Saturday, November 28, 2015

Fully Loaded Mashed Potato Pancakes

So, you've gotten through Thanksgiving, and you're slowly working your way through a mountain of leftovers.  And they're awesome leftovers!  Until about the second or third day of turkey and stuffing.  Then you start wishing you could eat something else.  But you don't want to waste food, right?  So re-purpose those leftover mashed potatoes into something delicious.  Like a fried loaded potato pancake.  I promise you don't even have to eat them with turkey if you don't want to.

Fully Loaded Mashed Potato Pancakes

3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, for frying
Sour cream, for serving

Combine first seven ingredients and mix well, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Form into 12 pancakes, about 3 inches across.  Dredge in flour and gently shake off excess.

Heat a frying pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan and add four pancakes.  Fry for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Set pancakes aside on a paper towel while frying the remaining batches, using a tablespoon of butter to fry each batch.

Serve hot with sour cream.

Makes 6 servings

No Spoon Necessary: Croissant, Caramelized Onion, Sausage, and Pecan Dressing

Ah, the yearly debate.  Is it dressing or is it stuffing?  I think this time around I'm going to go with the definition of stuffing being a bread product stuffed inside the bird, and dressing being a bread product baked outside the bird.  So, dressing.  But honestly?  Who cares?  This stuff is delicious, with all that buttery croissanty goodness, so it doesn't really matter what you call it.  Call it "bread product" if you want.  It won't last long enough to matter anyway.

Croissant, Caramelized Onion, Sausage, and Pecan Dressing
Adapted from No Spoon Necessary blog

7 to 8 large croissants (about 6- to 8-inches long), split in half lengthwise
1 pound pork sausage, removed from casings if necessary
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 yellow onions (about 1 pound total), diced
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1¼ cups toasted pecans, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
½ cup white wine
1¼ cup chicken stock
1 large egg, beaten
¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 2½ quart baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

Toast the croissants: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place croissant halves on prepared baking sheet and bake until slightly crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside and let cool. Once cooled, roughly cut or tear croissants and place in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Cook the sausage: Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until browned, about 6 to 8 minutes, breaking up into crumbles as you cook. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a paper towel lined plate and allow to drain and cool slightly. Transfer to mixing bowl with croissants.

Caramelize the onions: Pour off all but 1 tablespoon sausage fat, if necessary, and add butter. Once butter is melted, add the onions, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until onions are soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add in the celery and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add in the wine and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add in the sage, thyme, rosemary, and stock. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Assemble and Bake: Transfer onion mixture to the mixing bowl with sausage and croissants. Add the egg, pecans, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir until combined. Transfer stuffing to prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated throughout.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bobby Flay: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Delicata Squash with Pomegranate and Vanilla-Pecan Butter

Even though most of the dishes on my family's Thanksgiving table make year-after-year repeat appearances, I keep trying new vegetable side dishes in the hopes of finding one that sticks.  The one I tried this year was this delicious plate of squash and Brussels sprouts, but I think it may have been a little too foreign...a little too different.  Any other day this is delicious, but for Thanksgiving, it doesn't quite hit the comfort factor.  The search continues.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Delicata Squash with Pomegranate and Vanilla-Pecan Butter
Adapted from Bobby Flay

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ cup toasted pecans, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 pound Delicata squash, deseeded, halved, and sliced into half-moons
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 lime, finely zested
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

Combine the butter and vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl. Fold in the pecans and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Place the Brussels sprouts and Delicata squash in a medium roasting pan and toss with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, add the pomegranate molasses and stir to combine. Return to the oven and cook until just tender, about 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Transfer the sprouts to a large bowl, add the pomegranate seeds and lime and orange zests. Transfer to a platter and top with some of the vanilla-pecan butter.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pioneer Woman: Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I honestly never thought I would post a recipe for mashed potatoes.  I mean, what is there to say?  "Boil potatoes until soft, drain, then add a bunch of butter and some milk/cream"?  It just seems too simple to address.  But the Pioneer Woman has solved the age-old mystery of how to make the potatoes ahead of time so you're not frantically mashing as everyone is sitting down to dinner.  And they actually still taste good when reheated.  I consider that to be a major Thanksgiving victory.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

For the topping:
1 medium sweet onions (about ½ pound), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon panko bread crumbs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Canola oil, for frying

5 pounds russet or Yukon gold potatoes
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
½ to ¾ cup half-and-half
½ to 1 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
½ to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the onions, flour, panko, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Pour about ¼-inch of oil in the bottom of a large skillet.  Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the onions in batches, using a fork to toss them and keep them from sticking together.  Fry for 4 to 6 minutes per batch, or until golden brown. Once done, remove the onions from the pan and drain on a paper towel.  Set aside until ready to use.

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add 1½ sticks of butter, the package of cream cheese, and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s seasoned salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350°F oven and heat until the butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.  Top with the fried onions and bake for 2 to 3 more minutes to crisp the onions.

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.  Stir the butter into the potatoes about halfway through so that the potatoes warm evenly.

Makes 10 servings

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

King Arthur Flour: Best Apple Pie

Update, now that I've actually tasted said pie: King Arthur Flour wins.  This IS the best apple pie.  Especially with salted caramel sauce drizzled all over the top.  And fresh whipped cream.  Or vanilla ice cream.  Heck, just have this for dinner.

I'm a firm believer in Thanksgiving being a day to relax.  Not a day to spend in the kitchen slaving away over a hot stove.  Now, food still must be cooked, so I've basically just moved my day of kitchen slavery to the day before Thanksgiving.  I have just finished prepping all my dishes, and to top it all off, this gorgeous apple pie.  This thing smells amazing, and it is taking everything in me to not just cut into it tonight.  But that doesn't mean I can't post it on my blog so everyone else can suffer with me.  Feel free to serve this with Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce.

Best Apple Pie
Filling adapted from King Arthur Flour

Pie Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface and crust bottom
¼ cup cake flour
½ teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 tablespoons vodka
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, divided

3¼ pounds (about 9 whole apples, 10 cups) Cortland or other baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
¾ cup granulated sugar
2½ teaspoons cornstarch
1½ teaspoons apple pie spice
¼ cup boiled cider
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice of ½ lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

To make the crust: In a large mixing bowl, whisk flours with salt and sugar. Add butter and shortening; use a pastry blender to work it in until the mixture has the consistency of fine meal. Add the vodka and then the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, stopping when the dough just holds together. Toss with a fork until dough starts to form a ball. Turn dough onto floured counter, and knead three times, until smooth. Divide dough into two balls. Flatten each ball slightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

For the filling: In a large bowl, stir together the filling ingredients, mixing till well-combined. Set aside.

Assembly: Roll one piece of pie crust into a 12-inch round, and lay it gently into a 9-inch pie plate. Spoon in the filling. Roll out the other piece (or make a lattice), lay it atop the filling, and seal and crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with milk, and sprinkle it with coarse sugar, if desired. Or, save out a bit of the crust, and cut decorative leaf designs, laying them in the center of the crust or around the edges.

Baking: Place the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F, and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until the top is brown and filling is bubbly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce

Need something luxurious to go with your pies on Thanksgiving?  Boy, do I have something special for you.  A salted caramel sauce.  With vanilla bean.  Now, there are some burn hazards to making your own caramel, but if you're willing to practice good kitchen safety, this sauce is very much worth the effort.  Rich, slightly bitter, salty, and sweet, with an ethereal scent of vanilla.  This will take any old apple pie to new levels.  Heck, put it on the pumpkin pie, too.  Nobody likes a miser.

Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fleur de sel
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Heat the sugar in a large stainless steel pan over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt and become a liquid.  Swirl the pan to make sure that the sugar melts evenly.  When the sugar has all completely melted and the syrup is a rich amber color, pour in the cream.  The sugar syrup will boil up furiously, so do this carefully and avoid getting burned!  Whisk the cream into the syrup as soon after pouring in the cream as possible without injury.  Continue whisking until the cream is completely incorporated.  Add the butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, whisking as it melts.  When butter is completely incorporated, whisk in the fleur de sel and vanilla bean paste.  Remove from the heat and pour into glass containers, such as canning jars.  Let sit until cool enough to handle, then cap the jars and refrigerate.  Remove the jars from the refrigerator a couple of hours before use so that the caramel sauce is not cold and stiff.  It can also be reheated if a hot sauce is desired.

Makes 1¾ pint jars

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alton Brown: Best Ever Green Bean Casserole

Holy, schmoly, I think I've found the holy grail of Thanksgiving dishes.  Heck, let's just be honest, the holy grail of casseroles.  I thought I was going to be eating canned soup versions of this casserole for all eternity, but here it is, a homemade version.  A green bean casserole that is just as savory and umami and tender and crunchy and fantastic as the original, and yet, something more.  The green beans have a freshness, and the mushrooms have a texture (other than cooked-to-death). You MUST make this for your Thanksgiving dinner.  MUST.

Best Ever Green Bean Casserole
Adapted from Alton Brown

For the topping:
2 medium sweet onions (about 1¼ pounds), thinly sliced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Canola oil, for frying

For beans and sauce:
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half

Combine the onions, flour, panko, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Pour about ¼-inch of oil in the bottom of a large skillet.  Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the onions in batches, using a fork to toss them and keep them from sticking together.  Fry for 4 to 6 minutes per batch, or until golden brown. Once done, remove the onions from the pan and drain on a paper towel.  Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how tender you want your beans. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin give up their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in ¼ of the onions and pour over the green beans. Mix together and pour the green bean mixture into a casserole dish.  Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes.  Remove the casserole from the oven, top with the remaining onions, and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.  Remove and serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Washington Post: Boiled Cider

I recently came across a recipe for an apple pie that I'm going to make for Thanksgiving.  It sounds amazing, but there was one ingredient I hadn't used before: boiled cider.  I think the whole point was to send off to King Arthur Flour (the author of the recipe) for a bottle of their boiled cider, but why do that when I can make it at home?  I'm almost embarrassed to post a recipe for it.  "Boil cider until syrupy."  Yup, that's about it.  It makes this fabulous syrup with this deep apple flavor that I'm sure will make this pie fantastic.  Now, I obviously didn't use a gallon's worth of cider, but if you make the full recipe, you can pour this stuff on all sorts of breads, oatmeal, ice cream...

Boiled Cider
Adapted from The Washington Post website, September 14, 2011

1 gallon fresh, preservative-free apple cider

Pour the cider into a large, heavy-bottomed nonreactive stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low, skimming off any scum that collects on the edges; cook uncovered for 4 to 5 hours or until it has reduced to a little more than 2 cups, stirring more frequently as needed in the last 30 minutes to keep the cider from scorching. The boiled cider is done when it coats the back of a spoon, with a consistency like that of maple syrup.

Transfer to sterilized jars. Cool completely. The boiled cider is ready to use right away; or, sealed tightly, it can be refrigerated indefinitely.

Makes 2½ cups

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Taste of Southern: Pork Neck Bones with Gravy

Soul food.  I always thought it was just fried chicken, collard greens, and blackeyed peas.  But then some ladies I worked with enlightened me and opened up a whole new world of soul food items.  Some good (hot water cornbread), some bad (chitterlings).  Some absolutely delicious.  Like these spicy stewed pork necks.  I know, pork necks??  Yep.  You heard me.  The meat is tender, juicy, and a little spicy.  The gravy is crazy good.  Trust Miss Cherry.  She knows what she's talking about.

Pork Neck Bones with Gravy
From Taste of Southern blog and Cherry M. of Durham, NC

2 to 3 pounds pork neck bones
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bacon grease
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Wash the neck bones under cold running water.  Trim away any gristle, small bones, cartilage, or fat that you can see.

Place washed neck bones in a large pot.  Add onion, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Add water until the ribs are covered by 2 inches.  Place the pot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and let boil for about 15 minutes.  Skim off any foam if it forms; discard.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pot.  Cook until meat is tender, about 1 to 1½ hours.  The neck bones are done with the meat is falling off the bone.  Remove the neck bones from the liquid and cover; set aside.  Retain 1 cup of the liquid for the gravy.

Place butter and bacon grease in a large skillet and melt over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir constantly.  Continue to stir and let the flour brown to desired color.  Add the reserved liquid from the cooking pot while stirring constantly.  Let the mixture simmer until it thickens slightly.

Serve neck bones over rice with gravy.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mr. Wang's Chinese Buffet: Moo Goo Gai Pan (Sliced Chicken and Mushrooms)

If I had my way, I'd probably eat Chinese food several times a week.  It's almost comfort food for me, even though I'm not Chinese.  Go figure.  I remember eating Moo Goo Gai Pan a lot as a child, especially if it was cold outside or I was under the weather.  I think it's a little like chicken soup in that regard...somehow it just makes you feel better.  And I finally found a recipe that turns out just like you would get from a good Chinese restaurant.  The only problem is I can't stop eating it.

Moo Goo Gai Pan (Sliced Chicken and Mushrooms)
Adapted from Mr. Wang's Chinese Buffet, Homewood, AL

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in slices
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Put chicken in a bowl and add egg and salt. Mix. Add oil and mix again. Add cornstarch to mix. Marinate chicken for about 30 minutes.

2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon chicken broth
8 buds broccoli, blanched
15 straw mushrooms, rinsed and dried
8 snow peas
8 carrot slices, blanched
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup peanut oil
2 teaspoons rice wine or dry sherry
1 cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon sesame oil

Mix together cornstarch and broth; set aside.

Heat wok and add 1 cup oil into wok and heat. Add chicken and stir-fry until it changes color and is nearly cooked through. Add mushrooms for 30 seconds. Add snow peas, broccoli, and carrots for about 30 seconds. Remove and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil in wok and add chopped garlic and rice wine. Stir-fry. Add broth, salt, and sugar. Stir-fry. Add chicken and vegetables and stir-fry well. Add white pepper and stir-fry. Add mixed cornstarch to make gravy and stir-fry well.

Turn off heat. Add sesame oil and mix. Remove from heat and serve.

Makes 2 servings if this is the main dish or 4 servings if you're serving another stir fry alongside