Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vaguely Southeast Asian Turkey-Noodle Soup

Vaguely Southeast Asian Turkey-Noodle Soup

It's day 2 of Thanksgiving leftovers, and already I'm getting a little tired of just reheating the dishes I served on Thursday. Time for something else! Early in the day, I thought about making a simple turkey-noodle soup. I'd already thrown out the carcass, so there wasn't going to be a "make your own stock" situation at my house (I know I should save it and use it, but the last few years, it just sits in the freezer).

I thought I'd making something simple with cooked turkey, onion, celery, carrot, egg noodles and turkey broth. But then it dawned on me that with some Southeast Asian flavors, I could probably make something just as satisfying and a lot more interesting. In went the ginger, garlic, star anise, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice and cilantro. The results were a big hit around the table. Home run!

Vaguely Southeast Asian Turkey-Noodle Soup

6 oz. rice sticks (rice noodles, similar in size to linguine) broken in half
4-6 cups boiling water
2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
1 sweet onion, cut into slivers
2 stalks of celery, cut into slivers
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin julienne (like matchsticks--I recommend using a julienne peeler)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3 inches of ginger root, peeled and finely grated
6-8 scallions, sliced into small pieces, white and green parts separated
2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium turkey broth
3 star anise pods
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
2 cups cooked turkey cut into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces
Juice from 1 lime
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1. Place the rice sticks in a bowl and add boiling water until the noodles are submerged. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then drain the noodles.

2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and sauté until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the carrot, garlic, ginger and white scallion parts, and cook another minute until fragrant.

3. Increase heat to medium-high and add turkey broth, star anise, fish sauce, soy sauce and white pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Add the turkey and simmer over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the star anise pods, stir in the lime juice and adjust seasoning to taste. Stir in the cooked noodles.

4. Serve in bowls garnished with a good pinch of cilantro leaves and green scallion pieces.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Leftovers Frittata

Thanksgiving Leftovers Frittata

 Frittata is a wonderfully forgiving food. There are a lot of things you can throw together and encase with lightly scrambled eggs and some shredded cheese and it's guaranteed to be tasty. I've made frittata with 1) bacon, Brussels sprouts and caramelized onion, 2) sausage, mixed vegetables and gruyere, and 3) sausage and green beans, and each time it was a knockout dish. This is what you call a recipe for success.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Frittata

So why not give it a try with Thanksgiving leftovers? My version incorporates turkey, stuffing, and Brussels sprouts tossed together with some smoked gouda, but surely sweet potatoes, greens, and other vegetables would be delicious prepared this way. Just add eggs and a some cheese. Friday never tasted so good.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Frittata

Thanksgiving Leftovers Frittata

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced cooked turkey
1 cup sausage-cornbread stuffing
1 cup cooked Brussels sprouts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese
Cranberry sauce (garnish)

1. Preheat oven broiler with rack 4 inches below the broiler.

2. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick oven-safe frying pan over medium heat. Add the turkey, stuffing and Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until reheated, about 2 minutes. Spread the ingredients evenly in the pan.

3. Whisk together the eggs and half the cheese in a large bowl. Pour the eggs and cheese over the turkey mixture. Continue to cook on the stove to set the bottom of the eggs, about 3 minutes.

4. Transfer pan to the oven and broil until the top is firm, about 3 minutes. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top and broil an additional minute to melt and brown the cheese (watch to make sure it doesn't burn). Remove from oven and cut into wedges for serving. Serve with cranberry sauce.

Thanksgiving Central

Monday, November 21, 2016

Recipe for a Thanksgiving Rebel: Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken, Gravy and Fried Rice

Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken, Gravy and Fried Rice

Turkey is the traditional centerpiece of Thanksgiving. And while many people--including me--love a good roast turkey, there are those folks who don't like turkey. For whatever reason, it's just not their thing. They may feel guilted into making turkey anyway, because of the holiday. To those folks I say: be a rebel. Make something else! What's important on Thanksgiving is that make a meal your guests will love. It doesn't have to be all the "traditional" dishes if that's not what you and your crowd is into. Shake things up!

Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken

Along those lines, I came up with this Kung Pao-style roast chicken. Before any of you food purists out there get huffy with me, I realize this bears no resemblance to actual Kung Pao Chicken (a dish I adore, by the way). Rather, the flavors of the glaze and, to some extent, the accompanying gravy and fried rice are inspired by the spicy-sweet flavors of a good Kung Pao (those desiring recipes for actual Kung Pao Chicken can look here, here or here). However, the presentation has been modified to be something more akin to Thanksgiving: a whole roasted bird with gravy.

Fried Rice

Consider the side of fried rice sort of like the accompanying stuffing, and I hope you'll see how this could be a satisfying alternative to traditional turkey and stuffing. Alternatively, you could just make this anytime for a satisfying dinner. You can this really spicy if you want by amping up the cayenne pepper and red chili pepper flakes. I went for something that gives a gentle undercurrent of heat. Be sure to cook the rice in advance for the fried rice.

Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken

Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken and Fried Rice
Chicken roasting method adapted (liberally) from a recipe from Epicurious; fried rice adapted from a Serious Eats recipe

Note: Please note that this recipe calls for already cooked white rice--plan ahead! Szechuan peppercorns are available from spice stores and Chinese markets. They are not "hot" like a chili pepper but rather create a numbing sensation. Pick through the peppercorns and discard any black seeds that may be present, as well as unopened pods--you only want to use the hulls. The seeds are gritty and don't taste good.

4-5 lb. whole chicken
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorns (see note)
2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. fine garlic powder
Dash (less than 1/8 tsp.) cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)

2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

Drippings from pan plus:
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. dry sherry (amontillado)
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. cornstarch
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

Fried rice:
2 cups cooked white rice (plan ahead: cooking the rice takes about 35 minutes)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 sweet or yellow onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Set a V-rack into a roasting pan. Place the chicken, breast-side up, on the rack. Brush the chicken with vegetable oil. Combine ground Szechuan peppercorns, seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water to the roasting pan and roast another 15 minutes.

2. Combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Brush the chicken with glaze and continue roasting the chicken for another 40 to 50 minutes, brushing with glaze every 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (an instant-read thermometer stuck into thick portion of the breast or thigh should read at least 165 F). Remove chicken from rack and set aside on a cutting board to cool for about 10 minutes before carving the chicken.

3. Transfer drippings (about 2 tbsp. worth) from chicken roasting pan to a 10-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the soy sauce, sherry, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, garlic cloves, chicken stock, cornstarch and red chili pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the gravy has thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Make the fried rice (you can do this while the chicken is roasting): Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rice and 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and sauté until the rice is lightly golden and chewy, about 5 minutes. Remove the rice from the pan. Add the remaining vegetable oil and, when hot, add the onion and celery and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Return the fried rice to the pan and add the soy sauce, sesame oil and peanuts. Stir to combine, then push the ingredients to the sides leaving a 4-inch dry circle in the middle of the pan. Add the egg to the circle, and stir to scramble, then combine with other ingredients.

5. Serve the chicken carved with the fried rice an gravy on the side.

Thanksgiving Central

Friday, November 18, 2016

California-style brussels sprouts with pistachio and pomegranate

California-style brussels sprouts with pistachio and pomegranate

This dish may look like Christmas, but the Washington Post ran it last year as part of a healthy Thanksgiving recipes article. Brussels sprouts are always welcome at my Thanksgiving table, and this is a beautiful way to serve them.

California-Style Brussels Sprouts with Pistachio and Pomegranate 
Adapted from a recipe by The Washington Post

2 lbs. fresh Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed off and sprouts halved
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water (Note: The original recipe calls for 1 to 2 tbsp. and says it is optional, but I think that using more water was necessary)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 oz. fresh pomegranate arils (seeds)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted pistachios
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from 2 lemons (use about 2 tbsp. of zest and 1 tbsp. of juice)

1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the Brussels sprouts. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sprouts are a bright-green color and golden around the edges, about 10 minutes.  Add the water, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes until the sprouts are tender. Season the sprouts with salt and pepper.

2. Transfer the cooked sprouts to a serving platter and top with the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Brandied "Pumpkin" Pie

Brandied "Pumpkin" Pie

Some prefer apple. Others go for pecan. A few brave the world of "mincemeat." But few can deny that pumpkin is the most traditional flavor of pie to serve for Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin is easy to acquire. Just buy a can of Libby's pumpkin puree and call it a day. Or....shake things up. Ditch the can and make a better pumpkin pie by not using pumpkin at all. Instead, make "pumpkin" pie with butternut squash. After all, I've ready that Libby's pumpkin isn't really pumpkin anyway but Dickinson squash--although Libby's will call it Dickinson pumpkin, and I might point out that "pumpkin" is a sort of generic term anyway, rather than a name for specific type of squash. So, it's all good (Snopes even looked into this).

However, it's even better if you use butternut squash, which is, after all, my favorite squash, and I suspect it might be yours as well (it's really good). Just roast the squash first and puree it, making sure you have enough for 1 3/4 cups, which is about the amount you'd get in a 15 oz. can. And since booze and dessert go so well together, this recipe also calls for some brandy. Cheers to that!

