maple pumpkin pots de creme

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The last few times I’ve made pots de crème, in any flavor, I’ve concluded that crème brûlée in that flavor would be far superior. Because what’s better than a dish full of sinfully rich baked pudding? Sinfully rich baked pudding topped with caramel.

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These custards are almost like pumpkin pie without the crust, and come to think of it, while I love flaky pie crusts on summery fruit pies, I think I could do without it for pumpkin pie. I love being able to focus on just the silky custard – or being able to snap through a layer of crackly sugar to the custard.

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I have a feeling I won’t be able to get away with skipping the crust on everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dessert, but I wonder how people would feel about me torching the entire top of the pie? It’s tempting, but I suspect brûléeing is usually reserved for individual servings for good reason. Perhaps I’d better stick with whipped cream on top of pie and make individual pumpkin pots de crème when I want a crackly burnt sugar topping.

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Two years ago: Vegetarian Lasagna
Three years ago: Stuffed Sandwich Rolls

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Maple Pumpkin Pots de Crème (adapted from Gourmet via epicurious)

Serves 6

7 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup canned solid-pack pumpkin

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a 9 by 13 inch Pyrex pan with a dish towel. Arrange six 5-ounce ramekins in the pan. Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil. In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

2. In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the cream, milk, syrup, and pumpkin; bring just to a simmer over moderate heat. Add the hot pumpkin mixture to the yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup, then divide the custard among the ramekins (you may have some custard left over, depending on the size of cups).

3. Pour the boiling water into the towel-lined pan, coming about halfway up the sides of the ramekins and being careful not to splash water into the custards. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the custard just barely jiggles when shaken, a knife inserted in center of a custard comes out clean, and an instant-read thermometer registers 170 to 175 degrees from the center of a ramekin, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the custards to a rack to cool completely, then chill, covered, until cold, at least 2 hours. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream. (To brûlée the pots de creme, pat the custard dry, then top each ramekin with a light coating of demerara, turbinado, or a mixture of brown and granulated sugar. Use a kitchen torch to melt and brown the sugar.)

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cranberry sauce with port and dried figs

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Have you ever looked at the ingredients of canned jellied cranberries? They’re exactly the same as homemade cranberry sauce: cranberries, sugar, water. The first time I made homemade cranberry sauce, I eagerly took my first bite and then…huh. It tastes exactly like the canned kind. Don’t bother making cranberry sauce from scratch if it’s because you’re expecting it to taste better than it is from the can.

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But there are other reasons to make it from scratch. The first is that it’s fun. Raw cranberries are neat, pucker-inducing and hard and dry. Then when you cook them, they pop. It only takes 15 minutes and can be done up to a week in advance, so why not spend a few minutes playing with your food?

The other reason is that you can play around with flavors, personalizing the sauce. Orange is the most common addition and after doing that for several years, I was ready for more experimentation. Sweet port wine and balsamic vinegar seemed like they would complement the tart cranberries perfectly.

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Even with all of the extra flavors in this – port, balsamic vinegar, figs, rosemary, black pepper, cinnamon – it didn’t taste so different from the stuff in the can. It had a warmer tone to it, and I liked the crunch of the fig seeds. But everyone would have been just fine with the canned stuff too. And that’s okay, because the few minutes I spent making this cranberry sauce were well spent just for the fun of it.

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Two years ago: African Pineapple Peanut Stew
Three years ago: Pumpkin Goat Cheese Ravioli

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Cranberry Sauce with Port and Dried Figs (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

At first, I served this as you see it here, but for the leftovers, I put the sauce through a food mill to separate the skins, and I much prefer the smoother version.

1½ cups ruby Port
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) packed brown sugar
8 dried black Mission figs, stemmed, chopped
1 6-inch-long sprig fresh rosemary
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar

Combine the port, vinegar, brown sugar, figs, rosemary, cinnamon, and pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Discard the rosemary and cinnamon. Mix in the cranberries and granulated sugar. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is slightly reduced and the berries burst, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a bowl; chill until cold. (Cranberry sauce can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

cauliflower with mustard-lemon butter

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While you don’t want to serve plain steamed vegetables on Thanksgiving, maybe not every dish needs to be drowned in cream, you know? These cauliflower have enough flavor from spicy mustard and tart lemon to stand up to the rich foods at Thanksgiving, but they’re also light enough to serve with any weeknight chicken dish.

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It’s almost too simple to provide a recipe for, as this is nothing more than roasted cauliflower topped with mustardy, lemony butter. Fortunately, that means it’s easy. Whether you’re making this for a busy holiday or on a busy weeknight, the cauliflower can be chopped in advance and the flavorings can be mixed. That means it takes even less time to make than green bean casserole – but it tastes a lot better and has a fraction of the calories.

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Two years ago: Pumpkin Biscotti
Three years ago: Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

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Cauliflower with Mustard-Lemon Butter (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

6 servings

If you aren’t a fan of cauliflower, I don’t see any reason that this method wouldn’t work just as well with broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

1 small head of cauliflower (about 1¾ pounds), cut into 1-inch florets
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet; sprinkle with salt. Roast until the cauliflower is slightly softened, about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the lemon juice, mustard, and lemon peel.

3. Scrape the mustard-lemon butter evenly over the cauliflower; toss to evenly coat the cauliflower and roast until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer the cauliflower to a serving dish; sprinkle with parsley and serve warm.

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cheddar puffs with green onions

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Are you afraid of yeast? Or at least resistant to adding complicated rising schedules to your already-stressful Thanksgiving to-do list? Try these puffs instead of yeast bread. They take about 10 minutes to put together, and you can shape the dough and freeze it until the big day. Then you just pop them in the oven while the turkey rests.

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I admit that they don’t make the best gravy mop, but they have such great flavor on their own that you don’t really want to bury it anyway – even with this gravy. They resemble cream puffs, except instead of a sweet creamy filling, they’re full of onions bits and shredded cheese. They taste perfect with the turkey, and they fit perfectly into the turkey roasting schedule.

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Two years ago: Croissants (Martha Stewart)
Three years ago: Asian Peanut Dip

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Cheddar Puffs with Green Onions (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

Makes 24 puffs

½ cup water
2 tablespoon butter, cut into 4 pieces
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (2.7 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3 ounces grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup minced green onions

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Bring the water, butter, and salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Remove from the heat; mix in the flour. Stir over medium heat until the mixture becomes slightly shiny and pulls away from sides of the pan, about 3 minutes; transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition to form a sticky dough. Mix in the cheese and green onions.

3. Divide the dough into 24 equal portions; drop onto the baking sheet one inch apart. (Can be made ahead. Wrap in plastic, then foil. Refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.)

3. Bake the cheese puffs until golden, about 30 minutes if at room temperature and 35 minutes if chilled or frozen. Serve immediately.

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roasted root vegetable stuffing

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When I was creating my Thanksgiving menu last year, it occurred to me that most of the traditional Thanksgiving courses are based on carbs – stuffing, potatoes, rolls. The only traditional non-carb sides are the green bean casserole that nobody likes and the sugar-laden cranberries. I have nothing against carbs, and I know all about splurging for a holiday, but I actually like vegetables. Plus, if you include lower calorie food in the menu, you can eat more before filling up!

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I would go so far as to almost call this healthy, although it depends on the cornbread you use. It’s mostly vegetables – vegetables whose natural sugars are intensified through roasting. The sweet earthy root vegetables meld perfectly with similarly flavored cornbread.

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Beyond the parsnips and rutabaga, it’s a typical dressing recipe with eggs and broth binding the ingredients together before the mixture is baked until it’s crisp on top (but maybe not dry and burned like mine). The result is a dressing that’s almost too good to be topped with white wine gravy.

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Two years ago: Glazed Lemon Cookies
Three years ago: Wheatmeal Shortbread Cookies

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Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Root Vegetables (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

Serves 6

6 ounces shallots, peeled, halved if small, quartered if large
8 ounces carrots, sliced ¼-inch thick on the diagonal
8 ounces parsnips, sliced ¼-inch thick on diagonal
8 ounces rutabaga, cut into ½-inch cubes
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
2 cups ½-inch cubes of cornbread
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup low-salt chicken broth (or Golden Turkey Stock)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the shallots, carrots, parsnips, and rutabaga in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and browned around the edges. Add the garlic during last 15 minutes. Set the roasted garlic aside; transfer the other vegetables to a large bowl.

2. Spread the cornbread cubes over the now-empty baking sheet. Bake until dry, 10-15 minutes, stirring about halfway through the cooking time.

3. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray. Mince the garlic; add it to the vegetables along with the herbs and cornbread cubes. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the broth and butter; pour the egg mixture over the vegetable mixture and gently fold to combine.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Cover the pan with foil; bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned and crisp, about 15 minutes longer.

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white wine gravy

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Here’s why this gravy is so good:

First, homemade turkey stock. I know, I go overboard, and while you aren’t wrong, keep in mind that this is not a difficult step. You throw turkey wings – they’re not expensive – in the oven, caramelize vegetables in a stockpot, and then mix the two with water and leave it alone for a few hours while it simmers away. Oh, and deglaze the roasting pan the turkey wings were in. That’s where the good stuff is.

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Second, a medium-dark roux. You aren’t just cooking the raw flavor out of the flour here, you want the flour itself to contribute a nutty flavor. It loses some of its thickening power when you do this, but you didn’t want gloppy gravy anyway, did you?

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Third, wine. You might be doing this already, but if not, what the heck? Deglaze that roasting pan after your turkey roasts with wine. If you want flavor, and why wouldn’t you, water isn’t enough.

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The first time I made gravy like this, I poured it over everything on the plate, and that’s the thing about gravy – it affects the turkey, the stuffing, and the potatoes. That’s half the Thanksgiving plate, which means that gravy shouldn’t be an afterthought. This gravy was so good I ate the leftovers with a spoon. The method isn’t so different from any other gravy, so why not follow these simple tricks for such a payoff?

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One year ago: Prosciutto-Wrapped Neufchatel-Stuffed Jalapenos
Two years ago: Pumpkin Scones
Three years ago: Gratin Dauphinois (Potatoes au Gratin)

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White Wine Gravy (adapted from Emeril and Cook’s Illustrated)

4 cups Golden Turkey Stock (recipe below)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small saucepan, bring the turkey broth to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low; cover to keep warm.

2. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour just starts to smell nutty and become caramel-colored, 6-8 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer, whisking often. Turn off the heat and cover.

3. After the turkey has roasted, strain the pan juices through a fine-mesh strainer into a glass-measuring cup; skim or pour off the fat from the strained liquid. Discard the solids in the strainer.

4. Place the roasting pan on 2 stovetop burners over medium heat; add the wine and defatted pan juices to the pan, bring to a simmer, and scrape to loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

5. Add the liquids from the deglazed roasting pan to the broth mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper if necessary.

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Golden Turkey Stock (from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

Makes about 7 cups

If you’re roasting a salted or brined turkey, don’t add salt to the broth, because the gravy might end up too salty.

4½ pounds turkey wings, cut in half
1 large onion, chopped coarse
1 large carrot, chopped coarse
1 large celery stalk, chopped coarse
6 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the turkey wings in a large roasting pan; roast until deep brown, turning once, about 2 hours total.

2. Transfer the wings to a large bowl. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the turkey fat from the roasting pan into a large pot (reserve roasting pan). Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pot. Sauté over medium-high heat until the vegetables are golden, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, add 2 cups of water to the roasting pan; place the pan over 2 burners and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits. Add the liquid from the roasting pan to the pot with the sautéed vegetables. Add the turkey wings, herbs, and enough cold water to cover the wings by 1 inch.

4. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until the stock is very flavorful and reduced to 7½ to 8 cups, about 2½ hours. Strain the stock into a large bowl. Cool 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled. Can also be made and frozen 2 weeks ahead.) Spoon off the fat from the surface before using.

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salted herbed roast turkey

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I don’t like brining turkey. The first time I tried it, I disinfected a cooler, carefully monitored the ice quantity throughout the soaking period, then disinfected the cooler again after removing the turkey. The second time, I stuck the turkey and brine in a stockpot, but couldn’t quite fit the lid on the pot, plus there was no way I could fit that in my fridge, so I stuck it outside overnight and hoped it was cold enough out there to prevent my turkey from turning into bacteria food. Brining turkey sucks.

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Salting turkey isn’t a picnic, but it’s a heck of a lot more straightforward than brining. Just mix up some salt and herbs and sprinkle it inside the turkey’s cavities, over the skin, and under the skin. The salt draws moisture out of the turkey at first, where the liquid mixes with the salt and then flows back into the turkey, now with flavor. While you’re not actually adding moisture like you are with brining, you’re adding flavor and helping the turkey hold onto its natural moisture. And you don’t have to disinfect a cooler or buy a separate fridge.

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And, more importantly, this was the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. It wasn’t bloated like brined turkey can be, but it was juicy throughout. It also had crisper skin than brined birds do. You can’t argue with a method that is not only easier, but produces even better results.

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Two years ago: Buttermilk Scones
Three year ago: Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake

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Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious and from Cook’s Illustrated’s Roast Salted Turkey)

Cook’s Illustrated explains that there are two main brands of kosher salt; Morton’s is denser than Diamond. Use the larger amount of salt called for in the recipe if you’re using Diamond Crystal; if you’re using Morton’s, use only 4 tablespoons of salt.

Don’t salt a kosher or self-basting turkey (like a frozen Butterball)!  Those are already salted and will end up way too salty if you add any additional salt.

8-12 servings

Herbed Salt:
6 tablespoons coarse kosher salt (4 tablespoons if finer-grained kosher salt)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 small bay leaves, coarsely torn
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

Turkey:
1 14- to 16-pound turkey (neck, heart, and gizzard removed)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 large celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 whole lemon, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh sage
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (or more) unsalted chicken broth or Golden Turkey Stock (recipe tomorrow)

1. For the herbed salt: Combine the salt, herbs, and pepper. (Can be made 1 week ahead; cover and refrigerate.) Stir in the lemon peel just before using.

2. For the turkey: Rinse the turkey inside and out (do not pat dry). Pull any fat pads from the main cavity and the neck cavity. Rub about half of the salt mixture over the outside of the turkey. Rub half of the remaining salt mixture in the cavities. Use your fingers to loosen the skin over the breasts and thighs. Rub the last portion of herbed salt under the skin. Transfer the turkey to a large bowl or plate, cover tightly, and refrigerate at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position; heat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the turkey inside and out; pat very dry. Combine the chopped onion, celery, lemon, and herbs; divide the onion mixture between the main and neck cavities. Fold the neck skin under and secure with a skewer. Use kitchen twine to loosely tie the legs together. Place the turkey, breast-side down, on a roasting rack set in a large roasting pan. Spread the butter all over the turkey. Pour two cups of stock or broth into the bottom of the roasting pan.

4. Roast the turkey for 45 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven; lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Using wads of paper towels, turn the turkey breast-side up. Continue to roast until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 to 170 degrees, 1½ to 2 hours longer.

5. Transfer the turkey, still on the roasting rack, to a rimmed baking sheet. Tent loosely with foil and let rest 30 to 45 minutes before carving and serving.

glazed pecans

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One of the hardest parts of making a full Thanksgiving dinner for two is dealing with the ridiculous amounts of food. Probably I could have made a course or two less than what people make for a huge group, right? But that would be too easy. I have to go the other direction and make every single course I would make for a crowd.

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If family and friends were coming over, I would want casual snacks set out to munch on while people sip their wine and wait for the appetizers to cool. With only the two of us, these little pecans were supposed to hold us over between breakfast and the big eating part of the day, but instead they became irresistible little nibbles whenever the pecan bowl was in sight.

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I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed these, because pecans aren’t one of my favorite nuts. I think of them as bitter, but once they were coated in a sweet herby glaze, the nut itself seemed almost meaty. Now I know that sharing them with a crowd is actually a bad idea – because I want them all for myself.

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Two years ago: Cranberry Orange Scones
Three years ago: Chickpea and Butternut Squash Salad

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Rosemary and Thyme Candied Pecans (adapted from Seven Spoons)

Makes 8 servings

I bought demerara sugar just for this recipe and have found other uses for it, but if you don’t want to buy it, I’m sure brown sugar would work just fine.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
¾ teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme
½ teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Scant ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 pound pecan halves

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the maple syrup and the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the herbs, spices, and salt. Add the pecans to the butter mixture; stir to coat. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared pan.

