Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Ice Creams

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

"Pumpkin spice" might be a dirty word to some, but to many, it's still a welcome flavor during fall and especially at Thanksgiving. This pumpkin spice ice cream uses a lot of the same spices you find in a pumpkin pie--cinnamon, allspice, ginger, clove and nutmeg--just in ice cream form.

The other ice cream, ginger and brown sugar, I made specifically to go with apple pie. Both recipes  use Jeni Britton Bauer's technique from her cookbook, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home.

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream
Technique adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (about 1/2 a 15 oz. can) pumpkin puree
1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
1/8 tsp. of allspice
Pinch of ground cloves

1. In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp. of the milk with the cornstarch, whisking with a fork until smooth.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and salt. Add the pumpkin puree and honey and whisk until smooth.

3. In large (4 qt.) saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the remaining milk, cream, brown sugar, corn syrup and spices and bring to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes (watch carefully to prevent boiling over).  Remove pan from heat and gradually whisk in the milk/cornstarch mixture. Return to boil and cook, stirring frequently, for about a minute longer. Remove from heat.

4. Gradually pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the pumpkin mixture, whisking constantly to combine with the pumpkin until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon bag. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until cold (if desired, place the filled bag in an ice water bath to cool faster).

5. Process the mixture in an ice cream maker until it is thick and creamy. Transfer to a container and freeze until hard, at least 4 hours.


Ginger-Brown Sugar Ice Cream
Technique adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
1/8 tsp. salt
2-3 inches of fresh ginger root
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup

1. Whisk 2 tbsp. of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl (I use a 1-cup liquid measuring cup). Set aside. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

2. Whisk cream cheese salt in a large bowl (I use an 8-cup liquid measuring cup).

3. Peel and chop the fresh ginger until there's a heaping 1/4 cup. Add to a 4-quart saucepan with the cream, brown sugar, corn syrup and remaining milk. Bring to a rolling bowl over medium-high heat. Boil mixture for 4 minutes, watching carefully and stirring frequently to avoid boiling over. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.

4. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch slurry and return mixture to medium-high heat to boil for an additional minute to thicken. Remove from heat, strain to remove ginger pieces, and gradually whisk hot mixture into cream cheese until smooth. Pour mixture into a large gallon-size zip lock bag and submerge sealed bag in an ice water bath. Once cooled, you can store this mixture in the fridge for awhile or proceed with processing the ice cream in step 5.

5. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and process until thickened and frozen, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a storage container and freeze fully in the freezer.

Other recipes

Thanksgiving central (links to all Thanksgiving recipes and articles)

Old-Fashioned Texas Pecan Pie

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

Apple Pie with Vodka Crust

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Cocktails

Smoky Vanilla Bowery cocktail
Smoky Vanilla Bowery cocktail
The last hour or so of cooking Thanksgiving dinner can be a little frantic. It's also when the guests generally arrive. As happy as you may be to see them, it's probably a good idea to keep them out from under foot while you finish reheating stuffing, mashing potatoes, whisking the gravy, etc. But shooing them out of the kitchen is no fun--use the carrot approach instead: entice them into the living room with a cocktail.

The cocktails below are easy to make and can be mixed in advance (if doing so, strain, then store in the fridge; don't store with the ice, since it will dilute the drink too much). The first two are markedly stronger than the second two, since they aren't cut with nonalcoholic mixers (soda and ginger beer). All of the drinks are inspired by flavors of fall and Thanksgiving: smoke, vanilla, sage, apples, ginger, etc.

Smoky Vanilla Bowery (pictured at top)

This isn't really an Old-Fashioned or a Negroni, but the idea of whiskey with Aperol, sugar, bitters and an orange peel is a sort of intersection between those drinks. Then it's got a little vanilla and smoky Laphroaig Scotch as seasonal notes. I called it a "Bowery" because New York's Bowery Street runs through Little Italy (a nod to the Aperol) and the East Village (a part of town with a high concentration of great cocktail bars).

