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!


Let’s Start with a Soup

November 1, 2011

Roasted Parsnip and Fennel Soup

Thanksgiving dinners are typically served as major feasts. Serving platters across the country relish in their usefulness! But I really love soups, which last time I checked isn’t the perfect item for a family style meal. Oh well, somehow, someway, I’m going to find a place for one in this year’s menu.

I’ve been working on a few options but I have to admit, the process of making these unbelievable soups is almost identical. I think it’s become one of my best representations as the comforting flavor and texture comes from fantastic farmers market vegetables and a little bit of time. No cream and no butter needed here!

So feel free to mess around with this recipe as the technique is the key…enjoy!

Roasted Parsnip and Fennel Soup:

3-5 medium/large parsnips peeled and roughly chopped

1 large fennel roughly chopped with tops reserved

1 large red onion roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 tbsp curry powder

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 cup white wine

4 cups homemade chicken stock or good quality boxed stock (can also use vegetable stock)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Toss the roughly chopped parsnips, fennel, and whole garlic cloves in a few tbsp of olive oil along with the curry powder and chili powder. Roast for 25 – 30 minutes until fragrant. Meanwhile in a large soup pot saute the onions and chopped fennel tops with the crushed red pepper in a little olive oil. After ten minutes, add the white wine, brown sugar, and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the roasted vegetables are ready. Add the roasted vegetables, season with salt and pepper and simmer, covered for 30 minutes on med/low heat. Puree in a food processor and serve with a bit of the fennel fronds for garnish!

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…

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