Countdown to Thanksgiving 3

Tim Lammers, a delightful anchorman at Fox News in Hartford, was very skeptical when I told him we were making mashed potatoes with turnips for the show last week. Turnips, as vegetables go, are not very pretty in their raw form, and many people put in them in the same category as Brussels sprouts (which we will be making later in the week as well!) He was surprised and delighted at just how delicious the potatoes tasted. As a bonus, we also prepared a roasted pear puree, which adds a lovely sweetness to mashed potatoes and cut the richness of the Thanksgiving meal. Here are all the recipes we made.

 

 

FINALPotatoes

 

 

Question of the day: What are your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes?

 

 

Mashed Potatoes and Turnips with Roasted Pear Puree

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 ripe bosc pears, peeled, quartered, cored
  • 1 basic mashed potato recipe (see below)
  • 1 pound turnips peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine honey, lemon juice, melted butter and pears in medium size bowl. Toss to coat evenly.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and place pear mixture in a baking dish so that all the fruit is in one layer.
  4. Roast pears for 30 minutes and then toss the pears in the juices.
  5. Continue roasting for about 30 minutes until the pears are very tender (this will vary depending on how ripe the pears are).
  6. Transfer pears with liquid to a food processor and puree until smooth or puree directly in the dish with an immersion blender. Set aside. (Pear puree can actually be made up to 2 days ahead).
  7. In the meantime, prepare basic mashed potato recipe. (See next recipe)
  8. Place turnips in a separate pot of salted boiling water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
  9. Puree turnips until smooth and combine with mashed potatoes.
  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Re-warm pear puree and serve together by placing the potato mixture in a serving bowl and swirling in the pear puree. Alternatively, serve separately, and let your guests determine how much puree they would like.

Basic Mashed Potatoes

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds russet potatoes peeled 
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 teaspoon or more of salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut the potatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. You want to make sure the potatoes are the same size so they cook evenly.
  2. Place the potatoes in cold water, bring to a boil, and then salt the water (the water should taste like the ocean in order for the potatoes to be properly seasoned). (Water should always be salted once the water is boiling. Otherwise, the salt will sink to the bottom and stick to the bottom of the pot.) Lower the temperature to a simmer and cook until a fork easily goes through the potatoes, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.
  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and “dry mash” without the milk or butter for 2 minutes over a low flame.
  4. Add the butter and gently mix into the potatoes without mashing (you don’t want to over mash the potatoes or they will be gluey).
  5. Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and warm milk.
  6. Gradually add warm milk and cream to the pot and mix thoroughly.
  7. Add pepper and additional salt to taste. Mash potatoes until smooth or coarse, your preference.

Roasted Pears in Cider and Port Wine

 

There is nothing like finding a dessert that’s beautiful, easy and unbelievably delicious. We all know that it isn’t always so easy. There are a lot of desserts that fit only one or two of those stipulations.  A genoise cake, for example is beautiful and delicious but certainly NOT simple.

 

 

Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

 

 

That’s why this dessert is so special.  Did I mention that it’s fairly low-calorie as well? I used to make roasted pears with pomegranate juice and red wine, which was very good but it just didn’t quite have the depth a great autumn dessert should have. I tinkered with apple cider and port wine instead and added ginger, cinnamon and cardamom to create this gem of a fall treat. I honestly haven’t met anyone in any of my classes who hasn’t gone crazy over this one. You may also want to prepare this if you are having an open house as well. The combination of pears, port, cider and spices says cozy autumn like nothing else. I bet it will sell your house in a flash!

 

 

Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

 

 

 

The best thing about it is that your friends and family will not only love it but they will be so honored you spent so much time making them a special dessert. The truth (note, I am whispering) is that it will take you about 15 minutes to get in oven. Don’t worry. Your secret will be safe. Who am I going to tell?

 

 

Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

 

Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

 

 

Oh, and be sure to save any extra sauce to pour over French toast, pancakes or waffles over the weekend. The recipe purposefully makes more sauce than you will need for the pears alone so you can have leftovers. Who could ask for more?

 

 

Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

 

 

Do you have any easy winner dessert recipes like this one? Let us know in the comments, below!

 

 

Roasted Pears In Cider and Port Wine | The Road Home - SO delicious and ridiculously easy.

