Mincemeat Ice Cream

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I know. Your initial impression of ice cream with mincemeat may not be favorable. But this isn’t the suet and minced meat type of olden days mincemeat. This is a glorious mixture of spiced apples, raisins, and pecans – mixed into ice cream.

Last Thanksgiving I made the ubiquitous pumpkin pie, a favorite of my family, and served it with this mincemeat ice cream. And it was a sublime pairing. There are no photos, because I’ve learned that food blogging can’t really happen during special meals! But I did want to share the recipe, which originally came from Bon Appetit.

The recipe is for a custard-style ice cream plus the mincemeat that is folded into the prepared ice cream.

This year, for the sake of time, I purchased a gallon of high-quality vanilla bean ice cream, made the mincemeat per this recipe, and folded it into the softened ice cream. You can do it all from scratch like I did last year, or cheat like I did this year.

I purchased a pumpkin pie for the purpose of photographing this ice cream, because this year I have other dessert plans for Thanksgiving. You know me – so much food, so little time… but I did want to share this spectacular recipe.

Mincemeat Ice Cream
Bon Appetit recipe, slightly adapted
printable recipe below

Ice cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
10 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar

Mincemeat:
2 Golden Delicious apples (about 1 1/3 pounds), peeled, cored, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup apple cider
1/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Juice of one lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

To make the ice cream, mix cream and milk in heavy large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer; remove from heat.

Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes. Strain custard into bowl. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours.

To prepare the mincemeat, bring all 13 ingredients to boil in heavy large saucepan.

Reduce heat to medium and cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick.


Transfer mixture to bowl; refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Process custard in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to bowl. Fold in 3 cups cold mincemeat. Cover and freeze until firm, about 4 hours. I you’re using a gallon of purchased ice cream, use all of the mincemeat, which measures 3 cups.

The mince meat could be made with pears as well if they were firm.

Just for fun, I combined some of the cider and brown sugar bourbon I used in the mincemeat and reduced to a syrup, then poured it warm over the ice cream on the pumpkin pie.

I have the worst time photographing ice cream, but I can guarantee that if you love apple pie filling, you will love this recipe.

It is so good by itself, but especially good with pumpkin pie!

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!

 

 

Chutney

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I truly love condiments, especially those seasonally-based, like chutneys. And, because I love to “play” in the kitchen and use whatever ingredients I have on hand or am in the mood to use, I wanted to show how easy it is to make your own chutney sans recipe.

It’s about creating a chutney that you love, customizing the ingredients to your tastes, according to the seasons. Indulge. Chutneys are fabulous.

I have an actual recipe following this “primer” of chutney making below, but seriously once you make a chutney, you’ll see how creative you can be and how well they turn out. A recipe is not necessary.

Create Your Own Chutney

A chutney is about combining fruits – the sweet factor, and aromatics – the savory factor, and then adding seasoning and flavorings.

The sweet-savory ratio is important, however. I use about 2/3 fruit to 1/3 aromatics in my chutneys. You don’t want it all fruit, or it would be a jam.

I season the chutney according to my tastes and the time of year. There are spicy fall and winter chutneys, and there are light, vibrant chutneys you can make for spring and summer appearances as well. (Like my Strawberry Onion Chutney.) It’s all about seasonal ingredients.

Fruit:
You can use fresh fruit: apple, pear, mango, apricot, plum, cranberries, strawberries, peach, etc.
And you can use dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots, raisins, dates, blueberries, etc.
A combination of fresh and dried makes a nice consistency, like pear-dried fig, peach-raisin, apple-dried apricot. Using three fruits works really well, like apple-mango-dried cherry. Or cranberry-apple-date. You get the idea.

If you’re using dried fruits like raisins or cherries, you can soak them in port or fruit juice first to soften them and soak up the flavors, then use it all in the chutney-making process.

Aromatics:
I always use a combination of fresh onion, garlic, and sometimes shallots and fresh ginger. You definitely need onion; the rest is optional.

