Shoofly Pie

with molasses and cinnamon

I’ve got a new pie for you, and it’s really, really, really easy. It’s called shoofly pie! Have you ever heard of it? I’d read about it online a few times, and put it in the back of my brain box for a day where I wanted to make a pie, but didn’t have a lot of ingredients. As long as you’ve got molasses, you’re good to go, because that’s really the main ingredient in this pie. However, I was a little concerned that it’d taste too strongly of molasses for people who weren’t huge molasses fans (like me). I love the dark, almost bittersweet flavor of really good blackstrap molasses, but I know I’m in the minority here. To combat this flavor, I added some untraditional cinnamon and a touch of extra sugar to what is a very traditional recipe. Shoofly pie is originally a Pennsylvania-Dutch dessert, and as you might imagine, it gets its name from having to “shoo” away flies from all the sugar. Some people make it with lots of extra crumb topping, so it’s almost cake-like, but I prefer it when it’s mostly molasses filling, which is super custardy and thick and so, so delicious. If you’re a pecan pie fan and love that caramely goodness inside the pie more than the pecans itself, I have a feeling you may like this pie, too. It’s definitely something for those of you who like a bit of a palate-challenge. I like to think of this as the fernet of desserts. It’s dark and mysterious, but once you have a bite, you’ll be strangely addicted to it and you’ll have no idea why. I don’t really know if that’s what the Pennsylvania-Dutch who originally made this pie were going for, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I think if you show up with this pie in hand on Thanksgiving Day, people are going to be pleasantly surprised. So go forth and mix it up this season – I dare ya.

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The Best Fried Chicken

finished with sea salt

I make fried chicken for Thanksgiving every year. Kramer and I have hosted in our apartment for four years now, but for the past two (this year being the third), we’ve said “whatever” to turkey and have just gone for fried chicken. The first two years, I did a big turkey, and carving it really stressed me out. There were people standing right next to me, drinking, laughing, having a good time, and I was supposed to perfectly carve this giant bird and not screw it up. That’s too much pressure for me, especially for something that isn’t one of my favorite things. I mean, I like turkey just fine, but I don’t look forward to turkey. I never crave turkey. Good turkey is good, of course, but you know what’s always better? Fried chicken. Crispy, crunchy, perfectly seasoned fried chicken. So that’s what I’ve decided is my “thing” every year for Thanksgiving, and honestly, I’m never looking back. You’d think that making fried chicken for a crowd would be really hard, but it’s not, it just takes some planning and patience. Last year, I made fried chicken for over 20 people, which meant that I had a bowl of chicken and brine in my fridge that weighed over 50 pounds and had to be supported by a stack of books so that my refrigerator shelves wouldn’t break. See? Planning. And yeah, I had to start frying about two hours in advance, standing in the kitchen, waiting for the chicken to go from white and flour-dusted to golden brown and fully cooked, but that’s fine, because people go nuts for fried chicken and if you’re like me, watching people get excited about your food is the ultimate reward. I always make sure that there’s plenty of leftovers, too, because you need to be able to eat Thanksgiving Dinner Number Two the next day while you sit around in your sweatpants. Them’s the rules.

the best fried chicken

My fried chicken recipe is a mish-mash of Thomas Keller’s buttermilk fried chicken from Ad Hoc at Home, Martha Stewart’s fried chicken recipe, and a few things of my own that I’ve picked up along the way. I’m a little worried about what my friend Donny will say after he reads this fried chicken recipe, as he’s the fried chicken king of NYC, as far as I’m concerned, but I’m sure he has his own way of doing things. This is the method that I’ve found works best for frying chicken at home, and specifically, for a crowd. Initially, when I decided I was going to do a huge batch of fried chicken, my biggest concern was making sure it was crispy and hot enough by the time everyone actually sat down to eat. I was worried about letting the chicken cool, then heating it back up, but honestly, if you deep fry the chicken in three or four inches of oil, as suggested, there will be enough fat on the skin to almost double-fry the chicken again once it hits the oven. It’s crispy and delicious each time I do it. A lot of people also tell me that they’ve never deep-fried anything at home and that they’re scared to do it, but really, it’s easy! I think baking bread or something like that is way more involved than frying chicken, so if you can make cinnamon rolls, you can fry your own chicken at home, I promise. If you do make some fried chicken at home soon, I highly recommend serving it alongside some big ol’ biscuits and some gooey macaroni and cheese. This year, be daring, ditch the turkey, and go full-on fried chicken. Trust me.

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Brown Butter Sweet Potato Casserole

with crunchy pecan streusel

Only a week and a half until Thanksgiving, fools! I’m so excited. I’ve got my spreadsheet ready to go, and now I just have to decide where I am buying all of my final ingredients. I might mix it up this year. Daring, right? I’ve been slammed at work finishing up our Thanksgiving Guide, which is awesome and something you should all check out – I took most of the photos, so I hope you’ll at least peruse a few recipes before sticking with your tried and true favorites. I won’t be mad – I get it. But I promise we’ve got some pretty delicious things going on over there, like Roasted Carrots with Pistachios and Apple Cider Gastrique and Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Mash. Expand your horizons, folks. Speaking of sweet potatoes, what do we have here? It looks like I went all 1950s on you for this one, and honestly, I’m really happy about it. Sweet potato casserole was never something we had on Thanksgiving when I was a kid, and I get it. It’s got brown sugar and marshmallows in it – it’s purely indulgent, not something that you generally think of as a vegetable side dish. But guess what? It’s fun! It’s really, really fun. Everyone loves marshmallows, and while they probably shouldn’t be added to sweet potatoes, in this instance, it just works. I upped the ante just a bit here by browning my butter before adding it to my sweet potatoes, for just a bit of depth of flavor, and you can tell…but then I went and added a crunchy pecan streusel and lots of marshmallows on top, solidifying my place at the head of the don’t-eat-this-every-day table. But it’s Thanksgiving, it’s a special occasion, so I say go for it. It’s beyond delicious and it belongs on your holiday table. Oh, and side note: feel free to take the pecans out entirely if you’re worried about any allergies. This casserole is just as good with or without them.

brown butter sweet potato casseroleA variety of pies, all made by me except for the pepperoni pie, which was made by Mission Chinese.

Other than readying myself for Thanksgiving, work has been busy, on top of whatever else I find myself committed to. Kramer and I are struggling to push through these last few weeks before the holidays, when things will hopefully slow down a bit as everyone goes on vacation or closes up shop for the year. I can’t wait. I feel as though I have been working 24/7 for weeks now, either for actual work or on the blog. I’m ready for a breather, though I guess sometimes, when I do get a break, I find myself trying to start a new project or something. What’s wrong with me? I did a good job of just chilling on Saturday, watching reruns of New Girl and just relaxing, but then on Sunday, I cooked and photographed three things, did a few chores, and stayed up too late watching The Leftovers. The cycle continues. How do you guys manage stress? Teach me your secrets. Until then, I’ll be over here, shoveling sweet potato casserole into my face.

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Eggnog Bread Pudding

with cinnamon caramel sauce

I am of the opinion that bread pudding is a totally acceptable Thanksgiving dessert. I’m not a big Christmas person – Kramer and I have our own Christmas tradition, which includes staying in the city, seeing a movie, getting Chinese food, seeing another movie, then grabbing a drink at any bars that might be open. I love being in Brooklyn during Christmas because it totally empties out and everything seems a lot calmer. This year, our movies are going to be The Hateful 8 and possibly Star Wars (again, because I already have tickets to see it twice opening weekend). So, yeah – we’re not usually eating in or having some big traditional dinner on Christmas. But I still adore bread pudding, so I usually make it around Thanksgiving, instead, which I believe is a far superior holiday. There are no presents to wrap or worry about, there’s no religion to argue about – there’s just lots and lots and lots of delicious food. Thanksgiving4Life. While I obviously love pie (check out my recipes on MUNCHIES this week!), I also have room in my heart (and my stomach) for bread pudding. Specifically, eggnog bread pudding from The Sugar Hit’s new cookbook.

eggnog bread pudding

I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this recipe and it’s going to be either my permanent go-to or at least the base for all bread pudding endeavors going forward. Bread pudding is so easy to make, there’s no reason to not have a giant tray of it at your next get-together. All you do is take stale, leftover bread from your freezer or the back of your fridge, pour a custard-y mixture of eggs, milk, and spices over it, maybe add a little bourbon or brandy if you’re feeling saucy, then let the bread soak up all that goodness for a few hours, bake, and top with a really, really easy caramel sauce before devouring in front of friends and family without any shame. I made this bread pudding specifically as a part of the Blogsgiving Dinner I’m participating in this year, so be sure to go check out the ol’ Pinterest board for tonnnnns of recipe ideas, and thanks to the lovely Cake ‘n Knife and Feast + West for hosting this event! I’ve definitely already started my Thanksgiving dinner spreadsheet (you all do that, right?) so I’m excited to add some of these to my increasingly neurotic but incredibly delicious list.


