sage

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage

I can’t even believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving already.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

I swear it really just snuck up on me this year. Last year I had my entire meal planned months in advance, and because I wanted to share my whole menu with everyone here, I’d even tested, modified, written out, and photographed the recipes well before November even started.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year though, the Maxwell’s build-out and opening occupied most of my attention from summer well into the fall, and everything else in my life had to be put on the back burner. I’ve had some ideas stewing that I wanted to test out for my Thanksgiving spread this year, but I just never really found the time, even once Maxwell’s was open and I was able to re-focus my attention elsewhere.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

The funny thing is that I actually first attempted this recipe when I was trying to plan for my Thanksgiving spread last year. I knew that I’d want to make some significant changes to it, and I just had too many other recipes to focus on, so I decided to dog-ear the idea to come back to later.

Well, it’s later now.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, a couple weeks ago I started playing with it to fine tune my vision and streamline the steps. My first instinct was to caramelize the onions and fennel before mixing them in with the cream, but I actually found that by the time the whole thing baked for an hour an a half, the onions and fennel cooked down way too much and were almost indistinguishable. I also originally planned to peel the potatoes, or maybe just the sweet potatoes, but after trying the recipe both ways, peeling just seemed like an unnecessary extra step.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

With everything that goes into making an entire Thanksgiving dinner, I figured that everyone, including myself, would appreciate any unnecessary steps that I could eliminate. Enough effort goes into slicing everything with the mandoline and arranging the slices in tight circles, so as long as it still tastes great, why not make everything else super easy?

Speaking of slicing everything with a mandoline, please be careful when you’re slicing. Those pesky mandolines have bitten me a few times, but if you go slow and use a guard when you get toward the end of the potato, I promise that you can keep your fingertips intact. Another option to keep your fingers super safe would be to invest in a cut resistant glove. Whenever I’ve had any accidents with mandolines though, it’s been because I was going too fast or was distracted by something else in the kitchen. The blades are sharp and deserve your undivided attention, so please use caution! Unfortunately this recipe will be kind of difficult to perfect without one. Sorry friends!
I mean, if you have surgically precise knife skills, by all means please go ahead and just use a knife, but it’s really important that all the slices are the exact same thickness so everything cooks at the same time.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

Let me tell you friends, this recipe was worth the wait and the effort. Who could say no to tender, delicate, richly flavored potatoes with crunchy, crispy top edges? The mix of red, white, and sweet potatoes is wonderfully autumnal without being too sweet, and the onions and fennel caramelize in the oven and their flavors go from pungent and intense to rich, mellow, and slightly sweet. The mix of cheeses adds a salty, nutty richness, and the sage, thyme, and garlic make this dish the perfect side to serve with turkey or poultry.
Or maybe I should say turkey would be the perfect side to serve with this gratin, because these potatoes are sure to steal the Thanksgiving spotlight.

It doesn’t have to end at Thanksgiving though! This recipe would be an amazing addition to any fall or winter meal, be it a special occasion, or just a way to up the ante on your sunday dinner.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

In the recipe below, I say that this dish should yield 6 to 10 side-sized servings, but I want to mention that if you’re serving this at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, with a wide array of other foods, your yield should actually be higher because your portion sizes will be smaller. Although many of your guests may go back in for seconds, people tend to take smaller portions when there’s a lot on the table because they’re trying to fit 15 different things on one plate.

So, at a normal dinner with a main and a side or two, this should feed about 6 to 10 people, but at Thanksgiving I think this recipe should be enough for about 12 to 15. The more the merrier, right?

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

Red, White, & Sweet Potato Gratin with Fennel & Sage

  • Servings: 6 to 10 side-size servings
  • Print
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

1 cup grated comte cheese (or other semi-firm nutty cheese like gruyere or emmental)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt (sounds like a lot, but this is a lot of potatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 lb red potatoes
1 lb white potatoes
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
1 large to 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1/2 to 3/4 lb)
2 small to medium onions (about 1/2 lb)
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat oven to 400F and adjust rack to the middle of the oven.

Toss cheeses together in a medium bowl to combine. Transfer about 1/3 of the mixture to another bowl and set aside for later use. Back in the first bowl, add cream, salt, pepper, garlic, sage, & thyme; and stir or toss to combine. Set aside.

