For more than 30 consecutive Thanksgivings — including this one — I’ve written about turkey in all of its guises. Occasionally I’ve protested, pleading with editors that although the bird in its wild form may be traditional and is indisputably indigenous, whether the one you buy is free-range, wild, natural, organic, pumped up with antibiotics or even injected with “butter,” it’s just about the worst piece of meat you can roast.
Believe it or not, there is more than one way to roast a turkey. First, you must ask yourself what you really want. I’ll offer you three options: A fast, crisp-skinned bird, moist and not overcooked, served with roasted vegetables; a leisurely braised bird, also with veggies; or the classic stand-up roast, presented beautifully in all its glory, prepared in a straightforward manner.
If you want speed and don’t mind a novel look, choose the flattened bird, which employs a method that goes by the quaint name of spatchcocking. It takes a little work at first, because it’s a little more physical than other techniques: you have to remove the backbone, flatten the breast and dislocate the thigh joints from their sockets. None of this is difficult, but it may be a bit much for some. The reward is a lovely roasted bird with a not-overcooked breast and perfectly done legs; it also cooks in about an hour — yes, you read that right: an hour. The downside, apart from the butchering, is that some might consider it weird-looking.
There is nothing new or unusual about mashed squash or about mashed vegetables on toast. (What’s new is that the toast is now frequently called crostini, but that’s not exactly revolutionary.) Still, there is such a broad range of foods that can be served on toasted bread that it’s not surprising some of these will come as revelations.
This squash-and-toast combination is served by Dan Kluger, the executive chef at ABC Kitchen. Something about it drives me wild: the squash is creamy but chunky, rather than puréed. There is a lot of complex sweetness, but acidity as well, and it’s lean as well as fatty. (It doesn’t take a detective to see the layer of ricotta underneath the squash.)
Put it on a nicely toasted piece of bread and you have a real winner. But it also occurred to me that the mashed squash alone would make a terrific Thanksgiving side dish.
So I asked Dan’s boss, my friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten, to show me how to put it together.
I would not have figured the dish out myself, which made this a rewarding experience. Jean-Georges peeled the squash: almost any winter squash will yield to a sharp knife and some patience, though as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, thin-skinned varieties like delicata are easier to peel or can be left unpeeled entirely. He cut the squash in half, took out the seeds and sliced it into not-quite-random pieces, mostly about 1/4-inch thick. These he roasted with oil until they were tender enough to mash; by that time, a few had blackish, caramelized ends.
To cut to the chase: next, he confited onion slices with both maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Veteran cooks will immediately get the idea: Cook the onions awhile, until they’re dark and soft, then add the two liquids and continue to cook until they’re jammy. The process could take as long as an hour, depending on the heat, your attentiveness and the water content of the onions. But it isn’t difficult.
At that point, the two preparations are simply mashed together. If you serve them in a bowl at Thanksgiving, you will be serving something on a, er, higher level than mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Otherwise, lightly toast some good bread in olive oil, spread it with a light, fresh cheese and top with the squash. Do not forget the mint; it’s not the same without it.
Unless you’re a routine visitor to KFC, fried chicken is probably not in your weekly diet. Which is fine: it is, after all, a treat. But even though you can get fried chicken that’s way better than the fast-food variety all over the place, it remains a specialty of home cooking, and one that anyone can handle. To me, the best has a simple, flavored coating of flour or the like, rather than thick, ultracrusty preparations or spongy batters.
After trying a number of contemporary and often needlessly complicated fried-chicken recipes, I decided to refine my own standard, which was first published 14 years ago in “How to Cook Everything” and itself was an adaptation of a recipe that initially appeared as Paula Peck’s Best-Ever Fried Chicken in her 1961 classic, “Paula Peck’s Art of Good Cooking.” That was among my favorites when I was learning how to cook, as varied and sensible a cookbook as existed at the time. (Her other book, “The Art of Fine Baking,” is equally brilliant and provides perfect instructions for making croissants.)
While I never met Peck, and although her cookbooks are out of print (her granddaughter Megan is doing her part to reacquaint new cooks with Paula’s work at meganpeckcooks.com), her cooking remains with me. Her treatment of chicken is a fine example; she was among the first cookbook authors to suggest that chicken breasts substitute for veal (hard to believe, now that it’s the other way around), and she was also a fan of chicken legs.
Read the rest of this column here.
You’re carving your jack-o’-lanterns now; soon you’ll buy canned pumpkin for pie. Join the club. Almost no one in this country cooks fresh pumpkin.
Yet the pumpkin — or those squashes whose non-English names translate as “pumpkin” — is a staple the world over, turned into substantial dishes celebrated for their sweetness and density. So-called sugar pumpkins, which are smaller and more flavorful than anything you might carve, are the best for cooking and available even in supermarkets. But you can tackle the big boys too.
All four of the recipes are global classics, and all use cubes of pumpkin flesh; admittedly, getting at the good stuff is the tricky part. And of course you can use any orange-fleshed squash in any pumpkin recipe. But given the season, let’s assume you’re working with a pumpkin. Start just as if you were carving a jack-o’-lantern: cut a circle around the stem, then pull up on the stem and discard it. Using the cavity as a handle, peel the pumpkin with a sturdy vegetable peeler. Yes, it will take a while. To read the entire article click here.
To cook bacon, you usually toss some strips in a pan, fry them and eat. If you start with good pork, there are (for omnivores, at least) few things better. But the uses of strip bacon beyond ‘‘plain’’ are legion. Strips are ideal for swaddling fish, chicken, fruit (anything, really). And there is always the B.L.T.
Once you get into slab bacon, though, things become interesting. Slab bacon offers not only more flexibility but also better quality. And it’s far easier to cook to the optimum level of doneness for any given recipe.
All bacon — slabs, strips, chunks or bits — can be made any way you like: low to medium heat on the stove; roasted or broiled in the oven; grilled; even microwaved. Keep the heat low, and you have more control; use olive oil in the pan, and you’re less likely to burn the outside.
In these recipes, don’t forget salt (less if the bacon is salty) and pepper. And remember that when it comes to bacon, people tend to eat a lot.
See all 25 recips here.
Photograph by Kristin Gladney
By Meghan Gourley
Anyone who has opted to make crisp instead of pie is aware of its virtues: no mixing and perfecting dough, latticing strips of it, or fumbling around with pie weights. Instead, a loose mixture of butter, brown sugar, oats and flour—clumps of it—becomes the stuff that turns ordinary apples into autumn on a plate. Any and all types of apples will do; I used Cortland and McIntosh picked in upstate New York. (Is there a better way to get rid of a mound of apples?)
For added texture, leave the skin on about half the apples and cut them into same-size slices to avoid uneven cooking and burning. If using a tart variety (like McIntosh or Granny Smith) add an extra spoonful or two of brown sugar. Dust real vanilla beans or a pinch of cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg over the apples before adding the topping for rich flavor. The crumble is done when it begins to brown on top—and when the sweet smell becomes too much to resist. If you like, add a dollop of whipped cream or a splash of real cream. Watch it disappear.
Apple (or Other Fruit) Crisp
Time: About 1 hour
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
5 tablespoons cold butter, plus more for greasing the pan
6 cups pitted, sliced apples (2 to 3 pounds)
Juice of ½ lemon
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
½ cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup chopped nuts, optional
1 cup vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 400 dgF. Cut the 5 tablespoons butter into ¼-inch bits and put in the fridge or freezer. Lightly butter a square baking pan. Toss the peaches with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar in a large bowl, and spread them out in the prepared pan.
2. Combine the chilled pieces of butter with the remaining brown sugar, the oats, the flour, the salt and the nuts if you’re using them in a food processor and pulse a few times, then process a few seconds more, until everything is combined but not too finely ground. (To mix this by hand, mas the mixture together between your fingers.)
3. Crumble the topping over the peaches and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the topping is browned and the peaches are tender and bubbling. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, with ice cream if you like.
By Meghan Gourley
Ubiquitous as it is, it’s easy to forget the subtle side of corn. Chowder—here with cheddar and scallions—reminds us that summer’s favorite crop is versatile. The key to this chowder is finding the freshest summer corn you can, and shaving it off the cob like a pro: spare nothing. Get as close to the cob with the blade of your knife as you can. Work slowly and carefully, and don’t waste anything—the meatiness of the kernels is what makes this soup so hearty. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.
By Alaina Sullivan
There’s no better way to celebrate Mardi Gras than with a Po’ Boy (a beer-battered one at that.) Not only does beer give the shrimp great flavor, but it is scientifically proven to make superior batter. As soon as the beer-battered shrimp hit the pan, CO2 bubbles begin to dance and foam up around the shrimp. A panko dredging assists the process, and, as a result, the shrimp are left trapped in a flavorful and lacy-light crust. Pile them high on bread with mayo, lettuce, and tomato, and you’ll have a happy Fat Tuesday indeed. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.
Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy
Heat oil for frying. In a bowl, mix together one can of beer; one and one-half cups cornmeal (or panko) and pinches of salt, pepper; and paprika. Dip shrimp into batter and fry in batches until golden, about three minutes (flip once). Serve on split crusty Italian or French loaves with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise; lemon juice and hot sauce are also great here.
By Daniel Meyer
The third-to-last of the nearly 40 ingredients that make up a Twinkie is listed on the package as “sorbic acid (to retain freshness).” It’s the only ingredient that comes with an explanation of its purpose, as if it’s essential for us to understand that this Twinkie is as good as it was when it was made.
While Twinkies themselves may not degrade much over time, their cultural weight certainly has. They’re no longer a lunchbox staple or an American icon, and as of last week (as Mark writes here) the Hostess company (maker of Twinkies) has filed for bankruptcy protection yet again.
James Dewar, a baker for the Continental Baking Company, invented Twinkies in 1930. He noticed that the machines and pans used to make the company’s cream-filled strawberry shortcake were only employed during strawberry season, so he conceived of a shortcake filled with banana cream that could be made and marketed year-round. So Twinkies were born out of the hard-and-fast limitations of seasonality.
Continental switched from banana cream — originally made with real bananas and real cream — to vanilla cream during World War II, when bananas were rationed. While the “original” version is occasionally reintroduced, vanilla “cream” Twinkies are the ones that charmed their way into the heart of American culture and diet.
In the ‘50s we watched Buffalo Bob Smith “make” Twinkies on “Howdy Doody,” clumsily combining the pasty white ingredients in a pan, and “alakazam presto” emerging with a pristine plastic package of “golden sponge cake with creamy filling.” In the ‘70s we let “Twinkie the Kid” lasso our children all the way to Twinkie Town, and in the ‘80s we learned that Twinkies were not only wholesome, but slightly sexy.
Read the rest of this piece here.