Cranberry Eggnog Tart – A Holiday Favorite

We’ve made this cranberry eggnog tart during the holidays because it’s really yummy and looks really festive. Last year, we used a graham cracker cookie crust and baked it in a spring-form like a cheesecake. This year, I had some leftover pie dough which I rolled out into a 9 1/2 in tart pan and baked at 350 for about 15 min. lined with foil and filled with pie weights. Then I removed the foil and weights and baked it uncovered for another 15 min. After letting it cool completely, I spread a layer of cranberry jam on the bottom of the crust.

Cranberry Jam

In a medium saucepan bring to a boil, 12 oz (1 bag) fresh cranberry, 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1 in long orange peel, 1 cup water, and 3/4 cup sugar. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 min or until thickened. Cool, then force through a sieve to remove skins and seeds. If you make the jam ahead of time, melt the jam with a tiny bit of water over low heat until it is smooth and spreadable.

I let the jam set for about 5 min., then I carefully poured the eggnog mixture into the crust.

Eggnog Filling

  • 12 oz (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese softened
  • 2 tbsp of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Blend together cream cheese, heavy cream and sugar until creamy, about one minute. Add whole eggs, egg yolks, brandy, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt, and mix until smooth.

Bake the tart for about 40 min until the filling is set but still trembles slightly in the center. Cool tart completely in the pan on a rack. Spread another layer of jam evenly on the top. Chill tart, uncovered until cold, at least 2 hours. Remove from pan just before serving.

Christmas Eve Revelry

Happy Holidays! Yuan joined us for Christmas for the second year in a row and we had a lovely and rather active holiday. I got to go home early, Yuan took the train to Davis, and we had a lovely time drinking eggnog and planning our Christmas Eve feast. Our friends Heather and Wes joined us for Christmas Eve and we had a holiday meal gleaned from our Norwegian and Japanese heritages.

Heather brought over yummy mushroom appetizers.

As per Bjorn’s family tradition, we made Norwegian meatballs the night before Christmas. Yuan took over meatball making this year and I had to keep reassuring him that the meatballs needed to be browner. They were really delicious.

Christmas Eve Norwegian Meatballs
(made by Asians)

Meatball Accompaniments:
Roasted Carrots, Brussel Sprouts & Mashed Potatoes

Heather also brought a delightfully light pear salad with pancetta.

Yuan wanted fried pork, so I made pork katsu…then I fried a bit of pancetta wrapped shrimp while I was at it.

Sauteed Matsutake with Ginger

Christmas day we drove into San Francisco for some prime rib and eggplant parm at a friend’s house. Yum! The next day, we spent the afternoon on Clement Street eating dim sum and buying tiny dishes. If you live in the Bay Area, I highly recommend Kamei – an Asian kitchen supply store. The aisle after aisle of dishware makes me so excited I feel like I want EVERYTHING! I find it exhilarating and overwhelming. But that’s just me, and I love tiny dishes. Kamei has more than just tiny dishes though, they have an assortment of every kind of kitchen and food serving and preparing equipment. It’s awesome!

We had a great holiday eating well and hanging out with new and old friends.

Nothing Says Thankful Like Pumpkin Cheesecake

I’ve learned an important lesson about self restraint, dear readers, that I feel I must share with you. Self restraint is entirely overrated and should be avoided at all costs. Yes, I know, it’s a controversial point of view, but hear me out. In the planning of Thanksgiving dinner, by the time you get to the desserts you’ve got so much on the menu before it that one might be inclined to go easy or, worse yet . . . light . . . on the desserts. This year’s menu confirmed what the hedonist in me has always suspected/hoped to be true – ’tis far better to never hold back. Live your dreams! Does it seem preposterous, maybe even sinful, to round out a dessert course following twelve or thirteen other dishes with a cheesecake? Of course it does!! That’s exactly why you do it. There are only a few times of year when this sort of conduct is at all acceptable, so it would be almost criminal not to make the most of them while we can, right?? Right.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with Marshmallow Cream

Crust

  • 5 ounces graham crackers, broken into large pieces
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Adjust rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse crackers, sugar and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened.

Turn crumbs into prepared springform and spread into even layer. Using a flat-bottomed ramekin or glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan. Bake until fragrant and browned around the edges about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Filling

  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks and softened to room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Bring 4-5 quarts of water to simmer in stockpot. Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in small bowl; set aside. Line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels, then spread pumpkin over towels in a roughly even 1/2-inch layer. Cover with another triple layer of paper towels, press firmly until saturated. Peel off top layer, fold dried pumpkin over itself to remove bottom layer, set pumpkin aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with flat beater, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beaters and sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Add about 1/3 of the sugar mixture and beat at medium-low until well combined, about 1 minute.

Scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each. Add pumpkin, vanilla and lemon juice, beat at medium speed for about 45 seconds, scrape bowl. Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute, scrape bowl. Add remaining 2 egs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds, scrape bowl. Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl, give it one last stir.

Set springform pan with cooled crust on an 18-inch-square double layer of heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides. Set wrapped pan in roasting pan. Pour filling into springform pan and smooth surface, set roasting pan in oven and pour enough simmering water to come about halfway up the side of the springform.

Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken, and center of cake registers 150 on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 1/2 hours – but check it after 1 1/4 hours just in case. Set roasting pan on wire rack and use paring knife to loosen cake from sides of pan. Cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove springform from water bath, discard foil, and set on wire rack. Continue to cool until barely warm, about 3 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours, or up to 3 days.

Topping

  • 2 cups mini marshmallows (or large, cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sour cream

Stir marshmallows and milk in medium saucepan over low heat until marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Cool marshmallow mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Add sour cream to marshmallow mixture, fold gently to blend (whisk gently if needed to get rid of any lumps). Pour over cheesecake and spread evenly, leaving a thin border uncovered at the edge. Chill to set, at least 1 hour.

Thanksgiving Spotlight – Cranberry Relish

During my Honolulu years, my law school buddy Molly and I used to coordinate to make a Thanksgiving feast every year. She used to make this icy cranberry relish from her family Thanksgiving and now I can’t have turkey without it. I’ve heard from other people that it’s also known as the NPR cranberry relish. Wherever it came from, it’s hot pink and gives your turkey meal a spicy kick.

Molly’s Cranberry Relish

1 bag (12 oz) of whole fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sour cream
3-4 tbsp horseradish (I like to be generous)
1 small onion quartered
2 tbsp honey

Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Keep in freezer until 1-2 hours before eating. It is good when it’s still a little icy!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Turkey!!!

A post from Little Miss, whose Mayflower ancestors invented this all-American holiday:

Thanksgiving is like the foodie Superbowl – so much, in fact, that at one point I demanded to know why Puppy Bowl wasn’t on. It is the single biggest food day of the year, and if you’re doing it right the very purpose of the day is The Meal. Glorious and damning all at the same time, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is not only problematic because it is dedicated to the celebration of plenty, but also because it comes with so many scrumptious non-negotiables. You have to have turkey, duh, and of course gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes. You also have to have cranberries, and green bean casserole and brussels sprouts.

And then you look at the menu and think, crap, maybe we better have something fresh, and doesn’t involve dairy fat. So you add a salad. And then you think well god, this is the same stuff we make every year, we really have to make some new things too. Pretty soon you’ve added the Noah’s Ark of carbs (two of every kind), vegetables spanning the fall rainbow, and no fewer than three desserts, plus toffee for snacking…. Then your guests call and offer to bring further irresistible temptations like apple cheese torte and snickerdoodles. And by this time you’ve pretty much passed the point of no return. You’ve plunged headlong into an absurdly overindulgent world in which a ratio of half a dessert per person is not only reasonable, but a little on the conservative side.

Thank god there’s a whole weekend and the James Bond marathon to recover from all this holiday.

Yuan did a nice job carving Mr. Turkey. He was tender and juicy. The turkey, not Yuan. Our traditional Thanksgiving feast for twelve consisted of sausage stuffing, brussel sprouts with bacon, carrot souffle, sweet potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes with marscapone, cranberry horseradish relish, gravy, fall salad with pomegranates and pears, green bean casserole, and whole wheat dinner rolls. Our guests included college, Hawaii and Davis friends.

Stacey is thankful for her Thanksgiving plate.

Little Lane knew where to find the good stuff. Dessert table!! Dessert was truly a communal effort. Almond Toffee, Apple Almond Cheese Torte, Snickerdoodles, Pumpkin White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie, Cranberry Peach Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake with Marshmallow Topping and Whipped Cream. Oh and three different kinds of ice cream including homemade white chocolate ice cream.