Sugar:
There is always a sweet component in chutney to balance the aromatics. If you’re using tart cranberries, you would definitely need more sugar than if you were using, say, ripe peaches or strawberries. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, turbinado sugar and so forth. Liquid forms of sugar don’t work well in chutney, because they’re too, well, liquid. A prepared chutney is soft, but not a pile of syrupy mush. But you can add a teaspoon of maple syrup or boiled cider.

Seasonings:
Except for salt, you don’t have to season a chutney at all, although I happen to love black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne.

For fall and winter chutneys, I like them full of flavor – especially when they’re going to be served alongside fairly bland meats. The choices are vast, depending what you want your chutney to taste like.

I, personally, love that what curry powder adds to a chutney. But separately, you can use cumin, cardamom, coriander, etc. A cinnamon stick adds flavor while the chutney is cooking, but ground cinnamon can be used as well. And nutmeg, cloves, and allspice are always yummy. Think of them in an apple-pear-dried fig chutney served with a pork loin. YUM.

Another fun ingredients are small pieces of crystallized ginger.

You can also add ground chile pepper, like ancho or even chipotle powders, to a chutney. And also adobo or adobo powder – especially if you’re making the chutney for a Southwestern-inspired meal.

Vinegar:
Any vinegar will work in a chutney. I love cider vinegar and red wine vinegar, but a white balsamic vinegar works well also. Nothing fancy is required.

Cranberry Apple Raisin Chutney

2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 purple onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 12 ounce bag cranberries, rinsed, sorted
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely chopped
1 cup golden raisins, loosely packed
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick, optional
2 teaspoons vinegar

Add the oil to a hot stock pot and let it heat over medium. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, without allowing browning.

Give the garlic a stir into the onions, then add the cranberries, apple, and raisins. Stir together.

Allow to heat up, then add the sugar, cinnamon, curry powder, salt, and the cinnamon stick.


Stir well, then cover the pot, turn down the heat to a simmer, and let cook for at least 15 minutes. It will look like this.

Add a couple teaspoons of vinegar and stir in gently. Unless there’s excess liquid, remove the pot from the heat.

Let the chutney cool, remove the cinnamon stick, then store in sterilized jars.


It freezes well.

Not only does this chutney go beautifully with Thanksgiving turkey, but also with chicken and pork. Here I’ve served it with roasted pork and sweet potatoes.


As you can see, there’s a lot of leeway when creating a chutney. They can be simple or complicated from an ingredient standpoint, but they are very easy to prepare.

Chutney is also wonderful topping a baked Brie, and can be used in individual Brie and chutney bites.

Just remember to cook off any extra liquid over extremely low heat, and also don’t overstir. You want to see the beautiful pieces of fruit in your beautiful chutney!

Sausage Stuffing

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When I started following food blogs, I realized some authors had initiated them for the purpose of cataloging family recipes. Therefore the blog was their family cookbook essentially.

I didn’t think much of that concept, because I really didn’t have family recipes. My recipes were those I followed after I got married, when I began cooking seriously, based on saved recipes, those from cookbooks, or these days, recipes online as well.

Every day or two that I cooked, I made a new recipe. Thus my motto – so much food, too little time! There was always something to learn from a recipe, whether a technique or new ingredient.

And then there were holidays, like Thanksgiving. Of course I always made a turkey, but I never made it the same way, which also led to various-tasting gravies. But the side dishes were always different. When my daughters were really young they didn’t take part in the leisurely Thanksgiving meal, so it was an opportunity make new festive dishes – sometimes embracing our favorite global cuisines!


But when my daughters got older, they had Thanksgiving requests. Fine with me, but then I had to figure out what they were requesting. Like their request recently for sausage stuffing. No clue. What kind of sausage? What else is in it? No memory. Was it cornbread? Sourdough? Not sure.

Well great. Now I’m wishing that I’d documented this mysterious Italian sausage stuffing for my own purpose! So this recipe is one I’m (maybe) recreating so that next year I can remember it! I’m pretty sure it’s French-bread-based, and I remember using cognac and cream in the stuffing, inspired by a French recipe ages ago.

And the reason I didn’t post it before Thanksgiving is that I don’t only cook turkeys in November. This stuffing doesn’t have to be stuffed in a bird, either. It makes makes a nice side dish, prepared in a baking dish.

Italian Sausage Stuffing
Serves 4

1 baguette
2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces Italian sausage, crumbled
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup of cream, or more
1 tablespoon cognac
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

If you’re baking the stuffing in a baking dish, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease an 8 x 8” baking dish; set aside.

Remove the crusts from the baguette and crumble the bread. Measure 2 cups; set aside.


Heat the butter in a large skillet. Cook the sausage over medium heat until no pink shows. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl.

Using the remaining fat, saute the onion for about 5 minutes, now allowing too much caramelization. Stir in the garlic, and place the sautéed vegetables with the sausage.

Stir the bread crumbles into the sausage mixture gently, then pour the cream and cognac over the top. Stir again gently, and check to see if the stuffing is moist. You don’t want it wet, but it also shouldn’t be dry.


Add the remaining ingredients. Spoon the stuffing into the baking dish and bake, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.

The top should be golden brown.

If you prefer, any kind of whole-grain bread can be substituted for the French bread, and I’ve even used raisin bread in stuffings.

Plus, pecans and dried cranberries can be included as well.

And as I mentioned, you don’t only have to make stuffing on turkey day. Here I’ve served it with a turkey cutlet, but it’s just as delicious with chicken.

The stuffing is moist but not mushy, which is to my liking.

Cranberry Salsa

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Years ago I was visiting with my favorite florist Dan, who is quite a foodie, and he asked me if I’d ever had cranberry salsa.

Cranberry salsa? I’ve never heard of such a thing! Where have I been? This just made me absolutely giddy. It’s always so exciting to come across something new and different.

Dan printed the recipe, and gave me a few suggestions on adaptations he’d made to it. But he promised me I’d absolutely love it with the turkey I’d be serving on Thanksgiving.

And I did. Here is that recipe. Thanks, Dan!

Cranberry Salsa

1- 12 ounce package cranberries
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup super-fine white sugar
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Place the cranberries in a colander. Remove any bad ones and give the rest a good rinse.

Then place the cranberries on a towel to dry.

Place the jalapenos, garlic and sugar in the food processor and pulse until you can’t see any large pieces.

Add the cranberries, cilantro, oil and lime juice and pulse all of the ingredients, without over-processing.

Pour the salsa into a bowl and fold in the sliced green onions. I’ve found that this is easier than using the food processor to chop up green onion.

Cranberry salsa is really good, and I serve it with tortilla chips or pita crisps.


You can refrigerate the salsa overnight, but serve it at room temperature.

And as a condiment, it’s spectacular with turkey.


I make turkey cutlets often, and the pairing is fabulous.

Whether served as an appetizer or as a condiment, you’ll enjoy the zing of the cranberries and jalapeño.

The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, but I can’t fathom adding more than the 1 cup of sugar I used. It’s perfect to me just the way it is.

Next time I might consider adding some toasted walnuts or pecans to the salsa at the last minute.

Also, ginger could be used along with the garlic. Or, crystallized ginger…

Colombian Coconut Rice

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When my husband and I were visiting our daughter a while back, she told us she was going to be vacationing in Colombia. My first reaction was, “Oh, Columbia in South Carolina?”

I should have known better. This is the kid who’s already been to Argentina, Hungary, Croatia, Guatemala, New Zealand, and Australia – 6 countries we hadn’t been to yet.

Our immediate thoughts were of course of drug cartels and kidnappers, but she assured us that the old part of Cartagena, where she’d be staying, was safe.

Well, she went, and she came back alive. But not without first texting me a recipe while in Cartagena for coconut rice that she fell in love with there. And she sent me a coconut rice recipe that she found online.

The recipe is from Serious Eats, and it’s actually called Colombian Coconut Rice, although the author, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, claims that this rice is popular throughout a significant area in South America.

As Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats and James Beard award winner, he definitely knows his stuff. Full bio below.

He writes, “At its core, arroz con coco is a pilaf—rice grains toasted in oil before being steamed, but in this case the oil comes directly from coconut milk. You start by dumping a can of coconut milk in a pot, and slowly boiling it off until all of the water content is removed, the coconut oil breaks out, and the solids begin to brown. From there, it’s a slow process of stirring and toasting until they are a deep, crunchy golden brown before finally adding sugar, salt, and rice.”

The only issue is if the coconut milk used in the recipe has stabilizers like crystalline cellulose or xanthan gum, you’ll have a hard time getting your solids to separate properly from your fat, making the rice to brown.

So I set out to find coconut milk without stabilizers and preservatives. Not an easy task. Finally, I found coconut milk at Trader Joe’s, with only coconut milk and water as ingredients. After many stores and Amazon. Hallelujah!

Colombian Coconut Rice
printable recipe at bottom

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk (see note above)
2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups water

Heat coconut milk in a 2 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat until simmering. Reduce to medium low and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until reduced to a couple of tablespoons.

Continue to cook, stirring and scraping constantly until coconut oil breaks out and coconut solids cook down to a deep, dark brown, about 20 minutes total.

Add rice, sugar (more or less to taste), and salt. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until rice grains begin to turn translucent and golden, about 2 minutes.

Add water and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over high heat, reduce to lowest possible setting, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let rest 15 minutes longer. Fluff with a fork, and serve.

Coconut rice is delicious, not too sweet, and actually works well as a side dish to meats and vegetables. In Colombia, my daughter ate it for breakfast with eggs.

And, at this point, this daughter has only been to 4 countries we’ve not been to yet, since we finally visited New Zealand and Australia in fall of 2017.


We’re catching up!

Note: When the solids separate from the oil and begin to brown, they look like crumbs. But have no fear. Once the water is added and the rice cooks, they will dissolve.

J. Kenji López-Alt is the managing culinary director of Serious Eats and author of the James Beard Award–nominated column The Food Lab, in which he unravels the science of home cooking. A restaurant-trained chef and former editor at Cook’s Illustrated magazine, Kenji released his first book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, in 2015, which went on to become a New York Times best-seller and the recipient of a James Beard Award, and The Food Lab was named Cookbook of the Year in 2015 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

 

 

Salad and Giving Thanks

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This year I didn’t get the opportunity to cook Thanksgiving dinner, which is fine. The typical American Thanksgiving meal is quite involved, especially if you’re trying to make everybody happy and satisfy their requests. You can spend days in the kitchen.

But what one misses out on is Thanksgiving leftovers. And I really missed them this year. Fabulous, hearty and delicious food that reheats well, and is perfect for winter weather.

So I was inspired to create a salad inspired by Thanksgiving dishes, even though I had no leftovers. No problem. Grilled turkey, sausage, rice, wild rice, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, and more.

So the following recipe is more of a guide for a Thanksgiving-inspired salad using your favorite Thanksgiving ingredients. Not all of them – that could get quite messy!

Use rice, barley, wild rice, or even quinoa. And then just have fun with the ingredients. Serve at room temperature with your choice of vinaigrette or citrus-based dressing. Here goes.

Salad for Giving Thanks

Combination of brown and wild rice, cooked
Mini Italian sausage balls, cooked
Cooked Brussels sprouts
Turkey tenderloin
Sliced celery
Toasted pecans
Dried cranberries
Vinaigrette of choice

Have a serving platter large enough for the number of eaters. Plan on large servings, because this salad is delicious and addicting!

Have your rice cooked, and make a layer with it on the platter.
sal
Add the sausage balls, followed by the Brussels sprouts.


I cooked a piece of turkey tenderloin in a skillet, seasoned only with garlic pepper. Many Americans use poultry seasoning. I browned the turkey on both sides, then put on a lid and cooked it until it was 155 in the thickest part.

Place the turkey on a cutting board and let it rest. I sliced the tenderloin, but you could cut it up as well.
chick
Add the turkey to the salad. Then add the celery, pecans, and dried cranberries.

Serve the salad warm or at room temperature, topped with the vinaigrette.
an equal amount of sherry vinegar. I poured the mixture in a blender jar, added one clove of garlic, some salt, and about 2/3 cup of olive oil. Blend and go!

vin

salad1
note: I wouldn’t recommend using 100% wild rice, which is actually a grass and not legally rice. And because of that fact, too much of it creates a texture similar to alfalfa, which I can only imagine eating.

Sweet Potato Gratin

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I wrote a post a couple of years ago when I started this blog, called “Please – No Marshmallows!” Of course, I was referring to the rampant use of marshmallows on sweet potatoes in the U.S. Now, if you love this combination – great! What I have to say will not deter you. But I’ve just never understood putting something so sweet on something sweet. I mean, for god’s sake, they’re called sweet potatoes for a reason. Do you put sugar on a slice of cake?

I remember the first time I had sweet potatoes with marshmallows. It was my second year of college and I wasn’t able to fly home just for Thanksgiving, so I went with a roommate to her parents’ home in Los Angeles. I was so excited about having a “normal” Thanksgiving meal because I’d always been so deprived of traditional dishes.

My mother was a chef in her own right. She’s French, and I think all French people must be fabulous cooks. We never knew how spoiled we were with her cooking. She only used fresh ingredients, and I don’t remember her ever opening a can. We certainly never ever ate fast food.

Being French, however, and the fact that she always disliked turkey, which I think a lot of French people do, she never embraced the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. The last Thanksgiving meal I had at her home was duck a l’orange. Okay, it’s good. But I yearned for turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes with those darn marshmallows.

So then I got my chance, in 1974. My friend’s family was very sweet and embraced me like one of their own. In fact, there was no yelling or throwing of pots, which was something else I wasn’t used to.

Then came dinner. Oh my. I guess my taste buds were quite sophisticated at my young age, and hopefully I didn’t show my reaction to the various dishes, but I was horrified. The turkey was dry, the stuffing was stove-top, which is a very popular American boxed brand, and the sweet potatoes were smothered in melted marshmallows. To make things even worse, the pumpkin pie was purchased and came in a litle foil pan. And then cool whip… I can’t go on.

Sweet potatoes are a fabulous vegetable, and to me, they shine with the addition of garlic. And butter and cream. And cheese. They’re also fabulous mashed, but today I’m making them into a gratin. And I’m using Reblochon, one of my favorite stinky cow cheeses.
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There are so many ways to make a potato gratin from scratch, but I’m par-boiling the sweet potato slices in order to speed up the baking process. It’s an extra step, but sometimes it seems like it takes forever for sliced potatoes to bake in cream. And you end up with dish of milky, uncooked potatoes. So I’m just helping their cooking along, and that way less cream is required as well. So here’s what I did.

Sweet Potato and Reblochon Gratin

4 medium-sized sweet potatoes
2 ounces butter
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup 1/2 & 1/2 or heavy cream
16 ounces Reblochon, or Gruyere, or Fontina
Butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Peel the potatoes and slice them using a mandoline or a food processor.
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Bring pasta pot filled with salted water to a boil on the stove over high heat.

Add the sweet potatoes and cook them for 5 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how thinly you sliced them. Mine are approximately 1/8″ thick.
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Remove the potatoes and let them drain in the sink. I prefer to use a pasta pot with the insert, so the slices don’t break apart when they’re poured into a colander. Let them cool.
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In a small pot, melt the butter and add the garlic. Stir for just a few seconds, then pour in the cream.


Reduce the mixture to approximately 1/3 cup.

Slice the cheese however way you can. I kept the cheese chilled to facilitate slicing, but soft cheeses are always a little more challenging.
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Using an appropriately sized oven-proof baking dish, well buttered, place one layer of sweet potatoes into the dish. Add cheese, then continue, alternating sweet potatoes and cheese.

