Thursday, November 29, 2012

Birthday Greetings from Barbados

This week, three of my favorite ladies celebrate their birthdays. And I am lucky enough to spend the day with two of them on the beautiful island of Barbados. We arrived this morning and promptly raised a glass to Sarah and Meaghan. More on our Caribbean shenanigans to come . . .

Natacha turned another year older and wiser earlier this week, and we are, of course, sending some birthday love her way. Wish you were here!
Happy Birthday to my gorgeous girlies:
Sarah, Meaghan and Natacha!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Macaroni & Four Cheeses

It's amazing. That's all you need to know.

  • 16 oz. penne pasta, uncooked
  • 5 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 5 oz. mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 5 oz. fontina cheese, shredded
  • 5 oz. asiago cheese, shredded
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 7 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain well.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, begin to make a béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
  5. Continue whisking and slowly add the milk.
  6. Cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Add the salt, garlic powder, white pepper, and 4 oz. of each of the cheeses. Reserve 1 oz. of each of the cheeses for the topping. 
  9. Stir until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes.
  10. Carefully combine the pasta and the béchamel sauce in a medium bowl.
  11. Transfer the mixture into a greased 9x13 baking dish.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.
   * This recipe is adapted from Beecher's "World's Best" Mac & Cheese.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Corn Soufflé

Don't be fooled by the underwhelming photo or the intimidating name. Corn soufflé is flavorful and easily assembled . . . there's no real soufflé aspect to it. This Mott family dish is moist and fluffy with just a touch of sweetness.

While this recipe may not be complex or sophisticated, it is a comforting southern classic.


  • 1 (8.5 oz.) box of Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 (15 oz.) can whole kernel sweet corn
  • 1 (15 oz.) can cream style corn
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients until combined.
  3. Transfer the mixture into a greased 8x8 baking dish.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pecan Praline Candied Yams

This is one of my Mom's Thanksgiving must-haves (and one of my favorites too). The pecan topping caramelizes to form an almost candy-like crust. It's a sweet and decadent side dish that's perfect for any holiday feast.

  • 3 cups yams, precooked (if you use canned yams, be sure to drain the liquid)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/3 cup flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the butter, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, mash together milk mixture with the yams, sugar, eggs, and salt.
  4. Transfer the mixture into a greased 9x13 casserole dish.
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Crumble the topping over the yams.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes.

Deep-Fried Turkey

Want to know if you've stumbled upon a southern family's Thanksgiving dinner? There are a few good indicators. Do you detect even the hint of an accent or drawl as loved ones argue about their preferred SEC football team? Is there are large pitcher of sweet tea? And, most importantly, are they deep frying their turkey?
The Fry Masters: Jared, Seth and Tim
This method of preparation is a little tricky and dangerous, but is sure to result in an amazingly tender and juicy bird. Be sure that your turkey is completely thawed, but still refrigerated until just before cooking. Pat dry with paper towels to ensure that gorgeous golden brown and crispy exterior.

  • 1 (13 lb.) whole natural turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 2 1/2-3 gallons peanut oil (approximately)**
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup Pete's Good Stuff Seasoning Mix, plus 2-3 tablespoons
  • special equipment: meat injector, outdoor propane burner, 28- to 30-quart pot, frying basket, and hook
** To determine the correct amount of oil, place your turkey in the pot that you intend to use for frying. Add cold water until the turkey is just covered, leaving 4 or 5 inches between the surface of the water and the top of the pot. Measure the water: this will be the amount of oil you use for frying.

  1. In a small bowl, combine melted butter and 2-3 tablespoons of Pete's Good Stuff Seasoning Mix.
  2. Load the mixture into a meat injector and poke into the thawed and dried turkey in several places to insert the marinade.
  3. Using the remaining 1/4 cup of seasoning, apply a dry rub on the skin of the bird and all around the cavity. Refrigerate for at least one and up to 24 hours before cooking to allow the flavors to meld together.
  4. Allow the bird to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to cooking.
  5. Pour the appropriate amount of peanut oil into a 28- to 30-quart pot and set over high heat on an outdoor propane burner with a sturdy structure.
  6. Bring the temperature of the oil to 350 degrees F.
  7. Place the turkey in the frying basket and, using the hook, slowly lower into the oil until completely covered.
  8. Place a cover on the pot and cook the bird for about 45 minutes, or 3 1/2 minutes per pound. (Maintain an oil temperature of 350 degrees F while cooking).
  9. Use the hook to secure the handle of the frying basket angently remove the turkey from the oil. Allow it to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to carving.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Crudités with Creamy Dill Dipping Sauce

Now that we've finally come out of our tryptophan-induced food comas, let's get into some of these tasty recipes. As family and friends arrive for the big meal, it is always a good idea to have a few things for people to snack on just in case you get behind on your cooking schedule (which is almost always the case in my kitchen). A crudité platter filled with fresh, crispy, sliced vegetables is a lovely addition - especially when accompanied by an addictively good dip.

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill weed
  • 1/2 tablespoon shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon beau monde (seasoning salt)

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Serve with a variety of sliced vegetables.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Our Thanksgiving Menu

Today, I have so many things to be thankful for. My parents and sister are visiting this week for the holiday. And we have had a wonderful time traipsing around the District. Now, we are sitting down with the Motts for our first official Thanksgiving at the apartment. Merging families and family recipes: the perfect way to create our own new traditions.

I hope your day is filled with wonderful food, wine, family, friends, and everything else that makes today a holiday for you!

P.S. Recipes for many of these delectable dishes coming soon!

Hors d'Oeuvres:

Cranberry Mimosa

Meatball StewRice Dressing
Homemade Dinner Rolls


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sarah P's Piled High Apple Pie

When Jared and I got married, it was understood that I would eventually learn to make the family's hallowed apple pie. While my charming husband is an excellent hunter and angler, baking isn't exactly his forté. So, the responsibility falls to me to carry on the tradition.

Expectations are high, to say the least. In an attempt to delay my potential botching of this beloved dessert, I waited until it was officially apple season. Then, I dragged Jared to a local orchard to handpick our loot. And now I have no more excuses. God help us all.
First: make sure that you have pie-appropriate varieties of apples. Don't show up with a bag of Red Delicious and expect to pass muster. The Motts are New Englanders (mostly). They know exactly how they like them apples . . . too much? You want the apples to be firm (to hold their texture during the baking process) and not too sweet (to balance out the sugar needed to thicken the juices from the apples as they cook). Stayman, Gravenstein, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady Apples are all crisp and sturdy. Jonathan, Jonagold, Granny Smith, and Pippin are great sweet-tart options, as well. I used a blend of Braeburns and Staymans, from our apple-picking trip, for my first attempt.
Second: booze up your crust. That's right. Grab a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka and head to the kitchen. This is a more recent update to the original recipe, but it's a good one. The alcohol works as a tenderizer for the dough. Since eighty-proof vodka is 40 percent ethanol and 60 percent water, you are able to add more liquid to the dough without making the crust tough. The alcohol vaporizes in the oven, leaving you with a moist, flaky crust. And if your adventures in baking end in tragedy, just bring the bottle back out and drink your dessert instead.
Thankfully, I successfully pulled together my first Mott-approved apple pie. And will henceforth use this new skill to bargain and bribe my way into and out of certain situations. I recommend you do the same. Because, oh yes, it is that good.


Pie Crust
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water
Pie Filling
  • 15 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes


Pie Crust
  1. In a food processor, combine the salt, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups of the flour (2 one-second pulses).
  2. Add butter and shortening and process until the dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds. The mixture should resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour.
  3. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and redistribute the dough evenly around the food processor blade.
  4. Add the remaining cup of flour and pulse until the mixture is evenly distributed around the bowl and the mass of dough has been broken up, about 5 quick pulses.
  5. Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.
  6. Sprinkle the vodka and water over the mixture.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture, pressing down on the dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together.
  8. Divide the dough evenly into two balls. Flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to two days.
* Pie crust recipe is adapted from Cook's Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough.

Pie Filling
  1. Using an apple corer/peeler, prepare the apples. Place the apple slices in a large metal bowl. Squeeze the juice of 1 or 2 fresh lemons over the slices as you go to prevent them from browning.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  4. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples and combine thoroughly.
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.
  6. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of dough to a 12-inch round.
  7. Transfer to a 9-inch round pie dish.
  8. Carefully arrange the apple mixture into the dough-lined pie dish. Pack the apples tightly and form a dome of the slices until they no longer hold in place. Dot the top with the butter.
  9. Roll out the remaining dough to an 12-inch round. Use to top the pie.
  10. Press the edges of the dough together and trim the overhang to 1 inch. 
  11. Fold the edge under itself and crimp to seal the edges.
  12. Score the top of the crust with a sharp knife to create air vents for the steam to escape.
  13. Bake the pie in the center of the middle rack of the oven. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any juices that might bubble over while cooking.
  14. First, bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes.
  15. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 30 minutes.Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pie to protect the edges and tops from burning.
  16. Let the pie cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Travel Bites - New Orleans

Last weekend, Jared and I hopped on a plane to New Orleans to celebrate the wedding of our friends Brad and Ally. We had a wonderful time catching up, listening to good music, eating way too much food, and enjoying the local artwork. Little did we know, though, our quick trip to the dirty south ended up lasting a bit longer than expected as Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. Our flight back to DC got cancelled and, in an odd turn of events, we got stranded in south Louisiana to ride out the storm.
But, first things first: the wedding weekend in NOLA. We arrived in the Big Easy on Friday afternoon and headed straight to our favorite burger joint. Port of Call serves up made-to-order, juicy burgers and baked potatoes with all of the usual toppings (which are very generous, so just order a cheeseburger and sprinkle some of the excess on your potato). Enjoy one of the many specialty drinks to wash it all down. The Neptune's Monsoon, their take on a traditional Hurricane, will definitely get any weekend started early - delicious, fruity, and potent. We decided it was better to drink in the natural disasters this weekend since we were stuck anyway.
Later that night, we met up with our friends Jon and Kim for dinner and fun on Frenchman Street. Chef John Besh's latest restaurant, Borgne, honors the cuisine of coastal Louisiana and serves up some amazing seafood and local wildlife-inspired dishes. After twenty minutes of catching up and drooling over the menu, we finally settled on a delightful-looking spread: crabmeat croquetas with chipotle remoulade; duck poppers with jalapeño and bacon; slow smoked pork empanadas white barbecue sauce; black drum a la plancha with brown butter, pecans, and jumbo lump crab; and oyster spaghetti  with creamy oyster broth, garlic, and botarga.
Many adult beverages later, we found ourselves singing and dancing with the Soul Rebels Brass Band at the Blue Nile. Because, like Jared said, happiness is a fat man on trombone. Then, of course, coffee and beignets at the infamous Café du Monde at 3 a.m. (the only time you can walk in and get a table). Deep-fried pastries, covered in powdered sugar: the perfect late night/early morning snack.
The next morning, as I nursed my mild hangover, my rock star friend Rachel ran her first half marathon. We cheered her on by text message, then met up for brunch to celebrate. Rachie's restaurant of choice: EAT new orleans. This adorable and cozy spot is a great find in the French Quarter. It's casual southern classics done right. I enjoyed every bite of my soft-shell crabs benedict. The eggs were perfectly poached, served atop lightly-battered and fried soft-shell crabs and covered with a delicate hollandaise sauce.
 Finally, we made our way to Metairie for the sweet wedding of some Louisiana friends that met in DC. Brad and Ally got hitched at the bride's family church and hosted a beautiful reception at the Audubon Tea Room. We feasted on an amazing buffet featuring turtle soup, barbecued shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes with crawfish remoulade, and other tasty Creole favorites. It was the quintessential NOLA wedding and we had a damn good time celebrating with the lovely couple.
After a wonderful wedding and our food marathon of a weekend, we were able to spend a few days with my family in Lafayette thanks to the storm delay. On Thursday, we finally made our way back to the District to find things very much the way we left them, thankfully. Unfortunately, other areas were not so lucky, and my thoughts are with all of those impacted by the storm.