Marbled Peppermint Crunch Cake

with chocolate ganache

Hoo boy, it’s already December. Hannukah starts on Sunday (get those brisket recipes ready), then Christmas follows shortly after. Then what? 2016? It’s hard to believe. Before we get into New Year’s resolutions and Happy New Years and all of that, though, we’ve got to get some end-of-the-year eating done, don’t we? You’ve worked hard this year. You went to the gym a few times. You deserve a treat, even if you overdid it a bit at Thanksgiving last week. Don’t worry about it it! It’s cold outside, nobody can see that extra cushion, and besides, you need it to keep warm. That’s going to be my philosophy until January 1st, when I am going to need to seriously chill on the eating bonanza because we’re going to Thailand and I don’t want to look too scary when I’m laying out on the beach. But we’ve got plenty of time for that. For now, I’m going to have my cake and eat it too – specifically, this Marbled Peppermint Crunch Cake with Chocolate Ganache. Happy Holidays, y’all.

peppermint crunch cakeHoliday eats from my InstagramPeter Pan Donuts, Roberta’s, Saturday afternoon panini, and biscuits from The Bounty.

This cake was something I made for Urban Outfitters, and I’m really happy with it. I was really inspired by the props they sent me to use, especially the beautiful wooden cutting board and the sparkly twinkle lights. I wanted to make something that reminded me of the holidays, of winter, and really, of snow. We probably won’t get snow until well after the holidays here in New York, because nature hates us and wants us to suffer after we’re all sick of being cold and feeling “joy”, but no matter. This cake is awesome. It’s got layers of rich, chocolate cake, creamy peppermint buttercream, crunchy peppermint candies, and, of course, a final layer of chocolate ganache. I layered the buttercream and ganache for a “marbled” look, and I think it turned out pretty well for someone who is not necessarily the world’s best cake decorator. I brought this whole cake into my office, because I’m insane, and it was gone almost as fast as I put it out. I work in a younger office, so it was described by my colleagues as “dope” and “sick”, which are how the kids today describe good things these days, so I hope you enjoy it as much as they did.

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Thanksgiving 2015 Round Up

put on your fat pants

IT’S HERE! We’re one day away. I love Thanksgiving. I’ve discussed this at length, so I won’t bore you again with how it’s the best holiday in the world, it’s also my birthday so I get presents but nobody else does, I get to eat as much as I want, etc. etc. etc. I was even featured today on SBS Food, which is an Australian website and funny enough, did a Thanksgiving piece today. Way to get on board with the best holiday, Australia. Anyway, I’ve included my absolute favorite Thanksgiving recipes below, but you should also check out ones I made for MUNCHIES this year. We spent some time making delicious sides, an awesome turkey or two, and, of course, some insanely good pies for you. Oh, and drinks. You need drinks. I hope that everyone has a bad ass Thanksgiving, whether you’re cooking or not. Cheers!


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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.

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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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