Alton Brown's Pumpkin Pie

In order to develop a successful blog, you need to know what is bringing your readers to your site to begin with. Once a month I like to see what has been bringing people in. I do this using Google Analytics – one of the best tools available for anyone that runs a website. I was researching what key words or phrases brought readers to the site around Thanksgiving. One of the things someone typed into a search engine last season was the question “Should Pumpkin Pie Be Jiggly”. I thought that would be a great question to fully address this year.

Should Pumpkin Pie Be Jiggly?
So you pull your pie out of the oven, because you think it’s done. Your heart is then struck with terror, the center is still somewhat jiggly. Your fear over serving a raw pie to your guests, start to overcome you. You reach to put that pie back into the oven. Then hopefully after reading this post you hear my voice inside your head telling you to stop! Instead of being fearful you should be rejoicing. If your pumpkin pie is set on the edge, yet the center is still just a bit jiggly, then you have cooked your pie to perfection. If there is a best pumpkin pie contest you can enter into, you might want to start clearing off your trophy case.

As your pie cools, the center will firm up. You will avoid a dry overcooked filling that may crack on you – nobody wants to bring a cracked pie to Thanksgiving dinner. You have to treat your pie like you would if you were baking cookies. If a cookie looks completely done in the oven, it will be burnt when it’s cool enough to eat. This is because things don’t immediately stop cooking when you remove them from an oven. There is carry over heat. This is especially true with large chunks of meat (prime rib, turkey, etc). Smaller things still do have a carry over effect, just for a short period, enough to burn cookies or overcook a pie.

My Favorite Pumpkin Pie
As a little added bonus I will share with you my favorite pumpkin pie recipe. It has got to be Alton Brown’s Pumpkin Pie. I love it with it’s ginger snap crust. The texture is spot on and with a little additional spice (cinnamon and clove), the flavor is exactly what I want.

Thanksgiving at Bobby’s Recap

in On TV

thanksgiving at bobby 2014 For the last few season, Food Network has aired their Thanksgiving Live special full of recipes, tips, and tricks from different Food Network personalities. That short tradition dies this year. Maybe it’s because of Giada’s crazy and annoying behavior, not mention her nearly losing a finger, that lead them away from the live format to a pre-recorded show.

Below you will find my running commentary about the show. For the recipes, please visit Food Network’s website.

Bobby’s Roast Turkey with Mustard Maple Glaze | Click here for the recipe
The show begins like any good Thanksgiving show should with the prepping of the turkey. Bobby is doing a roast turkey with mustard maple glaze. Bobby employs the start with a hot oven (450 degrees) and finish it in a cooler oven (350 degrees). If you reverse this method you still brown the sky, but are more likely to overcook the meat doing so. Do it at the start and you don’t have to worry about that.

Katie’s Cornbread Stuffing with Herb Butter | Click here for the recipe
Katie Lee makes a cornbread dressing with the herb butter. Her tip was to cook the dressing once the turkey is done cooking. It needs to rest before carving. She has it already to go a day or two before hand, and then it’s ready to slid in the oven when the turkey is ready. Great use of time and oven space.

Sunny’s Cranberry, Apple, and Fig Streusel Tart | Click here for the recipe
As a produce man, the first thing that jumps out to me is figs. The recipes call for fresh figs. Good luck finding a fresh fig around Thanksgiving. They pretty much disappear from stores once the calendar turns to fall. You can find dried figs year around or use dates. Not much else is said about the dessert.

Bobby Flay Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Bobby Flay’s Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Bobby’s Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes | Read my recipe review
Since the recipes were posted way earlier I was able to try this out out before the show. The best part of these potatoes is using buttermilk instead of just regular milk. It adds a nice tanginess. In the show he uses just a potato masher for mashing while online the recipe says you can use a food mill. I did it with the food mill – which gave it a lighter texture. Bobby offered a great tip to keep the potatoes warm. Put them in a bowl and make a double boiler. The steam from the pot underneath will keep the potatoes warm while the rest of the meal comes together.

