Friday, November 30, 2012

Pork Chops with Maple-Peppercorn Glaze



Pork chops and applesauce are a classic comfort-food combination. This is the time of year for it too, which good apples available and the chill in the air calling for deep, savory flavors. 

This dish is adapted from two recipes. For cooking the chops, I’ve long relied on The Washington Post’s 1+1+4+4 recipe, which was published in 2003. It calls for thick boneless chops to be seared in a hot pan for 1 minute on each side, then covered and cooked low heat for 4 minute each side. Note that this recipe was written before the USDA lowered the safe cooking temperature of pork, so if you want something a little less done, perhaps try 1+1+3+4 or 1+1+3+3. 

For the glaze, I turned to a recipe from the Eggs on Sunday blog. I wanted a glaze with maple and peppercorn, plus some vinegar to cut the sweetness. This produces a quick pan glaze with a nice rounded flavor.

Served alongside some simply dressed greens and homemade applesauce, this makes a great weeknight dinner.

Pork Chops with Maple-Peppercorn Glaze
Adapted from 1+1+4+4 Pork Chops, The Washington Post, and Maple Black-Pepper Pork Chops, Eggs on Sunday

Serves 2

2 tbsp. canola oil
2 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
Seasoned salt
2 tbsp. minced red onion
2 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 tbsp. fresh thyme)
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

1. Heat canola oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Pat chops dry with paper towel and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Fry in pan for 1 minute, turn over and fry another 1 minute. Turn chops, lower heat to low, cover pan and cook for 4 minutes. Turn chops and cook another 4 minutes (this is for well done, reduce cooking time to 8 or 9 minutes total for medium chops). Set chops aside, leaving drippings and fond in pan.

2. Increase heat under pan to medium. Add onion and thyme and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar to deglaze pan, scraping pan with a spatula. Cook about a minute and then add the syrup and pepper. Continue cooking until the mixture has reduced by about half and thickened. Remove from heat and serve spooned over the cooked chops.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cocktail: Apple Pie a la Glass


My Bobby Dallas cocktail was originally an apple pie dessert martini. Apple pie is a great place to get inspiration for a cocktail. It's fruit and spice at its core with a bit of tang, a bit of char and a lot of sweet.

This drink also draws inspiration from the dessert, but is totally different from the Bobby. I used two Apple-based spirits: the Apple-flavored brandy, Applejack, and German Berentzen Apfelkorn, an apple-flavored liqueur.

For spice, I used the Italian liqueur Galliano, which is flavored with a mix of spices including vanilla, star anise, ginger, juniper and citrus (sounds like a good partner for gin, doesn't it?).

Melding these together is Flor de Caña dark rum, which seemed like the appropriate base spirit, since it's distilled from sugar cane molasses. Not that I put molasses in a pie, but the burnt sugar taste seems spot on.

Apple Pie a la Glass

1/2 oz. dark rum (Flor de Caña Grand Reserve)
1/2 oz. Laird's Applejack
1/2 oz. apple liqueur (Berentzen Apfelkorn)
1/4 oz. Galliano liqueur
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice (juice from 1/4 lemon)
2 oz. ginger beer (Gosling's)
Lemon peel (optional garnish)

Combine rum, Applejack, apple liqueur, Galliano liqueur and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until cold. Pour into rocks glass with ice. Add ginger beer and stir to combine. Garnish with lemon peel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Food (Section) Fight!: Week 47


Food (Section) Fight! is my weekly look at The Washington Post's Food section and The New York Times' Dining section with my verdict on which section had the better content for the week.

Washington Post

1) “Is this any way to treat an Asian pear?,” The Process by David Hagedorn. Asian pears aren’t a fruit I’ve ever given much thought to. Thanks to David Hagedorn, I learned quite a bit about them this morning, including that they are much firmer than other pears, crunchy even, and no matter how many times he tries, Hagedorn discovered that they aren’t suitable for a gratin (too watery). I’m intrigued by the Thai Skirt Steak Salad with Asparagus and Asian Pears.

2) “Cornmeal Waffles with Cheddar, Chipotle and Scallions,” Dinner in Minutes by Bonnie S. Benwick. Benwick took an exciting direction with Dinner in Minutes today, delivering a southwestern “breakfast for dinner” entrée that sounds like a delicious combination of smoky and savory.

3) “Squirrel: It’s all gravy to Romney,” by Whitney Pipkin. Before you get too excited, realize that the story isn’t about Governor Romney’s desire to feast on rodents. Romney in this case is Romney, West Virginia, home of the Squirrel Fest buffet where, yes, they eat squirrels. Apparently raccoons as well. While this may play like the Food section equivalent of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” it is nonetheless interesting from a cultural perspective and not all that weird when you think about it as as good source of lean protein.

4) “Five fresh ways to use the nut of the moment,” by Jane Touzalin. The pecan is probably my favorite nut, so I’m down with Touzalin’s varied set of recipes, which include Frozen Fruit Salad and Fig and Pecan Tapenade with Goat Cheese.

New York Times

1) “Fighting to Save the Flavor of New York,” by Jeff Gordinier. It’s clear that recovery from Hurricane Sandy will be a lingering challenge for New York for some time. Pete Wells has already written about the storm’s effects on the small business culinary gems of lower Manhattan. Gordinier’s story focuses on a different type of restaurant threatened by Sandy: historic Brooklyn landmarks, including the Coney Island pizzeria Totonno’s, founded in 1924 by Anthony Pero, the man many credit with bringing pizza to the U.S., and Nathan’s, the famous boardwalk hot dog stand. There is hope that these storm-damaged landmarks will reopen, as their loss would represent not just a major blow to the community but to the city’s food history.

