Monday, November 30, 2015

Curry-Roasted Cauliflower and Celery Quinoa Bowl

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? We certainly did. We're also stuffed and desperately in need of some of those more virtuous dishes that are supposed to provide the balance in the balanced-diet. So before we march forth with Christmas cookies, holiday get-together cocktails and other assorted year-end treats, let's pause and have something healthy--yet still quite delicious.

If you've never had cauliflower roasted, I suggest you get yourself a head of the slightly bitter branch-like vegetable and preheat that oven. It's really good when cooked this way (see the related recipe links below for other roasted-cauliflower dishes). Here I've tossed it with curry and other seasonings and served it in a grain bowl with quinoa, spinach, dried cranberries and cashews.

Curry-Roasted Cauliflower and Celery Quinoa Bowl

2-3 cups baby spinach greens
1 head of cauliflower (I used orange "cheddar" cauliflower)
1 bunch of stalk celery (flavorful farmers market celery is recommended)
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. curry powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup rainbow quinoa (may use other colors), rinsed
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 red onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup cashews
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp. honey
Sriracha (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F with two oven racks evenly spaced about 1/3 of the way from the top and bottom of the oven.

2. Place the spinach greens in a large bowl.

3. Remove the cauliflower core and discard it; cut the rest of the cauliflower into florets and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. of olive oil, curry powder, salt and pepper and toss to coat the florets. Spread florets in an even layer on a baking sheet.

4. Remove the celery stalks and cut off both ends (discard the ends). Cut the stalks on an angle into pieces about 1 1/2 inches long. Transfer to a large bowl, drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive, salt and pepper and toss to coat the celery pieces. Spread celery in an even layer on a baking sheet.

5. Roast the cauliflower and celery until lightly browned around the edges, about 30 minutes, stirring both after about 15 minutes. When they come out of the oven, immediately add to the bowl with the spinach, which will make the spinach wilt a bit.

6. While the vegetables roast, make the quinoa: Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa and toast, stirring frequently, until the quinoa is fragrant and makes a popping sound almost continuously, about 5 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a bowl.

7. Add butter to saucepan and, when melted, add the onions and garlic. Season with a little salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the water and toasted quinoa and bring to a simmer. Cover the saucepan, reduce heat to low and cook for 18 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit covered for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid and stir the quinoa.

8. Add the quinoa to the bowl with the spinach, cauliflower and celery. Add the cashews, dried cranberries, lemon juice and honey. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Serve in bowls topped with Sriracha, if desired.


Agave-Mezcal Chicken and Curry Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Mustard Greens Salad with Roasted Cauliflower, Almonds, Grapes and Chicken

Modernist Mac & Cheese with Bacon and Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower, Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

Friday, November 27, 2015

8-2-Eat: Thanksgiving Leftovers

8-2-Eat is my food-focused list series. A perfect Friday distraction. Since today is the day after Thanksgiving, if you hosted a meal yesterday, your fridge is probably stuffed with cold turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and a probably a few bits of various other sides and desserts. Here are 8 ideas for what to do with them.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Tacos. A little salsa verde (green tomatillo salsa) makes this more than just thanksgiving bits rolled in tortillas, a spicy and delicious way to re-experience delicious leftovers (pictured at top).

Turkey Posole. This spicy Southwestern hominy stew is a particularly good choice if you end up with a lot of turkey.

Turlafel. Washington Post's Bonnie Benwick shows off D.C. chef Alex McCoy's inventive Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich inspired by falafel.

The Dilemma – What to Do with Thanksgiving Leftovers? Mother Would Know blogger Laura Kumin discusses what to do with leftovers, including useful tips along the food-safety lines for making sure leftovers are properly preserved.

Thanksgiving Leftover Mac & Cheese. From The Daily Meal, a surefire way to use up turkey and cranberry sauce.

Turkey Pie With Potatoes, Squash, Chard and Cheddar. From New York Times City Kitchen writer David Tanis, a savory pie (to go with the sweet ones you may still have on hand).

Pizza. My first Thanksgiving leftovers recipe turns the miscellanea of Thanksgiving dinner into pizza toppings.

12 Creative Turkey Sandwich Recipes. Many stories about Thanksgiving leftovers try to steer you away from sandwiches on the assumption that they are over-done. However, who doesn't love a good sandwich?! Real Simple has some great ideas to get creative with them.


Thanksgiving Central

November 2015 Digest

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving, Gobbled Up

November is always a unique month for me. Other months I have a mix of recipes, cocktails and restaurant posts, along with the occasional "other" food-related thing that interests me. But November is all about Thanksgiving, which means its all about recipes. Lots of recipes.

A few themes ran through the recipes I presented this year. The idea of reinterpreting traditional dishes led me to take The Silver Palate Cookbook's classic Chicken Marbella recipe and adapt those wonderful Spanish flavors into Marbella-Brined Roast Turkey Breast. Similarly, I played around with the idea that people stuff their turkeys because it gives the stuffing turkey flavor. I reserved this--using the stuffing to instead flavor the turkey with Stuffing-Brined Roast Turkey Breast.

Deconstructed Sweet Potato Casserole

One of my favorites along these lines is the Deconstructed Sweet Potato Casserole, which reinterprets the traditional marshmallow-covered (overly) sweetened puree into a dish of roasted sweet potatoes with pecans, bacon and (just a few) mini marshmallows all brought together with a bourbon-maple sauce.

Another theme was incorporating international flair into the meal. I experimented with Indian flavors in both the Indian-Spiced Nan Bread Stuffing and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Honey-Curry Yogurt. I turned to Mexico for the inspiration behind Sweet Potatoes with Mole and Queso Fresco.

Then there were a few recipes that spoke to nostalgia and simplicity, namely my favorite recipe for Sausage-Cornbread Stuffing and a traditional take on Buttery Mashed Potatoes. And for biscuit lovers, I definitely have to mention the Butter-Flaky Biscuits.

Noodle Me Momofuku

The D.C. restaurant has undeniably heated up in recent years. The latest trend is for big-name chefs from other places, namely New York, to open outposts in D.C. Danny Meyer's burgers have been winning Washingtonians over for several years now with several locations of the New York-based Shake Shack. The biggest of such imports last year was Daniel Boulud, who opened DBGB Kitchen and Bar in the downtown CityCenter development. As popular as these spots are, neither grabbed headlines the way the arrival of David Chang's first D.C.-area Momofuku has. Much ink has been spilled in anticipation of the opening of Momofuku CCDC which, like DBGB, is located in CityCenter. Riding shotgun in the new restaurant's corner space is an outpost of the Momofuku bakery, Milk Bar, known for Christina Tosi's creative confections like crack pie and corn cookies. We snagged a much-coveted Saturday night reservation and enjoyed some pretty tasty appetizers, noodles and, of course, those cookies.

Food Recipes

  • Marbella-Brined Roast Turkey Breast Spanish flavors of the classic Silver Palate Cookbook recipe Chicken Marbella infuse this wet-brined turkey.
  • Stuffing-Brined Roast Turkey Breast Some people stuff turkeys to flavor the stuffing with the turkey. But what if you instead flavor the turkey with stuffing?
  • Buttery Mashed Potatoes Mashed potatoes seems simple, but there are some techniques involving how you mash and butter the potatoes for optimal texture and flavor.
  • Sausage-Cornbread Stuffing My all-time favorite stuffing recipe handed down from my mother.
  • Butternut Squash, Pecan and Bacon Bread Like pumpkin bread but with butternut squash. Oh, and bacon. Yeah, bacon.
  • Indian-Spiced Nan Bread Stuffing Indian spices flavor this stuffing made with Indian nan bread.
  • Butter-Flaky Biscuits Through folding and rolling, these biscuits have buttery flaky layers.
  • Apple Butter A wonderful fall accompaniment to biscuits and other breads.
  • Deconstructed Sweet Potato Casserole Re-thinking the Thanksgiving classic side to be less sweet and gooey with a stronger focus on good sweet potato flavor.
  • Kale, Smoked Gouda and Pecan Gratin Gratins are awesome because you can get credit for eating a vegetable side, but it's actually an excuse for eating something creamy and cheesy.
  • Green Bean Salad with Almonds and Quinoa A truly healthful side dish to help balance all these other rich holiday dishes.
  • Sweet Potatoes with Mole and Queso Fresco A simple side of roasted sweet potatoes with spicy Mexican mole sauce and cheese.
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Honey-Curry Yogurt Another Indian-inspired dish, a simple affair of roasted sprouts and pecans with yogurt mixed with honey and curry powder.
  • Caramel Apple Custard Pie Another look at the apple custard pie--a nice compromise between a pumpkin pie and an apple pie--this time with a graham-cracker-coated crust and caramel sauce.

  • Cocktail Recipe

    • A Sage Old Bourbon This whiskey and sherry cocktail, with flavors of cranberry, celery and sage, is inspired by the savory flavors of a Thanksgiving dinner.


    Thursday, November 26, 2015

    Thanksgiving Menu, 2015

    Happy Thanksgiving! This is what we'll be enjoying today. Expect to see some of these recipes on my site next year. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and please feel free to share in the comments about what you're eating at your celebration.

