Classic Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Classic Cinnamon Swirl BreadGive It a Whirl
Usually at the end of the year you start to see articles or news stories about what they big trends were in during the past year and what they will be going forward. I have not seen any yet…but if I had to pick a big trend for 2020, it would be bread baking.

The shelter-in-place order in March caught a lot of people off guard and put a huge strain on the food supply chain. On top of that we were bored. So, many people turned to bread making, not only out of necessity, but as a mean to pass the time and, frankly, for some much needed therapy. Suddenly people were sharing sourdough starter and trading baked goods for yeast.

Now that supplies have normalized, there are still several “new” bread makers that have embraced the hobby, but might need some new equipment to take them to the next level. A good bread pan can make a fantastic holiday gift either by itself or filled with something freshly baked and yummy. Quick breads like Banana Bread or a Cranberry Tea Loaf make great gifts—and an even better snack with a hot cup of tea on a chilly afternoon. Decent bread pans can cost $15-$18 depending on how serious you want to be. The fancy ones with different shapes and designs on them are, obviously, a bit more but a good basic loaf pan is always a good piece to have in your kitchen.

For those who want to show off their newfound bread making skills, this Classic Cinnamon Swirl Bread is a perfect choice. (High-end cinnamon would make a great stocking stuffer too!)

It’s an easy enough recipe that a novice bread maker can handle it, but it looks like it is much harder to make. The flavor is divine. I like to toast my slice, but my kids cannot wait that long. They just slice and eat. A double batch of this for Christmas morning would also make some tasty French toast….

Classic Cinnamon Swirl Bread Recipe
Adapted from King Arthur Flours
Yields 1 loaf Read more…

Canal House Style Chicken Thighs with Lemon

Canal House Style Chicken Thighs with LemonCookin’ Up Christmas
I think it’s safe to say that we all have all been doing more cooking than ever this year. Some of it born out of necessity and some of it just out of mind-numbing boredom. On the positive side, maybe you learned a new skill. Or, even better, found a new passion for preparing your own food. To do it right though, you need the right tools.

I have always loved to cook—and I have an embarrassing collection of tools in which I create my favorite flavors. However, there are certain pieces that I use day in and day out. The workhorses if you will. These are my “stuck on a desert island” tools and there are a variety. But, if I had to choose the single most useful thing I have in my cooking arsenal it would be my 12-inch cast iron skillet.

I am fortunate to have collected a number of Le Creuset enameled pieces over the years. Their Dutch ovens are hands down the best investment you can make. But, that’s the thing, they are a rather expensive investment.

My Lodge cast iron skillet however is $25 at Target for the 12-inch. (Or you can check out the Lodge Cast Iron website for the whole line.) If you are looking for the perfect gift for someone who has just discovered cooking, this is the one. And, even better, the price is right. What if your recipient already has one? It’s never a bad idea to have two of the same or another one in a different size.

Cast iron skillets heat evenly and they hold the heat well. You can take the skillet from the stove top to the oven and not have to worry about ruining the pan. They are basically nonstick once you get a good “season” on it. They last forever if you take care of them correctly . More than any other benefit I have found is that you get much better browning with a cast iron pan than with any other.

One of my favorite recipes I use my skillet for is this one for These Canal House Style Chicken Thighs. If you already have a cast iron pan, pull it out and make this for dinner tonight. I promise it will become your new favorite. I admit I leave the preserved lemon out more often than not. Sometimes less is more. The real star of this dish is the crispy skin.

If you like the idea of cast iron as a gift, include a card with this recipe on the pan and maybe a few other favorite recipes for your recipient to try out.

Canal House Style Chicken Thighs with Lemon
Recipe adapted from Food 52 Read more…

The Cheese Plate

The Cheese PlateThankful
Thanksgiving is a day dedicated to celebrating the blessings in our lives. It is not about tangible gifts but rather the gifts that cannot be seen. Thanksgiving is about spending quality time with friends and family to appreciate all that is good and to reconnect while seated at a table for a feast to remind ourselves what is the most precious.

The circumstances surrounding this year’s celebration have not changed the basic premise of the holiday. We will still celebrate and give thanks for all that we have but this year we celebrate friends, family, and the other blessings in our lives by not getting together. We are showing how much we care about the families we were born into and the families we choose by staying safe at home so that next year we can all come together to gather around the same table in good health.

This reality is not what we would choose, nor what we would prefer, but it is the right thing to do. So whether you’re a party of four, or two, or one for turkey this year, take heart that your are not alone. We are all in this together and together we will all get through it. So raise a glass to toast those whom you are missing at your table and to the hope that at this time next year, we will all be together around the table again.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from your family at Piedmont Grocery.

The Cheese Plate
A cheese plate is an easy appetizer to throw together and with some simple rules of thumb, you can create one that is delicious and varied. Cheese plates can be artful, with lots of room for improvisation. Read more…

Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing

Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage StuffingThat’s The Stuff-ing
The past 48 hours have been immensely frustrating. A few weeks ago, in anticipation of having to talk about all things Thanksgiving, I was searching for different recipes for stuffing. And, I found one that I though looked so interesting. But now, for the life of me…I can’t find it anywhere.

I don’t know what it’s like in your household, but in mine, the stuffing is ridiculously important. If there were no stuffing on the Thanksgiving table it would be a major issue—no matter who is in charge of making the meal. As a general rule, my family likes to cook most of the stuffing in the bird. But, we also do some extra in a casserole so there is enough to go around. There is plenty of debate on which is best. Personally I am conflicted. I like the flavor of the stuffing cooked inside the turkey. But, I also like the crispy stuff that is cooked in the casserole. I‘m good either way. Stuffing that bird is a problem though…if you choose to spatchcock your turkey.

Since we are not doing Thanksgiving the normal way this year, I am cooking Thanksgiving for my immediate family. And, since my oven isn’t super huge I am forced to spatchcock my turkey if I want to have a bird big enough to allow for leftovers. And, there must be leftovers.

So, I was looking for stuffing recipes that aren’t cooked in the bird and I found one made with sausage, herbs, the usual breadcrumbs, and possibly mushrooms. It had been moistened, chopped fine (or possibly put in a food processor) molded into a log, cooked, and then sliced. It looked so cool and elegant—and definitely different. But, that is the recipe I can no longer find. Arrrrrrgggggh!!!

If this sounds at all like something anyone of you have heard of please let me know and pass along the recipe if you can. It’s going to drive me batty until I can find it again!

My frantic search has been good in one respect. I have found some really interesting possibilities for this year’s stuffing for those who are inclined to change things up. There are stuffings using rye bread and others with figs and kale. There’s traditional apple and sausage stuffing as well as some with chorizo. Below is a recipe for Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing and it is the most appealing to me for this year. It’s a bit of a departure from our usual. But, then again everything about this year is new territory…

Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing
Adapted from Anthony Bourdain in Food and Wine Magazine
Yields 8 to 10 servings

This recipe can be made the day of and timed to come out of the oven when the turkey is ready (or kept warm). Another option is to partially prepare the stuffing the day before and place in the fridge overnight—to be easily completed and popped into the oven about 50 minutes before serving. Read more…