About a zillion years ago, I opened New World Grill, a great little American bistro tucked into New York City’s theater district. We had what I still consider today to be an acid test Caesar salad. It was served in a pre-chilled bowl which was kinda fancy for a tiny neighborhood location (that would go on to garner some epic reviews, BTDub). With a light and fluffy dressing, it was all you would want a Caesar salad to be. The croutons were house-made and crusted with Parmesan. We also used red romaine which wasn’t really a thing yet. It got so I couldn’t order Caesar anywhere else because that salad was that damn good.
The fluffiness of the dressing came from an emulsified yolk-based aioli. Most bad Caesars suffer from heavy, oily dressing. Tableside Caesar salads are often the worst offenders. But in thinking about that today and for home use, I thought…why not take the egg out and put it on top? Poached egg toppers are kind of an obsession these days (okay, maybe it’s just me that’s obsessed.) And a Caesar dressing that is made egg-free can be stored a lot longer than one with a raw egg in it. Hence the “deconstructed” in the recipe title!! By pouring the oil in a thin stream into a blender or processor with the motor running, you can still emulsify the dressing, even without the egg. Just be sure to pour it slowly.
To really set this Caesar salad apart from the sad sack versions, I am putting some char on the leaves. Romaine is a sturdy lettuce and holds together well on the fire. I love the Little Gems that are sold in the supermarket in a six-pack, but hearts of romaine would also do well. Just split either size lengthwise, and brush the cut sides with a little olive oil before placing on the grill for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes, or until you see the first signs of wilt/char and some nice grill marks. In that short amount of time, the romaine will pick up some nice smoky flavor.
Feel free to use any good grating cheese. I used Manchego, but Parmesan or Pecorino would also work well. This is chef’s choice. Once you have made the dressing, it’s a no-recipe recipe. I know how much you love those. You’re welcome. Store-bought croutons are fine, too. You are really welcome!
Sometimes it’s hard to get a good Caesar salad. Look no further. Deconstructing the dressing – by putting the poached egg atop the salad – and grilling the romaine sets this salad apart.
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 anchovy fillets, salt-packed, rinsed and patted dry (see notes below)
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
6-pack of Little Gems baby romaine or 3 hearts of romaine
Olive oil to drizzle on romaine
Chunk of hard grating cheese like Manchego
1 cup seasoned croutons (optional/more or less to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
Flaky sea salt, like Maldon
Make the Caesar dressing:
In a blender, add the Parmesan, lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, anchovy fillets, Dijon, garlic, salt and pepper. Blend.
With the motor running, pour the oil in in a thin stream, until incorporated and emulsified.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes 3/4 cup. You will need about half for this recipe. Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Make the salad:
Split the Little Gems or romaine hearts lengthwise. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Place cut-side down on a hot grill until charred, about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a chilled serving platter and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Poach eggs. A drop of white vinegar added to the simmering water helps keep the whites from going rogue. I love these OXO poaching cups! You put them in simmering water and drop the egg through the solid top half and the water circulates through the holes in the bottom. The silicone provides the perfect barrier to give you that extra nano-second needed to really corral the whites. It’s a flawless technique.
Drizzle the Caesar dressing across the grilled romaine. Using a vegetable peeler, slice shards of Manchego on top and scatter croutons around. Top the salad with poached eggs.
Season with flaky salt, like Maldon, and freshly ground black pepper.
If you can’t find salt-packed, use anchovies packed in oil. Rinse them well, then cover them with kosher salt. Set aside for 10 minutes. Rinse well again, and pat dry. This will wick out the fishy oils and just leave sea-flavor. You can of course omit them, but they add that unctuous umami that is hard to achieve in a salad dressing.
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:10 minutes
I have somewhat recently acquired the OXO Good Grips Silicone Egg Poaching Set, and it has truly upped my game as an egg poacher. You would think that after countless brunches at the restaurant, I’d be a blindfolded, one-armed egg poacher, but I am occasionally challenged by rogue egg whites. True, a drop of white vinegar added to the simmering water always helps keep the whites in check. But with these collapsible, stackable egg cups, all you have to do is put them in enough simmering water to reach a mark on the cup, and then drop the egg through the solid top half, leaving the water to circulate through the holes in the bottom. The silicone provides the perfect barrier to give you that extra nano-second needed to really corral the whites. It’s a flawless technique. And so much better for you than the aluminum inserts my Mom used in her egg poaching pan. Bonus: they are dishwasher safe.