    Marbella-Brined Roast Turkey Breast with Turkey Gravy
    Ginger-Orange Cranberry Sauce
    Fluffy Herbed Mashed Potatoes
    Sausage-Cornbread Stuffing
    Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Celery with Garlic and Rosemary
    California-Style Brussels Sprouts with Pistachio and Pomegranate
    Cranberry-Walnut Drop Biscuits

    Fall-Leaf Apple Pie
    Brandied "Pumpkin" Pie
    Butter Pecan Ice Cream

    Sokol Blosser (Oregon) Pinot Noir
    Chateau Ste. Michelle (Washington) Riesling

    Wednesday, November 25, 2015

    All Thanksgiving 2015 Recipes

    It's the day before Thanksgiving. Hopefully your menu is set. If you're like me, you may even be busy cooking and prepping some dishes today. Below are links to all of my Thanksgiving recipes and other stories for this year.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2015

    Stuffing-Brined Roast Turkey Breast

    Stuffing-Brined Roast Turkey Breast

    I've never stuffed a turkey. Partly that's because I usually (okay always) roast a turkey breast instead of a full turkey, and with the back removed, you can't really "stuff" the turkey, since the cavity is half-open. But even without this limitation, what is the reason for stuffing a turkey?

    Just about everyone recommends not stuffing your turkey these days. The food-safety people will run from the room ranting about pathogens and cross-contamination from stuffing that soaks up raw turkey juice and doesn't fully cook. From a physics perspective, stuffing the turkey means the turkey will take longer to cook, since instead of a nice cavity for warm air to flow through, you've got this dense mass of bread and water that also must be cooked.

    So what the reasons some people still do it? I've been asking Google, and I can't figure it out. I can only assume it either adds turkey flavor to the stuffing. But stuffing already has a lot of flavor going for it. Onions, celery, good bread, herbs and seasonings. Is additional turkey flavor really needed? Instead, why not use the stuffing to flavor the turkey?

    Enter the stuffing-brined turkey. That's right. This turkey is brined with the flavors of stuffing. Now, I didn't actually go through the trouble of making stuffing. There's no bread in this brine, as I figured that bread wouldn't add any flavor via a brine. But I did sauté and puree the typical aromatics (onion and celery), herbs (sage and thyme) and, instead of cornbread, I used freeze-dried corn, an ingredient I first came across making Momofuku Milk Bar corn cookies. It adds wonderful corn flavor to not only those cookies but also cornbread, so I figured it would be a nice addition to the brine.

    Stuffing-Brined Roast Turkey Breast

    Note: For the freeze-fried corn, I use Just Tomatoes brand "Just Corn," available from Amazon. Grind the corn until fine in a food processor before using in this recipe.

    1 tbsp. olive oil
    2 onions, chopped
    2/3 cup chopped celery
    1/2 cup ground freeze-dried corn
    4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    3 quarts water
    Shopped sage and thyme
    ½ cup kosher salt (or 1/4 cup table salt)

    6-8 lb. turkey breast
    3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and celery and sauté until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add sage and thyme to the pan and cook another couple minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor, add the freeze-dried corn and puree. Combine pureed mixture with chicken broth and cold water in a large pot or brining bag and stir to combine. Add salt and stir to dissolve. Place turkey breast in pot/bag. Cover pot or seal bag and refrigerate to brine overnight.

    2. Preheat oven to 450 F. Set a V-rack inside a roasting pan. Remove turkey breast from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Put turkey breast on top of rack. Brush turkey all over with melted butter and season with salt and pepper.

    3. Roast turkey for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast reads 165 F, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours total roasting time. Let breast rest 30 minutes before carving.


    Thanksgiving Central

    Monday, November 23, 2015

    Buttery Mashed Potatoes

    Buttery Mashed Potatoes

    Mashed potatoes seem like something that should be easy to get right. After all, they are just potatoes, butter, milk and salt, with optional additional flavorings like herbs, garlic, cheese and spices tossed in as desired.

    But like many foods, potatoes are more complex when you take a closer look. The inside of a potato is basically a lot of little sacs containing starch. Many, but not all of these will swell and burst while the potatoes are cooked, which contributes to mashed potatoes' fluffy texture.

    Breaking too many of those sacs releases too much starch, making the mashed potatoes "gluey" rather than fluffy. This is why it's a no-no to use electric devices like a hand mixer, food processor or blender to mash or "whip" potatoes, especially if you're making mashed potatoes with russet potatoes, which are higher in starch than other potatoes. You want the gentler processing achieved by hand tools like a potato masher or, my preference, a ricer, which looks like an oversize garlic press.

