Tuesday, November 30, 2010

thanksgiving report

The Bird
A Whole Foods frozen turkey (and 24 hours of defrosting) threw a wrench in my “Judy Bird” plan. But, as back-up plans go, Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey is not so bad.


The Stuffing
Silver Palate's Cornbread stuffing made its second annual appearance. Flavor-wise, it’s still exactly what I’m looking for, but next year I may experiment with adding some stock during cooking. (I've resigned myself to the stand-alone stuffing, but I do miss the moisture imparted by a little jus de turkey...)


Delicata Squash, Potato and Celery Root Puree

This is about as far as A. would allow us to stray from the classic mashed potato. And, in the end, I think he was glad he did. For a streamlined Thanksgiving, this is a delicious alternative, marrying autumnal squash flavors with the traditional Russet.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts
For the requisite crunch.


Braised Pearl Onions
The perennial favorite, glazed with beef stock.


The Cranberry Sauce(s)
Following the results of last year’s rigorous trial and error, we served our three favorite cranberry sauces: cranberry-horseradish, cranberry fruit conserve, and triple cranberry sauce. Some may call three cranberry sauces redundant, I call it necessary.


Marcey’s Pumpkin Pie
Practically perfect in every way.


John Thorne's Best-Ever Pecan Pie
The new ceiling for pecan pie. (But there is still a ceiling.)


Good Eats Roast Turkey
Adapted from Alton Brown

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

2 to 3 days before roasting: Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat: Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. A 14- to 16-pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.


Silver Palate Corn Bread-Sausage Stuffing With Apples
Adapted from The Silver Palate

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
3 tart apples, cored and chunked
1 pound lightly seasoned bulk sausage (preferably breakfast sausage with sage)
3 cups coarsely crumbled corn bread
3 cups coarsely crumbled whole-wheat bread
3 cups coarsely crumbled white bread (French or homemade preferred)
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups shelled pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Melt half of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook, partially covered, until tender and lightly colored, about 25 minutes, Transfer the onions and butter to a large mixing bowl.

Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet. Add the apple chunks and cook over high heat until lightly colored but not mushy. Transfer the apples and butter to the mixing bowl.

Crumble the sausage into the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the mixing bowl and reserve the rendered fat.

Add the remaining ingredients to the ingredients in the mixing bowl and combine gently. Cool completely before stuffing the bird; refrigerate if not used promptly.

If you do not wish actually to stuff the bird, spoon it into a casserole. Cover the casserole and set into a large pan. Pour hot water around the casserole to come halfway up the sides, Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the cooking juices from the bird or with the reserved sausage fat if necessary.


Delicata Squash, Potato and Celery Root Puree
Adapted from Alice Waters

2 delicata squashes (about 1 pound)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic
4 russet potatoes
1 medium celery root
1/2 cup cream
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Split the squashes in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and pulpy fiber with a spoon. Brush the squashes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put 1 sprig of the thyme and 1 clove of garlic in the cavity of each squash half, and bake on a baking sheet, cut-side down, for about 40 minutes, until tender.

Peel the potatoes, cut them into medium chunks, and put them in a pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, until tender.

Peel the celery root, cut it into small chunks, and put them in a pot of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, until tender. In another saucepan heat the cream, the remaining sprig of thyme, the bay leaf, and the butter. Bring to a simmer, turn off the heat, and let the mixture steep.

When the potatoes are done, drain them and spread them out to dry on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes. When the celery root is done, drain it and pass it through a food mill or ricer. When the squash is done, remove it from the oven and discard the garlic and thyme. Scrape the flesh from the skin with a spoon. Put the squash, potatoes, and celery root purée through a food mill into a pot, or puree with immersion blender. Add more or less of the seasoned butter and cream mixture, and thin with milk or water, depending on the desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning, reheat, and serve.


Brown-Braised Pearl Onions
Adapted from Julia Child

18-24 pearl onions, about 1 inch in diameter
1½ tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons olive oil
½ cup brown stock, or more [you can also experiment with dry white wine, red wine, or water]
Salt and pepper to taste
4 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme

To peel the onions, cut off the stems with a paring knife and cook in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and immediately plunge blanched onions into a bowl of ice water. Squeeze each onion gently at root end; the skins should pop off.

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet. Add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. (You can't expect them to brown uniformly.) Be careful not to break their skins.

Pour in enough liquid to come halfway up the sides of the onions, season to taste, and add the herbs. Cover and simmer slowly for 30 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herbs, and serve warm. [The onions can be cooked hours in advance, and reheated before serving.]


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

2-3 pounds brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup peeled and roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss the brussels sprouts in a bowl with just enough olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the sprouts in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, or until fork-tender and some of the leaves have become caramelized.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chestnuts and stir until glazed. Add the roasted brussels sprouts and thyme, if desired. Toss to combine. Test for seasoning and serve.


Cranberry-Horseradish Relish

1 (12-ounce) package cranberries, thawed
1 small onion, quartered [I usually end up using about 3/4 onion]
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light sour cream or plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons drained prepared horseradish

Combine cranberries, onion and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add sour cream, horseradish and salt to taste. Refrigerate until chilled, preferably overnight.

Cranberry Fruit Conserve
Adapted from Ina Garten

1 (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries, cleaned
1 3/4 cups sugar [I tend to use a little less]
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 orange, zest grated and juiced
1 lemon, zest grated and juiced
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Cook the cranberries, sugar, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the skins pop open. Add the apple, zests, and juices and cook for 15 more minutes. Remove from the heat and add the raisins and nuts. Let cool, and serve chilled.

Triple-Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 cup frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, thawed
1/3 cup sugar 1 12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries, cleaned
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried cherries
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons minced orange peel
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cinnamon stick

Combine cranberry juice concentrate and sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add fresh and dried cranberries and cook until dried berries begin to soften and fresh berries begin to pop, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in orange marmalade, orange juice, orange peel, allspice and cinnamon stick. Cool completely. Cover; chill until cold, about 2 hours. Remove cinnamon stick and serve.


Perfect Pie Crust
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl. 

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

To blind bake: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate. Bake 5 to 10 more minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove plate and baking sheet from oven.

Marcey’s Pumpkin Pie

1 3/4 cups pumpkin (one 15-ounce can)
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup half and half
3 eggs
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
one 9-inch pie crust, blind baked
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, spices and pumpkin. In another bowl, beat eggs then add half and half and heavy cream. Whisk until smooth. Combine wet and dry ingredients, and mix until well incorporated.

Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using a spatula to press solids through strainer.

Pour mixture into the pie shell and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the edges are set. If the custard only jiggles slightly in the center, it's done. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.


John Thorne's Best-Ever Pecan Pie

Adapted from Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts

1 pie crust, blind baked
1 cup raw cane dark muscovado sugar, turbinado sugar, or light brown sugar
2/3 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup
2 tablespoon dark rum
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 cups broken pecan meats

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, Golden Syrup, rum, and butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove pan from the heat and set aside to cool until lukewarm, at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the lower third.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs until creamy. Beat the eggs into the cooled syrup; stir in the vanilla, salt, and pecans. Pour filling into the pie shell.

Bake until the filling is set but still slightly wobbly in the center, about 50 minutes. Cool the pie completely on a wire rack. Serve the pie at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Friday, November 19, 2010

pumpkin gooey butter cake

Help. I have fallen down the rabbit hole that is the Paula Deen. Whereas my first foray into Mrs. Deen’s pantry was more an exercise in novelty—a Halloween aberration—I have only idle curiosity (and the unqualified recommendations of 1,889 Food Network fans) to thank for this latest undertaking.

Behold, the Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake.

Apparently (read: magnificently) it is one of several gooey butter cakes in her oeuvre—an autumnal twist on an old St. Louis tradition. Pumpkin aside, the basic equation remains the same: a yellow butter cake base, topped by layer of baked goo. In that way, it’s very consistent with Deen’s culinary aesthetic. (One glance at the ingredients list will tell you as much: packaged cake mix, two sticks of butter and an entire box of confectioners’ sugar.) Which made it an interesting, if unnerving experiment in the kitchen.

As much as I appreciate the culture, and the concept of the gooey butter cake, I felt pretty ambivalent about the results. The cake was a little too cloying, I thought at first, with a piercing sweetness that called to mind caramelized marshmallow fluff, and a cardiac response akin to mainlining crack.

Fortunately, with the help of some crème fraiche and a generous sprinkling of Maldon sea salt, I was able to reconcile myself to eating a second slice. And it was delicious.

Like I said, please send help.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
Adapted from Paula Deen

Were I ever to attempt the gooey butter cake again, I’d probably opt for Melissa Clark’s version, which abstains from prepackaged cake mix. That said, the genius of this cake is really the ease with which it all comes together. It might have a place at a future holiday party, cut into small squares and served with the aforementioned garnishes of sea salt crème fraiche whipped cream, but for my Thanksgiving or Christmas table, I would always rather have Marcey’s pumpkin pie, or Pichet Ong’s kabocha squash cheesecake.

For the cake:
1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves

To garnish:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Maldon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Meanwhile, beat the heavy cream to soft peaks. Beat in crème fraiche.

Sprinkle each slice with sea salt and serve with crème fraiche whipped cream.

flour bakery banana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger

We’ve all been doing a lot of thumb twiddling in the past few days, waiting for an overdue arrival. So when K. alerted me to the bunch of bananas idling in her kitchen, banana bread seemed as appropriate a way as any to pass the time. (It’s rare that our bananas make it ever to the sufficiently browned stage; the smell—and the craving for a breakfast smoothie—usually does them in before then.)

This recipe is a celebrity mash-up of sorts. The base comes from Flour Bakery’s deservedly famous banana bread (a Boston staple I’ve enjoyed several times over, and one of the signature items in Joanne Chang’s new cookbook); but I have Molly Wizenberg to thank for the inspired additions of chocolate and crystallized ginger.

These flourishes make the bread feel more dessert-y, than breakfast-y, in my book (which is exactly how we served it—with a little whipped cream). But the morning-after pieces were, if possible, even more delicious.

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
Adapted from Flour, by Joanne Chang and A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg

This banana bread only improves with a day's rest. If the chocolate and crystallized ginger are a little extreme for your tastes, substitute toasted walnuts and add an additional tablespoon of sugar for a more traditional loaf.

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed (I used an immersion blender to smooth out any lumps)
2 tablespoons crème fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, beat the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly drizzle in oil. Add mashed bananas, crème fraiche, and vanilla and mix on low speed until just combined.

Fold in flour mixture, then the chocolate chips and ginger. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until loaf the is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then tip out onto the rack, and let it cool completely before slicing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

indian spiced cauliflower and sweet potatoes

Some culinary inventions are born from trial and error, others from accidents. This was more a case of convenience—two languishing sweet potatoes that I thought might make a tasty riff on Aloo Gobi. Suspicions confirmed.


Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Gourmet

1 head cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Kosher salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño, seeds optional
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water
Lemon wedges, for serving

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and place a shallow baking pan on rack. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Toss cauliflower and sweet potatoes together in a bowl with olive oil (enough to lightly coat), cumin seeds, and salt. Spread in hot baking pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots and potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes. (I gave the sweet potatoes a little extra time.)

While vegetables are roasting, cook onion, garlic, jalapeño, and ginger in 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted vegetables. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Check for seasoning and serve.

Monday, November 1, 2010

salty peanut butter chocolate cookies

I didn’t dress up for Halloween this year. In fact, the holiday went relatively unobserved at our apartment aside from a pumpkin centerpiece and these cookies—the requisite Halloween treat.

In the spirit of the holiday—a night that celebrates the subversion of social norms—I decided to deviate from my own culinary conservatism and attempt my first ever Paula Deen recipe.

I’d be lying if I said this was a stretch for me—for one thing, the recipe came to me via another, more trusted source, and it is, by Paula Deen’s standards, relatively virtuous. (I’d like to think that she serves these cookies as a palate cleanser—the preamble to some grand, two-sticks-of-butter-minimum dessert.)

Regardless, the result was shockingly good—soft and caramelized, with a melting chocolate center. While I'll grant that Mrs. Deen knows her way around a peanut butter cookie, it's the modern additions of sea salt and orange zest that make these unforgettable.

Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Paula Deen via Amateur Gourmet

The flavor of these reminds me a little of the venerable Tagalong. We experimented with both milk and semisweet chocolate, to equal acclaim.

Yields about 16 cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
Semisweet or milk chocolate chunks
Maldon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together peanut butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, orange zest and a pinch of sea salt until well integrated.

Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place on the cookie sheet. (Do no press them down.) Press the chocolate on top and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through, until the bottoms are golden-brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack (or consume immediately).