Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Round-up

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and if you're one of those people who don't like to plan too far ahead, here are some recipe ideas for your holiday table.

Starters
Side Dishes
Desserts

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Cranberry Quince Sauce

Normally we don't have it together enough to make holiday dishes in advance merely for the purpose of blogging about them. Perhaps if people left comments here, requesting such things (or even if people left comments at all...ahem.), we'd try. Ordinarily, the cranberry sauce doesn't get made until the day before Thanksgiving, but this year, the three of you lucked out.

There are quince at the farmers' markets. We can hear you now, "I thought quinces were birds?" "What the hell is a quince?" Quince is a relative to pears and apples and looks like a cross between the two. Unlike pears and apples, they can't be eaten out of hand--they are far too hard, astringent, and acidic. But they smell wonderful. The two quince we picked up at the UMB farmers' market perfumed the car and made the evening commute far more pleasant than usual.

The last time we did anything with quince, the result was quince butter flavored with star anise and vanilla. Delicious stuff, especially as a side for roast pork. But there was a bag of cranberries in the freezer begging to be combined with quince. After discarding the idea of a chutney, we went with our usual cranberry sauce-making technique: throw stuff in a pot until it tastes good.

The quince and cranberry combo is wonderfully aromatic on its own, but even more so when a healthy dose of rosemary is added. Be sure to crush the rosemary needles in your hand before adding them to the pot, to ensure all the yummy essential oils can be dispersed through the sauce.

Cranberry Quince Sauce

2 quince
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup amaretto or bourbon (optional)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 lb cranberries
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Peel and dice the quince. Add them to a 2-quart saucepan with the brown sugar, orange juice, amaretto, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer, uncovered, for twenty minutes, until quince are softened. Add the spices, cranberries, and salt. Cook until cranberries pop and mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup and remove from heat.

Makes about a quart.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Pappas Cockeysville

The Taylor Avenue location of Pappas Restaurant, thought by many to have the best crab cakes in Baltimore, has been a landmark for local diners since 1972. Now they have expanded to a new location in Cockeysville, adding a spacious sports bar to compliment the restaurant offerings. The Minx and I had already visited the new Pappas when it first opened and were quite happy with our experience, so when we were invited to a media tasting of their new menu and cocktails, we didn't have to be asked twice.

We started with some appetizers, including a seafood sampler of mini crab cakes, calamari, scallops, and shrimp. The calamari was tender, which is always important. The crab cakes were delicious; the Minx thought they were even better than their larger counterparts.

We were also served Santa Fe eggrolls, which were not unlike mini chimichangas, and a rich crab dip with lightly fried pita chips. Chef Carlos Zea, who hails from Ecuador, is not afraid of spice. Everything was well seasoned.

One member of our party ordered raw oysters, and seemed pretty pleased with them.

For my entree I chose the salmon dijon. Salmon can be difficult to cook and serve at just the right level of doneness, but my salmon was cooked through without being dry and flaky. The creamy sauce had a pleasant lightness to it thanks to the tangy dijon mustard, and the ample amount of mushrooms brought an earthiness to the dish.

The Minx went for the chicken Chesapeake, which is a chicken breast topped with broiled crab imperial. As with salmon, chicken breast has a danger of becoming overcooked, but the breast was quite tender. Every element on the plate was nicely seasoned, including the green beans. In fact, all the dishes we've had at Pappas show a great deal of care when it comes to seasoning.

Just like their flagship restaurant, Pappas in Cockeysville is a great place for a satisfying lunch or dinner seven days a week, but the new location's sports bar offers a welcome spot for a drink and a light meal. Happy hour starts at 11 am (yes, that's not a typo) and lasts until 7 pm with drafts and rail drinks at $3. They also offer tasty mule drinks for $5 and $2 off wines by the glass. To keep things hopping, there's live music every Wednesday and Friday nights and late night trivia on Tuesday nights starting at 11 pm. Even if you don't have time to hang around, you can always order from the carry out menu.

Pappas Restaurant & Sports Bar on Urbanspoon

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