Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category

How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? John and I had the usual madness at Iaciofano HQ this year. I’ve recorded some highlights below: a few snippets of ridiculous conversations, some food photography and a recipe for Liver Pate in Cream Cheese Crust. The word “liver” may have just freaked some of you out. I happen to love it. And this recipe is amazing. It’s a great option for holiday parties as an hors d’oeuvre (some day I’m going to learn to spell that word without looking it up).

First, the antipasto:

Marmo to John: Can you please get your hands out of the olives?

The Box to Me (under his breath): Let’s get Aunt Emily a drink. Right now.

Aunt Emily to The Box: Did you put any Vermouth in this drink? You know, John, sometimes not enough is just as bad as too much.

Aunt Emily to John: You look like AC/DC (She thinks his hair is too long. I’m just impressed she knows who AC/DC is). Then to me: Elana, stop taking pictures of me, I’m going to break your camera!! To The Box: John, I love you, but you’re getting fat.

The Box to Aunt Emily (describing the wine): It’s BOW-JOO-LAY NOO-VOH!

Oh dear. Let’s interject a quick recipe into this madness.

Crust – What You Need:
8 ounces of cream cheese
8 ounces of unsalted butter
¼ c sour cream or heavy cream
1 ¼ t salt
2 ½ cups of flour.

Crust – What To Do:
Combine cream cheese and butter and add sour cream and salt and pulse then add the flour.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Pate – What You Need:
¾ pound of chicken livers cut into chunks
1/3 c madiera wine
5 T butter
2 slices of bacon drained and chopped
3 cloves of garlic crushed
2 large shallots minced
2 T cognac
¾ pound smoked ham ground
¾ pound ground pork
2 t. thyme
1 t dried basil
1 cup fresh parsley minced
2 large eggs beaten
2 T heavy cream
salt and pepper
1 egg beaten with 1T milk for glaze

Pate – What To Do:
Soak chicken liver pieces in madiera wine for 30 minutes.  Drain.  Melt butter in fry pan and add liver pieces, bacon, garlic and shallots and cook until livers are cooked but still pink. Warm the cognac and add to livers.

Add ground ham, pork, thyme and basil.  Mix and cook over medium heat stirring frequently.  About 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add parsley, eggs and cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.

Roll out 1/3 of the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 in thick.  Trim edges so they are even.  Spread one third of the pate on one half of the pastry leaving 1” border.  Fold over and press edges with a fork and brush with egg/milk glaze. Repeat.

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven on a lightly buttered baking sheet for 25 minutes.

Note: You can freeze these for up to 3 weeks.  Do not defrost before baking but add 10 minutes to the baking time.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

John: This should be cold (my dad and brother are drinking Strega, an Italian after dinner drink)

The Box: No, the cold kills the aroma and flavor.

John: Nope, it should be cold.

Marmo (from the other room): [sigh…]

Me: [asleep on the couch…or am I?]

John to The Box: Wanna go hit golf balls?

The Box: Yeah, right now.

Marmo: Anyone want more turkey?

The Box: I don’t want to see another turkey until November 2011.

Me to the Box: Can you stop clearing your throat every 5 seconds? You sound like a drippy faucet.

The Box: I liked you better when you were sleeping.

John to the Box: I think you’d like this Belgian beer called Leffe Blonde.

The Box: I don’t like Belgian beer. Every one I’ve tried is bitter.

John: No, you’d like this one.

The Box: Wanna go hit balls?

John: Yup. [then:] Hey, don’t change that channel, the Jets are coming on!

Me: There’s a Jets game today?


The Box to Me: Elana, do you really need to buy a road bike? I mean, is there anything you’re going to use that for besides training and racing?

Me: Hey, Dad, is there anything you use those golf clubs for other than golfing? Seems like such a waste…

Marmo to the group: You people haven’t moved for hours!!

Me: You got a problem with that?

Marmo: Who’s been taking bites out of these chocolates?!

I hope you all had a very happy Thanksgiving. We have a lot of great stuff planned for this month (for example, tomorrow is all about Hot Dogs! And then there’s going to be a fantastic pizza feature, AND a giveaway). The suggestion box is always open, and we are happy to listen to any you might have.

By the way, it was me taking bites out of the chocolates…

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John and I have a long list of animals, minerals and vegetables that we are thankful for this Thanksgiving and holiday season (although John is less enthused about the vegetables). We love our family and friends (even Aunt Emily!), and we’re both really, REALLY thankful that we have the time, energy and resources to keep up this blogging madness.

I could go on in this manner, but instead I’m going to switch it up and offer you the John and Elana Talk About Food version of heartfelt thanks. Here we go…

Elana’s List:

1. I am thankful for our readers that tolerate the nutty things I say and indulge my questionable sanity.

2. For Anfora Wine Bar, where they keep letting me in the door even though I drink all their wine and eat all their fabulous ricotta cheese every time I visit.

3. For the really cool vendors that actually like it when we feature them on the blog: Van Leeuwen, City Cakes, McClure’s Pickles, Kelvin Slush and Astor Wines (check out Astor Wine’s Thanksgiving Wine Guide here).

4. The smoke detectors in my apartment.

5. John and his endurance of my incessant rambling about what I’m planning for the blog and recurring demands for content (Me: So, I want to make a movie that involves little crockery owls making a turkey. Allllll in stop motion animation. Cool? John: uh-huh)

6. Pyrenees Brebis cheese from Murray’s Cheese. It’s off the hook.

John’s Commentary: Elana – Half of the things you have mentioned involve you essentially pestering people for favors. It appears that little brother needs to keep an eye on you more often, so as not to scare anyone off.  Also, I don’t use smoke detectors.  They kept going off every time I slipped on my new Sanchez jersey.
Nonetheless, I’m thankful for:

John’s List:
1. My Pizza Stone

2. Truffle Oil

3. The unusually temperate weather for this time of year

4. The plethora of artisan pizzerias popping up in the area

5. Millionaire Matchmaker

6. My next culinary voyage to Italy in the spring of 2011

Elana’s Commentary: I think it was actually your pants being on fire (liar, liar) rather than the combination of you and the Sanchez jersey that set off the smoke detectors. However, if you plan to “keep an eye on me,” you may need to do better than the following (I’m on the green side):

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Thanksgiving is fast approaching! Because of this, we are making some last-ditch efforts to cram you full of recipes like a turkey stuffed for the big day. And speaking of turkey, this is a good one. It’s another Martha recipe. I have to admit to relying on the vast arsenal of MS recipes for Thanksgiving in particular.

It really isn’t the case that I favor one source for recipes over another. I will tell you that it takes A LOT for me to save a recipe. And I have made the ones I am suggesting to you over and over again (I put them in a binder with clear sleeves because I am a messy cook and paper will not survive my kitchen). They have not failed me.

Here is one for what I call The Candy Apple Turkey. It’s real name is Maple Roast Turkey with Riesling Gravy. The skin of the turkey gets thin, sweet and crispy. So much so that you might not eat the rest of it, but just peel off the skin and feast on that alone. Also, I will support anything that involves Riesling. Seriously.

Following this recipe we have a very special treat for you – The Hartmann Family Fried Turkey Instructional. This is not to be missed, and I will explain more below. But first:

Candy Apple Turkey with The Wine I Love Most on the Planet:

What You Need:

1 fourteen-pound fresh turkey, neck and giblets removed and reserved for stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cornbread Sourdough Stuffing
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup Riesling wine
2 cups Homemade Turkey Stock, or low-sodium canned chicken broth, skimmed of fat
2/3 cup seedless red and green grapes, each cut in half

What You Do:

Heat oven to 425 degrees.with rack in lowest third of oven. Wash turkey inside and out with cold running water, and pat dry with paper towels. Tuck wing tips under body. Generously season neck, body cavities, and underside with salt and pepper.

Loosely fill the neck cavity with the stuffing. Using wooden skewers or toothpicks, secure the flap. Holding the turkey upright, loosely fill the body cavity with stuffing. Pull the legs together, and tie them with kitchen twine. Heap on additional stuffing so that it is bulging out of the cavity. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over the bird, and set it on a rack in a roasting pan.

Cut a double layer of cheesecloth to fit over the entire turkey. Melt 4 tablespoons butter. Place cheesecloth in the butter, completely soaking cloth. Drape cheesecloth over the bird.

Place turkey in the oven, and roast 30 minutes. Baste with butter that has accumulated in the pan. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. and loosely cover bird with a large piece of aluminum foil; roast 30 minutes more. Baste again. Continue roasting, basting once an hour, until a meat thermometer registers 180 degrees.in the leg and 170 degrees.in the breast, about 3 hours.

During the last half hour of roasting, place grated ginger in a small, double layer of cheesecloth; squeeze juice into a small saucepan. Add maple syrup and 1 tablespoon butter. Heat the mixture until the butter has melted and is bubbling. Remove the maple-syrup glaze from heat.