If you have not yet grilled lettuce, give this a whirl. When the first Zagat Guide came out after we opened, the only comment next to New World Grill was “some things shouldn’t be grilled.” I could not disagree more!
I just had the chance to join Maranda on WOTV 4 Women’s program Maranda Where You Live to share with her viewers some ideas on how to zhouzz up a party –in this case graduation – by adding a few easy details that give it real style. For entertaining, like most things in life, it’s the details that make the difference. Most of these style tips, with just a tweak here or there, will seamlessly slide from graduation, to Father’s Day…even to a wedding celebration. It’s summer entertaining at the brink of the season.
Summer Entertaining – Graduation with Style
I created a graduation celebration, themed around an outdoor event. In Western Michigan, we wait all year for this time. It’s great because the temps are mild, the days are long, and who doesn’t want to keep the masses and that mess outside. One of the tricky parts of any entertaining is how to avoid the long lines that form around buffets. I’m more likely to not at eat at a party than to stand in line, and as a host that is not something you want! To hack that, I created a menu that is grab and go. Everything is pre-served and portable. And I suggest scattering dishes around the patio, grouping two or three items together, to help spread the crowd. It’s best to cluster around a central theme – maybe a vegetarian station, or a dessert station, or together by temperature – the hots, the colds…you get the idea.
Kicked-Up Southwestern Turkey Burgers
One of the portables that I served was a slider. Assuming you don’t want to grill while you have guests – though I am fully aware that some hosts love that distraction – these turkey burger sliders can be grilled earlier in the day and reheated to serve. But won’t they dry out? Au contraire! By adding a jar of drained salsa to the ground turkey, the flavor profile is kicked up a notch and the salsa adds both moisture and depth of flavor. Its super simple and you are letting the salsa factory do all the heavy lifting of lots of chopping and roasting the chipotle.
Turkey burgers can get a real boost in the flavor profile category by just adding a jar of drained salsa to the ground turkey. The salsa adds both moisture and depth of flavor. Why not let the salsa factory do all the heavy lifting by roasting chipotles and doing all the chopping for you. More time to enjoy, less time in the kitchen.
16 ounce jar of favorite salsa, drained and liquid discarded (or saved to season a sauce)
3 pounds ground turkey
3 shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pour the salsa into a fine mesh strainer, set over a bowl to drain. Set aside for 20 minutes or more until the liquid has been released.
Mix the turkey, drained salsa, shallots, cumin, salt and pepper by hand until mixed through and shape into patties.
Grill over a medium-hot fire until cooked through (timing depends on burger size). Poultry should always be thoroughly cooked.
These are best made ahead and left to chill in the refrigerator for an hour or up to a day or two. This gives the patty time to firm up.
They also freeze really well, and so I tend to make a large batch and wrap in plastic wrap, individually. I spread them out on a tray to freeze. Then once frozen solid, I transfer to a big Ziploc.
Prep Time:10 minutes (plus draining and chilling time)
Cook Time:20 minutes
The next idea I showed was veggie shooters – using a shot glass or even a disposable clear plastic. By transferring the ranch dressing to a squeeze bottle (think diner ketchup or mustard bottle), you can put a squirt in the bottom of each shot glass without “sliming” the sides. Then just tuck in an assortment of fresh veggies – carrot sticks, celery, multi-color peppers, snow peas. And I tuck different combinations in each glass because not everyone will like them all, so pick let your guests pick what suits them. Could this be any cuter?
For all the dishes, both savory and sweet, I used herbs, flowers and vegetables to create super simple garnishes for each tray. It’s that little extra touch that will let your guests know you “THOUGHT OF EVERYTHING”!!
Fresh Mozzarella and Grilled Pineapple Skewers
For the last savory dish, I used rosemary sprigs in lieu of toothpicks – both flavorful and adorable. I marinated some mini mozzarella and grilled pineapple rings, then assembled. Very fresh tasting! Be sure to get the pot of rosemary at the nursery or garden center and plant what remains in your herb bed so it can regrow…because you ARE going to want to do this again. Cut the sprig with sharp scissors so you get a point and remove the bottom few leaves to create the “pick”.
