This is the week! The week where we celebrate our favorite culinary holiday, Thanksgiving. We love it so much we celebrate it twice! First, we go to a dear friend’s house on Thursday. This year our plan is to contribute a dessert and a salad. We know the host will have a pumpkin pie handy, so we’re adding a something non traditional to the mix this year. I’m going to attempt to make Crack Pie, made famous by Momofuku Milk Bar. More soon on how that goes. Then, on Saturday we will have our own mini Thanksgiving, because we cannot survive a winter without turkey soup, and turkey soup cannot be made without roasted remains. Though we usually opt for a simple, dry brine, this year we’re going to do something new. We are going to spatchcock our turkey — which means to remove its backbone and splay it out flatly in the pan. We’ve had great success doing this with whole chickens, so I have confidence this will be great. It’s fast (45 minutes!) and the skin is super crispy.
Now you know our plans for this week, here’s a handy link list of learnings from year’s past. Good luck with your feasts this year. Tell us what you’re cooking up!
The most yummy Brussels sprouts, ever.
And, don’t forget to polish grandma’s silverware
During the winter, grilled chicken is a staple Sunday night dinner. It makes your house smell great and the leftovers are great for soups or lunches during the week. In the summer time switch to the grill, and the whole chickens go away — mostly because of our fear of under cooking. When I spotted this technique in the August issue of Bon Appetite magazine, I decided to give it a go. It calls for a whole chicken with the “backbone removed.” I suppose you could ask your butcher to do this, but I hacked it out on my own — which is easier than I thought it would be. Once you remove the backbone, the chicken will be split, and can lay down rather flatly on the grill. This method is so simple, it’s really not a recipe at all.
Here’s how you do it: rub olive oil and salt and pepper all over your chicken. Heat up the grill to about 400-450 degrees. Place a bunch of whole scallions, long fresh rosemary twigs, and a halved garlic bulb directly on the grill. Place the chicken skin side up on the herb pile. Close the lid and let it cook for about 40 minutes. After that, remove the charred herbs and brush some new olive oil on the skin side of the chicken. Flip it over and cook on the grill for another 10 minutes or so until nice and crispy. Remove from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. For some extra flavor, roast some additional scallions to serve along with it in the oven, for about 5 minutes. The result is incredible moist, flavorful chicken that you can’t stop eating. Enjoy!
Every year, as July turns into August, we make a pilgrimage up north to Maine, specifically Mt. Desert Island and the enchanting wilds of Acadia National Park. Seven days there does wonders to revitalize your mind and spirit. We unplug (thus, no Shelterrific posts for a week), disconnect and take lots of deep breathes to savor the freshest air imaginable. One of the most charming things about MDI is that there are no franchises or chains of any kind (there may be one Rite Aid, but that’s it). You don’t realize the effect constant strip mall signage and box stores collections have on your senses until you step away from them. It’s so delightful to having nothing but locally owned and operated businesses to choose from. Sure, you may have to pay a little more for that gallon of milk, or drive a little farther to get a pint of blueberries, but in the end, you’ll be happier because of it.
At the center of this extremely local-centric region is Acadia, which is truly one of this country’s treasures. (In fact, a USA Today poll recently declared it the most popular national park, which means the house rental demand will be even fiercer next summer!) When you’re in MDI, you weave in and out of the park land all day long. It is the only national park that has private land and small towns scattered throughout, which is a nod to history: It was donated by the Rockfellers about a hundred years ago, and some families still have estates within its boundaries. This year we rented a piece a property overlooking Sommes Sound. There were no car sounds, no lights from neighboring residences, nothing but quiet. Our days were spent exploring the park by foot, boat, or horse-drawn carriage. At night we cooked lobster in a big pot and then made s’mores by the fire pit for dessert.
Here are a few recipes and local wares that have become a part of our lives every summer. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to journey to MDI this year, you can always eat some cobbler and dream.
The moment I laid my eyes on the July issue of Food & Wine I couldn’t stop thinking about the salad on its cover. I didn’t even know exactly what it was, but I could see some of favorite ingredients — watermelon, feta, black olives — and knew I needed to make it. The occasion was our neighborhood block party, which is usually overflowing with hotdogs, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese and all kinds of yummy but not very light foods. A friend of mine who works at the magazine forwarded me the recipe. I immediately saw that their version called for a few ingredients I would NOT find at our local supermarket, (Gochugaru? Shishito peppers?), so I set about to adapt it slightly. The secret to this salad is a surprising mix of sweet and peppery. I’m happy to say my resulting bowl was a big hit and the leftovers (when mixed with more fresh greens) were just as good the next day. Here’s my take on a watermelon salad with feta and charred peppers.
Watermelon Salad with Feta and Charred Peppers
What You Need:
2 cups of seedless watermelon, cubed into 1-inch pieces
2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion
1 1/2 tbls sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup + 2 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
8 hot chili peppers
1/2 cup of pitted kalamata olives, halved
4 ounces feta, crumbled
1 cup lightly packed watercress leaves, stems removed
2 tbls minced cilantro
How To Make:
1. In a large glass or ceramic baking dish, gently toss the watermelon, cucumbers, red onion, vinegar, crushed red paper and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Spread in an even layer and season with salt and pepper.
2. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add the whole chili peppers and cook over high heat, tossing, until charred in spots and crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly, then add to salad bowl.
3. Before serving, add olives, feta, watercress, and cilantro. Toss and serve.
The weekends that immediately follow Memorial Day are the most social in our little surbatopia hood. Saturdays and Sundays are booked way in advance with backyard BBQs, toddler birthday parties, block parties and yard sales. Many occasions call for a dish to be contributed. One of my go tos: good old, slow cooked baked beans. Guess what will be soaking in our sink tonight? Below, a favorite recipe.
Few things accompany BBQ as nicely as a side of baked beans, but until recently, I had never attempted to make them myself. Then I spotted this recipe in the June issue of Real Simple and thought I’d give it a go.
The first, most crucial step, is to plan ahead and soak your beans overnight. The recipe calls for navy beans, but I used northern beans (very similar). Then, on the stove, you cook some bacon (secret yum ingredient, that you can skip for vegetarians easily), and an onion. Add beans, molasses, ketchup and dry mustard + 5 cups of water. Stick the pan (use a dutch oven) in the oven and bake at 300F for about three hours. Obviously, this is not a dish to make during a heat wave! The Real Simple recipe called to stir in a splash of cider vinegar before serving. Honestly, I forgot to do that and didn’t miss it all. Next time, I’ll try to remember!
The results were creamy, tangy and just sweet enough (though the beans were not quite as soft and mushy as some may like them). We had plenty to share with our neighbors. Beans, beans, the magical fruit! — Angela M.