Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leftover potpie—what to do with extra turkey

For elevensies today Alex and I enjoyed a Thanksgiving reincarnation: leftover turkey potpie. We used literally every edible item in our home to pull this one off. Two wayward carrots, the only garlic clove I could find, and some of the pie dough leftover from the braided crust project. To flavor the pies, and make sure they didn’t taste like what we’ve been eating for the last three days, I added two generous tablespoons of mustard to the filling and a sprinkling of sharp cheddar to the pie dough. Yum.
Now we’re on the second leg of a LOTR journey. It’s going to be a good day.
"Fly, you fools!"

Leftover turkey and mustard potpie 

Two carrots
1 garlic clove
Two cups cubed cooked turkey
Three heaping spoons of gravy
Two spoons of mustard
½ cup water
1 pinch thyme
¼ cup frozen peas
A tennis ball of leftover pie dough
Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper

Chop two carrots. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add carrots, season with salt and pepper, and let soften 5 minutes. Mince a garlic clove. Add to pan. After a minute, add two cups of cubed turkey, a few spoons of gravy, and a couple spoons of mustard. Stir in about ½ cup water to form a sauce. Add a pinch of thyme and season with salt and pepper. At the last minute add ¼ cup of frozen peas.

Meanwhile, roll out a tennis ball-sized portion of leftover pie dough. Whisk an egg in a small bowl. Transfer the filling between two ramekins. Wipe the edge of the ramekins with egg. Cut the dough in half, forming two rectangles. Lay them on top of the ramekins, sticking to the egg. Brush the tops of the crusts with more egg, and top with grated sharp cheddar. Bake the potpies for 25 minutes at 400 degrees until golden and hot.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Crawl 2011, a photo diary (mostly about the braided crust that almost wasn't)

Ten hours, three T-Gives celebrations, and one camera phone have this to show for my favorite Thursday of the year. Feast your eyes on the pre-gobble prep (making pumpkin purée), the day of pie project––during a many-paused screening of Jurassic Park––and the plates that made us full. Hope your day was as filling as ours!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Squash-stuffed pasta shells (yes, squash again!)

I write this post under the perfectly arced bow of the ribbon-link garland I created and hung this afternoon. In the dining room, paper snowflakes are twinkling as much as paper can under the glow of eco-friendly bulbs in a cheap ceiling lamp.  This year’s advent calendar is poised to claim the coveted spot on our front door, replacing the three dried corn cobs that are basking in their last few days of fall glory. I’ve argued down the suggestion that we get a 15-foot Christmas tree (displayed sideways) to hang the dozen ornaments Alex and I have collected over the years of being grownups.  Winter craft and decorating season is upon us and the project possibilities seem endless. (I blame pinterest.(...Ive been doing that a lot lately.))
This project buzz has also carried over the proverbial built-in china cabinet to my oven. I’ve finally accepted that a lot of winter foods take more steps to make than the tomato on a plate that kept us satisfied this summer. I’m also super into pasta right now. Thus: A pasta-based project consumed my day off last week, and was in turn consumed for dinner. 
After returning from NYC, I encountered the beets, carrots, and squash that had been part of our CSA delivery last week and still hadn’t made it onto the dinner plate. Something had to be done. But first I’m going to watch daytime television.

What? OLTL is being cancelled. We may never find out how Cole fared in prison. Jessica may never think she is crazy Bess or slutty Tess again. Gigi could die for real, and we’d never know! And what is this “The Chew” that is replacing my stories? Clinton Kelly, say what? Top Chef Carla! …wow, Mario Batali can cook even if he insists on wearing crocs. Sautéed squash submerged in fontina-cream sauce? I have squash! Done and done.

I went to the grocery store to buy cheese and more pretzels for my new mustard—which I didn’t actually buy when, during perusal of the Rold Gold ingredient list, my eyes stuck upon the dreaded “corn syrup”—way to ruin a great snack, Rold Gold. Paul Newman don’t play me like that. Im finna go to another store and get his pretzels sticks. You suck. I kept shopping anyway, taking a shortcut from the deli over to the bread zone and passing through the pasta aisle. That was when I realized: Not only did something have to be done, but something had to be stuffed. 
Jumbo shells! Stuffed with roasted squash mash. Smothered in fontina alfredo. And baked until golden. Let’s do this.
I began by roasting the squash (drizzled with oil, and generously salt and peppered) in the 400-ish oven for 45 minutes or so. Times and temperatures will vary when you use an oven that cares about the reputation it maintains. Meanwhile, I boiled the jumbo shells in salted water for one less minute than directed, to ensure that they didn’t get mushy during the baking portion of the event.
In a saucepan, I melted two tablespoons of butter and added two tablespoons of flour. Next came two cups of milk (2 percent was on hand). Whisk this to remove any lumps. Once the roux thickened, I added freshly grated nutmeg and ground pepper. Then I removed the pan from the heat and mixed in 3 ounces of fontina and a Michael Jordan-sized handful of parmesan. Salt to taste.
The last step was to fill the shells with the squashed squash, arrange them nicely in a baking dish, and top them with the cheese sauce.  Into the oven at 350-ish for 30 minutes or so. And enjoy!
The recipe still needs work. I think most crucially: ricotta must be cut into the jumbo shell filling to anchor the dish squarely in the savory. Also to promote proper texture and deliciousness. It was good, hitting notes of warmth and sweet and buttery goodness, but could definitely be improved.

In other news: It turns out my distaste for squash couldn’t survive at this latitude if I wanted to survive the winter on local produce. There’s not much else on offer at the moment. The only variety available is in the different types of apples, root vegetables, hearty greens, and, of course, gourds.
You know what this means, right? I’m going to have to give spinach another shot. Le sigh. At least it’s a good time to start a project.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Brooklyn bites

After this last weekend in NYC, our dear friends at BeerUnion’s journey to a legal union is officially complete. And, of course, I ate a lot of great food that I didn’t take any pictures of. I didn’t even remember to get a formal photo with Alex of both of us all gussied up—even if there are innumerable photos (and no doubt videos) of us tearing up the dance floor. You know that’s right.
Luckily, I did take pictures of our trip to the Dekalb Market in Brooklyn. A series of shops set up in freight cars, this seemingly abandoned train yard is actually a pretty nifty dining experience.
After exploring the park, Alex and I settled on Cheeky Sandwiches—a short rib, challah, horseradish combo for Al, and egg on a biscuit for me. My biscuit was warm, buttery and satisfying on a blustery November day and Alex gobbled his own up before I could have a bite, yet the simplicity for price ratio left something to be desired.
Between the un-pictured goat cheese ravioli soaked in butter, salt bagels, buttermilk fried chicken with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and pulled pork, my favorite taste discovery of the weekend was My Friend’s Mustard, which arrived as part of our welcome package with pretzels for dipping and beer for pairing.
Now that was a “welcome” snack.  We had a fabulous time at the wedding and I am so happy for the newlyweds (now off on their honeymoon to Austria), but what I really want to say is: Thanks for the mustard!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

CSA roulette, squashing my squash issues

We went full throttle with the CSA this week, forgoing our right to chose our own adventure and instead embarking on the perilous journey known as “the single vegetable box.” We took a risk, threw caution to the wind, and let the fates decide our vegetal future!
Well, the unknown turned out pretty unknown. More unknown than expected. Irv and Shelly gave us an estimate of what would be in the box this week, however—much like estimates from contractors on the length of a home remodel project—they were wrong. We got none of the produce listed. No safe red potatoes, no trusty Brussels sprouts. Where were the kale, fennel, and onions I had been promised? What is that green spore thing? Is that white carrot a turnip or a parsnip? And what do I do with it? It seems, the botanical fates wanted me to put me in the hot seat.
What hotter seat is there than the oven? This week, we’ve roasted… everything, pretty much. I know summer has a reputation as the sweet season—ripe fruits and berries, bursting with sugary juice—but the winter vegetables are striking me as unseasonably (see what I did there?) sweet this year.
Roasted carrots, roasted parsnip (it wasnt a turnip), roasted garlic (obvs), with crisp apples over celery heart salad—so sweet and earthy.
A savory frittata studded with roasted romanesco broccoli, bursting with natural saccharinity (who knew!).
And roasted winter squash—yes, squash!—it turns out I like squash!—in lentil salad of all places. With a few tweaks (reflected below), this is the recipe that changed my mind:

