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The Food Lab: Here's What I'm Eating on Thanksgiving

Standard menu - we're scaling back and keeping it simple this year. I figure my prep shouldn't be more than 4 hours spread across two days.

Lumpia (filipino egg rolls, my mom's claim to fame and always heavily requested regardless of any other menu items)

Cheese/sausage/olive plate

Salad (probably feta and some kind of nuts/dried fruit, not sure yet)

Spatchcocked red bourbon turkey from our local poultry farm

Sage and sausage stuffing

Mashed potatoes

Green bean casserole

Cranberry chutney

Giblet gravy

Cranberry and black pepper shrub cocktails

Pies, pies, and a pumpkin roll (I do the savory dishes, the rest of the guests do dessert)

Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Carrots?

Carrots are also great in compost and as projectile weapons. Forced consumption of carrots is a classic form of punishment for kids from 3 to 33.

I do not like carrots, Sam I Am.

Easy, Ultimate Clams Casino

These are delicious - easiest the best version of clams casino I've had. That said, it is quite a tedious recipe as each step requires quite a bit of hands-on attention. These aren't something you necessarily want to make if you'll be cooking multiple items at the same time. That said, the end product is so rich that 4-6 per person is fine for an appetizer so don't think you need to make too many. Serve them with plenty of lemon.

On the breadcrumbs, don't worry about dicing the bacon too fine. I left my bacon relatively large but then put the finished toasted breadcrumbs into a food processor to get everything to a uniform size before using. It worked great. I'll be using these breadcrumbs on a number of items from this point forward (mac and cheese are up first).

The leftover butter did indeed go very well with pasta as did the extra breadcrumbs. I added some parmesan for sharpness and capers for acidity and I think the crowd actually liked the pasta better than the clams!

How to Season and Maintain a Wooden Cutting Board

@ wordsfailme - I know the post is a little stale but give your board a good sanding. It's like hitting the reset button on a chopping board. You'll need to reseason as if from scratch though.

How to Season and Maintain a Wooden Cutting Board

RE: garlic smells (and onion, to a much lesser extent). There's not much you can do once the smell is embedded in the board.

Depending how heavy it is, you can try saturating the board in lemon juice, sprinkling it with baking soda, and letting it sit overnight to see how well that works. When done, scrape the soda off with a bench scraper and give the board a normal cleaning as you would after any other use. This will work pretty well with lighter smells but won't completely eliminate a heavy contamination.

Outside of that, sanding is really your only other option and you'll usually need to go pretty deep to get below the stink. I now only use plastic for garlic as I ruined a pretty expensive Boos board with garlic and couldn't get the stink out no matter how much I sanded (I even had a belt sander).

Also, raw meats aren't generally that big a deal if your board is well seasoned. That said, I usually make it a practice to wipe down my board with a white vinegar solution after using it for meats just to stay on the safe side.

Chengdu Taste is the Best Sichuan Restaurant in America. Here's What to Order.

I love sichaun food but man will it leave you stinking for an entire day afterwards. Those restaurants must go through bushels of garlic on a normal day.

I don't have a great frame of reference but I really like the Sichaun place by us - Han Dynasty in Philly and suburban NJ.

Sous Vide Your Way to the Juiciest, Most Flavor-Packed Corn on the Cob

Tried this one last night. Texture was awesome (crisp yet soft and pulled away from the cob will little effort) and resulting butter/corn juice coating over each ear was delicious.

That said, we didn't find it quite worth the effort. At the height of the summer, fresh sweet corn is so good when prepared with faster & lower fuss methods (grilled, blanched, microwaved, etc.) that the extra work/time required to set up a sous vide rig, get the water to temp, bag the corn and cook it for 30 minutes didn't seem worth it. Having to desilk the corn while hot (and buttery) and fighting with floating bags were gravy on the headache.

Oh well, this is pretty much the first Food Lab recipe that I likely won't give a repeat performance. Given a record of something like 5 million hits to one miss, I suppose I can let it slide :)

Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Cauliflower?

In line with the recommendations to cook it on the grill, I love it best when roasted at high heat with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Caramelized salty goodness.

It's also great as a substitute for mashed potatoes (steam until soft then mash with butter and seasonings of your choice, I personally like curry powder and a touch of tumeric).

Greek-Style Grilled Chicken With Oregano, Garlic, Lemon, and Olive Oil

Alternatively, Jacques pepin has a cool method for doing a spatchcocked chicken in the oven pressed between two skillets or a skillet and some bricks or something like that. I bet that would work here. You should be able to find it on google.

Greek-Style Grilled Chicken With Oregano, Garlic, Lemon, and Olive Oil

To replicate a grilled lemon in the oven, you can probably just split a lemon in half, give it a light rob with oil and roast in the oven with the chicken for the last 15-20 minutes or so.

Greek-Style Grilled Chicken With Oregano, Garlic, Lemon, and Olive Oil

Great flavor but I can't get the hang of grilling a supermarket sized chicken whole. I'll definitely make this again but I'll butcher the chicken first If I can't get a small 3 pounder or just roast in the oven. It should work out pretty much the same.

If roasting, I'd butterfly the chicken and throw it in a hot oven (400f-425f) until the breast measures 155 or so and the thigh measures about 165. Let it rest for 15-20 minutes and then carve. The flavor will be the same though the skin might not be quite as crispy as you'd get on the grill. It'll still be awesome.

Simple Grilled Potato Salad With Grilled Lemon Vinaigrette

@kvthames - the potatoes need a bit of time to set up, dry out, and cool after par boiling. The longer the better. If you try to grill/roast while they're still hot they won't form a crispy crust and will likely fall apart. If they do hold together they'll just turn out gummy/chewy.

I'm guessing it has something scientific to do with starch. Or possibly magic potato elves.

Simple Grilled Potato Salad With Grilled Lemon Vinaigrette

Really nice recipe. I followed the recipe as written but roasted the potatoes instead of grilling after par cooking (I used the method for ultra crispy potatoes from this site after tossing with the oil, oregano, garlic, and parsley).

Flavor is great and the contrast between acidic dressing and crispy creamy potatoes is awesome. The contrast is why it's good to serve immediately after dressing. You'll lose it a bit once the potatoes soak for a while. Still really good but not quite the same.

Order a Sloppy Joe in Jersey and You Won't Find Ground Beef

NJ native here and I love these things though I will admit to asking for the cole slaw on the side so I can put it on each bite with a fork. Removes much of the sloppiness and makes sure that each bite has an appropriate amount of cole slaw.

How I Built a Barbecue Restaurant in Brooklyn: Why No One Opens on Time

As someone who has harbored thoughts of opening a small restaurant (or at least providing the funding and grunt work to run one), I can safely say that this series has absolutely changed my mind. I mean that in the best way possible.

Thank you for a very honest portrayal of what the experience is/was like. Reading this series has really made me understand how deep your passion has to run in order to make it worthwhile.

Should You Really Only Cook With Wine You'd Drink? The Truth About Cooking With Wine

@badseed1980 - you nailed it, though I will admit to swilling down my fair share of plonk because it was there and I didn't need it for cooking anymore.

Put Brown Butter to Use in This Moist and Tender Cornbread

The eternal 5 year old in me can't help but love sweet and moist corn bread. I call it cornbread but it's really more of a cake.

Beautiful lead picture but ugh. I always cringe when I see spilled honey. I pity whoever had to clean that up.

The Bird That Bites Back: How Nashville Hot Chicken is Made

I've longed to try authentic hot chicken but since I have no way to get some, I've resigned myself to trying to make a batch homemade. Problem is, I have zero point of comparison for what good should taste like.

Sounds like the spice is more of a straight cayenne with a little bit of sweet than it is a Szechuan type salty/numbing burn?

Can anybody point me towards a recipe that would give me a reasonable approximation of the real deal?

How I Built a Barbecue Restaurant in Brooklyn: Why Would Anyone Want to Open a Restaurant?

