Callie’s Birthday

 Saturday night I had a bunch of Callie’s best friends over for fajitas and margaritas to celebrate her birthday. The gathering was particularly timely because Saturday also marked the end of her first week as an official resident of Dallas. So with lots to celebrate, I wanted to make it really special. I ordered fajitas from her favorite spot, picked up a special-order Italian cream cake with no nuts, and dropped by her new favorite store to grab a couple things off her wish list. Michael even chimed in and spent Saturday afternoon making queso and helping me preen our nest for visitors. Having it at our house over a long table at a restaurant also gave everyone a good chance to catch up and hear all about the big move. Hopefully it also reminded Callie how good Mexican food is in Houston so she comes to visit lots!!

I vowed to myself I was not going to cook anything, but like a moth to the flame I went to Central Market for flowers and ended up with a dozen avocados and a basket full of ingredients. Couldn’t resist the urge to at least throw together some homemade pico and guacamole.

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Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

3 cups diced tomatoes
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 bunch minced cilantro (2 tablespoons reserved)
2 jalapenos, diced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and season to taste.  For the guacamole, mix 6 or 7 large Hass avocados, with the two tablespoons of reserved cilantro and about a cup of the pico de gallo.  Mix in a 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and season with salt and pepper and a tablespoon of extra lime juice.

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For the bar, we mixed up a few batches of frozen margaritas (1 can frozen limeade, 1 can tequila, 1/4 can triple sec, and a splash of fresh lime juice, blended with lots of ice) and then set up a little make-your-own margarita on the rocks station with a couple different kinds of tequila; Cointreau, triple sec, and Grand Marnier; fresh lime juice, limeade, and Topo Chico; and fresh limes and agave syrup.  I also had a few little plates out to salt the rims of our glasses: one with a lime-juice soaked napkin, one with regular salt, and one with salt and little Tajin mixed in for some spice.  Everyone had fun making their own and deciding whose concoction was the best.  Personally, it’s a shot of Don Julio, a 1/2 shot of Cointreau, a squeeze of agave nectar and fresh lime juice–with salt and Tajin on the rim of course.  Yum!   

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  It was a fun party, and hopefully the birthday girl had a great time!

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Food Lover’s Cleanse

Along with the rest of the world, Michael and I are greeting the new year with a little health kick.  We polished off the left-over short ribs on Sunday night, and then swore off anything indulgent for the next two weeks.  To add some structure to our goal, we started the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse on Monday morning.  It’s pretty low-key as far as cleanses go.  We’re still eating solid food at every meal and even are allowed a few treats along the way.  It is pretty cooking-intensive though and requires a good amount of prep time and a lengthy trip to Whole Foods to search for things like hemp seeds.  Regardless, it’s been a fun project and most of the meals have been really good.    I have to say I am ready for the weekend!  We’re cutting ourselves a break so we can properly celebrate Callie’s birthday and knock back a few cocktails.  Sad how difficult it was to stave off alcohol for a measly 5 days!  Cheers and happy Friday!!! 

The following are some of the highlights from the cleanse and recipes we might actually keep around after January.

Roasted Beets, Carrots, and Jerusalem Artichokes with Lemon and The Greenest Tahini Sauce
Quinoa with Walnuts and Shallots 

IMG_6791This one was actually pretty good.  I didn’t think I’d get Michael to eat a meatless dinner, but wonders never cease. 

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Red Pepper–Walnut Spread

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This was a keeper.  The chicken turned out really juicy and the skin was perfectly crisp on top.  It made for nice leftovers for salad the next day too.

Hanger Steak with Orange-Oregano Chimichurri and
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Garlic and Chili

IMG_6797This was probably our favorite.  It was delicious and the steak and arugula salads the next day were great.   Particularly timely too since we’ve been getting a ton of sweet potatoes in our bushel recently.

Thursday, we decided to stray a bit from the meal plan, and Michael made turkey burgers.  He added a tablespoon or so of chopped red and green jalapenos and a tablespoon of BBQ sauce to about a pound of well-seasoned, ground turkey, and grilled them up on our stove-top, cast-iron grill.   We topped ours with some avocado and caramelized red onions.  So tasty, we hardly missed the buns.  The only thing we need to remember next time is to either cook them outside or actually turn the vent on in our kitchen.  Our friendly fire department paid us a visit right as we were sitting down to dinner.  Ooops! 

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Weekend at the Farm

Michael’s family owns a beautiful, little farm near Hallettsville, Texas.  It’s not too far from Houston, filled with lots of exotic deer and fun animals, and basically the perfect spot to get away for the weekend.  It’s very well loved, so we jumped at the rare chance to have it all to ourselves for the weekend.  We packed up the puppy, lots of wine and good food, and invited a couple of our best friends out to join in our good fortune.  The farm has always held a special place in Michael’s heart.  He spent a lot of time there with his grandfather growing up, feeding the donkeys, riding “Tubby” the pony, and taking dips in the swimming hole.  It was also one of the very first places he took me when we were dating, so I’ve always really loved it too.  I can’t remember what he cooked that first weekend, but we spent hours drinking wine on the porch swing under the tree in the front yard, and I remember thinking, “This will do just fine!”  It’s a pretty special place, and we had such a great time visiting this weekend. 

Friday night it was just the two of us, so we played dominoes…

IMG_6702…had a really easy dinner…

  IMG_6704…and hung out with our best pal.  We may have had a little dance party for two on the back porch too.  No pictures of that one though! 

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Saturday morning, Michael got up at 5 AM to go dove hunting.  Kaiser and I slept in, and got breakfast all ready for us. 

IMG_6709Sweet Potato Hash Browns

For the hash browns, cut two strips of bacon in 1/4 inch slices and saute in a heavy cast iron skillet until crispy and brown.  Remove the bacon pieces and set aside.  To the pan, add one half of a chopped yellow onion and saute until translucent.  Add two sweet potatoes cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes and saute until brown and crispy.  If you need more grease, add a touch of butter.  Once the potatoes are all cooked, add back in the bacon, season to taste and finish with the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme.  Top with a fried egg, sunny side up!

We spent the rest of the day getting ready for our friends to arrive and visiting all the animals on the farm.  They have a wild game area with all sorts of cool, exotic deer. We even found a baby deer who couldn’t have been more than a few days old.   IMG_6716 IMG_6721 IMG_6726Liz and David arrived just in time for lunch.  We picked up a ton of BBQ at this little place in Hallettsville.  It was as old school as BBQ joints come, but it was delicious.  After lunch we all jumped in the Gator and went to visit the rest of the animals. 

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For dinner on Saturday night, we decided on Braised Short Ribs.  They always turn out pretty amazing, and it’s one of those things that you can spend an hour or so getting ready, put it in the oven, and then forget about it for the rest of the afternoon.  Here it is just about ready to go in the oven. 

IMG_6748While it was simmering away, we had time to go skeet shooting, watch the sunset, and enjoy cocktail hour by the pool.

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 The next time I even thought about it, I opened the oven, and it looked like this…

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We made some easy parmesan polenta and green beans as our sides.  Turned out to be a pretty tasty evening at the farm! 

IMG_6769You can find the recipe for the short ribs here.  I would hardly change a thing about it.  I tend to cook ours for about 3 hours though.  I’ve served them with the sauce strained as the recipe calls for, but I’ve also served them with the vegetables in the sauce.  It looks a little more rustic, and tastes just as good, so that part is just a matter of preference. 

For the Parmesan Polenta, boil 3 cups water and whisk in 1 3/4 cup polenta.  Once you see it starting to come together (about 10 minutes), turn off the heat and add in 2 tablespoons of butter, about a half of a cup of grated parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover until you’re ready to serve.

For desert, we made s’mores by the fire.  No recipe needed!  

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Beesons’ Steakhouse

Michael’s brother and his wife came to visit a few days after Christmas for one last celebration with his family before they headed back to Boston.  His sister-in-law is due with their first child in February, so that made the visit all the more special.  Whenever they come in town, we typically head out to dinner every night for several nights in a row.   But with the holidays in full swing and the fact that they hadn’t yet seen our new house, we decided to host everyone for a big, fancy dinner on Saturday night.  Michael has gotten pretty adept at grilling steaks on the Green Egg, so that was his task, and I was in charge of all the sides.  I worked for most of the day on Saturday, so I have no idea how we managed to pull this off, but we did.  (We only had to ask them to come over 30 minutes late and call them again on the way to bring a few forgotten items from the store!)

