Tag Archives: comfort food

Christmas Dinner: Dad’s Cream of Chestnut Soup

30 Dec

Cream of Chestnut Soup

Since I can remember, my dad has been making cream of chestnut soup for Christmas (and sometimes Thanksgiving!) dinner.  This recipe comes from the Blueberry Hill Menu Cookbook, which was written by Elise Masterson who used to own the Blueberry Hill Inn in Vermont with her family.  Unfortunately, the Blueberry Hill cookbooks are out of print, but you can buy them used on Amazon here.  This recipe calls for fresh chestnuts.  However, shelling and preparing fresh chestnuts is a huge undertaking so if you are short on time, you can easily substitute bottled chestnuts instead.  My dad has made the recipe both ways and you seriously can’t taste the difference.  I will admit that this soup isn’t the prettiest of to bunch, but it is SO delicious that its taste makes up for its appearance in spades.

Dad’s Chestnut Soup
Adapted from Blueberry Hill Menu Cookbook

Ingredients
2 pounds chestnuts (or 1 large 1 lb. jar of bottled chestnuts – we use Minerve Whole Roasted French Chestnuts)
1 large sweet onion, diced
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 large carrots, diced
1 quart chicken or turkey broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup pale dry sherry
Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions
1.  If you are using fresh chestnuts: Slit each chestnut with a sharp knife – two slits each, crossed.  Cover them with boiling water and boil for 15 minutes.  They will NOT be completely tender when you pull them out and that’s OK.  Remove them one at a time from the water (this is the trick here – they must stay in hot water, each one, until you’re ready for it) and let cold water run on each chestnut in turn.  The skins will come off very quickly, and the membrane as well.  Set aside.  Repeat until you have removed the skins/membrane for each chestnut.
2. In a heavy 3- or 4-quart saucepan, saute onion and butter until the onions are lightly browned.  Add the whole peeled chestnuts, carrots and chicken broth to the saucepan.
3. Simmer until the chestnuts are quite soft, about 15 more minutes, then pour liquid through a colander into a pot.  Put the chestnuts, onions and carrots that didn’t drain through the colander in a food processor of Foley food mill to blend.  Blend to desired consistency – I prefer to blend until just small pieces and no lumps remain.  If you blend to a puree, you will lose the extra “oomph” of color that the carrot pieces provide and be left with a light brown soup.
4.  Return chestnut mixture to broth and bring it all back to a boil.  Then remove it from heat, add cream, sugar, sherry, salt and pepper.
5. Serve without boiling again.  If you cool it and reheat it, don’t boil it when warming up.  (Note: We always prepare this the day before serving since it does so well reheated.)

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Christmas Dinner: Christmas Crostini

28 Dec

Brie Crostini with Cranberries & Pistachios

I pulled together these super easy appetizer to snack on before we sat down for our big meal.  The dried cranberries and pistachios bring festive colors to the dish and taste great together too!

Christmas Crostini
(Brie Crostini with Cranberries & Pistachios)

Ingredients
1 crusty baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 round of brie cheese
Handful of raw, unsalted pistachios
Handful of dried cranberries (Craisins)
Orange marmalade or butter

Directions
1. Turn on your broiler to high and put rack on second to lowest rack.  Any higher and the cheese might burn!  (Note: If you don’t have a broiler setting on your oven, preheat oven to 400 degrees instead.)
2. Place sliced baguette on a cookie sheet and spread a thin layer of orange marmalade or butter on one side of each slice.  (Use orange marmalade if you want a sweeter crostini and use butter if you want a more savory crostini.)
3. Place a thin slice of brie on each the buttered side of each baguette.
4. Put the cookie tray in the oven and broil for about 4 minutes.  Check around the two minute mark to make sure the cheese isn’t burning.
5. Remove from oven and put on a serving platter.  Add a few dried cranberries and pistachios on top of each crostini.  Serve immediately.  Simple and festive!

Christmas Dinner

26 Dec

Christmas Hearth

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you had a happy holiday and Santa was good to you and your families!  My family decided to do something different from turkey this Christmas and make a standing rib roast instead.  Serving red meat versus poultry required a total overhaul of our menu from Thanksgiving.  Listed below are the dishes that we made today for Christmas dinner.  Over the course of the next two weeks, I will post each of these recipes.

Hot Toddies
Christmas Crostini
Dad’s Cream of Chestnut Soup
Mom’s Standing Rib Roast
Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon
Potato & Celery Root Mash
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise

To round out our meal, we served Sister Shubert’s Wheat Dinner Yeast Rolls and a bottle of Illumination Sauvignon Blanc from Quintessa Winery (see Napa Travelogue post for more info on CA wineries!).  Red wine probably would have gone better with this meal, but my mom generally only drinks white and I had just given my parents a case of this wine for Christmas so we had to try it!

Christmas Dinner Plate

Sunday Supper: Low Sodium Chicken Tortilla Soup

11 Dec

Low Sodium Chicken Tortilla SoupThis past summer, my friend Sarah told me about a blog called Sodium Girl that specializes in low sodium/salt free recipes that still taste great.  As someone who is health conscious and also trying to watch my sodium intake, I was immediately hooked on this site!  Last month, SG posted a recipe for Salt Free Chicken Tortilla Soup which you can find here.  I was waiting for the perfect lazy Sunday evening to test it out.  This recipe was so easy to make after a long weekend and really hit the spot now that it’s chilly in NYC.  My adapted recipe is listed below.  I found all of the ingredients no problem at the neighborhood Whole Foods.

Low Sodium Chicken Tortilla Soup
(Adapted from Sodium Girl)
Serves 4

Ingredients
For Soup:
1 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 ripe hot house tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp no-salt added tomato paste
3 cups water
1 Whole Foods rotisserie chicken (Note: SG’s recipe provides directions if you want to cook the chicken from scratch.  I was too hungry/tired/lazy to go through this process.)

For Toppings:
4 green onions, sliced
1 small red onion, diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 lime, quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced (Note: For less heat, remove the seeds.)
Greek yogurt (0%) or sour cream (Note: Use Greek yogurt if you’re watching calories/fat intake.  You seriously can’t taste the difference)
Tortilla chips, broken into pieces

Low Sodium Chicken Tortilla Soup Toppings

Directions 
1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped garlic and corn, stir continuously for five minutes.  Don’t stop stirring or you will burn the garlic.  This happened to me on my first try and I had to start over…
2.  Next add the four spices, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and water to the pot.  Stir occasionally and bring to a boil.  Then cover with a lid, lower heat and let simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
3.  While the soup is simmering, shred the rotisserie chicken into pieces and set aside.  Be sure to remove the skin.
4. Add the shredded chicken to the pot and increase heat to medium-high again.  Bring to a rolling boil then lower heat a bit until it is just bubbling and continue to reduce without a lid for 15 to 20 minutes.  (Note: Don’t skip this step!  If you do, the soup will be watery and not as flavorful.  Letting the soup bubble during this time helps intensify the flavor and thicken the broth.)
5. While the soup is cooking, prep your green onions, red onions, avocado, lime, jalapeno peppers, Greek yogurt/sour cream and tortilla chips that you will have as a garnish.
6. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with garnishes as desired.

Here’s what the soup looked like before I added the garnishes:
Low Sodium Chicken Tortilla Soup

This meal was met with raving reviews by D.  He didn’t even notice the lack of salt which really speaks to the flavor of the soup!  He likes extra spicy food and suggested using Habanero peppers next time and adding them to the pot during the reducing period to add extra spice to the dish.  Since my mouth is still burning from the few jalapenos I added to my bowl, I probably won’t try that,  but it’s a great suggestion for those who do like it extra hot!

Thanksgiving Dinner: Dad’s Turkey Gravy

5 Dec

My Dad adapted this recipe from my Grandmother’s original recipe (created in November 1960!).  In addition to broth, he uses wine and flour to add depth and thickness to the gravy.  His adapted recipe is below.

Dad’s Turkey Gravy

Ingredients
Chicken broth or turkey stock
Flour
Marsala wine
Juices from bottom of turkey pan

Directions
1. Cook turkey according to instructions in Thanksgiving Dinner: Grandma’s Turkey.  Drain most of the liquid from the pan except for about 2 tbsp for each cup of gravy wanted.
2. Move the liquid wanted to a small saucepan and stir over medium-high heat.  Gradually, add an equal amount of flour.  Stir consistently.
3. After gravy is well-browned, add Marsala wine and some chicken broth or turkey stock to the pan until it is the right consistency.  (Note: If you run out of broth, you can use water as a substitute.)
4. When hot and of desired consistency, strain broth and keep hot until serving.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Grandma’s Turkey

1 Dec

The recipe below is for my Grandmother’s Thanksgiving turkey recipe.  I love this recipe because it’s simple, but produces the juiciest turkey that isn’t over-seasoned.  My Grandmother wrote this recipe in November 1960 and it’s still a crowd pleaser today.