As someone who considered getting into the business before realizing that 1.) my lack of talent and 2.) my tolerance to have to support my family on a shoestring wouldn't allow it, I applaud your sentiments. It's a great point about the lack of separation between your 'work' and your 'real life' - well said and definitely not something that us non-entrepreneur types have an easy time grasping (I'm certainly one who appreciates being able to 'turn off' from my work for a while to recharge).

I've always appreciated the fact that most established chefs and owners are very blunt and realistic with their advice. They'll tell you that their experiences are ones they wouldn't wish on their worst enemies and yet they'll also tell you that they wouldn't have it any other way. The common refrain is that you know if you really have the passion and if you can't imagine sacrificing everything to fulfill it, then keep well away.

I'd love to see this series continue if for nothing else than to watch how your attitudes and mindset evolves with experience. It's really really cool.

Use Your Waffle Iron to Make Decadent Almond Sandwich Cookies

Macarons not waffling shouldn't surprise anyone. Anything French will naturally find a way to thwart innovation in the kitchen. Thank you, I'll be here all ze week...

Serious question. Has anybody tried waffling macaroons? I bet that those would be awesome but you'd probably run into the same belgian vs. traditional waffle issue.

The Best Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia

I'm native to the northeast and am a tried and true cheesesteak fanatic. That said, even I will admit that the meat is usually less than stellar and mostly anonymous. It's really just a neutral binder to hold everything else together.

For me, there's just something about the wonderfully warm, soft, and greasy (in a good way) combination of meat, cheese, and fried onions bound together in a roll that's the perfect combination of chewy, crusty, and soft.

I'm happy to see that provolone is the fan favorite as I've always found cheez whiz to be too salty and not quite sharp enough to get the job done. If you're going the processed cheese route, it's better to go with american or munchee cheese. They're rich enough to satisfy without being overwhelming or cloying and both integrate well with the other flavors.

Also, there's absolutely nothing wrong with asking for extra fried onions and/or layering on some hot peppers to provide a little cut to the richness. Forgive my trashiness but ketchup is also a must.

How I Built a Barbecue Restaurant in Brooklyn: Changing the Menu and Considering Feedback

Banana pudding is delicious and if more people knew what it was, they would buy it.

The Food Lab's Complete Guide to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

@fwilger - since you're pre-slicing, there's no reason you need to cook or keep the birds whole. You can separate the turkey into legs/thighs and breast before cooking and separate the skin from the meat (at least from the breast meat).

I'd most likely sous vide the breast meat and roast the legs/thighs but you could also roast the breast meat if it's easier (maybe just layer some bacon over it to keep in some moisture). After cooking the meat, let it rest and cool a bit, then carve as normal, put into a bag, and hold in a water bath. If you cook the breast meat sous vide, then just keep in the water bath until you need it.

Cook the skin by itself (a la the sous vide turkey recipe) and hold in a warming oven until you're ready to serve.

To serve, place the carved meat onto a warm platter straight out of the bag, chop the skin into small pieces and scatter over the meat (or just pile it up and let people take what they want).

The Food Lab's Complete Guide to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Does this article factor in that the cook (me) tends to get drunker the closer we get to dinner? That always seems to be the issue for me.

@fwilger - do you hold the turkey for a couple of hours because you have other things to finish right before service or because you don't want to be stuck in the kitchen once your guests arrive?

If the former, the battle isn't how to hold the turkey, the battle is how you can rearrange your cooking schedule so the turkey is the last thing done. Casseroles, gravy, etc. all do great in a warming oven. Meat is one of the few things that won't and even a short amount of time at 175 will kill it, regardless of what happens to the skin (especially if pre-sliced).

If the latter (i.e., you don't want to be stuck in the kitchen when guests are there), then you might want to explore sous vide. Cook the meat and skin separately a la the sous vide turkey recipe posted last week. The crisp skin should do fine in a warming oven.

Meat can be held in the water and kept at temp until right before service. If you don't want to cook the meat sous vide, you can still cook in the oven, let it cool off, put it into a bag, and then reheat in the water bath right before service (sous vide is wonderful for reheating meat).

If you cook the turkey sous vide, you could even cook the meat days ahead of time and keep in the fridge until T-day. Keep in the bag and then reheat in water right before dinner.


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