November 28, 2011

We Gather Together

Goodness.  Another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  This year, Sam and I hosted both sets of parents and my youngest brother here in Chapel Hill in our tiny house.  The oven was pumping all day and I spent most of it either cooking, checking, tasting, or shooing people out of the kitchen. Ok, mostly shooing.  I think I've already mentioned, I don't delegate well.  But, Thanksgiving is not a meal you can make alone.  There are just too many components, too many dishes that need to be timed perfectly to make sure everything arrives on the table piping hot.  I think I planned the meal pretty well, but it's clear I have quite a few Thanksgivings to go before I can be calm, cool, and collected in the kitchen.  A big thank you to my mom and mom-in-law for making two beautiful pies, my dad for helping to stuff the turkey and make the gravy, and to Sam for tackling the carving.  Oh, and of course to my brother and father-in-law for expertly pouring the water and champagne.  It was a full family affair.
The table (or tables)

Everyone has their own traditional Thanksgiving dishes and in my home they always included sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, gravy, and most importantly turkey.  There was often something green on the plate, but it was mostly just for the color.  The sweet potatoes went through a phase where they were covered with toasty mini marshmallows and there was one year when we had a frozen cranberry sorbet sort of thing.  But mostly, it was all about the turkey and the gravy.  Not brined, not dry rubbed, just plain, roasted turkey and always stuffed.  I've continued that tradition (although I've updated the stuffing...sorry Mom) and I think our table looked pretty good, if cobbled together.  Here are a few recipes from our meal - don't be afraid to try them out before next Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potato and Carrot Puree (from The Silver Palate)
Serves 6-8

4 large sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs)
1 lb carrots
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsbp sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375. Scrub the potatoes and cut a small, deep slit in the top of each. Set on the center rack of the oven and bake until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, peel and trim the carrots and cut them into 1-inch lengths. Put them in a saucepan and add the water, sugar, 2 tbsp of the butter, and salt and pepper. Set over medium heat, bring to a boil, and cook, uncovered, until the water has evaporated and the carrots begin to sizzle in the butter, about 30 minutes. The carrots should be tender. If not, add a little additional water and cook until the carrots are done and all the liquid has evaporated. Scrape out the flesh of the sweet potatoes and combine with the carrots in a food processor. Add the remaining butter and the creme fraiche and process until very smooth. Add the nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper, Add the cayenne, if desired, and process briefly to blend. To reheat, transfer to an ovenproof serving dish and cover with aluminum foil. Heat in a preheated 350 degree oven until steaming hot, about 25 minutes.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 8

8 cups Brussels Sprouts
olive oil
coarse salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean and trim the Brussels Sprouts and cut them in half, keeping all of the leaves.  Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30-40 minutes until the sprouts are browned and crisped.

Sam wrestling with the big bird.

Whatever your tradition, I hope you had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, and food. But above all, I hope you had a chance to contemplate what you are thankful for, because although Thanksgiving shouldn't be the only time of year we think about all that we are grateful for, it's a pretty wonderful time to focus on it.

Have leftovers?  Consider making Turkey Rice Soup!

November 8, 2011

When in Doubt, Make a Pizza!

Do you ever have those days when nothing seems appetizing?  You can't think of one thing that you want to have for dinner and you're not even sure that you're hungry?  Well, today was one of those days.  I had a pretty frustrating day and to be honest, all I really wanted was to have a gallon of wine. Ok, not a gallon, more like two big glasses, but you get the picture. Now in NY, with our tiny kitchen, this would have meant a quick trip to the local Chinese place around the corner or a pizza joint. But here in NC?  Those simply don't exist.  No let me rephrase that.  They exist, but no self-respecting NY foodie would be a patron of one (you heard me, "I Love NY Pizza").  Plus, Sam and I are really trying to cook at home every night of the work week  down here.  It generally hasn't been difficult, but when you run into a night like tonight when you are so uninspired you contemplate not eating dinner, it becomes quite a chore.

Enter the Trader Joe's fresh pizza dough.  Sam and I have discovered the wonders of making your own pizza fresh from the oven.  I even got these really cool circular pizza pans for our wedding with holes in the bottom to let the heat properly bake the pies evenly.  It's been a revelation and we now always seem to have pizza makings in our fridge and extra dough in the freezer.  I've already mentioned my fear of baking with yeast (hence the fact that I run to TJ's for $1.79 dough instead of making my own) so this is a wonderful substitute.  As long as you have tomato sauce and grated cheese, your option are endless.  Tonight's pie?  Arugula and salami with a taste of truffle salt.  Paired with a salad drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette, it was the perfect antidote to an otherwise uninspired meal.

When it comes to pizza, let your imagination (and fridge) guide you.  Have some mushrooms, broccolini, and potatoes?  Slice them thin and throw them on!  Have some leftover charcuterie from a delicious dinner party? That will work too! My favorite?  Fresh tomatoes and garlic. Simply delicious.

The only specific recipe I'll give you is bake your pizza at 500 degrees for roughly 12-13 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.  It will come out perfectly every time.

November 3, 2011

Food52 Wrap Up

The Table is Ready and Waiting!
Well, I have to say, it was pretty cool to see my (now old) name in print last week.  In honor of the launch of the Food52 Cookbook, I told you I was going to host a potluck party  and boy did we ever.  Although we were a small group, we had enough food to feed us twice over.  In the end it was exactly what a Food52 potluck should be - friends sharing recipes, cooking tips, and favorite cooking tools.  Here are a few snaps from the party - a big thank you to the lovely ladies who bravely went into their kitchens and tried the recipes I chose from Food52.  Each dish was fabulous and delicious and the party would not have been a success without each one of them.  Next time you're thinking of throwing a potluck, take a look at the Food52 cookbook, plan the menu, then let everyone else shine.

Plus two more dishes that were so good, they went before I could take a photo of them!  Fig and Blue Cheese Savouries and Rosemary and Thyme Pita Chips.  The savouries will definitely be put into my party appetizer rotation!

Lastly, a big thank you to who provided us with 4 bottles of Gann Family 2005 Merlot from Alexander Valley, Sonoma.  (Special because Sam and I went to that area on our honeymoon!)