I tried out for the Butterball Hotline’s national Man-search a few weeks ago.
I was not selected.
But it wasn’t a complete, bummery loss. This video, lovingly produced by Michael Gabriele (with lovely theme music from Alana Grelyak and Sara Wolfson) is now available for you to use/enjoy/laugh at.
I hate being on camera, but spending a day filming and making turkey with Michael, Alana and Sara was a blast.
Hope you guys dig it. It’s a pretty foolproof method for your Thanksgiving turkey.
So. I had all these grand plans to make you White Castle stuffing, and bacon-basket potatoes, and vegan sides last week.
And then life just got away from me.
Also: I caught a nasty, nasty cold that makes me sound like someone’s stuffed fiberglass insulation into my sinuses.
But for those of you still in need of some last-minute recipe ideas, I’ve pulled a few from friends who have graciously allowed me to share them with you.
This first one is from my friend Sherrie, whose own skills in the kitchen are nothing to sneeze at. This particular recipe is a subject of great debate at Thanksgiving, as there are, literally, too many cooks in the kitchen.
The Kluesner Women’s Random Modification of a 1940s Carnation Milk Cookbook Cranberry Salad
BY SHERRIE VOSS MATTHEWS
So, my mom was either busy (likely) or hasn’t checked her gmail lately (also likely). So I went on a hunt through my cookbook collection to try and jog my memory.
In one of the many church compilation cookbooks ala fundraisers, I found a similar recipe. (Am I the only one who has tons of these? Midwestern gal, easy Christmas gift? No? Just me, then?)
From my aunt. My mother’s younger sister. Hmmmm.
Suspicious, I dug into the cookbooks I inherited from my grandmother. My maternal grandmother. And on page 38 of a cookbook I no longer own the cover to, I discovered Molded Raw Cranberry Salad.
Ah, the 1940s. They knew how to name dishes, didn’t they?
It is essentially my Grandmother Kluesner’s cranberry recipe, which my mother makes every year, with her own modifications. I help. And modify. Or ruin, depending on your perspective.
What you need:
- 2 c. raw cranberries
- 1 c. cold water
- 1 c. granulated sugar
- Juice of one lemon (hey, this is in the original, and it would make it TONS better)
- 1/2 c. chopped walnuts. (My mom chunks them. I chop them fairly fine. This is a point of contention. My sister generally tries to stay out of it.)
- 1 c. chopped celery (I leave this out. I love celery, but ew. No. This is another point of contention.)
- 1 c. chopped seedless grapes, white (I put this in instead of the celery. My mom adds it as an extra.)
- 1 c. chopped raw apples. I prefer Jonagold if I can get them. My mom doesn’t care. Whatever is on sale. We chop them into 1/4 inch chunks. Not super-fine, but not super-chunky, either. How’s that for technical?
- 2 peeled oranges, chunked, save 1/2 of the peels, chopped fine. (That’s my aunt’s addition. We may have to try the peel thing this year.)
Here’s the land of dispute:
You will need either:
- 1 package orange Jell-O (my aunt) OR
- 1 package cranberry Jell-O (my mother) OR
- 1 package plain gelatine (me)
- 1 c. hot water
And there’s a variation that includes marshmallows. Don’t. Trust me, don’t go there. EW.
- Dump the cranberries in a food processor or blender and chop to a fine, granular texture. Chop everything else, if you haven’t already.
- Pour 1 c. of cold water in bowl. Add in whichever gelatine mix you picked into the water, add 1 c. hot water, and stir until dissolved.
- Aside: I am actually not allowed to make the Jell-O. I am a foodie at heart, I make all sorts of complicated recipes, but I screw up Jell-O every time. This is legendary in my family. And my in-laws’ family. I truly make a gooey mess, even when I follow the instructions. Jell-O does not like me. My sister or my daughter generally makes the Jell-O part. If I do it, the recipe is doomed. DOOOO-mmmmmeeeddddd.
- Add lemon juice to Jell-O mix. Set aside.
- Mix cranberries, walnuts, grapes, apples and oranges and peel. (Hey, lemon peel might be good too. See how it morphs over time?)
- Stir in the sugar. Mix the fruit/nut/sugar mix into the Jell-O bowl. Stir well.