2 oz. rye whiskey
1/2 oz. Aperol
1/2 oz. vanilla syrup (see note below)
2 dashes Fee Brothers whiskey-barrel-aged bitters
1/4 oz. Laphroaig Scotch
Orange peel

Combine whiskey, Aperol, vanilla syrup and bitters in a cocktail mixing glass. Add ice and stir until cold. Strain into a rocks glass with a single large ice cube. Pour the Scotch on top. Squeeze the peel over the drink to express its oils, then drop into the glass.

Note: To make vanilla syrup, split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into a saucepan and drop the split pod into the saucepan too. Add 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 4 minutes. Allow to cool, strain out the vanilla pod and seeds (or leave in to infuse more flavor) and store in a container in the refrigerator.


Medicine Man

Sage is my favorite herb to use in Thanksgiving dishes. It goes nicely with squash and is essential to many stuffing recipes. And maple is such a nice cold-weather flavor. I made a few changes from the original recipe: I substituted an aged rum for the white rum and also muddled the sage leaves, since this helps release their flavor. Adapted from a recipe by by Ian Scalzo, Bourbon and Branch, San Francisco.

3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice (1/2 of a lemon)
4 sage leaves, divided
2 oz. Mount Gay Extra Old Rum (or other aged rum)
1/2 oz. real maple syrup
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

Combine lemon juice and 3 sage leaves in a cocktail shaker and muddle the leaves. Add the remaining ingredients, then fill with ice. Shake until cold. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the remaining sage leaf.




Ginger Loves Apples and Whiskey

Apples go nicely with ginger. This recipe calls for Applejack, Laird's blend of apple brandy and other spirits. In contrast, the Apple Turnover cocktail below uses Laird's apple brandy, which is 100% brandy and a little higher proof.

1 1/2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. Laird's Applejack
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3 oz. ginger beer
Lemon wheel garnish

Combine bourbon, Applejack, lemon juice, simple syrup and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold, then strain into a rocks glass with ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with lemon wheel.


Apple Turnover Cocktail

Apple, lemon and honey are also good fall combination, which, along with cardamom, are the key flavors here. I adapted this from the Union Square Cafe recipe for the Apple Crisp Cocktail, making enough changes that I thought a slight name change was warranted. I upped the bourbon from the original recipe and instead of infusing the bourbon with cardamom pods, I went the simpler route of using cardamom bitters. I also opted to serve it in a lowball (i.e. rocks glass) instead of a highball.

1 oz. bourbon
1 oz. Laird's Apple Brandy
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (1/2 honey and 1/2 hot water, stirred together until the honey and water are mixed)
2 dashes cardamom bitters
Club soda
Lemon twist garnish

Combine bourbon, brandy, lemon juice and honey syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until cold. Strain into a lowball glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a lemon twist.

Other Recipes

Thanksgiving Central (all Thanksgiving recipes)

(Wild) Turkey with Cranberry cocktail

Hot Butternut Rum

Gingered Apple Sparkler

Dallas Drinks: Cynthia Cider (Applejack, bourbon, Cointreau, lemon, agave, ginger)

Dallas Drinks: The Bobby (apple pie-inspired dessert cocktail)

Thanksgiving Wines, 2014 Selections


There are some general rules people follow when pairing wine with food: hefty reds go with red meat, lighter reds go with pork or hearty poultry dishes and whites with mild poultry or fish dishes. When it comes to Thanksgiving, that advice is basically useless.

Thanksgiving isn't like a regular dinner. It's much more complex. While a typical dinner may feature a main entree with a side or two and a salad, it's not uncommon for a Thanksgiving meal to feature one or two main courses with more sides than you can count. The regular wine rules just don't apply.

So Thanksgiving has its own wine rules, and knowing those rules will help you select some great choices to pair with your meal. And they really aren't all that complicated.

  • Stay away from the big reds. You'll find no bigger supporter of the big reds than me. I love my cabernet sauvignon. Really, I do. But I keep it shelved on Thanksgiving, it's bold tannins become bitter too easily against the Thanksgiving fare, which often incorporates sweet flavors into the meal. Plus it can be a little too dominant.
  • Choose something lower in alcohol. Lower alcohol wines tend be a little fruitier and less bolder, which is a good thing, since Thanksgiving wine should complement the variety of flavors on your table, not overwhelm them. Plus, with a lower alcohol wine, you can drink more. I don't always follow this rule, but it's something to consider.
So those are the rule. I don't always follow them to a T, but they are helpful things to think about. When it come to choosing Thanksgiving wines, people often default to two varietals that I actually try to stay away from: chardonnay and beaujolais. Chardonnay is great, but I think it's a boring choice for Thanksgiving. And beaujolais, a red wine with a limited fall release, is just too mellow for me. I want a little more from my red than it delivers. 

