Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Sunday Night Dilemma: Pasta with Ham and Peas

Ah the weekly Sunday dilemma: Do I go food shopping for the week? Do I order Chinese food and feel gross afterwards? Do I rummage through the fridge to see what I can re purpose into some sort of dinner? Each has its pros and cons:

Shopping is very proactive and will be very satisfying once it's done and your fridge is full, but do you really want to face those crowds? And what if you miss the 4th quarter of the 4pm football games? And that sofa is just so comfortable!

Chinese food is delicious and satisfying at the time, but you know that you're going to immediately regret getting that order of General Gao's chicken, and the leftovers will tempt you for lunch or dinner the next day.

Your final option is the fridge scrounge. You know there has to be something in the fridge that can work for a meal, so you dive in. This past Sunday, I went for the fridge raid, and to my delight, I found leftover Thanksgiving ham, frozen peas, a shallot, garlic, and some angel hair pasta. Mix that with some wine, butter and flour, and we've got ourselves a dinner! Pasta with ham and peas in a white wine sauce is a really comforting, easy to make dish that will satisfy your Sunday dilemma and make for an excellent and reasonably healthy lunch the next day.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Ah Thanksgiving, the truly American holiday. Completely unaffiliated with any type of religion and dedicated entirely to gorging on heavy food and watching football (and spending time with family, giving thanks, etc.) Due to my recent food blogging lifestyle, I was especially excited for Thanksgiving this year. My parents hosted it at their apartment, so my dad and I cooked everything for the meal. We didn’t stray too far from the Thanksgiving standards, but we made an impressive spread that delivered across the board. 18 family members were there for the holiday and we all had a wonderful time talking, eating, and enjoying the Thanksgiving spirit.

Click on the links below to go to the page for each menu item:

Cranberry Relish and Cranberry Chutney (External Recipes)

The Tale of Two Turkeys

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Well, it really was just the best of times, but I couldn’t leave Dickens hanging with a title like that. My dad and I wanted to do two very different preparations for the turkeys this year. We bought two 10 lbs turkeys for the 18 person feast, and we each took the mantle of preparing one. For the one I made, I decided to use a slow cooking “oven smoked” method. The slow cooking method uses a sauce called liquid smoke, which is made from distilling smoke through water. Liquid smoke can be found at most supermarkets with the BBQ sauce. For more info on how liquid smoke is made click here. My dad decided on a high heat, fast cooking method. This is a simple way to cook any poultry, and similar cooking styles have been featured on Ty’s Kitchen before with chicken. Both turkeys were delicious, moist, and very different.

Turkey Gravy

Any turkey meal is incomplete without some good turkey gravy to go along with it. Gravy is pretty simple to make and all you need is the neck that comes with the turkey, some vegetables and spices, water, and time to let it simmer. For this gravy, my dad and I used the neck to make a turkey stock, reserved some of it for the stuffing and mashed potatoes, and used the rest for the gravy along with the giblets (gizzard and heart).

Mushroom, Oyster, and Sausage Stuffing

I am a big fan of Thanksgiving stuffing, but when you think of it conceptually, it’s a pretty silly dish. You take croutons or toasted bread, douse it in stock, mix it with meat, veggies, shellfish, or anything else you want, and bake it. You’re basically taking bread, drying it out, moistening it up, mixing it with some other ingredients and then drying it out again. It’s almost like a very confused sandwich (and for anyone who’s had a Thanksgiving sandwich, that is an even bigger and more delicious conundrum) For our stuffing this year, we made two variations on the same theme. Both of them were basic mushroom and sausage stuffing, but one was made with oysters, walnuts and cornbread.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Squash is the fruit of fall (technically the gourd of fall). I love the warm and sweet taste of squash, and it’s mild flavor works really well with any seasoning and any other ingredients. Butternut squash has such a nice flavor on its own that little is needed to make a really tasty dish with it. For this dish, I did a very simple preparation, and the results were full of flavor.

Roasted Cauliflower

As I’ve said in previous posts, I love cauliflower. It has a milder flavor than broccoli and lends itself better to taking on the flavor of seasoning. For the cauliflower on Thanksgiving, I did a repeat of a similar cauliflower dish from my Turkey Burger post. The cauliflower was delicious but sadly went under the radar next to all of the other delicious items on the menu. I think cauliflower is generally and underappreciated veggie, and while I had high hopes for fame and accolades for the underdog veggie, we ended up having a lot left over. The sad story of a vegetable gone unnoticed like a famous artist only appreciated post-mortem; we’ll see how this story ends.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I hate to sound over confident, but I feel that I’ve mastered the art of mashed potatoes (or at least the way I like them, everyone has their preference). I hate to divulge my secret, but I don’t want anyone to miss experiencing the deliciousness of a solid mash. The key is in the butter. I used to just add pats of butter to mashed up potatoes, but then I said, “Tyler, we can do more with these potatoes than just add butter and mix it up” (yes, from time to time, I speak to myself in the third person plural). I started simmering chopped garlic in the butter before incorporating it into the potatoes and from that day, my mashed potatoes recipe was one of lore.

Fried Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Bacon

All parts of the title of this dish are delicious. Brussel sprouts are always a favorite side of mine, and combined with the rich flavor of bacon and the tart flavor of cranberries, they are a formidable dish. Now take that, and fry it. Yeah, I went there. The one part of this dish to be careful about is not crowding the sprouts while frying. I learned this the hard way because I was pressed for time and didn’t divvy up the sprouts in enough batches. In my impatience, the sprouts weren’t able to really crisp up while frying. The dish was really delicious, and the flavors were very complex, but it didn’t have the crispy component I was looking for when I dreamt up the dish. Next time, I will know, DON’T CROWD THE BRUSSEL SPROUTS!

Braised Green Beans with Tomatoes and Onions

Out of ideas for a side? Sick of slaving over the stove? This is a dish for you! The only difficult part of this dish is cutting the ends off of the green beans. Once this is done, all you need to do is put the ingredients in a pot and put it on the stove. Seriously, that’s it. Very easy, very healthy, and very delicious, this is a simple dish that is good all winter long and tastes like it took way more work than it did. Feel free to embellish the amount of effort so your friends are even more impressed with you.

Thanksgiving Cranberry Cocktail

Nothing starts the Thanksgiving night out right like a delicious holiday beverage. I was reading the NYTimes Thanksgiving recipe section and came across the Cranberry Cobbler, a gin drink with cranberry syrup. The drink sounded delicious, but I wanted to make a few adjustments, so I mixed a few things up and found a delicious holiday drink that is just the right amount of sweet and just the right amount of booze (a lot).

Thanksgiving Dessert

After gorging on mountains of turkey, stuffing, and sides, what everyone needs is… more food! For dessert, we had a nice spread of a delicious pumpkin cheesecake made by my cousin Melissa, a pumpkin bread pudding, and a chocolate pecan pie. There is nothing about this pie that is healthy, but it is so delicious.  My dad made the pie, and while you need to succumb your sweet inhibitions to eat it, there is little better than a slice of warm pecan pie with some vanilla ice cream to top off an already indulgent meal.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Troutus Interruptus

The past week was very busy and I unfortunately didn't have enough time to make dinner for the blog. I hate going a full week without a post, so this past Saturday, I invited a friend over for dinner and planned on making a quick and delicious meal. As I was about to get up from the living room to start cooking, one of my roommates came home with some friends after a boozy brunch. I'm more than happy to have company in the kitchen while I cook, but navigating around a drinking crowd is always a difficult task. The dish I was preparing was some seared trout over cannellini beans with french beans (skinny green beans), and while it's not a labor intensive meal, preparing and photographing around some unexpected visitors proved to be a challenge in itself.

Monday, November 14, 2011

An Ode to Autumn at the Beach

The flavors of Fall are warm, rich, and crisp. This past weekend, I went down to Cape May to relax with my girlfriend, and I made a dish that celebrated both autumnal and beach side ingredients. I chose scallops over butternut squash soup with a crisp apple slaw. The warmth of the squash blended perfectly with the caramelized scallops, and the apple brought a bright flavor to cut into the rich soup and shellfish.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Breakfast Standard With a Savory Twist

Sometimes you can take standard dishes, tweak them a little bit, and they become something totally different. French Toast is a weekend brunch standard that is normally on the sweet side of things along with pancakes, waffles, and pastries. I'm usually a savory brunch kind of guy, so I decided to take what is normally sweet, and bring it to the other side.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Really Easy Moroccan Dinner

This past weekend, I was in Whole Foods with my friend Heath, picking up some food for dinner. I was feeling very indecisive in what I wanted to make, so Heath suggested making some sort of lamb tagine. A tagine is a north African dish that is named after the clay pot it is usually served in. You don't need a tagine to make the dish, but whether using one or not, it is a slow cooked dish, usually made with lamb or chicken braised in a sauce with dried fruit (apricots, currants, dates), chicken broth, vegetables and spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, and coriander. It is very good served over couscous, quinoa or bulgar wheat.