Friday, November 23, 2012

biggest and the best

When I woke up this morning, I was close to swearing that I would never eat again. Full food hangover. I was appalled/impressed that Matty was able to make and eat a turkey scramble for breakfast. I'm working on a veggie plate and a glass of pomegranate juice, and I think that's going to hold me until we go get some pho with my parents tonight.

This was the first Thanksgiving in our new house, and we truly overdid it. I had my annual do-we-have-enough-food panic attack, and where I would normally calmed down and trusted my menu-planning skills, I went ahead and decided to add another pan of pumpkin mac and cheese and a risotto (in lieu of a second stuffing). And then Matty found a Maker's Mark sweet potato recipe, and we had to add that as well.

The spoils:

Diagonally from the top left:

1. smoked bacon-wrapped turkey

2. Matty's mom's cranberry sauce

Good, but not my favorite. It seemed to be a hit while we were cooking, though - it was basically our lunch.

4. Brooke's rolls

6 lbs. of Brussels sprouts leaves that I would never have been able to remove without Matty's mom's help. Still completely worth it. My mom hates Brussels sprouts, and she took some home with her. Also can't wait to make pot pies out of the Brussels sprouts nubbins that were left over after the de-leafing.

I just realized that I forgot the maple syrup and the sage in the chestnut topping, but I hardly missed them. I also completely mashed the sweet potatoes and thought the texture contrast was very appealing. This is also one of those great vegetarian, but a meat-eater wouldn't miss any meat, dish - the chestnuts are filling and meaty, but everyone's happy because it's not too creamy and heavy.

7. Jeff's Mashed Potatoes with Cream Cheese
There's a photo somewhere of all the cream cheese that went into these potatoes. I can't bear to look at it now, but they were so incredibly good yesterday.

8. Jeff's Yams with Bourbon-Caramel Sauce + Bacon
In the very bottom corner. I'm horrified I didn't get a better photo. These were incredible.

Table 2:

9. In the Le Creuset casserole dish - Andouille + Cornbread Stuffing
A Thanksgiving staple. Good as always.

10. In the Le Creuset dutch oven - Sausage + Mushroom Risotto
Not everyone at the dinner eats venison, so I just used plain ol' pork sausage in a tube. I added a couple ounces of dried wood-ear mushrooms since I didn't have enough shiitake. Our friend Greg was obsessed with this - I don't blame him.

11. In the glass casserole dish - Pumpkin Mac + Cheese
I don't use pancetta in this dish anymore, and don't miss it even a little bit. This time, I simmered the cream and pumpkin puree together first, and melted the cheese to make a sauce before adding in the pasta. I think the texture was greatly improved - much less grainy. What you don't see here is the panic attack-induced second pan of mac. That's now living in the freezer in the garage.

12. In the Nambe bowl - Creamless Creamed Corn
I don't suppose we needed to double the recipe, and my arms would have appreciated not grating 10 ears of corn because after all, that whole process still remains a huge pain in the ass, but nothing says happiness like leftover creamed corn.

We had a non-poultry eater in our midst, and I wanted a chance to try a new recipe. Win-win situation. I didn't bother making the au jus, and it was none the worse for wear. I have a big pot full of roasted oxtails and vegetables now, just waiting to be turned into stew. Maybe I'll get crazy and add some of those Brussels sprouts nubbins.

I thought the frangipane was a little too sweet and may halve the amount of sugar called for next time, but it was a big hit. It was much, much prettier pre-baking (photo above) - when it baked, the frangipane bubbled up and over, and the custard looked super grainy in the middle. Tasted great, though.

A Thanksgiving staple at this point. Just purely pumpkin tasting. You don't need to mess with a perfect thing.

Stunning, and I don't even like pecan pie. Dark chocolate chips are the way to go here. Also, it's not necessary to tell anyone how much corn syrup is in this recipe. Thanksgiving only comes once a year, right? And if you can track down some espresso brava sea salt (I got mine on a major bender at Monsieur Marcel), all the better.

Phew. That was it. And I couldn't be happier. Thanksgiving is truly the holiest of holidays in my book, and I'm so glad to be able to be back to hosting in our new home.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

it takes a little time sometimes

This Leek and Potato Souffle has been on my to-make list for ages. I think I've bought ingredients for it at least 5 times, and then just ended up having to repurpose them before they went bad because I could never find time to make this all in one sitting.

Today was finally that day. And honestly, it didn't take very long, although I'd be remiss to think I could easily make it after work before everyone starved to death. The potatoes boiled and were done in the time it took to chop and cook the leeks. Then a quick mash, stir and it was in the oven baking while I watched football. Not a bad deal.

I loved everything about this soufflé. It tastes like a cross between two of my favorite things in life - quiche and mashed potatoes. I won't lie - it does dirty up quite a few dishes, but it's just so tall, golden and impressive when it comes out of the oven, that it's completely worth it. It was a perfect dinner with a big salad of greens, sauteed mushrooms, artichoke hearts and green olives. It wasn't particularly heavy, but it was a solid meal, and that salad complemented it well.

Leek and Potato Souffle
slightly adapted from The New York Times
Serves 6

1 1/2 lbs. Baby Dutch Yellow potatoes
1 1/2 c. milk
salt and pepper
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, sliced into half-moons
4 oz. pancetta, diced
4 oz. Gruyere, grated
3 eggs, separately
1 T. butter
1 oz. Parmesan, finely grated

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a medium pot, boil the potatoes until tender. Drain, put in a large mixing bowl, and mash with the milk. Set aside.