Below then are five choices, two reds and three whites I think would make excellent Thanksgiving wine choices.

Cabernet Franc, White Hall Vineyards, Virginia, 2013 ($18). Yes, I said stay away from cabernet sauvignon, but cabernet franc is a different animal. Although cab franc sometimes has an earthy-bordering-on-barnyard taste, White Hall's is noticeably smoother, a medium-bodied red with nicely balanced fruit. If your menu favors bolder choices and your guests (like me) like big reds, then consider cabernet franc.

Pinot Noir, Bergstrom Cumberland Reserve, Oregon, 2012 ($40). For something softer but by no means soft, I'd suggest going with pinot noir, which is a great choice for Thanksgiving. It's still got more body than beaujolais, and this bottle from Oregon's Bergstrom Wines is a winner. Yes, it's pricier, but with pinot noir, I find you do tend to have to pay more to get good value. As a big red fan, it's hard for me to find a pinot noir I like, but this one is very good. Fruity, but not too much with some spice. An excellent choice if you want a wine with some "wow" factor.



Riesling, Eroica (Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen), Washington, 2013 ($20). I'm not normally a riesling drinker, which I rule out because it's often a little sweet, and I like my wine dry. But I recently discovered that there are dry styles of riesling, and they are ideal for Thanksgiving. This is an interesting one, a collaboration between Washington State's Chateau Ste. Michelle and the German estate, Dr. Loosen. It's a dry, fruity wine with flavors not unlike sauvignon blanc but perhaps more citrus.

Riesling, Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl, Washington, 2013 ($13). This riesling, another dry variety (although perhaps a touch sweeter than Eroica) is an excellent value. It's also got a cool name and bottle. Who wouldn't enjoy drinking "Kung Fu Girl" on Thanksgiving? I like this wine a lot. It's got a crips, clean flavor with some fruit and not very assertive.

Chenin Blanc/Viognier Blend, Pine Ridge, California, 2013 ($13). This is another good value wine, one that I buy from time to time. Another clean, crips wine with good acidity. Neither of these white grapes are very popular, but I know a lot of people who love this blend.

Other

Thanksgiving Central (links to all Thanksgiving recipes and stories)

2012 Thanksgiving Wines

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Feed: November 19, 2014

Because I roast a turkey breast, I can't stuff the turkey the normal way, even I wanted to (it would just fall out). But the Washington Post's Bonnie S. Benwick found a way to stuff turkey breast by removing the bones (pictured: Mole-Brined Roast Turkey Breast).
The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.

Food Network: "Thanksgiving You: 20 Years of Trends"
Bruleed pumpkin pie is so last year. And dry-brined turkey is so 10 year ago! See what other dishes have been Thanksgiving trends since 1994.

Washington Post: "Thanksgiving Aha! Moment: No Crowded Oven Should Ever Come Between You and Your Perfectly Warmed Potato Gratin," by Tim Carman
This year, the Washington Post Food section's Thanksgiving coverage includes five "Thanksgiving Aha! moments," stories where writers found solutions to persistent Thanksgiving problems. Carman's story was my favorite of the group, a solution for keeping Fifteen-Layer Potato Gratin warm while traveling from his home to his in-laws for Thanksgiving. Other "Aha!" stories include Joe Yonan's trick for slowing down Thanksgiving dinner by starting with soup and Becky Crystal's homemade pie crust.

Washington Post: "Thanksgiving FAQs: Why a Turkey Breast?" by Bonnie S. Benwick.
A turkey breast is a great alternative to roasting a full turkey for Thanksgiving, especially if you are hosting a smaller party. Although you can't stuff a turkey breast the way you might stuff a regular turkey, there is a stuffed alternative that involves deboning the breast. Check out Benwick's video on how to do this.

