let's have a ball and a biscuit, sugar

These biscuits are perfect for sopping up turkey gravy.  I suppose they'd do nicely under some breakfast sausage and gravy for a hearty start to Black Friday also.  The original recipe called for 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese which might put these over the top...feel free to add it with the bacon.

Bacon Scallion Biscuits
adapted from Gourmet February 1997

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 scallions, greens included, trimmed and chopped
5 bacon slices, cooked almost crisp and chopped
3/4 cup cold buttermilk (shake it first, duh)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.  Put 10 or so fresh sage leaves in the bowl of a food processor*.  Pulse until well chopped.  Add flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt to food processor, pulse 2-3 times to mix well.  Add cold butter* and pulse until mixture resembles meal.  Add bacon and Scallions, process for 20 seconds. Add buttermilk and process until mixture just forms a dough.  Pour dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Flour your hands, gather dough into a ball,  and knead gently a few times (no more than 5 or so, don't overwork the dough).  Press dough to 1 inch thick round.  Using a 2-inch cutter, cut rounds from dough and arrange 1 inch apart on baking sheet.  Reform scraps of dough into another 1 inch round, working dough as little as possible, and continue cutting. Bake biscuits in middle of oven 10 - 15 minutes until browned.

*If you don't have a food processor, use a bowl and your hands.  Work the butter in quickly, rubbing between your fingers.  Obviously your fingers will not chop the sage - for that I suggest a knife.

**I cut the butter as soon as it comes out of the fridge and then keep the pieces in a bowl in the freezer while I assemble the dry ingredients.


You to Thank

This week I'm cooking a lot.  I'm taking small breaks from the cooking to read about cooking - and more specifically to read about Thanksgiving food: 

Andrew Knowlton, the BA Foodist, recommends some delicious cranberry cocktails

Michael Ruhlman advises cooks to prepare the stock for gravy today or tomorrow to save time and stress for Thursday.   His best tip of the day: using inexpensive handkerchiefs for straining the liquid.  Cheesecloth sucks and I love this alternative. 

Here's a super quick and delicious pumpkin pie recipe from Andrea at Forkable.

Epicurious explains dry brining, but my friend Nikki's adventures with actual brining, per the advice of Pioneer Woman, are more exciting to read about and they ended with a succulent bird - even though it was over 20 lbs.

25 Chicago restaurants open for Thanksgiving...and then 60 more.

A local charcuterie lover stuffs all of his favorite Thanksgiving flavors into one sausage.

I'm currently grossed out by this recipe for White Castle Slider Stuffing.

Do yourself a favor - subscribe to apartment therapy's the kitchn.  I can't pick just one article.  Most of them are interesting or nice to look at or both.

Revisit This American Life's 2008 Poultry Slam.

Don't forget the Green City Market is open indoors - even this Wednesday for last minute Turkey day shopping.  Also, Rob and Allie from Mado are doing chef demonstrations at 10:30 am!


Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?

Cranberries were always present on my family's Thanksgiving table.  If I was celebrating in Kansas City, I usually had some in the form of a can-shaped jellied blob.  On alternate years in Chicago, I'd have them two ways: a cranberry-orange relish and a homemade cranberry sauce.  I loved all three, but now I make my own version with dried fruit, ginger, and grand marnier.

Most people I know buy a can or follow the instructions on the Ocean Spray package.  Either is fine, but if you want to step it up a notch this year, I have some suggestions:

Forget the Water
Water adds the necessary liquid for your recipe, but provides no flavor.  Instead, substitute juices, liqueurs, or a combination.
  • Orange Juice
  • Apple Cider
  • Hard Cider
  • Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
  • Cranberry Juice
Spice it Up
Add a few pinches of one of these spices for flavor.  At the table everyone will be asking you just what is in your (now famous) cranberry sauce.  Many of these will do double-duty for your holiday desserts.  Add any spices in small amounts and taste as you go. 
  • Ginger (dried, fresh, or candied)
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Star Anise
  • Vanilla Bean
More Fruit
Cranberries are tart.  Besides adding sugar to your sauce, other fruits can provide some natural sweetness and more flavor to your dish. 
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Dried: cranberries, apricots & cherries
  • Orange segments
Other Tips

If you're only going to add one thing to your cranberries (besides sugar and water), choose an orange.  Add the zest of one large orange and the juice.

    Rinse your cranberries in a colander under cold water.  The berries should be firm.  Discard any that are mushy or feel thin-skinned like a grape.  Take care to remove stems.  Your fresh cranberries should not look like this:


    The basic recipe for cranberry sauce is 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, & 1 package fresh cranberries.  Knowing this formula can help you estimate your substitutions.  I prefer 1/2 cup juice, 1/2 cup liqueur, 3/4 cup sugar, plus the cranberries and other dried/fresh fruit.

