MVK’s Recipes for Autumn

sabattical
After much thought in the past few months about where my food writing is going and what I would like to do with it in the future, I’ve decided to take a pause from writing for a few months. At first I thought I only had an either/or, just two decisions, either keep writing or stop completely. But on a long walk last week I realized I can make my own rules and stop writing temporarily. Five years are a very long time to keep my creative juices flowing week after week and I’ve started to feel like I’ve been uncreative in both my cooking and writing. I know whenever I start to feel this way about anything, I know I need to take a step back and reassess.  

That said, I’ll miss writing about my favorite season and holiday, but I have collected some of my favorite autumn recipes to get you through the next few months, plus tips for Thanksgiving Day! And on Sunday, I will be toasting my favorite city in the world with a Perfect Manhattan.

May your autumn be happy, peaceful, and full of the bounty of this glorious season!

Love,
Chris

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Soups and Stews
Check out the farmer’s market and pick up some vegetables for my Late Summer Vegetable Soup.
Whenever I need some comfort, I make a pot of my Hungarian Mushroom Soup.
A delicious vegan meal, Autumn Red Curry Stew.

Main Dishes
This is one of my favorite chicken recipes, Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits.
And another favorite chicken recipe, Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives.
This recipe for macaroni and cheese is healthy and one pan!

Side Dishes
Although I love summer cooking, I admit I’m excited about root vegetables. Here are some of my favorite roasted roots recipes.
Fall means apples. Make some homemade applesauce!
I make this recipe for Roasted Delicata Squash all winter long!
Instead of the usual lettuce for salads, try my recipe for Autumn Kale Salad instead.

Sweets
My mom’s recipe for pumpkin bread.
Make these popular miniature Halloween cookies!
My go-to gingerbread recipe, courtesy of Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR’s “The Splendid Table.”

Since I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for years, I’ve collected several tips each year to make the day a bit easier. And here are two recipes for the best rolls in the world that I’ve made for the holiday!
Astor House Rolls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

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Flaky Dinner Rolls Plus MVK’s Tips for T Day!

Free-Vintage-Thanksgiving-Clip-Art-GraphicsFairy-669x1024I thought I would pop in a day early this week with one last recipe and tips for those readers who are cooking for Thursday’s holiday! I can’t believe I’m looking at yet another turkey and talking about the biggest cooking day (for some) of the year! I finally settled on my menu over the weekend and now it’s full steam ahead until Thursday afternoon!

Thanksgiving is always my cooking and hosting holiday and I love it. There is no pressure of getting the Christmas tree up, making sure all the presents are bought, it’s just me, some paper, and an infinite amount of recipes that can be made. I tend to go the traditional route, but with a couple of tweaks here and there every year. For the past few years I’ve made Astor House rolls for the meal, which are wonderful, but this year I decided to pull out this ten-year-old recipe that is foolproof plus delicious. If you have any left over, they’re great to stick in the freezer and pull one out for your lunchtime soup. Or, what I envision to be my case, make another batch next weekend!

I’ll admit, these are a bit on the fussy side; rolling out, putting in the freezer a couple of times, and one last final rise. But if you’re in the kitchen, you’re already working, so it’s just a matter of setting the timer. And these are more than worth the effort. I didn’t bother using the cookie sheet, but I did pull out the measuring tape to make sure I was near the right size. These are sort of like a croissant, where you work butter into the dough layers. And they may be the best thing in the world right out of the oven. I had to test one to make sure they were suitable for guests (wink), but I really wanted to eat the whole pan, they’re that good!

Whether you are cooking or are the guest, here’s to a wonderful holiday on Thursday! I will raise my glass to my ever faithful and supportive readers for a happy holiday and for a meal (wherever in the world you live!) filled with delicious food!

Happy cooking! And happy eating!

flaky dinner rlls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

This recipe first appeared in the November 2005 issue of Cooking Light magazine.
Makes 12 rolls

3 tablespoons sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)
3 cups all-purpose flour (about 13 1/2 ounces), divided
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
Cooking spray

1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 3/4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth (about 5 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky). Cover dough with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes.

2. Roll dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured baking sheet. Gently spread butter over dough. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

3. Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet (sprinkle on a little more flour, if needed), into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

4. Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet, into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Beginning with a long side, roll up dough jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Cut roll into 12 equal slices. Place slices, cut sides up, in muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat tops of dough slices with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

5. Preheat oven to 375°.

6. Bake dough at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan, and cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Serve rolls warm.

tday2MVK’s Tips for T Day!
As has been my past custom, I’m going to give you some of my tips for making your holiday cooking relatively stress-free and fun. Some of these tips may seem elementary, although to me they make the actual battle of getting everything ready all at once a little easier. Some of these tips are mine and some are other cook’s tips I’ve collected through the years that work for me. Whether you’re cooking Thanksgiving for ten or having a dinner party at another time of the year, I find these tips helpful to have in your back pocket.

  • The most important piece of paper in the kitchen for me is my timeline. I take my menu, figure out what time we are going to eat, and work backwards from there. So I have everything down to the time, “10 a.m., turkey in the oven; at 12:45 see if it’s almost done and start the potatoes” etc. This allows me to move quickly around the kitchen and for everything to (hopefully) be done pretty much at the same time (some day this will happen!). This method also is good for any meal you’re cooking while entertaining, as I have a habit of forgetting things once the door opens and the guests arrive!
  • Since almost all of us have one oven, prime real estate in the kitchen is small. At the suggestion of “America’s Test Kitchen,” I pull out my crock pot for an additional burner! Set to low and you can warm squash or potatoes and free up an extra burner.
  • If possible, prepare some items the day before or even two or three days before. Squash can be made today or Wednesday, make and bake your pies late Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, that way you’re not trying to jockey for space in the oven with your turkey.
  • Make sure your knives are sharp! I made this tip the year after it was discovered my knives were dull when my father was carving the turkey. (He has since given me a hand-held knife sharpener.) If you don’t have one, find a kitchen shop that does sharpening and take them in if you have time. This will make carving the turkey all that much easier–and everything else for months to come!
  • On Wednesday evening, take out all your serving bowls and utensils and assign dishes to each one. This saves a lot on the “what bowl is the stuffing going into?” when you start serving and avoids a Thursday morning surprise when you’re laying out the table. I put the assignments on scraps of paper and place them inside each bowl or plate, which I find helps my memory immensely the next day. Make sure all china, glasses, and linens are cleaned, ironed, and ready to go so all you have to do Thursday morning is set the table.
  • Serve a small relish plate as an appetizer. So many times I’ve made a couple of appetizers, only for my guests to get full before the meal. How about some carrots and celery sticks, a bowl of black olives, and cornichons? Just a little something light to tide everyone over before dinner. Sliced fennel with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper is another tasty treat. Serve with toothpicks
  • Instead of putting all the dishes on the table, finding room among the arms and elbows, I set up the kitchen table as a buffet, so people can fill their plates and return to an uncluttered table. While it doesn’t paint the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving feast, I find this to be a much nicer way to eat so you aren’t surrounded by people plus having to pass dishes!

Happy Thanksgiving!

tday2How has your week been so far? Did you cook over the weekend? Have you cleaned out the fridge so there is room for the turkey? Are your linens pressed? Do you have your time-table ready for the big day or are you one of the lucky ones and eating at someone else’s home?

Despite the fact they are predicting snow for the big day, I am forging ahead with the biggest culinary day of the year and not listening to the forecast! I am a little bit behind the 8 ball this year and next week I’ll tell you why! I made my favorite Astor House Rolls over the weekend, but I still have squash to roast, creamed onions to make (I’m probably the last person on earth who likes these, but I had a craving for them this year), and I still need to make a pie! No rest for the weary cook! But in the meantime, I raise my glass to my ever faithful and supportive readers for a happy holiday and for a meal filled with delicious food!

Happy Thanksgiving!

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving Day Culinary Crisis Averted!
endors2I enjoyed listening to a recent “America’s Test Kitchen Radio” podcast, where Christopher Kimball chatted with an expert from Butterball’s Turkey Talkline and some of the questions they have received through the years. So don’t worry if you have questions about your turkey on Thursday, they will be available to answer them for you! Just call 1-800-Butterball! Or a local chef who has her own cooking shop has her own Thanksgiving hotline and will be accepting calls from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday! You can call Chef Contos at 802-318-7328.

