Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Orange Blossom Cocktail

The Orange Blossom

Oh what a lovely name this cocktail has - and the name matches the delightfully refreshing flavor! It's a bit deflating to realize that the name arose during Prohibition, when fresh orange juice was added to cheap bathtub gin in order to mask the hideous flavor - although redemption does come when you realize that this drink is therefore a part of American history. Partaking of one is like sharing in the collective story of our country. Hurray!

All right - that might be stretching things a little bit, although I will say that the Orange Blossom is at the top of my list of all time classic cocktails. It's just plain delicious, especially when made with really good quality gin and orange juice. If you move to a top shelf gin and freshly squeezed orange juice, then the Orange Blossom becomes something akin to a nectar of the gods. On top of that it's one of the few socially acceptable morning cocktails, joining the Screwdriver, the Bloody Mary and the Mimosa as one of the rare drinks that you can get away with ordering with your pancakes.

There are also several variations on the Orange Blossom, all with 'blossom' in their names, giving you a veritable bouquet from which to choose. Apple, Magnolia, Cherry and Hawaiian Blossoms all follow the same basic recipe, just swapping out the type of juice used. Feel free to sample them all!

The Recipe!

You'll Need:

Good quality gin

Good quality juice - orange or apple

a cocktail shaker


For the basic Orange Blossom, fill the cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Pour in an equal measure each of gin and orange juice. Shake until frost forms on the shaker, strain and serve in a small highball glass.

For the Apple Blossom, use brandy and apple juice, with about two ounces of lemon juice added. Shake, strain and serve as above.

For the Hawaiian, use two ounces of gin, one ounce each of triple sec and pineapple juice, and two ounces of orange juice. Shake, strain and serve as above.

For the Magnoila - use 2 ounces of gin, and one ounce each lemon juice and heavy cream.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes top every single list of people's favorite comfort foods. Rich, creamy and delicious, they just ooze delicious warmth. Topped with a little homemade gravy, and super simple dish can be elevated to Nirvana inducing levels. In this case creamy mashed potatoes are paired up with sweet and savory roasted garlic, which adds a depth and dimension that is to die for.

There are a few tricks for mashed potatoes. There's tons of information about how to do them correctly in Potatoes, How to Make the Most of Your Tubers. The best way to get the creamiest, silkiest potatoes is to use a ricer, but you can get great results with an old fashioned masher. The important thing is to not overbeat them - using a mixer or getting too enthusiastic with beating will break them down too much, and they'll be gluey and sticky instead of fluffy.

You can also change these up easily - my personal preference is for russet potatos, but Yukon Golds or Reds are also great - just a little waxier, so the texture is different. Feel free to leave the skins on if you'd like a 'smashed' version. You can also change out the half and half for all cream, or all milk, sour cream or even evaporated milk - whatever you have and however rich you'd like them.

This recipe makes enough to serve 6-8 - I usually double it to get leftovers to use on shepherd's pie or for potato pancakes. Those are awesome with a little fresh chives or parsley.

You'll Need:

2 medium heads of garlic

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

3 pounds russet, red or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup half and half

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut the heads of garlic in half, making sure to take off the tips of the cloves of garlic, but leaving them attached to the head. Remove and discard extra paper. Place the garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Seal packet, and place in oven for one hour. At the end of the hour, remove packet from the oven, open it to release steam and cool, and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a big pinch of salt and add potatoes. Cook until tender, about fifteen minutes.

Place half and half and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. You really just want to warm these and melt the butter, not cook them. Squeeze garlic from the cloves in to a small bowl, and mash with the back of a fork, and add the garlic to the milk.

Drain and put back in hot pot, but off the heat. Add butter, half and half and garlic and mash. Stir in, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sesame Ginger Noodles

I love how some of the flavors of Southeast Asia simply pop - the warmth of sesame oil, the bite of ginger, the crunch of cashew and the heat of chili flakes. Some of my all time favorite flavors come together in this quick and easy dish, and the best part is that the dish goes together in moments. Even better? It's just as good stashed in the fridge and chilled as it is hot.

This particular dish calls for soba noodles. Soba noodles are thin Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour. If you can't find them, and I often can't in my little town, then feel free to use whole wheat spaghetti. That's what I almost always end up using. The shape, texture and flavor is similar enough to make a great substitution. If you can find them though - give them a try. They're delicious and pretty high up the nutritional scale.

The only 'required' ingredients for this dish are the ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Everything else can be changed as you wish - swap out other vegetables you may have. Juienned snow peas are great, as is fresh green, red or Napa cabbage. All of the veggies work raw, or briefly steamed or stir fried. Feel free to change the cashews for peanuts if you'd like. Swap the cilantro for fresh parsley if you prefer, and as always, add or subtract the chili flakes to suit your preferences. Easy peasy, quick, simple and delicious - Bombshell baby!

The Recipe!

You'll need:

•1 16 ounce package soba noodles or whole wheat spaghetti

•1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

•1/4 cup soy sauce

•2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

•1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

•1 clove garlic, very finely minced

•1 tablespoon sesame oil

•1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

•1/2 cup water

•4 green onions, including green tops, thinly sliced

•1/2 cucumber, seeds removed, julienned

•2 radishes, julienned

•1/2 carrot, julienned

•1/4 cup cashews, chopped

1.Heat large saucepot of salted water to boiling over high heat; add noodles and cook as label directs.

2.While the noodles cook, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, red pepper and water. Set aside.

3.When noodles have cooked, drain them, and rinse them well under cold water.

4.Place noodles in a large serving bowl. Add vegetable and sauce, tossing well before serving. Top with cashews.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Serious eats...

Stay with me for a minute before you freak out - all right? Schmaltz is fat. Period.

Now there are various kinds - the most widely known schmaltz is chicken fat, used widely in Jewish cuisine, but strictly speaking, all rendered or purified animal fats are also schmaltz. Southerners have long been familiar with the glories of bacon grease and lard, and rendered duck or goose fat has been used in traditional French and Italian cooking for centuries. Even McDonald's used beef lard to fry their french fries until health concerns caused them to swap to less heart attack inducing oils for frying.

Why? Why in the world would you want to eat that stuff? Well - because it's seriously delicious. How many of us have lamented that the fries don't taste like they used to at the Golden Arches? And the best pie crusts you've ever had were most likely made with lard or butter or both. The fats I described have all been worked with, to use as a replacement for butter or other cooking oils - to fry other foods or as a spread on various breads. Some are even used to further preserve foods, as in goose or duck confit.

