Thanksgiving Traditions…The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

 

Homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce | Dear Martini

Thanksgiving is all about tradition… good and bad.  In Chef Mia’s house we have the Dilemma of the Cranberries.  Artist husband grew up on canned cranberry sauce and loves it like nobody’s business.  He even claims it is an essential part of the Norman Rockwell painting.  Chef Mia thinks otherwise.  How to keep peace in the family? Compromise solution: Homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients for Cranberry Sauce | Dear Martini

What she came up with is a delicious compromise.   A recipe catering to his tastes and still beautiful enough and made with simple fresh ingredients for her.  Sometimes it’s time to adopt new traditions.

Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Makes 4 cups

2 packets unflavored gelatin

2 (12-ounce bags) fresh or frozen cranberries, washed and sorted

1 Granny Smith apple, small diced

1 navel orange, zest removed in strips and juiced

1 cup granulated sugar

Special Equipment: Food mill and 4 cup decorative mold

Place cranberry juice in a small bowl; sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the juice and let sit for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a deep saucepan, combine the cranberries, apple, orange zest & juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer stirring often until the cranberries begin to pop about 5 minutes. Continue cooking an additional 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn off the heat and stir in the softened gelatin.

Transfer the berry mixture to a food mill and pass through the finest holes into a bowl. (Discard the solids in your compost) Transfer the berry mixture to a lightly oiled mold. Top with a piece of oiled plastic wrap placed directly on top of the jelly. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. (Can be made several days ahead)

To unmold, dip briefly in a bowl of hot water. Using a spatula, press gently on one side of the jelly (placing the spatula between the side of the mold and the jelly) to release the vacuum seal. Then turn out onto a plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cranberry Sauce Recipe | Dear Martini

Dearest Readers, We are so very thankful for each and every one of you who have supported us all year.  We love hearing from you and when you share with us.  Please share your favorite dish with us here or on Facebook!  We’d love to hear from you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

xxoo Mia and Terri

 

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Company’s Coming: Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes

Creme Fraiche Mashed Potato Recipe | Dear Martini

When company’s coming we pull out all the stops and make the creamiest and smoothest potatoes we know how!  The secret is…our mashed potatoes aren’t mashed at all, but put through a ricer or food mill. Instead of a rustic mash the texture is smooth and perfect for making a “gravy lake” in the center.  We know, we know, there are purists who will say you can’t call it mashed if it’s not mashed but potato puree sounds scary so we’ve agreed to call it an elegant mash!

Creme Fraiche Mashed Potatoes | Dear Martini

Call them what you will, this is not the recipe to skimp on the fat and cream.  This dish is all about the little details… The butter, crème fraîche, and heavy cream all play an important role in the richness and texture of the final dish.  If you can’t find crème fraîche in your area you can substitute with a really good quality sour cream or full fat Fage plain yogurt.

Don’t forget to infuse the cream with the aromatics — it’s an extra step but adds depth to the flavors. And, pop the drained potatoes back into the hot pot for at least 30 seconds to dry out the potatoes which makes them even fluffier.

Watch for the tip at the end of the video on how to keep the potatoes warm — it’s worth the price of admission we promise! Happy Start-to-the-Holiday Season!

 

Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4

 2 pounds (about 3 large) russet potatoes

Handful of kosher salt

½ cup heavy whipping cream

4 to 5 peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed

½ stick unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature

½ cup crème fraîche

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Peel and cut the potatoes into quarters and place in a large saucepan. Cover the potatoes with at least an inch of cold water. Add the salt and bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer potatoes until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat with peppercorns, bay leaf, and garlic to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and return potatoes to the pot to allow the potatoes to dry.Process the potatoes through a food mill or ricer. Toss in the butter to the hot potatoes as you work. Fold in the crème fraîche and heavy cream and gently fold until the potatoes are thick and creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Aromatics and Cream Infusion | Dear Martini

How to Survive Thanksgiving

Dear Martini Thanksgiving

Woohoo, you made it to the main event!  Now we all just have to survive tonight and tomorrow.

How to Survive Thanksgiving–Our tips for surviving tonight and tomorrow… (in no particular order):

1.  Don’t freak out — at this point whatever gets done, gets done.

2.  Don’t stay up too late tonight.

3.  Don’t forget to eat a good breakfast tomorrow morning.

4.  Sip a glass of wine as you go.  Make the mood festive and relaxed.

5.  Don’t announce your mistakes... whatever you are obsessing about that you think everyone will notice— if you don’t say anything they probably won’t notice.

You’re gonna do great.  The food is going to be great.  Even if the worst happens (insert whatever that means to you), it’s all about having a good time with family and friends tomorrow so whatever happens won’t matter.

Don’t forget if you run into trouble tomorrow you can search the technique videos on our site or go straight to our youtube channel for help.  Be sure to watch the Carving Club video for a glimpse of both Mia and Terri’s family Thanksgivings over the years.

