Sunday, November 28, 2010

here you come again

I'm really not one for re-purposing Thanksgiving leftovers. While it may take a day or three to recover from the big dinner, I am usually quite fine with recreating Thursday's plate until the leftovers are gone - no need for soup or sandwiches.

This Sunday afternoon, however, I found my thoughts straying to tater tots, and wondered if Brooke's leftover mashed potatoes could play any part in satisfying this random craving.

Google research led me to too many recipes that required adding extra flour to the potatoes, rolling them into tot-sized pieces - basically everything I had already done Thursday for a massive batch of gnocchi. But as all good Google searches go, I soon found something even better.

Potato Taquitos. Deep-fried carbolicious goodness. All I had are wonton wrappers, so I made these perfect two-bite snacks. They fry up pretty quick, so these would be great for a crowd. I'm looking at you Thanksgiving Leftovers Party 2011.

Potato Taquitos
scale-able according to your leftovers
this is just what I did to go with dinner

10 wonton wrappers
leftover mashed potatoes
neutral oil for frying

1. Pour about 1/2 inch of oil in a 10-inch skillet. Heat while you're preparing the taquitos.

2. Place 2 teaspoons of potatoes in the lower third of the wrapper. Fold in the sides, and roll up, burrito-style. Seal close with a little bit of water. You want to make sure the filling is completely encased so that it doesn't melt and ooze out of its shell.

3. When it becomes uncomfortable to hold your hand over the skillet, drop in the taquitos. They will brown almost immediately. Keep an eye on them and flip when they're golden to your liking. Drain on paper towels and serve almost immediately.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

at least it was

I am so tired of ending a few recent USC football games with, "Well, at least the tailgate food was good." I mean, don't get me wrong. We're all still loyal enough to stay until our last offensive (and I mean, offensive) play, jumping and screaming while being pelted (by Southern California standards) by rain, but when one starts feeling a cold coming on from spending the last hour of the game in that rain, it makes it just a little bit easier to throw that pity party. Don't worry - I'll still be cheering and screaming from the same corner of the Coliseum next year, and will definitely be there in two years when we can return to kicking ass and taking names.

But I truly am thankful for Lasagna Bolognese, with its unbelievably rich meat sauce, velvety bechamel, and just piles of carbs. It's really amazing how just the one cup of milk in the bolognese sauce lifts it to such divine status. I had a slice and a half at the tailgate and heated up another slice post-game to cry into.

To accommodate the cheese haters, I left out the Parmesan in all the layers and sprinkled just a bit over top of half the lasagna. However, I really miss the texture of melted mozzarella in between the layers, so when I make this again, I might experiment with replacing the bechamel with cheese.

Lasagna Bolognese
adapted from Love and Olive Oil

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 8-oz. can tomato paste
1 c. milk
1/2 c. white wine
1 t. fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

5 T. butter
1/4 c. flour
3 c. milk
2 t. salt

3/4 to 1 lb. oven-ready dried lasagna noodles
1 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Oil for brushing

1. For the ragu, heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and sweat over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are translucent. Add beef and pork to the vegetables, and brown over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together. Add the tomato paste, milk, wine, thyme, and 1 cup water, and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (if the ragù becomes too thick, add a little more water). Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.

2. For the bechamel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour, and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until it is just about to boil. Add the milk to the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until the sauce is very smooth. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and season with salt.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9x13-inch glass baking dish with melted butter or oil, and layer in the following order from the bottom: ragù, pasta, béchamel, and grated cheese (saving about 1 cup béchamel for last topping), making 3 to 4 layers of pasta, finishing with ragù, béchamel, and 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled over the top. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 20 minutes, slice, and serve.

Friday, November 26, 2010

to lighten up

Thanksgiving, Part II. Friday brings along Black Friday online shopping, lunch with my parents, sister and brother-in-law, followed by lots of football and then driving down to Orange County for another Thanksgiving dinner with my grandparents and my mom's side of the family. There's usually a turkey, which I shy away from only because it takes a few days for me to want Thanksgiving leftovers. However, I am not shy around the Vietnamese sides that accompany dinner.

For dessert, I decided to throw back to my childhood with flan, and use the holiday as an excuse to squeeze in another pumpkin-flavored goodie.

This Pumpkin Flan was pretty tasty (Matty went in for seconds), but not quite everything I was hoping for. It was a little denser than I expected - I was hoping for something just a little more ethereal. I didn't strain the custard mixture as the recipe suggested, and wonder if that would have helped any. I may try this again with half the amount of pumpkin (and straining) to see if I get closer to the pumpkin flan I had in my head.

Pumpkin Flan
from Epicurious

2 c. sugar
2 1/2 c. heavy cream
5 whole large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 (15-oz.) can solid-pack pumpkin (1 3/4 c.)
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. salt

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat soufflé dish in oven while making caramel.

