Hello again friends, and happy December! I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving and wonderful Black Friday. I was feeling a lot of gratitude at my book signing event at Park Road Books in Charlotte on November 29th. To all who came out and might be reading this, thank you!
This week, my recipe is meant to make the most of those Thanksgiving leftovers, packed away in Tupperware and just begging to be used in something more inspired. For me that’s the Monte Cristo sandwich, a sweet-meets-savory classic that’s yummy enough, it’s been on Disneyland’s Blue Bayou and Tahitian Terrace menus since 1966.
My recipe calls for turkey and ham – or just one of the two – generous amounts of sweet cranberry sauce, and slices of Muenster cheese – made in a cast iron skillet as you would French toast, with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar at the end of the recipe prep.
In my France travels, I’ve known this sandwich to be called the croque monsieur, and understand it originated in Paris around 1910. It’s cute to think the French also have a “croque madame”, basically a baked or broiled ham and cheese sandwich made with sweet bread just like monsieur, but topped with a fried egg.
You can keep it lower cal, by forgoing the skillet and using a panini press. You can also keep it vegetarian and enjoy your Monte Cristo sans turkey. I love the tang of cranberry sauce and savory cheese on sweet French toast. No matter what kind of cheese you use: Fontina, goat, Gruyere, Brie or Muenster, it’s all good!
Post-Thanksgiving Monte Cristo’s
15 minute Cuisine
Recipe makes 4 sandwiches
2 French loaves, cut into 8 slices
2 ½ cups cranberry sauce
12 ounces any cheese you like, thinly sliced or evenly spread
Several slices leftover turkey and ham (one of these meats is fine)
3 cups whole milk
6 Tablespoons butter
Confectioners’ sugar for garnish
Slather each bread slice with cranberry sauce; use as much or as little as you like. Add slices of cheese, then turkey/ham to each slice, and top with final slice of bread, cranberry sauce-side down.
In a shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until just combined. Soak each sandwich in the mixture, about 25 seconds per side, saturated but not soggy.
Over medium heat, melt the butter in a cast iron skillet. Batch cook the sandwiches until the bottoms are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip sandwiches and cook the other sides until they are also golden, like French Toast.
Add more butter as needed to cook remaining sandwiches.
Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving the sammies nice n’ warm.
Don’t mean to hassle you…I’ve got your hasselback – so many puns, so little time as we run out the clock on fall and celebrate Thanksgiving THIS THURSDAY! Having considered all the sides that might possibly grace the turkey, here’s what I want to share with you this week: the art of hasslebacking!
Some may ask, what the heck is a hassleback potato? I thought hassleback was that woman who left The View a few years back.
Nope, it’s a legitimate cooking technique and sooooo tasty!
The method of thinly slicing – but not all the way through – and marinating the nooks and crannies in between, with all kinds of luscious and savory flavors was invented the same year I was born.
Hasselback potatoes or Potato à la Hasselbacken was Leif Ellison’s creation. It was 1953 in Sweden, and he was a trainee chef at restaurant Hasselbacken in Stockholm. You can actually buy a hasslebacking kitchen gadget, but carefully making slices with a large knife is just as effective.
More than just potatoes, the hassleback method works with butternut squash, apples, pears and carrots.
Go online, and you can make Bon Appetite’s AWESOME butternut squash recipe, which is an incredibly good side for the Thanksgiving table. I also find when hasslebacking carrots, that sriracha and cinnamon work well in the cracks.
I’m sure your Thanksgiving will be an utter delight, no matter what. Wishing you a happy gobble gobble day, and sharing this book signing event with my Charlotte friends before signing off. I will be at Park Road Books on Black Friday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on November 29th. Come by and see me when you’re done shopping 🙂
Hassleback Sweet Potatoes
with Honey, Pecans & Goat Cheese
10 minutes to prep and up to 1 hour to bake
4 sweet potatoes, skins peeled
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup Orange Blossom honey
4 to 6 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Juice of a naval orange
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel 4 sweet potatoes, cutting off the rough ends.
Make slices all along the sweet potato as shown in the photo.
In a separate bowl, whisk together cinnamon, honey, butter, orange juice and salt. Drizzle the mixture into the slices of each sweet potato.
Using a cheese spreader or small spoon put a dollop (or two!) of goat cheese into each incision on the sweet potato. Garnish the insides of the sweet potatoes with chopped pecans.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the sweet potatoes can be easily poked with a fork.
Optional: add whip cream to each potato before serving.
This was so going to be a post about Thanksgiving side dishes…. And then… I had the blessing of having both granddaughters join me on what happened to be National Bread Day this Sunday.
Mallory, 13 and Bookie, 2 have a huge age difference between them, but share a common love for me – reminds me of Sally Field in Soapdish and that line, “they really, really love me!…”
Here’s how making our precious memories together went down. I was looking for something to write about for Monday’s blog, and Mallory inspired me by her quest to bake something. She was looking for edible cookie dough or at the very least, a chocolate cookie skillet.
But Jorj.com just posted a bunch of cookie stuff….soooo, we decided on baking bread instead. Thanks to just placing an order with Carolina Ground, and having a lot of flour on hand, we had an absolute blast.
We baked my recipe, A Tale of Two Loves from Canvas and Cuisine and swirled the bread with a layer of my last jar of highly coveted apple butter.
Totally worth it!
Sweet Mallory spent hours with Brooke in between dough rises, and sweet Brooke abandoned her nap to rise to the grown-girl challenge. Does it get any better than this? I’m not sure. Coming into Thanksgiving, this is what I give thanks for. And I hope you cherish your family moments too.
Oh, and P.S. When you bake this bread, feel free to add a tablespoon of your favorite spice mix to the flour, like apple pie spice, gingerbread spice, or pumpkin pie spice!
A Tale of Two Loaves
makes 2 yummy loaves
20 minute cuisine, plus 2 hours to rise and 30 minutes to bake
2 cups milk, warmed on the stove top
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon natural cane sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 package
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 ½ cups white or whole-wheat bread flour
2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Stir the beaten egg into the warm milk. Stir in the sugars. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Place the melted butter, salt and whole-wheat flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the wet ingredients. Stir, on slow to medium speed, until the flour and milk are combined. Add the all-purpose flour, about ½ cup at a time gradually increasing the speed of the mixer to form a soft, wet dough. This process will take you about 5 minutes. Once the dough wraps around the hook, continue mixing until you have a smooth, shiny ball of dough wrapped around the dough hook, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1 ½ hours to rise. I use my warming drawer set on the proof setting for this.
Coat 2 (8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch) loaf pans with vegetable oil. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If the pans are larger, your dough may not rise. If your pans are smaller, the dough may not cook properly.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Punch the dough down and shape into two round loaves. Place each loaf into a pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 30 to 45 minutes. If you are adding mix-ins into your loaf, now is the time. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board. Fold in your favorite items. (Mine is a brushing of melted butter with cinnamon and brown sugar.) Shape the dough into a loaf and continue with the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the bread until the tops are golden and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.
Ha! Here’s another funny tidbit. The three most googled food items for this year’s Thanksgiving were Popeye’s Cajun Fried Turkey, cornbread dressing and green bean casserole. I may have to give that Cajun turkey a try, it’s obviously popular.
If you are like me, Thanksgiving is just the beginning of the seasonal turkey experience. Yes, Virginia, there is another turkey dinner coming our way on Christmas. We alternate between an old-fashioned English holiday dinner starring roast “beast”, popovers and sticky toffee pudding on Christmas eve and the turkey dinner with all the fixins’ on Christmas day.
I took some notes from those googlers and offer you my two cents on my favorite holiday sides. The really convenient part about these holiday recipes, is that you can make them the day before and bake them while your turkey rests.
Recipe #1: Easy, Old School Dressing
My dressing is passed down from my mother-in-law. It’s not cornbread, but you could easily substitute cornbread in place of dried white bread. It goes like this.
Sautee diced onions and celery in a whole bunch of butter, until soft. I mean a serious amount of butter! Pour two packages of stuffing mix into a large bowl. Pour in those buttery veggies. Stir in a can of cream of celery soup. Then stir in another one. Things should be getting pretty gooey right about now. Add two beaten eggs, then pour in enough chicken broth to bind everything together.
Now, here’s the tricky part.
Spoon half of the dressing into one side of a large baking dish that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Stir in at least 1 cup (if not 2 cups) of golden raisins into the remaining dressing; then spoon this into the other side of the casserole. Just for good measure, douse the dressing with more chicken broth. Dot the top of the casserole with bits of butter.
Bake at 350° until the top is browned and a bit crunchy, about 30 minutes.
Tell the dressing purists to dig into the side without the raisins and invite everyone related to a Morgan to dig into the raisin side!
Recipe #2: Jorj’s Broccoli Casserole
It’s pretty old-school. I blanche broccoli florets until they are crisp-tender. Then I make a white sauce starting with butter and flour, adding whole milk and a gentle seasoning of salt, pepper and nutmeg. I add a bunch of sharp cheddar cheese and pour this over the broccoli. Before baking, I douse the top with fried onions (as an ode to that other green casserole).
Recipe #3: Straight Up Roasted Veggies
I blanched some Brussels sprouts until crisp tender and then placed them in a large bowl. I added cubes of butternut squash, sweet potato, zucchini and the tops of thick asparagus spears. I doused these with vegetable oil, salt, pepper and a generous amount of Tuscan seasoning – but you can add practically any spice and still have your veggies come out delish.
Spread the veggies onto a baking sheet and roast at 425°for about 20 minutes and you have another side dish.
Give These Recipes as a Gift This X-mas
You can find the recipes for my herb roasted turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie in my first book, At Home in the Kitchen which is still available almost 20 years after it was first published! Or email me at email@example.com if you need a refresher.
Whether your holiday dinner includes a turkey, a roast, seven fishes or some stuffed shells, remember to linger a little with the hostess after the meal is over. You needn’t jump up from the table to see the game score, clear the dishes, or trudge to the easy chair for a nap. Take it from me, your host will enjoy the day more, if you, her treasured friends and family just sit a little while longer.
It’s November and I have a lot to be thankful for – on my gratitude list is Jorj Morgan. Not only is she the best boss a girl could ask for, but she single handedly (yes, Jorj – YOU!) turned me onto to the idea of an in-store cooking class. Sur La Table offers a wide range of classes, for all ages. They partnered with Bon Appetite magazine, and teach you how to cook the simple, yet elegant things from its pages.
Off I went for the Thanksgiving themed class; parked my car in the Mizner Plaza parking garage and followed my nose. Chef Deb had already prepared a turkey, and was getting ready to do it again, along with Hassleback Butternut Squashwith Bay Leaves, Lemony Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Breadcrumbs and, for dessert, Braised and Bruleed Apples with Ice cream.
At first I looked at the proposed menu and thought, “I’d order that…but can I make it?”
Sur La Table makes you think you can! Here’s photos of everything I made with some notes to get Jorj’s readers interested in checking out cooking class locations.
Chef Deb taught me how to “spatchcock” the bird. This technique involves splitting, then flattening the turkey, yielding a perfect roasted bird in half an hour – a full 15 minutes faster than a whole roasted bird.
But none of us (4 total students) were all that concerned with time because they make you so comfortable in the Sur La Table kitchen. You get to drink fresh brewed coffee and snack on muffins Chef D made just before you got there….heaven!
We put together a brine, chopping fresh rosemary and anise on our cutting boards. We were shown the ideal way to zest an orange, and add other spices; we made the turkey as according to the Bon appetite recipe for it, put it in the oven and forgot about it until we got to eat some at the end of class. My biggest take away for this dish was learning how to do a mirepoix – a flavor base made from diced vegetables. We roasted the turkey on “a rack” of carrots, onions and celery.
Hasselback Butternut Squash
In this case, a picture’s worth 1,000 words. Jorj’s cookbooks usually contain the scrumptious possibility of a hassleback potato. I used to think hassleback was a type of potato, but all it really means is thinly, but not completely slicing something. Look what we did to this butternut squash – delicious! Get this easy Bon Appetite recipe here.
Revved up Brussels Sprouts – my favorite thing we made that day
When the class discussed food trends with Chef Deb, she said it’s all about the Brussels sprouts these days. OMG, are they good with bacon and breadcrumbs! When we got to enjoy the full spread of what we’d made, I saw a few people go back for seconds on Bon Appetite’s Brussels sprouts.
Pro-tip – just cut the bacon with your best knife. Chef Deb said she never uses her food processor for this one.
The Perfect Sized Dessert
If you’re tired of pie, these braised and bruleed apples on ice cream are a tasty reprieve – it’s also a nice size. Is it weird that I sometimes wish the big, showy desserts I order in restaurants weren’t so huge? Even when you share them, as I believe you’re meant to, you end up getting way too full. This aromatic heaven of a sweet treat is like the essence of Fall…in a bowl. It’s as wonderful to eat as it is to look at, and the steps are easy.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!
That’s all….there’s a break while things cook, and cooking students get to shop with a special discount. Thanks Jorj, for not only inspiring me to go, but to let me hold court on a perfect day! I’m going to take more Sur La Table cooking classes, I’m sure of it! Giving a class as a gift works too!