- Here’s the 1940s part: “Place salad in individual molds and let congeal in the refrigerator. Serve in lettuce cups.”
- Here’s reality: We do this the night before, stick it in the downstairs fridge, and we divide into two bowls to let it set better. If we forget to divide it, we have cranberry/nut soup the next day. (This is still good, but a bummer for the people who want gelled cranberries.)
Next, we come to my friend Leslie Dombalis, who’s wonderful and smells like daisies. (Her grandmother is, apparently, not so cool, but her food is fine.)
Swedish Tea Ring
BY LESLIE DOMBALIS
- 2 C hot milk
- 12-20 cardamom seeds or 1 T vanilla
- 1 C sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 C butter
- 7 to 8 cups flour
- 2 t salt
- 2 packs dry yeast
Combine milk, sugar, butter and salt. Cool to luke warm. Dissolve the yeast as directed on package in a small amount of warm water. Add to milk mixture. Beat in flavoring and eggs. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough; put rest on bread board. Turn the dough out and make it your bitch aka knead in enough flour so that the dough is not sticky, but be sure not to add too much. Place in a buttered bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise again. This amount of dough will make 2 tea rings.
Take half the dough and roll it into a rectangle. Brush liberally with melted butter and sprinkle with brown or white sugar (be heavy-handed about it), currants, raisins, dried cranberries, whatever you want. (My mother always uses pecans and raisins; I prefer chopped orange peel and cranberries.) Roll up the dough long ways to make a ring, tuck the edges under and seal. Place on well-greased cookie sheet or pizza pan. Make cuts in the dough with scissors, about 1 inch apart, but do not cut all the way through. Lay each layer on its side. Let rise, then bake at 375 roughly 45 min. DO NOT OVER BAKE.
If you’d rather make cinnamon rolls, cut all the way through your ring. Frost if you want.
Ghio Family Cornbread Stuffing/Dressing (transcribed directly from my racist-ass grandmother’s cookery book.)
BY LESLIE DOMBALIS
You will need:
- 1 8×8 pan or so of cornbread, usually made the day before. Use the recipe on the box.
- 1 lb sausage
- 2 med onions chopped fine
- 2 sticks of celery chopped fine
- 6 cups celery leaves chopped fine
- 1 tsp sage
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 C chopped pecans
- 1 C oysters
Put a small amount of oil or butter (2 or 3 T) in a skillet with celery, leaves and onions. Cook over low heat until transparent or white looking. Crumble cornbread and mix (using your hands) with raw sausage. Add cooled celery/onion mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. This can be done the night before, just be sure to refrigerate over night.
I usually put the neck & giblets in a pan of water to cook the night before, covered with a little salt and simmered for a few hours. The next day, when you stuff the bird, you can use a little juice to moisten the dressing. Then when you make the dressing balls, grease the pan you put them in and pour a little of the giblet juice (hehehee) over them. The rest can be used in the gravy along with the cut-up giblets, if you wish. Bake with the bird.
Sweet Potato Casserole
BY LESLIE DOMBALIS
- 2 C sweet potatoes
- 1/2 C white sugar
- 1 C milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp orange extract
- 2 T flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 C melted butter
- Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 425. Mix it all together, pour into a 4-6 cup casserole dish, bake until set. Make topping.
- 1 C crushed gingersnaps
- 1/4 melted butter
- 1 C brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (the ratio of spices in the next recipe is perfect)
Mix all this stuff together. Sprinkle over top of COOKED casserole and return to oven to brown for 10-15 minutes.
BY MEHGAN BELANGER RECKER
- 1 bag seasoned stuffing mix (I know, blasphemy…but that’s how it’s done in my mom’s house)
- 2 packages ground pork sausage (country or sage is best. We use jones brand, not sure if you have that over there).
- 4 sticks celery, chopped (add in the leafy parts from the inside too – don’t be wasteful)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 green or other tart apple chopped
- 1 package fresh cranberries, sliced in half
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2c Chicken or turkey stock (better be homemade)
- 1 part Rosemary, 2 parts thyme and 2 parts sage, chopped
- Empty stuffing mix into large bowl.
- Brown sausage in big pan. Once done, move to large bowl.
- Sauté veggies in big pan, in sausage grease (yum). Once softened and onions are barely translucent, add to large bowl.
- Add apples and cranberries to large bowl. Let cool a bit before finishing up.
- Mix with hands until mostly homogenous. Yes, hands. It is more fun and effective!
- Add the eggs one at a time, and mix to combine.
- Add stock, 1/4 c at a time, until moist but not wet. (See cooking notes below for adjustments).
- Add chopped spices as needed, mixing to incorporate, until the mixture is quite fragrant with spicy goodness. If you can’t smell the spices, you need more.
If baking outside of bird or in casserole dish by itself, add all the liquid. Bake for an hour at the same temp of turkey.
Or, if spatchcocking the bird, as is now law in my house, reserve 1/2 to 1c of the stock. Spread stuffing in the middle of 2 sheet pans. Place baking rack on top of one pan. Turkey goes on top of that, and try to keep all stuffing covered by turkey (to prevent burning). yummy turkey drippings add bonus flavor to stuffing while cooking in oven.
Here’s the tricky part: Remove pan 1 halfway through turkey cooking, and swap out for pan 2 to finish out the turkey cooking process. Pan 1 will need to be brought up to internal temp of 150 though, before serving, to ensure no extended guest stays in bathroom. Not bad when you have a double oven, but might be a deal breaker for some. A pain, yes. Worth it? Completely.
Good luck over the next few days, guys. And happy Thanksgiving!
My friends Kendra and Kapil recently got hitched at this epic Hindu-Christian Indian-chow New-England-lobster-bake affair in Maine. Two wonderful, loving families brought together by two amazing people WHO SERVED UNLIMITED AMOUNTS OF SHELLFISH AND BUTTER CHICKEN HOLY F*CKING HELL THAT WAS AMAZING.
I’ve limited experience with New England food culture – not counting all of the lobsters and clams and oysters I destroyed – so I was unprepared for the simple, addictive charms of the dessert they served at their reception, the Whoopie Pie.
A favorite in Maine – it’s sugar and egg whites and shortening and vanilla, whipped and pressed between two chocolate cake rounds. Light and fluffy and rich and dangerous. I’m pretty sure I ate at least a half-dozen over the course of the evening. No regrets, save for the lack of them once I returned to Chicago.
The following week, Kendra’s family’s friend Nancy came to my rescue with an email that included a brilliant, easy recipe and these words of comfort and wisdom:
I promised you a recipe for the Whoopie Pie cookie you were in ecstasy over on Sunday night. This is the Real Deal. Do not even think about trying the marshmallow fluff substitute recipes that are out there. These freeze beautifully, and get better after a couple days when the filling develops a kind of crisp exterior that gives when you bite down – a little bit of Maine heaven.
I asked Kendra if she wouldn’t mind putting some together with me for The83k – and she graciously agreed. But then I realized, with all of the tastiness we were making, we’d be leaving someone out. Someone who can’t eat chocolate. Someone very, very important.
This is Chester.
Chester is K&K’s animal friend. Adorable, goofy – and unable to eat any amount of chocolate goodness. Which seemed unfair. I mean, LOOK AT THAT DAMN FACE.
So I asked the internet, and it turns out blogger and cookbook author Hannah Kaminsky already had an answer: dog-friendly carob sandwich cookies with mashed potato filling – what she calls WOOFIE PIES.
So we decided to make both.
First: Nancy Farnum’s Whoopie Pies
In a house full of beautiful stuff, as Kendra and Kapil’s is, it was hard to stop looking at everything and get started on the task at hand. Especially after we started on the booze. But then a certain someone reminded us why I was there in the first place.
So while I creamed some shortening and sugar (you can use a fork – hard – or a hand mixer or stand mixer – easy), Kendra mixed some flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa together.
We added some egg yolks and vanilla to the shortening mixture, then started integrating the dry components along with something called sour milk (which is not the same as buttermilk, apparently.)
A little vinegar, a lot of whole milk. It’s weird. But it WORKS.
Once everything comes together, we dropped tablespoon-sized rounds onto parchment paper and baked those suckers.
RECIPE NOTE: If you’re baking with a friend AND an adorable animal, one of you can start putting together the filling (sugar, egg whites, shortening, salt and vanilla)…
…while the other one takes more pictures of the dog.
You’ll probably need two baking sheets to wind up with about 24 cake rounds. You should probably make yours a little smaller than I did.
Assembly is at once super easy and impossibly difficult, since the urge to start stuffing the filling directly into your face is hard to resist. IT’S WHIPPED SUGAR AND FAT, people.
They turned out okay.
We were going to try to make these Thanksgiving-ish by adding a cranberry reduction to the inside – and you’re welcome to do that if you want to add some sweetness and tartness – but to be honest, these don’t really need anything else but a little care and a lot of people you wanna make happy. Thanks, Nancy!
So. Much. Tastiness.
After we finished with our treats, we stopped torturing Chester with our laughter and our baking smells and got to his:
Second: Hannah Kaminsky’s Woofie Pies.
I detest puns. But I was pretty sure Chester wouldn’t have any problem with them, or the food we were about to make him.
Kendra chopped and boiled some potato (make sure to peel thoroughly and remove ALL green parts – they’re not good for dogs) while I put the dry and wet parts of the carob cookies together. (Flour, baking soda, carob powder, baking powder / carrot juice, pumpkin puree, vinegar and olive oil.)
We dolloped these onto sheets and baked them off – 6 to 9 minutes – and then filled them with the mashed potato.
Someone liked them.
A lot. Chester is a Clean Plate Club PLATINUM MEMBER.
Your friends – both human and furry – will appreciate your efforts in the kitchen, whoopie- and woofie-pie-wise. We had a great time. We hope you will, too. Enjoy getting whooped – and woofed!
- Kendra, Kapil, Chester & Theo
RECIPE: Nancy Farnum’s Whoopie Pies
Yield: 12 large or 24 small whole whoopie pies
For the cakes:
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 tbsp. cocoa
- 1 cup sour milk (add 1 tsp. vinegar to 1 cup milk and stir.)
Cream shortening and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with sour milk. Place by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet, parchment paper or silpat pad. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool cookies before filling.
For the filling:
- 2 egg whites
- 3/4 cups shortening
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Pinch salt
Beat egg whites until light and fluffy. Cream shortening and sugar until smooth and add to beaten egg whites. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt. Fill between 2 cookies, sandwich-fashion.
The Woofie Pies recipe (from Hannah Kaminsky) can be found here. Your pups will gobble it up. Believe it.
I have a complicated relationship with Thanksgiving, mainly because I resent the fact it’s only one day and my stomach isn’t built like a TARDIS.
This year, Jews around the world who observe American Thanksgiving are dealing with a complication that’s actually worth kvetching over – the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day: November 28th. It’s almost never happened before (since Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1863, we’ve seen it once – in 1888) and, according to some calculations, won’t happen again for roughly 70,000 years. And a few Jews are happy about that, unhappy about the day doing double-duty – either savoring Thanksgiving’s secular, unifying Americanness – or sad about sharing the Festival of Lights with Turkhanalia.
However, many, many other Jews – and friends and relations of Jews – are buying extra-special eating pants in anticipation of this most glorious and special of holidays: Thanksgivukkah.
For those of you looking to make a hearty side dish for your non-kosher, superdelicious, chimeric holiday feast: I hope you like lamb and cheese and Brussels sprouts and cumin and fennel and noodles and deliciousness. And adjustable waistband pants.
Note: part of this post was adapted from Heather Cristo’s brilliant pesto recipe. Tasty stuff, no matter what time of year it is.
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (you can use just about any ground protein, but lamb is definitely the way to go here)
- 2 tblsp olive oil, plus 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 2 cups panko-style breadcrumbs
- 2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- juice of 1 large lemon
- 3 Tbs finely grated Parmesan plus more for garnish
- 1 lb egg noodles
- 4 eggs
- 1 lb(ish) ricotta
- 6 oz dried cranberries (optional)
- 4 oz toasted pepitas (optional)
- 1/4 shallot, minced (optional)
- 8 tblsp (4 ounces) unsalted butter, separated
- 1 pomegranate
- mint leaves
- Preheat your oven to 400°. Open a window and a bottle of malbec. Things are about to get cumin-y and red-wine worthy.
- Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Take your cumin and fennel seed and toast your spices briefly, stirring often, until fragrant.
- Add olive oil to pan and stir, quickly, until spices are mixed in. Add ground lamb, salt and pepper, and, while breaking up meat with wooden spoon, brown lamb 5-8 minutes, stirring often.
