Thanksgiving Meat & Cheese Board + Cranberry Mostarda

I know we covered Thanksgiving Appetizers here, but I’d like to elaborate a bit more on the Meat & Cheese Board element.

Cheese Board A Meat & Cheese Board is a simple way to serve a variety of crowd-pleasing flavors with minimal effort.  For a smaller dinner party (6-10 guests), start with 2 cheeses, 1 meat  and 3 types of crackers or bread.  For a larger party (20 – 25 guests) up the amounts to 5 cheeses, 2 meats and 4 types of crackers or bread.  Each meat, cheese, cracker and bread should vary in flavor to give your guests plenty of tasting options.  To up the ante, serve something homemade that will complement the Meat & Cheese Board.  This could be homemade pickles, chutney, dip, spread, aioli, or compound butter (to name just a few).  Here’s what I have going on in the picture above:

Cheese: Kerrygold Dubliner, Kerrygold Sharp Cheddar with Irish Whiskey
Meat: Proscuitto
Crackers and Bread:  Trader Joe’s Rosemary Raisin Crisps (best crackers EVER), Trader Joe’s Rosemary Crackers, Sliced Baguette
Homemade:  Cranberry Mostarda

When preparing an appetizer spread for a smaller party, I like to serve high impact cheeses.  The Kerrygold Dubliner and Sharp Cheddar both have big, bold flavor that can easily be enjoyed as is or on a cracker topped with mostarda.  For a large party, I like to layer in some lower impact (but still delicious) cheeses, including brie and goat cheese.  Another nice touch is to serve 1 cheese that’s a personal favorite.  When my guests come over for a dinner party, they can always expect to see Manchego on the table.  I just love it!

For meat, Proscuitto, salami, mortadella, sopressata or hard chorizo are all good options.  Don’t go overboard with the meats though.  With too many options, guests might fill up before dinner!  For crackers and bread, I always hit up my local Trader Joe’s.  They have a wide variety of basic and unique crackers, plus they are continuously releasing new seasonal flavors.  Trader Joe’s also sells several types of baguette perfect for slicing and serving.  The two crackers I selected above are flavored with rosemary, a flavor I associate with the Holidays.

Finally, let’s talk about this Cranberry Mostarda.  Sweet and sour, a mostarda is an Italian condiment made with fruit and a mustard-flavored syrup.  Here, fresh cranberries are cooked in a bold mixture of white wine, white wine vinegar, sugar, mustard powder, mustard seeds, cinnamon, ginger and clove until tender and collapsed.  The sauce is finished with kosher salt and a bright hit of fresh orange zest.  This seasonal sauce pairs well with most cheeses, and could event be used as cranberry sauce for dinner!  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Smoked Turkey + Garlic-Herb Dry Brine

I should start by saying that turkey isn’t really my thing.

Smoked Turkey Year after year, I’ve failed miserably at making that perfect, picturesque Thanksgiving turkey.  The first Thanksgiving I hosted in 2009 (pre-Kitchen Konfidence) was the worst.  The night before Thanksgiving, I was fumbling around trying to wet brine a 22 pound turkey, salt water and turkey contamination splashing all about my kitchen.  The next day, I got the turkey out of the brine (hands burning from the salt), dried, and on to the roasting pan.  A roasting pan that I later realized was too big to fit in the oven.  At the time, I didn’t own a meat thermometer, so I kept the turkey (which was sitting cramped in a 9 x 13 baking dish) in the oven until it “looked good.”  I remember the smile on my face as I brought the glorious golden turkey to the table, and the disappointment that quickly followed as I started to carve.  The turkey was bone dry with the texture of powdery saw dust.

In 2010, I surveyed all my friends and family for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey recipe.  Results and processes were widely varied.  Bake the turkey in a bag.  Roast the turkey covered in cheese cloth and baste in butter every 15 minutes.  Deep fry the turkey.  Start in a high oven.  Start in a low oven.  Cook the turkey in parts.  Somehow, everyone was cooking their turkey perfectly except for me!  Overwhelmed by the options, I chose what I thought was the easiest suggestion, “cook the turkey in parts.”  After a significant struggle to actually get the turkey in parts, the finished bird was blasé at best.

The next  year, I cooked 2 smaller turkeys side-by-side, slathered in truffle butter and fresh herbs.  Results were juicy, but underwhelming.  I was expecting a WOW moment given the white truffle butter.  And in 2012, I reverted back to turkey in parts.  Uninspired, and a bit dry.

