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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Pumpkin Pie

This double-layer pumpkin pie is a real treat for pumpkin lovers and even those that don't like pumpkin pie (me) will even enjoy it! The bottom layer is a traditional pumpkin custard layer, just like any other pumpkin pie, but the top layer is a pumpkin mousse/whipped cream topping that is outstanding. Finger (spatula) licking good. This pie does require cooling and chilling time, so you may want to start early in the morning or even the night before serving.

Photo by Jason Volpe.

Pumpkin Custard Ingredients
1 9-inch deep dish pie crust
1 ½ cups canned pumpkin
2 eggs
¾ cups white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus a pinch
¼ teaspoon ginger
12 oz can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together all ingredients in the order given above. Gently fold the custard into a pre-made (homemade or store bought) pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 35 minutes or until custard is set. Remove from oven and let cool completely before topping with the mousse. You may also refrigerate the pie overnight at this point. 

Pumpkin Mousse Ingredients
1 ¼ teaspoon gelatin
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 cup canned pumpkin
½ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup whipping cream

Sprinkle the gelatin over the rum in a small heat proof cup. Let soften several minutes while you combine pumpkin, sugar, yolk, and seasonings in a large bowl. Set the gelatin/rum cup in a pan of gently simmering water until gelatin dissolves. While gelatin in still hot whisk it into the pumpkin mixture.

Using an electric mixer beat the cream into soft peaks. Carefully but thoroughly fold it into the pumpkin mixture. Once combined, chill the mousse for 30 minutes, and mound the mousse onto the custard pie. Chill for 4 hours and serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

This pie is fantastic and should be seriously considered as part of your Thanksgiving meal this year. Pecan pie is a traditionally southern treat, but the addition of dark chocolate and bourbon makes it enjoyable for everyone who lives anywhere. This is another Thanksgiving staple in my family- my dad has been making it for as long as I can remember.

Bonus: its incredibly easy to make (SO SO easy).
BONUSx2: if you have any leftover, its amazing the next day (read: right now as I type this).

1 9-inch deep dish pie crust (homemade or not)
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup pecan halves, broken into large pieces
1 tbs. flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Roll dough into a deep dish pie plate, or get out a pre-made deep dish pie shell. Spread the chocolate chips in the bottom of the pie crust, and top with the pecans (save a few whole for later)

Stir together the flour and brown sugar until incorporated.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and corn syrup until combined. Add the bourbon and vanilla extract, and then the brown sugar/flour mixture, whisking after each addition. Lastly, add the cooled/melted butter and whisk together. Pour on top of the pecans and chocolate. Add a few of the whole pecans on top for aesthetics.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until crust is golden and pie is lightly browned. Let cool and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream or with a cup of coffee for breakfast the next morning.

My Grandma's Thanksgiving Stuffing

My Grandma makes the best stuffing in the universe. No question. Over the years she has taught me how to make it and now I'm officially in charge of making the stuffing on Thanksgiving morning. I'm even more excited this year, though, because my brother and I are kicking the old folks outta the kitchen and making the entire meal together. And by together, I mean, we are divvying up each part of the meal because we bicker too much if we try to "share" making a dish.

"Michael, are you really going to add that much salt?"
"Get away, Sarah."
Yes, I usually (always) start it.

1 loaf challah bread, sliced
1/2 loaf pumpernickle bread, sliced
1/2 loaf whole wheat bread, sliced
2 sticks butter (plus more later)
2 medium/large onions, chopped
~5 stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 container baby bella mushrooms, 1/4 inch sliced
2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage
~2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
onion powder
celery salt
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and fill a baking sheet with slices of the bread. Toast in the oven until barely browned and dried out. Continue this process until you have finished toasting all the bread. Once cooled, chop bread into about 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt a stick of butter in the bottom of two very large saute pans on medium heat. Add half of the celery and onions to each and cook stirring until vegetables begin to soften. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring frequently. Sprinkle a little onion powder, celery salt, and salt and pepper on the vegetables. At this point you'll probably want to add another half stick of butter to each pan (I certainly did), but if you're concerned about clogged arteries, you can just use more chicken broth later.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the chopped (toasted) bread, half in each pan, and stir to combine. Add the fresh herbs and some chicken broth in each, until no longer sticking to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle more onion powder and celery salt on each and stir to combine. Taste the stuffing and add more of whatever else you think it needs- maybe more chicken broth, maybe more seasonings. But don't over salt it-- remember it will be stuffed in a (brined) turkey and get even more flavor and will likely have salty gravy poured on top. Drool.

Pour into a large 9x13 baking dish and set aside until ready to use. Take a cheesecloth and pour stuffing inside the cheesecloth, tie it up, and stuff it in the turkey (this makes it easier to remove once you're ready). Once finished in the turkey, mix with the rest of the stuffing that didn't fit in the turkey and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until all the way cooked through and crisp on the top and soft on the bottom.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Crook's Corner Shrimp and Grits

Crook's Corner is a locally owned restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC and I've been eating their shrimp and grits ever since I've been able to chew. This is their signature dish and deservingly so- its rich and creamy and salty and lemony with a little kick. It makes me proud to be a southerner.

I've been craving it recently, and since I now live 5 hours away from Crook's I can't get it whenever the craving hits. I found their recipe online and ohhhh myyyy goodness. It was the best dinner I've made in as long as I can remember. It tasted just like the real deal and only took 20 minutes start to finish. This just went into the recipe vault where it will stay in regular rotation forever. If you like food, you need to make this. Tonight.

2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick cooking grits
1 cup grated cheddar
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon Tobasco
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 slices bacon
1 lb. medium shrimp, deveined and peeled
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced scallions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Tobasco

To make the grits: Add the water, chicken broth, half-and-half, and the salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Whisk in the grits and reduce heat to low/simmer. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally. Add the cheeses, butter, Tobasco, and pepper and stir. Keep warm.

To make the shrimp: In a large pan cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, crumble and set aside. Keep 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings in the pan and add the sliced mushrooms, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the scallions and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper and then dredge in flour- add them and the garlic to the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until shrimps are lightly browned. Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and tobasco and cook another 2 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Stir the grits before serving. Once ready, pour the grits in the bottom of individual bowls and place even amounts of shrimp on top. Serve with a slice of lemon to squeeze on top. Serves 4.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

So this is the first recipe I made from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my home to yours, which is my new favorite cookbook. Her espresso cheesecake brownies looked so delicious and I figured that anything topping that is made from sour cream (sweet or savory) is bound to be delicious. And it was. So was the espresso cheesecake layer... absolutely unreal. Unfortunately, the brownie layer was kind of strange-- too hard, not enough butter/sugar/flavor. So, I've replaced Dorie's brownie recipe with my own and kept the rest of her recipe the same. This is DYNAMITE.

Brownie Batter Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup flour
These are great

Cheesecake Ingredients
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon flour

Topping Ingredients
1 1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Make the brownie layer: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Heat the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat, whisking just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Whisk in flour until just combined. Set aside.

Make the cheesecake layer: Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water; set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until completely smooth. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and espresso. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Reduce mixer to low and add sour cream, followed by flour. Batter should be smooth.

Stir the brownie batter to make sure its smooth and pour about 3/4 of it in the prepared baking pan. Smooth the brownie layer and pour the cheesecake batter on top in an even layer. Dot the top of the batter with the remaining brownie batter, then slightly swirl the two batters together- don't over swirl!

Bake for about 30 minutes or until brownie pull away from sides of the pan and the cheesecake is beige in the center. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Make the topping: Stir together the sour cream and the confectioners' sugar until smooth and sugar is dissolved. Pour on top of the cold cheesecake layer and refrigerate another hour.

Run a knife under hot water before cutting brownies. Serve and ENJOY.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creamy Potato Leek Soup

This is a really wonderful soup with simple flavors that proves that sometimes less is more.  This creamy soup is made without any cream or milk product and so you can really taste the flavors of the leeks and the potato. Its a winner and I topped it with my favorite soup topper-- pancetta and leeks. It was like a loaded baked potato in soup form! Delish.

4 large leeks
1 medium onion
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
4 tablespoons butter
8 ounce russet potato, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 large slice white bread, lightly toasted
Ground black pepper

Cut the leeks in half where they turn from light green to dark green. Then slice separate part in half lengthwise and was thoroughly. Thinly slice the white/light green part of the leeks and chop the onion and set aside. Take the dark green parts and cut into 2-inch pieces and place in a large pot with the broth and water over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the potato in half lengthwise, then thinly slice the potato (1/4-inch slices). Set aside. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside.

Once the broth is done boiling, pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl pressing the leeks to get all the juices out. Discard the solids and set the broth aside. Clean out the pot and return to stove.

On medium heat, melt the butter and add the white/light green sliced leeks and the chopped onion, along with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are softened- about 10-15 minutes. Turn heat to high and add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and add the potatoes, thyme sprig, and bay leaf and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add the bread pieces and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until it starts to break down. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig and blend with an immersion blender or in a stand blender. Add some freshly ground pepper and taste for salt.

Serve with sauteed pancetta and leek... or bacon and sour cream. MMmmm.