    The other trick is to add the butter before the milk, as adding the fat first coats the starch and makes for better texture (or so Cook's Illustrated recommends, and they are usually right). This recipe is from adapted from BonAppétit, applying these key principles for making optimally delicious mashed potatoes.

    Buttery Mashed Potatoes
    Adapted from a recipe by Bon Appétit

    4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2” pieces
    1 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more
    1½ cups whole milk
    3 sprigs thyme (optional)
    2 bay leaves
    ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for serving

    1. Place potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover by about an inch. Add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are very tender but not saturated or crumbly, about 20–25 minutes.

    2. Drain potatoes and return the potatoes to the pot and set it over low heat. Gently stir until the potatoes are dry, about 1 minute.

    3. Heat milk and herbs in a small saucepan over medium heat until the mixture is warm (do not let it boil). Remove from heat.

    4. Pass the hot potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl (if allowed to cool, the potatoes will become gummy). Add butter and stir with a wooden spoon to combine with the potatoes.

    5. Remove herbs from the warm milk mixture and discard. Gradually add milk mixture to potatoes, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined and smooth; season with salt.

    6. Serve mashed potatoes with a few pats of butter on top.

    Friday, November 20, 2015

    8-2-Eat: Affordable Thanksgiving Wines 2015

    8-2-Eat is my food-focused list series. A perfect Friday distraction. This week, it's my 2015 Thanksgiving wine recommendations, all of which are under $20.

    First off, I want to suggest you listen to My Poor Liver's 2014 Thanksgiving episode, in which Neil gives the best overview of Thanksgiving wine pairings that I've come across. Many of the wines listed below are because he recommended them. That's really all you need to know, but if you're still looking for ideas after that, you can check Imbibe's article on affordable holiday red wines under $25 or my wine tips from 2014 or 2012. Below then are my 8 recommendations for this year. I've included an approximate retail price based on prices I saw online, but you can often find them for less.

    Charles & Charles, Rosé, Washington, 2014 Rosé has become a popular summer wine, but it's a good match for Thanksgiving dinner as well. It has a bit more heft than a white wine, but not the tannic bitterness or the level of depth of a bold red wine. This particular rose, a collaboration between Washington state winemakers Charles Smith and Charles Bieler, is mostly syrah (72%) blended with mourvèdre, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, consult and counoise. It's quite dry for a rosé. I chose this because I read that rosé is good with spicy food, such as Indian, and several of this year's Thanksgiving recipes have an Indian inspiration (Nan Bread Stuffing, Honey-Yogurt Brussels Sprouts). ($13)

    Dreaming Tree, Crush Red Wine, California, 2013. Dreaming Tree has become like my guilty pleasure lately. Don't let the fact that it's Dave Matthews' winery stop you. Their wines are affordable and very tasty. This is the sort of red wine for bold red wine fans (like me) that could also work with a meal like Thanksgiving with a diversity of complex flavors. The key here is that the wine is more of a fruity-bold than a tannic-bold, which helps it pair better with foods, especially those with sugars (like Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Mole and Queso Fresco). Crush is mostly merlot (59%), with petite sirah (16%), zinfandel (15%), syrah (4%) and other (6%). ($15)

    Dreaming Tree, Pinot Noir, California, 2013. Yeah, it's Dreaming Tree again, and I'm not apologizing for it. This pinot noir is also really good and a nice exception to the general rule that you have to spend over $25 on pinot noir for it to be worthwhile. A wonderfully fruity on-the-bold-side pinot. ($15)

    Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Washington, 2014. From one of Washington State's best-known wineries comes this wonderfully balanced riesling. Riesling gets a bad rap sometimes for being too sweet, but the wine actually runs the spectrum from sweet to dry, and many winemakers are including a chart on the back of their riesling bottles to show where on the spectrum a particular wine may fall. This one is pretty much in the middle (sometimes referred to as "off dry"), giving a nice balance of fruit, sweetness and mineral flavors. It's also quite affordable. ($9)

    Henry Fessy, Juliénas Crus du Beaujolais, 2011. I've long maintained that I don't like beaujolais. But when I, and many others, say that, we're actually referring to beaujolais nouveau, a red wine made from gamay grapes that is bottled, sold and consumed very young. I don't really like young wines. A cru beaujolais, on the other hand, while still a lighter red, is significantly bolder than beaujolais nouveau, more like a pinot noir. Not necessarily my favorite, but I can see this making a good pairing with Thanksgiving dinner. ($18)

    Layer Cake, Primitivo, Italy, 2012. Although officially primitivo, an Italian grape, and zinfandel, a California grape, are classified as separate grapes, DNA analysis has shown they are the same. According to Layer Caker, their Primitivo wine is the first to officially make this connection on their bottle label. Interesting fact, but how does it taste? Bold and spicy as a zinfandel should. ($14)

    M. Plouzeau, Chinon Rive Gauche, 2011. Cabernet sauvignon is my favorite red wine, but as I've probably mentioned before, it's big flavors and tannins are too overwhelming for Thanksgiving. But...that doesn't mean all cabernets aren't welcome to the table. Enter cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon's earthy, ripe old brother (cabernet sauvignon is a hybrid produced by chance apparently between cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc). Sure, some cabernet francs are as earthy as a barnyard, but this one doesn't go overboard in that direction. I sampled the 2011; I think that may be hard to find at this point, but the 2012 shouldn't be. ($16)

    What you love.  Admittedly, I'm ending this 8-2-Eat this way because I don't have an 8th specific suggestion. But really, this is an ideal suggestion for what to drink on Thanksgiving. It's a holiday. You and your guests should enjoy yourselves, so I don't think you should be afraid to serve something that you love, even if it doesn't "fit" with what a lot of people may recommend you drink for the holiday. I'm always up for experimentation. If it doesn't seem to pair well, stopper the bottle and finish it the day after. (priceless)

    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    Butter-Flaky Biscuits

    Butter-Laminated Biscuits

    The principles of cooking are rooted in science, that much we cannot dispute. Yet there are a few ingredients out there that seem almost magical. Yes, we can dissect their physical properties and talk about how they accomplish different things when hot vs. when cold, how their proportion of fats, protein and sugars affect the results. Yada yada yada. 

    But there's something else that anyone who cooks cannot dispute: butter is magical. It just is. It makes pretty much any dish better. Got a bland pasta? Elevate it with butter. Want to unify fish and its seasonings? Add butter. Want flaky, amazing-tasting pie crust? Use butter.

    Butter is amazing ingredient not only because of what it can do physically but because it makes just about anything taste better. It's that special combination of fat, liquid and milk solids--the dairy bits that get left behind--that make it an amazing thing. You gotta be careful with butter: it burns faster than oils, goes rancid if left unrefrigerated and it can pick up other flavors if not stored right. But treat butter right and it's one of the most powerful weapons in the kitchen arsenal.

    Layering butter is a key method of forming flakiness in pastries. It's what makes pie crust and croissants flaky, and it can work in your Thanksgiving biscuits too. 

    The method here is similar to lamination: folding and rolling a butter-rich biscuit dough to multiply the layers of butter in the dough (with lamination additional butter is spread between the layers). As the dough is rolled out, the pieces of butter in the dough are elongated, and with each fold, the number of butter-layers doubles. Knowing that this could produce irresistibly flaky biscuits, I went in search of a recipe.

    And I found this excellent one from Serious Eats by Melissa Sertich Velie. Here, the dough is shaped into a rectangle, then folded into thirds, rolled out again, and folded into third again. With each folding, the layers of butter in the dough are tripled. The results when baked are obvious, as the biscuits separate a bit on the side, revealing wonderful layers of buttery goodness. 

    These biscuits were incredibly good. The perfect vessel for enjoying your favorite berry jam, a little apple butter or just swiping through the streaks of gravy on your Thanksgiving plate.

    Butter-Flaky Biscuits
    Adapted from Super Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits recipe by Melissa Sertich Velie for Serious Eats

    3/4 cup buttermilk
    1/4 cup heavy cream
    1 large egg
    2 1/4 cups (13 ounces) all-purpose flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
    2 sticks (8 ounces) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and kept refrigerated

    1. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, cream and the egg.

    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and toss the butter cubes until fully coated with flour. Working quickly, use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour to form marble-size pieces (alternatively, Velie suggests you could pulse the mixture 2 to 3 times in a food processor). Transfer butter-flour mixture to a large bowl.

    3. Add the buttermilk mixture to the bowl and mix with a fork until just combined. The mixture will be quite clumpy (see photo above). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

    4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and, using your fingers, lightly press and fold the dough to bring it together into a large rectangle (avoid handling the dough roughly). Fold the dough into thirds (see photo above). Using a rolling pin, roll it out into roughly the size of the original rectangle, then fold it again. Roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thickness. Chill the dough again in the refrigerator for another 10 minutes.

    5. Preheat oven to 400 F.

    6. Place the dough on the work surface. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out biscuits as close together as possible and place on a baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Gather remaining scraps and cut out more biscuits (Velie recommends discarding any remaining scraps, but I just formed them into a final biscuit, albeit a bit misshapen).

