Archive for December, 2011

Happy Hanukkah, Y’all!

Each year during Hanukkah our friend Josh comes for dinner and fry latkes. A few years ago, Josh brought Erica with him. This year, he and Erica brought their tiny, cute baby. In the name of family sanity, we decided ahead of times to forego the latke-frying this one year and buy them already prepared at Whole Foods. Then, I just had to heat them in the oven on cookie sheets for a few minutes.

I don’t consider Hanukkah to have a traditional set menu the way Thanksgiving or even Passover can, but I do have an idea of a traditional winter Jewish meal and it has two key point: slow-cooked beef and a kugel. Since I was going to be gone almost the whole day, I opted for a very easy slow-cooked beef stew (yes, again from “America’s Test Kitchen” and again a home run). This recipe taught me about the joy of using frozen chopped opinion for soups and stews. Why have I not know about this before? I should have bought 40 bags, in case I never find them again. I also bought rice that steams in the bag in the microwave. This shortcut seems a little less Whole Foods-sanctioned, and I will try to use it sparingly, but it worked out great last night. Then, I roasted asparagus right before serving dinner.

The kugel recipe was a on scrap of paper stuck in another cookbook (“Lowfat Jewish Cooking” if you can believe it). It credits the Hadassah Sisterhood cookbook of Valdosta, GA. I don’t know where or when I found this gem, but I’d bet it was at least a dozen years ago. Everyone loved this peach kugel. What’s not to love? I made it the night before and it reheated extremely well.

Peach Noodle Kugel

Great for: Pot luck dinners, a meal with company, comfort food, brunch

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 45 minutes

Cool: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

8-12 oz medium egg noodles (I used 12, recipe called for 8)

3T butter, plus additional for baking dish

3 eggs

½ C sugar

2C milk, preferably whole

½ C seedless raisins

16-oz can sliced cling peaches, drained, or 2 fresh peaches sliced ¼-inch thick

STREUSEL TOPPING:

2T butter

¼ C bread crumbs

½ t ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly coat 13/9/2 baking dish with butter.

Prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain and transfer to large bowl. Add butter and toss until melted and noodles are coated. Set aside

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until combined. Whisking constantly, slowly pour milk in steady stream. Add raisins. Pour egg mixture over noodles and toss to coat. Transfer mixture to baking dish. Cover and bake 30 minutes.

Prepare Streusel: In a small saucepan on medium-low heat, melt butter. Add bread crumbs and cinnamon and stir until coated. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove kugel from oven and arrange peach slices in rows on the surface and sprinkle evenly with streusel topping. Return kugel to oven, uncovered, and bake about 15 minutes or until kugel is lightly browned and custard sets. Transfer dish to wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Do ahead: you can cool, cover and refrigerate the kugel, then heat it for 30 minutes at 300 degrees, covered.

Serves 10-12.

 

What do you do with a Turkey Carcass?

The first year I hosted Thanksgiving, a guest asked me for the turkey carcass to go. I was more than happy to hand it over, in a trash bag, rather than let it rot in my garbage can until the next week’s trash pick-up (side note: I have since learned the fine art of freezing discarded meat until trash day). She told me she likes to make a stock with the carcass. Flash forward to this year, when I find a recipe for turkey stock and turkey noodle soup in “Everyday Food” and realize that the same guest isn’t coming to Thanksgiving this year. So, after the turkey is carved up, I load it in a trash bag and toss it in the freezer for a rainy day.

Yesterday was just such a day. I made a huge batch of turkey stock, and then the soup. It’s delicious. Even the kids ate it for dinner without anything else, and with little complaint. There was another gallon of stock left over, which I promptly froze. And, even though the turkey had been carved pretty well, when I cut it up I found a whole lot of meat still on the bones. So, next time you serve a turkey, save the carcass for a rainy day.

Easy Turkey Stock

Great for: Soups, Pilafs, Risotto

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 2 hours

INGREDIENTS

5 pounds leftover turkey bones (with some meat still attached), broken into large sections if necessary

1 pound yellow onions, skins on, halved or quartered depending on size

1/2 pound carrots, cut into 4-inch lengths

1/2 pound celery stalks, cut into 4-inch lengths

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

8 sprigs parsley

DIRECTIONS

In a 3-gallon stockpot, combine all ingredients and fill with enough cold water to cover everything by 3 inches when submerged (about 6 quarts). Or, use two smaller pots.

Bring to a rapid simmer over high (do not boil); reduce heat until bubbles barely break the surface. Simmer until flavorful, about 2 hours, skimming stock with a ladle every 30 minutes. Keep the stock at a bare simmer; a hard boil would evaporate too much liquid and make the stock cloudy. Any fat that remains after skimming can be easily removed once the stock is chilled.

Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard vegetables. Remove meat from bones and save for another use; discard bones. Let stock cool completely before refrigerating. (To store, refrigerate, up to 1 week, or freeze, up to 6 months.)

Turkey Noodle Soup

Great for: Family dinner, the gift of food, lunch with friends

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 15-20 minutes

INGREDIENTS

2T unsalted butter

2 celery stalks, diced medium

3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

1 medium white onion, diced medium

1C white mushrooms, quartered

Coarse salt and ground pepper

8C Turkey Stock

2C wide egg noodles

1 sprig rosemary, about 2 inches long

3/4 pound shredded cooked turkey

DIRECTIONS

In a 6-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-high. Add celery, carrots, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion softens, about 3 minutes.

Add stock and bring to a rapid simmer. Add noodles, rosemary,  mushrooms, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and simmer until noodles are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add turkey and heat through.

Meatless Monday: Creamy Tomato Soup

It’s soup season, and in preparation for an upcoming Soup Swap I test-drove a new tomato bisque recipe. I have been making a number of new dishes form America’s test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution and this cookbook has the best recipes for a slow cooker that I’ve seen so far. As you know, I made the cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving from this cookbook and it was a success, in large part because I utilized a technique to reduce the risk of burning the breading (A technique that also works for pasta dishes).

There are two things I dislike about this cookbook:  

1)    There are very few recipes where you dump in a bunch of ingredients, with little prep work, and turn it on. Usually, you have to combine and microwave some ingredients, sauté a few things first, that kind of thing. But, the results are better and I guess that is what it’s all about. I can generally handle 15-20 minutes of prep work in the morning over a 20-30 minute recipe in the evening, so it’s still a time-saver for me for dinners.

2)    Most of its recipes could easily be vegetarian, but aren’t. This soup, for example, calls for chicken broth but I was making it to share with a vegetarian friend who is feeling ill, so I subbed in vegetable broth. (I’m pretty sure this would be a fine vegan soup if you sub oil for butter and don’t add the cream.) I can’t understand why they wouldn’t make it as the best possible vegetarian soup when the option is so easy and broadens its appeal. Most of its recipes have meat and I only eat meat once a day, tops, so it limits my options in planning out the day.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Great for: Soup Swaps (can easily be doubled or tripled), soup course for a meal with company, paired with grilled cheese or pizza for a fast family meal.

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 4-6 hours

Post-prep: 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS

2T unsalted butter

3 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved

1 onion, minced

1T brown sugar

1T tomato paste

Salt and pepper

2T all-purpose flour

1T tomato paste

3C low-sodium broth (chicken or vegetable), plus extra as needed

2 bay leaves

1/2C heavy cream (I used a cup on accident, and it was divine)

2 t dry sherry

Pinch of cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, onion, sugar, tomato paste, and 1/2 t salt and cook until tomatoes are dry and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 1C broth, scraping up any brown bits, then transfer to slow cooker.

Stir remaining 2C broth, reserved tomato juice and bay leaves into slow cooker. Cover and cook until tomatoes begin to break down, 4-6 hours on low.

Discard bay leaves. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth, then transfer to a large sauce pan (NOTE: I used an immersion blender directly in the slow cooker, with negated the need to let the soup cool or transfer it. I fracking love that blender).

Stir in cream, sherry and cayenne, and add more broth as needed to adjust consistency or temper pepper.

Reheat soup to medium heat, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Add croutons or crusty parmesan bread (optional).