braised red cabbage

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i have a question. why is it called red cabbage, when it is clearly purple cabbage? and when cooked, such a glorious fuchsia pink?

and i've got a double dose of pink and purple for you here today.

purple was definitely my favorite color when i was little. i was known to wear head to toe, socks included, purple outfits. when i was really little, i had a great (well, it's all relavant right?  i remember giggling.) game with my east coast aunts where they would ask me first my favorite colors – pink and purple – then the colors for christmas, the colors for halloween, the colors for fourth of july.

any five year old worth her salt knows the answer.

pink.

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purple.

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i love cabbage, the crunch and slight bitterness, but mostly the watery crunch. very satisfying.

however, i'm about the braise the bajesus out of this poor cabbage. don't worry, braising makes pretty much anything better.

including apples.

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granny smith apples for sweetness and tang. these are sturdy apples, just what you want for a braise.

we're also going to add apple cider vinegar to punch that flavor up.  

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and sage. cause it's fall, and sage is wonderful. especially fresh sage, so furry and soft. it's like the kitten of herbs.

you know how i feel about kittens.

let's file this one under cute.

manchego files

too cheesy? too blurry? too bad. it's my blog, and i'll post all the cheesy blurry cat photos i want.

anyway, back to dinner. i served the cabbage with . . . pork!

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sage and milk braised pork. it's fall. we're gonna be braising all kinds of stuff around here.

but, honestly, i had just cabbage for dinner night two with some crusty bread and it was divine all on its own.

Braised Red Cabbage

Adapted from Spilled Milk. Their recipe called for caraway seeds, which I'd love to try, but didn't have on hand.  And you've seen the state of my spices . . . it just wouldn't be fair to introduce a new innocent spice bottle to that hot mess.

  • Olive oil
  • Half a red onion, chopped
  • Half a red cabbage, sliced
  • 2 medium granny smith apples, shredded
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp or more fresh sage, chopped

Heat oil in a large skillet or dutch oven with a lid, add red onion saute until soft.  Add remaining ingredients and cook, covered but stirring occasionally, about an hour until the cabbage is tender but not mushy.

grandma lena’s chestnut stuffing

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to me, thanksgiving = stuffing.

and not just any stuffing.  porky, sagey, crumbly, chewy, chestnut stuffing.  stuffing made from a recipe passed down from my great grandmother lena, who brought some serious cooking skills with her when she emigrated from the french basque country. 

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every year – and i mean every year – thanksgiving is kicked off in my family with a semi-frantic text or call to my mom for the stuffing recipe.  which starts her semi-frantic search for the recipe, recorded neatly in grandma renee's spidery handwriting.

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it's totally freudian.  because it's totally not fair that grandma renee isn't still able to make the stuffing. 

that said, while her stuffing was better than mine, she never made enough.  the original recipe calls for two measly cups of bread cubes.

two cups.  we always had at least 20 people around the table.

this weekend, i made stuffing just for me and the somm . . . and basically tripled the recipe.  and we took most of that bad boy down in 24 hours.  none of that depression-era self-control around our house, no siree.

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grandma might have called this chestnut stuffing, but the critical ingredient is the sage.

one of the first years my mom and i were on stuffing duty, we couldn't find the recipe.  forgot the sage.  nearly ruined thanksgiving.

don't be stingy with the sage.

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i used all fresh, but i'd encourage you to go ahead and throw in some powdered sage.  it's old school, and this is definitely an old school recipe.

here's another piece of advice: don't get a manicure before roasting and peeling your chestnuts.  this is messy work.

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there are a couple of ways to roast chestnuts, but all of them start with scoring an x on top.  make sure you actually get through the shell.  don't worry about cutting into the meat of the nut.  you're going to chop it up anyway.  i went stove top roasting, but 15 minutes in a 500 degree oven works well too.

the absence of an actual turkey meant the absence of giblets in my stuffing this weekend, which totally wouldn't fly for my sweetbread loving momma, but was not a problem for me.  i just bumped the flavor up with sausage.

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sage sausage.  that's right. there's no going back to boring ground pork from here.

this year, we're heading north instead of west for turkey day, and my mother-in-law sets out a pretty mean spread . . . including the BEST pumpkin pie i've ever had.  but i'm still going to miss my family, who will be gathered around my mother's beautiful table. 

luckily, i'm not also going to have to have missed the stuffing.

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Grandma Lena's Chestnut Stuffing

Back in the day, recipes had very little information . . . they just assumed you knew what to do.  Here's the recipe verbatim, and my updated version is below. A note about bread crumbs.  Grandma always used the stuff out of the bag from the grocery store.  This year, I followed the Serious Eats Food Lab's advice and made my own from high quality white sandwich bread.  Next year, I'm going to go back to homemade bread crumbs made from bread with a good chewy crust, because that's how I like it.

For an 8 lb bird.

  • 1/2 lb chestnuts
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 lb pork meat ground
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • giblets
  • celery
  • 2 cups toasted bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp sherry wine
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 1 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp powdered sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Wash chestnuts and make long slits on both sides. 

Bake 500 degree oven, 15 min, remove and take off shells.

Boil 20 min.

Saute meat, onions and butter, 10 min.

Updated Variation:

  • 1 lb chestnuts
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 lb pork sage sausage, not in casings
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • giblets
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cupish chopped sage
  • 2 tbsp powdered sage
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4-6 cups toasted bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp sherry wine
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash your chestnuts (Grandma knows best).  Score an x through each chestnut, making sure to get through the skin.  Toss with the oil.  Heat a large skillet (that you have a lid for) on the stove, add the chestnuts and roast, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then add 1/4 cup of water and cover and roast until water is gone, about 5 minutes.

Let your chestnuts cool, then good luck shelling those bad boys.  Then give them a nice rough chop.

Wash your skillet, return to the stove.  Add the onions and sausage (and giblets if you've got them), and saute until the sausage looses most of the pink.  Add the celery and continue to saute until soft.  Add your herbs and salt and pepper.  Don't be shy with the salt – there's a lot of bread to season!

Whisk your egg in a medium bowl, then stir in 1 cup broth and sherry.  If you're my uncle Maurice, you probably would have also added a little milk.

Combine your chopped chestnuts, bread crumbs and meat mixture in a very very large bowl.  Toss.  Transfer into a large casserole dish – you'll need at least a 9×13 dish. 

Pour the egg mixture over the bread mixture and press the bread down.  If you like a more custardy stuffing, add more liquid.  If you like a chewier, crumblier stuffing add less and think about omitting the egg. 

Bake for 30 minutes, covered with foil.  Remove foil and bake for another 15-30 minutes until set and golden brown on top.

Try not to eat it all before you make it to your aunt's house.  Or be thankful that even if you aren't with your family, you have the whole thing to yourself, to eat with a fork, standing at the counter, straight out of the casserole dish.

Happy Thanksgiving!

leek bread pudding

serving of pudding

what is the difference between savory bread pudding and stuffing?

this is not a trick question.  or maybe it is a trick question?

to start with, savory bread pudding is a delightful treat you make in the middle of a regular old week (not thanksgiving) and serve it to some of your BFFs rather than 40 odd relatives.

plus, you don't stuff it in a bird.  which i think is kind of gross. 

don't get me wrong.  i love stuffing.  thanksgiving isn't thanksgiving without stuffing made from grandma renee's amazing tauzin family recipe.  but i make it in a casserole dish the way FDA inspectors, harold mcgee, and god (in that order) intended.

i'm not going to compare this bread pudding with that stuffing though.  bird of a different feather.  both tasty, neither really need a recipe.  stuffing is more crumbly and scoopable, but this bread pudding is more of a sliceable-custard-based dish.  and i think the brioche and the leeks make it a little more fancy pants.

check out those leeks!  fancy!

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more importantly, check out the new saute pan!  i've made the leap, friends, from nonstick to, well, very sticky.  it resulted in this:

not nonstick

and it resulted in me scrubbing at it for quite a bit of time.  did i not add enough butter?  i'm pretty sure that can't be it. should i have "deglazed" the pan with water?  the learning curve of adult cookware.  sigh.

anyway, i'm getting ahead of myself.

the leeks get a cute little parchment hat while they're gumming up my shiny new pan.  this recipe is from our friend thomas keller and he just has this thing for parchment hats. 

i mean, parchment lids. 

that's what grown-ups would call them.

crispy, golden brown brioche croutons give this bread pudding some serious body. 

