Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Cocktail: Black Tie Martinis

By now, the turkey is roasting (or resting), the dressing is dressed and the cranberries are sauced. Isn't it time for you to be sauced also? (Come know your relatives are finally getting on your nerves.) Here's a bracing cocktail that you can make with things already in your liquor cabinet and kitchen pantry.

In all seriousness, it's time to lift a glass to all you have to be thankful for. Even in tough economic times, there is lots about life that is beautiful...

Black-Tie Martinis
From Gourmet.
Makes three cocktails. (Two for you and one to grow on.)

9 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) gin or vodka (I woosed out and used vodka.)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist for garnish

Combine gin (or vodka) and peppercorns, then let stand 15 minutes.
Stir together 1/2 teaspoon finely ground pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt on a plate. Wet rim of one cocktail glass with your fingertip and dip in salt mixture, rotating glass to coat rim. Repeat with two more glasses.

Strain gin through a fine-mesh sieve into a 16-oz cocktail shaker three-fourths full of ice. Add vermouth and bitters and stir 15 seconds. Strain into cocktail glasses.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Turn Turkey Leftovers into Turkey Tortilla Casserole

Here's an easy way to put the leftover turkey to good use. It's the classic "mix and dump" casserole. But it's delicious...especially with good homemade guacamole on the side.

Turkey Tortilla Casserole
Serves ten.

3 cups chopped cooked turkey (about 1 pound)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 can (4.5 ounce) shopped green chiles
2 cans (14.5 ounce each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
(Note: I think the final product could use a little more spice. If you like things hot, you might use two cans of Rotel style tomatoes and chiles in a hotter version as a substitute for both the chiles and fire-roasted tomatoes. Or just add a diced jalapeno pepper or two to the mix.)
14 ounces tortilla chips or tostada shells
One can (14.5 ounces) chicken broth (or use homemade if you have it)
4 cups (about one pound) grated Mexican cheese blend
Sour cream for serving (Note: This is not really optional. The perfect crowning touch.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine turkey, onion, chiles and tomatoes. Blend well. Crush chips slightly and mix in. Pour into sprayed 9 by 12 inch casserole dish. Pour broth over and top with cheese.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes until cheese is browned around the edges. Serve with sour cream.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Cranberry Sauce...Theme and Variations

Cranberry sauce is one of few exceptions to my standard rule of no fruit on the main course plate. The overwhelming combination of dense textures and rich flavors that appear on the Turkey Day table make my palate scream for something tangy, tart and refreshing before I dive in for the next forkful.

But no canned stuff for me. (Although I giggle when I think about my grandmother's Thanksgiving table...gorgeous crystal and china, vintage relish trays...and a perfectly formed can-shaped block of jellied cranberry sauce in a Fostoria dish. She didn't even bother slicing it up to disguise its origins.)

It's too simple to dump ingredients into a saucepan. My standard version is one package cranberries, one cup water and one cup sugar simmered until most of the cranberries have popped open. The sauce thickens as it cools.

But here are a couple of recipes for cranberry sauces that are only slightly more complicated to make, but even more delicious. Make several for your feast table...

(And while cranberries are so readily available in the grocery store, buy some extra bags and freeze them. All you have to do is put the bag into a freezer bag. Then you'll have them on hand for relishes, baking and cocktails.)

Cranberry Grape Compote
In this version, the grapes temper the tanginess of the cranberries for a slightly sweeter sauce.
From Everyday Food.
Makes four cups.

1 package (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
3 cups seedless red grapes
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan over medium-high, bring cranberries, grapes, sugar, and 1/2 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until most of the cranberries have popped and grapes are falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes. (Note: I used a potato masher to crush the grapes a bit to help them pop.)

Remove from heat; add salt and stir to combine. Let cool to room temperature (compote will thicken as it cools). Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.

Cranberry-Ginger Relish
This is a strongly flavored relish...and I loved it.
From Everyday Food.
Makes four cups.

1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar

In a large saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, ginger, and 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until most of the cranberries have popped, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in vinegar.

Remove relish from heat. Let cool to room temperature, and serve (or refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Make Your Own Chicken Stock

It's the weekend before Thanksgiving and it seems like cold air is settling all over the country. So why not spend a few minutes in the kitchen and make your own chicken stock? You'll need it next week for your stuffing, could use it for the gravy and then can incorporate it into one of the leftover Thanksgiving recipes like this. It's easy and you'll be able to take control of the quality of your ingredients plus probably save a buck or two when you don't have to buy cans and cans of salty stuff at the grocery.

Some recipes call for deboning the chicken and roasting the bones before putting them in water with the aromatics. I make it easy on myself and just poach a whole chicken. It results in a rich, but not overpowering, stock. (Plus you'll have the chicken you need to make chicken salads like these.) Here's my tried and true method.

Homemade Chicken Stock
Makes approximately sixteen cups of stock.

1 roasting chicken, giblets removed from cavity (You can actually make a separate smaller, but richer batch of stock from the giblets if you'd like. Be careful though...the liver can add an unwanted bitterness.)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into several large chunks
3 ribs celery, cut into large pieces
1 onion, peeled and quartered
8-10 peppercorns or generous pinch of black pepper or generous pinch of garlic pepper
If you have them, a bay leaf or two and a couple sprigs fresh thyme

Place all ingredients in large stock pot. Cover with water. Simmer over low heat for one hour. (If you'd like and are worried about overcooking chicken, you can take it out after thirty minutes. I leave it in.) Periodically, skim top of broth for impurities. After one hour, strain stock through sieve, reserving chicken and discarding vegetables.

To remove fat, place stock in refrigerator overnight. Fat will congeal in thin layer on top and be easier to discard.

Use within three or four days or freeze. I always make plenty and freeze in one cup measures; then I can take out exactly what I need as I need it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Turkey and Potato Soup with Bacon

Here's another use for that leftover turkey (and this one even gives you something to do with the leftover mashed potatoes).

I adapted the recipe slightly, mashing one baking potato and leaving the other one in chunks. The mashed potatoes give the soup a nice thickness, but you still get the added texture of the potato pieces. The original recipe (Cooking Light style) also calls for Canadian bacon, but I used some regular bacon I had on hand. You could also substitute pancetta. Just be sure to use one of the's a central flavor in the final product.

Turkey and Potato Soup with Bacon
Adapted from Cooking Light.
Serves six.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
1 cup chopped celery
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 ounce bacon (or pancetta or Canadian bacon), chopped
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 cups chopped cooked turkey (about 1 pound)
2 peeled baking potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and simmered until tender
1 cut fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, and bacon; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cook potatoes and drain. Reserve half of the pieces and mash the other half.

Add broth, turkey, potatoes, corn and chopped sage to vegetable-bacon mixture, stirring with a whisk until blended; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in pepper. Garnish with sage sprigs, if desired.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Topping

I only make cheesecakes from scratch about twice a year. They are incredibly involved, requiring a significant investment of time and ingredients. Certainly a special occasion undertaking.

And Thanksgiving is the perfect special occasion to make this decadent treat. It's another "twofer"--cheesecake and sauce are sublime together, but could also stand on their own. (I am dreaming of the pecan praline topping over roasted bananas or even just (just!) vanilla ice cream.)

This dessert holds well, so you could even make it a couple of days in advance. You might wait until the last minute on the sauce; when I reheated it, it separated a bit. But no worries...if that happens to you also, just strain some of the butter off the top and mix in a bit more brown sugar.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Topping
From Food and Wine magazine.
Serves 12.

One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (1 3/4 cups)
8 whole graham crackers, broken
1/2 cup pecans (2 ounces)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups cream cheese (14 ounces), at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pecan Praline Topping and whipped cream, for serving

Set a rack over a baking sheet and line the rack with 2 layers of paper towels. Spread the pumpkin puree over the paper towels and let drain for 2 hours, until the puree is fairly dry.

Preheat the oven to 500°. Butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until finely ground. Add the pecans and brown sugar and pulse until finely ground. Add the melted butter and pulse just until incorporated. Press the crumbs onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, just until it is fragrant and lightly browned. Let the crust cool completely.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese until it is very smooth. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar with the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. With the machine on, add the spiced sugar to the cream cheese and beat until creamy, scraping the bottom and side of the bowl. Carefully add the drained pumpkin puree and beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in the heavy cream, lemon juice and vanilla until the cheesecake mixture is smooth.

Pour the cheesecake mixture over the cooled crust and bake for 12 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 225° and bake the cheesecake for about 3 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 150°; the center will be very jiggly but not liquidy. Let the cheesecake cool on a rack, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Run a hot knife around the cheesecake and loosen the springform ring. Carefully remove the ring and transfer the cake to a plate. Using a warm knife, cut the cake into wedges and serve with the Pecan Praline Topping and whipped cream.

Pecan Praline Topping
1/2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups pecans (8 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer just until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Let the caramel cool.

Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer the pecans to a work surface and let them cool. Coarsely chop the nuts, stir them into the cooled caramel and serve.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Don't be afraid of this recipe. It is NOT pasta with a sickly sweet pumpkin pie sauce. It's a deliciously rich pasta dish with the taste of creamy winter squash with the salty tang of Parmesan cheese. I made it with whole wheat pasta...which kicked up both the richness and healthy factors. It certainly can hold its own alongside your roast turkey, but was also delicious with a simply baked chicken.

Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce
From Everyday with Rachael Ray.
Serves eight as a side dish.

1 pound penne pasta (I used whole wheat and loved it.)
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy cream (I used half and half and it was wonderful. You can probably make it even healthier and just use milk,)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.

In the same pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin and heavy cream and bring to a boil. Return the pasta to the pot along with the reserved pasta cooking water and toss. Stir in the parmesan; season with salt and pepper.

Top the pasta with the parsley and more parmesan.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Holiday Brunch...Fluffy Baked Eggs with Roasted Vegetable Hash

You know you're going to have to have a brunch recipe in your repertoire for your Thanksgiving guests. Probably not the day itself...everyone will be saving their calories...but perhaps the day before or the day after. Might as well be one with autumnal flair. This is a twofer...both parts of the recipe would stand on their own quite well. The baked eggs with a side of bacon, or topped with pesto or salsa. The vegetable hash would be a great side dish with pork or chicken...or spooned over soft polenta for a rustic meal.

And these eggs are TRULY fluffy! I wasn't so sure at the beginning of the cooking process, but they puffed up huge at the end. They lost a little bit of height after they came out of the oven, but still impressive.

Fluffy Baked Eggs with Roasted Vegetable Hash
From Gourmet.
Serves six.

Butter for greasing dish
10 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces Swiss cheese, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups)
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped (1/4-inch pieces)
1 large sweet potato (8 to 10 oz), peeled and coarsely chopped (1/4-inch pieces)
1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish (about 2 inches deep).

Whisk together eggs, milk, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until smooth, then whisk in cheese. Pour into baking dish. Bake in upper third of oven until puffed, golden, and set, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss together mushrooms, sweet potato, shallot, oil, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 17- by 13- by 1-inch baking pan. Spread vegetables in an even layer, then roast in lower third of oven while eggs are baking, stirring twice after 10 minutes, until tender and golden brown, about 18 minutes.

Serve eggs with roasted vegetables spooned on top.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Butternut Squash and Leek Gratins

Here's another rich side dish that combines a couple of great autumn ingredients. You could probably even make these a day or two before and reheat them while the turkey awaits carving. But even though this is great for the feast, you won't want to limit this recipe to the holiday. It would be a great accompaniment any night you're serving roasted chicken or pork.

(Note: The Parmesan is a nice touch, but really not needed. The gratin is rich and complex on its own. Frankly, I thought the cheese made things a bit salty.)

Butternut Squash and Leek Gratins
From Cooking Light
Serves six to ten depending on the size of your ramekins.

1 (2-pound) butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon butter
4 cups finely chopped leek (about 6 large leeks)
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place squash halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until tender. Cool 30 minutes. Scoop out pulp, and mash with a potato masher or fork until smooth.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; coat pan with cooking spray. Melt butter in pan. Add leek; cover and cook 20 minutes or until tender, stirring once. (Note: Be careful to keep heat low and not to let the leeks get too brown too soon. I found it necessary to add a couple tablespoons water to help the leeks steam.) Reduce heat to medium-low; uncover and cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

Combine sugar and next 5 ingredients (through egg yolk) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add squash and leek; stir until well combined. Divide the squash mixture evenly among 6 (6-ounce) ramekins or custard cups coated with cooking spray. Place ramekins in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan; add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch. Cover pan with foil; bake at 325° for 25 minutes. Uncover and cook an additional 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven, and place the ramekins on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese over each ramekin.

Preheat broiler.

Broil gratins for 2 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Smoky-Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Maybe you've settled Battle Potato and selected sweet potatoes for your Thanksgiving table. But who says they have to be mashed or casseroled. As a matter of fact, who says that ALL the food has to be on one plate at one time. Rebel and serve your feast in courses. Start with this wonderfully complex soup. Then move on to the turkey...and of course a smorgasbord of desserts as the finale.

This delicious soup has a lot going for it. So much in fact that I wasn't sure it would be "bloggable." But it is. The orange juice and honey accent the sweetness of the potatoes. The chipotle in adobo sauce provides a subtle spicy backnote. (I also wondered about adding a little Spanish smoked paprika--the secret ingredient in my mashed sweet potatoes. Might have to try it one of the servings.) And the bacon on top is the perfect smoky accent. I won't even begrudge the fact that the recipe came from Rachael Ray...

(Serving note: After having this as a main course the other night, I served the leftovers in tiny appetizer portions as a starter for an impromptu dinner party we had with some neighbors a couple nights later. Poured into shot glasses, topped with the sour cream and bacon and then accompanied by demitasse spoons, it was lots of fun.)

Smoky-Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
From Everyday with Rachael Ray.
Serves eight.

4 sweet potatoes (2½ pounds), peeled and sliced 1 inch thick
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices smoky bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
5 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
One 32-ounce container chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated peel and juice of 1 orange
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Honey or maple syrup, for drizzling
1 cup sour cream, for passing around the table

In a large saucepan, add the sweet potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, salt the water and cook until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

While the potatoes are working, in a medium pot, heat the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Discard all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Add the onion, carrot, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, thyme sprigs and bay leaf and cook until the onions are softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, orange peel, orange juice and cinnamon; drizzle with honey and season with salt and pepper. Simmer about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Add the broth mixture to the sweet potatoes in the pot and puree with an immersion blender (alternatively, puree in batches in a blender or food processor). Serve the soup with the sour cream and bacon on top.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: The Secret Ingredient...Grating Whole Nutmeg

There is an ingredient ubiquitous to the Thanksgiving table. Nutmeg. It's in pumpkin pies and cakes and cookies. And it's often included in gratins, scalloped potatoes or other dishes that include cream (or even Parmesan cheese).

But there's simply no reason to buy an expensive jar of ground nutmeg to sit in your cabinet and gradually lose its flavor on a daily basis (and ground, it didn't have much flavor to begin with). Do yourself a favor and grate your own. You can buy whole nutmegs in the spice section of your grocery store. Or check out the bulk section of someplace like Whole Foods or Central can buy just a couple of whole nutmegs. It will serve you for months for less than a dollar. to grate? Buy a microplane grater like this. You can grate off just enough nutmeg for your recipe and keep the rest fresh in its whole form. (Whole nutmeg keeps indefinitely in a cool dark place.)

And once you've started you shouldn't stop. You'll learn that a little freshly grated nutmeg adds much to your cooking. I add a bit to most cream sauces...especially alfredo. It also goes into scalloped potatoes and creamed spinach. I've even heard of it used as a salt substitute for sauteed green beans or roasted cauliflower.

And of course it's great in baked goods like zucchini or pumpkin bread...or grated over your cappuccino.

Check it out...and post your favorite uses of nutmeg in the Comments section below.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Balsamic Vinegar

What does everyone have against Brussels sprouts? Serve the naysayers this and see what they have to say. It's a beautifully complex vegetable dish that will stand up to anything on your Turkey Day table.

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Balsamic Vinegar
Serves eight to ten. (I halved the recipe and it was a perfect side dish for six of us.)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds brussels sprouts. trimmed and halved
6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Coat baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place halved brussels sprouts in large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add pancetta and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to coat.

Spread mixture in single layer in baking dish. Roast until brussels sprouts are tender and brown, stirring often, about 20 minutes.

Drizzle brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with thyme. Stir to coat. Return to 450 degree oven and roast until heated through, about five minutes. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Using Leftovers...Thanksgiving Salad

Several of the tips I'll be posting in the next couple of weeks leading up to Turkey Day will help you deal with the invariable leftovers. Most concentrate on the turkey meat you always seem to have hanging around, but this utilizes several characters from the feast.

Thanksgiving Salad

Cut cold cornbread dressing into one-inch cubes. Place on a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined backing sheet. Broil dressing cubes 6 inches from heat 3 to 4 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and turn dressing cubes onto other side. Broil 2 to 3 more minutes or until golden.

Serve these croutons over a bed of mixed baby greens with leftover turkey. For dressing, whisk some cranberry sauce into a basic vinaigrette.

Try it.... it's even better than the traditional turkey and dressing sandwich.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin

There are several classic battles at the Thanksgiving feast. Pecan pie vs. pumpkin. Plain cornbread dressing or gussied up with sausage, apples or (gasp) oysters. Whole berry vs. jellied cranberry sauce. And perhaps the mother of them all...Battle Potatoes: Sweet or Regular.

In the spirit of post-election bipartisanship, why not compromise and serve both? But no worries, you won't be working twice as hard...this delicious and creative recipe combines both in the same decadent casserole. And the hardest thing about its preparation is slicing the potatoes. For that, do yourself a favor and get one of these.

Once you've tried this twist on scalloped potatoes, you'll want to serve it year-round.

Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin
From Bon Appetit.
Makes twelve servings.

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature, divided
2 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, rinsed
1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled
2 cups whole milk
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup whipping cream
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Coat 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter or cooking spray. Thinly slice all potatoes; place in prepared dish.

Bring milk and next five ingredients to boil in medium saucepan; pour over potatoes. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Cover with foil. Bake until potatoes are tender and milk is almost absorbed, about 50 minutes.

Bring cream to boil in saucepan. Uncover potatoes, pour cream over, and dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Bake uncovered until top is golden brown in spots, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Turtle Pumpkin Pie

One of my big projects this weekend was reorganizing the thousands (literally) of recipes I've ripped out of magazines and found on the Internet. In the process, I found lots of things perfect for Thanksgiving. Desserts. Vegetable dishes. Every kind of potatoes imaginable. Ways to use turkey leftovers. Even a cocktail or two. And some simple decorating ideas. So, in the seventeen days we have left before Turkey Day, I'll be posting daily. It will be a cornucopia of great ideas for you to harvest. (Couldn't resist.)

Let's start with something that comes at the end of the feast...and is most people's favorite parts of the day. Dessert. This one is a decadent twist on pumpkin pie. And it's REALLY simple to make.

Stay tuned...this is but one of many variations on traditional Thanksgiving desserts you'll see here over the next couple of weeks.

Turtle Pumpkin Pie
Makes ten servings.

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping, divided
1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons pecan pieces, divided
1 cup cold milk
2 packages (3.4 ounces each) vanilla instant pudding
1 can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tub (8 ounces) whipped topping, thawed, divided

Pour 1/4 cup caramel topping into crust; sprinkle with 1/2 cup pecan pieces.

Beat milk, pudding mixes, pumpkins and spices with whisk until blended. Stir in 1 1/2 cups whipped topping. Spread into crust.

Refrigerate at least one hour. Top with remaining whipped topping, caramel topping and pecans just before serving.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho

Regular readers of this blog know that I love things Spanish. Bracing manzanilla sherry. Tangy shrimp with garlic tapas. Saffron. Smoked paprika. Crusty rich paella studded with chicken and shrimp. Austere, but rich wines from Rioja. And I haven't even mentioned Picasso, Miro, Barcelona or Gaudi.

And gazpacho is one of the most wonderful things that those non-Spanish among us can claim as out own. Bracing in its acidity, but comforting in its richness, it's a great cold soup--even for those of us who don't love soup.

So how excited was I to find this recipe? With the same brightness of traditional gazpacho, but also an additional bonus richness thank to the grilling of the veggies, it's a great soup to take us from summer to autumn.

Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho
From Food & Wine magazine.
Makes ten servings.

4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 large red bell peppers, cored and quartered
2 large yellow bell peppers, cored and quartered
2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
1 large white onion, cut into 1/2-inch slabs
2 ears of corn, husked
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced

Light a grill. Thread the garlic cloves onto a skewer. Lightly brush the garlic, bell peppers, zucchini, onion and corn with the vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables over moderately high heat, turning frequently, until lightly charred and crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic and let steam for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the garlic cloves from the skewers, peel them and transfer to a large bowl. Using a large serrated knife, cut the charred corn kernels into the bowl. Peel the peppers and add them to the bowl along with the zucchini, onion, cumin, crushed red pepper, tomato juice, orange juice, lemon juice and vinegar.

Working in batches, puree the vegetable mixture in a blender or food processor. Pour the gazpacho into a clean bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Just before serving, stir the cilantro into the gazpacho. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the cucumber and serve.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Spicy Pickled Carrots

My family and I were reminiscing the other day about my Tex-Mex childhood. Back then in the 70's, El Chico was about the only option here in North Texas. But I still have several indelible memories: super nachos topped with sour cream and guacamole (ubiqutious now, but incredibly inventive then), thick rich bean soup spiked with bacon and epazote, and of course having my placemat signed by the Dallas Cowboys players and coaches who regularly stopped by. (My Tom Landry and Dan Reeves autographs are still, no doubt, somewhere in my archives.) Another memory is the spicy pickled relish that was on the table with the chips and salsa. Not just jalapeno slices, but also onions, carrots and even cauliflower.

So when I ran across this recipe in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, I was intrigued. And upon preparation, I was blasted back thrity years. These are wonderfully tangy and spicy. Certainly perfect next to enchiladas or tacos. But also a great accompaniment for burgers, grilled chicken or even fried catfish. Versatile and simple, they're worth a try.

Spicy Pickled Carrots
From Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

2 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3 jalapeno chiles, ribs and seeds removed
1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup white-wine vinegar
1 packed tablespoon fresh oregano, or 3/4 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until onion is crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mexican Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Crock pots have been good to me. Simple recipes like this pot roast. Complex recipes made simple like this risotto. And one of the most Googled recipe on this easy way to make carnitas.

This recipe is a lot like that carnitas recipe...a pot roast that's got great traditionally Mexican flavors. It's perfect served in soft tortillas with sour cream and avocado on top. It could also serve as a great base for quesadillas. And I'm going to try a big bowl of the leftovers served over rice for lunch tomorrow.

Mexican Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Serves ten to twelve.

3/4 teaspoon salt (divided use)
1 teaspoon pepper (divided use)
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes (petite cut), drained
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes and green chiles (like Rotel), with juices
1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (2 1/2 to 3 pound) eye of round roast (or substitute chuck roast)
2 cans (16 ounces each) pinto beans, rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed
Sour cream, avocado, pickled jalapeno slices for garnish.

Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, diced tomatoes, diced tomatoes and green chiles, onion and chili powder in a medium bowl.

Meanwhile, heat oil until hot in a Dutch oven. Sprinkle roast evenly with remaining salt and pepper. Brown roast on all sides. Transfer to slow cooker.

Pour tomato mixture over roast. Cover and cook on High for five to six hours until meat shreds easily with a fork. Remove roast from slow cooker and cut into large chunks; keep warm.

Mash 1 1/2 cans pinto beans; stir into slow cooker. Stir in remaining pinto beans and black beans. Add roast pieces back to cooker; cover and cook on High an additional 20 to 25 minutes.