Using a mandoline slicer, slice all the potatoes, unpeeled, into 1/8 inch thick disks and place into a very large bowl.  The larger the bowl, the easier it will be to toss the potatoes with the cream without making a mess. Slice the onion(s) and fennel bulb(s) to the same thickness and add to the potatoes. Pour cream and cheese mixture over the potatoes and toss toss toss to completely coat each slice of potato with cream. Use your fingers to separate any potatoes that may have become stuck together, so that every single slice is coated in the cream mixture.

Butter the inside of a large casserole, or 12″ cast iron skillet *see note. Organize handfuls of potatoes into neat stacks, along with some slices of onions and fennel, and line them up in the casserole with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing stacks of potatoes into the dish, working around the perimeter and into the center until all potatoes have been added. Potatoes should be tightly packed. If necessary, slice an additional potato, coat with the remaining cream mixture, and add to the casserole. Pour the remaining cream mixture evenly over the potatoes until the mixture comes about half way up the sides of the potato slices. You may not need all the liquid.

Cover dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and transfer to oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid/foil and bake for 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to oven to bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for at least 15 minutes, and serve.

*cooks note:
I used a braising pan that measures about 12″ across, so a 12″ cast iron skillet would perfectly as well. I also think a 9×13″ casserole should work great, but rather than arranging the potatoes in circles, just line them up lengthwise in three rows.

Pork & apple stew

The internet is a seriously amazing place when you stop and think about it.

pork and apple stew | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s hard to even remember what life was like before we had the world wide web, before smart phones, and before free public wifi. Back when you’d have to wait until you got home to look up the useless bar trivia we now have answers to at the click of a button. Way back when you had to consult actual cook books to find recipes, rather than finding pages and pages of search results for even the most obscure cuisines.

pork and apple stew | Brooklyn Homemaker

I have shelves sagging with cookbooks, but most of them spend more time collecting dust than helping me cook. These days I rely on the internet to provide me with drool-worthy recipes and endless culinary inspiration. Most of the time, even when a recipe sounds mind-blowingly delicious, I like to make a few changes here and there to suit my taste. Increase this, substitute that, omit the other. You know. I’m sure you do the same, at least some of the time.

pork and apple stew | Brooklyn Homemaker

In my ceaseless internet exploration I recently stumbled across a recipe for pork and apple stew from Better Homes and Gardens that I just HAD to try.
To that end, I thought I’d do something a little different today.

Please head over to Better Homes and Garden’s blog, Delish Dish for the rest of this post and to find the original recipe and see the changes I made to it.

pork and apple stew | Brooklyn Homemaker

This post was written in partnership with Better Homes & Gardens.
Tux Loerzel and Brooklyn Homemaker were not compensated for this post.

 

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits

I have a confession to make…

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m a biscuit snob.

There.
I said it.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

Over the past few years there has been a sudden explosion of “Southern” “Soul Food” restaurants in my little corner of North Brooklyn.

It would appear that fried chicken is the new cupcake. No, that’s not right. Gourmet doughnuts are the new cupcake.
Fried chicken is the new… burger?

Don’t get me wrong. I ain’t complainin’. I can’t fry chicken to save my life, and I LOVE fried chicken.
Every time I’ve tried to make it at home it’s come out under or over cooked, usually pretty greasy, and never as crispy as I’d like. There are very few recipes I’ve never been able to master, but I’d like to think I know when enough’s enough. At this point I’ve accepted defeat and decided it’s better to just leave the fried chicken to the professionals.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

The problem though, is that for all of the fried chicken professionals we have running around, I haven’t yet found a place where their biscuits don’t feel like an afterthought. It’s as if they know they have to serve biscuits because, like, they’re a chicken joint, but they don’t actually care about making sure they’re just as good as the chicken.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

Instead of light, tender, flaky, delicate, pillowy, buttery little clouds of biscuits, most of the these so called chicken joints serve dense, tough little hockey pucks. Most of the time they serve them with a big ramekin full of honey butter, hoping you’ll slather so much on that you won’t notice there’s anything wrong. It makes me sad, and it doesn’t need to be this way.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

I know a lot of people are afraid of making biscuits at home. I know it’s easy to screw them up if you don’t know to use a delicate hand. I know a lot of people think of biscuits the way I think of fried chicken. I’m reminded of the words of wise old G. Dubya, “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again.”

