Happy Thanksgiving, readers! Throw out that can of gelatinous goo and step up your cranberry game this year with this recipe for a Cranberry Crackle Tart from Dorie Greenspan's unfussy guide to French baking, Baking Chez Moi.
Cranberry Crackle Tart
Makes 6 servings
When the weather gets cold and Americans in Paris start thinking of Thanksgiving, there are chestnuts galore for stuffing, pecans for pie (although you usually have to shell them) and, if you know where to look, even some fresh cranberries. Cranberries are a little easier to find now than they were when I first started living in France, but they’re still treated like precious exotic fruit and priced just as high. In fact, they’re sold in containers so small the only thing you might be able to do with your stash is to make this tart, which requires just a handful or so of berries.
The tart has three layers, each adding something different to the mix: The crust is sweet and crisp and so purposefully low I think of it as a platter. The thin layer of thick jam is there for flavor, texture and insulation: It’s like a barrier island between the dry base and the moist crown. The topping is a fluff of marshmallowy meringue and fresh cranberries, a mixture of sweet and tart that bakes to a crackle finish. I love the contrasts and the way the surface of the meringue turns crunchy, while underneath it remains soft and snow white.
The tart looks homey, but it’s oddly sophisticated in its own way and not-so-oddly very satisfying, particularly after a hearty meal, like a Thanksgiving feast.
For the filling
Butter a 9-inch pie pan (I use a Pyrex pan) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Sandwich the dough between two sheets of parchment or wax paper and roll it out until it is a scant 1/8 inch thick. Don’t worry about making a beautiful circle, because you’re going to trim the dough.
Fit the dough into the pie pan, allowing the excess to drape over the sides. Gently press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan and then, using a paring knife, a pizza wheel or a fluted ravioli wheel, trim the dough to about one third down from the rim of the pan. Prick the bottom of the tart shell all over with a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes. (The leftover dough makes a nice turnover.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Line the crust with a piece of parchment or a buttered piece of aluminum foil and weight it down with rice, dried beans or light pie weights. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and weights and bake for 8 to 12 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. The crust will have shrunk, but that’s fine. Set the crust on a rack to cool to room temperature.
When you’re ready to fill and bake the tart: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Spoon the jam into the crust and spread it evenly over the bottom. Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed just until they turn opaque. With the mixer going, add the sugar in a very slow, steady stream, then keep beating until the whites are shiny and form peaks with pretty, droopy tips; they will look like marshmallow.
Pour the cranberries into the bowl and, using a flexible spatula, fold them into the meringue. Try to distribute the fruit evenly, but don’t try too hard—you want to keep the meringue fluffy. Turn the meringue over the jam and spread it to the edges, making it swirly if you’d like. The jam will sneak up around the sides of the meringue, and that’s fine.
Bake the tart for 1 hour, at which point the top will be light beige and most probably cracked here and there. (If you’d like more color, you can bake it longer or put it under the broiler.) Transfer the tart to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. If you’d like, dust the tart with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Serving: Just before serving, it’s nice to sprinkle the top of the tart with confectioners’ sugar. In France, I’ve seen some meringue tarts served with whipped cream and some with ice cream. I thought that adding whipped or ice cream would be too much—I was wrong.
Storing: The tart is best served the day it’s made, although it’s still pretty nice a day later. Leave the tart at room temperature, covering only the cut part with a piece of wax paper or plastic film.
Sweet Tart Dough
Makes one 9- to 9½-inch crust
Used by so many French pastry chefs for so many French tarts, this is the dough that I turn to automatically when I’ve got a tart on my mind. Known as pâte sablée, it’s really a sweet cookie dough, the one you’d use to make a tender sablé or shortbread cookie.
I always prebake the crust even if it’s going to get another long bake with the filling, because I like the resulting color, flavor and texture—and the fact that the bottom won’t be soggy.
I use a fluted tart pan with a removable base. If all you’ve got is a pie plate, don’t let that stop you.
A word on rolling versus pressing: You can roll the crust out and fit it into the tart pan or just press it in. I roll the dough. Rolling gives you a thinner crust than pressing, so if you press, you might occasionally find yourself with a little filling left over.
To make the dough: Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to blend. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely—you’ll have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk just to break it up and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is incorporated, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change—heads-up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
To incorporate the butter more evenly and to catch any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing, separate small amounts of dough from the pile and use the heel of your hand to smear each piece a few inches across the counter. In French this is called fraisage, and it’s the ideal way to finish blending a dough.
To make a rolled-out crust: Shape the dough into a disk and put it between two sheets of parchment or wax paper. Roll the dough out evenly, turning it over frequently and lifting the paper often so that it doesn’t roll into the dough and form creases. Aim for a circle that’s at least 3 inches larger than the base of your tart pan. The dough will be 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick, but it’s the diameter, not the thickness, that counts. Slide the rolled-out dough, still between the papers, onto a baking sheet or cutting board and refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze it for 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; wrap it airtight to freeze.)
When the dough is thoroughly chilled, put it on the counter and let it rest for about 10 minutes, or until it’s just pliable enough to bend without breaking. Remove the dough from the paper, fit it into a buttered tart pan and trim the excess dough even with the edges of the pan. (If you’d like, you can fold the excess over and make a thicker wall around the sides of the tart.) Prick the crust all over with a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To make a press-in crust: Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. You won’t need all of the dough if you want to make a thin crust, but I think it’s nice to make a thickish one so that you can really enjoy the texture. Press the pieces of dough in so that they cling to one another and will knit together when baked, but don’t use a lot of force—working lightly will preserve the crust’s shortbready texture. Prick the crust all over with a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
When you’re ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil snugly into the crust. If the crust is frozen, you can bake it as is; if not, fill it with dried beans or rice (which you can reuse as weights but won’t be able to cook after they’ve been used this way).
To partially bake the crust: Bake for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil (and weights). If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).
To fully bake the crust: Bake the crust for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil (and weights). If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust for another 7 to 10 minutes, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).
Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the crust fitted into the pan but not baked and then to bake it directly from the freezer—it will have a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.
Bonne Idée—Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts: Reduce the all-purpose flour to 1¼ cups and add ¼ cup almond or hazelnut flour (or very finely ground pecans or pistachios). Proceed as directed.
Thanksgiving is almost here, and although the turkey gets most of the credit, the side dishes deserve just as much attention. Luckily, Southern chef Sean Brock is sharing his simple, yet rich and flavorful recipe for Creamed Corn. Check out our review of his new cookbook Heritage—our Top Pick for November!
My grandmother made creamed corn the old-fashioned way: strip the kernels from the cobs, scrape all the milk from the cobs using an old box grater, add a little salt, and then process in Mason jars in a canner. These preserves would be saved for special occasions, like Thanksgiving dinner. At Husk, I gussy up the recipe a little with a bit more cream and butter. You can also serve this as a soup by adding a little milk to thin it out. Either fresh or preserved under glass, nothing says summer like sweet corn from the garden, even when you’re eating it in the dead of winter.
1. Cut the kernels from the corn; set aside. Using a box grater, scrape the “milk” from the cobs into a wide bowl; set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the corn kernels, the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots and garlic have softened considerably, about 7 minutes. Add the cream, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Working in batches if necessary, transfer the corn mixture to a blender and blend on high until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a saucepan.
4. Add the remaining corn kernels, the reserved “milk” from the cobs, the thyme and butter to the pan, bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until the creamed corn has thickened and the whole kernels are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the thyme, season with salt and white pepper and serve.
The creamed corn can be made up to 2 hours ahead and held at room temperature; gently reheat over low heat. Leftovers will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Fall is here, and that means plenty of fresh apples. Dorie Greenspan shares the perfect apple-centric dessert from her new French cookbook, Baking Chez Moi. This simple cake can be put together quickly for any last-minute holiday gatherings.
