Potato Latkes

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If there’s any dish that just screams ‘Hanukkah,’ it’s potato latkes. Latkes are traditional Hanukkah fare not for the dish itself, but for the oil its fried in. Hanukkah, know as the Festival of Lights; it celebrates the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days. Over 2000 years ago, the city of Jerusalem was under Syrian-Greek control. Specifically, the king Antiochus IV Epiphanes reversed the rule of his father in allowing Jews to practice their religion and began persecuting the Jewish people. Their religion was banned, they were ordered to worship traditional Greek gods, many were massacred, and the Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated. A Jewish rebellion broke out, led by the Maccabees, which eventually drove the Syrian-Greeks out of Jerusalem. Once this occurred, the Jews set about cleaning and restoring the Temple. Once the Temple was rededicated, there was only a small amount of oil, enough that would keep the menorah lit for one day. The flame was supposed to stay lit continuously, but no one knew how the oil would last. The miracle was that the oil lasted for eight days, until the supply could be replenished. Jewish sages of the time proclaimed this miracle and thus created the holiday of Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights!

For this recipe, I used Tori Avey’s recipe and tips & tricks to try to make this the best batch possible. The goal is to have a crispy exterior with a warm and soft interior. Traditionally, you would top your Hanukkah latkes with applesauce or sour cream, but since we ate our with the delicious Wine & Honey Brisket that had plenty of pan sauce in which to dip the latkes if needed!

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Potato Latkes

(Adapted from toriavey.com)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes (~1lb)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal/crushed matzo crackers
  • 2 egg, whisked
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Few turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • Oil
Instructions: 
  1. Peel and then grate the potatoes. Submerge the potato shreds in cold water while working.
  2. Quarter the onion and then run it through a food processor.
  3. Drain the potato shreds through a doubled cheesecloth.
  4. Add the onion to the potato in the cheesecloth. Squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible.
  5. Combine the potato and onion with the matzo meal, the egg, salt, and pepper.
  6. Pour enough oil into your pan to form a layer ~1/8th inch thick. Goal temperature for frying = 360-375 degrees – you can check with a candy thermometer if you have one.
  7. Form a small patty with your hands, roughly 3 tbsp worth. Test this first one to make sure your oil is a good temperature. Should be 2-3 minutes per side, yielding crispy brown edges with a soft interior.
  8. Set the latkes on a wire rack to cool, with paper towels underneath. Serve while still warm.
Makes 8-10 latkes

 

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Pretzel Bun Stuffing

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Have you ever been in a restaurant and decided on a nice, big, juicy burger for dinner? You’re super-excited and think nothing can be better than your highly anticipated burger? So you place your order with the server, and then s/he asks you, “Do you want that on a regular bun or a pretzel bun?” Literally NO ONE EVER has responded with, “Ehh, just give me the regular bun.” Why? Because even though you were excited about that highly anticipated, big, juicy burger in and of itself… a pretzel bun just makes everything better!

Ok now, translate that sentiment to Thanksgiving stuffing. We made this stuffing entirely from pretzels buns. When we made stuffing last year for Friendsgiving, we added a few pretzel buns for a little surprise, and it worked well. So this year, we decided to up the ante and go with 100% pretzel bun! The idea of pretzel bun stuffing inspired me to add a few non-traditional touches to this recipe, but it’s not so non-traditional that people will turn their noses up at it. Honestly, given the overwhelming herbaciousness of the stuffing (with very traditional herbs!), you’d never notice the extra ingredients. But you will know just how delicious it tastes as you inhale it!

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Pretzel Bun Stuffing

Ingredients: 
  • 8 pretzel rolls, torn
  • 1 high quality beef hot dog, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, divided (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + more)
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 1 tbsp brown mustard
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3+ cups beef stock, divided (2 cups + more)
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions: 
  1. Tear the bread & rolls into bite-sized pieces at least 24 hours prior to making the stuffing. Let sit out to dry.
  2. On the day you’re preparing the stuffing, place the bread into a large bowl.
  3. Toss your finely chopped hot dog into a pan over medium heat with just a splash of broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the hot dog has released a little fat.
  4. Add the 1/2 cup of butter to the pan, followed by the onions and garlic. Top with fresh ground black pepper. Saute for ~5 minutes as the onions soften.
  5. Now add herbs, salt, and 10 turns of pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes.
  6. Pour this mixture over the bread in the bowl and toss well.
  7. Melt another 1/4 cup of butter. Whisk together with 2 eggs and 2 cups of beef stock.
  8. Pour that mixture over bread. Stir until liquid is absorbed by the bread.
  9. Add additional stock by the 1/4 cup until the bread is saturated. Wait a few minutes between adding stock to ensure it all gets absorbed. (You want the bread to be very wet, but without pools of liquid in the bowl. I used just an additional 1/4 cup this time.)
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Butter a large glass baking dish. Place the bread mixture into the dish.
  12. Butter a large piece of foil and cover the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  13. Increase oven heat to 450 degrees. Uncover and bake for a few additional minutes for a crispy top.
Serves 8-12.

Dinner Rolls

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At every family meal we have on my maternal side of the family, everyone gets really excited when they find out that my Aunt Bobbie has made the rolls or bread. She’s famous in the family for delicious, fluffy, homemade rolls and bread. At this most recent Thanksgiving, when she was slicing bread to place out on the table, my brother elbowed me and whispered, “Do you think anyone would notice if I just ate all the bread before dinner starts?” For the record Kev, I do think so…

We’re having Friendsgiving today this year, and so I decided to try to make her rolls. It’s never quite as good when you make someone else’s recipe that you love, but I thought it was worth the challenge. I adjusted a smidge from her recipe in the family cookbook, so we’ll know where I screwed up when it’s not the same!

Results? Pretty darn good, but shockingly, not exactly the same. Hers are fluffier. But these are still pretty fluffy, especially if you eat them right out of the oven! (How else would you want to eat them…?)

Dinner Rolls

(Recipe from my family cookbook, by Aunt Bobbie, obviously)
Ingredients: 
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided
  • 3 1/4 tsp yeast
Instructions: 
  1. Sift together the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a bread hook.
  2. Stir the yeast into the warm water.
  3. Beat the egg and then whisk in the sugar. Then add 2 tbsp of melted butter, followed by the water and yeast.
  4. Pour all of the wet ingredients in with the dry. Start the stand mixer and knead for 3-4 minutes.
  5. {If needed, add tiny amount of flour or water to combat too sticky or too dry dough.}
  6. Place dough ball in a large, greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for 2 hours.
  7. Divide dough into individual rolls. Bobbie suggests 24; we did 18. Place rolls on a baking sheet.
  8. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and generously brush on top of all the rolls.
  9. Set aside for another 2 hours to rise again. They should double in size.
  10. Finally, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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Let me tell you about Thanksgiving… it is my favorite holiday! Two of my favorite things in the world are food and family, and Thanksgiving combines both of those. I love just sitting around, visiting with all of my extended family, while simultaneously grazing on heaping plates of carbs. And since both my mom and my dad have equally large families, we get to repeat this exercise in over-indulgence twice in the day! I like to stuff my plate with all the delicious things – turkey and ham, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, all of the vegetables, buttered rolls, and ladles full of gravy over top of it all! But you know what I’ve never been a huge fan of…? The sweet potato casserole. I think I feel like it doesn’t quite belong with the rest of the savory stuff and you don’t put gravy on top, so it really just doesn’t fit on my plate.

But this dish? This trades the extra sweetness of marshmallows for a more savory topping. If you’re more of a savory kind of person like me, you could substitute this out for the traditional sweet potato casserole for your Thanksgiving celebration. I certainly would prefer it… although I’m not going to lie, you might get some push-back from the traditionalists. These are easy to make (and quick compared to a lot of the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner), so tell the traditionalists to relax and take a bite! They’ll be converted by the melt-in-your-mouth quality of the potatoes combined with the slightly crispy topping.

Happy Thanksgiving! 🦃🦃🦃

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Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 4 small-medium sweet potatoes
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice the sweet potato, trying to maintain uniform thickness of ~1/4 inch.
  3. Lay them out on a foil-line cookie sheet.
  4. Mix together all of the remaining ingredients except for parsley. Brush the mixture over top all of the sweet potatoes.
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Serve topped with a bit more Parmesan if you’re feeling greedy 🙂
Side dish for 4-6

Zucchini Fritters

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Zucchini season may be over, but we can usually find decent looking ones in the fall around here. Sorry for not eating exactly seasonally, but you know what is perfectly fall-appropriate? A big bowl of soup! And what perfectly accompanies a nice big bowl of soup? Zucchini fritters. So in a roundabout way, zucchini fritters = fall food? Ok, maybe not, but we enjoyed them tonight anyway.

It’s easy to think of zucchini as a boring vegetable, zoodles excluded. (All the cool kids eat zoodles now ok? Including us – see “Chicken Lo Mein” Zoodles, Zoodles with Roasted ChickpeasCaliente Chicken & ZoodlesFrench Onion Chicken Zoodles, & Mediterranean Cucumber-Zoodle Salad) They get mushy when you bake or sautee them too long, and no one likes mushy vegetables. Fritters are a lot easier to make than you think. Start to finish, less than 30 minutes, and you end up with a delicious side dish to any main course – we chose soup, but these would go great with roasted chicken or turkey. Try changing up the spices and herbs and see what you like best. This combo – onion, garlic, paprika, chili powder – isn’t spicy or overwhelming, but makes for a great dish with nice flavor.

Note: They way we made these, they’re browned and slightly crispy on the outside, but remain soft on the inside and a bit fragile. That’s because we wanted these to stay vegetable-heavy and to save a few calories. If you’d like a less fragile fritter, use more flour and/or bread crumbs and an additional egg to bind the mixture together more tightly.

Zucchini Fritters

Ingredients: 
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp granulated onion
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 tbsp neutral oil
Instructions: 
  1. Grate the zucchinis into a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 10+ minutes.
  3. Squeeze water out from the zucchini (you’ll be amazed at how much water you can get rid of!)
  4. Whisk up the egg and stir that in with the zucchini, along with all of the rest of the ingredients (using just a pinch of additional salt and a few grinds of black pepper), except for the oil.
  5. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  6. Once oil is hot, form balls of the zucchini mixture in your hands, slightly smaller than the palm of your hand. Smush them into patties and drop into the hot oil.
  7. Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes until browned on both sides.
  8. Remove from pan to a paper-towel lined dish before serving to soak up a bit of the excess oil.
Makes 6 fritters

 

Creamy Confetti Corn

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This post is alternatively titled: How to Make Your Vegetables Less Healthy. Just wanted to acknowledge that up front. Nothing makes vegetables yummier than bacon and cheese! Maybe you have picky little kids who you’re trying to convince to eat something other than mac & cheese and frozen chicken nuggets (describing my brother Jeffrey from age 5 to age 21…)? Or maybe you’re just trying to find a veggie side dish that’s a little bit more decadent? That’s what I was doing when making this dish. All I was craving for dinner was chips and dip – since apparently that is not a true meal (says who am I right??), an indulgent side dish was in order.

I’ve had this recipe pinned for a long time – I feel like I type that sentence a lot around here. This one has been pinned 114,000 times! It’s so impressive to me when blogs take off like that – so cool! We have quite a ways to go before we would reach that level – but hey man, one of our recipes, Bay Scallop Risotto, has been pinned 33 times! Given that I’m still shocked to see that people who are not related to me have ever read this, that’s pretty spectacular! I guess that’s the internet for you…

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Creamy Confetti Corn

(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
Ingredients: 
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, cubed
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce (we love Frank’s Hot Sauce!)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Green onions, sliced to top
Instructions: 
  1. In a large skillet, cook your bacon until it’s very crispy. Remove to the side on a paper towel.
  2. Pour off the bacon grease, except for just a thin coating of the pan.
  3. Over medium heat, cook the onions and garlic for 3-4 minutes, until softened and fragrant.
  4. Turn heat down slightly (medium-low), and add the rest of the vegetables and milk. Stir together and then cover pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes in this way, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove lid and stir in the cream cheese and hot sauce. Cook for another ~5 minutes until the cream cheese is well-incorporated and coats the vegetables as a creamy sauce.
  6. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  7. Crumble bacon into bits and top the dish with this and sliced green onions.
Serves 6-8 as side dish

Rosemary Risotto with Asparagus

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I think risotto might be one of my most favorite foods in the world. It’s creamy, delicious, and usually at least a little bit cheesy. Plus, I feel like it’s a little bit of a labor of love. You don’t stand in front of the stove for a long time to make a dish for some one you don’t like – if you have to feed them at all, you go with something that takes way less of your time than risotto. [See our earlier post Bay Scallop Risotto for how I tried to woo Selim with my “fancy” risotto dish.]

Furthermore, I love risotto because it’s basically a blank canvass. The basics of a risotto are simple – short grain rice (usually Arborio, at least here in the US), slowly cooked in hot liquid, with frequent stirring. Generally, the dish goes like that: start with chopped onions sauteed in butter or oil, followed by the addition of the short grain rice. Then follows some wine and a hot stock, stirred until the grains of rice absorb the liquid. Of course there are some specific types of risotto: think risotto alla milanese with saffron and Parmesan cheese, or risotto al nero di seppia, a striking black dish made with squid and their ink. But for us at home, aside from the basic framework above, risotto is yours to customize!

Tonight’s dish is meant for two as a side dish, instead of the heaping main dish portions I frequently make. (Not gonna lie though – it was a pretty large side for two people.) Certainly you can upscale for a main course if you’d like though.

I’m actually pretty proud of this dish. I really enjoyed it. And I made it all by myself – didn’t follow any recipes or get inspiration from anywhere. A lot of times when I don’t have the guidance of a recipe (or Selim), I under-season things or just don’t combine flavors all that well. Not this time! All the flavors combined beautifully and it’s full of flavor! I hope others enjoy too!

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Rosemary Risotto with Asparagus

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2+ cups vegetable stock
  • 1 heaping tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups asparagus (roughly 1 bunch), chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 3oz gouda cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Instructions: 
  1. Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a medium pan.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the vegetable stock until simmering.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the oil and cook for 3 minutes, until the onions have just begun to soften.
  4. Add rice and stir to coat in the remaining oil. Toast for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour in the wine. Stir frequently until the rice as absorbed the wine.
  6. Add the rosemary and black pepper to the dish.
  7. Lower heat slightly to a medium-low.
  8. Now begin adding the warm vegetable stock, one ladleful at a time, to the pan. Stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed.
  9. Repeat step seven over and over.
  10. Once the rice is expanding and getting creamy, taste a grain after every ladle or two. Once the rice has softened, but is still a smidge too al dente to eat, add the asparagus to the pan.
  11. Resume adding stock by the ladleful and stirring, but cover the dish the first time after you add the asparagus for just about 2 minutes, so the asparagus steams a bit.
  12. The rice is done when the dish is creamy, but each individual grain still retains its shape and a very slightly al dente texture.
    • Try this suggestion for a little more concrete/visual detail – or just eat once you think it’s ready!
  13. After your last ladle of stock has been absorbed, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and lemon juice.
  14. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust as you like. (We didn’t use any salt in ours.)
  15. Serve with a bit more cheese or rosemary on top if you like!
Serves 2-4 as a side dish.