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Ginger Golden Milk

Ginger Golden Milk - anneliesz

The world does not need another Golden Milk recipe. Or does it? Over a year ago, my mom and I sat in the backseat of a friend’s car shuttling around Mexico City or attempting to, moving at a speed less than a crawl. Her friend passed back a capsule filled with a mustard colored spice–cúrcuma, known in English as turmeric. We waded through traffic talking about turmeric, its anti-inflammatory properties, and how each of them could swallow the pill without a lick of water. At the time, I still only thought of turmeric in reference to what gives Indian curry its bright yellow hue. I had elected to take a hiatus from digital media, wanting to be fully present in the sounds, smells, and sights of the rambling city that mystifies me each time. We wound our way past the Zocalo with riot cops marching into formation (they quickly dissipated). In Coyoacan, we ate a favorite street side snack, esquites, happily silencing our conversation with maize kernels and chili. Around 10 p.m. one evening, we parked the car in a neighboring lot to a street-side vendor purported to make the best tacos in Reforma. I didn’t want to miss a minute.

Several years ago, the word cancer entered what had started as a mostly casual conversation by phone. Followed by the word surgery. For two weeks, I turned my life inside out to step in as caretaker while the one who had weaned me healed. That word, anti-inflammatory, became a pinnacle word, a walking stick to help me down the mountain.

turmeric root - anneliesz

I wonder sometimes how much is appropriate to share in this space on the internet. What is prudent. What is off-color and irrelevant to why you come here. It may be surprising to find an intensely private person wrestle with how much of themselves to put on the page online. Recently I read a small shift of direction for a blogging friend who had elected to turn her focus away from her personal narrative to only discuss recipes. She had begun feeling like her life had become a commodity. I never know how much to share here. It’s always more than my Dad would have ever felt comfortable sharing and less than my Mexican cousins offer up to the digital ether everyday.

The world does not need another Golden Milk recipe, but I wanted to make one for my mom anyway. And though I know turmeric is en vogue right now as is its golden girl, golden milk, what warms me to turmeric is that it’s been eaten and stirred into drinks a lot longer than I’ve been alive. Ingredients’ potency lies in their ability to last. We find comfort that even as the world and its current obsessions change, some recipes are too good to remain secret, and instead get passed down from generation to generation, perhaps tweaked along the way by taste.

Turmeric Juice - anneliesz

For this recipe, I started by using ground turmeric but found the consistency chalky, even after blending the drink. I tried cutting down the amount of turmeric, but the drink was not made better for it as I wanted a turmeric-strong drink. My obsession with ginger juice led me to consider making turmeric juice and that provided the solution I sought. I attempted this drink with coconut milk and cow’s milk, but ended where I started, with unsweetened almond milk. This golden milk is not something to swig, but instead, something to sip. Its spicy flavor owes everything to ginger juice and a touch of freshly ground black pepper for extra heat. If you keep a jar of ginger juice and another of turmeric juice in the fridge, you have enough for about a week’s worth of daily drinks– and really you wouldn’t want to keep them for longer than that. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to Golden Milk? Swap out your morning tea or coffee habit to be surprised how much bounce this cheery drink brings to your days.

Ginger Golden Milk - anneliesz

Ginger Golden Milk

Make the turmeric juice by blending 2 cups of water with 4 1/2 ounces fresh turmeric root, roughly chopped until smooth. Drain the liquid in a fine gauge strainer set over a bowl, raking and pressing on the pulp until all of the trapped liquid has been squeezed out and the pulp appears dried out and clumpy. Discard the pulp. Store the turmeric juice in the refrigerator. Looking for more ways to use turmeric juice? Stay tuned…

Makes 1 drink

1 cup almond milk

1/3 cup ginger juice

3 tablespoons turmeric juice

3 teaspoons agave

Dash of ground black pepper

Dash of ground cinnamon

 

Heat the milk, ginger juice, turmeric juice, agave, pepper, and cinnamon until warm.

Ginger Golden Milk - anneliesz

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Menage a Trois Cookies

Menage a Trois Cookies - anneliesz

Menage a Trois Cookies

I’ve had cookies on the brain recently and with a very specific point of view: make one batch of cookie dough and then through minor adjustments make three flavors of cookies. Simplicity in execution and finding a simple hack for cookie season can be sexy, no? *Keep the butter at room temperature for 15 minutes so that your finger indents the butter easily but it’s not quite at the soft as skin balm stage.

Makes 24 cookies

1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature*
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

Pumpkin Spice Sparklers
2 tablespoons sparkling sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Ras el Hanout & Vanilla
1 teaspoon ras-el-hanout spice mix
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cacao & Pink Peppercorn
2 teaspoons cacao nibs
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pink peppercorn

 

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes. Add each egg, one at a time to to the creamed butter, stopping between eggs and scraping down the sides of your bowl. Add all of the flour at once, pulsing 5 times to begin to integrate the flour into the wet ingredients. Mix the flour in until it just comes together. Divide the cookie dough into three portions (roughly 214 grams each) dispersed into three small bowls to create the three cookie flavors below.

Pumpkin Spice Sparkler: Stir together the sparkling sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a ramekin. Use a tablespoon to roll 8 dough balls. Roll each ball in the spiced sugar until well coated. Place the balls on a plate to chill for 1 hour at least.

Ras el Hanout and Vanilla: Sprinkle the ras el hanout onto the cookie dough in one of the two remaining bowls. Add the vanilla. Mix to combine. Chill the dough for at least one hour. When ready to bake, use a tablespoon to roll 8 balls of dough.

Cacao & Pink Peppercorn: Sprinkle the cacao nibs an pink peppercorn onto the cookie dough in the last bowl. Mix to combine. Chill the dough for at least one hour. When ready to bake, use a tablespoon to roll 8 balls of dough.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Place the cookie dough balls 2 inches apart– you’ll be baking in batches. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pan at the 5 minute mark. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving them to fully cool on a wire rack. Bake the remaining cookies.

