Monday, November 30, 2009

The leftovers are the second best part.

The last piece of leftover pie is eaten, and while we still have some straggling turkey and dressing and mashed sweet potatoes left in Tupperwares in the fridge, at this point I think it is safe to say that the Thanksgiving feast has drawn to a close.

My husband and I spent this Thanksgiving in San Antonio, away from our families. And while the tradition of the whole family gathered around the table was not a reality for us this year, we certainly remembered our loved ones through the tradition of preparing family-specialty dishes. Sharing traditions and passing them through households is perhaps the best part of Thanksgiving. In fact, I dare say the sharing of traditional dishes is even better than the "everything sandwiches" my husband looks forward to creating from Turkey Day leftovers (imagine your traditional Thanksgiving plate, only sandwiched between two pieces of bread).

I have yet to find another family that shares my family's Crab Demose tradition. Before every Thanksgiving feast, we began the meal with a rich, flavorful seafood appetizer served out of hallmark seashell plates. I have no idea where the recipe originated, but I do know it is something my grandmother - Grandmarj - used to prepared for her holiday table. Given the lavish amounts of mayonnaise in the recipe, combined with the rich flavors of mustard and curry, and rounded out with a bright squeeze of lemon, the dish is so flavorful that it is perfectly at home on a Thanksgiving table.

So on Thursday, while the pies baked and the kitchen was full of aromas of nutmeg and sage and browing meats and baking bread, my husband and I sat down to a table for two. We feasted on Crab Demose as a bountiful amuse bouche to the main meal. My grandmother, my own mother, and the entire extended family were with us in spirit. I felt thankful to share the holiday with my family, if not in person via the tradition passed from kitchen to kitchen.

Of course, this does not need to be a Thanksgiving-only dish. You can whip it up for a decadent lunch, an impressive first course at your next dinner party, or perhaps with a nice green salad for your own dinner tonight. Any way you make it, I hope it finds a place in your recipe file reserved for special occasions and special people. Maybe someday it will also become your special tradition.

Crab Demose
Serves 4 -6

This dish is best served in a shallow shell, and yes, I mean a real shell. The best part of this dish is the crunchy crust that forms over the top. To maximize crust and ensure everything heats through as it should, arrange the dish in shallow layers. It also helps to use piping hot wild rice when you assemble the dish, otherwise it will not heat through.

1 cup mayonaise
4 tsp premium mustard, I prefer Dijon
4 tsp yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
2-4 tsp lemon juice to taste
1/2 lbs. lump crab meat
1 cup wild rice, cooked
1/2 Parmesan cheese

Combine first five ingredients to create sauce. If sauce is too think to spread easily, thin with a little bit of milk. In a shallow dish, lay down a bed of wild rice, hollowing out a crater in the center. Layer lump crab meat in rice crater. Top generously with sauce, ensuring all crab is covered. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and place under broiler until melted and brown crust forms.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program...

This just in, Sincerely Yours, Kate has breaking news. We interrupt your regularly scheduled asymmetrical skirt programming for this brief update on the season's best chili.

I am usually a ground beef and beans kinda girl when it comes to chili, but this is an all brisket style with a secret addition of squash. I was wrongly incredulous when I first saw the recipe in a Bon Appetite last fall. But Sam was smittin' and so the first time we made this recipe was for a chili cook off at his work. We did a bad job reading the instructions and started making the chili at 9:30 p.m. only to realize that there were many steps after two hours of braising, then two more hours of braising, etc. So needless to say we set the alarm and had mini-chili cooking sessions throughout the night. But seriously, this chili is worth it. Sam took a respectable 2nd place, but we both think this pot-o-deliciousness should have won. A department secretary took first place, and Sam swears she bribed the votes with candy. Plus, as any of us who work in large offices know, you ALWAYS want to keep on a secretary's good side, even if it means voting for the wrong chili.

Anyway, unfair second place standing aside, this chili is now a favorite, and a real crowd pleaser. Ever since getting married, I have been trying to establish a new household tradition of the chili cook-off Halloween. It worked the first year, because Halloween was on a weeknight and no one wanted to party. We had a massive chili cook off with a dozen entries. But last year my plan failed. Halloween was on a Friday and everyone wanted to drink beer, not cook chili. This year I reinstated Chili Halloween, but took away the competition component. We had friends over and made a big pot of this and a big pot of veggie chili. The brisket chili was a smash hit!