You also have to realize that schmaltz is not simply fat - in all cases it's been treated, rendered, purified or worked with in some form or fashion, to make it more useable. Plain chicken fat is not much use for anything - but chicken fat that has been turned into schmatltz and gribenes is pure lovliness. It can be doled out in tiny, golden precious portions to add a one of a kind flavor to all kinds of dishes, just as pork, duck or beef schmaltz can be.

And none of them are used in large amounts. While it's true that with making confit you need to have more than a tablespoon or two, the end result - the confit itself and the flavored fat resulting - is then parceled out in tiny amounts. Most of the time these types of fats are 'hard' to get - it takes me weeks, if not months to get enough chicken fat to make schmaltz, and duck fat is usually a once a year treat around the holidays, at least at my house.

If you want to elevate some of your dishes - and we're talking put-them-on-a-pedestal elevation here, then try a touch of one of these. Start with chicken schmaltz - if you don't want to try to gather the materials yourself, chances are you can find a butcher who will give you his trimmings, and you can experiment. Try the gribenes on a good winter salad. Make a basic potato kugel with it. Try just a touch with a sprinkle of salt on crusty warm French bread....see what you think. I can almost promise you'll be hooked. And it will happen once in a blue moon - just enough to have you looking forward to the next time.

The Method

You'll need:

1.Fat - a good bit. Try to have at least half a pound of chicken fat. I usually trim my own, breaking down whole chickens, and saving the bones for stock. When I do, I toss the skin and fat into freezer bags until I have enough to make schmatz. This works for duck too - check out the videos, where I've done both.

2.If you make your own stocks, then you've already got a source for the fat. When skimming the stocks, simply run the fat you skim off through a strainer and toss the fat in the freezer as well. One benefit to this is that it tends to be 'cleaner' - lighter in color in taste, since the proteins and impurities have already been skimmed off and discarded with the skimming from the stockpot.

3.When you're ready, you'll also need one thinly sliced onion. I use one small/medium onion per pound of fat or so. There's no strict ratio, but that's about right.

4.Place the fat and onion over medium heat in a medium to large saucepan. Slice any skin you're using as well (which makes the gribenes - the little crispy bits), into thin slices, and throw those in as well.

5.You'll see the fat almost immediately begin to melt and liquefy. The skin will also begin to render - poultry skin is rather fatty. In this case, you want the fat to render from the skin. What will remain for the gribenes will be a very small amount - but wil become crispy.

6.That's it - for a long while. Keep the mixture at a nice simmer - it will depend on how much you're making and how much moisture is in with your raw ingredients. I've made it in an hour, and I've had batches take both less and more time. You want the schmatlz to quit steaming, and the entire thing will turn a beautiful golden brown. The gribenes will become a darker color.

7.Strain the whole thing - separate the gribenes, and place the liquid schmaltz into a glass container. Cover tightly and store in the fridge. I've never had a batch last more than a couple of weeks, so I'm not sure how long it lasts. I do know duck confit can be stored this way for about a month, so keep that figure in mind.

Now - let me say this. This stuff is seriously disaster laden health wise. This is not a food that you wish to make part of your regular diet. We are talking pure animal fats here. But...beyond the fact that it is nearly as rare as hen's teeth and almost as hard to get, you don't need but a teaspoon drizzled over potatoes, or a few tablespoons baked into a casserole, or a bit with which to saute off green beans or a bit of chicken, veal or lean pork. I personally feel free to use the single cup of schmaltz or duck fat, all I'm able to produce every few months, with happy abandon on the three-four dishes I can make while it lasts. The rest of the time I behave, and wield my extra virgin olive oil. And wait...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chicken a la King

This is one of my favorite things to do with leftover chicken or turkey. It takes only a few minutes to put together, (despite the apparently long list of ingredients), simmers off nearly unattended, and the result is pure lusciousness.
Chicken (or turkey) a la king is often served as a dressed up meal, although it doesn't have to be reserved for a formal occasion. Sure - dress it up if you wish - but I love this one as much for a go-to family meal as anything else. This is also one of the most adaptable recipes I know - feel perfectly free to make substitutions at will. Change out the mushrooms for anything you have - my favorite is criminis or brown mushrooms, but I'll use whatever I have.
There are a couple of easy ommissions as well - if you don't have good sherry - the real, honest to goodness thing, then please don't use that stuff off the shelf at the grocery. It's just nasty. And of course skip it if you're feeding kids - most of the alcohol burns off, but not all of it. If you don't have fresh nutmeg, don't worry about it. The fresh is yummy, the ground stuff just isn't. And change out whatever you'd like to serve it over - I love puff pastry shells when I have them, but cut sheets into squares and it works just as well. Or use toast points, or biscuits, or rice or noodles...

See why I love the adaptability of this one? Because on top of everything else, the result is a beautifully creamy, silky chicken dish that epitomizes comfort food. Give it a shot and you'll be hooked as well.

The Recipe!

This looks like a lot of ingredients - but check them out. Almost everything is a simple pantry staple, and nothing is unusual or exotic.
You'll need:
•5 tablespoons butter, divided

•¼ cup shallots, minced

•6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

•1/4 cup dry sherry (make it real sherry, not cooking sherry from the grocery)

•4 cups chicken or turkey broth, homemade if possible

•4 sprigs fresh parsley

•1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

•1 sprig fresh thyme

•1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

•½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more, to taste

•Scant pinch of cayenne pepper

•1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (if not freshly grated, skip it)

•8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced, button, brown, crimini or shiitake

•1/2 cup cream

•4 cups cooked turkey or chicken, cubed

•Fresh chives, minced to garnish

•In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and sauté the shallots or onion until fragrant and becoming translucent – about five minutes or so.

•Sprinkle the flour over the butter/shallot mixture and whisk well until the flour is fully incorporated. Add the sherry if using, and the broth, whisking constantly, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Add the sprigs of parsley and thyme, and cook the sauce for about half an hour, stirring frequently. Don't let it boil too hard or it will scorch.

•While the sauce simmers, in a medium skillet over medium high, melt the remaining butter. Add mushrooms and sauté until they are golden brown, about 6-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

•Carefully add the sauce to the mushrooms, and add the cayenne and nutmeg. Add cooked turkey or chicken, and taste. Re-season for salt and pepper if need be. Stir well to combine.

•Gently stir in the cream, bringing the temperature up but making sure not to allow the mixture to boil. Remove from heat and add remaining fresh parsley. Serve over your choice of pastry or toast points, and garnish with a little fresh minced chives.

Turkey Gravy, How to Make Perfect Gravy

Think of gravy as the ultimate accessory. It will take any dish you make, and give it the perfect, crowning touch. Of course when serving gravy with turkey, it can do even more. There seems to be an unspoken rule for turkey that gravy is simply required. If by chance your bird didn't come out perfectly, all will be forgiven if the gravy is wonderful. It can take a plain Jane bird and turn it into a rockstar dish.

As a Southerner, I grew up with gravy all over the place. I've long understood the power of gravy, and I was blessed with a mama and granny who could make fabulous gravies of all kinds. Turkey gravy is no different from almost any other kind - you simply take the lovely stuff from the bottom of a roasting pan, get rid of the grease, make a little roux and add liquid. There are seriously only four steps.

Now with that said, there are some tips and tricks to keep in mind to make sure that the gravy you get is rich and silky instead of lumpy, pasty or the wrong consistency. But they're simple tricks.

1.Make sure that you remove the grease from the pan drippings - you'll need some to make the gravy, but probably not all of it by any means. If you remove as much as possible, then you'll be able to determine exactly how much you'd like to add back. This takes care of the greasy issues.

2.When adding flour, make sure that you really whisk it in well at the beginning. If you have lumps when making the roux, you'll have lumps in the gravy.

3.There are two main flavor components to the gravy - the pan drippings, and the stock. Although commercial stock is all right in a pinch, if you can use homemade it'll be fabulous. The stock is critical because there is so much of it in the gravy.

4.One tablespoon of flour will work with one tablespoon of fat to thicken one cup of liquid. This formula will make sure that your gravy isn't too thick or too thin. If you want a slightly thicker gravy, use a tablespoon and a half of flour. It's also easier to think gravy than to thicken it after it's too thin, but even thickening it isn't that hard.

5.To thicken gravy, you can make a slurry. Mix a tablespoon of flour with a quarter cup of cold liquid. Mix well, and whisk into the gravy. Bring to a simmer and allow it to simmer for at least one minute. You can also allow the gravy to reduce to the desired consistency if you wish, although this takes longer.

6.And at the end, if you end up with lumps - just strain it! That takes care of a myriad of problems and no one will know your secret.

The Method!

This is certainly a method instead of a recipe, since the proportions work in any combination. It will halve or double with ease - so simply adjust to make the amount you need.

You'll need:

•The drippings from a roast turkey

•6 Tablespoons all purpose flour

•4-6 cups turkey stock, or chicken broth

•kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1.Take the roasting pan and drain off as much of the grease as possible, with a spoon or a turkey baster.

2.Either place the roasting pan on the stove top, or scrape as much of the drippings as possible into a large skillet or saucier. If you have lots of lovely brown bits simply stuck to the roasting pan stick with that - that's flavor and you don't want to lose it.

3.Measure back four tablespoons of the grease into the pan, and turn the pan to medium heat. Whisk the flour into the fat, making sure that you've whisked out all the lumps. You really want the roux to be smooth at this point.

4.Slowly add half the stock to the pan, whisking constantly. Allow the mixture to come up to a simmer. It will most likely be very thick at this point. Simply add in enough additional stock to bring it to the consistency you like. It will be fully thickened at each addition after it simmers for a minute.

5.Taste and adjust for seasoning, adding kosher salt and pepper if need be.

6.Serve immediately - that's all there is to it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to Debone a Chicken

How to make Chicken Schmaltz

Sausage and Cornbread Dressing

For years I wondered about the difference between dressing and stuffing - after all, they seemed to be pretty close. I just wasn't quite sure where the difference was.

Turns out it was right about on the Mason-Dixon line. Dressing and stuffing are the same thing. The only reason they have different names is because they are 'finished' in different ways. If you bake the dish off in a casserole - it's dressing. It 'dresses' the bird on the side. If you stuff the bird with it it's stuffing. Why I had issues with this I'll never know, and this is one of my embarrassing culinary admissions - but there you have it.

This little version is a very traditional Southern dressing - sausage, cornbread, and veggies sauteed off and baked with butter and broth. Delish. Period. However, I also like this version to use when stuffing my Turducken - so it's both! It's dressing, it's stuffing. Best of both worlds - and I have to say, the Yankees have something on the whole stuffing thing. Something glorious happens to this stuff when the juices from the roasting birds saturate it - it's gorgeous. Even if you don't stuff a Turducken, fine - use it as stuffing for a regular turkey. You'll be glad you did.

The Recipe!

For the stuffing, you'll need:

•one pan of Southern Cornbread (recipe on blog)

•8 slices bread, cubed and dried (you can do this in a warm oven)

•one sleeve saltine crackers

•1 pound bulk sausage

•2 cups chopped celery

•2 cups chopped onion

•1 stick butter

•6 cups chicken stock

•1 1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage

•1 teaspoon dried thyme

•6 eggs, lightly beaten

•freshly cracked black pepper

•skip the salt, remember you'll be getting it from the birds

1.In a very large bowl, crumble together bread, corn bread and crackers. Mix well and set aside.

2.In a large skillet over medium heat, crumble and brown sausage.

3.Add butter, onions and celery to sausage, and saute the vegetables for about 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant, and the onions are becoming translucent.

4.Add sausage and vegetables to the bread mixture. Pour stock over bread, and add sage, thyme and pepper.

5.Add the eggs, mix well. It's ready for either stuffing a bird, several if you're making Turducken, or putting in a buttered 9x13 casserole, and baking for just about 45 minutes.

Southern Cornbread

There are many Southern tables where no meal appears without cornbread. I grew up with this rich, crumbly, crusty stuff, and I still find that it's one of my ultimate comfort foods. This is the way my mother made cornbread, and how I still make it for my children.

Here in the Appalachian Mountains, there are certain dishes that require cornbread - the ultimate dish is probably our humble soup beans - a bowl of slow simmered pinto beans, simply done with cornbread on the side. Or to crumble into the bowl.

This is the basic version - simple, quick, easy and delicious. You can certainly bake this off in a casserole dish if you wish, but there are a couple of things you can do to make it much more 'authentic' - and to improve the crust. Using a cast iron skillet is the first - cast iron gets hotter, maintains temperature better, and allows you to heat the oil or grease that will develop a better crust.

If you bake the cornbread off in a hotter oven, at 425F instead of 350F, you'll also get a darker, crispier crust. It's all about your preference - this is how I do it for my daughter. She loves the crispy outside crust the best.

I call for bacon grease in this recipe - it goes two places. It goes in the batter itself, and as a base to melt in the pan. This is the heritage cooking I grew up with, and I love doing it this way. You can substitute canola or vegetable oil if you just must - but if you happen to have pork cracklings to mix into the batter, you'll find yourself in Cornbread Heaven.

The Recipe!

You'll need:

•1 cup self rising cornmeal

•1/2 cup self rising flour

•3/4 cups buttermilk

•2 eggs, lightly beaten

•1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons bacon grease or vegetable oil

1.Preheat oven to 350F. (Or to 425F for a darker cornbread).

2.Put 2 tablespoons of oil or grease in a cast iron skillet and place in the oven to preheat with the oven temperature. If you just have a casserole dish and no iron skillet, skip this part, and just lightly grease the dish.

3.Combine cornmeal, flour, buttermilk and eggs in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine, add bacon grease or vegetable oil, and pour into the hot cast iron skillet.

4.Bake for about 20 minutes at 350F, or until golden brown. Alternately, if you wish the darker cornbread, bake for about 15 minutes at 425F.

5.Invert the cornbread pan over a platter, to allow the crispy underside to be on top. All done!

This is fabulous hot out of the oven with just butter. This is wonderful with fried chicken, by the way, or warmed for breakfast with a little syrup. Or cold for that matter!

How to Debone a Turkey

Southern Cornbread

Friday, November 12, 2010

Butterscotch Pie - Best of Both World's Butterscotch Pie

Not long ago a buddy shared his grandmother's heirloom Butterscotch Pie recipe with me. And I ADORE heirloom recipes - they can't be beat. There's nothing more comforting or wonderful - or evocative of fabulous memories - than repeating the dishes our mothers and grandmothers made. And most of the time I think these recipes are 'off limits'. They don't need to be messed with - many of them are now cooked for special occasions or only once in a while, so they need to stand as the special treats they are. Butterscotch is one of the best of those - brown sugar and butter cooked together until caramelized, and turned into a pudding filling for pie. Wow.

In this case however, my buddy is trying to loose weight. We're going to long term, steady changes in his diet and lifestyle, and one of the things I'd like help him with are his recipes. So I wanted to 'tweak' the aspects of this desert to make it something that fits into his new eating habits more readily. It took some research and playing around in the kitchen, but I think this is spot on.

I'll include both versions - I really am a firm believer in holding on to our food traditions. And Granny Bert was a Southern Girl who knew how to work with few ingredients to get awesome results. Yet part of that is also not losing dishes entirely because they may not be the best - health-wise, that is. So here we go - the best of both worlds!

Now - one thing. Although the new version is certainly lightened up - it's by no means 'diet' food. Lighter does not mean you have free reign to eat the whole pie in one sitting. Spread it out over a few days - it'll keep in the fridge for up to 4-5 days as long as it's very cold and well wrapped.

The Original!

Granny Bert's Butterscotch Pie

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

4 Tbs. Butter

3 eggs

2 cups milk

6 Tbs. flour

1 tsp. vanilla

few grains of salt

Mix sugar and butter in a double boiler. Stir flour to a smooth paste with a little cold milk - add remaining milk to sugar and stir in flour mixture. Beat egg yolks with salt and stir in. Cook until thick. Add vanilla. Then put in a pie crust and let cool to room temp.

Lightened Up!

You'll Need:
•One recipe All Butter Pie Crust

•2 tablespoons butter

•3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, tightly packed

•1 cup evaporated low-fat milk, divided

•1/3 cup cornstarch

•1/8 teaspoon salt

•3 large egg yolks, look for Egglands Best, they're lower in fat and cholesterol

•2 cups 1% milk

•2 teaspoons vanilla extract (use the real thing!)

•Topping - whipped cream, whipped topping or meringue

1.Preheat oven to 400F.

2.Prepare the crust as the recipe calls, all the way through rolling it out and placing it in the bottom of a nine inch pie pan. Chill the pie crust in the pans for about ten minutes before baking.

3.Blind bake the crust: cover the crust with a sheet of aluminum foil, gently tamping it into the curve of the crust. You can then use either pie weights, or a couple handfuls of dried beans, and bake at 400F for about twenty minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights or beans, and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until fully done and golden brown.

4.Set cooked pie crust on a rack to cool completely while you make the filling.

5.Pace a large heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat.

6.Melt butter in pan, and add the brown sugar. Stir well cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the mixture looks crumbly and damp. Stir constantly!

7.Add 1/4 cup of the evaporated milk, a tablespoon or so at a time, stirring well after each addition. Once you've added 1/4 cup, bring to a boil, allow it to boil for 30 seconds, and remove it from the heat.

8.In a medium mixing bowl, combine the remaining evaporated milk, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks. Whisk together and set aside.

9.In a small saucepan, heat the 1% milk until the mixture begins to just bubble around the edges, but doesn't boil. Remove milk from the heat, and gradually add in the evaporated milk/egg mixture. Go slowly and whisk constantly.

10.Return the milk/evaporated milk mixture to the heat, and cook for about ten minutes, stirring constantly. It will thicken a good bit - resembling a heavy pudding. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

11.Place pan in a bowl filled with ice, stirring occasionally, until it cools to room temperature. Spoon cooled filling into the prepared crust. Cover tightly - pressing plastic wrap gently onto the surface of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Chill completely, for at least 6 hours, although overnight is better.

12.Top with either whipped cream (see note) or meringe just before serving.

Note: The topping, for me, falls into the category of either the real thing or nothing. In my opinion the fat free whipped toppings are nasty, and I'd rather not waste any of my calorie allowance on them, even if they are fat free. I don't like 'diet' foods - most just taste bad. So my first choice would be a *tiny* bit of the real thing - go ahead and use a little whipped cream. Just be prudent. This whole dish is a reward after all.
If you are a topping fanatic (and I can understand that), then my next best choice would be meringue. This is relatively low-calorie to begin with, and also fat free. But it tastes GOOD. Simply whip egg whites with a pinch of cream of tarter and a few tablespoons of sugar until you get stiff peaks. Spread this on the cold pie, and run it under a broiler for a few minutes until the peaks are all nicely beautiful, golden and brown.

Buttermilk Caramel Syrup - Desert Sauce to Die For

Buttermilk Caramel - Sauce, Syrup, Glaze and Topping

Growing up in the mountains of Tennessee, it wasn't often that we were able to get real maple syrup. Not that it was ridiculousy expensive, it just simply didn't appear in our grocery stores very often. We were of course able to get all manner of maple flavored syrups, but those of course just aren't the same, and half the time when Mama or Granny made pancakes or French Toast, they'd whipped up a quick homemade syrup of caramelized brown sugar. We loved that stuff, and I still make it oftne for my own children. It tasted so much better than the imitation maple stuff that we preferred it.

Years ago I was poking around some cookbooks and came across several vintage recipes for syrups, sauces and candies that used buttermilk as a base. I was fascinated, especially by the syrup that sounded so close to what I'd had as a child. I made the first batch, and was absolutey hooked. My kids ended up clustered around the measuring cup after breakfast, dipping the remainder out with spoons. My youngest requests his 'caramel' sauce at every possible moment. It's luscious - rich, buttery and intensely caramel in flavor, with just a hint of tang in the background from the buttermilk, which provides the perfect balance.

I used it for years on just plain old pancakes, and it was awesome, but never seemed to come up often enough. Then I read a carrot cake recipe with a glaze of buttermilk sauce between the layers and a lightbulb appeared above my head. This stuff can go anywhere! Not just carrot cake, where the sauce keeps the layers decadently moist, but apple cakes, crepes, French Toast and waffles, on poached pears and baked apples, with pecans and walnuts in all sorts of applications. Tweak it and it becomes fudge candy.

Better yet - it goes together in moments, cooks for just ten minutes, and it's ready to go. No candy thermometers to mess with, no special equipment, and it keeps for several days. You may find yourself doing what we do - simply dipping little spoonfuls out from time to time. And that's just fine with me! The taste is one of those beautiful things that feels silky on the tongue and lingers for a few moments with a sweet, buttery glow. Mmmmmm. Bombshell Baby.

The Recipe!

You'll need:

•2 cups white sugar

•1 cup buttermilk

•1/2 stick butter, salted - or if unsalted add a pinch of salt

•2 tablespoons corn syrup

•2 teaspoons baking soda

•2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium with a very heavy bottom. Make sure the saucepan is large enough - the sauce will expand a good bit during cooking, and you don't want a spillover.

2.Stir constantly unti sugar dissolves, then continue cooking for about ten minutes. The sauce will turn a deep, rich caramel color when done, and begin to thicken. The time isn't as important as the final color - look at the pictures with this article for a guide.

3.Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, then stir in vanilla. Pour into a container, gravy boat, syrup jug or something else that will allow easy pouring.

Note: sometimes the sauce develops a foam on top - sometimes it doesn't. I have no idea why. If yours does, allow the sauce to 'settle' and either just skim it off with a spoon, or stir it right back in. The sauce will be more clear if the foam is skimmed off, but it doesn't affect the taste at all, and I usually don't bother, especially if using as a glaze between apple, spice or carrot cake layers.

Thanksgiving on a Budget

The word Thanksgiving is often followed by the word feast, and that can put a chill on the heart of those trying to make arrangements for the holiday while laboring under budget restrictions. For whatever reason, this year seems to have hit more of us with financial strain, but that doesn't mean that the holiday has to go out the window.

There are actually some simple ways to cut back on the amount of money needed to feed everyone at your table this Thanksgiving, and none of them are that difficult to tell the truth. Some of them are common sense, some of them are rather tricky, but none of them are difficult.

So relax. Even if you have to work with limited means, you can still do it, and there's a good chance most of your guests won't even realize that you've done 'less'. In my opinion, this is the way to celebrate anyway - giving what you can with an easy mind, so that you can all actually enjoy the day!

Start early
The best thing you can do is to start early with your planning - the earlier the better. If you need help with this, check out Thanksgiving Preplanned - How to Have a Stress Free Holiday. That article contains a lot of information that is even more important if there are financial restrictions. But starting early means you can watch for sales!

Many grocery stores start running big sales on turkeys late in October or early in November. Where I live, whole frozen turkeys are normally about 1.69 a pound most of the year. But if you watch, you'll be able to find them for under a $1 a pound - I bought several last week for .69 a pound. That's a huge savings.

In addition - many stores will offer 'free turkey' promotions. They work in a variety of ways - some will give a free turkey if you make a purchase of a certain amount - say $100. Some will give points per dollar spent toward a free turkey. If you are careful, and work your standard grocery purchases around these promotions, you can often get your bird for free. The trick is to look for these early in November - they rarely happen later in the month.

Starting early will also let you check for coupons, manufacturer's or store specials and 'buy one get one' promotions. If you don't already do this, start. It can seriously boost your grocery budget, as long as you are purchasing foods you already use. Even better? Many companies will publish a coupon, and the following week the stores will place that item on sale, making it worth twice as much or more. And on top of that, many items that are popular at Thanksgiving are the target of these specials. Again though, start early in the month to maximize this.

Make a Plan
Planning can't be over stated. I know - it's not really the fun part. but it's critical. Decide early how much you have to spend, and stick to it. It could very well be that you have to manage getting a holiday meal together for no more than you would an everyday weeknight meal. So be it. If you have a little extra, you'll know exactly how much.

This also means pulling together a guest list early. Find out as early as possible exactly how many will be coming, and if they are adults or children. This lets you set a menu, and you'll know exactly how much of what to purchase. You may have a coupon AND a sale on pumpkin, but if you need one can - the other fourteen you bought that will just sit in your cupboard mean you can't purchase something else you really need.

Decide on your menu as well. Seriously think about what needs to be there. Tradition in your family might call for lobster bisque, but fresh seafood this time of year, and lobster anytime, is horrendously expensive. Make it shrimp, or substitute a beautiful butternut soup. Decide as well how many side dishes you need. It might feel fun to have ten or twelve - but think practical here. Also - think seasonal. Squashes and pumpkin are traditional at Thanksgiving because they are in season. This also means they cost far less than something like asparagus or strawberries. They'll also taste better. So adjust your menu to use what's local and fresh. Your taste buds will thank you as much as your wallet.

Once you have a guest list, and a menu though, you can make the first serious boost in your budget. How? Ask each one on your list to bring something. It might be your preference to do it all yourself but if you take a look at what you want to do, and the money needs to be cut, allow your family and friends to help. Most people actually want to bring something - I almost guarantee the first thing they'll say after accepting your invitation will be 'what can I bring?" Have an answer ready. Tell them the menu you have planned, and let them have a couple of choices. And if anyone asks what happened to the lobster bisque, let THEM bring it.

Watch the sneaky things...
There are things that don't seem like terribly expensive items, but can seriously add up once your purchase enough for a group. Alcohol is tops on this list, as are soft drinks. Take it back to basics then for drinks. Go with coffee and iced tea. These can be prepped ahead, and if you want to add a bit of festivity to your drinks - go ahead. Add a splash of cranberry or orange juice to the tea, or a bit of cinnamon to coffee, and you still have festive drinks. But wine or liquor can seriously add up, so that might have to go.

If you have a little to splurge with, choose one type of good, moderately priced wine to serve. Most liquor stores are happy to help with these choices - so make friends with the nice people behind the counter just as you would your butcher or fishmonger. They'll be glad to point out budget friendly options, and help you know exactly how much to purchase.

Decorations can also put you over the top. Do you really need a fresh floral centerpiece? Try making arrangements of seasonal produce instead - which you can then put to use the next day. Or if you want to go casual, have your children decorate the table. Or ask one of your guests to bring something. If you have a someone on your list good at that sort of thing - put them in charge. They'll be flattered and most likely glad to help, and it's one more thing you can cross off your list.

Go homemade...
For the most part, every single component on the Thanksgiving table can be made from scratch for less money than an equivalent store bought item. Off the top of my head I'm thinking first of breads and rolls. Not only do homemade taste better (and are easy! don't be afraid!), but large batches can be made for literally pennies. And your house will smell of freshly baked bread - a fragrance that is to die for. Pie crusts are the same - cheaper, better tasting and they can be made ahead and frozen.

Stuffing or dressing is also one of those things can be done for pennies - especially if you start saving your stale bread, and leftover bits and pieces in the freezer for several weeks before you'll need it. The only additional ingredients you need for a delicious, basic stuffing are a few veggies, some herbs and a little stock.

Watch the prices on herbs by the way. Fresh herbs are almost always my preference, but honestly, they can be expensive. Check the prices on fresh vs. dried - chances are dried herbs are far less money for larger amounts. Not always though - a few can be high if they are dried. Stick to the basics as well. Saffron is lovely, but you don't need it. No you don't. Rosemary, parsley, sage, and thyme will do just about anything you wish done on Thanksgiving.

Stocks are another thing you can do for pennies on the dollar, vs. purchasing them premade. Even better, they can be made in advance and frozen. Start early (hint, hint), and you have the opportunity to skip purchasing any premade or canned broth. Not only are they less, the flavor is so much better you'll probably become a homemade stock convert entirely.

Don't forget... Have fun.

I'm not kidding. You may not be able to pull out all the stops this year, but it doesn' matter at all. You're still going to get to spend the day with your family and friends - and that's priceless. Give yourself permission to take pride in the fact that you can do so much - and enjoy your guests. I almost guarantee not one person will realize that you spent so little. If you enjoy yourself and your family, they'll enjoy it just as much. So have fun. And Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Classic Stuffing - Onion and Celery Dressing

The "Stuff"

When my oldest son was still a baby, but able to talk (which was about two hours after birth and he hasn't quit yet), he started yelling 'stuff'! Took me a while to figure out that he was asking for stuffing - and this is the kind I would make for him. Usually I made it to go with roast chicken, which appears on our table on a regular basis, but it goes just as well, if not better, with roast turkey.

Now in the South, we usually talk about dressing instead of stuffing. For some mysterious reason the same dish down here was baked off alongside roast meats in a casserole dish, instead of being cooked inside the poultry. I have no clue why the difference - but there it is, and that's the one and only difference between dressing and stuffing.

Now despite my diehard Southern roots, I've recently discovered the glories of stuffing roasted off inside the bird. I have to hand it to my Yankee brethren - y'all got that one right. The juices from the roasting bird permeate the stuffing, baking off with it, and turning it into something truly glorious. Whichever you way you decide to do it - this is a fabulous, classic stuffing - simple, easy and delicious.

The Recipe!

You'll Need:

•About 8 cups, or 1 loaf cubed French Bread (or sourdough)

•1 stick butter

•1 large onion, diced, about 2 cups

•3-4 stalks of celery, diced, about 2 cups

•1 1/2 teaspoons rubbed sage (or 1 tablespoon fresh)

•1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)

•1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh)

•2 eggs, lightly beaten

•kosher salt and freshly crack black pepper to taste

•2 cups (or so) chicken broth

1.Preheat oven to 350F. (Or if roasting turkey, wait until the oven hits this temperature in the roasting stage). Place cubed bread on a baking sheet, and toast 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crunchy.

2.In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and celery and cook until fragrant and onion is becoming tanslucent, about ten minutes. Remove from heat.

3.Place toasted bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add onion/celery mixture and toss to combine. Add eggs, and stir well.

4.Pour about half the chicken broth over bread cube mixture and combine. Depending on how dry the bread was, you'll need more broth - I often use two full cups or more because I like very toasty bread. Stir everything together, and taste. Adjust for salt and pepper.

5.If using this to stuff a chicken or turkey, reserve about two cups, and place the rest in a buttered casserole dish. Chill stuffing before using in uncooked poultry. Bake the casserole in a 350F oven for about 30-40 minutes, until hot throughout.

Sweet Potato Pie - Southern Classic

I have to admit this is NOT the very best sweet potato pie I've ever made. I can't find the recipe for best one. It was published by The Smithsonian in the 90's, as part of a project collecting regional recipes, and had been gathered from a woman down in Mississippi. I made that one for years, and for once I followed the original recipe exactly (which I rarely do!). It was silky, rich, delicious - redolent of sweet potato, cinnamon and cream. Then I lost the newspaper clipping.

I've searched for several years - even contacting the Smithsonian in an attempt to get it back. No success. Over the years, I've worked on several recipes in an attempt to duplicate it. I haven't gotten quite there - although I will say, this one is pretty daggone good. Matter of fact, if I had never known about the one from Mississippi, I'd say with all confidence that this one was the best ever, especially bathed with a touch of sweetened whipped cream. This pie is a terrific alternative to pumpkin, or a great way to add sweet potatoes to your diet. Matter of fact I used this to get sweet potatoes into my children. If I said 'sweet potatoes', the Precious Darlings would turn up their adorable little noses. But if I said 'pumpkin pie' (I lied), they'd say 'yay!'.

You can certainly add this to your Thanksgiving or Christmas menu, but don't save it just for a holiday. It tastes too daggone good.

The recipe!

You'll need:

•1 lb sweet potatoes

•1 stick butter, room temperature

•1 cup sugar

•1/2 cup cream

•3 eggs

•1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

•1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

•2 teaspoons vanilla extract

•1 banana

•pinch of kosher salt

•1 recipe All Butter Pie Crust, prepared in a 9 inch pie plate

1.Preheat oven to 350F. Wrap sweet potatoes in foil, and bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. They should be very soft when pierced with a fork.

2.Simultaneously, roast unpeeled banana on a baking sheet for 30 minutes in the same oven. Remove and set aside. Banana will be extremely soft.

3.Remove sweet potatoes from oven, unwrap them and allow them to cool until comfortable to handle. Remove the skins, and place the flesh in a mixing bowl. Mash potaotes with a fork. Pull the peel off the banana and add it to the bowl. Mix with sweet potato.

4.With a mixer, beat butter into sweet potato and banana. Add sugar, cream, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and salt, and mix unti well incorporated. Mixture should be very smooth.

5.Pour filling into the unbaked pie crust.

6.Bake at 350F for just at an hour, until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Zucchini Bread

I didn't end up getting to plant my own garden this year, but I was gifted to full-on, all out access to someone else's - and it was a big one at that. Just as I remember from my childhood in my grandparent's and mother's gardens, zucchini was everywhere. Even in years where it seems as though nothing else grows as it should, zucchini seems to bound enthusiastically all over the place, producing gobs of beautiful green veggies. It's an abundance that seems to overwhelm gardeners across the country from July to September as regularly as the seasons themselves.

Matter of fact, August 8th has been designated National Sneak Some Zuchinni onto your Neighbor's Porch Day - which tickles me to death. For the first time in my life, not only did I have more than I could quite handle, I was also being gifted with the overflow from the gardens of friends. Which led me to compile a master list of everything I knew of that could be done with it. I actually managed to put together quite a list.

At the top of the list is my kids' favorite - zucchini bread. I adore quick breads anyway - they're my favorite way to throw together something quick and wonderful for an after school snack or a fast side dish. Check out Bladen's Raisin Bran Banana Muffins, or Orange Quick Bread. (Most quick breads can be done as muffins as easily as a loaf). The sweet thing (pun intended) about this bread is you can either freeze the loaves themselves, tightly wrapped for up to two months).You can also grate the zucchini ahead of time and freeze that in two cup portions - which will last longer in the freezer. I've kept it for up to six months this way - just pulling it out and defrosting it when I was ready to use it. This is awesome for preserving the harvest far into the winter months, and maximizing that summer abundance.

Give this great recipe a try - you can always use store bought zuchinni. Don't wait for next year's harvest or for someone to sneak some on your porch if you don't already have more than you know what to do with. Sweet, moist and delicious warm or cold, this one will be a favorite in your house too.

The Recipe!

You'll Need:

•3 cups all-purpose flour (or half all purpose and half whole wheat)

•1 teaspoon salt

•1 teaspoon baking soda

•1 teaspoon baking powder

•1 Tbl cinnamon

•3 eggs

•1 cup vegetable oil (or half oil and half applesauce)

•2 1/2 cups sugar

•1 Tbl vanilla extract

•2 cups grated zucchini

•1 cup chopped pecans

1.Grease and flour two small loaf pans. 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325F.

2.In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon.

3.In a large bowl, beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add flour mixture to the sugar and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

4.Bake for 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow bread to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Turn loaves out onto rack, and serve warm or at room temperature. Bread can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator. It's great toasted with a little butter. Or a lot of butter.

German Chocolate Cake

I love days when I get to don my red boots and cape, and rush to someone's culinary rescue! In this case my friend Tabitha had lost her recipe for German Chocolate Cake and wanted to know if I had one. Well - yes! Yes I do matter of fact!

Ok - I didn't really wear the boots and cape. Instead of dashing around looking awesome, this kind of rescue usually involves poking through monstrous stacks and files of dusty recipe boxes and notes - but that's ok. I'd like the think the end results are just as Fabulous, and this will let Tabitha serve up one rockin' cake. She said it was traditional for her family's Thanksgiving, so maybe this year she can wear the boots and cape this time. Besides - I needed a subject today anyway. ;-)

Despite the name, German chocolate cake is 100% American, following in the traditional of Southern and Midwestern Ridiculously High Layer Cakes. In this case, a gentleman by the name of Sam German invented a new type of dark, sweet baking chocolate for the American Baker's Chocolate Company. The powers that be at Baker's Chocolate named the chocolate after him, and therefore cakes using this particular type were known as German Chocolate Cakes.

Traditionally, German Chocolate Cakes are several layers tall, filled and topped with a caramel icing with coconut and pecans, and finished with an edging of chocolate buttercream. For this alone they join the legendary layer cakes - Red Velvet, Coconut, Caramel, and Spice among them - as being over the top and therefore delightful. If you have a piece of this cake, you KNOW you had a piece of cake. And quite possibly a nap.

The Recipe - for the cake!


•4 (1 oz.) squares German sweet chocolate

•1/2 cup water

•1 cup all-purpose flour

•1 teaspoon baking soda

•1 cup cake flour

•1/2 teaspoonfine salt

•1 cup butter, room temperature

•2 cups sugar

•4 eggs, divided

•2 teaspoons vanilla extract

•1 cup buttermilk

•1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1.Preheat oven to 350F. Cut and line the bottom of three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Give them each a quick, light spray with cooking spray.

2.In the top of a double boiler, melt together chocoloate and water. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat.

3.In a medium mixing bowl, sift together (don't skip sifting!) flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

4.In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy - at least five minutes. Keep going until every grain of sugar is dissolved! Add yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.

5.Stir in the chocolate and vanilla.

6.In three additions each, starting with the flour, add flour alternately with buttermilk, beating after each addition until smooth.

7.In a separate bowl, beat eggs whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Fold into chocolate batter. Divide batter evenly among three prepared cake pans.

8.Bake at 350F for about 20-25 miutes or until a skewer inserted into center of cakes comes out clean. Note - time can vary significantly based on the accuracy of your oven! Watch this carefully!

9.Prep caramel coconut pecan filling while the cakes bake. Fill the cakes while they're still slightly warm.

To put the cakes together, layer one cake, then the caramel filling, then another layer, then more filling, then the final layer. Coat the sides of the cake with the chocolate fudge buttercream, leaving a slight rim around the top edge, then pour any remaining filling on top.

For the Filling! Coconut Pecan Carmel Frosting

This filling goes in between the layers and is close to a caramel candy. You can use this while its warm, and while the cakes are warm, making an easy step to skip - you don't really have to wait for the cakes to cool completely. Don't use it too hot though - you want it warm, so it'll spread on top of the cakes, but not so much so it runs off the edges.

Something to watch for - be careful not to get any egg white in your mixture - or it'll look like you have stray bits of white rubber running around. If you see these, don't panic - just fish them out. Shhhh.

You'll need:

•1 cup evaporated milk

•1 cup white sugar

•3 egg yolks, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

•1 stick butter

•1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

•1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

•1 cup flaked coconut, toasted

1.In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast coconut for about five minutes or until golden and fragrant. Stir constantly - it can scorch easily. Set aside.

2.Wipe out dry skillet with a paper towel, and return to heat. Add pecans to the skillet and toast those in the same manner, until golden and fragrant. Set these aside.

3.In a large saucepan over medium low heat, stir together milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.

4.Remove from heat, and stir in toasted coconut and pecans. Spread on cakes while still a little warm.

For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Fabulous on its own, this chocolate frosting is the final touch. Spread it on the sides and top of the cake once it's assembled. Make sure you don't add too much milk or it'll be hard to work with - it does go over the caramel stuff after all. On the other hand, it needs to be spreadable, so be careful with the milk. If you'd really like to knock yourself out, pipe rosettes around the top edge, and dot those with maraschino cherries!

You'll need:

•2 cups butter, room temperature

•10 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

•2 1/2 cups cocoa

•1 tablespoon vanilla extract

•about 1 cup whole milk or half-and-half

1.Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa. Set aside.

2.In the mixing bowl of a stand or hand mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy.

3.Working slowly, add sugar/cocoa mixture and mix slowly until fullly incorporated.

4.Add vanilla. Mix well.

5.With the mixer running, add just enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

There is something about the fragrance of rosemary that is indescribable. Woody, herbaceous, rich - yes. But there is an indefinable something else that whispers 'Mmmm' when you encounter it. Potatoes roasting off, in combination with garlic doing its own roasting thing together WITH rosemary? Well now - that's the kind of fragrance the big cleaning companies need to figure out how to put in their scented candles.

On top of that they are inexpensive - always a plus. And did I mention quick? They go together in moments. Oh - and easy? No special equipment needed, and you can even be free and easy with the measurements.

And while the fragrance is heavenly, the taste is everything the smells promise. Creamy, crunchy potatoes, sweet buttery garlic, the evergreen notes of rosemary - all of these explode in a comforting pop when you bite into one of these little beauties. Rosemary roasted potatoes pair beautifully with all kinds of meats, although they seem to especially sing when combined with other roasted things - be it chicken, turkey, lamb, pork or beef. They work just as easily - and deliciously - on a casual table as they do on a holiday one. Give these a try and you'll find they quickly become a standard at your house.
The Recipe!

You'll need:

•about 2 pounds of potatoes, either Russetts, Yukon Golds or red, scrbbed and cut in large cubes

•3-4 tablespoons olive oil

•1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

•1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

•4-5 cloves fresh garlic, peeled, and very roughly chopped

•2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

•kosher salt to taste

1.Preheat the oven to 400F.

2.Place the potatoes in a large bowl (or a ziplock baggie), and add the olice oil, salt, pepper, garlic pieces and rosemary. Toss together until well coated.

3.Place on a large baking sheet, spreading them out in a single layer.

4.Roast at 400F for about an hour, until golden brown and crispy. Stir once or twice during roasting to ensure even browning.

5.Remove potatoes from the oven. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parlsey if desired, and serve immediately.

Turkey Gravy, How to Make the Best Gravy Ever

Rich, luscious and silky, redolent of the very essence of turkiness, gravy is the crowning touch for just about Thanksgiving or Christmas table. But it seems to be frought with danger - lumpy, pasty or gluey, too thick or too thin - for such a simple dish there seems to be a host of problems that accompany it.

But no fear! Gravy comes down to just a few simple principles. Keep those in mind, and you'll turn out perfect gravy every single time. Once you know why things go wrong you'll also know why they go right, and therefore be able to do just about anything you want in the gravy arena. So let's talk gravy.

Before I tell you the recipe, I'm going to talk about some of the most common problems, so you'll know why each step is important and why it accomplishes what it does. Power to the cook!

Important to keep in mind...

One of the primary things you need to think about when making gravy is the part that the flour plays. Flour is usually the thickener, and in this application it's going to be used just the same as it is when you make a roux. A roux is nothing but an equal mixture - half fat and half flour. When the flour is added to the fat, it must be whisked very well - this allows every little grain of flour to get coated in fat, which helps prevent the flour particles from clinging to each other later.

This means when you add liquid the flour will be suspended in the liquid - not clumping together to make lumps. So make sure that when you've added the flour, you whisk until the paste is very, very smooth. If there are lumps at this stage, there will be lumps later. None at this stage - very little chance of it later.

Once you have a smooth flour/fat mixture, be sure to cook the paste for a minute or so. This gets rid of any raw flour flavor - which is never pleasant. After the liquid is added, make sure the gravy comes to a full simmer, and that it simmers for at least a minute. This is the only way to make sure that you've not only gotten rid of every last taste of flour, but that the full thickening power of the flour is realized. This is how you can judge the final consistency of the product.

Consistency is also often an issue - gravy ends up too thick or too thin. Both are easy to fix, if you work carefully. To fix gravy that is too thick, simply add more liquid, whisking until it's well incorporated. Make sure you taste and adjust seasonings after the additional liquid. To fix gravy that's too thin is a little trickier, but can still be done. You either continue simmering until some of the liquid had evaporated and the gravy has thickened. Or you can do it with additional flour. In order to do this, you'll need to make a slurry.

A slurry is just a cold mixture of liquid and flour (or cornstarch). With a small whisk or fork mix a tablespoon or two (remember that a tablespoon of flour thickens a cup of liquid) of flour into some cold water, broth or wine. Once the flour is fully mixed with the cold liquid it can be whisked into the gravy. Allow the gravy to come back to a boil and see if the thickening is sufficient.

Another method is to use a buerre manie, which is equal parts soft butter and flour, mashed well into a paste. This can also be wisked into the gravy just as a slurry. The gravy still needs to come to a boil to achieve full thickening.

Also remember that flour based sauces will continue to thicken a bit once removed from the heat, so you may want to leave it a *touch* thin before you put it in the gravy boat. By the time service actually happens, it'll be just right.

The recipe!

There are as many variations on turkey gravy as there are different recipes for the bird itself, and most an be absolutely delicious. However, I'm going to give you a very basic, very tasty, silken, luscious recipe here.

You'll need:
•the pan drippings from a roast turkey, with the fat removed

•3-4 cups of good turkey broth (or chicken if you need to)

•1/2 cup of flour

•4 Tbl butter

1.Many recipes will call for you to put the roasting pan over two eyes of the stove, in order to deglaze the pan. This works - but it's awkward. I usually use a rubber spatula to get as much of the 'fond' - the brown bits on the bottom of the pan - off as possible. Most of the time I get almost all of it and transfer it to a large skillet or saucier pan. It's just easier to work with. If your pan has all the brown bits stuck though - by all means keep them! Use the broth to deglaze the pan, then transfer to a pan easier to work with.

2.So - whichever pan you use - melt butter (with the drippings) over medium heat. Add flour, whisking well to incorporate every particle. Make sure you whisk until you have a very smooth paste.

3.Slowly begin whisking in the turkey broth, about a cup at at time, stirring constantly. I often reserve the final cup of turkey broth until I see just how thick the gravy is. This depends on the amount of liquid in the pan drippings (hard to predict) and just how thick I want the gravy. You may need a bit more or less - it's your preference.

4.Allow gravy to come to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for at least a minute. Taste - and a note on taste. If you brined your turkey, the drippings will be much saltier than normal. For this reason, it's important to use unsalted broth - the two together should get pretty close to perfect. But in any case, taste and adjust for seasoning. Transfer to a gravy boat, and you're good to go!