Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Dorot Roasted Brussels Sprouts Recipe Revisted (sponsored)

As promised, here's my interpretation of George Duran's brussels sprouts recipe, as published here just before Thanksgiving.  

I took at look at the Dorot Gardens website to see where their frozen herb cubes were sold. Not only does the site say in what stores their products are available, but also which products. Originally we were going to go to Safeway, but the one nearest to me only had the garlic and basil. The closest ShopRite, however, had all three herb cubes, plus the garlic and the glazed onions. As it turned out, they were out of parsley. No worries, I substituted the onion cubes for the parsley, and it worked out just fine. See below for my additional changes.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Herbs and Alliums

2 lb brussels sprouts
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 cubes Dorot Gardens Basil
2 cubes Dorot Gardens Sauteed Glazed Onions
2 cubes Dorot Gardens Cilantro
2 cubes Dorot Gardens Garlic

Trim the stem end off the sprouts, remove the outer layer of leaves and any others that look less than fresh, and cut the sprouts in half.
Preheat your oven to 375°F

Put the prepared brussels sprouts on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir (or use tongs to turn each piece individually). Return to oven for another 20 minutes.

While the sprouts are roasting, place all frozen Dorot Gardens cubes in a microwave safe bowl and nuke for 1 minute until cubes are mostly melted. Stir to combine the various flavors.

After the second 20 minutes in the oven, remove the baking sheet and pour the herbs over the sprouts. Using tongs, toss the sprouts with the herbs so they are well mixed. Put back in the oven and cook an additional 10 minutes. At this point the sprouts should have some serious brown bits and crispy leaves here and there. (Sometimes I turn the oven off and leave the sprouts in for 15-20 minutes in the residual heat to get extra crispy without really cooking them further.) Dump into a serving bowl and pass around the table.

Serves 4-6. 

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, November 28, 2022

Holiday Gift Guide, 2022, Part 2

I'm thinking that I should have made this food gift guide part 1 and the appliances part 2, just so I could title this post Gift Guide Part 2: Electric Boogaloo. And if you don't get that reference, you're probably not as old and decrepit as we are.


Anyhoo...let us proceed, shall we? 

I discovered a while back that a good gift for the person "who has everything" is food. We all need to eat. Some of us have dietary restrictions and need special products. Others of us are snackaholics. Still others are just weirdos. I'd give my Dad a half dozen jars of jams and preserves for Christmas because he was fond of eating them straight from the jar with a spoon. I enjoy receiving food gifts because once they're consumed, I can just recycle the jar or wrapper and there's nothing left to clutter the house--unlike books (which we have stacked in piles here and there), "collectibles" (ahem, Neal's action figure collection), mountains of craft supplies, and tchotchkes like candles, photo frames, and single-function kitchen gadgets like quesadilla makers (an actual thing that we actually received from an actual friend). Want to give me a gift that will make me smile? Send me a box of See's caramels

Gifts for People Who Drink

I don't mean boozers, necessarily, but people who like to drink all sorts of drinks. But yes, booze, too. 

ROOT 23 makes tasty simple syrups that can be used in cocktails, of course, but also poured on ice cream or in coffee or combined with a little seltzer to create a homemade soda. I'm partial to the Yuzu Citrus flavor, but Pear Rosemary is also nice.

BeetologyWonder Melon, and Wonder Lemon are tasty juices that are certainly drinkable on their own, but also make fine cocktail mixers. The cucumber version of Wonder Melon also makes a tasty gazpacho when added to a blender full of cucumbers and roasted red bell peppers seasoned with sherry vinegar and salt. You can get packs of 9 bottles at Amazon, but if you just want to try one or two, I've seen them at Giant supermarkets.

Fancy fizzy water subscriptions might be a nice gift, too. I like Aura Bora.

And yes, fine, your favorite liquor emporium might offer up a ton of gifts for family members. I could use a bottle of Amaretto d'Amore, and would love anything from Eden Ciders.

Gifts for People Who Like Hot Stuff

My friend Laurie gave me a bottle of TRUFF hot sauce a couple years ago. She's a fan of hot sauce in general, and a fan of this stuff in particular. I like hot stuff, too. Now, I'm going to say that the black label TRUFF isn't super hot. But if you like a gentle warmth, and the flavor of truffle oil, you might enjoy it. There is a red label version that is hotter, though I haven't tried that one. 

This sauce is a littler thicker and sweeter than most hot sauces, so to me, it's like the best kind of ketchup. I like putting it on my scrambled eggs, and it's fantastic on french fries and burgers and anything else you might put ketchup on. Also, it's a perfect sauce for buffalo wings. Man, I'm drooling at the thought of that. (I haven't eaten dinner yet and I am hungry. Not the best time to write food blog posts.)

Don't discount Old Bay Hot Sauce, which might be inexpensive at ~$4 per bottle. The stuff flew off the shelves when it was introduced a couple years ago, and with good reason. It tastes like Old Bay, the beloved seafood seasoning of the Mid-Atlantic region. 

Then there's the world of chili crisp/chili crunch, which I plan to cover in an upcoming post. One of my favorites is made by a newish brand called Oomame, which makes the increasingly popular, originally Chinese, condiment with flavors from other lands, like Morocco, India, and Mexico. China too, but Mexico's the best one. Dave Chang's Momofuku restaurant/tv/cookbook empire now includes food products like soy sauce and dry noodles, but they also have multiple versions of chili crunch, including extra hot and truffle.

Mighty Sesame produces various tahini-based products, including a spicy tahini that is no joke. It makes a mighty fine spicy hummus but can also add needed oomph to avocado toast.

Gifts for People Who Avoid Gluten

Absolutely! gluten free crackers and snacks are not only gluten free, but also grain free. But rather than using almond flour, Absolutely! uses potato and tapioca starches, so their crackers are light and crispy and low in calories. Their snacks include coconut macaroons, coconut chews, stacked potato crisps (think Pringles, but gluten free), and even cauliflower crust pizzas. We are a cheese-loving household, so I'm always thrilled to find yet another brand of tasty gf crackers to go with.

Tate's Bake Shop makes the best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. Honestly, they taste pretty close to homemade toll house cookies, without the gluten. I love them, and even before I started avoiding gluten, I preferred Tate's gf version to other commercial cookies. They have a variety pack that is calling my name.

Another favorite gluten-free snack that also comes in non-gf flavors is Sheila G's Gluten Free Brownie Brittle. So yummy! The thin cracker-like cookies remind me of the crispy sides of a pan of homemade brownies. I've tried all the flavors, thanks to the annual Summer Fancy Food Show, and to be very honest, the gluten free ones are my absolute faves. I finished off a bag of the dark chocolate sea salt flavor as I was typing this post. ::::brushes away chocolate crumbs from mousepad::::

I also love the gf crackers from Hungry Bird Eats.

General Savory Gift Items

Oryx Desert Salt is an unrefined salt from the Kalahari Desert region that has no additives or non-caking agents. It's harvested from a 55-million-ton underground salt lake and has a clean salt flavor. The glass container with ceramic grinder is refillable 10 or more times, making it more environmentally friendly than the typical supermarket salt grinders. They have pepper, too, and both have become fixtures on our dining table. 

I hope I don't have to remind you that has tons of fine snacky items and nuts. My favorite snack is the plaintain chips, and I'm partial to their gluten free brownie mix. Buy a basket, fill it with bags of nuts, and put a bow on it.

General Sweet Gift Items
I've been buying this particular brand of Pumpkin Panettone as a birthday gift to myself for the last couple of years. It's super moist, and the pumpkin filling only adds to the moisture. It's become our traditional Thanksgiving day breakfast. Ordinarily, I make french toast with leftover panettone, but this has far too much filling for that sort of thing. It doesn't get stale fast, so it doesn't matter if it takes a week to finish.

Who wouldn't love a 2.2 lb jar of Nutella

If you've never baked your own gingerbread house because you don't like gingerbread cookies, you may like making one with chocolate Oreos instead. This Oreo gingerbread house kit looks like it might be a lot of fun for the kiddos.

Also, I can't say enough good things about Yummy Bazaar, a mail order food company based in South Jersey. They have a wide variety of international foods all year 'round, but right now they are offering Italian and German holiday breads like Panettone and Stollen in many flavors. And they have all the flavors of Milka and Ritter Sport candy bars!

