Not your average meat and potatoes

Steak au poivre with twice-baked sweet potatoes

with a spinach salad on the side...not too shabby

with a spinach salad on the side…not too shabby

Steak au poivre

Twice-baked sweet potatoes

UPDATE: This is the first post of a brand new month of Everyday Food.  B and G got together a few months ago and painstakingly chose an issue for December.  I’m not being sarcastic.  Pains were taken.  It was very hard to choose.  We settled on December 2011.  Without even realizing it, that was the month when B and her bear visited me and D!  There’s clearly something special about that month.  It’s hard to believe we’ve already made it through three whole issues.

D made the steaks, so a lot of this is second hand.  There’s one thing we both figured out:  There is too much pepper called for in this recipe!  D loves pepper and even he was picking peppercorns off of his steak. You could use 1/4 of a cup of crushed black pepper and have more than enough.  Also, this is a job for a spice grinder (or a spare coffee grinder that you keep for this purpose) not your kitchen pepper mill.  I started trying to grind all of the pepper with a pepper mill and D stopped me.  I would probably still be grinding that pepper right now.  Can you even imagine how long it would take to grind 3/4 c of pepper?  Anyway, use the spice grinder and only grind 1/4 c.  It will be plenty.

The sauce is heavenly.  I kept finding excuses to eat more of that sauce.  The fact that there was too much pepper on it just encouraged me to eat more sauce!  Wine, cream, mustard, steak drippings… the gang’s all here.  Ah, but there’s a twist.  We didn’t have any white wine on hand.  I told D that we could substitute dry vermouth like B did.  D wanted to experiment and try Lillet instead.  B asked me (and I definitely had to look this up) what Lillet is.  She thought it was maybe a fortified wine.  Welp, the series of tubes tells me it’s a “tonic wine” containing a blend of wines and mostly citrus liqueurs.  Now we know.

I made the sweet potatoes, and I’ve been dreaming about them ever since.  The recipe is amazing just as written.  The goat cheese adds the perfect amount of tang to cut the sweetness of the potato and the richness of the butter.  Add in those sharp chives, and you’ve got a nicely balanced side.  I really like the panko crumb and pecan topping.  All in all, I’ll be making this one again.  I think you could make it all ahead of time right up until the top the refilled potato and bake step.  Just make the topping right before you need it to keep the panko crumbs from getting soggy.

Oh, another note about making the sweet potatoes.  The recipe has you using a food processor to mix together the baked sweet potato (mine were microwaved, by the by), goat cheese, and butter.  That seemed wholly unnecessary to me.  Just leave the goat cheese and butter sitting out while you microwave the sweet potatoes and do other prep.  Between that little amount of softening and the heat of the potatoes, your arm can do the trick.  On the other hand, I have these insane mom-guns ever since I had a baby…  I still think the food processor is overkill, though.

J seemed to like the sweet potato the first time he ate it, but turned his nose up at it the second time.  “Oh no!” said his mother, “I guess I’ll just have to eat it!”  And, thus, G sat and ate a twice-baked sweet potato with a baby spoon.  Don’t judge me until you try these potatoes.

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Food, Glorious Food!!

Well, I told you I would be back with an epic post concerning my Thanksgiving Dinner.  I think the best way to get started is to just show you the splendor.

Food, glorious food! What wouldn't we give for that extra bit more -- That's all that we live for. Why should we be fated to do nothing but brood on food, magical food, wonderful food, marvellous food, fabulous food, beautiful food, glorious food!

Food, glorious food! What wouldn’t we give for that extra bit more — That’s all that we live for. Why should we be fated to do nothing but brood on food, magical food, wonderful food, marvellous food, fabulous food, beautiful food, glorious food!

Now, here’s the menu:

Herb-Rubbed Turkey

Simple Stuffing with Mushrooms and Sage

White Wine Gravy

Cranberry-Ginger Relish

Roasted Harvest Vegetables

Green Bean, Watercress and Crispy Shallot Salad

Lovely Mashed Potatoes (contribution of my neighbor)

And to top it all off:

Apple Crumb Pie

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Yes, I made two desserts to feed a total of four people. I don't see anything wrong with that.

Yes, I made two desserts to feed a total of four people. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

My day started out pretty early, getting the stuffing ready to go.  To make the mushroom and sage variation you add 1 lb of mushrooms (I used cremini) and 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage after you have softened the vegetables in step 1 of the Simple Stuffing recipe. After the mushrooms have released their liquid you continue with the recipe by adding in the white wine. I thought the stuffing turned out pretty well, although in the future I think I would try to cut up the bread into slightly smaller pieces.  It didn’t all congeal together exactly as I expected and I am fairly certain it was user error.

Once the stuffing was made, I did actually stuff the turkey.  Let me first say, I took the turkey out of the freezer on Saturday and the damn thing was still frozen solid on Wednesday morning.  I spent a good part of the day running cool water over it to let it thaw out safely.  Luckily, come Thursday morning it was in good shape to get stuffed!

The herb rub for the turkey is also very simple.  You just gently lift the skin from the breast and spread the mix of three herbs, salt and pepper under there and rub it into the meat a bit.  Now, by some small miracle, this turkey decided to keep all of its moisture inside itself.  The recipe indicates that you are supposed to start basting after an hour in the oven.  There were literally no drippings after one hour.  I waited for an hour and a half, still nearly no drippings.  I was getting scared for my gravy at this point so I added about half a box of chicken stock to the pan so I could do a little basting.  When the turkey came out, it was beautiful.

Just look at that crispy skin!

Just look at that crispy skin!

The intensely dark stuff under the skin is the herb rub.  And yes, the turkey had still refused to give up its juice when I finally took it out of the oven.  I technically even overcooked it because the breast was at nearly 190 degs when I pulled it out.  Like I said, total miracle.  That was one super juicy turkey.  I let it rest for around 45 minutes before we cut into it, but it was completely perfect. The herb rub under the crispy skin was so savory.

My step-dad doing the honors.

My step-dad doing the honors.

For the most part, the sides were all fairly healthy.  The roasted harvest vegetables were delicious but also light.  The garlic that was roasted with it really flavored everything thoroughly.

And they were a totally beautiful color.

And they were a totally beautiful color.

The green bean, watercress and crispy shallot salad might be my new favorite thing.  I’ve told you I love shallots.  I will just add to that love now by saying that crispy fried shallots cannot be beat.  They taste just like those french fried onions that you put on top of green bean salad but you have the extra satisfaction of making them that delicious yourself.  And the lemon-mustard vinaigrette is incredible.

I wish I had some show tune lyrics specific to shallots...

I wish I had some show tune lyrics specific to shallots…

The gravy was also awesome.  I love adding white wine to my gravy.  The one thing I refused to follow in the recipe was the instruction to add water.  I would never ever want to thin all that flavor.  Especially when I struggled so to get any drippings to make my gravy with in the first place.

And I normally am very strict about eating only cranberry orange relish made in a food processor.  It’s what I grew up with.  It’s delicious. I was brave.  I tried something new (even though I was contemplating making both relish options for most of the week…).  It was worth it.  I love ginger.  I love cranberry.  It all went really well together. It was super yummy and even more so when it was mixed in with all the gravy and potatoes and turkey.

This also had an awesome color.  Like a jam full of rubies. Delicious soft rubies.

This also had an awesome color. Like a jam full of rubies. Delicious soft rubies.

Yes, I will make it again.

And now, on to the dessert.  The pie was super tasty.  I had a slight mishap.  Either my pie crust was not big enough, my pie plate was too deep, or the recipe was way off when it called for 4 lbs of granny smith apples.  It definitely didn’t all fit.  I had to put probably half a pound in another dish to bake on its own and I also had to make a little more of the crumb topping to make sure I could cover the whole thing.  I also had to add a little nutmeg, because… I had to.  But after all that, it was awesome.  Super fruity and dense and just sweet enough that I didn’t feel guilty chasing it with a piece of cheesecake (it counted as a fruit serving right?).

So very very very chocolatey.

So very very very chocolatey.

This was the first cheesecake I ever made, so it was a bit of an experiment.  Despite following instructions, it cracked anyway, but I just turned it into a ganache canyon.  Yeah.  That’s right.  Ganache canyon.  The texture of this cheesecake is super creamy.  I’m amazed at how perfect the texture was considering it cracked (I assumed that meant it was overcooked).  And the crust managed to taste kind of like a brownie.  So decadent.

So that was my Thanksgiving everyone.  My very first time hosting.  I followed the make ahead instructions in the magazine for just about everything which made the day of pretty easy.  I was cooking for most of the day but at a steady and stress free pace.  I even had the time to post about the lovely Baked Brie with Pecans.

I hope everyone else’s Thanksgiving was as stress free and enjoyable as mine!  Happy Holidays!!!

So many sides!

The October 2003 issue has so many incredible sides.  This is a summary of the ones I enjoyed the most.

I love mushrooms!

I love mushrooms!

The first I want to discuss is this mushroom ragout.  I cannot even begin to describe how delicious this was!  The shallots and thyme are perfect in it.  When making the recipe I did run into one slight mishap… I had bought all the ingredients but failed to notice that it called for a dry red or white wine.  I was fresh out.  What I did have was dry vermouth!  G and I were both unsure about the substitution until I found this extremely helpful discussion on the subject by Smitten Kitchen (she’s so good!).   The vermouth tasted so incredible that I don’t think I’ll even bother with wine the next time I make this and yes, I will be making this again.

Next, I want to tell you about the beauty of braised leeks.

Can you see how silky and luscious that sauce is?

Can you see how silky and luscious that sauce is?

I love leeks, but I have never braised them.  They are incredible as the base of a chicken (along with some carrots) and they are awesome in a Vichyssoise soup (potato leek soup for those of you without the Joy of Cooking).  This dish almost combined the two flavors.  You use chicken stock as the braising liquid so it reduces and gets super flavorful.  You add butter at the end so it brings in the richness of the Vichyssoise.  I was literally ready to lick my plate the sauce was so delicious!

Luckily, I served the braised leeks with twice-baked potatoes, so I just used the starchy goodness of my potato to soak it up instead.

A plate full of happy!

A plate full of happy!

It was my first time making twice-baked potatoes so I wouldn’t say the outcome was perfect.  They were a little lumpy and not fluffy and light like the ones I’ve eaten before.  I think I should have used a mixer to do the mashing instead of a potato masher to get the perfect texture.  The flavor, however, was without fault.  Yum!

And finally, that brings me to roasted pears and sweet potatoes.

Going in for the close up!

Going in for the close up!

I cannot say enough good things about the spice mixture on these.  First of all, it’s super simple.  Just ground mustard, ginger, and cayenne.  But it works so wonderfully together and really complements the sweetness of the potatoes and the pears.  This makes a pretty big batch, but we finished the entire thing that night.  We couldn’t keep our hands off it.  If we hadn’t been using forks, I would say it was finger lickin’ good.  Well done, EF!  Well done!