Thanksgiving Planning: Time to Make a Plan and Stock Up!

Thanksgiving Countdown with Dear Martini

When planning our Thanksgiving feast sometimes the “to do list” can seem a little daunting even for us.   We try to spread out as many of the chores over the next couple weeks to avoid the last minute Thanksgiving panic.  We ordered the turkey last week, if you haven’t done so already now is the time.  This week is all about making lists, writing down a game plan, and stocking up.  Yep, we take the time to write ALL this stuff down (so we don’t forget anything) and post it on our fridge and delegate tasks (so everyone else in the family can help.)  We can’t stress this enough– make a plan!

1.  Take a deep breath.  Open a bottle of wine or make a pot of tea.  Put on some nice music and sit down in a quiet spot.

2.  Finalize your recipes and write down a plan:  create columns for the following:

a) Stuff that can be made ahead of time.   For example, you can make cranberry sauce the minute you see fresh cranberries at the market.  Toasting any nuts you’ll be needed ahead of time… pie dough,  Store the made-ahead items in your freezer, in air-tight containers and clearly labeled.

b) Stuff that needs to be purchased/ordered or re-stocked

c) Non-food tasks that need to done (i.e. taking linens to the dry cleaners, getting the dog groomed, cleaning the house, pulling service utensils, etc)

Thanksgiving Countdown and tips from Dear Martini

3.  Make a shopping list.  Organize the list into 2 categories:  fresh ingredients and non-perishable ingredients.  Buy all non-perishable items this week when you do your regular grocery shopping.  Any of the shopping you can knock out now will mean less to pick up at the store the closer you get to the Big Day.  If you’ve ever gone through the agony of shopping on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving… you’ll never make that mistake again!!

4.  Double-check your kitchen and table setting supplies.  Do you need a roasting pan?  Don’t have a platter large enough for your turkey?  Now is the time to borrow or buy any supplies you need.  Do you need to wash or iron a tablecloth or napkins?  How about polish silver (ugh)?  These are all tasks we do this coming weekend while watching our favorite movies.

5.  If you are really ahead of the game– make your pie dough and pie shells this weekend and freeze.  Better yet, ask one of your guests  (the one you trust the most) to bring the pie!

Perfect Pie Crust

We admit it, we’ve gone a little overboard in recent years in search of the perfect pie crust.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

We’ve experimented with the food processor, resorted to adding vodka instead of water to our dough, all in the quest for perfection.  We’ve come full circle back to a humble basic pie dough.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

The method relies on a hands-on approach to work the butter into the flour and hand patting and turning the dough to create layers without over working the dough.  The results are a tender-tasty-flaky crust — every time.  And, importantly to us — it’s a method that is as friendly to first time pie makers as those of us looking to return to a simpler method with consistent results.  No fancy gadgets required.  All you need is a bowl and a plastic scraper.  Easy cleanup (woohoo!)

Basic Pie Dough

Makes one 9-inch double-crust pie shell

Want an easy way to remember our recipe without having to look it up again?  3 + 2 + 1!  3 parts flour  2 parts butter 1 part ice water.

2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and frozen for 15 minutes

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

½  teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

½ cup ice water

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, add the chilled butter and toss to coat the butter with flour.  Quickly rub the butter with the flour between your fingers to make flat pieces of butter. Take care not to overwork  the butter – you want to work each piece, but should still have pea-sized lumps of the butter in the flour.  Sprinkle in the salt and sugar and toss with your fingers to mix.  Add the water and using a plastic scraper and a quick a folding motion, mix the dough just until it begins to clump together.   The dough will look sandy and lumpy at this point and that’s okay.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour and gently pat out the dough into a flat disk about an 1-inch thick.  Fold the dough in on itself until the dough just begins to hold together and is no longer sandy on the edges.  Once the dough begins to come together, fold dough in half, turn it a quarter-turn and pat it out flat again to an inch thick.  Repeat this process 4 to 5 more times.  Butter will still be visible in the dough — it’s these pieces of butter that result in a flaky dough!  Divide the dough in half and flatten each piece into a disk one more time and wrap them in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to an hour before rolling out.

Dough Tips:

Always use cold ingredients — ice cold butter and ice water are your friends in pie dough making.