Oh yeah, and I also baked a really delicious apple cake in three layers that sadly imploded on itself. I guess apples are too heavy to stack so high...? It tasted good, but looked rather sloppy. Which brings me back to the showstopping dish of the night. Aside from being delicious, one benefit of chili is that it is not a greedy dish. It never goes for looks and taste simultaneously like my cake tried for. A good old fashioned chili just skips the vanity and puts all of its effort into the taste. And this Haloween, the chili delivered.

Texas Beef Brisket Chili
A cold-weather favorite, this all-beef, no-bean chili gets added appeal from a seasonal ingredient: butternut squash. For best results, make the chili at least one day ahead so that the flavors have time to meld.

  • 6 large dried ancho chiles*
  • 6 ounces bacon, diced
  • 1 1/4 pounds onions, chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 5-pound flat-cut (also called first-cut) beef brisket, cut into 2 1/2- to 3-inch cubes
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 10-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles (1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 12-ounce bottle Mexican beer
  • 1 7-ounce can diced roasted green chiles
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems
  • 4 cups 1 1/2- to 2-inch chunks seeded peeled butternut squash (from 3 1/2-pound squash)

Place chiles in medium bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to cover. Soak until chiles soften, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sauté bacon in heavy large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat until beginning to brown. Add onions. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle beef all over with coarse salt and pepper. Add to pot; stir to coat. Set aside.

Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Place chiles in blender. Add 1 cup soaking liquid, garlic, chili powder, cumin seeds, oregano, coriander, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt; blend to puree, adding more soaking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if very thick. Pour puree over brisket in pot. Add tomatoes with juices, beer, green chiles, and cilantro stems. Stir to coat evenly.

Bring chili to simmer. Cover and place in oven. Cook 2 hours. Uncover and cook until beef is almost tender, about 1 hour. Add squash; stir to coat. Roast uncovered until beef and squash are tender, adding more soaking liquid if needed to keep meat covered, about 45 minutes longer. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper. Tilt pot and spoon off any fat from surface of sauce. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool 1 hour. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Asymmetrical Folds Skirt - The Upholstery Version.

If you like asymmetry, and if you like folds, and if you also like skirts, then today is your lucky day. Why, you may ask? Because today I debut for you none other than my fourth version of the Asymmetrical Folds Skirt. The skirt based on a pattern from Stitch Magazine. My fascination with the skirt started with the green velvet version, continued with a set of four identical red gingham versions for a family reunion tribute, and then moved on to a fall foliage interpretation. Today, you find yourself viewing the latest incarnation of the pattern, this time in a handsome upholstery.

This version is made entirely of home decor fabrics. As such, it is both heavy-weight and full of body. My husband is worried that I look like a sofa, but I think I look stunning and original. We may both be correct in our interpretations. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I think I look like a plus-size Anthropologie model (is that overly vain of me?). If I was going for that vintage carpet bagger look (and I was), I think I nailed it.

A few important things to note about this version of the skirt. First, I lined the whole darn thing in a pale green home decor-weight raw silk. That may prove to be a mistake for three reasons, 1) it just might be too warm for South Texas, 2) silk tends to smell when introduced to sweat, and well, what is a lining for if not to be the first line of defense against sweat (also, see reason #1), and 3) even if it is not too warm and does not smell, raw silk is darn expensive, especially for a lining that is note seen. But then again, to all of those reasons I say, "whatever!" It is the perfect shade of pale green.

Another point to note is that the heavy-weight fabric was just too thick for button holes once doubled up in folds along my hip. I even took it to two upholsterers in my neighborhood to see if they could help. They could not. So instead of buttons I basted the folds in place and stitched hook and eye closures where the buttons might have been. The folds are a bit bulky, they certainly do not drape as gently as the velvet or cotton versions, but the body of the fabrics helps the hem of the skirt to flair and shape at my knees, which is a look I really like. Overall I am very pleased and look forward to the next 50 degree Friday evening. I think I have a good outfit for a date with my husband.

If you think that four Asymmetrical Folds skirts are too many, then you can just go ahead and stop reading this blog. But if perchance you, like me, believe that there is no such thing as too much of a good thing, well then you are going to want to stay in touch. Check back in a few days, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what lays in store (well, maybe not surprised, as I am being a bit obvious over here, but at least you will be delighted).