Three Cheese Root Vegetable Gratin

Thanksgiving week is upon us! I can’t contain my excitement!! My husband, Joshua, just returned home after almost 5 months of traveling to potential residency programs. Finally having him back means I have to start cooking for him again… but I could not be happier about it!!! Life is moving, fast. The older I get, the more real that becomes. Am I right? One day at a time, always. I am doing my best to slow down and enjoy each thing life throws at me. Big and small. Good and bad. All things work together for our good.

My wonderful friends at Sur la Table asked me to shoot a gratin recipe this month. I’ve always wanted to make one of these. All those crispy, cheesy layers. I’ve been itching to use my mandolin and this beautiful Staub pan. We made it happen! This gratin has everything going for it: three root veggies, three cheeses, all together perfect. Boring mashed potatoes, step aside.

Serves 6-8

  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1 pound large parsnips, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ½ teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese
  • ½ cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub the butter over the bottom and sides of a 2-quart gratin dish.
  2. In a large heavy pan, combine the milk, cream, salt, thyme, garlic and pepper. Place over medium heat and stir for 3 minutes, or until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Add the Yukon Gold potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips. Stir to coat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the potatoes are partially cooked. Remove from the heat.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half the vegetables to the gratin dish. Sprinkle with half each of the Gruyère, cheddar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. Add the remaining vegetables. Use two forks to arrange the top layer of potatoes in a slightly overlapping design, evenly distributing the different-colored potatoes. Ladle the hot cream mixture over the vegetables and sprinkle with all of the remaining cheeses.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a skewer or the tip of a knife and the gratin is bubbling and golden. Let the gratin rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe by Sur La Table & Andrews McMeel Publishing.

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My Dream Thanksgiving Menu

It’s all my mother’s fault.

Thanksgiving, I mean. She and my father raised me in a thankful home where it quickly became the most cherished day of the year. As I write this, I realize that it actually is my favorite day. From early in the morning, taking care of food preparations to late at night, stuffed and exhausted– it is the most joyful day of gathering. Family comes from near and far, special care is given to the food, the decorations, and the table setting (my mom sets her table over 1 week in advance). She’s what I’d call the one-and-only Thanksgiving queen. To prove it, she gave me a bound manual on how to host the best Thanksgiving! It’s something I really look forward to doing. So much so that I couldn’t wait to curate my “dream” menu. For as long as my mom can make her way around the kitchen, she’ll be hosting… so I may need to wait a while! Here’s a guide to my favorite flavors on this truly happy day.

DRINKS

When guests walk through the door, within minutes you can bet that my dad will ask, “Can I interest you in a cold beverage?” So, be sure you have a variety of drinks on hand– for both adults and kids. On the other hand, my mom is the ultimate health nut and never drinks soda (she’s smiling as she reads this) so the rest of us always have to stress the importance of offering guests more than just water! Let’s get fancy. I absolutely love the idea of pairing wine with food. I think it’s fun to do with your starters and hors d’oeuvres. Here are some of my picks:

  1. Riesling: my favorite white wine. It can range from dry to very sweet and is made from a single variety of grape originally grown in Germany. I like the ones that have peach notes. It goes great with fruits, cheeses and seafood. Try Smith Madrone Vineyards Napa Valley Riesling, $27.
  2. Cabernet Sauvignon: A popular, dry red wine made from a single widely cultivated variety of black grape. It has medium body and fruity flavor. I love it because it’s rich and bold. It goes really well with comforting, meaty dishes like a great steak. Here are Food and Wine’s top Cabs under $15.
  3. Sparkling Apple Cider: For kids and adults alike! I grew up drinking this by the glassful on Thanksgiving day. It’s vital to my family’s Thanksgiving meal. In fact, I can guarantee you there’s a value pack of 4 bottles in my mom’s kitchen right now! My favorite is Martinelli’s: They make the best variety of sparkling juices.
  4. Water, still and sparkling: Because it’s classy. Bottom line. Everyone loves to see San Pellegrino on the table.

