Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Herb Rubbed Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy

Those of you who follow us on Facebook probably saw Antoinette's gorgeous baby girl today... WOW! What a sweet pea she is! Antoinette will be taking a bit of a break while she and her precious girl rest, recover and snuggle... when she needs a break from snuggling, I'm totally prepared to jump in and take one for the team (hint, hint!) In the mean time, I'll be posting recipes about once a week. More if I can.

Here's the last one in my Thanksgiving gear-up selection. I made a herb-rubbed turkey breast to go with the Sweet Potato Gratin and the Collard Greens Gratin with Prosciutto and Parmesan. I usually make my Thanksgiving turkey like this, and just the breast had great results too.

Herb Rubbed Turkey and Apple Cider Gravy
Serves 4
Preheat oven to 325

1 bone-in turkey breast - about 3 pounds
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh sage leafs
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh time
1/4 cup softened butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper

In a food processor or blender (or Magic Bullet!) blend the softened butter, herbs, olive oil and salt and pepper until a thick paste is formed. Just like making pesto.

Using your hands, shove the herb paste beneath the turkey skin, and massage all over the top of the skin and exposed bone. Get all up in there. It's gross, but it works. 

In a large baking dish, bake the breast at 325 degrees for about 1 hour, 45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Baste once, and check the temperature at 1 hour 30 minutes. Move to a serving platter and tent with tin foil.

Apple Cider Gravy
Makes about 1 1/2 cups of gravy

Pan drippings
1/2 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon softened butter

Carefully remove some of the fat from the pan drippings, leaving all the good turkey juice, just take out some of the fat. I usually skim the top with a large spoon. 

In a small dish, blend the softened butter and flour until a thick paste forms. Heat the pan drippings over low heat and stir in the flour/butter paste. Whisk until smooth and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes.

(This is the same technique used in the Coq au Vin recipe, and it really makes a nice gravy.)

Serve hot over turkey breast and anything else delicious!

A few things about this recipe...
If you want to do a whole turkey with this herb rub, just double or triple the quantities depending on the size of your bird.

This paste is really adaptable - swap our the sage for rosemary. Add some garlic. Marjoram, awesome. Cilantro and lime? I might try that! It just makes a great herby rub.

Almost made this time last year, but a great party starter for Thanksgiving!
Spiced Nuts and Bourbon Cocktails

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sweet Potato Gratin

So "gratin" just means dish cooked with a browned crust, often with cheese. Therefore gratins are good. Like really good. The last recipe I posted, the Collard Greens Gratin, is my new favorite gratin... this is my long-time fave gratin. These sweet potatoes (both colors are sweet potatoes, but sometimes they are called yams by color) are cooked in cream with a browned topping made from Parmesan cheese and spiced with simple ground peppers. The recipe is VERY simple, but super delicious, very rich and very amazing. My dear friend Betsy gave me this recipe a few years ago, and I make it for special occasions and, of course - THANKSGIVING!

Sweet Potato Gratin
Serves 8-10
Preheat oven to 400

2 tablespoons butter - divided
4 pounds of sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rings
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

With 1 tablespoon of butter, butter a 9x13 inch glass dish, or other shallow baking dish.

Arrange potato slices in a single layer and top with 1/4 cup of cheese. Repeat with a second layer or until all of the potatoes are used. Hold putting on the last 1/4 cup of cheese.

I like to make alternating rows, or concentric circles, alternating colors so this dish is really pretty when it bakes up. 

In a measuring cup, combine cream, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Pour the cream mixture over the potatoes and sprinkle on the last quarter cup of Parmesan cheese. Dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.

Cover the dish with foil - dull side out - and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the tin foil and bake for another 20-25 minutes until potatoes are tender. Cool a bit and ENJOY!!

A few things about this recipe...
You can use all one color potatoes if you have a preference.
This dish will take a few different temperature variations... I've cooked this with a turkey in the oven cooking at 350. Just increase the time cooked with the tin foil on.
Don't use milk or half and half. Use heavy cream. It's worth it. 

Next up on the Thanksgiving round up - Sage Rubbed Turkey Breast with Apple Cider Pan Gravy. 

Things made this time last year...

Cranberry Apple Upside Down Cake
Oh my goodness - that's a good cake!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Collard Greens Gratin with Prosciutto and Parmesan

Most important things first... Antoinette had a perfect and gorgeous baby early this morning! Mama and baby are doing well! Yay!! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!

Thanksgiving is coming!! I can't wait!! It's totally my fave holiday. Last year I posted my favorite stuffing (dressing?) This year I thought I would do a larger Thanksgiving round-up of recipes new, old and loved. My mom came to town early and we had a pre-Thanksgiving... I got to cook with my mama, which is such a treat. So fun! The new standout recipe this year was Collard Greens Gratin with a creamy Parmesan béchamel and a crunchy prosciutto topping. Oh my goodness. This is THE BEST. 

Bon Appetite crafted this wonderful recipe, but in my opinion it was super fussy. I knew I wouldn't make it twice if I had to switch pans and use up that much time, so I worked through revamping it to be a bit simpler in execution, but keeping all of the elements. I didn't make my own breadcrumbs or ice down some boiled greens just to bake them again. Nope. Not gonna do it. Those are the sorts of things I stripped out. The GREAT stuff is all still in here.

Collard Greens Gratin - adapted from Bon Appitite
Preheat oven to 400. Serves 6-8 as a side dish

2 bunches of collard greens (~1 pound) ribs and stems removed and leafs roughly chopped
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper

4oz prosciutto roughly chopped
1 cup panko bread crumbs 
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided (1/4c and 3/4c measures)

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Start a very large pot of salted water to boil. Roughly chop the prosciutto and with one tablespoon of olive oil, crisp the ham in a cast iron skillet. Remove the crisped ham and in a small bowl add it to the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and thyme. Set aside.

In the same pan saute sliced onions and garlic until onions are caramelized, about 10 minutes. Stir occationally.

While the onions are cooking, add ribbed and chopped collard greens to the salted and boiling water. Boil greens for 5 minutes.

When onions and collards are done cooking, add drained collards to the hot skillet. Season with salt and pepper.

Let the greens and onions sit in the hot skillet while the béchamel cooks. To make the béchamel melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pan. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook until bubbling and very slightly browned. Add in the milk, by 1/2 cup-fulls, whisking all the time. Add in the ground nutmeg. Cook until milk has tiny bubbles at the edges of the pan, then add in the Parmesan cheese. Cook over low heat until cheese is melted and sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes. 

Pour béchamel over the greens and onions and toss lightly in the cast iron skillet until the sauce is distributed over the greens. Scatter the bread crumb and prosciutto topping over the greens and bake at 400 for 15 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and topping has browned in spots.

Cool slightly and enjoy! Oh my goodness - this is fantastic!

A few things about this recipe...
This would also be good with Swiss Chard or kale.
I could eat this day in and day out. It was delicious.

I will keep posting Thanksgiving faves until The Big Day!

Things made this time last year...
My Favorite Thanksgiving Dressing (Stuffing?)

Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Turkey Sausage

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lemon Bars

Lemon and sweets just go hand in hand.  Give me something lemon-y and I’ll probably love it: lemonade, lemon cake, lemon bars…YUM!  There is just something special about the balance of tart and sweet.  My husband and I had a lemon theme for our wedding reception to go along with my “favorite things”.  It was fantastic!  We served lemonade instead of iced tea, our cake had a lemon-cream filling, we had lemons coated in sugar crystals as part of our centerpieces, and our dessert was, of course, lemon bars. 

Lemon bars are probably one of my favorite desserts but I can’t seem to find a lot of people (or restaurants) that make them like the bars I grew up on.  There is always some issue.  Either they are too sweet, lack the lemon zing, or the crust is bland.  Today, I’m sharing the recipe I grew up on.  My cousin, Yolanda Banks, use to make these all the time.  Now that she’s all grown up, an amazing chef, and author of the cookbook “Cooking for Your Man”, I think it’s safe to say that I can share it.  (You can also find the recipe in her book).  I hope these bars satisfy all of your sweet and sour cravings :)

Lemon Bars

½ c butter, softened
¼ c powdered sugar
1c all-purpose flour
1c granulated sugar
2 tbsp grated lemon peel
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease an 8” or 9” square pan.  (Cooking times may vary depending on pan size so watch bars carefully when baking).

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and powdered sugar.  Add the flour and mix until combined.  Press the flour mixture into the bottom of the pan, building up ½” edges.

Tip: The mixture will start to clump together when it’s ready.

Bake crust 15 mins and set aside.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer, beat granulated sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, vanilla, baking powder, salt, and eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 3 mins or until light and fluffy.  Pour over crust.

Note: I think the vanilla extract is my cousin’s secret ingredient because I don’t see it in many lemon bars recipes.  It’s gives these bars another taste dimension.

Bake 15-20 mins or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center.  Cool; dust w/ powdered sugar.  Cut into small squares.

These are truly “no pressure” and the recipe is easy to double.  Try making these and placing them in decorative boxes as Christmas gifts for coworkers and friends.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cranberry Apple Crisp

I love cranberry apple. Maybe it's a childhood thing stemming from a juice box habit. Maybe it's because the colorful leafs are covered in frost every morning now. Maybe because it's just bomb. I don't know, but I dig it! Last year I made this Cranberry Apple Upside-Down Cake. Awesome. This year I revamped my favorite fool-proof Peach and Raspberry Crisp. Cran-Apple is fall on a plate. I added chopped pecans to the topping and lots of cinnamon to the filling. It's just delicious. My mom says it's healthy enough to eat for breakfast, but she's in the apple pie for breakfast camp too.

Cranberry Apple Crisp
Preheat oven to 450 degrees

For the Filling
2 cups fresh cranberries
3 cups chopped apples (about 4 large apples)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar

For the Topping
1 cup oats
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup melted butter 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt 

I like to make the filling first - roughly peel and chop the apples, and rinse and sort cranberries. In a very large bowl, mix together apples, cranberries, sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Next make the topping - in a large bowl, mix together oats, flour, sugar, pecans, salt and cinnamon. Melt butter and add it to the dry mixture and stir until a thick and crumbly batter forms. 

Butter a deep-dish pie dish, or other large baking dish and add in the fruit mixture, scraping out all of the sugar and cinnamon goodness. Add the topping and spread it out to cover the fruit. Break up big pieces, but be sure to leave some clumps - they are delicious!

Bake the crisp for 15 minutes at 450 and then reduce the oven temp to 350 and continue baking for 25-30 more minutes. Fruit will be tender and topping will be toasted. Let it cool a bit and enjoy!!

A few things about this recipe...
It is super adaptable! This is delicious with so many different kinds of  fruits and nuts - or no nuts. Also awesome!

Things made this time last year...
Sausage and Lentil Soup

Rosemary Turkey Meatloaf