New York Times: "French Brandy Gains a Foothold on American Cocktail Menus," by Robert Simonson.
Sherry, vermouth, armaro and aperitifs have been all the rage in cocktail circles lately. Now it's time for brandy to take the spotlight. Simonson writes about how a number of Manhattan cocktails bars have been fashioning drinks with French brandies like Cognac, Calvados and Armagnac.

New York Times: "The Trick to Great Pumpkin Pie," by Melissa Clark.
Melissa Clark presents another "wow" recipe that is simple and cant-wait-to-make delicious. This time it's "pumpkin" pie--I put it in quotation marks because it's made with butternut squash instead of pumpkin. There's also a little brandy, which is a great idea (perhaps suggested by one of the aforementioned bars).

Get in My Mouf: "Chipotle Pumpkin Cream Pie," by Evan Shaw.
My friend Evan who blogs over at Get in My Mouf shared another fantastic-sounding Thanksgiving recipe. This one is for pumpkin pie. The twist? It's spiced with chipotle chili powder and cayenne. It's also topped with whipped cream, making it spicy, sweet and rich. Sounds perfect.

Food & Wine: "Pumpkin Tiramisu," by Justin Chapple.
Yes, more pumpkin. If you're tired of pie, but still want to honor the great orange gourd, this tiramisu, layered with "silky" pumpkin mousse, sounds pretty great.

Wall Street Journal: "Ways to Make Fall Vegetables More Exciting," by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan.
It's the time of year for root vegetables, especially when it freezes, making them even sweeter. Although they are good roasted, there are lots of other ways to prepare them.

Just a Taste: "Cheesy Leftover Mashed Potato Muffins," by Kelly Senyei.
Everyone's talking about Thanksgiving right now. But then there's the day after to think about as well. Yes, the leftovers! Senyei's got a wonderful suggestion for leftover mashed potatoes: bake them into muffins with cheese and chives. Perfect for Friday morning.

NPR: "Tweet In The Holiday With Recipes On Twitter."
When I write recipes, I try to make the instructions simple and easy to follow, which means I try to explain the steps in a way that cooks of different skill levels can understand. Maureen Evans (aka @cookbook) takes a different approach: she writes all her recipes in just 140 characters--the length of a tweet. Take her recipe for cranberry sauce: "Cranberry Sauce: Simmr c h2o/cinnstick/3whlclove/cardamompod/strip lem&orange zest/2c cranberry to burst; +½c sug(+to taste). Yld 2c."

Imbibe Magazine, "The Brown Turkey," by Justin Chamberlin.
Rum, fig and sparkling wine are the key ingredients in this cocktail, which would make a great drink to have ready for Thanksgiving guests as they arrive.

Eater: "Cookbook Review: Sean Brock's Heritage," by Paula Forbes.
Sean Brock is a big name in Southern cuisine, so I expected a glowing review. But Forbes' write-up is not all glowing. Although she states the book is "stunning," and that most recipes she tried worked out well, she is critical of the book's tone and of a bold recipe she followed to a T that failed. Following the recent criticism of Gabrielle Hamilton's book (see the Nov. 5 Washington Post story), are chef-driven cookbooks becoming too indulgent?

Thrillist: "Mapping America's Most Popular Burger Chains," by Matt Lynch.
Lynch's map colorfully illustrates the regional popularity of certain burger chains, from In-N-Out in the Southwest to Five Guys around D.C. and the Northeast.

Serious Eats: "The Food Lab: Introducing Vegetables Wellington, the Plant-Based Vegan Roast Even Meat Eaters Will Want," by J. Kenji López-Alt.
Beef Wellington is one a favorite holiday dish in our house. Traditionally, it's roasted filet mignon encased in puff pastry and served with sauce. Breaking from tradition, López-Alt offers a vegan version made with vegetables. It sounds like a lot of work, but also really good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

10 Tips for Planning Thanksgiving Dinner

10 Tips for Planning Thanksgiving Dinner

I'll be honest. Pulling off Thanksgiving dinner isn't easy, nor can it be done "effortlessly" as some articles may promise. But it's also not impossible. With advance planning, you can pull off a Thanksgiving dinner efficiently, without breaking the bank, that's fun and memorable.