2) “Who Needs and Oven? Just Bury the Beans,” by John Willoughby. Ever heard of a bean hole? No, it’s not your mouth stuffed with black beans, but rather a pit in your backyard in which you bury hot rocks with a pot of beans to slow roast for 8 hours or so. Willoughby, along with Chef Chris Schlesinger, explore the old-fashioned technique, offering up three great bean recipes that are adaptable to an oven if you lack a backyard or don’t want to rip up the lawn.

3) “The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Brussels Sprouts,” A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark. Pasta, bacon and Brussels sprouts…I’m sold. It’s a great combination, one Clark says has replaced pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe as the noodle dish du jour. I offered up my own pasta and sprouts dish back in February (homemade Orecchiette with Roasted Brussels Sprouts).

4) “Cold-Proof Your Salad,” How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Bittman dives into season root vegetables, serving up Braised Turnips and Radishes and Beets Baked in Foil. He writes not just about the roots but their greens too. I didn’t realize, for example, that chard is beet greens.

Verdict

The New York Times. I labored over this decision. It was a very close week. I almost called a tie, but have vowed I won’t do that with only a few weeks remaining in this competition. Yes, that’s right. At the end of the year, there will be a winner. And the score is very close. Credit Jeff Gordinier’s moving look at landmark Brooklyn restaurants threatened by Hurricane Sandy as the deciding factor this week.

Score

The Washington Post: 24
The New York Times: 22


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Homemade Applesauce



My mom sometimes says she’s not a good cook, but she’s wrong. She was the first person I learned cooking from and her influence remains in many of my dishes.

One of the most important things she taught me was the love for homemade foods. When I was a child, we never ate spaghetti from a can, macaroni from a box or applesauce from a jar.

Of those three things, applesauce is by far the easiest. Homemade applesauce is vastly superior to the supermarket puree, which generally contains no spices. When you make it yourself, you can use any apple and enhance its flavor with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove and a touch of lemon juice.

I like to start with pretty tart apples, usually Granny Smith for applesauce and leave it pretty chunky. It’s the perfect accompaniment to pork chops and also goes great over vanilla ice cream.

Applesauce


4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground clove
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Combine apples, water, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until apples are very soft and falling apart, about 15 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wiseguy NY Pizza Now Open in D.C.


I may still be reeling from the loss of my favorite home-delivery pizza, but I may have found a new favorite for-lunch pizza: Wiseguy NY, which opened recently.

On my first trip, I ordered a slice of the Margherita, the simple classic of tomato sauce, fresh basil and mozzarella. If every other pizza they offer is as good as this, I'll be quickly hooked. The flavors are all spot on and harmonize perfectly: the sharp fresh basil, the warm embrace of the tomato, the soft mozzarella, all on a thin crust that's as pleasingly limp in the middle as it is crisp at the edge. 

The garlic knobs are good too--tasting as they should of garlic and olive oil with their fluffy bread browned to a delicious oily crunch at the edge.

Wiseguy was closed today (and tomorrow) to expand its kitchen to meet the unexpected demand for their food. I'm not surprised. The closest similar outlet, Fuel Pizza, is fine but underwhelming. This is better.

Wiseguy NY Pizza. 300 Massachusetts Avenue NW (at 4th Street), Washington, D.C. (Mount Vernon Triangle/Chinatown).

Wiseguy NY Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Smithsonian's FOOD Exhibit Educates and Entertains



 Canola oil is the third most widely consumed vegetable oil in the world, but wasn’t widely commercially available until the ‘90s, following the development of genetic modifications that made it suitable for human consumption. That’s just one of the fun facts I learned at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s new exhibit Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000, which opened last week and runs indefinitely.

T.V. dinners (left) and microwave technology (right) made home cooking faster and more convenient but not necessarily tastier or more nutritious.

Although smaller than last year’s National Archives exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?,” I liked this exhibit better because of its broader scope and focus on the influences that have led to the evolution of American eating habits, which continue to change as new trends inform taste and our thinking about nutrition.
The divided McDLT packaging may have kept the “hot side hot,” but its polystyrene material wasn’t so hot for the environment.

The exhibit begins with the post-war era, a time when industrialization, suburbanization and scientific innovations led to great changes in how and what Americans ate, notably the introduction of convenience foods (think T.V. dinners and snacks like Fritos) and new technologies like the microwave oven. Food was plentiful, increasingly easy to make and affordable. Whether it was delicious was another story.


Large grocery stores were an important innovation at that time, allowing consumers to get all their food from one place. Along with those stores came the “telescoping” grocery shopping cart, the kind of carts we know today that stack together in a row, usually lined up by the doors as you enter. It’s amazing how small the original carts where, which the exhibit juxtaposes against the much larger modern warehouse-style cart.

A prominent section on the American wine industry reminds visitors that until the late ‘70s, American wines were not held in as high regard as those from Europe. The famous 1976 “Judgment of Paris” wine competition, in which American Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars' Cabernet Sauvignon and Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay beat their European competitors was a turning point for the global prominence of American wine (a story nicely told in the 2008 film Bottle Shock). Although in 1950 fewer than half the states had wine operations, today wine is grown in every state.

Other notable sections of the exhibit include displays on ‘60s counterculture’s contribution to food, Alice Waters and Chez Panisse’s influence on organic and local movements and the growing contribution of ethnic foods, with Mexican getting a nice display that include tortilla makers and a margarita machine. A table in the middle of the exhibit allows visitors to rest a bit while perusing various historic nutrition models like the “food pyramid,” along side some examples of similar schemes from other countries.

Julia Child donated the complete contents of her home kitchen to the Smithsonian in 2001.

Julia Child’s kitchen stands at the entrance and exit to the exhibit, which is the perfect metaphor for American cooking from 1950 to 2000, since she’s been influential almost that entire time from the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961 up through her death a few years ago and the film Julie & Julia.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Larry Hagman (1931-2012)

Actor Larry Hagman died yesterday in Dallas, where he had been busy filming the second season of the reboot of the classic primetime soap named for that city.

Normally, you wouldn’t find mention of such an incident on a food blog, but “Dallas” has a special status in our home, particularly for my husband, who writes Dallas Decoder. I didn’t watch the show as a child, but through Chris I’ve been sucked into the drama and love it too.

Although Dallas is an ensemble show, Larry was the heart that beat at its center. He created one of T.V.’s most iconic villians, J.R. Ewing, the man viewers loved to hate but also (perhaps silently) root for.

This last summer, Hagman masterfully reprised the role of J.R. when “Dallas” began its new life on TNT. As despised as J.R. was onscreen, Larry was well-liked by his actor colleagues. In particular, he became lifelong friends with original “Dallas” stars Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, who also worked with Hagman on the new series. They were reportedly by his side when he died.

In collaboration with Dallas Decoder, last summer I created a line of custom cocktails for each “Dallas” character, including J.R. Fittingly, J.R.’s drink was special, named “The J.R. Shot” to also tip the hat to his best-known storyline from the original series, the season 3/season 4 cliffhanger story arc “Who Shot J.R.?”

Today, Cook In / Dine Out raises a glass in memory of Larry Hagman with sincere sympathy for his family, friends and fans.





Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers Pizza


I get excited about Thanksgiving dinner, but like a lot of people I also get excited for the leftovers. I don’t know why. Not everything improves with time. It’s just the idea of all those tasty dishes waiting to be revisited that’s thrilling.

But let’s be honest. Thanksgiving leftovers are most exciting on Friday. But Sunday they are...not such much. A little planning ahead, however, can save Thanksgiving leftovers from monotony by repurposing them into new dishes.


In Sunday’s Washington Post Food section, there was an article with ideas about how to repurpose Thanksgiving leftovers into new dishes like Turkey and Squash Ravioli in Brown Butter-Sage Sauce and Savory Turkey and Mushroom Bread Pudding. Each of these combine a few leftovers with other ingredients to make a new dish, lending renewed life to ingredients like leftover turkey, squash and stuffing.

As I was telling Chris about this story, I had a sudden brainstorm for my own repurposed leftovers dish: pizza. It was perfect. Turning Thanksgiving leftovers in pizza toppings works great. The flavors are already tailor-made to work together.


After days of intensive cooking, you’ll be forgiven for using store-bought pizza dough if you don’t feel like mixing up your own. However, I do recommend roasting and pureeing your own squash if there are no squash leftovers on hand. Just 40-50 minutes in the oven at 400 F and you’ll have nicely browned squash to scoop out into the food processor with a few tablespoons of water and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until it has a smooth consistency akin to the tomato puree you’d normally put on pizza. Butternut squash is actually a rather effective substitute for tomato sauce. I use it in lasagna sometimes and it’s delicious. I also once put it in meat loaf.


Thanksgiving Leftovers Pizza

Pizza dough for two 12-inch pizzas
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup roasted butternut squash puree
1 lb. mozzarella cheese (whole milk or part skim), shredded
1 cup chopped roasted turkey
1 cup leftover bread stuffing
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 F with racks positioned just above and below middle position.

2. Roll out (or open package of premade) pizza dough for two 12-inch round pizzas. Place dough on separate baking sheets. Use a spatula to smooth half the squash puree in an even layer on each pizza. Set aside about 1/4 of cheese and spread the rest evenly over the squash puree. Then add the chopped turkey, stuffing crumbles, dried cranberries and sage. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and salt and pepper.

3. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted, the toppings are lightly browned and the crust is browned, about 12-15 minutes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Menu, 2012


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Appetizer:
Corn crackers with apple butter and brie (my post)

Cocktail:
Hot butternut rum (my post)

Main course:
Roasted brined turkey breast with turkey gravy (my post, gravy adapted from America's Test Kitchen recipe)
Marinated broiled tempeh with mushroom gravy (my post, recipe)
Cornbread, sausage and pecan dressing (Bon Appetit recipe)
Cornbread and pecan dressing with herbs and dried cranberries (Adapted from Bon Appetit recipe by substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth and dried cranberries for sausage)
Classic mashed potatoes (America's Test Kitchen recipe)
Roasted Brussels sprouts (Cook's Illustrated recipe)
Roasted parsnip-quinoa salad with shallot-lemon dressing (my post)
Cranberry sauce (my post)

Dessert:
Apple pie with vodka crust (my post)
Pumpkin pie bread pudding (Food & Wine recipe)
Cinnamon-caramel ice cream

Wines (my post):
2009 WillaKenzie - Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Pierre Leon
2010 Marietta - Zinfandel Sonoma County
2010 Jean-Marc Crochet - Sancerre Chêne Marchand


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Food (Section) Fight! Week 46

Food (Section) Fight! is my weekly look at The Washington Post's Food section and The New York Times' Dining section with my verdict on which section had the better content for the week.