Remove foil tent and cheesecloth from bird, and discard. Brush glaze over bird several times during last half hour. Remove turkey from the oven, and transfer to a carving board. Let rest 30 minutes before carving.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon butter with flour, and mix together until smooth; set aside. Pour pan drippings into a fat separator or glass measuring cup, and let stand 10 minutes. If using a fat separator, carefully return juices to pan; discard fat. If using a measuring cup, use a spoon to skim fat from top, and return juices to pan.

Place the roasting pan on top of the stove over medium-high heat. Pour wine into the pan, and, using a wooden spoon, stir up any brown bits on bottom. Cook liquid until reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Add turkey stock, and cook until reduced again by half, about 7 minutes.

Pass the gravy through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, and pour into a small saucepan. Whisk in the reserved butter-flour mixture until the butter has melted. Reduce heat to medium-low, and let gravy simmer until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Add red and green grapes to the gravy; serve gravy with turkey.

* Note: I never use cheesecloth. I probably should, but I feel like it needlessly complicates my life, and I’m about simplicity, people. So there.

** Also, a SIEVE? Come on, really? If you guys think I do this, you’re wrong. But I encourage you to do it, and tell me about it.

*** Original Martha recipe, here.

And now for The Hartman Family Fried Turkey Instructional. Who is this Hartmann Family, you may ask. Well, I will tell you. The Hartmanns are our neighbors on Long Beach Island. My family has had a summer house on LBI since before I was a twinkle in my mother’s eye (which, as John will remind you is WAY before HE was a twinkle).

Anyway, the Hartmanns have always been our neighbors, and better ones you really couldn’t find. Always friendly, always helpful (the amount of times Mr. Hartmann has fixed random stuff around our house while we are away for the winter is probably too numerous to count), and always having a good time.

And if you’re talking about having a good time, frying turkeys for Thanksgiving is something you should consider. You should also consider safety goggles. And a shield.

So, I went straight to the source of fun and frying for this recipe, Mr. Hartmann himself. This is it, in his own words. Thank you for the recipe, and thank you for being such great people and neighbors!

The Hartmann Family Fried Turkey Instructional

To fry a turkey you need a turkey fryer which is a large stockpot with a basket or lifting apparatus, a burner (you’ll be doing this OUTSIDE) a thermometer and a large amount of oil, like 3 to 5 gallons. The fryer is available at Home Depot or Lowes and sometimes Costco.  The oil is usually in a large box. Sometimes peanut oil is recommended, but regular vegetable oil works well.

I think there is a new electric fryer out now supposedly safer but we like living dangerously.

Preparing the turkey: dry rub with mixture of your choosing under breast skin and all over the outside.  Refrigerate overnight, covered.

On Thanksgiving day, heat the oil in a stockpot outside and away from the house.  It’s a good idea to put a large piece of plywood underneath the burner stand to contain any oil overflow.  When the temperature reaches the recommended degrees, VERY SLOWLY lower the turkey into the oil.  There will be much bubbling up as the hot oil and cold water (in the turkey) do their thing (sear).

The recommended frying time is usually 3 to 5 minutes per pound.  Carefully remove turkey when done and disengage the lifting apparatus. Allow to rest. If you haven’t started drinking before this, catch up. The critical danger is over!  Enjoy!!

Oh yes, there is the matter of the left over oil. It can be used again (maybe twice more) to fry turkeys and then it starts to break down.  Store it in a cool, dark place where it will be forgotten.

Some more photos from the shore….

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We had a request from one of our readers about Chestnut Stuffing. Look at that – people asking us for advice! I nearly fell off my chair. Anyway, I felt I couldn’t turn down such an honest request. In additional to inquiring about our Chestnut Stuffing recipe, the reader wanted to know the best way to roast chestnuts, having had some bad experiences in that arena.

Well, let me tell you this: I can relate to that last part. One word that describes my chestnut roasting experiences: ouch. However, fear not, dear reader! I have done some research. Asked around and what not, and then performed my own experiments here in the Laboratorio Semi Moderno.

By the way, the Laboratorio is looking somewhat worse for wear, so if any of you would like to come over and clean it for me….just sayin’…

OK, back to chestnuts! Before you put them in anything, they need to be roasted.