 

 

PS- Store the cookies in a sealed container for 1 week. And this is where you are in luck because cookie tins should start hitting the shelves soon.

PPS- I may be weird but I like to freeze cookies too as if it is some sort of deterrent to the cookie monster (*ahem*) finding them in the wilds of the countertop. If you’re going this route, consider freezing the cookie dough balls pre-baked. Said cookie monster actually likes frozen cookies but stops short of dough. This kind of prep will mean easy, fast fresh cookies ready to be baked off once you know company is coming over. They should be fine for a month if stored in a freezer-safe sealed bag.

Menage a Trois Cookies - annelies

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Acorn Squash Sliders with Blue Cheese & Fig Mustard

Acorn Squash Sliders with Blue Cheese & Fig Mustard
I have a quibble with pumpkin. Okay, maybe it’s aimed a little bit more at the legion of people who have taken the humble gourd and exalted it as god just as Labor Day splits into white jean permissible and white jean not permissible. But that will be a tiny rant for another day. Instead, go pick up an acorn squash. Resist the temptation to eat it stuffed or slathered in butter that will melt into its flesh, especially if that inclination includes brown sugar. The temptation is real for a route that is certainly delicious, but focus with me on Acorn Squash Sliders.

Teatime created or cross-pollinated a market for sandwiches cut into skinny fingers, to be eaten with one’s fingers. But at some point you might find you want to broaden the possibilities of what might pop up on the three tiered plate for teatime. Roasted acorn squash gets a bit of savory spicing to play off of sweet Hawaiian rolls, a smear of  fig mustard, peppery arugula and a mellow blue cheese. This mini sandwich brings several flavors of fall into one action-packed bite. All that’s left to do is put a kettle on. Portion out the black tea.

Acorn Squash Sliders with Blue Cheese & Fig Mustard

Acorn Squash Sliders with Blue Cheese & Fig Mustard

Makes 12 sliders // serves 6

1/2 acorn squash, seeded, halved and sliced into 1/4-inch half moons
2 tablespoons olive oil1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/4 cup fig jam
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 cups baby arugula, washed
6 ounce blue cheese wedge
12 Hawaiian sweet rolls

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the squash half moons with oil, salt, cinnamon, and Aleppo pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until soft but not falling apart. In a small saucepan, warm fig jam and mustard until warm, about a minute or two. Slice the rolls open. Spread fig mustard on half the roll. Layer with arugula. Tile several slices of acorn squash on the arugula. Top with a slice of blue cheese–if it crumbles, it’s okay. Blue cheese is crumbly and that’s what it does naturally. Serve the sliders immediately.

 

 

PS: Construct and serve the sandwiches warm or after the squash has cooled completely. Your pick. I like the warm condiment smearing the bread. You might find you like the condiment enough to smear some on the top bun. However you roll, don’t skimp on the blue cheese.

PPS: Working ahead? Prepare the fig mustard and roast the squash half moons in advance if you like. Assemble the squash sliders right before serving.

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Apple Tartines with Cinnamon Ginger Cream Cheese

Green Apple Tartines with Cinnamon Ginger Cream Cheese

It almost happened. In my haste to go, go, go, I almost missed throwing a round of confetti and blowing out a candle. Six years ago I restarted something begun in poetry school, though back then, my blog’s purpose lay somewhere between chronicling adventures in studying for my MFA and reminders of what restaurants I needed to revisit on future culinary work trips. Before I restarted the blog as the food poet, I called it La Vie en Route, chronicling a life lived en route. Try as I might now to imagine it all again, I traveled far more often and widely then than I do now. My goals have tapered a bit toward wanting to grasp a slower life. Except here’s the little secret, the one I only tell my close friends: I want to do it all. My Dad passed down to me his love of projects and keen organizational skills, his ear for music and linguistics and a workaholic tendency that I know too well. My Mom passed down to me a reminding of not missing the people for the projects, something that is a gauge for recalibration when I can feel myself scaling the wall and not looking back. My husband matches my intensity but also is able to relax. He lets loose. Plays the guitar on a school night. He’s a brilliant man whose actions sometimes spark my actions in call-and-response. Last night, after a flurry of texts from one worried neighbor, I stopped working, walked downstairs, and we talked about her questions. Another neighbor entered the conversation and what ensued was this magical moment of connection and kindred movement toward a common goal of living well, together. Their choice words, spoken lovingly upon my ears like an arrow finding its mark, and equated to this: self-care is not selfish.

So, here we are, making apple tartines for the fall. Stopping to write on this blog on a Wednesday evening when I could be working or sleeping. When you visit a blog over a long time, it changes as the blogger changes. Sometimes, they blog less frequently. Sometimes, they stop blogging on that site and start a new one. Sometimes they stop blogging. I’ve noticed a small trend in a few blogs where once a book is published, the blog goes radio-silent. To blogging friends, at conferences where I’ve spoken and audited blogs, in conversations on Snapchat, and private messages on Facebook, I’ve asked a single question: is your blog your happy place and if not, how can you make it a place YOU want to visit? Six years ago, I started the food poet in my desire to bring my shared loves of poetry and food to the same table because I know something universal to my life, and maybe it’s universal to yours too: poetry easily gets drowned out by other louder voices. Food is ever-consuming. Its voracious appetite is a road running east to west. I may speak here less often, but I’m here. I’m committed. If you get my newsletter, I send those out with more frequency. I’m over on Instagram, playing around with Instagram Stories and on Snapchat occasionally too. But, here we are, now. Shall I pour you a cup of tea? Black tea is what we’re drinking now that the sun’s been socked away until spring. And, I have just the sandwiches for us to munch on.

