Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

Everyone knows that Thanksgiving dessert is all about the pie -- specifically Apple, Pumpkin, and Pecan -- so I couldn't let November 26th pass without sharing a recipe for pecan pie, now could I? After all, pecan pie is my very favorite dessert, the most anticipated part of the Thanksgiving meal, the reason why I try not to eat too much stuffing and turkey, because I must leave some room for dessert. But I digress. 

So, this pie! If you're still looking for a dessert to add to your Thanksgiving menu, you've just found it. This is beyond divine, because does it really get any better than a slice of gooey, caramel-y, crunchy pecan pie with a dollop of whipped cream? Well apparently yes, yes it does. Adding chocolate to your standard pecan pie takes it to a whole new level, the slightly bitter chocolate balancing out the sweetness of the filling while managing to not  overpower the pecans themselves. It gives the dessert another dimension of flavor, plus adds to the gooey-ness factor, as it melts slightly into the filling. Indeed, much like adding bacon to vegetables, adding chocolate to dessert is always, and I mean always, a good idea.

Bonus: this dessert is also so very simple to make,  a matter of stirring everything together in a bowl, pouring it into the pie crust, and putting the whole thing in the oven, plus it can be made a day in advance.Which is exactly what you want when you've got more side dishes than you can count to prepare plus a turkey to think about, right? You're welcome. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

CHOCOLATE CHIP PECAN PIE

Ingredients:
1 cup dark or light corn syrup
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 unbaked pie crust

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and butter. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips. Place the unbaked pie crust in to a lightly greased 9 inch pie pan. Pour the pecan and corn syrup mixture into the unbaked pie crust and bake for 60-70 minutes. Test for doneness by tapping the center of the pie with your finger, it should spring back if it is done. If the pie crust browns too quickly (this happens to me without fail every time I make a pecan pie) cover with foil. Let the pie cool for 2 hours before serving. Serve with fresh whipped cream, if desired. Serves 8-10.




Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

This year I had my Thanksgiving menu planned for a week or two (selecting recipes for a dinner party is one of my favorite past times, and I always get started early) when I realized the day after that two of my guests were actually – gasp – vegetarians. It went without saying than that there would be no turkey for them, and even worse, no stuffing, as my stuffing recipe is made with sausage. The peas with onions and pancetta were promptly scratched as well. This left very few dishes on the menu for my vegetarian guests, a bit problematic as Thanksgiving is all about abundance (and giving thanks, of course) so I promptly went back to the menu drawing board. I was looking for a recipe that would be substantial enough for the non-meat eaters, and considered making a pumpkin risotto or pumpkin pasta before coming across a recipe for Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette, which solved all of my problems. My menu for this year then is the following:

Cornbread
Turkey with cranberry sauce
Baked mashed potatoes
Arugula, pear, walnut, and gorgonzola salad  with balsamic vinaigrette
Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

Pecan Pie (recipe forthcoming)

But back to that Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette. If this recipe looks familiar, it is because you have seen it before in its Summer version (remember this Three Cheese Zucchini Tart?) Essentially it is an open faced, savory pie that is substantial enough to serve to your vegetarian guests at Thanksgiving, that also happens to be absolutely delicious (yes, I tested this recipe for you already and nearly ate the whole thing by myself). Indeed, I could write a whole book about how good this galette is, but let me try and keep this short and sweet: the crust is super easy to work with, and the consistency is perfect, beyond flaky and buttery, while still managing to be sturdy enough to stand up the filling. Ah yes, the filling -- everyone knows that onions are at their best when caramelized and squash is happiest when roasted, and when you put these two veggies together in the aforementioned perfect crust, accompanied by a healthy dose of cheese and a sprinkle of sage, you have created a downright divine combination of ingredients. Bottom line: this recipe belongs on your menu for Thanksgiving, vegetarians or not, and I have a feeling I'll be making it many more times afterwards. Note that this recipe could either make one large galette or two small ones – completely up to you -- and would also be great served as an appetizer. Enjoy everyone!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CARAMELIZED ONION GALETTE

For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into
pieces

1/2 cup full fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup ice water

For the filling:
2 small butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 cups fontina, gruyere, or Emmental cheese, grated (I used Emmental)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves 

1 egg, beaten for eggwash


Directions:
Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice and water and add the mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball and knead together on a floured work surface just to form a smooth ball of dough; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Prepare squash: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined baking sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway throughout the baking time. Set aside to cool slightly.

Caramelize onions: While squash is roasting, melt the butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.

Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. Brush with egg wash and bake in the oven until golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Remove the galette from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide it onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm, or room temperature. Makes (1) 12 inch galette, serving 8, or two smaller galettes, serving 4 each.