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, November 25, 2022

Holiday Gift Guide 2022

The gift-giving holidays are approaching faster than most people would like, so I thought I'd make a few recommendations for those of you who might be shopping for small appliances and other kitchen-y items. Everything listed below is something that I own and love and would buy again if I had to. I've had some of them for DECADES and they're still going strong, so I'm not in the market to buy replacements just yet. Actually, we Minxes aren't doing any gift exchanges this year, which is a relief to both the wallet and to the brain. After giving my brother a set of green pans and a toaster oven last year, an Instant Pot the year before, AND he has custody of my Ninja Foodi grill/air fryer thingy, so I'm sure he doesn't need anything else. And my brother-in-law is impossible to buy for so we usually resort to giving him an adult libation. Mr Minx and I tend to receive booze and books, which we both appreciate, but there's already too much of both in this house. (My goal for the rest of the year is to finish three partial bottles of spirits and get them into the recycle bin. There are four bottles of various rums that are excellent candidates for this project. And we're making a trip to The Book Thing this month to donate a couple boxes of books.) 

Since I'm not giving anything this year, and I LOVE to give gifts, I'll just have to live vicariously through all of you. Leave a comment and let me know what you're planning to gift this year, especially if it's something from the list below.

I got my first food processor in the 1980s, the classic bulky Cuisinart. It's great, but it's too big to keep on the counter, and too heavy to continually bring out of its storage cupboard every time I feel like making hummus. Enter the Mini-Prep, which doesn't take up much room and holds the perfect amount of hummus or muhammara for a two-person household. I use mine at least once a week, especially in the summer when the basil and mint are growing like crazy, or I have other green herby stuff that would make a good pesto.

This guy is sleeker than my squared off model from the aughts, but my little old guy still works, so why buy a new one? Not just yet, anyway. When I do, this is the one I want.

We got a classic Waring blender for a wedding shower gift 22 years ago, and it's my go-to for most things that need liquifying, gazpacho, for example. But then I got on a protein smoothie kick, making them for breakfast and occasionally lunch 5 days per week. Cleaning the Waring was annoying, as the blade is attached at the bottom of the jar and not removable, and the jar itself is heavy glass. So Mr Minx bought me a Jusseon smoothie maker, which comes with two sizes of plastic jar, and a screw-off blade. There are even caps to turn the jars into to-go cups, so there's no need to dirty a glass. 

Decades ago, my Dad brought home a Cuisinart immersion blender, which my Mom dismissed as another useless kitchen gadget that would take up room. And in her kitchen, that was definitely the case. Somehow, she never required a blender or food processor of any kind. (I guess we ate a lot of chunky foods back then.) When I moved out of my parents' house, I took the immersion blender (along with the dining room table, some sofas, and more). I still have it (and the table), and I use it to smooth out soups and gravies regularly. It can also be used to make homemade mayonnaise. This newfangled model comes with a chopper/grinder and whisk attachments that make it much more versatile. Again, my old late-80s version works just fine, so I won't be getting a new one anytime soon. But you or someone you love might need one. Right now.

I've had a frozen-capsule-style ice cream maker since Donvier came out with their plastic crank handle jobbies in the 80s. Cranking ice cream is a PITA, so I abandoned that old one for a new-fangled electric model that essentially does the same thing. Before I make ice cream, I have to make sure there's room in the freezer for the capsule--which usually means I have to cook/reheat a bunch of stuff, as the capsule isn't small. After a couple days, once I'm sure that thing has frozen solid, I make my custard and commence to ice cream making (and eating).

If you're really into ice cream, you can buy the capsules separately and store them in the freezer for whenever the mood strikes and make two flavors at once! (Also, you need to not have an overfull freezer.) My Cuisinart ice cream maker is red, but I do like this baby pink one. (Other colors are available.)

Another item I ordered because it was pink (though I was tempted by the lime green model!) is this Ovente electric kettle. We drink a lot of hot tea here at Casa Minx, all year 'round. Sometimes we just brew loose tea in the Mr Coffee, but other times we don't need that much tea. For instance, when I want a cup of chamomile before bed. Yes, I know I can put a cup of water in the microwave and magically have hot water a couple minutes later, but I've had a mug explode before. Dummy me didn't check if it was microwave safe, and it wasn't, and now I'm a bit hesitant to try again. So I just boil a pot of water in my cute electric kettle. 

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Thursday, November 24, 2022

The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2020 cheeseball
I've received some flack recently about my dislike for turkey and refusal to make it for Thanksgiving. As if an obese flightless fowl on an overburdened dinner table is what the holiday is all about. Just the other day, we ran into my husband's cousin, who questioned us on our holiday plans. I piped up about eating charcuterie and chicken legs on the coffee table while watching football and he acted as if I had uttered the most blasphemous statement ever spoken. He implied that our difference, more specifically MY difference, was a bad thing (and always had been). Because I didn't fall in line with the majority of the country in celebrating with rote tradition, I was wrong. But he's always seemed to view me as an aberration on my husband's part, and while his judgement could have hurt, if I let it, because he was criticizing me as much he was sneering at my desire to actually celebrate the holiday rather than force myself to do something I didn't enjoy, I actually felt a little smug. (As I am wont to do.) 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have a stress-free holiday, eating food that one wants to eat with people one wants to spend time with. There's something to be said, of course, for large family gatherings--if one has a large family. But if one has a family of three, then the pressure of impressing relatives that one doesn't see often is off. Honestly, isn't the Thanksgiving holiday really about being thankful? About appreciating what we have? I have to think that large gatherings with turkey and all the usual sides involve at least a little resentment, at least on the part of the people who are preparing the meal (traditionally the women). I realize that this is the 21st century, and family structures are different--at least for us coastal elites--but I imagine that there are still plenty of households where the women work their asses off while the men belch beer at the Lions and Cowboys. Cuz that's 'Murica, right? And I'm not saying that's wrong, if that's what people want to do. What I want to do is enjoy a day off from my job, eating what I want to eat, with the two most precious people in my life (three, if you count the dog), thanking the cosmos for loving and being loved. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, however you plan to celebrate.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, November 21, 2022

Walnuts for Thom

While I enjoyed school, I can't say I was the best student. There were times that I made excellent grades, but I think that's mostly because the classes were too easy. I breezed through reading and whatever passed for English class in a Catholic grade school, doing well enough to earn me a spot in honors English at Catholic High. There it got much tougher. When we started talking about the pluperfect tense and diagramming sentences, my brain turned to mush. And sorry, but I found literature to be a bit of a snooze. The Red Badge of Courage. The Old Man and the Sea. Heart of Darkness. The Scarlett Letter. No thanks. Huckleberry Finn and Jane Eyre? Barf. My grossly underdeveloped prefrontal cortex was not up for the job. (Vocabulary, however, I grokked.) Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the subject matter, I managed to absorb many of the complexities of grammar. Proof? My living room bookshelf bears three well-written books with my name on the cover.

After the publication of each of those books, I wanted to thank the teacher who for two years stood in front of the 19 young women in my English class, attempting to instill in us his passion for Shakespeare and proper sentence construction. However, I had no idea where he was or how to contact him--though at some point after graduation I did have his home address and we corresponded by good old-fashioned postal mail. (This was the 1980s, people. I am old.) Recently I found a mention of him on Facebook and realized we have a friend in common. She was happy to share his contact information, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he looked forward to hearing from me. And now he reads this blog. (Hi, Thom!) 

When we met up a while back, I asked him if there was any particular subject he might like to see me cover on Minxeats, as I have been trying to post regularly again and am always up for suggestions. He said he went through the recipe directory and didn't see anything that specifically mentioned walnuts. While I do have a few walnut recipes here and there, most have been posted in the last few years, and I have not updated the directory in a very long time. I have linked some of those posts below. I also thought it might be nice to create a new recipe starring one of Thom's (and my) favorite nuts. 

