I'm a serious cook, cheesemaker, gardener, and software development manager. I live in Vermont now.
This year, I revamped the Southern tradition of Black-Eyed Peas on New Years Day, with a new Vermont twist.
Warm Salad of Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon and Maple
I've been making them, and they are terrific.
There are recipes out there, but I had to do a lot of research to get it right.
The process to make them in the authentic way, totally natural yeasts and 20 hours in process, is a bit much to put in a recipe. There are quite a few subtle points. I'd be happy to work with anyone to help them do this, though.
In addition to the Kugelhopf I mentioned earlier, I have been making Panettone!
It's absolutely addicting, and the scent of Fiori di Sicilia while they bake is heavenly. Making another batch this weekend.
I've been making Kugelhopf in different sizes, for sharing and sending to friends. This Alsatian brioche is best served after aging for a day or two, so the process of sending it doesn't decrease the quality of the cake.
Depending on how frequently your starter is fed, you will have more or less activity. I have found that a starter needs more than a week to get going sufficiently for breadmaking. I believe it's incorrect to think that you can abuse a starter by underfeeding, or refrigerating it, and then have great bread within a day or so. Takes a bit longer if you want to do that. I keep mine going full tilt all the time. If your starter looks sad, feed it a bit. If it is not completely up to initial speed, it won't work to double its bulk.
@sarahj, the starter will always eventually take on your local flora.
Had this discussion with Jeffrey Hamelman, and he told the story of (years ago) moving his bakery to a space in a newly-constructed building. His customers started complaining about the bread, which gradually improved back to normal.
Make incredibly good soups. Taste and taste. Have 3 or 4 regularly-offered soups, so when they come back, it's there.
Also, make your own (really good) bread and rolls. That will set you (far) apart.
Make excellent pies and offer them daily.
Have good coffee and fresh-squeezed juice.
Ripen your tomatoes so they are red.
@cheftastic, regarding "The Bread".... if only I could get 340 comments for bread and butter put under a broiler. I could go into food full-time... why didn't I think of it?
Cupcakes: typically overbaked, very boring. Not worthy of a trend.
Cake decorating: I'm a little envious, but haven't eaten a decorated cake that I enjoyed.
Food snobbery: My food is better than yours, my holiday tradition is better than yours.
Hero Worship: The chef who can do no wrong, who has the best everything, who you listen to no matter what they say, who posts idiotically-brief and obvious recipes on Twitter , who recommends you buy expensive equipment to re-create their overworked concoctions...
Elf food and 1-bite cuisine: I don't want 25 courses for dinner. Who decided that we did? I also don't want to go home hungry.
Cause Food: Slow vs Fast, Locavore everything. (where I live, that's impossible anyway)
Empowering people to try new things.
Eating better for less.
Ingredient creation (up to a point)
Dining clubs. I'm fascinated by this, but I hate to think what that would mean in my neighborhood.
I took leftover turkey, creamed onions, cornbread dressing, wild rice, and spices, and turned them into some kickin' Turkey Fritters.
Very similar to crab cakes in texture, lightly sauteed in a bit of butter, they were quite a hit.
I made a spring pea flan that was really nice, posted it. It would probably work even better with regular green peas.
It may be that people are using digital meat thermometers, the kind with a probe and a little metal cable. I am a cheesemaker, and temp is extremely critical to what I do. I've found that the life of one of these cables is extremely short, particularly if you get it wet, put it in the dishwasher, or look at it sideways. I've bought a bunch of replacement probe/cables, but have finally reverted to a regular analog thermometer when I really care about the results.
Having said that, I recently bought a new digital one, which is still in its packaging. Also haven't tried the oven probe on my new kitchen stove. When a thermometer tells you the wrong thing, bad things happen. And trust is hard to restore....
@smallkitchen, I thought your question was fine, no problem. I understand completely, and it's true that sometimes things are just surprisingly disappointing. You've just learned something new about your friends, who you do care about. What you do with that information is up to you.
It is kind of sad that the celebration of Thanksgiving so often resembles a postwar food processing industry bakeoff.
@smallkitchen, please bring your appetizers to my house!! They sound so good... I think people go a little weird about Thanksgiving, because it is so rooted in family traditions. Many of our mothers were not great cooks (mine among them), and so we grew up with stuff out of a can or out of a box.
I personally would have been disappointed with the food you're describing, but things could always be worse! One time, the in-laws were hosting, and I had a small infant, who was sleeping in another room. The woman had purchased a 12-lb. turkey for 16 people. I had to leave for a couple of minutes to tend the baby, and when I came back, there was NO food left! Seems funny now...
Bottled juice isn't good for you anyway. By the time it's sugared-up and cooked for bottling, the health benefits of it are (IMHO) gone. May as well use it to make apple jelly and marmalade, or as others have said, convert it to glazes and marinades. You can also bake with it.
Orange-cranberry muffins (you might have cranberries or cranberry sauce left over), Orange cake (I have dozens of recipes for this in old community cookbooks), etc.
James Beard used orange juice and soy sauce plus garlic (if I remember correctly) as a marinade for swordfish. Best ever, and would also work for chicken. Orange sauce for Duck. And so on...
@czken! I roasted it breast-UP because the rack I was using would have left dents. Turning it is a good idea though! Cheers, Sue
..."the ice-pack-on-breasts methods a la McGee"....
I sort of can't imagine doing that.... ;-)
Instructions for what I'm describing are on my blog....
Others will tell you to brine, but in my opinion, if it is a very high-quality turkey, you might not want to brine it. The quality and flavor of the bird itself should shine through. However, you should cook it very carefully, particularly if it is not injected with water/broth/etc.
My technique (which I have contributed to this week's cook and tell) is: I divide breast and legs, roast separately (because the breast meat should not be dried out), then reassemble for the table. The result is a perfectly-roasted, not dried-out turkey.
I am doing a Diagonal-Split turkey, roasting the breast separately from the legs. Each half is roasted differently to produce optimal results, and the two halves can be reassembled into a standard-looking turkey for the table. The difference is perfect texture and flavor.
I am using a Vermont free-range brined turkey, but my technique will improve any bird: http://www.knowwhey.com/2010/11/thanksgiving-divide-and-conquer.html
I have some apple coffee cake tatins that are on photograzing right now... these were very successful, and very yummy.
Also did some pull-apart cinnamon rolls that were irresistible. Of course, anything pumpkin is good right now, too.
I had a blog post last week about making empanadas with carnitas, which were excellent.
I bought the CIA Masters Collection measuring spoons and they are really great. Very heavy stainless, and LONG. That helps a lot in many situations. Love them.
My best advice for cups and spoons is: have two sets. I constantly need the same size, which I have just covered in something wet.
Trussing. I just don't want to do it. "Knife Skills". Mine are ok, maybe very good, but I don't want to work on it any more. So, perfectly diced vegetables are just not in the cards.
Holding dough overnight. I've come up with ways of not doing that. I'm basically impatient with fussy techniques and waiting around...
All the Southern people make duck gumbo out of them. It is apparently very good, but I haven't tried it.
It's too strong as a glaze by itself, so I mix it 1:2 with maple syrup, which is pretty great on a variety of things. Also use this as a mop for grilling: