Not Your Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Cassarole

This is an awesome Thanksgiving side that we practiced ahead of time to make sure it was better than that classic casserole made with a soup can. We wanted to switch it up and make it from scratch, while also taking handy short-cuts to make it an easy side to go along with the million other things we make on the big day. I took the components that sounded the best from other recipes I found online and mashed them together to make this. Speaking of which, this was fantastic smushed up against some mashed potatoes.

What You’ll Need:

Green beans, of course: You’ll need about two pounds if you are going to buy fresh beans that you’ll clean and snap yourself, but we saved a ton of time by buying two 12 ounce bags of prepared green beans from Target. You can find them near the bags of salad.

Baby bella mushrooms: We also took the shortcut of getting already cleaned and sliced mushrooms so all we had to do was cut them in half.

2 white onions  (you can substitute shallots if you prefer a milder flavor or to spend as much money as possible on your produce)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (once again, we used pre-minced garlic from a jar to save time, man, we’re lazy)

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup and 1.5 tablespoons flour

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

How To:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut one of your onions in half and dice half the onion. Slice the remaining onion and a half as thinly as possible (a mandolin is handy for this if you have one and was another time saver for us). Lightly oil a large baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix the 1 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Dredge the thinly sliced onion through the flour mix and shake off the excess before laying in an even layer in your oiled baking sheet. Pop that in the oven keeping a close eye on the onions for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Next, melt the butter in a pan (we used cast iron) on the stove and cook the mushrooms in one even layer over medium heat until they begin to release their juices and soften. If they seem dry, feel free to add splashes of olive oil or additional butter as needed. Then, add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent before adding the green beans. Cook until the green beans turn bright green and shiny. Then, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and add the cream and chicken stock. Once mixed together, this mixture should thicken and you can add salt and pepper to taste (the amount you need will depend on your brand of chicken stock). If your mixtures seems too runny, add teaspoons of flour until creamy. Finally, top with the crispy onions and bake in the oven for approximately 20-25 or until the whole thing is hot and bubbling.

The hardest part of this whole recipe is waiting for it to cool for a few minutes before breaking into it! As with all of our recipes, I encourage you to tweak and experiment. This would be a good one to add a splash of sherry or marsala wine to substitute some of the liquid or to toss some fresh herbs at the end of baking for a hit of freshness. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Last Minute Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks

It’s the final countdown before the big day! This seems like a good time to offer a few last minute tips and tricks. These are just a few I’ve picked up but, of course, feel free to leave additional tips or questions in the comments section if there’s anything I missed!

1. When carving the turkey, many people start by slicing the breast from the outside in, which can lead to the first slice getting all of the skin. If you remove the whole breast, lay it on the cutting board, and slice from there, each piece will have a nice piece of crispy skin. This photo from foodnetwork.com illustrates this idea well.

Image

2. If you have a spare burner, it can be handy to leave a pot of stock warming on a back burner as you prepare the meal. One of the major sins of Thanksgiving, dryness, can be easily overcome with a ladleful of hot stock. This is also a great way to reheat things if your dishes didn’t all come out at the same time. Just hit that stuffing, potatoes, or turkey with some hot stock to warm it up.

3. Consider cooking the turkey upside-down. This leads to a less beautiful presentation, but if aesthetics aren’t a concern or you carve the turkey before presenting it anyways, this can lead to extra moist white meat.

4. If you are serving a large crowd, you could consider cooking two smaller turkeys rather than one large bird. This helps to prevent the breasts from drying out before the rest of the turkey is cooked and can keep more guests happy. Four legs are better than two!

5. Think about using squash for serving. One year we didn’t have enough serving dishes for everything we wanted to make so we served the stuffing in roasted acorn squash and incorporated it into the centerpiece. This year we’re serving pumpkin soup inside a pumpkin instead of a big bowl. This can add a festive touch and give you one less serving dish to wash at the end.Image

6. If you have trouble with lumps or grit when using flour to make gravy, you can skip the flour and make a slurry by whisking corn starch and stock and then using that mixture to thicken the gravy. We came across this trick when we moved and forgot to buy flour but had corn starch on hand and it was the smoothest sauce we had made to date.

7. I realize I sound like the ambassador of cheese, but I think it’s a good trick to keep in mind that if anything seems a little bland, a nice shred of parmesan cheese can go a long way. This works great for squash, potatoes, brussel sprouts, and lots of soups. We’re even grating parmesan into our gravy this year.

8. Don’t forget the herbs! Sage is the superstar of Thanksgiving. If you have any dish that doesn’t quite taste enough like the holidays, my first suggestion would to be to add more sage. This works whether you use dried sage or fresh. This is a photo of our awesome purple sage plant. If you ever think about starting an herb garden, this is a great one to start with because it grows quickly and the thing just won’t die despite our best effort.

sage edited

9. Keep in mind that there are many things you can do today if you want to get a head start. Some casseroles like the broccoli casserole that is a staple on our holiday menu since it was passed down from the Southern grandmas can be mixed up the day ahead and just baked the day of Thanksgiving. Just save any crispy topping (like the dry stuffing mix on this one) for the day of so it doesn’t get soggy. Celery, onion, and carrots can all be chopped up in advanced and stored in plastic bags also.

10. Don’t forget to give thanks! It’s easy for foodies like us to get wrapped up in the gastronomical whirlwind that is Thanksgiving, but giving thanks is really a highlight of the day. I can always be thankful for a day full of food and family.

Finally as you cook your way through the day, don’t be afraid to improvise!

“Recipes are road maps not contracts” ~ Michael Voltaggio

21 Ways to Mix Up Your Mashed Potatoes

Image

One of the things I’ve noticed since we’ve become foodies is that we just can’t leave well enough alone. When we visit my family in Ohio, it drives them crazy to see us spending the whole time eating a meal we’ve cooked discussing how to tweak it the next time. Whereas some see a holiday classic when looking at a big fluffy pile of mashed potatoes, I see a blank slate with endless possibilities. So, here’s a simple recipe for basic mashed potatoes and a list of ideas for combinations of “mix-ins.” When it comes to mashed potatoes, as in life, cheese is your friend.

You’ll Need:

3 pounds of potatoes of your choice (Yukon gold, russet, and reds are favorites)

½ stick unsalted butter

2 cups heavy cream

Salt

Pepper (white pepper can be substituted if you like purely white mashed potatoes)

How To:

It’s up to you whether you want to peel your potatoes, but keep in mind waxy-skinned potatoes are better if you are leaving the skin on. Chop into even cubes and place into a large pot. Cover with cold water, salt the water, and boil until tender. Drain the water and add the half stick of butter and warmed heavy cream as well as salt and pepper to taste. Mash the potatoes using a hand or stand mixer, but be careful not to overwork them as they can become gummy if the starches are broken down too much.

One you have your base ready, have fun adding as much or little of these mix-ins as you like!

  1. Mascarpone cheese and chives
  2. Sauteed or roasted garlic and parmesan
  3. Fontina and scallions
  4. Cream cheese, parsley, and chives
  5. Gorgonzola and crumbled bacon (we use turkey bacon)
  6. Rosemary (chopped finely! we skipped chopping once and it was like potatoes full of little sticks) and sage
  7. Cream cheese, roasted garlic, and red pepper flakes
  8. Sautéed leeks and garlic
  9. Smoked gouda, fontina, and scallions
  10. Caramelized onion and roasted red pepper
  11. Goat cheese and sautéed shallots
  12. Chipotle pepper and cream cheese
  13. Sour cream and dijon
  14. Cheddar cheese (use white cheddar if you want to keep them looking like classic mashed potatoes), chives, and thyme
  15. Mozzarella stirred in and topped with parmesan and breadcrumbs and briefly broiled for a crispy top
  16. Pesto and parmesan
  17. Blue cheese and a dash of cayenne
  18. Alfredo sauce and parmesan
  19. Sour cream and sautéed leeks
  20. White cheddar, sautéed shallots, and chives
  21. Cream cheese, garlic sautéed in butter, and scallions

Caramel Brie En Croûte

IMG_2405

We serve this with crackers, pieces of baguette, sliced fruit, really whatever else is around. Honestly, you could put it on a shoe and your guests would still love it.

IMG_1120

You’ll Need:

¼ cup brown sugar

¾ pecans

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 roll out pie crust

1 16 ounce wheel of brie

1 egg

1 cup sugar

½ cup water

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup heavy whipping cream

How To:

For the Brie:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the maple syrup, brown sugar, and ¼ cup of the pecans. Roll the pie crust out on a cutting board or other flat surface and pour the pecan mix onto the crust in a circle about the size of your brie. Place the brie on top and wrap the whole thing in the crust, smoothing out the edges and making sure the crust meets all the way around. Flip the brie pretty-side-up, brush with an egg wash made of egg white and a splash of water, and bake for approximately 25 minutes until golden brown. You’ve just made brie on croûte and could stop there but, oh, please don’t.

For the Sauce:

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk or stir until the mixture begins to boil, then stop stirring immediately. Once the sugar turns a light amber color (just a few minutes), add the butter. This may foam up briefly. When the butter is melted, take the pan off the heat and stir in the cream until smooth. Add the remaining pecans and pour on, over, under, or around, the brie.

Optional:

I love making food beautiful, so I can’t help but decorate this brie with the leftover pie crust. If you’d like to add a little flourish like I do, you can use cookie or pie cutters to cut out shapes or, my favorite, cut out a little leaf with a butter knife and add a little stem made from a piece of the crust rolled in your hand. Just stick them to the top before popping the brie in the oven. This step just adds a couple of minutes but makes this dish feel even more special for the holidays.

IMG_1119

Shout out: This is a variation on a recipe my mom gave me. Great find!

Maple Cranberry Apple Pie

Image

I can’t imagine a better time to start writing about food than the week leading up to Thanksgiving! This is my favorite day of the year. It’s like the foodie Superbowl.

I keep running into tips and tricks online and in magazines on how to get around spending the whole day cooking, but in my household a whole day cooking is our idea of an awesome time. Now if only we could find some people to feed. It looks like it’s just going to be the two of us this year but that won’t stop us from making a turkey and all the sides while sipping cranberry mimosas and mulled wine all day (those recipes to come). We start planning our Thanksgiving recipe for the year some time around 8:00 the Thanksgiving before and never quite finish getting excited about what to make or how to switch things up. The one thing we can’t seem to avoid making is our Maple Cranberry Apple Pie. This recipe was a happy accident that happened when we decided to Vermontify a traditional apple pie recipe with some maple syrup while also realizing we didn’t have some of the traditional ingredients for apple pie and subbed in pumpkin pie spice. There, I said it, the secret ingredient to our apple pie is pumpkin pie spice!

Image

Recipe: Maple Cranberry Apple Pie

You’ll Need:

1 package of roll out pie crust – you can get fancy and do it yourself, but we cheat

8 sliced apples – a blend of baking apples and a couple of granny smiths works nicely

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

¼ flour

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon cinnamon – more to taste if you love cinnamon

A pinch of salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons of butter

How To:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice apples to a thickness you like, keeping in mind that thicker slices will likely to be firmer when the pie is cooked. We prefer to end up with soft apples so we do a fairly small slice. Mix together the apples, dried cranberries, sugar, maple syrup, flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.

To prepare the crust, roll it out and put one sheet into the pie pan. Dump the apple mix into the first pie crust and top with the other. This part can be as easy or as complicated as you like. You can simply put the other crust on top and cut slits to let out steam or go fancier and make a nice lattice or use cookie or pie crust cutters to cut out designs to throw on top. Once your top crust is in place, make an egg wash with one egg white and a splash of water and brush the crust to make it shiny. Dot the top of the pie with the butter. Pop the pie in the oven for around 40 minutes, checking on it periodically. It’s ready to take out once the filling begins to bubble up and the crust is golden brown. Enjoy!

Image