Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chef John’s Taking a Break!

One of the things I love about my partnership with Allrecipes.com is that they actually make me take these things called, “vacations.” Apparently these periodic breaks are quite common in corporate America, and supposedly help the employee relax, rest, and recharge. Since I’m going to be golfing, that’s not going to happen, but still, I appreciate the time.

I’ll be off for a week, and by “off,” I really mean “off.” While comments will be published, I will not be monitoring the blog while out, so when it comes to cooking questions, you’ll be at the mercy of fellow foodwishers and Google. Good luck with that. Anyway, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving, and I look forward to getting back to work next week. Enjoy!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ultimate Mashed Potatoes - Not Your Every Day Recipe

Every year around holiday time, I see people posting recipes for low-fat and no-fat mashed potatoes, which I find as sad, as I do perplexing. There’s no sane doctor alive, or bartender for that matter, who will tell you eating a scoop of these mashed potatoes a few times a year will, in any way, negatively effect your health.

So what’s up with the reduced-fat holiday potatoes? Isn’t that the reason we try to eat well all year, so on Thanksgiving we can bathe guilt-free in gravy? Sure, serving your loved ones potatoes with a pound of butter in them on a regular basis would be cause for alarm…or at least a glance at any recently purchased life insurance policies…but for truly special occasions, it’s crazy not to enjoy such a pleasure.

By the way, this is no viral-video gimmick. Those star chefs you see Anthony Bourdain dry-humping every week (sorry, I was channeling my inner Anthony Bourdain) all use at least this much butter, and as legend has it, some even flirt with equal parts. Of course, they call it pomme purée, and say it with a French accent, but it’s the same stuff.

Nobody says you have to go full Joël Robuchon and actually use this recipe, but please try to force yourself to add more than the few meager tablespoons that get us through the rest of the year. Anyway, if you’re never experienced this ethereal pleasure, I hope you make them a part of your next special occasion menu. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions:
3 1/4 pounds russet potatoes (3 or 4)
Note: this will not work with red potatoes, as they are too waxy
1 pound unsalted butter
1/4 cup hot milk
salt and pepper to taste

Note: Thanksgiving gravy warning! For obvious reasons, these aren't very sturdy mashed potatoes, so be careful with the gravy. If you totally drench them they'll basically melt.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Thanksgiving Side Note

Thanksgiving is almost here, and we'll assume you already have a great turkey and gravy recipe, so today we are focusing on the side dishes (btw, if you are still sans bird recipe, don't panic, and just check out our critically acclaimed, two-part video series, How to Make Turkey and Gravy).

Everyone knows, it's not a great turkey that makes the meal, it's what you pair it with. What good is a beautiful bird sitting next to a bunch of so-so sides? With that in mind, here's a little collection of thanksgiving appropriate dishes from days gone by. Don't let the poor producton value on the older videos fool you, these are some great sides, and would make a lovely addition to your holiday spread. Enjoy!

Creamed Spinach

Creamy Corn Custard

Pecan and Apricot Sourdough Bread Stuffing

Green Bean and Blue Cheese Gratin

Lime and Chipotle Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Celery Root and Potato Puree

Cold Broccoli Salad

Cheesy Broccoli Gratin

Butter Roasted Cauliflower

Friday, November 22, 2013

Turkey Matzo Ball Soup – That Old Thanksgivingukkah Classic

Soup is always an obvious choice for leftover-turkey-themed videos, but it wasn’t until I heard about “Thanksgivingukkah,” that I knew that soup would be turkey matzo ball.

This year, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah fall on the same date for the first time since 1888, and this rare occurrence has been deemed, “Thanksgivingukkah.” And when we say rare, we mean rare, as this convergence will not happen again for another 77,000 years!

As I mention in the video, while pleased with my matzo ball skills, I’m not sure I’ve ever had the real thing (if that even exists), and so I don’t have anything to measure mine against. I’ve had it at delicatessens out here, but never in NYC, or other more legit locations. I’m using what seems to be a fairly standard formula, and they are quite light and tender, so until informed otherwise, I’m going assume these are pretty good.

However, there is one thing I would love to know. Why do “we” boil the matzo balls in salted water, instead of the soup? I’ve heard it’s so the broth doesn’t get cloudy, but is that really all there is to it? Speaking of the broth, yours will undoubtedly be superior to mine. By the time I got to this video, I only had a few scrawny pounds of meat and bones left, and yet it still came out wonderfully flavorful.

If you use all the scraps from a decent sized bird, you should get an incredibly rich broth, which is exactly what you want to be ladling over your matzo balls. As far as extra ingredients go, I like a minimalist approach with this soup, but of course, feel free to embellish your stockpot with whatever you see fit.

Some of this will be determined by how you season your Thanksgiving bird, and I can personally verify that this year’s Peruvian version worked nicely. So, I hope you enjoy the coming Thanksgivingukkah, and here’s hoping the end of your turkey means the beginning of a delicious matzo ball soup. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions (I only served one matzo ball, but this will make enough soup for 4 portions with 2 matzo balls per serving):

For the turkey broth:
3-4 pounds of roasted turkey bones and meat scraps (use everything you have, the fattier the pieces the better)
at least 2 quarts water or chicken broth, or enough to cover
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery
- simmer on low for 3 hours or until all the meat falls off the bones and it’s flavorless.
- skim and reserve at least 4 tbsp of the melted fat that rises to the top
- strain, and you should have about 6 cups of broth. If you have more, reduce down to 6 cups (do not season with salt until reduced). If you didn’t get quite 6 cups, just add some chicken broth to make up the difference.

Note: my turkey was already very well seasoned, so I didn’t need to add much to the stockpot. You can adjust your broth according, and can certainly add things like bay leaf, thyme springs, parsley stems, etc.

For the matzo balls (makes 8):
2 large beaten eggs
2 tbsp rendered melted turkey fat
1 tsp fine salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
2 tbsp seltzer or club soda
1/2 cup matzo meal
- Mix and chill 30 minutes at least
- Boil in salted water (1 1/2 quarts water with 1 1/2 tablespoons salt) for 30 minutes and serve with turkey broth

For the soup:
2 tbsp rendered melted turkey fat
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
6 cups very rich turkey or chicken broth (see recipe above)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped dill
8 cooked matzo balls!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cream Biscuits – The Best Biscuit to Risk It

Every year, you dream about putting out fresh, homemade biscuits on the holiday table; but fear of failure, and the convenience of those popping fresh tubes, makes it nothing more than an annual fantasy. Then, you found out about these cream biscuits.

Instead of cutting butter into the flour, we’re using butterfat-laced heavy cream, which not only makes the recipe fast and easy, but also produces a biscuit that’s light, moist, and flaky. To that end, try and get some self-rising flour. You can make your own (see below), but for whatever reason, the pre-mixed stuff seems to work better. 

As far as cutting goes, I don’t like to roll the dough too thin just to get more cuts. I do it about 5/8-inch thick, cut six nice biscuits, and then use the trimmings to get 4 or 5 more. You can get 12, but that depends on the exact size of your cutter. The nice thing about this dough is that re-rolling doesn’t seem to damage the texture.

If you do decide to raise your biscuit game this holiday season, maybe think about adding some chopped rosemary or sage to the melted butter. That would add some extra aromatic savoriness, not to mention make your kitchen smell really good. I hope you give these easy cream biscuits a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 10-12 Cream Biscuits:
2 cups self-rising flour (You can make you own by sifting together 2 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon fine salt)
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2-3 tbsp melted butter
Bake at 500 F. for 10 to 12 minutes, or until well-browned

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Happy National Vichyssoise Day Eve

Warning: this is not vichyssoise.
I enjoy making fun of arbitrarily designated food holidays as much as the next food blogger, and like many, I use them as a convenient excuse to repost seasonally appropriate recipes, not really caring how the day came about, but National Vichyssoise Day is different.

Seriously, someone needs to find out how it came to be that we’re celebrating a chilled potato and leek soup in the middle of November. I took a quick look, and while there are countless references to the day, as usual, no info on its genesis. As a B-list YouTube celebrity, I’m far too busy to do any further research, but if any of you food detectives crack the case, please let me know.

Shockingly, I’ve not done a vichyssoise video yet, so you’ll have to settle for this incredibly comforting ham and potato soup. While not as seasonally inappropriate as Vichyssoise, it’s delicious nonetheless, and one of our most popular soup recipes ever. Enjoy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce – I'm Fine Now, But I Used to Be Nuts

It funny how certain food memories stick in your brain, and this maple walnut cranberry sauce is the result of one such remembrance. I can’t tell you when or where, but sometime during my formative years I saw a cranberry sauce loaded with chopped walnuts, and I totally freaked. 

Not outwardly, as I have a decent poker face, but inside I was like, “what the hell is that?” That’s how it was for me early in life. If I saw a food prepared differently from the way I’d always seen it, I just assumed it was a terrible idea. Like ketchup on a hot dog…okay, so I happened to be right that time, but generally it’s not a great attitude to have.

As I pondered this season’s annual Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, and which styles I hadn’t tried yet, I remembered how off-putting that walnut-studded version was, and I decided to face my demons. I’m happy to report, as usual, I was totally wrong. It works perfectly.

Besides the nuts, I really enjoyed the job the maple syrup did sweetening the acidic berries. I recommend using a Grade B maple syrup if you can find it. It’s darker and thicker, and boasts a stronger maple flavor, so it’s the preferred syrup for cooking and baking by those in the know (also know as, “Canadians”).

So, if you’re looking for new and exciting cranberry sauce recipe this holiday season, I hope you give this a try. You’d be nuts not to. Enjoy!

Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce Ingredients:
(makes about 2 cups)
1 (12 oz) package fresh cranberries, washed
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 cup port wine
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
pinch of salt
1 cup chopped walnut, toasted a light golden-brown

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Next Up: Cranberry Sauce 2013

I don't want to get bogged down in the details, but sometime Friday we'll be posting our annual Thanksgiving cranberry sauce recipe. One hint, and possible spoiler, I really think you'll go nuts for this. Stay tuned!

Photo courtesy of USDA

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Peruvian Turkey for Thanksgiving – What? Are You Chicken?

I love, love, love Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken, and have been meaning to do a video on this magical marinade forever, so it’s kind of funny that it makes it Food Wishes debut slathered all over a Thanksgiving turkey. 

By the way, to the hundreds of you who requested Peruvian chicken, I checked with our legal department, and this counts. 

My usual ethnic food disclaimer applies; I have no idea how close this is to your “authentic” recipe, but based on what I’ve tasted at some very good Peruvian restaurants here in San Francisco, I think I did pretty well. I also think this technique translated beautifully to the much larger bird.

Above and beyond the vibrant taste, the spice rub formed an almost airtight crust during the long, slow roasting, and it was truly one of the juiciest turkeys I’ve ever tasted. It was almost reminiscent of some salt-dough versions I've enjoyed before.

As I mentioned in the video, I took some of the same ingredients used in a green sauce that’s usually served along side, and used it to make a pan gravy. I was very pleased with this last minute experiment, and it actually reminded me, in taste and texture, of a Chile Verde, which is never a bad thing.

Below the ingredients, I’ll give you the rather simple formula for achieving perfect doneness, which will work no matter how you flavor your turkey, but if you’re looking for something deliciously different on your Thanksgiving table, then I hope you give this Peruvian turkey a try. Enjoy!

Peruvian Turkey Ingredients:
1 whole turkey, ready to roast
For the spice rub:
12 cloves garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano
3 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup ground cumin
2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white vinegar

Rub turkey all over, and under the breast skin with the rub. Let sit out at room temp for 1 hour. Rub extra rub inside cavity, but save a 1/4 cup or so to use as a glaze later. Tie legs, season with kosher salt, and roast at 325 F., for about 15 minutes a pound, or until the internal temp in the thickest part of the thigh is 170-175 F.  Let rest 20 minutes before carving.

*I like to cover the breasts with foil about halfway through the estimated cooking time. I also like to remove it, and brush on any extra spice rub (thinned with a little oil) about 30 minutes before it should be done. 

For the sauce:
1 cup crème fraiche
juice of one lime
I cup chicken broth
2 jalapeno
1/2 cup cilantro

Place roasting pan (pour off excess fat) on med-high heat. Puree above and deglaze roasting pan with the mixture. Bring to a boil, and cook until the mixture thickens into a gravy. Season and serve!

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Peel Garlic Like a Boss…Like an Actual Boss

People throw the term “like a boss” around very casually these days, but when I say this technique shows how to peel garlic like a boss, it’s meant literally. I was channel surfing a while back, and saw Martha Stewart demo this very cool trick, and she is, in every sense of the word, a boss.

Many people have inspired me along this entrepreneurial journey online, and Martha is definitely one of them. By the way, I hope she doesn’t take exception to my prison shank joke; but since we are friends (and by friends I mean we’ve never spoken, but do follow each other on Twitter), I’m sure she’ll be fine with it. All kidding aside, this trick is no joke.

The great thing about this method, besides the speed and ease, is that you are truly peeling the garlic, and not crushing it. A crushed garlic clove produces a stronger flavor than a peeled one, especially when used raw, and so this is perfect when you need to mince or slice whole, undamaged cloves. I hope you give this easy trick a try soon. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pumpkin Chunkin

Just in case our recently featured pumpkin cheesecake isn't your thing, here are some additional ideas as we head towards the Thanksgiving holiday. It's kind of a mystery why we only enjoy these recipes this time of year, since they're all made with available-anytime ingredients, but whatever it is, it's probably the same reason people don't make s'mores in the winter. 

Anyway, I hope you give some of these great pumpkin recipes a try soon, while there's still time. Just click on the recipe title links, and away you go. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pancakes

It's a crime these aren't a regular item on diner menus. 

Pumpkin Scones

There are some colors that only occur with food, and this is one of them. Look for "pumpkin scone" on a paint chip near you.

Best Pumpkin Pie Ever

Since no one can prove otherwise, my legal team is fine with this recipe's outrageous claim. 

Low Fat Pumpkin Flan

There are some things that just shouldn't work, but they do, and sometimes those things are low-fat flans.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

You can pretend these are healthier for you than regular cinnamon rolls, since they're made with nutritious pumpkin, but we know the truth. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Coquilles St-Jacques – Hey, Have You Tried That New Saint James Diet?

Coquilles St-Jacques is the kind of unapologetically rich shellfish dish that we used to be able to enjoy, before the book-writing dieticians and celebrity chefs ruined it for everybody. 

Fats of all sorts were demonized, and young cooks far and wide were told to never, ever, under any circumstances, cover-up the delicate flavors of seafood with heavy sauces, especially ones containing cheese.

So, an amazing recipe like this went from classic French treat to crime against nature, and it slowly but surely started disappearing from menus. You can still find it in a few of the braver bistros, but to enjoy on any kind of semi-regular basis, you’ll need to master it at home. The good news is that’s very easy to do.

By the way, this is a great recipe for entertaining larger groups during the holidays, since it can be prepped well ahead of time. For this reason, Coquilles St-Jacques has always been a favorite of caterers and banquet chefs, and below the ingredients list, I’ll give some instructions on how they do it.

You can use sea scallops like I did, or the smaller, sweeter bay scallops, which are really nice in this. Of course, if you use bay scallops, you’ll only need a minute in the simmering wine, so be careful. No matter what you use, be sure they haven’t been dipped in a preservative solution. If you buy them frozen, which you should, the label should only say, “Scallops.”

The shells can be easily found online, or at your local restaurant supply store. Otherwise, simply use some small, shallow gratin dishes, which will work exactly the same. Find something, and give this “scallop recipe that time forgot” a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced shallots
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white wine
1 pound sea scallops (about 3 scallops per person)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
cayenne to taste
2 tsp minced tarragon
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese

Broil on high, about 8-10 inches under the flame, until the scallops are hot, and the cheese is browned and bubbling. Because of the sugars in the wine and cream, the edges will brûlée or burn, but this is not a problem, and actually how it’s supposed to look.

NOTE: You can make these ahead, and refrigerate until needed. Since they will be cold, you’ll need to bring back to temperature before you broil them. Preheat oven to 350 F. and bake for about 12-15 minutes (will depend on how you constructed them), or until the centers are just warm. Switch oven to broil, and broil on high as shown. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Farinata – Why Didn’t You Wish for This Sooner!

The third best part of this job, after the fame and fortune, is learning about unique, new foods; and this farinata video is a perfect example! Until it was requested by a Vlad Kiperman (if that is his real name), I had no idea this tasty, and dead simple recipe even existed. It’s so good, I’m kind of sad the discovery came so late in life.

Farinata is nothing more than a simple garbanzo bean flour batter, which is spiked with olive oil and salt, and baked in a very hot oven. The surface gets crusty, the edges get crispy, and yet the inside stays moist and sort of creamy. The texture is easy to explain, but the taste, not so much.

This is so simple and subtly flavored that it’s a kind of hard to describe. You may be familiar with the taste of garbanzo (aka chickpeas) in things like hummus and falafel, but here it’s not combined with other strongly flavored ingredients, and so you’re getting pure, un-cut bean. It’s going to be easier for me if you just make it and taste for yourself.

Like I said in the video, if you’ve never made this before, you should probably try a plain version to get an idea of what this stuff is all about, but after that, the sky's the limit. The options for add-ons to the batter, as well as potential toppings are virtually limitless. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Pan Note: I know many will ask, so I’ll just say it now; yes, you can use any oven-safe 10-inch pan to make this, but I have a tough time believing it will come out as wonderfully textured as it would if you use a cast-iron skillet. Putting the batter into a smoking hot pan seems to be one of the big keys here.

Ingredients for 6 portions (one 10-inch cast iron pan):
2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups garbanzo bean flour (aka chickpea flour)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (about 1 tsp fine table salt)
1/2 tsp finely minced rosemary leaves, optional
5 tbsp olive oil, divided (use 3 tablespoons for the batter, and 2 tablespoons for the pan)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gluten-Free and Loving It

By the way, since this is made from a legume-based flour, farinata is 100% gluten-free, which should make a small, but very passionate group of foodwishers happy. My usually modus operandi when it comes to such requests and questions is a referral to Allrecipe.com’s impressive, and extensive gluten-free recipe collection, or one of my many talented GF food blogger friends. 

Speaking of which, Shauna and Danny from Gluten-Free Girl (the Beyonce and Jay-Z of GF bloggers), have a new cookbook out called, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day. If you happen to swing that way, check it out. The recipes sound wonderful, the photos are gorgeous, and the book’s getting rave reviews.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Do Your Recipes Measure Up?

When a very positively reviewed cookie, cake, or other pastry recipe and gets an atypically bad appraisal, it can often be traced back to flour measuring technique, or lack there of. I did this video a few years ago to illustrate the point, and since we’re heading into holiday baking season, I thought it’d be a great time to review.

This isn’t to say that people don’t occasionally post recipes with ingredient errors [clears throat nervously], but if a cookie gets mostly rave reviews, and yet you thought it was a little dense, there’s a chance it could be this common culprit. Anyway, this clip shows you why weight is better, and also how to properly measure by volume. Enjoy!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake – Giving Thanks for Cheap and Easy to Use Kitchen Gadgets

I’d rather eat vegan for a week than write a blog post on why pumpkin cheesecakes crack, but I’m more than happy to explain how to get that perfect, creamy-custardy, probably-won’t-crack doneness you all deserve. Use a digital thermometer. Okay, that was a little anticlimactic, but it really is that simple.

If you turn off the heat when the cheesecake’s internal temp is between 155-160 F., and let it cool slowly in the warm oven, you should get exactly what you see here. The reason a thermometer is so key, is that going just by sight is hard to do. Even at 155 F., a cheesecake has a fairly jiggly middle, and really does look undercooked. Many cooks get scared and leave it in for a few more minutes, which can make all the difference.

This should take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Many factors are involved, but a big one is the temperature of your cheese and eggs. Mine were cold, which not only makes mixing harder, but also will increase cooking time, as a room temp batter starts cooking sooner. So, to recap, use a thermometer.

That covers the cheesecake, but what about the ginger snap crust? It was okay. The flavor was great, but it got a little gritty and gummy, and I'm not sure which, if any, of the thirty-five ingredients in the cookies was responsible. Maybe a little pre-baking would help, but I can't pretend to be overly concerned. Feel free to improve, or just go graham cracker.

This recipe was adapted from one found on my friend Elise’s blog, Simply Recipes. She’s one of my all-time favorites (food bloggers and people), and I insist you head over there to check out her gorgeous version as well. I (we) hope you give this easy pumpkin cheesecake a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 1 Pumpkin Cheesecake (10 slices)
Note: This is not a classic, dense, NY-style cheesecake, and has more of a creamy, custardy texture.

For the crust:
2 cups gingersnap crumbs
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 large egg yolk

4 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 (15-oz) cans pure pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
1/4 cup all purpose flour

*Bake at 325 degrees F. for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until internal temp is between 155-160 F. Let cool in warm oven, with door cracked.