Sunny’s Sage and Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole | Click here for the recipe
To make up for the fig oversight, Sunny comes up with the idea of making a crumble topping for sweet potatoes, that combines pecans, sugar, butter, and sage. She folds in the marshmallows instead of just throwing them on top. She roasts them in the oven first to give you that camp fire like flavor. Not a bad idea if you are a fan of this often over sweetened dish.

Back to Bobby’s Turkey
He rubs this maple-mustard glaze onto the turkey. I am sure the glaze is very flavorful, but if you are like family that doesn’t eat the skin then all the flavor is going to waste. Another option would be to taste the same glaze and put it underneath the skin before you begin cooking it.

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Broiled Cauliflower Steaks with Parsley and Lemon | Click here for the recipe
If you are looking for a new Thanksgiving side dish to try, this may be the one you have been waiting for. Making cauliflower into steaks is all the rage. The cauliflower gets blanched, and then marinates in coconut milk and spices. You make this ahead and all you have to do is roast them for 10 to 15 mintues, then broil them to get some nice char. All done at the last moment before the meal. I love tips that help you bring the meal together and hot all at the same time. Drop a little gremolta (parsley, lemon, garlic) and a vinaigrette. A great way to bring a super fresh flavor to the meal.

Roasted Carrots, Spanish Spices, Yogurt Sauce, Harissa | Click here for the recipe
I am all about including carrots in the Thanksgiving meal. These carrots are blanched, then fried in spices, topped off with yogurt sauce and a pomegranate vinaigrette. I have seen the exact carrots he is using. They are small, carrots that come with a small section of the tops and are peeled. These carrots are extremely expensive. I have seen them for $7.99 per pound. You are better off buying a bag of organic rainbow carrots which go for about $2.49 and then just cut them into sticks.

Bobby’s Gravy, Alex’s Great Idea
The best way to make a gravy is a roux. This helps prevent the disastrous lumpy gravy from occurring. I love the idea Alex has come up with. She takes the vegetables she roasted the turkey with and purees them and adds them to the gravy. This is great way to thicken the gravy without adding flour. Perfect choice for those looking for a gluten free gravy and it adds great flavor.

Michael’s Southern Greens | Click here for the recipe
Michael uses a combination of kale and collards and instead of the standard ham hock, he goes for smoked turkey wings. You get the smoky flavor, by it’s a bit healthier with the turkey.

Final Thoughts on the Show
I did not like it as much as the Thanksgiving Live. Show wasn’t as teaching or as useful those new to cooking for Thanksgiving. It also lacked that fan interaction that made things more exciting in the past. I would not call it a true replacement. However the show still did provide some useful tips, my favorite being pureeing the vegetables to add to the gravy. Watch replays of the show to get some good recipe ideas.

Here are the recipes they were shown by not really talked about:
Alex’s Indian Pudding | Click here for the recipe
Michael’s Chocolate Pumpkin Pie | Click here for the recipe
Katie’s Deviled Eggs | Click here for the recipe

Bobby Flay’s Mashed Potatoes with Buttermilk

in Side Dishes

Bobby Flay Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Everyone has their own idea on how mashed potatoes should be made. I love them as sorts of ways, chunky, smooth, creamy, smoky, cheesy, etc. I would love to try out everyone’s different methods. Each Thanksgiving I make sure to look out for another mashed potatoes recipe to try. This year I selected Bobby Flay’s Mashed Potatoes with Buttermilk. This recipe was from the new Thanksgiving special, Thanksgiving at Bobby’s, which replaced Thankgiving Live this year.

Check out some other mashed potato recipes I have tested from different Food Network personalities.

Click here to view the entire recipe.

Below you will find my cooking notes for this recipe:

1. I followed the recipe almost perfectly with one exception. I had to leave out the green onions. I can’t stand them. It always drive me nuts when you order something and they dump green onions all over it. But I do not think that this omission disqualifies me from telling you what I thought of the texture of the potatoes and the flavor with the buttermilk in it.

2. I didn’t even need close to the amount of buttermilk called for. If I would have added even the low estimate I would have had soup. I had the same issue last year when I tried his Smoked Paprika Mashed Potatoes. That one I wasn’t as careful with. Just slowly add the buttermilk until it’s the consistency you want.

