Crunch Time

November 21, 2011

String Bean, Beet and Goat Cheese Casserole

Okay…were just a few days away and I’ve saved the best for last. But before we get there, don’t forget the most important part of Thanksgiving…

To Relax!

Honestly, as much as I love cooking for the Holidays, it’s because I have found a way to let the “craziness” be part of the fun. You can only plan so much and inevitably something won’t turn out the way you thought it would. But who cares? Whether you are the one who loves to cook or the person who loves to dictate, just have fun with each other. Otherwise, what’s the point!

But that being said, this first of two Thanksgiving game changers are so damn delicious. Two years ago, when I made my string bean, beet, and goat cheese casserole as a modern take on the old school cream of mushroom variety, I knew the crunchy onion topping was a must. But instead of buying that war-time bunker canister of “fried onions” I decided to make my own. Fried shallots in fact, and holy hell were they good. Honestly, these are perfect for your string bean casserole, but they are also sort of perfect for anything. I’m not quite sure where these guys will end up this year but I know one thing…I’m making them!

Fried Shallots:

Shallots (as many as you want to fry)

Milk (enough to cover the sliced shallots)

Flour (enough to toss the shallots in)

Oil (enough to fry the shallots in)

Thinly slice as many shallots as you want to fry. For a topping of a casserole 5-8 good-sized shallots will do the job. Soak the shallots in the milk for up to 45 minutes. Bring a large pot filled a few inches with oil to around 350-375 degrees over medium heat. The best way to monitor this is with a frying thermometer but if you don’t have one, the best test is a first attempt with one sliced shallot.  Just before frying, toss your sliced and soaked shallots in seasoned flour (season with paprika, salt and pepper). Drop the shallots (small batches) into the oil. The frying should be obvious but not violent. Remove the fried shallots to a paper towel when golden brown and season with a pinch of salt. Do your best not to eat them all as you make them!


Gearing up for Turkey Day!

October 24, 2011

Butternut Squash and Fennel Soup

Pretty wild but we’re only one month away from Thanksgiving. And while I’m in no rush for the bone numbing cold, I can’t help but admit I’m beyond excited for Turkey Day. But this weekend I realized something kinda stupid on my part. In years past, I’ve posted a bunch about Holiday recipes but often, only after the fact. Can’t imagine that was so helpful. So this year, I’m going all out. And while I won’t only be posting about Thanksgiving recipes, get ready for a full-fledged run down of the traditional and the not so traditional.

Cooking for Em’s family, I always try to toe the line. Every family has their “untouchables” and while I love to come up with all sorts of things like my psychedelic string bean casserole and my Philly soft pretzel stuffing from two years ago, I know there are limits. But no one will be disappointed if I end up serving this butternut squash and fennel soup. I won’t post the recipe until its mastered but its damn close!

So hit me up with any questions or thoughts on Holiday recipe planning and here we go…

Just a few more days…

November 22, 2010

Early Thanksgiving

Since Em and I are heading home to our respective families later in the week, Sunday was the perfect opportunity to have a little Thanksgiving of our own. Plus, I needed to work on a few of the recipe ideas I had so it was a win-win!

Turkey for two isn’t all that feasible but roasted chicken is a fantastic stand in. Particularly because roasted chicken has long been one of my favorite dishes to make. To me it’s like the essence of cooking. And one of the best ways to make your roasted chicken “special” is to add a bit of gravy. For chicken, I love to make a mustard pan gravy with the drippings. With just a bit of whole grain mustard, parsley and garlic it’s amazing how something so simple can be so delicous.

As for the Thanksgiving sides? We’ll I don’t want to give anything to specific away in fear of spoiling the fun for my family, but trust me these versions of sweet potatoes and string beans will be sure-fire hits!

Just a few more days!

Shades of Brown

November 19, 2010

Less than one week away to one of the most food centric holidays in existence! I recently overheard a funny comment about how despite the overabundance of dishes on the Thanksgiving table, there is one overwhelming theme…Brown. Which I guess I see: the turkey, the gravy, the potatoes, the stuffing, etc. tends to be a bit on the brown side, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

But it got me thinking. Most of my favorite dishes for Thanksgiving are vibrant shades of orange, green, and even purple (you’ve got to have beets!). So, is there any other meal that is so representative of a season by looks alone? Think about it…aren’t the colors of the table, the colors of Autumn nailed perfectly! 

But no matter what the color, we all have our favorites! So what is your Thanksgiving must? You know, the one dish that makes or breaks your holiday spirit and the one you can’t stand to see changed…and leave a comment with your favorite version!

Out of the Food Coma

December 2, 2009

It’s taken almost a full week to recover from the food coma that was our Thanksgiving. I was in the kitchen the whole day but that wasn’t a bad thing! I had plenty of company helping out (some more than others) and the end result was truly unbelievable. Keeping with tradition for some and creating new ideas for others, our Thanksgiving dishes really hit the spot. If you happened to snap some photos of your meal send them my way! OR what about disaster stories? Thanksgiving can’t always work out perfectly, can it? Well I hate to rub it in, but ours definitely did.

Two of the dishes I worked on this year were quite frankly a bit shocking albeit delicious. One because of the main ingredient and the other because of the color….

Being from Philadelphia, I love soft pretzels. And not the nasty sponges available on the streets of New York. I’m talking about the Philly Soft Pretzel. Yet as much as I love them, a box of sixty showed up recently (nothing heels a broken foot like sixty pretzels) and quite frankly that’s a whole lot of chewing. And despite trying our best, the freezer seemed to regenerate each pretzel we ate. But then one day about two weeks ago it hit me. I was reading so much about the perfect bread (day old and stale) for stuffing and I realized I was sitting on a gold mine! So here it is…I may be wrong but until someone shows me otherwise…the first Philadelphia Soft Pretzel and Mustard stuffing. Ironically enough, despite our attempts on Thanksgiving and the days that followed, this stuffing just wouldn’t disappear.

Don’t change the settings on your computer! Trust me, you haven’t accidentally changed your brightness levels. This psychedelic looking dish is my take on string bean casserole and its absolutely great. Roasted beets with blanched string beans tossed with a light balsamic vinaigrette and goat cheese and topped with homemade fried shallots is not only delicious but its much lighter than the traditional dish and I promise you, you’ll love it (even if you just eat the shallots).

I really hope your Thanksgiving was as fun and as enjoyable as ours. We’ve now got a number of great weeks ahead of us with amazingly seasonal ingredients and plenty of celebration. So don’t let the Holiday season overwhelm you. Eat it and Enjoy it!

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