Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Superbowl Yum Yums: Pulled Pork Tacos with Spicy Slaw and Sweet Crema Sauce

If you're looking for a tasty treat for the upcoming Superbowl, this is a fantastic dish to serve at your party. Prep time takes a bit of time but it's not at all difficult. And putting the tacos together at the end is extremely simple. In fact, I like to put out all the elements and let everyone build their own tacos.

Growing up in SoCal I was spoiled with legit, authentic delicious tacos. My favorite -- al pastor -- are practically impossible to find outside of Cali or the Southwest. So, I'm left to recreate my own. I had a version of tacos recently at a local restaurant that were outstanding, and did a nice spin on it: smoked pork in corn tortillas with a cabbage slaw and a sweet crema sauce on top. I loved it. This is my version, using pork that we started on the smoker and finished in the oven. My slaw is a combination of green cabbage with crisp tart green apple, finished with smoky hot sauce and bright apple cider vinegar. My sweet crema is simply sour cream, honey, and lemon juice. I love a good sprinkling of cotija cheese right on top too. Some fresh cilantro never hurt nobody either. Enjoy it!

Go Hawks!

Pulled Pork Tacos
1 (3-4 lb) pork shoulder -- boneless or bone in is fine*
1 recipe BBQ rub and BBQ braise liquid -- recipe found here
1 head of green cabbage
1 large green apple
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp hot sauce
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp oil (neutral is my preference, like safflower but you can use a less fruity olive oil)
1/3 cup sour cream
1-2 Tbsp good honey
juice of 1/2 lemon
corn tortillas
grated cotija cheese
hot sauce for serving (optional)
more fresh cilantro for serving (optional)
lime wedges for garnish (optional)

Check out the link above to get the BBQ rub I like to make. If you have a rub you love, go ahead and use that.

Take the pork and set out on the counter to come to room temperature. Take the rub and rub the entire meat all over -- including up and under crevices -- in a thick layer. Let it stand at room temperature with the rub on for an hour while you prepare your smoker or preheat your oven.

If you're going to smoke it like we did, preheat your smoker and prepare your chips. Begin smoking the pork as usual. We smoked our pork for about 3 hours and then finished cooking it in the oven with the braising liquid. Conversely, you can do the pork entirely in the oven without smoking it also; simply sub out the beef chuck in this recipe with the pork and cook until fork tender. If you're really in a pinch, you can buy store-bought. Whole Foods makes a decent pulled pork.

Either way, the end result is you want fork-tender pork that you can then "pull" apart with two forks so you have a heap of shredded delicious meat. Set aside.

For the cabbage slaw, cut cabbage in half, then in quarters. Cut out the core and discard. Thinly slice the cabbage into thin strips and place in a large mixing bowl. Take the apple, core it, cut it in half, and cut into thin match-stick strips. Add to the cabbage. Add the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to your taste, add hot sauce and the vinegar right on top, and toss to combine. Add more or less of the hot sauce (or type) to suit your spice level. Once everything has been evenly coated, cover and let stand at least an hour for the cabbage to wilt a little. You can even make the cabbage a few hours or even a day in advance; just keep covered in the fridge and toss it once or twice.

To make the sweet crema, simply whisk together the sour cream, honey, and lemon juice together. Add the honey 1 tablespoon first and taste, adding more if needed. Some honeys are sweeter than others, so adjust to your taste. This can be made up to a day in advance and kept in the fridge covered until ready to use.

To heat the tortillas: place the tortillas in a pile and wrap with a kitchen towel. Microwave for 1 minute. Keep in the towel to keep fresh and warm.

To serve up the tacos, simply take a tortilla and fill it with some pulled pork. Add some slaw, crema, then top with cheese and more cilantro if desired. Add hot sauce and fresh squeeze of lime if you like.

For a party like Superbowl especially I like serving these buffet style, so I'll put out a big aluminum tray of the pulled pork (this way I can keep it warm in the tray easily), the tortillas wrapped in the kitchen towel to stay warm and pliable, and all of the condiments out for everyone to help themselves.

*Bone in is going to taste better but take longer. Make sure you allot the right cooking time depending on which you end up working with.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Almonds and Sriracha

Yes, that just happened...

If you love Brussels sprouts, you need to try this.

If you love sriracha, you  need to try this.

My friend Dawn made some homemade sriracha sauce and had a ton left over. She was kind enough to give me some of the red goodness and I was super excited to work with it. I...in case you didn't know...am a huge fan of sriracha. Huge. Like, intervention-level fan of sriracha. I literally put it on everything from Asian noodles to pizza to scrambled eggs. So when I got some homemade version, I was beyond excited to work with it.

