Butternut Squash Lasagna | Thanksgiving in VT

slice of lasagna

Snow, dogs, a constant fire — I couldn’t have asked for anything more of Thanksgiving in Vermont.

But, as always, all of the VT treats — the Jasper Hill Farm cheeses, the Dakin Farm ham (with the ham sauce!), Uncle Wade’s waffles with Vermont maple syrup, Shed beer — did make we want to pack up and stay forever. I left dreaming about all of my aunt and mother’s cooking, from biscotti and koulourakia to grilled artic char and coconut-milk marinated cauliflower steaks.

Punch and paté (following this recipe to a T) were a hit but hands down, the hit of all hits was this butternut squash lasagna, a dish brought to Thanksgiving dinner by a vegetarian friend of my aunt and uncle’s. Having taken a peak inside the insulated carry tote (which is the coolest thing…Santa, take note), I had to ask for some details immediately. Kris, the friend, kindly obliged and described the basic process, brushing it all off as an old recipe from Gourmet, just something she and her mother had been making for years.

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Canal House Chicken with Preserved Lemon

chicken in pan

Remember those preserved lemons we made last fall? Well, I think I’ve found my favorite use for them yet: this five-ingredient chicken, a recipe which arrived two weeks ago in my mailbox — my real, outdoor mailbox — on a 4×6-inch recipe card.

Shortly after the card, one of three, arrived, I secured it to my fridge, and I made the recipe, chicken thighs with lemon from Canal House, a day later. And then I made it the next day and the next. I should know by now not to be so confounded when simple meets spectacular, but one bite of these thighs left me puzzled: How can this be? How can salt, pepper and preserved lemon alone produce something so tasty? Why have I never used this method — 30 minutes skin side down, 10 minutes skin side up — to cook thighs? How can such a simple method create the crispiest skin, the juiciest meat?

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Leftover Grain Bowl with Teriyaki Sauce, Quick-Pickled Carrots & Daikon and Soft-Boiled Eggs

wheat berry bowl

I had high hopes this week for posting about a two-bowl wonder, a baked mix of wheat berries and butternut squash topped with bacon and parmesan. Unfortunately, the steamed butternut squash disappeared in the mass of wheat berries, leaving us with an irresistible bacon and parmesan crust atop a heap of grains and mushy, tasteless squash.

We ate the top third then stashed the remainder in the fridge. The following evening seemed like a good time to get in on all of the “whole grain bowl” fun, to unite our leftovers with a few bright elements — some sort of pickle and a tangy sauce. We would top it all off with soft-boiled eggs and call dinner done. Before starting, I revisited Melissa Clark’s recent piece in the Times to make sure I had my boxes checked: whole grains (wheat berries!), greens (sautéed kale and steamed broccoli), some sort of pickle (yet to be determined), protein (eggs), dressing (yet to be determined). [Read more…]

Butternut Squash and Cider Soup served with Rosemary and Sage Flatbread

soup and bread

The trouble with the butternut squash soup I make again and again every winter is that it takes so much time: 45 minutes to roast the squash, 30 minutes to simmer it with the stock, and 15 minutes here and there for prepping. Although much of the time is hands off, I never feel I can whip it up on a weeknight.

So when I saw this recipe for butternut squash soup with cider and sour cream, which apparently could be “made in a flash,” a few things caught my eye: In step 1, onion and garlic simmer in a small amount of water — not butter or oil — for about five minutes. In step 2, the squash cubes steam in stock for 20 minutes. In step 3, the soup is puréed with apple cider and sour cream, and then it’s done. [Read more…]

Parsnip & Pear Soup | Also, How to be a Better/More Efficient Soup Maker This Winter

pear and parsnip soup

Let’s get right down to business: soup season has officially arrived, bringing with it bowls of warm, comforting goodness, smells that permeate the house, the nourishment we crave on chilly days, and blisters to our little, out-of-practice fingers.

Whenever I make soup, I immediately think back to my time at Fork, when I spent the better part of a year prepping carrots, parsnips, onions and celery, the four vegetables that went into every hot soup chef Thien made. Almost every other morning began with soup making, with the stovetop lined with cauldrons, with a constant sprint up and down the basement stairs, in and out of the walk-in, a large aluminum bowl in hand, hours of peeling and chopping before me. The blisters made haste, but soon calloused, making the work less painful, physically if not mentally.