Mini Banana Cream Pies
For dessert and continuing with the portable idea – in this case pie – I used mason jars to create individual banana cream pies. This is a no-recipe recipe and takes good advantage of all basic supermarket items: vanilla wafers, banana pudding (2 minutes to mix with cold milk), sliced bananas and some whipped topping. Crush a few more wafers on top. Sometimes super cute goes a long way to mask shortcut cooking. Shhh don’t tell anyone. That’s a professional tip and I could get kicked out of my professional tip society. This dish lands squarely in the “People Love It!” category. A+!
And then just because I could……diploma cookies – using packaged pirouette cookies, tied with a ribbon. Adorable. Easy. Win. Win.
There is always a pride of ownership when you contribute to a meal, so let your guests help cook dessert with a DIY S’mores Bar – featuring GIANT Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallows. (I’m personal friends with JP, the Jet-Puffed guy!)
There are a lot of ways to set up the fuel station – creating a bed of river rock – or even charcoal briquettes as a prop – to surround the fuel. Make sure to place this in a low wind area, with proper ventilation and pay attention to potential flammables, keeping them far away. (It wouldn’t hurt to have a fire extinguisher under the table, because like an umbrella, if you have it, you won’t need it). Now you can find Green Heat products that are environmentally friendly and bio-degradable, as well as safe for direct contact with food. They are plant-derived, and come from corn-based ethanol and are non-toxic. Look for those – good for you, good for the planet.
I ended the segment with a couple ways to make memories, something that is important for every celebration. Using a Jenga set – along with a bunch of markers – guests can add their wishes or advice, date and sign it – and the grad will have a keepsake to remember this day forever. Can you imagine the day when Bubba Junior will be playing Jenga with his grandchildren and a smile will cross his face thinking about this incredible party you hosted – back when?
And the final portable for the party: a photo booth. Along with a few photo booth-type props (mortarboards on a stick) and one giant frame, this show can go on the road….grabbing photos of the grad and guests throughout the party. The frame can be decorated for a princess, a sports career, or the college that lies ahead. Just screw a couple drawer pulls into the back so all those in the photograph can help hold it. By being hand-held, this has the added advantage of going from portrait to landscape orientation and from straight on to cockeyed. That variety of angles will inspire a lot of candid moments, making for a great souvenir photo book which you can give at Christmas when your grad comes home from college! And what a great chance to reinforce the idea of gratitude. He can print the photos and write the guests a note of thanks …for the support …for the gift… for being part of the day. Just slap a stamp on it and mail a photo of the guest and grad enjoying this wonderful celebration.
Have Fun! And that’s an order!!!
The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the day. You have worked hard for whatever it is you are celebrating – getting a child through school, walked down the aisle, or even your own significant anniversary – put your focus on planning and prepping, but the minute the doorbell rings, close the door on stress and open the front door with a big old smile to greet your guests. This day is as much about your achievements as those of your graduate. No matter how awry a plan may have gone, no one but you will know. In the business, we have a saying no matter how a dish turns out: “That’s the way we like it.” That might be the most important lesson I ever learned from Anna Teresa Callen, the great Italian cooking teacher. She’d just shake her head and smile and in her wonderful Italian lilt, whisper….”Ah! That’s the way I like it!”
Are you full yet? I know. I know. The mind reels that we are still talking about food. But trust me – this dish does not disappoint. And, be honest. Turkey sandwiches start to feel redundant. Turkey Tetrazzini, a dish I grew up on, however is creamy, hearty, and full of mushroomy goodness. My mom found her recipe (very, very loosely translated below, in part because 50 years ago directions were vague and ingredients were more a suggestion when “the homemaker” already knew how to cook) in the 1968 Panhellenic Meats Cookbook. “Every home should have a good meats cookbook. This cookbook is filled with wonderful recipes submitted by sorority members over the nation. Here you will find all sorts of mouth-watering meats – from tried-and-true favorites such as hamburger pie to exotic foreign treats.” These gals surely got around because despite foreign dishes starting off with lasagna and Canadian meat pie, they also ranged from Turkey to Taiwan to Tahiti.
Speaking of the 60s…who’s doesn’t like a good road trip to pick out dinner? I’ll take THAT one!