Just who came up with this wonderful variation on the Thanksgiving pie? Melissa Clark, the New York Times recipe writer who, at this point, I think is safe to say is the goddess of all things delicious.  Seriously, I've never met a Melissa Clark recipe that wasn't incredibly good (her garlicky chicken thighs and pinto bean soup recipes are among my favorites).

Brandied "Pumpkin" Pie
Adapted from a New York Times recipe by Melissa Clark

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (150 grams)
1/4 tsp. salt
10 tbsp. (1 stick plus 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 to 4 tbsp. ice water

For the filling:
2 1/2 to 3 lb. butternut squash (to make 1 3/4 cups butternut squash purée)
2 tbsp. melted unsalted butter
All-purpose flour (for the work surface)
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (153 grams)
2 tbsp. brandy
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
 Pinch ground clove

1. Make the crust: add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse into the mixture forms pea-size pieces. Add ice water in 1-tbsp. increments, pulsing after each addition, until the dough just comes together (you may not use all the water). The dough should be moist but not wet. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and form into a ball, then flatten it into a large disc. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour, up to 2 days.

2. Make butternut squash purée: Preheat oven to 400 F. Peel and halve the squash and remove and discard its seeds (pro tip: an ice cream scoop works great for removing squash seeds and slimy membranes). Cut the squash into 1 1/2-inch pieces and place them in a large bowl. Pour the melted butter over the squash and toss to coat. Transfer the buttered squash cube to a baking sheet and roast, stirring every 15 minutes, until the squash is tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool, then puree in a food processor.

3. Lightly flour a work surface. Place the chilled dough disc in the center and roll out to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold the edges of the dough under so the dough comes up to the top of the pie plate (see photo above). Crimp the edges with fork tines and prick it the dough all over with the fork. Place the pie plate in the refrigerator to chill the crust for 30 minutes (don't skip this step--the dough needs to be cold when it goes in the oven to minimize shrinkage).

4. Heat the oven to 375 F. Line the top of the chilled crust with aluminum foil and weight it down with pie weights (you can also use coins or dried beans). Bake the pie crust for 20 minutes, remove the foil and weights and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool a bit.

5. Lower oven temperature to 325 F. To the bowl of a food processor, add the squash purée, eggs, cream, dark brown sugar, brandy, ginger, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and clove. Turn on the food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour squash mixture into the cooled pie shell. Set the pie plate on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden and the filling jiggles just a bit in the middle when shaken, about 50 to 75 minutes (Clark says to bake the pie 50 to 60 minutes; I recommend using an instant-read thermometer and cooking the pie until the filling registers 165 F). Remove the pie from the oven and cool before serving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Probably the best cranberry sauce we've had at Thanksgiving. "Tastes like summer," said Chris.

Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from a recipe by Sheila Lukins for Parade via Epicurious

22 oz. fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Finely grated zest from 1 orange
4 tsp. finely grated ginger
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the berries pop open, about 10-14 minutes. Smash the berries around a bit with a spoon as they cook so some break up.

2. Using a spoon, skim any foam off the top surface of the sauce and discard the foam. Cool the sauce to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 months.

Thanksgiving Central

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Celery with Cumin, Garlic and Rosemary

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Celery with Cumin, Garlic and Rosemary

Every good Thanksgiving spread needs some good vegetables sides. And not vegetable sides loaded with so much butter and sugar that they are pretty much a dessert, but honest-to-goodness recipes that honor the vegetables at the core of the dishes. That's what I'm aiming for here, a sweet potato side with no added sugar and no butter: just an assist from celery and the flavorful mix of garlic, rosemary and cumin.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Celery with Cumin, Garlic and Rosemary

3 lbs. red-skinned sweet potatoes (about 2 large or 4 small), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch of celery, ends trimmed and stalks cut on the diagonal in 2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Combine sweet potato cubes with 2 tbsp. olive oil, season with 2 tsp. cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir to coat potatoes with oil and seasoning. Transfer potatoes to a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes.

3. Combine the celery with the remaining tbsp. of olive oil, tsp. of cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss to coat the celery with oil and seasonings. Remove the roasting pan with the potatoes from the oven and stir in the seasoned celery, along with the garlic and rosemary. Return the roasting pan to the and roast another 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Serve in a large bowl.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Restaurant: Bindaas (Washington, D.C.)

Roasted sweet potatoes

What does it take to turn around a declining neighborhood restaurant scene in a tony corner of Upper Northwest D.C.? Indian street food, apparently, and we're all the more lucky for it.

Cleveland Park, one of the coziest northwest red-line neighborhoods, used to be a prime dining destination in the city. When I moved to the neighborhood in 2001, I was excited to live in an area known for its diverse dining options. This was well over a decade before places like 14th Street and Shaw became filled with a seemingly endless array of eating options.

