Thanksgiving Newbies

In addition to our staples, we always try out new recipes for Thanksgiving.  This year, Little Miss made a bacon cheddar sweet potato casserole recipe from her mom and Bjorn made a butternut squash bisque from a recipe published in the New York Times.

Bacon Cheddar Sweet Potato Casserole
From Little Miss:

  • 6 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • salt and pepper

Even though the amounts above are from the original recipe, Little Miss’s mom says, “I just go by the HMDYL method.  How much bacon? How much do you like?  How much cheese? How much do you like? etc.”

Cook and mash sweet potatoes (however many you want).  I like to bake them, then peel after they’ve cooled slightly, but you can also peel and cube them first and either boil or steam them.  While those are cooking, cut bacon into 1/2″ pieces and saute until crispy.  How much?  However much you think you want, plus two.

Mix copious amounts of butter and grated cheddar cheese into the mashed potatoes – I like sharp cheddar, but it works with any kind.  Mix in bacon. Salt and pepper to taste – remember, they’re potatoes, and can handle lots of seasoning.  Butter an appropriately-sized baking dish, then plop in the bacony cheesy potato mix.  Top with a little extra grated cheese if you want.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so, or until cheese is melty and the top is starting to get brown.  While they are baking, get a prescription for Lipitor, because you will probably eat more than you should.

Butternut Squash Bisque
(Modified from recipe published in the New York Times by Sam Sifton on October 26, 2011 and adapted from Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park, New York)

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium-size butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1⁄2-inch cubes
  • 1⁄2 cup thinly sliced fennel
  • 1 teaspoon thinly sliced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄4 cup dry vermouth
  • 2 tablespoons cognac
  • 2/3 cup tomato juice
  • 6 cups lobster stock, shrimp stock, clam stock or fish stock
  • 1 pod star anise (we skipped this)
  • 6 pods green cardamom (we also skipped this)
  • 1⁄2 cup tarragon leaves
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/8 tablespoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

In a large saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter until it foams. Add the squash, fennel, ginger and garlic and cook slowly until soft, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir, then cook for 5 or 6 minutes to incorporate.

Add the vermouth and cognac to deglaze the first pan, and reduce the liquids until the pan is almost dry. Add the tomato juice and reduce it by half, approximately 3 minutes. Add the stock, anise and cardamom (we did not have anise or cardamom so we skipped it) and simmer until reduced by roughly half, about 30 minutes.

When the bisque has reduced, remove from heat and stir in the tarragon. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Whisk in the crème fraîche, then strain bisque through a fine-meshed sieve or chinois. Season with salt, lime juice and cayenne. Serve immediately with a crisp bacon bits or in our case, homemade croutons.

Serves 4-6

And we are back! With garlic chili oil…

Hello there dear readers ( Hi Mrs.Chen!), I’m back. We took a little summer vacation. Don’t judge, you took vacations too right? Anyway, I was packing, moving, traveling on the East Coast (to be another post)  and some more moving. Don’t worry, I still managed to eat awfully well though.

When I was on the East Coast, it was crazy hot. I loved that kind of weather but I wanted easy things to cook and eat that won’t heat up the kitchen. I stayed with my father for a week and he made some simple but tasty dishes with this chili oil he spooned on everything. Noodles, cucumber salad, celery salad… Perfect for a hot Virginia summer! I asked how he made it and made a batch as soon as I moved into my new place. It’s so simple and delicious, you can spoon it onto just about anything. I’ll always have a jar in the fridge now!

So here it is.

Garlic Chili Oil

4 tablespoon minced garlic, from about half a head of garlic
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (or more if you want it spicier)
1 table spoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup vegetable oil or other neutral tasting oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1) Mix the garlic, chili flakes, sesame  seeds  and salt in a relatively tall heat proof jar
2) Heat up the oil in a small pot until hot but not smoking
3) Carefully pour the oil into the jar a little bit at a time, it will bubble like crazy and then settle down. Pour more oil in after the bubbling dies down in batches until you use up all the oil.
4) After the oil is cool, you can put the lid on and keep it in the fridge or use it immediately.

One of the things my dad made with the oil was a simple cucumber salad. I took the liberty of adding bacon to it cause what’s not better with bacon?

Isn’t that lovely?

Cucumber Salad with Bacon

2 large cucumbers sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of Garlic Chili Oil
1/2 teaspoon of rice vinegar
few drops of sesame oil
2 slices of cooked bacon, chopped (optional for a vegetarian version)

1) Mix the cucumbers with salt in a strainer and leave for 30 minutes to drain out some liquid
2) Mix the cucumbers with the rest of the ingredients minus the bacon, then garnish with the bacon
3) Bam, done… Eat.

Bacon-less version

Duck Mac N’ Cheese

Today, Yuan smoked a duck and I made bacon macaroni and cheese.  Then, Yuan had the genius idea to put them together.  The result was a 900+ calorie, 70+ grams of fat, artery clogging bowl of awesomeness.

Yuan brushed Mr. Duck with a glaze concocted with salt, pepper, honey, lemon juice, chili powder and a bit of Chinese five spice powder and used a fork to poke some holes in the skin.  He built a medium fire of coals and applewood chips on one side of the weber grill, then placed Mr. Duck on the opposite side.  Then he put the lid on, with the open vent over the duck, and smoke Mr. Duck for about 3 hours.  We added more coal and chips once during the process and Yuan periodically basted the duck with juices collecting in his “cavity.”  The entire block and both of us smelled like ducky bacon and Mr. Duck turned out tender and amazingly delicious.

After a recommendation that the Tipsy Pig had the best mac ‘n’ cheese in San Francisco, I decided to try out this recipe.  I soon realized why this particular take on the beloved classic was so tasty – namely, four different kinds of cheese, bacon fat, butter, and a quart of heavy whipping cream.  I halved the sauce recipe and used slightly less pasta.  The recipe pushed for ditalini pasta, but it was the only kind at the store that was NOT on sale.  So we opted for the classic elbow macaroni instead.  This mac ‘n’ cheese was very addictive.  I had two bowls…then I put duck on top of it and ate some more.