Thanksgiving Spinach Gratin

Spinach GratinSide Hustle
We all know that turkey is generally the star of the Thanksgiving show. But, if I am being honest, I tend to look forward to the side dishes more than the turkey. The bird is just a means to an end. Coming up with a favorite side dish would be impossible but I’ll give it a shot.

Potatoes are not only well-loved but a requirement. No Thanksgiving table is complete without fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. Mashed sweet potatoes are a close second.

Gravy. Gotta have the gravy. Gravy has no calories on Thanksgiving. Really. You can look it up.

Then there’s the stuffing. There are two schools of thought with the stuffing—inside the bird or out. My preference depends on the day. The day of, I like it baked in a casserole. The day after Thanksgiving, I like the stuff from the bird in my turkey sandwich.

Regarding the veggies, we rarely have the same vegetable from year to year so I haven’t developed a strong opinion about any dish in particular. Instead, I try to look for an interesting new recipe, but I am not always successful. When that happens, I rely on some tried and true favorites. This recipe from Ina is one that I have shared before but I can’t help myself ‘cause it’s just so stinkin’ good!

For those who are still working on it, I hope you find the perfect menu soon. For those of you who know what they are having and are ready to get started, may your parking spaces be plentiful and the grocery lines short.

To everyone, have a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Spinach Gratin
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties
Yields 8 Servings Read more…

Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill

Chicken Noodle Soup with LeeksMiracle Cure
It’s kinda blowing my mind that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. My kids are still in the process of sorting and swapping their Halloween candy, for cryin’ out loud. And now I gotta think turkey? It’s time to hit the ground running and start planning—but I am in denial.

To add another layer of difficulty to the season, 3/5 of my household is sick. And, I don’t mean some coughing and a few sneezes. I mean full-on hacking cough, fever, multiple days home from school, sinus pressure…you gotta be kidding me sick.

As you can imagine, turkey is the last thing on our minds. We’re all about the soup.
I have been told that whatever this plague is, it is has been going around and a number of people I know are dropping like flies. We are just the latest casualties. And as such, we have been consuming a lot of chicken noodle soup.

What is it about chicken noodle soup that makes it the only food you want to consume when sick? Is it the heat? Is it the salty broth? Whatever the reason, chicken noodle soup is pretty much the only thing keeping us going. It is the miracle cure. Though, I will say I think I have had my fill. Thankfully, we seem to be turning a corner in the sick ward. The fact that I showered this morning is a major victory!

Since it is the holiday season, my one recommendation to you as you start your preparations is to make a big batch of this stuff and put it in the freezer. Making your own stock is key, which is why this is great. Making it ahead is essential so you will have it if you need it. And if you don’t, you have a quick and easy dinner when paired with a gooey grilled cheese.

Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill
Yields 4 servings

We definitely recommend making your own chicken stock, but if you really don’t have time, or are simply too sick, the next best thing is Kitchen Basics Soup Stock. Read more…

Killer Peruvian Chicken with Cilantro Sauce

Killer Peruvian Chicken with Cilantro SauceChicken. It is the workhorse of cooking. It is versatile, relatively cheap, and can be found in every cuisine around the world. The problem is that eating chicken day-in and day-out can be boring. That’s why when you find a chicken recipe that blows your socks off you gotta share.

I get a lot of cooking emails in my inbox. I look at most of them—but not all. Honestly, it depends on what’s in the subject line. If I’m curious, I open it. However, if there is one email I always open, it is anything I receive from NY Times Cooking. Nine times out of ten I will find something that I want to try.

About a week ago this gem was one of the What to Cook This Week recipes. It was touted as the only chicken recipe you will ever want to make—so of course, I was curious.

I made the marinade on Tuesday night. Wednesday morning before work I put whole chicken legs in a ziplock bag and put it in the fridge. When I came home, I took it out to warm up a bit, threw it in the oven and proceeded to blow my family’s taste buds.

Every single one of them said it was the best chicken I have ever made.

Since then, I have been telling everyone I know and now I am passing it along to y’all. Trust me you will thank me. One word of advice, you have to make the sauce. The chicken is good on its own but with the sauce, it’s out of this world.

I served this with some black beans and rice and some fried plantains but it would be just as good alongside a salad.

Killer Peruvian Chicken with Cilantro Sauce
Read more…

Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad

Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond SaladForeign Fruit
Some fruits baffle me. Quince is one. Kumquats another. I am utterly at a loss as to what to do with either. My theory is that one’s comfort level with certain foods, without question, depends on whether you were exposed to them as a kid. I was exposed to neither…so here I am, in a perpetual state of fruity befuddlement.

I would add persimmons to that group except that I was exposed to them as a kid. Every Thanksgiving. They adorned the ritual persimmon salad that my grandmother made and nobody ate. I mean, it was a beautiful-looking salad and certainly fulfilled the “fall colors” requirement but, no. Just, no.

What I found out later was that there are two types of persimmons. There is the Hachiya persimmon which is teardrop shaped and has to be really soft and ripe to eat it. Eaten too early and you will regret it. These were the ones my grandmother used in her salad. As a kid, I thought they were gooey and gross. The other variety is the Fuyu persimmon. Now, this is a whole different experience altogether.

Fuyus can be eaten when they are still hard and they have a crunch like an apple. Strangely, given my profession, I really didn’t encounter Fuyu persimmons much until I was well into my 20s. Probably because I was scarred by previous persimmon encounters, I didn’t seek them out.

When we bought our current home we became the proud owners of a lovely 3 bedroom 2-½ bath ranch style home….and a Fuyu persimmon tree. The first year we didn’t get too many persimmons and I picked them too early ‘cause I didn’t know any better. Subsequent crops have been progressively larger. But, this year was ridiculous because we actually had rain. I think the kids pulled 300 plus persimmons off the tree. And, that doesn’t count the fruit that was sacrificed to the squirrel gods.

The hard part is knowing what to do with that many persimmons. Thankfully, I have a produce department and an open-minded manager. So, I saved some and unloaded the rest. The saved ones are destined for this Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad below which, in my opinion, is a much less traumatizing version of the salad of my childhood.

Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad
Adapted from My Recipes
Yields 4 Servings Read more…

Sheet Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon

Sheet Pan Chicken with Sourdough and BaconDistracted Dining
I sat down to write about fun Halloween stuff…but I am finding it hard to be witty when the North Bay is on fire. I keep losing my focus. This is rather ridiculous because, other than the poor air quality, I have not been directly affected by the fires. But, my mind just can’t let it go.

Events like this are a reminder to keep things in perspective. Soccer practice has been canceled because of the smoke? Big whoop. I still have my home to hang out in and 1500 other families don’t. It’s heartbreaking and I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu.

I was away at school when the Oakland Hills fire happened almost 26 years ago. (Did I really just put that in print?) I had to watch the destruction unfold on the television in the basement of my dorm, much like I have been doing since these fires flared up. (Well, without the dorm room.)

The Napa and Sonoma County fires have the same “what the heck is going on?” feel. That same blindsided shock—the darn high winds and the utter devastation left behind. It makes the idea of writing about what’s for dinner tonight seem trivial and unimportant.

We all have got to eat, though. So, with that in mind, I’m going for the holy trinity of comfort food: carbs, bacon, and butter. All of these things are thrown together on a sheet pan, topped with seasoned chicken and roasted in the oven. Serve it with a side vegetable (like roasted cauliflower), and you’ve got a complete meal.

So easy. And definitely tasty.

This Sheet Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon recipe is the perfect one-pan family style meal to come together and enjoy while you count your blessings.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 6 servings Read more…