Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 Post 1: Brussels sprouts with chestnuts (p. 261), Root vegetable puree (p. 245), and Creamed cabbage (p. 263)

So, I realize I've been the worst blogger ever and I greatly apologize!  I will catch up on old blog posts (I'm over a year behind--honestly, I haven't even blogged about Thanksgiving 2011 but I will!).  I thought I would post new posts while sprinkling in the old posts.  And I'm going to schedule these to post in a row, even if I write them all in the same day, so check back.

As most of you know, I'm running out of "normal" Thanksgiving foods to cook because I've already made them.  So I've taken to only making the side dishes, the stuffing, and the bread out of TJOC.  This years I made three vegetable side dishes.

Brussels sprouts (and yep, there is an s at the end of Brussels) are something most people are sure they hate, even if they've never eaten one.  They really aren't as bad as people think--they are cabbagey but not as strong and are absolutely amazing with butter and a little garlic and salt. So, strangely, it wasn't the Brussels sprouts that were my problem with Brussels sprouts with chestnuts (p. 261), it was the chestnuts.  I had never eaten a chestnut before and had no idea if I was going to like them or not.

The recipe was simple.  I melted butter and added 4 halved shallots (that seemed strange to me--I mean, you usually chop or slice them but only halving them?  And if you are going to half them, don't you think you'd use more?) and peeled chestnuts (I used the vacuum packaged ones, I didn't want to go through the trouble of peeling fresh chestnuts).


 I added the Brussels sprouts, chicken broth, a bay leaf, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper and cooked it all for about 15 minutes: 

So it turns out I don't like chestnuts, nor did anybody else at this Thanksgiving dinner. They were mealy and tasteless and an expensive waste.  Does anyone out there like chestnuts?  What are they supposed to taste like?  The Brussels sprouts were absolutely delicious though so I would make this recipe again without the chestnuts.

I've meant to make Root vegetable puree (p. 245) for quite  awhile.  I knew it would be a winner because it's essentially mashed potatoes with other stuff and I love mashed potatoes.  I mean, who doesn't love mashed potatoes?  And every time I make them I wonder why I don't make them more often because they are so easy. 

So this recipe was also easy.  I boiled potatoes, added carrots to boil, and waited until they were super tender. 

When they were fork tender, I mashed them with a potato masher and mixed in cream, butter, salt, and pepper:

Delicious! Make sure you add LOTS of salt though, it really needed it.  This was creamy, delicious, heated up wonderfully the next day, and was beloved by all.  The best part was that the carrots made it seem more healthy than regular mashed potatoes and gave a little more flavor.  I really recommend this!  You can also use any other root veggie and I suspect that parsnips would give it a nice little peppery flavor.

My mother was in charge of the turkey this year.  She gave me a timeline of how long the turkey would take to cook.  Several of these dishes (the rolls [post forthcoming], the cabbage, the root veggie puree, the gravy, and the Creamed cabbage (p. 263)) needed to be done in the last hour and a half or so.  All of a sudden, way before expected, the turkey was done.  So I had to pound out all of these dishes while the turkey was sitting.  It was extremely stressful but I got it done!

Creamed cabbage isn't that popular anymore but, the few times I've had it, I've liked it.  The recipe was simple.  I boiled milk in a pan and added shredded cabbage.  TJOC recommends the cabbage is finely shredded, which it wasn't when I made the recipe, because I couldn't get it shredded finely.  If I was at home it wouldn't have been a problem (hooray for the salad shooter!) but I was at mom's house so I just did my best. 

After a couple of minutes I dropped it into a white sauce and seasoned it with horseradish, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Caraway was sprinkled on top:

I expected this dish to be unpopular and it was but it was really good!  Because I was hurrying (or maybe because the cabbage wasn't actually shredded finely enough) it was pretty crisp still but I think that made it even better.  It wasn't particularly creamy, which is exactly the way I like it, and the caraway gave it a nice German flavor.

There will only be 3 blog posts for the 2012 Thanksgiving festivities but there was actually quite a bit of food.  We seem to have settled on a menu of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, 2 types of cranberries, 2 types of stuffing, green bean casserole, the 3 veggie dishes, and rolls.  And that's for about 6 people! 

What did everybody else enjoy?  Do you keep it traditional?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thanksgiving 2011 Post 1: Rumaki (p. 83) and Clam dip (p. 72)

Thanksgiving!  And, yes, I realize this just shows how amazingly behind I am but, hey, I'm catching up!  Thanksgiving has started becoming a problem but I will get to that in future post.

Those of you who have read the blog for a while know that for Thanksgiving at our house, I cook an appetizer-style lunch.  This has been getting more difficult because I have made so many of the TJOC appetizer recipes already--I need to make increasingly strange dishes now.   

Rumaki (p. 83) is not one of my favorite things.  That's likely because I really don't like liver.  TJOC pointed out that I could use whole chestnuts instead of chicken livers, so that's what I decided to do for half the rumaki.  I thought it was a decent compromise.

I needed to grate ginger so I used the world's tiniest shredder.  I put it next to the water chestnuts so that you could see how truly tiny the shredder really was.

I mixed together soy sauce, dry sherry, the grated ginger, and brown sugar:

The whole chestnuts went into half the marinade and the livers went into the other half (I didn't want the livery flavors to go into the water chestnuts), where they sat for a few hours:

I made some of the rumaki the real way and some of them without liver.  If the rumaki included liver, I used just a slice of water chestnut and a quarter of a chicken liver.  For the rumaki without liver, I used a whole water chestnut.  I wrapped them in a half slice of bacon and skewered them with a toothpick:

They went in to the over for about ten minutes:

Rumaki is (are?  I'm not sure if we are talking singular or plural here) super common appetizers, so it was fun to try my hand at making it.  Super easy.  And strangely delicious--it has bacon so it's hard to go wrong.  People who don't have my hatred of liver thought they were both equally good.  And the toothpick made them easy to handle and easy to eat.

I love, love, love my modified version of the Becker sour cream dip, so I was confident that Clam dip (p. 72) would also be delicious (since it's essentially the exact same thing, with clams). That's exactly what it was--the sour cream dip with Worcestershire sauce and canned clams:

You almost can't go wrong with that dip recipe, it's that good, so, although I don't think the clams added anything, they didn't subtract either.

The easiest way to feel popular?

Cook.  All of a sudden everyone wants to be hanging around with you!

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Panfried fish fillets or steaks (p. 407)

There are a lot of fairly easy fish recipes that I need to knock out and haven't for some reason.  One of these is Panfried fish fillets or steaks (p. 407).  I make salmon all the time but never made this exact recipe.

I took skin-on salmon, seasoned it with olive oil (and, obviously, other stuff--salt, pepper, garlic), and started it skin side down in the pan.  I cooked it undisturbed until the skin was brown and the flesh became opaque:

I turned it over and cooked it for a couple more minutes and done:

The finished product:

This was a delicious recipe but a really easy one.  There isn't a whole lot to say about it, other than if you like fish, this is an easy, fast way to make it with minimal fuss.  If you don't like fish, this recipe isn't going to change your mind.

What is your favorite way to cook fish?

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

November party post 9: Liquor-soaked pound cake (p. 716) and Gingerbread (p. 724)

Final party post!  My final thoughts on this party--I cooked sooooo much!  It was really fun, I had a great time, and it was a great last (and only) party in Fort Collins.  The best part is that I knocked out probably a solid 25 recipes!  I'll try to get the opinions of the people who were at the party--if they remember what the food tasted like, considering it was 9 months ago!  

Go through all the past posts and comment!  

Even though the guests were warned that the whole point of this particular party was to make a bunch of the strange TJOC recipes and get them knocked out, I wanted to make a couple desserts that I was confident would turn out well and reward them for showing up.  I know I make a great pound cake, so I decided to make Liquor-soaked pound cake (p. 716).

The recipe was simple.  First, I made pound cake and poured the batter into loaf pans and cooked it like that.  I combined sugar, water, and corn syrup over heat until the sugar was dissolved.  Once that had occurred, I added some good quality brandy (although you could use almost any type of liquor):

I used a skewer and poked holes in the pound cakes:

The sugar mixture was poured over the cake:

The liquid slowly soaked in to the pound cake.  Believe it or not, over a few hours, all of it soaked in.  This pound cake was DELICIOUS.  The extra liquid meant that the pound cake was ultra-moist and lasted forever--it essentially didn't stale.  And, remember, the alcohol doesn't cook out in recipes like this, careful!  And use good quality alcohol--the flavor is really important.  

I also decided to make Gingerbread (p. 724).  Everybody thinks they like gingerbread, even though most people have never actually eaten it.  Or am I wrong about that?  

I mixed melted butter, egg, and sugar:

I whisked together flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon:

In a third container I whisked hot water, molasses, and honey together:

Eventually, added the dry and liquid ingredients alternately to the butter mixture and poured it in to a pan:

 Sadly, I have no final picture of this one either but it looked like gingerbread, nice and dark.  It was delicious.  Moist, spicy, delicious.  And the absolute perfect dessert for a holiday party.  If you haven't made gingerbread before, do it.

And with that, I will tell one of my favorite stories about my father.  One year, my dad decided that we would make gingerbread houses together.  I was probably 7 years old or so.  He made a bunch of gingerbread.  We cut it into pieces and tried building a house.  After about an hour of no progress at all no matter how hard we tried, we gave up and just ate the gingerbread.  Turns out, you make gingerbread houses with a totally different type of gingerbread--not this type, a more cardboardy type.  But nobody got mad that it was failing and it was so much fun.  It was one of my first lessons in the concept that sometimes even if your plan turns in to a disaster, it can still be a fun amazing memory.

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November party post 8: Ricotta cheesecake (p. 745)

Almost done with these November party posts!  Wow, I really did cook a ton for that party!

I made the pat in the pan crust, which I've made a million times in the past--it's my favorite crust recipe because it's really easy and I don't have to roll it out (my least favorite part).  I don't know if you all own pie weights but they really are nice for keeping crusts from bubbling--I know you can just use rice but the weights are easy to wash and it seems less wasteful.

Pie weights

I decided to make Ricotta cheesecake (p. 745) for some reason.  I can't really explain why that recipe jumped out at me.

I mixed toasted pine nuts, chopped almonds, chocolate chips, and flour:

I thought that was a promising start, I really like all those ingredients.  In another bowl I beat egg with sugar and vanilla for a couple minutes, finally stirring in ricotta cheese:

The crust pre-cooking:

The nut mixture was mixed into the egg mixture:

The crust post-cooking:

The cheesecake mixture was poured into the baked crust:

And it was baked.  You will have to imagine the "after", I didn't get a picture of this one either, but it looked pretty much exactly the same.  I didn't like this recipe.  I don't like savory cheesecakes.  The pesto cheesecake that I made a couple New Year's Eves ago was much better than this recipe and this one was actually in the "cakes and cupcakes" section.  I love ricotta, I don't have a sweet tooth, and this recipe wasn't sweet enough for even me.  It wasn't popular.  

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November party post 7: Party piroshki (p. 89)

Every now and then I have to make something that is totally mysterious to me.  Party piroshki (p. 89) was one of these items.  I had no idea what a piroshki even was and what made it "party"?  Confetti and balloons?  I was hopeful.

I sauteed onion in oil and added beef and salt.  After the meat started to brown, I added beef brother, pepper, sugar, and rice.  That was covered and allowed to cook:

I rolled out puff pastry (even TJOC says not to bother making your own puff pastry--just buy it.  And it's a bazillion times easier to work with than phyllo, so don't be scared).  I dumped the filling in the middle (actually, the recipe makes two, so the filling was halved):

The dough was rolled in to a pocked:

They were brushed with an egg wash:

And popped in the oven:

The rolls were then sliced:

These were great for a party!  They were the perfect size for an easy appetizer.  That being said, the piroshki were bland.  Which isn't a surprise because spices weren't added at all other than salt and pepper, which isn't enough for me.  I think it need at least garlic--at the very minimum.  Any other ideas?  I've never had a piroshki so I'm not sure if the recipe was accurate or not.  The pictures on Wikipedia are pretty similar to what I made--anyone had one before?  I imagine they were "party" because they were big, sadly, there were no balloons or banners involved.

Friday, August 24, 2012

November party post 6: Crisp spicy pecans (p. 70), bagel chips (p. 93), and Anchovy toasts (p. 87)

I am still blogging my way through the November party!  It's truly amazing I cooked so much for it!  Start with Post 1.  I honestly think that 3 more posts should finish this out.  

I'd been meaning to make Crisp spicy pecans (p. 70) for a long time.  Honestly, they have been on my list to make at least 25 times and I've never gotten around to making them for some reason (probably because I needed to whip egg whites and I balk at doing that most of the time).  So I whipped an egg white with salt until foamy.  I added sugar and beat until the soft peaks formed:

I mixed melted butter, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and ground red pepper together:

I folded the butter mixture into the egg mixture along with the nuts:

And they were baked for about a half hour.  They went from this:

To this:

It's hard to explain these strange little nuts.  They were really good and amazingly addictive.  Totally savory.  The paprika and hot pepper gave them a surprisingly little kick and the egg helped the spice mixture stick to the nuts.  I noticed myself going back for more and more of these.

Another recipe I had meant to make FOREVER were bagel chips (p. 93).  I don't have a full complement of pictures for this one, which shouldn't surprise you, because I made SO MANY things for this party.  Frankly, it's amazing I kept up on the pictures as well as I did!

I sliced a bagel (and it was sliced, which I don't think helped!).  I brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled salt and garlic powder over them:

I only have a before picture, no after, but imagine all the bagel chips you've ever seen and that's what they were like.  They were good!  They were pretty much like all other bagel chips, which I consider a good thing.  This is a perfect recipe to make if you have too many bagels and you know you aren't going to get through them all before they start to stale.  They are also popular for a group because almost everybody likes them.  Plus they were cheap and easy and you could customize them easily by switching toppings.

I was concerned about making Anchovy toasts (p. 87) for a party.  Almost everyone out there lists anchovies at the top of the list of foods they hate and I didn't think the group coming to my party was any different.  Regardless, I had warned the group that I would be making strange foods so they were prepared.

I soaked the anchovies in cold water for ten minutes:

I toasted some baguette slices (you don't have a picture of that because it wasn't very interesting).  I minced the anchovies and combined the fish with olive oil, red wine vinegar, parsley, garlic cloves, and pepper.  The toast was spread with the fish mixture and broiled until warm.

I was actually really, really proud of myself with the night of cooking.  I managed to get every single thing done within ten minutes of the last guest showing up, so I wasn't in the kitchen cooking almost at all.  I pulled these out and served them right away.  They were actually a really big hit!  The anchovies were salty and the garlic and vinegar cut through the fishy flavor.  I honestly think almost everybody ate one and was pleasantly surprised!

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November party post 5: Miniature quiches (p. 90), Cream cheese dough (p. 666), Miniature tartlet shells or turnovers (p. 90), and Miniature turnovers with caramelized onions and blue cheese (p. 91)

I recommend starting with my November party post 1.  Essentially, I had a big party, cooked a ton of stuff, and need to get the posting on the party finished (especially considering it's nine months later!).  

What's better for a party than Miniature quiches (p. 90) made with Miniature tartlet shells or turnovers (p. 90)?  The dough was really easy to make.  I prepared the Cream cheese dough (p. 666).  I whisked together flour and salt and then added butter and cream cheese.  

It went from this:

To this:

I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and left it overnight.  This is one of those recipes that you need to think about the night before since the dough takes a night to cure:

The next day I formed some of the dough into little balls (they look like cookies!):

I didn't have a mini muffin pan (I do now but I didn't back then) so these quiches had to be muffin sized (which is still pretty small).  I spread the dough into the cup, which was much more difficult than it seems like it would be:

I baked the shells (as you can see, they got a little overcooked):

I filled the shells with a mixture of eggs, heavy cream, Parmesan, shallot, salt, pepper, and ham.  My thinking was that ham is one of those things that almost everyone likes so it would be a good choice.  I think ham and broccoli would have been even better!

The quiches were popped in the oven:

These were absolutely delicious!  They were also surprisingly filling.  I think these would be a great item to make and eat for breakfast on the go, too.  Even so, with a lighter hand, these could be interesting and elegant and perfect for any appetizer meal.

I used that same dough to make Miniature turnovers with caramelized onions and blue cheese (p. 91).  I love blue cheese but I hate caramelized onions so I thought this would be a good choice to make when I had other people to feed.  I sauteed onion, olive oil, and salt in a skillet, and then added it to blue cheese, walnuts, and rosemary:

I rolled out the dough and cut it in to circles.  I filled each circle with some of the filling and folded them in half.

After they went through the oven, they looked like this:

These were a HUGE hit.  There is something very fancy about the combination of rosemary, caramelized onions, and blue cheese and the sweetness of the onions cut through the strength of the blue cheese.  These turnovers were actually really easy to make--I really recommend making them.

The dough was tasty, too!  The cream cheese gave the dough a little acidic kick that I really liked and the dough came together much easier than the dough made with only butter.  Has anyone else made both these doughs?  What did you think?

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