Recipe Redux: Astor House Rolls

I first brought you this recipe two years ago around this time and since then they have become an early winter staple in our house. If you aren’t afraid of yeast and want to make rolls for your Thanksgiving meal, these are the ones to make! Warmed with some good butter, they are to die for. I like all rolls, but those made with milk add a bit of richness to them. Light and airy, I have made these several times and have never had any problems with them—a foolproof recipe! You can make them this weekend and pop them in the freezer; take them out Thursday morning and they will be thawed by dinner time!

astoruseAstor House Rolls
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser, p. 652

1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
About 6 cups all-purpose flour, or more as needed
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups whole milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cold unsalted butter

1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand until foamy. Put 5 cups of flour in a large bowl (you can use a mixer with a dough hook if you want) and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, salt, sugar, softened butter, and milk and stir, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. Then stir and beat the mixture until a ball of dough has formed. Pour the dough and any remaining flour onto a work surface and gradually knead in the remaining 1 cup flour.

2. Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover, and let rise until light and fluffy and almost doubled.

3. Punch down the dough and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes–you should need very little, if any, extra flour for this step. Return to the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size.

4. Punch down the dough and divide into 22 pieces. Shape each piece into a tight round (see ** at end), keep the other pieces covered with plastic wrap while you work. Beginning with the first round, flatten each roll, seam side up, to 1/2-inch thick. Place 1 teaspoon butter in the center, lift one edge of the dough, and pull it up and over the butter, forming a turnover-shaped roll, and pinch the ends firmly closed to seal in the butter. Arranged rolls 3 inches apart on nonstick baking sheets (or baking sheets covered with parchment). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

6. Bake until the rolls are puffed, golden, and cooked through, about 16 minutes. Cool on baking racks.

Makes 22 rolls.

Originally published in the New York Times, October 27, 1878: “Useful Hints for Housekeepers.” Recipe signed Lillie.

** To shape rolls, follow the instructions of Nancy Silverton in her book Breads from the La Brea Bakery: “Shape the dough into balls by cupping your hand lightly around the dough and rounding it against the friction of the work surface to form a smooth bun. Begin slowly and increase speed as the ball becomes tighter and smoother. Use as little flour as possible to prevent sticking.”

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving all in one place!
I know I extol the ingenuity of The New York Times probably a little too much, but when it comes to holidays, it is one of my first stops! So if your Thanksgiving meal isn’t completely planned, take a look at their website, where you can find everything from the turkey to the desserts and everything in between. Tips on how to roast a turkey, make a pie crust, how to make gravy, plus tips for a vegetarian meal. You name it, they have you covered!

I’m not completely set on my menu, so I know I’m going to spend a lot of time here this week! You can find this great resource here.

Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti

As someone who has cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd for several years now, I find one of the hardest things to make for the meal is mashed potatoes. I don’t have a microwave, so if I make them in advance they are difficult to reheat, but then I don’t want to make them at the time I’m head over heels fixing the turkey and gravy either. So when I suggested to the Eater of the House the idea of a different kind of potato dish that I could make in advance and reheat easily, I was greeted with silence. “Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes?” I heard a few minutes later. I got it. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes!

But, if I were making a potato side for the meal, this would be it. I tried it out with a roast chicken supper one Sunday night and it was so delicious. Crispy potatoes and leeks, my favorite, with a hint of smoky meat and fresh sage. I substituted three slices of bacon for the pancetta and it was delicious. It would also make for a tasty weeknight main dish with a side salad. So for those of you looking for a different kind of potato side for your Thanksgiving meal, try this! And you can make it ahead! Cool on a wire rack, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in an ovenproof skillet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until it is recrisped. And just leave out the pancetta for the vegetarian version!

rosti
Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

4 1/2 cups shredded peeled baking potato (about 2 pounds)
3 ounces diced pancetta (such as Boar’s Head)
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place shredded potato on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; squeeze cheesecloth to extract excess moisture. Place potato in a bowl.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Stir in leek; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add pancetta mixture, flour, sage, salt, pepper, and egg to potato; stir well to combine.

