holidays

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

This is one of our holiday favorites, albeit it newer tradition. This year, I had a bottle of Basque still cider that I wasn't fond enough of to drink, it was so yeasty and apple-y I couldn't toss it. What to do? Cranberries, of course! The added benefit: at the end of the process you have lovely spiced apple simple syrup that goes so well with Mescal. It would be fantastic with a hot rum or Bourbon drink, too. So really, you end up with TWO terrific products. Now, if you're not familiar with apple ciders I urge you to get to a good wine shop and ask for an intro. There are so many lovely ciders out there now, many made with heirloom apples. They're great with pork chops (in brine or a pan sauce) and they are fantastic with cranberries.

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

For this recipe, start with whole fresh cranberries. If you have frozen whole cranberries it should work, but I've not yet tried it so I can't guarantee it. Begin this recipe a day ahead as the cranberries will get an overnight rest in their syrup. The active time for this recipe is minimal but you'll want to include resting/drying time and start the day before you plan to serve these.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Whole fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups Granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (most of one bottle) apple cider
  • Raw or brown sugar (here I used turbinado)
  • a few cloves, a star anise, (a cinnamon stick would probably be great, too.)

Directions

  1. Line a half sheet pan with waxed paper.
  2. Place sugar, spices, and cider in sauce pan, heat and stir to dissolve sugar.
  3. When sugar is fully dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Rinse cranberries, pick out stems.
  5. Syrup should still be pretty warm but not scalding. Dump the cranberries into a container that will go into the fridge overnight. Pour hot syrup over the cranberries.
  6. Rest overnight in the fridge (the cranberries not you, you've got other things to do.)

Next day:

  1. Remove cranberries strain from syrup (and save that syrup!)
  2. Place turbinado sugar on a dinner plate. Take cranberries about a cup at a time and roll around in sugar, then place on prepared sheet pan.
  3. Rolling cranberries in small batches prevents too much dripping and caking of the sugar. Should you get lots of lumps in it, just remove the lumps into the simple syrup.
  4. When all your cranberries have their first coating of sugar, move the tray to a cool, dry spot to rest and dry completely. Should take a few hours.
  5. For the second toss in sugar, you can simply re-roll. I find a light brushing of the simple syrup helps the second coating adhere better.
  6. Let dry completely.

Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

crackly, sparkly cranberries

Spiced Apple Simple Syrup

spiced Basque apple cider syrup

duck_sugared_cranberries

sparkling cranberries and a roast duck

Gather platter cranberry

sparkling cranberries, small chestnut apples and kale surround the Thanksgiving platter

How to Handle the Sticky Situations and Prickly Guests at the Holiday Table

Thanksgiving etiquette tips. Who needs 'em? We all do! Whether you're hosting or joining someone else for Hanukkah, Thanksgiving or other big event types of dinners, it is that time of year when nerves can be sensitive and tempers sometimes short. Couple that with free-flowing booze and the potential for fireworks increases. We've all endured the rude comments, bad behavior, and even shouting matches that can ruin the dinner for everyone.

The best cure is a little preventive medicine. Here are some tips to help you avoid the dyspeptic dinner disasters. Whether you're a host or a guest, a brief review might help everyone relax and enjoy. Here are some tips for being a good guest, being a smart host.

"The more wine you drink, the more interesting your relatives become."  Josh Wesson on Talking with My Mouth Full 

1. If you are invited: Offer to bring something. If your host does not want additions to the menu, offer to bring wine, flowers or offer to help clean up after. Marron Glacé are lovely and won't ruin anyone's menu. Especially if you have dietary restrictions, offer to bring a dish that will be safe for you to eat and good enough for all to enjoy. More tips on handling food allergy issues here.

2. During the Thanksgiving day of feasting: Offer to pick up empty glasses or refresh people's drinks. Little things like that can help a lot when your host is probably minding the timing of all the last minute food preparations. If you're hosting and people want to help, let them. Even kids can help with things like offering ice to grown ups, tearing lettuce.

3. What to do if you're served or offered something that you really dislike? A gracious way to turn it down, instead of saying "I don't like brussels sprouts" is to say "I've had so much good food I couldn't possibly eat another bite, thank you so much. They look lovely, though!"

