Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now is the time! I started in the kitchen on Monday, with six of reddquilter's pie crusts. Shell and I have been discussing and salivating over our delicious menus, and we've decided to share them with you. We each posted our Thanksgiving menus and recipes.

We'd like to know:

What did YOU have for Thanksgiving?
How many people did you serve?
What is your favorite dish?
And as always, please share your recipes!

*If you're a Bad Girl, please post your menu (and recipes in separate posts). If you're a guest here, feel free to leave your menu in a comment (with links to your recipes!).

As for me, you can find my Thanksgiving menu here. We served 10 people, including 4 kids. It's very difficult to choose just one favorite dish, between the turkey, classic dressing, pies...I'm going to say the luscious Maple Pecan Pie. Follow the menu links to the recipes!

You can find Shell's Thanksgiving menu here.

We'd love to know what you had!

And, be sure to comment and let us know what you think of everyone's menus!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Maple Pecan Pie

At long last, here is our Maple Pecan Pie recipe. It is a variation of Pecan Pie from the amazing The Best Recipe cookbook. Number One prepares this pie every Thanksgiving. It is perfectly crunchy and delicious. Number One says we are going to try making the pie with walnuts next time. Also, this is a bit labor-intensive, but worth it, and Number One says it just gets easier every time. In other words, practice makes perfect!

Maple Pecan Pie
More liquid than corn syrup, maple syrup yields a softer, more custardlike pie. Toasted walnuts can be substituted for pecans.

1 prebaked pie shell
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups pecans (6 ounces), toasted and chopped into small pieces

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Partially bake pie shell. Press doubled 12-inch square of aluminum foil inside dough shell; evenly distribute 1 cup or 12 ounces ceramic or metal pie weights over foil. Bake, leaving foil and weights in place until dough dries out, about 17 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights by gathering sides of foil and pulling up and out. For partially baked crust, continue baking until lightly golden brown, about 9 minutes more.

3. Meanwhile, melt butter in medium heatproof bowl set in skillet of water maintained at just below simmer. Remove bowl from skillet; mix in sugar and salt with wooden spoon until butter is absorbed. Beat in eggs, then maple syrup. Return bowl to hot water; stir until mixture is shiny and hot to the touch, about 130 degrees. Remove from heat; stir in pecans.

4. As soon as pie shell comes out of oven, decrease oven temperature to 275 degrees. Pour pecan mixture into hot pie shell.

5. Bake until center feels set yet soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer pie to rack; let cool completely, at least 4 hours. Serve pie at room temperature or warm, with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

You may have already seen this recipe on the internets, (it's a Ree Drummond recipe) but I'm posting it here because it's a great one. Not only are the mashed potatoes creamy and fabulous, but you can make them one or two days ahead of time, which is a lifesaver when you're planning on a house overflowing with company.

I am making my mashed potatoes Wednesday, as soon as I empty and load the dishwasher for the trillionth time. They will be all ready to heat up Thursday for dinner, and I'll be able to relax just a bit more.

Mashed Potatoes

5 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 to 3/4 cup half and half
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoning Salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into a large dice. Add potatoes to a large pot of water and bring to boil. Cook for 30 to 35 minutes, or until potatoes are done. When cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost (but not quite) fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add butter, cream cheese and about 1/2 cup half and half. Mash together. Add more half and half if needed. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of Lawry's Seasoning Salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, stir well, then taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. (I use about 1 teaspoon of Lawry's and just 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper).

Stir well and place in a large baking dish. If you are going to serve them the same day, follow instructions below for baking to make sure they're nice and hot.

To Make Ahead (one to two days in advance): Allow to cool, then place a few more pats of butter over the top of the potatoes. Cover and refrigerate. Remove potatoes from the refrigerator about 2 to 3 hours before serving time, to allow them to come to room temperature. Bake as directed below.

To Bake: Bake in a 350 degrees F oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Shell's Thanksgiving 2008

So for the first time in forever, I did NOT travel to either my parents or the in-laws for Thanksgiving! I'm very excited!!! This was my first Thanksgiving dinner and I think I did a pretty good job.

There was a small group this year... just the 4 of us. 2 adults and 2 kids under 5. M 4-year old was in charge of the center piece. Nice, eh? See below for our menu and links to the individual page. Everything was great and we are all now in tryptophan heaven.

To start off..

Main Course & Sides..

Stuffing (Follow instructions on box... sorry.)
Warmed Rolls (picked up from Whole Foods... not bad)

And for dessert..

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

Min's Thanksgiving Menu, 2008

Hors d'Oeuvres:

Homemade Boursin*

Chicken Liver Pâté*

Festive Holiday Ham & Cheese Ball

Crackers and Baguette

Tortilla Chips and Roasted Salsa

Relish Tray: a variety of pickles and olives

Main & Sides:


Maple Pecan Pie

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

Classic Greenmarket Apple Pie
-at the last minute, we decided not to make this pie.
We simply ran out of time...but we had more than enough desserts!

Maple Walnut Pie*

Pear Pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger Cream Topping*


A variety of wines

Rum drinks



* indicates a new recipe we've never tried before...I'm not afraid!


We are so excited for our Thanksgiving celebration this year! Our little family of four will be joined by Number One's mom, my dear friend from the stone age (preschool through high school), and some of our "town" friends including three (possibly four) adults and two kids in addition to ours. A total of 7 or 8 adults and 4 kids.

We are transforming our shell-of-an-addition into our Candlelit Feasting Area...follow the link for pictures! Of course I am making the majority of the dishes ahead of time (as if you didn't already guess!) I have delegated the salad, some of the appetizers and the green beans.

Sunday: mix pie crusts
Monday: make pate'; prepare extra gravy
Tuesday: prep some ingredients for Wednesday (possibly make a pie or cheesecake)
Wednesday: mix Boursin, make potatoes; assemble dressing; and PIES.
Thursday: Turkey; heat potatoes, dressing, gravy; bake rolls.

Sweet Potato Crisp

This is a family recipe from my husband's side of the family.  They make it every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

3-cups of cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (baked them for an hour OR peel, quarter and boil for 20 minutes or until tender) About 3 good sized potatoes work well.
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup soft butter (1 4-oz stick)
3 eggs

1/2 cup soft butter (1 4-oz stick)
3 cups crushed cornflakes
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat the eggs until lemon colored.  Put potatoes, sugar, baking powder, vanilla, salt and butter into a big bowl and mix well.  Put the mixture into a buttered baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes or until set.  

While the potatoes are baking, make the topping.  Put everything into a bowl and mix well.

Remove potatoes from  oven and cover with topping.  Return to oven for about 15 minutes.    

Serves 4-6

Orange Scented Green Beans

These were pretty good.  I thought the orange would be a little more aromatic but it wasn't.  All in all, a very good green bean recipe.  I got this from Rachel Ray at

Peel of one orange
1-lbs of trimmed green beans
1-Tbs butter
1 1/2 Tbs fresh chives, snipped

Fill a pan with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Add orange peel and beans.  Cook 5-6 minutes until tender but still bright green with a little snap to them.  Drain and return to pan.  Toss with butter and chives then place in serving dish.  Garnish with the orange peel.

Serves 4-6.

Brined Herbed Turkey Breast

I decided to try to brine the turkey this year  I've never done it before and it's supposed to make the meat really tender and juicy.  It did!  It was delicious!  I only had 4 people for Thanksgiving so I just used a 6-lbs turkey breast and still have a ton leftover.  You could also do this with a larger whole turkey.  This recipe came from Emeril Lagasse off of but I altered it a bit. 

Brining solution:
1 gallon cold water
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 orange quartered
1 lemon quartered
3 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary

Dissolve the salt and sugar in a nonreactive container such as a bucket or pot or brining bag (put the bag into big pot).  Add the orange, lemon and herbs.  Add your turkey breast (rinse thoroughly beforehand) and hope that it is submerged completely.  If not, use another  1/2 cup of salt and sugar per gallon of water.  Soak the turkey breast in the brine, covered (or seal up the bag) and refrigerated (or in a very cool place if it won't fit in the refrigerator) for 4-24 hours.  I let mine sit overnight.

Cooking procedure:

1 smallish orange (cut into 1/8ths)
1 smallish onion (cut into 1/8ths)
1 carrot (peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks)
1 Bay Leaf
1 big sprig of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of parsley (or some dry... maybe 1/4 tsp or so)
1/2 can of chicken or turkey stock (@ 3/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Remove the turkey breast from the brine, rinse thoroughly and pat dry.  Rub the breast side with an orange segment.  Rub butter all over and stuff some under the skin in several places.  Season with salt & pepper inside and out.  Place the turkey in an oven roasting bag in a appropriately sized baking pan for your turkey, breast side up and stuff the cavity with the orange, onion, carrot, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme and parsley.  Add the stock to the bottom of the bag and seal up your bag.  Poke a few holes in the top for venting.  Cook for about 2-2 1/2 hours or until juices run clear (about 170 degrees with a thermometer).


Mashed Potatoes

What's a holiday meal without mashed potatoes??  You gotta have them.  These you can make up ahead of time and just pop into the oven about 20-30 minutes to warm them up.

4-lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and quartered)
1 Bay Leaf
1 cup of heavy cream
4-Tbs Butter
Salt & Pepper
1-Tbs fresh chopped chives

Boil your potatoes in salted water with the bay leaf until tender (about 15-20 minutes).   Drain and return to the pot.  Mash with a masher or large spoon.  Add butter and cream and continue mashing until smooth.  You can also use a hand mixer to get them extra smooth.  Add salt & pepper to taste and chives.  

Serves 6

Robin's Cranberry Sauce

Robin is the person who gave me this recipe.  She's a great coworker and friend.  It's great, super easy and even the kids loved it.  

1 can of whole cranberry sauce
1 can of pineapple chunks
1/2 jar of apple sauce

Mix together and serve!  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cranberry Sauce

I don't particularly like cranberry sauce, but I realize that's just me. I wasn't even thinking about it at all until I came across this very simple recipe last night. I happened to have all the ingredients, and here we are, with cranberry sauce a last-minute addition to the menu.

The recipe is very basic, and quick, and comes from the November 2008 edition of Everyday Food Magazine

I may not like cranberry sauce (whether I will like this version remains to be seen), but I have to admit it is beautiful and will be a lovely addition to the table. And, what do you know, had I actually planned ahead for this, I could have made it a week ago!

Incidentally, it's not that I don't like cranberries--I do! I love them in bread, cookies, cakes. Just not as sauce. And that's okay.

Basic Cranberry Sauce
Makes 2 cups

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook until cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and let cool to room temperature. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container, up to 1 week.

Brie with Preserves

Okay... pardon the picture.  I forgot to take the picture first and realized it half way through eating it!  

This is an excellent appetizer and is super easy to make.  All you need is a small wheel of Brie or Camembert cheese.  Slice the top rind off but leave the sides.  Spoon some preserves over the top...  I've used both apricot and fig preserves in the past (not at the same time).  How much depends on your taste but you can start with 1/2 a jar. 

Pop in the microwave for about 30 seconds to start.  The cheese should be warm and soft but not runny.  Don't over heat.

Serve with crackers!  

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger Cream Topping

At the last minute, okay, on Monday night before Thanksgiving, Number One and I decided to mix it up this year. In addition to all the pies on the menu, we decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake. Since I can’t seem to find my trusty Philadelphia Brand Cheesecake Cookbook, I turned to another little gem:Southern Living Little Book of Cheesecakes

I believe this book was a “free gift” when I ordered a cookbook from Southern Living. And I don’t know that I have used it before now. But this cheesecake sounded like just the thing.

I substituted crushed gingersnaps for the graham crackers, and used fresh pumpkin puree instead of canned.

This cheesecake is luscious and decadent. I am happy we used gingersnaps in the crust, it gave the cheesecake just the right crunch and extra flavor. I probably would have used less rum in the ginger cream topping, it was just a bit overpowering. But our guests did enjoy the cheesecake. Some of their comments included:

"The cheesecake. Oh my God!"

"I have never had anything like this! It's excellent!"

I didn't get a picture of an individual slice, but the cheesecake standing alone was impressive. It wasn't too difficult to make, even if I was up until 2 in the morning pulling it out of the oven. That's my own fault, and I would do it again in a second. =)

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger Cream Topping

Yield: 1 (9-inch) cheesecake

¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin (I used 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree)
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
Ginger Cream Topping
Garnish: 16 pecan halves

Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, graham cracker (or gingersnap) crumbs, 1/2 cup pecans, and butter; press into bottom and 1 inch up sides of a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, flour, spices, vanilla, salt and pumpkin; set aside.

Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add pumpkin mixture, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 minutes Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Spoon Ginger Cream Topping over cheesecake. Cover and chill at least 8 hours. To serve, carefully remove sides of pan; garnish cheesecake with pecan halves, if desired.

Ginger Cream Topping
Yield: 3 cups

1 cup whipping cream
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine first three ingredients in a bowl; beat at high speed with a mixer until soft peaks form. Fold in ginger, rum and vanilla.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Homemade Gravy

This Thanksgiving, since we are having about 12 people over, I decided to make some extra gravy. Ahead of time, of course. Ina Garten has a fabulous gravy recipe in her Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook. It is delicious, doesn't take much prep, and it can be stored for several days. I am making a double batch, two days ahead of Thanksgiving. I don't have any stock stored, so I'll just use canned chicken broth. The recipe is adaptable to different kinds of broth, drippings, etc. Although Ina doesn't list it as an option, I'm sure you could even use vegetable broth if you're a vegetarian.

I will store the gravy right in a crock pot, then sometime before Thanksgiving dinner, I will reheat it. I will still be making my traditional turkey gravy from the drippings, but this will relieve some of the last-minute pressure (largely self-imposed, I admit) of having to make a huge batch of gravy while the crowd is gathering.

Homemade Gravy
Makes 3 cups

At Barefoot Contessa we made thousands of quarts of gravy for people to heat up and serve for dinner. Instead of the chaos that happens when dinner is ready and you still have to make the gravy, why not give yourself a break and make the gravy the day before? If gravy just isn't gravy to you unless it's made with pan drippings, do what I do: when I make a roast, I save the pan drippings in the freezer for the next time I'm making gravy and then I add them to the sauteing onions and butter. It's so much easier! (Just be sure to label the drippings well).

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, heated
1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy (I've never used this, so I'll say it's optional)
1 tablespoon heavy cream (Ina says this is optional, I'm going to disagree!)

In a large (10- to 12-inch) saute pan, cook the butter and onions on medium-low heat for 12 to 15 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Don't rush this step; it makes all the difference when the onions are well cooked.

Sprinkle the flour into the pan, whisk in, then add the salt and pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock and Cognac, and cook uncovered for 4 to 5 minutes, until thickened. Add the cream, if desired, and serve.

Gravy can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Heat it slowly before serving.

Cognac is brandy from the Cognac region of France. Any good brandy will do.

You can substitute beef stock or pan drippings for the 2 cups of chicken stock.

Garlic Goat Cheese Spread

I am so happy to have found this little cookbook once again! I've been missing this excellent goat cheese recipe, and honestly just calling it "garlic goat cheese" doesn't do it justice: it is a heavenly blend of roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. I just love it.

The recipe comes from a cute, garlic-shaped cookbook called The Totally Garlic Cookbook. So tiny that I feared it was lost forever...but suddenly it turned up! Wahoo! Wonderful on thin baguette slices! Oh so delicious.

Now that my little cookbook gem is back, I'm eager to try more of the garlic recipes...stay tuned!

Garlic Goat Cheese Spread
Serves about 6

What could be more Californian than goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic--combined in one powerful little spread.

1 garlic head, top trimmed
4 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
11 ounces soft goat cheese
1 baguette, sliced
Fresh basil leaves
Nicoise or Kalamata olives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place garlic on square of aluminum foil. Drizzle generously with some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Seal foil and bake 1 hour.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze pulp from garlic. Place in bowl with tomatoes and basil. Mash with fork to blend. Crumble cheese over mixture and stir until well blended. Place in small serving bowl (my favorite way) or gather into a ball and form into log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight.

To serve, slice cheese into rounds and arrange on platter with baguette slices. (I just get out my cute little canapé knives and arrange baguette slices around the serving bowl). Garnish with basil leaves and olives.

Classic Stuffing

Last year, my parents came out for Thanksgiving. I decided to try Martha's classic stuffing recipe, and it was spectacular. I got the recipe from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook.

I put my (buttermilk) bread out two days ahead of Thanksgiving on sheet pans to let it get "stale." I halved the celery and added diced carrots to the mix, and mixed everything up one day ahead. I only added half the amount of cherries, and it was just perfect. I stored it, unbaked, in the covered casserole dishes in the refrigerator, until Thanksgiving day. Then, I removed the dishes from the refrigerator to allow the stuffing (which I suppose was technically dressing because I didn't actually stuff it in the turkey!) to come to room temperature, at least an hour or so before baking. It turned out great, the vegetables were perfect, and the fresh flat-leaf parsley is a MUST. I bake my dressing/stuffing at 350-375 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Everyone loved this stuffing/dressing. The cherries added just a hint of sweetness, the pecans gave it a hint of crunch, the vegetables were not mushy. The texture of this stuffing is wonderful, the colors are beautiful, and the flavor is...perfect. It really is my favorite. I am going to make it more than once a year! One of our guests said, "This is the best stuffing I have ever had!"

So, the schedule for this dish if you want to make it ahead:
Tuesday: cube bread and leave out on trays (cover with a dish towel overnight) to get "stale"
Wednesday: chop everything and mix together; store in covered casserole dishes in the refrigerator
Thursday: stuff in turkey and/or remove from refrigerator to allow to come to room temperature and bake, uncovered.

Try it, you won't be disappointed! This is probably the stuffing or dressing recipe for which you've been searching!

I should probably say, I haven't tried making this ahead and then using it to stuff a turkey. Although I can't imagine why it wouldn't work. So if you do try it that way, please let me know. And I'll have my fingers crossed for you! This does work very well as a make ahead dish if baked separately. That much I know.

Classic Stuffing
Makes 12 cups
Stale bread gives this stuffing texture. If you like a very moist, soft stuffing, use a sturdy, chewy loaf.

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 onions (2 pounds), cut into 1/4-inch dice
16 celery stalks, strings removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice (or roughly half that amount and add an equal amount of carrots in the same 1/4-inch dice)
10 large fresh sage leaves, chopped, or 2 teaspoons crushed dried sage
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock, or low-sodium canned chicken broth, skimmed of fat
2 loaves stale white bread (about 36 slices), crusts on, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 2 bunches)
2 cups pecans, toasted, chopped, optional
2 cups dried cherries, optional (I used 1 cup, and it was the perfect amount)

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions, celery and carrots, and cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the sage, stir to combine, and cook 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup stock, and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

2. Transfer the onion mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add the bread, salt, pepper, parsley, pecans and cherries, if using, and the remaining 1 quart plus 1 1/2 cups stock; mix to combine. Use to stuff turkey immediately.

Or bake, uncovered, at 350-375 degrees F for about 45 minutes, until top is golden and dressing is heated through. I am baking mine at 350 degrees F this year, because that is the temperature I need to heat my mashed potatoes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chicken Liver Pâté

Honestly. I don't even know if I like chicken liver pâté. For some reason, I wanted to make some. I know I do like some varieties of pâté, and this recipe sounded easy, so I thought I'd give it a try. For the very first time. At Thanksgiving, to serve to a table of 12. I don't see anything wrong with that, do you?

I will report back after far, I really love the flavor. I will let you know after the flavors develop. It's kind of gross to prepare. Try boiling a pot of chicken livers and you'll understand...also, I've learned a couple key points:

1. Cool the chicken livers in the liquid completely.

2. Don't microwave your butter in an attempt to quickly bring it to "room temperature" because you forgot to take it out of the refrigerator ahead of time. The microwaving, no matter how gentle, messes with the consistency or integrity of the butter's structure. I went ahead with it, and it tasted fine, I'm just hoping that after refrigeration the pâté will be better, not so soupy...

The recipe comes from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. A book everyone should own.

Post-Thanksgiving Report: This chicken liver pâté is wonderful! I love it. Everyone loved it. It was the perfect consistency, very smooth and delicious on both baguettes and crackers. Even if you don't like pâté, I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you try this recipe. And it's quite easy. I do recommend mixing it in a food processor rather than a blender because of the thick consistency. (my good blender was having a hard time)

Chicken Liver Pâté I
Makes 2 1/2 cups

Prepare the pâté at least 2 days in advance to allow the flavors to mellow.

1 pound chicken livers
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Dash of cayenne pepper
Dash of ground cloves
3 tablespoons Clarified Butter *(how-to below)

Trim the livers of all fat. Put in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Cool in the liquid and drain.

Sauté the onion and apple in 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, combine the livers, remaining 1/2 pound butter, onion, apple and seasonings. Blend until very smooth. Pack into a terrine or earthenware bowl. Spread with melted clarified butter, which will preserve the pâté. Scrape off butter before using.

*Clarified Butter
Makes 1/4 cup

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over low heat. Remove from the heat and allow the milk solids to sink to the bottom. Skim any foam from the surface, then carefully pour off the clarified butter, leaving the solids behind.

Homemade Boursin Cheese

This is the first time we have made this recipe. It's from a little pamphlet-type cookbook called Easy & Elegant Hors d'Oeuvres. I LOVE Boursin, so I just couldn't resist trying this recipe. What better time than at Thanksgiving? It sounds festive and delicious. Since we are having guests, I'm crossing my fingers this tastes good, and I am making a double batch to yield 2 cups.

This cheese is a close approximation to actual Boursin, and significantly cheaper to serve! It is very delicious, and the spices are just perfect. This was a Thanksgiving hit as well. We are going to be serving this at many a holiday dinner.

Post-Thanksgiving Update: This cheese is awesome. While it is certainly not Boursin, if you're not familiar with Boursin you wouldn't know that. And the spices do a fine is a perfectly acceptable imposter. This cheese is good! So good, that H-Bomb has declared it is His Favorite. I will be making this again, especially since those little rounds of Boursin have gotten so expensive lately...

Note that this has to be made 12 to 24 hours in advance.

Homemade Boursin Cheese
Yield: 1 cup

8 ounces plain whipped cream cheese or soft cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chopped chives
pinch dried marjoram, crushed (I put the marjoram and thyme in my mortar and pestle to finely crush them)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

In large bowl, beat cream cheese. Add other ingredients, and beat until well blended. Refrigerate 12-24 hours. Serve on crackers. (also good on celery, etc!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Maple-Walnut Pie

We're trying a new pie this Thanksgiving. Or, to be more precise, Number One is trying a new pie this Thanksgiving. Have I ever told you, Number One makes pies? He makes excellent, delicious beautiful pies. (turns out he is capable of following directions...who knew?) He also makes cheesecakes, or whatever fancy dessert I set my eyes on for my birthday...remember the Kelly's Island Chocolate Coconut Rum Pie he made this past spring? He is an untapped resource, I tell you.

Until Thanksgiving rolls around. Then he pulls out all the stops. He always makes a labor-intensive Maple Pecan Pie, recipe forthcoming, and at least one other pie. Last year it was Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie, and it was amazing. It's tastes like a giant candy bar, and I will share the recipe very soon. He also usually whips his own whipped cream too!

This year, I happened upon the Maple-Walnut Pie recipe in my trusty Moosewood Cookbook. (Imagine that, I found a recipe in the Moosewood!) I asked him if he wanted to skip the labor-intensive Maple Pecan Pie, and try out the Maple-Walnut Pie instead. He said, "No, I'll just make both of them." What a guy!

The verdict is in: The Maple-Walnut Pie is delicious, not too sweet. But, unfortunately, in a side-by-side comparison with Maple-Pecan Pie, there is just no contest. The Maple-Pecan Pie is the winner. However, the Maple-Walnut Pie is tasty, and its lack of sweetness made it a great complement to and rounded out all the other holiday desserts on our table.

Maple-Walnut Pie
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Yield: about 6 servings

Delicious - and very easy!

4 large eggs
3/4 cup real maple syrup
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust (recipe here, here or here)
Optional: whipped cream, for the top

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Beat together all ingredients, except walnuts and pie crust, until light and frothy.

3. Spread the walnuts into the unbaked pie crust. Pour in the batter.

4. Bake for 30 minutes or until solid in the center. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

5. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold, with or without whipped cream.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Five-Spice Lamb with Spinach

Tonight, I was looking for a lamb recipe that didn't require any marination, as it was just 40 minutes until dinner time. I found this recipe in my Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2007. Despite the fact that we didn't have any spinach, it sounded great. And, without the spinach, it was done in less than 30 minutes!

It went well with the acorn squash I had the foresight to throw in the oven earlier, and the "baked" potatoes we tossed in the microwave. The spinach sounds excellent, so one day when this meal is actually a plan, we will have that as well.

The lamb is tasty, and I still can't believe how fast and easy it was. Our lamb chops are small, so I only cooked them about 5 minutes on a side, and they were perfectly done. I also halved the cayenne pepper because of the boys, and just sprinkled the spices on both sides of the lamb instead of "coating" (I had some of the spice mix leftover). It was just about right: spicy enough for us, not too spicy for them. It's a delicate balance!

(The flash on my camera does nasty things to lamb, and it's dark outside, so this is the best I can do for the moment. Trust me, it tastes much better than it looks!)

Five-Spice Lamb with Spinach
Total: 30 minutes
4 servings
Wine pairing: Round, deep-flavored Syrah

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
Eight 8-ounce lamb loin chops
Salt (I use kosher)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound clean bagged spinach, tough ends discarded

1. In a small bowl, mix the spices. Season the lamb with salt; drizzle with olive oil. Coat both sides of the chops with the spices.

2. In a very large skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Add the chops and cook over moderate heat until browned and medium rare, 7 minutes per side.

3. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened and golden. Add handfuls of the spinach to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring and adding more spinach after each batch wilts. Season with salt, mound on plates and serve with the lamb.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Holly Hobbie's Meat Loaf

Okay. Don't laugh. This is a classic meat loaf recipe. An excellent meat loaf recipe. My favorite meat loaf recipe. And, it just happens to come from a cookbook I've had for a very long time. Since 1979, to be exact. It's called Holly Hobbie's Cookbook, and it's from a much simpler time. When Holly Hobbie still wore old-fashioned dresses that now are borderline prairie garb. And you can, actually, believe it or not, purchase a copy right now on amazon or ebay, if you prefer, for varying prices. It is a great beginning cookbook for kids. But all this is beside the point.

This meat loaf is Good. Number One came home wanting meat loaf, which gave me the perfect opportunity to share my beloved recipe with you. Tonight, we're making ours out of venison, but ground beef is the usual. What makes this recipe unique, I suppose, is that instead of adding bread crumbs, as the recipe calls for, I use oats. Old-fashioned oats, and it is delicious. All of the ingredients in this are just right for a perfect meat loaf.

Because our venison is packaged in approximately one pound packages, I rounded up to 2 pounds. I threw in a bit extra of the ingredients (1 small onion, 2 carrots, a heaping 1/2 cup of oats). I still just used one egg and 1/2 cup of milk.

The meat loaf is moist and tasty, and everyone loved it. You can see the bits of carrot and onion in the loaf. If you think you don't like meat loaf, this meat loaf might make you think differently. Try it and see.

Holly Hobbie's Meat Loaf
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Farm style, tried and true. This hearty dish, served with hot steaming vegetables, is welcomed all year 'round.

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup (finely) grated carrots
1 egg
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (or old-fashioned oats!)
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon or your hands. Spoon mixture into loaf pan. Smooth out top with back of spoon. Bake approximately 1 hour.

Remove pan from oven, and cool 10 minutes on cooling rack. Pour off and discard drippings. Use spatula to loosen sides of loaf from pan, and turn loaf out of pan onto warm platter. Serve warm.

Of course, I left out all the instructions for little kids like "chop onion into small pieces" because I believe you can figure that out. Holly also has a "Helpful Hints" section below each recipe, with hints like, "Always use pot holders when handling hot food." That Holly Hobbie. She's one smart cookie.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pressed Cuban-Style Burger

This is one of Bobby's recipes, from his Boy Gets Grill cookbook. The cookbook is one of our favorites, but we keep returning to a few select recipes. The Cuban-Style Burger has been calling my name for quite a while. I've never had a Cuban Burger or Cuban Sandwich before, but there is something intriguing about them, to me at least. So since Number One is running to town, I decided today is the day to try them and sent him to the grocery store too.

We proceeded with the wrapping in tin foil, but I also think these would be great put together and pressed panini-style. Also, Number One brought home generic grocery store hamburger buns. You know the ones, eight to a package, fluffy white. I think buns just a step or two above that kind, like store bakery-made but not crusty, would have been better. Also a better variety of ham. But beggars can't be choosers, especially when you've asked your husband to run to the grocery store for you. I won't even mention the pickle incident. Let's just sum it up by saying, my husband went to the store!

I roasted the garlic in a dry pan, on top of the stove. It is faster that way than doing it in the oven, which is fortunate because I forgot about the roasted garlic until I was ready to start grilling! Just heat a skillet over medium heat, and add unpeeled garlic cloves. Turn them so all sides get heated on the pan, in about 10 or 15 minutes they should be great--you should be able to squeeze them down with your fingertip. If they don't feel soft, just leave them on longer. (If some parts turn a bit black, that's fine! Remove from heat, peel and puree.

These sandwiches are delicious! I loved them, pickles and all. Number One said he preferred them without pickles. I think they are just perfect. The garlic mayonnaise is wonderful, and all the flavors just complement each other so well. H-Bomb liked them too, although he didn't end up eating all the components.

We will definitely be making these burgers again! (And, the next time I'm in Miami, I already know what I'm going to order!)

Pressed Cuban-Style Burger

Serves 4; can be doubled for 6 to 8

When I'm really, really hungry,all I think about is a big, fat burger oozing melted cheese and pickles. Unless I'm in Miami, when all I think about is a big, fat Cuban sandwich oozing melted cheese and pickles. Cheeseburgers and Cuban sandwiches are my two favorite indulgences, and they're actually pretty similar. This sandwich combines the two. Don't be tempted to use fancy crusty bread here. Only soft rolls will get the perfect crisp crust you want to play against the soft interior. As for the meat, chuck is about 80 percent lean, which grinds to the right texture for burgers. Note that you'll need a heavy pot or a couple of bricks to press the burgers.

1 pound freshly ground beef, preferably chuck (see headnote)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic, roasted and pureed
4 hamburger buns
2 to 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 thin slices Swiss cheese
4 thin slices ham
2 dill pickles, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 16)

1. Heat your grill to high.

2. Form the meat into four burgers. Season all over with salt and pepper. Grill the burgers until medium-rare, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the grill and leave the grill on.

3. Combine the mayonnaise and roasted garlic in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the cut sides of each bun with garlic mayonnaise and mustard. Place a slice of cheese on the bottom of each bun and a burger on top of the cheese, then top the burger with a slice of ham. Add another slice of cheese, then the pickle slices. Cover with the tops of the buns and wrap each burger individually in aluminum foil.

4. Place the burgers close together on the grill and rest a heavy skillet or a couple of bricks on top of them, pressing down if needed to flatten them. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
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