If ya wanna be a real-card-carrying-member of Carving Club you gotta spread the word…like it, share it, reblog it, pin it!

For step by step instructions how to carve the turkey watch How to Carve the Bird.

Thanks so much to all of you for supporting our little blog and videos.  You are the reason we continue to do what we do — we give thanks for all of you EVERY day!  Wishing you all a wonderful day with your families.

Happy Thanksgiving from Dear Martini!

Cheers,

Mia and Terri

Amazing Apples: The Secrets to Apple Pie

Apple Pie | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

The Secrets to Apple Pie

Apple Pie.  Just hearing those two words spoken together makes us rub our hands together with happy anticipation.  It’s a standard dessert option on our Thanksgiving menu.  Just imagine: A flaky crunchy crust… giving way to tender sweet buttery apples spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg… if we’re lucky, there’s a cool hit of silky vanilla ice cream in the mix…  But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

The secret to a deliciously sweet-tart apple pie is all in the apples. Apples are amazingly diverse in flavor with some super sweet and others so tart they make your mouth pucker!  We use a combination of tart Granny Smith and sweeter Braeburn for our pies. They taste great and retain their texture when they bake so they don’t turn into a gloppy mush. Also delicious are Pink Lady and Honey Crisp.  These are also our favorite out of hand and salad apples these days…. The perfect balance of sweet-tart-tangy and crisp not mealy apples. So really, as long as you use a combination of your favorite apples, you’ve got it made.

Our favorite pie apples

To make our 9-inch double crust apple pie, you need about 8 to 9 medium apples.  If just the thought of peeling, coring, and slicing all of those apples makes you reluctant to make a pie, here’s a quick tip to speed up the process.

The old-fashioned hand crank! turn the handle and the machine peels, cores and slices the apple simultaneously.  Preparing the apples has never been easier.  We’ve pressed this into service in our pie-making classes and the students (adults) actually fight over who gets to use the crank!  “My grandmother had one of these… but I never got to actually use it!” Folks would exclaim, clutching it close to them keeping it away from grabbing hands.  Great for  pie-making, salad-making and any time you need sliced apples. Can be used on firm pears and potatoes too.

Double-Crust Apple Pie

Makes One 9-inch double-crust pie

Nonstick cooking spray

2 pounds Braeburn or Fuji apples (about 4 medium-sized)

2 pounds Granny Smith (about 4 medium-sized)

Juice of ½  a lemon

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

1 recipe Basic Pie Dough

1 large egg

1 tablespoon whole milk

Special Equipment 

9-inch deep-dish pie pan

rolling pin

pastry brush

cooling rack

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Spray a deep-dish pie pan with nonstick spray.

Peel and core apples, and cut into ¼-inch slices.  Toss apples as you go with lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, salt and flour.  Toss apple slices with the sugar spice mixture.

Roll out half the pie dough on a lightly floured work surface with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round.  Brush off excess flour; roll dough around rolling pin, and place it over your prepared pie pan.  Press the dough into the pan and trim the edges so that the dough hangs over the pie pan by about 1-inch.  Roll out remaining dough to a 13-inch diameter circle.  Cut a couple of small vent holes with a paring knife or cookie cutter.

Mound prepared apples in the center of the pie shell.  Dot with butter. 

In a small bowl whisk the whole egg and milk together to make an egg wash. Brush egg wash on the edge of the dough (this will act as your glue).  Center the remaining rolled out dough over the apples.  Tuck edges of the top crust between the pie pan and bottom crust.  Using your fingers, gently press crusts together along the edge, and crimp.  Brush the top of the pie with egg wash and refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes.  Brush pie a second time with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes at 400°F. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake approximately 45 to 50 minutes more until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles.  Remove pie from the oven and cool COMPLETELY before serving.

IMG_0156

Creative Additions:

Add one or more of the following

½ teaspoon anise seeds

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup diced crystallized ginger

Perfect Pecan Pie

Rich and delicious a perfect pecan pie is a study in contrasts… nutty crunchy pecans on top with a layer of silky-not too-sweet filling underneath.  Chef Mia is our pecan pie purist (she’s been making pecan pie since she was knee high!) and insists that this contrast between gooey filling and the pretty concentric circles of whole nuts on top is what pecan pie is all about.

Pecan Pie with Chantilly Cream | Dear Martini

Her secret to the perfect filling is resisting the urge to whisk the filling.  Unlike many other pie fillings, you DO NOT want to incorporate air in the filling.   To make it look as good as it tastes, we take the time to place the nuts in concentric circles in the bottom of the shell before pouring in the filling.  Many cooks just toss them in with the filling.  Using our preferred method as you pour the filling over the nuts they are coated with the filling and magically float to the top (creating the two distinct layers!)  Top off the pie with a dollop of Bourbon Chantilly Cream and it’s heaven.  And, before we fall into that sugar coma after the Thanksgiving meal we usually head outside for  an after dinner walk (or as Mia’s dad likes to say “the pre-amble to a second piece-o-pie”!)  Be sure to check out our post Perfect Pie Crust to learn the secrets to making the best pie crust (ever!)  and video tips on how to roll and crimp the dough.

Check out the video to see for yourself the pecan magic.

Pecan Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

Yep, you read that right… the recipe calls for a pinch of finely ground black pepper!  Just as with savory dishes a little salt and pepper brings out and enhances the flavors in a sweet dish too.

4 large eggs, beaten

1 cup dark corn syrup

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch finely ground black pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1 ¼ cups pecan halves

1 recipe Bourbon Chantilly Cream

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine eggs and corn syrup; stir to combine.  Add sugar, salt, pepper, and vanilla, and melted butter.  Allow filling mixture to rest while you place the pecans in the pie shell.

Remove your pie shell from the refrigerator.  Place pecans in concentric circles on the bottom of the pie shell.  Pour filling gently over the pecans following the concentric circles as a path.  Once all of the pecans are floating, continue to pour the remaining filling around the edge trying not to disturb the circles.  If you have left over pecans, you can fill in gaps and or slide them gently underneath the top pecans.  Bake pie in the center of the oven 40-50 minutes or until center is firm.  Remove pie from oven and cool on a baking rack for at least 1 hour before serving.  Do not even think about cutting this pie before it cools — the pie needs the cooling time for the filling to set — if you cut it hot the filling will ooze all over the plate.  

Cut pie into wedges and serve with a generous dollop of Chantilly Cream.

Cook’s note: Pecans have a tendency to go rancid quickly (as do all high fat nuts.)   Store nuts in the freezer for best results.

How to Make a Pecan Pie | Dear Martini

Bourbon Chantilly Cream

Makes 2 cups

Chantilly Cream is the  cooking term for any lightly sweetened whipped cream that includes a liqueur.

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon bourbon

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Place your bowl and whisk in the fridge 20 minutes before you are ready to whip the cream.  Whip the cream with bourbon and powdered sugar. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Cook’s note:  Substitute 3 teaspoons of vanilla if you’d rather skip the bourbon.  

Thanksgiving Planning: Time to Order the Bird!

It’s the first week of November, and you know what that means… time to order your bird!

Time to Order the Bird |Dear Martini|What you need to know about ordering your turkey

The Thanksgiving Turkey is the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving Feast.  It’s the main course, the entrée… the piece de resistance… the real deal… the Big Kauhuna…  so don’t treat purchasing the turkey like it’s an afterthought!  Take a few extra minutes to decide on what kind of bird you want, then pick one out that’s the best you can afford.  Starting off with the right bird – you’re halfway there to a delicious Thanksgiving!

Picking Out a Bird:

Here are some questions to think about  that might help you choose the right bird.

1)   How many people are coming to dinner?   

The general serving rule is 1 pound of turkey per person.  This factors in for bones, too, so if you’ve got 12 people coming over, choose a bird that’s 14 – 16 pounds so you’ll get to enjoy some leftovers and second helpings.

2)   How are you cooking the turkey?

Are you doing a traditional roast turkey?  Deep-frying?   Split-roasting or  grilling?   For most cooking methods, it makes little difference between fresh and frozen.  A frozen bird, however, requires extra time for thawing.  So keep that in mind.

3)   Do your guests prefer white meat or dark meat?

Lucky you!  You get to be the provider of all things delicious and bountiful!  In some households (well, maybe just ours), the majority of folks prefer dark meat… which means there is never enough dark meat carved right off the turkey.  Consider buying a few extra turkey legs so there will be enough of the succulent dark meat to go around.  Conversely, if the household prefers white meat, buy an extra breast to make everyone happy!

4)   Fresh or frozen bird?

There is no shame in purchasing a frozen bird, as long as it’s from a good-quality producer.   Just keep in mind you will need time to thaw the bird.  It will take a 10-pound turkey 1 day to thaw if kept in a refrigerator at or below 40°F.  For every 5 pounds of frozen turkey, add another half day.   See the Turkey Thawing Chart for more information.

Turkey Thawing Times Dear Martini 

5) Natural? Organic?  Kosher? Help!!!

Regular — Plumped (or pumped!) with anything including: water, salt, chicken fat, broth, and or BUTTER.

Natural — Minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients or colors.

Organic — Must follow strict USDA standards for organic production and processing including access to the outdoors, no antibiotics or growth hormones, and fed organic feed.

Kosher —  Slaughtered in accordance with strict kosher law (Jewish rabbinical dietary laws) then soaked in water and salted inside and out (great if you don’t want to bother with brining.) 

6)  What the heck is a Heritage Turkey?
Ah, the Heritage Turkey….  Remember back to the illustrations from your schoolbooks depicting people dressed up like Pilgrims and Indians enjoying a  Thanksgiving feast?  Think about how that turkey look in the picture:  smaller breast, larger wings, legs and thighs in equal proportion to the breast.   Now think about the commercial ads you see for Thanksgiving Turkey in your local newspapers, magazines and television ads.  Commercially-raised turkeys today have been bred to yield larger breasts, and smaller wings and legs.  They are raised to be grown quickly, then processed to be available in the frozen bird bin immediately after Halloween.

Heritage Turkeys, however, are farm-raised more naturally and slowly in the exact opposite way industrially raised birds are.  Heritage birds might actually be specific breeds with names like Bourbon Red or Standard Bronze and are more similar to wild turkeys.  According to chefs, the meat from Heritage turkeys is tastier, a little gamier, and healthier given the ways they are fed and raised.  They can also be more expensive to purchase, but since the bird is the star of the meal we allow ourselves to splurge a little more to get a better quality bird.

The Dear Martini Thanksgiving Playlist and Hotline

This week, we are announcing TWO essential tools to get your Thanksgiving Holiday off to a great start.

Dear Marini’s Homemade Thanksgiving Playlist

Our YouTube Channel is bursting with plenty of great videos that highlight every technique you need to know to cook your Thanksgiving dinner – from boiling potatoes, to making cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie… all the way to carving the roasted turkey!  Be sure you subscribe to our channel so you’ll get immediate updates when we add new videos!

 

The Plentiful Pumpkin

The Vegetarian Thanksgiving —  it’s a topic that’s coming up more often now.  Years ago, if a vegetarian came to Thanksgiving dinner, all he or she could hope for was to enjoy some of the meatless side dishes, salads and of course pumpkin pie.  In more recent years, folks are becoming more health-conscious and in general adopting a meat-free lifestyle.  A happy consequence:  dinner hosts are also becoming more conscientious and planning for more meatless options for the Thanksgiving Table.

I originally developed this for my sister, Alex.  I wanted to make something unforgettably special for her that was filling, delicious and healthy… something that would be so special, she wouldn’t miss having turkey at all.

As I heartily encourage you to make this recipe, I am obligated to warn you:  it’s not something that can be quickly thrown together.  This recipe is for a very special occasion, so please take the necessary time and steps to prepare.  Cook and season each component before it gets mixed together as the filling – by doing so, each component has its own flavor.  The whole thing will become greater than the sum of its parts!  (and consequently, that’s why it’s so darn complicated to make this dish).

I serve this pumpkin with onion gravy (it looks and tastes like turkey gravy but it’s vegan) and a side of cranberry sauce!

* 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!  

Stuffed Thanksgiving Pumpkin

Serves 4

4 sugar pumpkins, about 6 to 8-inches in diameter

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cooked Israeli couscous (or wild rice)

1 cup cooked quinoa (red looks better)

1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sub-recipes:

Sautéed Dino Kale w chopped garlic and red pepper flakes

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with shallots and garlic (thinly slice the shallots and garlic)

Sautéed chickpeas with diced carrots, minced garlic and olive oil (optional)

Roast the pumpkins by first cutting their tops off and scooping out their seeds and strings.  Prick all over the inside of the pumpkins with a fork and brush with olive oil.  Season the insides with salt and pepper.  Place the pumpkins cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 35 min at 350.  Remove and set aside to cool.

Prepare the filling:  In a large bowl mix together the cooked couscous, quinoa, cranberries, nuts, parsley and any of the prepared sub-recipe components (mix 1 – 1 ½ cups of each component).  Season with salt and pepper and moisten with vegetable stock.

Stuff each pumpkin with the filling – making sure you’ve firmly (but not compressed) packed it in.  Make sure it comes over the top.  Return the stuffed pumpkins to the foil-lined baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes.  You can roast the tops of the pumpkins, too and place on top for presentation.  Bake any leftover filling in a baking dish to serve along side.

Serve hot with lots of onion gravy and cranberry sauce.

Onion gravy:

Makes 2 ½ cups

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

One large yellow onion, diced 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups water

2 tablespoons Tamari sauce (or low-sodium soy sauce)

1 vegetable boullion cube

2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed w cold water to create a slurry

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high flame and sauté the onions until soft, about 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the water, tamari, and boullion cube.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the onion is clear.  Mix together the cornstarch slurry and pour in.  Bring to a boil, stir a few times until the gravy thickens and turn off the heat.  Set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly, then puree with a stick blender.  If you are using a traditional blender, cool the gravy down completely before blending (you’ll have to heat the gravy back up).  Strain the gravy into a clean saucepan, taste and season with salt and pepper if needed and keep warm until ready to use.

Happy Thanksgiving!