Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chutney: Much Prettier than Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Let me begin this post by explaining that I have nothing against cranberry sauce in a can.  (Hear that?  It's the collective gasp of serious cooks the world over.)  And I'm not even talking about the fancy, whole-berry stuff.  I like the plain old jellied cranberry, with the can ridges imprinted on it and all.

Here's the only problem with that stuff.  It doesn't look good on the table.  Even if you mash it up, which I did once.  You can ask my mom.  She was pretty annoyed.

So this year, I made cranberry-orange chutney — just as tasty as my beloved Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce, but much lovelier.  And it's easy.  Put everything in a pot.  Stir.  And that's about it.

Cranberry-Orange Chutney (adapted from a recipe in Our State)
  • 12 oz. cranberries
  • 1 large orange, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 c. currants
  • 3/4 c. light brown sugar
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1 c. apple cider
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
Mix all ingredients in a heavy pot and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cool; serve chilled.  Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

There are lots of great ways to eat chutney.  At Thanksgiving, consider it another side and scoop it up with forkfuls of stuffing.  Last night, I spread some on my turkey-mayo-potato bread sandwich.  And today, I'm planning on using it as a dip for some leftover-turkey samosas.

The food: Cranberry-orange chutney
The verdict: A great alternative to canned cranberry sauce when you're looking to really class it up

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Grateful Table

What plans do you have for your Thanksgiving meal this year?  I've been squirreling away recipes for a month — and I'm about to make a final trip to the grocery store, so it's time to finalize the menu.

The Pre-Meal Snack: Bacon-wrapped apricots and Greek olives. (I'm not sure Greek olives are all that Thanksgivingy, but I like them and I'm the cook, so I'm going with it.)

The Main Event: Orange-rosemary roasted turkey (all 14 lbs. of it, which, now that I think about it, does seem like a lot for two people).

The Gravy: The usual recipe: pan juices and a little flour, stock and water.

The Other Stuff on the Table: Unfussy Fare's cranberry chutney,  Closet Cooking's glazed carrots, sausage stuffing (at Ben's request), something green (can you tell this isn't my favorite part?), my mom's mashed potatoes (no lumps, lots of butter) and maybe a loaf of bread baked in the Dutch oven.

The Best Part: A take on Smitten Kitchen's take on the Lee Brothers' take on sweet potato buttermilk pie.  Confession: I don't like pie crust that much.  So I'm thinking of baking the filling, which sounds lovely, in small ramekins and calling it crustless pie.  Or something like that.

The Next Day: I love a good turkey sandwich, but I'm also thinking about Monday Morning Potato Bread (made with leftover mashed potatoes), turkey samosas and maybe a little turkey soup (made with stock made from the carcass — uh, and the turkey neck).  Yes, I've decided I'm using that darn turkey neck this year.  I'm feeling a little weird about it, but I'm determined.

And for Breakfast: Apple cider donuts.  My first donut making attempt.  It seems like overkill to make donuts on Thanksgiving, but I'm throwing caution to the wind.

Here's my only concern.  Christopher Kimball insists that I need a V-rack for roasting my turkey, and I usually trust what C.K. says.  However, I don't have a V-rack.  Since I only make a turkey once a year, it seems a little silly to buy one.  And if I did buy one, there's not an inch of space to store it in the kitchen.  We'd be putting it under the bed or in the water heater closet.  I was planning on just plopping the turkey down on some onions and carrots.  Think that's okay?  Don't tell Christopher.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Buttermilk Cornbread: Not that Zingy

I'm a big fan of cornbread, but I haven't yet found the perfect recipe.  My latest batch was buttermilk cornbread.  Buttermilk is usually a nice addition to quickbreads and muffins — it has a little zing.  But I didn't taste any difference between this batch of cornbread and my non-buttermilk-recipes.

My main problem is that, no matter what I do, the cornbread turns out a little dry.  Part of this is just the style of the bread, but I've had some genuine, Southern-made cornbread here in Raleigh that is full of cornmeal goodness and not at all dry.  So I know it's possible.

The cornbread quest continues.  And in the meantime, this will be a fine start to a little cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving.

Buttermilk Cornbread
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease an 9x9 pan.  Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, butter and eggs.  Ad buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Pour into prepared pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

The food: Buttermilk cornbread
The verdict: I'd butter keep looking for the perfect cornbread recipe

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Breakfast: Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting

Think muffins can't be frosted?  My friend, you'd be wrong.  These pumpkin muffins demand a little cream cheese topping.  If buttering muffins is acceptable, I figure frosting them is okay, too.

I found this recipe at The Pioneer Woman Cooks, via a new fan site for Ree Drummond (who is the aforementioned Pioneer Woman).  Foodie Fans of the Pioneer Woman will issue a new Pioneer-themed challenge every week.  I answered the first challenge  — making something from Ree's Thanksgiving recipe collection — with these little fellas.

There were a lot of options to choose from, and they all looked good.  I could have gone with roasted carrots, pear crisp or dinner rolls, but I've been in a pumpkin frenzy lately and I was really on a roll.  Plus, I had leftover pumpkin puree waiting for me in the fridge.

Well, I had some pumpkin puree waiting for me in the fridge, but not as much as the recipe called for.  I substituted a little applesauce for what I lacked, and everything seemed to turn out just fine.

If you're feeling like some comfort food, or some Thanksgiving inspiration, Ree's site is a great place to start.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mini Corn Cakes: So Corny, They Just Might Work

One week until Thanksgiving -- and the countdown begins.  This is like the Superbowl of all holidays, food-wise.  I'm, as they might say on a sports-related show, totally pumped.  I've got big plans for an orange-and-herb turkey this year.  Mmm, turkey.

In the meantime, here's a little appetizer you might consider adding to your T-Day menu (especially if, like me, you think appetizers can be the best part of the eating experience).  And they're theme food!  I'm quite sure the pilgrims enjoyed corn at the original Thanksgiving feast.

The first time I made these little cakes, I served them as a side to soup, but they'll be just swell on their own.  And they don't just taste good, they look good, too.  (I'm a sucker for a scallion garnish.)  Plus, they're easy to make.  Mix, spoon, bake, done.

Mini Corn Cakes with Scallions (from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 10 ounces corn kernels, thawed if frozen
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 scallions, whites minced and greens thinly sliced, divided
  • Sour cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease two 12-cup mini muffin pans.

Combine all ingredients through scallion whites, reserving the scallion greens and sour cream for garnish.  Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into muffin cups.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes.  Garnish and serve immediately.

I thought this was a pretty new recipe, but I was wrong -- I discovered that Joe over at Culinary in the Country blogged about these treats all the way back in 2005.  Sorry, Martha.  I should have made this years ago.  Better late than never.

The food: Mini corn cakes
The verdict: A great choice for a pre-turkey appetizer -- the pilgrims would approve

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Merry Christmas, Have Some Pumpkin Ice Cream

I've never been one to make Christmas lists, but I've been wanting an ice cream-making attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer for about a year, so I did recently suggest that if Ben was running low on gift ideas, an ice cream maker under the tree would be most welcome.

Two weeks ago, while perusing CraigsList, I happened to find someone offering the attachment, brand new, for pretty cheap.  I couldn't resist the deal, so Christmas came early this year.

To celebrate the season, we made a batch of pumpkin ice cream from
Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book.  All of the recipes begin with the sweet cream base (Vermont's finest ice cream makers offer three versions), then suggest ways to customize.  For this recipe, we added pureed pumpkin and a little bit of pumpkin pie spice.  It was really good.  Not as sweet as pumpkin pie, and not as rich as Goodberry's pumpkin custard (which is made with more eggs than ice cream), but very good and fun to make.

Next on our list to try is coffee.  Or a nice eggnog ice cream for the holidays.  Because frozen desserts aren't just for summertime.

Ben & Jerry's Pumpkin Ice Cream 
Makes 1 Quart

Whisk two eggs until light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Gradually whisk in 3/4 c. of granulated sugar until completely blended.  Add in 2 c. cream (heavy or whipping) and 1 c. milk.

Put about 1 c. of the milk mixture in a separate bowl and add 1 c. pureed pumpkin and 2 t. pumpkin pie spice.  Mix until blended, then whisk together pumpkin mixture and remaining milk mixture.  Transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

The food: Pumpkin ice cream
The verdict: It's the great pumpkin ice cream, Charlie Brown

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getting Fresh: Apple Cake

Raleigh is a lovely place, but it's not known for its apple orchards, so they truck them in from other places, like Michigan and Pennsylvania.  You know those Pace commercials where the cowboys have near-coronaries after they discover their salsa is made in New York City?  That's how I feel about the apples I get here.  I'm sure they're swell and all, but I like Maine apples and that's that.  Mom, if you're reading this, send me a peck or two, would you?

Maybe my apple bias is why I wasn't all that thrilled with my latest attempt in the kitchen, Fresh Apple Cake.

I can't blame the recipe source: the King Arthur blog.  Those bakers know what they are doing for sure.  I think it was probably me.  I used too small a pan.  I overbaked.  My apples weren't cut uniformly.  I substituted apple juice concentrate for the boiled cider.  And there just wasn't all the apple goodness I was hoping for.

That being said, I think I should give it another try.  Everyone seemed to have great success with it except for me.  Any suggestions on perking it up a little?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Backup to Bakewells

While Bakewell biscuits will always be number one in my heart, there may come a day when a baker like me finds herself out of Bakewell Cream.  Or whipping up a batch of biscuits in the non-Bakewell-equipped kitchen of a friend or relative.  And in such a case, said baker should have a biscuit backup recipe.

My backup recipe of choice: angel biscuits.

As the name implies, angel biscuits are light and fluffy, and they get that way with yeast.  Be warned, the yeast needs a little time to work, so plan ahead.

I made these to go along with a soup we had last week, but they also make a swell breakfast.  I recommend a little peach butter.  Or regular butter.  That's good, too.

This recipe comes from an old issue of Cooking Light, submitted by reader Linda Turner in Springfield, Mo.  Linda, I salute you.  But I'm also sending you a tin of Bakewell Cream.  Watch your mailbox. 

Angel Biscuits
  • 1  package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2  cup  warm water (105° to 115°)
  • 5  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  cup  sugar
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  vegetable shortening
  • 2  cups  low-fat buttermilk
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
Dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add yeast mixture and buttermilk; stir just until moist. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface; knead lightly 5 times. Roll dough to a 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 3-inch biscuit cutter. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush melted margarine over biscuit tops. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until golden.

The food: Angel biscuits
The verdict: Tell me, tell me the words to define the way I feel about something so fine