Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wishing you all...

...a very Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't forget dessert...

This is one of my favorite pecan pie recipes of all time! It is a family recipe from Chef Carlos Fernandez and his partner Chuck Smith. This pie is rich and yummy all by itself - topped with whipped cream or ice cream, it's downright decadent!

Carlos' Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

1 cup sugar
1/2 stick butter (melted)
3 eggs (beaten)
3/4 cup light Karo Corn syrup
1 tsp. salt1/2 cup pecans (chopped)
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
2 Tbs. Bourbon
Mix pecans, chocolate chips and bourbon and let soak for 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally. Blend melted butter into sugar until fully integrated. Add beaten eggs and blend. Add corn syrup and salt and blend fully. Fold in pecan/chip mixture. Pour into pie shell with edges crimped. (Carlos makes an old fashioned Crisco pie crust for this recipe, but you can use whatever pie crust you prefer). Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes until center of pie rises and cracks. Let cool. Best served slightly warm with either fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Extra credit...

If you have the time to make rolls from scratch, these are about the best ever! (At least to my way of thinking!) Be sure to stash a couple away to make little sandwiches with leftover turkey!

Gommie's Butterhorn Rolls
1 cake yeast dissolved and proofed in 1/4 c. sugar water
1 c. milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1/2 c. sugar
3 well beaten eggs
1/2 c. melted butter
4 1/2 c. or more flour
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. melted butter

Mix first six ingredients together. Knead. Let rise twice. Divide dough into 2 parts. Roll out dough as you would pie crusts, brush with melted butter and cut into 16 wedges (as you would cut a pie). Roll from wide end to the point. Cover and let rise again. Bake in a moderately hot (375 degree oven) about 12- 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with more melted butter before serving if desired.

Spice up the sweet potatoes...

I've never been a big fan of hiding the beauty and flavor of sweet potatoes under a blanket of miniature marshmallows. This recipe plays up the natural sweetness of the potatoes, while adding a little spicy bite! It's my theme and variation on Alton Brown's Chipotle Sweet Potatoes...

Spicy Whipped Sweet Potatoes

6 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 T. unsalted butter
4 whole chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 T. adobo sauce from peppers
2 T. honey
2 T. heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts


Put cubed potatoes on baking sheet that has been covered with foil or parchment paper. Roast at 375 for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are lightly caramelized and fork tender. Place cooked cubes in mixing bowl, add butter and whip until potatoes begin to break up. Add peppers, sauce, honey, cream and salt and whip until all ingredients are well combined. Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Just say "NO!" to the can...

Fresh cranberry sauce is super easy to make, and beats the heck out of the canned stuff!

Confit of cranberries

3/4 lb. cranberries
1/4 lb. dried sour cherries
2 c. pomegranate juice
1/2 c. granulated sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 orange

To make the confit, place the cranberries in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Bring the mixture up to a very gentle simmer, give it all a good stir and let it barely simmer without a lid for about an hour, stirring from time to time. What you end up with is a concentrated mass of glazed cranberries which tastes absolutely wonderful. Remove it from the heat, leave to cool then spoon it into a serving bowl and cover until needed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It ain't Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes!

I love Thanksgiving. It's one big culinary cookoff that inspires family and friends to gastrointestinal greatness. If your post Thanksgiving dinner scenario doesn't include belt loosening, snoring, and red rosy cheeks rouged from kitchens steamy after a procession of pots and pies, you're just not trying hard enough. It's about traditions. It's about giving thanks. But mostly, it's about...the mashed potatoes.

I don't care if the Pilgrims had mashed potatoes at the mother of all Thanksgivings. Most likely they had venison and I don't see a whole lot folks serving that on our special Thursday. All I know is if there are no mashed potatoes, it's not really Thanksgiving. So you can imagine my dilemma at attending Kosher Thanksgiving Dinners. No mashed potatoes. Why? If you're asking why, you must be a goy. (And if you don't know what goy means...) Kosher rabbinical rules for food preparation and consumption are very strict and one rule is not to mix dairy and meat products at the same meal. This means no cheeseburgers, no hot buttery buttermilk biscuits with your fried chicken, and most importantly - no mashed potatoes with your turkey. If you love fluffy, creamy, buttery mashed potatoes like I do you can imagine my pouty face at a Kosher Thanksgiving.I feel your pain, Bill.

But it's the year 2008 and we now have options that will make mashed potatoes taste almost as good as those loaded with real butter and cream. That's right, my friends, you can adhere to dietary laws of kashrut (Kosher) while keeping the traditions of Thanksgiving with turkey and mashed potatoes.My method of making mashed potatoes starts with your basic russets. I've used Yukon golds but I like the fluffiness that the starch content of the russet gives you. I plop them into a pot of cold salted water, un-peeled. Once the water has reached a boil, I turn down the heat and let them cook 20 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. I remove the potatoes from the water and cut them in half. I like fluffy smooth potatoes so the next step requires one of these.This is not a giant garlic press; it is a potato ricer. Put the cut side down of your potato into the basket and squash away. The beauty of this process? The potato skins stay behind and you get little threads of potatoes. Once all of the potatoes have been "riced", I add 8 tablespoons of melted butter, stirring with a spoon. After the butter has been incorporated, I warm a cup of half and half and slowly stir that into the potato mixture, seasoning with salt and pepper and tasting so not to over salt. I usually mix this all in a heat resistant bowl that can sit over a pot of slowly simmering water so my potatoes stay nice and warm while I work on other food. This is the recipe for some soul satisfying mashed potatoes.

For my kosher version I needed to replace the half and half and butter with items that at least taste comparable. For the butter substitute, I choose Earth Balance margarine, a non-dairy vegan product. I replaced the half and half with Rice Dreams rice milk. While it does not contain the same fat content as the half and half, it actually works fairly well.The other important thing about these two products is that you will find this symbol on the label.That means the product is kosher and therefore acceptable for kosher mashed potatoes. I followed my basic recipe of potatoes, butter substitute and milk substitute. The only thing you need to watch out for is salting your potatoes. The Earth Balance has a bit more sodium than the unsalted butter I usually use, so be sure to taste before that final seasoning. Once you're done, your mashed potatoes are ready and waiting for your Kosher turkey dinner date.  B'tay a'von!

And now for something completely different...

I tried this recipe from Chef Tyler Florence last year, and everyone loved it. It's a really nice twist on traditional dressing without being too "out there". You can change up the herbs and bread (I have since used both brioche and challah with success) you use to echo other flavors in your meal. Enjoy!

Savory Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding
1 1/3 cup heavy cream
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cubed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering baking dish
2 shallots, sliced
4 pounds mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 tablespoons chopped chives
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more to top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place cubed bread on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

In a large saute pan melt the butter and saute the shallots until just wilted. Add mushrooms and saute until browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

In a large bowl make custard, whisk together the cream with the eggs and season with salt and pepper.

Add toasted bread cubes along with the chives, thyme and sage to the egg mixture. Stir in the sauteed mushrooms and mix in the grated Parmesan.

Transfer the mixture to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, top with more grated Parmesan, to taste.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the custard is set.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thanksgiving: The sides.

A couple of years ago, we asked former Top Chef contestants for their favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Chef Otto "The Pirate" Borsich kindly contributed this recipe. It's easy, it's delicious, and it has become a major favorite with my family, Thanksgiving or not!

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Pine Nuts

Brussels Sprouts 2 pints
Onion, medium size 1 each, medium diced
Pancetta, small dice ½ lb
Garlic, minced 3 cloves
Pinenuts, toasted ¼ cup
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive Oil as needed


Sort through the brussels sprouts and remove any leave that are not tightly packed onto the head. Score an X about ¼ inch deep into the base/core of each brussels sprout. Bring a gallon of salted water to boil. Once boiling add the sprouts and cook for about 5 minutes after the water has returned to a boil. To see if they are cooked cut a large one in half to check if it is tender. Place in an ice bath to stop cooking and preserve color, and remove after a minute, at this point you may wish to cut the Brussels in half. This makes them easier to eat and prevents them from rolling.

Add about a tablespoon of oil to a skillet add the pancetta and cooked until crispy. Remove the pancetta but reserve the rendered fat. Cook the onions in the rendered fat over medium heat until cooked with no color, add garlic and cook 5 more minutes. Remove onion/garlic mixture. Add the brussels to the skillet, season with salt and pepper and toss until heated through. Add onion/garlic mixture. Transfer to serving bowl, sprinkle with crisped pancetta and toasted pine nuts.Thanks, Otto!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top Chef NYC Poll

What's your first impression of Season 5?
It looks promising!
It sucked.
I'll reserve judgement for now... free polls

Never Fail Turkey Gravy

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cognac
4 c. good chicken or turkey stock
finely chopped giblets (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper (optional)

Melt butter in small saucepan. Add flour all at once, whisking until the flour is completely incorporated into the butter. Cook for about three minutes (this will take the raw flour taste out of the roux without giving it too much color - you want a pale blond roux). Transfer to a glass measuring cup, cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.

When turkey is done, remove from pan and tent with foil. While the turkey rests, pour out all pan drippings, leaving only the brown crusty bits (fond) on the bottom.

Deglaze the roasting pan with the cognac (be sure to scrape up all of those crusty brown bits!)and allow to reduce by about three quarters (pan should be nearly dry). Add stock and bring to a simmer (if you're making giblet gravy, add those in now!)

Place the cold roux in a large saucepan. Slowly add the hot stock mixture to the cold roux, whisking constantly, and simmer until the gravy reaches the desired thickness. If you want a richer gravy, whisk in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary before serving.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thanksgiving Recipes - The Brine Divine

If you want your Thanksgiving turkey to be the star of the meal, you might considering brining. Brining will not only produce a turkey that is moist beyond compare, it also improves the texture of the meat, and imparts amazing flavor to a bird that, let's face it, has a tendency to be a tad on the bland side. And best of all, it's neither expensive nor terribly complicated.

1 gallon vegetable stock
1 c. kosher sea salt
1/2 c. sugar
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. juniper berries
1 whole head garlic, cut in half to expose cloves
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh rosemary, bruised
6 sprigs fresh sage, bruised
6 sprigs fresh thyme, bruised
6 sprigs fresh savory, bruised

1 gallon ice water
2 large trash bags (not made from recycled materials) or
brining bag
ice chest
16 - 20 lb. turkey
additional herbs for roasting (see above)
1/2 medium onion
1 lemon, quartered

Bring stock to simmer in large stockpot. Add salt and sugar, and stir until completely dissolved. Add next 9 ingredients. Cover and allow to simmer for half an hour. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 24 hours prior to actually brining the bird.

24 hours before roasting, remove the giblets and rinse the turkey thoroughly. Line the ice chest with one of the bags, placing the other bag inside of it. Add one gallon of ice water, and the chilled brine mixture and stir a bit. Place turkey in brine, making sure it's completely submerged. Secure the bag and cover all with ice. Set ice chest in a cool place and allow turkey to soak in the brine for 24 hours before roasting.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove turkey from brine, and rinse and dry (you won't get crispy brown skin unless the turkey is dry!) thoroughly. Place in large roasting pan. Stuff the cavity with fresh bunches of the same herbs used in the brine, 1/2 an onion, and a lemon that has been cut into quarters. Tie legs with kitchen twine. Brush entire turkey with butter, and cover the breast with foil. Roast, basting with butter (be sure to baste under the foil), until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 135 degrees. Remove foil, and continue to roast until skin is browned, and internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Transfer turkey to a platter, and tent with foil (it will continue to cook). Allow turkey to rest while you make the gravy (but no less than 15 minutes) before carving. This allows time for the juices to redistribute.

I guarantee that you will not regret the little bit of extra work - it will pay off in the tenderest, juiciest bird you have ever cooked!

Just a note - the drippings from a brined bird can be very salty! Tomorrow's recipe...gravy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

They're baaaaaaack...

Welcome to our dark side, bitches...
Let the games begin.

It's just around the corner...

Food traditions are an interesting and highly personal thing; especially at Thanksgiving. Some balk at yams without toasted gooey marshmallows on top, stuffing without oysters, or a feast that lacks that ubiquitous green bean casserole. My sister-in-law absolutely must have "corn and oysters" on her Thanksgiving menu. I have a friend who cannot bear to celebrate this holiday without peas with pearl onions. As for me, no matter how I tweak my turkey, diversify my dressing, convert my cranberries, vary my vegetables, or doctor my desserts, it's just not Thanksgiving unless my Grandmother's butterhorn rolls are on the table. They remain sacrosanct.

So, how did the mainstays of Thanksgiving food tradition come to be? Well, New Englander, Sarah Josepha Hale seems to have been the driving force behind inventing the Thanksgiving myth of turkey and stuffing with all trimmings. She wrote a highly idealized account of just such a fictional Thanksgiving dinner in her novel Northwood (1827), which included roasted turkey, stuffing, preserves, and pumpkin pie. A far cry from what experts speculate to have been the original pilgrim meal of venison, lobster, wild birds, corn puddings and currants.

But the fact is, everyone has had their fingers in the Thanksgiving pie, starting with the pilgrims who adapted newly discovered foods to fit the recipes they brought from England; creating new dishes that were perhaps destined to become tradition in their families (with various tweaks and modifications occurring through the generations). Then there are other immigrants who had not celebrated Thanksgiving in their native lands who readily adopted the holiday and the dinner. In the process, they also added to and modified the "traditional" Thanksgiving menu. And of course, there are my traditions, and yours...

Over the next few days, we'll be posting some of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Some are old, some are new, and some are in between. We hope that you like them, and we also hope that you will take a minute to share some of your Thanksgiving food traditions (and how they became so) in our comments section!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba


These are the roots of rhythm

And the roots of rhythm remain

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Top Chef NYC Preview

Top Chef NYC premieres Wednesday, November 12!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thanks, Guys!!

We want to thank all of our readers who visited Gnat's Glass and left comments that referenced this site - a picture of our prize is shown above!! Be sure to keep checking in with Gnat's - original blown glass ornaments will be coming soon!