In 2013, everything changed.  Last year, I put Jorge in charge of making the turkey.  He prepared this Smoked Turkey, and the finished bird was incredible.  Juicy insides with a mouthwatering, smoky flavor.  Our Thanksgiving guests couldn’t stop raving about it.  Preparing the turkey on the grill also freed up some much-needed oven space.  We had such an awesome turkey experience last year, that I just had to share it with you all this year!  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Rice Krispie Topping + 5 Other Thanksgiving Sides

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m definitely a sides man, and this year is no different.  I’m sharing a killer sweet potato side dish today with a curious crunchy topping.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Rice Krispie Topping This recipe starts with a mix of sweet potatoes and yams in the oven, covered in butter, and flecked with glistening bits of kosher salt and black pepper.  After an hour roast, the skins will develop patches of golden caramelization, and the flesh inside becomes tender and melting.  With skins removed, the sweet potatoes and yams get whipped together with butter, cream, cayenne pepper and orange zest.  The finished flavor is sweet and bright with just a hint of after-burn.  You can enjoy these mashed potatoes as is or take them over the top with this Rice Krispie Topping.

I usually have Rice Krispies in my pantry for making frequent batches of these.  Here, several cups of this crunchy cereal are drizzled with a quick caramel flavored with salt and cayenne pepper.  The topping-to-be is spread out on a baking sheet, sprinkled with fresh chopped rosemary, and cooled until brittle.  Break the Rice Kripsies into various sized bits, and serve beside the Mashed Sweet Potatoes mentioned above.  The crunch of the topping is the perfect counter to the rich, creaminess of the potatoes.  And the rosemary and cayenne provide pops of flavor that liven up each bite.  PS. I would highly recommend making a double batch of this topping, because it’s down right snackable.  Continue reading for the recipe plus five other Thanksgiving side dishes!

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Miso Deviled Eggs + 5 Other Thanksgiving Appetizers

I’m sure you are all well aware that I love me some deviled eggs.  For the past several years, I’ve served kimchi deviled eggs for Thanksgiving, but this year, I’m switching things up.

Miso Deviled Eggs Miso Deviled Eggs start with a standard base of egg yolks and mayonnaise.  To this, I add yellow miso, dijon mustard, chive and lemon juice, a combination of flavors that just jumps in your mouth.  These deviled eggs are finished with a Japanese-inspired bread crumb topping of golden panko, toasted nori, and crispy chopped bacon.  The crunch of the topping balances the creaminess of the yolk mixture, and the bacon-nori-miso umami bomb is down right addicting.

You may think it’s strange to serve a kimchi or miso-centric dish at Thanksgiving dinner, but these global flavors provide an intriguing contrast to more traditional appetizers.  Fill your table with baked brie, mixed nuts, red pepper jelly, crackers, dips, and plenty of meats and cheese.  But also serve something unexpected like these Miso Deviled Eggs.  They can spark both excitement and conversation around the appetizer table.  Continue reading for the recipe (plus 5 other Thanksgiving app ideas!).

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Avocado Toast 5 Ways

If you enjoy avocado as much as I do, then you’re going to love today’s article.  I’ve got 5 fresh avocado recipes for you below!

Avocado Toast 5 Ways In particular, Avocado Toast.  The concept is fairly simple.  Mash up half an avocado with salt, pepper and some sort of acid (lemon or lime juice) to taste.  The flavors should be bright without covering up the cool grassiness of the avocado.  Spread this mash over a lightly toasted piece of bread, and you have Avocado Toast.  It’s that easy!  I like to use whole wheat bread here, but sourdough or country bread would also work well.

Avocado Toast can be enjoyed for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.  Avocado is packed with healthy fat and nutrients, so I find that just 1 slice can keep me full and satisfied until my mid-morning meal.  I’ve also served these luscious green beauties as an appetizer (on thin slices of seedy baguette).

To take things up a notch, here are 4 variations on the basic Avocado Toast:

  • Egg + Bacon + Chive.  A dressed up version perfect for Saturday breakfast.
  • Frisée + Bacon + Lemon.   Similar to one of my favorite sandwiches (minus the tomato).
  • Tomato + Basil + Balsamic.  Italian flavors that pair well with avocado.  Serve as an afternoon snack or a simple appetizer before dinner.
  • Corn + Chile + Lime.  My Mexican spin on Avocado Toast.  Big, bold flavors.

The recipes below are more like loose guidelines.  I barely included exact measurements, because most of the toppings are to taste.  Don’t like red onion?  Leave it out.  Love bacon (like me), add more.  A scatter of this.  A sprinkle of that.  Just know that the flavors in each recipe work well together.  Quantities of toppings are up to you.  Also, each recipe uses just 1/2 an avocado.  If you don’t plan on using the other half immediately, sprinkle the cut side with acid (lemon or lime juice), press plastic wrap directly against the flesh of the avocado, and store in the refrigerator.  Continue reading for the recipes.

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Charred Onion and Bacon Dip [Giveaway]

Remember when I told you how much I enjoy Game Day grub?  Well here’s another recipe I love to eat while pretending to watch the game: Charred Onion and Bacon Dip.  Also, I’m giving away a $100 gift card!