3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add potato mixture to pan; flatten with a spatula into an even layer. Cook 12 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Place a large plate upside down on top of pan; invert onto plate. Carefully slide potato cake into pan, browned side up; cook 10 minutes or until golden brown. Place potato cake on a cutting board; cool slightly. Cut into 8 wedges.

chefMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: “Chef”
Enough about Thanksgiving! If you are looking for a feel-good movie that is a love story to food, check out “Chef.” It’s just out on DVD. I had been wanting to see this movie all summer when it was in the theater, but there was never a right time. So a lazy November Sunday afternoon it was! A well-known chef quits his comfortable job in a restaurant where his creativity is hindered and decides to open his own food truck where he lets his creativity shine. It’s one of those movies that makes you feel good, which seem to be few and far between these days. It has a happy ending, a bit unrealistic, but I walked away inspired, wanting to get in the kitchen and start cooking! And you’ll also think about making and eating a grilled cheese sandwich. Trust me!

 

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup and a Thanksgiving Message

kid_chef_with_pumpkin_pie_vintage_thanksgiving_poster-r0680bf4b15d7402e8db5298cc823fe82_it3rd_8byvr_324If you have leftover sweet potatoes from Thanksgiving, here is a soup recipe that is perfect! I made it a couple of weeks ago and it made for a nice, warm, and comforting lunch! I don’t have a microwave, so for Step 1, I just popped the potatoes in the oven the night before when I was cooking something else. Once they are cooked, this is a 30-minute meal at the most.

You can make this vegetarian or even vegan, by substituting vegetable broth, water, or a combination and leaving out the bacon and/or cheese. Bacon doesn’t last very long in my house, so if you run out, it’s still delicious without.

DSCN0764Creamy Sweet Potato Soup
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine. 

2 pounds sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 2 large)
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)

Preparation

1. Place potatoes, cut sides down, in an 11 x 7-inch microwave-safe baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Cool slightly; discard potato skins.

2. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 1 minute or until translucent. Stir in cumin and red pepper. Add stock to pan; bring to a boil. Place half of sweet potato and half of stock mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters); blend until smooth. Pour pureed soup into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining sweet potato and stock mixture. Stir in salt. Divide soup evenly among 6 bowls; sprinkle cooked bacon and Parmesan cheese evenly over top. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

* * * * * *

vintage_wishing_you_a_happy_thanksgiving_stickers-r5a3b87894bf04f3f87d534709d87f905_v9wth_8byvr_512

Thank you to all my dedicated readers and supporters! A heartfelt greeting to one and all for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Happy Cooking (and eating)!

Tips for the Big Day + Week Night Dinner Series: Chicken (or Tofu) Stirfry with Spicy Peanut Sauce

imagesI can’t believe another year has passed and I’m talking about Thanksgiving again! Wasn’t it just a month or so ago I was making black-eyed peas for good luck for the coming year? (Which, by the way, has been pretty good, so I’m going to continue the tradition!).

We are coming upon the biggest cooking day of the year (and since the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving Day this year, this makes it doubly so!), and as has been my custom, I’m going to give you my tips for making it relatively stress-free and fun. Some of these tips may seem elementary, although to me they make the actual battle of getting everything ready all at once easier. Some of these tips are mine and some are other cook’s tips I’ve collected through the years that work for me. Whether you’re cooking Thanksgiving for ten or having a dinner party at another time of the year, I find these tips are good to have in your back pocket.

My Vermont Kitchen’s Thanksgiving Cooking Tips
• This goes without saying, but prepare some items the day before or even two or three days before. Make this weekend your friend; rolls can be made and frozen until Thursday morning. Squash can be made Monday or Tuesday, make and bake your pies late Wednesday evening, that way you’re not trying to jockey for space in the oven with your turkey the next day.

• Make sure your knives are sharp! I made this tip last year when my dad found my knives were less than sharp when he was carving the turkey. (He has since given me a hand-held knife sharpener.) If you don’t have one, find a kitchen shop that does sharpening and take them in this weekend. This will make carving the turkey all that much easier–and everything else for months to come!

• On Wednesday, take out all serving bowls and utensils and assign dishes to each one. This saves a lot on the “what bowl is the stuffing going into?” questions when you have some ravenous people hovering at your elbow in the kitchen. I put the assignments on scraps of paper and place them inside each bowl or plate, which I find helps my memory immensely the next day. Make sure all china, glasses, and linens also are cleaned and ready to go, so all I have to do Thursday morning is set the table. If necessary, do the wash this weekend so it’s not a last-minute chore during the week.

• For me, the most important piece of paper in the kitchen will be my timeline. I take my menu, figured out how long the turkey was going to cook and what I have to do when it comes out of the oven. So I have everything down to the time, “10 a.m., turkey in the oven; at 12:45 see if it’s almost done and start the potatoes” etc. This allows me to easily whisk around the kitchen and for everything to be done pretty much at the same time (fingers crossed!). This method also is good for any meal you’re cooking while entertaining, as I have a habit of forgetting things once the door opens and the guests arrive!

• Since almost all of us have one oven, prime real estate in the kitchen is small. Last year, at the suggestion of “America’s Test Kitchen,” I pulled out my crock pot for an additional burner! Set to low, it warmed my squash wonderfully and freed up an extra burner.

• A small, old-fashioned relish plate as an appetizer. So many times I’ve made a couple of appetizers, which fill up your guests before the meal. How about some carrots and celery sticks, a bowl of black olives, and cornchicons? Just a little something light to tide everyone over before dinner. Sliced fennel with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper is another tasty treat. Serve with toothpicks

• Instead of putting all the dishes on the table, finding room among the arms and elbows, I set up the kitchen table as a buffet, so people can fill their plates and return to an uncluttered table. While it doesn’t paint the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving feast, I find this to be a much nicer way to eat, so you aren’t surrounded by people plus dishes!

• If you want some additional quick recipes, check out Mark Bittman’s fantastic “101 Tips for the Big Day” from the New York Times. This is well worth reading and printing out; I always refer to it this time of year; Bittman is the king of quick tips and simplicity and is always so helpful.

DSCN0728

Week Night Dinner Series #5: Chicken (or Tofu) Stir Fry with Spicy Peanut Sauce
You can serve this over rice or another grain, but I like the simpleness of just veggies and meat.

I know I’ve mentioned before, but Monday dinners have to be pronto, with a capital P; I get home from the gym long after 7 p.m. and I’m famished. So dinner has to be made quickly or I may find myself stopping at the grocery store before I leave town for something unhealthy to eat. Stir fry is my go-to meal, but lately I’ve getting bored with my usual hoisen sauce mixture. This is my latest creation, a delicious spicy, peanutty sauce that makes you want to lick the plate and go back for seconds!

If you chop your chicken the night before, one step is already done. I chop the veggies when I get home, everything tossed into a hot skillet, and the sauce whisked together while everything is cooking. In actuality, everything can be prepped ahead of time, making this an even quicker meal!

Veggies are whatever are in the vegetable bin, but my favorite combination these days are red peppers, zucchini, onions, broccoli (can this possibly be becoming a favorite vegetable?), and carrots. A small chicken breast or some tofu are what I use as protein. I don’t measure, but I’d say the ratio is 3:1, veggies to protein.

Instructions

1. Warm a couple of teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the vegetables and cook until barely done. Remove from heat and put the mixture in a large bowl.

2. Return the skillet to the stove, add a little bit more oil, and add your chicken or tofu and cook until done. While this is cooking, mix up the peanut sauce.

3. When the chicken or tofu is done cooking, mix in the vegetables. Add the peanut sauce, make sure everything is covered evenly, and serve!

Spicy Peanut Sauce
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2-3 Tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or tamari)
1 generous teaspoon sambal oelek (or less if you like things less spicy)

In a small bowl, add the peanut butter and hot water. Whisk together until it make a thin paste (the amount of water you add will depend on the oilness of your peanut butter). Whisk in the soy sauce and sambal oelek. Taste test to make sure all the flavors meld well together and adjust accordingly.

Cook’s Note: Sambal oelek is a garlicky chili sauce you can find in the supermarket in the ethnic foods section. But if you can’t find it, you can substitute red chili pepper flakes; start with 1/2 teaspoon and work your way up to the desired heat.