Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

I made this excellent bread pudding the other night for friends in my singing group. I used ciabatta bread and then you make the custard that soaks into the bread out of pureed squash, half and half, sugar, eggs, nutmeg and Chinese Five Spice Powder (which was a great complement to the sweet squash). Then you mash more squash with brown sugar and fold in. It is really flavorful and not just the same old bread pudding- though can bread pudding ever be boring?? The sauce is made out of evaporated milk cooked until thick and brown, sweetened condensed milk and cream. Very tasty. This would be very good with just maple syrup as well. What a great dish for a holiday brunch!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I thought I'd post about our Thanksgiving meal since it turned out pretty well. We had a few friends over this year and they provided the veggie tray, rolls, sweet potatoes (streusel topped and very yummy), pumpkin pie, as well as the Apple Betty Bars.

The menu was:

Veggie tray with Scallion Dip
Cheese Platter with a gorgonzola, good Camembert, awesome Gruyere, and Boursin- accompaniments were honeycrisp apples, marcona almonds, dried cherry/cranberry sauce and dried apricots

Mashed Potatoes
Bacon, Sausage, Leek and Pinenut Dressing
Streusel Topped Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Yeast Rolls (recipe below- my mom's recipe and one of my favorite standard rolls)
David's green jello salad :)

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Betty Bars

We drank wassail, sparkling cranberry juice, sparkling apple cider and Pelligrino.

Forgive the photos, the official food photographer was not at the helm. :)

My commentary (on what I made or provided recipes for):
The soup is really good. I've made it the past two years and it is not too rich. Tastes mushroomy, but not overwhelming so.

The salad was a last minute addition. I was searching for some kind of apple pie bar and this recipe turned up. I wanted something lighter to provide a foil for all the rich sides we already had, so here it was. I loved the balsamic reduction on the plate and the dates mixed in were a new experience in a salad, and really good. The walnut oil and nutty cheese with the sweet apples were a great twist on the typical apple salads I make. I think I'm going to make the salad again for some friends this weekend!

I was really excited about this turkey because it had raw bacon mixed into butter with herbs and such, which you then put under the turkey skin before roasting. I was a little disappointed that it didn't have a stronger bacon flavor, BUT the texture of the meat was really good. Not sure if because of the way I made it, or if it was just the bird itself. I did a little experimenting this year. The past few years I have made a point of ordering a good bird from a butcher counter- usually a fresh Willie Bird. They are more expensive but reliably good. They've tasted fine. I'm not a big turkey fan and have been trying to find the perfect recipe to make me love it. This year I bought a fresh brined turkey from Trader Joes. Definitely not worse than a Willie Bird and much easier to get ahold of (and cheaper). Can't say I feel compelled to go back to the old tradition. Trader Joes is here to stay! As far as the gravy went- totally unnecessary. It was a lot of work and I could not taste a remarkable difference from my standard. I usually do the roux with drippings and a little creme fraiche at the end.

The sides were good, as usual, nothing really new. Same dressing I've made for 10 years. We love it. I made it up when we first moved to San Fran. Mashed potatoes are always good when they have butter and half and half, right? A note on the green jello salad: this is a recipe David grew up eating and is a must have for him every year. It's fine and I'm sure brings back memories for him. It has lime jello, cream, crushed pineapple and cream cheese.

Desserts: David prefers Pumpkin Chiffon, I prefer baked pumpkin. We used to take turns every year. We both love my Pumpkin Cheesecake with gingersnap crust. Now, we don't make the others. This is it! The compromise. Last year I tried this Chocolate Cranberry Tart. It is very good and a nice change from more traditional Thanksgiving desserts. Plus it is pretty easy and has chocolate- need I say more?
Sweet Yeast Rolls
2 packages dry yeast (2 tablespoons)
¼ cup lukewarm water
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
1 cup hot milk
4 to 5 cups flour
2 eggs

Soften yeast in water for 5 minutes. In large bowl, add hot milk to sugar, salt, and shortening, let cool (break up shortening). Add 2 cups flour-stir till elastic and smooth. Add yeast, eggs and 1 ½ to 2 cups flour. Knead dough for 2 minutes on floured surface till not sticky. Let rise for 1 ½ hours or until double in bulk. Punch down. Divide in half and roll first half into a circle. Brush with melted butter. Cut into 12 wedges and roll each wedge starting at wide end. Put seam-side down on cookie sheet about ¼ inch apart. Brush tops with butter. Repeat with other half of dough. Rise till double, about 30 minutes. Bake 375o for 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire racks.