Custardy Apple Squares
Makes 8 servings
I think of this as a “back-pocket recipe,” one I can pull out when I need something quick and wonderful, something I can make on the spur of the moment without trekking to the market. The cake is primarily apples (or pears or mangoes, see Bonne Idées) and the batter, which resembles one you’d use for crêpes, has more flavor than you’d imagine the short list of ingredients could deliver and turns thick and custard-like in the oven. Through some magic of chemistry, the apples, which go into the pan in a mishmash, seem to line themselves up and they come out baked through but retaining just enough structure to give you something to bite into. That it can be served minutes out of the oven makes this the perfect last-minute sweet.
I’ve made this with several kinds of apples and the cake has always been good. In general, I go for juicy apples that are not too soft (Gala and Fujis work well), and if I’ve got a few different kinds on hand, I use them all. I slice the apples on a mandoline or Benriner, tools that make fast work of the job, give you thin slices and allow you to use almost all the fruit. When you’re finished slicing an apple on one of these, all you’ve got left is a neat rectangle of core.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Slice the apples using a mandoline, Benriner or a sharp knife, turning the fruit as you reach the core. The slices should be about 1⁄16 -inch thick—elegantly thin, but not so thin that they’re transparent and fragile. Discard the cores.
Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.
Working in a large bowl with a whisk, beat the eggs, sugar and salt together for about 2 minutes, until the sugar just about dissolves and, more important, the eggs are pale. Whisk in the vanilla, followed by the milk and melted butter. Turn the flour into the bowl and stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth. Add the apples, switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold the apples into the batter, turning everything around until each thin slice is coated in batter. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top as evenly as you can—it will be bumpy; that’s its nature.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown, uniformly puffed— make sure the middle of the cake has risen—and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
Using a long knife, cut the cake into 8 squares (or as many rectangles as you’d like) in the pan (being careful not to damage the pan), or unmold the cake onto a rack, flip it onto a plate and cut into squares. Either way, give the squares a dusting of confectioners’ sugar before serving, if you’d like.
Serving: Most often I serve the squares plain, but whipped cream, crème fraîche or ice cream makes a great partner.
Storing: The cake, which is good a few minutes out of the oven or at room temperature the day it is made, can also be refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 days and served chilled.
Bonne Idées: You can add a couple of tablespoons of dark rum, Calvados, applejack or Armagnac or a drop (really just a drop) of pure almond extract to the batter. If you have an orange or a lemon handy, you can grate the zest over the sugar and rub the ingredients together until they’re fragrant. You can also change the fruit. Pears are perfect and a combination of apples and pears even better. Or make the cake with 2 firm mangoes—the texture will be different, but still good—or very thinly sliced quinces. Finally, if you want to make this look a little dressier, you can warm some apple jelly in a microwave and spread a thin layer of it over the top with a pastry brush.
With increasingly darker, drearier days on the horizon (sorry everyone), 'tis the season for serious comfort foods. Superstar English chef Jamie Oliver has the answer with his new cookbook, Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food, and with 100 recipes to choose from, there should be plenty of good eats to last you until Spring. Ever wondered how to make the perfect grilled cheese? Oliver's got you covered.
No. 1 Toasted Cheese Sandwich
A toasted cheese sandwich is a beautiful thing, but I’m not messing about here—this is the ultimate one and it’s going to blow your mind. But there is a particular sequence of events that needs to happen in order to achieve the most ridiculously tasty, chomp-worthy sandwich. Follow this recipe and it will always make you feel good. It is also especially useful when you’re suffering from a light hangover. This is when the condiments—dolloped onto a side plate like a painter’s palette—really come into their own.
With the No. 1 toasted cheese sarnie we don’t score any points for buying expensive, artisanal bread. It’s important to go for something neutral, and in my eyes, only a white bloomer will do. Lightly butter the bread on both sides (oh, and if you’ve got any leftover mashed potatoes, spread that across one piece of the bread—it’s insanely good). To one piece of bread, add a nice grating of good-quality cheese that melts well, like Cheddar, Red Leicester or a mixture of the two. Place your second piece of bread on top, then cook in a sturdy non-stick frying pan on a medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side. This is important, because if it gets too colored too quickly, you won’t get the gorgeous ooze and melt in the middle, and this is about encouraging that internal cheese lava flow. As it cooks, I like to rest something flat with a little weight on top to ensure maximum surface area and crunch.
When lightly golden on both sides, lift the toastie out of the pan and grate a little layer of cheese into the pan where it was sitting. Place the toastie back in the pan on top of the cheese and grate more cheese over it. Leave it for just over 1 minute—wait for the cheese to bubble and the fat to spill out of it, then add a little pinch of cayenne pepper. Give the toastie a poke with a slotted spatula, and once it has a cheesy, doily-like crust on the bottom that moves as one, lift the toastie out of the pan and hold it on the spatula for 30 seconds so the melted cheese hangs down, sets hard, and forms an impressive cheese crown. Flip it onto the other side and, once golden, serve, remembering to let it cool for a couple of minutes before attempting to tuck in.
The final debate is what do you want on the side? Ketchup, HP sauce, a shake of Tabasco or hot sauce, mango chutney or a mixture—all are fine choices.
From Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver. Copyright 2014 Jamie Oliver. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Read our review of this book.
Food writer and editor Dana Cowin tackles her personal culinary shortcomings in her new cookbook, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen. With more than 100 recipes—like this simple and fabulous one for Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso Vinaigrette—you too can learn from the best chefs around and move past common blunders.
A sports coach for my son, William, once told me that the sign of a great player is consistency. If a kid could hit the ball the same way time and again, he said, he could be a star. The same goes for cooking. Great restaurant chefs make the same dish the exact same way night after night. I now aspire to this in my cooking. In winter, I get a lot of practice making roasted vegetables.
My daughter and I routinely go “bin diving”—we open the fridge’s produce bin and take out all the wounded vegetables, dice them, toss them with olive oil and roast them. Sometimes they come out perfectly—the flavors intensified and delicious. But sometimes they burn on the bottom and are still raw on the top. Determined to become more consistent, I asked April Bloomfield to be my vegetable-roasting coach. She had two excellent recommendations: Be sure to cut the vegetables into the right size so they cook at the same time. For example, carrots and sweet potatoes won’t cook at the same rate, so carrots need to be cut smaller to cook in the same amount of time or similar as the less-dense Brussels sprouts. And stir the vegetables occasionally as they roast, for even cooking.
Active Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
1. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Put the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt. Divide the vegetables evenly between the two baking sheets, spread them out and roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and very browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Switch and rotate the baking sheets halfway through cooking.
3. Meanwhile, put the sesame oil, rice vinegar, miso, soy sauce and honey in a small bowl and whisk together.
4. Remove the vegetables from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Immediately toss with the miso vinaigrette. Scatter the sesame seeds and scallions on top and serve.
The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before tossing with the vegetables.
Why Didn’t I Think of That? More Recipe Ideas from April Bloomfield
Chef Tips from April Bloomfield
ON HOW TO CUT THE VEGETABLES
If you are roasting different kinds of vegetables on the same tray at the same time, cut them according to their cooking times. For example, a thinly sliced onion will roast much faster than a large wedge of sweet potato. So, if you’re doing them together, cut the sweet potato into smaller pieces and the onion into slightly larger ones.
ON PREPPING THE VEGETABLES
Always toss vegetables with olive oil before roasting. This is especially important for tougher vegetables like pumpkin, fennel and celery root.
As a renowned food critic and editor-in-chief at Food and Wine magazine, Dana Cowin can definitely tell you what tastes good. But she had a dirty secret: She had no culinary skills of her own. Thankfully, a few of her chef friends stepped in to help, and her new cookbook, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen, is an ultra-accessible guide to becoming a more than passable home cook.
The three most important men in my life have one very unexpected connection: crepes. My father, whom I adored, passed away more than twenty years ago. He was a businessman, an art collector, an architecture buff—one thing he was not was a cook. But on Sunday mornings, he’d sometimes make crepes for us, an act of love. (My mother tells me he fell for crepes on their honeymoon in Nassau, where they ate them almost every day.) It was a very special family ritual.
Fast-forward to today: My husband rarely cooks, but on Sunday mornings, he’ll sometimes make crepes, because our son is a picky eater and it’s one of the only things he likes for breakfast. Three generations of love united by batter swirled in a pan.