The idea for this dish came to me when I was staring at the bag of Brussels sprouts in my fridge, the mason jar of sriracha next to them. Boom! It hit me right there. The flavors in my opinion, between earthy nutty sprouts together with spicy with underlying sweetness that is the goodness known as sriracha is effing AMAZING. I prepped this dish super on the low-cal side and super simply: tossed the sprouts which I halved in a little bit of olive oil (just enough to lightly coat), seasoned simply with salt and pepper and roasted off. Then when about done, took out of the oven and to tossed the sprouts in a ginger-garlic puree. The ginger gave brightness and the garlic a classic savory base. Then, topped with some slivered almonds for crunch. Back in the oven it goes for another 5 minutes on lower temp to toast the almonds. Finally when ready to serve, a generous drizzle of homemade sriracha!

Dawn got the recipe for sriracha from Nom Nom Paleo. She details an excellent blog post with pictures on the process, and the ingredients are super simple and easy to find. As much as I love sriracha, I agree....I did turn a blind eye to all of the preservatives and unpronounceable "stuff" making up part of my most cherished of condiments. But now! Now with this super easy recipe, I can make my own guilt-free and PALEO sriracha! And the heavens split and the light shined forth and the choirs of angels sang, "Hail to the paleo srircha! Hail! Go forth and multiply the red fiery goodness."

And so I shall.

So if you make your own sriracha or use the classic, this recipe is a must-try for you. So good....so delicious....so healthy and guilt free. So...."aaaaaah!!!" My recipe for the sprouts with sriracha here is good for a side dish portion for 4 people. You can easily expand it to suit a larger crowd. Just taste and adjust proportions of ingredients accordingly.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Almonds and Sriracha
1 lb brussels sprouts, cleaned and ends trimmed
1 Tbsp spoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled but left whole (i.e. not smashed)
fresh ginger knob, peeled
2 Tbsp slivered almonds (raw, unsalted)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sriracha (recipe link follows)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Take the sprouts and cut each in half; in quarters if you have particularly large ones. You want them bite-sized and all about the same size to ensure even cooking. Place in a bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Make sure they're coated well. Layer out on a baking sheet and roast in oven, turning once, abut 15 minutes depending on your oven's strength. I like tender sprouts but still a good bite to them; and I like some caramelization on them.
Take the sprouts out of the oven and reduce oven temp to 350.
While the sprouts are cooking you can prepare your ginger-garlic puree. Simply take the garlic clove and grate it using a microplane. Do the same with the ginger. You want about net 1 tsp each of grated garlic and grated ginger. Do not use jarred garlic or ginger for this -- the taste will be inferior. You really want to use fresh ingredients.
When the sprouts are tender and have some good caramelization on them, take them out of the oven and place them back into the bowl you used with the olive oil. Now add the garlic and ginger puree on top and use a spoon to toss the roasted sprouts in the garlic and ginger. Turn out the sprouts back on the baking sheet (same one; no need to use a fresh one) and sprinkle with the almonds right on top. Return back to oven and cook another 5 minutes. Remember -- you're cooking them now at 350 (not 400) so as not to burn the garlic, ginger, and almonds!
When ready remove and drizzle with sriracha to your taste. Enjoy.

Recipe to make your own paleo-friendly sriracha sauce can be found here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cannoli: The Filling and Tips For A Perfect Cannoli

I've been pretty MIA on the food blog scene. Between Holiday Hell and the sickness that would not leave our entire house for weeks, things are finally beginning to get back to normal around here and so does follow food and blogging.

I item I wanted to blog quickly that I think is a great dessert to have (without or without shell) is cannoli. Cannoli are a cinnamon-flavored dough that's rolled thin and shaped into a tube then fried until crispy. It's then stuffed with a ricotta-based cream filling usually mixed in with mini-chocolate chips. The shells can be served plain or dipped in chocolate and served as is, coated in sprinkles, or even finely chopped pistachios. The whole thing is then dusted in festive powdered sugar. Cannolis are a traditional dessert in Italy, particularly in Sicily, and were brought over to America with the Italian immigrants at the turn of the century. And thank God they did, because I love cannoli!

The Hubsters is 1/2 Sicilian, and cannoli were a staple at the holiday table growing up. I've been trying to figure out how to make them for years, and finally figured out the perfect filling. It's very easy and doesn't require a lot of ingredients to make it great, but rather one simple but essential technique: draining the ricotta.

Many years I got the flavor combination for the filling correct but the texture was off -- too watery or too thick. Finally I figured out the secret is to drain the ricotta overnight on a paper towel or two in the fridge. This takes out just enough moisture to make it thick and creamy, but leaves enough so it doesn't get dry and crumbly. I was shocked to see many cannoli recipes don't mention draining the ricotta. Maybe it's a known fact, but I didn't know this and it makes all the difference in the world.

Second, I flavor my ricotta with some freshly zest orange. It brightens the entire mixture instantly as well as giving a very lovely scent and color. I use mini chocolate chips because my husband asks for it; you can use larger sizes if you like or omit them completely. I also flavor my cannoli with a dash of vanilla -- again, gives a lovely scent as well as rounding out the perfect flavor. I use vanilla powder instead of extract for this dish because it adds vanilla flavor without added moisture. Too much moisture and you'll get a runny cannoli filling!

The recipe here is for the filling. I use store-bought cannoli shells because it's easier. One day I'll buy the equipment and make the shells from scratch. But you can certainly use store-bought. This recipe makes enough to fill 6 large cannoli shells.

1 (15 oz) container whole-milk ricotta cheese (don't use skim or fat free for this!)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 Tbsp vanilla extract)
1 Tbsp freshly grated orange zest
1-2 Tbsp mini-chocolate chips (depends on how much you like mixed in for texture)
6 store-bought cannoli shells (optional)

Line a bowl with two sheets of paper towels. Scoop out the ricotta right onto the towels and lightly cover with another paper towel on top. Place in fridge and let stand at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Change the paper towels at least once halfway through. You'll see the towels will get quite soaked through; this is the key to a good cannoli filling. You can do this ahead of time.

When you're ready to make the filling, place the drained ricotta in a large mixing bowl. Beat with handheld mixer fitted with paddle attachments on medium speed to help smooth out. Beat for a minute or two. Turn the speed on the lowest setting, and begin adding the powdered sugar slowly. Mix the sugar into the ricotta, then when fully incorporated, add some more sugar until you use everything up. Add the orange zest and vanilla, and continue to beat the mixture until ingredients are very well combined. You should have a pretty smooth consistency. Give it a taste and add more sugar if you want it sweeter. Cannoli filling should be sweet but not saccharine.

Note: If you found you drained your cheese too long and the mixture is a bit too stiff and not really creamy, you can add a splash of cold heavy cream or half n half and continue to beat until incorporated This should thin out the mixture to a proper consistency.

Fold in the chocolate chips using a spatula.

Your filling is now ready.

For easy piping, take a gallon sized plastic storage bag with Ziploc and transfer the ricotta mixture to the bag. At this point, if you want to fill your cannoli later you can just pop the bag in the fridge until you're ready to fill. When ready to fill, take one bottom corner of the bag and cut off the edge of the corner creating a pastry bag. Take a shell and begin to squeeze the mixture into the shell on one end. Turn and fill in the other end. Repeat with remaining shells.

When shells have been filled place on platter and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Note: Cannoli are best when you have the crunchy shell and smooth filling. They're best if eaten right after filling, or within an hour or two. The more time they sit, the soggier they'll get.

Gingerbread Men: The Recipe

Soooooo behind on blogging....

Ok, so these aren't our traditional cookies for the holidays (we go super FOB for our treats every year!) but the occasion arose where I needed to make cookies for kids to decorate. Sugar and gingerbread men were requested. I got a good recipe for sugar cookies, but was lost with the gingerbread one. After must research and inquiries, I got frustrated and made up my own. My version has the right color, the spice is there without being overly spicy so even the picky eaters will eat them, and are still cookie-ish (they won't get as hard as cardboard two minutes later). Also, I feel like mine are a bit more authentic....

I love going back into history to see how they did it before all of our fancy pants equipment, easy shortcuts, and other crappy ingredients. I did the same here and added two majorly different ingredients than what we generally using frequently modern times: crystalized ginger and grains of paradise.

Crystalized ginger is pieces of real ginger that have been cured in sugar and dried -- the flavor is super concentrated like real ginger, so you preserve that punch of spicy ginger flavor that the powdered version simply lacks. You don't need a lot of it -- one cube is usually enough to flavor an entire dish or batch of dough -- and it will keep literally forever. I highly recommend picking up some and keeping it in your pantry. Makes a killer tea in a pinch too!

The other ingredient is grains of paradise. Not bird, grain. A cousin to the black peppercorn, this spice is a tiny grain a similar size of a mustard seed. The flavor is a cross between spicy black peppercorn and fragrant cardamom. It comes out of west Africa and was a popular spice throughout Europe during the middle ages. It fell out of favor as the black peppercorn began to take roots in Europe, but it's making a culinary comeback. The spiciness is not as intense as black peppercorn, but still has a lovely aroma and bite to it. And the cardamom and sweet citrus undernote goes beautifully with spicy ginger.

For this recipe I took the crystalized ginger and ground it into a paste (see pic above). Notes on how to do that quickly below.

This recipe will yield a good 2 dozen cookies of smaller gingerbread men size. It rolls out quite well, so you can use it to make most any cookie shape. It'll also keep in the fridge and freezer until ready to use. Enjoy!

Gingerbread Cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp candied ginger paste*
1/2 tsp grains of paradise (preferably ground)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, grains of paradise, cinnamon, and clove in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric hand held mixer fitted with the beater attachments. Work on it on medium speed about 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until incorporated in. Add the molasses and mix until combined. You'll get a nice, darkened velvety consistency at this point. Now, slowly add the dry ingredients (the flour mixture) to the batter and mix it in each time. Go slowly and work on the lowest speed. As you add more flour, the batter will get considerably thicker and thicker and feel harder to beat. Once the ingredients are all combined, set aside.

Turn the dough out onto a working surface with a little flour sprinkled on top and work the dough together into a ball. You'll see it'll come together pretty easily and quickly. Flatten it out into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate it until ready to use.

To make the cookies, cut the dough in half and work on a floured surface. Roll out each half of the dough until you get about 1/4" thick. Cut out using your cookie cutter shapes, place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or a silpat) and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack completely, then frost and decorate to your liking!

*To make candied ginger paste you'll need candied ginger and a food processor or spice grinder of some type. Take about 1/4 cup of the candied ginger cubes and chop them small with a knife. This will help them turn into a paste without destroying the motor of your machine. Then place in the processor and process until it comes together into a ball. The consistency will be like a super thick paste. You can keep the rest of it in the fridge for a few weeks to use in vinaigrette bases, desserts, and even tea.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Cakes and Confections: Apple Spice Cake with Apple Cider Bourbon Glaze

This cake is sort of a combination of coffee cake, bundt, and Kerry apple cake all into one topped with a glorious frosting based with real bourbon. Flavors of the season like cinnamon, all spice, and clove permeate through the soft, moist cake. Tender apples and spiced walnuts give texture. To top it all off, a delicious and easy frosting of sugar, apple cider and bourbon to bring the cake home. This is lovely for breakfast or brunch especially if you're entertaining guests for the holidays, and just perfect in the afternoon with a hot cup of coffee or tea. Easy to make and delicious. Enjoy!
Apple Spice Cake with Apple Cider Bourbon Glaze
for the apples:
3 apples (recommend jazz or pink ladies), peeled and cored
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp bourbon
juice of 1/2 lemon (or orange)
Take the apples and slice them thinly. Place in a bowl. Add the sugar, cinnamon, bourbon, lemon juice, and flour and toss to combine. The lemon juice is going to help keep the apples from browning.
Let stand to marinade while you make the rest of the components for the cake.
for the nuts:
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
Toss the walnuts in the sugar and spice mixture. Set aside.
for the cake:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (can sub with ground mace)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup greek yogurt (plain! not flavored!)
2 Tbsp milk or half n half
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a bundt cake and set aside.
Place the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a bowl (or bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment). Whisk together to combine. With machine on or with handheld mixture, begin adding the eggs and mix until incorporated. Then add the vegetable oil, vanilla, yogurt and milk. Mix everything until well combined. The batter will be quite dense.
Take half of the batter and layer it into the cake pan.
Next, layer in the apples. You can just add them in one layer or do a decorative patter. I can't resist a pattern. :) Don't add too much of the juice left behind with the apples, but a little is ok.
Add the remainder batter on top and smooth out to cover all the apples.
Next top with the nut mixture.
Bake in oven until center is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cook time will depend on your oven, so go off of the toothpick test to make most sure!
Once cake is cooked all the way through, remove from oven and gently loosen the sides from the pan with a knife. Invert the cake onto a plate or serving platter, then firmly tap the top of the cake pan to (hopefully) release the cake easily from the pan.
Let cake stand to cool completely before adding the glaze. If the cake is too warm the glaze will melt right off and not set properly. You can make the cake a head of time and glaze before serving.
Apple Cider Bourbon Glaze
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 good splash bourbon
1-2 Tbsp apple cider
Whisk the ingredients together. Begin with 1 tablespoon of apple cider and see how thick the glaze is; if it's too thick and hard to spoon then add the second tablespoon of apple cider. You want the glaze to be thick enough to hold but not too thin so it runs off. If for some reason you find your glaze has gotten too thin, simply add more sugar to thicken it again.  

Autumn to Winter: Arugula with Orange, Pomegranate, and Goat Cheese

As autumn begins to draw to a close and ushers in the still beauty of winter, I begin to see new ingredients taking over at the local grocery store. Most people think of winter and the foods associated and think of heavy, meat-laden dishes, lots of baking and carbs, and the cold, dark days of winter. No need! Actually, this is an exciting time of year with bright and bold flavors like citrus, pomegranate, and sweet delicious pears. Even the greens are beginning their peak: spicy watercress and arugula are in their prime in winter, rich and delicious kales and dark greens are delicious these coming months, and cabbages can be both stewed and crisp in refreshing salads.
I picked up some pomegranates over the weekend and knew I wanted to do a salad. This simple yet bright and flavorful salad is balanced, light, and irresistibly festive. Spicy arugula creates the base. Orange segments add color and acidity while the pomegranate seeds offer a festive and bright color contrast in addition to that beautiful sweet-tartness. Simple goat cheese (chevre) adds creaminess for texture, and to top it off, some toasted pumpkin seeds. This is a fantastic side dish for a meal or a great light lunch to compliment a heavier cream-based soup. It's easy enough for a quick week night dinner and elegant enough for a holiday fete.
This recipe makes for 4 good portions. You can easily expand or contract it to suit your numbers. Enjoy it!  

Arugula with Orange, Pomegranate, and Goat Cheese
4 cups arugula
1 orange, segmented
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds*
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese (aka chevre)
2 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
course sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
good quality extra virgin olive oil
juice from the orange that is being segmented reserved for the vinaigrette

Make the vinaigrette first. As you're segmenting your orange, squeeze out the juice from the core left into a bowl. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil slowly to the juice and whisk together to combine. This is super easy and healthy vinaigrette you can use with a variety of dishes.

Place the arugula in a large mixing bowl. Add the orange segments and pomegranate seeds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the vinaigrette and toss very gently to coat. Add the goat cheese on top -- use your fingers to break off small pieces. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top and serve.

Conversely you can portion out the dressed salad onto individual plates, then add the cheese and seeds for a more elegant presentation (as above).

*An excellent post on how to seed pomegranates -- with pictures! Check it out here.

If you don't like pumpkin seeds you can substitute with walnuts or pecans. If you'd rather use a fancier orange you can use clementines, tangerines would be outstanding in this dish, but a simple naval orange will do it just fine too. I like using French chevre for this kind of goat cheese -- it's brighter in flavor and super creamy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thanksgiving Emergencies: It's Not Ruined....


Ok...I know it can be stressful. Here are some tips and techniques to help you in case you encounter any one of these Thanksgiving Emergencies:

Thanksgiving Emergency #1: "...CRAP!!! THE TURKEY IS STILL FROZEN!!!!!!!!"

You'd be surprised how many times this happens. Myself included. Especially if this is your first time working with a turkey. You must know 2 things:
(1) The turkey comes frozen or fresh (i.e. not frozen) and
(2) If frozen, the turkey must be defrosted.

If you have a fresh turkey it's been vacuum sealed and does not need to be frozen; you can keep it in the fridge until you're ready to brine or cook it. If you bought or are planning to buy a frozen turkey, you need to start defrosting that guy about 2 days prior. The best and preferred way to defrost a turkey is in the fridge -- you basically transfer the frozen turkey into your fridge and let it thaw out there -- which takes 2-3 days depending on the size. If you managed to not do that and you're stuck now trying to prepare a frozen turkey with guests coming over in a few hours, this is what you need to do:

Fill a sink or bathtub up with cold-lukewarm water. Not ice cold water, not warm water; cold-lukewarm If you use ice cold it will take forever; if you use hot water you'll defrost it unevenly and invite bacteria. The trick here is you want the turkey to be completely submerged in the water so this is why you may need to use a bathtub or cooler. Check the water and change it as the turkey is defrosting -- you'll notice it defrosting as the water is getting less and less cold as quickly as you're changing it. If you're really in a pinch then keep the turkey in the packaging, submerge it in warmer water (not hot!), and change the water until the turkey is defrosted. The packaging should prevent the bacteria. Just make sure you cook that sucker all the way through just to make sure! And feel free, while your'e at it, to baptize it in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Remember defrost time will depend on the size of your bird! The bigger the bird, the more time it'll need!