3. In a large skillet, combine the pancetta and leeks, and cook until the leeks are softened, but still bright green, about 3-4 minutes. Add the mixture to the potatoes along with the Gruyere. Season heavily with salt and pepper. Beat in the 3 egg yolks.

4. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Stir 1/3 of the beaten whites into the potato mixture to lighten. Quickly fold in the remaining whites.

5. Butter a 2-quart baking dish, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with half of the grated Parmesan. Scrape the souffle batter into the dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan.

6. Bake for about 40 minutes, until lightly browned and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Rest 10 minutes before serving.

still a winner

I made this Green Chile Mac + Cheese for this little football game I watched this afternoon. I'm not happy about the way anything but the food went. The mac and cheese was especially good with chili next to/on top of/mixed with it.

Going back to my bottle of Angel's Envy.

Green Chile Mac + Cheese
slightly adapted from Food52
Serves 20

2 lbs. pasta
1 c. milk
1 c. cream
20 oz. canned green chiles
1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts only
salt and pepper to taste
3 T. butter
1 onion, diced
1/4 c. flour
10 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
10 oz. pepperjack cheese, grated
2 bell peppers, one red and one green
1 1/2 c. frozen corn kernels

1. Lightly grease two 9-inch baking dishes, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until just shy of al dente. Drain and set aside.

3. In a medium pot, combine the milk, cream, chiles and green onions. Simmer gently for 2-4 minutes. Cover the pot and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Puree the mixture until smooth. Set aside.

4. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is lightly golden, 1-2 minutes. Add the milk mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until it comes up to a boil and thickens. Stir in the cheeses until melted.

5. Add the pasta, peppers and corn, and toss well to full coat in the sauce.

6. Divide the pasta between the two casserole dishes. Bake until the sauce is bubbly and heated through, 30-45 minutes. Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

flavor of the weak

Matty's parents and grandma are here! So begins three weeks of semi-regular cooking, including my annual-except-for-last-year crown jewel, Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I have realized mid-November somehow crept up on me, and I won't be able to do any more Thanksgiving testing - I don't like to serve anything remotely resembling the Turkey Day meal less than a week out.

Here's the first of the not-Thanksgiving food - a Roasted Cauliflower Lasagna. To be honest, it wasn't the stunning revelation I thought it was going to be, but it's pasta with cheese in sauce, so truly, it was already a winning recipe. I had just hoped that the additional of such a non-traditional lasagna ingredient would elevate it further than it did.

Like the Cauliflower Mac + Cheese that came before it, this was not very strongly cauliflower-tasting at all, which was a bit of a disappointment for a cauliflower lover like myself. Had I not used a delicious jarred puttanesca sauce from Trader Joe's instead of the called-for marinara sauce, I'm not sure this dish would have had much flavor at all.

Lasagna with Spicy Roasted Cauliflower
adapted from The New York Times
Serves 6

1 1/2 lbs. cauliflower
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

15 oz. ricotta cheese
1/4 c. vegetable stock
1/2 t. red pepper flakes

3 c. jarred puttanesca sauce
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 c. grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Place the florets on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for about 20 minutes until they are tender and nicely browned on the bottom. Remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

2. Blend the ricotta cheese, stock, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

3. Spread 1/2 c. of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Top with 3 lasagna noodles. Spoon half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with half of the cauliflower, then 3/4 c. tomato sauce and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat the layers, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles topped with the remaining tomato sauce and Parmesan.

4. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake 40 minutes, until the noodles are tender and the mixture is bubbling. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes, until the top begins to brown. Remove from the oven, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

just like i remember

My very first experience with squid ink pasta was at Canele in Atwater Village. It was a dinner special, and Matty and I wouldn't normally have bothered had every other table in the place not ordered one. We soon learned why - it was an absolute revelation. The finest pasta dish we had ever had, if not the finest dish, period.

Our next experience was at a great Italian spot that otherwise had very excellent food. It's not that their squid ink wasn't good - it just wasn't the joy of Canele. That kind of wore the novelty off, but not enough that when I saw one last package on the shelf at Rocco's Deli I didn't immediately snatch it up.

I actually had no immediate plans for the pasta - I just wanted to have it in the pantry for a good occasion. That occasion came quickly - when we made dinner plans with our friends Dan and Jess, and I learned that Jess is a pesca-vegan (no meat, eggs or dairy, but fish is okay).

As soon as I saw there were no eggs harmed in the making of the pasta, we rolled. Matty requested scallops - easy enough, seared and thrown on top. I didn't feel it was right to muddy up the flavor of the pasta with any kind of red sauce, and I didn't think cream sauce would look particularly attractive on top, so I made a simple sauce out of anchovies, garlic, onion and olive oil. The anchovies are magical - they disappear right into the sauce, and don't really make the dish fishy, per se. Just the perfect amount of brininess. And because I felt awfully guilty about not serving it with anything green, I threw in some asparagus.

If I do say so myself, this dish was perfect. It reminded me of the happiness my belly experienced at Canele all that time ago. And truly, this was a dish that made itself in the time it took the pasta to cook. I'm going to have to keep a stockpile of squid ink pasta around for company. Or you know, tomorrow.

Squid Ink Pasta with Asparagus + Scallops
Serves 4-6

1 lb. squid ink pasta
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
4 oz. oil-packed anchovies, minced, oil reserved
2 dozen scallops
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large, wide skillet, add the olive oil, garlic and onion, and cook over medium-low heat until the onion is translucent. Add the asparagus, anchovies and their oil, and cook until the anchovies have dissolved into the sauce, and the asparagus is crisp-tender. Add the pasta and toss thoroughly to coat. Set aside.

3. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Dry the scallops and salt and pepper them on both sides. Sear the scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. Serve immediately atop the pasta.