Don’t skimp on the refrigerator time required in the recipe before rolling out.  While the dough rests in the fridge the water is absorbed in the dough and the butter firms up.  A properly rested and chilled dough relaxes,  making it easier to roll out.

To make pie making easier, we usually make the dough the day before we plan to make pies to spread out the work.  Dough tightly wrapped in plastic wrap will last in the fridge up to 2 days (after that it becomes an unappealing gry color) or throw it in the freezer for up to 3 months.  Want to get a jump on the Thanksgiving feast madness?  Make pie dough this weekend and store in the freezer until ready to use.  Allow dough to thaw in the fridge before rolling.

Ready to Roll?

Rolling Tips

Less is more when it comes to the amount of flour used to roll out the dough.  You need just enough so the dough doesn’t stick to your board or your rolling pin.  Brush off excess flour with a pastry brush (or your hands)  before placing your dough in your pie pan.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

If dough becomes too soft and floppy to work with while you are rolling out (first time pie makers sometimes have this problem) put the dough on a baking sheet and return it to the fridge until it becomes firm enough to work with.  The butter in the dough needs to remain firm (not melted and completely incorporated into the dough) for flakiness.

Keep the dough moving!  After every couple rolls give the dough a quarter turn.  Every quarter turn is an opportunity to make sure the dough is not sticking to your work surface.  Dough stuck to the rolling pin?  Rub off the stuck dough with a little flour until it is clean and then add a light sprinkle of flour to the top of your dough.  Your dough is stuck to your work surface?  A long metal spatula is a pie rookie’s best friend.  Using short strokes run the spatula between the dough and the work surface until it releases.  Dust the work surface with flour and continue rolling.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

Scraps!

Hey, don’t throw away those leftover bits of dough.  Here’s a fun delicious Pastry Cookie you can make from the scraps!

Happy pie making!  Don’t forget if you like our videos please LIKE them on YouTube and/or SHARE them with your friends!

Make-Your-Own Granola

Make Your Own Granola

Did you know that it’s inexpensive and easy to make? Did you also know that it tastes better if you make it yourself?

Our idea for granola uses whole nuts, dried fruit and as little oil as possible. We’ve been making our own granola for quite some time now. Whenever we have a handful of leftover nuts or dried fruit after a party, baking project or photo-shoot, the nuts get packed away into the freezer and are marked for a future granola-making session.

To make your own, all you need is about 90 minutes of baking time, and a basic granola recipe. If you binge-watch TV shows on Netflix like we do, you could totally make granola while catching up on The Walking Dead (…or Game of Thrones. Your choice).

Photo of Bowl of Make Your Own Granola and milk

Basic Granola

Makes 10 cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups a rolled oats (not the quick-cook or instant kind)
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of kosher salt,
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups of a combination of any of the following ingredients: raw almonds, sliced almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • 3-4 cups of a combination of any dried fruit: cranberries, raisins, cherries, blueberries, apricot chunks, pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup flaked coconut, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 250℉. Line two baking trays with parchment paper (or foil). Mix the maple syrup with the vegetable oil and stir to combine. It may form a gelatinous mass, and that’s OK.

Close-up photo of Cinnamon and Salt for granolaIn a large bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, a pinch of salt, 4 cups a rolled oats (not the quick-cook or instant kind), and three cups of a combination of any of the following ingredients:

Raw almonds, sliced almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds… you get the idea…

Close-up photo of nuts for Make Your Own GranolaStir the nuts and oats together with the maple syrup mixture and divide the mixture between the two prepared sheetpans. Spread in a single layer and bake in the oven for 90 minutes. We set the timer for 15 minute intervals, and stir the mixture around every time. When the oats and nuts are golden in color, it’s done. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely to room temperature.

Our extra-special ingredient: crystallized ginger bits (a little goes a long way so add only about 1/4 cup). Play with the ingredients. Your granola should have a nice balance between oats, nuts and fruit.

Close-up photo of dried fruit for Make Your Own GranolaWhen the oats are completely cooled, stir in the coconut and dried fruit mixture and transfer to airtight containers for storage.

Give one container to a friend. Pay it forward. Sharing is caring.

Broiled Grapefruit

Drunken Grapefruit

What could be better than grapefruit broiled with rum and brown sugar!