When Barclay isn’t around or in the mood to make crepes, I’ll step in. Unfortunately, mine don’t live up to the legacy of my father’s. They are often pocked with flour and a little too thick. So I asked Joanne Chang, of Flour Bakery in Boston, to show me how to avoid these mistakes, and she revealed the secret to making the most miraculously smooth batter ever: Mix the warm milk, melted butter and the rest of the ingredients in the blender.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Makes 18 crepes
1. Stir together the chocolate, cinnamon and brown sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Put the butter, milk, eggs and sugar in a blender and blend until just smooth. Add the flour and salt and blend until the batter is completely smooth.
3. Heat an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat and brush it lightly with melted butter. Pour in ¼ cup batter and, holding the pan by the handle, swirl the pan so that the batter coats the bottom evenly. Cook the crepe until the bottom is just lightly browned, about a minute. Loosen the edges with a spatula, carefully flip the crepe and cook until lightly browned on the other side, about 1 more minute. Transfer the crepe to a platter and roll it up like a loose cigar. Continue cooking and rolling crepes until you’ve used up all of the batter, brushing the pan with more butter as necessary.
4. Scatter the chocolate mixture over the crepes and serve warm.
The batter can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Stir well before cooking the crepes.
Chef Tips from Joanne Chang
ON SUGAR AND EGGS
Once you’ve poured sugar onto eggs, whisk them together immediately. If you leave sugar on top of eggs without whisking them, the sugar will basically cook the egg yolks and cause them to create lumps.
ON PREVENTING CREPES FROM STICKING
A nonstick pan is good here! Even so, add butter to the pan every third or fourth crepe.
ON MAKING THIN CREPES
Add the batter while holding your pan up on an angle, ladling in just a bit of batter and immediately swirling your pan.
ON CREATING EVEN CREPES
Your pan shouldn’t be too hot, or the batter will start cooking instantly when it hits the pan and not spread evenly.
From Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen by Dana Cowin. Copyright 2014 Dana Cowin. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Read our review of this book.
Mark Bittman—restaurateur and longtime food writer for the New York Times—ramps up the efficiency of some of his favorite recipes in How to Cook Everything Fast. Feeling the crunch to get a decent dinner on the table from week to week? Bittman merges prep and cooking with 2,000 speedy, tasty recipes that will leave you full and happy—regardless of how busy your schedule is.
Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Bacon
Time: Faster (30 minutes or less)
Makes: 4 servings
This soup has it all: It’s sweet, colorful and creamy and even features the smoky crunch of bacon on top. The most time-consuming thing about preparing squash is peeling and seeding it.
1. Put a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add the bacon to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. When the bacon is crisp, transfer it to the paper towels with a slotted spoon. Turn the heat to low.
4. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add 1 teaspoon allspice, ¼ teaspoon cayenne and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, about a minute.
5. Add 5 cups stock or water and 1 cup cream. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so that it bubbles gently but steadily, and cook until the squash is fully tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat under the soup and run an immersion blender through the pot or, working in batches, transfer it to an upright blender and carefully purée.
7. Reheat the soup for 1 or 2 minutes if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Divide the soup among 4 bowls, garnish with the bacon, and serve.
Sweet Potato Soup with Pears and Bacon: Substitute sweet potatoes for the squash and pears for the apples.
Pumpkin Soup with Apples and Pumpkin Seeds: A lovely Thanksgiving starter: Substitute pumpkin for the squash. In Step 2, instead of the bacon, cook ½ cup hulled pumpkin seeds in 3 tablespoons olive oil until golden and popping, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove them from the pot and remove the pot from the heat until you grate the vegetables and fruit, then proceed with Step 4.
Does you really need to be convinced to try Banana Split No-Bake Yogurt Cheesecake? Jessica Merchant's Seriously Delish has this and so many more ridiculously fun and tasty recipes that you can't go wrong. You won't find these on her blog any time soon, so go ahead and grab a copy!
Banana Split No-Bake Greek Yogurt Cheesecake
SERVES 4 • TIME: 20 minutes + overnight to set
If I ever had to answer one of the big questions—you know, the really big questions—like what would your ultimate last meal be or what is your all-time favorite dessert, my response would not be cookies or chocolate or brownies or ice cream.
It would be cheesecake.
I have always, always, always been a cheesecake fanatic, since my very first bite. It’s no surprise, because it takes a lot to satisfy these sweet teeth. And the truth is that thick and creamy, often too-rich cheesecake fills the bill every single time.
And it’s not like I even discriminate in flavor. I’ll never forget eating at the Cheesecake Factory for the first time with my grandma and her horror at the array of choices—she claimed that nothing was better than a slice of New York–style cheesecake with strawberries. Nothing? Really? Nothing?
I dunno. I can come up with a few things. I love every and all kind of cheesecake. And my life improved tenfold when I discovered no-bake cheesecakes. Because let’s be real: Baking cheesecake is a royal pain in the ass. It’s super high maintenance, often requires a water bath (whatever that is), then after you’ve poured all your tears into one springform pan, the darn thing cracks down the center and looks like the biggest geographic fault on Earth. It’s stressful.
Greek yogurt cheesecake is my solution to eating cheesecake weekly. The banana split topping is simply that: a topping. The cheesecake is a plain, traditional base that can be served however you’d like. And while we’re on that topic, my favorite way to serve no-bakes are in little mason jars or cute shot glasses so everyone gets their own portion. It’s perfect for this, too, since the Greek yogurt yields a softer, not-quite-as-forgiving cake.
Also: sprinkles for life.
1. In a bowl, mix together the coconut oil and graham crumbs until moistened. Press them into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and set it in the fridge.
2. Add the Greek yogurt and cream cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the sweetened condensed milk. Mix until combined. Add the vanilla extract and salt, beating for another 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the fridge and pour the batter on top of the crust, spreading the top evenly with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight.
3. When you’re ready to serve the cheesecake, set up a toppings bar with the bananas, strawberries, cherries, almonds and sprinkles in small bowls and a jar of chocolate syrup. Remove the cheesecake from the fridge and use a sharp knife to immediately cut it into servings. Top the cheesecake with whatever toppings you wish.
Neela Paniz, a Mumbai native and California restaurateur, brings the splendor of "regional curries, creamy dals topped with vibrant chutneys, vegetable sides and fragrant rice pulaos, biryanis and khichdi" to the American table in The New Indian Slow Cooker. Try this richly spiced recipe for Cornish Hens with Rum and Saffron and, after a little bit of prep, let your slow cooker do the hard work while you do something else.
CORNISH HENS WITH RUM AND SAFFRON
On my many visits to India, I have sat with various members of the family gathering ideas for creating different curries. My mother’s aunt told me that it was most important to add rum and saffron to a Sindhi-style meat curry, sel gosht, in which meat is cooked for long hours with aromatics and whole and ground spices until the pieces melt in the mouth. I have taken liberties with this recipe to create a flavorful but lighter stew using Cornish hens and the slow cooker.
This recipe is best in a 6-quart slow cooker. It can also be doubled for a larger number of guests or cut in half for just two or three people. If your cooker is oval in shape, it is best to place the Cornish hen pieces in a single layer after mixing with the spice mix. Otherwise, try to spread the pieces throughout the cooker bowl with enough spice mix between the pieces.
SERVES 6 TO 8
Before prepping the ingredients, turn the slow cooker on to the high setting for 15 minutes, until the insert is warmed through.
In a skillet, heat the oil over high heat, with a lid handy. Tilt the pan to pool the oil and carefully add the cumin seeds; cover immediately to avoid splattering. When the sputtering subsides, add the sliced onions and brown for about 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, cassia, cardamom, cloves and bay leaf to the browned onions and sauté for 1 minute before transferring to the slow cooker.
Set the skillet aside. In the bowl of the cooker, combine the sautéed onions with the ground coriander and cumin, turmeric, red chile, fresh and canned tomatoes, tomato juice, yogurt, salt, serrano chiles, rum and saffron. Mix well.
Use the saved skillet to sear the hen pieces in batches; place them in the slow cooker and turn them in the spice mix. Arrange them as uniformly as possible. Turn the cooker to low, cover and cook for 3 ½ hours. Turn the cooker to warm, and remove the cassia pieces, cardamom, cloves and bay leaf. Stir in the cilantro when ready to serve.
Spice Preparation 101
Some recipes will call for roasting whole spices and then grinding them. The simplest and most efficient way to do this is to use a dry skillet. Place the whole spices in the skillet and roast them over medium-high heat, shaking continuously to get an even browning. As the spices roast, they will send forth an intense aroma and, depending on the spices you are roasting, they will deepen in color—especially cumin and coriander seeds. Whole red chiles will tend to burn if you’re not careful; constant shaking of the skillet helps them roast evenly. As soon as they’re roasted, transfer the spices from the hot skillet to a flat plate, spread them out to cool, and set aside.
To grind spices, use either a mortar and pestle (for a small amount) or a spice grinder—usually a coffee grinder that is dedicated to grinding spices (never coffee). Always store unused ground spices in an airtight jar or container (see page 9) and use them as soon as you can.
Many recipes in Indian cooking call for adding whole spices, such as cassia sticks, whole cloves, and bay leaves to the dish while it’s cooking. These are for flavor but not consumption: remove them before serving the dish.
Cutting Up a Whole Chicken
Indians prefer chicken skinned but left on the bone for many dishes: Curries stew for a while, and the bones help keep the poultry moist. As most chickens in India are smaller than American ones, I often use Cornish hens for my curries; the instructions below work for these smaller birds, too.
To cut a whole chicken into six or eight pieces (two each of thighs and legs, and two breasts with or without wings attached), start by pressing the thigh backward away from the body to display the joint that connects the thigh to the body. Cut through the joint with a sharp knife; repeat on the other side. Then sever the legs from the thighs by cutting through the cartilage at the joints. Set these pieces aside.
Insert the tip of the knife through the cavity of the breast and backbone to find the space between the bones; slice through and pry the backbone away from the breast. Place the whole breast on the cutting board with the exposed bones away from you. Press down on the meat with your left hand, and slice the breast in half, exerting a little pressure on the wishbone. Now you should have two breast halves with the wings attached. If the breast halves are large, you can further cut them into two pieces each, providing for a more uniform size of all the chicken pieces. Cut off the end tip of each wing. You can either leave the wings on or sever them from the breast. (Many do not enjoy the wings; I, however, love them! I skin them and add them to all my chicken dishes.) Save the backbone, wing tips and wings (if not using), to make chicken stock; it is best to freeze them if not using within a day.
To remove the skin from the chicken, grip each piece using paper towels for traction and peel and cut the skin away from the meat. Dispose of the used paper towels and the skin.
A mere mention of preserving and canning can cause the most confident of home cooks to run in the opposite direction, but Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi break down the surprisingly simple steps behind pickling, brining, smoking, salting, canning, fermenting and more in The Gentle Art of Preserving.
This recipe for Summer Fruits in Brandy doesn't even require a stovetop! Who knew preserving at home was so easy? Get ready to knock out a chunk of your Christmas gifts in one fell swoop.
Summer Fruits in Brandy
This method is suitable for preserving all sorts of summer fruits, including berries, plums and apricots. The boozy fruit should be ready to eat within 2 weeks, but you can leave it to mature for longer if you wish—we make this using late summer fruits to give as Christmas presents. Our favorite way of serving the boozy fruits is with ice cream, yogurt or cake. The fruity brandy is delicious served hot in shot glasses, or mixed with red wine for a variation on mulled wine. Alternatively, purée the fruits with their liquor and use as a sauce for desserts or with game dishes.
Makes approx. four 12-oz jars
Wash the fruit and pat dry on paper towels. Pit and halve the fruits. Divide the fruit and sugar among the sterilized jars and top up with brandy. Seal and set aside in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks, turning the jars upside down every day until the sugar dissolves. Store for 3 months before sampling, although it can be matured for up to a year in a cool, dark place.