Recent years haven't been kind to the Cleveland Park dining scene, which has been marked by a number of closures--Palena, Dino and Ireland's 4Ps most notably--without notable, or in many cases any, replacements. There are still good reasons to eat in Cleveland Park, such as Fat Pete's barbecue, Italian Coppi's and Top-Chef alum Marjorie Meek-Bradley's Ripple, but the long-vacant restaurant spaces really stick out, as the aforementioned three vacant spaces are among the most prominent locations in the neighborhood.

The reasons for the vacancies are not entirely clear. Some say it's because new restaurants are more interested in hot zones like Shaw, U Street and the SW Waterfront. Some say it's because of the area's high rent. Others blame local zoning rules that cap the percentage of Cleveland Park commercial space that can be used for restaurants at 25 percent. Although I've read this was done to help ensure the neighborhood maintains a variety of commercial uses (and not just eating and drinking), it seems that non-restaurant businesses are not interested in these spaces. After all, what type of business besides a restaurant would be interested in a space configured for a large seating area and an industrial kitchen?

If the aforementioned zoning rules are the reason behind Cleveland Park's restaurant gaps, you may be wondering how Bindaas managed to pull of its opening? Well, it's technically more of a repurposing than a wholly new space, as it occupies the former Bardeo half of Ardeo+Bardeo, and is mostly but not completely closed off from Ardeo, which now returns to its former half-size (and both Ardeo and Bindaas have the same owners).

All this to say that the fact that the area's newest restaurant has foodie tongues wagging--in a major way unseen for years in the neighborhood--is a major coup for Cleveland Park.

And deservedly so, for Bindaas is a thoroughly enjoyable and unique dining experience. Sure, there's no shortage of good Indian restaurants in D.C., as I wrote about last year. This includes Indique, which is just a block away and recently refreshed its menu. It also includes Rasika, the downtown restaurant generally regarded as the best Indian restaurant in the city (and among the best restaurants period). That bodes well for Bindaas, since its kitchen is helmed by James-Beard-award-winning Rasika chef Vikram Sundaram. While the name may be familiar, the cooking might not be, as Bindaas' menu is inspired by Indian street food, making it an exciting departure from the usual tandoori, curry and tikka masala dishes available at most American-Indian restaurants.

As is common in newer restaurants, our server informed us that all the dishes on the menu are meant to be shared. The night we went, we had another couple in tow, giving us the opportunity to sample than we would have normally. And almost everything was a home run. "Oh my god, this is so good" because the mantra of the night.

The menu opens with a selection of chaat, small plates of just a few bites. Nothing we tried from this section of the menu was disappointing. One-bite golgappa, crispy fried biscuits, arrive filled with avocado and set atop overlapping streaks of yogurt and spicy-sweet tamarind chutney. Crunchy fried shisito pepper pakodas, which I've read can be hot, but ours weren't. The accompanying pickled onion chutney adds a tangy note.

Although the fried goodies are tasty, the chaat selections also include more healthful offerings like sweet potatoes roasted with cumin and chili and enrobed in sweet chutney and yogurt (pictured at top). Our favorite from this section of the menu: bhel puri, a wonderfully fresh grain salad of puffed rice, mango and mint.

Uttapam with corn and peppers
Having chosen so many chaat dishes, we selected fewer tastes from the rest of the menu, which consists of slightly larger dishes. The pao bhaji was another winner, a spicy vegetable stew served with grilled buns perfect for dipping. Although I've heard the naan at Bindaas is stellar, we opted instead for uttapam, a rice pancake that Bindaas serves with several topping options--we chose corn and red peppers, another winning combination. The only dish out of the bunch that fell short was the chicken kebab, which came with a delicious makhani sauce but the chicken itself was surprisingly tough and rubbery.


For dessert, we opt for kulfi--so good we're told by our server that we decide to order two of them. And we made the right choice. The treat is a cone of ice cream on a stick served over noodles with crunchy almond nougat and other sweet sauces and spices.

A nice surprise awaited us at the end of the meal: the bill. It was surprisingly small. Granted, we ate a bit on the light side, but not so light that we weren't satisfied. Our party of four spent as much as a party of two can easily spend around D.C. these days.

Who knows whether the holes left by Palena, Dino and the 4Ps will be filled anytime soon. I sure hope they are. In the meantime, Bindaas's excellent cooking and fine service is more than enough to distract from that issue, providing an excellent reason for choosy diners to discover (or re-discover) Cleveland Park.

Bindaas, 3309 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC (Cleveland Park, near Macomb Street). (202) 244-6550. Reservations: Resy.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

This ice cream pretty much stole the show when I made this for Thanksgiving last year. It is really really good. Note that the recipe calls for whole eggs rather than the usual egg yolks. Worked totally fine that way.