This year will be my 15th year in a row making the dinner for my husband and me. Around our table, we've had as few as two (just us!) and as many as six diners. So I'm generally used to making smaller Thanksgiving dinners. If you're doing something much larger, your experience will, no doubt, be different than mine. Over the years, I've learned a few things to make the experience go more smoothly. Here are my 10 tips for planning a successful Thanksgiving dinner a success.

1. Plan a general quantity of food and err on too much. First, how many are coming? That's going to dictate a lot of what follows. If you're having a smaller gathering (i.e. 4 or less), a turkey breast and a few sides will be enough food. Larger parties will call for more. It's hard to set standards when it comes to food quantities, since everyone eats differently (although, given that it's a holiday, expect people to eat more than usual) and there aren't standard sizes for most dishes, as they can all scale up or down. I say always err on making too much. That way, you'll produce leftovers, and isn't that a part of Thanksgiving too? Some general rules are 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. of turkey per person, a pie makes about 8 servings (all don't expect people to have only 1 serving, please) and a bottle of wine pours 5 glasses (and again, except for kids and designated drivers, there will be multiple glasses per person). Food network has a nice estimator for smaller parties (4 to 16 people); Dummies has a nice variety of tables scaled up to larger parties (25 or 50 people).

2. Account for your time, skill and resources. Now that you've estimated the amount of food you'll need, think about how you'll get it done. If you've only got the holiday itself to cook, you're not going to be able to do everything from scratch (unless, possibly, you're cooking for a very small party, but even then it's going to be a very hectic day). In such case, I would suggest buying the desserts, asking guests to bring salads, and focus mainly on the turkey and key sides (potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and a couple of vegetables). If you're able to also cook the day before, that gives you a whole lot of time to prepare some dishes in advance and being prepping others (desserts, cranberry sauce, brining the turkey, cutting up vegetables, etc.). Because Thanksgiving is on a Thursday, using the weekend before often isn't very helpful unless you have a lot of freezer space. If you're not someone who cooks a lot, Thanksgiving isn't the time to start. That's a recipe for major stress as well as potential accidents. It's fine to take shortcuts--everyone does. If you are a skilled cook, remember not to overdo it. You should get to enjoy this day too without collapsing. Finally, all this food doesn't come without cost. If you have a limited budget, consider that a lot of Thanksgiving dishes can be made simply with inexpensive ingredients, and guests are often willing to help out by bringing a dish or bottle of wine (if they bring a dish, consider asking them to bring something that doesn't require reheating in your oven, which is probably going to be tied up with the dishes you're trying to finish).

3. Consider guests' needs. Think about your guests' particular dietary needs or desires. Would they prefer something traditional or welcome experimentation? Are there vegetarians or vegans? Does anyone not eat something due to health, diet or religious reasons? While I don't think it's necessary to ensure that every person can enjoy every dish on the table, I do think it's important to not invite someone who will then end up eating very little because you didn't consider their needs. If you're not sure, ask. Potential hurdles: meat (including turkey and bacon), alcohol, nuts, anything diary (including butter) and bread or flour.

4. Decide on a centerpiece dish. Roasted turkey is the default, and I've offered several recipes for a brined style (such as mole or smoky maple) or herb-roasted turkey breasts. For those that aren't into turkey, a ham or brisket would also make a nice centerpiece. Although a vegetarian meal could be made by stringing together a bunch of sides, I still think it should include some sort of focus dish, like  Marinated Broiled Tempeh, a simple, flavorful dish.

5. Balance the side dishes. There are some dishes people will miss if they aren't there: mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing instantly come to mind. Biscuits are also very popular at our house. Add all that up and you have a lot of heavy carbs. I like to balance them out with plenty of vegetables, such as roasted sides (Brussels sprouts) or salads. The sides offer opportunity for variety and creativity. Did you make basic mashed potatoes last year? Maybe this year try them with roasted garlic, parmesan or fresh herbs. Give stuffing a new life with a theme such as Southwestern or Italian. If there are pecans in the stuffing, maybe choose a different nut to go with the green beans, like almonds. An abundance of color and flavor will make a more interesting meal.

6. Select the desserts. Pie is, of course, traditional. Pumpkin and apple (my favorite) in particular work very well, and pecan is another winner. But other dishes work too, like a pumpkin tart. It's nice to serve dessert with a little something extra like ice cream or whipped cream.

7. Choose your drinks. Pairing wine with Thanksgiving dinner is a little different than the usual game. Fruity, lower alcohol and less assertive choices generally work best. You might also consider having a cocktail mixed up and ready as guests arrive--it's a good way to distract them while you finish cooking. Also be sure to have nonalcoholic choices on hand for those who don't partake.

8. Evaluate your kitchen. Now that you have a menu, think about how you will produce that menu in your kitchen and make adjustments as necessary. If you have one small oven and planned a menu of mostly roasted dishes, you might be in trouble, since those dishes will all need time in the oven, possibly at drastically different temperature. (Dishes that call for roasting at a similar temperature can be made together--it's not essential that something roast at exactly 325 F, for example. It would be fine to cook it at 300 F for a little longer or 350 F a little shorter. Just be sure to watch them so they don't burn and make sure they cook through.) If you don't have a lot of freezer space, making a lot in advance might not be an option either. I try to plan the side dishes so that some are done on the stove and others in the oven. Vegetables usually roast at a higher temperature than meat, so I suggest roasting the vegetable dishes first (you can reheat them later), then lower the oven temperature to do the turkey and the stuffing together. Ovens cool off faster than they heat up. If you have two ovens, you can set them for different temperatures and cook the higher-temperature dishes together in one and the lower-temperatures together in the other other. Make other sides like mashed potatoes and green beans on the stove.

9. Create a schedule for your day(s). Make a list of all the things you're going to make. Then put them in a logical order, working around the turkey*, since it is the dish that will probably take the longest. Turkeys should rest a bit before serving, but you don't want them to get cold. During that resting period is when you'll probably be making the gravy (since it usually include the pan drippings), which doesn't take long. By the time the turkey is done, everything else should be done too. Allocate dishes that can be made in advance to the day before or the morning. My rough outline of cooking a meal that I serve at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving goes something like this:
  • Morning before: Prepare the brine and place the turkey in the brine, cook cranberry sauce, cook any homemade spreads (like bacon marmalade), make ice cream. Note: in the morning I do the work that doesn't require the oven.
  • Afternoon before: Bake cornbread for stuffing, assemble and bake pie(s), prep vegetables for cooking tomorrow (store in containers in the refrigerator). Note: here I use the oven and have designated a task I can do while other dishes are baking).
  • Morning of: Roast vegetable side(s) (allow to cool and refrigerate), cook stuffing meat and vegetables, assemble stuffing and bake (allow to cool and refrigerate).
  • Afternoon of: Roast the turkey, cook mashed potatoes, mix biscuit dough and bake biscuits, cook stove-top vegetable dish, reheat any roasted/baked dishes cooked in the morning, make gravy once turkey is done.
*Be sure to account for thawing the turkey if it has been frozen. For food safety, turkeys should be thawed in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. According to USDA, It takes 24 hours to thaw 4-5 pounds of turkey. So a 12-15 pound turkey will take at least 3 days to thaw (once thawed, the turkey is safe in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days). If you're brining a turkey, it needs to be thawed before you put it in the brine, so that adds another day.

10. Shop smartly. Go through your list of planned dishes and write down the ingredients you'll need to make them (see this post for tips on planning your shopping list). Some things can be bought in advance, liked canned goods and nuts, but vegetables, fruit and meat, which are all perishable, should probably be bought no earlier than the weekend before. Consider hitting the stores early in the morning to avoid crowds. If your neighborhood has a farmers market, that's also a great outlet for vegetables (I buy most of mine from New Morning Farm). And buying your vegetables at the market will mean a quicker trip to the busy grocery store.

Other stories

Thanksgiving Central (links to all recipes and stories)

7 Thanksgiving Shopping Tips

Monday, November 17, 2014

Old-Fashioned Texas Pecan Pie

Old-Fashioned Texas Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is a Thanksgiving staple, and the basic formula is pretty much the same in most recipes: combine eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter, vanilla extract and pecans. Place in pie crust and bake. So synonymous with pecan pie is Karo's corn syrup that a recipe for the pie appears on the bottle.

