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Fresh Cranberry Pie with Marzipan and How to Make Pie Crust

Cranberry Pie Whole
You guys!  I made this pie because I was looking for a double crust pie so I could revisit my pie crust tutorial (a few things have changed in my go-to technique since the last one I posted), and most of my fruit pie fruits are not in season, but now I’m kind of obsessed.  Fresh cranberries!  In pie!  Why is this not a thing?  Cranberries might be the perfect pie fruit — they’re tart and juicy, but have a pretty high pectin content, so your pie filling doesn’t run all over the place.   The flavor is a lot like fresh sour cherry pie, but fresh sour cherries are only available one week of the year, in very small parts of the US, and cranberries can be gotten EVERYWHERE for at least two months when most pie fruits are out of commission.    And just LOOK at the color:

Cranberry Pie Slice

It’s great, is all I’m saying.

Now on to pie crust. I like to walk my readers through making pie crust, because I feel like so many people are like “Pie crust?  Who has the time for that!  It’s too hard!” and I want to pat your head and say, “No, it’s OK – you can do it.”  You don’t have to own a walk in freezer or live in the arctic to make your pie dough (though it is a bit tougher on a warm day.)  You don’t have to source special kinds of lard or NOT TOUCH IT OR IT WILL BE OVERWORKED.  Pie crust is pretty forgiving.  If it cracks? Patch it.  If you can’t roll it out in a perfect circle?  Nobody cares.  At the end of the day you will have pie, and people will love you.  This is the way I’ve been making my pie crusts, and it works pretty darn well.

Continue reading Fresh Cranberry Pie with Marzipan and How to Make Pie Crust

Squash Stuffed with Delicious Things

Stuffed Kabocha Squash

Part of my focus on vegetables for this year is going to involve salads and side dishes – things to add to my standard meat and potatoes fare (though in actuality, we rarely eat potatoes). But I’m also looking for main dishes in which vegetables play a starring role. Ideally I’m looking for something which won’t cause my five year old to reject it out of hand. I’ve tried to tell her that nothing mommy makes is yucky, and I don’t ever want her to say yuck, though she may politely express that this is not her favorite dish. Of course, only dessert is her favorite dish, not for any lack of trying on my part. And ham sandwiches. And since I refuse to subsist on a diet of ham sandwiches and ice cream, we are at something of an impasse. Bacon helps.

This recipe, which is adapted from Dorie Greenspan, may not pass the five year old test (until she TRIES it) but it is one of my favorites. Dorie calls it “Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good” and it really is stuffed with, if not everything good, many good things. Things like bread and cheese and bacon and cream and garlic, and just to up the vegetal quotient, I added red chard, which only added instead of detracted. Since it’s nearly impossible to find an edible pumpkin outside the months of October and November, I make it with Kabocha Squash, which I prefer to pumpkin anyway. This dish also looks better in person than it does in photographs, and tastes better than it looks (I must convince the five year old of this). (As an aside – raw vegetables are BEAUTIFUL to photograph, but the second they’re cooked they look far less appealing. C’est la vie.)  You can also omit the bacon the make it vegetarian, but please don’t leave out the cheese.
Continue reading Squash Stuffed with Delicious Things

Fennel, Apple and Pear Salad

Apple Pear Fennel Salad

I know when I promised vegetable recipes, you were not thinking “salad.” Salad is boring. Salad is easy. We’ve already thought of salad. Well, salad IS easy, but it doesn’t have to be boring. The universe of salads is huge, and if recipes for salads are more ideas than recipes, well, couldn’t we all use some more ideas?

We eat salads a lot. This one takes a little more hand work than the most rushed “open a bag of lettuce, throw on some dressing” (though those feature heavily in our rotation as well), but it’s also delicate, and appealing. The Nuni loved it, the husband loved it. It’s neither all sweet nor all savory, but a lovely both/and.
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Spiced Cocoa Buttermilk Pie

Spiced Cocoa Pie
Let me tell you a tale – a tale of four five six pies.

My family’s Thanksgiving philosophy is that you can never have too many pies. We often have 3 or 4 types of pie, which is a lot when you realize that we only have about 12 people. Last Thanksgiving, I decided to make a recipe for a spice pie I found in one of my cookbooks. The flavor was good, but the pie was too sweet and didn’t set. That was pie 1. Undaunted and not a little crazy, I remade the recipe with the rest of the pie dough I had stuck in the freezer. I upped the eggs which helped the set and replaced the milk with buttermilk. The result was a dream – a layered pie with a crust on top of an almost translucent custard, all deeply flavored with spices. I thought it was a hit. That was pie 2. (my family preferred the chocolate pie I made, which we will call pie number 3.)