Tetrazzini was invented in a hotel (debates over whether it was San Francisco or NYC) in the early 1900s. Opera star Luisa Tetrazzini is its namesake. There is seemingly no standard for what ingredients are required, but it generally includes poultry, a cream sauce and long thin pasta. The Meats Cookbook recipe may or may not call for sautéing the onion in bacon grease. I am not sure I can in good conscience call for that. And I’m here to assure you that I always choose the healthier EVOO. But you should know that is probably a lie. It is definitely a lie. It’s your cholesterol. Do what you will. For goodness sake, it’s the day after Thanksgiving. Is this really the time to show restraint?
Instead of talking turkey, let’s just let the Tetrazzini do the talking!
3 Tablespoons flour
About 4 ounces butter, divided per instructions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 ribs celery, sliced
1 green bell pepper, stem removed, seeded and diced
4 shallots, minced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 pound spaghetti
4 cups chopped turkey
2 cups grated cheddar
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
6 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled (are you saving the fat for shallot sauté?)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs or seasoned breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350oF. Butter a 9x13x2-inch 3-quart casserole.
I’m switching it up here and making a cross between a milk-based Béchamel white sauce and a chicken broth based Velouté. That makes it creamy and also a bit lighter.
Start by making a roux, using 3 Tablespoons each of butter and flour. Melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux the texture of wet sand. Let it start to bubble and continue for one minute. Whisk in the milk and chicken stock. Combine well. Season with salt and pepper. Add the celery and peppers and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened, whisking from time to time to make sure the sauce does not stick, and the vegetables are softened.
Prep the Veggies:
Meanwhile, add 1 Tablespoon of the remaining butter (or the bacon fat if using) to a sauté pan and add the shallots. Sauté until golden and a bit crispy, about 8 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.
Add an additional 2 Tablespoons of butter to the pan and sauté the mushrooms until browned.
Cook the Pasta:
Cook the pasta according to package directions, under-cooking by a minute or so. Drain.
Time to Combine:
In a small bowl, combine the parsley, shallots and Parmesan.
In a large bowl, add the pasta, turkey, mushrooms, cheddar, and gradually add the sauce, folding to combine evenly. Add half the parsley/shallot/Parmesan mixture and toss well. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish.
Top the pasta mixture with the remaining parsley/shallot/Parmesan mixture and sprinkle with the bacon and breadcrumbs, dotting with 1 Tablespoon butter.
Bake it Off:
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes until bubbly.
Note: Sometimes when I make this, I let it cool to room temperature and freeze until I need it. In that case, I add all the parsley/shallot/Parmesan mixture to the pasta before freezing, and wrap well, without additional toppings. Then when I am ready to bake it off, I top the thawed casserole with bacon, breadcrumbs, and a bit of fresh Parmesan or grated cheddar. Per Darryl Hannah in Steel Magnolias, “it’s in the freezes beautifully section of my cookbook.”
Serves ??? How much do you love this? At least 6 or 8, and more if you are willing to share.
Nary has a Thanksgiving rolled by that I am not peppered with queries from dawn to dusk. I heed the call, alternating with “Gobble Gobble” and “Butterball Hotline.” This year, I say bring it on. I’ve got nothing but time. Yup! I have already cooked my Thanksgiving feast – the roast turkey and the gravy – and served it up with a “Family Favorites Pot-lucky.” Food served. Wine drunk. Dishes done. Trash at the curb. Sorry. Not sorry.
We gathered earlier this month and the pot-lucky theme was Family Treasures – the iconic culinary treats that are essential for fall family feasts. I brought Gaga’s Delmonico apples and a cranberry kumquat chutney, that’s a newer tradition. One couple brought a wonderful red and yellow beet with nutty goat cheese appetizer. The other dishes were both familiar and uniquely twisted – a modern green bean casserole & sweet potatoes with pecans, scalloped corn & sprouts with bacon, and mash taters & an amazing sausage stuffing. It was a tasty trip seeing how others celebrate the season.
And because it has been so warm, I was able to get most of the décor from the herb bed, grasses and colorful leaves. After one too many table settings that hogged the site line and got moved off the table about 5 minutes after we were seated, I decided to keep it low and used a collection of mismatched short silver cups, more commonly used at Derby time – julep cups! That plus a few candles and some nuts and gourds was all I needed.
I was also in charge of the turkey and over the years I’ve had my share of turkey prep. Some years I have gone from perfect turkey on the Today Show Thursday to turkey leftovers on Good Morning America Friday. By noon on Thursday when others were thinking about the big dance, I had moved on to leftovers prep. One year my balcony was lined by so many wall to wall coolers filled with turkey parts that you’d have thought I was running a soup kitchen. Suffice it to say I have done every show with every possible technique and turkey part. Whole turkeys, turduckens, spatchcocked and deconstructed. Done. It. All.
The real secret to Turkey Perfection comes from good preparation, organization, great ingredients and having the right equipment. My turkey this year came from Wise Family Farm and was about 16 pounds. I hope you are so lucky as to have a fresh, locally pastured bird, but if you are only able to source a frozen turkey, you need to get busy now. The safest way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator over several days. And don’t forget that it takes 24 hours to thaw every 4 pounds of frozen bird.
If you head to my shop, you will find the tools I find most invaluable – a good Roasting Pan, about 2-3” deep (I prefer “stick” over non-stick – that results in a nice dark brown gravy), a Roasting Rack that raises the turkey for essential airflow, an Instant Read Thermometer to validate estimated cooking time, a Fat Separator to skim off fat and pour the rich stock from the bottom of the vessel, and anything written by Rick Rodgers, including The Turkey Cookbook, Thanksgiving 101, and The Big Book of Sides. I can safely say everything I know about turkey and gravy I learned from Rick. He IS Mr. Turkey.
I find the recipe below to be quite foolproof. It is a classic technique for an average-sized 18-pound turkey, but the instructions can be adjusted depending on the size of your bird. There are many tweaks and twists that can bedazzle the bird, but it always helps to know the basics before you start embellishing. Learned that one from Julia herself! And one of the things I learned from Rick is to have a stock pot going all day so that you can baste before your bird gets juicy and you have everything needed to make gravy, regardless of the amount of juices your bird yields. I have included details on how to do that so you can relax and know you will be gravy-prepared.
Roast Turkey Perfection with Gimme-More Gravy
One (18-pound) fresh turkey
Freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 quarts turkey or chicken stock (I prefer low sodium since this will reduce for hours – you can always add seasoning later)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 sprigs Italian parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup* plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
*You may not need this if the turkey releases enough fat to yield a half-cup. Commercially produced birds tend to be fattier, but the pasture-raised bird I cooked was very lean and I needed to supplement with the butter when making the roux for the gravy.
Position oven rack in the lower part of oven and preheat to 325° F.
Remove any pieces/parts inside the turkey – the neck and giblets (which includes the gizzard, heart, and liver) – and set aside.
Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and wipe out the cavity. Rub cavity with salt and pepper and stuff loosely with 1/3 of the carrots, celery, and onions.
Pin the turkey’s neck skin to the back with a bamboo skewer or trussing pin. Tuck the wings akimbo (“hands” behind the back, elbows turned outward) to keep the tips from burning.
Place the drumsticks in the hock lock. Some birds will be butchered with a skin flap as shown above. Others may have a plastic loop to lock the legs. If all else fails, tie them together with kitchen string.
Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Rub all over with 2 Tablespoons softened butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Tightly cover the breast area with aluminum foil. (Not tented, just pressed tightly onto the breast. You will remove this during the last hour of roasting).
Pour 2 cups of turkey or chicken stock into the bottom of the pan and place in the pre-heated oven.
As soon as the bird is in the oven, start the stock pot. This will give you juices for basting during the early hours when the bird hasn’t given off much liquid. It will also provide backup turkey stock for a bird that is a low juice producer.
Hack the turkey neck into 4 or 5 pieces. Trim away the gizzard’s silver skin and membrane and coarsely chop. Some like to also chop up the liver and heart and add it here, but I think they are a bit bitter when boiled. I’m more likely to save them and sauté later with onions and then add them to stews, fried rice, or place atop avo toast.
In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil, add the turkey neck, any giblets, and sauté until brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the remaining carrots, celery, and onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add 1 quart of turkey stock, along with the parsley, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer, using this to baste the turkey as needed. Periodically skim any floaters. (I’m trying really hard not to say scum, but you know what I’m talking about.) Add additional turkey stock to the pot to maintain a 1-1 ½ quart level.
