Tag Archives: Cooking/Baking with Alcohol

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

I have a bone to pick with America’s end-of-year food-centric holidays. Why is it that all the flavors of Thanksgiving are still acceptable to serve at Christmas, except pumpkin? I mean, sweet potatoes, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, green beans, sage, turkey, pecans, apples – they’re all carried over past the fourth Thursday in November, but pumpkin is abruptly dropped and seemingly considered verboten even one day past Turkey Day. Why? I mean seriously, who made that rule?

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

I’m not accepting this. Pumpkin isn’t that different from the rest, and too many people love it to just wantonly disregard it with such a thud. It should be in our collective repertoire until at least December 25th.

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

If you agree, then you just have to make this superb pumpkin dessert for your Christmas feast. It’s more work than a typical pumpkin pie, but it’s also much more special, and more than delicious enough to be worth it. One small change I made to Fine Cooking’s recipe: they call for candying raw unsalted pepitas. I didn’t do that for two reasons. One, because it’s yet *another* step in an already involved and time-consuming recipe; and two, because online reviewers said it made the tart too sweet. I was extremely happy with my results. Enjoy!

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

Source: slightly adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

Ingredients:

CRUST:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbs fine cornmeal
1 tbs granulated sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
8 tbs cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vodka

CARAMEL:
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup bourbon

FILLING:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup plus 2 tbs canned pure pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt
½ cup half-and-half

A few handfuls of salted, roasted pepitas, for garnish

Directions:
First make the CRUST: pulse the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal or wet sand. Combine the egg, egg yolk, vodka and 1 tbs ice water in a small bowl. Add the egg mixture to the processor and pulse until the mixture just comes together, adding more water 1 tsp at a time as needed, up to 2 tbs. Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and use the wrap to help gather the dough into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
On a floured work surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 13-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a greased 9-inch springform pan, gently pressing it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan without stretching it. Tear any high areas of the dough so that the height is about ½ an inch below the rim of the pan; the edge will look ragged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350 F.
Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork at 1-inch intervals, line it with aluminum foil, and fill it to the top with dried beans, gently pressing them against the sides. Bake until the edges are firm, 15 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and beans. Return the crust to the oven and bake, rotating the pan once and popping any bubbles with a toothpick, just until the bottom is firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Leave the oven on.
Now make the CARAMEL: in a 2-quart saucepan, cook the brown sugar, butter and salt over medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts and begins to darken around the edges, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the cream (some sugar may seize) and simmer, whisking occasionally, until smooth and thick, 7-9 minutes. Whisk in the bourbon and simmer, whisking occasionally, another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof measuring cup. Pour 1/3 cup caramel over the bottom of the cooled crust and spread it evenly with a small offset spatula. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes to set the caramel. Leave the remaining caramel at room temperature.
Make the FILLING: in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and then the egg yolk, beating until combined. Add the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Mix thoroughly until combined. Reduce speed to low and add the half-and-half. Mix until just combined.
Slowly pour the filling into the crust. Bake until filling has puffed slightly and its surface no longer appears wet, 35 to 40 minutes. It’s okay if cracks form, they’ll be covered later. Cool the tart on a rack until the filling is completely cooled and warm, about 1 hour.
If the remaining caramel sauce is no longer pourable, warm it in the microwave until pourable. Drizzle the remaining caramel over the custard and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the pepitas around the edges of the top caramel and press lightly. Cover the tart with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. To serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the tart and remove the side of the pan. Transfer to a serving plate and serve chilled.

Dirty Wild Rice with Duck Bacon, Pecans, and Bourbon Sauce

Dirty Wild Rice with Duck Bacon, Pecans, and Bourbon Sauce

Matt and I have been on many, many dates in our thirteen years together (thirteen years, I still can’t believe it!!), but one that particularly stands out to me happened several years ago on Valentine’s Day. He took me to Bar Americain, one of Bobby Flay’s high end restaurants, and I guess because it was Valentine’s Day, I was anticipating a lowly-lit, slightly secluded, quiet and romantic experience.

Dirty Wild Rice with Duck Bacon, Pecans, and Bourbon Sauce

Yeah, not so much! The restaurant’s seating is very New York (read: close together), and the place was absolutely packed that night. We were led to a two-seater table, sitting facing one another, with barely enough room for a small purse between myself and the next two-seater table. All was not lost though. What made the entire night incredibly entertaining, albeit not terribly romantic, is that the couple seated next to us was this elderly man and woman who were having a very spirited argument about the finer details and overall merits of The Real Housewives of … somewhere, I forgot which city.

Dirty Wild Rice with Duck Bacon, Pecans, and Bourbon Sauce

Matt and I gave up on any romantic conversation and instead had fun listening to this couple go at each other’s throats about such a banal topic. Oh, and the food was good too!

What I’m sharing today is what Matt ordered that night, or more accurately, a streamlined version of it, seeing as my home kitchen is not a Bobby Flay restaurant. I’m happy to report that I still got the point across though. This is a play on the New Orleans dish dirty rice, which is typically made with white rice, but Flay twists it up with a combination of Arborio rice and wild rice. Quite delicious! In his restaurant he pairs this with seared duck breast, but I slimmed it down to some duck bacon lardons scattered over the rice, thus keeping the meal to less food overall, plus this let the dirty rice be the star of the plate. You can sub regular pork bacon or even turkey bacon if you can’t find duck bacon.

Dirty Wild Rice with Duck Bacon, Pecans, and Bourbon Sauce

Even with a few changes, this really does taste restaurant quality, and happily reminded Matt of our date years ago. Which was the goal, so that was nice. I highly recommend for a lovely date night at home! Enjoy!

dirty wild rice with duck bacon, pecans and bourbon sauce

Source: adapted from Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook by Bobby Flay

Ingredients:
1 quart chicken stock
1 package (8-12 oz.) duck bacon, chopped into lardons
Olive oil, as needed
½ lb. chicken livers
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno chiles, diced, seeded if desired
1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup cooked wild rice
2 tbs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tbs pure maple syrup
¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup bourbon
2-3 whole thyme sprigs
2 tbs cold butter, cut into cubes
Louisiana style hot sauce, for passing at the table

Directions:
Pour the chicken stock into a small stockpot and keep warm over low heat. Set aside.
In a large, high-sided skillet, add the duck bacon lardons over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring until the fat has rendered and the lardons are crisped. Remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.
Pat the chicken livers dry with a paper towel, then season them with salt and pepper to taste. Add olive oil to the skillet if needed (you may have enough fat from the bacon). Add the chicken livers over high heat and cook, turning once, until golden brown and cooked to medium, about 5 minutes. Remove to a cutting board, let cool until you can handle them, then coarsely chop. It’s okay if there’s still a little bit of pink on the insides. Set aside.
Turn the skillet to medium heat and add the butter. Add the celery, garlic, and jalapenos and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and cook 1 minute. Now add the Arborio rice, stir and cook 1 minute.
Begin adding the warmed stock to the skillet, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed. Continue adding stock and stirring until the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes. You may not need all of the stock.
Now stir in the wild rice, chicken livers, parsley, thyme, and maple syrup. Let it heat through, about 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
Meanwhile, pour the bourbon into a small saucepan or stockpot, add the whole thyme sprigs, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce by at least half, until it has thickened a bit to a sauce consistency. Add the cold butter, one piece at a time, until it melts. Shut off the heat and remove the thyme.
To serve, transfer the rice to a large serving bowl. Scatter the pecans and reserved duck bacon over top. Spoon into bowls and drizzle with bourbon sauce. Pass the hot sauce if desired.

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies with Tarragon

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies with Tarragon

I’ve long since been of the firm opinion that the internet doesn’t need yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe. We all love chocolate chip cookies, everyone has a go-to recipe in their arsenal (I’m quite convinced that this includes everyone, even people who claim they can’t cook and/or bake), so really, what good is it to post such a ubiquitous recipe?

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies with Tarragon

Until today, when I break my own rule. Maybe I’m sheltered, but I’ve never before seen chocolate chip cookies that incorporated fresh tarragon in the dough. And bourbon too! Bourbon never hurts my feelings.

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies with Tarragon

These particular chocolate chip cookies won my heart, and I actually did find them unique and special – enough so to share here with my head held high anyways. They have all the elements we require of perfect, chewy-style chocolate chip cookies, but there’s a hint of booze in the background, and a pop of … something … from the tarragon. It certainly doesn’t taste as though you’re chewing on tarragon, but it definitely adds an earthy dimension to such a familiar favorite.

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies with Tarragon

I highly recommend that everyone take a short break from their go-to chocolate chip cookies recipe and give these a go. They are superlative, and while I’m sure they’ll sway no one from their long-time fave, your usual recipe will certainly forgive you for stepping out on it this one time. It’s very worth it. Enjoy!

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies with Tarragon

Source: Ovenly by Agatha Kaluga and Erin Patinkin

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup bourbon (nothing fancy necessary)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 tbs finely chopped fresh tarragon

Directions:
First, brown the butter. In a small, preferably stainless steel, saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and continue to heat until it crackles and foams. Once the butter is nutty in color and smell, and you can see little browned bits on the bottom of the pan, shut off the heat and stir to scrape the browned bits off the pan. Set aside and let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cooled melted butter and both sugars on medium speed until fully incorporated, about 1 minute.
Add the whole egg and then the egg yolk, one at a time, and beat on low until fully incorporated. Raise the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat 1 minute until smooth.
Turn the mixer to low, add the bourbon and vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until barely combined, about 30 seconds. Add the chocolate chips and tarragon, and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds more.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and use a cookie scoop to form the dough into 1-inch balls and arrange them on the baking sheets.
Bake 10 minutes, or until light golden brown. It’s good if the cookies look slightly underbaked in the center when you take them out – they will set as they cool. Cool fully before serving.
The recipe says this will get you 24 cookies, but I got 30 cookies, plus a leftover handful of dough, which yes, I ate.

Perfect Manhattan Pie #SundaySupper

Perfect Manhattan Pie

Welcome to this week’s edition of Sunday Supper, where our theme is quite near and dear to my heart: Pies, Sweet and Savory!!! My regulars know how much I love baking pies, so this week is so much fun for me.

Of course, the question of which pie to make loomed before me, and I decided I wanted something a little off the beaten path. I ran across this intriguing recipe, and dessert was served, as they say!

Perfect Manhattan Pie

Matt received the coolest little book for Christmas, The Ultimate Bar Book. It was there that I learned the difference between traditional Manhattans (a cocktail I’ve been consuming for quite some time now) and perfect Manhattans. A perfect Manhattan is simply equal parts dry and sweet vermouth, as opposed to all sweet vermouth, and it’s garnished with a lemon strip instead of a maraschino cherry.

It seems that the world of Manhattan drinkers is a bit polarized – people seem to very strongly prefer either traditional or perfect, but personally I’ve found that both are quite pleasing to me. I love having discovered the perfect version, but it definitely didn’t sway me completely away from the traditional.

Perfect Manhattan Pie

This pie celebrates the perfect Manhattan though, and that’s just fine by me. It’s creamy, and silky, and boozy, and tastes exactly as advertised. We absolutely loved it! Highly recommend this to all you Manhattan lovers out there! Enjoy! And be sure you check out all the glorious pies brought to you by my Sunday Supper crew!

Perfect Manhattan Pie

Source: First Prize Pies by Allison Kave

Ingredients:
Pie crust for 1 regular 9” pie
1 tbs unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 large eggs, separated
¼ tsp salt
5 tbs rye whiskey or other bourbon
1 ½ tbs sweet vermouth
1 ½ tbs dry vermouth
5 dashes Angostura bitters
1 cup heavy cream
Candied lemon peel, for garnish (I made Martha Stewart’s version, or you could buy them)