Butter Pecan Ice cream
Adapted from a recipe available from Epicurious originally published in Gourmet, 2002

2 cups shelled pecans (1/2 lb.), finely chopped (I scaled back to 1 1/2 cups, noting that many Epicurious commenters noted they thought 2 cups was too much and used less)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (doesn't need to be, as the pecans will be very hot)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Spread pecans on a baking sheet (lined with foil for easy cleanup) and toast in the oven until fragrant and slightly darker, about 7 to 8 minutes (watch the nuts to avoid burning them). Remove nuts from oven, transfer to a bowl (they will be hot). Add butter and salt to hot pecans and toss until butter is melted, then set nuts aside to cool completely.

3. Stir together the brown sugar and cornstarch, then add the eggs and stir until combined (you can try using a whisk for this, since the original recipe says to "whisky" but I think using a spoon or spatula will work much better, as the whisk tends to fling ingredients too easily). Bring milk and cream just to a boil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, (reduce heat to medium-low) then add to egg mixture in a stream, whisking constantly, and transfer custard to saucepan. (rather than add the hot milk to the bowl and transfer back to the pan, I just added the egg mixture to the pan while whisking constantly).

Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat back of spoon and registers 170 to 175°F on an instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes (do not let boil).

Immediately pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in vanilla, then cool, stirring occasionally. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, until cold, at least 3 hours.
Freeze custard in ice cream maker until almost firm. Stir together ice cream and pecans in a bowl, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.

Thanksgiving Central

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Fall-Leaf Apple Pie

Fall-Leaf Apple Pie

I've covered apple pies with a plain crust and a lattice, but for this pie I wanted to get more decorative. I've seen pies decorated with cutouts and the idea in Fine Cooking magazine to use overlapping leaves seemed perfect for Thanksgiving, everybody's favorite fall holiday.

The Fine Cooking recipe calls for cutting each leaf by hand, as well as making smaller leaves. I cheated a little bit: I used a leaf-shaped cookie cutter. This worked great, as each leave was the same size--about 3 1/2 inches long by 2 inches wide. I scored a line down the middle of each leaf with sharp knife (do this carefully to prevent cutting all the way through the dough).

When placing the leaves on top of the pie, they should overlap just slightly. If your leaves are cut to the same size as mine, you'll need 24 leaves to complete the top. Start with the outer ring and place 14 leaves flush against the edge of the pie plate. Then, complete the inner ring with 9 leaves. Finish with a final leaf in the center.

Since I've had such good luck with it in the past, I switched up the crust recipe and used my trusty "foolproof" double-pie crust with vodka recipe from America's Test Kitchen.

Fall-Leaf Apple Pie
Adapted from Apple with Leaves recipe in Fine Cooking and Foolproof Pie Dough recipe from America's Test Kitchen

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

5 to 6 firm, tart apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
1 to 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

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. To make the pie crust and decorative top: On a lightly floured surface, roll one of the dough discs into a 12-inch round 1/8 inch thick. Fold the dough over the rolling pin, ease it into a 9-inch pie pan, and unfold it so it's centered over the pie plate with edges draped over the sides. Press the dough up the sides and over the rim of the pan, and trim it to leave about an inch of dough beyond the rim of the plate. Fold the edge of the dough under itself so that the crease is flush with the top of the pie plate. Press a fork into the edge of the dough to make vertical lines--this "crimping" process seals the folded dough together. Chill the pie plate with the dough while you cut out the leaves.

4. Combine any scraps from the first disc with the second disc and roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. With a paring knife or a leaf cutter, cut out at least 24 leaves 3 1/2 x 2 inches in size. With the paring knife, score a "vein" down the center of each leaf, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough. Place the cut leaves on a floured baking sheet (don't stack them) and set them aside in a cool place.

5. Cut the apples into 1/4-inch slices--there should be about 7 cups. Put the apples in a large bowl and add the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Toss gently to coat the apples with the flour-sugar-spice mixture. Transfer the apples to the cooled pie shell, tucking in any apples to create a slight dome in the center. Dot the apples with large flecks of the remaining 1 to 2 tbsp. of butter.

6. Starting at the rim of the pie plate, place the leaves at a slight angle and slightly overlapping around the edge of the pie until the leaves go all the way around. Then make a second smaller circle of leaves closer to the middle of the pie--finishing with a final leaf in the middle. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

7. Position two racks close together in the lower third of the oven, set a foil-lined baking sheet on the lowest rack to catch any drippings from the pie. Heat the oven to 350 F.

8. Bake the pie on the second-lowest rack until the crust is a deep golden brown all over and the apples are tender when pierced with a thin knife blade, about 60 to 80 minutes (I baked my pie for 85 minutes). Let the pie cool completely before serving.

Thanksgiving Central

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Butternut Squash, Roasted Tomato and Popped Black Bean Salad

Squash, Roasted Tomato and Popped Black Bean Salad

It's easy to load a Thanksgiving table with carb-heavy dishes like stuffing, mashed potatoes and biscuits. I'm not at all opposed to that, however, I like to balance my table with a few vegetable sides as well. This recipe, which was recently featured in the Washington Post, strikes me as being perfect as a healthy Thanksgiving side. More importantly, it's quite delicious. I've made it twice--loved it both times. There's very little added fat and no added sugar in this dish of primarily roasted squash and cherry tomatoes (good cherry tomatoes are mostly out of season, although I have still seen some recently--if not available, you could just omit them and still have a great dish, or perhaps substitute something like chickpeas). I love the black beans, which take on a slightly crispy texture from being cooked in a dry pan until they crack open. The recipe comes from Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals. Based on this recipe, I'm more than a little intrigued about what other delicious ideas she has.

Butternut Squash, Roasted Tomato and Popped Black Bean Salad
Adapted from A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals by Anna Jones, as appeared recently in The Washington Post

Note on deviations from original recipe: I peeled the squash, as I prefer it that way. I added the olive oil spray. The recipe gave the option of using liquefied coconut oil instead of olive oil. The recipe called for freshly ground seeds from 2 green cardamom pods, whereas I just used already ground cardamom. The recipe gave the option of using coconut yogurt instead of plain. Also, I used more yogurt--an entire single-serving container.

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds total), peeled
Olive oil spray
2 tbsp. plus 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. plus 1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 3/4 oz. (a generous 1/2 cup) flaked unsweetened coconut
25-30 golden or red cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, finely grated (such as with a Microplane)
14 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
5.3 oz. (single-serving container) nonfat plain Greek yogurt 
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1. Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 475 F.

2. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray with olive oil spray. Cut off the ends of the squash, then cut it half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds (I recently discovered that an ice cream scoop is the perfect tool for this). Cut the squash halves into 1/2-inch-thick slices and arrange them on the two prepared baking sheets. Drizzle the squash slices with 2 tbsp. of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and 1 tsp. of ground cardamom. Roast the squash for 25 to 35, minutes until blistered and golden, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back after the first 15 minutes. Spread the toasted coconut over the squash and return the baking sheets to the oven for an additional 5 minutes or so until the coconut is lightly toasted. Remove from oven and set aside. If you only have one oven, keep it on for step 3 (if you have two ovens, you can do step 3 concurrently with step 2).

3. In a medium bowl, add the cut cherry tomatoes with remaining tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste, and grated ginger and toss to coat the tomatoes. Spread the cherry tomatoes onto another baking sheet (lined with aluminum foil for easy cleanup) and arrange them all cut-side up. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes look a bit deflated. Remove from oven.

4. While the vegetables roast, dry the drained/rinsed black beans on paper towels. Heat a nonstick skillet or saucepan (I used a shallow 3 1/2 qt. saucepan) over medium heat. Add the beans and cook for about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the beans have dried out, cracked open and crisped.

5. In a small bowl, add the yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, remaining tsp. of cardamom and salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.

6. Serve the salad on a platter as follows: spread the beans first in a single layer, top with roasted squash slices, then the tomatoes and drizzle the yogurt on top.

Thanksgiving Central

Monday, November 7, 2016

Restaurant: All-Purpose (Washington, D.C.)

Buona pizza
It's hard to believe there was a time--not too long ago--when 2 Amys was viewed as the only serious pizza game in town. My how things have changed.

Today, Washingtonians have an almost embarrassing selection of riches when it comes to finding good pizza. Comet Ping-Pong, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last weekend, perfected the casual vibe of a neighborhood pizzeria with decidedly fine quality wood-fired-oven pizzas. Wiseguy NY Pizza satisfied that craving for New York-style pizza without going to The Big Apple. And the 14th Street crowd are in good hands with the pies from Etto, a 2 Amys offshoot, and Ghibellina. I've enjoyed quite good pizza at Ardeo, Arcuri, Graffito and Vace. Almost every style of pizza is well-covered here, save for good Chicago-style pizza, which is MIA since the closure of Armand's Tenleytown a few years ago (and yes, I'm aware of District of Pi--the less said, the better). A few other places I haven't visited, such as Il Canale and Menomalé, also draw rave reviews. And while it's not exactly "gourmet," an Adams-Morgan Jumbo Slice certainly hits the spot in the wee hours of the morning after a night of bar-hopping.

Against this backdrop of seemingly endless choices for crust, sauce, cheese and toppings, I was skeptical when I heard that D.C. was getting yet another pizzeria with All-Purpose. Sure, it was opening in Shaw, the city's white-hot restaurant neighborhood, with a prime slot near 9th & N, a geographic focal point of the D.C. new food boom.

That skepticism quickly vanished after my first visit to the handsome and inviting establishment.

Sleepy Hollow pizza
My first trip to All-Purpose was at lunch, just days after Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema named the restaurant his favorite in the city for his annual Fall Dining Guide. I arrived early, expecting it to be busy, but was actually surprised by how sparsely packed the dining room was (note to All-Purpose fans: weekday lunch appears to be a good time to get a table here. Second note to All-Purpose fans, unlike other hot D.C. restaurants, they take reservations! Yay!). With the piling accolades, I was expecting something fancy, but All-Purpose has a very casual, laid-back vibe, with bare wood tables, wood paneling and tile flooring (all those hard surfaces, while lovely, do make for a pretty noisy restaurant when it is busy).

All-Purpose's warmth doesn't stop at the decor. The staff is quite friendly too. Both during my lunch and dinner visits, I encountered friendly hosts, managers and servers, the last of which were efficient, attentive and prepared to answer questions. I even got to chat with one of the cooks who came out of the kitchen to tell me how they make their dough (more on that later).

Starting the evening with a cocktail isn't a bad idea. All-Purpose's drinks list includes a short menu of classic cocktails like a Black Manhattan, an Italian spin on the whiskey classic that substitutes Averna for sweet vermouth. There's also a short list of European and American wines by the glass, a longer list of beers and a quite long list of wines by the bottle.

And the pizza? It's divine. Absolutely among the best pizza I've had in D.C. or anywhere. During my first visit I ordered the Buona, quite possibly the best pepperoni pizza I've had in my life. It's insanely good. Simple too: large slices of pepperoni, chili-honey (basically lightly spicy honey) and fresh basil top a traditional base of mozzarella and tomato sauce. I'm getting hungry writing about it. It was so good that when Chris and I went for dinner a couple weeks later, I insisted he try it too. We also got the Sleepy Hollow, a seasonally delicious mixture of roasted Brussels sprouts, pancetta, smoked mozzarella, onion and tomato sauce. As much as I loved the Buona, it would be hard to say I preferred it over the equally masterful Sleepy Hollow.

All-Purpose Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad
All-Purpose pizzas come in an individual size, so ordering several and sharing (or if you must, one for yourself) works great. Although pizza is clearly the focus here, All-Purpose offers a few other entrees, including a lasagna, and quite a few small plates. At lunch, there are also some sandwiches. During dinner, we started the evening with a fresh-tasting Caesar salad, which arrives as a stack of little gem lettuce leaves coated with a nicely acidic anchovy dressing, parmesan and breadcrumbs (quite small, so don't expect croutons). If you like the Caesar, it also shows up at lunch as the Cape May pizza, which I haven't had but hear is another standout.

Now let's talk about that pizza crust. You know how sometimes you eat pizza and skip eating the final arc-shaped piece of crust without toppings? (Yes, I know this practice is anathema to many of you, but some employ it as a way of portion-control.) Well, you won't want to do that here, because the crust is absolutely delicious. This is where chef Mike Friedman has gotten quite inventive. All-Purpose uses a blend of flours that includes whole-wheat flour--unusual, since most pizza just uses all-purpose flour (sort of ironic, given their name). It also incorporates malt powder, which gives the yeast an additional source of fuel while also providing caramelization for the crust when it bakes. Then, the dough is aged for 3 days, allowing for significant fermentation. The pizzas are baked in a deck oven, rather than the trendy wood-fired oven.

If you're hankering for dessert, All-Purpose has a partnership with Tiffany MacIsaac's next-door bakery, Buttercream, an inspired establishment in its own right. Although the cakes sound amazing, we split a delicious dish of peanut-butter soft-serve ice cream with caramel sauce and cookie crumbles (the menu said it had a concord grape element too, although I couldn't discern that by taste). If you're thinking of skipping dessert, at least stop next door and pick up a few of Buttercream's wonderful cookies for later. You won't regret it, nor will you regret giving this gem of a pizza restaurant a chance.

All Purpose, 1250 9th Street NW (near M Street across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center). (202) 849-6174. Reservations: Resy.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes

Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes

Is it "stuffing" or "dressing"? technically the latter is the correct term if it's cooked outside the bird; however, since "dressing" is so closely associated with salad dressing, I just prefer to call it all stuffing. Regardless of where it's cooked--and I recommend outside the bird for food safety reasons--it's one of Thanksgiving's most delicious and versatile dishes.

