If you’ve never had real, homemade egg nog, I can understand why you might be wrinkling your nose and shaking your head right now. Most mass-produced versions are pretty horrible. In fact, the only store-bought version that doesn’t make me gag is from Ronnybrook Farm, which while delicious, also costs a friggin’ fortune. You’d need to take out a bank loan if you wanted enough for a party.
Surprisingly, real egg nog is actually very easy to make and it’s a shame that so few people do it. Fortunately for me, my mom makes a killer egg nog so I know how good it can be. This version is unapologetically rich and boozy in the most wonderful way. In fact, Matt and I had a little tree-trimming party the other night and just about everyone who claimed not to like egg nog ended up slurping up several cups full. Needless to say, a lot of fun was had.
For those of you who are worried about consuming raw eggs, history and science have proven that with enough booze, bacteria will not be an issue. Science says so! Of course, use good eggs. If you want an alcohol-free version, you could probably cook the custard part (the eggs and sugar) in a water bath, but honestly, I think it would be overly rich without the alcohol.
I’m kind of a late bloomer when it comes to mushrooms (forgive me, I tried to think of a mushroom pun and this was all I could come up with. Mushrooms “bloom”, right?). It was only a few years ago that I realized that I do, in fact, enjoy mushrooms, but only if they’re cooked in certain ways.
For instance, to me, a sliced, raw button mushroom tastes like moldy, damp styrofoam. No thanks! Also, mushrooms that have been cooked at a low temperature until they get wet and slimy make me want to hide them under the couch. I realize that this is completely my personal forage phobia (ha!) and most people enjoy mushrooms without all this drama.
But! But! But! If you cook a mushroom (pretty much any kind), over high heat and don’t move it around too much, magic happens. It gets beautifully brown and caramelized, without getting that musky rubberiness that, for me, is so unappealing. Toss in some fresh herbs and a little wine or sherry and a pat of butter… heaven.
Now that I know this secret about mushrooms, I’ve become much more open to trying different varieties, cooked different ways. In fact, a couple of days ago, I shocked Matt by saying “I’m thinking about making mushroom soup.” Now, bear in mind that he’s suggested making mushroom soup many times over the years, and I’ve always responded with the “Hell no, that’s gross, eeew, how can you suggest something so vile” face. Everyone has that face, right? So you can imagine his surprise at this dramatic turnaround. Luckily, his desire for mushroom soup was stronger than his impulse to call me a hypocrite. Clever boy.
What I like about this recipe from The Balthazar Cookbook is that it’s packed with mushrooms so it ends up nice and thick, not watery at all. I did make a few changes to the original recipe. I cut down on the oil and cream (the original recipe called for a 1/2 cup of olive oil and a full cup of cream) and I actually forgot to add the butter at the end and didn’t miss it at all. I also changed the herb combination somewhat, since I find rosemary can be overwhelming and I love thyme with mushrooms. And I also added a bit of sherry because… because a bit of booze makes everything yummier.
In case you’re wondering, on top is a bit of toasted bread with goat cheese, honey and pecans mixed in and some cracked black pepper on top.
If you’ve never cooked with miso, this is a fantastic recipe to start with. While many Americans are probably familiar with miso in it’s soup form, it’s also a fantastic ingredient in all kinds of dishes, from savory to sweet. It’s great in salad dressings, drizzled on roasted vegetables (try this same glaze on eggplant, yum).
One of the great aspects of miso is that it keeps for ages in the fridge (seriously, months and months), so you won’t have to go on a miso bender just so you won’t waste it. I mean, you’ll probably go on a miso bender anyway because the stuff is delicious but it won’t be for economic reasons.
This salmon dish is what I use miso for most often (and how I love it best). The glaze is delicate and doesn’t overwhelm the fish and the skin gets wonderfully burnished and crisp. It also takes just a few minutes to make so it’s a fantastic weeknight option. Quick or not, for me, this is one of the best salmon recipes of all time. I could have it twice a week, happily.
You’ll want to use white (also known as sweet) miso for this. Red miso, which is fermented for a much longer time, has too strong a flavor and would overpower the fish. I usually serve it with steamed rice (sometimes white, sometimes brown) and my go-to with everything Pickled Cucumber and Avocado Salad. I didn’t have cucumbers last night so we just made a quick salad of avocado, arugula and baby kale drizzled with lime.
Oh, and Matt wanted me to make sure to mention that this is his favorite fish recipe of all time. He says that about a lot of recipes (good husband), but I could tell he really meant it.
Actually, funny story, ahem… many years ago, when we were first living together, we tried to make a cheesecake and we totally mis-read the recipe. Instead of 3/4 of a cup of sugar we used 3 cups. 3 friggin’ cups of sugar in one cheesecake. Neither of us had done a lot of baking yet so we didn’t immediately realize how insane that amount is. Needless to say, it was disgustingly sweet and even worse, never even set, remaining a thick, sweet soup that seeped all over our refrigerator. It was truly disgusting (though Matt gave it a go anyway, being a trooper).
Now we got that shizz down to a science (Matt is adjusting his glasses while explaining to me that baking, is in fact, science). We became quite well known (in our family) for making a chestnut cheesecake (based on a Nigella recipe) and we actually made 4 of them for Matt’s sister’s wedding in France.
While I like chestnuts, I love hazelnuts so this version (adapted from Bon Appétit) is now our Thanksgiving/Christmas favorite. I’ve changed the recipe quite a bit, eliminating the flour and folded in whipped egg whites from the batter. The result is a very classic cheesecake texture, with the added bit of crunch from the hazelnut praline.
What I like about it (other than its decadent deliciousness) is that it has to be made a least a day in advance which makes it perfect for holiday baking when you don’t want to have to deal with last minute dessert timing. In fact, the praline part can be made up to a full week in advance.
This started off as a Thanksgiving “stuffing” recipe but then, several years ago, I decided that actually stuffing a turkey is a losing battle. It makes the turkey take longer to cook so the white meat will definitely dry out and all the delicious drippings that I want to go into the gravy get soaked up by the bread which just becomes soggy.
Technically I guess this is a “dressing” (stuffing cooked on the side), but I’ve found that many dressing recipes end up kind of dry and don’t have the lovely, soft texture with crispy edges that make stuffing so irresistible.
So what’s soft and custardy on the inside and crunchy on top? Don’t freak out, I’m not testing you! *Writes a note in a little book while smiling and nodding at you*. That’s right, bread pudding! Why not use the same technique and make it savory instead of sweet? Let me tell you, it works.
While this is definitely great for Thanksgiving, it would actually be a really nice side dish with roast beef or pork as a Christmas dinner. In fact, it’s so simple to make, it really doesn’t need to be for a holiday at all.
Like just about everything I make for a dinner party, most of it can be made ahead and then assembled and baked just before you need it. I find it so much less stressful to not have to start every dish from scratch on one day.
In fact, my absolute favorite part of holiday cooking is when Matt and I sit at our coffee table, chopping and prepping all our vegetables while watching a marathon of something or other (usually Doctor Who or Game of Thrones) and drinking endless cups of tea. Nerd with knife heaven.