Thanksgiving roundup


Liveblogging Turkey Day

6:02 PM - Mission accomplished.

3:09 PM
- First rounds of eights out of the oven. Fluffy and delicious.

2:51 PM - Turkey done, stuffing done, corn souffle done, first round of eights in the oven, gravy done.

1:56 PM
- Beans blanched, ginger grated, bacon being chopped, turkey at 140°, stuffing and corn casserole in oven, potatoes for mashing on the stove. Eights rising.

1:11 PM
- T-2 hours, approximately. Potatoes being peeled, beans being blanched, turkey still in oven. For me: last minute snack to take the edge off so that I don't nibble from now until dinner. Leftover shepherd's pie from last night should do the trick.

12:44 PM
- Corn Souffle, stuffing ready to go. Eights cut/formed/ready to rise. Now cleaning up, then starting the green beans.

12:12 PM - Time to make eights!

12:00 PM - Turkey breasts IN

11:45 AM - Using a lull in cooking time (pecan pie in oven) to set my mom up with her own blog (finally). Details TBD.

10:30 AM - Roasting the turkey on a bed of celery to keep it off the bottom and give the stock good flavor.

10:11 AM - Executive decision to add apple to the stuffing.

10:03 AM - Getting a bit of a late start with the liveblogging today - I woke at 8 to the smell of onions and celery cooking down in butter (the start of the stuffing). After trundling downstairs and waking myself up a little more, we had Yukon Gold Cinnamon Rolls (best cinnamon roll recipe ever - like a certain unnamed mall chain, but without the sickly sweetness and the chemically after taste). After breakfast, things shift into a higher gear - stuffing being assembled (onion + celery + mix + lots of mushrooms), homemade dark turkey stock coming out of the fridge for stuffing and, eventually, gravy. Corn 'souffle' being mixed up (that's a recipe that you'll be seeing soon). Philosophical discussion of eggs in stuffing (mom says no, her grandma said yes). Last night was a thanksgiving prep orgy: dough for 'eights' (potato dinner rolls), cinnamon rolls, pie crust for pecan pie, orange pieapple fluff.


A dozen

Back in October, Dan and I took Lucy on a little road trip out to Northampton (as you know) and, for once, we got to Smith in time to see the last of the golden Valley Light flowing away over the hill. If you've been there in the late afternoon, you know the light I'm talking about - it's as bright and focused as a spotlight, but honey colored and strangely soft at the same time. It's perfect light, flattering to every face, intensifying every color, and warm even on the coldest days.

Another October day found us driving north with my family in search of the Maine coast. You've already seen a few images from this startlingly blue day (and to think it rained for fourteen hours the day before). More bright sun and clear skies made for more intense colors and sharp lines.

And then, on November first, the day after the clocks fell back, we went to the beach with our good friends Seth and Christine. We were there for the waning of the light, the first truly early evening of Fall. More blue, but tempered this time, less flamboyant, as if it knew the cold was coming.

This is just my favorite dozen images from those happy days. There are many more here. I'm embracing color film again after a long break and am oh-so-pleased with the results. 120 film was shot with my trusty brick of a Mamiya and 35mm was shot with my buddy the Canon EOS300.

1. Impression of the Smith College Boathouse. (120 Fuji Reala 100)
2. Chapin House and the Green House, Smith College. (120 Fuji Reala 100)
3. Crabapples (Liz tells me) at Smith. (120 Fuji Reala 100)
4. Boathouse reflection, Smith College. (120 Fuji Reala 100)
5. Whately Diner, interior. (120 Fuji Reala 100)
6. Sandy Lucy, Singing Beach (35mm Kodak Ektar 100)
7. Singing Beach, November, Christine in the water (35mm Kodak Ektar 100)
8. Lucy and tide patterns, Singing Beach (35mm Kodak Ektar 100)
9. Cape Neddick Lobster Pound (35mm Kodak Ektar 100)
10. Rocks at Nubble Light (35mm Kodak Ektar 100)
11. Nubble Light (35mm Kodak Ektar 100)
12. Beachy reflections, Singing Beach (35mm Kodak Ektar 100)


Spice Season Opening

Recipe: Pumpkin Bourbon Spice Cheesecake with Bourbon Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Let this be known:
I do not buy into the phenomenon of coy female food guilt. I don't feel guilty about feeding myself good things. I don't feel guilty about eating sweets when they're around. If I do happen to binge a little (like the run-in I had with a pack of Oreos earlier this week), I don't make myself feel bad about it, though I do try to do better next time.