2. Cook 1 cup sugar in a dry 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar melts into a deep golden caramel. Wearing oven mitts, remove hot dish from oven and immediately pour caramel into dish, tilting it to cover bottom and side. (Leave oven on.) Keep tilting as caramel cools and thickens enough to coat, then let harden.

3. Bring half-and-half to a bare simmer in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then remove from heat. Whisk together whole eggs, yolk, and remaining cup sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then whisk in pumpkin, vanilla, spices, and salt until combined well. Add hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking.

4. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, scraping with a rubber spatula to force through, and stir to combine well. Pour custard over caramel in dish, then bake in a water bath until flan is golden brown on top and a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove dish from water bath and transfer to a rack to cool. Chill flan, covered, until cold, at least 6 hours.

5. To serve, run a thin knife between flan and side of dish to loosen. Shake dish gently from side to side and, when flan moves freely in dish, invert a large platter with a lip over dish. Holding dish and platter securely together, quickly invert and turn out flan onto platter.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Oh, Thanksgiving 2010. You were amazing. I still have 3 days worth of dishes to do, but you make everything worthwhile.

This was our smallest gathering ever, with only 6 of us sitting down at the table. We had a vegan come by, and I didn't know how long he planned on staying, so I wanted to be prepared. This meant we had homemade Tofurky with Wild Rice + Mushroom Stuffing and Vegan Gravy in addition to our standard menu.

Since the recipe made two loaves, I sent one over to some friends' gathering. I heard Grandma liked it better than the real thing. I was a big fan myself - it was a little spongy when I first took it out of the oven, but as it cooled, it reached a much more desirable consistency.

It definitely was not without its problems (epic-long cooking time notwithstanding). I basically shook it out to the approximate size rather than rolling it because I didn't want to deal with a sticky rolling pin, so the middle part was a bit thin in places. I did manage to not fully rip the roll, but there were some very stretched-out parts. I put both of the roulades in one 13x9-inch pan, and they grew to completely fill the pan. For ease of flipping next time, I might give each its own pan.

I flipped them after the first hour, and was frankly terrified when I saw how yellow the loaves were. They had really taken on the color of the faux-chicken broth powder, and if they were to stay that color, I would have been very reluctant to present them at the table.

Luckily, in the next hour, they had turned a more normal hue. I was afraid to give it another flip because the first had caused a little tear in one of them. Nothing more terrible than a few well-done bits on the bottom, and I would flip it again next time, but it was well-worth the potential heart attack if I had torn it any further.

The stuffing was so great and hearty. I'll admit I didn't feel the ancho chile did anything to all that rice, so I'd just as soon leave it out than experiment with making it any spicier. Warning - this makes a heaping 13x9 panful of stuffing. I'm thinking of freezing it at this point.

I'm pretty proud of myself for getting the gravy to an edible state. I thought the recipe on Bryanna Clark Grogan's site was incredibly bland (and forgot that I could have just used the recipe from Real Food Daily that I love so much), so I just went back to that cookbook and added some dried sage, garlic powder and the tiniest hit of smoked paprika to round out the flavor.

Soy + Seitan Turkey Roulades
adapted from Bryanna Clark Grogan
Makes 2 roulades

Dry Mix
2 c. vital wheat gluten
1/2 c. chickpea flour
1/2 c. nutritional yeast
2 t. garlic granules
1/4 t. pepper

Wet Mix
12 oz. firm regular tofu
1 1/2 c. water
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. olive oil

Basting Broth
2 c. hot water
1/3 c. "chicken-style" vegetarian broth powder
2 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 t. fresh rosemary

1. In a blender, blend all the Wet Mix ingredients until very smooth.

2. Mix the Dry Mix ingredients in the bowl of your electric mixer with dough hook attachment. Add the Wet Mix and knead for about 10 minutes. Let rest for about 1 hour, covered. Then knead it for 10 more minutes.

3. Cut the dough in half. Roll each half of the dough on a clean kitchen counter covered with a large pieces of plastic wrap (don’t use flour — if it sticks, it’s better to wet the counter, plastic wrap, your hands and the rolling pin with a bit of water) into a 10 x 15" rectangle. Spread 2 to 2 1/2 c. of your stuffing over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch of dough uncovered on the short sides and 1 inch of dough on the long sides. Press the stuffing down into the seitan a bit and spread evenly. Using the plastic wrap as a guide, but not getting it wrapped up in the roulade, roll the seitan and the stuffing into a tight roll. Smooth the "seam" so that you can hardly see it, using wet hands, and pull the seitan on the ends up, pinching together and smoothing so that there are no gaps or tears.

4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the roulades into a large roasting pan (at least 13x9 inches). Pour the cooking broth over the roast, and cover. Place in oven and turn to 325 degrees. F. Bake for 3 1/2 hours, turning the roast over twice.

Vegan Brown Gravy
adapted from Bryanna Clark Grogan and The Real Food Daily Cookbook
Makes about 2 and 1/2 c.

2 1/2 c. water
1/3 c. unbleached white flour
1/3 c. nutritional yeast flakes
2 T. soy sauce
1/2 t. salt
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried sage
a dash smoked paprika

1. In a heavy saucepan over high heat, whisk the yeast and flour together until it smells toasty.

2. Whisk in the water, soy sauce, salt and spices. Stir constantly over high heat until it thickens and comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-5 minutes. Season to taste.

Wild Rice + Mushroom Stuffing
adapted from Epicurious

2 c. wild rice (about 12 oz.)
8 T. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced
12 oz. fresh oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 large onions, chopped (about 4 c.)
1 large dried ancho chile, stemmed, seeded, finely chopped
2 c. brown basmati rice
5 c. low-salt chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1 t. (or more) coarse kosher salt
1/4 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Place wild rice in heavy medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover rice by 3 inches. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until rice is almost tender, about 45 minutes. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 T. oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add shiitakes; sauté until brown, about 7 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Add 2 T. oil to same pot; heat over medium-high heat. Add oyster mushrooms; sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with shiitakes.

3. Add 2 T. oil to same pot; heat over medium heat. Add onions to pot; sauté until golden and very tender, about 20 minutes. Add chile; stir 1 minute. Add remaining 2 T. oil to pot; add brown rice and stir 2 minutes. Add wild rice, broth, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon coarse salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer until all rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, 35 to 40 minutes. Fluff rice mixture with fork. Stir in mushrooms and parsley. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Stir briefly over medium heat until heated through. Transfer to large bowl.

And now, back to the carnivores.

A tour of the plate, clockwise from the top:

- Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry-Pistachio Pesto: I overdid the serving size of this just to make sure I had leftovers even after we sent folks home with full Tupperware.

- Andouille Cornbread Dressing: A perennial favorite. I don't think we have any more than a spoonful of leftovers.

- more Brussels sprouts

- the tri-tip Brandon brought, swimming in a Kansas City barbecue sauce marinade, smoked in the last hour the turkey was on

- the glorious bacon-wrapped, smoked turkey

- Swiss Chard Gratin
adapted from Daniel Boulud's Favorite Holiday Recipes
Serves 6

6 lb. Swiss chard, washed, leaves and stems separated
2 T. butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 T. flour
1 c. milk
1/2 c. shredded Gruyère cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the chard leaves until tender, remove and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess liquid, chop leaves roughly and set aside.

3. Cut the stems into thin slices. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add 1 T. butter, 1 clove garlic, and stems, cooking until tender; remove and set aside.

4. Add the flour and the remaining butter to the pan and reduce heat to low. Stir for 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the butter. Using a whisk, gradually stir in the milk and nutmeg. Cook, whisking, for 3 minutes.

5. With a wooden spoon, add the chopped leaves, reserved garlic, and stems; season to taste. Transfer to a small casserole or individual-size casserole dishes. Sprinkle evenly with the cheeses and bake 6–8 minutes or until golden brown.

- Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Rosemary Brown Butter Sauce: This and the Swiss Chard Gratin were a complete after-thought. Because I like nothing better to ask myself pre-dinner party, "What if there's not enough food?"

- Brooke's glorious mashed potatoes with bacon, chives and white Cheddar. Dolloping the plate like some kind of whipped topping on my Thanksgiving feast parfait.

And those chocolate figs that I bought at Trader Joe's never made it out to the table because we were too occupied with the pies: cranberry-almond-caramel, caramel pumpkin (my new favorite pumpkin pie recipe even though the crust very rudely decided to bubble up during baking and form that hideous blemish), and pear butterscotch. Don't worry, I plan on those figs fueling me through all the dish-washing.

Caramel Pumpkin Pie
from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

your favorite 9-inch pie crust
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. heavy cream
2 T. apple cider
2 T. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 c. canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 t. ground ginger
pinch of salt
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

2. Sprinkle 1/2 c. of the sugar evenly over the bottom of a large nonstick skillet. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar melts and starts to color. Once you see a little color, gently swirl the skillet so that the sugar colors evenly. Cook the sugar, without stirring, until it turns deep amber.

3. Lower the heat to medium, stand back and pour the cream into the skillet. The sugar will bubble and hiss, and if the cream was cold, it may even clump. Just continue to cook, stirring, and it will even out. Add the rum and butter and cook just until the caramel is smooth. Pour the caramel into a heatproof pitcher or bowl and cool it for about 15 minutes.

4. Working with a whisk in a large bowl, beat the pumpkin to break it up and smooth it. Add the remaining 1/2 c. sugar and beat to blend. Whisk in the spices, salt, vanilla and eggs, beating until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the caramel. Rap the bowl against the counter a few times to de-bubble the filling, then pour the filling into the crust.

5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and set - tap the pan gently and the filling won't jiggle. A thin knife inserted into the center of the pie will come out clean.

Cranberry-Almond-Caramel Tart
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

your favorite 9-inch pie crust, parbaked
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 c. granulated sugar
1 3/4 c. fresh cranberries
2 c. unblanched sliced almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat.

2. To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat. The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar.

3. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added. If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.

4. Stir the cranberries and the almonds into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart dough mounding toward the center.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour before serving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

anger management

Trying to calm myself down from all of the parking lot rage by typing out some HTML. (I mean, there was not one spot open in the Trader Joe's, Gelsons or Albertsons parking lots. I have nothing to do until I can get my hands on a box of Jiffy cornbread mix). Anyway. I give you Thanksgiving 2010:


Baked Brie en Croute with Peaches + Brown Sugar

Brooke's Chorizo-Stuffed Jalapenos


Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Turkey

Soy and Seitan "Turkey" Roulades
with Wild Rice + Mushroom Stuffing
(dropping one off for friends, and saving one for the vegan that may show up)

Brandon's Smoked Meat
we'll have one non-poultry eater


Andouille Cornbread Dressing

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Pistachio Pesto

Swiss Chard Gratin

Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Brooke's Mashed Potatoes


Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Pear Butterscotch Pie

Cranberry-Almond-Caramel Tart

Chocolate Truffle-Filled Figs
which I bought at the one Trader Joe's I was able to park at

Okay, I feel a little better. Time to get on the pie crusts. Happy cooking, everyone!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

i'm mr. brightside

Well, it's a damn good thing we had good food at tonight's game watch - it was a brutal loss in which our extremely good-looking quarterback sprained his ankle in the ugliest way possible. I took what consolation I could out of the wings, bacon-wrapped meatballs, French onion dip, and berry galette, and had more than I should have of the Wild Mushroom Lasagna with Smoked Mozzarella + Fresh Sage that I brought.

I've been on a huge lasagna kick lately. There's something so calming about prepping all of the individual parts and then assembling layers upon layers of deliciousness. It all started with a comfort food-themed birthday party I went to Thursday night, a simple tomato and cheese lasagna. On the next page over was this mushroom one, but I didn't know anyone at the party well enough to know they'd be up for such an alternative recipe - no tomato sauce, no ricotta, and mushrooms can be such a polarizing ingredient.

I took a few slight liberties with the recipe - I thought whole leaves of sage over the top layer would get overwhelming, so I left them out. My friend Christina doesn't eat cheese, so I left it out of a third of the lasagna (one noodle stack). Since the top noodle wasn't going to be covered by anything, and top noodles tend to get a little tough anyway, I spread a thin layer of the mushroom mixture over it and drizzled it with cream. It didn't fully protect, but was definitely helpful.

It's a pretty amazing dish. While a full pound of smoked mozzarella in a casserole dish sounds like it might be overwhelming, it actually perfectly complemented the earthy mushrooms and served more to boost their flavor than standing out on its own. I felt like all of the mushrooms shone individually as well, which is heartening since so often when recipes call for a variety of wild mushrooms, I find myself wishing I had saved myself the money by using all cremini. This dish was worth the splurge.

Wild Mushroom Lasagna with Smoked Mozarella + Fresh Sage
from The Dean and DeLuca Cookbook

1.5 oz dried porcini
4 T. unsalted butter
2 lbs. wild mushrooms (I used equal parts oyster, chanterelle, shiitake and portobello)
6 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minched
2 T. fresh sage, finely minced
1/2 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
9 sheets lasagna
1 lb. smoked mozzarella, shredded
3/4 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Place the dried porcini in a bowl and cover with about 2 c. hot water. Soak for 30 minutes.

2. Place 2 T. of butter in a very large saute pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and is just starting to brown, add half of the mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms over high heat for 2 minutes, or until they being to brown slightly. Remove and reserve.

3. Repeat with the remaining butter and mushrooms, but this time, add the shallots, garlic and sage. Return the first batch of mushrooms to the pan, mixing well. Drain the porcini, and add to the pan, mixing well. Add the cream, and cook over high heat until the cream thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Remove mixture from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Butter a lasagna pan. Place a few T. of the mushroom mixture in the pan, just to lightly cover the bottom. Place 3 lasagna noodles over the mushrooms. Cover with half of the mushroom mixture, half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and one-fourth of the mozzarella. Repeat. Add another layer of lasagna noodles, and cover with the remaining mozzarella.