SMALL BITES

Hors d’oeuvres always get me excited. They can be a great prelude for what is to come. While it’s great to get those appetites going, don’t overdo it. Nothing is worse than filling up on snacks and not having sufficient room for that turkey and the fixings. Being petite, I’m guilty of that almost every year. Just wet your whistle and have a little cheese and chips. As hostess, make it easier and try (2) cold and (2) hot bites (depending on your crowd size) so your guests have some things to munch on while you prepare the others. These starters make me smile:

  1. Cheese Board: Something comes over me when I see a gorgeously presented board of cheeses, fruits, nuts and crostini. It’s just so pretty and says “eat me!” I love the styling below by Honestly Yum. It’s got all the things you need. To assemble your own perfect cheese board, choose one of the following: a Soft Cheese (Brie, Mozzarella, Ricotta), a Semi-Soft (Jarlsberg, Oka, Gouda), a Semi-Hard (Manchego, Provolone, Comte), and a Hard (Parmesan, Sharp Cheddar, Gruyere). Then comes the fun accompaniments! Figs, honey, almonds, grapes, olives, prosciutto– the list goes on and on. Also, make sure you have some crackers in addition to a softer vehicle like a sliced baguette. Varying textures and flavor combinations is what makes this starter so good!

fall cheese platterPhoto Credit: Honestly Yum, www.honestlyyum.com

2. Stuffed Mushrooms: If you haven’t noticed already, this post is filled with all of my personal favorites. And this one is no exception. We make these every year without fail. While the recipe has changed from year to year, the love for stuffing that sumptuous mushroom with golden brown crumbs and cheese has not. This year I am going to try this recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis. She can do no wrong!

stuffed mushroomsPhoto Credit: Food Network, www.foodnetwork.com

3. Onion Dip and Chips: I warn you now… this will be ultimately devoured. Who doesn’t love the classic sour cream and onion combo? I can tell you that my brother and I can easily polish off on this one! There’s just something about these flavors. As simple as it is to pour a packet of onion soup mix and sour cream together, I thought it would be fun to try this from scratch version from Alton Brown. Pop open a big bay of wavy potato chips for this. I can taste the salty chips and dip now. I love salt… it’s a problem. Just so good!

alton-brown-onion-dip

Photo Credit: Alton Brown, www.altonbrown.com

SALAD

My perfect salad is light, acidic, and anything but basic. I love the bitterness of arugula paired with a tangy cheese and citrus or something sweet. I found this recipe via Food and Wine magazine and instantly thought YES. The flavor of the beets, freshness of the avocado and pop of goat cheese will sing. It’s a nice change from the usual mixed greens, romaine and Italian vinaigrette. To me, this screams high-end restaurant. Dig in!

Beet::  Avocado  and  Arugula  SaladPhoto Credit: Food and Wine, www.foodandwine.com

SOUP

Roasted Pumpkin Soup Shooter: This is basically a shot glass of soup. How fun! A small, warm portion of delicious. With the remainder of food that is to come, no one will want a full bowl of soup. Besides being the perfect portion for tasting, these will also look darling on your table setting. I love this recipe I adapted from The Daily Meal. Add a sprig of rosemary to garnish. It that not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?

soup shooters

Photo Credit: Blessed Beyond Crazy, www.blessedbeyondcrazy.com

MAIN COURSES

  1. Citrus-and-Butter Turkey: Get your taste buds ready and try not to drool over this: “Food & Wine’s Justin Chapple soaks cheesecloth in citrus butter and drapes it over turkey while roasting, yielding super juicy, delicious meat and skin.” You read that right: it’s a turkey that bastes itself! Self basting! They call this guy a “mad genius” for a reason. A cheesecloth is soaked in all that flavor and is continually released while cooking. If there were ever a *mind-blown* moment, it is now. The citrus + butter combination drew me to this recipe. You can count on Food and Wine to deliver.

Citrus-Herb-TurkeyPhoto Credit, The Suburban Soapbox, www.thesuburbansoapbox.com

2. Spiced Honey Glazed Spiral Ham: My cousin Paige and I will tell you: it’s not Thanksgiving without the spiral ham. Some prefer this over the turkey. I find I love the way it tastes alongside the flavors of sweet potato and cranberry sauce. That glaze makes the ham shine–literally!! Try this recipe from Saveur.

spiral hamePhoto Credit: Saveur, www.saveur.com 

SIDE DISHES

  1. Sweet Potato Gratin with Pecans: On most tables you’ll find sweet potatos. I think it’s the best starch to have on the table. If you prefer regular mashed, that works just as well. If you really can’t decide, do both like we do! I love this twist on a classic by Williams Sonoma. sweet-potato-gratin-leadPhoto Credit: www.themeaningofpie.com

2. Rosemary Focaccia Stuffing with Pancetta: What Thanksgiving table is complete without stuffing? Honestly, I have never been a fan of traditional stuffing. But, love the flavor of rosemary– and the use of Focaccia sounds divine. Plus a little Italian bacon never hurt anything…Try this recipe from Food Network.

ROSEMARY_STUFFING_031.tif

Photo Credit: Food Network, www.foodnetwork.com

3. Creamed Kale: Kale has been having a moment for a while now. While some claim they don’t like it, I think it all depends on how it’s prepared. This reminds me of when I had a hard time eating broccoli as a child and my mom would smother it with cheese so I’d eat them. I’m not saying kale is terrible on it’s own, it’s really not! But, cheese can not possibly hurt it. I forget how much I also enjoy creamed spinach. Take your pick on the greens, but consider creaming them for a perfect Thanksgiving Side. I like this recipe from Tyler Florence via Food & Wine:

Creamed Kale Beauty + A141112 Food & Wine Tyler Florence Thanksgiving 2015

Photo Credit: Food & Wine, www.foodandwine.com

4. Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower: This is one of the easiest side dishes, great for any gathering. So much flavor comes out of simply seasoning and roasting the florets. I think this final side rounds out a group of tasty accompaniments. Try this recipe from Bon Appetit:parmesan-roasted-cauliflowerPhoto Credit: Bon Appetit, www.bonappetit.com

BISCUITS

Buttermilk Biscuits: I know this technically counts as a side… but I gave biscuits their own category simply because there are so many to choose from. Some prefer Italian bread, dinner rolls, etc. but this classic buttermilk recipe from Southern Living had me at Buttermilk. Get a load of this:

Photo Credit: Southern Living, www.southernliving.com

DESSERT

We made it to dessert! Of course, no matter how stuffed you are, just wait an hour or two and you’ll muster up the strength to take a slice of granny’s pie. It’s one of those times when you really don’t have a choice. It isn’t Thanksgiving in my family without the apple and the pumpkin pie. Pair that with a steamy cup of coffee and cream… not to worry, sleep (Err, food-coma-induced hibernation) is coming!

  1. Apple Pie: A true classic for the fall season. My grandma has been making the same apple pie since she was twenty years old. Now that I’m married, it’s been my ultimate goal to master her art. The idea of closing my eyes and savoring her apple pie, and sharing it for years to come, gives me great joy. I know I’ll pass it down to my daughter one day and the legend will live on! Find a fool-proof crust and expert pie recipe from King Arthur Flour: 38-3-large

 Photo Credit: King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthurflour.com

2. Mocha Espresso Cream Pie: Everyone loves chocolate on the dessert table. I especially love this recipe from Southern Living because it incorporates espresso into the mix. This seriously enhances that chocolate flavor! Crunchy crust, creamy filling and that light fluff on top: mocha-espresso-cream-piePhoto Credit: Southern Living, www.southernliving.com

And that’s all! Now, you find yourself flat on your back, in front of the fireplace with the buzz of football and family chatter in the background. If this is you, you’re just like my father and grandfather. When you’re full, you gotta do what you gotta do. But you’ll be gosh darn happy you did.