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 425 F. Roll out the pie dough to a circle about 11 inches or so, then transfer it to a greased regular 9” pie plate. Fold the underhang under and crimp the edges decoratively. Make sure your crust is cold, then prick the bottom all over with the tines of a fork. Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. Let sit 1 minute, then carefully remove the weights and parchment paper. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 F. Brush the edge of the crust with milk or egg wash. Return the unfilled pie to the oven and bake another 10 to 20 minutes, until the crust is fully baked and golden. Cool completely.
Make the filling: pour ½ cup cold water in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan and evenly dust it with the gelatin. Allow mixture to bloom, about 5 minutes.
Whisk in 1/3 cup sugar, the egg yolks and salt. Set over low heat until the gelatin dissolves and the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the whiskey, both vermouths, and bitters into the mixture and refrigerate it, uncovered, until it begins to firm up and mound slightly when pushed with a spoon, about 30 minutes.
In a stand mixer or mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the meringue into the custard mixture.
In a clean bowl with clean beaters, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold it into the filling. Spread the filling in the crust and smooth the top. Garnish with the candied lemon rind. Refrigerate the pie for 4 hours or up to overnight to let it set up completely. Slice and serve. Keep it stored in the refrigerator.

Sweet As Pie

Mealtime Pie

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.
Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement

Pork and Sausage Meatballs in Porcini-Tomato Sauce

Pork and Sausage Meatballs in Porcini-Tomato Sauce

“Is it legal for meatballs to taste this good?” – Matt

Let’s hope, because these meatballs may just be the meatballs that will ruin all the other meatballs for you. I don’t know how the crack culinary geniuses at Fine Cooking Magazine came up with this one, I’m seriously living in complete awe of their recipe development prowess, but I’m forever grateful that they did.

Pork and Sausage Meatballs in Porcini-Tomato Sauce

And I’m forever thrilled to share it with you. This one is definitely going in my repertoire with the “Best Ever…” label firmly attached, something I’ll be pulling out to impress company. The slow cooker does most of the work, and you don’t even have to broil or brown the meatballs first (I told you they were geniuses!!).

Pork and Sausage Meatballs in Porcini-Tomato Sauce

Dried herbs, usually a foodier-than-thou no-no, are much of what takes the flavor of both the meatballs and the sauce just soaring. This is one instance where I’m thinking fresh actually isn’t better. The dried herbs really stand out in the long cooking time. Also, porcini mushrooms – ‘nuff said there! Soaking the breadcrumbs in sweet vermouth really makes a difference too – don’t skip that step. Genius.

Pork and Sausage Meatballs in Porcini-Tomato Sauce

I really can’t overstate how much we enjoyed these. I made them twice in one week – the first time because I hadn’t planned on blogging them, then a second time a few days later because I realized what a grave and unpardonable sin it would have been not to. I hope you all enjoy them as much as we did!

Source: Fine Cooking Magazine, Feb/Mar 2015

Ingredients:

MEATBALLS:
1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup sweet vermouth
1 ¼ lb. ground pork
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large egg
6 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

SAUCE:
1 (15 oz.) can crushed or diced tomatoes, with their juices
¼ cup tomato paste
½ oz. dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Make the MEATBALLS: mix the breadcrumbs and vermouth in a large bowl and set aside for 20 minutes.
Add the pork and sausage to the mixture, breaking the sausage up with your fingers as you go. Add the egg, cheese, sage, oregano, salt, and nutmeg. Mix until just combined. Form into 12 meatballs.
To make the SAUCE, mix the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, dried porcini, oregano, thyme, fennel, pepper flakes, and salt in a 5-6 quart slow cooker until the tomato paste dissolves.
Nestle the meatballs into the sauce. It’s fine if they don’t all fit in a single layer. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW. Once done, the meatballs can stay on the keep-warm setting for up to 2 hours. When you’re ready to serve, gently break the meatballs apart if necessary, and gently turn them all in the sauce. Serve in bowls with plenty of sauce, and with extra Parmesan for garnish, if desired.

Coconut Bread Pudding with Sazerac Sauce

Coconut Bread Pudding with Sazerac Sauce

Over the past eighteen months or so, I’ve purposefully dropped a bit of excess weight, and I’ve done so not by following a standard program that gets advertised on television, but by making some simple lifestyle changes and adjustments. And I’d say the two biggest changes I made were in my exercise habits (as in, now I actually have exercise habits), and my dessert eating habits. I adore baking and making carb-laden and sweet treats, but I’ve learned to focus on the satisfaction and catharsis that comes from making them and less on eating them. Now, I’m more of a dessert taster than a dessert eater.

Coconut Bread Pudding with Sazerac Sauce

Until I made this bread pudding… Holy crap, this bread pudding. This is the dessert that made me unabashedly throw out my newfound healthy attitude towards dessert. I feel I exhibited serious restraint, the kind that deserves shiny medals, to not eat the entire pan in one sitting. I wish I was kidding. I only had one serving a day for two days in a row, which is more dessert than I typically eat, but that was simply the best I could do in the willpower department.

Coconut Bread Pudding with Sazerac Sauce

This is phenomenal, superfluous, amazing dessert right here. This particular sauce is special, boozy, and pairs so beautifully with the coconut in the bread pudding. A Sazerac is a classic New Orleans cocktail made from rye whiskey, Absinthe, and Peychaud’s bitters. The cocktail itself is outstanding, one of my favorites, and I’m very happy but not totally surprised that it translates beautifully to a syrupy sauce for bread pudding.

Coconut Bread Pudding with Sazerac Sauce

I can’t say enough good things here. You must go out and make it, right now!! Enjoy!

Sources: Bread Pudding adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, Feb/Mar 2016; Sazerac Sauce from Louisiana Cookin’

Ingredients:

BREAD PUDDING:
1 loaf stale challah bread, cut into cubes
1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
½ cup granulated sugar
2 (13.4 oz.) cans full-fat coconut milk, shaken
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp salt

SAZERAC SAUCE:
1 cup water
½ cup rye whiskey
3 tbs absinthe
2 drops Peychaud’s bitters
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp fresh peeled orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
To make the BREAD PUDDING: grease a 9×13” baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the bread cubes and shredded coconut until well combined. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Wipe out the bowl, then add the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, coconut milk, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Whisk to thoroughly combine, then evenly pour this mixture over the bread. Use your hands to press down on the bread to submerge it. Line it with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 F and set a rack in the center of the oven. Bring a kettle of water to a boil, then remove from the heat. Remove the plastic wrap from the bread pudding and place the baking dish in a larger baking dish or large roasting pan. Put the baking dish on the oven rack, then carefully pour enough hot water into the larger baking dish to come up about halfway up the sides of the baking dish with the bread pudding.
Bake until the center of the bread pudding springs back when gently pressed with a finger and knife inserted into the center comes out almost clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in the water bath for 15 minutes, then carefully lift the baking dish out of the water bath. Transfer it to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with the Sazerac Sauce liberally drizzled over.
While the bread pudding is baking, make the SAZERAC SAUCE: In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water, whiskey, absinthe, and bitters. Add sugar, whisking to combine. Add zest, then bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to cook until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in the vanilla, then cool completely before using. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Smoky Beer Macaroni and Cheese

Smoky Beer Macaroni and Cheese

Happy 2016!! I am having an absolute blast playing with all my new toys I got for Christmas, and yes, most of them are cooking related. I got *several* new cookbooks, and this mac and cheese here is the first recipe I made from one of them.

Yes, I’m aware that it’s the first Monday back to the grindstone after the holiday season, and we’re all supposed to be thinking about healthy eating and weight loss resolutions and whatnot; thus, a pasta dish featuring three cheeses probably isn’t going to be too popular on this day of the year. Oh well. It’s cold outside. Plus, I find that this blog is much more fun and fulfilling when I cook the things I want to make and eat rather than trying to appease the SEO gods. So I must stand by it!

Smoky Beer Macaroni and Cheese

This is a particularly interesting and richly flavored version of the classic comfort food. Like I mentioned, there are three cheeses in here, two of which are smoked cheeses. And the beer adds a hoppy dimension and cuts the richness a little bit. In short, it’s a mac and cheese for grown-ups.

smoky beer macaroni and cheese

I personally prefer mac and cheese without bread crumbs on top, usually, but if you want it, add 1 cup panko mixed with 3 tbs melted butter on top of the shredded cheese layer right before baking it off. Enjoy!

Smoky Beer Macaroni and Cheese

Source: slightly adapted from The Craft Beer Cookbook by Jacquelyn Dodd

Ingredients:
½ cup unsalted butter
3 tbs all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
2 cups beer (use a pale ale)
2 tsp mustard powder
½ tsp chili powder
6 oz. smoked Cheddar, shredded
6 oz. sharp white Cheddar, shredded
8 oz. smoked Gouda, shredded
16 oz. elbow macaroni
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
Fresh black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Place 4 large gratin dishes, or individual cast-iron skillets, on a large baking sheet. Grease if necessary, and set aside.
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until smooth and the raw flour taste is cooked out, about 1 minute.
Add the milk and beer. Whisk to combine, then bring to a simmer. Whisk in the mustard and chili powders.
Combine all three cheeses in a large bowl and set aside about ½ cup. Slowly add the mixed cheeses (aside from the ½ cup of course) to the stockpot, about 1 large handful at a time. Let the cheese melt before each new addition.
Now add the macaroni noodles to the cheese sauce, keeping the heat level between medium and medium-high. You want to cook the pasta in the cheese sauce until al dente but not completely done. This takes about 10 minutes, and you will need to stir often enough to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pot. For me, this meant stirring constantly. I thought it was worth it.
Once the noodles are al dente, shut off the heat, season with salt and pepper, and quickly spoon the mixture into the prepared gratin dishes. Top each with the remaining shredded cheese. This is when you’d put on the panko mixture if you choose.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the edges are bubbling and the top cheese is melted. If you want, finish the gratins with a grind of black pepper.
Serve immediately.

Bourbon Mint Cranberry Sauce

Bourbon Mint Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce. That classic Thanksgiving staple that I just couldn’t abide as a child. Cranberries were WAY too tart for my little unsophisticated palate back then. But even as I began coming around on cranberries in general (which, to be perfectly candid, began rather unglamorously by drinking Cape Cods in my early twenties), I still eschewed the traditional cranberry sauce because I just didn’t see the point.

Bourbon Mint Cranberry Sauce

bourbon mint cranberry sauce

I mean, you have gravy for the turkey – what’s the purpose behind the cranberry sauce?? A few years ago, I gave in. Now I alternate bites of turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce, because let’s face it – cranberry sauce is just really, really delicious.

Bourbon Mint Cranberry Sauce

While I will never turn down good ol’ regular cranberry sauce, if you add bourbon, I’ll love you even more. This stuff was outstanding. Less sweet than usual (though of course feel free to add as much sugar as you like), with a wonderful stiff alcohol-y bite, tempered by the mint flavor. Possibly my favorite cranberry sauce to date, and in another week I will have a VERY special post for you using up the leftovers. I’m so excited to share that one with you!! In the meantime, give this one a go next Thursday. I promise it will be a big hit. Enjoy!

Bourbon Mint Cranberry Sauce

Source: Fine Cooking Magazine, Oct/Nov 2015

Ingredients:
1 ½ lbs. fresh cranberries
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, plus more to taste if desired
1/3 cup bourbon
5 big sprigs of fresh mint
Pinch of kosher salt

Directions:
Put the cranberries, sugar, bourbon, mint, salt, and ½ cup water in a 4-quart saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and many of the cranberries pop, about 20 minutes. Taste and add more sugar if you want and cook until dissolved. Cool to room temperature and remove the mint sprigs.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. Return to room temperature before serving.

Amaretto Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon-Toast Croutons

Amaretto Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon-Toast Croutons

When it comes to soups, I highly prefer chunky soups over the pureed variety. I need something to chew with each spoonful. Pureed soups often don’t do it for me, with one major exception: butternut squash soup. It’s one of my fall season favorites, and I try out a different recipe every year.

I have one hard-and-fast, persnickety rule: it can’t be too sweet. Butternut squash is inherently sweet, so I firmly believe it doesn’t need any help in that department, and in fact could use a little bit of “hindrance” from decidedly savory ingredients. My favorite things to put into butternut squash soup are ingredients like bacon, parmesan, bitter greens, smoked cheese and the like. Cubes of bread roasted with a liberal amount of cinnamon sugar has never topped the list. Until now, that is.