The foundation of a good stuffing is sautéed aromatic vegetables (usually onion and often celery), dry bread (of course), maybe some protein such as sausage or bacon and liquid, usually a stock. After that, you've got a lot of room to build in the flavors you really like. I love to experiment with stuffing, as shown by the mix of recipes below.

Classic 11-Ingredient Stuffing. Here's a good place to start if you've never made stuffing from scratch before. The only way to make stuffing easier is to go the boxed route (which I don't recommend). Fresh sage and dried thyme flavor this simple mixture of onion, celery and sourdough bread cubes.

Sausage Cornbread Stuffing. This is my favorite traditional stuffing--basically my go-to almost every Thanksgiving. It's similar to the Classic 11-Ingredient Stuffing except made with cornbread, although I like to mix it up with dried cranberries sometimes.

Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Fennel (pictured above). Another cornbread stuffing variation--this one I found in Bon Appétit magazine. In addition to the fennel, scallions, pear, marjoram and white wine make this an interesting and flavorful stuffing.

Rye Bread Stuffing. I usually make stuffing with some kind of white bread, if I'm not using cornbread, but with this recipe I decided to see what rye bread would be like. There's bacon and apple in this one too.

Italian Stuffing. I told you there were a lot of possibilities for variation with stuffings. This one looks to Italy with Italian bread, pine nuts, pancetta, fennel and dried figs.

Southwestern Cornbread Stuffing

Southwestern Cornbread Stuffing (pictured above). Stuffing is usually pretty mild, but with this version I gave it a spicy kick with chorizo and chipotles in adobe. Don't forget to include the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) in this stuffing.

Oregon Stuffing. Wanting something that nods to my childhood state, this one includes sourdough, hazelnuts, apple, dried blueberries and Oregon beer.

Asian Grain Stuffing. Not into bread? Use whole grains instead. Here, brown rice mixes with sausage, onion, celery, carrot, shiitakes, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar and red chili pepper flakes for a dish with subtle Asian flavor.

Thanksgiving Central

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thanksgiving Breads Recipes

Butter flaky biscuits

It's not Thanksgiving without biscuits at our house. Sure, it may seem redundant to have yet another carb when there are already plenty of others on offer.

I'm a big fan of quick breads for Thanksgiving and biscuits in particular. Drop biscuits, like the Cranberry-Walnut Drop Biscuits I shared yesterday make a great choice, since you mix the ingredients together, plop them onto a baking sheet and stick them in a hot oven. Very simple.

Biscuits that are rolled out and cut are a little more work, but offer a more uniform look and a really nice texture. The Butter-Flaky Biscuits pictured at top are one of my favorites. The buttery dough is rolled out and folded several times, creating layers of buttery goodness. Rosemary, Onion and Black Pepper Biscuits pack a lot of bold flavors into a savory biscuit. Similarly, I love Cheesy Scallion-Corn Biscuits, especially with a Homemade Compound Butter spiked with fresh chives.

For something with a bit of smoke and sweetness, I recommend Butternut Squash, Pecan and Bacon Bread (pictured above), which comes together quickly if you roast the squash in advance. Lastly, although I usually make cornbread to cube into stuffing, Simple Cornbread is pretty amazing on its own as well.

Thanksgiving Central

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cranberry-Walnut Drop Biscuits

Cranberry-Walnut Drop Biscuits

Welcome to Thanksgiving recipe month! If there's a loose theme to this month's recipes, it's adaptability: how to take other recipes and tweak them in small but smart ways to make them something different. Adapting recipes is one of the easiest ways to be creative in the kitchen. You're not inventing something from scratch--probably fruitless anyway unless your exploring the outer reaches of gastronomy. Chances are your "invention" has already been done by someone else. Instead, why not start with an established recipe and give it your own spin (with due credit to the originators, of course)?

I adapted this recipe for these wonderful biscuits from Serious Eats' Quick and Easy Drop Biscuits Recipe. When making this, I accidentally added 1 3/4 cups of milk instead of 3/4 cup. As I was stirring the dough, I thought "wow, this is really soupy for biscuit dough." When I realized the mistake, the best way to solve the problem: double the recipe. I cut it back down to size for the recipe below.

Cranberry-Walnut Drop Biscuits

Cranberry-Walnut Drop Biscuits
Adapted from a recipe by Marissa Sertich Velie for Serious Eats

4 oz. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and refrigerated
8 oz. (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup whole milk
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and toss with the dry ingredients until coated with the flour mixture. Use your fingers (or a pastry blender) to rub (or cut) the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture has a coarse sandy texture.

3. Add the milk, walnuts and dried cranberries and stir the mixture with a fork until it just comes together into a slightly sticky dough.

4. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, mound balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between the mounds. Bake the biscuits until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Let biscuits cool slightly, then transfer them to a wire rack.

Thanksgiving Central