Monday, November 29, 2010

Deep-fried turkey: a Thanksgiving adventure

Nothing says "Thanksgiving" quite like cooking the big bird in the driveway with a fire extinguisher nearby.

This is the fourth year that we've fried a turkey and I think we finally got it right. The first year we did it strictly for the novelty and found it a bit dry. After that, it became a challenge.

Year two was still too dry. Year three we went so far as to cook up a marinade and inject it directly into the breast meat -- still not very moist, believe it or not.

This year, we read the instruction manual a wee bit more closely and lowered the oil temperature just a tad. Success! An amazingly moist bird.

Not to mention the quality family time spent on the driveway.

I mean, while you're waiting for the turkey to achieve that crispy-yet-moist delectable goodness, why not launch some skeet into the woods and see how many trees you can hit?

Hope your turkey day was just as much as fun.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Butternut squash and chard bread pudding: a recipe for Thanksgiving leftovers

I know, I know -- Thanksgiving isn't until tomorrow and I'm already giving you a recipe for leftovers.

You will thank me this weekend, I guarantee it.

I had some cooked butternut squash, half a loaf of italian bread and the last of the swiss chard from my garden on hand last night that I wanted to use up, so I turned to Google to figure out what to make.

Lo and behold, I got a sweet hit. One of my favorite food bloggers, Molly from Orangette, had published a recipe in Bon Appetit last year for a bread pudding that I could adapt.

I think the best part about this recipe is that there is very little cooking prep involved, short of soaking the bread -- the perfect level of effort for Black Friday, if you've just spent several days preparing a Thanksgiving feast. And you will likely have some kind of leftover squash, greens (spinach or kale would also work in this pudding) and bread with which to work.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pasta with chicken-liver sauce: a recipe

I really, really hope you like pate.

Late to the game, as usual, I only got turned on to pate earlier this year but I am hooked. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but I just love the rich, slightly earthy flavor.

This pasta, therefore, is really my cup of tea. It combines the basic elements of pate only melted down into a creamy pasta sauce.

And I love that it also meets two of my other favorite recipe requirements: it can be made in advance and it's easy but elegant!

Friday, November 19, 2010

What we ate this week

The Ninjette and I took a walk yesterday to a different part of town and encountered this building. I love it because it reminds me of the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg from The Great Gatsby, one of the greatest books ever written; that book and F. Scott Fitzgerald influenced my life in too many ways to talk about in this post -- it's that important to me.

I've got some cool recipes lined up to try this weekend, so be sure to check back next week. Until then, here's what I ate this week -- maybe it will tide you over.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Smoked salmon terrine: a recipe

I'm not a born entertainer.

No, I don't mean a Sammy Davis Jr., tap-dancing, singing entertainer (although I personally think I would make an excellent backup singer, despite the fact that I can't sing). I mean a host-people-in-my-house entertainer.

Some people are really good at it, appearing very relaxed and non-plussed about cooking more and for more people than usual.

Guess what? I'm not one of those people.

I obsess too much about ensuring that everything is perfect for my guests and often over-extend myself when it comes to preparing dishes. Martha Stewart I am not -- but that's not a bad thing because she drives me batty. But I'm getting better at it. The best trick? Recipes that can be made (fully or partially) ahead of time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hard cider adventure: racking day!

After three weeks, fermentation finally appeared this weekend to be finished in my 5-gallon cider bucket, which meant it was time for the next step: racking.

Racking is the term for transferring the cider from one vessel to another, via siphon, to allow the fermented juice to clarify, away from all the gunky sediment that settled out during the fermentation process.

Racking day was our first chance to get a good look at and a taste of the cider in progress. Right now, it's very, very dry (read: tart) but we'll be adding some sugar to it to sweeten it up a bit just before bottling. But BOY HOWDY -- it's strong!

I'm just relieved that it didn't spoil and turn into vinegar. So far, so good.

Now we wait ... again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Molasses ginger crackle cookies: a recipe

Confession: I'm not a dessert person. Give me cheese over cheesecake every time.

When I was little, my sister used to love to sit next to me at family birthday parties because I would only eat the cake part of the cake, not the icing, which of course I would give to her. And I mean none of the icing. You know the skinny little layer of icing between the cake layers? Yup -- I would eat around it.

This probably explains why I prefer cookies that are a little spicy or packed with fruit, rather than lots of chocolate. Case in point: these molasses ginger cookies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ham and leek bread pudding: a recipe

(I wish that little chive wasn't sticking out like a flag...)
When I baked this bread pudding for the first time last year, a friend of mine from Louisiana told me that I couldn't call it bread pudding because there was no bourbon in it. (Actually, she shouted that out in horror.)

Trust me: this bread pudding doesn't need bourbon to be wicked good.

This recipe comes to you third-hand. I adapted mine from Deb's at smitten kitchen, and she adapted hers from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home. So feel free to adapt it again to suit your own tastes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stuffed pumpkin: a recipe

Wow. All I can say is ... WOW.

In promoting her new cookbook, Around My French Table, Dorie Greenspan showed Michele Norris of NPR how to cook what she calls "stuffed pumpkin with everything good" (well, as much as you can "show" someone on the radio, right? For all we know, they were standing around pretending to cook).

She is NOT kidding with that name.

And I am not kidding in saying that this is one of the best dishes I've eaten in a really, really long time, either at home or in a restaurant.

Imagine bread pudding tucked into a creamy roasted pumpkin -- holy crap. And did I mention that it's easy to prepare?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reusable snack bags: a sewing tutorial

Monkeys in underpants: cracks me up every time
Since moving to Vermont, I have been doing things other than cooking and eating. Really, I have.

My sister has been a big sewer and quilter for years and lately she's been making all sorts of really cool bags. She inspired me to take up sewing again. Well, "again" being about 30 years after learning how to use a sewing machine in Mrs. Charpentier's Home Economics class, although I can't remember if it was the unit before or after learning to cook by making meat loaf cups that swam in oil. But I digress.

As a refresher, I took a beginner's sewing class at a CUTE CUTE CUTE fabric and yarn shop here in Burlington called Nido (go ahead, say it out loud -- get it?). We made simple tote bags and I caught the sewing bug in a big way.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cookies, for you and your little dog, too: two recipes

I've been on a cookie-baking jag lately, since I found some slightly-less-bad-for-you cookie recipes that don't taste like a cardboard box top.

Most of the cookies I've made have been dog-safe, so I haven't minded slipping one to the Ninjette every once in a while, but the last batch I made were cherry-chocolate chip (see recipe below) -- a veritable dog-killer. So I baked her some of her own.

Yes, I'm one of those crazy people that cooks for the dog. But my doggie meatloaf is to die for, I've been told.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Celery and pear bisque: a recipe

It snowed again yesterday. Yes, I said again.

OK, I'm being slightly dramatic, as these have been snow showers that don't last long and don't leave any evidence behind, but still: yesterday was only Halloween. Last year at this time I was sporting a new sleeveless dress and sandals for my 40th birthday party in North Carolina. This year? Boots and a turtleneck.

All this is just my way of explaining why I've been posting a lot about soup. Thank god I bought fleecy boots or you might catch me soaking my feet in some of these recipes.