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Thanksgiving: Salted Caramel Apple Pie

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My first homemade apple pie! It was fun to make and it turned out beautifully. Unfortunately the first bite was disappointing. Much too tart, the caramel wasn’t as noticeable as I would have liked, and it wasn’t nearly sweet enough. That’s an easy enough fix. I took the 4 tablespoons of lemon juice down to 1 tablespoon, cut the lemon zest in half, put 1/3 cup of caramel into the pie instead of 1/4, and added an additional 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in with the turbinado sugar. I also lessened the amount of cardamom and added more cinnamon. The amended recipe? Let’s just say I had two pieces. In a row. 

adapted from: The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook
serves: 8-10

1 box of Pillsbury piecrusts (2 pie crusts, thawed or homemade pie dough, enough for 2 nine inch pies)

for the caramel
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream

for the apple pie filling
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 large apples, such as Granny Smith, Pink Lady, or Honey Crisps, or a combo, cored, peeled and thinly sliced ( a mandoline is recommended for even slices) I used 2 of each apple, sliced into rounds on the mandoline and cut in half
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar

1 egg beaten, for egg wash
Fleur de sel for sprinkling
vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Make the caramel

Combine the granulated sugar, fleur de sel, and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. Wash down any crystals from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Turn the heat down to medium and cook without stirring, until the syrup becomes a medium-dark amber caramel, about 15 minutes; you can carefully swirl the pan around to check the color.

Carefully remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and heavy cream. Be careful of hot steam when the heavy cream is added, and do not worry if the butter starts to separate-it will come together once the caramel is cooled. Transfer the caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or to a medium mixing bowl, if using a handheld mixer) and beat on low speed until the caramel cools and starts to come together. Set aside.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.

Prepare the dough

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round. The premade pie dough rounds are about 10 or 11 inches, so it won’t require much rolling to get to 12 inches. Place the dough in a 9 inch pie dish and press it into the edges. Trim the excess dough with kitchen shears if needed, leaving a 1 inch overhang. Wrap and place the pie dish in the refrigerator to chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the remaining disk of dough and transfer it to a baking sheet. Chill for a bit if needed, then cut 4 to 8 vent holes in the center with a mini cookie cutter or freehand with a knife into whatever shape you like. Reserve the cutout pieces for decorating the crust. Refrigerate on the tray until needed.

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Prepare the filling

Put the lemon zest and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the apple slices and toss gently.

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In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, turbinado sugar and brown sugar. Gently add to the apples and toss.

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Assemble the pie

Prick the bottom pie dough all over with a fork. Layer half of the apple mixture in the crust, making sure there are no gaps between the apples. To fit all of the apples in there, I had to layer them a few at a time (think traditional ratatouille). Pour half of the 1/3 cup of the caramel mixture on top of the apples. Layer the other half of the apples over top and drizzle with the remaining caramel. Reserve the remaining caramel for serving.

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With the egg wash, brush the rim of the bottom pie crust to create a seal. Place the top pie crust over the pie filling and seal and crimp the edges, trimming the excess dough. Decorate with the cutout pieces, and brush the entire crush with the egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar and a pinch of fleur de sel.

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Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 375F and bake for an additional 45 to 60 minutes, until the caramel blossoms into big, thick, syrupy bubbles and the crust turns golden brown; test the apples with a small paring knife to make sure they are tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 4 hours before serving to allow the juices and caramel to thicken. The pie is best served the same day, but it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

To serve, slice the pie into wedges and top with a drizzle of the caramel sauce and, if desired, a large scoop of ice cream :)

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Thanksgiving: Bay Potatoes

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This recipe was fun to make and it was as tasty as it was beautiful. Colorful orange sweet potatoes, red potatoes, purple onions and fresh, green bay leaves stacked and roasted with a garlicky butter mixture. There was a complication with the orginial recipe though. The number of potatoes and onions (3 each) did not fill up the 9×13 pan, so there was an empty space in the pan, about half a row. There also ended up being more sweet potatoes than red potatoes. I haven’t had a chance to make it again, but I think the amounts below will be enough to fill the empty space (better to have a little extra than not enough). It also depends on how big the potatoes and onions are. Try to find potatoes and onions of a similar size and diameter. In all the hustle and bustle of making 5 things that day, I completely forgot to take a photograph of the finished potatoes! Trust me though, they were pretty- colorful and nicely browned and caramelized around the edges. Feel free to drizzle a little more melted butter over the top of the finished dish. I did. Hey, it’s Thanksgiving after all.

from: Forest Feast
serves: 6-8

4 sweet potatoes
4 small red onions
6 red potatoes
bay leaves, 15 dry, or 10 fresh (cut in half)
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt + pepper
2 minced garlic cloves

Slice the sweet potatoes, red onions, and red potatoes into 1/4 inch slices. A mandolin or v-slicer is a good way to ensure even cuts.

In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the garlic cloves.

In a greased 9×13 inch pan, lined up the slices of potatoes and onions, alternating, like dominoes. You may have to double up on some, depending how many slices of each you have. Slip in bay leaves between every few slices.

Drizzle the melted butter mixture over the top .

Bake at 425 F until until fork tender and a bit crispy around the edges, about 1 hour. Remove the bay leaves, or remind guests not to eat them. :)

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Thanksgiving: Shaved Asparagus Salad

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Having never had raw asparagus before, I may never cook it again! This salad is delightful. The shaved asparagus is fresh and crunchy, the orange segments give it a bright and sweet lift, the Pecorino Romano adds a salty bite and the hazelnuts add the perfect toasty crunch. Remember to give the citrus dressing a few minutes to soften the raw asparagus before serving.

from: Michael Symon’s Carnivore
serves: 6-8

1 large bunch thick, green asparagus (2 pounds), trimmed
1 (1 1/2 ounce) block Pecorino Romano cheese
kosher salt
grated zest and juice of 1 orange, plus 2 oranges, segmented
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-4 tablespoons coarsely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
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Shave the asparagus with a potato peeler to create long ribbons. Do the same with the Pecorino Romano cheese to create shavings. In a large non-reactive bowl, toss together the asparagus, cheese, and a large pinch of salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the orange zest and juice the chives, and vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil.  Pour the dressing over the asparagus and let sit until the asparagus is slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.
Toss in the hazelnuts and orange segments and serve.
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Thanksgiving: Harissa and Maple Roasted Carrots

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A colorful and spicy side that breaks up all the heavy, rich dishes on the table

from: Bon Appetit 2014 Thanksgiving Issue
serves: 8

2 garlic cloves, finely grated or chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon harissa paste (I used a nice, rounded tablespoon)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds small rainbow carrots, scrubbed, tops trimmed to about 1/2″, larger ones halved
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed

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Preheat oven to 450. Whisk garlic, oil, maple syrup, harissa, and cumin seeds in a small bowl; season mixture with salt and pepper.

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Toss carrots and lemon with garlic mixture in a large roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet to coat; season with a little salt and pepper.

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Roast, tossing occasionally, until carrots are tender and lemons are caramelized, 35-40 minutes.

Do Ahead: carrots can be roasted 6 hours ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Bring to room temperature or reheat slightly before serving

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Thanksgiving: Apple Cake with Toffee Crust

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This is certainly a special dessert to make this time of year when trees and baskets are brimming over with apples. (I meant to post this in October, but I forgot. However this would make a delicious Thanksgiving dessert!) The cake is dense, moist and delicious- especially with the toffee glaze that is poured on top that slowly seeps down through the cake, making it that much more amazing. It could definitely be eaten at this point, BUT there is also EXTRA toffee sauce to be made and drizzled over the slices of cake as well as caramelized, cinnamon-y apples. Sounds amazing right? Yep, it pretty much is.

from: Food + Wine
serves: 10-12

Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 large Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Toffee Sauce

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brandy

Caramelized Apples

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 large Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges each
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons water

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform tube pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk the oil with the granulated sugar. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fold in the diced apples with a rubber spatula. The batter will be thick. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the lower third of the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool slightly.

