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Thursday, November 27, 2014

How To Win At Thanksgiving

It's no wonder that Thanksgiving is a huge day for football.  Turkey Day is just like the big game - it takes strategy, teamwork, and star players.  Maybe there are some trick passes and tackling involved too if you're hardcore.  This year I'm thankful to have two Thanksgivings, but that means twice the cooking!  I'm bringing out the big guns with MVP sides and desserts that put a twist on the classics, but are sure to please.

Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin
Adopted from Smitten Kitchen
1/2 stick of butter, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 LBS swiss chard, leaves and stems separated and cut into 1 inch pieces
Pinch of nutmeg
2 cups heavy cream
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 TBS flour
2 LBS yams, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch rounds
1 TBS parsley
1 TBS thyme
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 1/4 cups grated taleggio cheese

Let's face it, sides are the true winners of Thanksgiving.  It's a risk busting out a new side dish when my family already has so many favorites, but I knew I couldn't go wrong with something cheesy and starchy.   The addition of a little green from swiss chard doesn't hurt in the sea of beige either.  Like any casserole, you can easily pull this together the night before (as I did) to save time in the morning.

Cook onions in 2 TBS of butter in a heavy 8-quart pot over low heat.  When onions are soft add the swiss chard stems, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for about 8 minutes until tender, but not browned.  Increase heat and add the leaves a handful at a time, stirring until wilted.  Season with more salt and pepper and transfer to a colander to drain well, pressing out any excess liquid with the back of a spoon.

Combine cream and garlic in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer; keep warm.  Melt 2 more TBS of butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour.  Cook roux for 1 minute than slowly add cream mixture.  Continue whisking for 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble, butter a 9x13 baking dish.  Spread half the sweet potatoes across the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and pepper, add 1/4 of the herb mixture and 1/4 cup of cheese.  Spread half the greens mixture.  Add more salt and pepper, herbs, and cheese.  Pour over half the cream sauce.  Continue with another layer of sweet potato, salt, pepper, herbs and cheese and the remaining greens, salt, pepper and herbs.  Pour the rest of the sauce, pressing down vegetables so they are submerged, and add the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.

When ready to bake, place in a 400 degree oven and bake for one hour, or until golden and bubbly.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Sweet, Savory and Tart Cranberry-Dried Cherry Relish
1 12 oz package of fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup sugar
1 TSP fresh rosemary, minced
2 cup water

There is absolutely nothing wrong with canned cranberry sauce; I grew up with the stuff.  Making your own cranberry sauce or relish is almost just as easy though.  Plus, there are a variety of ways you can dress it up to make your own special condiment.  I'm adding dried cherries and rosemary to mine, but ginger and cloves or orange zest and mint would also be excellent combinations.

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine cranberries, cherries, sugar, rosemary and water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 25 minutes, or until berries have burst and liquid is syrupy.  Transfer to a bowl or airtight container if made in advance.

Apple Galette With Apple Cider Caramel
Basic Pastry:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 TBS sugar
1/2 TSP salt
10 TBS cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4-1/2 cup ice water
1 1/2 LBS apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 TBS sugar
1 TBS brown sugar, packed
2 TBS flour
1/8 TSP salt
1/2 TSP nutmeg
1/2 TSP cinnamon
1 TBS butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 TBS heavy cream
1 cup apple cider
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 stick of butter

I'm also really going against tradition and departing from my classic apple pie, but this galette is way easier to make and the addition of my apple cider caramel is key.  Have some left over cider? Make it now and pour over everything.

To make the dough, whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.  using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the butter until it the mixture looks like rice.  Slowly add the water a tbs at a time until the dough begins to come together.  Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix apples, sugar, brown sugar, salt, flour, nutmeg and cinnamon in a separate bowl.

Roll out crust into a 14 inch diameter round.  Transfer onto the prepared baking sheet. Fill the crust with the apple mixture, leaving a 2 inch border around the edges.  fold over the crust edges.  dot the apples with the butter and brush the crust with cream.  Bake for 40 minutes.   Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until the crust is golden.  Transfer to a cooling rack.

For the caramel cook cider over medium heat, stirring often for about 10 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup.  Stir in brown sugar and butter.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Cook for 2 more minutes.  Let cool completely.  Can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.  Reheat in the microwave.

When ready to serve, drizzle warm caramel over the galette.

Wishing you a very delicious Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Hungry Yuppies Honeymoon

So how do two hungry lovebirds choose the perfect honeymoon destination?  Obviously great food is a top requirement, with an abundance of tropical drinks coming in at a close second.  Kaua'i seemed to be the least likely foodie destination, but this tropical paradise is packed with culinary surprises.  We experienced high-end dining worthy of any NYC neighborhood (with prices to match), unassuming food trucks, local specialties (hello, shave ice), and some of the freshest fish and fruit we've ever had in our lives.

Baracuda served up beautiful cocktails and addictive tapas.  Humboldt fog with apple and local honeycomb was the perfect end to our meal.

The Dolphin in Hanalei Bay, wowed us with its sushi rolls.  Just look at that beautiful ahi!

If you have not experienced shave (not shaved) ice,  imagine the best snow cone you've ever had and multiply that by a thousand.  Our favorite spots (The Fresh Shave and Tege Tege) featured all natural flavor syrups and fresh ingredients.

We were spoiled every morning with a homemade breakfast cooked by our host Michael, complete with super fresh tropical fruit.  I also learned how to properly serve a mango!

To make the most of the long journey between New York and Kaua'i it only made sense to make a stop in Napa for a 2.5 day blitz of amazing food and wine.  Everywhere you look there are vineyards, cafes, restaurants, and specialty food shops.  My idea of heaven!

After a painful red eye, the Sunflower Cafe's coffees were more than a welcome sight.

A drive up the Sonoma Valley led us to Kunde Estates which revitalized us with it's stunning views and wine.

The Model Bakery and their legendary english muffins filled our bellies before a day of wine tours and tastings in Napa.

A picnic with sandwiches from Genova Deli paired perfectly with Bremer's reds.

While reservations at the French Laundry eluded us, we happily settled for Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc, which did not disappoint.  Best part of the meal?  Scoring the recipe for that beautiful steak jus (more on that later).    

Traveling has always been a source of great inspiration and fresh perspective.  After all the adventures adventures, I could not wait to to get back to my kitchen!

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The Hungry Yuppies, Annie and Rich, are a young couple from CT who are self-proclaimed foodies. Annie is the chef, and Rich is her willing taste tester. Juggling a full time job in the city wasn't going to get in the way of Annie's love for cooking. It's about eating well whether you have just 30 minutes on a Monday night, or all day on a rainy Sunday.