We started the meal with a few simple appetizers.  I pulled out the zip lock of frozen cheese puffs I mentioned here, and put those in the oven right before everyone was set to arrive.  They looked beautiful in my new silver tiered stand that my sister got me for Christmas.IMG_6684

For our salad course, we made traditional steakhouse wedges with homemade blue cheese dressing.  The recipe is adapted from one I found in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.  His book is really beautiful, but it’s one of those that has recipies within recipies, where you have to flip to multiple sections just to make salad dressing.  So, refusing to make my own aioli which also required making my own garlic oil, I improvised a bit and it turned out fantastic.  Here are the little wedges all set for serving. 

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Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced, flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced chives
1 teaspoon minced mint
Kosher salt & fresh black pepper
1 cup Gorgonzola crumbles

Whisk all ingredients together and stir in the Gorgonzola crumbles.  Season to taste and add in more lemon juice or buttermilk if it seems too thick.  This will keep in the fridge for about a week. 

 

For our sides, we decided on scalloped potatoes and a mix of different green beans and peas inspired by a recent meal at Coppa Osteria.  We used snow peas, sugar snap peas, and french green beans, mixed with a bag of frozen peas.  Looked really beautiful and made a ton.

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Mixed Green Beans and Peas

Set the peas out to thaw.  Trim the ends off all the green beans and wash thoroughly.  Drop in boiling water for a few minutes until the beans are just cooked through and remove to a cold water bath to lock in the color and stop the cooking process.  Saute a few chopped shallots and a few minced garlic cloves in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add the beans and the peas to to reheat and season just before you’re ready to serve them.  Yummy. 

For the potatoes, I remembered that my Dad used to make a version of scalloped potatoes on the stovetop in a skillet.  They came out all brown and crispy on top and were pretty tasty from what I could remember.  Knowing Jacques Pepin was his favorite chef, I turned to Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home to see if I could find the recipe.  The book is an old favorite and one that has been on the shelf for years in every apartment and house I’ve lived in since college.  True to form, it had just what I was looking for…

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Pommes de Terre Byron

3 large russet potatores
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake the potatoes on a sheet pan for 45 minutes, or until tender.  Allow to cool, peel and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter with the canola oil in a 10 inch oven-proof, non-stick skillet.  Arrange a layer of overlapping potato slices, and then season with salt, pepper, and a little of the nutmeg.  Add another layer, season, and dot a tablespoon of the butter over the top.  Repeat until you’ve used up all the potato slices.  Cook on the stove-top on medium heat for about 5 to 8 minutes.  Shake the pan to make sure the potato cake is loose from the bottom of the pan and transfer to the hot oven for about 15 minutes to set. 

Remove from the oven and flip over onto an unrimmed cookie sheet.  Top with the sour cream and grated cheese and set aside until you’re ready for dinner.  Just before serving, place back in the oven with the broiler on to melt the cheese and crisp up the top.  Remove and slide onto a cutting board or other serving dish for dinner. 

Michael’s steaks turned out perfect as usual.  He’s developed this method where he cooks the steaks sous-vide in our Yeti cooler to just below medium rare before he sears them on a scorching hot Green Egg.  It’s his favorite party trick.  He also made bernaise sauce in the blender to accompany the steaks.  Also a home run.  He used Ina Garten’s recipe for the sauce.  I swear, she has gotten so ubiquitous that I try to steer away from using her recipies for everything, but she rears her head at every meal and it always turns out perfectly.  Here are our finished “steakhouse” plates all ready for dinner.

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And here “she” is again, with the perfect easy desert that looks super impressive.  The only edit I made to her recipe was to use puff pastry to make the process even easier.  I only needed two apples, and didn’t need nearly as much apricot jam as she calls for, but I suppose part of the fun of her recipes is all the unnecessary excess.  Regardless, it looked gorgeous and couldn’t have been easier.  IMG_6691

A little Blue Bell vanilla on the side and it was ready to serve.

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Happy and full!  After this one, we are closing up the entertaining shop for a little bit.  We always seem to say that though and then end up inviting people over the next weekend.  We’ll see how long we hold out!

Christmas Morning

This was our first year celebrating Christmas in our new house, so we took extra care to make sure it would be a memorable one.  We got our tree super early, and had the house decorated all season.  Michael took care of the lights outside, and I handled decorating the tree and setting out his nutcrackers to guard the stairs.  I also picked up one of these candles, which made the house smell like a Chrstmas tree lot. 

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The day before Christmas, I went over to Kuhl Linscomb for their annual Christmas Eve sale and picked up these beautiful Juliska Christmas napkins to spruce up the table for Christmas morning.  I put real sugar in the sugar pot, bought real fresh-sqeezed orange juice, and got all ready for the morning’s feast.

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We decided on this baked french toast recipe from Bon Appetit’s holiday edition for breakfast.  It was delicious, and something that you can put together ahead of time and just throw in the oven while you open presents.  Some fresh fruit and crispy bacon are all you need to round out the meal.  The market was out of challah, so we used brioche and it turned out perfect.  Really pretty too!

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Everyone loved it, and it was the perfect way to start off Christmas Day.  After breakfast, we had a long cat nap on the couch, admired all of our new gifts, and watched A Christmas Story for the 100th time.  Pretty nice Christmas morning!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve at my Mom’s house is traditionally filled with lots of champagne, too many presents and a fancy dinner that features lamb as the main course.  Everything is always delicious and everyone goes home happy, full, and a little tipsy.  This year, my sister and I were in charge of cocktail hour, and Michael was in charge of desert.  First on the list was a specialty Champagne cocktail that Callie sourced from The Love List.  The only edit we made was to add more champagne to the mix to fill up the flutes.  They were really good and all the special bottles made the bar look beautiful. 

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She also made this really yummy baked brie topped with fig preserves and fresh figs that she served with some little toasted crostini.    

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My addition to the mix was a salmon caviar dip that we’ve been making for Christmas Eve for the past several years.  It was originally sourced from an old Barefoot Contessa book, but has changed a bit over the years.  I add in a lot more lemon juice than the original recipie calls for, which cuts the “fishiness,” and a little more salt as well.  Michael still won’t touch it, but the rest of us love it.  Pictured behind it is my Mom’s traditional sardine dip that our grandmother used to make every Christmas.  It’s a fixture at Christmas at our house, regardless of the fact that most of us are afraid of it.   IMG_6638

Christmas Eve Salmon Caviar Dip

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
3 to 4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbl freshly minced dill, plus sprigs for garnish
1 green onion, minced (white and green parts)
1 Tbsp. milk, half-and-half, or cream
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
100 grams salmon or trout roe (The original recipe calls for salmon, but trout roe is actually a little more mild in flavor and cheaper too.)

Cream together all ingredients, and then gently fold in the caviar right before you’re about to serve it.  Set aside a little spoonful of caviar and a few sprigs of dill to garnish the top, and serve with your favorite salted potato chips. 

Michael was in charge of desert, and he decided on an Oreo Cheesecake.  I asked him where he got the recipie, and no joke, it’s from oreo.com.  The only addition we made was to add a sour cream topping at the end to cover any cracks and provide us with a good surface to decorate the top with a few more Oreo crumbles.  For the topping, just mix a cup of sour cream with a tablespoon of sugar and spread over the top of the cheesecake.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes and then garnish with the crumbled Oreos.

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Aside from all the yummy drinks and good food, the hit of the night was the mini fridge my sister gave Michael for his man cave.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen him so excited over a present before.  It was pretty cute.  Here he is hugging the box once he figured out what was inside…

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The boys got some other fun toys including Mr. moustache cocktail glasses and a tie that doubles as a flask.  Genius.

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IMG_6650It was a really fun night and a wonderful Christmas Eve!

 

 

Christmas Cocktails

The Friday before Christmas we set out to host a few friends for cocktails and before I knew it, we were hosting a full-blown Christmas Party.  Michael decided he wanted to make a big batch of seafood gumbo, so he spent the week going to every grocery store in a five-mile radius to gather all the necessary ingredients.  I focused on the bar and putting together a few fun appetizers to accompany the main event.  It was a really fun night and one that we’re likely to make a tradition in the years to come.  Michael’s already telling me he wants to have a “real” Christmas Party next year, so as with most things around here, it sounds like it’s only going to get bigger.  IMG_6608
Here’s our bar all set up for the occassion.  Fancy “B” napkins, metalic striped straws, and some “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out” Christmas lager and we were all set.  First up on the appetizer list were these cheese puffs adapted from a recipie I found on Goop.  I kept the recipe largely the same, save the addition of truffle salt for something special, but I did make a few notes on the instructions.

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Christmas Cheese Puffs

3/4 cup flour
1 cup water
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, cut into small pieces
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
1 teaspoon salt–(truffle if you have it)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 large eggs
1/2 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup (packed) Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Butter 2 large baking sheets and sprinkle with a dusting of flour.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil and then add the flour, stirring vigorously with a wire whisk until the mixture forms a smooth ball.   The whisk helps avoid clumps in the flour and ensures it all comes together smothly.  Continue stirring for about 2 minutes more, then remove from heat.

Put the mixture into a mixing bowl and then add mustard and eggs, 1 at a time. Mix well to combine, then add cheese and mix again.  Puting the mixture into a mixing bowl first helps avoid scrambled eggs, which is how my first batch ended up going down the drain.

Using a mellon baller, scoop up the batter and drop spoonfuls one by one onto the baking sheets, giving them enough space to cook and expand, about an inch or two apart. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.  Tops should be golden brown and centers just set.

Note: You can also make these ahead and freeze the little drops of dough on the cookie sheet.  Once they’re frozen, you can put them in a zip-lock until you need them.  Bake right from the freezer and just add a few extra minutes to the cooking time.

We also made these really yummy fresh figs wrapped in proscuitto.  I tested a few different versions out during the week, and they were pretty tasty with fresh and dried figs and with different kinds of cheese in the middle.  Our favorites though were the fresh ones with a little gorgonzola tucked inside.  I intended to drizzle a little balsamic syrup over the top of these, but ran out of time at the last minute as all our friends were beginning to arrive.  Maybe next year…

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Proscuitto-Wrapped Figs

Halve the fresh figs and remove the stems.  Top each fig half with a small crumble of gorgonzola (or manchego or white cheddar, or whatever strikes your fancy).  Wrap each with a half a piece of proscuitto and secure with a toothpick.  Once they’re all tied up, place in a 400 degree oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, turning once in the middle so that the proscuitto crisps up evenly.

Last on my list was pickled shrimp.  I had been wanting to make these ever since we went to Oxford, Mississipi for the Texas/Ole Miss game and had some at a friend’s house.  The recipie was her mother’s, and she was gracious enough to share it with me after I devoured half the bowl.  I also looked up a few versions in our southern cookbook collection and added in a few tweaks just for fun.

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Pickled Shrimp

1 cup thinly sliced, yellow onion
6 bay leaves
2 oz. bottle of capers, drained
4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1 whole lemon cut into thin rounds
2 lbs. boiled shrimp

Mix all ingredients together in a large zip lock bag and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight and up to four days.  Turn the bag every once in a while to make sure the shrimp are pickling evenly.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, and serve chilled.  These were great as a make-ahead appetizer.  All you have to do is dump the zip lock into a pretty bowl right before people arrive, and you’re all set.

Here is Michael’s set up for his seafood gumbo.  The recipe was, of course, sourced from John Besh and tasted delicious.IMG_6611
And, it wouldn’t be a party at our house without fried oysters.  Michael serves his with buffalo sauce, and they’re all usually gone before I can even snap a picture.

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It was a great party.  Only note for next year is to remember to hire help and someone to clean up the next day!  Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Home Alone

I was feeling under the weather and was in need of a night in on Friday night.  Michael went out to the Rockets game, and I settled in on the couch with a good bowl of homemade soup and a little grilled cheese.  The butternut squash arrived in our bushel this week, and I had all the rest of the ingredients already on hand, so I didn’t even have to leave the house to pull it together.  Warm, comforting, and the perfect companion for a good night in with a movie. 

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Tomato Soup (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 tablespoonsolive oil, divided
2 small butternut squash, halved, and seeded
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoonground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 1/2cupscups low-sodium chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
tablespoon of toasted pinenuts and olive oil for serivng

Preheat oven to 400°. Drizzle squash halves with olive oil and place on a baking sheet, cut side down, with a garlic clove tucked under each half. Roast until squash is tender, about 45 minutes. When cool, scoop out squash flesh and reserve, along with roasted garlic. Discard squash skins. (Squash and garlic can be roasted 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, 2 tsp. salt, turmeric and ground clove. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add roasted squash and garlic cloves and stir to coat. Add tomatoes with thier juices and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer to allow flavors to meld, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, adding a little extra chicken stock if it looks too dry.

Using an immersion blender, purée soup until smooth. I’m sure the consistency would be amazing blended with a Vitamix, but that is still on our list. Season with salt and pepper and top with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of toasted pinenuts. I served mine with a grilled white english cheddar and fig jam sandwich. Pretty tasty!

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a happy thanksgiving weekend!  Cooked up a storm on Wednesday and Thursday and had a great time celebrating with our families.  We were lucky enough to have the day off on Wednesday, so we cooked just about everything ahead of time.  Thanksgiving morning, Michael got up at the crack of dawn to start the fire on the Green Egg for his smoked turkey, but otherwise, it was a pretty relaxed day, and a big success if you ask us.  I even had time to set the table, arrange flowers, and spray paint some pears for our place cards.  Loved getting to use our wedding china and our shiny new rose gold flatware.   photo

We kept the appetizers pretty simple.  A few treats from Oakville Grocery that we picked up in Napa at my sister’s wedding, some caper berries because Ina said we needed them, and some parmesan-truffle popcorn for a little something special.  The celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese and cranberry sauce were a childhood favorite that my grandmother always used to make.

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For the main event, we decided on the following:

Green Egg Smoked Turkey
Oyster Dressing
Sweet Potato Casserole
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Balsamic Syrup
 Pop-overs with Fig Jam Compound Butter
Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake
Bourbon Pecan Pie
 
 
Michael was in charge of the turkey, so you’d have to ask him how that was done.  All I can say is that it was a VERY involved process and required hours of research, an overnight bath in a brine on our porch, and a very early morning wake-up call Thanksgiving morning.  The Oyster Dressing was something I’d always wanted to try, and since we were only having our parents over, they seemed like the right set of guinea pigs for the occassion.  And wouldn’t you know it, they loved it.  My mom said it was better than my dad’s, which was quite the compliment.  The recipe we used was adapted from John Besh’s My New Orleans cookbook.  It’s a favorite on our shelf and one we always turn to for southern favorites.  Following his advice we prepared the whole dish the day before, so all we had to do on turkey day was throw it in the oven.  Here it is on our pre-game day, all ready to go in the fridge to await its big moment.
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For the dressing:
8 tablespoons butter, plus one to grease the baking dish
4 oz bacon or pancetta (we used a combination of the two)
2 celery stalks, diced
small green bell pepper, diced
small yellow onion, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large day-old french baguette, cubed
1 large day-old cornbread loaf, cubed
3 dozen shucked oysters
1 cup chicken stock
2 green onions, minced
3 tablespoons parsely chopped
4 eggs
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon Salt
  1. Grease a 10 x 14 shallow baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.
  2. Cook the bacon and/or pancetta in a large non-stick skillet until crisp.  Add one full stick of butter, allow to melt, and then add in the celery, bell pepper, and onion.  Cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.  Add in the garlic, cook for one minute more, and then add in the rest of the spices.  Stir to combine and cook for another couple of minutes.
  3. Pour the vegetable mixture over the cubed bread and mix to combine.  Add in the oysters and any remaining oyster liquor,  along with the parsely and green onions.
  4. Beat the eggs, Tabasco, and salt together in a small bowl.  Pour over the dressing and stir to combine.  At this point, if the mixture seems too dry, add in enough chicken stock to reach desired  consistency.  We added in about a cup.
  5. Add the dressing to the prepared baking dish.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. About an hour before dinner time, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake dressing until heated through and crispy on top.  We turned the broiler on for the last few minutes just to crisp up the bread (and the marshmellows sitting next to them on the sweet potatoes!)  Serve hot with a little extra Tabasco on the side.

The roasted brussels sprouts were sourced from the Barefoot Contessa.  You can find the recipe here.  Make sure you use “good” olive oil!  For the balsamic vinegar, reduce about a half a cup to two tablespoons and you’ll get the right syrup-y consistency.  They are really delicious and so easy.

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The pop-overs were by far the most entertaining part of the cooking process.  The batter comes together in a snap, and it’s pretty fun to watch them rise up and pop out of the pan.  We served ours with a simple compound butter that turned out to be the perfect compliment.  I looked at a bunch of recipes for the pop-overs and they are all essentially the same.  What follows is a combination culled from everyone from John Besh to the back of the pop-over pan label from Williams Sonoma.  (Yes, we bought pop-over pans, plural, just for the occassion.)

Pop-Overs with Fig Jam Compound Butter

For the butter: Cream together 1 stick of softened butter with 1/4 cup fig jam, a pinch of salt, a few cracks of pepper, and about a teaspoon of minced thyme leaves.  Add to a little ramekin or serving dish and refrigerate before you’re ready for dinner.
For the pop-overs:
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 eggs
2 cups whole milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Put the pop-over pans in the oven and allow them to heat up while you prepare the batter.
  2. Combine eggs, milk, flour, and salt in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Melt the butter and add the olive oil.  Add two tablespoons to the batter and divide the remainder among the 12 pop-over cups.  Place the pans back in the oven for about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pans from the oven and divide batter evenly among the cups.  Put the pans back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Turn the light on to watch them rise, because you cannot open the oven once they’ve started baking or they’ll fall.   After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes.
  5. Serve hot with the fig butter on the side.

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The Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake comes from one of my favorite blogs, the Smitten Kitchen.  And as it happens, it is something she made when she was a newlywed, so it fit the bill perfectly.  I was a little skeptical of the sour cream-based topping, but it was delicious.  The only thing I would change when I make it next time is to skip the water bath that was suggested in the comments.  The cake came out perfectly, but I thought the crust could have been a little more crisp.  It was great though, and a perfect addition to the Thanksgiving table.
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Michael’s pecan pie was another find from John Besh’s collection and his sweet potato casserole was his grandmother’s.  His turkey turned out perfect…

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Kaiser thought so too….

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And here’s our finished table, all ready for the feast!  It was great and such a fun treat to get to host in our new home.

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Happy Belated Turkey Day!

Amy

 

‘Twas the weekend before Thanksgiving…

We have lots to be thankful for this year.  Mostly each other and a chance to have Thanksgiving dinner at our pretty new home and make our first turkey together!  Today was a good day to plan out our menu and get some shopping out of the way.  First, a good breakfast seemed to be in order to prepare for the impending hysteria at the grocery store.  Ever since Michael pulled out the waffle maker for my birthday breakfast, we’d developed a bit of a craving.  With Thanksgiving on the horizon though, I went in search for a recipe that we wouldn’t have to feel too guilty about.  These fit the bill perfectly.  We still managed to top them with whipped cream and maple syrup, but I feel like the flaxseed meal in the batter must have canceled that out.  Right?

We adapted the recipe only slightly from this one from the Sprouted Kitchen replacing the melted coconut oil with butter.  They were delicious.  Perfect treat for a cold Sunday morning.

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After breakfast, we got our lists all ready and headed out to the grocery to face the masses.  It’s going to be a fun week getting ready for the main event on Thursday!  My Mom always says, “a turkey is just a big chicken.”  So tonight, Michael is smoking a chicken on the Green Egg to practice for Thursday’s feast.  Excited to see how it turns out!

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