Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It's been three years since I was last lead cook for Thanksgiving. This year, I made all the side dishes and my own turkey legs. My mom made the big turkey and gravy and pies and my relatives brought the rest of the desserts. I came home Wednesday to give me plenty of time for cooking ahead and wrote out a schedule of food prep to follow on Thanksgiving day, which helped it all go smoothly. Except that I can never get the hang out how my mom's oven is consistently hotter than every other oven I've ever used and doesn't brown when roasting but goes straight to burn.

Roasted turkey legs
Roasted for about 90 minutes at 350, turned over halfway through.

My mom continues to insist on a free Shoprite turkey, so this year I did what I should have done in other years and brought my own portion of turkey from the farmers market to eat.

Rosemary no-knead rolls
Prepare the no-knead bread recipe, double it and add a bunch of diced fresh rosemary. The next day, two hours before baking, grease two muffin tins. Lightly press down the dough, pinch off pieces and roughly form them into balls and place in muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Makes 24.

These rolls were a little tough on the outside. I think the crunchy crust that this no-knead method can create translates to toughness in rolls. Probably I need to try rolls made all in on day with milk for a fluffier texture.

Green beans with lemon, shallots and almonds
Sautee shallots and almonds. Meanwhile, steam green beans in a few inches of water for 5-10 minutes to desired tenderness. Combine in one dish with the juice of one lemon.

I don't like green beans that much but I liked this just fine.

Roasted Brussels sprouts
These sprouts were small enough that I didn't need to cut them in half first, just roasted at 400 for about 20 minutes on one side and ten minutes on the other.

A classic that pleased my grandfather who thinks boiled brussels sprouts taste terrible, despite being slightly overbrowned.

Mashed potatoes and celery root
I think celery root lends an elegant flavor to mashed potatoes. But I only used one large celery root to about 8 potatoes, so the ratio was off and it should have been more like two celery roots.

Hasselback sweet potatoes with maple syrup and sage
Slice sweet potatoes almost all the way to the bottom. Finely dice one bunch of sage and mix it in with two tbsp olive oil and two tbsp maple syrup with sage. This is messy, butuse your fingers to spread the sage, olive oil and mayple syrup mixture in between the potato slices. Bake at 400 for about 40 minutes. Can be made ahead and rewarmed.

My mom usually makes just straight up baked sweet potatoes, so this is classier and prettier and creates a nice hint of sweetness and sage. However, it was time consuming to carefully slice the potatoes and spread the sage mixture.

Roasted butternut squash with chickpeas and parmesan
Cut one large butternut squash into small one-to-two inch pieces. Roast in olive oil at 400 until browned. Afterward, add one to two cups of pre-cooked chickpeas and grate in a half cup of parmesan. Can be made ahead and reheated the next day in the oven.

A favorite combination of mine.

Stuffing with celery, apple and onion
Dice two red onions, one bunch of celery and three apples. Sautee in one stick of butter (!) until softened. Tear up two day-old baguettes into small pieces. Combine vegetables and baguette in a container of vegetable stock and add sage and poultry seasoning. Let sit in the fridge over night. Use some stuffing to stuff the turkey. The remainder will fill a casserole; bake at 400 until warmed through and browned on top.

This is the stuffing recipe I have been eating my whole life, made with baguette instead of pepperidge farm bread crumbs.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pumpkin Ice Cream

I made pumpkin ice cream last year and never posted about it here, which was silly. Because ice cream with fresh roasted pumpkin puree, fall spices and crunchy walnuts feels homey like pumpkin pie. So here it is now. I like mine with walnuts, but not everyone does, so that's optional. I recommend roasting your own pumpkin rather than buying a can at the store, unless you like BPA in your food. Roasting a pumpkin is easy - you just cut it in half, stick it in the oven, take it out a while later and scoop out the puree. More on that over here. Plus you'll have extra pumpkin leftover for other baking and you can make roasted seeds for snacking.

According to my boyfriend, this ice cream was at its best the day after it was made - creamy with a subtle texture from the pumpkin flesh. But by the time I tried it a few days later, it had frozen too hard, similar to how my hand-churned ice cream comes out. Maybe the pumpkin puree affected the way the creaminess ratio held up in the freezer?

If you want to go extra fall, this ice cream makes an excellent ice cream sandwich inside my pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies.

With all the ice cream I've made since I originally posted my standard recipe last year, I've updated my recipe in a few ways. First, just use the whole two cups of heavy cream that come in a pint, because that's how cream is sold and it's silly to have a little cream leftover. Second, you don't need to get the cream-milk-sugar mixture that hot to dissolve in the sugar, which also means you don't need to wait as long before adding the eggs. Third, cooking it into custard can take upward of 20 minutes and is an imprecise science. Sometimes I'm not sure if it got thick enough so I just give up after a while and the ice cream still turns out fine.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream (1 pint)
1 cup milk (I use 2%)
2/3 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
3 whole cloves
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Warm cream, milk, and sugar in a saucepan and stir vigorously until sugar is nearly dissolved and just before steaming. Remove from heat and wait approximately 10 minutes to let cool. Whisk three egg yolks in a separate bowl. Slowly whisk half a cup of the milk mixture into the eggs, and then another half cup, to temper the eggs. Then, slowly whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan. Add spices. Cook over low heat for approximately 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and let cool. Remove cloves. Transfer to an airtight container in fridge overnight to chill completely.

Prepare according to ice cream machine directions, or hand churn by putting container in freezer and removing to whisk every 30-90 minutes over the course of a few hours until it reaches the desired consistency. Stir in walnuts if you want. Scoop. Enjoy.

Apologies for the strage juxtoposition of iphone and DSLR photos.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Brussels Sprouts

While I've been away from the blog over the past few weeks, I have been dealing with a NYC rite of passage...bedbugs. My inconsiderate downstairs neighbors got them first but didn't tell anyone so we didn't take any precautions, and my landlord didn't take proper action (which is to spray all apartments in the building immediately and simultaneously), so they escaped to the rest of the building. You don't have to throw out your mattress, but you do have to put it in a cover, run all of your clothing and shoes through the dryer (and yes, as I've learned, even wool and most "dry clean only" garments and shoes and bags and purses will make it through a dryer unscathed if not washed first), and then live out of plastic bags for several weeks, and do your best to clean all other objects and furniture and the floors with alcohol and vacumming, and hope for the best. One good thing is that our exterminator used a potent spray of essential and mineral oils rather than a pesticide. We're now in between sprayings and hoping for the best. When I'm home, I feel like I should be cleaning, or I'm spending way too much time sifting through the plastic bags of clothing, or else I escape to my boyfriend's apartment where it hopefully seems the bugs have not spread.

In these past few weeks, it has also become late fall-almost winter. There is no choice but to embrace vegetables like brussels sprouts. Simply roasted sprouts is one of my favorite winter vegetable preparations, but here we sought to recreate the Vanderbilt's honey and sriracha brussels sprouts. This combination works just as well at home, taking it up a notch with a playful sweet and spicy flavor. They were paired with Wilklow's deliciously fatty pork chops and cornbread using bacon drippings, from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, which unfortunately and surprisingly was a dense let down.

Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Brussels Sprouts
Preheat the oven to 425.
For a pound and a half of sprouts, trim the ends and chop in half.
In a large bowl, whisk together about 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp honey, 3 tsp sriracha and salt and pepper. These are the measurements I remember, but you may need to add more honey or sriracha to taste.
Add the sprouts to the bowl and stir until they are all coated.
Roast about 40 minutes, until browned and crispy. But I like mine totally browned and softened and overdone. If you like yours with some green vigor and crunch left in them, check around 25 minutes.