Lastly, we have a few cherished Thanksgiving family traditions. Make your day perfect by creating your own with family and friends you hold dear:

  1. Give Thanks: We have a little “10 Year Diary” of Thanksgivings that one day we’ll all look back on (or at least my sentimental mother will!) Each of us writes what we are thankful for, amongst a bunch of memories, recipes and photographs.
  2. Parade: Some of my earliest memories of Thanksgiving are the mornings we spent in front of the inaugural fire of the season watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I’ll admit: I’m married now, but the truth is I wish I could spend every thanksgiving morning for the rest of my life at my parent’s home doing this very thing. My husband’s invited too. (winky face)
  3. Game On: Nothing is funnier than getting your 84-year-old grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins together for a riveting board game. Especially after all the good food and drink they’ve enjoyed. I’ve witnessed some of the most gut-wrenching, hysterical moments as my grandma acts out charades. I think laughter is the perfect end to a Thankful day– and my family would agree.

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalms 100:4

Classic Pumpkin Pie

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I stepped out of the house this morning and thought: aaaaah. This autumn morning crisp is here to stay. You know what that means. It’s pie season! Where to even begin with such a staple: good ole pumpkin pie. My mom has been making this pie on Thanksgiving Day for as long as I can remember. Subtle pumpkin flavor, not too sweet and even better when topped with a dollop of whipped cream. That slice you see in the photo above was my breakfast yesterday morning. It was perfect! If the thought of making a pie from scratch has you nervous, don’t sweat it. I can honestly say that pumpkin pie is the easiest pie you can make. The filling takes less than 5 minutes and there is only a single crust to make. Leave it to King Arthur Flour to make one of the best crusts I’ve ever tasted. It’s part shortening, part butter, and 100% flaky and delicious! I’ve got some extra tips and tricks below. Happy baking!


Yield: 1 pie, single crust

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp shortening
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 to 5 Tbsp ice water

Pie Filling Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/2 tsp ground cloves (or, use 1 and 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Spice Mix)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (15 oz) can Organic pumpkin
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  1. For the crust, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the shortening, working it in until the mixture is evenly crumbly.* Add the butter to the flour mixture, and work it in roughly with your fingers, a pastry cutter, or a mixer. Don’t be too thorough; the mixture should be very uneven, with big chunks of butter in among the smaller ones. Add 2 tablespoons of water (must be ice cold!), and toss to combine.
  2. Toss with enough additional water to make a chunky mixture. It should barely hold together when you squeeze a handful, though the remainder may look quite dry. Scoop the mixture out onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper, and flatten it out a bit. Take a spray bottle of water, and spritz the dry parts with the water.**
  3. Using the parchment or waxed paper, fold the dough over on itself — first from one side, then from the other. You’ll find that the dry crumbs are becoming incorporated with the cohesive dough. If there are still dry areas, spritz them with additional water, and fold the dough in on itself again. Keep folding and gathering until just a few dry crumbs remain unincorporated; this should only take a few folds.
  4. Shape the dough into a disk about 1″ thick, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or longer; this resting period allows the flour to absorb the water, making the dough easier to roll out. When you’re “ready to roll,” remove the dough from the fridge. If the dough has been refrigerated longer than 30 minutes, let it rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling, to allow the butter to soften up a bit.***
  5. Roll the dough to the size needed (about 12″ for a 9″ pie). Place it in a pie pan, and refrigerate it while you prepare your filling.
  6. To make the pie filling, mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves (or spice mix) in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour mixture into pie shell.
  7. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake 40-50 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before serving. Serve or refrigerate. Enjoy!

Crust recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthurflour.com

Notes:

*Add the shortening 1 Tbsp at a time and mix with pastry blender between additions. The goal is to coat the shortening crumbs with the flour. You’re just trying to cut the shortening into the flour, which is why a pastry cutter is best for this! Do the same with the butter, adding and mixing 1 Tbsp at a time. A little trick for the butter: freeze the 5 Tbsp of butter for 5-10 minutes and then grate with a cheese grater. This cuts the butter into smaller pieces, making it much easier to incorporate into the flour.

**My grandmother taught me to roll out dough between 2 layers of plastic wrap. I have had best success with this method. Also, be cautious of adding too much water. You only need enough to get dough to stick together. If you add more than necessary it will be too sticky to roll out. You can always add a tiny bit more flour to combat that, but be careful! It’s a balance between not too dry and not too wet. Stick to the recipe measurements for best results. This is something that will get easier to eye and feel with practice.

***You don’t have to refrigerate. Feel free to roll out the dough immediately.

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco