Now that I am an esteemed wine professional, simply everyone wants to know what I’m drinking this Thanksgiving. And by “everyone” I of course mean that my mom said my Aunt Lisa asked her what I might recommend. The fan base is strong and growing rapidly. Since I’m still pretty green at the wine game, I can only tell people what I know. I’ve got some time yet before I’m explaining in great detail the wine makers of particular villages in Southwestern France or anything like that but I can tell you at this point in time is what I’m drinking and why I like it.
This Thanksgiving we’re heading to Paul’s aunt’s house and I’m bringing some nice cheese and crackers and three current faves: a bottle of bubbles, a red and a white. For the sparkler, I chose the Hi! Prosecco. I’ve never met a prosecco I didn’t like and this is one I sampled the other night at our Thanksgiving Wine Education Dinner is no exception. It’s the perfect drink to get the party started. For me whenever a cork pops out of a bottle of bubbles, whether it be a fine champagne (pronounced: cham panyah) some cava or prosecco it’s exciting. When I’m in mixed company I have to resist the constant urge to go “WOOOO!” when I hear a cork pop, because to me it’s the sound of a good time.
The white is a French blend called Chat en Oeuf (from my 7th grade French education, that’s “cat on egg” the phrase itself is a play on words). Full disclosure: I love it solely based on the graphic on the label of a fat, striped cat sitting on an egg. I happen to have a fat, striped cat sitting directly on my feet right now and if something reminds me of Bruce, well then my heart softens for it a bit. So yeah, I picked this wine because it reminds me of my kitty. I hope it’s tasty. I’m officially a crazy cat lady. Someone call the Sad Police.
The red I’m bringing I’m currently obsessed with. It’s a delicious, light, but nuanced Pinot Noir from California. Pinot Noir has been pushed by wine geeks as THE Thanksgiving Wine and honestly, that’s just because it works. There are so many flavors on the Thanksgiving table that you don’t want a giant, heavy red wine competing for your attention. You want something subtle and elegant. This Block Nine Pinot fits the bill for me. It’s delicious, it’s reasonably priced and the design on the front is really gorgeous. For me I need the bottle to look good too. It’s nice when you find something that pleases you from the label all the way to the finish.
As much as this holiday sort of snuck up on me, I’m really looking forward to Thursday. I have an enormous amount to be thankful for right now and taking a little time to reflect on that for which I am grateful, enjoy some wine and food and wash it all down with a gravy chaser sounds good to me! Hey remember, at this time last year I was getting ready to make the Worst Pie of All Time. So really, anything is an improvement! Happy Thanksgiving. xo, jess
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
There’s a lot of newness going on for me right now. I’m typing this post on my new computer, in a new place, where I have never written before, on a new day of the week where I never normally would have time to myself to work on a post. This is part of my new normal and I can report with full confidence after two weeks (plus a month and a half) of transitional life that the new normal is very, very good.
Speaking of very, very good, I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized that this time next week I will be sitting down to bust a grub at the Thanksgiving table (fist pump!). The foods and flavors of fall snuck right up while I was busy making Giant Life Changes. The good news on this front: the changes are all good and the flavors of fall are still delicious.
I got this recipe from a lady I work with at my new job. She was sampling both this soup and a butternut squash bruschetta last weekend and I tried both and swiped copies of the recipes. I just had one bit of constructive criticism that ran through my head as I scarfed down her samples: needs bacon. But really, what couldn’t benefit from a couple crumbles of salt pork?
This soup is a delicious fix to start off your Thanksgiving week right. It comes together fast and easy and is, for the most part, both healthy and filling, so you can save the bulk of your calorie consumption for putting the hurt on next Thursday. It would also make an awesome starter if you were serving a sit down Thanksgiving meal and wanted to include a soup.
PUMPKIN LEEK SOUP with CRUMBLED PANCETTA,
HERBED GOAT CHEESE and POMEGRANATE SEEDS
(adapted from a Real Simple recipe)
¼ lb. pancetta, chopped into a dice
1-2 tbs. olive oil
1-2 tbs. butter
2 leeks (white and light green parts only) cut in ¼ inch
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can pumpkin puree (not pie mix)
½ of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into cubes*
6 cups chicken stock (store bought or homemade)
Salt and pepper
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pancetta to pan and fry until crisped. Remove the crumbled pancetta and set to drain on a folded paper towel. Set aside for future use. Reduce the heat on your burner just a touch, add a bit of olive oil and the leeks. Add the butter and sauté the leeks for about 5 minutes, until wilted and fragrant, add the garlic cloves and cook together another minute or so.
Add the cubed squash, your can of pumpkin and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and let cook until the squash is completely tender (about 20 minutes). Add salt and pepper (quite a bit of these- the original recipe called for 1 ¾ tsp. salt and a ¼ tsp. pepper) taste test for seasoning. Mine was plenty salty, because I started it with pancetta- which is an extraordinarily salty meat, especially when crisped up.
Reduce heat to low and using an immersion blender, puree the soup completely. If you don’t have an immersion blender puree in batches in a conventional blender and return to the pot. But, be careful! Hot liquids expand. Ladle the soup into a bowl and garnish with a few crumbles of herbed goat cheese, some of the crumbled pancetta and a few pomegranate seeds for color. Admire the colors (soooo pretty) and devour immediately.
Make this soup vegetarian: use vegetable stock instead of chicken, omit the pancetta and just sauté the leeks in oil.
Make this soup vegan: by changing the stock to veggie and omitting the pancetta, butter and goat cheese.
*chop the other half into cubes, toss with a little olive oil and roast them in a 400 degree oven while you make your soup. They are delicious on salads or, on a pizza, like I’m making tonight. I’m going to top wheat dough with some of the roasted squash, some crumbled gorgonzola cheese, caramelized onions and maybe, just maybe, some more pancetta.
Friday, November 4, 2011
A couple weeks ago I bought some almond butter because sometimes I like to think I’m the kind of person who eats almond butter and enjoys it. This is the same as when I purchase a tub of yogurt thinking that I’m all the sudden going to be the type of person who enjoys plain yogurt because it’s so gosh darn good for my bones.
The problem is I am not this type of person. I am the type of person who eats leftover Halloween candy lying on my futon watching terrible wedding industry propaganda (do people really like it when David Tutera turns their wedding into cirque du soleil? and basically takes all the things they have chosen so far and says: this is NOT good enough?) In my next life I will be more virtuous and I will eat apples and almond butter as a snack instead of Almond Joys and Rolos that have seen better days. And I will watch documentaries on important things or perhaps put down the clicker and read a book (that isn’t young adult fiction) but until further notice it’s stale candy and WE TV and you know what I’m more than okay with that. Self acceptance is an important trait.
So about the almond butter: instead of cleaning out my household’s peanut butter supply with one batch of these cookies (because Paul would abandon ship if I used the last of his Teddie’s. You don’t mess with a man’s breakfast), I decided to see what would happen if I halved the peanut butter and added part almond butter. You know what happened? Awesome happened, that’s what. These cookies are ridiculous good. Next Level. I mean it. And guess what? It turns out I am the kind of virtuous food hippie that eats almond butter, I just wrap mine in regular butter, brown sugar and chocolate chips. Which is fiiine.
SALTED PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
(from this recipe featured on Orangette)
2 cups plus 1 tsp. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks plus 3.5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
about 1 ¼ cup, packed, dark brown sugar
¾ cup plus 2.5 tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup natural salted creamy peanut butter
¾ almond butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
A quick note about the peanut butter: you absolutely must use good quality natural peanut butter for these cookies. Even if you’re a Jif gal (or guy) in your day to day life. I strongly recommend Teddie’s. It’s a local company. The peanut butter is the best and it’s available at most major supermarkets (at least in Massachusetts).
Preheat the oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat liner. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, and whisk well. Set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Add the peanut butter, almond butter and vanilla, and beat on medium-low speed to blend. Quick tip when working with peanut butter, or any nut butter (hee) for that matter: give your measuring cup a spritz of oil or butter spray before measuring, then it will slide right out.
Add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing on low speed until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the chocolate, and beat briefly on low speed, just until evenly incorporated.
Use a big spoon or ice cream scoop to scoop the batter on to your prepared cookie sheets. You want the scoops of dough to be pretty sizable (almost ¼ cup) and be sure to space them far apart- they will spread.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and a little golden around the edges- but the tops have no color. The key to successful peanut butter cookies is that you must err towards under cooking them. They will not look fully baked- but that is what you will want. Let them cool on the cookie sheets for a bit. They will not only firm up, but their taste will improve. If you try to move them while they are hot (or eat them- I did both) they will crumble and they also won’t taste “all that.” Patience grasshopper. These little guys are worth the wait.
Repeat with the remaining dough. Makes a good batch of cookies (about 20).