Fast forward to this year, when I decided to share pie 2 with you, my lovely and deserving readers. I checked my favorite dessert cookbook, and made the buttermilk pie contained therein. It was pale, tangy with a hint of lemon. Good, but not the pie I remembered. That was pie number 4.

I looked in my journal, where I had helpfully noted not only the pie recipe I used, But also the modifications I made (like adding buttermilk.). “AHa!” I thought. And made that one. What I got was a firm, custard like pie, not unlike a good pumpkin pie. It was good, but I wanted that layered effect. This was not what I remembered. That was pie number five.
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Cornbread, Leek and Bacon Stuffing in the Crock Pot

Crockpot Cornbread Stuffing with Bacon And Leeks #Thanksgiving

If there’s one dish that I must have on Thanksgiving, it’s stuffing. I like sweet potatoes, but don’t need them. Mashed potatoes always seem a bit superfluous to me. Even turkey is negotiable. But stuffing, with its play of textures and flavors — is the heart of Thanksgiving dinner.

Last year I told you about the sacred sage stuffing that my family makes every Thanksgiving. I stand by that recipe. But if, for some reason, you need another stuffing recipe — like you’re going to two Thanksgivings, or your aunt Patricia is already making that stuffing and you need to bring a second one, or you’re having an all-stuffing Thanksgiving meal (what? It could happen!) — I came up with this one for you.

I have heard that some people prefer cornbread stuffing, so I thought I’d offer that as an alternative to the sacred stuffing. If you make it yourself, you can vary the sweetness – I took the lazy sane way out and bought some from the bakery section of the local market. Since cornbread is often on the sweet side (don’t shoot, southerners!) I thought it would be nice to balance out the sweetness with leeks (probably my favorite member of the onion family) and bacon (because, really, why not?) And then, just to get all crazy on you, I cooked it in the crock pot. Why the crock pot? Because I don’t know about you, but my oven is often full on Thanksgiving day of things that cannot be cooked in the slow cooker, like pie and the aforementioned turkey. And the slow cooker is a wonderful invention for keeping things moist, which stuffing must be (to get a crisp top, run the cooked stuffing under the broiler for a minute or two.
Continue reading Cornbread, Leek and Bacon Stuffing in the Crock Pot

Sweet Potatoes with Gorgonzola Cream and Toasted Walnuts

Sweet Potatoes with Gorgonzola Cream and Toasted Walnuts #Thanksgiving

I know that there are large factions of people in America who think a sweet potato isn’t worth eating if it doesn’t have marshmallows on top. I’ve tried to see that point of view. I like marshmallows. I have nothing against sweet things. Last year I even bought those canned sweet potatoes in syrup and baked them up, topped with marshmallows. My reaction was decidedly meh. No texture, no flavor – its like someone is trying to get kids to eat their vegetables.

For me, sweet potatoes sing when they are paired with something savory. Not maple syrup, butter. Not brown sugar, smoked paprika. Instead of the ubiquitous marshmallows, a salty sharp Gorgonzola. My signature sweet potato dish is the gratin with smoked paprika and cayenne I posted 2 years ago (an aside: where does time go?), but this one might just give it a run for its money.
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Top 25 Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Dry Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

Halloween is over, and we’ve all recovered from our sugar highs (theoretically). Now is the home stretch for home cooks – less than three weeks until Thanksgiving, and then the sprint through the December holidays into New Year, when we all collapse in a faint of exhaustion. I know you’re already planning your Thanksgiving menu, so to make it easy, I collected the The Domestic Front Thanksgiving recipes into one easy place. The best, most foolproof, most delicious, juicy, crisp-skinned roast turkey? We’ve got that. Instructions on making your own pie crust (with a bonus recipe for silky smooth, perfectly spiced pumpkin pie)? You’ll find that here. In the next few weeks I’ve got a few exciting new recipes coming up — another savory sweet potato dish, a refreshing fall salad, and new twists on old favorites like stuffing and cranberry sauce, but in the meantime, here’s the roundup of Thanksgiving recipes for your inspiration:

Turkey:
Easy, Dry-Brined Roast Turkey

You’re serving vegetarians?
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Kale and Cabbage Gratin
Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Gratin
Onion Tarte Tatin

