Holiday Worthy Brioche Bread Pudding with Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce !

Ahhhh, bourbon and brioche. Two of my favorite things! 

You’ll Need:

1/4 cup bourbon 

1/2 cup currants  

1-1/2 pound loaf of Brioche, torn into 1-2 inch chunks, or cut into cubes – allowed to stale overnight  

1 1/2 cups whole milk or substitute 

1/2 cup heavy cream or substitute

4 large eggs or substitute 

1 cup pure organic cane sugar, or coconut sugar

1 Tablespoon good quality pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

4-6 Tablespoons unsalted butter 

2 cups coarsely chopped pecans 

Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce, see recipe below 

Here’s How

Heat bourbon in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until warm. Pour the warmed bourbon over currants in a small bowl. Allow currants to reconstitute and plump. Minimum 1 hour, or overnight. 

Cut brioche into large 1-2 inch chunks and let sit out overnight uncovered to stale– or if you didn’t have time –slightly toast in a warm 375’F oven on a cookie sheet until dry.

Begin by Preheat oven to 350’F degrees. With the butter, generously prepare an 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass casserole dish by rubbing it into the pan using your hands — set aside. 

Add stale brioche pieces to a large mixing bowl and set aside. In an additional medium sized bowl, combine cream, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and allspice. With a wire whisk– beat well to combine. 

Pour into bread mixture. Add reconstituted currents and any remaining soaking liquid. Add the nuts. Combine well and mix into the bread well without compromising  the shape of the cubes. 

Place the bread and egg mixture into the buttered baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. 

Allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator for best results –or a minimum of an hour on the counter. 

Bring to room temperature and bake until bread is browned around edges and custard is cooked, about 35 -40 minutes. 

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream and warm bourbon butterscotch sauce.

Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce 

You’ll Need:

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup organic corn syrup 

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, cut open and scraped of seeds

2 Tablespoons good quality bourbon 

pinch of salt 

Here’s How:

In a very small saucepan, heat the cream with the vanilla bean and the pod. Bring to a simmer for 1-2 minutes. Allow to cool. Set aside.

In a large, high sided, heavy bottomed saucepan, add the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt together and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  

Let the mixture simmer for about 5-8 minutes, or until it’s reached a maple syrup type consistency. Remove from heat, whisk in the heavy cream into the sugar mixture discarding vanilla bean pod. 

Add bourbon and stir until smooth. ( the mixture will bubble up after adding the cream take special precaution not to let it bubble over) 

Note: The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Allow to cool completely and store refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.  

Reheat before serving.

Tired of Playing Fowl on Thanksgiving?

You will absolutly fall in love with this Umami stuffed butternut squash so much, it just might persuade you to reconsider poultry this holiday season! Not only is it vegetarian… it’s fancy! 

You’ll Need: 

1 cup fresh pecans, chopped

1- foot long butternut squash

1 Japanese eggplant about 8-10 inches in length

1 zucchini, about 10 inches in length

1 white onion, cleaned and roughly chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, divided

1 shallot, coarsely chopped

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, coarsely chopped

1 celery rib, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup sundried tomato packed in oil, squeezed of excess oil

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

1 bunch fresh thyme, divided

8 oz. unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

2 eggs

1/2 cup Japanese bread crumbs

1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine and divided

1 teaspoon ground sage

Kosher salt and white pepper

Here’s How:

Preheat oven to 325′ F Degrees. Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 10–12 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 400′ F Degrees. Drizzle the baking sheet with good quality olive oil.

While the oven is getting up to temperature, carefully cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the interior, leaving about a 1/2″ border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit the eggplant halves inside. Discard the stringy guts, reserving all the solid meat filling, and the seeds for roasting.

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out and reserve the interior, leaving about a 1/4″ border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit delicious filling inside, which will go inside the butternut squash- follow me?

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, scoop out interior for the vegetable, leaving behind a fairly-wide mote down the center to fit the remaining filling.

Place squash halves cut side up, on a prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, be sure to pierce insides of squash and zucchini halves to release steam. Using a sharp knife, make shallow crosshatch marks inside of eggplant, being careful not to pierce through the skin. Season all with salt and pepper butter and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey then set aside.

In the bowl of your food processor, combine the garlic, shallot, onion, mushrooms, celery, squash, and eggplant filling. Working in batches, if needed, pulse the food processor until finely chopped but not to a paste. Add sundried tomatoes and pulse one final time.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetables from the processor, and a few thyme sprigs and the ground sage. Cook until the mixture begins to brown, and almost all the moisture evaporates- about 5-8 minutes. Taste, and adjust season with salt and pepper. 

Remove from the heat to a large bowl and allow the vegetable mixture to significantly cool. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard. Crack in the eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, panko, a small handful of chopped parsley, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. 

Using an ice cream or portion control scoop press about 3/4 cup vegetable mixture into each half of the butternut squash until the interior is fully coated using the back of the scoop or spoon press the combination into and up the sides making room for the eggplant to fit. Sprinkle with the toasted pecans and then add the eggplant cut side up and repeat the filling process, including the pecans. Now add the zucchini and repeat to fill with vegetable mixture, continue the nesting process with each halve until you have filled the whole butternut squash with all the vegetable halves layered with stuffing- just like your famous lasagna.

Using kitchen twine. Slip under one squash half, then top with the second squash half, so that the cut sides face each other. Now press together and tightly tie the twine around squash to secure it for the oven. 

Brush the exterior of the stuffed butternut squash with melted butter and maple syrup then season again with salt and pepper. Wrap the squash tightly in aluminum foil and place it in the center of a low-sided baking dish to prevent it from rolling. 

Roast the squash until it is tender to the touch, about 90 minutes to 2 hours. 

Remove foil and let rest at least 10-20 minutes.

Remove twine and place it on a cutting board. Cut into 1″ thick disc with a serrated knife, transferring to serving plates as you go. Spoon warm herbed or salted butter over slices, garnish with more pecans and serve with warm maple syrup.

Happy holiday!

Beautifully Creamy, Delicious… Ugly Soup.

Celeriac.jpg

Celeriac, also called turnip-rooted celery, or knob celery, or celery root– is cultivated for its delicious, edible roots, hypocotyl, and shoots. While this delicious root vegetable has many cooks and urban gardeners disagreeing on what to call it– there is one thing everyone agrees on. Many say, celeriac is the ugliest root vegetable ever. I say, while it’s not only ugly, and confusing…you should still give it a chance. Everyone wants to know if celeriac are celery the same thing , and can they each be used interchangeably in cooking? Are they… Can they?

What Exactly is Celeriac? Is it Celery?

Well… technically no. Not only are celery and celeriac appearances incredibly different– celery and celery root are really only long-lost cousins. Simply related botanically. They both have the taste of celery, although many people find celeriac to be earthier and more intense. Both can be used either cooked or raw, but in either case, their texture is widely different, so they are not interchangeable in most recipes.

Celeriac is very dense, hairy, knobby, and strange to look at. The size of a grapefruit and contains a pale-yellow hue. Like most root vegetables, celeriac is perfect in soups and stews. Makes a perfectly cheesy gratin sharing the spotlight with a somewhat jealous potato.

Left raw, celeriac can be grated into a salad and is most famous for its appearance in the dish, céléri remoulade. A very classic cold salad made almost everywhere in France; containing shredded raw celeriac, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt , pepper and a dash of lemon juice. Some add capers, green apple or chopped dill pickles, called cornichons.

Celeriac is a humble root that doesn’t get enough attention. I am here to ask you to give this ugly root a chance because celeriac makes a beautiful, creamy, deliciously sweet… ugly soup!

Ugly Soup with Truffle Oil 

You’ll Need:

2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil

4 Tablespoons of unsalted sweet cream butter

1 leek, cleaned thoroughly and chopped in 1/2 in slices up to the green leaves

2 celery ribs, rough chopped

3 large fresh shallots, peeled and diced

2 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 large celeriac roots, peeled and cut in medium dice ( will discolor quickly, place cut pieces in water while waiting to prepare soup)

1 large russet potato, peeled and diced

1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 quarts good quality chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream or almond milk. Room temperature.