Amaretto Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon-Toast Croutons

I know I’ll fail at adequately explaining to you how delicious this soup combination is, but suffice it to say, outstanding is a mild understatement. The soup itself was incredibly tasty and well-rounded and really let the squash’s flavor shine. The cinnamon-sugar croutons were something I’d happily make just to snack on by themselves. Using earthy multi-grain bread ensures the sweetness is somewhat tempered; and yet it fondly reminded me of the cinnamon toast my mom would make us for breakfast when I was little.

But I think the best part of this meal comes when you top your soup with an embarrassing amount of croutons: some of the cinnamon sugar migrates from the croutons to float around in and richly flavor your soup, and it just tastes so amazing! So perfect. Enjoy!

Amaretto Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon-Toast Croutons

Source: Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant

Ingredients:

CROUTONS:
2 cups multigrain bread cubes, preferably a bit stale
1-2 tbs olive oil
4 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

SOUP:
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Kosher salt, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbs amaretto
4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
½ cup heavy cream or half-and-half
Black pepper, to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
Chopped toasted pecans, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
First make the CROUTONS: preheat your oven to 400 F. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, sugar, and cinnamon. Spread the cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the oven until golden and crunchy, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the croutons cool on the sheet. Try not to eat too many while you’re making the soup.
Now make the SOUP: heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. Now add the onions with a pinch of salt and stir. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute, then pour in the amaretto. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the squash cubes and stock to the pot. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the squash is soft, about 20 minutes. Once the squash is soft, remove the pot from the heat and either carefully pour the soup into your blender and puree until smooth, or hit it with an immersion blender. Either way, make sure you turn the heat off the pot. Once the soup is pureed and creamy, transfer it back to the soup pot (if necessary) and heat over low heat. Pour in the cream and stir to combine. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with so many croutons and garnish with a sprinkling of scallions, and pecans, if desired.

Pulled Veggie Sliders

Pulled Veggie Sliders

I firmly believe that this is the worst time of year to be trying to lose weight. I know because I’ve been there. Not only is the most food-centric holiday of the year approaching in one short month, but before then you’ve got the barrage of Halloween candy, then after that more holidays largely featuring lots of feasting at family dinners, cookie exchanges, and holiday candy. And that’s not even mentioning that on top of all that decadence, this is football and tailgating season!

pulled veggie sliders

Game day grub is generally not all that figure-friendly. Lots of tortilla and potato chips, fattening dips, cheese and fatty meats feature prominently. It’s tough to stick to your calorie count during this time. I know – I’ve been there.

So I wanted to offer up something appropriate for game day that is pretty figure friendly, that won’t blow your calorie allotment for the day, but isn’t a consolation prize. This little slider is incredibly tasty – Matt remarked that it was better than many pulled pork sandwiches he’s eaten – full of familiar barbecue flavors and the pulled meat texture you’re looking for, but with huge amounts of fat cut out.

pulled veggie sliders

It comes together much more quickly than a pulled pork or short rib slider would, and these babies are FILLING! I guess it’s all that fiber from the veggies, but trust me, once you’ve eaten a serving of these sliders, you won’t have any room for the loaded nachos or creamy onion dip. Oh, and obviously a fantastic option for any vegetarians at your tailgating party. Enjoy!

Pulled Veggie Sliders

Source: Vegetarian Dinner Parties by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

Ingredients:
1 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
½ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs mustard powder
1 tbs smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp celery seeds
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot or Texas Pete’s
1 ½ cups shredded carrots (peel them first)
1 ½ cups shredded yellow potato (no need to peel)
4 cups shredded green cabbage
1 bottle (12 oz.) dark beer, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
8 slider rolls
Coleslaw, for topping the sliders
Pickled jalapenos, for topping the sliders (optional)

Directions:
Combine the crushed tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, mustard powder, smoked paprika, oregano, celery seeds, cloves, and hot sauce in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring until the brown sugar dissolves. Stir in the carrots and potatoes, then bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer slowly for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the cabbage and ¼ cup beer. Cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add more beer as necessary to keep the vegetables from scorching. Your end goal is for the mixture to have the consistency of pulled barbecued meat – saucy but not at all soupy.
When the mixture is ready, mound some onto the bottoms of the slider rolls. Top with some coleslaw, the pickled jalapenos if using, then the top bun. Serve immediately.