Your favorite thing is, of course, stuffing:
Old School Sage Stuffing

What vegetable side should you make this year? (see also, cooking for vegetarians, above)
Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts with Cream
Creamed Kale
Creamed Spinach with Jalapenos
Slow Cooked Green Beans
Creamy, Spicy Sweet Potato Gratin

It’s not Thanksgiving without pie:
Maple Walnut Pie
Vegetarian Mincemeat Pie
Nesselrode Pie
Perfect Pumpkin Pie, and a tutorial on homemade pie crust
Rice Pudding Pie

You don’t like Pie:
Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake

You’re stuck with the cranberry sauce but you still want a chance to shine:
Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Oranges and Pecans

You’re on Salad Duty:
Arugula Salad with Persimmons and Gouda
Homemade Salad Dressing

You’re keeping the relatives happy (aka mixing drinks):
The Perfect Manhattan
Champagne Cocktail

Aunt Helen won’t let you set foot in the kitchen, but you still want to help:
Polishing Silver
Five Easy DIY Holiday Centerpieces

You’re panicking:
Last Minute Tips on Hosting Thanksgiving

Chicken Cobbler Pot Pie

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There are things I love, but I’m too lazy to make them often. Chicken and dumplings – a relatively simple dish — just seems exhausting to me. Cooking all that chicken! Making that soup! (Fortunately, my mom makes it relatively often, and usually invites me to share.) Then there are dishes that could be fairly straightforward to make, but that just don’t appeal to me. In this corner is chicken pot pie. I always want to like it — what’s not to like? Chicken, vegetables, gravy … but I always imagine it sitting like a lead weight in my stomach. (I think it’s the combination of pie crust and gravy. There’s a reason fruit pies are classic). During our recent spate of cold(ish) weather, I was mooning about what comfort food I’d like to make, and it hit me. A cross between Chicken and Dumplings and Chicken Pot Pie — chicken, vegetables, gravy, all topped with a savory parmesan biscuit cobbler topping. And this is the real genius part — it’s made with rotisserie chicken, so it’s EASY. I had to pat myself on the back.
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Pumpkin Pie French Toast, or the Hope of Autumn

Pumpkin Pie French Toast>

I knew, when I moved back to California from New York, that I’d be losing fall. Fall in the Northeast was my favorite season — the crisp air, the brilliant colors, the smell of rain. I was always eager to don my sweaters and pull out the soup pot. We do get a semblance of that fall in Southern California — it just arrives in November or December and lasts until February.

September this year has been especially trying. I know intellectually that September is the hottest month of the year. But the seemingly endless string of days over 90 degrees are making me yearn for autumn relief more than usual. I am tired of grilled chicken and gazpacho. I want sweaters! Brussels sprouts! Bean soups! But really, the idea of eating bean soups when it’s 103 in the shade is … off-putting.

This french toast, then, is my brave attempt to bring a little autumn to my life. The Nuni loves french toast, and while pancakes seem daunting even for a weekend breakfast, I’m always up for a quick egg soak and a fast saute. The five cans of pumpkin puree in my cupboard (we can call it what it is — aspirational pumpkin) inspired me to spice up my usual quick and easy French toast with a little fall flair. I thought that pumpkin pie filling is really just pumpkin added to eggs, cream, sugar and spices — change the proportions slightly and you have the perfect soak for french toast. After all, I may not feel like turning on the oven, but I can handle 10 minutes on the stove.
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Old School Sage Stuffing

Stuffing 2

My father didn’t just love tradition, he loved ritual. He wouldn’t just visit the same city over and over again, he would stay at the same hotel, visit the same restaurant, and order the same dishes off the menu. He was especially particular about holidays: not just turkey gravy and stuffing — GIBLET gravy and this bread stuffing. (Although he called it dressing, even though he also insisted on stuffing the turkey with it.) If we were eating Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s house, my mom always had to roast her own turkey (usually for charity) so we could make giblet gravy and bread stuffing. The man was obsessed.

Thanksgiving morning would see our family gathering around the kitchen table. My father and I would each have a cutting board and a knife — my mother would be standing at the stove, presiding over a large pan of sauteeing vegetables. Dad and I divided up the chopping duties — I took celery and onions, he cubed the loaves of white bread. The kitchen smelled of sage and onions, and we would snitch bits of stuffing — a crust of bread, a cube dipped in the oniony, celery sage butter, before it was ceremoniously added to the turkey, when the smell of poultry and sage would sneak out from the kitchen and fill the whole house.

Stuffing 1
Continue reading Old School Sage Stuffing