    7. Bake until the biscuits rise and turn a light golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the biscuits cool about 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool further. Serve warm or at room temperature.


    Apple Butter

    Rosemary-Onion and Black Pepper Biscuits

    Cheesy Scallion-Corn Biscuits

    Thanksgiving Central

    Apple Butter

    Apple Butter

    What are you going to slather on those Butter-Flaky Biscuits I posted today? Homemade Compound Herb Butter seems like butter overkill (although it is very good). Bacon Marmalade might be a good choice, but unfortunately there are those non-bacon eaters out there. So here's a choice that should please just about everybody: apple butter.

    It's sort of like applesauce but richer, thicker, smoother. Are you sensing a downside? I'm not. It's pretty amazing on biscuits, toast, sandwiches--just about anything that benefits from a delicious spread.

    This is a good simple recipe from the Food Network. You can use any kind of apples you like or a mixture. Something softer would probably work better, such as Braeburn or Fuji.

    Apple Butter
    Adapted from a recipe by Food Network Kitchen

    4 lb. apples, peeled and chopped
    2 cups apple cider (the nonalcoholic kind you find in the produce section)
    1 cup packed light brown sugar
    1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    Pinch of ground cloves

    1. Preheat the oven to 250 F.

    2. Combine apples, apple cider, brown sugar and salt in a large oven-proof pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes.

    3. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves. Using an immersion blender, puree until the mixture is smooth (alternatively, transfer in batches to a blender and puree, returning the puree to the pot).

    4. Bake, uncovered, stirring every 30 minutes, until the apple butter has thickened and turned deep amber color, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate (use within a week).


    Butter-Laminated Biscuits

    Bacon Marmalade

    Homemade Compound Herb Butter

    Thanksgiving Central

    Wednesday, November 18, 2015

    Green Bean Salad with Almonds and Quinoa

    Green Bean Salad with Almonds and Quinoa

    It's no secret that a traditional Thanksgiving dinner isn't exactly a paragon of healthy eating. There are a lot of carbs and a lot of fat. It's the only meal of the year where I literally go through pounds of butter.

    While I'm not about to ditch all the traditional favorites--I believe that a rich Thanksgiving dinner can balance with normal healthy eating--that's not to say that a low-calorie side dish isn't welcome to the party.

    Enter this Green Bean and Quinoa salad, adapted from a recipe I found from the Wandering Spice blog. This is simple, vegetarian side that adds a nice bright and green element to the Thanksgiving table.

    Green Bean Salad with Almonds and Quinoa
    Adapted from Quick Green Bean and Quinoa Salad with Toasted Almonds and Lemon-Yogurt Dressing by Wandering Spice

    Note: You'll only need 1/3 cup of pre-cooked quinoa. I usually make a cup, use 1/3 for this recipe and save the rest for salads, as a base for stews, or mixed into brothy soups. You'll also end up with extra yogurt dressing, which is the perfect match with raw veggies.

    1/3 cup cooked quinoa
    400g (roughly a little more than 3/4 lb.) green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
    1/3 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped
    1/3 cup Greek yogurt
    1 tsp. lemon zest
    1 tsp. lemon juice
    1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
    2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    1. Prepare quinoa according to package instructions. Add 1/3 cup of the cooked quinoa to a large bowl; save the rest of the quinoa for other uses (see note above).

    2. Place a steamer basket in a medium saucepan with 1 inch of water (make sure the bottom of the basket doesn't touch the water) and set over high heat to bring to a boil. Once the water boils, add the green beans and steam until they are tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the beans from the steamer and rinse with cold water until chilled. Transfer to the large bowl.

    3. Toast the chopped almonds in a small frying pan over medium-low heat until they begin to brown, then remove from pan and add to the large bowl with the green beans and quinoa.

    4. Combine the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh dill, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the green beans and quinoa mixture and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    Sausage Cornbread Stuffing

    Sausage Cornbread Stuffing

    This is it. This is the one. My absolute favorite stuffing.

    Honestly, I'm not sure why I haven't shared this recipe up until now. This is the stuffing my mom would make when I was a kid. Technically, this wasn't the stuffing we had at Thanksgiving. The holiday was spent at Grandma's house, and she made a non-cornbread stuffing. But around that time of year, my mom would also make stuffing at our house. This is what she made, and I absolutely loved it.

    I've made a few very minor changes from what my mom did. Instead of using seasoned bread crumbs, I use plain dried bread cubes and add my own fresh herbs--specifically fresh sage and thyme. I also sometimes toss in a large handful of dried cranberries.