Just leaving it out at room temperature won't defrost in time; you need to do that overnight.

Don't micro wave it; you'll end up cooking it. No, you can't defrost it in the microwave either, if it would even fit in there to begin with.

Thanksgiving Emergency #2: "...The turkey's burning!!!!"

Place aluminum foil on the areas that are burning on the turkey. Clearly your temperature is either too high or the oven temp is not accurate. Reduce the temp by 25 degrees (i.e. if you're set at 400 it's probably actually more around 425 or higher, so reduce it down to 375) and continue to cook. If you have to, cover the whole bird with aluminum foil and cook it, then remove the foil to finish browning the last 10 min of cooking.

Thanksgiving Emergency #3:  "...The mashed potatoes are soggy!!!!!"

Right. This means you didn't drain them properly like I told you to. Don't panic -- place the mashed potatoes in a pot. Place the pot on top of the stove on low flame with the lid off. Cook the potatoes stirring often. The heat will evaporate the moisture. Taste the potatoes and adjust with seasoning and butter/cream if needed.

Conversely, if you really want to be amazing and turn that frown upside down, place the mashed potatoes into a casserole dish. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese on top (or you can use some shredded cheese). Bake in the 350 degree oven until cheese is melted and bubbly. Same principle, the heat should remove the excess moisture. Adding the cheese helps create a crust to balance out the lost of moisture.

Not perfect, but these should salvage the dish.


No they won't. Why? Cuz you just made an appetizer. Set all the overcooked vegetables aside. Take a large pot and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add a whole chopped onion, some carrot and celery (if it's one of the overcooked veg I don't care; add another fresh one again here for the saute) and some salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until softened. Add some garlic -- about 2-3 cloves -- and a bay leaf. Add all of the overcooked veg right on top and stir to combine. Next, add 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth. You should have a stockpile of this stuff in your pantry for Thanksgiving. If you don't because you didn't listen to me, add 3 cups of cold water, a can of tomatoes (or fresh chopped tomatoes), and a tablespoon of chicken seasoning like Lawry's or something equivalent. If you've got bouillon even better! Use that! Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat and cook until flavors meld, about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust with seasonings. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. Let it cool down just a bit. Add some cream to make it creamy and velvety. Render some bacon pieces, then set aside. Serve the soup ladled in pretty bowls or even in shot glasses with some of the crispy bacon on top. If you're veg then do some grated parmesan cheese. Serve it in shot glasses on a silver tray with champagne to your guests as a chic appetizer or as a soup course.

Thanksgiving Emergency #5:  "My gravy turned out way too thick! Damn you corn starch!" 

Easy -- add more liquid and cook it longer. If you used cornstarch especially (or flour) to thicken it, heat and cook duration decreases thickening power. Add some more chicken stock or white wine and cook it longer -- up to 10 minute if you have to. You'll notice the thickness will relax considerably.

Thanksgiving Emergency #6:  "Too much salt! I've produced a diabetic nightmare!"

Ok, salt is a tricky one. Depending on what was oversalted and how badly, it can be salvageable while others just are not edible. If you oversalted the outside of the turkey then simply serve it without the skin. The meat should still be fine because it's so thick. If you salted a soup then add more water to balance it out. It may ruin the consistency you were going for, but that's better than the overly salty taste. If you oversalted a vegetable dish, this is harder to salvage. You may have to turn the dish into an entirely new dish where that dish become an ingredient; ease back on salting the rest of the new dish. Hopefully you didn't use salt for your dessert instead of sugar; if you did it's over and you're serving sundaes for dessert.

Thanksgiving Emergency #7:  "...The stuffing is mushy and sad..."

Easy. Reset your oven to broil. Brush the top of the stuff with some olive oil and set it under the broiler for a few minutes. Top will crisp right up something fancy!

Thanksgiving Emergency #8:  "...I ran out of brown sugar and so did the effing store!"

Ok. Brown sugar is simply a combination of white granulated sugar with molasses. Light brown sugar is less molasses and dark brown sugar is more molasses. If your recipe requires brown sugar, simply use a combination of white granulated sugar and liquid molasses. A good ratio is 1 cup white granulated sugar and 2 Tbsp molasses = 1 cup brown sugar

Thanksgiving Emergency #9: "...how in the hell am I suppose to thicken this?!" 

Ok, if you're working on gravy you can use cornstarch (follow directions on the container), or a "quick roux" -- take 1 Tbsp soft butter and mix it with 1 Tbsp all purpose flour, then add this slowly in pieces to the gravy, whisking it in. Conversely you can also use quick cooking tapioca!

If you're working on something like a pie filling, and it's already baked. For example, you made apple pie and the apples are cooked and tender but the instead of being glazey it's super thin and watery. This is practically impossible to thicken. So I suggest just serving it differently like a cobbler or crisp instead (think messy and delicious with lots and lots of ice cream!) and if you need that texture, add some melted caramel.

Thanksgiving Emergency #10: "...They stole all the fresh herbs at the store! I HATE THESE PEOPLE!"

No biggie. Use dried. Some fresh herbs are more potent fresh (like rosemary) while others are more potent dried (think thyme). A fantastic blend of dried herbs that's naturally thanksgiving, seasonal, and fancy pants impressive is herbs de provence. You can use that for your turkey, veg, soups, anything really!

Thanksgiving Emergency #11: "I shit you not, I have no rolling pin...but decided to make pie anyway. Please help me." 

Ok, use a wine bottle. Preferably an empty one because it's easier to use. You can also use a thinner glass vase -- basically something smooth that's roughly the shape of a wine bottle or rolling pin. If you're really in the weeds and can't find anything, you're gonna have to roll up those sleeves and use your hands. Push the dough out as evenly as possible and as thinly as you can with your hands and fingers. To get a smooth texture on the top if you need to, take the clean, flat bottom of a saute pan and press it into the top of the dough. This will help you thin it out and make it smooth too. Then invest in a rolling pin -- they're not that expensive and you can use them against burglars.

Thanksgiving Emergency #12:  "Someone stole my potato masher and I'm now staring at a pot of boiled potatoes with a blank stare..."

Super easy.

Drain the potatoes first. If you still want mashed potatoes, you can do one of two things: use a handheld mixer or standing mixer to whip up the drained potatoes. Add butter, etc. to make as you would have normally. You can also use a fork. If you have kids, make them do it. Just as good as using a masher!

Thanksgiving Emergency #13: "I ran out of milk....AND cream...FML..."

All right, don't panic. You don't need cream or milk for anything really. I mean, if you're making rice pudding you're screwed. But for more Thanksgiving dishes you don't "need" it. For mashed potatoes, simply up the butter and use a handheld mixer or standing mixer and whip the everloving shit out of it. Add an absurd amount of butter. Ab-surd. This is typical French style mashed potatoes. You can also use buttermilk, sour cream, and even plain yogurt in a pinch!

If you don't have sour cream or whatever, you can take the potatoes and serve them boiled this year instead. Add a bunch of butter and top with some chopped parsely. It's an Eastern European Thanksgiving this year, kids!

If you're doing a casserole or some other dish that requires it, I mean....you can just forgo it probably. It will be drier but probably healthier too.

If you're serving coffee....use some vanilla ice cream for a treat/dessert! It's very continental!

Thanksgiving Emergency #14: "My cream soup is broken and curdled and looks disgusting! I am a culinary failure and need to be voted off the island..." 

Blend it with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. Your'e back on the island!

Thanksgiving Emergency #15:  "I have no turkey baster -- I thought that was used for artificial insemination." 

Right, well....it's not. It's used to baste a turkey or other roast meat. Don't panic -- use a spoon and be careful!

Thanksgiving Emergency #16: "...The power went out!!! OMFG!!!!!!...." 

It can happen. November can be notorious for bad weather. Well, power outage can be a bit tricky. Depending on what you've got, you can continue to cook most of your dinner in the gas stove or gas stove top. If you've got electric you're a bit more SOL. I recommend providing snacks and seeing if power goes back on. If not, I recommend aborting mission and retreating to restaurant. If that's not an option, get out all of the wine bottles you own, mixed nuts, fruit, cheese, salami, raw veg crudite, fancy crackers, fresh bread, and hopefully you've already baked those pies! Light a bunch of candles and have at it!

If it's not raining you can also throw almost everything onto the grill. Cut the turkey into pieces (like chicken). Brush with olive oil, add seasonings, and throw on the grill. For veg -- you can roast them on a baking sheet on the grill if you have the room. If you don't, try to grill them gently directly. If you're doing potatoes or sweet potatoes/yams -- boil them first if you can and then on the grill. Green beans, asparagus, corn -- all directly on the grill. Bread -- slice and brush with olive oil, right on the grill. You can even bake a pie on the grill -- cover with aluminum foil and bake on low heat.

Thanksgiving Emergency #17:  "..."I dropped the turkey.....omg I dropped the turkey....I DROPPED THE EFFING TURKEY!!!!!!!!!!!"

1. Stay calm.

2. Did anyone see this happen? If not, you're golden. Take the turkey and with a nice well dampened cloth, clean the part that dropped on the floor. Even if it's already fully cooked. Even if it's coated in whatever you coated it in. If you have to, rinse that part off. But a good, well dampened cloth or paper towel should do the trick just fine without having to baptize the bird. Again.

3. If someone saw, then scream "Hot potato!" Pick it up casually. Dust it off then look the person who saw it happen straight in the eye, and with your most intimidating voice, say, "If you utter a syllable of this, I will serve you this piece...right here" and point to the part that fell on the floor. With the hair still sticking on it. Brush it off. put your shoulders back, and you serve that bird!

Thanksgiving Emergency #18: "More people?!?!?! That's why it's called an RSVP!!!!!!!"

Ah....the last minute guest. Or guests. Everyone gets them. Some people totally ignorant of what it takes to prepare a big holiday meal tend to being like 10 people with them. And usually these people come empty handed. I mean, you could eat least bring a pie or bottle of liquor with you. But this does not help you. You already bought and are preparing food for 8. Now you have 12. No worries.

All you have to do is amp up the appetizers. You know how you go t a restaurant or someone's house and eat so many nuts or potato chips or whatever crap before the food arrives and then you're stuffed you can't eat the real food? Simply apply that technique here. Load up on the potato chips, nuts, olives, cheese, cured meats...frozen eggrolls...whatever the hell you have. Serve them fast and up front. Get everyone stuffed. Then proceed with the dinner you already have. Just portion it out smaller.

In a pinch if you need a quick snack, make some spiced nuts. This is quick and savory and goes with cocktails:

  • nuts -- cashews, walnuts, pecans, peanuts -- whatever you have or want to use
  • pinch of chili powder
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • black pepper
  • pinch of brown sugar
Throw the nuts in a shallow saute pan. Heat on low heat until warmed through and begin to be fragrant. Add a little butter or olive oil (like a teaspoon) and toss to coat the nuts. Add the seasonings and make sure the nuts are evenly coated. Serve. 

Thanksgiving Emergency #19:  "I forgot....the turkey bag of giblets...inside...the turkey..."

Ok, this happens. Stop crying. Chances are you started to smell something funky burning. It's the plastic bag holding the giblets. Remove it and continue to cook the bird. You're fine. 

If you missed this part and finished the whole turkey with the bag of giblets still inside, then remove it (or as much of it as you can) and try not to eat around where the plastic is melted if it's melted into the turkey. The rest of it should be fine. 

If the turkey smells horrid because of the plastic or the giblets, grate a shitload of lemon, orange, lime -- any kind of citrus zest and stuff it all together with cut up quarters of the citrus inside the cavity. Then, take more citrus and decorate around the turkey with some leftover herbs or leaves or salad -- something green -- so it looks like you did this all on purpose. Also, garlic masks the smell of most things as well. Take some fresh garlic and smash a bunch of cloves. Smash it up into a paste. This releases as much of the essential oil which is where the strong garlic fragrance comes from. Stuff that into the cavity. 

And don't eat the giblets or give it to the dogs! 

Thanksgiving Emergency #20: "...the pie filling isn't set...it's raw and mushy and not good!" 

Ok, you can do a few things. First, if the crust is done but the middle isn't, simply wrap the sides of the pie that are done with aluminum foil and return to oven so middle can finish cooking. 

If something went catagorically wrong with the pie, the middle is just not set properly or it's too mushy and otherwise cannot be served as a pie, serve it as a parfait instead. Intentionally break up pieces of pie crust and all and layer into serving dishes. Top with some whipped cream, then layer of crushed pie, then more whipped cream, and top it with something that would make sense with the pie like sprinkling of cinnamon or crushed pecans or something. Tell everyone you were bored with basic pies and wanted to score points for presentation. You can also use ice cream instead of the whipped cream if you like. 

All right! Hope these help and gave you a laugh! Happy Thanksgiving!