Green Apple Tartines with Ginger Cinnamon Cream Cheese

Apple Tartines with Cinnamon Ginger Cream Cheese

This recipe was developed for a cooking demo I taught several times this fall in Seattle. Participants in the class ate them up delightfully and I have since tweaked two things: the bread used here is full of texture that I think makes the finger sandwich more interesting than plain white bread, and the cut on the apples ended up being prettier and easier to eat as rounds. Now my obsession for good wild yeasted bread goes deep, see exhibits A and B, but for these tiny apple tartines, I opted for bagged grocery store bread because of its malleability. If you have Steeped, you can find various tartines and toasts using an array of wild yeasted breads. While these apple tartines are open-faced, you could always double the bread and smear the cream cheese on top and bottom if you want a closed sandwich. If you have a tomato spoon (that little red handled spoon with teeth in the photo above) or a grapefruit spoon, it can help you dislodge any apple seeds. Do you own a mandolin? That will make your apple slices even easier, prettier and thinner.

Makes 12 / Serves 6

1/2 block (4-ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 small Granny Smith green apples, seeded and 1/4-inch sliced width-wise (12 rounds)
12 pieces of oat and nut bagged bread

Combine the cream cheese with the ginger, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. Mix well. Stamp a biscuit cutter into the middle of each slice of bread, cutting out a bread circle. Spread the cream cheese on the bread. Top with an apple slice and serve.

 

—–

PS: Wondering what to do with the crusts? I hate food waste and am guessing you do too, so here are a few ideas: feed the ducks! dry out the bread crusts in the oven and then pulverize into breadcrumbs for salad, macaroni and cheese, or meatballs and meatloaf!

PPS: Want to get a headstart? You can mix the cream cheese the day before to chill in the refrigerator. Slice the bread in advance and store in a zip-sealed bag. You can even slice the apples in advance, just make sure to give them a good douse of lemon juice so they don’t brown. I would suggest against putting them together in advance, but you can pull together all the components to make your a la minute tartine assembly easy.

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Ginger Carrot Soup

Ginger Carrot Soup

From the open window, a breeze tickles the tall trees outside in such a way that lets me know rain will soon fall. This morning I lolled in bed for an hour longer than usual. Do you find lazy mornings one of the most luxurious and decadent ways for the day to unfold? The ultimate morning for me would involve a book of poetry, heavy covers, and no clock. I meandered down to the farmer’s market, stumbled upon ingredients still in season that made me giddy. Early Girl Tomatoes! Concord Grapes! Lemon Verbena! Albion Strawberries! Last Monday, I flew back from Texas and sat next to an 85 year old woman from Arkansas who helped me think differently about the seasons of life. A big birthday looms in the not-so-distant future for me and I’ve begun to understand the reticence some people have for announcing their age. People ask me if we have children. They ask me if we plan to have children. To answer that question is to try to explain what has kept you from answering it the other way. The adage that time flies sometimes applies, other times, it stealthily slips through our fingers. I thought I had more time. I still do. 

I hadn’t walked the farmer’s market in weeks and felt out of step with what was in season. Did I miss the tail end of zucchinis and summer squash? Would eggplant still be around? Earlier this week, I scouted around in the refrigerator for jam to smear on toast. Wistfully I uncorked one of two remaining jars of Morado Jam, 2015 reserve, thinking I had missed making reserve 2016. This jam walks the line between summer and autumn. It’s a bit like me right now in this season of my life. So, imagine my surprise and glee when I spied Concord grapes at the market this morning. Without hesitation, I bought several pounds of the dusty dark clustered orbs, knowing the work ahead of peeling, pitting and cooking them down into something sweet to be preserved for a different season. 

It’s a funny thing when a jam hijacks a recipe for soup, but I could easily see a plate of crostini, dabbed with Morado Jam and chèvre served alongside this soup. The ginger juice obsession that started this spring continues. I’m still tinkering with a few recipes that when ready, will be wonderful additions for autumn. My first pot of Carrot Ginger Soup came together in an in-law apartment so near to the Ocean we could almost taste the saltwater in the air. At that time, I was in my early 20’s and according to my Dad, was in an age of invincibility. I’m not there anymore. Instead, I see the delicate webbing of our lives. The rain is about to fall. A stillness inhabits the space around us. We wait for autumn to come in earnest, girded with a bowl of soup.  

Ginger Carrot Soup

Makes 4 to 6 servings

10 carrots, peeled 
1 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 white onion, minced
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup ginger juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
Carrot Top Pesto, optional

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush the carrots with the olive oil, using the pastry brush. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a fork can easily penetrate them and they almost fall apart. Cool the carrots for 2 to 3 minutes.

Sauté the onions until caramelized. Pour the orange juice, ginger juice, carrots, onion, celery seed, turmeric, salt, and chicken stock into a blender. Purée in batches until smooth. Warm on the stovetop for 5 minutes. Season with pepper. Serve with a dollop of pesto on top, if desired.

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Jalapeno Cheddar Chicken Burgers

Jalapeno Cheddar Chicken Burgers

Thigh or breast? Growing up, the answer wasn’t even a question. I picked off chicken skin all crackly and dripping with flavor and exiled it to the outer rim of the plate, eager to eat the chicken breast below. I’m not sure when I learned that we ate chicken thighs because they kept the grocery receipt in check. My childhood is checkered with devout refusals at the dining table. The Thanksgiving table did a lot to win me over to the dark side as it offered small strips of white meat and dark meat in close proximity. As my cousin noshed on a plate of Parker House rolls, I discovered the juiciness and flavor of thigh meat I’d eluded for so long. In cooking classes, my appreciation deepened upon learning how this cut of meat only gets better with time when cooked low and slow. I finally made the 360.

The meat counter at the food shopper’s utopia, also known as Berkeley Bowl, inspired me as I walked past a dizzying array of meat. I sometimes do this, amble about and take in the ingredients letting them inspire what might be possible. And so, on this day, I happened upon ground chicken, which in and of itself wasn’t that exciting. What enticed me to order two pounds on the spot were the two little words finishing up the description: thigh meat. Sigh. Right then and there, I worked my way back to the produce section even though my cart already had its fill of fruits and leafy vegetables. My cart traipsed around the cavernous store until I ended up in my kitchen to chase down the flavors teasing me in my head. We didn’t wait a whole week to make the Jalapeno Cheddar Chicken Burgers again.

Jalapeno Cheddar Chicken Burgers

A few things to know about the burgers: thigh meat does yield a juicier burger, but a quick mix of mayonnaise (is there any other brand but Hellman’s—hello, nostalgia of childhood) also ups the ante. When mixing the ground chicken, you want deft, confident movements so the cheese and jalapenos get incorporated in quickly without overworking the meat. Here’s the other bit, the meat should be cold. I tried this several different ways and found that the best method was to form the meat into balls, cover and chill them overnight letting the flavors of the other ingredients meld with the meat, or you can chill them for an hour. My burgers were made better with these burger master tips from J Kenji Lopez-Alt. When it’s time to make the burgers, using your knuckles lightly dimple the top of the burger balls so that while they are cooking they keep the burger shape, but try not to press down on the burgers as you want to lock in all the juices. Though jalapeno leads the name of this burger, they’re not achingly hot, and you have the cool yogurt sauce to temper the heat.

Jalapeno Cheddar Chicken Burgers

Jalapeno Cheddar Chicken Burgers

For the yogurt in the sauce, I like using Straus organic whole milk yogurt because it’s a little loose without being too runny, but you could certainly use a thicker, strained Greek yogurt too. When working with jalapeños, the oils of the membrane can get on your hands leading to a burning situation if you accidentally touch your face. If you wear gloves or immediately wash your hands well after handling the jalapeño that averts any problems. You can seed the jalapeño if you’re worried about making the burger too spicy, though I don’t. 

Makes 8 burgers

2 pounds ground chicken thigh meat
1/4 cup minced jalapeño (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (I used Straus)
4 teaspoons sliced chives

Mix the meat with jalapeño, cheese, and mayonnaise. Place a piece of plastic wrap on a food scale. Portion the meat into quarter pound mounds, until you have eight mounds of meat. Form the mounds into balls. Place them on a plate. Cover and chill for an hour, until the meat is cold or overnight. Mix together the yogurt and chives. Chill until serving the burgers. When ready to cook, place a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle a touch of water into the pan–if it sizzles, the pan is hot enough.  Pinch a bit of salt and pepper to sprinkle over the top of the burger. Add a burger to the pan, dimpling the middle of the meat down about an inch. Cook each side for 6 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and registers 165F internal temperature. When you flip the meat make sure to sprinkle a bit of the pepper and salt on the other side of the meat. Serve on a bun with lettuce and a dollop of the chive yogurt.

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Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz

Growing up, popsicles always seemed like the sad substitute for ice cream. The one exception to that rule were the creamy paletas we would pick up at the bodega when visiting our family in Mexico. Back home in Texas though, purple, red, and neon orange frozen confections resembled rockets that required licking and furtive patience as you had to work hard not to have them completely melt and drip on your hands during hot summer days. We pushed up on orange creamsicle push-up pops. We nibbled, licked, and slurped our way to the bottom of sundae ice cream cones hoping to find a well of hardened chocolate shell at the bottom like a secret prize. I scorned the Fudge Popsicle, regarding it as a low calorie impostor. I might have still been developing opinions and points of view about subjects in school or summer required reading, but for ice cream I always had an answer ready. I could tell you why one Texas creamery’s Homemade Vanilla tasted best without adornment (an accolade since I couldn’t fathom why people would ever want just plain vanilla). Chocolate always grabbed me in its clutches except when cloked as ice cream and especially figured into fudgesicles.Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz It’s a funny thing—growing up. The world continues to evolve and so do your tastes. A few years ago, it looked dubious that this same Texas creamery would be able to rebound after a production crisis. Or two. It’s strange to see companies that seemed so secure and inevitable during your childhood, companies you would be sure would be around when you have kids and they’re of the age to eat ice cream as summer relief, falter and struggle. Last autumn, while I visited Austin on book tour, I paid a visit to a local grocery store for supplies and there they were, behind doors in the freezer aisle. Gone were the Peaches and Cream. Nowhere to be seen was the Banana Pudding with hunks of vanilla wafers in the frozen custard. Even the stalwart Cookies & Cream with big chunks of chocolate sandwich cookies had flown the coop. Buttercup yellow pints of vanilla cozied up to pink-tinged brown pints of Dutch chocolate. They peered out and looked vulnerable. What once had been several shelves full of the cheering cow logo quarts had been reduced to two types of pints. It struck me as a picture of how in an instant, things can change, even if the instant takes place slowly—what are a few years in the whole of a person’s life but a blip?

Not long ago, I watched as a friend navigated the murky waters of the foundering ship that was the food company where she worked. Even when you see on the inside the cogs beginning to give way, it can be so hard to abandon ship. You want to believe that the brand you’ve known and love will muster through and make it to the other side of whatever battle in which they are entrenched. It can be incredibly jarring to invite a product into your refrigerator (and really, into your life) only to be made aware of its disappearance on the shelf and the subsequent absence it creates. How do you fill that need for a particular taste and the void it creates in your lexicon of ingredients?

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz

Out of sentimental attachment last fall, I discovered in a hotel room in Austin that my preference for vanilla had changed. I had changed. It felt like a sort of betrayal to shift my vanilla ice cream loyalty elsewhere. Was I any less of a Texan? Working at a food company makes you privy to so much that goes on behind the scenes and all the people essential to making a product succeed, including, of course, the customers themselves. You want to cheer on companies whose foods align with your values, whose flavors make you rally support in dollars spent. I have no idea the statistic of food companies that fail. It’s a question far too depressing to consider, really. Instead, I focus energy on applauding the effort—the belief that something tasted good enough that it must be shared. That all the countless hours spent getting a product on the shelf (not to mention the tireless efforts to keep said product on the shelf) are worthwhile.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that I’ve circled back to Fudge Popsicles and reconsidered my position. Because I’m older, I can be specific as to why Fudge Pops never quite did it for me as a kid (icy, water-based or skim milk-based which might as well be water). I owe that discovery also to mouthfeel and that I relish chewy popsicles. Because I’m older, I’ve made batch after batch of ice cream and the small failures along the way have led to the big reveal: life is short. Anything worth doing should be worth it even if it doesn’t last forever. We all have expiration dates on us, even businesses and brands. While we are able, life is meant to be lived, and sometimes that requires Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles.

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles

These popsicles are inspired by a perfect square of Fauchon Pink Peppercorn Chocolate that brought me bliss from a recent souvenir care package. In my desire to recreate that sensation of dark chocolate melding with citrusy pink peppercorns, I decided these flavors would make a fudge pop for all other fudge pops to reckon with. I swear by Guittard 70% bittersweet chocolate, after recipe testing five different kinds of chocolate for the truffles recipe in Steeped. It’s my preferred chocolate and that coral red box claims to hold 6 ounces but my scale pronounces it 6 ¼. When developing this recipe, I tried to hold back on the sugar because I didn’t want the popsicles too sweet. I finally arrived at the amount below once I relaxed and remembered that sugar and salt amplify flavor—so you will find the popsicles are not cloyingly sweet, instead the chocolate and peppercorn flavors play up satisfyingly. I dedicate these popsicles to good friends who have a wicked sense of styling and find food photography a fun afternoon endeavor (Here’s looking at you, Steph) and friends who love you enough to tote special French chocolates back from the city of lights (bisous, mille fois, Olga).

Makes 10 popsicles

6 1/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (1 red box from Guittard), coarsely chopped

2 cups heavy cream

½ cup water

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons whole pink peppercorns

 

Place the chopped chocolate into a medium stainless steel bowl with a wooden spoon nearby. Bring the cream and water to just under a boil, whisking in the cocoa powder, salt, and sugar once tiny bubbles prick the outer edge of the saucepan, until dissolved. Remove from the heat once the bubbles grow to the size of a pinhead, usually 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Meanwhile, grind the peppercorns to a medium-coarse consistency in a mortar and pestle. Pour 1/2 cup of the hot cream into the chocolate while stirring until the chocolate has melted. Continue stirring, pouring in the remainder of the hot cream. Stir in the peppercorns. Pour the hot fudge cream into the open wells of a popsicle holder. Insert the popsicle sticks and freeze for 3 to 4 hours.

Pink Peppercorn Fudge Popsicles - anneliesz

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Ginger Lemon Limeade

Ginger Lemon Limeade

I never knew an Oakland summer might transport me back to Texas. And yet, last summer if the house already pulsated with warmth as we woke up, we knew the day would unfold, sticky and sweltering. I contemplated visiting a mall or seeing a movie just for the coolness of the commercial space or darkness of the theater.

We survived Texas summers in swimming pools, air-conditioned domiciles with doors that palpably cut off the heat from entering, and tall glasses of iced drinks, sweating from the effort. In Oakland as with most of the Bay area, you’ll be hard pressed to find a pool unless it’s indoors at a gym. Air-conditioning is a novelty of other places. But, iced drinks, they are quite possibly the one salvation for cooling down, to be sipped even if your impulse is to chug.

So it brings me back to my obsession with ginger juice. It might seem anachronistic to suggest drinking something heating as a method for cooling down, but whole cultures rely upon hot tea in the heat of summer for the body to self-regulate through the surprising method of sweating. I still find it hard to abide by this idea personally as my mind logically reaches for cold brew tea or coffee instead of pining for a cup of hot. When I set out to make a pitcher of Ginger Lemon Limeade, my goal was a drink spicy enough to make your head whirl, tart with citrus, and just sweet enough. I wanted a drink that would keep me coming back for another taste, but not so pared down that I could drink it quickly. After several attempts, this is what I will be sipping on summer days that have yet to unfold. And, I would invite you to make the drink your own—add chia seeds to it for texture. Perhaps muddle a sprig of mint leaves to add to the mix. I like to drink it with a splash of sparkling water just for the bubbles and effervescence. Whatever you do, stay cool this summer.

Ginger Lemon Limeade

Ginger Lemon Limeade

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 7 limes)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/2 cup ginger juice
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons simple syrup
4 cups still water
1 3/4 cups sparkling water

Stir together the lime juice, lemon juice, ginger juice, simple syrup, and still water. When ready to serve, pour 1/4 cup sparkling water into a glass full of ice and top off with about anywhere from 3/4 cup to 1 cup of the ginger lemon limeade until the glass is filled. Stir and serve.

 

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Obsessions: Ginger Juice

ginger juice - anneliesz

Talking about food is almost as good as actually eating it. Obsessions can start innocuously. Trolling the farmers’ market and tasting the sweetness of the season’s first albion strawberries. Tasting beets as if for the first time in Santa Monica. Once an obsession is in its full throes, it makes a person practically quicken creatively in the kitchen.  

It started with golden milk. But, more on that later. Instead, I’ve been on a bit of a tear, trying to find as many ways as I can to get this one ingredient into as many dishes as possible. No, it’s not tea. It’s ginger. I’ve always appreciated the bit of zing it brings to chai but before now, I hadn’t played outside of fresh or ground. Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook’s cookbook Zahav included a tahini sauce that’s been a mainstay in our refrigerator ever since we first tried it. You toss in unpeeled cloves of garlic into the blender, blend, and strain. On a lark, I turned my attention to ginger and wondered how our high speed blender might make mincemeat of its golden fibrous chunks. Color me obsessed. This flaxen hued liquid made its way into one dish after another. I wanted to figure out how to use the entirety of the glass jar in as many ways as possible not letting a drop go to waste.