Recipes on Minxeats using walnuts as a featured ingredient:
Salad with Warm Sausage Vinaigrette, Walnuts, and Goat Cheese (You could use another nut, but walnuts work best for me.)
Nutty Bars (Again, you could use other nuts, but why would you?)
Maple Walnut Biscotti (It's in the name, so absolutely essential!)
Muhammara (This is a delicious red pepper and walnut spread of Syrian origin.)
Savory Granola (While I might not eat it with milk, it's a great topping/garnish.)
Koresht-e Fesenjan (My take on the Persian walnut and pomegranate stew, with lamb.)

And now the new recipe. This is for you, Thom. 

Chicken with Walnut Pepper Sauce
I find myself making muhammara frequently, and the chicken fesenjan is my favorite order at Villagio Cafe, a Persian restaurant in my neighborhood. I've already included separate recipes for both muhammara and fesenjan, but I wanted to create a new dish using them as inspiration--a chicken dish with a walnut sauce that also features roasted red bell pepper, plus the pomegranate molasses common to both. 

Chicken thighs are one of my favorite proteins to cook. They cook relatively quickly, but can also be braised. They aren't as likely to dry out as chicken breasts <shudder>, and they have superior flavor. This recipe would work with both boneless and bone-in varieties, but would be best without skin. There's enough fatty richness in the walnuts. Besides, the skin would get soggy.

8 ounces (by weight) walnuts
Extra virgin olive oil
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt
1 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken stock
1 12-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and roughly chopped
1 large or two small 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon or more fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons or more pomegranate molasses*
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or Urfa Biber, or a pinch of cayenne
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Fresh soft herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint, chives) for garnish

Put a large skillet over medium heat and add the walnuts. Stirring frequently, cook until walnuts are golden and fragrant, 3-4 minutes. (Keep an eye on them--nuts can scorch easily.) Remove nuts to a bowl and allow to cool.

Wipe out the pan and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken, sprinkle with salt, and brown on both sides over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside. Add a little more oil, if necessary, the onions, and another pinch of salt. Cook onions until soft and beginning to brown, 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Add the cumin and stir well, allowing the spices to toast for a minute. Pour in the stock and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken back to the pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, covered, for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is simmering, make the sauce. If you used walnut halves, put them in a ziptop bag and bash them with a heavy object like a meat tenderizer until they are in small pieces. (This makes them easier to blend. If you used walnut pieces, you can skip this step.) Remove a couple tablespoons of walnut pieces and set aside for a garnish. Place the remaining walnuts, bell peppers, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor with the lemon juice and molasses and blend to a paste. It's ok if it's not totally smooth, you just don't want it chunky. Add the hot pepper and smoked paprika and season to taste with salt. Here's where your taste buds come in! Imagine you're going to eat this stuff on a piece of pita. Is it bland? Add more salt. Still not right? Add a little more lemon juice or molasses. I like my muhammara a little sweet, so I add a little bit of maple syrup. When it tastes great, like you want to eat it with a spoon, scrape the sauce into a bowl and set aside. 

After the chicken has simmered for half an hour, add the walnut red pepper paste and stir to blend the sauce with the liquid in the pan. Heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Taste. If the sauce needs more salt, add it. You could also add more cumin, lemon, pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika, pepper flakes, even garlic (use garlic powder at this point, as raw garlic won't have enough time to cook and lose its sharpness). 

Serve over basmati rice. Garnish with some of the reserved walnuts, chopped or torn herbs, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, if using.

* Pomegranate molasses is a sweet-tart syrup made from the juice of fresh pomegranates. If you don't have pomegranate molasses, use equal parts balsamic vinegar and real maple syrup. Cranberry juice or grenadine--which is made with pomegranates--work, too, though the former can be quite tart and the latter is very sweet. As always, taste everything!

Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, November 18, 2022

Another Brussels Sprouts Recipe! (Sponsored)

Brussels sprouts are one of our favorite vegetables, so it's not surprising that I have multiple recipes for preparing the mini cabbages on this blog. Normally I make something with a sweet-spicy edge, like roasted sprouts tossed in a gochujang-maple syrup glaze, but I really like the idea of this recipe. I'd make it in the summer with fresh herbs from my garden, but it's November and the weather forecast called for snow flurries this weekend (!) so I'm officially kissing my basil plants goodbye. Sometimes I buy herbs from the supermarket, but that tends to be wasteful. I end up tossing as much or more than I use into the compost bin. But I love these frozen herb cubes by Dorot Gardens, and buy them when I can. The garlic is especially useful, as I really hate chopping garlic (and get Mr Minx to do it when I can). One frozen cube = 1 clove of garlic. The herb cubes each equal a teaspoon of chopped fresh herb. 

George Duran's Herbed Roasted Brussels Sprouts
I like my roasted brussels sprouts to be really brown and crispy, so I'd make changes to this recipe. I'd toss the sprouts in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and roast them at least 30 minutes to start, then toss them with the defrosted herbs + other tablespoon of oil and roast another 10-15 minutes until they are much browner and very tender. I wouldn't add the onion at all. Carrots are optional, but I might like to roast those separately, in larger pieces, and then combine them with the sprouts. I'm going to make this for Thanksgiving and will post the photo here and on Instagram later.

3 cubes Dorot Gardens Basil
3 cubes Dorot Gardens Parsley
3 cubes Dorot Gardens Cilantro
3 cubes Dorot Gardens Garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, trimmed, and cut in half
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 425°F

Place all frozen Dorot Gardens cubes in a microwave safe bowl and add 2 tbsp olive oil. Microwave for 1 minute.

Place brussels sprouts in a medium bowl and add carrots and onions. Mix in microwaved herbs and garlic, season generously with salt and pepper, and place on a baking sheet.

Roast for 30-45 minutes, just until it begins to brown. Remove from oven and season more to taste.

Serves 4-6. 

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, November 14, 2022


WARNING! there are no turkey recipes in this post. 
For a brief period of time, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. Why? Because, at its heart, it's all about food. And y'all know I love to eat. And cook. We never really celebrated Thanksgiving in my immigrant Polish childhood home. In fact, I have no memories of it. Zero. Zilch. None. The only turkey we ever ate was in deli meat form and I wasn't fond of it. Smoked turkey was too dry, and unsmoked turkey was too wet. Both, unfortunately, tasted like turkey. My unpopular opinion: you can keep the bird. The sides were and still are more interesting to me. 

I roasted my first turkey in my parents' house as a new wife at the ripe old age of 35. Mr Minx had skipped his own family's celebration to start a new tradition with my clan. Because his family did the whole turkey-and-multiple-carbs thing, his new bride would do the same. I used Alton Brown's recipe, minus the brine, and to be perfectly honest--it was a triumph. I didn't (and still don't) understand why anyone made dry turkey when a moist and juicy one is so easy. 

Sadly, my mother died the following February, so we Minxes, plus my younger brother but minus our dad, started celebrating with my mother-in-law and her regular holiday crew. After my first Thanksgiving there, which included turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, supplemented with canned corn, canned peas, and canned cranberry sauce, frozen rolls, and sweet potato casserole made with frozen glazed yams, I decided to take over help with the cooking. The following year, I brought a corn pudding and homemade cranberry sauce. In subsequent years I started making the sweet potatoes and the gravy, and added brussels sprouts and green bean casserole. If the holiday was about food, then I wanted it to be tasty and abundant. I loved my mother-in-law dearly, but in her later years she cooked primarily for sustenance purposes. I, on the other hand, loved to cook and eat delicious things and truly enjoyed preparing my contributions. 

A few years later, we moved the celebration to my brother-in-law's house as my MIL had various ailments and became too ill to cook. BIL Craig made the stuffing and provided the kitchen, and Mr Minx and I made everything else. I took off from work the day before Thanksgiving in order to get as much cooking done as possible in advance so it only needed rewarming the next day. Lugging bags of cooked food, raw ingredients, and some cooking implements, we started to feel like caterers. After my MIL passed, Thanksgiving finally moved to Minx Manor. Dad's girlfriend had dumped him, so he became part of the crew. And while it was more convenient to cook and serve food at our own house, going from caterer to restaurant owner involves more expense, decision-making, and house-cleaning, and much less enjoyment. One year, after vowing never to wash so many dishes again, we made lasagna and salad. It raised slightly less furor than the year I decided to make roast duck