Grandma’s Thanksgiving Turkey

Ingredients
1 9-12 lb. turkey
Stuffing (see Thanksgiving Dinner: Mom’s Stuffing post for recipe)
Salt & pepper
Poultry Seasoning
2 sticks unsalted butter

Other Items Needed
Cheese Cloth
Baster

Directions
1. Follow directions for thawing bird if frozen and be sure to allow enough time for this.  Then clean bird thoroughly and remove any traces of lining from inside around the bones.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
3. Rub salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning along the inside cavities of the bird.
4. Stuff the bird according to directions on Thanksgiving Dinner: Mom’s Stuffing post.
5. Rub salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning along the outside of the bird.  Cover the breast of the turkey with cheese cloth (this will prevent the breast from burning or drying out).
6. Place turkey in a shallow pan.  It’s best to use not too deep of a pan as the turkey will brown better in a shallower one.
7. Melt 2 stick of butter and pour 3/4 of this over the turkey.  The remaining 1/4 you will use in your first basting of the turkey.
8.  Pop the turkey in the oven and set your timer for 20 minutes.  When it rings, open the oven and pour the remaining butter over the turkey.  Also, use your baster to take the juices from the bottom of the pan and cover the turkey.  Put the turkey back in the oven.
9. Set your timer for 20 minutes.  When it rings, open the oven and baste the turkey using the juices from the bottom of the pan.  Continue basting the turkey every 20 minutes until the meat thermometer has popped and the turkey is done.  This should take about 20 minutes per pound, or 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours for a 9-12 lb. turkey.  (Note: If you want the breast to be browner, remove the cheese cloth for the last 30-45 minutes of cooking.)
10. Remove turkey from oven and set on a carving board.  Cover with tinfoil and let sit 20 minutes before carving/serving.  Save the juices at the bottom of the pan as you will use these for the gravy (see Thanksgiving Dinner: Dad’s Turkey Gravy).

Before:

After:

Thanksgiving Dinner: Mom’s Stuffing

28 Nov

This recipe was passed down from my Great Grandmother on my Mom’s side.  I credit this recipe to my Mom because a few years ago, she made a key adaptation to a previously unchanged recipe that made it truly GREAT.  I was never a stuffing person growing up; I found it gummy, flavorless and, most of all, full of raisins (which I strongly dislike).  A few years back, my Mom switched out the raisins for craisins (dried cranberries) and I am now a huge fan of this dish.

Mom’s Stuffing
(For a 9-12 lb. turkey)

Ingredients
Pullman size loaf of bread (toasted – crusts removed) (Note: If you’re short on time, you can use one bread from of the Pepperidge Farm stuffing bags. No one will know the difference and this saves a ton of time.)
1/2 bag craisins (or 1-2 generous handfuls) (Note: if you prefer, substitute *plumped raisins for craisins)
1 large onion, chopped
4 large celery stalks, chopped
1/2 lb pork sausage (bulk-medium hot) (drained)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Poultry seasoning, to taste
Sage, to taste
Broth (strained)
1 egg, beaten
1 stick unsalted butter

Directions
*If you are using raisins, plump them before adding them to the mix.  To do this, pour boiling water over raisins until they are covered.  This should puff them right up.
1. Remove crusts from bread and toast lightly on both sides.  If you have stale or day old bread, it is better so buy this ingredient ahead of time if you can.
2. Chop onion and saute until golden brown in about 3 tbsp. of butter.  When onions are golden brown, add chopped celery and cook slightly.
3. In another skillet, break up the pork sausage and cook until almost done.  Start with a cold skillet and drain grease as it accumulated.  You don’t want to add the grease to the stuffing mix.
4. In a large bowl, break up the toasted bread into about six pieces per slice (you don’t want it too small as you don’t want mushy stuffing).  Pour the onion and celery mixture over this and then add the pork sausage, craisins (or raisins) and beaten egg.  Mix lightly.
5. Add small amount of broth to moisten (not too much as it will get juices from the turkey as it cooks).  Then add salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and sage, to taste.  Don’t forget the stuffing is going to cook inside your seasoned bird and will absorb many of the turkey’s flavors.  Go lighter rather than heavier on the seasoning and broth here.
6.  Stuff the neck of the bird and close it with a skewer.  Then flip the bird over and stuff the other side; cover with a thick slice of bread (you will discard this piece of bread, it is just to prevent the stuffing from burning or absorbing too much of the turkey baste).  Don’t overfill either opening as the stuffing will swell in baking.  If there is any extra stuffing, you can bake this separately at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until brown and warm.
7. Cook turkey according to directions on Thanksgiving Dinner: Grandma’s Turkey recipe.  When turkey is removed from oven, remove stuffing and put in a serving dish.  Serve immediately.

Here is a close up of the final product: