I love the process of planning and cooking the Thanksgiving meal. I enjoy having people over and watching them all have a fun time. But this year it is the day after my birthday. My 40th to be exact. So instead of letting Thanksgiving purge my birthday fun, I feel like I can use it as an excuse to make sure it is even more fun, and with more fantastic food all within a 24-hour period.
The great thing about Thanksgiving is of course the food. But also it is a great excuse to invite just about anyone available over for a great meal. I have always loved the idea of inviting random strangers I have come across over for a dinner party. I’m not talking about some guy covered in face tattoos (although he could be really nice). I’m thinking the guy who gave you a free coffee at the coffee shop because he messed up your order. Or the server who stayed with your table and made everyone laugh.
There is always someone you just stop and chat with who normally is not given a second thought after they leave your sight. But what if you included them in your dinner party or better yet the Thanksgiving meal?
And while we have yet to begin inviting random strangers over (although someday I will) Thom does make sure to create memorable and fun invites. What’s a party without a good invite? This one is from a Thanksgiving dinner we hosted a few years ago. Only problem was I think people remembered the invite more than they remembered the meal.
So bring on another round of holidays with food, fun and friends. I’m ready!
Thom doesn’t eat bacon. I said it…it’s out there. He is not a vegetarian but just doesn’t find the taste anything special. This I do not understand. For me, bacon is always welcome and followers of this blog know how important it is to my way of life. So I was naturally surprised when Thom came up with the idea for these shooters. Okay, it is not a stretch to pair the flavor of eggs with bacon but trying to figure a way to get them into a drink inside an eggshell is pretty unique.
Aside from collecting jars of bacon fat over time and then melting it down and adding vodka, his recipe below is probably best. Translating my love of all things bacon into words is difficult and is best described by the vision of my whole body relaxing and soft moans coming from deep within while my eyes slowly fall, heavy with satisfaction, shut. But I do have my limits; vegan bacon syrup in a mocha: not a favorite.
However when you mix these Bacon ‘n’ Eggs Martinis with an evening of friends, that makes for the perfect combination in my mind.
This is a perfect starter for a bacon-themed party or late brunch and is only as difficult as you want it to be. A regular martini glass will do but the best effect is serving the shooters in hollowed out eggshells, which you can accumulate a couple at a time from breakfast or when making large recipes such as quiche or custard.
NOTE on Preparing the Egg Shells: I recommend doing this at some point other than the day you wish to serve the drinks. You need to rinse them well with hot water and let them dry before using. There may be a membrane on the bottom that can be removed once the inside is dry. I simply used a knife to crack the eggs near the top third, rinsed them out and smoothed any jagged edges with a Dremel. Light smoothing can be done with an emery board as well.
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1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 oz. thick-cut bacon strips (about 4 in. long)
Line a broiler pan with foil and place a cooling rack on top. Spray the rack with vegetable spray to keep the bacon from sticking.
Combine the sugar and both peppers in a shallow dish, mixing well with a fork.
Press one side of the bacon into the mixture and lay them, sugar side up, on the rack. Sprinkle any excess sugar evenly over the top of all the bacon.
Cook in the oven until the bacon is crisp and the sugar is bubbling (approx. 15-20 minutes depending on the bacon thickness). Keep a close eye on the bacon if it takes longer than 15 minutes to prevent burning.
Remove bacon from the oven and transfer immediately to a paper towel to soak up excess grease from the underside. Do not leave cooling bacon on the paper towel or the sugar will harden and stick after about 2 minutes. Instead, transfer again to a flat dish or cookie sheet. Pour the bacon grease into a heat-proof dish and set aside for later.
Once cooled, the bacon should be stiff enough to hold its shape. Slice the bacon in half lengthwise into long. thin strips or, if you are using a regular martini glass, you may not need to trim them at all.
BACON ‘N’ EGGS MARTINI
makes approx. 12 shooters
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1/4 cup light brown sugar
12 pieces of candied bacon
reserved bacon grease from candied bacon
18 oz. vodka (regular, pepper or bacon flavored will all work)
splash of vermouth
1/4 cup maple syrup (about 4 drops per martini)
2 egg whites
12 hollowed out eggshells (or shot glasses)
In a cold bowl, whisk two egg whites into a foam. This should not be too thick like meringue but rather a loose foam that will float on the drink’s surface.
Place the brown sugar onto a small dish beside the reserved bacon grease. Invert each eggshell into the bacon grease to wet the rim and then dip into the sugar. Shake off excess.
Place eggshells upright onto a stable surface. I used crushed ice which is malleable and keeps the drinks cold but egg cups, or egg carton will also work nicely.
Mix the vodka, vermouth, and maple syrup together and pour into each eggshell about 2/3 full.
Garnish each egg with a tablespoon of foam and a candied bacon strip. Serve immediately.
Back in college there was a place called Mamma’s Pizza where my friends and I could frequently be found. Once in a while, we would get a pizza but more often we would dig into their fantastic calzones. My favorite was one stuffed full with pepperoni, sausage, sauce and mozzarella cheese. It was nothing short of fantastic.
Remember the last time you ordered pizza with your coworkers and everyone was telling the one person taking the order what they liked, didn’t like, couldn’t eat, refused to eat and the one guy who didn’t want sauce? The calzone is like Pizza Switzerland. It can be whatever you want and nobody else gets to interfere… it is also a lot of fun to create.
SPICY BOURBON-LIME BARBECUE CHICKEN CALZONE
makes 6 calzones
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3 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 package rapid-rising dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups warm water (should be between 105°F and 115°F)
In the bowl of a standing mixer whisk together the dry ingredients. Using the dough hook attachment and the mixer on a slow speed, gradually add the olive oil followed by the water and increase the speed to medium, scraping down the sides of the bowl. The dough should come together quite quickly. After 10 minutes the dough will appear smooth and elastic and ready for the next step.
Let the dough rise in a large well oiled glass bowl covered with plastic wrap or a slightly damp towel in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until it has doubled in size. (If your house is cold, pre-heat the oven to 175°F then turn it off and put the bowl inside the warm oven covered with a slightly damp towel.)
After it has risen you should be able to lightly press your thumb into the top of it and see an impression is left behind. Deflate the dough by gently pushing down in the middle with your fist.
On a lightly floured surface cut the dough into six equal pieces and place them under a towel or plastic wrap for about 20 minutes. If you are not using the dough right away then stop here and wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze them.
Working individually, roll each dough ball out on a floured surface to about 9″ round. If the dough does not hold its shape let it rest another 15 minutes under a towel or plastic. If you are not skilled in the art of tossing the dough like a pizza then with both hands gently grip one side, letting the rest of it hang down and give a little stretch working your hands around the circumference of the dough, careful not to let the dough get too thin or tear.
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
4 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons lime juice
zest of one lime
4 tablespoons red onion, grated (use the large holes on any grater)
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat whisk all of the ingredients together and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the sauce thickens to the consistency of ketchup, about 10 minutes.
6 good-sized boneless and skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 cup Spicy Bourbon-Lime Barbecue Sauce
1 large Vidalia onion, cut into 1/4″ slices
1 1/2 cups Gouda cheese, grated
1 large egg yolk, beaten in a small bowl
Heat a grill so that if it is a gas-grill the burners are all on high and if it is coal a large chimney starter is filled will coals and they are red-hot almost to the top layer. Turn off some burners so about 1/3 of the grill is a ‘cool’ side and turn the other burners to medium; or pour out the coals in an even layer leaving about 1/3 of the grill empty. Scrape down the cooking grate and rub it well with vegetable oil for both types of grills.
Season the chicken breasts liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
Brush olive oil on both sides of the cut onion. While the chicken is on the cool side of the grill (see next paragraph), cook the onion slices directly over the hot side for about 5 minutes on each side. Be sure to use a spatula to flip these as they will fall apart easily. A bit of charring is okay. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Place the chicken breasts in a single row on the cool side of the grill with the fattest part exposed to the heat. The thin, narrow end should be pointing away from the heat. Lower the cover and let cook for approximately 8-10 minutes on each side. When they have reached 140°F on an instant read thermometer brush one side with barbecue sauce and move them, sauce side down, over the direct heat. Brush the new top side with barbecue sauce and after about two minutes flip them over for another two minutes. Check that they are now at 160°F with the instant read thermometer and cover on a plate with foil for 10 minutes.
Slice the chicken into thin strips and put into a medium bowl. Add about a 1/2 cup of the Spicy Bourbon-Lime Barbecue Sauce, the cheese, the grilled onion slices and the egg yolk. Mix together with a wooden spoon until it is well combined.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
extra barbecue sauce
1 large egg, beaten in small bowl
Preheat oven with a pizza stone in it to 475°F for 30 minutes prior to baking.
If you are not using a pizza stone preheat to 475°F normally and cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Working with one calzone at a time on a floured work surface lay the rolled out dough flat. Pile a sixth of the filling onto the bottom half of the calzone dough keeping it one inch from the edge. Sprinkle more cheese on top of the filling if you wish and gently fold the top half of the dough over the bottom half. The edges will not match up exactly. Take the excess dough from the bottom and fold it over the top layer, pinching it down with a fork or fingers to make sure it seals.
Lightly brush the top of each calzone with the egg. Using a sharp paring knife cut three slits in the top so steam can escape.
Place the calzones in the oven on the hot pizza stone or on the parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are nicely browned, rotate the cookie sheets or baking stone 180° halfway through the process if they are not browning evenly.
Let the calzones cool for about 5 minutes then drizzle Spicy Bourbon-Lime Barbecue Sauce on top and serve.
Posted in Grilling, Poultry | Tags: barbecue, bourbon, bread, brown, calzone, cayanne, cheese, cider, crust, dijon, egg, flour, gouda, grill, ketchup, lime, molasses, mustard, olive oil, onion, pepper, pizza, salt, sauce, spicy, sugar, vidalia, vinegar, wheat, worcestershire, yeast, yolk, zest
Sometimes it feels like I’m going into the red light district of the grocery store when I shop for fish; feeling the need to hide my face so as not to be recognized for depleting the oceans. I just want to get what I came for and make a break for it. However with wild-caught Alaskan Salmon there is a guilt-free zone of sorts. I don’t suggest going nuts and making this your daily meal but if you shop smartly it is a fantastic tasting, healthy fish you can enjoy with minimal guilt (Vegans excluded).
While wild Alaskan Salmon–and a few other “safe” species of salmon listed on the websites below–is more expensive (around $16/lb. versus $12 for farmed) it is worth the few extra bucks for a number of reasons including being sustainable and, unlike farmed salmon, being free from “numerous environmental concerns, including water pollution, chemical use, parasites and disease” according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) website (see also the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website or app for more information).
So while it can seem tricky to figure out which salmon to buy remember a general rule: West is Best.
Keep an eye out for wild-caught Alaskan salmon (also listed as chinook/king, chum, coho, pink and sockeye) and if your local grocery store does not carry a good fish selection check out local farmers markets or Whole Foods (which will sometimes have it on sale) as they are great sources of information and sustainable seafood.
Now to the cooking.
HOLDING IT TOGETHER
I have been working on this recipe for quite some time. I was able to nail down the flavor I wanted pretty quickly however keeping it all from falling apart was a different story.
Unlike turkey burgers which don’t need an added binder, salmon does. It is a fatty fish so without a strong binder as soon as the fish hits the skillet it cracks and is nearly impossible to turn without falling apart. So I took to testing out different binders to determine the best one for salmon burgers.
I first thought about a small amount of mayo. It works to a point but still the burgers ended up broken–along with my patience; when the burgers hit the hot skillet the mayo turns oily and loses any binding qualities.
One of our favorite things to make are barbecue pulled chicken sandwiches and the key to keeping the loose chicken on the bun is to pulse a small amount in a food processor and mix it back into the shreds. It acts as a binder without adding another ingredient (thanks Cooks Illustrated). So with that I thought I would give it a try with the Salmon Burgers. Nope. This solution is not enough to keep them from falling apart.
Next on the binder rotation was bread crumbs. These have some good flavor but made the burgers too dense and heavy. They are best saved for crab cakes and Stuffies (stuffed clams) but not good for a burger.
At this point I gave into the old “go to” of egg yolk. It’s not glamorous or exciting but it holds stuff together better than anything else and does not break down like mayo or weigh down the burger like bread crumbs. Voila!…we have a winner.
Now that that has been figured out it’s time to move on to the fun part: cooking and eating. I love grilling however for this recipe I did cook them in a 12″ non-stick skillet on the stove. To do these on a grill be sure to use a well oiled grid.
makes 4 burgers
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1 1/2 lbs wild-caught Alaskan Salmon
Zest of one lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 large egg yolk
1 jalapeño, chopped (seeded and ribs removed if you prefer less of a kick)
This is much easier than you may expect. Lay the salmon out on a cutting board skin side down. Gently run the tips of your fingers over the flesh of the salmon and feel for any of the tiny pin bones sticking out. Either with the blade of your knife and your finger or tweezers just pull them straight out. You don’t want anyone pulling bones out of their burger after you spent the money and time to get it just right.