 

 

 

 

 

Pears in a Port Wine Cider Glaze

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 1/1/4 cups Ruby Port
  • 1 1/4 cups Apple Cider
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 1 ½ Cinnamon Sticks
  • 2 teaspoons Grated Orange Peel
  • ¾ teaspoon Ground Cardamom
  • ¾ teaspoon Ginger Powder (or one teaspoon fresh finely chopped ginger)
  • 6 Ripe Bosc or Red Star Crimson Pears, with stems, peeled
  • Vanilla Ice Cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Stir port, apple cider, sugar, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, cardamom and ginger powder in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.
  3. Using a small melon baller, core pears from bottom of wide end.
  4. Trim bottoms flat and stand upright in 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish.
  5. Pour all but a ½ cup of the sauce over pears. Set aside the remaining ½ cup for later.
  6. Roast pears until tender when pierced with a knife or skewer, basting pears with sauce every 20 minutes, for about 1 hour.
  7. Using spatula, transfer roasted pears to serving platter.
  8. Return the pan juices to the saucepan.
  9. Simmer until reduced to 2/3 cup, about 5 minutes.
  10. Strain through a fine sieve into a small bowl, discarding all solids. (This is optional. The sauce will simply be smoother if you filter out the orange zest before serving.)
  11. Spoon glaze over pears.
  12. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

The Secret Life of Macarons

 

After making the gelato for The Crostata, and subsequently 12 Lavander Crème Brulées for Isabella’s French class,  I had to find a home for about 25 egg whites. I obviously believe in somehow using up the other part of the egg after separating it, but on a normal day that belief just inspires me to feel a little guilty while I pour the excess down the sink. Baking is time consuming, and egg whites are fussy, and it just never seemed worth the pain and suffering (because clearly my life lacks perspective). But sometimes extremes are the best medicine, and two things happened that made me change my ways. First I learned that you can freeze egg whites, which easily solved the I-have-no-time problem (rumor has it they last about a month, maybe longer). Second, I remembered that a few days before I acquired all these egg whites, a good friend of mine from Berkeley, who is an excellent baker, texted me a picture of 8 beautiful, perfect, homemade macarons. Even on my phone they looked good. Unfortunately, I live nowhere near Berkeley. I have no money for a plane ticket and I have no car to drive myself. The Google Maps walking directions take 39 days, 17 hours, which I certainly don’t have, and they involve tolls, ferries, and a treck across Canada. They don’t involve sleeping. I was not in the mood for any of that. If I was going to get macarons like hers I was going to have to make them myself.

 

And honstly... look how pretty...

The blogosphere is teeming with macarons. Macarons at their best are beautiful, charming and perfect. I hadn’t actually had one until very recently, but I was shocked to discover that they even taste good! They are, as a food, everything a blogger could ever want. I was hesitant to join in the trend so late in the game (and so soon after a red velvet cake…) but again, 25 egg whites. What could I do? But I quickly discovered that, behind the blogs, there is a secret side to the macaron. They can be crinkly, they can get burned, they can be runny and turn into blobs, they can forget to rise, they can stick to the pan, and they can migrate all over the place. Even with Francesca’s help, my first rounds turned out like this:

It's like watching the clouds...

(Clockwise from top right: The Sea Turtle, The Island of Manhattan, The Funny Crinkle Face, The Empty Shell, The Pancake, and The Duckbill Platypus)

You know you’re in a bad place when The Pancake and The Funny Crinkle Face kind of look like victories. I should warn you, Ladies and Gentlemen, your first few rounds may very well come out like one of these. A lot of websites will give you alternative uses for the macarons that don’t come out, but that’s silly. Fill them anyway. They will look terrible, but everyone in my family agreed that these ones tasted the best.

I'm serious. They're hideous, but they're amazing.

If you want to leave yours right there, that’s fine, skip to the last paragraph. If not, here are some tips to make perfect macarons of your own.

Macarons and Origami, a classic combination...

First of all, don’t overmix the batter – the protein in the eggs breaks down so the batter won’t hold together. That’s the difference between Crinkle Cuts and perfect domes, and also the difference between circles and blobs.  On a related note, you should sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together after you process them, so you can avoid creating lumps that may have to break up.

I don’t recommend using a convection oven. If you do, remember to lower the temperature by about 25°F, though this can vary by oven. Convection reportedly brings mild advantages with rising (though I didn’t notice a difference), but even on lower temperatures it can cook the top of the macaron too fast, leaving the bottom sticky (the inside may remain on the pan, leaving you with a paper-thin shell). When I made them on conventional, they came out perfectly without any adjustments.

Fourth, very few people or books note this trip, but baking on top of several preheated baking sheets can do wonders for ensuring a crisp bottom, that doesn’t stick too much to the baking sheet. Bread bakers do this all the time to ensure a crisp bottom crust on hearth breads. I used four preheated sheets, but for best results I’d actually recommend using as many as six. This too, however, can vary a lot by oven. You may find your macarons bake better without any sheets at all, and sometimes if my macarons are sticking to the parchment and browning too fast, I find it helps to lower the temperature to around 225°F and stick the parchment directly on the rack so they can crisp up without burning. (Thank you to Duncan, from Syrup and Tang, for clearing this one up. Check out his definitive Macaron guide for more information.)

The most important thing to do learn the rhythm of macarons based on your kitchen. If it’s humid, leave them out to dry longer, because the skin will take longer to form, if your oven tends a little hot, lower the temperature a little bit, because they may burn.

The gods of French Pastry will probably smite me for saying this, but these actually have a lot in common with chocolate chip cookies. Yes, they’re delicate and sensitive and pretty too, but when you get down to it, they’re really just a fancy comfort food – gooey, crispy and fun. And no matter where you are on your macaron journey, you can experiment and personalize them. I decided to make macarons in the style of the Poire Belle Helène – a classic flavor combination of pear, chocolate and almonds – because we had pear liqueur on hand, but you can add any liqueur or extract, and fill them accordingly. If you want to make a more authentic Poire Belle Helène, serve them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or scrape some vanilla bean into the batter, but again, that part doesn’t matter. To be perfectly honest, none of this does really matter. These tips will help you make the perfect macaron, which is rewarding beyond belief. But even if they don’t come out, they will be less photogenic but just as (maybe more) yummy. And that’s the true secret behind macarons: if you don’t feel you can make them perfectly, you can and should make them anyway. Your taste buds will be none the wiser.

Macarons Belle Helène – Pear Macarons with Chocolate Ganache

From: Gabrielle Siegel, Adapted from the French Culinary Institute

Ingredients:

    For Macarons

    • 115 grams (4 ounces) almond flour
    • 200 grams (7 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 tablespoon pear liqueur
    • yellow food coloring
    • green food coloring
    • 90 grams (3 1/4 ounces) egg whites, preferably old, at room temperature
    • 8 grams (2 tablespoons) confectioners’ sugar

    For Ganache

    • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
    • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (or chocolate chopped up in to smaller pieces) (you can use milk, dark, or semisweet too, whatever you like)

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 325°F, and place 3-6 baking sheets, stacked, on a rack in the middle of the oven (make sure you’ll be able to put the one with the macarons on top of that though)
    2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
    3. Combine the almond flour and 200 grams sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process for about a minute, until very fine. Sift through a fine sieve, and set aside.
    4. Place egg whites and liqueur in the bowl of a stand mixer, with 2 drops of yellow food coloring and one drop of green. If you prefer a deeper color, use 4 drops of yellow and two drops of green. Beat on low speed (about 2 on a Kitchenaid) until aerated. Add 8 grams sugar and raise speed to high, and beat for about 3 minutes, until soft peaks form. Don’t overwhip the egg whites, or they’ll be harder to fold into the rest of the ingredients and you may end up overmixing.
    5. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the almond mixture in 2-3 additions, to prevent clumping Add next addition when first one is mostly, but not entirely folded in.
    6. Transfer batter to a pastry bag with a #2 tip.
    7. Pipe fifty 1-inch rounds onto the parchment lined baking sheet and set aside for 20 minutes-1 hour, until a skin forms on the surface.
    8. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until firm, and just slightly beginning to brown around the edges. If you nudge a macaroon, it shouldn’t shift off its foot. If it does, it’s not done. Watch them very carefully as they bake so they don’t burn.
    9. Transfer macarons to cooling rack. If they don’t come off the sheet easily, transfer the whole sheet of parchment to the cooling rack and leave there for a few hours, then carefully peel off.
    10. While they’re cooling, pour the chocolate for the ganache into a bowl, and bring cream to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.
    11. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for one minute, then stir.
    12. Let ganache cool until spreadable. Then spread, or pipe, ganache in a circle just inside the edges of one of the macarons. Place another macaron on top, and there you go! You made it! Photograph extensively, text all your friends… or just eat and enjoy.