3. Bake, turning occasionally, until the nuts are glazed, shiny, and deep golden, around 15 minutes.
Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

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notes on planning a thanksgiving feast

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I am a list maker. When I got it in my head to make a big turkey dinner just for me and Dave last year, I had just as much fun planning it as I did cooking it. Eating it was nice too, but that’s just the bonus.

menu

The first step, and possibly my favorite, was to look for recipes. Because I knew I’d get a traditional turkey dinner on the real holiday, I had fun choosing new recipes. I edited each one for precisely how I was going to make it, not just adapting them for my tastes, but writing the directions for the number of servings I’d be making. I knew I’d have a lot to do when it came time to cook, so I wanted to do all of my thinking in advance.

prep schedule

Once my recipes were set, I could write a schedule for myself. I noted everything that I could do in advance and figured out when I would do it. I was fortunate that I had the day off from work the day before my big dinner, so I spent that whole day doing all of my prep. I made myself a detailed schedule for that day – which I was perpetually behind on, but that was okay because there were no deadline for that day; it was just prep.

cooking schedule

Then I made a detailed schedule for the day of my dinner. I started with my dinner time and counted back from there. Basing my cooking schedule on the oven requirements helped me plan. Again, the idea here is to do all of the thinking beforehand, so that when you’re trying to greet guests, serve them drinks, and do inevitable troubleshooting, you know exactly what needs to be done. In your schedule, don’t forget to account for the time it takes transfer the food from the cooking part of the kitchen to the eating part of the kitchen. With as many courses as Thanksgiving feasts include, this is no small task.

grocery list

I find it convenient to make my grocery list for a big meal by recipe, and then put it all together (and arrange by the route I take through the store; I’m hardcore). Finally, I note which pans and serving dishes I’ll need for each recipe; again, the idea is to make all decisions before Go Time so I’m not scrambling to wash my favorite saucepan at the last minute.

dishes big

Of course, even the most careful planning can’t take into account your husband accidentally turning the oven off right as the turkey goes in. A positive attitude is an advantage too.

The attached Excel file has all of my plans in it. Feel free to use it as a template if you think it will help you plan. Over the next two weeks, I’ll blog each of the recipes I made.

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Here’s the complete menu:
Breakfast: Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Maple Sautéed Apples
Snack: Glazed Pecans
Appetizer: Phyllo Cigars with Squash, Pancetta and Rosemary
Turkey: Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs
Gravy: White Wine Gravy
Stuffing: Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Root Vegetables
Potato: Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin
Vegetable: Cauliflower with Mustard Lemon Butter
Cranberries: Cranberry Sauce with Port and Dried Figs
Bread: Cheddar Puffs with Green Onions
Dessert: Maple Pumpkin Pots de Crème

Two years ago: Pork Chops Loco Moco
Three years ago: Pumpkin Pancakes

fall collage

red pepper risotto

This was one of the first recipes I ever made from the Food Network. Back before I had cable, I’d heard of a lot of the chefs, but I hadn’t seen any of their shows myself. Once when I was traveling, the hotel had cable, and I was transfixed.

I still remember the first shows I saw. Alton Brown, making tomato sauce; Rachael Ray, making crab salad served on endive leaves; and Emeril, making bagna cauda, red pepper risotto, beef in Barolo, and chocolate chestnut mousse. As soon as I got home, I invited a group of friends over for dinner and made the entire menu from Emeril’s episode. I even wrote reviews on the site later, the only I’ve ever written.

It was the first risotto I’d ever made and is still my go-to risotto recipe. It’s actually a very standard risotto – sweat onions, toast Arborio, evaporate wine, gradually add broth, stir in parmesan. I’ve tried other methods, but this one is my favorite. It’s perfectly adaptable too – I’ve added peas and leafy greens, but I still think the peppers are the best addition, especially if the risotto is being used to soak up delicious beef in Barolo juices.

One year ago: Steak au Poivre
Two years ago: Sausage Apple Hash

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Risotto with Sweet Peppers (adapted slightly from Emeril)

6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ medium red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1½ medium yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ cups arborio or carnaroli rice
½ cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh cracked white pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through but still slightly crunchy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3. In a large heavy saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until opaque, 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring until the rice nearly completely absorbs all the liquid, about 1 minute.

4. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the thyme. Add 1½ cups of the hot stock, and cook, stirring frequently. Cook the risotto, adding more stock 1 cup at a time as it is absorbed, about 20 minutes total cooking time. Stir in the green onions and cooked bell peppers after 15 minutes cooking time. Season the risotto with 1 teaspoon of salt and white pepper. The rice should be slightly al dente.

5. Remove from the heat. Discard the thyme sprigs. Add the cheese, and stir well to mix. Adjust the seasoning, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.