Beer, Bacon & Butter

Beer, bacon and butter – these are three things that I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. Keep reading below for a full debrief on how Thanksgiving went down in my house, including the salacious details of how the vegetables got drunk (but not wasted).

I’m also thankful for the extraordinary autumn weather we’ve had in Toronto this weekend. Each day has been crisp, sunny and nostalgia-inducing, a long weekend tailor made for Thanksgiving. I’ve been traipsing around in leggings, a plaid shawl pinned like a cape and chelsea boots, and will continue to do so until the weather puts a stop to it.

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The above picture is a bit out of focus, let’s get a close up on those boots…

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Canadian Thanksgiving

I’m also grateful for family – this was my first year cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my parents who are visiting from out of town. Without my mother, I would not have been able to pull off cooking a turkey, sides, homemade gravy and pumpkin pie in my teeny galley kitchen. Without my father and boyfriend, we wouldn’t have been able to eat it all.

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This was my second year cooking a turkey – last year we did Friendsgiving and I cooked one from frozen. With memories of last year’s thaw-a-thon still haunting me, I decided to order a fresh turkey from The Healthy Butcher. We also picked up a container of their homemade dressing and cranberry sauce.

We warmed the dressing separately in the oven, and stuffed the turkey with fresh thyme and sage, a full lemon, a macintosh apple and half an onion so he’d steam up with flavour from the inside-out.

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Under his skin we rubbed a mixture of butter, more fresh sage & thyme, lemon zest, salt, pepper, poultry spice and mustard powder.

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For our main roasted side, we cubed carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. We coated them in olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, then drenched them in about a cup and a half of Collective Arts Saint of Circumstance Citrus-Infused Blonde Ale so they’d tell all their secrets over dinner. To help them caramelize towards the end we added about half a cup of pure maple syrup.

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While the root vegetables were roasting, we slow braised brussel sprouts on the stovetop with the same beer, turkey drippings and smoked bacon from The Healthy Butcher.

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Finger foods were not forgotten – the pickles and olives nested nicely in bowls I got on sale at West Elm this weekend.

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We whipped up some creamy potatoes in my KitchenAid electric mixer, Betty. Normally I’d add in some sour cream (makes them taste like perogies) but my mom isn’t a fan so we just added a bit of regular cream, butter and chicken stock. We made gravy from the turkey giblets and drippings and dinner was served.

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We cracked a bottle of Clairette de Die, a sweet natural sparkling wine from the Drôme region of southeastern France near where I used to live. According to local lore, a Gallic sherpard left a bottle of wine in La Drôme river to chill and forgot it over winter. When it was retrieved in the spring after sitting out all winter, he noticed it had become carbonated. This started a new tradition among Gallic tribes of making sparkling wine.

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For dessert, I just made a simple pumpkin pie, but used my rectangular tart pan instead of a round pie plate.

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My mom bought me an amazing pastry cloth and rolling pin cover from Lee Valley that has made all of the difference in the world. It was much more easy to roll out the dough and clean up was a breeze.

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You rub flour into the cloth and it keeps the dough from sticking. It also imparts a nice cloth texture to the dough which gives it a uniform look. I used my Williams-Sonoma pastry cutters to do a few leaf cutouts as well.

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With a rectangular pie, you can slice it into tidy little tranches with a pretty pastry cutout on each one. Fresh homemade whipped cream with cinnamon and vanilla is the finishing touch.

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And with that picture, I’m off to have some leftover pie for breakfast. Hope everyone has a lovely Thanksgiving!

x Dana

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Autumn Statement

My condo building made the switch from air conditioning to heat this week. For downtown Torontonians, this is our groundhog – the signal that tells us there will be no more weeks of summer.

Rather than burrowing under my duvet and mourning summer like I wanted to, I threw myself into autumn baking and undertook a major seasonal wardrobe overhaul. I culled or tucked away everything short and bright and rediscovered all things cozy and layered. One of those things was a windowpane print wool kilt I’d bought in London last year and had all but forgotten about. Here I’ve paired it with a prim and proper cardigan and bow belt à la Kate Spade:

Plaid Collage

Trench – Zara

Cardigan – Banana Republic

Kilt – J by Jasper Conran

Belt – Forever 21

Boots – Steve Madden

Bag – Aldo

Mini Pecan Pumpkin Pie Tarts & Chestnut Tarts

One of my co-workers is getting married in a few weeks and we threw a little party for her at work yesterday. Her wedding has an  autumnal theme, so keeping in that trend I made pecan pumpkin pie and chestnut tarts for the celebration.

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These tarts were inspired by/adapted from Sunny Anderson’s Food Network recipe. I made the ones in the image above using her crust, which is very tasty and quite sweet. In my version of the recipe below however, I’ve opted for a simpler, more savory crust. I also upped the spice game and made a chestnut version. Variations discussed below and recipe at the bottom!

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I made a shortening crust using some extra fine Italian flour my boss gave me (she’s a baking nut too). It’s brighter and finer than normal flour but if you don’t have any, normal pastry flour will do just fine.

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Sunny divides her crust dough into 24 individual balls and presses each of them into the tart cups. I’m not great at eyeballing dough measurements consistently, and my dough’s not meant to be over-handled, so I used a wine glass to cut out little circles.

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Sunny’s recipe called for pumpkin filling (the canned kind that comes pre-sweetened and spiced). The recipe seemed sweet as it was, and I only had regular old canned pumpkin, so I used that and added in the classic pumpkin pie spices myself (plus cardamom!),

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Crème de Marrons, or chestnut spread, is pretty common in France and is used as icing on yule log cakes around the holidays. It’s harder to find here in Canada, but some Whole Foods and a few specialty stores carry it. I knew that with my double batch of shortening crust I wouldn’t have enough pumpkin filling so I thought rather than making extra, I’d try chestnut. The spread’s main ingredient, pureed chestnut, has a texture that’s not too far off from pumpkin. Also, the other ingredients are pretty similar to those in the pie filling above – vanilla, corn syrup and sugar – so I thought it would work nicely. The chestnut spread has a pretty strong flavor on its own (very nutty and spicy), so I just added a few complementary spices and and an egg to make it set. Once baked, the chestnut filling is like a thicker, more flavourful version of butter tart filling.

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One other variation – I sprinkled the chopped pecans on top of the tarts instead of mixing them in to the filling, so they wouldn’t just sink to the bottom.

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For 48 mini tarts – approx 36 pumpkin and 12 chestnut

I made this recipe 3:1 pumpkin to chestnut in case you aren’t sure about the chestnut. I promise you though, it’s even better than the pumpkin!

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Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose pastry flour
  • 1 cup Tipo “00” Italian all-purpose extra fine flour (or regular pastry flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chilled shortening (I put mine in the freezer for a couple hours)
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

Pumpkin filling

  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Chestnut filling

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canned chestnut spread
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Topping

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  1. Sift the flour into a chilled mixing bowl and combine with the salt.
  2. Cut the shortening into small 1/2 inch cubes and combine into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and coarse.
  3. Start adding ice cold water, one tablespoon at a time combining until dough holds together.
  4. Handling as little as possible, form into two balls, flatten them into disks, wrap them in plastic and chill them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. While the crust dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the fillings.
  6. Prepare pumpkin filling – In a small bowl, whisk the egg and yolk until frothy and then blend in all of the other pumpkin filling ingredients. Set aside.
  7. Prepare the chestnut filling – In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then blend in all of the other chestnut filling ingredients. Set aside.
  8. Chop the pecans and set them aside.
  9. Remove dough from fridge and roll out on a piece of parchment paper. Use a wine glass to cut out circles and press them into the cups of a 24 cup mini muffin pan.
  10. Spoon filling into the pastry cups and sprinkle pecans on top. You should have enough crust and filling to make about 36 pumpkin tarts and 12 chestnut tarts.
  11. Bake for about 15 minutes or until filling sets. Remove tarts from pan once cool enough to handle and cool on racks.
  12. Repeat steps 9 – 11 with second disk of dough and the rest of the filling!

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Next weekend is Thanksgiving and I’ve ordered a fresh turkey from The Healthy Butcher. This will be my second year cooking a turkey and I’ll have my mom around to help, so stay tuned for pictures!

Enjoy!

x Dana