Top 5 Thanksgiving Ice Creams

The final ideas for a fabulous Thanksgiving.

It’s Thanksgiving, Reinvented. . . . .

Top Ten Thanksgiving Dishes, Part Three

9.  Top 5 Thanksgiving Ice Creams.  Ice cream is a great canvas for seasonal flavors of sweet potato, pumpkin, nuts, and spice. Some are from widely distributed makers, others are from artisan makers. A Thanksgiving ice cream is a great addition to the menu, and it can be back-up if someone forgets to bring dessert or the dog eats the pie.

Sweet Potato with Torched Marshmallows
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio

Pumpkin Spice Gelato
Black Dog in Chicago, Illinois.

Spiced Pumpkin Pecan  

Pumpkin Ice Cream
Graeter’s in Cincinnati, Ohio  

Pumpkin Roll Ice Cream
Pumpkin flavored ice cream with a cream cheese frosting swirl and cake pieces—the best of both worlds!
Moomers Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City, Michigan.

10.  Being Grateful.  As you sit around the Thanksgiving table, make sure you count your blessings.  What are you thankful for this year?
I’m grateful for you, the many readers of this blog, among many blessings in my life.
So, thank you!  And please pass the ice cream. . . .

Top Ten Thanksgiving Dishes, Part Two

It’s Thanksgiving, Reinvented. . . . .

More ideas for a fabulous Thanksgiving, for which you and your family will truly be thankful.
6.  A Pumpkin Dessert.  I have to admit.  I love pumpkin desserts—pumpkin cake roll, pumpkin brownies, pumpkin cake—but not pumpkin pie so much. Of all the pumpkin cakes, this one is my favorite.  It’s got an upside-down caramel topping and is so moist and fresh-tasting, you might never go back to pie.

Fresh Pumpkin Cake
Somewhere between a flan and a cheesecake in texture, this moist and delicious burnt orange-colored cake has a thin coating of caramel when it is turned out of the pan. Use small sugar or pie pumpkins that come on the market in October, or in a pinch, canned pumpkin. Fresh pumpkin adds the best flavor, though. This is gorgeous garnished with red, yellow, orange, or variegated edible flowers and leaves.
Makes a one-layer (8-inch) cake
1 1/2 pounds fresh pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces (or a 15-ounce can pumpkin, not pie filling)
1 quart water
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1. Place the pumpkin, water, and salt into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 30 minutes.
2. Place a wire rack on a kitchen counter. Pour 1 cup of the sugar in the bottom of an 8-inch  metal cake pan. Place the pan directly on a burner over medium heat. When the sugar has melted and turned a light gold, about 10 minutes, put an oven mitt on one hand and swirl the pan to coat the bottom and sides with the caramel. Transfer the pan to a wire rack.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain the pumpkin and place in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the pumpkin and butter together until smooth. Beat in the flour and milk a little at a time, alternating between the two. Beat in the salt, vanilla, and remaining 1 cup sugar until you have a smooth batter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sieve the batter into the caramelized pan and place the pan in a large, shallow baking pan filled with 1 inch of hot water.
3. Bake for 2 hours, or until the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the water bath and cool on a wire rack.
4. When the cake has cooled, carefully loosen the sides, if necessary, and invert onto a cakestand or serving plate. Garnish with fresh flowers and serve.

7. A Signature Cocktail.  I recently did a wedding food story and talked with Ryan Maybee, a craft cocktail guru at Manifesto in Kansas City. When I asked about cocktails for a crowd, I envisioned an army of bartenders.  But Maybee insists that one of the first American cocktails is great to serve a crowd. It’s also currently enjoying a revival, and can give you something to do with Aunt Hilda’s punch bowl stored under your bed.

What is the mystery drink? Punch!  Not after-church or room-mother, 7-Up punch, but punch that really packs a wallop. It’s what George and Martha served at the White House, the cup of good cheer that Thomas Jefferson gave to visitors at Monticello—and a good time was had by all. 

According to Maybee, a great punch needs 5 elements: a strong spirit (booze), something acidic (citrus fruit or tart apple), something sweet, something watery, and something spicy. This 18th century punch recipe has all of that, and it’s easy.  Just give the kids (and Aunt Hilda) the cider without the booze.

Try an artisan hard cider such as Apple True  from Wisconsin, Tandem Ciders in Leelanau peninsula in upper Michigan, or Sutliff Cider near Iowa City in Iowa.

Thanksgiving Cider Punch
Makes 12 servings
2 cups applejack, hard cider, scrumpy, or Calvados
1 quart fresh apple cider
Cinnamon sticks and lemon twists for garnish
1. In a large bowl, stir together the applejack and cider. Fill each cocktail glass or punch cup with ice and pour in the punch. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a twist of fresh lemon.

