I feel like it was only a few weeks ago that every post I wrote seemed to start with me whining and complaining about how cold it was outside. Well, prepare for a déjà vu because it’s frakking freezing again and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. Oh joy. I know it’s going to warm up a bit again before the semi-permanent winter-long deep freeze hits us but, seriously Nature, can you give a girl a break? See, one of the things about buying a lovely, hundred-year-old house is that it’s goddamn drafty. Luckily I have a dog and two cats that want to be on a lap at all times so that helps. A bit. A teeny, tiny bit. Also, soup.
Speaking of déjà vu (and soup), it was about this same time last year that we posted our recipe for Mashed Butternut Squash With Thyme And Mascarpone, which has become one of the most popular recipes on NwK. I think butternut squash is so popular because it’s not only delicious, it’s also extremely easy to cook well. It has a gorgeous, silky texture (without any of the stringiness you find in a lot of pumpkins and squash) and it also has that beautiful, vibrant color that just screams Fall. It’s the vegetal equivalent of wearing a cable-knit sweater while walking through a pile of brittle, umber leaves. It’s Mr. Autumn Man’s favorite gourd.
Look at Nerd Tips below for nutrition as well as buying and storing tips.
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Note: For a vegan version, swap the bacon for smoked sweet paprika. Instructions after the jump.
I admit it. I love brussels sprouts. And not just for Thanksgiving, either. I think it’s probably one of the vegetables that Matt and I make most often. Our standard go-to recipe is to split them in half, coat them with olive oil, course salt and pepper and roast them in a very hot oven until they are as brown and crispy as french fries. The only tricky thing about that method is that they have to be served piping hot, right out of the oven or they get a little soggy. Still tasty, but not transcendent.
For me, getting all the side dishes timed perfectly so they’re at the exact perfect temperature by the time the turkey is ready is one of the most stressful parts of Thanksgiving. I feel like the kitchen becomes a ten ring circus, with every burner going on the stovetop and a million things stuffed into the oven. Oy, I’m giving myself agita just thinking about it. That’s why I like to serve at least a couple of dishes that are great at room temperature. These brussles sprouts fit that bill because they are absolutely delicious hot, warm or room temp.
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Mashed Rutabaga with Crispy Shallots
Poor rutabaga. They didn’t really do it any favors when they were naming it, did they? I mean, it’s not like the word just rolls off the tongue. Rutabaga. It sounds weird. Ru-ta-ba-ga.
The thing is though, what it lacks in grammatical elegance, it more than makes up for in flavor and texture. I think it’s criminally underused and if you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat. (Note: it’s also sometimes called swede or yellow turnips, depending on where you live).
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It should come as a shock to absolutely no one (who either knows me or has glanced at this blog) that I like cocktails. Whenever I go to a new restaurant, the first thing I check out is the cocktail list. And whenever we throw a party, we try to have at least one cool cocktail on offer as an option to beer and wine. Fun, right? But you know what’s not fun? Spending your entire party behind a bar, mixing individual cocktails for 30 people.
That, my lovelies, is why God invented the punch bowl.
Nerd Alert: Here is a short, mostly-accurate history of the term “punch”. Punches date back to the 1600s, when British sailors required something to drink that wouldn’t spoil in the tropical heat of India and Indonesia. (Unlike us modern dummies, British sailors were entitled to ten pints of beer a day. Yes, entitled). A true punch will always be a balance of five flavors (some kind of citrus, a sweetener, a base spirit, a weak portion like juice or wine and a seasoning portion, like herbs or spices). It’s meant to be less potent than a standard cocktail, allowing party-goers to gather around the bowl and socialize. Here endeth the lesson.
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A screaming cat face is de rigeur.
Hallowe’en is a very exciting time over at the Nerds residence. You see, one of us (EMILY) not only grew up on horror movies but also, you know, HAS HER BIRTHDAY on October 31st, and the other one of us (MATT) has a fondness for Edward Gorey and M R James, and has spent whole months of his life subsiding entirely on candy bars. So it’s a propitious melding of minds, really.