      Cranberry Sauce Mix
      Mr. Grieves - The Pixies
      Underneath the Leaves - John Vanderslice
      Sunday Morning - The Velvet Underground & Nico
      Carbonation - Enon
      Faith - George Michael
      Susanne - Weezer


      This Year's Girl

      Esquire recently published a list of annoying food trends. Included: high-end burgers and pizzas, waiters named Todd, and the phrase "farm to table". Gourmet's artfully designed and witty photo slideshow about food and the web manages to document the frenzy of online foodie movement both critically and lovingly. It's hard to articulate my simultaneous participation in and hatred of food on the interweb. I suppose it involves a bit of self-loathing and hypocrisy.

      I blog about food. I pause to take pictures of my food at restaurants. I menu scout. I plan all my vacations around meals. I concede. I'm a bougie food snob and now that it's hip to be a bougie food snob, I don't entirely welcome the new company. The trends themselves are slightly less obnoxious than the trend stories and chatter. When the newspaper of record announces that it is cool to cut off your eyebrows or flavor trip, I roll my eyes. Rather than care about food because caring about food is cool, I just care about the food dammit! But when Epicurious announced its plan to predict food trends for 2010, I couldn't help but brainstorm my own list. Most trend stories are full of just silly(peruvian is the new thai) or obvious (green, local) bullet points, so this should be easy.

      Food Trend Predictions 2010

      1. Granny Chic moves from the fashion and design world into food. Look for beets on restaurant menus (pickled, roasted, pureed) beyond the steakhouse. Home canning and preservation becomes both a financial security measure and a foodie statement. Comfort food is always popular. Your grandma made everything by hand...I hope you were paying attention at her apron strings.

      2. Hard Cider isn't a pansy drink and some of you are figuring that out. This guy thinks so too. Ask your favorite bartenders if they've been pouring a lot of Magners recently...mine have.

      3. Food and music pairings. Some restaurants here in Chicago are known for playing eccentric and loud music in the dining room. I love to make mixes specific to dinner parties and events I'm catering. In 2010, I hope dj-chefs step it up by pairing courses specifically with songs and artists. I'll get right on that.

      4. Cuban food reaches the masses. Hopefully Obama's diplomatic negotiations with Cuba continue in 2010. Hell, maybe the wrongheaded embargo will be lifted.

      5. People realize fast food can be good food. Street food, mobile food carts, and non-corporate quick service restaurants offer delicious alternatives to McDonald's. Rick Bayless is doing it. Paul Kahan is getting in on the action.

      6. Less is more. A culinary student acquaintance who had a short stage at Tru bragged that he spent 4 hours preparing a sauce with almost fifty ingredients. My favorite chile negro sauce has three ingredients plus salt.

      7. The green movement will become less of a happening and more of a norm. I'm frustrated maneuvering the farmer's market when it is filled with waif-like women sinking their towering fashionable shoes into the muddy aisles. Maybe if we had a decent year round market, people would go there to get food rather than be seen. I have many doubts about the new French Market, but here's hoping.

      8. Charcuterie, good cheese, cured olives, craft beer, crusty bread, buckets of mussels. I think big communal platters of rustic foods can slow the small plate craze. Tapas are great, but this is what I want when I go to the pub for a pint.

      9. Spice trend: cardamom. Keep an eye out for cardamom in ice cream, dusted on doughnuts, and in coffee drinks. I personally love chai-spiced cardamom marshmallows and a friend puts garam masala on his popcorn (genius!). It is used in foods in India, Scandinavia, the Middle East and will soon be in everything.

      10. America needs to shut the hell up about bacon. This coming from a lady with 8 cups of rendered pork fat and 3 lbs of bacon in the fridge. It isn't the bacon I'm tired of, it is the talking about bacon. The endless websites devoted to gross and grosser uses of bacon. I'm bored of reading stories devoted to a trend that could be succinctly explored with a Seinfeldesque "What is the deal with all this bacon?" Awesome bacon recipes, a bacon festival, reviews of bacon products, and bacon of the month clubs are definitely still allowed. I love bacon, just not some of the people who love bacon.


      Hard to Handle

      48. 102. 59. 37. 70. I wash my hands quite a bit - sometimes a hundred times per day. Last week I averaged 63. I don't have OCD, but I do spend most of my time caring for children or in the kitchen which puts me in contact with a lot of germs, messes, and bacteria. I use two products daily to avoid the chapping, cracking, and bleeding that can occur when washing so often strips your skin of moisture. They are inexpensive (less than $10 for both), small enough to fit into a purse or satchel, work nicely on sensitive skin, and I strongly recommend both.

      Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme

      I use this when I wake up in the morning and before bed every night. I concentrate on my cuticles, but also rub it all over my hands. If you cringe at the idea of those scary cuticle trimmers at the salon or at the price of a manicure, try this stuff. At $6 for a small tin that lasts a couple of months, it is well worth the investment.

      Neutrogena Hand Cream: Norwegian Formula
      I use this multiple times per day. It soaks in quickly and doesn't leave hands greasy like other lotions designed for very dry skin. You can buy a 2 ounces for about $4 at most drugstores. I keep one at work, one by bedside table, one in my backpack, and one in the kitchen.