Here is how you do that:

Take the chestnuts (however many you want to use) and cut a long “x” or  slit in their shells with a very sharp knife. The longer the cut, the better because even after they are roasted and the shells peel back around the incision, they are dang hard to remove. I would show you the cuts on my right thumb, but no one wants to see that. Take a look at the above photo on the far left. Notice how long the incision in the shell is. Aim for something like this.

Fire up your oven to 400 degrees and place the chestnuts (cut side up) in a large skillet or roasting pan. Something with sides because you’re going to put some water in the bottom, just a little so that the chestnuts don’t burn.

Put this entire arrangement in the oven (the nuts, water and pan) and let it roast for about 25 minutes. You will notice the shells start to peel away from the nut inside.

Take them out of the oven and (PLEASE) let them cool before you start to peel off the skins. If they come out of their shells in pieces, that’s OK because you’re just going to chop them up to put in the stuffing anyway.

And now for that stuffing. I use Martha Stewart’s recipe. But I have to admit that I really like to add BACON to it. So, that’s my addition to this recipe. Here it is:

What You Need:

This recipe serves 10-12

2 loaves good-quality white bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 20 cups)
Roasted chestnuts, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
4 small onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 bunch celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 4 cups)
8 pieces cooked bacon
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
5 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
1 tablespoon coarse salt
3 cups coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper

What To Do:

Spread bread cubes in single layers on baking sheets. Let dry at room temperature, uncovered, overnight. You could also use pre-dried bread cubes. Look for those in the Thanksgiving section of your supermarket.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery; cook, stirring, until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add sage; cook 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup stock; cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Transfer onion mixture to a large bowl. Add remaining 4 1/2 cups stock, the chestnuts, bread, salt, parsley and cooked bacon; season with pepper. Toss to combine. If not stuffing turkey, transfer to a buttered 17-by-12-inch baking dish. Cover; bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake until hot and golden brown, 30 minutes more.

* Many thanks to Martha Stewart Living for the recipe. You can check out the original recipe here. I also used their photo (upper right), and give them full credit for that lovely photo. The other two are mine.

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You may recall that McClure’s products have been featured on this blog before. We fried pickles! And then offered them to the lovely members of the fire department that came to extinguish us! Everyone was happy.

Well, I decided to create another McClure’s inspired recipe just for Thanksgiving. You may also remember me talking about antipasto being served at the Iaciofano family house for Thanksgiving. Well, I think our version could use some spicing up.

Enter, McClure’s Garlic and Dill Relish. Now, please understand, this stuff is tasty enough to be eaten as is. No doctoring required. But sometimes OTHER stuff needs doctoring. I made a cannellini bean hummus mixed with this relish and it was out of sight. The tang of the relish combined with the smooth taste of the beans was the perfect mix. And atop some toasted sourdough bread (that I did NOT burn, btw), it was actually dinner the other night. I ate the whole thing! I say that a lot, don’t I?

Anyway, here’s how to do it:

What You Need:

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed (if you want to use dried beans and take the time to soak them, bless you)

Olive oil (about 1/4 cup, but that’s just a guess, you can use your judgment)

Sea salt (I threw in some dried herbs like rosemary, thyme and red pepper, but you don’t have to)

1 jar of McClure’s Relish (Garlic and Dill variety). You don’t necessarily use the whole thing – season to taste!

Sourdough bread, cut into slices

What To Do:

Combine the beans, salt, optional herbs and olive oil in a food processor or blender and puree. You may want to add more olive oil as this process progresses…or salt. Taste and check it out.

Then, spoon some relish into the mixer (be careful not to get too much water from the relish in there or your hummus will be too thin). Mix to taste.

Fire up your broiler to toast your sourdough slices. Keep a sharp eye on that broiler, because if you are like me (you are probably a lot better at this than I am), you will have little pieces of bread charcoal before long.

Once your toasts are toasty, spoon your hummus into a bowl and serve!

Now, how does one bean paste make an antipasto, you may ask? Well, just add a bowl of our previously featured mixed nuts, and a bowl of assorted olives and you are set! Don’t forget the pretty bowls….you do have those right?

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It is without reservation in stating that my favorite fictional character of all time is John Locke from LOST.  Expertly acted by Terry O’Quinn, Locke offered endless depth, surprise and intrigue while other characters within the show grew stale.  In Locke’s coming out episode in Season 1, Walkabout (portions of which I have memorized), we learn that the Island, much like Locke himself, is not what we may have initially believed it to be.  As an obsessed fan, I’d always look forward to the Locke-centered episodes: his flashbacks were always the richest; his hikes throughout the island would always yield some fascinating surprises; his creepy ways would keep the entire crew of castaways (and viewers) on edge.

Locke was always looking for the answers on the island, and in life.  A restless soul, John Locke (until his death at the hands of Benjamin Linus) was always getting under others skin with his sinister smirks and talks of “destiny” in being the sole culprit as to why the castaways were brought the island.   But, hey, wouldn’t you be a bit spiritual if many of your real life constraints had been cured by a plane crash on a deserted island?

Locke’s storyline, as people who have viewed the show know, was full of heartbreak.  For some reason, I always felt for the guy (his inability to accompany the rest of the gang on the Walkabout, always gets me).  And in those trying times, maybe Mr. Locke would appreciate some of Mom’s Apple Pie.

For me, this is my absolute favorite thing my Mom makes.  My Dad and I often hide portions of it in dark corners of the refrigerator for later.  When a slice of it is on my plate, there is truly nothing else that enters my mind.  Crispy golden apples, cradled by a crackling, yet slightly soft crust; it is the highlight of my Thanksgiving meal.

So if there is one fictional character that deserves a slice of Mom’s Apple Pie, it is John Locke.  No need to worry about hunting razorbacks, Johnny, I got you covered.

Here’s the recipe:

CRUST – What You Need:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2/3 cup butter (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons)

1 egg yolk

CRUST – What To Do:

Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the texture is grainy. Mix egg yolk with 2 tablespoons cold water. Gradually add to the dough. Chill for at least 1 hour. This can be made 1 day ahead and kept in the fridge.

FILLING – What You Need

1 stick butter

1 cup sugar

7-9 Golden Delicious apples

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

FILLING – What To Do:

Peel and slice apples. Place butter and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until caramelized. Add apples and cook for about 7 – 10 minutes stirring to keep the sugar liquid. Dilute cornstarch in 3 tablespoons water and add to apple mixture. Cook until thick. Remove from heat and add cinnamon. Let cool.

TOPPING – What You Need:

3 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

6 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

TOPPING – What To Do:

Put the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in the butter with a fork until dry and crumbly. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Put it All Together:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out your dough and line a 8″ springform deep dish pan with the dough. Add apple filling and sprinkle on the topping. Bake until pastry is golden and top is golden – about 45 minutes – 1 hour.

* Note #1: For the filling, you must caramelize the sugar (it will turn brown). When you add the apples, the sugar will harden, but it will become liquid again as the apples heat up.

** Note #2: For the crust, the less you handle it with your fingers the flakier the crust will be. You can roll out the dough between 2 pieces of wax paper if you like. If you dampen the counter top underneath the wax paper, the paper will not slip as you roll the dough.

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There aren’t many TV shows that have captured my attention. I was a pretty serious LOST fan for the duration of that program, and I’ve enjoyed a few others, but no show has intrigued me as much as the X-Files. I think this show is magic. I like the mystery, the creepiness, the bizarre plot lines, and the sarcastic, random humor. Mostly, I love the characters.

Therefore, if I were to make my favorite dessert (also a Thanksgiving dessert) for anyone – real or fictional – it would be Agent Mulder.

Neither Mulder nor Scully spends a lot of time eating on the show. They are too busy doing other things – no time for snacks! Mulder, particularly, is rarely seen eating. I always imagined this was because he was so obsessed with finding just where out there the truth really was, that food became an afterthought. Aside from occasional munching on sunflower seeds, Mulder is fueled by pure obsession with mysteries just outside of his grasp, not carbohydrates and protein.

So, when he does sit down to eat, you can imagine whatever he is eating must be pretty darn good. This is highlighted in one Season 3 episode of the X-Files: Jose Chung’s Aliens from Outer Space in which Mulder sits down at a diner bar and orders piece after piece of sweet potato pie from the surly looking chef until he has eaten the whole thing.

I would like to reinvent/rewrite this scene minus the sweet potato pie and surly looking chef, adding instead my Pumpkin Bread Pudding and myself (hopefully looking less surly). I imagine it would play out something like this:

Mulder enters the bar and identifies himself.

Orders piece after piece of Pumpkin Bread Pudding, all the while questioning me about my thoughts on extra-terrestrial life.

He eats the whole bread pudding that way.

As a final question, he points at me and asks if I’ve “checked everywhere” for alien implants, pays the check and leaves.

Now you might be asking yourself (among other questions about how intact my sanity is) can this pumpkin bread pudding really be that good? Good enough to make Agent Mulder pause in middle of his quest for knowledge and eat an entire serving dish full?

