Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving: Yes, There Will Be Pie

While I mentioned that the sides are, if you love vegetables the way I do, "so good, you could skip the pie," there will be pie (or dessert "outside the crust"). Pie for everyone else at dinner, even if I am too full on salad and veggies. Leftover pie for my traditional Friday after Thanksgiving breakfast. In my jammies and as far from anything resembling a mall on Black Friday, I will have my pie and coffee. And I will rest.

Vanilla Sweet Potato Pie with Brown Sugar Pecan Crust
This one is a long-standing favorite and the original pie recipe that started my annual "create a new pie" quest. I still make this one every year.

Red-wine Caramel Apple Tart with Gorgonzola on a Walnut Crust
I cook a lot for the whole family, but once in a while, my grown-up taste buds need something complex and not too sweet for dessert. This is worth the effort.

Ginger Pear and Cranberry Tart
This is my second favorite Thanksgiving dessert (after the sweet potato pie). It's elegant and unexpected.

Roasted Fig and Pear Crumble
I've been crazy about figs since I was a kid and discovered fig newtons. Married to pears in this dish, it's a nice, easy dessert for the season if you don't have time for making pie crust!

Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Peanut brittle classic gets a spicy, fall update that makes a perfect garnish for Thanksgiving desserts, or just by itself. The full recipe uses the brittle as a topping for a poached pear and gorgonzola cheese salad with arugula. Sumptuous and amazing salad for the holiday table. If you are going potluck and just have one dish to bring, this one will impress the whole family and be a real stand out on the holiday table.

So easy, no oven is required. And no eggs, either in case you have an egg allergy in the family. Very good, quick and looks like you spent a ton of time on it.

Uses Chinese 5-spice Powder instead of the traditional pumpkin pie spice and honey for the sweetener. Subtle, but nice take on the classic pumpkin.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Root Veggies and Sauces

I'm on the fence over the mandatory mashed potatoes for the feast. There will be traditionalists among us who will expect the standard fare right down to giblets and wiggling can-shaped blog of cranberry stuff that no one eats. There will be kids, not mine, who may only eat the mashed potatoes and turkey (not touching, of course). My kid won't eat mashed potatoes. I would prefer a roasted root vegetable medley. I only have so many burners and so much oven space.

Of course, the good news is we are smoking the turkey this year, leaving my oven free for roasting things like the apples to go under our Smoked Brussels sprouts, and a few sweet potatoes, parsnips and the like. You can also make mashed potatoes the day ahead and rewarm. No one said that have to be plain old mashed potatoes, either ... let's do both.

And, let's skip the canned cranberry sauce, too, with these easy, delicious make-ahead sauces.

Roasted Garlic, Parsnip and Potato Puree
With instructions for make ahead.

Caramelized Fennel and Root Vegetables with Lemon-Ginger Sauce
Really amazing dish with a lot of complexity and texture. This one is pictured at the top of the post.

Simple Roasted Root Vegetables
based on the recipe in our book for Golden Roast Potatoes
1/2 pounds new potatoes, skin on, scrubbed, and cut into {3/4}-inch cubes
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and diced to {3/4}-inch cubes (or sweet potatoes)
1/2 lb. parsnips, peeled and diced to {3/4}-inch cubes
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1/2 tablespoon sage, chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Place the potatoes and garlic in your 9x13 roasting pan.
3. Steam the parsnips and carrots for 10 minutes, then add to roasting pan (so all the vegetables will cook evenly. Carrots and parsnips take longer to cook than new potatoes!)
3. Pour the oil over the vegetables and stir to coat them. Spread them evenly in roasting pan. Sprinkle with the rosemary and salt. Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.
4. After 20 minutes, remove the foil, stir, and continue to roast for 15 minutes longer, until the exterior of the potatoes looks brown and crispy and the insides are tender. Remove from the oven and garnish with the parsley, if desired.
Serves 6 to 8

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Sides: The Not-Dreaded Green Vegetable

It's a tough job for a green vegetable to compete for a place on the plate at Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and the whole carb overload may not leave room for even the smallest Brussels sprout. Plus, its hard enough to get folks to eat these without all the other options.

Here's a new recipe and a few green vegetable options (scroll down)  that may convince even the most hard core starch-o-phile to try one bite. Some of them are rich, and some of them just have a whole lot of flavor.

This year, we're trying something completely different with our green vegetables. Smoked! This recipe works with both Brussel Sprouts or baby cabbages (or full size cabbage cut into wedges). If you've ever held a head of cabbage from your CSA and wondered, now what would I do with THAT besides slaw, slaw, and more slaw ... well, this one's for you. You'll need a smoker pan for this, shop around because I think you can find these cheaper.

(scroll below the recipe for links to four other great options!)

Applewood and Rosemary Smoked Cabbage with Roasted Apples
1 head of cabbage or eight small heads of cabbage, or two lbs. Brussels sprouts cleaned and halved
1 bunch green onions, or 4 shallots quartered
1 large sprig rosemary
Handful of sage leaves
Applewood chips

8 apples, cored and sliced
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbs. organic canola
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground clove

3 Tbs. coarse grain mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
black pepper to taste
Smoked sea salt, or sea salt

Place the wood chips, rosemary and sage in the bottom of the smoker pan (see manufacturer instructions). Place the drip pan over that and the rack on top. On the rack, position the cabbage and onions or shallots. You may have to halve the cabbages to get the lid to close. That's okay.

Close the lid, but not all the way, leaving a half an inch. Start the gas grill (or, have spouse do this in my case. The grill is his turf.) Once you see wisps of smoke coming from the pan, then you can close the lid all the way. Turn the gas down to low. The cabbage and onion can smoke for up to an hour and a half.

In the last half an hour of smoking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place the sliced apples on a baking sheet. Toss with canola oil, nutmeg and cloves, and spread to a single layer. Roast the apples for about 10 minutes. Turn once, roast for another 5-10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and keep warm. Toss with the honey.

Whisk the dressing together, adding the pepper. Save the coarse sea salt for garnish. Assemble by placing the apples on the platter. Top with the cabbage and onions. Drizzle the dressing over top. Sprinkle with the sea salt. The smoked kind is nice if you can find it.

You can also make this with Brussels sprouts. Just reduce the smoking time to about 30 minutes since they are so much smaller.

If you don't want to use the mustard sauce, try a cider reduction which is more like a glaze. 1 cup cider, 2 Tbs. honey, 2 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar. Simmer on low until reduced to a thick syrup. Drizzle over top of veggies before serving.

Think hard, have you ever had this dish without the canned soup in the mix? If not, then you need to try the real thing. It's easier than you would think.

I've had people who say they hate cauliflower love this dish. Really.

Brussels sprouts are back, and bacon just goes with everything. This is the easy, easy version too.

Higher maintenance, but delicious. With the chestnuts, this one is a good option for Christmas, too.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving Sides: The Sweet Potato

This is our friend (and meat farmer) Marcus. He has a huuuuuuge, um, root vegetable. And really small turkeys. In fact, this sweet potato weighs in at more than our would-be Thanksgiving turkey. Another day, feather-weight fowl, the smoker awaits.

This post is all about the sweet potato.

 First, some business. I was on KCUR for Halloween, and a listener called in and we were talking about how to lighten mashed potatoes and remove the dairy (hint: use vegetable stock or chicken stock). She requested the Chipotle Sweet Potato recipe from our book. It was also printed in the Kansas City Star last year for Thanksgiving recipes. I'll post the regular version with non-dairy swaps for her especially.

Honey-Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Sea salt {1/4} cup half-and-half (For non-dairy: USE ORANGE JUICE)
2 tablespoons butter (For non-dairy: USE OLIVE OIL)
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped (comes in a can)
1 tablespoon adobo sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2. Toss the potatoes with the oil, honey, salt, brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Transfer to a large baking dish or a baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, until fork-tender.

3. Mash the potatoes with the half-and-half and the butter (orange juice and olive oil for non-dairy). Add the chopped chipotle and the adobo sauce and mix well.

Serves 10

Or, there is Orange Basil as an alternate (you could use Sage for fall flavor here)

About 2.5 pounds sweet potatoes (2 large)
1/2 cup orange juice (unsweetened, no pulp)
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil or 1-1/2 tsp. dried basil
kosher salt to taste

Peel sweet potatoes and cut to a large dice (about 1-inch cubes).
Steam for about 20-30 minutes until fork tender.
Mix in other ingredients.

If you want more orange flavor, you can add 1/2 tsp. of orange flavor (natural) or orange zest to bump up the citrus. 

Both of these recipes are from my book, The Cleaner Plate Club.

Sweet Potato, Sage and Aged Gouda Gratin.
Now, if butterfat, cheese and dairy ARE your thing, this recipe is one of the two of my most requested Thanksgiving recipes ever.  You can skip the post ahead of the recipe, but its kind of funny if you have a few moments. Heaven. Really. Skip-the-pie-if-you-have-to-good. Hint: the other all-time favorite Thanksgiving recipe of mine IS the Sweet Potato Pie. You can also use "white" sweet potatoes here like these O'Henry ones pictured.

Sweet Potato, Kale and Farro Side
Speaking of good, if you must be good, there's no reason you should go without flavor. For you, let's get the kale back out and try this really good and healthy side with roasted sweet potato, cranberries and seasonal kale. Guilt-free nearly, I even posted the nutrition facts on this one so you can see for yourself.

Maple Sweet Potato Souffle
You can really mix it up, too, with this Maple Sweet Potato Souffle. Light and fluffy, the absolute opposite of that nasty marshmallow-laden dish that I despise.

Thanksgiving Sides: So Good You Could Skip the Pie

Politics are over! Let's talk turkey. Well, let's talk sides. Because our turkey — languishing in turkey paradise in a lovely cedar poultry-cabin that gets moved from fresh pasture to fresh pasture by subservient humans — has decided to stay trim and postpone his inevitable culinary demise. And I thought turkeys were relatively unintelligent animals.

This means I have had to use alternate local food sourcing methods to find a new turkey (otherwise known as Facebook). For now, we'll talk sides. Closer to December, look for a post on how to convince your spouse to go out in the snow and smoke a Christmas turkey, with a sidebar on which bourbon is required to convince him and why.

Here's the shocker most people get at my Thanksgiving table: I make a salad course. I know, it's like some kind of blasphemy, right? Leafy greens amidst all the comfort food and butter fat. It also feels like rule-breaking since delicate leafy greens are not exactly seasonal unless you know a farm with a high tunnel or a green house. Or you use kale.

The other requirement is that you can't just put some lettuce out there with ranch dressing and expect it to  go up against mashed potatoes with any success. The salad has to be a bit sexy to get any love at this holiday feast.

Here's three options for salads, all are worth a part of your plate.

Easy, easy. And make ahead. With kale, apples, pears, pumpkin seeds and a cranberry vinaigrette it is perfectly in season and a salad you can source locally.

This one has pears, apples, clementine oranges with pomegranate seeds, white stilton cheese and a lemon vinaigrette.

Roasted grapes and pears with bleu cheese and a dressing made with a Muscat wine, lemon and honey reduction. Seriously, who needs pie if you serve this.

Love this one for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It's light, fresh and stunning. The orange and fennel have a nice acidity that cuts the butter fat of other rich dishes. The color is stunning.

Next post: What to make with those sweet potatoes besides that nasty, sugary marshmallow thing.

Going Green (vegetable): From sexy Smoked Cabbage with Roasted Apples to REAL Green Bean Casserole, five ways to get green vegetables invited to your Thanksgiving dinner menu.