Friday, November 23, 2007

Candied Cranberries

I got this recipe from Lisa the other day and was really excited to try it. The berries were very tasty, but the sugar didn't stick to them very well. I think it might help to make the sugar syrup a little more dense, by adding only one cup of water, instead of two.

2 C fresh cranberries
2 C granulated sugar
2 C water
3/4 C superfine sugar

Bring the water and granulated sugar to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. (Be sure not to boil the mixture or the cranberries might pop when you add them.) Remove from heat and stir in the cranberries. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Drain the berries, reserving the syrup for later use (cocktails, etc.). Place the superfine sugar in a shallow dish and roll the cranberries in it to coat. Spread the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and let stand for one hour at room temperature to dry. They can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container.

Farro with Sweet Potatoes and Feta Cheese

1 1/2 C farro (wheat berries)
3 large sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced
1/4 C feta cheese, crumbled
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 Tbs olive oil

Start by soaking the wheat berries overnight in water. Drain and rinse well.

In medium pot, bring to the farro to a boil with 3 C water, and simmer for about an hour, adding more water if necessary, until soft. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and add the onions. Cook slowly over low heat, stirring frequently, until caramelized.

Steam the sweet potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside in a bowl. Add the farro, onions, and salt and pepper. Top with the crumbled feta cheese and serve at room temperature.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Martha's Cranberry Meringue Pie

This recipe from Martha Stewart was a huge hit last year, and as far as I'm concerned it will always be a staple of my Thanksgiving meal. A little lighter than pumpkin or pecan pie, it's a refreshing treat after a heavy dinner.

3 3/4 C fresh cranberries (or frozen ones)
1 3/4 C sugar
3 tsp finely chopped orange zest, plus 1/2 C orange juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
4 Tbs cornstarch
4 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 recipe pie dough

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough slightly. Sprinkle the dough with 1 tsp of orange zest, and fold over. Proceed to roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Fit into your pie plate, pierce the bottom with a fork, and freeze for 15 minutes.

Line the shell with parchment and fill with pie weights or dried beans . Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment, return to oven, and bake until just golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Allow to cool on a rack while making the filling.

Bring 2 1/2 cups of cranberries, 1 1/4 cup of sugar, and 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries have burst, about 5 minutes. Pour through a sieve and discard the solids. You should have about 1 3/4 C of liquid- if you have less, add water.

Bring the strained cranberry juice, 1/4 cup of sugar, the remaining orange zest, spices, and remaining cranberries to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, and simmer until cranberries are soft, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir the cornstarch, orange juice, and 1/4 C water in a bowl; whisk into the cranberry mixture. Return to a boil, stirring constantly until translucent, about 1 minute. Pour into the pie crust, and refrigerate until set (at least an hour, or up to overnight).

Preheat the broiler. Put the egg whites and remaining 1/4 C sugar into the metal bowl of an electric mixer set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch. Attach the bowl to the mixer and beat until foamy on medium speed. Raise the speed to high and add the cream of tartar. Beat until glossy peaks form, and spoon over the pie.

Set the pie under the broiler until the top is browned, about 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn!

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

I'm not knocking canned pumpkin, and goodness knows I've used it many times before with excellent results, but in my book nothing can beat pie made from fresh pumpkin. If you can't get fresh pumpkin, or don't have time, canned will work just fine. This is James Beard's recipe.

1 medium Sugar Pie pumpkin (should yield 2 cups of flesh), or Butternut squash
3 eggs
1 C brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Ginger (I like to use fresh ginger, but powdered is fine)
Ground Cloves
1 to 1 1/2 C half and half, or evaporated milk
1/2 recipe pie crust (click for recipe)

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Place in a baking dish with enough water to cover halfway, and cover with foil. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about 30-45 minutes, or until the flesh is tender. Once cooled, scoop out the pumpkin flesh from the halves into a mixing bowl. Run a fork through it, or use a potato masher, to break up the pumpkin.*

Add the spices, sugar, cream and eggs, and whisk well. Pour the mixture into your pie crust, and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325 and bake for about 30 more minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

*If you want to make a little extra to save for another pie, you can use this technique and freeze the pumpkin flesh for later use.

Cornbread Stuffing

You can make this stuffing with dried cornbread stuffing mixture, but I prefer to make my own cornbread the day before, and let it get a bit stale before I crumble it up.

For the cornbread (follow package instructions):
Cornbread mix
Melted butter

For the stuffing:
1 C diced carrots
1 C diced celery
1 C diced onions
1 large apple, diced
8 chopped garlic cloves
Fresh thyme
1/2 C dried cranberries
1 C sliced almonds
1/2 C butter
4 C chicken stock (or vegetable)

Crumble the cornbread into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients except the butter. Stir to combine, and transfer to a large baking dish. Dot with the butter, and bake at 350 for at least one hour, or until the stuffing is as dry or wet as you prefer. If you want the stuffing to be more moist, add more broth or water.

Mom's Corn Pudding

This casserole is a family tradition, and a favorite of mine. The texture is almost like a souffle, and I can't imagine Thanksgiving without it.

3 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs flour
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
16 oz corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
1 1/3 C half and half

Combine all ingredients and pour into a buttered casserole dish. Bake for about an hour at 325 degrees, stopping halfway to stir the mixture.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This is my version of the classic, sans marshmallow (which you could certainly add if so desired). One of my favorite things about cooking Thanksgiving dinner is that all the dishes are so simple to put together. Most of my recipes have the following instructions: combine all ingredients, bake. This one is no exception, and can be made with pumpkin or squash as well.

8 large sweet potatoes or yams
1/2 C butter
1 C cream
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1 C chopped pecans

Peel and quarter the sweet potatoes. Place them in a steamer basket over boiling water; cover and cook until fork tender, and drain. In a large bowl, mash the potatoes with the cream, butter and spices, and half the sugar. Spread the mixture into a baking dish and top with the remaining sugar and the pecans, and dot with bits of butter (or drizzle with melted butter). Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Creamy Gravy

In my family we have never been able to agree on gravy. My dad likes his made with the giblets and everything, all ground up in the food processor, and my mom likes hers clear (just the drippings from the turkey, with the fat removed). I like the creamy kind (somewhere in between, I guess), which is pretty easy to make.

1 Tbs butter
2 C turkey drippings
3 Tbs flour
Fresh sage

Melt the butter and whisk in the flour to thicken. Gradually add the drippings, stirring constantly until thick and creamy.

Thanksgiving Turkey with Roasted Root Vegetables

This year I am used a heritage turkey, which is an ecologically and economically wise choice. This was also my first time brining a bird, having heard great things about the results, but I honestly didn't see much difference in the flavor or texture of the meat. I've included the instructions (from Martha) I followed here. I also love roasting root vegetables, and I make this combination of them often as a vegetarian side dish, even when I'm not serving poultry. It's easy to just place the chopped and steamed vegetables in a baking dish, and toss them with herbs and a little butter or olive oil, and bake for about an hour at 350 degrees.

1 turkey, 12-14 pounds
3 large turnips
6 parsnips
4 purple potatoes
8 carrots
2 yams
1 celeriac root
2 medium onions
1 bulb garlic
1 blub fennel
1/4 C fresh thyme leaves
2 medium apples
2 Tbs fennel seed
2 Tbs cumin
1/2 C olive oil
1/2 C butter

For the brine:
7 quarts water
1 1/2 C kosher salt
6 bay leaves
2 Tbs whole coriander seeds
1 Tbs juniper berries
2 Tbs black peppercorns
1 Tbs fennel seed
1 tsp mustard seed
1 bottle dry riesling
2 medium onions, quartered
6 garlic cloves
1 bunch fresh thyme

24 hours in advance, combine the brining ingredients in a large bucket or brining bag, and submerge the turkey. If necessary, weigh the bird down with a plate, so that it is fully submerged. Refrigerate or keep chilled in a cooler, turning over halfway through.

Meanwhile, chop all the vegetables into large and somewhat uniform sized pieces, and shell the garlic. Steam the turnips, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, yams, and potatoes until just tender. Toss all the vegetables with the olive oil, cumin, fennel, and fresh thyme. Place in the bottom of a large roasting pan, and dot with butter.

After 24 hours, remove the bird from the brine and dispose of liquid. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Rub the turkey all over with canola oil or butter, and place in the roasting pan on top of the vegetables. Stuff the cavity with the onions and herbs from the brine, or with stuffing if you prefer. Roast for 30 minutes, and then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Cover the breast of the turkey with a double layer of aluminum foil to prevent burning. Continue to roast for 2 1/2 hours more, or until the temperature of the meat is about 180 degrees. Remove from the oven and allow the turkey to sit for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pistachio Pralines

I have been thinking about nut brittles ever since Halloween, when I thought about making some for our party, so I was thrilled to see a whole article about pralines in Martha Stewart Living this month! The pistachio praline/ brittle looks gorgeous and tastes even better! I am making a big batch to give away at Thanksgiving dinner. These are Martha's instructions, but I made some changes when I tried the recipe: I used a silpat to line my pan, and then I inverted the pralines onto parchment before I cut them. Also, I cannot stress enough how fast you have to work once you remove the sugar from the heat. My first batch came out very clumpy (but still tasty) because I took too much time pouring it.

Vegetable oil
2 C sugar
1/4 C water
2 C finely chopped pistachios
1/2 tsp coarse salt

Lightly coat a 13x9 inch baking sheet with oil. Line with parchment, allowing 2 inches to hang over the long sides.* Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, tilting pan to swirl, and washing down the sides with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Boil, without stirring, until mixture turns medium amber, 10-12 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in the pistachios and salt. Pour mixture onto the baking sheet and quickly spread evenly with a spatula. Let cool until just set but still soft, about 2 minutes. Using the parchment as handles, transfer the warm praline to a cutting board. Immediately cut into bars of desired size using a serrated knife lightly coated in oil. Let cool completely. Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shepherd's Pie

Eric has been asking me to make this for ages, so I thought I'd give it a try. This is Michael Chiarello's recipe, but I've made a few changes, based on what I did and what I would do next time.

1 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 lb ground beef, lamb, or turkey
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped fine
1 C green peas
2 medium onions, diced
1 level Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbs flour
1/2 C red wine
1 C beef or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
2 Tbs butter
1/2 C cream or milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep pan. Brown the meat and remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Add the onions and sautee until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the copped carrots and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, herbs and cinnamon. Stir for a couple of minutes to combine, and then stir in the flour until the liquid is absorbed. Now add the red wine and stock. Season with salt and pepper. Return the meat to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the peas. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the meat is fully cooked.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, cut them, into large pieces, and place in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes.

When the potatoes are done, drain them, return them to the pot, cover with a cloth to absorb the steam, and leave them for about 5 minutes. Next, add the butter and cream, and mash them. Season with salt and pepper. When the meat is ready, spoon it into a large baking dish and level with the back of the spoon. Spread the potatoes evenly all over. Bake until the top is crusty and golden, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining thyme on top, and let stand a few minutes before serving.

Mashed Butternut Squash

I can't get enough squash in the winter, and when we have some leftover (like from the risotto below), I like to make an easy puree as a side dish.

3 C butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
2 Tbs butter
4 Tbs mascarpone cheese (or heavy cream)
2 Tbs brown sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon

Boil the squash until tender. Drain and return to pot. Allow any extra water to evaporate, and then use a potato masher to mash. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Carrot and Winter Squash Risotto

Here's another recipe from "The Produce Bible." I have made a lot of risottos, and I think this one is going up there with my favorites! I would recommend serving it with a little mascarpone cheese on top. Yum!

1/3 C butter
1 onion, finely diced
1 3/4 C diced winter squash (I used Butternut)
2 large carrots, diced
8 C vegetable stock, heated (or chicken stock)
2 C arborio rice
1 C shaved Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Heat three tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy bottomed frying pan. Add the onion and sautee until soft. Add the squash and carrots, and cook for about 10 minutes, until tender. Mash slightly with a fork. Add the rice and cook for a minute until the grains are translucent, and add the first 1/2 C of vegetable stock. Simmer the rice until the stock is absorbed, and add more stock. Continue until you have used up all the liquid, or until the rice is creamy and soft. If you need more liquid, add water. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, cheese, and nutmeg. Season with freshly ground pepper and salt. Allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dr. Pepper Cupcakes

This recipe comes from a 1965 Dr. Pepper cookbook I have in my collection (Pineapple-Roquefort Cheese Sandwich Filling, anyone?). The frosting is James Beard's basic buttercream, to which I added ginger, cherry syrup, and cocoa powder. We were disappointed that the cake didn't taste very Dr. Pepper-y, but the texture was good, and the frosting was a winner!

1/2 C butter
2 1/2 C brown sugar
3 eggs
3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1/2 C buttermilk
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 C cake flour
2 tsp vanilla
1 C boiling Dr. Pepper

Cream the butter and add the brown sugar. When well blended, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add the chocolate, slightly cooled.

In a small bowl, add one teaspoon of baking soda to the buttermilk. Mix your remaining dry ingredients in another bowl. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture alternately. Add the vanilla, and finally mix in the Dr. Pepper.

Pour into cupcake molds and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees.

For the frosting:
1/3 C soft butter
3 C confectioner's sugar
1/2 C dark cocoa
4 Tbs heavy cream
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 can cherries in syrup (or in liqueur)

Cream the butter, cocoa and sugar together and stir in the cream. Add the ginger and enough cherry syrup to create the desired consistency. Refrigerate if necessary, and spread over the cupcakes when they have cooled. Top each cupcake with half a cherry.

Guinness Cupcakes

Last night my friends Amanda, Jenn, and Kara, and I convened to attempt another cupcake tasting. This time we had a beverage theme: Guinness cupcakes and Dr. Pepper cupcakes (recipe to follow). Jenn had found this recipe through another friend, who found it on the Food Network. The results were surprisingly good- the Guinness cake was light and moist, and you can actually taste the beer! The cream cheese frosting was a nice touch, because it creates the appearance of a foamy head on a glass of Guinness, but we weren't completely sold on the flavor combination. I wonder if a white chocolate frosting would be better.

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, plus more for dusting finished cupcakes
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purposeflour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch fine salt
1 bottle stout beer (recommended: Guinness)
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. In another medium mixing bowl, combine the stout, melted butter, and vanilla. Beat in eggs, 1 at time. Mix in sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.

Lightly grease 24 muffin tins. Divide the batter equally between muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes and then rotate the pans. Bake another 12 to 13 minutes until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out.

To make the icing:
In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. On low speed, slowly mix in the confectioners' sugar until incorporated and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Icing can be made several hours ahead and kept covered and chilled.

Top each cupcake with a heap of frosting and dust with cocoa.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Leek and Parsnip Puree

This is from "The Produce Bible," by Leanne Kitchen. I like that it uses vegetables that are in season in the winter, and it's a nice alternative for mashed potatoes.

1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 Tbs snipped chives
2 Tbs butter
3 Tbs creme fraiche

Put the leeks and parsnips in a saucepan of boiling salted water. Cook for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and allow to cool slightly before blending in a food processor to a smooth puree.

Put the puree in a clean saucepan and add the chives and butter. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook the puree until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the creme fraiche.

Tyler's Ultimate Meatloaf

This is my favorite meatloaf recipe (sorry, mom!). I always order it at Cafeteria, so I was really excited to see Tyler Florence make it on his Food Network show a couple years ago. I like to make extra Tomato Relish and save it to serve with burgers.

1 recipe Tomato Relish (click for recipe)
2 1/2 lbs ground beef, pork, or turkey
3 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into chunks
1/4 C milk
2 eggs
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
3-4 bacon slices, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the torn bread in a bowl and add the milk to cover, letting the bread soak while you put together the rest of the ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ground meat, 1 1/2 C tomato relish, eggs, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and add the bread to the mixture. Transfer the mixture into a loaf pan, and coat the top with another 1/2 C of relish. If you like, lay the bacon across the top.

Bake for 1- 1 1/2 hours until the meatloaf is firm. Serve with the remaining tomato relish on the side.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ginger Peanut Stir-Fry

This is such an easy dinner, and can be adapted to include all kinds of vegetables, tofu, or beef.

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium, red bell pepper, sliced
1/4 large onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 fingers of ginger, grated
2-3 C broccoli, chopped
2 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs chili sauce
2 Tbs soy sauce
1/2 C unsalted peanuts
1/4 C water
2 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 C torn basil leaves

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the garlic, ginger, and onions, and sautee until soft. Add the red peppers, the chicken, the soy sauce, and chili sauce. Once the chicken is browned on all sides, add the broccoli and water and cook until the broccoli is bright green. Remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar. Top with basil and serve over rice.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cranberry Sauce

1 lb fresh cranberries
2 clementines, mandarins, or tangerines
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C water

Wash the cranberries and discard any that are bruised or spoiled. Slice the oranges in half, and squeeze into a pot. Add the whole peels, cranberries, and water, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. You should hear the berries popping. Once the popping stops, allow the sauce to sit until a foam forms all over the surface. At this point, add the sugar (to taste), and stir until thickened. Refrigerate until ready to serve.