Roasted Chicken with Crispy Skin

and a mustard dipping sauce

This is it – my last Le Creuset recipe (for now). You can find all three recipes here, and I hope you’ve enjoyed checking them out as much as I’ve enjoyed making them. Le Creuset honestly challenged me to take really classic dishes and make them accessible to home cooks, and I think that I did just that. I’d never made a quiche before, and Kramer and I enjoyed the final product so much that I’ve made it a few times since. I had never made a beef tenderloin before, but now I’m confident that I would be able to cook one to perfection anytime, anywhere. Of course, I had roasted a chicken before, but to take it to the next level, I did a little extra preparation and dried the skin out overnight. I’d never bothered to do that before, but I think in the future, if I actually think ahead before I cook, I’m definitely going to do it again. Drawing excess moisture out of a chicken gives you the most incredibly crispy skin, while still retaining all of the juiciness that you come to expect with a simply roasted chicken. I went super classic with this one, using only shallots, lemon, and salt for flavoring, which I think was the right move. Don’t over-think it when it comes to roasted chicken. For serving, though, I decided to make a really easy mustard sauce with the leftover drippings from the chicken. I love mustard and will put it on almost anything that I can, so being able to dip crispy pieces of chicken into a super flavorful mustard sauce was my idea of heaven. You can make a big, green salad to eat alongside this, or maybe blanch some green beans until they’re just tender but still a little crunchy, then toss them in a bit of butter and salt. Or, you can do like I did, and just eat the chicken on its own, because you’ve had a long week and you deserve some perfectly cooked chicken without any fuss.

roasted chicken with crispy skinI do, in fact, take notes while I cook. Sometimes.

Aside from mastering these three recipes for Le Creuset, I’m busy as ever. Obviously cooking, shooting, and posting new stuff for this ol’ blog here takes a bit of time, but I’m cranking at work, too. It’s exhausting but also really fun. I’m really proud of the photos from our most recent Dirty Work series, where I got to shoot with the genius guys from Contra and Wildair. I also recently went on a shoot with Marcus Samuelsson, which was inspiring, to say the least. He made this eggplant and turnip ramen, as well as a whole fried chicken (and yeah, I got to try it all and obviously it was delicious). It’s sometimes a bit of a challenge to find time to work on everything at once, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way, and at least I’m never, ever bored. Right now, there aren’t enough hours in the day, and I’d kill for maybe an extra hour or two of sunlight, but hey, I can’t complain. Plus, it’s already Friday! True, I do have a lot of work to do this weekend (see: making seven pies on Saturday), but I’m lucky. I get to cook and bake all the time. Not too shabby.

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Coffee-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

with a red wine jus

Okay – Le Creuset project, part deux. In case you missed it, I’m teaming up with everyone’s most coveted kitchenware company to produce three awesome winter recipes for their 2015 Fall/Winter Lookbook. This was b-a-n-a-n-a-s. It was perhaps one of the most delicious things I’ve ever cooked. Kramer and I were stunned at how well it came out, and really, how little preparation or effort was involved. How often do you buy a beef tenderloin? I never had before, and I was terrified. I was absolutely certain I was going to screw it up. I very rarely buy big cuts of meat because they’re expensive, and it’s just Kramer and me – there’s no reason to buy enough meat to feed an army. However, around the holidays, you always seem to find yourself doing things that are a little scary and a little out of character, and for me, that was making this beef tenderloin. Le Creuset wanted me to create a simple, straight-forward recipe for the somewhat intimidating dish, and after consulting a few friends on what flavors they thought would work well, I ended up with this coffee-crusted idea. I think it was the right move. When you think of beef tenderloin, you think of something comforting and warming, served with lots of roasted veggies and a flavorful sauce of some kind – in comes the red wine jus. The jus only takes about 10 minutes to put together, and it forces you to let the damn tenderloin rest, which I know we all struggle with. 10 minutes starts to feel like an eternity when you’re dying to cut into your steak or tenderloin or whatever else, so it’s best to stay busy. Make a sauce! Problem solved. Once this is out of the oven, you’ll feel like you’re back at grandma’s house (or whoever was in charge of cooking the hot-ticket items around the holidays). If you’re feeling especially ambitious, I think a side of buttery mashed potatoes would be awesome as a side, with lots of jus poured on top. Just saying.

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The Essential Cheese Quiche

with a pastry crust

Welcome to my Le Creuset recipe series. I’m really, really excited to share this series with you guys. Earlier this year, like, way earlier (see: April), I started my partnership with Le Creuset to come up with some killer recipes for their Fall & Winter 2015 lookbook. This is just the first of the three recipes we decided on, and I’m super proud of them. We wanted to create accessible, cozy dishes that everyone should know how to make, the first of which being this quiche. When Le Creuset said that they’d like for me to do a quiche, my initial reaction was, “Ugh, quiche?” because, generally, to me, a quiche is a sad, rubbery triangle of a thing behind some glass at a coffee shop. It’s usually got broccoli or something in it to make people think that it’s healthy, and not even that would sell people on buying a slice. My husband, though, was excited that I would be making a quiche. We talked about it a bit (because, as previously stated, he is my sounding board), and he told me that he’d had a quiche in the past that was creamy, almost custard-like, and that should be what I was aiming for. He was right. I got to work. My first quiche was kind of a disaster. The eggs weren’t smooth and creamy at all – there were clear ribbons of yolk and white throughout it, and it was far from custardy. After thinking about it a bit, we decided that blending the eggs with an immersion blender was the only way to go – simply whisking them didn’t break them up enough to combine well with the cream and cheese. That was the move, it would seem.

the essential cheese quicheRemember when it was warm outside?

Blending everything together made for a smooth, luscious filling. There were no chunks or big pieces of egg – it was just beautiful, jiggly custard on top of a buttery pastry crust. That’s the other decision I made: pastry. You could totally go pie crust for this, but I think the super flaky layers that you get from true pastry adds something special to a quiche. How often do you make quiche, anyway? Probably only a couple times a year, at most, so why not go all out? I used some French cheeses to finish this bad boy off, and then, of course, sprinkled the final product with some chives. I have got to say one thing: if you’re like me, and you think that quiches are breakfast rejects, then do yourself a serious favor and make this one. It will change your mind about quiche forever, but also maybe further ruin you for any other quiches, because this is the Queen Quiche. Make one for your family or friends this holiday season and be prepared for them to bow at your feet.

the essential cheese quicheLook at that custardy inside. Yeah, dude.


Crispy Slow-Roasted Carnitas

it's always taco time

Who cares if it’s already November? It’s always taco season to me. Just because you’re not at the beach doesn’t mean you can’t stuff fresh corn tortillas with your favorite fillings and have a little taco party in your apartment. It might be sweater weather outside, but that shouldn’t stop you. I’m my best self when I’m at Rockaway Beach, drinking out of a coconut, and eating tacos from any of the awesome vendors out there. So, when ZICO contacted me about creating a recipe for them using their new Chilled Coconut Water + Juice Blends, I knew I wanted to make tacos, because, and I don’t know if you’ve figured this out, yet – I. Love. Tacos. Initially, I thought that the blends might be on the sweeter side, but I was wrong – they tasted just like regular OJ, but with ZICO’s 100% natural coconut water added. With these blends, you get all the benefits of coconut water, like electrolytes, as well as the flavor punch of real orange juice, which you expect in a traditional carnitas marinade. I like orange juice, I like coconut water, so why not put them together? Kind of genius. These carnitas are incredibly flavorful and perfect for eating all week long, as a quick weekday lunch over a salad or for tacos again and again after work. You really can’t get sick of tacos because there are so many ways to eat them. Top them with sour cream, avocado, and radishes, or maybe go for a really spicy salsa with pickled jalapeños. You can add the crispy pork skin for chicharrón tacos, or maybe get really fancy and do the thing that turns any dish into everyone’s favorite thing in the world: top it with a fried egg. I made these on a Sunday night for some friends that we had over, and everyone seriously approved. I know this because we all went back for at least two or three more. Go the extra mile and crisp up some of these juicy carnitas in a pan to up your taco game – I promise, it’ll be worth it. Just don’t forget the guac!

crispy slow-roasted carnitas

If you had a weekend like mine, you’re probably ready for some tacos, honestly. I pretty much survived on candy (and candy alone) this weekend. On Friday night, we went to our friend’s office for their amazing Halloween party. I was Han Solo (obviously), but I decided to leave my blaster at home for fear that New York City cops would think I was carrying an actual weapon. Kramer dressed as a left-shark (photos to come), and he really killed it on the dance floor. We were home at a semi-reasonable time, with pockets stuffed with candy, of course. After a Mounds bar or two, we went to bed, then got ourselves together in time to drive out to Long Island to see our friends, go trick-or-treating with their adorable one-year-old daughter, and watch the Mets. The poor, poor Mets. We thought maybe they could do it! But alas, victory was not on New York’s side this year. We tried to stay up last night to watch the whole game, but by midnight, we were both asleep on the couch and had to call it a night. We knew it was over, though. Sigh. Anyway, after the game on Saturday, when the Mets still stood a chance, we played some pool, threw some darts, then Kramer and our friend, Tom, stayed up a little later (thanks, daylight savings!) and I went to bed. In the morning, our friend Valerie made us feel like we were staying in a bed-and-breakfast. She made eggs, bacon, pico, pumpernickel toast, and Bloody Marys – quite the treat for us, indeed. We drove home and I spent the day not doing anything. I didn’t cook, I didn’t edit photos – nothing. We just chilled on the couch, watched The Leftovers, watched the Mets, and then went to bed. Somehow, I’m a little tired this morning, but I’ll blame that on the Mets.

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