Coat two cups (I went heavy on the lentils, light on the squash) of cubed squash with olive oil, ¼ teaspoon curry, ¼ teaspoon paprika, and salt/pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and cook 1 cup of lentils for 30 minutes, or until tender.

Drain the lentils and put them in a large bowl, mix in roasted squash, one tablespoon raisins, a glug of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley. Top with toasted almonds and fresh goat cheese.
Building a salad is a lot like building a set of foursquare rules: How would a round of “monkey house” function without the incessant cherry bombs, “Bananas!,” and general anarchy? You have to contrast textures while melding flavors to create excitement and cohesion.

Tangy goat cheese, sweet squash, and warm curry set off hearty lentils and make this salad a satisfying dish—appropriate for all your winter noshing needs. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Embracing the potato

Well, it’s been a full week since my last post on the end of fall as we’ve known it. I bet you think I’ve taken this time off to wallow in self pity and gorge myself on Peru-grown tropical fruits and heavily processed corn chips. Youre wrong. I kept my kitchen estrangement to a few meals at Nightwood (hamburgers on Friday when we’d run out of food during the turnover from Thursday market replenishment to a Saturday CSA drop-off, and a spooky Sunday brunch with my loving mother who just wanted a ride to Target). 
Bacon. Doughnut.
And so I am not wallowing, but indeed embracing this next season. I’ve begun my Christmas shopping and cranked up the holiday jukebox. When Alex rejected the notion that the holidays were upon us I reprimanded him with a “’Tis the season!” only to be brushed back with his sharp, “’Tis it?!” I think it ’tis.
Our new CSA worked out well. I’m especially loving the crisp romaine, Prairie Fruit Farms fresh chèvre, and local dried cranberries (wildly different from “craisins”) that have debuted in my lunch salad this week. Yet I couldn’t quite quit Nichols produce. The Farmstand, a small market two blocks from my office, carries only local goods, including items from Nichols farm. Naturally I stopped in and bought potatoes.

And then I baked them. Twice. 
Melissa Clarke’s aptly titled Cook this Now is ATR (all the rage, Mom, OMG) on the food blog circuit, especially for the seasonally geared. The recipes are divided by month and feature fresh produce, bold flavors, and clean preparations. It’s a cookbook for the now and the here, and where I got the recipe for these twice-baked potatoes stuffed with corned beef. …Erin go bragh? 
I pre-baked the potatoes last night to ensure dinner service would be on time this evening. It takes 75 minutes to bake a potato. No wonder the Irish starved. (Too soon?)   
To prepare the once-baked potatoes, cut them in half and scoop out the inside, leaving a quarter inch border for potato bowl support. Mash the potato innards with a fork and mix in a heaping tablespoon of chopped fresh dill, ¼ pound of corned beef (also chopped), and a few tablespoons softened unsalted butter. Season with salt and pepper then stuff the potato boats with the mixture. Top with grated manchego (or parm, or cheddar!). Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then broil for 2 minutes to toast that cheesy crust.
You know that’s delicious—a real “can’t go wrong” dish. The dill is essential, adding freshness and interest to the fluffy potato and salty beef.

To go alongside the baked potatoes, I fixed a raw cabbage salad with walnuts and fennel (based off another Clarke recipe that calls for radicchio) dressed in lemon, grated garlic, and more manchego. 
Let the headline read, “Corned beef, potatoes, cabbage: Re-arranged, still best friends.” Why not embrace the old country while you’re embracing the turn in weather? Even if, like me, your old country looks more like this. (In case you ever wondered where I got my natural dance abilities.)