3. The recipe calls for you to warm up the buttermilk mixture. This is important because then you aren’t adding cold dairy to your hot potatoes, especially if you are going to serve them immediately.

4. I love the flavor the buttermilk brings to the party. It’s a simple replacement for just using milk, yet add so much more flavor. Just as buttermilk does with pancakes and biscuits. Sometimes I skip it when I don’t have any on hand, but when I do go for it I was always satisfied that I did.

5. Running the potatoes through the food mill was simple and helped produce a better texture than just using a regular potato masher. You are less likely to overwork the potatoes making them gummy. You can also use a potato ricer (read my post on why to use a potato ricer). It is a little more work but I think it does an even better job.

I absolutely love the buttermilk in the mashed potatoes. They still do not top my favorite mashed potatoes recipe ever, Alton Brown’s Whipped Potatoes, but these are quicker and easier to make that than recipe. I definitely would make these again, but under no circumstance will I ever add green onions! Leeks on the other hand :)

Difference in Types of Sweet Potatoes or Yams

in Fruit & Vegetables

Sweet Potato collage

Just as much as mashed potatoes are part of Thanksgiving, so is serving sweet potatoes in some form. If you are looking for the best selection of sweets, you got to head to your local Whole Foods Market. Most places just offer one type, they have at least 6 to offer around the holidays. They even label each variety, so you know exactly what they are. If you are going to buy them there, then you will need to know more about what kind of sweet potato you’re looking for.

But before we get into all of that, we have to discuss the sweet potato vs. yam debate. This is hotly contested. I have been surprised how strong people’s opinions have been. Don’t tell someone that this yam is actually just a sweet potato. People are convinced there is a difference between the two. And they are right, sort of. Yam are large starchy tuber grown mostly in tropical climates, and not in the United States. It’s very difficult to find any exported to the U.S. True yams are not part of the Morning Glory family as sweet potatoes do. The name “Yam” is what some people called sweet potatoes upon finding them in the United States, particularly in the south.

Now that we got that out of the way, even if you still decrease me – I have had conversations with people who I told the same thing to and they refused to believe me – let’s look at the varieties of sweet potatoes out there.

sweet potatoes types

Beauregard
Developed at LSU in 1987, this is the most widely grown variety and what most people think of when they think “sweet potato”. Most sweet potatoes just labeled as sweet potatoes are Beauregard. Good for roasting/baking or anything where you are looking for a moist end product.

Jewel
Very similar to the Beauregard, can be hard to tell apart in both appearance and flavor. They were developed by North Carolina State University,

Garnett
These may be referred to as red sweet potato. The skin and flesh has a darker color. These are a favorite for baking. I know a lot of people prefer them over Jewel or Beauregard. Use these for a sweet potato pie.

Stokes Purple Sweet Potato

Stokes Purple
A newer variety, developed in North Carolina, now also grown in California, this potato is purple inside and out. What’s really neat about this sweetie is that the purple color actually intensifies when cooked. These have an unique flavor and are drier their orange/red cousins. Check out my post on Stokes Purple and these recipes:

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Stokes Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Purple Sweet Potato & Delicata Squash Hash
Crispy Purple Sweet Potato Fries

Different Sweet Potatoes

Hannah
This is a white sweet potato. It’s good for those that don’t really like sweet potato as it is more similar to a traditional white potato. They are only slightly sweet. They make for an excellent mashed sweet potato, especially with some sage and chopped shallots!

Japanese
Often this variety will be listed as a Japanese Yam, but just like mentioned above it’s not a true yam. The skin on the outside is purple-red while the inside is completely white. Also a good one for mashing. It’s a tad sweeter than the Hannah, but not as much as the orange fleshed ones. Some say it has a chestnut like flavor.

For baking or roasting, I would go with the orange/red varieties : Jewel, Beauregard, or Garnet.
For making a hash or fries, I would go with Stokes Purple, Japanese, or Hannah.
For mashed, Hannah was by far my favorite.
For a pie, go with Garnet or for a breathtaking presentation, try Stokes Purple.

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