New York Times

1) “Opting Out with Carbonara,” by Ian Fisher. At its heart, pasta carbonara is spaghetti with bacon, egg yolk, cheese and pepper. It’s simple, rich, delicious and, as Fisher found, a pasta with an interesting past: an Italian dish with American influence subject to much debate over exactly where it came from. It’s also one with a lot of variation, including some controversy over whether it should include cream (reminds me of the debate over beans in chili). I recently tried my hand at a lighter version of this dish with corn, which must surely anger the purists. The article included a simple Spaghetti Carbonara recipe and a more complicated Spaghetti Friuliano from Locanda Verde.

2) “A Dish for Pilgrim or Maharajah,” City Kitchen by David Tanis. The Times’ story on what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers is rather original: make Turkey Biryani, a take on the traditional Indian rice dish with a fried garnish of cashews and raisins. Really, the only leftover ingredient is turkey (and the turkey stock if you have the bones to make it). Otherwise, this requires a lot of additional ingredients, but it sounds tasty.

3) “Going All In On Thanksgiving,” by Jeff Gordinier. I find I have my work cut out for me making Thanksgiving dinner for six. Linda Horgan of Long Island is hosting 39 this year. Gordinier’s feature explores how she does it. Obviously she’s very well organized.

4) “There’s One Thing You Left Out,” The Pour by Eric Asimov. The Times had an extensive Thanksgiving wine column last week. This week, Asimov returns for a second helping, this time focusing on how to find a good pairing at the last minute. His recommendations include Beaujolais, Macon-Villages, Zinfandel and Riesling.

5) “Breakfast Muffins to Replace the Turkey Hash,” A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark. Butternut-Squash Oat Muffins with Candied Ginger, when served alongside yogurt and fruit are what Clark describes as “breakfast along the lines of what might be served at a fancy bed-and-breakfast, the one where maybe you wish your guests were staying.” Man, I’m glad I don’t host overnight guests for Thanksgiving. If I did all that work for the holiday meal--and then had to entertain and cook for several more days--I think I’d lose it.

Washington Post

Father-son mojo,” The Immigrant’s Table by Tim Carman. Now this sounds like a household that really knows how to celebrate Thanksgiving. Bayou Bakery Chef David Guas and his Cuba-born father Mariano Guas have a long family tradition of cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal on the day itself and, a few days later, preparing a feast of Cuban dishes to celebrate that heritage. Carman’s story weaves Guas family history with a selection of mouth-watering recipes, including a garlic-stuffed Cuban Roast Pork and Fried Sweet Plantains.

Wine exhibit pairs nicely with Smithsonian’s food display,” Wine by Dave McIntyre. Local food enthusiasts are no doubt excited by next week’s opening of the Smithsonian American History Museum’s exhibit “Food: Transforming America's Table, 1950-2000.” I attended a preview of the exhibit a few weeks ago, and it’s definitely going to be interesting. McIntyre gives a flavor of the exhibit’s wine displays, along with some additional Thanksgiving wine recommendations.

After dinner, splurge with one more indulgence,” Spirits by Jason Wilson. Wilson makes a strong case for splurging on an unusual spirit this holiday season, with suggestions such as Green Chartreuse, Anejo Tequila and Calvados. He also describes the splurgy-worthy $150 Stinger he drank recently at the Experimental Cocktail Club, made with green Imperium crème de menthe. 

Broken Spaghetti with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Onions,” Nourish recipe by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick. Pairing Brussels Sprouts with pasta is an interesting idea, and I can certainly get on board with the caramelized onion. If I make this, and I just might, a little bacon would make it even better.

Don’t just reheat your surplus, rethink it,” by Terri Pischoff Wuerthner. Wuerthner rightly points out that Thanksgiving leftovers can lose their luster after a couple days, and offers up ways to repurpose them into new dishes. With some additional ingredients, turkey and stuffing turn into Savory Turkey and Mushroom Bread Pudding, and mashed sweet potatoes and chicken stock transform into Creamy Sweet Potato Soup with Crispy Leeks.

Verdict

The New York Times. Tough to call this one, as both sections had good stories but neither really stood out for me this week. Since the carbonara story was my single favorite of the group, I'm giving the win to the Times.

Score

The Washington Post: 24
The New York Times: 21

Thanksgiving 2012 Quick Reference


Here's a quick reference rundown of all this year's Thanksgiving content:

Recipes:

Roasted Brined Turkey Breast - A wet brine seasoned with herbs and spices gives white turkey meat amazing flavor with this recipe adapted from Bon Appetit magazine.

Oregon-Themed Stuffing - An original recipe stuffing that evokes the Beaver State with hazelnuts, apples, dried blueberries and microbrewery beer

Italian Stuffing - An Italian spin on the traditional dish featuring pancetta, fennel and pine nuts.

Roasted Parsnip and Quinoa Salad with Pistachios, Dried Cranberries and Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette - I'm particularly excited about this original recipe, which brings the popular grain to the Thanksgiving table paired with an under-appreciated root vegetable.

Green Beans with Bacon, Blue Cheese, Pecans and Dried Cranberries - Fresh green beans get a flavor boost with a range of add-ins

Broiled Marinated Tempeh - A simple, Asian-inspired vegetarian entree.

Honey-Ginger Glazed Carrots - Multi-color carrots get a flavor boost from honey and ginger.

Apple, Manchego and Pecan Salad - This simple green salad adds a light pit stop to the often heavy fare of Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Sauce - After you've tried this simple recipe, you'll never reach for the can again.

Corn Crackers with Brie and Apple Butter - Freeze-dried corn gives this appetizer intense corn flavor that pairs well with a variety of potential spreads.

Apple Pie with Vodka Crust - The ingenious cooks at America's Test Kitchen perfect the pie crust with this recipe.

Hot Butternut Rum - Kick off the meal with this fiery and playful rum drink made with Todd Thrasher's recipe for butternut squash base.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Pizza - Give leftover turkey, stuffing and squash new life by using them as toppings on pizza.

Other Stories:

Introduction - My short essay about Thanksgiving cooking

Thanksgiving Wines - This year's selections include Oregon Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Sancerre.

Grocery Shopping Tips - Ideas to help make the most of your time at the store and buy ingredients strategically

Thanksgiving Menu 2012 - This is what I served for dinner this year, with links to posts and recipes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Broiled Marinated Tempeh

Tempeh pictured at left with vegetarian corn bread stuffing

I have a vegetarian friend who often comes to Thanksgiving dinner. Although I’m not vegetarian, I respect her choices and, in my quest to be a gracious host, I want her to feel she’s eating a meal as special as what my other guests are enjoying.

I could just point her to the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, but depriving her of an equivalent to turkey, gravy and stuffing--the centerpieces of the meal--would make me feel I wasn’t doing my job as host. So I set aside a small amount of the stuffing ingredients before adding sausage and chicken stock and use vegetable stock instead. And I make a non-turkey gravy (usually caramelized onion or mushroom).

Substituting the turkey is a little trickier. I don’t have room in the oven for a “tofurkey,” and besides, no one else would want it. A few weeks ago I tested a roasted stuffed squash, but I wasn’t pleased with the results.

The dish I’ve turned to for years, which she claims to really like, is Broiled Marinated Tempeh. Tempeh is a type of fermented soy cake. The product available at Giant, Lightlife Three Grain Organic Tempeh, also has brown rice, barley and millet. It’s an 8 oz. cake, which is two servings. So in the grand Thanksgiving tradition, it’s enough for her to have a leftover serving.

The recipe I use is quite flexible and encourages you to experiment with flavors. Since tempeh originated in southeast Asia, with a little thought about seasoning, you could steer this more toward India, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia or whatever. I make mine fairly generically Asian.

Broiled Marinated Tempeh
Adapted from Basic Oven-Baked Marinated Tempeh from Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon

2 tbsp. soy sauce (I use tamari, a concentrated soy sauce)
1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 oz. tempeh cake, cut in half
Canola oil

Other flavors suggested by the original recipe:
1 tsp. pickapeppa, 1-2 tsp. fresh grated ginger, 1/4-1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper, 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1 tbsp. ketchup or tomato paste (the recipe suggests using any combination of flavors, up to three)

1. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, honey, sesame oil and red pepper flakes in a wide shallow dish appropriate for marinating the tempeh (I like to use a 5 X 8 sealable plastic container). Place the cakes in the marinade and turn over to coat both sides. Marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes to an hour or longer in the refrigerators (up to 2 days), turning occasionally.

2. Preheat oven to 375 F.

3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (optional, but easier to clean) and spray or brush with canola oil. Place tempeh pieces on baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Flip the cakes over and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with gravy or other flavorful sauce.

2. Fifteen minutes before you are ready to cook the tempeh, preheat the oven to 375°F.

3. Place the marinated tempeh pieces on a nonstick baking sheet or one that has been sprayed with cooking spray, allowing plenty of air space between chunks. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, then flip the pieces over and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and use as desired.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Corn Crackers with Brie and Apple Butter


For my Thanksgiving dinner appetizer, I like to shoot for something memorable and fun. Two years ago, I served "pumpkin three ways": pumpkin hummus, toasted pumpkin seeds and a pumpkin pie martini.

This year, since I've had a lot fun with the Just Tomatoes freeze-dried corn (see corn cookies and corn bread), I decided to try my hand at corn crackers. I substituted half the corn meal in the recipe I found with ground freeze-dried corn. Just grind the just tomatoes corn in the food processor until it's a fine powder.

I served the crackers with brie and apple butter. All three together are quite tasty. A spicy jalapeño jelly would be good with these crackers too.

Corn Crackers
Adapted from Take a Megabite

1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup ground freeze-dried corn

1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup boiling water
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. grated parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 325 F.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients through baking powder. Pour boiling water over this mixture and stir to combine. Add egg, butter and parmesan and stir until the butter has melted.

3. Spread batter in a thin even layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake for about 25-35 minutes until firm throughout and darkening on the edges (note: I wanted mine crispy, so I baked them quite a bit longer, about 45 to 50 minutes total. If you do this, watch them carefully to prevent burning. Even then, some were still more chewy than crunchy, but they tasted good).

4. Allow to cool and then break into cracker-size pieces. Serve on a platter with apple butter and brie.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Apple Pie with Vodka Crust

Apple pie with vodka crust


Vodka crust?! Have you lost your mind?!

That's surely what some of you are thinking. But stay with me here. This comes approved from the good folks at America's Test Kitchen, the premiere destination for home cooks with a desire for scientifically perfected recipes.

This was one of the dishes Christopher Kimball spoke about at a recent event unveiling the test kitchen's new cookbook: The Science of Good Cooking. I'd seen their vodka pie crust recipe before, but hadn't thought about trying it.


Granny smith and honeycrisp apples
I use a mix of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples for my pie

Kimball's explanation for why it works convinced me. Water, when mixed with flour, promotes the formation of gluten, the protein that makes bread products chewy. While that might be nice in a pizza crust or a baguette, chewy isn't really what we're looking for with pie crust. We want something flaky. That's where the vodka comes in: replacing some of the water with vodka, which is generally 40 percent alcohol, inhibits gluten formation. And, as the crust bakes, it also evaporates faster. The result is a flakier crust with no vodka aftertaste (really). If you don't take my word for it, read America's Test Kitchen's explanation here.


Filling pie crust with apples
A pie will hold a lot of apples; ATK recommends using 4 pounds. Mound the cut apples in the middle of the pie.

This crust recipe is pretty easy too. I've been making it sans vodka for years. It comes together in the food processor, so there's no need for a pastry blender. The only major deviation I make to ATK's recipe, is that I make mine with all butter, rather than a butter/shortening mix. I find I like the flavor better and the butter crust handles just fine for me.

Apple Pie with Vodka Crust
Adapted from Foolproof Pie Dough and Classic Apple Pie

Vodka Pie Crust:

12 1/2 oz. all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 tsp. table salt
2 tbsp. sugar
20 tbsp. cold unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup chilled vodka
1/4 cup very cold water

Pie Filling:

(Note: I like Granny Smith and Honeycrisp, since they are firm apples that give a nice tart/sweet combination of flavors. They are also widely available at supermarkets. Feel free to use other apples. America's Test Kitchen's recipe calls for a mix of Granny Smith and McIntosh, but also encourages the use of other seasonal apples, such as Macoun, Royal Gala, Empire or Cortland. Also, the original recipe calls for brushing the pie crust with egg white. This gives it a nice sheen, but I skip this step, preferring to see the nice flaky browned crust.)

2 lbs. Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium apples)
2 lbs. Honeycrisp apples (about 4 medium apples)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (original recipe calls for 1/4 tsp, but I love cinnamon, so I use more)
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg (not in the original recipe, but I like a little in my pie)
Cinnamon-sugar, for topping

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar in a food processor, about two 1-second pulses. Scatter butter over dry mixture and process until the dough starts to collect in uneven clumps, resembling cottage cheese with no uncoated flour, about 15 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl with rubber or silicone spatula and redistribute dough evenly around the blade. Add remaining cup of flour and give 4 to 6 quick pulses until dough is evenly distributed and the mass of dough has been broken up. Empty mixture into bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over dough mixture. With the spatula, combine the liquid with the dough using a folding motion, pressing down on dough until it sticks together (use your hands a little if needed, but be careful not to overwork the dough). Divide dough into two pieces, roll into balls and flatten slightly to form thick 4-inch discs. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 45 minutes, up to 2 days.

3. Preheat oven to 425 F with oven rack in center position. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to warm slightly if still and very cold. On a floured surface, roll out the first disc to a circle with an even thickness and 12-inch diameter. Gently fold dough into quarters, lay in 9-inch pie plate and unfold so that dough has an even overhang around the rim of the pie plate. Refrigerate while preparing the apples.

4. Peel, core and chop the apples into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices. Put in a large bowl and toss with the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and spices. Transfer the mixture to the dough-lined pie plate, mounding the fruit mixture in the middle. Roll out the other dough disc to a circle with an even thickness and 12-inch diameter. Place the second dough round over the pie. Trim the top and bottom edges to 1/2-inch beyond the pie plate lip. Fold the 1/2-inch overhang underneath itself so the folded edge is flush with the plate lip. Use a fork to flute the edge and seal the top dough to the bottom. Cut a few slits on the dough top. Sprinkle top of pie with cinnamon-sugar.

5. Bake until pie is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F and bake another 30-35 minutes until the pie is bubbly and golden brown (from my experience, the pie may need up to 10 minutes of additional baking time). Place on a wire rack to cool.



Seven Thanksgiving Shopping Tips


For anyone making Thanksgiving dinner next Thursday, this weekend calls for a serious grocery shopping excursion. It can be a bit daunting making sure you get everything for all those dishes. To help avoid the need for a “honey would you” last-minute shopping trip, here are some tips to help make it a success.

1) Make a list. It blows my mind that some people go to the grocery store for a week’s worth of shopping without a list. Maybe that works on a normal week, but for making a Thanksgiving dinner, a list is an essential organizing tool. It will help ensure you get everything you need and, if you organize it by type of food (i.e. produce, dairy, meats, dried goods, etc.), it will help you get out of the store faster, which is definitely a plus on this busy shopping weekend.

2) Track multi-recipe ingredients separately. This is sort of a subpoint of point #1. As you go through your recipes to make your grocery list, keep track of items you’ll need for multiple recipes to make sure you get enough of them. I’m thinking of things like butter, chicken stock, milk and eggs. A few tablespoons here a few cups there can add up, sometimes more than you think. And unlike herbs, these are essential ingredients that are difficult to effectively substitute. I put them at the top of my list and make tick marks for a standard measure of each as I go through each recipe (tablespoons of butter, cups of stock and milk and individual eggs). 

3) Buy fresh herbs. Your dishes will thank you for it. Fresh sage, rosemary, chives and flat-leaf parsley will make your dishes sing. And sprinkle a little on top for presentation points. If buying all fresh herbs when you have bottles of dried ones on hand feels like a waste, consider which herbs still perform decently when dried and which really should be fresh to impart the right taste. Oregano and thyme are decent in their dried form; dried parsley, however, bears no resemblance to the actual taste of parsley. 

4) Weigh ingredient quality vs. cost. How do you effectively weigh cost and quality when given the choice between choose between store, name and specialty brands? If you have the budget to splurge on some things but not others, do it strategically. Think about how ingredients will impact taste. The flavor of butter in the pie crust will be more prominent than butter used to sauté aromatic vegetables for stuffing, so use higher quality butter in the desserts and the store brand for sautéing. 

5) Don’t buy breadcrumbs, make your own. Sure, you can buy those little dried out cubes in a plastic bag, but haven’t you noticed that they are pretty flavorless? Instead, get a good loaf of sourdough or rustic peasant bread, cube it yourself and dry it out in low-temperature oven. The more flavorful bread will add flavor to the stuffing.

6) Buy the right turkey. Some turkeys are now sold already injected with saline, so if you’re planning to brine a turkey, don’t get one of these, since browning a so-called “self basting” turkey could make it too salty. If you buy a fresh turkey, don’t buy it too far in advance, since it could spoil.

7) Visit the meat counter. A lot of meat comes pre-packaged these days, but the offerings at the meat counter will be fresher and thus tastier.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Honey-Ginger Glazed Carrots


This is a great technique for cooking carrots as a Thanksgiving side. The best part is that they don't require much attention, so you can put the saucepan on the stove and get busy with other more demanding dishes. The carrots don't care if you don't pay attention to them, they just cook up really great. Make this even more interesting by using a variety of colored carrots.


Honey-Ginger Glazed Carrots
Inspired by Honey-Lemon Glazed Carrots, Huffpost Taste

1 1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick coins
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup honey
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat a large (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrots, butter, water, ginger, honey, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the carrots are tender. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium-high to reduce the liquid until it thickens to a glaze (this takes about 10 minutes). Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and serve.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Choosing Thanksgiving Wines


There's a lot conventional wisdom about serving wine with Thanksgiving dinner. Whether it's useful depends on what you're looking for in the wine. Is your goal to complement the food? Serve something really amazing? Or ideally both?

Or do you like to break the rules and drink what you like? Years ago, I remember reading an article on wine pairing that concluded that, although there are certain combinations of wine and food that may “go” together for various reasons, really you should drink what you like. I found that quite liberating and I've applied it to my thinking of what to pair with Thanksgiving.

Chris and I tend toward big reds. We drink a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel. We experiment with blends and other interesting reds too (Petite Sirah has been another favorite lately). If we ever make it to France for a wine tour, don't look for us in Burgundy. We'll be hanging out in Bordeaux.


However, big reds tend to be the tannic and, while I'm not afraid of letting a wine outshine the food, I don't want its bitterness to be overpowering. If you want a bold red for Thanksgiving, something fruity will do a better job blending in with the savory, spicy and sweet mix of main course dishes. For my bold red, I went with the Marietta Cellars Sonoma County 2010 Zinfandel ($22), which had the fruitiness and bold flavor I was looking for.


I also wanted some softer choices. Lately, a lot of people have been flocking to Beaujolais Nouveau, which is a "new" wine in that it is quickly bottled and sold soon after harvest. The lack of aging means lacks of tannins and full fruit flavor. Generally it's a little too slight for my taste though, so for a softer Thanksgiving red I turn to the more traditional choice of Pinot Noir.


Selecting Pinot Noir can be tricky. I find that, unlike other red varietals, low-priced Pinot is often not very good. To get good Pinot Noir you have to be prepared to open your wallet a bit wider. Because of this, it's not a wine I drink regularly, although when I find a good one it can be quite impressive.


I visited the WillaKenzie winery in Yamhill, Oregon, last year and tasted their expertly crafted Pinot Noirs. The WillaKenzie Estate Willamette Valley 2009 Pierre Leon Pinot Noir ($46) is widely available in wine stores and doesn't disappoint. This pinot had a lot of flavor but didn't overpower the food. It was my favorite of these three wines.


Many people default to white wine for Thanksgiving because they see that white turkey flesh and think that's what “goes.” And while I have a white wine in my trio this year, you won't find a bold oaky Chardonnay there. America's best-selling varietal just doesn't seem a good fit for Thanksgiving. It's just a bit too bold. Consulting with the wine staff at Calvert-Woodley, I ended up with the Jean-Marc Crochet - Sancerre Chêne Marchand 2010 ($25). Sancerre, a French wine from the Loire Valley, is primarily Sauvignon Blanc. It has a nice acidity that works well with a lot of different flavors. 


So, in conclusion, I fully support the "drink what you like" idea, but putting a little thought into choosing something that will pair well with the variety of flavors on the Thanksgiving table will make what you drink ever the more special.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Food (Section) Fight!: Week 45

Food (Section) Fight! is my weekly look at The Washington Post's Food section and The New York Times' Dining section with my verdict on which section had the better content for the week.


Washington Post

1) “Follow the leaders,” by Manuel Roig-Franzia. Every year I look forward to the Washington Post’s pre-Thanksgiving Food section. It’s always really good. Today it was exceptional. One of the year’s best. I can usually judge how interested I am in the Food section by how long it takes to read. If I have time to read a couple other sections during breakfast, it’s probably a week it won’t win Food (Section) Fight. This morning, I wasn’t even halfway through by the time I had to pack up and head to work. It was that good.

This lead story about the recent history of Thanksgiving at the White House was truly great, peppered with amusing anecdotes (Mrs. Clinton threatened to fire her chef if he didn’t make white bread stuffing), interesting culinary history (the FDR-era chestnut stuffing calls for “fat” without specifying what kind—would a 1940s home cook have understood?) and some incredible-sounding recipes. I really want to make White House Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Glover Cleveland Parsnip Fritters, and Mamie Eisenhower’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, oh, and even Laura Bush’s Green Beans with Anchovy Butter (go Mrs. Bush for embracing anchovies, even if she wasn’t interested in the 60-year aged balsamic vinegar).

2) “For recipe handicappers, there’s Fakesgiving,” by Becky Krystal. How nice to see fellow food bloggers get a beautiful full-page spread in the Food section. Coincidentally, I discovered their blog, The Bitten Word, just yesterday (I was Googling for a kale chips recipe). And I couldn’t help but notice how much I have in common with them: They are a D.C.-based (check) gay couple (check) married in 2010 (check) that work for a publication and a nonprofit (not check now, but that was us 10 years ago). And I too invited a group of friends for a Thanksgiving dinner weeks before the actual event so that I’d have dishes to write about on my blog (actually, it was circumstantial, since my apartment is under renovation the next few weeks, but it worked to my advantage). With a lot of hard work and a little luck, maybe someday Cook In / Dine Out will achieve The Bitten Word's level of success (I can dream). Some great recipes accompany the story, such as their Fried Brussels Sprouts with Paprika-Spiked Dipping Sauce.

3) “For a White House menu, red or rosé works, too,” Wine by Dave McIntyre. I’ve been reading a lot of Thanksgiving wine stories lately, and will even have my own tomorrow. McIntyre offers up about the best advice I’ve read as to why certain wines work best for pairing with the meal. I love what he says about bold wines: “Cabernet and steak could win the food-wine equivalent of ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ but Thanksgiving is more like a communal square dance.” That’s perfect.

4) “The science behind 5 holiday food flubs,” by Robert L. Wolke. Wolke is the author of What Einstein Told His Cook, which I read and enjoyed earlier this year. When I saw another science-minded cook, America’s Test  Kitchen’s Christopher Kimball at a National Museum of American History event recently, I thought about asking him what the biggest issues are that a little food science could help home cooks address at Thanksgiving. Wolke covers some very topical issues, including how to master gravy, why just the right about of sugar is important to making cranberry sauce and why it’s okay to roast a turkey that’s still frozen. Useful stuff.

5) “Pork Paillards in Parmesan Crust,” Dinner in Minutes by Bonnie S. Benwick. Leave it to Bonnie to oversee an amazing Thanksgiving section and still have time to whip up an appetizing Dinner in Minutes recipe. This sounds really good. Definitely something I can see myself making on a weeknight.

New York Times

1) “Try a steam-powered turkey,” by Jeff Gordinier. While the Post dived into tradition with presidential Thanksgivings, the Times went experimental with this lead story on Jacques Pépin’s technique for steaming, yes steaming his turkey before roasting it. The story addresses the likely skepticism of its readers, and count me among them. Will the turkey’s skin still get nice and brown if it’s been steamed? Apparently so, but my eyebrows remain raised. If you’ve roasted, brined, grilled and deep-fried your turkey, maybe this new method is for you (or, as I suggested in today’s Washington Post Free Range chat, why not sous vide it?).

2) “Side dishes with a sense of daring,” by Julia Moskin and Melissa Clark. While I may be skeptical about steamed turkey, I have not qualms about the delicious dishes explored by two of my favorite Dining section writers. Beehive Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Vinaigrette, Cauliflower with Oyster Mushrooms and Sherry and the beautifully composed Heirloom Squash Salad with Pepita Purée and Pickled Shallots, all sound like amazing original dishes for Thanksgiving.

3) “Take a Pumpkin Pie, Add One Englishman,” by Florence Fabricant. Le Bernardin’s Deconstructed Pumpkin Pie isn’t necessarily something I’d make, but I enjoyed reading about it. The dish converts the pumpkin from the traditional custard into a cake and mousse, along with a pumpkin and cranberry confit.

4) “Roasted, Smashed, Dolloped, Devoured,” How to Make Everything by Mark Bittman. Bittman turned to his friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten (now that’s name-dropping) for advice on making ABC Kitchen’s Squash on Toast. The roasted squash served with mint and ricotta atop toast sounds like a perfect Thanksgiving appetizer. I might have to try this.

5) "As Not Seen on TV,” Restaurants by Pete Wells. Ever wonder what a restaurant review with a “poor” rating would read like? Here’s your chance to find out, as Wells eviscerates Guy Fieri’s Times Square Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar. It does sound really awful (“…is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French Fries already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold?”). I don’t quite understand why the whole thing is written as questions; perhaps that’s a nod to how Fieri speaks? (I don’t watch his show).

Verdict

The Washington Post. On this ever-important week for home cooks, the Post knocks it out of the ballpark, giving us coverage that’s insightful, expansive and just downright delicious. Despite having hosted my own “Fakesgiving” last weekend, I’m sort of itching to do it again now.

Score

The Washington Post: 24
The New York Times: 20