However, I increasingly believe in the value of delayed gratification. When I want to buy myself fancy, shiny new things, I do try to wait. In fact, there was once a jacket that I visited weekly for three months before allowing myself to buy it. Of course, when I did finally bring it home with me, I could barely afford food for the next couple of weeks. But wearing the beautiful, buttery thing around the house made me feel better about my growing hunger and dwindling bank account.Another thing I believe in delaying is my annual sugar-and-spice binge. From Thanksgiving through, approximately, February, I allow myself obscene quantities of all things involving any or all of the following: cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger, allspice. However, I don't really dip into these flavors until the third week in November. I like to keep these warm fuzzy flavors to the season in which they're most needed. Every year, it's worth the wait.
This year, I'm inaugurating the Spice Season with a new-to-me recipe: Pumpkin Bourbon Spice Cheesecake with a Spiced Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust. You got that right - the word SPICE appear TWICE in the title of this dish. That's the way we like it, this time of year.The recipe comes from Baking Illustrated, but I did tweak it a little, as I generally do. I decreased the sugar in the filling by about a tablespoon and added about a tablespoon of Maple Syrup at the same time as the Heavy Cream. (Maple's another exclusively Winter taste, as is pumpkin, obviously.) I also added almonds in an equal amount to the pecans in the crust. These things were good decisions.It turns out, this dessert is perhaps the greatest baked good ever known to man. It's creamy, spicy, sweet, and yet almost light (as light as cheesecake can be) and its crust is nutty and spicy and crunchy. The cream that I whipped up to serve with it is a dense, sweet, bourbony rich addition and every bit good enough to eat on its own. This cheesecake is kind of the sweet, supple, beautiful dessert answer to my lovely jacket. If I could slip into this cheesecake and wear it around, I would. It's truly spectacular. Make this for your holiday crowd. They'll thank you and you'll thank me.

Pumpkin Bourbon Spice Cheesecake with a Spiced Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust
adapted from Baking IllustratedFor the Crust
  • 5 1/2 graham crackers (3 oz.)
  • 1 oz chopped pecans (original recipe calls for 2 oz)
  • 1 oz slivered blanched almonds (my addition)
  • 4 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  1. Heat the oven to 325.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9" spring form pan.
  3. Process crackers, nuts, sugar, and spices in a food processor until finely ground.
  4. Place crumbs into medium bowl and mix butter evenly into crumbs.
  5. Turn crumb/butter mix into the spring form pan and use the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the spring form pan. Use a spoon to create a neat edge and press crumbs all the way into the corners of the pan.
  6. Bake about 15 minutes until fragrant and browned around the edges.
  7. Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.
  8. When cool, wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of aluminum foil. Set the wrapped spring form pan into a roasting pan.
For the Filling
  • 1 1/2 c sugar (minus 1 T)
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1/4 t ground allspice
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, cut into small chunks, at room temperature
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 c bourbon
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 c heavy cream
  1. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a simmer in a stockpot.
  2. When the crust is done baking, whisk the sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. This part is ODD: line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin puree onto paper towels and place triple layer of paper towels on top. Press on paper towels until they are saturated. Peel back the top layer of paper towels. Flip the pumpkin onto a new layer of paper towels and repeat. Discard the towels.
  4. Beat the cream cheese at medium speed for 1 minute. To save myself typing, I will just say now that you should scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as well as the beater after every step from here on out.
  5. Add about a third of the sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined.
  6. Scrape.
  7. Add half of the remaining sugar mixture and beat at medium-low until combined.
  8. Add the remaining sugar mixture and beat at medium-low until combined.
  9. Add the pumpkin and vanilla and beat at medium speed until combined.
  10. Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until combined.
  11. Add the remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until combined.
  12. Add the heavy cream, bourbon, and maple syrup and beat at medium-low until combined.
  13. Pour the filling into the springform pan and smooth the surface.
  14. Set the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough simmering water to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  15. Bake until the center of the cake is slightly wobbly and the center of the cake reads 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 1/2 hours. (Beware, the cake can bake much faster depending on oven temperature and temperature of ingredients.)
  16. Set the roasting pan on a wire rack and cool until water is just warm.
  17. Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil and set on a wire rack.
  18. Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the cake. Cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.
  19. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until chilled. Up to 3 days.
serve with Bourbon Mascarpone Whipped Cream
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 c light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c mascarpone cheese
  • 2-3 T bourbon
  • pinch salt
  1. Mix mascarpone cheese with bourbon.
  2. Mix brown sugar and salt into whipping cream.
  3. Add mascarpone/bourbon mixture to whipping cream and sugar. Whip on high speed until peaks form.
On second thought, it would also be interesting to try substituting some maple sugar for some of the sugar in the cream. The maple taste I tried to introduce into the cheesecake was lost a little and putting it in the cream might be a good way to bring that flavor out without running the risk of changing the (perfect) texture of the cheesecake.

Vote for me! Go to the Bon Appetit Blog Envy Contest and vote for my cheesecake! Be sure to vote in all categories.



A few weeks ago, Dan and I went to the Brattle Book Shop in search of cool old books and I hit the Mother Lode. (I mean, the real mother lode was upstairs in the rare book room where they had a first edition of Ulysses among many other drool-worthy items, but I liked my bargain basement find a lot.) I found the 1950 Gourmet Magazine Cookbook and the second Volume, from 1957. Since the magazine was so cruelly taken away from us, I was doubly excited to find these books intact and available to me at such a reasonable price!
Both volumes are pretty beat up, but still in good working order - I don't do a very good job of keeping my cookbooks clean, after all. This one also had a bunch of things between the pages, one magazine cutting with an apple pie recipe, a postcard with some notes on the back, and one little slip with notes about a day's worth of menus. Apparently they had oeuf au miroir for breakfast (p. 503 in Volume II) and Chinese fried rice (with either chicken or ham) for lunch. I'm also kind of obsessed with the handwriting on these notes. Relics of a kind. Was it some fifties-style optimistic and ambitious newlywed, planning menus for each menu? A man teaching himself to cook? Who owned these books before? I'm especially intrigued because there's no inscription! (This is why I always write my name in my books.)
These books are full of all sorts of old school images and recipes that I think (it's safe to say) have fallen somewhat out of favor. The chapter titles are charming and hilarious. My favorite (above) is Man's Meat. The Scottish poem just below the meaty illustration also makes me smile. More lovely chapter titles below.
And then there are the full color illustrations. Some look good (Black Bean Soup, Crêpes Suzette, Chocolate Cake Florence) and others are, well, glazed meat. In this most disgusting example, Cold Glazed Ox Tongue. It has flower shapes cut out of, I believe, ham.
In any case, expect to hear more about this book. At some point, I'm going to start cooking out of it - none of the more exotic meats and certainly no aspic in the near future - but I do want to try some of these recipes! I'll keep you posted. (More images of the books here.)I'll leave you with a favorite cookbook-reading guilty pleasure: biscuits (the kind from a can) with honey and butter.


Nostalgia Trip: On growing up, growing apart, and getting back in touch

I'm realizing that a lot of the cooking I do is motivated by a desire to return (at least gastronomically) home, to an earlier time. Most of the recipes that have excited me lately are ones from my childhood, things my mom cooked when we were little and the weather was turning cold.

The funny thing is realizing that nostalgic home-time is beginning to extend to include college, a time that I did not spend at home, a time when I wasn't yet cooking and when I wasn't regularly eating my mom's food anymore. It was a magical, now very far-away time, though, with hours spent idly sitting around, never short on fodder for conversation or making mudslides in a cheap blender bought at Wal-Mart and installed in our semi-functional and always filthy house kitchenette. Oreos, peppermint ice cream, and some milk carried back from the dining hall in a coffee mug. Or coming up with ways to make the sadly deteriorating pool table more functional.

How was it that we could just be in each others' company so easily? It seems like lately we've turned to watching TV or playing games or doing things to distract from the way things have changed. Are we becoming less interesting? Less close? Less talented at friendship? Is it just a part of growing up and shifting our attentions elsewhere (marriage, homes, money, children?) or is it some natural talent that we just grow out of?
Or maybe I'm just being pessimistic and short-sighted. Maybe the only difference is that we just have less time and it's less convenient, since we don't all live under one roof together. Maybe it's just that I spend all of my time at home just hanging out with my husband. Maybe we just need to clear our schedules every once in a while and just make time to be in the same place as the people we love, doing nothing.

This is precisely what I did with my dear K on Sunday. We had brunch (oh, so grown-up), and then we hung out at my house, looking at Vogue, flipping through cookbooks, chatting about nothing in particular. Then we went to the supermarket and reminisced about making mudslides while buying the ingredients to make one of my most nostalgic treats.
My memories of these cupcakes (many childhood birthdays, random winter days, special occasions that warranted cupcakes) are densely layered on top of one another and now I'm happy to think that I've added another Black-Bottom-Cup memory to the pile. Now these are the cupcakes that I grew up on, but also the cupcakes I grew back down with. They were there as I was lunging toward adulthood, but they also accompanied me and my friend on a little trip back in time to the days when we lived together, boys took up less of our time, and just killing time was the sweetest thing we could do.
This little baking afternoon helped me reconnect with one of my dear friends and also with an earlier version of myself, but I'm dedicating this post and the recipe (thanks as ever, mom!) to all the friends I used to sit around with, go on long Mill River walks with, nap with, do homework with, and grow up with. I miss you all desperately and hope that one day we can kill time and shoot the breeze together soon. Meanwhile, bake these and think of me.

Black Bottom Cups

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 6 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 t vanilla
  • ½ t almond extract
Combine ingredients except for chocolate chips in a small bowl and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and set mixture aside.

  • 1 c sugar
  • ¼ c cocoa
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 ½ c flour, sifted
  • ½ t salt
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 1 c water
  • 1 T vinegar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • chopped nuts (optional)
Sift dry ingredients together. Add remaining ingredients except (optional) nuts and mix well. Fill paper muffin cups 1/3 full with chocolate batter. Top each with a heaping teaspoonful of cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Makes 2 dozen.


Rain, rain, go away

When it rains, they say, it pours. One raindrop opens a crack and suddenly everything rushes in and you find yourself suddenly inundated. This is true with the Good, but is at least equally as true with the Bad. When you find yourself up to your ankles and sinking fast in late work, missed deadlines, debts piling up, and emails that have long gone unanswered, it's easy to get mired down in self-pity and despair.

That's where I found myself yesterday, badness lapping up around my knees and threatening to swallow me whole. Today is better, though, and I haven't decided where to give credit. Maybe it's the good talking-to I gave myself last night, maybe it's the many hours of mindless, but delicious TV I sank into last night (Oh, Bill Compton, you can bite me anytime!), or maybe, just maybe, it was the cookies.

I thought the smell of something delicious baking would cheer me up and went in search of chocolate chips. No luck. I pulled a lot of extraneous foodstuffs out of the cabinets and found, to my shock and surprise, that I had a whole unopened package of rolled oats. You can see where this is going.I pulled out the big yellow baking book and found their recipe for oatmeal cookies. This book is amazing not only because the recipes are really quite delicious, but because they explain how they arrived at the recipe through their testing process. Of course, you all know me well enough by now to know that I just don't follow recipes to the letter. So, I added a spice or two here an there, threw in some vanilla and chopped almonds and ended with a cookie with a delicate flavor balance and crazy texture. I think I over-baked them. Either that or I needed a little extra butter to compensate for the extra dryness of the almonds or something. They were a little dry, a little crunchy, but awfully tasty. Best served warm and without bitterness. Bake these and set your worries aside.

Spiced Oatmeal-Almond-Raisin Cookies
adapted from Baking Illustrated
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground cardamom
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 c old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 c chopped sliced almonds
  • 1 c golden raisins
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt together in a bowl.
  3. Mix the oats, raisins, and almonds together in another bowl.
  4. Beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time.
  5. Stir the flour mixture into the butter and sugar with a rubber spatula (but be sure not to accidentally fling dough all over the kitchen - I did).
  6. Stir in the oats, almonds, and raisins. This takes some patience and persistence, but you don't want to leave some cookies high and dry without the good stuff!
  7. Roll the dough into large balls - the book suggests two-inch balls, but I did them a wee bit smaller (probably 1 1/2 inches) - and place on prepared baking sheets (lined with parchment, or silpat, or generously buttered) about 2 inches apart. I was able to fit a dozen on each of two half-sheets and made two mondo-cookies on another baking sheet.
  8. Bake until the cookie edges turn golden brown, 22-25 minutes (this is where I screwed up - do NOT overbake, as the recipe does indeed warn you). Let cool two minutes on baking sheet, then remove to a wire cooling rack.
  9. Try not to eat them all. They go great with a cup of hot tea or a glass of cold milk, if you're into that sort of thing.


Beach Day

Yesterday we did a rather un-November-first activity and went to the beach for one of the last warm days I expect we'll have. We headed up to Manchester-by-the-Sea and chilled out on the beach for a while. My crazy friends went swimming, but Lucy and I stayed safe, dry, and warm on the sand. It was a perfect perfect day. A lovely last-hurrah before Winter.