8. A Side Dish on the Grill.  Couldn’t be easier, or make more sense. Send some of the guys outside and free your oven up at the same time.

Grilled Squash and Apple Rings with Buttery Cinnamon Baste
Cut Golden Delicious apples into 1-inch thick slices, then remove the core from each slice with a paring knife.  Cut acorn squash into 1-inch slices and remove the seeds and fibrous material in the center of each slice with a paring knife.  Microwave the squash slices for about 3 to 4 minutes on HIGH or until they’re par-cooked.  In a bowl, whisk 4 tablespoons melted butter with ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Brush the rings with this mixture and grill over medium-high heat until the squash is cooked through and both squash and apple rings have good grill marks.
These can be done ahead of time and kept warm on the grill, wrapped in aluminum foil.

Top Ten Thanksgiving Dishes, Reinvented--Part One

Fresh air, fine living, fabulous ideas.  
That’s the Alfresco way--especially for Thanksgiving!

On Wednesday night this week, I participated in a Les Dames d’Escoffier holiday fundraiser for a backpack snack program for kids in need, administered by our local food bank Harvesters. We all brought out our best Thanksgiving recipes to prepare and share with attendees.
Some families require that Thanksgiving stay the same, usually with an 1870s menu that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family would have enjoyed: roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, hot rolls, and pumpkin pie.
Every family has its favorites, including mine, but tastes can change. New friends and family members can grace your table (and bring a new set of must-haves).
And it doesn’t hurt to try something new--or use your outdoor kitchen more for this feast.
So, here are tasty ways to reinvent Thanksgiving classics.

1.  Turkey.  Last year for Thanksgiving, my sister and I brined a 20-pound heirloom turkey Wednesday night, covered with ice, then started roasting it early Thanksgiving morning.  It turned out moist and delicious.
The guys in our family deep-fried a grocery store turkey that was on sale the day after Thanksgiving, and it was even more moist and delicious!  The moral of the story is—expand your turkey horizons.
If you have traditionalists at your house, then do turkey the expected way. But it doesn’t hurt to try turkey a new way—it could become the favorite. As an alternate turkey that tastes great for a smaller crowd, I love Brie and Basil–Stuffed Turkey Breast , smoked outdoors. And it frees up the oven!

Brie and Basil–Stuffed Turkey Breast
Suggested wood: Fruitwood, grapevines, pecan, oak, or maple
Serves 4
2 boneless, skinless turkey breast halves (about 3 pounds total)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces Brie
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1. Prepare an indirect fire in your grill. In a charcoal grill, bank the charcoal in the middle so you can put a turkey breast on either side of the coals but not over them. In a gas grill, turn on the middle burner, so you can put a turkey breast on either side of the flame but not over it.
2. Add wood. In a charcoal grill, add 3 sticks or chunks of wood to the coals once they have ashed over.  In a gas grill, put 1 cup of dry wood chips in a metal smoker box or an aluminum foil packet with holes punched in it so the smoke can escape; put the smoker box or packet close to a burner.
3. Rinse the turkey and pat dry. Lightly coat both breasts with the olive oil. Make a pocket slit in the thicker side of each turkey breast. Place 3 to 4 thin slices of Brie inside each slit. Tuck 4 or 5 fresh basil leaves evenly on top of the cheese. Wrap each breast with half of the prosciutto. Place the turkey on either side of the fire. When you see the first wisp of smoke from the wood, cover the grill, and smoke until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast registers 160 to 165°F, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The turkey will have a hint of pink from the smoke. Let rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Serve warm.

2. Sweet Potatoes.  Some sweet potato dishes are so sweet, they practically make your teeth hurt. Why not try a roasted sweet potato dish, especially if you can find sweet potato fingerlings at a farmer’s market? You simply toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, add chopped red onion and fresh rosemary, season to taste, and roast in a 400°F oven, stirring a couple of times, until they’re tender and caramelized in about 45 minutes.

3. Cranberries.  My food stylist friend Vicki Johnson makes a cranberry sauce that has so much flavor, you could eat it with a spoon. If you’re looking to change up your recipe, this is a great one to try.  It’s fabulous with turkey, over a mild cheese as an appetizer, or as an extra side dish. The only trick is caramelizing the sugar with the vinegar first--for a while, it just boils and stays white. Then, all of a sudden, it starts to go brown, so keep an eye on it. Freeze bags of cranberries to use for use in January and February, when this vibrant flavor and color will perk you right up.

Winter Cranberry Relish
Makes 4 cups
1 cup dark or golden raisins, covered with boiling water in a bowl
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
1 cup orange juice
6 cups (two 12-ounce bags) cranberries
1 1/2 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples
1 cup slivered, toasted almonds
1. Let the raisins plump in the water  for 15 minutes, then drain.
2. While the raisins are plumping, combine the sugar and vinegar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar starts to bubble. Cook until the mixture turns a medium brown, about 5 minutes, but watch it all the way.
3. Stir in the ginger, orange zest and juice and bring to a boil.  Add the cranberries and cook for 5 minutes or until the cranberries burst their skins. Stir in the raisins, apples, and almonds.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. Brussels Sprouts. If you’ve been boiling your sprouts to death, there’s another way—roasting! Halve fresh sprouts, toss them with a little olive oil and some finely chopped pancetta or bacon, then roast them in a 400°F oven, stirring occasionally. You can roast these the day before until they’re still slightly crisp, then warm them in the oven—or do this all outside on the grill in a disposable aluminum pan, with the grill lid down. 
5. Pumpkin. Okay, most of us do pumpkin pie.  But you can also make fabulous Pumpkin Pullaparts with a no-knead dough.  You can bake them the day before or the morning of, them warm them before serving. The recipe is in this blog’s 2009 archive.

Kale, Kale the Flavor's All Here!

In Vegetarian or Meatless Monday Dishes

Cold weather kale is getting a taste makeover. 

If you remember kale as a boiled-to-death vegetable 
in a one-pot meal, then here’s a surprising twist. 

Kale can be crunchy and absolutely delicious.

Lacinato Kale
Crunchy Kale
Adapted from Heartland: The Cookbook. This tastes great served like potato chips or as a side dish.

Kale Ready for the Oven

1 bunch kale, such as curly, Lacinato, Russian, or Dino
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup freshly grated Asiago, Parmesan, or Gruyere
1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
2. Trim the tough ends from the kale and cut the leaves into 1-inch pieces. Arrange on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and toss to blend.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then open the oven door and stir the kale with a wooden spoon. Bake for another 10 minutes, then open the door again and sprinkle the kale with the grated cheese. Bake for a final 30 minutes or until the kale is crunchy.

Crunchy Kale

This fall, I’ve done several cooking classes around the country, serving up simmering soups and a fabulous flatbread that features crunchy kale as a topping.
The flatbread is easy to do--especially if you have a bowl of dough on hand in the fridge--and can turn a Meatless Monday into a “Can’t Wait” occasion.

Easy Artisan Dough Makes bread, rolls, pizza, or flatbread
Adapted from 200 Fast & Easy Artisan Breads.  
2 tbsp  instant or bread machine yeast         
1 ½ tbsp           fine kosher salt          
6 1/2 cups       all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting       
3 cups  lukewarm water, about 100°F           
1. Mix. Add the yeast and salt to the flours. Stir together with a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk. Pour in the water and stir together until just moistened. Beat 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl, until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.
2. Rise. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 72°F for 2 hours or until the dough has risen near the top of the bowl and has a sponge-like appearance.
4. Use Right Away or Refrigerate. Use that day or place the dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 9 days before baking.

Flatbread with Crispy Kale, Black Olives, and Goat Cheese
Makes 1 flatbread to serve 16 as an appetizer
½ recipe prepared Easy Artisan Dough
Unbleached, all-purpose flour for dusting
4 tbsp  olive oil, divided use
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
1 pound fresh kale, leaves torn from the stems       
2 cups hot water for broiler pan

1. Form. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. To form the flatbread, remove half of the dough with a serrated knife and a dough scraper. The remaining dough in the bowl will deflate somewhat. Transfer the dough portion to a floured surface. Flour the dough and your hands. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Working the dough as little as possible and adding flour as necessary, pat the dough into to fit the pan. Lightly flour any sticky places on the dough. The dough should feel soft and smooth all over, like a baby’s skin, but not at all sticky.
2. Rest.  Cover with a tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 40 minutes.
3. Prepare Oven for Artisan Baking. About 30 minutes before baking, place a broiler pan on the lower shelf and a baking stone on the middle shelf of the oven. Preheat to 450°F (230 °C).
4. Top Flatbread. When ready to bake, the dough will not have risen much, but will finish rising dramatically in the oven. Pour 2 tbsp of the olive oil into a bowl and with the kale until the kale leaves are shiny. Arrange the kale on the dough and top with crumbled goat cheese and black olives. Drizzle with remaining olive oil.
5. Slide Flatbread onto Baking Stone and Add Water to Broiler Pan. Using an oven mitt, carefully pull the middle rack of the oven out several inches. Place the pan of flatbread on the hot stone. Pull the lower rack out, pour the hot water into the broiler pan, and push the lower rack back in place. Close the oven door immediately so the steam will envelop the oven.
6. Bake.  Bake for 27 to 30 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool.