Saturday, November 24, 2007

Turkey Day #2 (Cranberry Sauce)

And now on to the cranberry sauce. I love cranberry sauce, but it can be vexing. It's so simple but when it's not right, it's not right. And it's not thanksgiving without it. I've had to remake it two years in a row.

Last year I made a mountain of cranberry sauce, only to discover it was too sweet. I had made it from the Best New Recipe cookbook and I swear there must have been a typo because it was like candy. So I remade it decreasing the sugar and it was perfect. But of course I never wrote it down.

This year I had read something about putting in mulling spices and that sounded cool, so I followed the directions on the bag (1cup sugar, 1 cup water) but then added 5 spice and orange zest. Big mistake. It tasted like bland chutney. Too spicy, not tart enough. And I had forgotten how much sugar I put in last year, it was too sweet again.

So I started again....this time 3/4 c. sugar, 1 c water, orange zest, a sprinkle of salt and then after it had simmered the requisite amount of time, a tbs. of cointreau. Fabulous stuff. Cranberry sauce of the gods.

Hopefully the last year I have to make it twice.

(Note: the recipe below uses two bags so doubles the quantities above)


Perfect Cranberry Sauce (note: this makes enough for 15 people)

2 bags cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water
zest from one orange, minced
pinch of salt
2 T. cointreau or other orange liquer

Wash cranberries and get out all the mushy ones (if you run your hands through them, you'll feel them). Put water, sugar and zest in a pan on high and bring to a boil. Add cranberries, bring to a boil again and then turn down to low, simmer x 10 minutes. Take off heat, add pinch of salt and 2 T. cointreau. Chill

Turkey Day #1 (Pumpkin Pie)

Last year we hosted thanksgiving for Jacobe's family and three days before the big day I was a wreck. I was going to meet his family for the first time and announce our engagement. And I was roasting a 30# bird.

I brined the heck out of that thing and it all turned out fine.

This year, we were off the hook. We went to his cousin's and were in charge of just cranberry sauce, green beans and somehow a pie. I was going to buy a pie from Shoofly but they just laughed at me. "You need a pie for tomorrow? Who wants to make a pie tonight?"

And then I realized I had pureed pumpkin in my freezer. I was making that pie. My first pie. It came out great, really. I kind of blurred a few recipes together and used those cheater roll-out pillsbury crusts. It was delicious, super creamy and just a little spicy.

Pumpkin Pie

1 1/2 cups pumpkin (roasted till soft, then pureed in a blender with some of its liquid till smooth)-->you can use the canned stuff, but simmer it with the spices before adding it to the rest of the stuff to make it taste fresh
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. half and half
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. brown sugar
whole nutmeg
whole cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Put the pie crust in a greased pan and weight down with pie weights (or line with foil and put in dried beans). Cook ~25 minutes at 350. Meanwhile heat up half and half until boiling, take off heat. Grind ~1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon (rasp works great). Beat eggs and combine with pumpkin, salt, sugar, maple syrup and spices. Mix with half and half and heat till warm, then pour in crust. Cook 30 minutes at 400.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Cheating with PCC

Another tuesday night, another dinner with Chris. Tonight I just couldn't do it. So I decided on rotisserie chicken from PCC. I mean hell, it's damn good. No nitrates.

But I had to make something.

I threw together some mashed potatoes, these still-covered-with-dirt little guys that have been sitting in our cellar from Helsing Juntion. I love the way our masher makes these twisty doodles when you mash, it makes me want to keep mashing.

I added some caramelized shallots along with the salt and pepper. Damn good.

Picked up a chicken.
And some arugula.And of course some wine.Okay so really that bottle was almost gone, I just drank a half glass. But it was so good. Very slightly buttery and yet with this cleanness, like a wooded stream. From Garagiste (very cool, this wine email

And now it becomes a meal! I did the simple lemon juice + olive oil dressing for the arugula with a little reggiano. And whipped together some gravy using wine and the drippings from the chicken. Who knew you could make gravy from a grocery store rotisserie chicken?

Rock rock on.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bad-for-you-but-oh-so-good Strata

I decided to have a few folks over for brunch this Sunday, just some work people who live in the neighborhood. I wanted to make something but wanted it to be no fuss. Enter: Strata.

This stuff is amazing. You can make it the night before or the morning of. You can put anything in it. It totally rocks.

So I had this big plan that I was going to put the strata together last night and then throw it in the oven this morning. So simple. I could sleep late even.

Of course then we ended up being out stupidly late having dinner with friends on Bainbridge and I drank a bit too much wine. When we got home it was all I could do to flop on the couch and watch Seinfeld. And then I picked a fight about nothing. It was a big flog. No cooking happened.

This morning I bounce out of bed at 7:30 only to realize the time has changed and really it's 6:30. So I roll back over and snooze a bit more, then slowly roll out and start the cooking.

Strata is simple really. The main components are stale (or toasted) bread, eggs, cheese, milk, and filling of some kind. I decided to make spinach, shallot and gruyere on one side and sausage, shallot, mushroom and sage on the other. I made it from this recipe in the New Best Recipe and if you know those recipes you'll know they're really anal. The key things according to them are 1)making sure all the ingredients (other than the milk and egg) are very dry and 2)letting the whole shebang sit for an hour before cooking.

Cool. So I toasted bread and made a layer of it buttered side up. Then put sauteed shallots and spinach on one side, sausage, shallot and mushroom on the other. Layer of cheese, then more buttered up bread, then more filling and cheese. Then white wine (boiled down to concentrate it), half and half, and egg all dumped in. Put saran wrap on top, weight it down with two boxes of kosher salt and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Then cook at 325 for an hour.

This stuff rocks. It definitely is not for the faint of heart as between the butter and cheese and half and half and sausage I could feel my arteries hardening right there. But it tasted damn good.

And Cobe thought it was good too. He even brought leftovers to work (and this is a boy who never eats leftovers). We ate it with some coffee and satsumas and watched the rain come down outside. It was perfect.

Strata: A

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Mediocre Chili

So yesterday Cobe came home early because he felt sick and had the chills. Probably because he'd gotten up at 4am to go surfing. Wet suit or not, that water's like 30 degrees. It is Seattle. And November.

Anyway. I'd made chili last night from this recipe in Gourmet so we decided to heat that up. It had all this potential, that recipe. "Pinto bean mole chili."

You roast ancho and chipotle chilis with some cumin seeds and grind them in a blender. Sounding good, eh? Add cinnamon, mexican oregano, orange zest and grated chocolate, sautee up some onions and garlic, add in the spices and some zucchini and kale. Then add canned tomatoes and simmer the whole deal for a little bit. Add pintos, let it heat up, and serve with cilantro and sour cream.

It just never really jelled. It had no depth. I squeezed in some orange juice at the end to give it a little sweetness and it tasted pretty good with the sourcream and the cilantro, but it feels like cheating when you need the toppings to balance the flavor.

Cobe said it was fine, but he was half passed out on the couch as we watched the office.

Never can trust those magazine recipes.

Pinto Bean Mole Chili: B-