There are two ways to remove the skin. As you just did to remove the pin bones, lay the salmon skin side down on a cutting board. Using a long butchers knife (or a filet knife if you have one) start at the tail or narrow end and cut into the layer of fat separating the skin from the flesh enough to be able to pinch the skin with your fingers. Now with the sharp edge of the knife slightly angled down, and holding the skin with your free hand, slowly drag it along keeping an eye to make sure you have not cut the skin or are not angled enough and are slicing into the flesh. If you do happen to slice the skin just continue and once you have gone the length of the salmon with your knife flip it over and just gently slice off the bit of skin still attached.
Another way to do this, which I find to be helpful if you have not done it before, is to slice the salmon into individual fillets about 8 oz. each and then use the same method above for each fillet. You have less surface area to cover at one time and nobody will know the difference.
I don’t recommend using a food processor for chopping the salmon or you will end up with mush. I have found the best way is the good old-fashioned knife. Cut all the salmon into 1/4 inch strips, cut those strips into cubes, and then give all of the cubes a few cops so you are left with small pieces.
In a medium-sized bowl whisk the egg yolk until it is just broken down. Zest the lime and add it along with the lime juice, jalapeño, and chopped salmon. With a wooden spoon mix the ingredients together evenly.
Before you proceed lay out four pieces of cling film (approximately 12″ long).
Place a round form (a 4″ cookie cutter works well) on your work surface and lay a piece of the cling film over it. Push the cling film down into the cookie cutter so it is lining the sides and flat against the work surface. Using a tablespoon load the salmon mixture into the ring, gently pressing down on the mixture so it is not too lose but not packed tightly. Use your judgement on the thickness but they should be a few inches thick and each burger should weigh about six ounces.
Lightly pull the cling film out of the form and fold over the sides so the salmon burger is wrapped up snug. Place all of the wrapped burgers in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so they set and keep their form during cooking.
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until it is very hot and you can see waves in the oil when you tilt the pan. This ensures that the salmon burgers will sear immediately rather than suck up the oil when they hit the hot pan. Unwrap each of the salmon burgers and set them into the hot pan. Sear on both sides until they are wonderfully browned (about 4-5 minutes each side).
yields approximately 1 cup
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1 cup mayo
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
In a small bowl whisk together the mayo, chipotle chiles, adobo and lime juice until well combined.
If you are not using it right away cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for no more than five days.
I didn’t begin cooking until I was in my 30s, well past the age of standing at my Mom’s knee watching and learning her most treasured recipes and techniques.
Moving to Providence and living alone for a few years quickly convinced me it was time to start cooking at home for myself. Thus began the sometimes arduous journey into cooking more than noodles with seasoning packets or boxed mac and cheese.
Baking is another story. Much of my aversion to baking comes from the fact that I do not possess the coveted sweet tooth. I know, the horror of it is unimaginable to many: Aunt Betsy, Mrs. C., Maria, Thom and an ever continuing list of others. After a fantastic meal I am more likely to crave a savory and delicious appetizer over a slice of chocolate cake or crème brûle.
However, no matter my taste I still firmly believe that baking is still an important part of cooking. While I have mostly learned my cooking skills from my Mom, cookbooks, various websites and television (Cooks Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen especially) my baking lessons have been thanks to my Mom, Thom and Julia Child.
Baking has great pay-offs but getting to that point requires a bit more patience than cooking. This lesson I learned especially well during my work on this recipe for a fruit tart. The photos give the appearance of calm but the reality was many orange slices propelled across the room and f-bombs dropped like a tray of martinis during an earthquake. But don’t give up. The photos prove that I did finish and our friends, for whom I made this, had nothing but praise for the outcome. So soldier through, take your time and know that you are not alone in baking frustration. Julia’s husband Paul many times waited well past acceptable suppertime while she mastered the art of cooking and baking, and America’s Test Kitchen staff are numerous and as their name indicates many tests are done before anything ends up on television or in the magazine.
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Preparing the fruit:
Peel the oranges and using a paring knife carefully remove the white pith which has a bitter flavor. Holding the peeled orange, make incisions stopping at the core between each of the orange slices. Carefully pull the segmented slices away from the core. (Allow yourself plenty of time for this step.)
Rinse the whole strawberries, blueberries and raspberries under cool water and dry them by placing them separately in a single layer on paper towels and gently roll them around with another paper towel in your hand. Check the blueberries while they are on the towel and remove any stems.
Using the paring knife slice and discard the stems of the strawberries and slice,from top to bottom, on either side of the core so you end up with at least two slices per strawberry each about 1/8 of an inch.
On a well floured surface (or even better on a floured slab of marble) roll out the sweet tart dough into a length of about 15 inches long by about 8 inches wide. If you end up with holes use the excess dough to patch them up (nobody but you will know). Carefully transfer to a large, well buttered, baking sheet.
Using a paring knife trim off a 1 inch wide strip from each side and set aside.
Place the two 1 inch strips along the edges of the tart case and using a sharp knife cut decorative slits evenly along the edges of the strips.
The tart case must now be refrigerated for 30 minutes prior to baking.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Use any blind baking weight system you like (I use aluminum foil with beans). Bake the case for about 35 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
Bringing it all together:
Using a pastry spatula carefully spread the pastry cream over the base of the tart case, carefully avoiding the “rails” or decorative edges.
Using whichever pattern you choose arrange the fruit over the pastry cream.
Lightly brush the fruit with the Lemon Simple Syrup.
This recipe is best served the day it is made as the tart case will absorb moisture and become soggy. If it must be made a day ahead, keep the different components separate and assemble the tart the day it is to be served.
This recipe comes from the cookbook The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine by The French Culinary Institute. It is a fantastic reference book for French cooking and one I have gone to many times for ideas, terms and techniques.
One question which may be asked is “what’s with the weights rather than measurements”? The answer is that in baking exact measurements are so important to producing the perfect outcome. The best and most exact way to that end is by using weight.
The solution: buy a scale. You’ll find that it is useful for more than this one recipe. I use our digital scale for many different recipes but weighing the patties to make 6 oz. turkey burgers is the most common use in our house. They range in price from $4.99 to over $100 and about any design you like.
3/4 ounce all-purpose flour
3/4 ounce cornstarch
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, scraped and seeds reserved (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 1/2 ounces sugar
3/4 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
Sift the flour and corn starch together into a small bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the milk, vanilla bean and reserved seeds. Bring this to a boil and immediately remove from the heat and allow the milk to cool in the pan for one minute.
Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl and whisk until the mixture is a pale yellow. Sift the flour and cornstarch mixture into the egg mixture, whisking until it is smooth.
Whisking constantly, pour half the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper, then return the mixture to the saucepan, whisking it into the milk.
Return the saucepan to medium heat and, whisking constantly, bring to a boil, taking care to scrape the bottom and lower inner edges of the pan to prevent sticking and lumps. Lower the heat slightly and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes or until thickened.
Remove the thickened cream from the heat and transfer to a small bowl; remove and discard the vanilla bean.
There are two tricks to preventing that nasty skin from forming on the cooling cream. The first way is to lay a piece of cling film directly against the cream, gently pushing down so any air pockets are forced out and the cling film is in contact with the entire surface area of the cream.
The second method is to use melted butter. With a pastry brush gently paint the surface of the cream with the melted butter.
Set aside to cool slightly before using or refrigerate if not using immediately.
LEMON SIMPLE SYRUP
makes approximately 1 cup
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2/3 cup water
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (approximately the juice of 2 lemons)
1 cup sugar
Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently and remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer (or chinois) into a heatproof bowl. Place in an ice bath to cool.
Use in the Fruit Tart or other recipe as directed. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for up to one month.
SWEET TART CASE
makes one 11-inch round tart case
from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery by Rose Carrarini
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scant 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup superfine sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (10 minutes out of the fridge), plus extra for greasing
1/2 pinch of salt
1/2 egg (beat one egg and then pour half into a bowl to use)
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
If you are using a food processor, process the flour, sugar, butter and salt for about 10-12 seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Otherwise, put the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl, cut the butter into pieces and work it into the flour with your fingertips.
Now make a well in the middle of the flour and butter mixture and add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Stir with a folk to incorporate the flour evenly until you have to begin using your hand.
Using one hand only, bring the dry and wet ingredients together (this might take more time in the winter).
Dust your work surface with flour, then remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on the floured surface for a few minutes until it is smooth and homogeneous.
It is now ready to be rolled out and made into one fantastic tart.