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Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the butter, cream and brown sugar and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring. Remove the toffee glaze from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

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Place the warm cake (still in its pan) on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the hot glaze over the cake and let it seep into the cake, poking lightly all over with a toothpick. Let the cake cool completely, about 2 hours. Run a butter knife around the pan. Invert the cake onto a plate, and invert again onto another plate, right side up.

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In a medium saucepan, preferably one with high sides, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Using a moistened pastry brush, wash down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Cook without stirring until a medium-amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and quickly but carefully stir in the cream and butter. Simmer the sauce over moderate heat for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in the brandy. Pour the toffee sauce into a pitcher or a large spouted measuring glass.

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In a large skillet, melt the butter and the brown sugar. Add the apples and cinnamon and cook over moderately high heat, turning the apples once or twice, until they are tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the water to dissolve the caramel in the skillet, then transfer the caramelized apples to a plate.

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Slice the cake and serve with the caramelized apples, a drizzle of toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream if desired.

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Make Ahead: The unmolded cake can be stored in an airtight container overnight at room temperature. The toffee sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week; reheat gently before serving. The apples can be made up to 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.

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Fresh Ricotta with Lemon Zest & Honey

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We recently had some delicious fresh ricotta at Wright & Co.  It was gently seasoned with lemon and had a layer of honey on top. Fresh, juicy figs were served alongside.  I knew that this dish was something I had to make at home. Turns out it was easier to copy than I first thought.  The first step was to find a good ricotta recipe. The first one I tried where you bring the milk and cream to a boil, remove from heat, and add lemon juice and stirred- produced no curds. I then tried this recipe from Anne Burrell which worked perfectly. The next step was to flavor it. I found the zest of one lemon was perfect. Next, just a little honey stirred in to make it a bit sweet, then a layer of honey on top, which smears into the ricotta and bread when you spread it on. This was my first attempt at making ricotta, although I have made paneer in the past, and the process was very similar. Just some curdled milk that you strain the solids out of.  I will be making this a lot more often to have in the fridge to serve with snacks, fruit, or to have for desserts or lemon-ricotta pancakes.

ricotta recipe from: Anne Burrell
serves: 2-4

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of one lemon
honey
fruit
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In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream, vinegar and salt. Place the pan over medium heat and slowly bring the milk mixture to a simmer. Simmer the milk mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, you will see curds begin to form. I found the curds formed better when I did not stir much.

Line a mesh strainer with several layers of damp cheesecloth. Gently pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth-lined strainer and let drain for 15 minutes, or up to an hour. I just put it into the fridge until I was ready for it.

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When done straining, scoop the ricotta into a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the zest of one lemon and enough honey to make it a little bit sweet. Put the ricotta into a small serving dish or earless mug and smooth the top. Drizzle enough honey on top to make a thin layer.

This is best served with figs, (but since those are no longer in season I substituted blackberries) and cinnamon-raisin and/or baguette toasts.

* I halved the original ricotta recipe, so my recipe is best for 2 people. I would make the full recipe for more than two people, or just to have some extra in the fridge!

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Carrot & Zucchini Ribbon Pasta

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Fettuccine is my favorite noodle and here it is mixed with garlicky carrot and zucchini ribbons. Genius!!! This meal took about 15 minutes to make and it was delicious. I think I will be making it quite frequently!

from: Forest Feast
serves: 2

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For 5 minutes, saute over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
ribbons from 2 carrots (using a vegetable peeler)
ribbons from 1 zucchini  (using a vegetable peeler)
salt and pepper

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Then add:

8 ounces fettuccine that has been cooked al dente in salted boiling water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1-2 tablespoons of butter (allow to melt)

Mix well and serve hot.

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