- Amanda FOLLOW-UP: After a week or so of letting the fruit soak in the gin and brandy, here's what I found: I prefer the gin, which has a crispness that brandy lacks. However, I liked the flavor of ginger and star anise better than cloves and cinnamon, so next year I plan to combine the two -- gin with ginger and star anise. As my mother pointed out, the fruit really is best between weeks 1 and 3, so if you're making the fruit to serve on a particular day, plan accordingly. And as for what to serve it with, I'd suggest passing it alongside a cheese course, spooning it over ice cream or cake (with some of the macerating liquid!), or adding it toward the end of cooking roast pork. Most years, in early December, my mother starts making a jar of gin fruit for the holidays. Her recipe is mindlessly simple -- layer your favorite dried fruits with some spices, cover with booze -- so I thought I'd play around with two variations. I hope you'll join me in this experiment.
- Merrill This past Saturday as I was walking home from Pilates class, I brainstormed about what to bring to a Hanukkah potluck the next day. Foods cooked in oil are traditional at Hanukkah, so at first I contemplated doughnuts, fritters and some other fried goodies. But I quickly got sidetracked. I was ravenous because I'd skipped breakfast, and I was really in the mood for eggs. Without warning, my foods-cooked-in-oil musings began to blend with my what-to-have-for-lunch ruminations, and I suddenly found myself craving two of my favorite dishes from the New York Times: Melissa Clark's olive oil fried eggs with polenta (I'm temporarily obsessed with polenta after last week's contest theme), and Denise Landis' escarole with pan-roasted garlic and lemon. What if I were to combine the two? Pondering this, I hurried home to make lunch, all thoughts of the potluck swept from my hungry brain.
- Merrill Amanda and I often find ourselves talking about dishes that would make a great "dinner for one." Although neither of us lives alone anymore, there are still those inevitable evenings spent home alone, when the challenge of cooking for one stares you right in the face. It's rare that I get too fired up about concocting something elaborate just for me. More often, I see it as a nice excuse to whip up something easy and comforting -- like these goat cheese grits I first threw together one night years ago when I was actually living alone. I still make them whenever I'm in need of a soul-satisfying one dish dinner. They're creamy and soft (I add a bit of milk to the cooking liquid), with just the right amount of tang from the goat cheese and a nice hit of heat from coarsely ground black pepper.
- Merrill About this time every year, I return to one of my favorite cooking rituals: making the weekly ragu. On Saturday I go to my local farmers market and peruse the meat offerings; there's ground pork, lamb and beef, excellent turkey and turkey sausage, as well as more unusual items like pheasant and goat. Each week I aim to pick out a different meat (or combination of meats) for my next ragu.
- Amanda As you may have noticed, we’ve been getting a lot of our recent cooking inspiration from you. In the same autumn salad contest that prompted Merrill’s post on Persimmon Chiffon Pie, there were a couple of dressing recipes that incorporated caramelized fruit. I like citrus-based vinaigrettes but sometimes the flavor is too thin, too faint and ephemeral. So I decided to try caramelizing some citrus before squeezing the juice for the dressing.
- Merrill Last week, several of the Autumn Salad submissions contained persimmons, which got us thinking about this distinctive fall fruit, known by the ancient Greeks as the "fruit of the Gods." There are two main types of persimmons available in the United States: one is firm when ripe, and the other is soft. Fuyu persimmons, which are round and squat like a tomato, are the most common variety of firm-ripe, or "non-astringent" persimmon found in this country; these are typically sliced and eaten raw. Hachiya persimmons, a popular soft-ripe (or "astringent") variety, are longer and more pointed, and they're ready to eat when the flesh of the fruit softens to the consistency of jelly. It is this second type that you should look for when a recipe calls for "persimmon pulp," which is just a fancy term for the soft flesh of an astringent persimmon after it has been scooped from its skin.
In order to help you get ready for what is arguably the most important meal of the year, we're dedicating this entire week to all things Thanksgiving. We'll post featured recipes that we think would be great on any Thanksgiving table, and we'll ask you to share some tricks of the trade as well. Today, to kick things off, we're opening up the lines to any and all questions you may have for us about cooking for Thanksgiving. Need to know the right proportions for brining a turkey? Always wondered what the difference is between sweet potatoes and yams? Just post your questions in the comments section below, and we'll answer each and every one. And if we don't know the answer ourselves, we'll find someone who does and report back!
Last week a few of you asked what sort of liquid libation we'd recommend to go with the Thanksgiving turkey. As luck would have it, Chambers Street, our wine partner, has put together a list just for us. Below you'll find a selection of wines (featuring an assortment of colors and price points) singled out by Chambers Street as ideal pairings for Thanksgiving fare. The best part? If you click through and use the promotional code "food52" you can order all of these wines -- and more -- from Chambers Street for a 10% discount!
Setting aside the question of the turkey (and what a question it is: see Thanksgiving 911 for help!), this week we're going to approach the other parts of the meal -- vegetables, starches, and desserts. We'll feature a selection of recipes that have won or been finalists in food52 contests, and would be great additions to any Thanksgiving table. Today, we start with vegetables. Pink Greens by Marissa Grace -- tangy and hot, a nice counterpoint to the heavier dishes on the table. Moroccan Carrot Salad with Harissa by Cordeliah -- a zesty, make ahead dish. Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Apples in Browned Butter and Cream by ChezSuzanne -- full of fall flavors. Autumn Celeriac (Celery Root) Puree by Sonali -- perhaps a migration from mashed potatoes? Grilled Brussels Sprouts by kitchenwitchcookie -- no grill required! Possible to do in a grill pan. Roasted Butternut Squash Coconut Curry Puree by testkitchenette -- a less traditional, but delicious, option. Red Leaf Salad with Roasted Beets, Oranges and Walnuts by Teresa Parker -- one of our earliest winners (so early the contest doesn't actually appear!) was this great fall salad
Today, onto carbohydrates, perhaps the most beloved and bemoaned food group of them all. Thanksgiving tends to be a time when people set aside their neuroses and celebrate the starches of the world. Oh yeah, and family and friends... Below are some more recipes from winners and finalists that deserve to be devoured by all. Individual Sweet Potato Gratins with Creme Fraiche, Onions, and Bacon by apartmentcooker Potato Leek au Gratin by AlexisC What We Call Stuffing: Challah, Mushroom and Stuffing by MrsWheelbarrow Ciabatta Stuffing with Chorizo, Sweet Potatoes, and Onions by melissav
Finally, we turn to the end of the meal. Pie usually dominates, but there are some people for whom (horror of horrors!) pie is not the dessert of choice. Here, we feature recipes from our winners and finalists for sweets that just may put those pumpkin pie cravings to rest. Fig and Anise Clafoutis by Oui, Chef -- great made with dried figs, if you can't find fresh Rum Apple Cake by colombedujour -- a gluten free option Pudding Chomeur by camille -- a celebration of maple syrup An Old Fashioned Apple Spice Cake by betteirene -- a dramatic, holiday-worthy presentation
- Merrill For years now, on the day before Thanksgiving my mother has made what in my family goes by the slightly unappetizing name of "Tuscan Onion Goo." Inspired by a visit to a family-owned gem in Florence called Ristorante del Fagioli, this sour-sweet onion confit was originally served to her as an antipasto. She enjoyed it so much that she asked, in halting but enthusiastic Italian, if the waiter would tell her how it was made. He promptly ushered her into the tiny kitchen, where the sweaty, grinning chef himself showed her how to put together the dish. She took mental notes and then came home and recreated it, with a few small adaptations.