Recipe very slightly adapted from www.smittenkitchen.com.





Pumpkin Pie



Here in Italy everyone is already thinking about Christmas, which every year, without fail, feels wrong to me -- after all, in my American mind, we celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, and THEN Christmas, right?! I always tend to miss Thanksgiving when I'm here in Rome -- it's been 5 or so years since I've been home for one in the States -- so I wanted to share a few of the recipes that I've put on my menu for the Thanksgiving dinner I am hosting this year, just to keep in the spirit of things. Which brings us to today's post! 

It may seem odd that the first recipe I'm sharing on here for Thanksgiving jumps right to dessert, but for me, Thanksgiving is more about the pie -- apple! pumpkin! pecan! -- than it is about the main course (turkey? turkey who?!) Indeed, you simply cannot have Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie.

I admit I was a bit nervous before serving this to the group of Italians I had to dinner. Many Italians I've met don't like cinnamon, and most are skeptical upon hearing that we put pumpkin in a dessert -- after all, pumpkin is a vegetable, an ingredient more at home tucked into ravioli than mixed with sugar and spices and poured in to a pie crust. I am happy to report however that the Italians who tried this pie absolutely loved it -- really, fell in to one of those happy food silences that lasts a minute or two as everyone enjoys their food -- which is what every cook likes to hear. Indeed, this dessert is pure pie bliss, one of my very favorite desserts I make. The filling is full of Fall spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and dense and rich with an amazingly smooth texture (thank you very much, heavy cream!) This pie is perfect with a dollop of whipped cream and is the ideal ending to your Thanksgiving meal, though I do think that pumpkin pie is something that should be made year round, not just once a year. 

Added bonus: this pie is a cinch to make, just whisk everything together into a bowl and you're done, no chopping or beating needed, no lattice crust, no crumble or glaze or frosting in sight. Lastly, I apologize for the slightly plain photo, but everyone gobbled this pie up before I could take any really decent photos as planned! Just more evidence that you should make this right away -- enjoy everyone!

PUMPKIN PIE

Ingredients:
2 cups canned pumpkin purée
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs plus the yolk of a third egg, beaten together
2 1/4 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 uncooked pie crust 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk together the heavy cream and pumpkin. Whisk in the sugars and then the eggs. Mix in the salt and spices. Note that the spices I put in are just suggestions to start with -- you can add more if you'd like (this is what I usually do). Whisk everything together until well mixed.

Place the pie crust into a lightly greased 9 inch pie pan. Pour the filling into the pie crust. Bake at a high temperature of 425°F for 15 minutes. Then after 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes more, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (About half way through the bake time, you may want to put foil around the edges of the crust to keep it from getting too browned.)

Cool the pumpkin pie completely and then refrigerate until cold (I like to make mine the night before serving as it gives the spices time to develop and tastes even better the next day). Serve with freshly whipped cream. Serves 8-10.




Apple Cinnamon Muffins


It's November already (how did that happen?!) which means that I need to fill the blog with as many Fall (pumpkin, apple, and Thanksgiving!) recipes as possible before December comes around. Between the trip to Milan and my dad's visit I've been too busy to post much of what I've been making, so let me try and do a little catch up with this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Muffins.

As it so happens, muffins here in Italy tend to almost always be a disappointment. While Italians get an A+ on their cornetti, they would probably get a C+ (if I'm being generous) on their muffins. The muffins sold at the cafes here are usually dry, flavorless, and on the chewy side, just barely reminiscent of how a real muffin should be. I can guarantee however that unlike muffins found in Rome, these muffins will not disappoint you in the least, as they are, as far as muffins go in my book, pretty much perfect. The yogurt and apples keep them moist, they taste even better the next day (once the cinnamon has had a chance to sink in) and the brown sugar on the top gives them a nice crunch that contrasts nicely with the fluffy interior. In short, these muffins are everything you could ever want in a breakfast (especially on a cold Fall morning) and you should make them as soon as you can (another great way to use up all your Fall apples!)

A couple of things -- the original recipe calls 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all-purpose flour. I have used all all-purpose flour (whole wheat flour is hard to come by in my supermarket) with good results, but I imagine the whole wheat flour version would be yummy too. Since I can't find buttermilk here, I used plain whole milk yogurt which is always a great substitute. Lastly, I used red (Macintosh) apples, but any variety you want to use would work here. Enjoy!

APPLE CINNAMON MUFFINS

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk or yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour 12 muffin cups and set aside.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.Mix in the buttermilk or yogurt gently. Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from www.smittenkitchen.com.