Here’s the thing though. Biscuits are not that hard to get right. I promise you that they’re easier than frying chicken. Whether you’re at home on a Sunday morning, or slinging chicken in a busy hipster soul food restaurant, if you want a tender delicate biscuit the only trick is to treat them tenderly and delicately. It’s really that simple.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

It doesn’t matter how you get the butter into the flour, as long as it doesn’t melt in the process. You always want to keep that butter cold. I used to think a pastry blender was the only method gentle enough for a tender biscuit, but I’ve tried pulsing the butter in with a food processor, cutting it in with two knives, even mashing it in with a fork, and they all worked just fine.

I think the thing that really makes the biggest difference is how you mix the liquid into the flour. You want to gently stir and fold the liquid and dry ingredients together to moisten as much of the flour as possible without over mixing it. If a bit of the flour doesn’t want to mix in, don’t sweat it. To make sure you have super flaky layers you’ll want to fold the dough over on itself a few times, so you can mix that little bit of extra flour back in then.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

To add some extra flavor and interest, I took my old standard biscuit recipe and substituted some pureed roasted butternut squash for a bit of the buttermilk. This is a perfect recipe if you already plan to serve butternut squash at your Thanksgiving dinner. If you don’t, and you don’t want to take the time to roast the squash just for the biscuits, you can use canned squash if you can find it, or canned pumpkin if you can’t.

I also wanted to add the flavor of fresh sage to compliment the squash, but I didn’t really want to have large visible chunks of sage in the dough. I decided that the best way to evenly distribute the sage, and it’s fragrant earthy flavor, all throughout the biscuits would be to pulse the sage together with some brown sugar in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor though, just try to chop the sage as finely as you can.

The combination of fresh sage and roasted squash really adds wonderful earthy sweetness and depth that, to me at least, just screams fancy pants Thanksgiving dinner. Homemade biscuits are always a welcome addition to any meal, but this recipe is so quintessentially Autumnal that you’re guests are sure to be ooohing and aaahing over them all through dinner.

flaky butternut squash & sage biscuits | Brooklyn Homemaker

Flaky Butternut Squash & Sage Biscuits

  • Servings: 12-16 biscuits
  • Print
Roasted squash:
1 small butternut squash
1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil

Biscuits:
12 to 15 sage leaves
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup butternut squash puree (or pumpkin puree)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons heavy cream or melted butter

Preheat oven to 400.

Slice the squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Rub the cut side of the squash flesh with oil and place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast squash for about 40 minutes or until fork tender. Cool completely, remove the skin, and mash the flesh with a fork, or puree in a food mill or food processor.

Turn oven up to 450.

Combine the sage leaves and brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor and run until the sage is very finely chopped (you can also just chop the sage very very finely with a knife). Add flour, baking powder, salt, cram of tartar, ground pepper, and cinnamon and pulse to combine. Cut the cold butter into 1 inch chunks, add to flour, and pulse into small pea sized pieces (if you don’t have a food processor use a pastry blender). Transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill for at least 30 minutes (or overnight). Mix squash puree and buttermilk together, make a well in the center of the flour, and pour in buttermilk all at once. Gently stir and fold together with a fork until just moistened, and bring together in a ball with your hands. Do not try to mix the liquid into the flour in the food processor or your biscuits will be tough and dense.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently push dough out into a flat disk using your hands (or a rolling pin). Dust lightly with flour, fold in half, and gently roll or press back out. Repeat 5 or 6 times to create layers in your biscuits that will separate when baked. Roll or pat dough out to about 3/4 inch thick and cut into circles using a 2.5 inch biscuit cutter. Remaining dough can be recombined once, but no more or it will get tough. Recombined biscuits will not be as pretty or as flaky as the first batch, but they’re still worth it. Transfer biscuits to parchment lined baking sheets and brush tops with cream or melted butter. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

herb and cheddar corn pudding

OMG you guys. It’s November! Do you know what that means?

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Thanksgiving is almost here!!!!

Well, less than a month anyway. I guess you could say that’s “almost” right?
I’m gonna go with yes, and I’m gonna get excited about it.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’ve been following me for a while you probably know that I take Thanksgiving very seriously. I have big recipe plans this year, and I’m so excited to get to share them with you. I’ve been thinking and planning and prepping and testing since early this summer, and for the next few weeks I’ll be sharing all the fruits of my labor. So much labor.

This will be my third Thanksgiving with Brooklyn Homemaker, and this time around I finally realized that I needed to get the ball rolling early if I was going to be able to share my whole meal plan with you guys. So, you’re welcome.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now, when I was testing out (and photographing) this particular recipe, it was basically the height of corn season here in New York so the corn I used was bright and crisp and fresh from the green market.

In many parts of the country fresh sweet corn is still available at Thanksgiving, so if you can find it, great, use that. I realize however, that it may be difficult for many of you to find it this time of year. Fear not my friends, frozen corn will work totally fine.

My only advice is that you should skip the cheap-o bag of grocery store brand corn, and go for the good stuff. The sweet crunchy kernels are the stars of the show here, so you want to try to get the freshest, crunchiest frozen corn you can find. I love frozen corn and always have a bag (or two) of it in the freezer, but not all frozen corn is created equal. The cheap stuff can sometimes have a bland boring flavor and is often mealy and mushy, so using crumby corn in this recipe will most likely result in a crumby corn pudding.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Corn pudding isn’t super traditional in every region of the U.S., and I’d actually never even tasted it until making it myself this year. In the South however, it’s totally synonomous with Thanksgiving, and from what I’ve heard it’s served at most large family gatherings and celebrations. In the North, and on the West coast, many people haven’t even heard of it and have no clue what it is. When I told Russell I was thinking of giving it a try this Thanksgiving he had no clue what I was talking about and wasn’t really sold on the idea when I tried to explain it.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

While I may not have grown up eating corn pudding, but I did grow up eating lots of corn. Sweet corn is a kind of a big deal in New York State, and I was raised with a deep love and respect for fresh corn.

When I was young we used to spend a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. Grandma always served corn (although she was fond of canned corn over fresh) and mashed potatoes with almost every meal. My sister and I used to make the craziest concoction with our corn and potatoes. We were kids, and had wild imaginations and strange pallets, and we would take a big scoop of potatoes, make a little well in the center that we’d fill with corn, and then we’d top the whole thing with applesauce. We called it a volcano. I don’t know where we got the initial idea to do this, but it was a nightly ritual at grandma’s dinner table. These days it sounds pretty gross to me, but when I was young it was a delicacy. As weird as it sounds now, I guess it’s pretty cool that my family let me do weird things with food so I would grow up with an adventurous culinary spirit.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Given my deep seated love of sweet corn, I’ve been lusting after this recipe for years. I can’t remember where I first saw it, maybe Pinterest, or maybe Food Network; but either way I’ve wanted to try it ever since. For the past two or three years I’ve wanted to make it for my Thanksgiving buffet but just never got around to it. Until now.

I don’t know how traditional this recipe is. I adapted it from Ina Garten, a woman who’s decidedly un-Southern but entirely capable in the kitchen. She may not be an authority on Southern home cooking, but she’s one of my greatest culinary idols so I figured her recipe had to be worth a shot.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

This corn pudding has a soft, tender, fluffy, almost soufflé like texture, studded with crunchy bursting little golden kernels of sweet corn. Beyond being slightly sweet from the corn and rich with cream, butter, and eggs; it’s also packed with flavor from the fresh green herbs and sharp nutty cheddar cheese. The flavor and texture is sort of similar to spoon bread (another Southern classic) or maybe something like a cross between cornbread and a soufflé. It’s super rich and decadent, so you probably won’t really want huge servings, especially when served along with an already heavy and bountiful meal like Thanksgiving dinner. Because the serving size is small, this recipe makes enough to feed a crowd.

My one word of warning is be careful not to overcook it. It should be tender and light and delicate and it can lose those qualities and become hard and rubbery if it’s overcooked. So, resist the urge to try to get a brown golden crust on the top. A little browning is fine, but you don’t want it crispy looking.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Herb and Cheddar Corn Pudding

Adapted from Ina Garten for Food Network

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 medium onion)
5 cups fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels (about 6 or 7 ears of fresh corn)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups grated sharp aged cheddar, divided

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the inside of a 8×12 or 9×13 baking dish. Try to find a dish that will easily fit inside another, larger, pan. (a high sided sheet pan works well)

Melt the butter in a very large saute pan and saute the onion over medium-high heat for 2 to 3e minutes. Add corn and saute for 4 minutes more. Add parsley, sage, and thyme and toss to coat. If using fresh corn use the butt end of your knife to scrape the “milk” from the corn cobs and add to pan. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs, milk, and cream together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal and ricotta, then the sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked corn mixture and 1 cup of the grated cheddar, and then pour into the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheddar.

Place your baking dish in a larger pan and transfer to the center shelf of the oven. Use a measuring cup with a spout to fill the pan 1/2 way up the sides of the dish with hot tap water. Bake the pudding for 40 to 45 minutes until the top begins to brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm.