Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Topping


This cheesecake/pumpkin pie/pecan pie tri-brid was the best cheesecake I've ever made. 

I LOATHE using water baths for cheesecakes and custards because I am terrible at keeping the water out of my pans. This low temperature, long baking method eliminates the need for a water bath to ensure even baking. It is wonderful. It takes some TLC, but it's totally worth it in the end.

No cracking, no bullshit. Best pumpkin cheesecake ever.


(Katherine Beto)

Ingredients:

Cheesecake:

  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (1 3/4 cups)
  • 8 whole graham crackers, broken
  • 1/2 cup pecans (2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups cream cheese (14 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Praline topping (recipe follows!)

Driections:


  1. Set a rack over a baking sheet and line the rack with 2 layers of paper towels. Spread the pumpkin puree over the paper towels and let drain for 2 hours, until the puree is fairly dry.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until finely ground.
  3. Add the pecans and brown sugar and pulse until finely ground.
  4. Add the melted butter and pulse just until incorporated.
  5. Press the crumbs onto the bottom of the prepared pan.
  6. Bake the crust for 5-8 minutes, just until it is fragrant and lightly browned. Let the crust cool completely. (Watch your crust carefully! I burned TWO before I got this right. When it's fragrant and darkish…take it out!)
  7. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese until it is very smooth.
  8. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar with the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.
  9. With the machine on, add the spiced sugar to the cream cheese and beat until creamy, scraping the bottom and side of the bowl.
  10. Carefully add the drained pumpkin puree and beat until smooth.
  11. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl between each addition. (This process is tedious, but completely necessary for light, fluffiness!)
  12. Beat in the heavy cream, lemon juice and vanilla until the cheesecake mixture is smooth.
  13. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the cooled crust and bake for 12 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 220° and bake the cheesecake for about 3 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 150°; the center will be very jiggly but not liquify.
  14. Let the cheesecake cool on a rack, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 
  15. Run a hot knife around the cheesecake and loosen the springform ring. Carefully remove the ring and transfer the cake to a plate.
  16. Using a warm knife, cut the cake into wedges and serve with the Pecan Praline Topping and whipped cream.


Praline Topping:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups pecans (8 ounces)

Directions:


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer just until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Let the caramel cool.
  2. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until they are lightly browned and fragrant.
  3. Transfer the pecans to a work surface and let them cool.
  4. Coarsely chop the nuts, stir them into the cooled caramel and serve.


Beer-Brined Turkey with Onion Gravy and Bacon (The OMG OGB Turkey)





I cannot possibly explain to you the epic deliciousness of this turkey.

It was genius.

It was miraculous.

It was life-changing.

It was bacon.

Turkey is scary for a few different reasons:

Number one, it is usually associated with forced awkward family gatherings that require a lot of wine to maintain sanity (for me, at least).

Number 2, turkey is a damn intimidating, huge fucking bird (Or reptile, if you're an animal nerd, like me).

And number 3, turkey has a huge tendency to come out dry and flavorless. Turkey is the bird from which holiday dinner nightmares come. 

Unfortunately, the first two issues are pretty impossible to resolve. BUT….I've acquired a handy trick for combatting the awful, nightmarish dry/flavorlessness of this typical holiday main dish.

Brining. Brining is the answer. And brining will change your life.

(And let's be honest. So will bacon.)

I give you….the Oh My God Onion Gravy Bacon Turkey.

(Adapted from Grace Parisi)


Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 8 bay leaves 
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 onions, cut into thick wedges
  • 1 pound slab bacon, skin removed and meat sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • Six 12-ounce bottles Guinness stout
  • One 12- to 14-pound turkey
  • 1 cup turkey stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions:

The Brine:

  1. In a very large pot, combine the mustard seeds, peppercorns and bay leaves and toast over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. 
  2. Add the brown sugar and salt and remove from the heat. Add 4 cups of water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved; let cool completely.
  3. Pour the brine into a lidded container large enough to hold the turkey and the brine, and small enough to fit in your fridge. We were able to use a small file storage bin and it worked perfectly.  
  4. Add the onions, bacon, Guinness and 16 cups of cold water to the pot.
  5. Add the turkey to the brine, breast side down, and top with a heavy lid to keep it submerged. 
  6. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The Baking: 


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and position a rack on the bottom shelf.
  2. Lift the turkey from the brine, pick off any peppercorns, mustard seeds and bay leaves and pat dry.
  3. Transfer the turkey to a large roasting pan, breast side up.
  4. Scatter the onion wedges in the pan and add 1 cup of water.
  5. Using toothpicks, secure the bacon slices over the breast.
  6. Roast the turkey for about 2 hours, turning the pan occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted deep into the turkey thighs registers 150°.
  7. Remove the bacon and return the turkey to the oven. Roast for about 1 hour longer, until the breast is browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in a thigh registers 170°.
  8. Transfer the turkey to a carving board to rest.
  9. Pour the pan juices and onion wedges into a saucepan and boil until reduced to 3 cups, about 5 minutes.
  10. Add the turkey stock and return to a boil.
  11. In a small bowl, mash the butter to a paste with the flour.
  12. Whisk the paste into the gravy and boil until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.**
  13. Meanwhile, cut the bacon crosswise 1/2 inch thick.
  14. In a large skillet, fry the bacon over high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes.
  15. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy and bacon.

**If gravy is too salty, add some half and half or heavy cream and reduce until you reach your desired consistency.

Grilled Steak with Poblano Corn Salsa


Over the summer, I rediscovered corn. I mean, I've always liked it, I guess I just forgot about it. Since it's rediscovery, I can't get enough of it. I know it's fall now, and corn is supposed to be dried up and used as a centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner. I know that it's starting to get too cold to grill outside. 

But you know what?

I don't care.

I love steak and I fucking love corn, and I will eat them both whenever I damn well please.

Especially when the recipe is super simple, super healthy, and damn delicious.

Thank you, again, Grace Parisi.


(Adapted from Grace Parisi)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears of corn, husked
  • 1 large poblano or pasilla chile
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • (4) 5-7 ounce sirloin steaks
Directions:


  1. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Rub the corn and poblano lightly with oil and grill over high heat, just until the corn is lightly browned and the poblano is lightly charred all over but still firm, about 3 minutes.
  2. Peel and core the poblano, then finely dice it. Cut the kernels from the corn cobs.
  3. Transfer half of the poblano and corn to a blender. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of water and puree to a chunky sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a small bowl, toss the remaining poblano and corn kernels with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Rub the steaks with oil and season them generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Grill the steaks over high heat, turning once or twice, until lightly charred, about 6 minutes.
  7. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before thinly slicing across the grain.
  8. Spoon the sauce onto plates and top with the steak. Spoon the salsa on the meat and serve right away.

Peppermint Bark


(Adapted from Food.com)

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces chocolate chips
  • 1 lb white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup peppermint candy, crushed


Directions:


  1. Preheat oven to 250 F.
  2. Line a 9x13 pan with foil, letting it hang over the sides. Spray foil.
  3. Pour the chocolate chips in an even layer on the foil. Place in oven for 5 minutes or until almost melted.
  4. Remove from oven, smooth with a spatula.
  5. Place in refrigerator until cold and firm, about 20 minutes.
  6. Melt white chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a metal bowl over simmering water (don’t let bottom of bowl touch water), until chocolate is almost melted.
  7. Remove bowl from water and stir until completely melted, stirring in extract.
  8. Let cool a little bit so it doesn’t melt the chocolate layer when you pour it on top. Pour this over chocolate layer, and, working quickly, spread to cover.
  9. Sprinkle with crushed candy (I pressed the candy in just a bit). 
  10. Chill until both layers are firm. Lift foil out of pan and shake off excess candy.
  11. Trim edges. Peel away foil and break into pieces. Makes about 1 pound.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bacon, Onion, and Sourdough Stuffing



(Adapted from Melissa Rubel Jacobson)

Ingredients:

  • One 9-inch-long loaf sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used a pre-sliced loaf!)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, Walla Walla, etc.)
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped sage
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 pound piece of slab bacon, sliced 1/2 inch thick and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions:


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  2. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toast the rye bread cubes for about 15-20 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until lightly golden and dry. Transfer the bread to a large bowl.
  3. In a skillet, melt the butter.
  4. Add the onion and celery; cook over moderate heat until tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the sage and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape into the bowl with the bread.
  6. Wipe out the skillet. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until browned, about 10 minutes.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the bowl with the bread.
  8. In a medium bowl, whisk the chicken broth with the egg. Pour over the bread mixture and add the kosher salt and pepper.
  9. Toss until the bread soaks up the liquid. Scrape into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. 
  10. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  11. Bake the stuffing for about 30 minutes, until hot throughout.
  12. Remove the foil and bake for about 30 minutes longer, until the top is lightly golden.
  13. Serve hot or warm.

Quick Asian Pickled Cucumber


Pickled cucumbers can be used for all kinds of things. You can use them for salads, chicken dishes, and if you're like Boyfriend and you love all things pickle-related, you can eat them by themselves as a snack.

A few nights ago, I wanted something to spice up a salad, so I browsed the internets for some recipes and created my own version of a quick-pickled asian style cucumber.

I must say, I think I did pretty well. =]


Ingredients:
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • a pinch of salt

Directions:
  1. Scoop seeds out of each cucumber quarter with a spoon.  
  2. Slice cucumbers thinly. Since you scooped the seeds out of each cucumber, you'll have thinly sliced half moons.
  3. Dry cucumber slices in paper towels. Squeeze to drain liquid.
  4. Combine vinegar, sugar, sesame seeds, and salt in a small bowl.
  5. Place cucumbers in a mason jar, or a small ziplock bag.
  6. Pour vinegar mixture into the jar or bag with the cucumbers.
  7. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to one week.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fresh Pumpkin Spice Pie




Boyfriend and I moved to our new apartment almost nine months ago. Since then, we've had two parties, countless kickbacks, and I've made dinner at least three nights a week (and when I make dinner, I try to make things I haven't made before!). 

However, we have never had anyone over for dinner.

Of course, I've made dinner for our roommate (Mah Bestfriend), and for other close friends. It's never been a big deal, and usually we're all drunk. I just make food, and people I live with eat it. The end.

So I've been really excited/terrified to make dinner for people who aren't drunk roommates.

A girl I've worked with for years and her boyfriend are coming over for dinner tomorrow night. She's someone who I consider to be a close friend in an unusual way. We've been through so much together-- hated each other, appreciated each other, related to one another, and somehow became unlikely friends. But all of these experiences have been at work. It's been a crazy ride, and we're both busy with school and work, so it's been hard to hang out.

This dinner has been a long time coming.

Boyfriend and I finally get to have an actual sober adult dinner party thing in our new-ish apartment, and we finally get to hang out with a couple we've been needing to kick it with for years!

And damn, was it a great night!!





(Adapted from AllRecipes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 sugar pumpkin (A sugar pumpkin, or pumpkin pie pumpkin. For more info, check out Baking Bites)
  • 1 recipe for My Favorite Pie Crust
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (If you don't have it, you can make it REALLY easily from the recipe here!)
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk


Directions:
  1. Cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds.
  2. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled aluminum foil. 
  3. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the flesh is tender when poked with a fork.
  4. Cool until just warm.
  5. Scrape the pumpkin flesh from the peel.
  6. Either mash, or puree in small batches in a blender.
  7. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C.)
  8. In a large bowl, slightly beat eggs.
  9. Add brown sugar, flour, salt, 2 cups of the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and evaporated milk. Stir well after each addition. (Don't be alarmed by the runniness of the filling!)
  10. Put the whole mixture in the food processer again and process until smooth, in batches if necessary.
  11. Pour mixture into the unbaked pastry shell.
  12. Place a strip of aluminum foil around the edge of the crust to prevent over browning.
  13. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C), then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  14. Bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  15. Remove the strip of foil about 20 minutes before the pie is done so that the edge of the crust will be a light golden brown.
  16. Cool pie, and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

Braised Beef Short Ribs





Last week was Boyfriend's 31st birthday! He came home to cupcakes and beer glasses...




...and he asked me to make him a special dinner. 

I do believe I delivered.

With the help of Roommate/Beyestfreyend, I made my first attempt at braising.

It went well.

(Adapted from Anne Burrell)

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 6 bone-in short ribs (about 5 pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3/4 cups tomato paste
  • 2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions

  1. Season each short ribs with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. (We were using a mini food processor, and it took several batches. If your ribs get done browning before your paste is ready, they're totally fine to sit for a few minutes!)
  4. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan.
  5. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables.
  6. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes (Don't stir too much or it won't form the "crud"). Scrape the crud and let it reform. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. 
  7. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes.
  8. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.
  9. Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat. 
  10. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves.
  11. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time.
  12. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce.
  13. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart.
  14. Serve with the braising liquid and Perfect Mashed Potatoes!




Perfect Mashed Potatoes




I've made mashed potatoes a million times, but these are seriously the best ones I've ever had. They're smooth, creamy, luscious, and ridiculously easy to make.

They're so simple, it's wrong

The secret? The perfect ratio of potatoes, butter, and cream.

Tyler Florence has done it again.

(Tyler Florence)


Ingredients

  • 4 pounds golden creamer potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters (I used yukon)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives


Directions

  • Put the potatoes into a large pot, add the bay leaf, 2 tablespoons salt, and cover with cold water. 
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain them well and remove the bay leaf.
  • Meanwhile, heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan.
  • Put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a bowl. (I used a fork and just mashed them up really well!)
  • Add the hot cream and season with salt and pepper. Mix together with a spoon and top with chives.