What’s not to love about ginger? It’s helped in a pinch of digestive distress brewed hot as a tea and offers other health benefits.  When pickled, a slender slice makes cucumber avocado rolls perfect. Candied, it’s the niblets inside chewy ginger cookies like tiny crystalline treasures to discover in baked batter. This Ginger Juice is a concentrated flavor bomb. It adds an extra layer of heat, where a little goes a long way. I’ve got a bevy of recipes headed your way in coming weeks to feature my latest obsession and to fuel your own. 

Ginger Juice

Use fresh ginger root that’s firm and unwrinkled. Don’t worry about peeling the ginger root, just chop it into chunks and lob them into the blender–you will be straining out the fibrous bits and peel leaving a smooth, silky liquid behind. 

YIELD: 2 cups ginger juice

2 cups water
8 ounces fresh ginger, chopped into 2-inch chunks

Pour the water into the receptacle of a blender. Toss in the chunks of ginger. Puree until smooth. Pour the ginger juice through a fine gauge strainer set over a large bowl. Stir the ginger juice with the fibrous pulp in the strainer until the pulp is dry and all the liquid has been extracted. Store in a quart-sized mason jar in the refrigerator. 

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Sunday Roast Cauliflower

Sunday Roast Cauliflower

Is it possible that we have recreated the Tower of Babel by emoji? With the right string of icons, anyone can now communicate by smiley face or thumbs up. And, new smart phones feature them as one might find an alphabet or keyboard of letters. It’s easier than ever before to connect and communicate. Or, is it? Deep down, I wonder.

Years ago, I used to take walks with a friend who also worked as a community manager, managing the online community  for her company through social media. We wondered out loud about how to give the right content to our community, flooding their feed regularly with mouth-watering snapshots of food that they had signed up for. It sometimes gave us pause to scratch underneath the surface of what it is exactly that they had signed up for. And, more importantly, how could we create and curate content that would get to that deeper impulse underneath appreciation for a branded product in the grocery cart, transferred to the pantry and then to Facebook. We would hike around the edges of Lands End in San Francisco and mull what our customers didn’t see about the food industry–the things that can be maddening like free-fills in retail stores (providing free stock to a store to sell through but the company not reaping any profit on those items) or how sometimes people visit company web pages with the sole aim of discord. I lived for those walks. And in hindsight, I can see that part of what made them invaluable was the companionship of someone who understood the inner workings of the business side of the social platforms that for some are time sucks for most people, as time for personal fun.

Moving to a new town, not so far away, and yet not close enough to tie on my walking shoes and drive or take two forms of public transportation to traipse through the quiet hills on the edge of Lands End evenings after work, I’ve had to change my rhythm. And, this has included walks with food writer friends to talk about cookbooks, blogging, and the inner workings of living life digitally and by recipe. I have stepped into a leadership role with IACP. This new rhythm also included joining a local meet-up for Food Content Creators. Around a table with mugs of hot tea, several of us meet regularly as part of a writing group I cherish. How we form community in our everyday lives as we get older and especially in the transient world of big cities can nudge you out. I was reminded recently how sometimes the places we think we might find community can make us feel marginalized and unexpectedly more alone in a group of people than we were by ourselves at home. 

This brings me to the idea of a Sunday roast. It strikes me as subject matter for Norman Rockwell, where all eyes around the table watch as the carving fork stabbed the meat and the slender knife trimmed juicy slices. Growing up, this tidbit of Americana cuisine passed over our house. Instead, on a good Sunday, my mom and I might venture out to Luby’s where I awaited crispy fish and mashed potatoes with a pool of tartar sauce. Maybe the point of the Sunday roast was to start cooking something that would be finished and ready to eat when you returned home after church. I don’t honestly know. Instead, there is a mystique to that meal and the idea that Sundays meant gathering around the table for this traditional repast. So, what kind of food do you eat on Sundays? At one point, Olga and I had the intention of making Sunday supper a place to invite friends regularly to the table. We wanted it to be a given that dinner would be served and friends would be welcome. It never came to pass, ultimately falling into the bin where good ideas go to fester.

So, where do you congregate with your community? Does it happen on a specific day each week or does it instead only happen at holidays and celebrations? In the age of the emoji, communicating might be simpler than ever before, but community is more complex. The table itself has become sometimes the symbol of dissonance where one person’s avoidance stems from a political perspective or allergies impact menu planning. But, it doesn’t have to be difficult. The simple Sunday roast might not make the cut anymore. So, instead, I offer the suggestion of a Sunday Roast Cauliflower where the crown of the platter comes cruciferous with crispy edges. It’s plentiful enough to carve into to serve your community, wherever you find it.

Sunday Roast Cauliflower  

Sunday Roast Cauliflower

If you’ve never roasted a whole cauliflower before, it leaves quite an impression upon all who partake of it. Imagine spearing it like you might a steak and pulling out your most trusty sharp chef’s knife to hack a section of the head to serve. And, who doesn’t like turning the idea of a Sunday roast on its head (of cauliflower). I like to make this dish during the week when my workdays run long and I need more time tying up that day’s details. It fills the house with the aroma of onions as a reminder that while I’m working, so is dinner. We serve this with steamed jasmine rice and spoon the Tea Umami sauce on it from Steeped or Carrot Top Pesto. Comfort food comes to the table roasted during fall and winter.

Serves 4

5 carrots, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 cup celeriac, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
1 head cauliflower, cored with the leaves removed
1 tablespoon plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375. Place the carrots, celeriac, garlic and onion in a bowl. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil over them and toss to coat. Distribute them evenly in a Dutch oven. Crown the vegetables with the head of cauliflower. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the cauliflower and vegetables. Cook for 1 hour. Crank up the oven to 415 and cook for an additional 15 to 18 minutes to brown the top of the cauliflower a bit more.

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Red Wine Chili

Red Wine ChiliJacques Pepin got me thinking: how many recipes does one person commit to memory in their lifetime? The question doesn’t suggest a one-size-fits-all answer but maybe you’re already beginning to rattle off recipe names or tick fingers doing a lap on the mental treadmill of memory.

The only time we ever stirred a pot of slow-cooked chili in my childhood home aligned with ominous clouds darkening the sky above as rain lashed the ground outside. It became almost a Pavlovian response: when the rain came, so did my craving for chili. In Texas, one of the important details of the chili-eating experience involves the curlicue corn chip known as the Frito. I can’t recall really ever wanting those chips outside of providing a nuance of crunch to the duet of chili-spiced ground beef and beans with its volcanic rupture of melted cheddar cheese.

Taste memories form us into the eaters we are. We may not pledge allegiance to the flavors of our childhood once we become adults, but their imprint can catapult us quickly back to a place in our past, faster than we might be able to conjure them up without the olfactory and taste bud assistance.

It’s not that we eat chili often now at home at all. I can count only two occurrences we’ve pulled together a pot this year and perhaps not coincidentally they’ve coincided with the arrival of rain. But, there’s something about taking what is known and teasing it out—seeing how far the boundaries extend before it no longer looks or acts or tastes like its initial point of departure. Would it be accurate to suggest we are all adaptations of our former selves, much like the chili recipe of now can be credited back to the flavors that formed in our taste bank many years ago?

For Christmas Eve last year, part of our family congregated around a table in a dimly lit restaurant in the wine country. We would cloister around the massive paella pan the next day preparing and waiting to dig up the crusty bits of rice still clinging and etched into the bottom of the pan of what had become tradition. But, this evening, we huddled in elegant Dry Creek Kitchen, playing the part of happy family, unfettered by a fissure whose full impact is still deeply felt a year later. I ordered the tasting menu and marveled at the soft poached egg melting into the housemade ricotta paired with spiced warm brioche and red currant vinaigrette. This led to second course of spiral cut ham salting roasted butternut squash risotto with a peppery pop of arugula and sweet maple glacage. By the main course of Pop’s Prime Rib Wellington, we had all pretty much pled mercy and requested to-go boxes.

Red Wine Chili

Two days later, we fished out the leftover prime rib steaks, considering how we might present them anew for dinner. A decent bottle of red table wine sat on the counter and one thing led to another. The flavors formed into a Spanish and Sonoma-inspired red wine chili with chunks of steak. We sat around steaming bowls that night as the savory aroma wafted up from our spoons. Through the disparate odds and ends leftover from the grand celebrations, we had created something unexpected and good.

The holidays can be tricky to navigate as they come fraught with expectation as much as ensuing excitement. They can bring to the surface leftover hurts of a misplaced comment or issues that we thought we had resolved and healed. Looking at leftover meat doesn’t usually inspire the kind of admiration of the original plate with its thoughtful garnish and presentation. But leftovers can teach us a lot about ourselves. They give us a second chance to make what was originally someone else’s creation, our own. It’s not easy forgiving small grievances that can compound into one ball of recollection. But the thing with holidays is they too are an attempt at second chances—every year we get an opportunity to try again and learn better how to celebrate life with each other.

What we might not see at first glance is that holding onto leftover hurts allows them to keep us shackled to the past instead of moving gracefully into the future. Forgiveness might seem like an odd gift to give at the holidays, but no wrapping can contain its incredible value. It is in its way a fresh start, a chance to open the to-go box, survey the cold meat inside and say, how can I make this good again?

 

Red Wine Chili

Red Wine Chili

In a different chili recipe I made a while back, I had jotted a note to self to try using chipotle chili in a future iteration. Oh, yes. Look for the small can of chipotles in adobo sauce in the Latin American aisle of your supermarket. My obsession with figs runs deep and I wanted to play around with the idea of letting a hint of their natural sweetness play into a chili-laced paste that’s simmered tomatoes with a bit of red wine, and thyme. This is definitely a game-changer for me. I had never made my chili using a paste before, but as I was thinking about texture and wanting to both concentrate the flavors in the base, I decided to simmer and puree and now I’m not looking back. The figs also act as a thickener in the homemade chili paste. In some circles, cooking with wine might come across as a bad way for the bottle to go down. But, I find a judicious glug of decent dry red makes a well-served sacrifice in this chili. It adds body and depth, and should come from a vintage you would like to drink, since the rest of the bottle will be the cook’s (and company’s) libation. I used Healdsburg Reserve Merlot from Split Creek Farms. When it comes to garnishing chili, we are of two minds in our household. You might find as I did that the chili tastes best on its own or with a dollop of yogurt. Nathan added cheddar to his bowl and between spoonfuls, pronounced this the best chili he has ever eaten, so there might be something to that. However you serve it, make sure to break out the corn chips.

Serves 4 huge bowls to 6 small bowls

 

2 cups plus 1 cup diced tomatoes and juice (1 28-ounce can)

4 ounces dried California mission figs, stemmed (1/2 cup)

2 teaspoons adobo sauce plus 1 chipotle pepper

3 tablespoons plus 1 cup dry red table wine

Fresh thyme leaves from 1 sprig (1/2 teaspoon)

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons chili powder

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large white onion, peeled and medium chopped (2 cups)

1 pound ground beef

1 cooked ribeye steak, cool and cubed

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 carrot, peeled and small grated (1/2 cup)

2 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt

Organic corn chips

Whole milk yogurt, optional

Sharp cheddar cheese, optional

 

Simmer 2 cups of tomatoes and juice with the figs, adobo sauce, chipotle pepper, 3 tablespoons of red wine, thyme leaves, and chili powder on low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile drizzle and swirl the olive oil into a skillet set over medium-low heat and cook the onions for 15 minutes, until almost translucent, stirring sporadically. Add and brown the ground beef in the skillet with the onions. Turn off the heat under the pot of chili-laced figs and transfer the chili-laced figs to a blender. Remove the cap off the lid and place a towel over the hole. Blend until smooth. Pour the chili-fig puree into a large stockpot. Stir in the remaining cup of red wine, cup of diced tomato and juice, steak, beans, carrot, and salt to the pot. Add the ground beef and onions to the pot. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with yogurt and cheddar if desired. Serve with corn chips.

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Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

When you think of maple syrup does your mind first conjure up a stack of pancakes and a warm amber-colored drizzle pooling around the edges of the plate below the tipped spoon? If there is any ingredient that can usher in a taste of fall and winter, it might just be maple. The sweet caramel notes remind me of tearing into beaver tail brioche doughnuts slick with hot maple glaze during a Quebecois Christmas. More recently in Vermont, I saw firsthand how this beloved ingredient makes its way onto menus (like the irresistible pairing of Vermont cream and Vermont maple in Maple Walnut Ice Cream) or on store shelves, in everything from jars of “maple crunch” clusters to a bag of sriracha maple cashews that both passed the carry-on permissible souvenir test.

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

I’ve been thinking about maple more often than usual because of Katie Webster’s first cookbook, Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup. Several months ago a mutual friend introduced us and I agreed to assist her during a 48 hour turn-around trip from Vermont to San Francisco. When she offered to send me her cookbook to explore more, I happily accepted.

Maple Cookbook

On Katie’s blog, Healthy Seasonal Recipes, she shares recipes rooted in the seasons with a healthy perspective. She shot all of the photos in her cookbook. As a former food stylist for Eating Well Magazine, she knows how to take stunning photos that give healthy food gorgeous appeal.

Katie was flying out from Vermont to San Francisco to demonstrate a few maple recipes at a librarians conference. When we initially discussed recipes to demo, she teased out the recipe for Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs commenting how this recipe wooed anyone who made it. We ended up going with two other recipes,  but the chicken stayed in the back of my mind, bookmarked.

Maple Ginger Chicken

Writing a first cookbook includes its own ebb and flow. There are long solitary stretches where the cook works to perfect the recipe in their kitchen. Then, in come the reinforcements in the form of recipe testers, editor, and friends for support. I’ve had my fair share of helpers, so I was excited to help another first-time author as she thrust her book out into the world for the first time.  I prepped all the ingredients and packed parts of my kitchen to haul over to the Moscone Center for her cooking demo at the librarians convention. She showed the group how to make her Maple Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies (p. 134) and Maple Sour Cherry Shirley Temples (p. 52) as several of us distributed samples for attendees to taste.

The maple walnut chocolate chunk cookies can be made with dark or white chocolate chips, but take it from an avid dark chocolate fan, I heartily suggest eschewing the dark and going for white. The test batch below shows dark chocolate. The white chocolate didn’t last quite so long… White chocolate brings out the caramel accents from the maple sugar in the cookies that bake up crisp around the edges and moist in the middles. Katie’s maple sour cherry Shirley Temples were a revelation. I had made a test batch when I first received the recipe and this drink has been modified for adult palates, balancing the sweetness of the maple syrup with sour cherries and a bit of almond extract. This drink made a believer out of me and escalated my curiosity to try Katie’s other maple-laced recipes.

Maple Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

The book categorizes the recipes by type, making it easy to hunt down drink recipes, breakfasts, main courses, and desserts. I began marking pages as soon as the book arrived that I’m planning to make this fall like Easy Maple Turkey Breakfast Sausage (p. 22) and the Overnight Whole Grain French Toast Bake with Dried Apricots and Chèvre (p. 30) that I’m eyeing for Christmas.

I learned that every winter Katie and her family tap trees in their yard and then process the sap through backyard sugaring that includes a 500-pound evaporator parked in their driveway. Katie takes the reader into understanding the differences between grades of syrup and even offers substitution tips for swapping in maple syrup in place of other sweeteners. Growing up in Texas and then living in California, it’s all too easy to look at a bottle of maple syrup and not see the connection to the land, especially when considering the cost. This ingredient is big business in Vermont and Northern America with direct links back to family-owned businesses. In reading Maple, I began to appreciate so much more than just the flavor. And that brings us back to chicken.

These chicken thighs marinate overnight for a comforting main course that fills the house with the aroma of fall. I totally understood Katie’s promptings this summer that this chicken would woo and win over anyone who tried it. It really is a bit of a ringer recipe. I adapted it ever so slightly with a few substitutions. We use kosher salt in our house, so instead of using 3/4 teaspoon iodized table salt as indicated in the recipe, I swapped in 1 teaspoon kosher salt. The recipe called for bone-in chicken thighs, but I ended up using skinless, boneless chicken thighs because that’s what I could find at my local market. She gives the suggestion to use pears or apples, but we decided to keep the apple love fest going strong to pair with the apple cider and apple cider vinegar. I made a pot of polenta and steamed some carrots to serve alongside. In the end I’m thinking all this dish really needs is a cold evening outside with the oven heating up our home and the smell of ginger, apples, maple, and poultry permeating every nook and warming us up.

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

(adapted ever so slightly) Reprinted with permission from Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Maple Syrup by Katie Webster, published by Quirk Books.

Makes 8 servings

1 shallot, finely sliced

3/4 cup apple cider

1/2 cup dark pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon finely grated, peeled, fresh ginger

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus four sprigs, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 bone-in (or boneless, skinless) chicken thighs

3 medium pears or apples, peeled, cored and quartered

 

In a medium bowl, whisk shallot, cider, syrup, ginger, vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper. Place chicken in a large resealable bag. Pour marinade into bag, seal it, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning once or twice to agitate marinade and coat all pieces.

Preheat oven to 400F. Remove chicken from marinade and arrange pieces, skin side up, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Tuck pears and thyme sprigs among chicken pieces. Pour marinade over top. Bake, basting occasionally, about 1 hour, until chicken is cooked through and starting to pull from the bone. Serve chicken and pears with sauce spooned over top.