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the croutons, plus a nice sprinkling of parmesan cheese give this bread pudding a nice crunchy bite on the top and a lovely chewy border – like the crusty corners that make everything from brownies to kugels to baked pastas so yumtastic. 

top of pudding

this is a seriously satisfying dish.  light, but rich, good warm out of the oven or room temperature.  i served it with pork tenderloin (you're SHOCKED) and asparagus (sorry michael pollan), but i think it would have been really lovely just with a green salad, dressed with something light and lemony.

Leek Bread Pudding

Lightly Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home and Smitten Kitchen

I'll be honest, I didn't really measure anything for this recipe.  So I give you approximations as being exact isn't super important here.

  • 2 cups leeks, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut in four pieces
  • 4-6 cups challah or brioche bread, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Nutmeg, salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 3/4 cup (or more!  live large!) grated parmesan or other tangy cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Make your parchment paper hat.  Cut a round of parchment paper the size of your saute pan, then fold it up like you're making a paper snowflake and cut a little hole in the center to let out the steam.  Or, you know, decide that Thomas Keller is too precious for you and skip it.

Warm up your saute pan, and add the leeks.  Saute until they start to soften and throw off some liquid, stirring, for about 5 minutes.  Then add the butter and top with your parchment lid and let it melt down over mediumish heat for about 20 minutes, stirring a few times.

Toast your bread cubes in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring midway so the croutons get more or less evenly toasted. 

Combine the leeks and the croutons.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk, herbs, nutmeg and salt and pepper. 

Grease your pan.  Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of cheese on the bottom.  Add about half of the leeks and croutons, then a layer of 1/4 cup of cheese, then the rest of the croutons, then the rest of the cheese. 

Here, Thomas Keller recommends adding about 2 cups of the milk mixture, pressing the croutons to get them good and soaked, and letting it rest for 20 minutes before adding the remainder of the milk mixture and then baking for about an hour or until firm.

I skipped this because it was getting late and I was hungry and had promised to feed people on a school night and thought that they would appreciate dinner slightly before midnight.  It turned out ok.  The top layer of croutons were probably a little drier than they otherwise would have been.  So, if you have the patience and the time, soak your croutons.

Enjoy!

baby artichokes, i win

baby artichokes

aren’t they cute?  they look so innocent.  you can almost hear them whisper: hello.  i’m small, adorable and green.  take me home and turn me into something yummy!

devious little buggers.

first few times i tried to make some magic with baby artichokes, i just couldn’t get it right.  and to be honest, the problem was me.

a confession – i hate kitchen waste.  i hate, for example, peeling a watermelon and feeling like half the watermelon is still attached to the rind.

i had to do breathing exercises to get through my knife skills class because to make those exquisite, perfect, 2 in by 1/4 in by 1/4 carrot batons or petit brunoise potato dice, you leave most of the vegetable behind.

control issues?  what do you mean control issues?

anyway.  you have to let that go with the baby artichokes.  check this out.

artichoke carnage

i don’t know if you can tell, but the pile of discarded baby artichoke leaves DWARFS the tender, pale green hearts.

but friends, you must be ruthless.  if you don’t, your baby artichokes will end up woody.  inedible.  they will mock you from under their yummy, tangy, lemony glaze.

if you truly can leave no artichoke leaf behind, go find yourself one of those jumbo dudes.  i’ll even share my momma’s top secret artichoke cooking technique.

are you ready? 

wrap in plastic wrap and nuke it until it’s tender.  try not to think about whatever it is that’s leeching into your food fromthe plastic.  melt some butter (also feel free to nuke that).  good to go.  is there anything better? 

did i hear you say aioli?  yeah, that works.  or mayo, on a spoon from the jar.  no biggie.

anyway, back to our petit artichauts.  now that you’ve gone and really stripped them down, you’re ready to introduce them to their friends lemon, garlic, white wine, and thyme. 

they’re going to get along swimmingly.

sauteing artichokes

let me tell you, these were some tasty artichokes.  they were tender and sweet.  the dressing was a wonderful balance of acid and tart and savory herbally goodness. 

but, jeez louise, they just aren’t as adorable as they were at the start, right?

bowl of artichokes

this leads me to lesson number two today.  i didn’t get my artichokes soaking in lemon water quite soon enough, and the artichokes went from green to . . . a, uh, slightly less appetizing tan color.

the irony – and i may need an english teacher here to tell me if this is real irony or alanis morissette irony – it was my endless futzing with them for photographs that kept them from the lemon bath they needed to look good in the photographs. 

the somm feels their pain, let me tell you. 

so, don’t be like me.  strip your artichokes, soak your artichokes, serve them to the ones you love.

Artichoke Antipasto

Not at all adapted from David Tanis’ Heart of the Artichoke, unless you count my smart-ass, alcoholic asides.  Original recipe here, buy the book here.

  • 10 to 12 baby artichokes
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1/3 cupish white wine
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 small garlic cloves, chopped
  • Small pinch red pepper flakes
  • Parsley to taste

Open the bottle of wine, pour yourself a glass.  Quality control.

Fill a bowl with water and squeeze in the lemon juice.  Don’t be shy.

Tell the baby artichokes their time has come.  One at a time, chop off about the top third of each artichoke, or maybe a little less.  Pull off the hard green outer leaves until just the tender lighter green leaves are left.  Slice them in half, lengthwise, and add them to the lemon water.  Immediately.

Heat your (non-cast iron) skillet and add olive oil and let it get warm.  Drain the artichokes and add them to the pan with some salt and pepper.  Then add the wine and thyme and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes are tender when you test them with a fork, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes (to taste!), and cook for a minute or so until the garlic starts to smell and loses that raw garlic bite.

Take the pan off the heat, add the lemon zest and parsley.  I don’t think I added the parsley.  I’m not a huge fan, plus my little plant hasn’t been doing so well, and I honestly just never really remember to garnish.  But, by all means.  Arugula would also probably work here.

David Tanis says you can let them cool to room temperature to serve as a part of an antipasto platter.  They didn’t really last that long for us.  Nom.

pseudo single lady eggplant caponata

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i do a lot of pseudo-single-lady cooking.  forget rachel ray, if the somm is out of town, dinner needs to take about 15 minutes to get from the fridge into my mouth.  this tends to limit the repertoire to, well, zucchini hash and a fried egg if i can muster the energy to chop something.  or olives and a very large glass of wine if it’s been one of those days.

yeah. classy.  i’ll be sure to get that recipe up here one of these days.

anyway, when i’m a pseudo-single-lady who has her $%*! together and isn’t too hangry at the world to cope with cooking, i’ll make a big pot of something that’ll last all week to use in various forms for lunch and dinner.  like a big pork tenderloin or a pot of braised chicken that’ll go in salads or on pasta.  mmm.

this is one of those type of recipes.

eggplant caponata is kind of like the italian version of ratatouille.  but it has more eggplant than tomato.  and you chop the veggies up into smaller pieces.

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and unlike tomatoey ratatouille, which i melt into almost a stew, the eggplant in caponata tends to hold its shape and texture even as you saute and simmer it.  and it ends up more as a dip.  or like salsa?  do you know what i’m getting at here?

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the type of caponata i like to make is pretty tangy.  lots of capers and olives and some red wine or sherry vinegar to zing it up.

the secret ingredient?  pine nuts.

no one would call a pine nut crunchy.  but against the silky smooth texture of the eggplant, tomato, and red pepper, they give the caponata a much needed bite.  and a nice toasty, nutty layer of flavor to the dish.

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don’t be like me and totally forget about your pine nuts and let them get slightly too toasty on one side while staying oddly nakedly blonde on the other.

just keepin’ it real, folks.

so, i’ve made caponata for family dinners when the somm’s home.  i made a huge batch, and it just got better all week.  the yogi came over and we spread it on french bread, crumbled some feta on top, broiled it and had it in our faces in under 15 minutes, FTW.

look, here i’ve served it with pork.

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shocking, i know.  i pretty much have served everything i’ve made this summer with pork.  thank god it’s dropping into winter weather this weekend so i can give my old friends the short ribs some love.

Eggplant Caponata

Adapted from the New York Times

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, chopped into 1/2ish cubes or close enough (see note)
  • 2 medium to large ripe tomatoes, diced (and peeled if you’re feeling fancy), or half a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 heaped tablespoons capers, drained
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1 good splash of red wine
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Heat your oil in your skillet, add the onions and saute for a few minutes.  You probably don’t want to let them brown because they’ve got some more cooking to do, but I can never remember to stir and I’m usually chopping the eggplant or garlic and forget, and it works out ok.

Add the garlic and red bell pepper and saute for another few minutes to get the pepper softening.  Then add your eggplant and cook until it gets a little brown – maybe 10 minutes or so.

Add your tomatoes, olives, and capers, cook for a few minutes then add the tomato paste and liquids.  Cook until the liquid is just gone and the sauce holds together.  Taste it and see if the balance of tart and savory is right for you or if it needs more vinegar or maybe even a pinch of sugar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can either add the pine nuts now, or you can reserve and garnish as needed.  This helps keep them from going too soft in my opinion.

Caponata is best served warm or room temperature, but it’s pretty darn good on crackers straight out of the fridge too.

A note about eggplants: Many people find eggplant to be bitter if you don’t salt it first.  I usually buy the lighter purple eggplants.  Or the funky streaky looking ones. In part, if I’m being honest, cause they’re kind of prettier.  But I also think they’re sweeter and less bitter than the darker ones.  And I’m lazy and that’s my excuse to not salt my eggplant.  Feel free to salt yours if you have the patience or desire.  Also, the New York Times has you roast your eggplant.  I like the firm bite of a non-roasted eggplant, and didn’t really want to add the prep time, but I’m sure it’s lovely either way.  Aren’t you so glad you came for all this (not) helpful (completely subjective, not tested) advice!

 

spicy corn saute

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there’s a lot of corn in the world right now.  it keeps following me home.  there are going to be a LOT of corn recipes coming up, folks.  bear with me.

today’s corn recipe comes courtesy of the spilled milk podcast.  do you know spilled milk?  you should.  and if you don’t you’re in for a treat.  i just discovered it about a month ago which means i have several years of past episodes to catch up on.

this is one of my favorite things – playing catch-up on books or tv shows.  i’m impatient, so it works out not having to wait for new content, but also means i’m usually about two years behind the world, culture wise.  highlights of the year: working my way through five seasons of friday night lights and discovering the bazillion pages of the first four game of thrones books.  the two weeks i had to wait until the next book was released this summer?  let’s just say, good thing i was mostly in spain.  lots of lovely temperanillo and worrying about the somm avoiding the bulls in pamplona to distract me.

anyway, this is a food blog, and spilled milk is a food podcast.  a hilarious food podcast.   and about a year ago, they did a great episode on cord off the cob . . . or corn on the spoon as we prefer to call it around here.

you should always start with super fresh corn.  this kind of fresh:

tell you what: they weren’t lying.  farmer’s market produce, not for the faint of heart.

this corn is spicy.  no kidding spicy.  it calls for a whole jalepeno to four ears of corn, but man.  i used about two thirds of a pepper (and no seeds) and it still killed me.

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saute it up.  this recipe is based around not just the jalepeno, but the yummy layer of brown gunky stuff that gums up the bottom of the pan when you saute corn.  all the sugar and flavor of the corn.  gunk.  molly & matthew on spilled milk have assured me, it’s a technical term!

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admission: i have been known to scrape that gunk up and eat it off the spatula.  salty, sweet, like corn msg.  this recipe is better, and less likely to disgust your friends and loved ones.  deglaze the pan with a little water (or maybe even wine?  live large!) and the corn kernals soak all that flavor back up.

i couldn’t tell if manchego approved or not.

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he doesn’t particularly enjoy corn and can’t quite understand why if i’m going to cook rather than play laser tag with him i don’t cook something with protein.  now, roasted chicken.  there’s something he can get behind.

sorry dude.  this corn was good.  better in a quesadilla, where the cheese helped cut the burning fire in my mouth.  hello jalepeno!

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For this recipe: Corn off the Cob by Spilled Milk

My changes: less jalepeno, a mix of scallions and red onion cause that was what i had, and sprinkle of pepitas on top.