Then Craig got married and Dad died. Buh-bye Thanksgiving feast! Seeya never, turkey! The holiday crowd that once included Mr Minx's 99-year-old grandfather and MIL's work friend Wayne in addition to five other family members was down to Mr Minx, Minxbro, and moi. In 2019, we started a new tradition: the grand Thanksgiving meal was pared down to a giant charcuterie platter that we grazed upon as we watched football and drank copiously all day. That first year, I cooked nothing, though I did make a cheeseball. Our coffee table became a buffet of cheese, crackers, sausage, and stuff like olives and cornichons. We used paper plates which we refilled over and over again. It was great, and we weren't stuck with 3 pounds of leftover turkey in the fridge. We did the same in 2020, and I added broiled bacon-wrapped dates to the party. 

Then my brother announced that it seemed wrong not to have a cooked poultry product on our holiday table.

There was no way I was going to make a turkey for three people, one of whom wasn't even going to eat it. I decided to make chicken wings, which seemed appropriate considering we'd be eating them in front of the annual Lions and Cowboys games. But I couldn't find reasonably priced wings last year. Chicken legs, however, were budget-friendly, with more meat and less waste. I coated them with a seasoning based on the wings served at Earth, Wood, and Fire and baked them. And since I had the oven on, I roasted brussels sprouts and tossed them in a spicy-sweet sauce of gochujang and maple syrup. We still had charcuterie, but much less of it. This year will be a repeat of last year, with the addition of stuffing. I know what you're thinking--in a year or two, I'll be back to making the whole holiday shebang again. No! I promise I won't go back to that. The only reason I'm making stuffing is because Olivia's Croutons sent me a box of products that includes both regular and gluten free stuffing mixes. So I'll make a small pan of each. Stuffing is simple: sauteed mirepoix; broth; herbs; bread. Maybe a little pork. We'll see what I feel like tossing in. Bake until crusty. Hey, the oven's gonna be on anyway....

For those of you who read this far and are still looking for Thanksgiving recipes, I'm including some here at the end. Please remember that I'm not like those bloggers who make turkeys in June just to have something to post in advance of the holiday. BO-RING! There are 109 million hits on the google for "roast turkey recipes," so you don't need mine. Sides is where it's at, people, so here's a handful of recipes for good stuff to eat on the side of a nasty ol' turkey. (Yes, I realize most of the recipes are for brussels sprouts. We like brussels sprouts!)

Corn Pudding
This is the corn pudding that I made every Thanksgiving for 15 years. I could have sworn I posted it here at some point in the past, but I couldn't find it. Luckily, I have the original printout safely tucked away someplace I can actually find it.

3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups frozen corn kernels, defrosted

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, cream, and milk. Stir in the salt, sugar, and corn.

Pour into a greased 8" square baking pan. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
Blackened Carrots with Harissa Yogurt I didn't make this for Thanksgiving originally, but I think it would make a great side dish. 
Celery Root Remoulade Try something totally different and make a cold salad. It's like cole slaw, but not at all like cole slaw.
Cheesy Drop Biscuits are much better than heat-and-eat dinner rolls.
Collard Greens are traditional in some homes. I do believe I made them to accompany my first turkey.
Spicy Sweet Potato and Bacon Casserole Make this at your own risk. I posted it on Food52 and someone commented that it was a "hot mess." I thought it was pretty tasty, and far better than the stuff with mini-marshmallows on top.

The Brussels Sprouts Collection
Raw Brussels Sprout Salad
Shaved Brussel Sprout, Meyer Lemon, Quinoa Salad

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, November 07, 2022

Best Burger in Baltimore

spicy buffalo burger from Alonso's
On toast, brioche, or on a ses'me bun
And crown'd with molten gold, or bleu, or bare
of cheese, instead top'd thick with more than one
wet squirt of sauce: ketchup? mustard? compare
the benefits of each plus mayonnaise.
Relish the addition of onion,
raw or sauteed, I can have it both ways.
Mushrooms are great, in my opinion.
Now comes the matter of temperature.
Well done's a cruel thing to do to good beef!
Nice med'um rare is what I do prefer,
and not too lean, fat's fine in my belief.
Now to my eager lips this juicy beast,
I sigh and bite into a beefy feast.

