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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 32

It’s been a busy week! I’m so looking forward to the weekend. We are heading to Georgia to visit my grandmother – can’t wait to see her! Growing up and in college I was usually able to visit once every week or two. Since graduating college, we’ve lived 4+ hours away so we don’t get down there nearly as much as we’d like to.

One of my favorite things my grandmother made growing up was French toast. It was a breakfast treat when I visited! I made an overnight French toast last weekend for breakfast. We usually try to have more traditional, sit down breakfasts on the weekends. This recipe is great because it’s very simple, requires minimal prep work and results in a nice Sunday breakfast.

Tonight’s been busy, busy trying to prep for our visit. I taught BodyPump at the Y after work. It was my first night teaching at the Y. I’m so excited to finally have my own class! I taught in Birmingham and have been waiting for a class to open up here.  I’m teaching twice a week – Monday mornings at 6 (eek!) and Thursday evenings.

I have a Cranberry Pear Cake in the oven (will be blogged about soon!) to take down to my grandmonther’s. I always like to take a treat :) I’m heading to yoga tomorrow morning to get one last class in before we leave. I will most likely miss my Sunday class that I always attend but Mema’s worth it!

Overnight Baked French Toast
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

1 (13-14 inch) long loaf soft Italian or French bread)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons butter) softened
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar

Maple syrup
Powdered sugar

Directions:

Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. Cut 12 diagonal slices of bread. Reserve ends for another use (I made croutons for our salads this week). Generously butter one side of each piece of bread. Arrange bread buttered sides up in one layer in prepared dish. It will be a pretty tight fit.

Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until combined. Pour evenly over bread. Cover and refrigerate until bread has absorbed all of custard, at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and bring soaked bread to room temperature. Sprinkle bread with sugar and bake until puffed and golden, about 20-25 mintues. Serve immediately sprinkled with powdered sugar and with maple syrup.

Yield: 6 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 24

This biscotti was the second item in my Operation Baking Gals holiday package. I blogged about Operation Baking Gals and the Pecan Sables I made in my last post. I thought that biscotti would be the perfect thing to make since it’s pretty sturdy and has a longer shelf life than a drop cookie. I decided on the Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti after seeing it in The Gourmet Cookbook. I looked the recipe up online and saw that it was originally printed in 1994 and had received around 250 positive reviews. That sealed the deal on making this recipe.

Despite the double baking, biscotti is pretty simple to make. I love the thick dough and the process of the initial bake and then slicing and baking again. It’s fun to see the actual biscotti take shape!

I didn’t sample the biscotti but Brandon and my grandmother did (I sent her a package of extras). I know I’ve mentioned this before but super chocolaty desserts just aren’t my thing.  They both ate it for breakfast and said it was great – the chocolate flavor is definitely the star here. This would also be a nice snack or dessert anytime of the day!

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook, originally printed in Gourmet December 1994)
Printable Recipe: Double Chocolate Biscotti

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I have subbed white chocolate chips for walnuts)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a large baking sheet.

In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until well combined. Stir in flour mixture until a stiff dough. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.

With floured hands form dough into two slightly flattened logs on the prepared baking sheet. Each log should be about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake 35 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, leaving oven on.

On a cutting board, cut logs diagonally into 3/4-inch slices to form biscotti. Arrange cut sides down on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Biscotti keep in airtight containers 1 week and frozen, 1 month.

Yield: About 30 biscotti

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 23

I made these cookies as part of my holiday package for Operation Baking Gals. This is an organization that I’ve been participating in since the last holiday season. Check out what I baked for the other rounds here and here. Rather than me try to explain the organization, I’ll just give you a blurb from their Web site.

“Baking GALS (GALS stands for Give A Little Support) is a group of volunteer bakers from around the country who bake and ship homemade goodies to our heroic military men and women who are currently deployed in a war zone. Our goal is to show our support and send a little bit of home to remind them that we appreciate all that they do for our freedom.”

Basically, the way is works is that someone (usually a blogger) forms a team to host a soldier. Then they recruit people to join their team and bake. I’m so excited to report that there were 47 teams for this round of Operation Baking Gals. That’s seriously amazing! I joined Team Beantown Baker – hosted by fellow blogger, Jen. Check her awesome blog out here.

We baked for Rebecca. She and her husband Brian are stationed in Iraq. She still has about a year left in her 18 month deployment. Rebecca and Brian met in basic training and were married last Valentine’s Day. Our team baked for Rebecca and another team baked for Brian! I hope they’re enjoying all their treats :)

Rebecca and Brian

I decided to go with sturdier cookies for this round. I browsed through The Gourmet Cookbook and looked for recipes that said the cookies would keep for 5 days plus. Pecan Sables sounded nice and holiday-ish and I also picked Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that recipe!

The Pecan Sables were crisp and had a lovely balance between salty and sweet. The ground pecans in the cookie batter provided a nice nutty flavor. These are simple and delicious.

I tried a new packing method for this round. I wrapped the cookies in sets of two in cling wrap, then placed them in sandwich bags and then layered the sandwich bags in plastic containers. I have high hopes that they will arrive in tact and fresh tasting!

I was dreading the trip to the post office today to send off my package. I was shocked to discover that the post office was rocking – they had a system down and were fully staffed. It was a great experience. Once I got through the hustle of getting in and packing up the cookies in the APO flat rate box, I found myself waiting in line fighting back tears. It was such a juxtaposition that I was standing in the post office in the holiday hustle and bustle while Rebecca is serving our country and spending her holidays in Iraq.

I will be hosting an Operation Baking Gals team in 2010. One our friends is being called back into active duty to go to Afghanistan. I encourage you to participate with me. I will share the details when I have them. I will also be helping fellow blogger Tracy with a round in 2010. Her brother is currently serving in Afghanistan as well.

And now for the recipe…

Pecan Sables
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook, published in Gourmet November 2002)
Printable Recipe: Pecan Sables

Ingredients:

3/4 cup pecans (3 ounces), toasted and cooled, plus about 32 pecan halves (3 ounces)
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg, separated
Special equipment: a 2-inch round cookie cutter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

In a food processor, pulse toasted pecans with 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar until finely ground. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, beat together butter, remaining 2/3 cup confectioners sugar and vanilla on high speed until fluffy and lightened in color. This should take about 3 minutes. Add egg yolk and beat well to incorporate. Slowly add flour and pecan mixture on low speed and mix until just combined, about 1 minutes. Dough should be crumbly but hold together when squeezed.

Halve dough and roll out half between 2 sheets of wax paper until 1/4 inch thick, about a 9-inch round. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible. Arrange 2 inches apart on baking sheets, reserving scraps. Roll out and cut remaining dough in same manner. Gather scraps, then re-roll and cut again.

Beat egg white until frothy and brush tops of cookies lightly. Place a pecan half on top of each round and brush pecan lightly with egg white.

Bake cookies for about 15 to 20 minutes, until tops are lightly golden. Cool cookies on sheets on racks 2 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Yield: about 32 cookies

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 17

I was so excited to prepare our Thanksgiving feast with my dad this year. It’s rare that we have the chance to be together in the kitchen and we’ve never cooked the Thanksgiving meal together. This was the first year that Thanksgiving was at my parent’s house instead of my grandmother’s house and while Brandon was in law school we stayed in Birmingham for Thanksgiving due to finals. My mom pitched in with two killer desserts – Sweet Potato Pecan Pie and Apple Cranberry Pie.

We emailed back and forth about the menu for several weeks. We had the main dishes set but wanted to mix things up with the side dishes. I spotted these Creamed Leeks on the Epicurious Thanksgiving Guide and thought they sounded like the perfect accompaniment to our meal. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never worked with leeks before and I was oh so thankful that my dad had taken to the time to watch a video of the test kitchen director cleaning and preparing the leeks for this recipe.

I wasn’t sure how these would go over with the dinner crowd but I was happy to find that they were extremely well-received. I did get several comments on what a different side dish it was (which was what I was going for!) but everyone enjoyed them – some even went back for seconds.

These Creamed Leeks would be a fabulous side dish to any holiday meal!

Creamed Leeks
(Recipe source Gourmet, November 2006)

Ingredients:

3 1/2 lb leeks, root ends trimmed
2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from a country loaf, crusts discarded)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
6 tablespoons(3/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (we had other things going on in the oven and couldn’t have the temperature that high so we cooked them a little longer at a lower temperature).

Cut each leek into an 8-inch length, measuring from root end, and halve lengthwise. Then cut crosswise into roughly 1 1/2-inch pieces, you should have about 8 cups). Wash leek pieces in a large bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out and transfer to another bowl. Repeat with clean water, then drain leeks well. Watch this video if you have never worked with leeks before.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium sized heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir in bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp and pale golden. This should take around 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover the skillet but leave the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Cook for about 12 minutes, until tender, stirring occasionally.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer leeks to a gratin dish. Slowly pour cream over leeks and scatter bread crumbs on top. Bake for about 15 minutes, until cream is bubbling and thickened and crumbs are golden brown.

*Notes:
- Bread crumbs can be cooked 1 day ahead, cooled completely uncovered and kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Scatter bread crumbs over leeks just before baking.
- Leeks can be cooked and assembled in dish with cream (but not sprinkled with crumbs) 1 day ahead. Cool completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered.


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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 12

I came across this recipe while flipping through the Breakfast/Brunch section of The Gourmet Cookbook. I thought it would be perfect to have on hand during the holidays, as a breakfast treat or an afternoon snack. Brandon and I decided that this bread is definitely less coffee cake and more pound cake. The flavor of the cake itself was extremely reminiscent of pound cake. The fresh cranberry ripple added a nice touch of fruit flavor. This would be perfect to have around the house for guests to snack on or as part of a holiday breakfast or brunch. I sliced and wrapped the bread in individual slices and put them in the freezer for a quick (and indulgent) snack on the go.

Fresh Cranberry Coffee Cake
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)
Printable Recipe: Fresh Cranberry Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1 3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
Optional: confectioners’ sugar for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Place cranberries and 1/2 cup of sugar in food processor and pulse until cranberries are finely chopped and sugar is incorporated, careful not to puree. Place in a sieve and let drain while you prepare the cake batter.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand held mixer, cream together butter and remaining 1 1/3 cup sugar for about 3 minutes on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed to medium and add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and alternately add flour mixture and milk in three parts, beginning and ending with flour.

Spread 1/3 of the batter in bottom of prepared loaf pan. Spoon 1/2 of the cranberries over the batter, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges (see picture below). Top with another 1/3 of batter and remaining cranberries and finally, top with last 1/3 of batter.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Yield: 8 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 10

I just finished sampling a slice of this cheesecake. I love cheesecake and I love pumpkin and this combination didn’t disappoint. Brandon’s first comment was, “I can’t believe how much it tastes like pumpkin pie.” I think what I like best about it is that it’s not too sweet. The balance of flavors is perfect and the texture is nice.

This cheesecake was published in Gourmet in November 2000. It’s received over 300 reviews and maintains a 4-fork rating. It’s definitely a winner if you’re looking for a holiday dessert. This cheesecake is a nice change from the traditional pumpkin pie. But don’t save it only for Thanksgiving, it’s a great dessert to serve throughout the fall and holiday season.

I substituted ginger snaps for the graham crackers in the crust because I love holiday cheesecakes with ginger snap crust. Also, you can omit the bourbon if you’d like but the bourbon flavor is not very strong.

If you’re a cheesecake and pumpkin lover this dessert is for you!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping
(Recipe source Gourmet, November 1990)

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRUST
3/4 cup graham cracker or ginger snap crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

FOR THE FILLING
1 1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

FOR THE TOPPING
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Directions:

FOR THE CRUST
Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the crumbs, pecans and sugars in a bowl. Stir in melted butter and press mixture into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of springform pan. Chill crust for 1 hour.

FOR THE FILLING
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together cream cheese and granulated sugar for about 3 minutes. Add in cream, cornstarch, vanilla and bourbon and mix until incorporated. Add in pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour filling into chilled crust and bake the cheesecake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the center is just set. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes (leaving the oven on).

MAKE THE TOPPING
Whisk together sour cream, sugar and bourbon in a bowl.

Spread sour cream mixture evenly over top of the cheesecake. Bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan on a rack for at least an hour. Place in refrigerator and chill covered overnight.

Release cheesecake from pan and serve.

Yield: 8-10 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 9

I don’t even know where to start. I don’t want to gush so much that you think I’m crazy but this macaroni and cheese recipe is pretty life changing as far as mac and cheese recipes go. If you think you’ve already found the perfect recipe you still have to try this one. I found it in The Gourmet Cookbook. They had me at, “this is arguably the best macaroni and cheese on the planet.”

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort food dinners. I just serve it with a green salad and call it a meal. (Who needs meat anyway when you can just eat more mac and cheese!?) The method in this recipe is pretty basic for mac and cheese: make a roux, stir in milk, cream and cheese, mix in macaroni, sprinkle on topping and bake. The results are a creamy, cheesy mac and cheese with a crunchy topping – heaven!

I’m already planning the next time that I’ll make this…and that will be this weekend. My sister-in-law just brought home a new baby and I know they will love this mac and cheese. This recipe makes a full 11 x 17 pan so it’s perfect for leftovers or entertaining.

Please try this and let me know how it compares to other mac and cheese recipes! This has definitely been one of the highlight recipes of 68 Days of Gourmet so far and I know I’ll be making this for years to come.

Macaroni and Cheese
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

FOR TOPPING
1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups panko or coarse dry breadcrumbs
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

FOR CHEESE SAUCE AND MACARONI
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound elbow macaroni

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 3-4 quart baking dish or 13 x 9 pan with butter or cooking spray.

FOR THE TOPPING
Mix together panko, butter and cheese in a medium bowl. Set aside.

FOR THE SAUCE
Melt butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Whisk in flour and red pepper flakes and cook, whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk in a slow steady stream. Increase heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently until mixture is thickened a bit. Stir in cream, cheese, mustard, salt and pepper until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

COOK THE MACARONI AND ASSEMBLE THE DISH
Cook macaroni according to package directions, making sure to add plenty of the salt to the cooking water. (At least 1 tablespoon for every 4 quarts.) Undercook macaroni about 3-4 minutes so that it still has quite a bite to it. This ensures the pasta won’t get mushy when cooking. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and then drain noodles.

Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water and sauce in a large bowl or in your sauce pot if it’s big enough. Transfer to prepared baking dish, mixture will be loose.

Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture and bake for about 25-35 minutes. Top should be golden and bubbling.

Yield: 8 main course servings or 12-14 side dish servings

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altonturkey

Two posts in one day? I can honestly say I never thought this would happen but this turkey is just too beautiful not to share with my readers while everyone is planning Thanksgiving menus. I can’t take any credit for this bird – it’s my dad’s practice turkey for Thanksgiving. He made this last weekend on the Big Green Egg using Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe. If you’re looking for a turkey recipe I think you should give Alton’s a try. I was shocked to see it has received 2,289 reviews and still has 5-stars. Pretty impressive! My dad was very pleased with how this turkey turned out and will be using this recipe on Thanksgiving day.

One of the benefits of cooking your turkey on the Egg is having your oven space available for all your sides and desserts. Also, the smoke flavor and crisp skin is delicious! If you don’t have an Egg, no worries. Alton’s recipe provides step-by-step instructions for the oven.

The only thing my dad did differently was let the turkey air-dry in the fridge for 12 hours before cooking. This dries the skin to help it become golden and crisp while cooking.

Can’t wait to try this turkey on Thanksgiving day!

Good Eats Roast Turkey on the Big Green Egg
(Recipe adapted from Alton Brown)
Printable Recipe: Good Eats Roast Turkey on the Big Green Egg

Cook Time:

BRINE
14-16 hours (1 hour per pound)

AIR CHILL
12 hours

COOK TIME
2 hours 30 min (max)

Ingredients:

1 (14-16  pound) fresh turkey

FOR THE BRINE
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries (my dad substituted 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

FOR THE AROMATICS
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 rosemary sprigs
6 sage leaves
Canola oil

Directions:

TO MAKE THE BRINE
Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Remove the brine from heat, cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

TO BRINE THE TURKEY
The day before you’re roasting your turkey, combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed. Cover and refrigerate or set in cool area for one hour per pound. Turn the bird once halfway through brining if your turkey is not fully submersed.

After brining time is up, remove the bird from the brine, rinse and pat dry. Place in refrigerator and allow to air chill overnight, about 12 hours.

TO ROAST THE TURKEY
If using the Egg, set it up with a plate setter or pizza stone. Place a cast iron grate (feet side up) on top of that and finally you’ll place the turkey in a roasting pan on top of that (after Egg is preheated). Preheat the oven or Big Green Egg to 500 degrees.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey in the Big Green Egg with lid down or on lowest level of the oven for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees (or bring the grill temperature down). Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees and remove the turkey to rest when it reaches this temperature. (After 2 hours my dad’s turkey was 163 degrees in the breast and 171 degrees in the thigh).

Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for at least 15 minutes before carving.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 5

jeweledrice

I was tasked with bringing a starch side dish to a family dinner last weekend. Brandon was cooking a turkey breast on the Big Green Egg as our meat. I decided not to make anything potato based since Thanksgiving is coming up so soon. I found this rice recipe when I was researching recipes for 68 Days of Gourmet and thought it sounded different. Brandon isn’t the biggest fan of rice but I love it. He also isn’t the biggest fan of dried fruit but I love that too. I thought our family dinner was the perfect time to try this since I would have a larger audience who would appreciate my rice and dried fruit side dish!

The method for preparing this rice is really different. Read the recipe directions below and you’ll see what I mean. I was pretty nervous about the final product turning out but I trusted the recipe and it turned out exactly right. I was scared the crust would be a burned mess but it was perfectly golden. The butter drenched toasted almonds on top were the perfect finish.

This rice is a great side dish for richly spiced pork and chicken and complemented our turkey breast well too. The leftovers were great with the Spiced Chicken I made for dinner on Tuesday night. A note, this recipe makes a ton of rice so you may want to half it if you’re feeding a smaller crowd.

Jeweled Rice with Dried Fruit
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, November 2004)

Ingredients:

3 cups basmati rice
4 quarts water
3 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup dried apricots (3 1/2 oz), quartered (I omitted these)
1/2 cup golden raisins (3 oz)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (2 oz)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup slivered unsalted roasted almonds

Directions:

Rinse rice in several changes of cold water in a large bowl until water runs clear. Drain in a large sieve.

Bring water and salt to a boil in a 6-quart heavy pot. Add rice and boil, uncovered for about 5 minutes – starting from the time the rice starts to boil. Stir occasionally. Drain in sieve.

Mix together dried fruit in a bowl. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a cleaned and dried pot. Stir in cardamom and pepper and combine. Alternate layers of rice and dried fruit over the butter mixture, beginning and ending with rice. Mound loosely, don’t pack it in. Make 5 or 6 holes in rice to bottom of pot with round handle of a wooden spoon. Wrap lid of pot in a kitchen towel, folding edges of towel up and over the lid (keeping towel away from burner). Cook rice over low heat, undisturbed, until tender and a crust forms on bottom, about 30 to 35 minutes. Do not lift the lid while the rice is cooking. Remove from heat and let rice stand, tightly covered and undisturbed, at least 30 minutes.

While rice is resting, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium heat and cook almonds, stirring, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

Spoon loose rice onto a platter, then break crust into 1-inch pieces and scatter over rice. Sprinkle with almonds.

Yield: 10-12 side dish servings

Notes:
*Rice can stand off heat up to 1 hour. Just keep covered and undisturbed
* If you’re short on time, you can skip letting the rice stand after cooking. Spoon loose rice onto a platter and then dip bottom of pot into a large bowl of cold water for 30 seconds to loosen crust.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 3

acornsquash2

I love roasted winter squash. While it is time intensive to cook, the preparation is easy and pretty hands-off.  If you’ve never worked with winter squash it can look a little intimidating in the store. I will admit that it’s a bit of a challenge to cut into (I usually make Brandon supervise me when I’m using the really big knife!) but the end result is hearty and full of flavor.

I usually keep the squash simple and roast it with a bit of butter and brown sugar or maple syrup. But last Friday night we decided to stay in and grill steaks and I wanted to kick it up a bit. I found this recipe for Maple Glazed Acorn Squash with Currants on Gourmet and decided to give it a try. I didn’t have currants but I did have dried cranberries and golden raisins so I substituted those.

This squash is a great side dish with winter meals and goes especially well with pork and poultry. It would even be a nice addition to a holiday meal.

acornsquash

Maple Glazed Acorn Squash with Dried Fruit
(Recipe source Gourmet, October 1992)

Ingredients:

3 acorn squash (each about 1 1/2 pounds), halved crosswise and the seeds and strings discarded
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, or to taste
3 tablespoons dried fruit
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread 1/2 teaspoon of butter over the cavity of each squash half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange cut side down in a large baking pan. Add enough water to reach about 1/4 inch up the sides of squash halves.  Bake for about 30 minutes.

While the squash is baking, combine remaining butter, maple syrup, allspice, dried fruit and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until butter is melted and dried fruit is plump, stirring often.

Remove squash from the oven and flip so cut sides face up. Brush generously with some of the maple mixture and return to the oven. Bake for another 20-30 minutes more, basting frequently with maple mixture and adding more water to the pan if necessary.  Squash should be very tender when done. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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