Monday, November 25, 2013

Easy Acorn Squash and Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Still looking for Thanksgiving side dish ideas? Here's one that won't take more than five minutes to prepare and tastes great. No peeling involved - you can eat the skin on acorn squash.

The recipe is so embarrassingly simple, it's hardly a recipe. Just wash the squash, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and cut into slices about 1/2 inch think. Smear with a little melted butter on both sides, then sprinkle each side with salt and pepper, and a mixture of equal parts bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.

Here are a few more ideas if you still are undecided about side dishes for your Thanksgiving table:

Fennel Gratinée or Roasted Fennel 

Insalata di Rinforza

Stuffed onions

Squash and Couscous casserole

And as a relief for the digestive system: Citrus salad 

 If you're looking for a primer on how to brine and cook a turkey, click here to see how I do it. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Acorn Squash with Parmesan Coating

Wash the squash, cut in half lengthwise, then remove the seeds and cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Smear with a little melted butter on both sides, then sprinkle each side with salt and pepper, and a mixture of equal parts bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Roasted and Stuffed Chicken, but No Bones About It!

Roast chicken is one of those meals that feels like a warm hug - a comfort food that reels me back to  when my kids were young and the whole family gathered 'round the table for a Sunday meal. So when my son and daughter announced they'd be home for the weekend, I immediately thought of roasting a chicken, just like old times. But my son, who's pretty facile himself around the kitchen, suggested I debone the entire chicken, then stuff it and roast it. "Jacques Pepin's got a video that shows you how," he said. 
"Well, why not," I said, so I clicked on Youtube and found the instructions. Jacques says it should take  only one minute to debone the bird, and it's mostly done with your fingers, not a knife. Well, take that with a grain of salt. He's a seasoned professional who's probably done it hundreds of times. It took me closer to 20 minutes and at least several viewings of the video before I could free all the bones from this 6 lb. chicken, without ripping any of the skin:

Check out the Pepin video below. It's called a galantine, or ballotine, and you can do it too if you're just patient and follow Jacque's instructions.

You start out by cutting into the wings and slicing the bird down the back. It gets a lot more complicated, but it's definitely doable, even for a first-timer, like me. The legs then become hollow, providing more space for stuffing. The only bones remaining are the tips of the legs. And don't throw out those bones. Use them to make a chicken stock. 

See that small white plate in the back? 

Those are the wings that become little "lollipops" for roasting or frying.

This is what the interior looks like before stuffing. "Gross," according to my daughter, and I'd have to agree. Not too appetizing. But just wait
I spread the stuffing into the legs and throughout the interior. The stuffing was made with sturdy Italian bread, sausage, chestnuts and white raisins, bound together with an egg and some chicken broth.
 You bring the two sides together and it almost looks like it just came out of the supermarket wrapper.

You truss it all together with some twine.
Season it and put it in a roasting pan (a freebie from a yard sale in upstate New York last month), strewing some onions here and there. Roast it at 350 degrees for two hours. 
The beauty is not just in the flavor, but the ease of slicing. It would make a great meal for family or a special occasion. 
The deboned, stuffed chicken (and two wing lollipops) easily serves six people, assuming you've got some side dishes. If you're not crazy about turkey, this could be a great substitute for the traditional Thanksgiving bird. If you want instructions on how to roast a chicken the old fashioned and easy way, without boning it, click here to see how I do it.
By the way, the acorn squash in the background, coated with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, would make a nice addition to your Thanksgiving table. Stay tuned to Ciao Chow Linda for the recipe in the next post.  

Printable Recipe Here
4 or 5 thick slices of sturdy Italian bread, crusts removed, and cut into bits

1/4 cup minced onions
2 T. olive oil
1 link of Italian sausage, casing removed
1/2 cup cooked chestnuts
1/4 cup white raisins
1 T. butter
1 egg
4  or 5 T. chicken stock
minced parsley
salt, pepper to taste
Sauté the onions in the olive oil and add the sausage, breaking it into bits. Cook the sausage and onions, then add the raisins to the pan, along with a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of chicken stock. Let it cool slightly. Beat an egg in a large bowl and add the bread and the cooked mixture from the pan. Add some parsley, salt and pepper and stir. It may be dry, so add more chicken stock. The stuffing should be moist, but not soaking wet. Spread the stuffing into the deboned legs and across the body of the chicken. Then take the two sides of the chicken and roll them toward the center. Truss the bird with kitchen twine and season with salt, pepper, rosemary and paprika. Smear a little olive oil on the bottom of a roasting pan, place the chicken inside and roast for two hours at 350 degrees, basting two or three times with the juices and oil that comes out from the chicken. I also placed two onions in the pan, and drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper on them. Turn the onions over when you baste the chicken.

Remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Quince Paste and Jelly

It looks something like a pear, but if you bite into it, you'll be unpleasantly surprised by a sour, hard and astringent fruit. I'm talking about quince, a fruit that is almost always cooked before eating. They're commonly found in Italy at this time of year. It's not impossible to find them in the U.S., but when you do, you're likely to pay a lot for just one single piece, making the cost of jelly or quince paste quite high. 

In Italy, they're also used to scent lingerie and linen drawers, because of the strong fragrance and durability of the fruit. On a visit to my cousin Lucia's house in the region of Emilia Romagna, she had prepared the fruit into a paste, which can be spread on bread, or enjoyed as an accompaniment to cheeses.

Here in the states, I was lucky enough recently to receive a basketful of quinces from my friend Polly, who in the past, has provided me with a jar of her delicious quince jelly. This year though, thanks to her generosity, I had enough of a stash to make it myself. It is a delicious blend of sweet and sour flavors and starts out as a pale yellow liquid, turning to a beautiful orange hue as the sugar melts and the mixture cooks and thickens.

I love it on toast with butter, but it also makes the perfect glaze on a fruit tart. Just soften it a bit in the microwave and slather over some sliced apples or pears.

In Italy, quince is frequently an ingredient in mostarda, a savory and spicy candied fruit condiment served with bollito misto (boiled meats). You can also add slices of quince to a stew, but that's a recipe for another post in the future.

Quince Paste 

Cotognata (recipe from Lucia Bersani)

printable recipe here




white wine


Slice the quinces into a bowl filled with water and the juice of one lemon to keep the quinces from discoloring while you're slicing.  After they're all cut, put the quinces in a pan, with enough white wine to cover. Boil until tender, drain, then use a blender or stick blender to puree. Weigh the mixture and put the equal amount of sugar into a pan with the puree mixture. Bring it to a boil for a little longer, then spread it in a shallow pan. When the mixture is cold, cut into desired shapes.

Quince Jelly

printable recipe here



lemons (1 lemon for each quart of quince juice)

Wash the quinces, then cut the fruit into pieces, leaving the peel on, checking for worms or other bugs. You don't have to core the fruit, but if you want to, go ahead. Put the chunks of fruit into a saucepan and cover with water. Place a lid on the pot and bring to a simmer, cooking until the fruit is soft. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the ripeness and size of the fruit.

Use a fine colander and strain the fruit and juice through it into a large bowl. Press down gently to extract as much juice as you can.

Strain the juice a second time, using cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter. This will help ensure a clear jelly.

Cover and refrigerate overnight and more of the particles may shift to the bottom.

Measure out the juice the next day and pour it into a large, clean pot.

For each quart of liquid, add the juice of one lemon and about 4 1/2 cups of sugar.

Place the pot on medium high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep cooking it and skimming any foam that rises to the surface. The color will change from yellow to a beautiful shade of pale orange. If you have a thermometer, it should reach between 215- 220 degrees.

Pour the liquid into hot sterile jars. Careful, it's really hot. Process in a hot water bath for about 10 minutes.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Breton Apple Cake

When I saw this cake on my friend Stacey's blog, I knew it was in my future. The cake alone - so moist and redolent of butter and apples - is worth making. But served with the salted caramel sauce, it becomes irresistible. That's why it's best  to wait till company comes or you'll be eating it all yourself and swiping your finger into the pot to get every last drop of the caramel sauce. (guilty as charged on that last one.)

Normally, I bake with granny smith apples, but this time I used a combination of those and honey crisp, and it was terrific.

You have to sauté the apples in butter first.

Then spread them out in a single layer in a buttered pan.

Cover with a layer of the batter, then repeat the process.

I sprinkled the whole thing with cinnamon sugar.

It will be a huge hit, especially if you drizzle that decadent caramel sauce on the side -

Or pour it all over the top into a puddle of goodness.

 Gateau Breton aux Pommes avec Beurre Salé (adapted from Bon Appetit):

As found on Stacey Snacks' blog

Printable Recipe here

For the cake:

10 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled, plus 2 tbsp for the apples

1 1/4 cups of flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp kosher salt (not regular table salt)

1 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp sugar, divided

zest of a lemon

3 eggs

4 firm apples (I mixed varieties), peeled, cored and thickly sliced

Butter and flour an 8" cake pan (I used my springform, of course).

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar and 10 tbsp. of melted butter and lemon zest.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix to form a batter.

In a heavy medium skillet, heat the 2 tbsp of butter and add in the apple slices. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar and cook for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat until the apples are juicy and caramelized. Keep stirring, so the apples don't stick.

Lay half the cooked apples on the bottom of the prepared cake pan and spoon half the batter over them. Don't worry if the batter doesn't seem to cover the apples.

Layer with the rest of the apples, then the rest of the batter. It's easiest if you have a rubber spatula to spread the batter.

I sprinkled my cake with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 35-45 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness.

Salted Caramel (beurre salé):

1/4 cup of water

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup cream

3 tbsp butter 

1/2 tsp kosher salt (not regular salt)

In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the water and sugar on medium boil until turning golden, 8-10 minutes.

You can scrape the brown bits on the sides of the pan down with a wet pastry brush.

Take the golden liquid off the heat and carefully add in the cream, it will bubble and boil, so be careful not to splatter yourself.

Place back on the stove and stir for 2 minutes.

Add in 3 tbsp butter and salt and cook another minute or two until the butter and mixture is nice and smooth.

Transfer to a heat resistant vessel, and place in the fridge to cool. You can make the caramel sauce 5 days in advance.

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