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

Memorial Day BBQ

For the Memorial Day weekend, Bjorn and I hosted a backyard get together to kick off the BBQ season and celebrate my birthday.  Happy Birthday Me!  Bjorn did some landscaping to make our yard more hospitable for people to hang out in and Yuan came out to Davis to help us cook.  A year ago, we had some friends who moved away but could not fit their smoker in their moving van.  When they never came back to get it, we started using it.   And by using it, I mean we started smoking something (ribs, pork shoulder, salmon) almost every weekend since it started getting nice out.  We visited my favorite pork man and got some ribs to smoke for our BBQ.  I made some potato salad, shrimp salad, and marinated some teriyaki chicken thighs to grill while Yuan made biscuits, Bjorn made a lovely tomato and cucumber salad, and Yuan and Bjorn spent all afternoon drinking beer, smoking the ribs and grilling.

Little Miss picking at the ribs

The spread

The crowd gets some grub.

The weather was great, the food was good and we had lots of friends from Davis and the bay area come out.  Love BBQ season!

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.

Potatoes Dauphinoise

Potatoes rock! They are cheap, filling and you can mash, boil, saute, bake, and FRY them. Personally, any fried potato product is a friend of mine. Last fall, while driving across the country with Little Miss, I ate 10 McDonald’s hash browns in 5 days and loved every single one of those salty, crunchy, greasy potato yumminess……drool. I digress. This post is about my current obsession with the french classic potatoes dauphinoise. My mom got me a potato cookbook with 50 potato recipes from various culinary traditions. I saw this French classic and remembered how I liked it even when I found it crammed next to some mystery meat in a plastic airplane meal container back when they served those.

I found this potato dish to be an easy accompaniment to many dishes. It’s a great dish for dinner parties because of its long oven baking time which frees you up to cook the rest of your dinner.

Potatoes Dauphinoise

Grate 3 cloves of garlic in a saucepan with 1/2 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Slice up 1-2 lbs of peeled, floury potatoes (I use Yukon golds) into 1/4 in thick round slices. Butter a casserole dish and layer potato slices in dish sprinkling salt and white pepper over each of the layers.

Pour the garlic cream mixture over the potatoes and bake in the oven at 325-350 degrees for 1-2 hours gently pressing down on the potatoes with a spatula every 30 min. Bake until golden brown on top and test to make sure potatoes are cooked using a knife. Allow to cool for 10 min before serving.

Duck, Duck, Not Goose…

Alas, the holidays are over and our food binge has at least slowed down. I spent Christmas with Princess (girls, do I really have to call you by these names?) and I guess that would make him Prince. All we did was eat, drink, cook, read food porn and watched a whole lot of TV.

So we decided to do a two meat Christmas dinner with duck and Princess’ specialty, tenderloin. I found a lovely duck with clementine recipe which promised crispy skin and not a lot of fat. The trick is to braise the duck first to render out the fat and then dry the duck in the fridge for a while, much like how my peeps make Peking duck.

The only duck I could find the day before Christmas was at the local Chinese market which was really the WHOLE duck, head and all. No big deal but turn your head away if you are squeamish.

 

For those of you interested in making the duck, do read the comments in the recipe on Epicurious and start checking the duck after the first hour during the braising process. I braised it for 2 hours and it was definitely too much, the skin had a few holes and the wings were falling apart. The legs were also spread at an rather obscene angle.

The duck went into the fridge to dry out after the braise and we proceeded onto the rest of our meal.

Tenderloin before and after

We also made a shaved fennel and citrus salad

Potato Dauphinoise

Meanwhile we also made a stock with the leftover duck part (ahem, head and feet) and made the clementine glaze for it. I brushed on a little of the glaze right before roast the duck to give it a slightly deeper color and voila! The duck ended up tasting amazing, not much fat and crispy skinned. Although next time I think can streamline the process a lot.

We also made some sauteed broccolini done my usual way (another post). Now that was a Christmas dinner!

And let’s not forget, the eggnog tart and home made cranberry ice cream.

Man, I think I’m hungry again…