So many soups require a lot of chopping, but the time dedicated to the process almost always pays off: quantities that feed a crowd often at little cost. Thien liked to remind me that soup was how restaurants made money.

OK, in an effort to make soup season go a little more smoothly, I’ve compiled a few thoughts below: [Read more…]

Crispy Eggplant Rounds & Eggplant Parmesan

crispy eggplant rounds

A few weeks ago, as I stood at the counter flouring, egg dipping, and breading two pounds of eggplant rounds, a little dolly screaming at my feet wanting nothing more than to be held at the height of this witching hour, I found myself asking “WHY?!” I know better than to make this sort of thing at this sort of hour. I shouldn’t be so stubborn. But a craving for eggplant parmesan left me inflexible, and I pushed on until crumbs and parmesan covered every slice, trying to stay composed through every piercing cry. Oiy.

But as soon as those rounds entered the oven, I relaxed. And this is the beauty of The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook eggplant parmesan recipe. Once the breading is done, the hard work is over — there is no standing at the oven, frying the eggplant in batch after batch. The Test Kitchen’s recipe calls for baking the eggplant on preheated baking sheets, a technique they developed to solve the oil-laden, pan-fried eggplant problem that leads to heavy, greasy eggplant parmesan. Oven-frying saves time to boot.

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Roasted Poblano, Onion, and Jack Quesadilla & A Favorite Drink

roasted poblano, onion & Jack quesadilla

I had one goal in mind when setting out to the farmers’ market this weekend: return with shishito peppers. I keep reading about them, and every time I do, I am reminded of a lovely dinner years ago at Casa Mono, where I sat at the bar with two friends, popping blistered, salty padrón peppers one after another, watching as the cooks worked with intense focus. Of all the delicious bites we sampled that evening, those charred peppers were the unanimous favorite. We ordered two plates.

I have been on the search ever since for padrón peppers and, more recently, shishito and fushimi peppers, which I understand are all similar — small, green and thin walled — and take well to high heat, fast cooking and showers of salt.

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Roasted Tomato and Bread Soup

roasted-tomato bread soup

In April of last year, Vince Vaughn hosted SNL, and delivered a hilarious, wise and insightful monologue. After acknowledging the importance of the audience’s role in the success of an SNL show, he ventured off stage, engaged a few of the audience members, and confiscated a cell phone, noting he “believe[s] sometimes it’s better to take the memories with our hearts and minds.” He then turned to the camera to say: “That’s for all you kids out there tonight. It’s OK to put down the phone and be a part of the memory. That lasts a lifetime as well.”

I’ve thought about this monologue often since seeing that SNL episode but never so much as last week, when three hours after arriving in Minneapolis en route to a cabin in Wisconsin, I realized I had left my camera on the plane and that all of the moments I had looked forward to capturing in billions of pixels during the week with friends and family would by necessity be cemented solely into my heart and mind. I know a camera is just a thing, and I shouldn’t fret — we have our health! and happiness! — but I still have a pit in my stomach. New camera arriving tomorrow. Yay.

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Chickpea & Quinoa Veggie Burgers

chickpea & quinoa veggie burger

From beans and rice to grains and legumes to eggs and breadcrumbs to cheese and yogurt, many are the variables determining the fate of a homemade veggie burger. It’s dizzying, as maddening as trying to unlock the secret to the chewiest granola bar.

All summer, I’ve been trying to make a good one, and I’ve finally found a formula I love, the inspiration coming from a favorite fritter: falafel. If you’ve made falafel, you’re familiar with the method: soak dried chickpeas (or favas) overnight, drain them, whizz them with onions, herbs and seasonings, deep fry.

Without any binders, falafel manages to hold its shape, crispy on the edges, light and airy in the interior.

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Potato Buns (almost) & Two Essential Burger Condiments

burger

Last week, while scrolling through emails on my phone, I came across one subject heading that gave me pause: Never Grill a Burger Again.

And then a depressing image flashed through my head: me, hovering over a sauté pan (albeit my favorite one), flipping burgers in my 100-degree kitchen as my guests reveled outside.

Did I dare make this vision a reality? How could I not? I’ve always considered burgers one of the hardest things to get right, and this post offered a path to burger domination. I followed the tutorial to a T (almost, notes below), and Ben, completely unaware of the experiments I had been conducting, declared it the best burger he’s ever eaten.

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