Holiday Skoal! Special Bonus: Holiday Pictures and Dave's Favorite Christmas Cookie

posted by Nastassia Lopez and Dave Arnold

(Hey, what is this Skål Project anyway?)

To celebrate the season of good cheer and good eats, we’ve compiled some of our favorite food-folk skoals.

First up, a gang of New York City’s top chefs:

Paul Liebrandt: Chef and Owner of Corton, one of Gotham Magazine's Top 100 Bachelors of 2009; native of Zimbabwe.
Craig Koketsu: Chef at Quality Meats; not afraid to get creative with tofu; started the clothing line Annelore with his designer wife, Juliana Cho.
Anita Lo: Chef at Annisa and consultant for Rickshaw Dumpling Bar; Michigan native with a degree in French from Columbia University; ruthless contestant on Top Chef Masters.
Dave Pasternack: Chef at Esca in Hell's Kitchen; fisherman from the age of 5; a pioneer of New York's "Crudo Craze."
Jiro Iida: Chef at Aburiya Kinnosuke; master of the ancient Japanese technique of robata grilling; one of our favorite post-skoal faces.
Corwin Kave: Chef du Cuisine at Fatty Crab; ex-model; a Scorpio; Brooklynite.

And people who like to eat their food and write about it:

Gillian Duffy: Culinary Editor at New York Magazine; author of 'Hors d'oeuvres'; after marrying a Captain in the Royal Artillery and hosting Army Dinner Parties in her twenties, she and her husband lived and cooked on a 70 foot yacht for a year off of Ibiza.
Will Blunt: Managing Editor of Star Chefs; native of Washington DC (with a background in politics); please give us a better time slot in the next Star Chefs Convention!
Daniel Gritzer: Writer for Time Out's Eat Out section; former sous chef for Cesare Casella at Beppe; expert in Capoeira; makes a damn good mojito.
Peter Kaminsky. Award winning author of books on cooking and fishing --two of life's great things. When it comes to cooking, the pig is his muse.

Too Many Cookies: Making and Shipping FCI’s Holiday Cookies, After Which We Needed A Skoal

Last week we baked 3,678 chocolate chip cookies. The pastry chefs, student volunteers and tech crew baked and packed them in 6 hours flat. We spent the rest of the week trying to ship them to Iraq.  We’re good at cooking but bad at shipping:

Dave and Celio cranking it out.
Cookies Cookies Everywhere.
Some of the team behind it all (we're missing the guys from pastry and the non-intern students - thanks guys!)
Man they have a lot of stairs at the 34th street Post Office!
Here are our cookies at the post office.
Nastassia-height cookie boxes. She is the one in the middle.

For the Holidays: Dave’s Favorite Christmas Cookie

Ricciarelli are traditional almond cookies from Siena. These aren’t stricly traditional, we add lemon to the traditional orange, use fresh zest instead of candied peel, and add more vanilla. We also use more egg whites than normal, which makes for a chewier cookie. The key to the flavor of riciarelli is bitter almond. Here in the US we usually get this flavor by using almond extract. You can get the real thing, however, in stores in Chinatown. The package will be labeled “bitter almond,” or “apricot kernel,” or “northern apricot.”  They contain amygdalin, which decomposes to cyanide, so don’t eat a lot of them. The interns were popping them like candy. We said, “hey, that’s poison.” They laughed and kept eating. Guess we joke about that stuff too much.

We used the Santha grinder to make the dough, but you could get almost the same result in a robot coupe. or by using almond paste. Here is the recipe:

1800 grams blanched almonds
1300 grams granulated sugar
32 grams bitter almonds
15 grams salt
25 grams lemon zest
45 grams orange zest
4 scraped vanilla beans
90 grams ap flour
90 grams confectioner’s sugar
7 egg whites
100 grams granulated sugar

Bitter Almonds
Grind the nuts in a Champion juicer. Slowly add everything except the egg whites and last 100 grams of sugar to the Santha and process 4 hours (this process is a hassle).
This is how the dough should look in the Santha. Whip egg whites with 100g sugar and fold into dough.
Turn dough out onto a surface dusted with powdered sugar. Cut into diamond shapes and bake at 300F till they just take on color.
The Finished Cookie
The Finished Cookie

4 thoughts on “Holiday Skoal! Special Bonus: Holiday Pictures and Dave's Favorite Christmas Cookie

  1. I almost got weepy reading your story about sending 3,678 chocolate chip cookies to Iraq. I usually spend seemingly hundreds of hours baking my “secret recipe” choc-chip cookies for my friends but this year I sent them all to Nairobi where my brother is working at an HIV clinic. Awesome job Dave!

    Packing – wondering how you keep the chocolate chips from melting and turning in to a complete mess in shipment to Iraq. My cookies last year never made it to the clinic – got lost somewhere at the Nairobi mailroom.

    1. Hi Martina,
      We put the cookies in the freezer to get them hard than put 6 of them at a time on cardboard cake boards and vac’ed them to about 75% vacuum. Any less and the cookies were rattling around in the bag. Any more and the fat would get squeezed out of em.

  2. I thought your time slot was pretty good… closing the show like no one else. Pretty awesome when you consider that the spot was occupied by Jose Andres the previous year.
    Consider yourselves the headlining rock show of the year and everyone else was a line-up of opening acts.

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