Thanksgiving- Installment 2, Sides and Dessert, oh the dessert…

Adding on to the fabulous turkey and gravy from last post, we enjoyed some delicious side dishes and crazy good dessert. I must spend a moment on dessert. Years ago, when I owned and restaurant and catered I always wanted to change my concept to a bakery and book shop because my passions were baking and reading. It would be the kind of place I wanted to spend all my time, surrounded by a bevy of my favorite characters and confections. But, it was not meant to be. My cafe was successful and my customer base was established and if you know anything about the restaurant industry, you do not mess with a good thing. Now that my restaurant has been gone for a number of years, I find myself still yearning for those early mornings when the sun was just peeking up over the beach and the ovens were hot, ready for whatever I filled them with. I can say it now, I am a recovering baking addict. My personal twelve step program involves lots of prep and baking around the holidays- even if nobody is coming over. This year was no different except I had help. Dangerous. Liv was as excited to get into the flour and sugar as I was and we were feeling experimental. I made the traditional Maple Pumpkin Pie my family loves- actually I made four. We also decided to try our hands at Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake and Pumpkin Creme Brulee. For some reason I never make cheesecake any more. I used to make about 10 per week when I had the restaurant and they were some of the most popular desserts, but since I left the industry, I just have not made any. It could be that my husband hates cheesecake and I just don’t have the audience for it or it could be the complicated nature of cheesecake with its water bath and temperamental top you hope does not crack. I don’t know. It just does not seem to happen in my kitchen, until this year. I made the requisite traditional dessert so I gave myself license to branch out. I am just going to say now, I could not have chosen two more labor-intensive, difficult desserts to make with Liv, but the results- Amazing! My husband actually devoured both desserts and raved about the cheesecake. The top was perfect- no cracking and the gingersnap crust was crumbly perfection. The Creme Brulee had a beautiful spice from the added cardamom and a pudding-like texture with that hard, crystallized sugar top. I could not have been happier and more importantly, Liv and I survived creating two fairly difficult dishes with only a few squabbles and a little food processor hiccup. Below are our side dish and dessert recipes.

Cranberry Sauce (It is not that hard to make it fresh, though my son prefers the can variety you can still see the can imprints on :). In addition to a condiment with the turkey, we used this as a topping on the cheesecake and it was the perfect tart counterpart to the creamy texture of the cheesecake.)

Ingredients:

1 bag of fresh cranberries

1 large orange

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup of granulated sugar

Procedure:

In a medium-sized saucepan, mix together cranberries, sugar and zest of orange. After zesting orange, juice it into your cranberry mix. Add cinnamon sticks and turn heat to high. Allow sauce to come to a boil and let cranberries start popping. Once cranberries have popped and sauce begins to thicken, remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer to serving dish and put in refrigerator for 3- 6 hours. When ready to serve, remove cinnamon sticks.

Crawfish and Andouille Cornbread Stuffing

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 lb. Andouille sausage links, cut into small rounds

1 lb. bulk sausage (I use country)

2 vidalia onions, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

2 red bell peppers, chopped

1 poblano pepper, chopped

10-12 oz. crawfish tail meat

2 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. hot sauce (I like Melinda’s)

12 oz. dry cornbread stuffing (I use Pepperidge Farms)

2 cups  chicken stock

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add all sausages and cook until browned . Add onions, celery, peppers and crawfish. Cover and cook until vegetables begin to be tender, stirring occasionally. Add thyme and hot sauce and continue to cook for another minute.

Transfer contents of skillet to a large stainless steel bowl. Add stuffing mix and chicken stock and mix by hand until combined. Transfer to a glass 13×9 baking dish and put in oven to bake. Bake until top becomes crispy- about 45 minutes.

Warmed Cauliflower and Herbed Barley Salad

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I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit last year and have been dying to make it. I changed it a little to accommodate my family’s palettes. Here is the link to the original recipe. I omitted the mayonnaise and tarragon. It was adored by everyone at my table, including the picky eaters and was the perfect side dish with turkey, cranberry and feta sandwiches the next couple of days!

Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin

This is another recipe I originally found in Bon Appetit and adapted slightly. I missed a cheese element in my potato casserole and found this recipe too wet in its final form. Here is the link to the original recipe and below is my adaptation. This is perennially requested at my holiday table.

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Ingredients:

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus 1 tbsp. at room temp to coat baking dish

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, rinsed

2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled

2 cups whole milk

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

8 oz. Gouda cheese, not the processed version, firm gouda

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 13×9 glass baking dish.

For the next step, I have always used my mandolin. My husband watches in fear, thinking I will slice my finger off at any moment and we will head to the emergency room. This year since Liv was cooking with me, I decided to give the slicing attachment on my food processor a shot. Best decision ever! She was able to slice the potatoes on her own and they were uniform size. Place one layer of potatoes (mix them together) in the prepared baking dish.

Now it is time to turn to the cream element. Bring milk, garlic, thyme and nutmeg to boil in a medium saucepan. Pour 1/3 of mixture over potatoes. Spread 1 layer of Gouda next. Repeat these steps until ingredients are exhausted. I usually get about four layers in my dish.

Cover with foil and bake one hour. After an hour, remove foil and dot top with four tablespoons of butter. Sometimes I grate some more Gouda or fresh Parmesan on top for a little extra something. I did not this year, but it is a good addition. Put back in the oven and bake for another 40 minutes or until golden brown. It will still be a little liquidy, but will set after it cools slightly.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I have a base cheesecake recipe I always used at the restaurant, but with the addition of an ingredient like pumpkin I decide to consult a couple of recipe sites to see how they handled the additional moisture. The one closest to my own recipe ended up being from Food Network. I did a variation on their Almost Famous Pumpkin Cheesecake. The original recipe is linked here. Below is my recipe adaptation.

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Ingredients:

approx. 6 tbsp. unsalted butter- melted, plus some for buttering pan

1 box gingersnaps, ground

2 lbs. cream cheese, room temp

2 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup sour cream

1 15 oz. can pumpkin

6 eggs, room temp

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 tsps. cinnamon (I like roasted)

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 10 inch springform pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs and the melted butter. Once the crumbs are moistened, transfer to the springform pan and press into bottom and up sides. Bake about 15 minutes. The crust will start to look a little puffy and be very aromatic. Remove from oven and cool. Wrap bottom and sides of pan with heavy duty foil. Place in a large pan that will accommodate a water bath.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until combined, scraping sides as necessary. Add the sour cream, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and spices to the mixture and beat lightly until combined. Pour into cooled crust.

Place large baking pan with cheesecake mixture in it, on the lowest oven rack. Pour hot water into the outer pan until it comes up to halfway on the springform pan. Bake in oven until center just sets (it will still be moving but not breaking the top), about 90 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the door to allow some of the heat out. Then close the door and leave the cheesecake in there for one more hour. Carefully remove the pan from the waterbath to a cooling rack and allow to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving. Whipped cream is the traditional topping, but I used the cranberry sauce and it was a sweet-tart masterpiece.

 

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Again, I have a base recipe I use for Creme Brulee, but with the additional moisture added by pumpkin, I consulted recipe sites for their adaptations. I found a solid recipe on Food Network again and went with the original recipe except I added 1 teaspoon of cardamom. It turned out beautifully. The custard was silky and maintained that standby pumpkin pie flavor while being something different. The recipe is linked here. I will definitely make it again!

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