4. How to handle the family members that you know are going to get into a heated argument? Try the preemptive strike:  take whichever of the pair that is more reasonable take them aside ahead of time and appeal to their good nature beforehand. Say "Listen, I know that you and Dad don't agree on healthcare and we know how he gets when he had a few, so I'm gonna count on you being the more reasonable one. Help me sidestep an argument at dinner by changing the subject or not taking the bait? Thanks so much for being reasonable and helping out that way I really appreciate it."

5. Include, don't exclude: I like Thanksgiving because it's a nondenominational day of gratitude, rather than greed disguised as religion. And, it's all about abundance, friends, and football. Try to include everyone in that good feeling of gratitude. Rather than a prayer which might feel exclusive two people don't share the religion, why not start with going to run the table and everybody sharing something they're grateful for?

6. Be calm, make like a duck. Serene on top, even if you're paddling madly under the surface. If you're hosting, remember that guests will take their cue from you. If you're hassled and snippy they won't relax. Try to do ahead, plan and let go. If it won't be the perfect Norman Rockwell painting you have in your head, remember that a good time can still be had by all. Your attitude will set the mood. Pour another round and enjoy what worked, be thankful for the friends and family you have to share the day with. Laugh off the disasters and invite others to join you in good humor. (And make notes while they're fresh in your head what worked and didn't for next year.)

Today is the day to set yourself up for a good tomorrow. Plan a walk in the fresh air first thing in the morning, get a good night's rest.  Chop the veggies that you can for stuffing, make a butter for gravy (1:1 flour and butter) or make the gravy now and just add pan drippings later. Ditch the extra cleaning or extra dishes you won't need to make. No one will notice that you dusted every shelf if you're frazzled.

Teuscher Marron Glacé - Let the Holidays Begin!

Certain things signal the change of seasons, a robin in the spring, summer sailboats on the harbor, crimson maple leaves against a clear blue sky... For the holidays two things tell me it's the holidays:

One is a cookie jar full of Snappy Ginger Snaps.

Another is a box of marron glacé.

30 Rock and Rock Hard Chestnuts

A long time ago when I made regular trips to New York for various consulting clients, I discovered Teuscher chocolates on a trip to Rockefeller Plaza while working with GE.

After that, every time I could manage to swing by there, I did. First I was smitten by champagne truffles. Who could resist? Perfectly balanced and rich, each truffle was a single bite of luxurious, silky chocolate heaven.

Years later, Teuscher arrived here in Boston and they've been on our special treat list ever since. These marron glacé are a harbinger of the season for me. A texture unlike anything else, both firm and yielding, smooth and slightly granular, these are produced through a multi-day process of preserving whole, shelled chestnuts in sugar syrup.

I tried to make them one year at home. Forget it. I devoted two or three days to the sugaring, dehydrating process and ended up with a big sticky mess and barely edible chestnut-flavored rocks.

Marron Glace

 

 

 

chestnut

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treat yourself to this hand-made confection that is both sweet and savory. Treat a friend. Add some to a holiday dessert tray if your guests have been very good this year. They would also make a lovely hostess gift, guaranteed to get you asked back.

What tells you the holidays are here?

Strata - Savory Bread Pudding Perfect for Feeding Holiday Guests

When you've got a house full of guests, making breakfast or brunch can be daunting. This Strata is easy to prep, in fact it must rest overnight before baking so it leaves you free to mix Mimosas or enjoy a leisurely cuppa while it bakes. It's also one of the recipes that's handy for eating down the fridge. Since Thanksgivikkuh is very soon upon us, we all have major shopping to do and food prep ahead. That means we need room in the fridge and freezer. For many of us, it also means house guests, perhaps a day of people arriving at different times with everyone on different schedules.

Strata, all prepped the night before, is ready to pop in the oven once guests arrive. Just have snacks on hand (Spiced Nuts, cheese board, fruit) and when you're close to a full house -- in it goes.

strata

 

Savory Fall Strata

This strata is vegetarian, dairy-free, and flexible. It can be varied according to what you need to use up, just pick things that complement each other. You could add cheese but it doesn't really need it. I sprinkle my own DIY dairy-free parmesan on top, true Parmigiano-Reggiano would be great. Depending on how you want to layer it (hence the name "strata") you can build it as you would a lasagna, or you can simply mix all the veg and bread cubes together, toss in a buttered pan then pour on the custard mixture.

Ingredients:

  • 2 C  thinly sliced leeks
  • 2 C thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 large roasted red bell peppers, sliced
  • 4 C julienned greens (I had spinach and large brussels sprout leaves)
  • 1/2 C minced celery
  • 1/4 C vermouth, wine, stock or water to deglaze
  • 9 C cubed bread
  • 1 1/2 tsp Thanksgiving spice blend (alt use 1 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp sage)
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 C soy milk
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano

 

Directions:

  1. Slice leeks, mushrooms, spinach/greens.
  2. Mince celery, garlic
  3. Cube bread, enough to fill the pan you are using. Place in very large mixing bowl.
  4. Add a couple glugs of olive oil to a large pan, sauté mushrooms and leeks until they're wilted, add celery, garlic, and greens. Sauté and just as things are beginning to brown, deglaze with some wine, dry vermouth, stock or water.
  5. Add veg, spice, S&P to bread cubes toss.
  6. In a large mixing cup or small bowl, break eggs and mix lightly with milk. Add grated nutmeg.
  7. Place bread veg mix in buttered 13 x 9 pan and cover with egg-milk mix.
  8. Cover and place in fridge overnight.
  9. The next day, remove from fridge 30 minutes before you're baking. Preheat oven to 350.
  10. Sprinkle Parmesan and Pimenton or Paprika, bake for 45-50 minutes - knife inserted in center should come out clean.
  11. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 4 -8 depending on if you're serving as main or side.

 

strata serving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out Brian Samuels' gorgeous  Kale and Shiitake Mushroom Bread Pudding. A rich version laced with cream and cheese.

Thanksgiving Cookies: Snappy Gingersnaps

The perfect pumpkin pie begins with a good crust, lined with a combination of crushed gingersnaps and pecans. These Snappy Gingersnaps are SUPER easy to make and can be made ahead frozen, made partially (wrap the dough in a log and freeze or refrigerate) and they go so well with cider, milk, coffee. I modified a King Arthur recipe to make them dairy free.

One thing I love about these, is how spicy and crisp they are. If you wanted to fill them with something like pumpkin cream, then substitute butter for the shortening and bake for slightly less time. That should do the trick, but I have to admit, since my dairy allergy, I've stopped baking with butter.

I love this idea though. Won't someone try it and let me know?

snappy gingersnaps

Snappy Gingersnaps

Dairy-free and dead easy, these are delicious all year-round but are particularly welcome when there’s a cold snap in the air.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C  soy butter substitute - for baking (I like Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 C coconut shortening
  • 1/4 tsp 5 spice powder
  • 3 generous tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
  • a few grinds of white pepper, to taste
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 lg egg
  • 1/3 C molasses
  • 2 1/3 C All Purpose flour (This recipe is easy to sub in some healthier flour, try 1/3 C white wheat or sprouted spelt)

Coating sugar:

  • 1/4 C sugar (turbinado is great)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375, line two baking sheets with parchment. If you don’t have parchment paper, do get some. It makes clean up a breeze and who likes to “grease a cookie sheet” anyway? Yuck.
  2. Bloom spices with 1/4 cup of the butter substitute in a small shallow pan.
  3. Pour fragrant, spicy melted shortening into solid shortening/butter substitute in a medium to large mixing bowl.
  4. Beat shortening with sugar, salt, baking soda.
  5. Beat in egg, then molasses.
  6. Add flour, beat to incorporate fully, into a stiff dough.
  7. Drop teaspoon size balls of cookie dough into cinnamon-sugar mix, roll to cover.
  8. Then, space onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes - (13 will produce a nice snappy snap.)
  9. Cool on pans, on racks then store in airtight container when fully cooled.

Thanksgiving Tips and To Do Items:

  • Do your last big housecleaning, put away things you won't need out, like that stack of magazines on the coffee table. Take out your platters and bowls and platters, clean. Label with sticky notes so you know what is going to go in what.
  • Pie doughs, cookies, breads can all be pulled together and baked or frozen today.
  • Make a Thanksgiving Spice Blend and mix with butter for bird.

 

Why not try these Golden Pumpkin Spice Rolls?