Sunday, November 25, 2012

Boston Globe Review: Coastal Cottage Tea

Windsor Tea Shop & Tea Room
Photos by Shirley Goh/Globe Staff

I love afternoon tea, with its scones and Devonshire cream and finger sandwiches.  But sometimes the city hotels are pricey or come with parking hassles.  At Windsor Tea Shop & Tea Room in Cohasset, you trade in fancy for a country cottage vibe, and big-city prices for lower ones with free parking.  And then there's the food.  Read all about it!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

10 Recipes for Thanksgiving

Sweet Potato Biscuits with Honey Butter
Sweet Potato Biscuits with Honey Butter
I'm really excited about this Thanksgiving!  I'm a traditionalist when it comes to the menu, so I've got to have my roast turkey, gravy, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing.  And lots of apple cider.  The vegetables and desserts can change.   One odd tradition my family has is fried shrimp.  That's right, batter-fried shrimp, on Thanksgiving.  I once asked my mom where the recipe came from, and she said she heard it on a Chinese-language radio program.  You know, back in the old days when folks  used the radio for entertainment.  But my siblings and I demand the shrimp.  And I always make an effort to watch the parade.  The Macy's parade in New York, of course!

Cranberry Apple Relish
Cranberry-Apple Relish recipe follows jump
One other tradition is what my twin sis and I called "Dinner Number Two" as kids, long before I heard of Second Breakfast.  My mom used to insist on serving dinner at 2 p.m. so she could clean up and enjoy the rest of Thanksgiving.  Weird, I know.  By the time night came, sis and I were hungry again.  We would eagerly reheat another plate full of Thanksgiving dinner and eat it in front of the TV, in the later years with reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Ah, good times.  These days Joe isn't really up for a second dinner with Fresh Prince reruns, but we still make all our favorite dishes.  What are some of your quirky Thanksgiving traditions?

Thanksgiving Collage

But you came for the recipes, not to listen to my babble.  Here are a few I've blogged, and a few tried and true that I recommend.  They're not terribly fancy, since I like the classics.  Happy eatins'.

1. Maple-Glazed Apple Crostata. For apple pie goodness that's quicker to throw together.
2. Pumpkin Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. Seasonal and lightly spiced.
3. Chocolate-Covered Pecan Bars. When you're feeling super indulgent.
4. Sweet Potato Biscuits with Honey Butter. Don't skip the honey butter. You'll be sorry you did.
5. Pecan Tassies. Not as eye-catching as the pecan bars, but way better and lighter.

6. Dry-Brined Turkey. I'm not a fan of finding a vat big enough to hold a turkey and gallons of liquid. And refrigerator space is prime real estate on Turkey Day. This dry brining from the LA Times is much easier and gives you a flavorful, moist bird.
7. Country Bread and Sage Dressing. I've made this Bobby Flay recipe on a few Thanksgivings. The sausage gives it nice flavor, but I've also omitted the sausage and swapped the chicken stock for vegetable stock for vegetarians. I like to add a diced Golden delicious apple, and toast the bread briefly in the oven first before proceeding with the recipe.
8. Dorie's Pumpkin Pie (or Tart). I haven't had the chance to do a new photo for this one, but don't be put off by my awful photography from 2008. This is my all-time favorite pumpkin pie, and I've made it many times. My mom prefers it warmed in the oven, but I like it cold from the fridge and dolloped with whipped cream. You decide.
9. Foolproof Turkey Gravy. It sounds so simple to make, but gravy is also easy to mess up.  This Mad Hungry recipe helps you get it right.
10. Linda's Cranberry Apple Relish.  I'll admit it.  I love canned cranberry sauce.  Previous attempts at homemade cranberry sauce didn't wow me, but this relish is good enough to eat alone by the spoonful.  Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chicken Chile Relleno Pies

Chicken Chile Relleno Pies

You want these.  They're among the best things I've made all year.  These Chicken Chile Relleno Pies are made of a cornmeal dough that's wonderfully sandy and a bit crumbly, and filled with roasted poblanos, chicken, cheese, and corn.  The ingredients, rather than standing out individually, all melt together into delicious, savory mouthfuls.  The poblanos and ancho chile powder heat it up with Southwest flavor.

The pies are admittedly labor-intensive and time-consuming, but you won't regret it.  Double the cornmeal dough recipe, which yielded only enough dough for me to use half of the filling.  Set aside time to make them all, then freeze and reheat to snack on whenever.  They would make a good potluck contribution, but if you're like me you'll hoard just about all of them.  This is the kind of comfort food you'll want to warm yourself up with all winter.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Meringue Pie

Pumpkin Meringue Pie

I loved the idea of a pumpkin meringue pie.  Traditional pumpkin pie topped with a cloud of airy meringue, lighter than the usual whipped cream and artfully browned in swirls and whorls.  I am sad to report that it was a huge disappointment.  I had two complaints: the meringue wept, and the filling was all right but nothing exciting.  My friends said it tasted OK and that I was prejudiced from the beginning because I was "mad at the meringue."  It's true, but I've had much better pumpkin pie.  Like my all-time favorite, by Dorie Greenspan.

The pumpkin meringue pie also took nearly half an hour longer to bake than the Epicurious recipe indicated.  I used a Martha Stewart recipe for the meringue, and an hour later it was weeping liquid like meringues sometimes do, and sliding around the top of the pie.  The browning using the broiler wasn't very even, so I might be motivated now to indulge some pyro tendencies and procure a kitchen torch.  A friend of a friend did recommend an Italian meringue recipe on my Facebook page, so if I ever feel brave enough to try a meringue again I think I'll do that.

What's your favorite pumpkin pie or Thanksgiving dessert?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Salted Caramel Blondies

Salted Caramel Blondies

These Salted Caramel Blondies tasted even better than I thought they would.  Did you know that feasting is an Election Night tradition in newsrooms?  I was thinking of a simple snack to make and found a recipe for these at Two Peas and Their Pod.  They were so rich, it worked to cut them into about a quarter of the size of the bars you see here.  And they fueled editors and reporters until our boatload delivery of Italian food and North End desserts arrived as the polls closed.  Around midnight, as the coffee supply was refreshed, a coworker was saying she could use a blondie but they were long gone.

I wasn't always a fan of caramel, finding it awfully sweet.  But salt adds complexity, and I'll even say sophistication, to caramel.  And although there are recipes out there that will call for homemade caramel sauce -- and I will often go for the made-from-scratch stuff -- I loved how the caramel sauce came together in the microwave in under 2 minutes by heating caramel squares with a bit of cream.  Perfect for when you've got a hectic Election Night, or just want to curl up with a book, a blondie, and a glass of milk.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bison Chili

Bison Chili

Forget ground turkey.  When you want a lean chili, try bison.  It's got that beefy flavor that poultry just can't imitate.  In addition to being leaner than beef, bison has the benefit of being free of antibiotics and hormone injections because the animals are a protected species.

Ground Bison

I won't lie to you: one drawback is the price.  Bison costs close to $10 a pound around here, and this recipe calls for 2 pounds of meat.  Eating healthy ain't cheap.  I initially thought about halving the recipe, but halving the cans of beans, hominy, and tomatoes becomes inconvenient.  What can you do with half a can of hominy?  But if you think of the cost in servings instead of the total, at 6 servings it works out to $4 a serving.  Not bad.

Bison Chili 2

I think the recipe loses a little of the rich mouthfeel that a traditional beef chili has because the bison tastes leaner, but that's the fat missing.  Joe gave a better review, saying he preferred this to traditional beef chili.  With the holidays coming up and winter being full of heavy foods, it's nice to have a leaner alternative when you want a hot bowl of chili on those wintry days.  Your waistline will be thankful.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Walnuts

And if you really want to be healthy, try this recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts that has dried cranberries and walnuts from Oh My Veggies.  It also has baked apple but I ate my last one, so I roasted some grapes with the sprouts.  I discovered on my Facebook page that lots of you out there are sprouts lovers!  Alas, this was my first taste of sprouts and I don't really dig them.  But I was in the minority -- two of my friends loved them and asked for the recipe.  And the flavors of maple, cranberry, and walnut are great.  If you like sprouts, you'll love this recipe.