    Sausage Cornbread Stuffing

    1 lb. regular pork sausage, casings removed
    2 medium (or 1 large) yellow onions, diced
    2/3 cup diced celery ribs
    4 cups dried bread cubes
    1 tbsp. salt
    2 large eggs slightly beaten
    2 2/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    4 cups crumbled corn bread (see recipe below)
    ¼ cup chopped fresh sage
    2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
    1/3 cup dried cranberries (optional)

    1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

    2. Cook sausage over medium heat in large skillet, breaking up with wooden spoon. Transfer sausage to a large mixing bowl. Drain excess grease off, reserving 2 tbsp.

    3. Sauté onions and celery in reserved sausage drippings for about 8-10 minutes or until tender. Transfer onion and celery to mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients to bowl and mix well.

    4. Transfer mixture to a 9 X 13 baking dish coated with oil cooking spray. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until dressing is lightly browned on top and heated through.  Stir every 10 min. to avoid burning. Serve warm.

    Corny Cornbread
    Adapted from Cornbread by Mark Bittman

    Note: the freeze-dried corn bread boosts the corn flavor of the bread. If you can't find it or choose not to use it, just add an additional 1/2 cup of cornmeal.

    1/2 cup ground freeze-dried corn
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup cornmeal (finely ground)
    1 tsp. salt
    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    2 tbsp. sugar
    1 large egg
    1 1/4 cup buttermilk
    2 tbsp. unsalted butter

    1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

    2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Separately, whisk together the egg and buttermilk, add to dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

    3. When oven is hot, put an 8 x 8 inch baking dish in the oven. Remove after a couple minutes when the baking dish hot and add the butter, put back in the oven and let it melt (be careful not to let it burn, as butter will scorch at this temperature).

    4. Remove hot pan with melted butter from oven and pour batter into pan. Bake for about 30 minutes until top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool a bit, but serve warm.

    Monday, November 16, 2015

    Caramel Apple Custard Pie

    Caramel Apple Custard Pie

    Two years ago, I shared a recipe for Apple Custard Pie with Gingersnap Crust, my attempt to make an apple pie with a texture more like pumpkin pie. The apple custard was a great discovery--it's like rich apple sauce, sweet and satisfying but still somehow "lighter" than a pumpkin filling. That pie was very good, but I wanted to revisit it and make some changes.

    First, I wasn't fully sold on the crust. It was delicious, but it burnt a bit in the oven and was hard to cut. For this pie, I wanted to use a more traditional pie crust. When looking at options in the Cook's Illustrated book, The Science of Good Cooking, I came across the rather clever idea of rolling the crust out using graham cracker crumbs. This adds a bit of that "cookie" flavor while still having a traditionally flaky crust. I also decided to add a caramel sauce that would form layers above and below the apple-custard filling. The caramel sauce was a big plus, giving the pie a needed richness boost. I had also considered topping this with meringue, but decided it really wasn't necessary (plus meringue is difficult to deal with for Thanksgiving, as it should be done just before serving for best results). So, no meringue, but I didn't miss it.

    Admittedly, this dessert has a lot of steps. I cut a few corners when I made it, and I regretted this, as the pie was a bit "runny" because I hadn't allowed the custard to completely chill nor the caramel sauce. The next day though, after spending the night in the fridge, it was perfect.

    If you were going to make this for Thanksgiving, I suggest making it ahead of time, given all the steps involved. For example, you could do the following the day before, then on Thanksgiving Day, just serve it:

    11:15 a.m. (or earlier) mix the pie dough; chill in the refrigerator
    12:20 p.m. allow pie dough to warm a bit at room temperature
    12:30 p.m. roll out pie dough and form pie shell in pie plate
    12:45 p.m. chill formed pie shell
    1:00 p.m. bake pie shell (allow to cool afterwards for about an hour)
    2:00 p.m. make the caramel sauce
    2:30 p.m. pour first layer of caramel into pie shell, then chill in refrigerator; make the filling
    3:00 p.m. assemble and bake the pie
    3:30 p.m. remove pie from oven, allow to cool on rack
    4:00 p.m. place baked pie in fridge to chill
    5:00 p.m. pour final layer of caramel sauce and return to fridge

    Caramel Apple Custard Pie

    Caramel Apple Custard Pie
    Crust recipe adapted from Foolproof Single-Crust Pie Dough for Custard Pies recipe from Cook's Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking by America's Test Kitchen and Guy Crosby; caramel sauce recipe adapted from Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart, Fine Cooking.

    Note: Take note of the time required before making this pie, as it requires not just cooking time but chilling and cooling time too (see suggested schedule above).

    Equipment: food processor, pastry rolling mat (optional, may use other flat surface), pie plate, immersion blender (optional, may use food processor), pie weights (optional, may use spare change), aluminum foil.

    1 1/4 cup (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
    1 tbsp. sugar
    1/2 tsp. salt
    10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
    2 tbsp. ice water (plus more if needed)
    2 tbsp. chilled vodka
    3 whole graham crackers, crushed into crumbs (about 1/2 cup of crumbs)

    Caramel sauce:

    1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/4 cup bourbon


    4 large Granny Smith apples (use 5 if they are smaller), about 2 pounds, peeled, cored, quarted and chopped into 1/4-inch thick pieces
    1/3 cup water
    1 cup packed light brown sugar
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. ground ginger
    1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1 tbsp. cornstarch
    2/3 cup whole milk
    2/3 cup heavy cream
    4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten


    1. Add 3/4 cup flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the cold butter cubes across the top of the mixture and process until the butter is incorporated and the mixture forms uneven clumps with no remaining floury bits, about 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of flour over the dough and pulse until the mixture has broken up into pieces and is evenly distributed around the bowl, about 4 to 6 pulses.

    2. Transfer mixture to a medium-size bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. of ice water and the vodka. With a spatula, use a folding motion to stir and press together the dough until the dough sticks together. Add a little additional ice water (no more than a tablespoon) if the dough doesn't come together. Using your fingers, form the dough into a disc about 4 inches across. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

    3. Set dough on counter to warm up for about 10 minutes. Spread half the crushed graham cracker crumbs on the surface where you'll be rolling out the pastry. Place the dough in the middle of the crumbs, sprinkle with some of the crumbs and roll out, sprinkling with crumbs as you roll until the dough is a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Carefully transfer the rolled dough to a pie plate (I like to wrap the dough around the rolling pin and then carefully unroll it into the plate, gently lifting up the edges to ease the dough into the corners of the plate). Trim the overhang to about 1/2-inch evenly around the pie plate. Fold the overhang under itself to the edge of the dough is flush with the rim of the pie plate. Flute the edge of the dough or press with the tines of a fork (I always do the latter as my "fluting" skills aren't up to snuff). Chill the pie dough for at least 15 minutes.

    4. Preheat oven to 425 F with oven rack in middle position (depending on how long it takes to heat your oven, you may want to start the preheating while the dough is first chilled, before rolling it out).

    5. Line the top of the pie shell with aluminum foil and weight it down with pie weights or spare change (don't worry--the money won't melt at this temperature). Bake until the dough is dried out, about 15 minutes. Remove the weights and foil and continue baking until the pie shell is a golden-brown color, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, about 1 hour.

    Caramel Sauce:

    6. Combine brown sugar, butter and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar melts and begins to darken around the edges, about 5 minutes. Carefully whisk in the cream (it will sputter a bit) and simmer, whisking frequently, until the mixture is smooth and thick enough that the whisk leaves the bottom of the pan visible, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add the bourbon and continue simmering, whisking occasionally, until the whisk leaves the bottom of the pan visible again, another 2 minutes. Transfer caramel mixture to a heatproof glass measuring cup and allow to cool.

    7. Pour half of the caramel sauce into the baked pie shell and return pie shell to refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before adding the filling below. Refrigerate remaining caramel sauce until ready to use (you may need to gently reheat it in a microwave before pouring it over the pie below).


    8. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add apples and 1/3 cup water. Cover and cook until the mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the apples are very soft, about 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the apples until they are very smooth (alternatively, transfer to a food processor, puree until very smooth, then transfer mixture back to the saucepan). Cook apple puree over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened (it should be as thick as pumpkin puree). You should have about 2 cups (16 oz.) of puree (don't fret if you have a little less). Set aside.

    9. Combine apple puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to sputter, cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Add the milk and heavy cream and cook until the mixture simmers.

    10. Add the lightly beaten egg yolks to a medium bowl. Whisk in about 1 cup of the hot apple mixture, then whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan with the apple mixture until well combined. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

    Assemble and bake

    11. Preheat oven to 400 F.

    12. Pour the hot apple mixture on top of the first layer of caramel in the pie shell. Bake until the filling is puffed and dried out on top, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack then refrigerate about an hour. Pour the remaining caramel sauce on top of the cooked filling and chill a final 15 minutes to set the caramel before serving (or chill overnight and serve the next day).


    Apple Custard Pie with Gingersnap Crust

    Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

    Apple Pie with Vodka Crust

    Lattice Apple Pie with Rye Whiskey Crust

    Thanksgiving Central