Saturday, November 27, 2010

218. Spicy Cranberry Relish (p. 903)

Every year at Thanksgiving, I'm responsible for two things: pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. If you've read my last post, you know that my attempt at mixing it up with the pumpkin pie was a bit of a bust. I wasn't taking any chances with the cranberry sauce, though. I decided to make this recipe as "something new," but I also made a batch of traditional whole-berry sauce using the recipe from the back of the Ocean Spray package.

This recipe is very easy. I pulsed some red onion, raw cranberries and a whole serrano chile together in the food processor with some lime zest and juice and a bit of sugar. The result is a tasty relish that is lively, fresh and spicy-but-not-too-spicy. It's not really the ideal match for a traditional thanksgiving meal, though. The lime flavor is pretty bold and a bit out of place with mashed potatoes and gravy. It's great spread on a sandwich of leftover turkey, though.

Date Cooked: November 24, 2010
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B

Friday, November 26, 2010

217. Pecan Pumpkin Pie (p. 768)

Sometimes, when you try to do two things at once, you end up doing neither very well.

The Book calls this recipe "the ideal solution for people who can't decide whether to bake pecan pie or pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving." The result, however, was less than impressive, I'm sorry to say.

This pie is basically the turducken of pies. It starts out with a single-crust pie shell, which has been blind-baked. Then there is a thin layer of pumpkin pie filling, which is a bit thicker than the traditional filling recipe. Finally, it's topped off with a layer of pecan pie filling, spooned over the pumpkin. The finished pie was, as I said, a bit of a disappointment. The flavor of the pumpkin pie filling was a little bland. Maybe not enough salt, or not enough spices. The textures of the two fillings didn't work that well together, either.

Next year, I'm going to make a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie, and have a slice of each. It's Thanksgiving after all, a day when there's no such thing as too much dessert.

Date Cooked: November 24, 2010
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: C

Sunday, November 7, 2010

216. Pecan Pie Bars (p. 694)

Has it really been six months since my last post? Six months! Really?

Being a dad to an almost-two-year-old, and a young lawyer has been pretty hectic these past few months. I have been cooking, but not nearly as much as I used to. I have a backlog of lots and lots of recipes cooked, but not blogged. I'll probably have to do a list-type-post soon. But today, I've managed to find a few minutes to myself while both my wife and son are napping. So, while I watch the Pats lose to the Browns, I'll tell you about something that I made this week.

My office had its first annual dessert bake-off on Friday. Several people at work know about the project, so I have a bit of a reputation to protect when it comes to cooking. I picked this recipe as my entry because it looked like a winner: Crispy shortbread crust with a sticky, sweet nutty topping. How could I go wrong? Well, it went very, very wrong, and alas, I didn't even place in the contest.

There were two problems with the finished product. One was my fault -- I forgot to add the salt. The other problem -- they were a bit overcooked -- I'm blaming on the Book. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The crust is very easy. Just throw some flour, butter, and light brown sugar in the food processor and blend until it starts to clump a bit. If you're actually paying attention to what you're doing, following the directions, and want the bars to taste good, you'll also put in a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I, of course absent-mindedly forgot this last ingredient, and wow, what a difference it made in the finished product. The crust had a very odd, flat taste. Salt makes all the difference in the flavor of baked goods.

The crust gets pressed into the bottom of a baking dish and baked until golden. While the crust is cooking, make the topping. Melt some butter in a saucepan and add some light brown sugar, honey and a little cream. Bring it to a simmer and add some chopped pecans. Spread the topping over the crust and bake some more.

The Book says to "bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes." Well, it was bubbling after about 2 minutes. I figured that it couldn't be done yet, so I left it in the over and kept watching and smelling to make sure that it didn't burn. It didn't burn, but it got a bit darker and harder than I think it was supposed to. In fact, after it cooled, the edges were so hard that I was only able to get the middle out. The edges were fused to the baking dish and I had to soak it overnight to get the pan clean.

The bars that I was able to salvage were fine. Like I said, the crust was definitely missing "something," and the topping wasn't great.

I'm thinking about the Pecan Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving dessert. Maybe that will go better?

Date Cooked: November 4, 2010
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: C-