Boathouse Carrot Puree

image from the graphics fairy

I tend to be a wee bit unconventional about things.  Does that really surprise you?  I’m sorry if it does.  I like things the way I like them even if that goes against the norm.  Always have.  Always will.

In my younger days, this tendency may have resulted in me being thought of as difficult, rebellious, hard headed, or strong willed.  All of which are just really nice ways of saying huge pain in the behind.  As an adult, the unconventional label means the exact same thing.  But as an adult, I get to have a pretty big say about what is considered acceptable in my world.  This substantially cuts down on the number of “my house, my rules” arguments since it is, in fact, my house.

So what’s the point of fessing up that my head is harder than a cement block? Because that’s the context in which to understand holiday dinners at my house.  Once I got to play the “my house, my rules” card, holiday dinners became much more enjoyable.  See, I’ve got a secret.  I don’t like some holiday staples.  Like roast turkey.  The best things about the turkey are the crispy skin and the stuffing.  But there’s not enough skin to make a meal of and I’ve never mastered the art of stuffing (or dressing, since putting it inside the bird and making it actual stuffing is frowned upon).

Yes, my house is a Turkey Free Zone on Thanksgiving.  While others are stressed out over trussing and basting and dressing but not stuffing, I’m relaxed because all my ham has to do is reheat, or not, and it’s ready to serve.  What’s another benefit of being a TFZ? I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to prep a bird for the oven so I get to enjoy a few extra hours of sleep on a day off. And maybe my favorite perk of being TFZ is that my lack of allegiance to the main dish spills over to the side dishes.  One year I may serve chipotle mashed sweet potatoes and green bean casserole.  The next year, they might be nowhere to be seen.  It’s not that we don’t like them it’s just that there are too many good dishes to lock myself into any.  I don’t like a set menu anymore than I like roasting up a Butter Ball.

So while there’s always a chair at the table for guests, and if you’re in the neighborhood I do hope you’ll stop by, please check your expectations at the door.  Or at least satisfy the turkey and cranberry sauce cravings before you come over.

And if it’s possible, can you sneak me in some dressing?  Nobody besides us has to know and that’s the one traditional Thanksgiving dish that I really miss.

Carrot Puree

Adapted from The Boathouse

BAH Note:  I pulled this off my UnTurkey Day menu at the last minute.  My cooking collaborator requested the chipolte mashed sweet potatoes.  Since she was bringing the good stuff (pie, deviled eggs, and green bean casserole) I did not want to jeopardize their presence at the table.   This recipe appeared in the Summer chapter of The Boathouse cookbook.  Don’t let that keep you from making this anytime the mood strikes you.  It’s slightly sweet and very buttery, which knows no season.  The book said this serves 6 to 8 people.  I can not confirm that detail since The Mistah and I gobbled all of this down by ourselves.

  • 9 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • kosher salt

Cover the carrots and onion with water in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the carrots are very tender.  Drain and transfer the carrots and onion to a food processor.  Add the butter and puree until smooth.  Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste.

{printable recipe}

Michael Symon’s Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese and I have a long history together. I grew up with the blue boxed variety and then moved into the realm of frozen cheesy pasta goodness.  Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but in a pinch both Stouffer’s and Trader Joe’s have a mighty fine frozen mac and cheese product.  And I suspect that someone, somewhere, has passed one of these off as homemade.  I’m not saying I’ve ever done that.  I’m just speculating that it has happened.  The thing about that is as easy as frozen mac and cheese is, homemade is not much more work.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I boil water?
  • Can I carefully measure out hot cooking water?
  • Can I pour cream into a saucepan cook it down?
  • Can I shred cheese?
  • Can I mix together pasta, cream, cheese, and cooking water?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you can make macaroni and cheese.  And not just any mac and cheese.  This is Michael Symon’s mac and cheese (MSmac).  With no disrespect to the recipes I’ve tried from Martha, Ina, and Deb, this might just be the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made.  Why is that?

First: I prefer stovetop mac and cheese over one that is oven baked. MSmac goes directly from stovetop to plate so my mac and cheese needs can be met in no more time than it takes to make the sauce and cook the pasta.

Second: I don’t want to spend $$$$ on three, four, or five different cheeses.  MSmac calls for one cheese and while it’s fancier than American or Cheddar, it won’t break the week’s food budget.

Third: MSmac has a rich, silky cheese sauce.  There are no lumps, clumps, or globs to dampen my mac and cheese enjoyment.

Fourth: MSmac has bacon.  Does that really require an explanation?

Fifth: There really isn’t a fifth reason since bacon trumps anything else I could say.

I first discovered MSmac thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life.  She wrote about it and I knew that it would not be long before MSmac and I found ourselves alone together.  It was our destiny to find one another across the Intewebs.  And let me tell you, destiny does not like to wait.  Now that destiny has brought me together with MSmac, I don’t know what could ever tear us apart.  This is what I want when all the little things in my day go wrong.  This is how I want to console myself when the Universe is conspiring against me.  This is my definition of comfort food.

Perhaps MSmac is right for you?

Disclaimer:  Side effects of MSmac are mild to moderate and include eating it straight from the pot and licking cheese sauce off of serving utensils.  Consult professional help for sauces requiring 30 minutes or more to reduce.

Mac & Cheese

Adapted from Chef Michael Symon

BAH Note: I’ve scaled this down because having the full recipe’s worth of this in my house is dangerous.  In my opinion, this is best served as a side so you can enjoy a smaller serving and not feel completely wicked.  But it can just as easily be your main course.  You’ll want to be sure to use a nonstick saucepan and watch your heat so that the cream doesn’t scorch or boil over.

BAH Tip:  I’m bad at guestimating when liquids have reduced, so to check I carefully poured the hot cream into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup to gauge my progress.  It’s really about the volume of the cream more than it is about how long it takes.  Just be patient and don’t rush the process.

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/4 pound bacon, fried, drained, and crumbled
  • 1/2 pound short pasta
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Bring cream and rosemary to a low boil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Keep at a low boil, stirring frequently, until reduced by half and thickened, approximately 25 minutes.

While the cream is reducing, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid before draining the pasta.

When the cream has reduced, add the pasta and grated Gruyere and stir to combine.  Add pasta water until the sauce is as loose as you like.  Stir in the crumbled bacon, taste for seasoning, and add salt to taste.

{printable recipe}

Flashback Friday – I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mashed Potatoes

Flashback Friday


The following originally appeared on 8/11/08 at Exit 51.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mashed Potatoes

Some thoughts on our South Beach journey, now into its 10th day.

My desire to bring the camera into the kitchen is not so strong these days.  I’m not yet on friendly terms with these recipes.  I don’t know what to expect from them – will they misbehave?  So I’m more focused on trying to figure them out.  Hopefully as we stumble across ones that become favorites, I’ll be more gung-ho to capture the moments.

Also, all the prep that goes into getting ahead of the curve absolutely wrecks my kitchen.  I prefer a somewhat orderly approach to cooking.  Instead, my weekend cooking days have seen stacks and stacks of dishes on every available horizontal surface.  By the time I get all the week’s “snacks” prepped, it’s time to start fixing an actual meal.  And then all those dishes have to get cleaned up, and oh look, time to start pulling things out for dinner.  It’s a weary cycle right now.  My little dishwasher has gotten more use in the last ten days than ever before, sometimes running twice a day (but it is a really teeny tiny dishwasher). Continue reading “Flashback Friday – I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mashed Potatoes”

Whoopie Pies

I have a Halloween tradition.  Yes, I know Halloween has come and gone but trust me, you’ll want to hear what I’ve got to say.  Every year for Halloween, I make  treats to share with my neighbors as we sit on our porches and dispense tooth rotting candy to witches, zombies, and all manner of costumed (and uncostumed) trick or treaters.  One year there were marshmallows.  Another year the neighbors got caramel matzoh crack.  This year?  This year I made whoopie pies.  Oh yes, my neighbors and I whooped it up.

Now, as much as I’d like to say I do this because of my generous, giving nature, my motivations are really more selfish.  You see, The Mistah’s birthday falls right around Halloween.  And since it’s just The Mistah and I in the house, if we were to eat the entire batch of birthday treat, we’d be as big as our house.  My solution is to divide and conquer.

I set aside a portion of treats for our enjoyment (divide) and then once the ghouls and goblins start knocking on our doors, I pay a visit to the neighbors with my plate of treats (conquer) for some reverse trick or treating.  It works brilliantly. By the end of the evening the candy bowl is empty and the homemade treats have been distributed.  It’s a total win/win situation.

You don’t need any special reason to whoop it up, so what are you waiting for?  Go make some whoopie!  (Really, did you think I wouldn’t go there?)

Whoopie Pies

Adapted from Bakerella as seen on Pretty.Good.Food.

BAH Note: My cakes baked up craggy, puffed and rounded, without a lot of spread.  They reminded me of the Weebles I had as a kid.  They would weeble and wobble but wouldn’t fall down.  I would have preferred a thinner, wider cake so that I got a better frosting to cake ratio.  My yield, using a small ice cream disher to portion out the dough, was 40 cakes or 20 sandwiches.

  • 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk

Heat your oven to 375 degrees and line sheet pans with parchment paper.

Whisk together the four, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In the workbowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, shortening, and sugar on low until just combined.  Raise the speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat for two minutes more, scraping down the sides as necessary.  Add the flour mixture and milk, in two additions, and mix until combined.

Using a small ice cream disher, portion the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cake.  Bake for 10 minutes or until the top of the cakes spring back when gently pressed.

Cool on the baking sheet for five minutes then transfer them to a rack to cool completely before filling.

{printable recipe}

Whoopie Pie Peanut Butter Filling

Adapted from Pretty.Good.Food.

BAH Note:  I used Abby Dodge’s method of adding marshmallow fluff to buttercream frosting for the filling.  If you don’t have any marshmallow fluff, increase the amount of peanut butter by 1/4 cup.

  • 1/4 cup marshmallow fluff
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In the workbowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the marshmallow, peanut butter, and butter until creamy.  Reduce the speed to low, add the powdered sugar and salt, and mix until combined.  Increase the speed to medium and mix until the filling is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Spread the filling on the flat side of a cooled cake.  Top with a second cake and enjoy.  Should you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container.

{printable recipe}