1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Kosher salt

Truffle oil, for drizzling ( optional ) 

Crispy cooked and crumbled bacon or small diced cooked pancetta for garnish or air fried root vegetable

Here’s How:

In a large 8-10 quart stock pot on medium low heat, add the olive oil and butter. Add the chopped leeks and celery. Stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes until the leeks begin to soften. Add the shallots and garlic and continue to cook for and additional 2 minutes. Cook only until translucent, do not brown.

Add the celeriac, potato, and a large pinch of the chopped parsley (reserving some for garnish). Add the stock to cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and can be pierced through easily with a knife. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper to your liking.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend the soup with an immersion hand blender or in batches in your standing blender. Process until smooth.

Return soup to the stockpot if using a standing blender. Add fresh thyme. Stir in the crème fraîche or almond milk and stir to combine flavors. Heat gently for an additional 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning for the final time. Do not bring to a boil with the addition of cream of the soup will break so resist the urge to walk away from the pot at this stage.

Serve in warmed soup bowls with a drizzle of truffle oil and additional chopped parsley and your favorite garnish.

Variation : Add crispy bacon or pancetta topping to garnish.

Meet The Cushaw Squash

Early fall is one of my favorite times of the year, the weather is perfect, the leaves are changing, and squash is bountiful!

The beautiful and alluring, Cushaw Squash is a huge valued crop, because it is inexpensive and stores for about four months. They average about 10-20 pounds, grow to 12-18 inches in length, and can be 10 inches in width at the bulb, in total, more substantial than a newborn child! The flesh is light yellow, and the flavor is mildly sweet. It’s crookneck in shape, with a bent top, and it can be green, white, orange, or striped. You know the one. It caught your eye at the market.

Cushaw, an American heirloom not usually found outside North America though, like me, the Cushaw is the only slightly ordinary member of its vast family. This hot, climate-loving squash species cultivated in warmer parts of the world like Mexico, but some say they originated in the West Indies. There are arguments that Native Americans initially cultivated varieties as a staple. In some U.S regions,it is often referred to as a Cushaw Pumpkin, Appalachia, or a Tennessee Sweet Potato.

Cushaw behaves like a pumpkin, when cooked. High in vitamins A and C, which make it excellent for our immune systems. You can enjoy this squash raw, so pop some on the holiday veggie platter this year.

Regardless of the type, they are all uniform in flavor, making excellent pies, muffins, cakes, quick breads as well as soups or hearty main dishes. Wash whole, cut into large chunks and remove the skin after cooking; it’s really so much more manageable.

Recipe Ideas:

I love to roast chunks on a generously oiled stainless steel sheet pan with a sprinkle of salt. Preheat the oven to 425′ F Degrees for a deep caramelization- flipping a few times through this cooking process and season with salt on every turn. After they caramelize, reduce oven to 325′ F Degrees and continue to roast until tender. I also blast them with fresh sage, thyme, and a sprinkle of brown sugar the last ten minutes of cooking unless I am using them for baking. You can also mash with butter, pumpkin spices, cream, or non-dairy nut milk for a whipped side dish.

I love to roll this delicate delicious seasoned flesh in yeasted bread or Phyllo dough and bake again to spin-off a delicious cheese pie ( from Moldovan,) now a part of Romania.

This squash also freezes well, and the fresh cut cubes won’t stick together, so no need for individual freezing of chunks before freezer packing.

Choose squash that has deep-colored rinds, free of blemishes, or moldy spots.Cushaws are highly pest resistant-so you can rest easy this crop rarely gets sprayed with pesticides.

Varieties

Green-Striped Cushaw:

This green and white squash of the South is also known as the Tennessee sweet potato squash and valued in hotter areas as an all-around squash for desserts or vegetable dishes. Native Americans – both South and north of the border – have grown this large, squash-bug and vine-borer-resistant variety since prehistoric times – possibly as far back as 7000 BC. Some describe it as having a slightly sweet, mild smoky taste frequently preferred as a substitute for pumpkin in pumpkin pies.

White Cushaw:

The white Cushaw is another of the rarer varieties of cushaw squash. This plant produces enormous, mildly sweet, and nutty fruits with orange flesh that is excellent cooked or raw. It also provides mounds of large seeds that make great, healthy snacks when roasted. Like most cushaws, this variety is pest-resistant and keeps very well. It is easy to grow, holds up well in the heat, and produces prolifically. It is sometimes called the “Jonathan Pumpkin.”

Seminole Pumpkin:

“Seminole Pumpkin” is another cushaw squash – despite the name. The Seminole tribe, of what is now Florida, grew this smaller-sized squash as a staple part of their diet. It grows well in moist, humid environments where other squashes do not fare so well. This firm-fleshed, sweet variety is also resistant to powdery mildew, which is a significant problem for many squashes.

Golden Cushaw:

Beautiful golden-orange colored squash with deep orange flesh. Do not confuse it with the C. mixta variety called gold-striped Cushaw, a variety visually identical to the green-striped Cushaw except for the beautiful golden stripes. The golden Cushaw has sweet flesh reminiscent of sweet potatoes and is very high in many nutrients! Yes, please!

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Gravy!

So… what came first, Turkey or the Gravy? Everyone says you need turkey before the gravy, but that’s not really so- and really, who really cares. The point is you need the gravy first to make your life easier. Why? Because Thanksgiving can be an ordeal if you are short on the clock, unorganized, or really just don’t like to cook. 

Even if you love being in the kitchen, you will still need to prioritize your time. For most cooks, the gravy is the most delicate, time-sensitive – yet over-consuming portion of the Thanksgiving menu. Let’s face it- most home cooks are afraid of digging in with the whisk. I’m here to tell you gravy is… welp, gravy, and I am about to make your hectic-kitchen-life a bit more humble.

Here is my formula for the best tasting do-ahead gravy ever. 

Enjoy your guests this holiday season by taking some of the stress off your plate. It’s about being together anyway, isn’t it? Make the gravy a few days in advance, and don’t sweat the timely stuff ever again! Drink up, you have other things to worry about! 

You’ll Need: 

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

1 pound bone-in chicken wings

1 large unpeeled onion, root ball removed, cut in quarters

1 large carrot, peeled, cut in large chunks

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

A small handful of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and 2 large bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns

1 cup dry white wine

8-10 cups of low-sodium chicken broth for added poultry flavor ( you can add water instead)

4-5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire or fish sauce

Kosher salt, and ground white pepper

Special Equipment :

Cheesecloth 

Here’s How: 

Combine the fresh herbs and peppercorns into a delicate little bouquet and tie up tightly in the cheesecloth. Set aside. 

Heat the olive oil in a large high sided saucepan over medium-high heat. Salt chicken wings and gently place flat side down into the hot oil. Cook wings, occasionally turning until golden brown, about 10–12 minutes. 

Add the onion, carrot, with the celery and cook until everything in the pan is deeply browned, 14–16 minutes. 

Pour in the wine to deglaze the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until wine is reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes. Add stock and herbs then return to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and slow simmer, occasionally stirring, until liquid is reduced by a third, 35–40 additional minutes.

Remove herb packet and strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve covered with cheesecloth into a heatproof bowl. You should have about 4 cups. If you don’t, add sufficient stock or water to get you there.

Discard any solids. Keep stock warm while you make your roux.

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, continually whisking until roux is golden brown about 4 minutes. It will be clumpy like porage at this stage, don’t worry. Start making the gravy by whisking gently and continuously pouring the hot stock into the roux mixture. Be sure to incorporate each addition of liquid thoroughly, making it lump-free before adding any additional fluid. Some cooks use both hands, stirring while pouring, while others turn this into a team-building event. 

Once you have a soup-like consistency, add the remaining stock, stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Whisk often, until gravy is thickened, and reduced to about 3 cups. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon; this will take about 8–10 minutes. 

Conclude by adjusting the seasoning with Worcestershire or fish sauce, taste, and season with salt and white pepper if needed.

Cool, and store in an air-tight glass container. This beautiful Thanksgiving poultry gravy will hold in the cooler for at least 4-5 days. 

Reheat and adjust flavor with salt and pepper. Use a few tablespoons of turkey pan drippings to awaken the poultry flavor. 

Enjoy your guests.