5. Cover the pan well with aluminum foil and baked in a preheated 325-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil, and place under the broiler until brown and bubbly, about 1 minute. Let rest 10 minutes and serve.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

almost there

The Thanksgiving test recipe list is getting smaller. It's a good thing, because I don't have very many football tailgates left to test the recipes on.

This Pear Butterscotch Pie is going up against Julia Child's Tarte des Desmoiselles Tatin, aka the only apple pie I've been moved by, maybe ever. I do love pears. And butterscotch. Fairly sure the apple didn't stand a chance, Julia or no.

I used Dorie Greenspan's Good-for-Almost-Everything pie crust, and nearly threw out my food processor in the process. Not Dorie's fault - my food processor is too old and small to handle all that flour, butter and shortening. And it's a pretty sticky dough, so the blades all but gave up. I did what I could, and managed to not make a huge mess, but I still think I'm going to need to find a new crust. It was a little too heavy for me. All I could taste was shortening, and all Matty said he could taste was flour. The filling, though, is amazing. All that brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon smells heavenly just sitting in the bowl, and when it bakes, it's magic.

Pear Butterscotch Pie
from Epicurious

3 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. salt
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
2 1/2 lbs. firm-ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 6), peeled, each cut into 6 wedges, and cored
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. pure vanilla extract
your favorite double-crust recipe
1 T. unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon warm water
1 T. granulated sugar

1. Put a baking sheet on middle rack of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt, then whisk in brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Gently toss pears with brown sugar mixture, lemon juice, and vanilla and let stand 5 to 15 minutes to macerate fruit.

3. Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining disk chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Roll out remaining piece of dough into a 13-inch round. Reserve scraps.

4. Transfer filling to shell. Dot with butter, then cover with pastry round. Trim edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang (reserve scraps). Press edges together to seal, then fold under. Lightly brush top crust with some of egg wash, then cut 3 (1-inch-long) vents.

5. Roll out dough scraps about 1/8 inch thick and cut out leaf shapes with cutters (or a knife). Arrange decoratively on top of pie, pressing gently to help them adhere. Lightly brush top crust and cutouts with some of egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

6. Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 375 degrees F and bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes more. Cool to warm or room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.

Post-game watch, I went home to pick up Matty and these Ginger-Jazzed Brownies to take to our friends Joey and Lindsay's housewarming. I chose to make them as mini cupcakes since it's always lovelier to feed a crowd 48 of those rather than cut up an 9x9-inch brownie pan into respectable serving sizes.

I wanted something warm and fall-flavored, but it's too warm during the day to be thinking gingerbread and molasses. However, it's gotten chilly enough in the evening to warrant spicy ginger, so these brownies were perfect.

In an effort to chip away at a Costco-sized bag of semisweet chocolate chips, I didn't use the mix of chocolate that Dorie suggests. In future, giant bag be damned, I would use my favorite 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's. The slight bitterness would cut the sweetness that I thought was just slightly overwhelming in this semisweet version. Otherwise, I loved these. Quite rich but nowhere near dense - just the perfect amount of chewy and not cake-y.

Ginger-Jazzed Brownies
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
Makes one 9x9-inch pan of brownies (or 48-mini cupcakes)

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground ginger
2 T. finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1 c. plus 1 1/2 T. sugar
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick (8 T.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. light corn syrup
1/2 t. vanilla extract
3 large eggs

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line your baking pan of choice.

2. Whisk the flour, salt and ground ginger together.

3. Put the minced fresh ginger and 1 1/2 T. sugar in a small bowl, stir and set aside.

4. Melt the chocolate in 1-minute increments in the microwave. Set aside to cool.

5. In a stand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it is smooth and creamy. Beat in the corn syrup, then the remaining 1 c. sugar, and continue to beat for another 2 minutes or so, until the butter is smooth again and the sugar incorporated. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each one goes in and scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat for 1 minute more, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the macerated ginger (and any liquid), then the dry ingredients, mixing only until the flour disappears. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and using a spatula, gently and thoroughly stir in the melted chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top forms an even sugar crust. A thin knife inserted into the center of the brownies should have streaks of moist, fudgy chocolate on it. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature.

Monday, November 8, 2010

you can't always get what you want

I had an inexplicable craving for pudding this afternoon. I was just sitting in the office, working along, when all of a sudden, my brain decided to ask, "You know what would be good right now? Pudding." Silly brain. Back to work!

I really thought nothing more of it - finished up the day, and then went to the little Thai grocery store for dinner fixings. Except I wandered around that place for well over a half hour, and found a grand total of 2 things I wanted (and an impulse-buy bag of Pop Chips). They were even out of the milk I needed for a recipe - I had to grab half and half instead.

I called Matty on the way out and explained that due to my grocery shopping frustration, dinner was not to be homemade tonight, and that I would place an order at our new favorite Thai place, Wat Dong Moon Lek, if he would please pick it up on his way home.

And then my brain went back to pudding. I looked for a few recipes when I got home, and lo and behold, the half and half I didn't think I wanted was exactly what I needed for some lovely, seasonal Pumpkin Pudding. Everything was whisked and chilling by the time Matty came home with takeout.

Texture-wise, this totally satisfied my craving. Cool and luscious, it was the perfect thing to snuggle up with and savor. I feel it could have used quite a bit more sweetness, and I added two very heavy-handed Tablespoons of maple syrup in the end. Matty wasn't a fan - it was a little too vegetable-tasting for him.

Pumpkin Pudding
inspired by Pinch My Salt
Serves 4-6

3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
3 T. corn starch
1 c. pumpkin puree
2 c. half and half
pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
1 t. vanilla extract
dash of ground cinnamon
2 T. butter, cut into pieces
2 T. maple syrup, if needed

1. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and corn starch. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée, half and half, brown sugar mixture, pinch of salt, and egg yolks. Transfer to a medium-sized saucepan.

2. Cook the pumpkin mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Turn heat to low, and continue cooking and stirring (now with a wooden spoon or spatula) for another minute or two – pudding should be thick but still pourable. Remove from heat and stir vanilla extract, cinnamon and butter pieces into the hot pudding until completely incorporated. Taste and sweeten with maple syrup, if necessary.

3. Divide into individual containers or leave in bowl. Cover and refrigerate until cold. If you’re concerned about a skin from forming on top of the pudding, press plastic wrap to the surface before refrigerating. Serve plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream and chopped pecans.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

stuff like that there

Stuffing. To be honest, I don't really know what I think about it. I mean, it's a standard. I've been making Andouille and Cornbread Stuffing for the last 4 years, before I even had this blog. I think it was a condition of admission to our friends Jeff and Marcela's Thanksgiving last year. :)

But, I mean, I've never actually stuffed a bird with it. We smoke our turkey at very low temperatures in the smoker, so unless we wanted a Salmonella Stuffing, it's always technically been "dressing." And while I love the andouille/cornbread extravaganza as much as the next person, if we're talking strictly carbs, I'd rather mac and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs, etc. over regular stuffing.

In any case, I care enough for my well-being that I continue to make it, and will make it for this year's dinner as well. I couldn't resist giving this Herbed Oyster Stuffing a try, though - I wanted something fairly traditional, but still enough off the beaten path to warrant the extra effort of trying something new. However, since we're having a relatively small gathering this year, I'll be sticking to my tradition, and not making two.

That's not to say that this wasn't completely delicious - it was, and maybe it'll go on your Thanksgiving table. Don't be put off by the oysters - they're not as weird as they sound. You almost don't taste them - just like you don't taste the anchovies when you melt them into tomato sauce. You just taste a richness of flavor that makes you go, "Yummmm, what IS that?"

Herbed Oyster Stuffing
from Epicurious
Makes 8-10 servings

1 lb. Italian or French bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (12 cups)
1/2 lb. sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 to 3 T. olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 c.)
1 1/2 c. chopped celery
3 T. chopped fresh thyme or 1 T. dried thyme
1 T. finely chopped fresh sage or 2 t. dried sage
1 T. minced garlic
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2/3 c. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
18 oysters, shucked, drained, and chopped (3/4 c.)
2 1/4 c. turkey giblet stock or low-sodium chicken broth

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Spread bread cubes in 2 shallow baking pans and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until golden, 25 to 30 minutes total. Cool bread in pans on racks, then transfer to a large bowl.

3. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet.

4. If bacon renders less than 1/4 cup fat, add enough oil to skillet to total 1/4 cup fat. Cook onions, celery, thyme, sage, garlic, salt, and pepper in fat in skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with bread cubes, then stir in bacon, parsley, butter, and oysters. Drizzle with stock, then season with salt and pepper and toss well.

5. Transfer stuffing to a buttered 3- to 3 1/2-quart shallow baking dish. Bake, covered, in middle of oven 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until browned, about 30 minutes more.

Note: Stuffing can be assembled (without oysters and not baked) 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature and stir in oysters before baking.

To go with the stuffing, we had Cornmeal-Molasses Fried Chicken from The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook, an impromptu garage sale find Matty got for me on his way home from grabbing a cup of coffee this weekend. It would be sweet if it wasn't completely selfish. ;)

I don't know why I bother making fried chicken - all that time and mess, and it's never as good or as gorgeous as any restaurant version. This particular recipe had immense flavor (the sweetness of the molasses as just perfect), but between the marinade, the regular flour, more marinade and the cornmeal, the crust was a beast of its own - heavy and overwhelming. I ended up taking most of it off before eating. I regret that I didn't just leave it in the marinade and roast a la Chicken in Milk.

Cornmeal-Molasses Fried Chicken
from The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook
Serves 4

1 pint whole milk
1/2 c. molasses
3 T. bourbon
8 chicken thighs (about 3 lbs.)
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
vegetable oil for frying (at least 4 cups)

1. In a large bowl, combine the milk, molasses, and bourbon and mix well. Add the chicken pieces, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

2. When ready to cook the chicken, season the flour with salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Place the cornmeal in a separate bowl, and place a rack next to the bowls.

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Heavily coat the chicken with the seasoned flour, and let sit on rack for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Heat vegetable oil, in 2 deep-straight-sided skillets, to 350 degrees F; the shortening should be about 3/4-inch deep. When it is hot, dip the chicken back into the marinade and then immediately coat with cornmeal. Carefully place half of the chicken in each pan. Fry chicken for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, about 20 minutes total, until it is deep golden brown and cooked through. (If the oil threatens to smoke at any point, reduce the heat; if the oil stops bubbling around the chicken pieces, increase the heat.)

5. Drain the chicken on paper towels and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

And hands down my favorite thing of the night - Roasted Broccoli + Burrata Salad inspired by Suzanne Goin, but tossed with leftover Cranberry Pistachio Pesto from the other night. Heaven. I know one burrata ball serves so much more than 1, but it's a particularly lovely kind of decadence.

This also serves as my early entry to Fall Fest: Brassicas.

Roasted Broccoli + Burrrata Salad
inspired by Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Serves 2

1 lb. broccoli, cut into florets
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 c. cranberry-pistachio pesto
2 balls burrata

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Toss broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread evenly onto a foil-lined cookie sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, or until broccoli is done to your liking. Transfer to a bowl and toss with pesto.

3. Place burrata in the center of each plate and cut an X in the top to reveal some of the gooey center. Arrange broccoli over and around. Alternately, you could cut the burrata into small pieces and toss with the broccoli.

Friday, November 5, 2010

you can't love 'em all

Pumpkin pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert to me. Much to everyone's amazement, I don't like apple pie, and I find that nut pies don't really define the season. Pumpkin, though, is so holiday. You just can't fight the scent of cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and cloves, all dancing about in the sweet but mellow custard.

I'm serious about my pumpkin pie. In years past, it's always been my Honey Pumpkin Pie, mostly because I've had friends threaten to disown me if I ever tried anything else. And while it's still in my back pocket for this year's dinner, I have 3 others I intend to try.

The first is Dorie Greenspan's - Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie. And while I have never had a Dorie recipe let me down, I am going to have to chalk this one up to creative differences. I prefer a more solid filling, and I think the sour cream was responsible for creating a texture that Dorie called "slip through your teeth smooth," but unfortunately, I just found off-putting. It was a little too smooth and wiggly. I couldn't do it. I also found it to be a little too rummy.

This does mean that I've saved myself another pie experiment - Pie #2 also calls for sour cream, so I'm going to bypass it altogether. I've got one more Dorie recipe, and if it doesn't work out, it's back to honey.

Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie
from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 9-inch pie crust

2 c. pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. sour cream
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ground ginger
3 T. dark rum
2 t. vanilla extract

Pie Crust
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 c. flour
1 T. plus 2 t. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
1 T. sugar
6 T. butter, diced
1 egg

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, cornstarch salt, sugar and butter. Pulse until mixture is sandy. Add egg and process until the dough more or less comes together.

2. Press into a pie plate and freeze while you make the filling.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Place all of the filling ingredients into a large bowl and whisk vigorously until all is combined. Rap the bowl against the counter to burst any surface bubbles and pour the filling into the crust.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 35-45 minutes longer or until the custard no longer jiggles when you tap the pan gently. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature.

Oh, and I guess we had dinner last night, too. There was nothing terribly exciting about Gently Cooked Chicken Breasts with Garlic-Chili-Ginger Sauce, as one could have guessed from the title alone, but it was lovely, simple food and was quick to prepare. The chicken actually turned out quite nicely, and I tend to shy away from chicken breast because I find it dry more often than not.

Excellent by-product: delicious, flavorful chicken broth. And the soy sauce-brown sugar concoction is going to find its way to my table a lot more often.

Gently Cooked Chicken Breasts with Garlic-Chili-Ginger Sauce
from The New York Times
Makes 4 servings.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, 8 oz. each
salt and peper
1 5-inch-long piece fresh ginger root, peeled
8 fat garlic cloves
4 jalapeño peppers
1 quart chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice, more to taste
Cooked rice, for serving
Sesame oil, for drizzling
1 bunch roughly chopped cilantro, for serving

1. Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise and season with salt and pepper.

2. Slice about an inch of ginger root into thin rounds and place in a large pot. Coarsely chop remaining ginger and place in a blender. Thinly slice 2 garlic cloves and add to pot. Coarsely slice remaining garlic and add to blender. Thinly slice 2 jalapeño peppers and add them to pot. Halve remaining peppers, discard seeds and coarsely chop flesh; place in blender.

3. Add chicken broth to pot and bring to a simmer. Let cook for 10 minutes. Add chicken pieces to broth and let liquid come back to a simmer. Immediately turn off heat, cover pot and let sit for 10 minutes. Cut into a piece of chicken to test for doneness. If it is not done, bring broth back to a bare simmer, then turn off heat, cover and let sit for an additional minute or two.

4. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce and brown sugar until sugar mostly dissolves. Set aside. To the mixture in blender add fish sauce and lime juice along with 1/4 cup broth from pot. Puree, if necessary adding a little more broth to help mixture move in blender. Taste and add a pinch of salt and more lime if needed.

5. When chicken is done, transfer to a cutting board and slice. Remove garlic and pepper from broth and discard, if you like. To serve, heap rice in 4 shallow bowls and top with chicken slices. Spoon several tablespoons broth over chicken and rice, then drizzle with sweet soy sauce and sesame oil. Sprinkle on the cilantro. Serve garlic-chili-ginger sauce on the side; have additional sesame oil and sweet soy sauce on table for more drizzling.

Monday, November 1, 2010

i'll try something new

Holy crap. It's November 1st. I have no idea how that happened. But I know what that means - Thanksgiving menu-testing time! I am so freaking excited, I can't even express myself. That, or my mind is still being consumed by all the Tootsie Rolls I had at work today because my co-worker Dana didn't get any trick-or-treaters at his house last night.

We'll get to that luscious pork chop later, but today's test recipe (and now co-star of Thanksgiving dinner) was Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Pistachio Pesto. I can barely speak about how delicious this is.

First of all, I nearly had a coronary in the Trader Joe's when the space above the brussels sprouts sign was empty, but luckily, the gentle worker there was unloading pallets upon pallets and handed me a bag. I did a cheer. It was audible. I think it involved a fist pump. I love brussels sprouts. Especially ones that have been roasted to crispy perfection on the outside and creamy dreaminess on the inside.

And the pesto! Oh heavens, the pesto. Besides being ridiculous easy to make, it had a flavor that I had never had before. The combination of the rich, but mellow, pistachios and the faint sweetness of the dried cranberries combined to make a dark, mysterious mixture that I was eating straight from the food processor. I've made a Brussels sprouts dish with fresh cranberries before, and while those cranberries were a distraction in the dish, these dried ones perfectly complemented the sprouts.

It's certainly not the prettiest dish, but Matty gave the green light to replace the Superfantastic Brussels Sprouts that I've made for several Thanksgivings running (and all over this blog). Now I just have to figure out where to get Brussels in bulk because the two of us polished off a one-lb. bag and had plenty of room for more. I can already see this pesto on a sandwich made with Brie and leftover turkey.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Pistachio Pesto
from Steamy Kitchen

1 lb. Brussels sprouts
3 T. olive oil
3/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. roasted, unsalted pistachios
1/2 c. dried cranberries
2 cloves raw garlic
2 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 c. olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Trim and halve Brussels sprouts. Toss with olive, salt and pepper.

3. On a baking sheet, spread the Brussels sprouts evenly and roast for 25 minutes, until you begin to see a bit of browning on the Brussels sprouts. The interior should be fork tender.

4. Meanwhile, place the pistachios, cranberries, garlic and parsley into a food processor and process until very finely chopped. While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Spoon out the pesto into a bowl and stir in remaining olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. The pesto should be slightly sweet and salty.

5. When the Brussels sprouts are done, toss with the pesto.

And these Maple Black Pepper Pork Chops were delicious, but probably a little too sweet to be going with these Brussels sprouts. I got tired of waiting for them to finish cooking in the oven, so I put them back on the stovetop and reduced the glaze with the pork chops right in the pan. My amended instructions are below, but the original instructions are in the above link.

Maple Black Pepper Pork Chops
from Eggs on Sunday
Serves 2

2 pork chops, bone-in or boneless
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 t. ground black pepper
2 t. coarse kosher salt
1 large shallot, minced
2 T. chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. pure maple syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Pat the pork chops dry and season them well with the 1 1/2 t. kosher salt. Rub the salt into the surface of the meat.

3. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the 2 T. of oil - the oil should shimmer.

4. Place the chops into the pan and leave them to brown for about 5 minutes.

5. Flip the chops over and cook for another 5 minutes.

6. Add shallot and thyme to pan with pork chops. Cook over medium-high heat until the shallot is softening and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.

7. Add the vinegar, maple syrup and pepper. Simmer the sauce for about 8-10 minutes, until it’s been reduced by about half, to a syrupy/glaze consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

10. Serve the pork with sauce spooned over top.