Hallowe’en was not much of a thing for me, growing up in Britain in the 1970s – which is perhaps a little odd, considering that every other major holiday of the year is inextricably connected to the consumption of chocolate. The big event of the week was Guy Fawkes’ Night, which is fun and all, and has a bonfire and fireworks and the mocking of failed political plots, but unless the Guy was somehow fashioned out of sugar mice (IT WAS NOT), a distinct lack of sweet confections. So I thoroughly approve of the American version.
It is the most orange time of the year
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This recipe combines my three favorite things. It’s fast, it’s cheap and it’s delicious. And easy. I know that’s four but I don’t have time for semantics. I’m in a rush here! (I’m not really, but one of the best things about this recipe is that, other than mixing the sauce ingredients together and throwing in the chicken, there’s really not much else to do. That’s why it’s perfect for a weeknight dinner). Bung it in the oven, throw on some rice and by the time you’ve opened a bottle of wine and cycled through your Netflix options, dinner is ready.
It’s pretty much the bastard child of our two most popular recipes, Baked Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic, and Crispy Pork Belly with Soy Honey Glaze.
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I’ve always envied people that were really into watching sports. I would love to care about something (other than nerdy television shows and movie villains) enough to paint my face, don a kooky costume and brave the cold, just to prove my commitment and loyalty. To feel the agony of defeat in the hopes of, one day, just maybe, getting to experience the glory of ultimate victory.
But nope. Just don’t give a toss. Matt either (with the exception of the occasional World Cup match, of course).
This is Matt and me watching the news when the sports headlines come on.
SPORTSCASTER [Very excited]: AND THE STEELERS SCORED ON AMAZING SEVENTEEN AND FIFTY-SIX YARD PASSES LESS THAN SIX MINUTES APART IN THE FOURTH QUARTER! UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!
MATT [Pops a chip in his mouth]: Basketball?
EMILY [Rolls eyes]: Hockey, duh.
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We all know there are vegetables that many, many people despise. (A brussels sprout looks around the room nervously and begins to back away. Soon to be followed by a turnip. And then a beet. The beet grabs a stick of celery from a nearby Bloody Mary as it exits.) But the thing is, I’m pretty sure that most people just think they hate these vegetables. And the aversion they experience is not because these maligned veggies are actually gross*, but because they’ve most likely had them prepared incorrectly.
*Except for celery which actually is gross and no amount of jiggery pokery will change that.
Take brussels sprouts, for example (always at the very top of the “hated vegetable” list). Many people boil them until they are a thoroughly revolting shade of gray and the texture of a moldy sponge. They also think that a little pat of butter will camouflage the criminally sulfurous smell. Then they wonder why there is a child-shaped hole in the wall and little Timmy has run off to join the circus. BUT, take those same sprouts, coat them well in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in a very hot oven and they’ll come out as crisp as french fries and just as addictive. And little Timmy can stay in school and become a doctor, or a film editor or some other, equally respectable occupation.
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If you’re anything like me, you start the week with grand plans (and a long list) of all the things you’re going to get accomplished. Paint the porch. Just in time for Halloween! Work on the novel. Duh, I’ll just wake up an hour earlier! Train the dog to stop losing her mind every time the UPS truck is within a seven block radius. Easy as cake! Oooooh, maybe I’ll make a cake.
Then inevitably, usually by about Thursday, I realize that not only have I managed to fail in getting those things done, but I also didn’t use that chard I bought and the dog is now convinced that the clean laundry basket is her new bed because the un-folded clothes have been in there so long.
Arya in her laundry basket
That’s about when remember that even when I’m too busy to care whether my socks match, I can still make something really satisfying for dinner. It doesn’t have to be a big production (especially if you’re not stopping every five minutes to take pictures).
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