When I was a little girl my favorite Sunday brunches always included Broiled Grapefruit — “drunken grapefruit.” Mom would section the grapefruit and sprinkle them with rum and sugar. Dad would pop them under the broiler and be in charge of making sure they didn’t burn. To my young mind broiled grapefruit was the height of culinary perfection – just the right blend of sweet. sour, bitter, and my first taste of illicit rum.

sugar and spice

Broiled grapefruit are still a big hit in our house.  My only changes from the original recipe are–I prefer the complexity of brown sugar (or honey) to granulated sugar. I also like adding a pinch of cayenne to intensify the sweetness and a pinch of salt to mellow out the bitterness. The secret is all in the broiling. The heat of the broiler brings out the juices and melds all the components into a über-grapefruity, extra-juicy, deliciousness!

Broiled Grapefruit

Yield: Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 large ruby red or pink grapefruit
  • 2 tablespoons rum (optional)
The secret is all in the broiling!

The secret is all in the broiling!

  • ¼ cup light or dark brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cayenne

Directions:

Preheat the broiler and adjust your oven rack to about 4-inches from the broiler.

Cut grapefruit in half crosswise.  Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each half so they don’t wobble.

Use a paring knife to cut around each of the segments to release them from the membrane and pith.  It’s an extra step but really improves the eating experience. Sprinkle with rum.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, salt and cayenne together.  Sprinkle the mixture over the grapefruit.

Broiled Grapefruit

I dare you not to lick the plate!

Place the grapefruit on a baking sheet and place under the broiler. Broil grapefruit until the sugar has melted, and grapefruit is bubbly and slightly brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Transfer broiled grapefruit to individual dishes and serve warm.

Beef Stew

Beef Stew

Recipe coming soon! I wish you all could be here to smell this!!!

Re-blogging from a Friend: Mike Somerset makes our Pan-seared Steak on the trail!

We here at Dear Martini strive to inspire and teach folks how to cook. When this blog post from Mike Somerset came through the chute, the feeling is indescribable. Mike lives in England and took our Pan Seared Steak recipe with him while hiking a trail in the Lake District.
It looks delicious, Mike! Thanks for sharing!

Mike Somerset

steak1

For me one of the highlights of a day out and about on the Lake District fells is when I stop for a light lunch. I like to find a quiet, out-of-the-way spot off the trail where I can relax, contemplate and connect with the landscape. But mostly to eat. In this case it was, pretty much, a straight lift from my good friends at Dear Martini. I’m doing this on the trail, on a small gas burner. So I’ve had to adapt. For you to do this properly, don’t do what I do, instead, you should check out this posting Steak… With Benefits.

I have no pretence about my cooking knowledge and skills which are, shall we say, lacking. You see, for me food and cooking is a happy distraction from my main line of work. This is the reason why I love it when someone puts…

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Cranberry Sauce, DearMartini-style

I know we’ve all got meaningful traditions that honestly make it THANKSGIVING for us.  If it’s not prepared a certain way, served in a specific dish, or if a recipe isn’t made, then to quote my friend Glenn, “Thanksgiving is RUINED.”  Yes, we are all set in our ways.  When we were kids, my cousin, Rita had this amazing ability to get the cranberry jelly out of the can and onto a serving plate so that the jelly retained the perfect shape of the can, ridges and all, with no marks whatsoever.  To this day, I still have no idea how she got it out so perfectly.

In our house, it’s not Thanksgiving without my mom’s chestnut stuffing.  For Rita, it’s not Thanksgiving without that perfectly-shaped can of cranberry jelly.  And for my husband’s family, it’s not Thanksgiving without Nonna’s handmade gnocchi.

We’d like to inspire you to make a NEW Thanksgiving tradition this time; by making a fresh cranberry sauce to serve alongside your feast.  It’s so easy to make an SO MUCH HEALTHIER for you than the store-bought stuff.  For those die-hards, serve this next to the canned stuff and see which one wins out (we’ve got our money on this one).

* Be sure to click on the blue links to see all the helpful videos we’ve prepared to guide you along!  Subscribe  to our YouTube Channel for more bite-sized technique videos!

Cranberry Sauce, DearMartini-style

Makes 2 cups

Cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving should be the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  We use dark brown sugar for a deeper sweetness, and orange juice to round out the sharpness of the berries.  Our secret ingredient:  crystallized ginger.  The ginger brings depth and a surprise of heat at the end.

