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Bourbon Gravy 101 with Video

32 Gravy 101.jpgI have shared my recipe for making perfect gravy many times, all over the world.  There is more than one way to make this holiday essential, but my version comes from years of experimentation with different methods. I've settled on the "make it in the roasting pan technique with degreased drippings" method.  The beauty of this version is that the ingredients are measured to ensure that perfection that can be elusive.  So, set yourself up with a fat separator (the kind with the spout coming up from the bottom), a flat roux whisk, and some turkey stock...and get ready to make the best gravy you've ever had.  My not-so-secret ingredient is Four Roses bourbon, which I prefer for many reasons--flavor, value, choice of three great varieties (Yellow Label, Single Barrel, and Small Batch), and the fact that they are the only bourbon distillery to confirm that the corn in their mash is non-GMO.  And here is a video with step-by-step instructions.   (Recipe from THE BIG BOOK OF SIDES; photo by Ben Fink.) 


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Concord Grape Pie

Concord Grape Pie.jpgWhat is it about autumn that makes people think of pie?  Apple, pumpkin, and mincemeat are the Thanksgiving triumvirate. (Although Mom makes a great chocolate cream pie to add to the list.) That's all well and good.  But here is my favorite fall pie, made with Concord grapes.  These East coast beauties are at their best when they've been "kissed" by frost.  The dark purple filling tastes just like grape jelly, but in a more condensed, less sweet way.  I made it over the weekend, and I was reminded that it is not the easiest filling on the block: slip the skin off each grape, cook and strain the flesh to remove the seeds, then recombine the two components. It doesn't matter--this is a pie for the gods.  For the perfect combination, serve it with peanut butter ice cream.  There are no superlatives for this pairing, which is right up there with Roquefort and Sauternes, or...peanut butter and grape jelly! Check out the recipe on the next page...


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The Relish Tray

EDRelish_Plate_00341.jpgFor many families, mine included, it simply isn't a holiday meal unless there is a relish tray on the table.  For some people, this is an opportunity to open up jars of store-bought goodies, and there are some wonderful savories out there.  But for me, it is a chance to hand-craft some of my favorite appetizers, such as the trio you see here: Celery Hearts with Liptauer Cheese, Deviled Eggs with Bacon and Horseradish, and Homemade Bread and Butter Pickles.  The recipes, from THE BIG BOOK OF SIDES, follow.  (Photo by Ben Fink.) 


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Lemon Sweet Potatoes with Meringue Topping

Thumbnail image for Sweet_Potatoes_Meringue_00176.jpgEvery year about this time, I hear heated arguments about the role of sweet potatoes on the holiday table.  Some people love the classic candied yams with marshmallows, others hate (revile, despise, and abhor) them.  The way most families make them is very simple: canned yams in syrup spread in a baking dish, heated, and topped with marshmallows.  This is perfect evidence of Grandma Rodgers' statement: "Thanksgiving is the easiest meal of the year!"  Well, the way she made it, with lots of canned and frozen ingredients, it was!  I like sweet potatoes (or call them yams, if you wish), but I make them this way. It is inspired by the marshmallow topping, but marshmallows actually do not contain egg whites, even if they have a pillowy texture. I encourage you to give this rendition, not-too-sweet with hints of lemon and nutmeg, a try this year...and every Thanksgiving, for that matter.   (Recipe from The Big Book of Sides, published by Ballantine Books.  Photo by Ben Fink.) 


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Stuffed Artichokes with Romano and Oregano

Stuffed_Artichokes_Romano_Oregano_Crumbs_00039.jpgGrowing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, artichokes were everywhere--we even had them growing in my grandparents' garden.  There was a truck farm across the street from my high school, and I remember purchasing them for a nickel each.  On meatless Fridays (remember them?), Mom would often serve artichokes with lots of mayonnaise, cracked crab, and sourdough bread, which is still probably my favorite meal in the world.  As artichokes are now entering their fall season, here is a sneak preview from my new book, THE BIG BOOK OF SIDES.  These are meant to be a side dish, so they don't have any meat in them, but I provide a prosciutto variation.  


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Chocolate-Orange Macarons

Macarons.jpgI have been baking professionally for a long time.  How long?  Let's just say that when I started, my age and my waist size were the same number. Since I started, a number of desserts have entered the Pantheon of sweets.  Tiramisù.  Sticky toffee pudding.  Crème brûlée.  But none of these are as big a challenge to the home baker than macarons.  But I have been practicing.  And I have nailed them.  If you like to try your hand at these amazing confections...read on. 


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Warm Cheese Strudel with Vanilla Custard

Milk-Cream Strudel overhead sm.jpgAfter a couple of years out of print, KAFFEEHAUS has been reprinted by Echo Point Books.  You'll find it for sale at amazon.combarnesandnoble.com, and echopointbooks.com.  Echo Point has both paperback and hardcover editions, so be sure that you are clicking on the version you and, and not the old Clarkson Potter hardcover.  

To celebrate, I am sharing one of my favorite recipes from the book--which is really saying something considering the treasure trove of recipes that I gathered in Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.  Milchrahmstrudel translates into  "Milk-Cream Strudel," and it is a beauty.  Essentially, it is a cheese strudel, but a vanilla custard is poured around the strudel to create an extra layer of flavor.  Although the book gives detailed instructions on how to make hand-pulled strudel, this recipe uses frozen filo.  Want the recipe? Keep reading...


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Viennese Sachertorte

Sachertorte.jpgSachertorte has been famous almost since its conception in the mid-19th century.  It made its inventor so famous that he was able to build a hotel, one that is still one of the premier hosteleries in Vienna, a city renown for its elegance.  But I will warn you...it isn't for everybody, and it takes a discerning palate to enjoy its subtleties.  


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Couscous Summer Salad for Fourth of July

Couscous_Vegetable_Salad_00344 2.jpgDo you have your Fourth of July menu together yet? If you are like me, the answer is no.  One thing is for sure, I'll need a cool carb- based salad, something that I know will match up well with meat that will be the star of the menu.  My couscous salad has filled that slot on many of my summertime menus.  The Meryl Streep of my summer salad lineup, it is extremely versatile.  It goes just as well with grilled steak as it does barbecued chicken, marinated lamb, or seafood kebabs. It looks great. It taste great.  You can make it ahead of time.  In short: Put it on the menu.  


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Seeded Bread Twists

Seeded_Bread_Sticks_00258.jpgWhen I was a caterer, I learned one of the most important rules of setting up a buffet table: Tall is Good.  Height gives the table some drama.  You can accomplish this with a big floral arrangement, or by putting the platters on boxes to lift them up.  Or...you can do it with the food.  These beautiful bread sticks, decorated with savory seeds, will be a conversation piece, both for their looks and their flavor.  


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