Thanksgiving Away

Paris RooftopsWelcome to what may be the only American food blog that isn’t bombarding you with last-minute Thanksgiving tips this week.  Instead of spending the week cooking, Matt and I are taking part in what has become our new Thanksgiving tradition: traveling.  

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Braised Chicken Legs with Prunes, Brandy & Dijon

Braised Chicken Legs with Prunes & Brandy

You should see my freezer.  Wait, no, I definitely do not want you to see the inside of my freezer.  

Something I find really funny about having a blog is that people assume if I can make what goes on top of the 3 foot wide table where I take my pictures look nice,  I must have this lovely, well-organized kitchen.  Hmm…let’s see…haven’t had doors on my cupboards in going on a month, I may or may not have a shelf that is covered in honey and dotted with quinoa and various dried legumes, and my ever-exploding freezer looks like some sort of disassembled chicken graveyard.  A backbone here, roasted carcass in a ziplock bag there, and a few livers in a plastic container over to the side.  

But yesterday, I got a little spare time to spend in the kitchen and felt like I should accomplish more than just dinner.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to scrape up the honey-quinoa-lentil disaster though.  And the cupboard doors?  Eh.  I could deal with the chicken.  

The backbone and carcasses were easy (chicken stock), but what to do with those couple of livers?  They were thrown in there with the intent of making pâté, but I was hoping to come up with a full dinner, not just a tiny batch of pâté.  So instead of hoarding chicken livers until I had enough for a proper sized batch, I borrowed some of the flavors I would have used and made braised chicken legs with prunes, brandy, liver, and Dijon mustard.  Success!  A delicious dinner plus a little space carved out in the freezer.

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Cranberry-Pear Crisp with Almonds & Ginger

Cranberry Pear Crisp with Almonds and GingerThere were 6 pears, sitting on my kitchen table, just begging to be eaten–scratch that–made into dessert.  I decided on a making a simple crisp–you know, just baked fruit, with a buttery, oatmeal topping.  Then I started thinking about ginger and that bag of cranberries I bought only because they were front and center in the produce department and they were just so darn pretty.  Then I remembered this amazing crisp my mom made for my birthday a few years ago that had almond paste crumbled into the topping.  And then I decided to let myself get completely carried away and roll all of those elements into 1 showstopper dessert.

Sometimes it’s important to practice restraint and other times, you just need to throw it out the door.  My gingered cranberry and pear crisp with almond streusel is a very good example of when it’s a good idea to kick restraint to the curb.  In this fall crisp, pears and cranberries bake together to make a perfect sweet-tart combination.  Fresh ginger adds a pleasant amount of heat that warms the back of your throat, almost like you’re sipping bourbon.  And an abundance of almond-oatmeal crumbly crisp topping?  Don’t even get me started. [Read more…]

Sausage, Fennel & Gruyère Miniature Egg Stratas

Sausage, Fennel, and Gruyère Mini Egg Stratas Pecan and apple pie aside, if I had to choose just 1 thing to load my plate with on Thanksgiving, it would be the stuffing.  I mean, as a carb-aholic what’s not to love?  And you can have so much fun with it!  Herbs, sausage, nuts, veggies, I can’t wait…

…except this year, I won’t be spending Thanksgiving on American soil.  I doubt I’ll have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner unless I figure out a way to cook turkey and stuffing on a 2 burner cooktop in a teeny studio apartment.  But I couldn’t let a year go by without experiencing the essence of Thanksgiving so I concocted these stuffing-inspired egg strata muffins.  They’re made with sausage, sautéed fennel and onions, Gruyère, and toasted bread, soaked overnight in a rich egg custard.  They walk a thin line between strata, savory bread pudding, and something Matt refers to as “cowboy breakfast” and the rest of us simply call “egg bake”.  And for me, they taste exactly like everything good about the holidays, wrapped up into 1 neat little package.  

So, of course, it tastes good, but here’s the other reason everyone loves strata: it’s assembled the night before you serve it, which means you get to brunch without busting out a mess of bowls and pans first thing in the morning.  And if that’s not good enough, these mini stratas bake in half the time of a big strata.

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Salmon with Warm Potato, Mushroom & Celery Salad

Salmon with Warm Potato, Mushroom, and Celery SaladIt’s hard to determine the best thing this dish has going on.  It’s a great combination of rich salmon and crème fraîche, cut with a squeeze of lemon, and paired with a warm potato salad.  Mushrooms for earthiness, celery for crunch, and totally worthy of being accompanied by candles and wine.  Oh, and once you have the potatoes are boiling, you’re about 15 minutes away from dinner.  Nice.

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