Bacon Onion Dip Thick slices of sweet red onion are cooked in bacon fat AND butter until melting and blackened around the edges.  Honey, garlic and white wine are added to boost sweet and savory flavors.  After a quick chop, this charred onion flavor bomb is mixed into a rich blend of cream cheese and sour cream.  The dip is finished with chopped bacon, chives, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and lemon juice.  Pair this big, bold dip with some all-star accompaniments: crisp potato chips, sweet carrot sticks and fresh sliced celery.  I’ve served my Charred Onion and Bacon Dip at a number of parties, and it’s always a friend favorite!

This onion dip is another recipe I put together in partnership with Jimbo’s… Naturally! at Westfield Horton Plaza.  Almost all ingredients used in this recipe were organic, and I’ll have to tell you, I’m really learning to love organic products.  I can truly taste a difference between organic and regular.  Especially with produce!  Check out some of my other Jimbo’s… Naturally! recipes:

In addition to this tasty onion dip recipe, you’ll also find information below on a $100 Jimbo’s… Naturally! Gift Card giveaway!!  You’ll definitely want to continue reading…

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Beer Can Chicken

I’m not a big sports fan, but I sure do love game day/tailgating eats.

Half Beer Can Chicken Like this Beer Can Chicken.  Kosher salt, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne and black pepper get rubbed on first.  Then, the chicken takes a seat on a can filled with light beer, onion, garlic, lemon zest and thyme.  Cooked upright on the grill, this brazen bird gets infused with flavor from the inside out.  I like to serve simply with  lemon wedges.  And beer of course ;)

If you’d like to take this recipe on the go (to your next tailgating party), prep everything in advance for easy game day execution.  The bulk dry rub can be made a week in advance, and stored at room temperature.  Give your bird a rubdown at least one hour in advance, allowing the flavors to get into the meat.  The thyme, onion and garlic can be prepped and stored together; however, don’t zest the lemon in advance.  If not used immediately, the flavor of the lemon oils will diminish quickly after zesting.  Finally, when transporting chicken, make sure it’s well-wrapped in plastic and well-chilled on ice.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Romesco’s Cucumber Martini

It’s about to get all sorts of tasty up in here.

Cucumber Martini Several weeks ago, I had an outstanding meal at Romesco in San Diego with my boyfriend Jorge.  David Nelson, a friend and food writer extraordinaire, also joined us for the afternoon.  Romesco, known for its upscale Mexican-Mediterranean cuisine, is a must-visit restaurant by Chef Javier Plascencia.  Jorge and I had a fantastic experience at Misión 19, another Chef Plascencia hotspot, just months earlier in Tijuana, so I had a feeling that Romesco would be a treat.  And let me tell you.  It was.  Continue reading for highlights from our meal at Romesco, plus a recipe for their super tasty Cucumber Martini.

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Green Goddess Guacmole

You guys, this guac is so darn tasty.

Green Goddess Guacamole A mashup of green goddess dressing and guacamole, this rich, herb-flecked dip is completely and utterly addicting.  Rumor has it that green goddess salad dressing originated in the 1920’s in San Francisco.  The dressing is typically made with mayo, sour cream, anchovy, lemon and a flurry of finely chopped fresh herbs.  Here, I’ve taken some of these flavors, and applied them to one of my favorite Mexican dips, guacamole.  This recipe starts with cool jade cubes of ripe avocado.  Finely chopped shallot, garlic, parsley, cilantro, chive and tarragon are then added with sour cream and anchovy paste.  Lime juice and kosher salt bring everything to life.  The entire mixture is mashed with a fork to keep the texture somewhat chunky.  Each bite of this adventurous guacamole is packed with incredible herbaceous flavor.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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White Bean, Fennel and Chorizo Salad in a Jar

I have a confession to make.  Over the past several years, I’ve developed quite a jar obsession.

Salad in a Jar Two and half years ago, I was only a few months into dating my boyfriend Jorge.  He was heading up to San Francisco at the time to visit friends, and I asked him to bring me some items from the city.  Can you guess what I asked him for?  Not a loaf or two of glorious SF sourdough.  No chocolate from Ghirardelli.  No artisan, hand-crafted this or that.  Instead, I asked for jars.  Particularly Weck Jars from Heath Ceramics.  At the time, they were a bit of a rarity.  Crate & Barrel and West Elm hadn’t started selling them yet.  I was completely elated the evening Jorge walked through the door carrying two large bags filled with carefully-wrapped Weck Jars.  This obsession has continued ever since.

With such a wide variety of glass beauties at my fingertips, I’m always looking for new ways to use my jars.  And now, I’m jumping on the Salad in a Jar bandwagon.  Here’s the basic idea: salad ingredients are layered inside a large canning jar in such a way that the greens stay crisp and fresh.  Liquids at the bottom.  Greens at the top.  With this framework in place, you can make a number of jarred salads on the weekend to enjoy throughout the week.  Continue reading for my layering technique plus a Salad in a Jar recipe that uses white beans, fennel and chorizo.

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