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries, washed and picked through
Zest of 1 orange
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Stir together cranberries, orange zest, juice, sugar, and salt and pepper in a saucepan.  Simmer the mixture stirring occasionally over medium heat until the cranberries start to pop.  Remove from heat and stir in the ginger.

Cool sauce and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Note:  Sauce can be prepared up to a week before Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sautéed Greens

Everything but the kitchen sink . . . La Cucina literally translates as ”the kitchen” in Italian.  It is also used in the Marche region as the colloquial name for a dish of mixed sautéed greens that includes whatever you have on hand.  This sautéing method works well for a wide variety of hearty greens.  The dish works best if you use a combination of mild and bitter greens.  Mild varieties include: beet greens, chard, kale, cabbage, and spinach.  Bitter varieties include: chicory, dandelion, and mustard.

Dinosaur Kale, or Tuscan Kale grows in abundance locally here.  The lush, dark green, bumpy leaves are super-nutritious: a cup provides more than 100% of the daily value of vitamins K and A, and 88%of the DV for vitamin C. Like other members of the cruciferous family (cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts), kale is a rich source of organosulfur compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention.  Lucky for us, it’s easy to grow in our climate and can be found everywhere — green grocers, farmers markets and supermarket stores.  We like to pair this dish with a side garlicky beans for a satisfying, comforting supper.

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always, check us out on Vimeo or subscribe to our YouTube channel!

La Cucina — Sautéed Greens

Serves 4

1-1/4 pounds mixed leafy greens (such as Dino Kale or chard), washed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled, and finely minced

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste!)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon wedges, for garnish

If the greens have thick hardy stems, remove the stems and slice the stems in ½-inch slices and the greens in 1-inch slices (place stems and greens in separate bowls.)

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the stems only. The stems will take the longest to cook, putting them in the pan first will ensure they are ready at the same time the leaves are.  Season with salt and pepper and cook covered for 5 minutes.  Add the leaves, as many as you can fit at a time, and turn them gently to wilt.  Continue adding greens and turning them over until you have added all the leaves.  Season leaves with salt and pepper and add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add a couple of tablespoons of water, and cook covered for 10 minutes or until the liquid is gone and the greens are fully cooked.

Eat your leafy greens!

I say Stuffing… and you say Dressing

And so the perpetual battle rages on:  Stuffing vs. Dressing.  Which is it?  The customary side dish to the Thanksgiving Turkey really can be either; depending from where you hail.  Most folks from the Northern states call it stuffing.  The Southern states call it dressing.  And those in the Midwest and Western states pretty much just go along with what it was traditionally called down through the generations.  But regardless of where you’re from and whichever you call it, the traditional Turkey Sidekick is almost always a savory recipe prepared with seasoned bread croutons or cornbread and mixed with vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery.  Depending on where you are,  nuts, dried fruits and herbs also make an appearance.

So why call it stuffing or dressing?  Who still stuffs the turkey, anyway?   Is it called dressing if it’s not stuffed inside?  Why do we make a dressing and stuff it inside a turkey, which then becomes a stuffing for the turkey?  Can I make a stuffing without stuffing it into the bird?  Or would that be called dressing?  But didn’t you just ask if the dressing BECOMES the stuffing?   WHY IS THIS SO COMPLICATED? 

Relax, people.  Please.

We call it stuffing (but for those of you who want to think of it as dressing, be our guest) and bake it in a dish to serve with the turkey.  We do not serve anything that’s been stuffed inside a turkey.  Stuffing a turkey  with stuffing/dressing increases the turkey’s cooking time — which might lead to over-cooking the bird (have you ever choked on dry breast meat?) or undercooking the center.  Either way, over-cooked turkey or salmonella-laced stuffing/dressing are two avenues we’d rather avoid this holiday.

Try our cornbread stuffing.  Make the cornbread in a jiffy, using the famous blue and white box!  This heart-warming, food-coma-inducing stuffing recipe is a hands-down winner in our recipe box. The toasty fennel seeds add a spicy sweetness that the tart apple and dried cranberries pick up. Make sure to make extras – there are almost no leftovers from just one dish.

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always,  subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Apple, Fennel Seed and Cornbread Stuffing

Serves 6 to 8

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon unsalted butter for buttering casserole, + 2 tablespoons to saute
2 yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
6 cups prepared cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries, optional
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 small pieces for dotting the casserole

In a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast the fennel seeds until they are warm and fragrant, about three minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter the inside of a 13×9-inch gratin dish with 1 tablespoon butter and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of butter and sauté the onions over medium heat until translucent, about 7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, celery, apple and fennel seeds and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool.

Toss the vegetable mixture with the cornbread, parsley and cranberries in a large bowl.  Season stuffing with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning to taste as necessary.  Stir in the eggs.  Add as much stock as needed to moisten the stuffing but not make it soggy (you may not need all of the stock).  Place stuffing in prepared gratin dish and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter on the top.  Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until warmed through.  Remove foil and continue baking an additional 5 to 10 minutes until top of stuffing is golden brown.

To Make Stuffing Ahead: Bake cornbread 2 days before Thanksgiving.  Assemble stuffing the day before in the baking dish, then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking. To bake, remove stuffing from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.  Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until warm through.  Remove foil and continue baking an additional 5 to 10 minutes until top of stuffing is golden brown.


Creative Additions:
Add one or more of the following

1 cup chopped chestnuts,

1 cup chopped pecans,

½ cup roasted garlic cloves,

2 tablespoons chopped sage,

½ pound mushrooms, sliced and sautéed,

½ pound cooked bulk Italian sausage, crumbled

2 tablespoons brandy

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Defense of Brussels Sprouts

In Defense of Brussels Sprouts

There comes a time in one’s life when a singular event makes such an impact, there is time BEFORE, and time AFTER.  And, every human adult’s life in Western Civilization begins with intense dislike for Brussels sprouts.  At some point, either in early adulthood or even much later on in life, one might be fortunate enough to be reintroduced to the Brussels sprout and find he comes to like the pleasant delicious vegetable after all.

I can honestly say I’ve never known another fruit or vegetable that remains so divisive — there is the WE LOVE camp and the WE HATE camp.  And why hate?  There is nothing this humble mini-cabbage has ever done to make one hate it so much.

Tips for cooking Brussels sprouts for maximum potential:

  1. Buy them fresh, still attached to the stalk.  They stay fresher for up to a week and a half when still attached to their stem.  If you buy them loose in a bag or from the bulk bin, chances are they’ve been trimmed a week ago.  They start getting bitter soon after they are cut from the stalk.
  2. How can you tell a good sprout from a not-so-good one?  Squeeze the head between your thumb and forefinger.  The tighter the sprout, the fresher and tastier it will be.  If you feel something spongy with a lot of give and take, it’s lost its mojo.  Too much air between the leafy layers can only mean bitterness and sadness.
  3. Try different methods for cooking:  steaming, braising, roasting, sautéing, frying… and see which method works better for your palate.
  4. Add yummy aromatics like garlic, shallots, celery or caraway seeds, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes or BACON to the recipe.  Their complexity complements many different flavor profiles.  Find one that fits your palate.
  5. As a leafy green, they are downright fluffy and easy to digest.  Slice them in thin ribbon-like strips for a quick sauté. They cook so fast this way!
  6. Just don’t EVER buy them frozen. EVER.

The recipe below is Chef Mia’s, which was inspired by a photoshoot we did one afternoon (pictured above).  We liked the look and texture of both halved and sliced that we decided to keep them together in this dish.  I actually made this for dinner tonight — and added julienned carrots.  Delicious!

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Serves 4 to 6

RT @DearMartini “Dear @Brussels_sprouts_haters, This is a life changer.  You’re welcome.  Love, us.  #Baconmakeseverythingbetter”

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and sliced in half

4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into ½-inch dice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced horizontally

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

¼  teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (to taste!)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Take half of the Brussels sprouts and thinly slice them horizontally.  Keep the remaining halves in tact.  Keep them separate and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until brown and crispy.  With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.  Pour off the bacon grease in a disposable container and discard.

In the same pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the halved sprouts.  keep tossing the sprouts until their outsides are brown and crispy, about 7-8 minutes.  Add the shallots and garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.  Stir in the sliced Brussels sprouts, and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté until the sprouts turn bright green, about 5 minutes more.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar and return the bacon to the pan.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed and serve hot.

Happy Thanksgiving!