Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Tart Treat

On this week especially, it seems appropriate to share another recipe from Battle Thanksgiving.

And, no, in case you were wondering, the picture doesn't do it justice.

First of all, the whipped cream is covering up the pie itself, so you can't see the beautiful garnet color of the cranberries. Second, there's a Dalek in the image, which seems quite unnecessary. Third, you can't taste what the quince does for the dessert, which is quite a lot and hard to imagine if you are unfamiliar with the particular flavor of quince, as many judges were before the battle.

Here, Cybele's much beloved pie.

Cranberry-quince pie with Grand Marnier whipped cream

3 large quinces, peeled, cored and chopped (approx the size of the cranberries)

1 cup fresh cranberries

2 cups good quality apple juice

½ cup sugar

¼ cup good quality honey

1 large lemon (zest and juice)

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cinnamon stick, plus ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

A few pats of butter for top of pie

Note: you can use a store bought crust or roll your own.

1 container whipping cream

¼ to ½ cup Grand Marnier (Calvados or apple brandy would work too)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and plan to use the middle shelf. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot (with lid), combine the quinces, apple juice, cinnamon stick and cloves. Bring mixture to a boil then let simmer for 20 minutes, covered. Add the cranberries and simmer for another 10 min (you don’t want to let these get too soft that they completely fall apart and turn into mush). Meanwhile, poke holes into the bottom of the crust with a fork and pre-bake for about ten minutes.

Pour almost all of the liquid out of the cranberry and quince pot (so that the fruit doesn’t steam in the oven but bakes; the mixture should be soft but not be runny). Add the sugar, honey, lemon zest and lemon juice and cinnamon. Add more sugar or spices to taste. (The quince is a little tart so you may want to add more sugar or honey.)

Pour mixture into pie shell, dollop the top with butter and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until the filling has set. Let cool for half an hour on the counter then another half an hour in the fridge.

When you’re about ready to serve the pie, whip the cream until it almost forms soft peaks. Add Grand Marnier and whip until it forms soft peaks. (Don’t make the whipped cream until you’re almost ready to serve the pie because the alcohol will fall out of the mixture if it sits too long.)

Serve the pie at room temperature.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thanksgiving Stuffing Strata

Here, the recipe for Becky's home-run: A Thanksgiving casserole based on the breakfast strata concept. Filled with turkey sausage and herbs, it's stuffing transformed. We served it with a tart cranberry gastrique—a tangy reduction of sherry vinegar and cranberry sauce that balanced the richness of the strata and added a bright shot of color to the plate.

Stuffing Strata
18 slices Italian white bread, crusts removed
1 lb. turkey sausage (made with cheese, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
2 shallots, minced
8 ounces provolone, sliced thick
4 ounces aged white cheddar, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
5 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Saute sausage and shallots until brown.

Line bottom of 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with 1 layer of bread, cutting some slices to fit. Arrange half of sausage-and-onion mixture evenly over bread. Sprinkle half of cheddar and half of provolone over. Sprinkle with half of green onions, rosemary, thyme, and basil. Top with second layer of bread. Layer remaining sausage mix, cheese, green onions, and herbs atop bread.

Cut remaining bread into 1/4-inch cubes. Sprinkle over top.

Whisk eggs, milk, mustard, and salt in bowl. Season with pepper. Pour egg mixture over strata; press down on bread with spatula. Drizzle melted butter over strata. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover strata and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Bake until center is set, about 1 hour. Remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Place strata under broiler until top is golden, about 30 seconds. Cut into eight large squares and serve.

Cranberry Gastrique
3/4 cup red-wine or sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons cranberry sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan simmer vinegar until reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 3 minutes. Whisk in preserves and salt, whisking until smooth.

Serve warm (or at room temperature). Use the gastrique as more of a garnish than a sauce, as the flavor is strong.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Battle Thanksgiving

Battle Thanksgiving

Cybele and Dave Dish #1: Sweet Potato and Apple Cider Risotto, served with spiced cider

The day started off with a bowl of warm risotto. The flavor combination was a hit, but the textures had the judges stumped.

Cybele and Dave Dish #2: Chestnut Ravioli with Béchamel and Parmesan

Judges loved the combination of spicy and sweet but the white-on-white look caused Lambeth, a new judge, to declare "This looks like a ghost—with splotches!"

Cybele and Dave Dish #3: Braised Turkey Legs with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Dave's turkey was juicier than most you'll find on Thanksgiving day, and his spicy gravy packed a surprising amount of heat. Judge Chris declared the sauce a hit: "Like napalm, it sticks to you as it burns. I couldn't stop eating it!" Fortunately, extra gravy was served on the side.

Cybele and Dave Dish #4: Cranberry-Quince Tartlette with Grand Marnier Cream.

As Chris said, "That's a tart tartlette." This dessert was the highlight of their presentation—a sweet and tangy dessert. Judges loved the gorgeous garnet color, the clever use of cranberries as an ingredient, and the fact that the dessert was sophisticated rather than cloyingly sweet. All around, it was decided that quince should be a part of everyone's Thanksgiving.

Sherri and Becky Dish #1: Stuffing Strata with Cranberry Gastrique

Becky's ode to stuffing was a giant hit—the best dish of the day according to many judges. The rich strata was filled with turkey sausage (made to order by a Park Slope butcher, with sage, rosemary, and thyme) and several cheeses. The one complaint? The large portion size was daunting to judges, who by then were on their fifth dish. But it was a true compliment that several set theirs aside to finish later.

Sherri and Becky Dish #2: Harlem-style Chicken-Fried Turkey and Pumpkin Waffles with Pecan Butter, served with a bottle of pumpkin ale

Sherri's take on this New York classic was topped with crispy fried turkey thighs, ordered specially from DiPaolo Farm. The waffles lost some of their crispness (one judge called them "droopy") as they waited to be served, but the buttermilk-marinated turkey seasoned with cayenne packed a great crunch and a lot of heat. Beth said: "Sylvia would be proud."

Sherri and Becky Dish #3: Yam-Maple-Whisky Soufflé with Crème Fraîche and Bacon

These eggy soufflés were made all the richer by their garnish of crunchy bacon and crème fraîche. Some judges wanted to know "Where's the sweet potato?," which several thought was dominated by the maple. The aroma of maple and bacon, on the other hand, was a winner.

Sherri and Becky Dish #4: Cranberry and Pumpkin French Macaroons, served with a cranberry champagne cocktail

The pumpkin sandwich cookie was filled with a pumpkin-nutmeg butter cream, and the cranberry one was filled with cranberry jelly and vanilla butter cream. Judges raved about the crisp exterior and the soft interior of the cookies. "How did this happen in an hour?" wondered Sachiko, though several judges declared the portions too big and the sugar coma imminent.

I know, a gratuitous baby picture. But you can't deny that Casey Joshua, our littlest judge, is a cutie. He stuck to his own yams, though.

And, in the end, Casey would be proud—his mom, Becky, and her partner Sherri won again! Now, they move on to Battle Beef...