Roast the turkey, basting all over every hour with the juices in the bottom of the pan or from the stock pot. Lift up the foil to baste the breast area. I usually rotate the pan periodically to make sure there are no oven hot spots and the bird roasts evenly. Roast until an Instant Read Thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) reads 180° F and the breast is 165° F, about 4 hours. Whenever the drippings evaporate, baste from the stock pot and add a bit more stock to the roasting pan. Remove the foil from the breast during the last hour to let the skin brown.
It’s better to pad your estimated cooking time by 30 minutes, so nobody is standing around drinking too much while waiting for the bird. I say that like it’s a bad thing. I always defer to the thermometer, but use the times below as a guideline. Stuffing your turkey will add about 5 minutes per pound, so I cook the stuffing on the side (doesn’t that make it dressing??). Since you need to let the bird rest 30 minutes and carving takes time, you have most of an hour to finish or warm the rest of the sides when the oven is no longer needed for the turkey.
Estimated Roasting Times – Unstuffed Turkey – about 15 – 20 min a pound
Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before carving. Pour any juices that have run off back into the roasting pan.
Once the turkey is out of the oven and resting, pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a Fat Separator or heatproof glass measuring cup. Let stand 5 minutes, then skim off and reserve the clear yellow fat that rises to the top. Measure 1/2 cup fat, adding butter, if needed, to make 1/2 cup.
Check the measurement on the broth remaining in the fat separator, once you have skimmed the fat. If you have less than one quart of liquid, add enough strained liquid from the stock pot to the skimmed drippings to make 4 cups.
Place the roasting pan on low across two stove burners (or scrape all the brown bits from the roasting pan into a saucepan) and add the turkey fat or fat/butter combo (1/2 cup total).
Whisk in the flour to make a roux, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and cook until the paste is lightly browned, about two minutes. Whisk in the turkey broth. Cook, whisking often, until the gravy has thickened and no trace of raw flour flavor remains, about ten minutes.
If desired, finely chop whatever giblets you have prepared and add to the gravy. Check the seasonings and add salt and pepper, as needed. Transfer the gravy to a warmed gravy boat.
Remove the wing and leg on one side and slice the breast, carving parallel to the center/breast bone. Repeat on the other side. It’s become very popular to remove the breast and slice cross-wise like a loaf of bread. It’s not the way I was trained. But my Dad’s process which took an hour to carve…one slice for the platter, one for the man with the knife….and never ended up with enough food on the platter (What? You want more than one paper-thin slice???) has left some family members in therapy. I can’t be sure but I think some people that I may or may not be related to shred their turkey by hand just to avoid any brush with our torturous past. You are on your own – #NoJudgment – but know that there are plenty of videos on carving techniques!
However you carve it, enjoy and be sure to smother with amazing gravy and serve with gratitude! And be sure to share your family favorite sides in the comments below.
Serves 18 with about 4 cups of gravy
Take a page from this book and consider liquid dessert! Kind of a perfect way to end a meal – no further chewing needed.
This post contains affiliate links. For more of my must-have faves, check out my shop.
I can see the problem you are having. A giant mound of peach perfection and you are so tired of fruit pie and cobbler (Okay, we should probably admit that is NOT really a thing, being tired of pie and cobbler). But it’s a holiday weekend and you MUST use that beautiful bounty ASAP yet you would rather be on the beach, boat, SUP or _____(fill in the blank). So with that last hurrah of summer celebration hurtling toward you at ram speed, here’s a dessert that you can make in a flash, yet will look like you have been slaving away. Stone fruit –still abundantly available – is the perfect choice for this “cobbler, not-a-cobbler.” Cut into wedges, a peach or nectarine is sizable enough to hold its shape (ain’t nobody likin’ fruit mush) and comes with its own good dose of pectin. I throw in a few blueberries for a wee bit of flavor, color, and texture contrast, but warn against fruit with a high water content and thin skins (I got my eyes on you raspberries and blackberries.)
Normally a fruit cobbler comes with a streusel or pastry crumb topping, but I love this idea of biscuits. I would say it’s fresh and new, but since I created this dish at New World Grill some 20 years ago, I will settle on timeless. It’s hard to find a fruit pot pie at all, and the ones I have seen are made with a double pastry crust. This dish has no bottom – which means…..???? You got it!! No soggy bottoms!!! Pastry fraidies unite! You can do this!! Just cook the fruit with a little cornstarch stove-top then drop biscuit dough on top. Super easy to serve as well because everyone gets a heaping spoon of fruit topped with a biscuit topped with …Ice Cream? Whip Cream? Greek Yogurt? Yes. Yes. And Yes. Please. It’s dessert magic.
I have made this with peaches and nectarines (peel the peaches, but no need on the nectarines), but you might also try plums or apricots. And cherries could be a nice alternative to the blueberries I use. Just keep a sturdy skin in mind when improvising. And always let a fruit dessert cool to avoid the juice-bomb. This is best served same-day, an hour from the oven or reheated. Biscuits are a bit of a diva when it comes to humidity, so the longer it sits around the less flaky they will be.
I learned to make traditional biscuits from a woman who said “handle them like you are holding hot coals.” (It was a KFC shoot and we must have made 1000 biscuits). It was good advice – don’t touch them much at all. Biscuits are made by cutting little tiny bits of ice cold butter into the dry ingredients, so that each pea-sized bit is flour-coated. Then you gently add the liquid – buttermilk, perhaps – until it just holds together. If you hot-handle the dough, the butter will start to melt. The butter should melt only once – in your honking hot 425oF oven – because that creates steam and that, my friends, provides lift. Voilà! Flaky!!
The other reason to lightly handle the dough is to avoid overworking the glutens which will make a tough and sometimes shrunken biscuit. (That joke just wrote itself. I don’t even have to put it in words.) I got you covered here, this dough is NOT fussy and is made in the processor and uses a small amount of boiling water to pull the dough together. It’s a bit of the opposite of everything I have just said – no hot coals. This makes it super simple and you can get away with it in part because it is going atop hot fruit which will also create some steam.
Summer Fruit Pot Pie
8 cups pitted and sliced nectarines, about 8 pieces or 4 pounds
Juice of one lemon, about 3 Tablespoons (please zest it first and save the zest for the biscuit)
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups blueberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of one lemon
6 ounces ice-cold butter, cut into bits
¼ cup + 2-3 Tablespoons boiling water
Preheat oven to 425oF. Butter a 9x13x2-inch 3-quart casserole.
Start the Fruit: Combine the nectarines with the lemon juice and sugar. Set aside. Dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water and set aside for 5 minutes.
Start the Biscuits: Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Cut in the butter with the food processor, by pulsing 8-10 times, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (You can also use a pastry cutter).
Back to the Fruit: Combine the nectarines with the cornstarch in a saucepan. Bring the cornstarch-nectarine mixture to a boil, and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer fruit mixture to the casserole.
Finish the biscuits: Slowly pour in ¼ cup boiling water and pulse a couple times until just combined. Scrape down sides. Add additional water one Tablespoon at a time, up to 3 additional Tablespoons. Pulse with each addition until dough just comes together and becomes spoon-able. It should remain a bit stiff and not turn gooey. If you add the water all at once, you run the risk of adding too much liquid and melting the butter. Add it gradually and it will just slightly soften it. Drop the dough by scant 1/4 cups onto the fruit to form 12 biscuits. Use a spoon or small spatula to ease the dough out of the cup. All that butter will let it slide out quite easily.
Bake in bottom third of preheated, foil-lined oven for 35 – 40 minutes until fruit is set, biscuits are golden, and a toothpick inserted in a biscuit comes out clean. If the biscuits are getting too brown, cover loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes or so. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Cool for about an hour, to let the juices set. Serve while still warm or reheat if it has cooled. Top with ice cream, whipped cream, or plain Greek yogurt.
Nothing says summer like a fruit pie, especially cherry pie, warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. But for me there is one not so tiny problem. The 425oF oven. It’s impossible to get around that aspect of summer pies, biscuits and shortcakes. But what you can do is get in and out as quickly as possible and I have a couple secret weapons that let you trick out store bought dough, pass it off as your own, and get back to the beach. Who doesn’t love that? Face it – while home-made crust is a fabulous nod to bygone days and an awesome salute to Gramma, with our 2016 lifestyle and in the dog days of summer, it’s a crime against the calendar. I hereby give you my permission to do this fast fix.
While the crust hacks are my own, this pie recipe is inspired by one of the late Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts. This book is one of my very few must haves and has to be one of the best baking reference books ever written… at least for home-style desserts which are not only my personal favorites, but also the style at New World Grill where I did most of the baking. I am super excited to find out that it is no longer out of print! For years it was only available used, but it has been reprinted and is here for the taking! Not just pies, but cobblers, puddings, dumplings, cakes, tarts, custards, frozen treats and more. Run! Run! Run!
One of the tricky things about fruit pies is how much thickening – usually cornstarch or tapioca – is enough but not too much. There are no easy answers here. It depends on the water content of the fruit, the ripeness, pectin etc. This generally is not a problem with fall fruits like apples, quince, figs, or pears. Food52 had a recent post on “the fickle mistress” of the pie world – fresh fruit. Their suggestions are a lot more time consuming than what I suggest here, but they are also more predictable. I would NOT follow my recipe if you were trying to use super high water-content fruit like raspberries or blackberries. They are …..like 87% water, 12% seeds and 1% fruit. (Source: my vivid imagination). Not good contenders. But this would work super well with peaches and a sprinkling of blueberries. Or cherries as I suggest here. Keep it to fruit with sturdy flesh and you will be fine.
I can’t think of cherry pie without thinking of my Grandmother who was often perched on the piano bench belting out a round of Can She Make a Cherry Pie, Billy Boy Billy Boy. No?? Nobody?? We didn’t actually grow up on cherry pies as a summer staple, but my Dad loved him some bings and spending time in Michigan during the summers, they were and are plentiful. Traverse City has an annual festival dedicated to cherries with races through the orchards, pie eating and pit spitting. The airport is Cherry Capital Airport. Fly right over the Leelanau Peninsula mid-summer and you will be amazed by the vision in bright red. For this pie, I used a combo of those pretty bright red tarts, along with sweet dark cherries and whites. Whenever I get them, I pit them immediately and freeze by color in ziplocks.
Now on to the inside secrets on how to trick out a ready-made crust and pass it as your own. These tricks work best for the pre-made dough that comes rolled up and is found in the dairy case, possibly sporting a chubby white guy with a chef toque. Some of these tips will help you jazz it up and some will help rid you of a soggy bottom. Nobody likes that!
Secrets for success:
Oven should be hot; pastry should be cold. Always 425oF for crusts.
Heat a pizza stone while you preheat.
Use a glass pie plate and butter it well.
Brush egg white on the inside of the raw bottom crust once you’ve laid it in the pie plate. Back to the fridge til its time to use this.
Brush the top crust with cream or half & half. Sprinkle with sugar
Lay a sheet of foil loosely on the top for the first 15 minutes of baking to help the fruit temperature rise more quickly.
Use a foil-lined (for the mess) sheet pan (to protect the glass on the pizza stone) under the pie.
Get the best vanilla ice cream – no point in cutting corners here!
Double Crust Three Cherry Pie
Dough for a double crust pie
6-7 cups of cherries, pitted (I like a combo of sweet and tart. If frozen, do not thaw)
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract (wonderful flavor for both cherries and peaches)
Preheat the oven to 425oF with a pizza stone placed on a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Butter a 9 1/2” deep dish glass pie plate.
Rollout (or unfold) dough for the bottom crust. Fit into the pie plate, leaving any overhang. Brush the inside of the crust with enough egg white to coat. Roll out the top crust. Refrigerate both crusts until you are ready to use them.
Combine the cherries with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and almond extract.
Remove the top crust from the refrigerator and cut into 3/4” wide strips.
Remove the bottom crust from the refrigerator and fill with the cherries. If any sugar mixture has settled in the bowl, sprinkle evenly on top of the cherries. Brush the outside edge of the crust with the remaining egg white and lay half the strips evenly across the top in one direction. Weave the remaining strips cross-wise ”pot-holder style”. Press the ends into the bottom crust around the outer edge and trim excess. Flute or crimp the edges.
Dot the top of the pie with butter, brush the lattice with cream and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon sugar.
Lay a piece of foil on top of the pie (not tightly wrapped and not tented). This will help the fruit heat up faster and keep the crust from starting to brown too quickly. Place the pie on a foil-lined sheet pan and set on the pizza stone. After 15 minutes, remove the top foil. Continue baking until the crust is golden and the fruit is thickened and bubbly. Keep an eye on the crust color and cover outside edge with foil cut into a ring or entirely, as needed to slow down the crust color while the fruit thickens. This will take about an additional 45 -50 minutes.
Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool thoroughly on a wire rack to thicken up completely. Cut it too early and you have a juice bomb. If you want to serve it warm, reheat it at serving time.
Serves 8 – 10
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