Category Archives: Holidays

Thanksgiving House Cocktail: Bourbon-Rosemary Sour

Serving a “House Cocktail” as guests arrive sets a welcome and festive tone. Bourbon is the quintessential American liquor and the perfect complement to Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday! Rosemary provides a seasonally appropriate fall accent. Best of all, it’s an easy and delicious start to Thanksgiving. If you are a guest this Thanksgiving, consider providing this House Cocktail for your host because easy home entertaining is a team sport. You can mix it all ahead of time and bring in a pitcher along with some rosemary sprigs and lemon slices. All your host needs to provide are the glasses and ice.

There is no real substitute for fresh lemon juice though Whole Foods carries a jarred Lemon Juice product in the juice aisle that is acceptable. Under no circumstances use jarred Real Lemon available in standard supermarkets. Typically lemonade is made with equal parts lemon juice and simple syrup but this recipe backs off some of the syrup, thus the “sour.”  Caution: This spiked “lemonade” goes down very easily.

Thanksgiving Bourbon-Rosemary Sour

2 cups fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups rosemary syrup (See recipe below)
1 1/2 cups bourbon
Rosemary sprigs for garnish plus for rosemary syrup recipe below
8 lemon slices — seeds removed
Serves 8

Note: The juiciness of lemons is very variable. As a result, it is difficult to tell you exactly how many lemons you will need to make 2 cups of fresh lemon juice. I needed 8 lemons. They were unusually juicy. You may need more.

In a pitcher or other convenient pouring container, combine lemon juice, rosemary syrup and bourbon. Mix well. Fill glass with ice. Pour 1/2 cup mix into each glass. Stir well. Garnish with rosemary sprig and lemon slice. The half cup of mix per drink includes 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon so do not over-pour. Encourage your guests to savor and not slug.

Rosemary Simple Syrup
1 cup + 2 Tb sugar
1 cup + 1 oz water
4 sprigs rosemary
Yield 1 1/2 cups syrup

In a small pot, combine sugar and water. Simmer over moderate heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally, about 1–2 minutes. Add rosemary. Simmer for 3 — 5  minutes until rosemary wilts and gives up its color, then remove from heat. Cool for at least one hour or overnight. Strain out rosemary before using. Store in refrigerator.

There are six syrup recipes in At Home on Page 44 along with a tip on using Simple Syrups. One Thanksgiving dessert we are serving on Thursday is roasted pears basted with a syrup sweetened with honey as well as sugar and spiced with star anise, cardamom and coriander seed. See our complete menu below.

Five or six rosemary sprigs, about 20 to 25 total inches of rosemary. You will also need rosemary sprigs to garnish the drink.

When you start, the rosemary will be stiff and the leaves a strong green as pictured above. Simmer sprigs in syrup until they wilt and give up their bright color and turn somewhat khaki-colored. Take care to just simmer slowly. Leave the sprigs in syrup until ready to use. Strain out sprigs before using syrup.

Our 2012 Thanksgiving
Lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving — not the least of which is the recent election result. We are enjoying Thanksgiving at home with our extended family. Christina’s brother Larry and my son Noah will help with selected dishes and pitch-in with turn-out. Christina will take care of  getting our apartment ready and setting our table. We still have to do our wine shopping. I will do the flowers on Wednesday.

I am in good shape with my advance preparation — confident I will get at least one relaxed hour before guests arrive Thanksgiving Day. Probably more. Saturday I finished most of my shopping at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market and made cornbread. Since for me shopping is a pleasure, I started my Sunday at the Headhouse Farmers’ Market. Sunday is my watch football while preparing my gravy day. I prepare my do-ahead gravy with turkey legs and finish it with the pan juices after the “real turkey” comes out of the oven on Thursday.  (The food prep part was infinitely more fun than watching the Eagles!)

On Sunday, I also made the base for the ice cream that I will freeze Monday, the syrup for the roasted pears, peeled the celery root and sliced and rinsed the leeks for the gratin, prepped the turnips and carrots, peeled and sliced the kohlrabi, toasted the pinenuts for the kale, grated the cheese for the gratin, as well as made the sausage and vegetable components for the cornbread stuffing that I will combine on Wednesday. One last thing: I crumbled and toasted the cornbread to give it a nuttier flavor than simply baked cornbread.

Our At Home Thanksgiving 2012 Menu

House Cocktail
Bourbon-Rosemary Sour

Hors d’oeuvres
Larry’s Gougere
Oysters Rockefeller
Shaved Cauliflower & Fennel Salad
Diver Scallops “Sashimi” with Confetti of Granny Smith Apples
Roasted Baby Carrots & Hakurei Turnips
Raw Kohlrabi

Dinner Buffet
Roast Turkey
Tarragon Gravy
Gingered Cranberry-Onions Relish
Renaissance Chicken Sausage, Chanterelle & Cornbread Stuffing
Smashed Kubocha Squash with Confit of Onions — Larry is making this from last week’s NY Times Food Section
Gratin of Leeks & Celery Root
Sautéed Dinosaur Kale with Pinenuts & Raisins

Desserts
Ginny’s Pumpkin Pie
Commissary Pecan Pie
Roasted Pears with Star Anise, Cardamom & Coriander Seed
Burndt Orange-Caramel Ice Cream with Sea Salt

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My Favorite Online Gift Sources

At Home at Reading Terminal Market
Reminder: I will be signing books this Saturday, December 11th at Reading Terminal Market from 11 AM to 4 PM. Look for me in Center Court. Bring your old copy of The Frog Commissary Cookbook and purchase a second copy of At Home at half price.

