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thanksgiving recap: what did you learn this holiday?

There’s always a ton of advice shared before the Thanksgiving holiday — what to serve, how to cook the brid, what to say. But I thought it’d be helpful to take a moment and gather the lessons we learned this past week while they were still fresh in our minds. What worked, what didn’t, what you’ll repeat and what you’ll never do again. Here’s my lowdown on how the feast went in our house:

1. Green Beans Gremolata was unexpected star. This simple recipe from Ina Garten’s new book, Foolproof Recipes, is crazy easy but surprisingly sophisticated. The key is to cook the beans just right, so they are bright green with a little crunch. The gremolata was so simple, I’ll definitely repeat it again soon — just for an ordinary, non-holiday night! You simply mix toasted pine nuts, freshly grated Parmesan, lemon zest, minced garlic and flat leaf parsley together in a bowl and toss it with the hot beans before serving. Presto impresso!

2. A green salad is needed and welcome. One of the only dishes that was wiped clean was the salad bowl. I think everyone appreciated something leafy and light to counterbalance the heaviness of the starches. I served frisee with endive, dried cranberries and roasted pistachios, tossed in a light champagne vinaigrette.

3. Don’t bother with fancy potatoes. I always try something new with the mashed potatoes, but it always goes unnoticed. This year I went decadent and mixed them with half and half and truffle butter. The flavor was a bit to subtle to notice on the plate with everything else, and the turkey gravy covered it anyway. Next time, I’m gonna keep them really really simple, and a touch more healthy by using the water they are cooked in to blend rather than cream.

4. Let your guests contribute.
One of our friends brought along a scrumptious sweet potato dish. It was loved by all and I appreciated having one less thing to do.

5. Dry brining works. I dry brined our turkey for two days in the fridge before roasting. Basically that means I covered it with salt and herbs and let it sit there. The result was a turkey meat that tasted good on its own (even sans gravy) and it was especially moist.

How was your Thanksgiving meal? Did you try anything new? Share your trials and tribulations please!

From our partners

want it now: le creuset’s new nutmeg casserole pot

There are few pots or gadgets that get more use in our kitchen than our Le Creuset dutch oven. Whether we’re making popcorn, a pot of soup or braising some meat to go from stove to oven, it’s the go-to vessel. Look carefully in many of our Real Life Test Kitchen photographs, and you’ll notice it in action. Though I positively adore my bright red-orange beauty (it goes so nicely with our Eames chairs), Le Creuset’s new nutmeg collection is more than worthy of placement at a Thanksgiving table. It’s warm, earthen hue is sophisticated yet homey. Perhaps worthy of a holiday wish list?

More Le Creuset:
Want it now: Le Creuset Mug

From our partners

30 days of halloween: bloody knife spatula and more

Nothing’s more fun than licking the spatula after whipping up a batch of brownie batter, but even the most sugar-addicted tongue will think twice before taking a swipe of this collection from Spatulart. We especially like the bloody knife one, which looks like something you’d find in Dexter’s kitchen. All them come with handy square corners that help you get the good stuff out of any tight spaces and wipe the bowl clean (except for trace DNA, of course). Click here to find out where you can buy one near you.

From our partners

real life test kitchen: slow cooker curried butternut squash soup

I think I have set a new record, pulling down the slow cooker in October! Usually I realize mid November that one of my favorite kitchen tools is going unused. I owe this recent inspiration to a new cookbook my husband gave me (not without ulterior motives, I suspect), 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker. We had a butternut squash begging to be eaten, so I immediately decided to try the Curried Butternut Squash Soup Recipe. It was insanely easy to make, though I don’t have an immersion blender, which would have made everything easier. I found the recipe as it was in the book a little watery and bland. I added a dash of cider vinegar and extra curry powder to give it some kick. Here’s my take on the recipe:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

What You Need
2 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups of water (original recipe called for five) — I may also try vegetable stock
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 to 3 tsp of curry powder or garam masala — depending on how you like your spice
1 tbl of cider vinegar
1 tsp chile powder
1 cup of coconut milk
salt
a handful of chopped cilantro
1/2 cup of whole Greek yogurt
1/2 cup of roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Directions

1. Melt butter in a large pan and saute the onion over medium heat for about ten minutes.
2. Transfer to a 7-quart slow cooker and add squash. Cover and cook on LOW for about 2 hours until squash is tender.
3. Add water or broth, vinegar, spices, and cook on low for 2 to 4 more hours.
4. Puree the contents with a handheld immersion blender (or transfer and blend in batches in your upright blender, which I did, then return it to slow cooker.) Add coconut milk, and a generous amount of salt. Taste. Add more spices and cook a little longer if it needs.
5. Serve with cilantro, yogurt and pumpkin seeds — and a naan bread!

From our partners

post off: what’s your favorite food writing book?

I just finished Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour in which he travels the world in seplace of the perfect meal. I loved it. While Chef Tony can be sort of abrasively arrogant on “No Reservations,” in his writing, his passion is infectious and his arrogance dulled to a swaggering, appealing bad boy disposition. Every chapter was a new adventure (Vietnam, Russia, France, Japan) and (almost) every meal described in all it’s mouthwatering glory. It was a great read. More importantly though, A Cook’s Tour also introduced me to a literary genre I hadn’t ever read before: food writing. Now that’s I’ve delved into the genre, I’m hungry for more (sorry, couldn’t resist). So how about it, Shelterrific bookworms: what’s your favorite food writing book?

From our partners