Make sure to season the sweet potatoes with salt and pepper.
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Then carefully pour the cream mixture over the top.


Bake until the cheese has melted and is golden brown, approximately 25 minutes.
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Let the gratin cool slightly and set. It’s easier to slice that way.
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Because of the Reblochon in this gratin, it takes a pretty strong protein like a filet mignon or lamb chop to pair well with this gratin. Tomorrow I’m serving it with ham.
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It will also keep well in the refrigerator, and can be heated in the oven or microwave.
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So try sweet potatoes once without the marshmallows. Only that way you can truly taste their sweet goodness.
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And by the way, I deleted my post called, “Please – No Marshmallows!” I wrote the post before I realized that posts should contain decent photos! Now, white balance is my friend!

Cran-Cherry Chutsauce

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As you might deduce, this recipe is a cross between a traditional cranberry sauce and a chutney, using a combination of fresh cranberries and dried cherries. My husband voted for chutsauce over sauceney…

Every November I make small batches of at least two different kinds of both cranberry sauces and fruit chutneys, because I love them so much. Sadly, I’m the only one who really enjoys them in my family, so I can’t make large batches. But to me, they’re so much fun to make, fun to experiment with, and just a good festive thing to do in the kitchen – with Christmas carols playing, of course.
crancherry1
This chutney-sauce would be fabulous with turkey or pork or duck, but it would also be a pretty and delicious topping a slab of cream cheese.

The recipe that caught my eye was on Epicurious.com right here. I altered it quite a bit.
crancherry2
Cranberry Cherry Chutney Sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 purple onion, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed
1/4 cup white sugar
12 ounces clean, sorted cranberries

crancherry22]
7 ounces dried, pitted cherries*
3/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
1/4 cup ruby port
1/4 cup water

Place the butter in a medium-sized enamel pot over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the onion and saute them for about 5 minutes, without any extreme browning.
crancherry11
Add the salt, brown sugar, and white sugar. Stir together and cook until the sugar dissolves.


Add the cranberries, cherries, and the Chinese 5-spice powder. Give everything a stir.

Then add the port and water. Let everything cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat. It should take about 15 minutes until all of the cranberries have popped and the liquid is reduced.
crancherry6
Remove from the stove and let cool completely.
crancherry
To store, place the chutney sauce in clean jars, cover, and refrigerate. Or, alternatively, freeze the chutsauce/sauceney until needed.
crancherry4
* I used dried Rainier cherries, which are extremely large. The original recipe listed 1 cup of dried cherries, but didn’t indicate the size or kind of dried cherries, so I weighed mine instead of measuring out 1 cup. You can adjust according to what kind of dried cherries you use; dried cranberries can be substituted as well.

note: Instead of port or just water, which was in the original recipe, consider using a liqueur, like an orange liqueur, or just orange juice or pomegranate juice. It all works to help plump up the cherries and cook the cranberries. Orange zest could be included in this recipe as well.

Roasted Turkey Breast

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Roasting a whole turkey is no more difficult than roasting a whole chicken. The preparation is easy as well; not much more is required than seasoning and a little oil.

Perhaps, at least in the U.S., because the turkey is associated with Thanksgiving, people tend to only purchase turkeys for the “big” meal. And then, one feels obligated by their families to fix a stuffing or two, and all of the other side dishes that are expected on the Thanksgiving table. And that doesn’t include organizing hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and desserts. It’s a lot of work.

It’s sad, really. Because in reality, the roast turkey requires the least amount of time and attention compared to all of the other Thanksgiving dishes. One just has to estimate when the turkey is done, so as to time everything for the dinner table.

But I think once Thanksgiving is over, we tend to forget about the delicious turkey because we associate it with all of the hard work involved with the Thanksgiving meal.

Where I live, whole turkeys are only available prior to Thanksgiving. And that’s the case online as well, from my experience.

This year I planned ahead, sort of. When I purchased my Thanksgiving turkey from Lobel’s* in New York City (lobels.com), I also bought a couple turkey “breasts.” The legs and wings have been removed, so you’re left with a breast-meat-only dismembered turkey. I only bought two, but that’s two more than I would have in my freezer post holidays.

I personally prefer dark meat, but my husband eats more meat than I do, so I got these turkey breasts more for him. And it doesn’t kill me to make a little sandwich with leftover turkey.

So we’re just in to the New Year, 2014, and I decided to roast one of these turkey breasts. Or, I guess you’d refer to these as two turkey breasts…

I’d love to offer you the pricing for this beast, but there’s no information online anymore. It disappeared. Once Thanksgiving is over, that’s it for turkeys! Perhaps I shall start some kind of write-in campaign to get turkeys year around! I think it’s sad that they only make an appearance once a year.

I actually contacted Lobel’s email service to see what they said about the availability of turkeys, and this is the response I received:

“Thanks for getting in touch about Lobel’s. The demand for their turkeys is heavily centered on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, which is why they are only offered in November and December.”

Okay, so maybe it was a dumb question. But I like turkey. If it’s properly cooked.

The key to cooking turkey, whether whole or sliced into cutlets, is to not overcook them. I think turkey might have a bad reputation as being dry, although turkey meat is only dry if overcooked. As in the case of my mother in law’s turkey, but that’s another story.

If you ever come across one of these turkey breasts, they’re worth a good roasting. I was very happy with the results.

Roasted Turkey Breasts

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Thaw the turkey breast(s) out completely. I let mine get to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the turkey breasts in a roasting pan and cover with oil. Then season generously with salt, garlic pepper and pepper. Or, use what you prefer.

turk5

Begin roasting the turkey, and after 30 minutes or so of good browning, reduce the heat to 350 degrees. All of these directions of course depend on how precise your oven is, and at what temperature the turkey was when you put it in the oven. That’s why a good meat thermometer is a must. I remove turkey from the oven when the thermometer reaches 155 degrees.

Mine was done exactly one hour after I put it in. So don’t start poking the turkey with the thermometer after only 30 minutes. Give it some time. However, don’t let the turkey overcook, either. Then it will be a sad, dry mess. You’ll have to put it all in a soup to moisten the meat in order to choke it down.

My turkey breast(s) looked like this when it was done.
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Let it rest, just like you would a roast chicken, before slicing it.

With this cut there are no legs or wings to remove. Simply slice along the middle bone, called the keel bone, that runs in between the breasts. Slice as far as you can downward, parallel to this bone. Then turn the breast sideways and cut perpendicularly towards your slice. You are left with a beautiful breast, that you can then slice crosswise for make beautiful, manageable pieces for serving.

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If you prefer, remove the skin first. See how moist the turkey is?

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And if you’re like me, it’s way more fun to enjoy the turkey in a fun sandwich, like on a jalapeno ciabatta bun, with melted Swiss cheese, and a cranberry-walnut salsa. Thank you Emita, for the fabulous salsa!

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All of us turkey lovers just have to figure out how to get turkeys year ’round!

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* I have purchased organic, free-range turkeys ever since we could afford to, and the difference between these and store-bought turkeys is astounding. Lobel’s has always produced a good turkey, as has D’artagnan. They don’t even need brining.

Easy Baked Brie

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I happen to love baked brie. I’ve discovered since joining the blogging world, however, that there are those who look down on it. Personally, I feel like these people are missing out. But, like with all food, taste is subjective, and no one need be forced to eat baked brie or anything else he or she doesn’t love, ever. Thankfully.

Personally, I don’t like celeriac. There might be a few other foods that I don’t love, but I can’t think of any right now. Not that I claim to love every food I’ve ever tried, it’s just that there unfortunately aren’t many I don’t like. And my ever-struggling waistline proves it.

But hopefully at some point in your life you’ve tried a baked brie – perhaps at a party. It might have been a fancy kind of baked brie, topped with a chutney, and then artistically wrapped in phyllo dough or puff pastry. When I catered, this is the sort of presentation I used because it’s impressive, and the brie is delicious as well.

My baked bries, of course, didn’t compare to something a pastry chef could whip up. The most artistic thing I could ever do with puff pastry, after wrapping and sealing the brie, was rolling the leftover dough strips to make assorted “rosettes.” I then “glommed” these together on top of the brie to make a bouquet of sorts. But even with the simplest presentation, a baked brie in pastry is a pretty thing.

And then, the pièce de resistance – you get to pierce the cheese rind, and the wonderfully warm, oozy brie pours out, along with the chutney, and you get to spread this mixture on bread. A baked brie is heavenly.

When I cook for my own family during the holidays, I sometimes don’t have the time to follow through on such preparations like a puff pastry-wrapped brie. But let’s face it. Sometimes it’s not about time at all, but their appreciation for the hours spent in the kitchen.

None of my family members read my blog, and so I can safely say, without recourse, that there’s not much appreciation for anything I do in the kitchen in my sole desire to feed and nourish them whilst they’re visiting. And make them all happy. Because, of course, that’s why we all cook, right?

They all tell me not to work so hard, but nobody has actually stopped me yet. Or tried helping me out. No one has ever suggested that we go get a bucket of fried chicken at a local drive-in.

But for my own sanity, and for the fact that I want my “kids” to keep coming home for the holidays, I do try to take the easy route occasionally. And thus, I give you a simple baked brie. Simple, yet just as delicious.

There are many options for baked brie, without the puff pastry. The bries are first warmed in the oven, and a topping is poured oven the top. You can use a cranberry-apple chutney with some toasted walnuts thrown in for good measure, or a cranberry orange compote, a sweet and nutty Foriana sauce, or just about anything that pairs with warm brie.

So here’s a simple baked brie recipe that I made over the holidays. I actually made it for my Christmas party; I just used my family as an excuse so I could complain about all the hard work I do for them.

This baked brie would be wonderful for Thanksgiving as well, or for any special presentation in the fall. The main flavors are maple and pecan, so you can just save this recipe until next October, and send me your thank yous then. Enjoy!

Maple-Pecan Baked Brie

1 – 2 pound wheel of brie, at room temperature
1/2 cup maple syrup (real maple syrup)
1 stick, or 4 ounces unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Sprinkle of ground cayenne (optional)
Toasted pecans*

Unwrap the brie, and place it on a greased cookie sheet. The greasing helps insure that the brie can simply be slid on to the serving dish. If you use a spatula, you run the risk of prematurely piercing the brie, and you’ll have to start over.

This brie is made from pasteurized cows’ milk. It’s all I can get locally, and I try and support the woman who buys cheese for the grocery store in town. Without her, we’d have no good cheese at all. I probably wouldn’t serve this brie as is, but it was wonderful as a baked brie.

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Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium pot, combine the maple syrup and butter. Heat over medium heat until the butter dissolves. Cook the mixture for about 15 minutes to reduce slightly and thicken. Then add the cinnamon, and cayenne, if using. Set aside to cool slightly.

Break up the toasted pecans and set aside.

Bake the brie as is for about 20 minutes. Carefully slide it onto a heat-proof serving dish. Let it cool for about 10 minutes, and then pour the warm maple mixture over the top, and sprinkle the top with the broken pecan pieces. Serve immediately.
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Here’s to a wonderful 2014 everybody! Happy New Year!

* The easiest way to toast a small amount of pecans is in a skillet on the stove. Place the desired amount, like 1 cup, of pecan halves in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet heats up, you will smell the pecans toasting. Shake the skillet around, moving the pecans around, until you can see that they’re toasted on all sides. Then remove the skillet from the heat. Let cool completely, then break them up with your hands.

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note: This is a pretty sweet brie topping. I was thinking that replacing the 1 tablespoon of brown sugar with molasses, or omitting it altogether would cut the sweetness slightly. I’ve personally never loved brie served with straight-up honey, but that’s just a personal peeve. Real maple syrup, of course, doesn’t compare to the sweetness of honey, but still, if you think it might be too sweet for your party table, think about these two options.

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