- Remove ground lamb with slotted spoon, and set lamb aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons butter to hot pan and fat. Stir until melted and combined. Pour in breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown. Set breadcrumbs aside.
- Set a pot of water to boil, salt it, and while that’s heating up, halve your sprouts. Take any excessively woody ends off, too.
- Carefully drop your sprouts into the boiling water. Cook for about 2-3 minutes.
- Pull ‘em out with a strainer and rinse them under cold water for a bit. Leave water on a low simmer.
- Put sprouts into food processor and pulse together with garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil until a paste is formed.
- Add in almonds, juice from the lemon and salt until everything is well-combined. Season to taste.
- Move mixture to a very large bowl and add the Parmesan. Congrats! You’ve made pesto!
- Bring the water back up to a boil and cook egg noodles in same pot, 1-to-1.5 minutes shy of lowest suggested cooking time. Drain, and place hot noodles into large bowl with pesto mixture. Toss to combine.
- Whisk eggs in separate bowl and combine with ricotta. (Extremely optional step here – reserve half your ricotta and top each serving with a small dollop of fresh cheese to stir in later on.) Pour egg and cheese mixture over noodles, along with lamb (and cranberries, pepitas and shallot, if using.) Fold everything together using a large spoon or spatula.
- Butter a large casserole dish (one with high walls would be great), and put everything from the big bowl in there. Smush it down a little with a spatula.
- Cover with foil and bake. After 40 minutes, remove foil and add panko topping, and continue to bake, uncovered, for another 20 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.
- While kugel is baking, break down your pomegranate and mince your mint.
- Serve kugel with mint and pomegranate arils.
I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a mess. But damn if it doesn’t taste amazing. A worthy dish to accompany your once-in-seventy-millenia Thanksgivukkah turkey, friends. Hope you dig it!
Anyone who says stuffing isn’t the best part of Thanksgiving is lying to you or themselves. And at The83k, we’ll be tackling this, as well as many, many other Thanksgiving dishes in the weeks to come. We’ll be sending you traditional stuff, like this sausage stuffing with cranberries, apples and almonds, as well as different sauces and relishes for your table (kimchi-cranberry slaw, for instance) and variations on classics (CLASSY White Castle stuffing, bacon basket potatoes, vegetarian- and vegan-friendly sides and WHOOPIE PIE.)
And some very special turkey and main course recipes to impress/annoy your in-laws.
But for now, let’s get started!
- 1 1.5-to-2-pound loaf sourdough bread, bread cut into 3/4 to 1/2 cubes or chunks (if you can get the pre-sliced, pre-toasted stuff your local grocery’s bakery makes in-house, grab that. Just make sure it’s quality stuff.)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2.5 pounds bulk pork breakfast sausage (get the good stuff in the case and cut the casings open yourself, if you can’t get bulk)
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 6 stalks chopped celery
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled apples (your choice on variety; granny smiths are good, though you’re good to go with just about any tart, sweet apple)
- 6 ounces dried cranberries
- 4 ounces sliced almonds
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 3 large eggs
If not using pre-toasted bread, position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Spread bread on 1 or 2 baking sheets and toast for 15-30 minutes. Open oven wide briefly every ten minutes to clear out moisture. Check on bread every few minutes after 10 or 15 to make sure bread doesn’t burn. Bread should be golden brown…ish. I mean, you know what you like, texture-wise, here. Remove toasted bread from oven and put it into a big-ass bowl.
Preheat large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully toast fennel seeds, stirring often, until fragrant. Add sausage and sauté until cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Turn heat down and move sausage from skillet to big-ass bowl with slotted spoon. Put your onions and celery into the hot pan with the drippings and sauté THAT – about 12 minutes. Dump everything into the bowl.
Melt two tablespoons of budder in the skillet and add apples. Sauté those suckers over medium-high heat for another 10, stirring often. Add all that goodness to your bowl (which now must smell amazing, right?) Add the almonds and cranberries at this point, as well.
Melt the remaining budder in that same skillet and, over that same medium-high heat, add the sage. Stir that around for 30 seconds, and then pour all that awesomeness over the stuff in the big bowl. Now get a pair of implements with some leverage (serving spoons, spatulas, gardening trowels, your own dough-pounders) and, while seasoning it with salt and pepper (and dukkah, if you’ve got it) mix it allllllll together. Awwwww yeah. Feels kinda wrong. And yet, so right.
You can put this in the fridge, covered, for a day. Or you can do what I’d do, and put the heat to it immediately.
Turn the oven down to 350° (or preheat, if you fridged the stuffing). Whisk the broth and eggs together and pour THAT over your bready, sausagey goodness. Using those same gardening trowels (or big spoons, whatever) combine everything well, and then pour your mixture into a big casserole dish, buttered – 10×15, if you didn’t leave it at your friend’s house after the last potluck, dummy. (NEVER LEAVE A PAN BEHIND.)
YOU CANNOT EAT THAT RAW EGG and PARTIALLY COOKED SAUSAGE AWESOMENESS YET. YOU MUST BAKE IT, UNCOVERED, FOR 45 MINUTES. AT LEAST. MAYBE AN HOUR. UNTIL IT IS TOASTY GOLDEN AND AMAZING-LOOKING. AND THEN YOU NEED TO LET IT STAND FOR A FEW MINUTES BEFORE SHOVELING IT INTO YOUR FACE. Not only will it taste better after sitting a bit, you will avoid lavamouth.*
Your annoying in-laws won’t say anything good about the stuffing. They’ll just quietly help themselves to multiple servings until they get into an argument over who should get the last spoonful. And really, isn’t THAT what Thanksgiving is about?
*Seriously. If you’re making this for a regular dinner and not for a holiday meal, RELAX and go watch some Adventure Time. By the time one episode is over, the stuffing will be ready. And then you’ll have the second half to watch AND delicious stuffing to eat. Jake and Finn wouldn’t want it any other way.
There is nothing wrong with your standard can of chicken noodle soup.
You know what you’re getting when you pour that stuff into your microwave-safe bowl. Broth. Salt. Chicken-ish bits. Noodles the texture of steamed wontons that nourish and satisfy, kinda. Post-snowman-building soup. Pre-NyQuil-drinking soup. It is what it is.
But – as anyone who’s made their own will tell you – chicken noodle soup can be so, so much better. And stupidly easy, too, once you get the hang of it.
First, make your stock (if you want, and you should)
Look. I’m not gonna tell you NOT to use store-bought chicken broth. But making and using your own stock pays dividends down the line, beyond the scope of this recipe; you’ll have plenty of leftover cooked chicken and stock ready for other dishes, and, well, homemade stock just tastes better – often, dramatically so. It’s usually richer (and, depending on how you like things, fattier.) It tastes less like old stewed vegetables and chicken elbows and more like an afternoon in your grandmother’s kitchen. And, except for the cooking time, it requires very little work. So if you don’t already have some of this stuff chilling in your fridge or freezer, proceed as follows:
- 1 4-pound(ish) chicken, cut into pieces (either buy a chicken and cut it up yourself or ask your butcher or grocery store’s meat department to cut it up for you)
- 1 biggish onion, cut into large slices
- 1 large carrot, chunked up
- 1 celery stalk, similarly chunked
- 4 garlic cloves, whole
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper
1. Put all the ingredients into a big pot and add 16 cups of water. Lid that sucker up and bring it to a boil.
2. Once you’ve got a boil going, turn the heat down and remove the lid so you have a quiet, barely burbling simmer – I’d go down to your burner’s lowest setting, for as little as 30 minutes, or as long as 2 hours. Remember – the longer you go, the more of the connective tissue from the chicken will render into the stock, giving you even more velvety goodness.
3. Turn off the burner, and using a slotted spoon or tongs or whatever, pull the chicken and other stuff out and set aside to cool. Separate the chicken from the bones and vegetation, shred the chicken by hand, and save to use in whatever else you can think of (including the rest of this recipe.) Add salt and pepper to stock. Use, or store.
Additional, optional steps to take, if desired:
— pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve. You’ll remove some of the floaty bits and give your stock a cleaner, clearer look.
— cool your stock a bit and skim off some (but not all) of the fat from the top. You want to leave some of that tasty goodness in there, right?
Second: while the stock is going, cook up your noodles (or rice, or farro, or whatever)
What you decide to go with here is entirely up to you – though I’m suggesting you cook your noodles or grains for your soup separately, and not in the soup itself as some would suggest, reducing the cook time just enough to where your pasta or quinoa is just barely underdone. This gives you fully cooked but still firm and toothsome noodles once the soup is all put together – and, if you’re anything like me, provides extra noodles (tossed with a little oil and stored in the fridge) that you can add to another batch of soup that you’ll invariably make, now that you’ve got all that extra broth.
Third: assemble your goodies and MAKE YOUR SOUP.
This is the really fun part.
What else should be floating next to those noodles? Celery and carrots are always a good choice, and I ALWAYS add sliced shiitakes to my chicken soup – you get some deep, low notes in the broth. But really, just about anything goes. Add any, or all of the following, or whatever else works for you:
- a handful of whole garlic cloves
- minced ginger
- sliced jalapeños
- sliced fennel (for some funk and crunch)
- thinly sliced bok choy
- pear or apple slivers
- lemongrass and star anise (yes, lemongrass. IT’S REALLY EASY.)
- chopped broccolini
- pea pods
- cooked, diced potato
- cooked, diced parsnip
You probably have almost everything you need to make a delicious batch of chicken soup in your fridge and pantry right now. And what you don’t have is easily picked up on the way home from work.
And bringing this all together couldn’t be simpler:
- Bring 1.5 cups of broth for every serving to a near-boil in a large pot. Turn heat all the way down until you get a very low simmer going. Stir in whatever goodies you’ve decided on, and cook for about 15-30 minutes.
- Stir in however much of the shredded chicken you want (just eyeball it – about a cup for four servings is fine, I guess, but I’d use more) and the noodles/grains (again, eyeball it – a big handful will do) and heat through, about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper and whatever other seasonings you’d like now. (If you don’t have any precooked chicken, add in some chopped-up raw stuff and extend heating time to 8-12 minutes.)
- Top with some fresh herbs and serve (if you’ve gone the Asian route with your goodies, you might quarter up a lime and serve it alongside.)
And what you get looks a hell of a lot better than anything that’s ever come out of a can.
Honestly, once you’ve got the stock and the chicken part down, you can just wing it. After a few tries, you’ll be improv-ing in the produce aisle and whipping up magical, chickeny, noodly elixirs like a FRICKING WIZARD.
Do right by yourself, and your family and friends this fall. Leave the red and white can on the shelf. And have some fun.
Yes, a simple grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup is warm and satisfying. But can’t we do better, friends? For one meal, can’t we leave nostalgia for that platonic post-leaf-raking, aprés-snow-shoveling meal aside, and give as much love to the grilled cheese sandwich as it has given us?
Which is to say: how about some jam or fig preserves and thinly sliced apple or pear inside the sandwich, to give it a little sweetness and crunch? And then a little ragù alla bolognese (meat sauce!) to spoon onto every bite? With some mushrooms thrown in, maybe?
Give it a try. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.
Why build a meat sauce from scratch just so you can make your grilled cheese a little extra awesome?
First of all – learning how to make a ragù alla bolognese, if you don’t know already, is always a good idea. You’ll wind up with a rich and satisfying pasta sauce that you can use in many other dishes (it goes particularly well with fettuccine.)
Secondly – unless you’re serving ten sandwiches, you’ll have plenty of sauce leftover for those other dishes – this stuff freezes well.
Thirdly – if you make the grilled cheese as suggested here, the contrast of the slight sweetness of the preserves and the apple with the meaty richness of the ragù will cause your tongue to bro-ishly demand hi-fives from all your other organs – even your curmudgeonly gall bladder will grudgingly admit you could have done a lot worse.
Prepare for awesomeness.
Grilled cheese sandwiches with pork-mushroom ragù alla bolognese.
For the sauce:
- 1 large or two small onions, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled, chopped
- 6 cloves minced garlic (Love garlic? Use more. Don’t like garlic? Use less – but use some, at least – it’ll add a certain somethin’.)
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 oz ground pork
- 4 oz ground beef (85% lean)
- 4 oz. bacon, chopped
- 6 oz mushrooms, chopped (fresh shiitake if you can find them) (optional)
- 1/2 cup red wine (something dry)
- 2 3/4 cups chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup whole milk
For the grilled cheese sandwich:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 slices of sturdy white bread (something big and hearty)
- 1 oz fontina, grated (yes, you’ll probably have to grate it yourself. Make sure it’s cold before you get started – this stuff is soft.)
- 1 oz aged provolone, grated
- a little more than 1 tablespoon fig preserve or any good jam or preserve you have on hand.
- thin slices of your favorite apple or pear (as thin as you can get them; I’d recommend Honeycrisp or Bartlett pear, but any tasty apple or pear will do.)
For yourself, while you’re cooking:
- A glass or two of the red wine
- some of that cheese
- The new Stephen King sequel to “The Shining” or one of the robot-building competition episodes from NOVA or Scientific American on Netflix – because robots and nerds are awesome. Just like grilled cheese sandwiches.
1. Get out a big, wide, heavy sauce pan or pot. Drop about 2-3 tablespoons of oil in and warm it over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic. Sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Add the meat and the mushrooms. Crumble the meat in the pan with a wooden spoon and brown it (the mushrooms will simply cook down a little) for about 13 minutes. Watch the pan and stir often.
3. Add the wine and stir; boil for about a minute – scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the chicken stock and the tomato paste and stir; simmer on the lowest setting for about 1.25 – 1.5 hours.
5. Turn the heat up to medium high and drizzle the milk into the pot a little at a time, stirring after each drizzle, until the milk is fully incorporated, and cook that for an additional 40 minutes, with the lid almost all the way on – you want a little steam and heat to escape, but not too much. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (After this step, your sauce is DONE.)
Now, during step five, you want to be slicing those apples and grating that cheese and separating it out into two-ounce portions, per sandwich. Why 2 ounces? AND WHY CAN’T WE JUST USE AMERICAN SLICES, YOU HIGH-MAINTENANCE FOOD DORK?
Well, you can. You can use any melty kind of cheese you want. And it will be delicious. But if you decide to go the fancy-cheese route, you need to get a somewhat-precise measurement on the cheese – and it’s easier to adjust the weight on grated cheese and get even coverage than breaking off misshapen hunks of whatever you’re putting onto your sandwich.
And I’m saying two ounces because a Kraft Single slice is about an ounce – and two slices makes a perfect grilled cheese sandwich for this application. Add more if you like – but add too much, and there might be uncontrolled, unconstrained ooziness. Possible burnt cheese. And heartbreak.
Okay – back to the recipe.
6. Get your ingredients (cheese, apple slices, preserves) ready to go (mise en place) so you can assemble your sandwiches quickly.
7. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat in a pan big enough to hold two slices of bread, tipping the pan so the butter is spread evenly. Place slices in pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Check bread after 1 minute, just in case things are running too hot or too cool.
8. Move toasted bread to a cutting board, buttery sides up. On one side ONLY, add ingredients in this order:
- preserves (spread to the edges in a thin layer – here, the back of a spoon or an offset spatula may be easier than a knife)
- cheese (if using freshly grated cheese, press down and spread cheese out close to, but not all the way to the egde)
- apple slices (you got those suckers thin, right? They don’t have to be transparent, but they should be fairly slim – use a mandoline, if you’ve got one)
Put the second slice on top, buttered side facing inside.
9. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in pan, and cook one side of assembled sandwich for 3-5 minutes, checking the bottom of sandwich after 2 minutes. Occasionally, press down gently with bottom of spatula. After cooking one side, repeat with butter and other side of sandwich.
It’s important to keep the heat high enough to melt the cheese, but low enough to not burn the bread. You’ve done this before – you know how your burners behave. Just keep an eye on things.
And, after all that, as Alton Brown would say – your patience will be rewarded.
Is this more work than a can of Campbell’s? Yes. But you’ll probably get at least 2, if not 3 meals out of this – and a grilled cheese sandwich eating experience you will never forget. I promise.
P.S. You can simplify the sauce prep by working through step four and dumping everything in a slow cooker, set on low, for a few hours. You can either opt out of the milk and get a fantastic meat sauce, or add the milk and keep on going in the slow cooker for a little longer. It’s up to you, friends.
P.P.S. These recipes are adapted from content via Bon Appetit and Serious Eats. If you’re not already reading their stuff, for God’s sake, step up your game, yo.