The burger is so universally loved, it inspired Shakespeare to write a sonnet. Well no, that's not true--I wrote the sonnet--though had burgers been around in Elizabethan England, the Bard may well have tossed a rhyming couplet or two its way. Of course, a burger in those days would have been a different animal entirely. Literally. It might have been made with mutton or pigeon, maybe a soupcon of eel, and as the sandwich wasn't invented until nearly 200 years later, it would not have been served on a bun. More than likely it would be enveloped in a crust of some sort. Yes, an Elizabethan burger would probably have been a pie, or a pastie. 

Yeah, sooo...there was no such thing as a burger in Shakespeare's day. In our time, however, burgers are everywhere. Chain restaurants dedicated to churning out mass-produced burgers are legion and even fancy restaurant menus include hifalutin versions of the ubiquitous beef-and-bun creation. There's the Black Gold "burger" from H Bar in Houston that involves black truffles, foie gras, and a pound of sliced wagyu beef, served on a 24K gold-leafed black brioche bun, with a bottle of Dom Perignon on the side...for $1600. I'm not sure why they call it a burger if it's actually a steak sandwich, but the price is ridiculous either way. I've eaten Daniel Boulud's signature burger at db Bistro Moderne in NYC and was not impressed. For about $30, I got a sirloin burger stuffed with short rib and foie gras on a parmesan-crusted bun. Sounds good, huh? Except the burger itself was maybe 3 ounces of underseasoned meat, the short rib had zero flavor, and the perhaps teaspoon of foie had completely melted out. The sandwich was about 4" in diameter and at least as tall, which made it difficult to pick up and bite into without first cutting it in half. Much better is the Minetta burger at Minetta Tavern, a well-sized patty topped with cheddar and sauteed onions and served with pommes frites for $30. (There's also a "Black Label" version made with dry-aged prime beef for $38.) 

While the Minetta burger was pretty damn fine, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the best burger I have ever eaten comes from Alonso's, in Baltimore. This Cold Spring Lane stalwart has been around seemingly forever. When I was a kid, we'd go there for pizzas but even then their 16oz burgers were legendary. I've never tried the enormoburger, though I did watch two relatively scrawny men attempt--and fail--to finish one apiece at a meal there about 25 years ago. I had the smaller, but still very large (8oz) burger and don't recall it having been anything particularly special.

Alonso's has gone through a few owners in the last 20 years or so, which has led to menu changes and expansions, and even Indian food (the current owner is the proprietor of Namaste, next door), but the burger remains, and is as close to burger perfection as I've eaten. I don't know what exactly makes their burgers so good. A mere $13 gets ya 8 thick ounces of juicy meat (see photo above for evidence) and a decent amount of fries, so it's not fancy beef, though it is nicely seasoned and flavorful. I am not wild about brioche buns, so I have to ding them on that. There's no point to consuming what is essentially breakfast or dessert* with a burger, and brioche doesn't always hold up to dripping fat and meat juices. That said, the buns at Alonso's are always impeccably fresh. 

On occasion, we eat at the restaurant, but more often that not we get delivery. The burgers and fries arrive in compostable containers, which is nice, but we always put them on plates because they are special and deserve to be eaten with respect. Apart from a few of Alonso's signatures that involve specific sauces like the Russian dressing on the Rachel or the herbed mayo on the Frenchie, the burgers are condiment-free. No ketchup, mustard, or mayo. They are moist enough that they do not need any of that wet stuff. And there's always plenty of cheese. I like bleu cheese with my beef, so my normal order is either the spicy buffalo (bleu, buffalo sauce, green onions) or the black and blue (bleu, sauteed mushrooms and onions, Cajun spices), cooked to medium or medium rare. Even though Alonso's is not a steakhouse, when one orders a medium rare burger, it arrives at the table medium rare. Astonishingly, even a delivery burger arrives medium rare. So...juicy meat, cooked perfectly, lots of bleu cheese, no sauces to hide the flavor of the beef = my favorite burger. 

Now if they would only put it on a non-brioche bun....

*Brioche is made with what is called an enriched dough, containing milk, butter, eggs, and sugar in addition to yeast and flour. Most breads contain only flour, water, and yeast, with a tiny bit of sugar added to feed the yeast.

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