Yes. Yes, it is. I discovered this recipe via the Martha Stewart website. I was looking for something slightly different to serve at Thanksgiving dinner. This hits the nail on the head: it satisfies my need for something pumpkin flavored, but with a completely different texture and spin. And there are a couple of fun variations on the pudding that I do that really give it a kick (read: baking with alcohol).

Here’s how it all happens:

First, you actually make the pumpkin challah bread that goes into the pudding (not difficult). As I mentioned, this recipe is from Martha Stewart, and I have not changed a thing about it except that I make 4 small loaves of bread instead of 2 larger ones. I usually only end up using two of the four loaves, and I freeze the other two to eat later or give them away as gifts.

What You Need:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, (1 1/2 packages)
  • 1 cup warm water (100 degrees to 110 degrees)
  • 3/4 cup egg yolks, (11 to 12 large eggs), plus 1 large egg yolk for glaze
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for bowl
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • What To Do:

  • Proof the yeast: Place 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl, and sprinkle yeast over it. Stir to combine, and let sit until mixture becomes foamy, about 10 minutes.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup warm water. In a medium bowl, combine salt, canola oil, honey, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Replace paddle attachment with dough-hook attachment, and add the pumpkin mixture to the mixer bowl; combine. Add the yeast mixture, stirring until combined.
  • Slowly add flour, 1 cup at a time, until all the flour is incorporated into dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough, and then form it into two 8-inch loaves. Place the loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • While the dough is rising, heat the oven to 350º. Mix remaining egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the loaves with the egg glaze, and bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, and serve.
  • And now for the pudding part. I have made a few notes in italics where I have made changes to the recipe.
    What You Need:
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 4 large whole eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for dish
  • 2 teaspoons light-brown sugar
  • 5 to 6 cups day-old Pumpkin Challah, cubed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup dark rum, or more to taste
  • What To Do:
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place raisins in a small bowl, and cover with hot water (I soak the raisins in RUM. Whisky works too). Let soak until plump. Drain, and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together 4 whole eggs, sugar, and salt. Whisk in 2 1/2 cups milk and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract. (I add in a little rum or whisky to this mixture – about 3 Tablespoons).
  • Butter a 9-inch, 1 1/2-quart ceramic baking dish with sides that are at least 1 1/2 inches high. Sprinkle bottom of dish with brown sugar; arrange half the challah cubes in a layer on top. Sprinkle with half the reserved raisins. Repeat with remaining challah and raisins.
  • Pour the milk-and-egg mixture over the bread, making sure to soak every piece. Transfer baking dish to the oven, and bake until the custard sets and the bread pudding becomes a rich, golden color, 50 to 60 minutes. If bread becomes too brown before filling is set, loosely cover top of pudding with aluminum foil. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
  • (I actually do not always make the rum sauce, as I spike the actual pudding with rum. Sometimes, I just dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with ice cream).

  • Meanwhile, prepare the rum sauce: Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, the heavy cream, and confectioners’ sugar in a saucepan; place over medium heat, and heat just until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat.
  • Prepare an ice-water bath, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with remaining teaspoon vanilla. Slowly beat 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into yolks, then slowly whisk yolk mixture back into saucepan with remaining milk mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 minute.
  • Strain the mixture into a bowl set in the ice-water bath. Stir in rum and remaining 2 tablespoons butter; stir until combined. Let stand until mixture is chilled. Serve bread pudding warm or at room temperature, with the rum sauce on the side.
  • Finito! I really must thank Martha for this recipe. It’s a serious winner. Elana recommended, Agent Mulder approved.
    * If anyone wants me to completely geek out and tell the story about the time I met Chris Carter (creator of the X-Files), just let me know. I am more than happy to do so…
    ** All images are property of 20th Century Fox, and I don’t mean to suggest that they are mine by including them in this post. It’s just funny.
    *** If you’d like to check out the original Martha Stewart recipes, you can click here and here.

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    As Thanksgiving approaches, it has occurred to us, that while many of you may love food, maybe not all of you cook. Or bake. So we are taking it upon ourselves to help you find excellent food (in this case desserts) that other people have made for you.

    Now, make no mistake: this is not food that is runner-up to home-cooked/baked fare. In fact, this IS home cooked/baked fare – it’s just been done by someone else. And it’s better than your grandma makes. Seriously. And I have nothing against your grandma, she’s a lovely woman. Tell her I said hi.

    First up is Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. You may remember that they’ve been featured here before. Well, they are back. And for good reason: SEASONAL ICE CREAM FLAVORS. That’s right. In this case, the flavors are Pumpkin and Eggnog. These ice creams are just what you would want after your Turkey dinner to go with that Pumpkin Bread Pudding or Apple Pie (recipes forthcoming later this week). And they are mighty nice by themselves too. I should know, as both flavors barely survived this owl-themed photoshoot because I was eating them as I photographed. Not super-productive, but very, very tasty.

    The pumpkin flavor, tastes exactly like the filling of the creamiest pumpkin pie, and the eggnog flavor is WAY better than real eggnog. It’s got a hint of that nog punch (I think the technical term for this is “nutmeg”) and something else (whisky?) whipped into a frenzy of deliciousness. You will want to eat it all the time.

    For those of you that want a little cake with your ice cream (and who could blame you?) or just some cake, I have the perfect Thanksgiving cupcake treat: a pumpkin spice cupcake from City Cakes in NYC.

    I can’t say enough about the moistness of the cake part of this cupcake. I really hate it when I bite into a cupcake and the thing crumbles in my hands. If all I wanted was a vehicle for frosting (and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that) then I would just eat frosting with a spoon. But I want the whole package. I love cake. Good cake. And I love pumpkin flavor. City Cakes puts these two loves together for me in this fabulous little cupcake with a cream cheese frosting that is the perfect complement to the spice of the pumpkin cake.

    Evidence that the cake holds together:

    When I got the cupcake (OK, I got four) from City Cakes, I thought, hey, I’ll just have a bite. Yeah, right. I downed that thing like someone was threatening to take it away from me. And so will your Thanksgiving guests.

    So if you’re looking for a dessert that will make your guests happy, or at least keep you out of the kitchen so you can referee the shouting matches between Aunt Emily and Aunt Olga at the dinner table, check out Van Leeuwen and City Cakes.

    * Both wonderful companies have many, many more flavors than the ones I’ve spoken about here. So check those out too! Pints of the seasonal ice cream flavors from Van Leeuwen are available only in the trucks. You can find out what part of the city the trucks are zooming around by following them on Twitter.

    ** You might want to follow City Cakes too while you’re at it – they announce flavors and specials via Twitter.

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    Many of you may be wondering (probably not) what it’s like in the Iaciofano family household for Thanksgiving. Well, I’m going to tell you. And I’m going to tell the story with recipes.

    First, the cast of characters:

    The Box: also known as our dad

    Marmo: Mom and executive chef of Thanksgiving

    Aunt Emily: a great aunt. She is 96. She is actually not related by blood, but is the wife of my dad’s uncle. A few things you should know about Aunt Emily: 1.) She is in perfect health except that she is mostly deaf. So she talks REALLY LOUDLY all the time. And so do we, so she can hear us. 2.) She enjoys calling people “crooks.” 3.) See point No.1.

    Aunt Olga: Another “great” – Marmo’s aunt. She’s hovering somewhere around 90, age wise, and is intensely happy all the time. Which provides an interesting (but which I mean alarming) counterpoint to Aunt Emily’s canktankerousness.

    Elana: Me – sous chef. As sous chef, my responsibilities include burning myself (Thanksgiving tradition) on hot plates, and keeping the Box from eating all the food before it’s even served.

    John: ‘Sup

    First, the menu:

    Not much has changed over the years at Iaciofano HQ for Turkey Day. It’s a small holiday – there aren’t very many of us, as both our mom and dad are only children. No cousins! No aunts and uncles – like Wally! It’s nuts.

    When I was younger and still living at home, the first smell that greeted me as I walked down the stairs from my bedroom in the morning was the smell of onions cooking in butter. That aroma might be one of my favorites. The Macy’s Day Parade (this is my favorite balloon) would be on TV, closely monitored by the Box in hopeful, boyish anticipation for Santa’s appearance. Marmo would be in the kitchen, like a mad scientist in the lab, with 18 pots on the stove all simmering various wonderful things, including the onions in butter.

    Thanksgiving dinner begins around 1-2pm in our house. Why so early? A few reasons:

    1. Aunt Emily refuses to eat anything after 5pm. This causes a lot of commotion in my family, in general.

    2. Marmo wants to get rid of everyone so we can go do other things. This usually involves either falling asleep on the couch or seeing a movie.

    At around 1pm, the Box fetches Aunty Em and brings her back to the homestead. Shouting begins. Marmo retrieves Aunt Olga (the Box categorically refuses to go get her) and what ensues from this point on is something like witnessing the two parts of a manic-depressive episode with Emily voicing the depressive, and Olga the manic.

    For example, if you ask Emily how she is, the response is, “Eh, well I’m still here.” While if you ask Olga, you will get a bright-eyed (manic gleam in the eye), “I’m grrrreat!” Kind of like Tony the Tiger.

    Traditionally, Aunt Emily has always brought over the antipasto.This is an Italian term for a bunch of appetizers, usually consisting of cured meats, cheeses, olives, roasted peppers, and when my Uncle Harry was alive, chopped chicken livers, which even as a little girl, I LOVED. Sometimes there’s even some jumbo shrimp cocktail thrown in there. Random, but tasty.

    The turkey itself is a HUGE point of contention in our house. My mom and I both like turkey – we actually enjoy the taste of it. Everyone else hates it. And we get a lot of jokes, mostly from the Box about when the Lasagne is going to be served. Or the spaghetti…on and on. Aunt Emily complained so much that she gets her very own dinner – hens! This year we are all tempted to fry a turkey – a feat we have never before attempted. Please warn the fire department, but we do have this, just in case:

    Anyway, all safety hazards aside, I’ve included a few recipes – the ones I think are highlights. I hope you enjoy them, try ’em out, make ’em better, or whatever. Next week we’ll have specific turkey instructions along with some fantabulous desserts.

    Marmo’s Sweet Potatoes With Apples

    What You Need:

    4 large sweet potatoes

    1-2 peeled, cored and sliced apples

    Brown sugar (your judgment)

    Butter (again with the poor judgment)

    Heavy whipping cream (and one more time)

    What To Do:

    Put your sweet potatoes in a large pot and fill with water to above the level of the taters. Cook on the stove for about 45 minutes until tender. You may need more than 45 minutes – pierce them with a sharp knife to test for tenderness.

    Drain the taters and when they cool, peel the skins off.

    Coat a large baking dish with butter. Slice the potatoes horizontally (so they are like little orange hockey pucks) and cover the bottom of the dish with about 4-5 slices of potato. Sprinkle a healthy amount of brown sugar and dot with a a healthy amount of butter. Add the apple slices on top of that. Repeat these layers until you reach the top of the baking dish. Add about 3 tablespoons of cream (or your best judgement – you really can’t mess this one up).

    Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Try to baste with the juices that settle at the bottom of the dish.

    Another hot one is the Cauliflower. The Box claims he doesn’t like this, but he usually asks for thirds, sooo….

    Gratinée of Cauliflower

    What You Need:

    6 Tbsp unsalted butter
    4 cloves of garlic minced
    4 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto
    Florets of 1 large cauliflower cut into ¼ inch slices
    2 Tbsp flour
    1 ½ cup heavy cream
    Pinch of cayenne pepper
    Salt and pepper
    1 ½ cup grated swiss cheese
    ½ cup chopped parsley

    What To Do:

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes.  Stir in the prosciutto and cook two more minutes.

    Add the cauliflower and cook just until it begins to lose its crispness – about 3 minutes.

    Stir in the flour and then the cream. Blend well. Season with cayenne, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling and remove from heat.

    Pour the cauliflower into a baking dish.  Top with cheese and parsley.  Bake until the top is lightly browned and bubbling – about 30 minutes.

    Serve immediately.

    Cranberry Sauce

    *I have to confess to liking the Ocean Spray variety that comes out of the can in one big cylinder that you can slice. But making your own Cranberry Sauce is shockingly easy. Here is how I do it:

    What You Need:

    12 ounce bag of cranberries

    1/2 cup of honey

    2-3 T firmly packed brown sugar

    2 three inch cinnamon sticks

    6 whole cloves

    1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

    3/4 cup water

    Optional: orange zest

    What To Do:

    In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg and water and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is thickened. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and let it cool. Can be made 2 days in advance, covered and chilled.

    Cranberry Relish

    What You Need:

    1 orange – cut into chunks
    1 apple – cored and cut into chunks
    1 bag of cranberries
    1 cup of sugar
    Zest of one lemon

    What To Do:

    Put everything in the food processor and pulse.  Taste for sweetness.  You may need to add a little more sugar.  Enjoy!

    As for dessert, the Apple Pie and Pumpkin Bread Pudding recipes are forthcoming. But we have a special presentation of those for you, so you will have to wait until next week.

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