for garnish (I opted for chocolate-covered cranberries)
for the chocolate sauce:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Make the panna cotta: In a small bowl of cool water, submerge the gelatin sheets to soften. They will go from stiff to soft.
In a small saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, and espresso powder. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down one side, open it up, and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Add the seeds and the hull to the pan. Whisk to combine everything.  Bring the cream mixture to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat.
Remove the softened gelatin sheets from the water and squeeze out the excess water. Add the gelatin sheets to the pan and whisk to combine. Immediately ladle the cream mixture into four 6-ounce ramekins and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
Make the chocolate sauce: Fill a small saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring it to a boil.  In a medium heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate chips, heavy cream, butter and corn syrup. place the bowl on top of the pan of water. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir until the chocolate has melted and all the ingredients are combined. Remove and use immediately or store in a warm place until ready to use.
Unmold the panna cotta:  Fill a small saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Run a paring knife around the outside edge of the panna cotta to loosen it. Set each ramekin in the saucepan for 10 seconds. Place a small serving plate on top of each ramekin and flip it over to unmold the panna cotta. If it doesn’t release, put the ramekin in the water for a few seconds more and try again.
To serve, ladle a couple of tablespoons of the chocolate sauce around the panna cotta and sprinkle with a few chocolate-covered espresso beans.
(*) If you can’t find gelatin sheets, you can substitute powdered gelatin. To use powdered gelatin in this recipe, first bloom one ¼ ounce envelope in 2 tablespoons water, then add it to the mix. ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


My comments on the panna cotta…   Our desserts tend toward simple rather than extravagant, and  Panna Cotta is the essence of simplicity.  It’s a recipe that you can take in countless directions by changing the flavors in the steeping cream.   The espresso powder in this version performs pure magic with the vanilla, and when the chocolate sauce joins it, the party reaches perfection.   And, because chocolate-covered cranberries never hurt anyone, I invited them too.  😉   The fact that you can prepare the panna cotta the day beforehand makes it great for entertaining.  I measured and placed all the chocolate sauce ingredients in a double-boiler, except the butter and cream that I kept in a small bowl in the fridge.  When the dinner wound down I cooked up the chocolate sauce, unmolded the cold panna cotta, and assembled each individual serving.  The softness of the cool panna cotta against the warm sauce, and the little crunch of the cranberries was out of this world!  A perfect end for any special meal, and as Anne pointed out, simple to prepare.


OWN YOUR KITCHEN, my review…


If you were hooked on Anne’s FoodTV show  (and can’t quite understand why they don’t bring her back for new episodes….) you’ll love her new book.    If you’ve never watched her show, the outcome will be exactly the same!. 😉 “Own Your Kitchen” is an extension of her personality,  highlighting the fun aspects of cooking, but also loaded with culinary knowledge from her many years as a successful chef.   My favorite cookbooks not only feature nice recipes, but also share a little background about each one.   Is it a family recipe?  Is it something that the author recreated from a vacation, or maybe from a restaurant meal?  What makes it so special that I’d want to hurry to the kitchen and prepare it?   On the other hand, I don’t  need a philosophical treatise tagged to a Bolognese sauce.  Anne Burrell achieves just the right the balance between food and entertainment.

Like many cookbooks, the overall organization of  “Own Your Kitchen”  is divided into courses, but in a flexible, amusing way:  Firsts, Seconds, Brunch, Sandwiches, Sides, and Desserts.  She precedes each recipe with what I’d call a  “teaser paragraph,” that reveals interesting info about it.  In the recipe itself she highlights (with a “HINT!”) steps to prepare ahead of time, or even the day before, that will help those who are not seasoned cooks.   Lastly, after the recipe you’ll often find remarks called Anne-notations, in which she suggests possible changes, how to make that recipe your own. It’s the “inspire and empower” aspect of the book.

Now, for a brief virtual tour of “Own Your Kitchen,”  I’ll describe my two favorite recipes from each chapter.

Tomato Salad with Shrimp and Black Volcanic Salt.  
Simple has never looked so decadent and luscious.  With just a few ingredients,  she re-created a recipe  enjoyed on a trip to Hawaii, a place so dear to my heart!  Of course, I had to place an order for Black salt, and this salad will be on our table whenever great tomatoes are back in season…

Ricotta Flan with Bacon, Corn, Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula Pesto.    In Anne’s words:  “…this lovely little flan says, “Hi, ricotta, you shy girl, come out and be the superstar!”  😉  You can make your own ricotta (she shows you how), or use store-bought, but this recipe would be amazing to start a dinner party, or to enjoy as a light meal.

Cornish Game Hens with Pancetta-Rosemary Crust. 
She developed this recipe years ago, while working in a restaurant in New York where “her paycheck kept bouncing and she was frustrated and broke.”   She left that place, but took this gem of a recipe with her.  Wise girl! I wonder if the place still exists (I bet it doesn’t) and how they feel about losing Anne as a chef.  Ha! Their loss! Come to think of it, that’s the type of recipe that has her trademark all over, using an ingredient (pancetta) in a completely unexpected way. I love it!

Balsamic-braised Brisket with Bacon and Mushrooms.   I almost picked this recipe as my first to cook from the book, because I remember it from her show on TV.   She actually wrote that the filming crew attacked the meat once the show was over.   I can imagine the scene…  Her personal endorsement:  “one of my favorites of all the recipes I’ve ever written.”  You can bet I’ll be making it during the cold months ahead of us.

Farro Granola.  
To deal with the harsh texture so common in granola,  Anne uses a clever twist on the grains of farro before adding them to the other ingredients.  Fascinating, Mr. Spock, fascinating…

Homemade Ricotta.   Making ricotta from scratch has been on my list of things to do for years!  Shame on me!  Maybe this cookbook will finally push me in the right direction.

Killer Turkey Burger.  
I remember this burger from her TV show too.   She was so tired of bad turkey burgers that she took matters into her own hands, and made a great version.  In typical Anne Burrell fashion, you will find an ingredient you would not expect in the mix.  😉

Tallegio Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Honey Crisp Apples.   Her upscale version of a classic, adding crisp apples to a strong cheese and smoky bacon.  Comfort food, in sandwich form…

Shaved Raw Cauliflower with Caper-Raisin Vinaigrette.  
  I just know this will be a winner!   She shaves the cauliflower, then takes it in the direction of ceviche.  Yeah, baby… Much to my beloved husband’s consternation, I can’t have enough recipes for cauliflower…

Yukon Gold Potato Pancakes.    These are NOT your regular potato pancakes.  Trust me, Anne adds her usual twist to the recipe, and these pancakes will top any other version.

Cappuccino Panna Cotta.  
Today’s post, a winner all the way…

Sticky Toffee Pudding.     I’ve been meaning to make this dessert forever,  as I’ve never had it but it sounds incredibly tasty.   Anne’s description of her own experience in a London restaurant will convince you  to bake a batch right on the spot.


My job is to empower you to become the best cook you can be and learn to own your kitchen. Why? Because cooking is fun and delicious.
(Anne Burrell, Own Your Kitchen)


She definitely succeeds in doing that. First, there is no doubt she brings the fun aspect of cooking to the forefront. Diluting a sheet of gelatin in water and feeling its textural change? Fun! Making and cooking dough? Fun (and satisfying)…  Cracking the salt crust on a whole fish at the table?  Fun! Mixing bread and sausage with your hands to make a stuffing?  Fun, of course!  But, she is also a natural teacher who is able to stress what really matters in a technique. With her trademark phrase “Brown food tastes good!“, she makes sure that cooks take their time to do that first step so common in stews, braises and even roasts: BROWN your food, do it nicely, do it well. That step alone will make a huge difference in the quality of your dishes. But that’s just one example, there’s a lot more to learn from her.

The holidays are coming up, so if you want to give someone a great cookbook, order a copy of “Own Your Kitchen“. Now, if you are like me and insist on making New Year Resolutions that involve a self-inflicted moratorium on cookbooks, hurry up and get a copy for yourself: 2014 is just about to say hello…

Disclaimer: I do not accept requests or any type of compensation to review cookbooks or products. I am not affiliated with amazon.com or any other company. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I like to make this point clear.

ONE YEAR AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

TWO YEARS AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

THREE YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread