Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Pre-Game

Although my mom is technically hosting, I'm doing a ton of cooking for the holiday this week. In case you're interested, here is the menu we're having:
To get a jump on things over the weekend, I made the cheesecake and cranberry sauce, assembled the sweet potatoes and prepped the bread (baked cornbread, diced and dried it) for stuffing. I also prepped some layers of the cranberry chocolate torte I'm bringing to dinner on Wednesday night with Chris' family and made the chocolate pecan bars. Whew - that's already a lot of cooking!

If you're still looking for an excellent recipe for cranberry sauce or sweet potatoes, take a look below!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cranberries in Pinot Noir

Lots of thanks to Kristy for turning me on to this recipe! I believe she found it through Simply Recipes, but I used the Epicurious version. I was a little intimidated by the amount of curry, so I reduced it to 1/4 tsp. Chris and I both thought it was perfect! A little different than ordinary cranberry sauce, but not so different that you'll ruffle the feathers of Thanksgiving traditionalists.

Cranberries in Pinot Noir

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups cranberries (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cups Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Large pinch of Chinese five-spice powder
  • Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cranberries and fresh ginger; stir until cranberries begin to burst, about 3 minutes.
  • Add wine and sugar; boil until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes.
  • Add crystallized ginger, curry powder and five-spice powder.
  • Serve sauce cold or, if desired, rewarm over low heat, stirring often. Can be made 3 days ahead and stored in fridge.

Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Apples

I've made variations of this recipe for years and have realized that it can easily be pared down, as well as lightened up, without sacrificing flavor. However, if you have a little extra room for cream, butter and sugar, as well as time for extraneous steps, feel free to use the original version : ) I think that the key here is using really good sweet potatoes and apples. I'm on an organic kick, so I used an organic ruby variety of sweet potato and think Fuji apples are particularly sweet and hold up well during cooking. This is also a great dish to make ahead of time and pop in the oven right before dinner.

Before they even go in the oven. Caramel goodness. . .mmm.

Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Apples
Serves 6.

Adapted from MarthaStewart.com.

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tbs butter, divided
  • 2 tbs brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tbs heavy cream
  • 2 tbs Calvados, brandy, cognac, rum or spiced rum (pretty much whatever you enjoy the flavor of and have on hand)
  • 2 tbs orange juice
  • Bake sweet potatoes in 425 degree oven, until soft. 45-1 hr. When cool enough to handle, peel skin and mash. Set aside.
  • Toss apples with lemon juice. Heat 1 tbs butter in skillet over medium high heat. Once the butter has melted, add 1 tbs brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Add apples to the pan. Cook the apples until brown and soft, stirring occasionally.
  • Spoon mashed sweet potatoes into a casserole dish and smooth top. Pour browned apples over and smooth.
  • Heat remaining butter in skillet over high heat. Add remaining sugar, the cream, liquor and orange juice. Simmer and stir until reduced and syrupy. Drizzle over top of apples.
  • Heat entire dish in oven until warmed though, about 30 minutes. The temperature isn't too important here (so long as you don't burn it!) and it can be thrown in with your turkey or anything else in the oven.

Chocolate Pecan Bars

I just made these for my dad's birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad!) and as a back-up Thanksgiving dessert. They are simple, pretty darn good and go well with morning coffee. Next time, I think I might incorporate some caramel squares to try to make them more turtle-ish in nature.

Chocolate Pecan Bars
Makes 15-24 bars, depending on how generous you're feeling. Adapted from epicurious.com. One of the reviews on the site noted a too-soft crust - I accidentally omitted the egg the original called for and my crust was fine, so I'd recommend doing that.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chopped pecans, plus a few halves for decorating
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix crust ingredients in food processor or with a pastry blender. Press into buttered 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
  • For the filling, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Beat in the flour, the vanilla, and the salt and then stir in the pecans and the chocolate chips.
  • Pour into crust and smooth out. It helps if the crust is still warm so that the chocolate melts a bit as you smooth it. Decorate top with pecan halves, if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm.
  • Allow to cool and cut into squares.

Steak with Caramelized Onions in Red Wine

This is one of my favorite Friday night meals. I think it would be absolutely heavenly with a sprinkling of gorgonzola, but haven't dared take it to that level yet.

Steak with Caramelized Onions in Red Wine
Serves 2

  • 2 nice NY Strip steaks
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 tbs. oil
  • 1/2 c. good red wine
  • salt and pepper
  • Take steaks out and prep for cooking, however you desire. Generally, we rub them with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of Montreal steak seasoning.
  • Slice the onion into thin rings. Heat oil over medium heat in skillet.
  • Cook the onions until a nice golden brown, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the red wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook onions in wine until most of the wine has evaporated or been absorbed, about 5-10 minutes. The onions should be a pretty purple with just a bit of syrupy liquid. Turn heat to low, stir occasionally.
  • Cook steaks however you like. We usually throw them on the grill on medium high for a few minutes, but you could use a broiler or grill pan. Whatever works.
  • Remove steaks from heat and allow them to rest. Pour yourself a glass of the remaining wine, top the steak with onions and serve.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Roasted Goodness

This meal may or may not have been inspired by a recent trip to Cracker Barrel. Don't judge me.

Pot Roast with Vegetables and Gravy
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com
Serves 6-8

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 5-pound beef chuck roast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups beef stock or reduced sodium canned beef broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2-3 onions, cut into large wedges
  • 4 cloves garlic , chopped
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 pounds carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 pounds potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (I left these out this go 'round because I had a craving for mashed potatoes, but I did add a few parsnips instead)
  • 1 tbls flour
  • 1/4 c. water
Special Equipment:
  • Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium high heat. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, brown meat on all sides. Be patient and let it get a nice sear.
  • Turn meat fat side up if you can (the roasts never seem to be cut correctly). Add broth, wine, onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and tomato paste. Stir liquid as best you can and bring to simmer.
  • Cover and put in oven. Roast for about 2-3 hours, until you can pull/shred a corner fairly easily with a fork. Add vegetables and continue to roast another 45-60 minutes. When done, roast should come apart very easily.
  • Remove vegetables to a platter. Remove meat to a cutting board. Cover both to retain heat. Strain remaining juices in dutch oven and remove fat. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Make a slurry of the flour and water. Quickly stir in to simmering juices. Simmer and stir until thickened. Slice roast and serve.
Yes, I went to the gym today. Why do you ask?

Monday, November 12, 2007

What the stalk is that?

An alien mace? Mutant broccoli? No, but perhaps even more frightening - brussel sprouts! Wait, come back! They're good, I promise.

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Serves 4

  • about 30 brussel sprouts (this was half my stalk)
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 c. beef or chicken broth
  • 1 tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Remove sprouts from stalk with paring knife, if necessary. Peel away any damaged outer leaves. Slice each sprout in half.
  • Melt butter in large pan over medium high. When butter stops foaming, add brussel sprouts to pan, cut side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • After sprouts have browned (about 5 minutes), add broth and vinegar. Cover until brussel sprouts are steamed through, about 5 minutes.
  • Uncover and allow any excess liquid to evaporate. Serve, drizzling with melted butter if desired. Change the minds of sprout-haters forever!
Oh, and what did I do with the rest of that stalk, you ask? I cut off the end and stored it in the fridge like asparagus - upright in a glass of water. They should stay fresh and firm for a few more days:Night-night.