But while making pecan pie with corn syrup may be traditional, it isn't the original method. In Dan Jurafsky's The Language of Food (yes, back to that again, it's a great source for inspiration), he writes about regional differences in the pronunciation of "pecan" (basically whether you say it "pih-CON" like I do or "PEE-can" like many southerners do), and notes that the earliest recipes for pecan pie originated in Texas dating back to the late 19th century. They did not contain corn syrup, and were more like custard pies.



Jurafsky cites the recipe as appearing in the Ladies Home Journal. I tracked down the following slightly older recipe (apparently by the same author) that appeared in the Dallas Morning News, January 23, 1898 (courtesy of The Big Apple):

"Tiaga, Grayson Co., Tex., Jan. 21.—(To The News.)—Knowing that The News is strictly for Texas and for Texas enterprises, and thinking that it might be of interest to many Texas kitchen queens, I herewith inclose you a copy of the recipe for making what I have decided to call in honor of the great Lone Star state, “The Texas Pecan Pie.” 

Having never seen it in any paper or cook book I have read, and failing to find any one who had ever eaten it, I feel justified in claiming to be its originator and the right to christen it. 

It is a most delicious pie—an instant favorite with all who have eaten it at my table. It is my desire that it may be added to the long list of delicacies Texas cooks are so greatly noted for preparing, and I want every lady to test its merits and I will be glad if they let me know of their success or failure in making it. 

The Texas pecan pie—One cup sugar, one cup sweet milk, one-half cup pecan kernels chopped fine, three eggs, one tablespoonful flour. When cooked spread the well-beaten whites of two eggs on the top, brown and sprinkle a few of the chopped kernels over it. Above is for one pie. 
MRS. MATT BRADLEY." 



Like a lot of old recipes, it's not particularly easy to follow, especially for the un-initiated. There's no hint as to how long to bake it or at what temperature (I guess back then, home cooked were considered more skilled and show know such things). Thankfully, the A Book of Cookrye blog has translated this recipe for the modern age. She had omitted the meringue topping, which I have decided to add back. I've also included a pie crust recipe, courtesy of America's Test Kitchen.

If you make this for Thanksgiving, I suggest making it the day of, since the meringue isn't quite as perky on day two (although it still tastes really good).





Old-Fashioned Texas Pecan Pie
Inspired by Mrs. Matt Bradley's 1898 recipe for Texas Pecan Pie as adapted by A Book of Cookrye, with pie crust and meringue adapted from America's Test Kitchen recipes

Pie crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, cold
4-5 tbsp. ice water

Pie filling:

1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Meringue:

1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/3 cup water
4 large egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Pie crust:

1. Add flour, sugar and salt to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to combine. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and scatter across the flour. Pulse for 10 to 15 seconds until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

2. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and sprinkle with 3 tbsp. of ice water. With a folding motion, use a rubber spatula to mix the ice water with the flour mixture, pressing with the spatula until the dough sticks together. If the dough does not come together, add additional ice water in 1-tsp. increments until it does. Shape the dough into a flattened disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour (up to 2 days).

3. Place the chilled dough on a floured rolling surface and roll the dough out to a 13-inch diameter. Carefully transfer the rolled dough to a pie plate, pressing the dough into the corners. Trim away the edges of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then fold that overhang under so the folded edge is flush with the top rim of the pan. If desired, flute the edge of the dough, then chill the dough again until firm, about 1 hour.

4. Preheat oven to 400 F with oven rack in the center. Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator. Prick the bottom of the dough a few times with a fork (this is to allow air to escape to prevent the dough from puffing up). Bake the crust for 20-25 minutes until it is lightly browned. Look at it every 5 minutes and gently press down the bottom with an oven mitt if it puffs up. Remove from oven and set aside.

Pie filling:

5. Preheat oven to 350 F.

6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour, then whisk in the milk and eggs until well mixed. Stir in the pecans. Transfer to a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon and reaches a temperature of 160 F to 170 F.

Meringue:

7. Combine cornstarch and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally. When the mixture starts to simmer and turns translucent, remove from the heat. Let cool.

8. Using a stand mixer with the whip attachment or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites and vanilla until frothy. Combine the sugar and cream of tartar and beat into the egg white 1 tbsp. at a time until all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture forms soft peaks. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue beating until the mixture forms stiff peaks.

Assemble:

9. Pour the pecan mixture into the pie shell. Using a spatula, spread the meringue over the mixture, being sure to seal the edges of the meringue against the top of the pie crust. Using a spoon to create little peaks all over the meringue. Bake the pie until the meringue is golden brown and jiggles only lightly, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool. Serve immediately (meringue pies are best the day they are baked).

Other Recipes

Thanksgiving Central (all Thanksgiving recipes)

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

Apple Custard Pie with Gingersnap Crust

Apple Pie with Vodka Crust

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Fennel

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausage and Fennel

A common question this time of year: What's the difference between "stuffing" and "dressing"?

The simple answer is that "stuffing" is literally stuffed inside the turkey. The same dish prepared in its own roasting pan is considered "dressing."

The more complicated answer is that it depends on the preference of the speaker.


Earlier this year, I wrote a series of articles on language and food, including a review of the book The Language of Food by Dan Jurafsky. I've also have the pleasure of working with a linguistics student for the past few months. So I've thought more than usual lately about language. And that includes the so-called "rules" of language that we are supposed to adhere to but often break--generally because other people break them. Once the rule-breaking reaches a tipping point, the rule is pretty much worthless.



And that seems to be the case with "stuffing." Those adhering to a strict definition of the word will say you shouldn't use it for a bread-and-vegetable mixture that was baked outside of the bird. Others, including me, like the term for this dish no matter what. To me, "dressing" evokes salad dressing, which this definitely is not. It could be the influence of the Kraft Stove Top people, who market a "stuffing" food product that is easily enjoyed without preparing it inside a bird. Furthermore, I've read that in the South, they call either version "dressing." So the distinction just isn't that meaningful.

Thus, hence fore, if you prefer to call a savory baked Thanksgiving mixture of vegetables, bread, herbs, broth and other flavorings "stuffing," then you're a-okay in my book.


Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Fennel
Adapted from a recipe by Tim Mondavi for Bon Appétit

8 cups of 1/2 cubes of cornbread (see recipe below)
1 lb. breakfast sausage (casings removed if using links)
10 tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the baking dish
1 fennel bulb, diced, plus fronds for garnishing
4 celery stalks, diced
8 scallions, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bosc pears, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh marjoram
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. chopped fresh sage leaves (note: the original recipe called for 1 tsp. dried leaves)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 300 F. Dive cornbread cubes between two rimmed baking sheets. Baking for 40 to 45 minutes, tossing occasionally until the bread cubes dry out and begin to brown in spots. Set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage until well browned, breaking up with a spoon as it cooks. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate.

3. Reduce heat under the skillet to medium and add 8 tbsp. of the butter (that's a whole stick, FYI). Add the fennel, celery, scallions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the pears and red wine, then increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

4. Heat the oven to 400 F. Grease a 9 X 13 baking dish with butter. In a large bowl, combine the cooked sausage, sautéed vegetable mixture, fresh herbs, 1 1/2 cups of broth and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cornbread cubes and toss to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes to soak up the broth, then add the remaining 1/2 cup of broth and beaten eggs and toss to combine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and dot with the remaining 2 tbsp. of butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20 to 30 minutes until the top of the stuffing is lightly browned. Scatter the reserved fennel fronds on top and serve.



Easy Cornbread
Adapted from a recipe by Tim Mondavi for Bon Appétit

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups cornmeal
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the baking dish

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a square 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 baking dish.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda and whisk to combine. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk and milk and whisk together, then whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined (the batter will be a bit lumpy). Stir in the 3 tbsp. of melted butter. Pour the batter into the baking dish. Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then run a knife around the edges of the cornbread and remove from the pan; transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Other Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving Central (all Thanksgiving recipes)

Southwestern Cornbread Stuffing

Corny Corn Bread

Asian Grain Stuffing

Rye Bread Stuffing

Italian Stuffing

Classic 11-Ingredient Stuffing

Oregon Stuffing