1. korin.com Knife Porn!!!

In the early 1980’s I spent several weeks in Japan. Since that time I have had a deep appreciation of the Japanese aesthetic based upon the Tea Ceremony. What I so admire about this Japanese aesthetic is that it is based on on an exquisite harmony with nature. It is a very small step from that aesthetic to my summer’s worth of visits to farm stands and farmers’ markets and commitment to cooking seasonally. Among the great meals of my life was at Kitcho, just outside Kyoto. Kitcho is kaiseki restaurant — the highest form of Japanese cuisine that is modeled on the Tea Ceremony — but with lots more food. See my little story about this memorable meal on Page 182 of At Home. While in Kyoto I visited a knife shop with a legacy of samurai sword-making that continues to make knives as they have for hundreds of years. I purchased several fine Japanese knives that still serve me well.

Korin features fine Japanese Tableware and Chef Knives. They have a small jewel of a shop in Tribeca, but you can spend lots of time with your nose pressed against the window by visiting their website. They have both Western and Japanese style knives. For most of the cooking we do, a Western style knife is best. I generally use Shun knives that are available at fine kitchenware store like Kitchen Kapers or Fante’s. But Korin is a whole other thing with some hand-crafted knives costing over a thousand dollars. The selection of knives is overwhelming, but decide on a price your willing to pay — there are many fine knives for vastly less than a thousand dollars! — the style of knife you want and take a leap. You can certainly give them a call and they would be happy to guide your choice. A fine knife taken care of will last a lifetime and makes for an extravagant gift to someone who loves to cook…including to yourself. For the sushi-lover who has everything, you can buy them a “sushi-robot.” At the other end of the Korin spectrum is a little scrubber that I will talk about in an upcoming “Stocking Stuffers” post. It’s fun to just visit their site and fantasize.

2. bridgekitchenware.com Professional

As a young and aspiring cook, even before I opened my first restaurant in 1973, I made a pilgrimage to Bridge Kitchenware on East 52nd Street in New York. It was a slightly forbidding retail store stacked from floor to ceiling with all manner of copper pots and “professional” kitchenware. It felt like entering a rarefied world of chefs and I was not clear I was allowed. In recent years Bridge “family” made the decision to withdraw from the New York hustle and bustle. Today they have a store in Roseland, New Jersey, but you can shop where professional chefs shop by visiting online. Need a fish poacher, Bridge has a variety to select from. Want a pro’s tool to finish the top of your creme brulee, no problem. Their website is not easy to navigate — nor was the 52nd Street store, but they have the goods.

3. snakeriverfarms.com Premium Pork

Several years ago I ordered a ham from Snake River Farms made from Kurobuta pork — a pork breed also known as Berkshire. It was the best ham I ever ate. Pork generally available today in supermarkets has had much of its character breed out in favor of its “other white meat” status. Snake River supplies restaurants, but anyone can order their heritage pork or Wagyu Beef from their online store. You can now sometimes find Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef from local farms and at farmers markets, but its hard to find locally this time of year. You go to so much effort to make a special holiday meal — why not go the extra step and serve something very memorable.

4. latienda.com Spanish Specialties

La Tienda specializes in Spanish food-stuffs including paella pans and paella kits. These “gift kits” include the pan and paella makings. Paella is a wonderful special occasion “one-dish” entree — think New Year’s Eve. You can make paella in any large, flat flame-proof pan — in a pinch I use a cast iron skillet, but a paella pan is made for this dish — wide with low slopping side. One of my favorite cooking activities is making paella over a round Weber kettle grill. Once you get the hang of making paella — it’s not difficult — there are lots of different paellas you can make. At Home features a recipe for Seafood Paella on Page 236. Don’t be put off by the long list on ingredients — it’s just shopping and part of what makes it special. And it’s not like you’re going to make this weekly. La Tienda also sells smoked paprika, used in At Home’s Little Lamb Meatballs with Smoked Paprika Cream on Page 97. These small gems were inspired by a Madrid trip that occurred when I was developing recipes for At Home.

5. artisinalcheese.com Say Cheese

If I had to pick a single food to eat the rest of my life, it would probably be sushi. Reasonably healthy. The other is cheese. I am always amazed at the complex world of fine cheese flavors. Unfortunately, cheese is not so healthy so I try to limit my cheese consumption. So when I have cheese, I like it to be something special. Among the recent changes in the local food scene is the development locally produced world class cheese from cheese-makers like Princeton’s Cherry Grove Farm and Elverson’s Amazing Acres. Great local cheeses can be found at local cheese shops and at the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal. For the Cheese Lover on your gift list, I suggest you consider Artisinal Cheese’s Cheese of the Month Club. It’s like Harry & David’s Fruit of the Month — but more special and delicious.

6. chefshop.com Wild Italian Fennel Pollen and Other Hard to Find Ingredients

It’s so hard to figure out what to give as a gift. Closets are filled with gifts slated for re-gifting. Maybe Pixar will do a follow-up to Toy Story 3 about the fate of such gifts. Do you want your gift to suffer this fate? Well, the gift of food is not likely to have such a fate. Which brings me to Wild Italian Fennel Pollen. OK, not everyone loves the taste of fennel. But I do. The White Bean & Caramelized Fennel Dip on Page 78 of At Home has been my book-signing lure and give-away this year. The ultimate fennel is Wild Italian Fennel Pollen. Just saying it is transportative. Before conforming to the reality of available ingredients, the Fennel-scented Strips Bass on Page 260 was made with fennel pollen. Go to Chef Shop for special ingredients that you need for a special meal or a to give as a gift unlikely to be slated for re-gifting.

7.recchiuti.com Chocolate Heaven


Michael Recchiuti is Chocolate Royalty. A former Philadelphian – who spent some time in The Commissary’s Bakery in the early 80’s — Michael is based in San Francisco. The two table chocolates Christina and I served at our wedding were Michael’s and Marcolini’s from Brussels. Michael makes simply extraordinary chocolates and other confections. His Key Lime Pears are a personal favorite and a perfect house gift to bring to a holiday party.

Previn – Philadelphia’s Own Professional Kitchenware Source

While you can’t buy online, Philadelphia’s own Previn has a website that offers an array of unusual and sophisticated kitchenware. You browse their online catalog and call to discuss price and place your order.

Purchase At Home Online

If you live within a few hundred miles of Philadelphia, it typically takes two days to deliver At Home to your door using standard shipping. However, to make sure you have At Home by Christmas, ideally order by Monday, December 20th. After that date, consider expedited shipping.

Ardmore Farmers’ Market on Thursday Thursday, December 16th
I will be at the Ardmore Farmers’ Market on Thursday, December 16th from 11 AM to 4 PM.

Other Places to Purchase At Home
Green Aisle Grocery
The pioneering Green Aisle is located at 1618 E. Passyunk Avenue, between Tasker and Morris. It is also a wonderful place for locally sourced foodstuffs for home and holiday giving.

Coopermarket
Coopermarket’s proprietor is Beth Cooper, a long-time friend. In addition to purchasing At Home, it’s a great place to bring home delicious prepared foods for the holidays. Coopermarket is located at 302 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd.

Joseph Fox Bookshop
For many years while I operated The Commissary on the 1700 block of Sansom Street, the Joseph Fox Bookshop was a neighbor. It is Center City’s great independent bookshop and the only bookshop carrying At Home. A book makes a perfect holiday gift because your selection of a particular book for someone you love is an indication that you know and understand who they are. You can count on the books at Joseph Fox to be lovingly curated by the Fox family. The Joseph Fox Bookshop is located at 1724 Sansom Street in Philadelphia.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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At Home’s Traditional Potato Latkes & Applesauce

The first night of Hanukkah is Wednesday, December 1st.

From At Home…Latkes and Choucroute
Many years of demanding work, single fatherhood and a reclusive social life meant I was a near-celibate when it came to home entertaining. Christina changed all that. She has a wide range of friends and family and loves having them over. A very stylish entertainer, she always has a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator and her oft-repeated and perfected salt and pepper chicken is featured on page 157. Naturally, Christina has influenced the shape of this book, just as she’s shaped my home entertaining attitude. She is from the KISS school of entertaining: Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. Her philosophy is that by keeping it simple, you’ll be inclined to host more often and maintain the focus on your guests. For too long, I thought of entertaining as my art and guests were simply a welcome excuse to practice that art. Married on November 29th, we decided on an early December holiday gathering. Worn out from our wedding and the demands of recipe testing, I was, frankly, hardly in the mood for extracurricular cooking. Yet holiday entertaining was a long-held Christina tradition and we wanted to celebrate married life with friends and family in a season of celebrations. Potato latkes (see page 340) were de rigueur. On my list of recipes to test was choucroute garnie, the traditional pork-laden sauerkraut dish that I made for Christina for our first New Year’s Day together. So, killing two birds with one stone, the choucroute garnie complemented our latkes, making for a reasonable Hanukkah and Christmas pairing befitting our respective holiday traditions. Dessert was lavender ice cream—leftovers from the batch I’d made for our wedding.

Traditional Potato Latkes & Applesauce
It’s a shame that potato pancakes tend to be made only for Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that comes in December. The Hanukkah story celebrates the miracle of oil—there was reportedly just enough to burn one day in the temple, but it lasted for eight days. The fact that potato pancakes require prodigious amounts of oil to fry is surely a coincidence. The key to making them crispy is to squeeze out excess water from the grated onion and potato. Make the applesauce first so it’s ready for your hot latkes. The recipe will yield more than you will likely need for the latkes.

do ahead Applesauce may be made up to two weeks ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Latkes may be made up to three days ahead and stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator or frozen up to a month. Reheat in a 350° oven for 7-10 minutes, turning them over midway through.

Applesauce
1 cup apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
21⁄2 pounds apples (for best results, use a mix of sweet and tart)
sugar to taste
Latkes
1 pound onion, peeled
11⁄2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
vegetable oil

1 Make the applesauce: In a large pot, add apple cider and cinnamon sticks and simmer slowly for 10 minutes, taking care not to boil the cider away.
2 Leaving skin on, core apples and cut them into chunks.
3 Add apples and sugar to pot. Increase heat to high and cover. After about 5 minutes, stir apples to move the top apples down into the liquid. Continue cooking until apples are soft and falling apart, about 10-15 minutes more.
4 Remove cinnamon sticks and reserve. Using a food mill or food processor, puree apples to desired texture. Add back cinnamon sticks to sauce. Chill. (Just be sure to remove cinnamon sticks before serving.)
5 Make the latkes: On the largest holes of a box grater, grate onion and potatoes. The large-holed grating disk on the food processor does a fine job too. Turn the mixture onto several layers of cheesecloth or an open kitchen towel. Gather the corners and squeeze the water from the mixture.
6 Combine eggs, flour, salt and pepper in large bowl. Add onions and potatoes and mix well.
7 Preheat oven to 200°. Line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels and have another unlined baking sheet ready. Heat 1⁄2 cup oil in a sauté pan over moderately high heat until very hot but not smoking. Fill a 1⁄3 cup measure with the potato mixture. Drop it into the sauté pan and push it down with the flat side of the measuring cup so you have a pancake about 3 inches in diameter and 1⁄4-inch thick. Cook pancakes until brown and crisp on one side, about 2-3 minutes, and flip, taking care not to splatter the oil. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes more. Add more oil as needed, making sure to get the oil hot before adding the pancake mixture. Adjust heat as needed so that the pancakes brown as they cook through without burning. As you get to the bottom of the mix it will be watery, so be sure to give it a stir. Transfer cooked pancakes to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Pat the top of the pancakes with another double layer of paper towels. Cook remaining batter in batches until all the pancakes are cooked, transferring cooked and drained pancakes to the unlined baking sheet.
8 Keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve. Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream.

yields 2 quarts applesauce and 1 dozen 3-inch pancakes

Potato Latkes…This Thursday at The Residences at Two Liberty Place
As guests arrive, I’ll be serving potato latkes with homemade applesauce. There are still a few seats available for my Gershwin Y sponsored event at Two Liberty Place. Click For info. I’ll be doing some Home Entertaining Coaching. The event begins at 7 PM and will include my perspective on how to make home entertaining better and easier and well as some simple recipes. At Home’s Potato Latkes included. If you never have experienced the view from the top of Two Liberty Place, I can promise you that it’s breathtaking. I will be selling and signing At Home: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining.

Happy Hanukkah,

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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My Thanksgiving

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving…whether you were a host or guest. Here is a postmortem with photos of and comments on my Thanksgiving — our first Thanksgiving at home in some years. Our final menu.

 

As guests arrive
Champagne with Cranberries
Anniversary Tangerine Kumquat Martini

Hors d’oeuvres
Noah’s Tuna Tartare “Taco”
Larry’s Gougeres

Venison Pate with Quince Relish
Brandied Chicken Liver & Bacon Pate

Amazing Acres Farm Chevre with Chives
Robiola and Camembert
Larry’s Pear, Cranberry & Blood Orange Mostarda

Kohlrabi & French Radishes with Sea Salt
Pickled Okra & Watermelon Radish

Dinner
Roast Turkey
Larry’s Fennel Stuffing
Traditional Bread Stuffing — Gluten Free
Tarragon Gravy
Larry’s Traditional Cranberry Mold with Grapa

Larry’s Green Bean, Mushroom & Corn Casserole
Stir-fried Shaved Brussels Sprouts
Gracie’s Bourbon Sweet Potatoes
Noah’s Mac ‘n Cheese

2006 Chardonnay & 2004 VSP
J.Maki Winery, Elverson PA

Dessert
Ginny’s Pecan Pie
Ginny’s Pumpkin Pie
Chestnut Ice Cream

 

So, how did it go?
Mixed. My Wednesday decision to appear on Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia on the day after Thanksgiving added an element of stress and a load of additional work that made this Thanksgiving less fun than ideal.

The subject of my Fox 29 appearance, two four minute spots in the 8 AM and 9 AM hours, was Thanksgiving Leftovers. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to wing these things. They may appear quite casual to the casual viewer, but when you’re “the talent” there is nothing casual about being carefully prepared. My plan was to “make” Turkey Chowder in the first segment. I say “make” because there is nothing to cook on so you’re just dumping ingredients into a cold pot — including a stick of butter and being very animated and descriptive about what would be happening if there actually was a source of heat. Fortunately, At Home already had a recipe for Turkey Chowder. In the second segment my plan was to put together a Turkey Salad with Cranberry Mayonnaise and Pecans. I had no recipe for this and I needed to get the recipes to Fox 29 to put up on their website and show. I could not do this on Thanksgiving Day so I had to spend time Wednesday evening figuring out this recipe. Oh, except I had no leftover turkey to make the salad so I had to figure out the recipe sans turkey — and factor the turkey into the recipe. See Thanksgiving Leftovers post for these recipes.

After guests left and a reasonable amount of clean-up was completed, I started the turkey stock with my leftover turkey carcass on the way to making the soup. You see, I needed a finished chowder for the Fox 29 anchors to taste. But I also needed a turkey carcass as a prop for the show and I had only one carcass. A call to my Frog Commissary staff who were at Ronald McDonald House serving Thanksgiving dinner provided the additional carcass! I also had to prepare all of the ingredients for both recipes in those little individual bowls that recipe demonstrators use. Oh, I also had to complete my Thanksgiving Leftover blog and post it so that Fox could link back to my blog. So, I was up until about 11 PM getting ready for my Friday AM appearance. That would not be so bad except I was pretty tired hours earlier — weren’t you? — and I had to get up about 5:45 AM to be at Fox 29 at 7 AM. Like I said, a less fun than ideal.

Click here to see the Fox 29 Good Day Philadelphia segments.

What follows are photos and commentary on my Thanksgiving.

Christina set the table mostly on Wednesday evening with some finishing touches on Thursday.

I did flowers on Wednesday afternoon and finished the little bit of prep work that remained for Thursday. Rather than a single “centerpiece,” I did three smaller arrangements spread across the table — fit better than a single centerpiece and spread the flowers my equitably.

Cocktail glasses were set-out along with our red dinner wine. The white wine was sitting outdoors on a chilly day that was thankfully close to refrigerator temperature. David, who was helping us, suggested that the red spend some time cooling– an excellent suggestion as people generally serve red wine too warm. Red wine should certainly not be served chilled, but something cooler than room temperature is ideal. Our wines were from the J. Maki Winery in Elverson, Pennsylvania in Northern Chester County. I discovered J.Maki — along with their neighbor Amazing Acres Goat Cheese — on one of my farm stand journeys and both have proved to be great finds. Our “house cocktails” included the Tangerine-Kumquat Martini we served at our wedding two years ago and the Champagne with Cranberry from At Home.

Counter adjacent to sink clear was clear of anything dirty. In addition, there was a bus pan adjacent to the sink for plate stacking and a small plastic tub for soaking dirty silverware. Christina came up with the excellent idea of adding this extra shelf for extra space in our narrow apartment kitchen.

The dishwasher was empty.

All of our platters were pulled and labeled.

My venison pate was removed from the refrigerator an hour early so it would not be served cold.

Hors d’ouvres were set-out on the coffee table in the living room shortly before guests arrived including a copy of our Thanksgiving dinner menu. “Souvenier” copies of the menu were also on the dinner table.

Here is my venison pate studded with pistachios and black forest ham. I was glad I made it, but I have to say that the effort was far out of proportion to the role it played in our Thanksgiving meal. If it was not there I don’t think any guest would have said “where the heck is the venison pate.” We have lots leftover pate in the freezer — ready to make an appearance later in the holiday season.

Hardly anyone touched the pickled watermelon radishes and okra and raw kohlrabi and French radishes with salt from the Great Salt Lake. But they were all pretty simple — the okra leftover from weeks ago and the watermelon radishes made last weekend — and provided nice color to the coffee table.

I love my long and thin olive bowl and again, while guests did not have lots of olives, they were a very easy addition. In the white ramekin was Amazing Acres chevre with fresh chives and the Chicken Liver and Bacon Pate from The Frog Commissary Cookbook. As with the venison pate, I have a holiday seasons worth of che chicken liver and bacon pate.

Larry’s brought bacon gougeres — little savory puffs that were warmed and passed to guests. They are sitting on a book of photos that I put together from our recent trip to Nova Scotia.

While guests were ending cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the living room, I headed to the kitchen to carve the turkey. A few words about the turkey. First, a 25 pound turkey is ridiculously large for eleven guests, but that I would certainly do again. Turkey is a wonderful meat and we just don’t roast turkey enough. Lots of turkey means lots of leftover turkey to distribute to guests and to enjoy for days…and to have for your appearance on TV! I had a careful plan as to when the turkey would go into the oven — right there on a label on my kitchen cabinet. But when my sister-in-law called to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving and discuss her own turkey roasting plans, it suddenly occurred to me that I was an hour late in getting the turkey into the oven. Our plan for a leisurely roast at 325 degrees switched to a 500 degree blast for 25 minutes and then a somewhat faster ride at 350 degrees. The turkey had been brined and it came out on time, moist, nicely browned and delicious.

On to the platter the turkey went.

Gracie’s Bourbon Sweet Potatoes and Larry’s Fennel Stuffing — both from At Home — and a small amount of gluten-free bread stuffing for Christina.

Last week I had made simply sauteed Brussels Sprouts for dinner for Christina and myself — shaved with garlic and olive oil. Christina requested these for Thanksgiving, but they were a far cry from what I had done for the two of us. There were too many Brussels sprouts for the pan and I got called away while “stir frying” them so some overcooked and they lost their bright green and fresh quality. In general, it reinforced my notion that you don;t do this sort of last-minute dish when turning out Thanksgiving dinner unless it can receive pretty much someone’s undivided attention. Live and learn.

Larry’s — whose wife Susan disdains of Brussels sprouts — made a wonderful corn and green bean casserole with chanterelles.

In addition to his tuna tartare hors d’oeuvres, my son Noah contributed an elegant Mac ‘n Four Cheeses studded with jalapeno. He’s come a long way since Kraft.

I was particularly happy with my gravy…fully completed last weekend. What began as a few gallons of rich turkey stock was distilled down to a quart of rich gravy that got a healthy amount of chopped fresh tarragon while reheating. No fussing with last minute pan gravy.

Larry’s provided a traditional cranberry mold, reminiscent of the “open a can” cranberry sauce of his youth…except this was made with fresh cranberries and grappa — an Italian brandy. While un-molding it, we left it in warm water too long and some of it melted so we un-molded it into a platter with sides that caught the liquified cranberry sauce. Larry provided these wonderful sugar-crusted cranberries and sage leaves for garnish.

Christina’s mother Ginny’s provided be excellent pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert.

The pies were served with my chestnut ice cream. The ice cream was disappointing. The graininess of the chestnuts was strange in the ice cream, creating a texture that was not altogether pleasant. As Christina said afterward, when you are always trying new things, they don’t all work. Safe to say that I will not be doing chestnut ice cream again.

Overall, I would say we had too much food. I know that this is common at many (most?) Thanksgiving tables, but I really would like to dial back the amount of food next year — both less food and fewer items. Even if you have only a little bit of so many items, you end up unpleasantly stuffed. But for the TV appearance prep, this would not have been too hard or stressful. Lots of people pitched in and there were a reasonable number of things to do Thanksgiving Day. One relaxed hour was within grasp! But just because you can do all this food without wrecking havoc does not mean you should.

At Home…This Thursday at The Residences at Two Liberty Place
There are still a few seats available for my Gershwin Y sponsored event at Two Liberty Place. For info. I’ll be doing some Home Entertaining Coaching. The event begins at 7 PM and will include my perspective on how to make home entertaining better and easier and well as some simple recipes. At Home’s Potato Latkes included. If you never have experienced the view from the top of Two Liberty Place, I can promise you that it’s breathtaking. I will be selling and signing At Home: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Matzo Brei Recipe

Think of matzo brei as Jewish French toast in which matzo – substituting for bread — gets soaked in an egg custard and cooked in butter. Passover, which officially lasts seven days, forbids observant Jews from eating leavened products such as bread. Even less observant Jews frequently abstain from eating bread during Passover. Matzo Brei (rhymes with bye) is the classic Passover breakfast. It’s too bad matzo brei does not appear beyond Passover as it is great any time of the year – whether or not you’re Jewish.

Matzo Brei
Here, the matzo pancake’s custard is sweetened and flavored with cinnamon and sugar that is also sprinkled on top. Serve with optional warmed maple syrup on the side. This recipe calls for making a large pancake and cutting into quarters – two quarters per person. You can certainly make smaller individual pancakes. Your goal is to have a crisp and brown exterior with a softer, custardy interior.

Do Ahead You can make Matzo Brei up to 30 minutes in advance and hold, lightly covered, in a 225 degree oven until ready to serve. Make sure you do not fully cover and seal as pancake will steam and you will lose its crisp pancake exterior.

2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
½ cup milk, whole preferred
¼ teaspoon salt
3 matzo sheets, plain and unsalted
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 ounces maple syrup, optional

1 In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon and mix well. Reserve.
2 To make custard mixture In a medium bowl combine eggs, milk, salt and 1 tablespoon cinnamon and sugar mix. Whisk well to combine.
3 Tempering and soaking matzo Run tap water until hot. Run water over matzo sheet until damp but not really wet. Your goal is to soften matzo and begin breaking it down, but not get it dripping wet. You want the matzo to absorb the milk-egg mixture and the wetter it is with water, the less custard will be absorbed. But you need the initial wetting to get the process of absorption started. Repeat with balance of matzo sheets. Crumble matzo into egg-milk mix and push down to absorb custard. You want matzo pieces to be of variable and not homogeneous in size. Absorbing custard could take 10 to 15 minutes. Push matzo down into custard as needed. Don’t be concerned if matzo is not evenly moist as that unevenness makes for a pleasing texture to pancake.
4 Cooking Matzo Brei Using approximately 10-inch sauté or omelet pan with gently slopping sides, heat 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat until foam subsides.  Pour soaked matzo with any residual custard into pan and with a broad spatula, push down to form a pancake. Cook until bottom is browned and bottom of pancake is set and firm. You may need to lower heat if bottom browns too quickly before pancake sets. Using spatula around and under pancake, loosen pancake from pan so that it can slide around. Using a dinner plate, flip pancake on to plate so the browned bottom side is now facing up. Don’t worry if pancake creases a little, just try to straighten it. Add additional 1 tablespoon butter to pan and when foam subsides, slide pancake back into pan and cook until bottom browned and pancake firm and fully set.  If you are timid about flipping, you can pre-heat your broiler and finish cooking by holding pan under broiler until top is browned and set. If making more than one pancake, transfer to cookie sheet and hold in 225 degree oven until ready to serve.
5 To serve Cut pancake into quarters and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mix. If using optional maple syrup, place in pitcher and warm in microwave before serving.

Each pancake serves 2

Matzo soaks in custard until nearly all the custard is absorbed. Push matzo down into custard as needed. Don’t worry if there is still some residual custard remaining. Just pour it all into the pan.

Once butter’s foam has subsided, pour soaked matzo into pan and push down to form a pancake. The key is to brown the outside and get it crispy while just having the custardy interior set while staying moist. Matzo Brie should not be dry inside. If it seems to be cooking too quickly — by which I mean the bottom is browning before the pancake is setting — reduce heat.  If you reduce the heat too much it will be difficult to brown and crisp the outside while maintaining a moist inside.

Here’s a simple way to “flip” the pancake. Once the bottom is browned and set, use spatula to loosen pancake so that it slides around. Flip pancake on to waiting plate. Don’t worry if it gets a little creased. Just try to straighten pancakes as best you can. As my mother used to say, “It all gets mixed up in your stomach!” Next…

Add butter to pan again and when foam subsides, slide pancake back into pan with cooked side facing up. Continue cooking until bottom is browned and the custard and matzo are set, but not fully dry.

Once again, use your spatula to loosen pancake and slide off on to waiting plate or cutting board. You can cut it into quarters with two quarters being a serving. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar mix and/or serve with warmed maple syrup.


If you are making several, slide on to cookie sheet and hold in 225 degree oven until you have made all of your Matzo Brei.

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Matzo Brei

Note: Some last minute Passover advice follows the recipe. So, if you are not interested in the recipe, skip ahead.

Think of matzo brei as Jewish French toast in which matzo – substituting for bread — gets soaked in an egg custard and cooked in butter. Passover, which officially lasts seven days, forbids observant Jews from eating leavened products such as bread. Even less observant Jews frequently abstain from eating bread during Passover. Matzo Brei (rhymes with bye) is the classic Passover breakfast. It’s too bad matzo brei does not appear beyond Passover as it is great any time of the year – whether or not you’re Jewish.

Matzo Brei
Here, the matzo pancake’s custard is sweetened and flavored with cinnamon and sugar that is also sprinkled on top. Serve with optional warmed maple syrup on the side. This recipe calls for making a large pancake and cutting into quarters – two quarters per person. You can certainly make smaller individual pancakes. Your goal is to have a crisp and brown exterior with a softer, custardy interior.

Do Ahead You can make Matzo Brei up to 30 minutes in advance and hold, lightly covered, in a 225 degree oven until ready to serve. Make sure you do not fully cover and seal as pancake will steam and you will lose its crisp pancake exterior.

2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
½ cup milk, whole preferred
¼ teaspoon salt
3 matzo sheets, plain and unsalted
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 ounces maple syrup, optional

1 In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon and mix well. Reserve.
2 To make custard mixture In a medium bowl combine eggs, milk, salt and 1 tablespoon cinnamon and sugar mix. Whisk well to combine.
3 Tempering and soaking matzo Run tap water until hot. Run water over matzo sheet until damp but not really wet. Your goal is to soften matzo and begin breaking it down, but not get it dripping wet. You want the matzo to absorb the milk-egg mixture and the wetter it is with water, the less custard will be absorbed. But you need the initial wetting to get the process of absorption started. Repeat with balance of matzo sheets. Crumble matzo into egg-milk mix and push down to absorb custard. You want matzo pieces to be of variable and not homogeneous in size. Absorbing custard could take 10 to 15 minutes. Push matzo down into custard as needed. Don’t be concerned if matzo is not evenly moist as that unevenness makes for a pleasing texture to pancake.
4 Cooking Matzo Brei Using approximately 10-inch sauté or omelet pan with gently slopping sides, heat 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat until foam subsides.  Pour soaked matzo with any residual custard into pan and with a broad spatula, push down to form a pancake. Cook until bottom is browned and bottom of pancake is set and firm. You may need to lower heat if bottom browns too quickly before pancake sets. Using spatula around and under pancake, loosen pancake from pan so that it can slide around. Using a dinner plate, flip pancake on to plate so the browned bottom side is now facing up. Don’t worry if pancake creases a little, just try to straighten it. Add additional 1 tablespoon butter to pan and when foam subsides, slide pancake back into pan and cook until bottom browned and pancake firm and fully set.  If you are timid about flipping, you can pre-heat your broiler and finish cooking by holding pan under broiler until top is browned and set. If making more than one pancake, transfer to cookie sheet and hold in 225 degree oven until ready to serve.
5 To serve Cut pancake into quarters and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mix. If using optional maple syrup, place in pitcher and warm in microwave before serving.

Each pancake serves 2

Matzo soaks in custard until nearly all the custard is absorbed. Push matzo down into custard as needed. Don’t worry if there is still some residual custard remaining. Just pour it all into the pan.

Once butter’s foam has subsided, pour soaked matzo into pan and push down to form a pancake. The key is to brown the outside and get it crispy while just having the custardy interior set while staying moist. Matzo Brie should not be dry inside. If it seems to be cooking too quickly — by which I mean the bottom is browning before the pancake is setting — reduce heat.  If you reduce the heat too much it will be difficult to brown and crisp the outside while maintaining a moist inside.

Here’s a simple way to “flip” the pancake. Once the bottom is browned and set, use spatula to loosen pancake so that it slides around. Flip pancake on to waiting plate. Don’t worry if it gets a little creased. Just try to straighten pancakes as best you can. As my mother used to say, “It all gets mixed up in your stomach!” Next…

Add butter to pan again and when foam subsides, slide pancake back into pan with cooked side facing up. Continue cooking until bottom is browned and the custard and matzo are set, but not fully dry.

Once again, use your spatula to loosen pancake and slide off on to waiting plate or cutting board. You can cut it into quarters with two quarters being a serving. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar mix and/or serve with warmed maple syrup.


If you are making several, slide on to cookie sheet and hold in 225 degree oven until you have made all of your Matzo Brei.

Last Minute Passover Advice
Hopefully you have followed the advice featured in Part 1 of At Home regarding how to organize your home entertaining. Here’s some highlights:

Your goal is one relaxed hour prior to your guest’s arrival. If you are working today and today is your seder, that might be difficult, but aim for some relaxed time — maybe fifteen minutes. Also, remember that home entertaining is a team sport so make sure the team helps out. Run and empty your dishwasher and wash and put away as many dirty pots, pans, bowls, etc. as you can. You want to start with clear and empty counters. Stash away things like toaster ovens and food processors that may be on your counter but not used for your meal. Post your menu on a kitchen cabinet so you have a “cheat sheet” for your meal. Ideally, pull and label all of your platters and bowls so you know what goes in what. Pre-platter everything you can in advance. Review At Home’s Page 22 as to how best to organize your “Back of House.” Here’s a key: Do not pile dirty things into your sink, rather on the counter adjacent to your sink. That’s because once your sink is full your sunk. Keep the sink available to rinse and wash — not stack.

Some advice for guests: The kitchen is not for chatting. Very important things occur in the kitchen and if you are not there to help make those things happen, stay out of the kitchen. If you are bringing flowers, bring them in a vase already arranged. The last thing you host needs is to stop and arrange flowers.

When it’s all over and guests are gone, make sure to take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well-done. By entertaining at home you have made an important connection to friends and family that will sustain you and your guests long after memories of the food served.

Best wishes for a Happy Passover.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Shephardic Charoset Recipe

Shephardic Charoset
As most American Jews – including yours truly — trace their roots to Eastern Europe, most of our Passover charosets are based on the fresh apples of the Ashkenazi tradition. The Sephardic charoset is based on dried fruit and has the advantage of being able to prepare well ahead. You may substitute pomegranate juice for the red wine. You need lots of different dried fruit for this, but you can buy just what you need from the bulk food bins of health food stores or Whole Foods. If you buy the individual packets you will likely have more dried fruit than you need. Resist making a larger batch as a little Shepardic charoset goes a long way. Leftover dried fruit and nuts, mixed together, makes for a welcome after dinner sweet snack with coffee at a future meal. Try adding some chocolate chips to your after-dinner snack mix.

Do Ahead May be prepared up to two days before serving. If adding fresh mint, add a few hours before serving.

½ cup dates, pits removed
¼ cup prunes, pits removed
¼ cup dried figs
¼ cup dried apples
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup raisins
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup pecans, whole or pieces
¼ cup walnuts, whole or pieces
¼ cup pistachios
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped fresh mint, optional

1 Place dates, prunes, figs and apples on a generous cutting board. Chop until pieces are quite small – about the size of the cranberries and raisins. It may be easier to do this in batches – one fruit at a time. Dried fruit is sticky and not easy to chop. Transfer to medium mixing bowl. Add cranberries and raisins. Add wine and honey. Allow to sit until liquid is absorbed.
2 Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine pecans, walnuts and pistachios on rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3 Coarsely chop nuts. Add to fruit mixture. Add salt. Add optional mint.

Yield 1 quart

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