plus: simple meals and an interview with natasha feldman
Friday, November 17, 2023
How to carve a turkey [YouTube]
How the humble sheet cake became top tier [NYT, unlocked]
Is this newsletter perhaps four days late? Perhaps! I’ve been bopping around the country (Phoenix, Dallas, and Florida this week) on the Williams Sonoma x Smitten Kitchen Thanksgiving Tour, wrapping up in NYC this evening, and needless to say, all of that travel has taken over my days. But, I’ve got some WiFi on this plane home so let’s talk about all of my favorite things to bake for Thanksgiving — yes, pies, but so many other treats too. I know that the biggest headache of Thanksgiving are the logistics: when to cook what so it can all be done miraculously at once. I always make pies, cakes, and cheesecakes in advance, up to three days for cake and a tad longer if necessary for cheesecake and pie. They keep well. Pies reheat well. You could also just make your pie doughs and either freeze them for 6 of the 7 days left or chill them in the fridge for 4 to 5 days before rolling them out. There’s absolutely no reason to be stressing over desserts the same day you’re roasting a turkey and setting the table unless that’s your thing, you love a frenetic moment. But more than anything, I want us to enjoy all of the food we’ve made and enjoy our holidays, not just host them. I want you to sit at the table and enjoy yourself just like everyone else will. I hope this makes it easier.
This week we also have an interview with the talented Natasha Feldman, whose first cookbook, The Dinner Party Project, is absolutely perfect for this entertaining-heavy time of year.
I’ve written three cookbooks and I’m a tiny bit biased, but I think you’d love them all. Wondering what you might include from my most recent cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers on your Thanksgiving table? I thought you’d never ask! I vote for a starter of charred brussels sprout toast with ricotta, the leek and brie galette, or the carrot tarte tatin, followed by the winter squash soup with red onion crisp. And please don’t forget the carrot cake with brown butter and no clutter (I just made one yesterday and it’s as good as ever), butterscotch apple crisp, and an apple cider old-fashioned. Were you looking for a list of all the recipes in each of my cookbooks? I’ve added these in a separate page and hope it makes it easier for you to find everything you want to cook.
The Smitten Kitchen x Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving Tour wraps up this evening in NYC, at the Columbus Circle Williams Sonoma. While tickets for the demo portion (6pm) are sold out, tickets for the signing portion (6:30pm) are not. The ticket price is the price of the Smitten Kitchen Keepers cookbook you’ll receive. I’ll sign all of your books right after (and feel free to bring copies of earlier books). If you’re looking to get a signs and inscribed cookbook as a gift this year, this is absolutely the best way to make it happen. See you soon!
When one classic (old-school pumpkin pie) loves another classic (pecan pie) very much, everyone wins.
Six simple tips to send your (corn syrup-free) pecan pie game into the stratosphere, because just-good-enough pecan pie would never cut it around here.
Do you or someone you know suffer from Pecan Pie Deprivation Syndrome because of a nut allergy? With oats, chocolate, and a gooey salted caramel, there's nothing even a little second place about this.
The secret to a great cranberry pie is in the contrast; here a thick crumble topping of oats, toasted pecans, cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter. Don't forget the dusting of powdered sugar and the vanilla ice cream.
Did you know that cheesecake keeps in the fridge for up to five days? That means you can bake this Thanksgiving show-stealer (I'm basically not even welcome at dinner without it) late this weekend and so long as you keep it away from me, be all set for Thursday.
Slab pie is the ideal format to distribute apple pie to the maximum amount of people and -- just throwing this out there -- it looks a giant, flaky/buttery/tender pop tart.
My husband's favorite Thanksgiving dessert is (shockingly) not bourbon pumpkin cheesecake or even chocolate pecan pie but this: a buttery tart shell filled with fresh cranberries, cooked until collapsed in a salted butterscotch sauce crunched with toasted almonds. Have you been converted?
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you people don’t want to eat chocolate on Thanksgiving — just show up with this dark chocolate pudding pie with a raft of whipped cream on top and watch it vanish. Don’t forget the chocolate shavings. I mean, this is no time for austerity measures.
Simple meals for all the non-Thanksgiving days this week:
A skillet-baked pink pasta with five cheeses and nestled shells that maximizes the charred edges. There's a lot of flexibility for swaps here if you, like me, are just heading to the fridge to see if there's anything you can rustle up for a weeknight dinner.
A toasty, cozy soup that's so much more than the sum of its, well, beige -- but, like, fashionably beige, right? -- parts. A finish of lemon, olive oil, parmesan, and black pepper makes it zip. Farro gives it a hearty bite; if you don't have farro, rice or another grain works too.
A riff on grilled cheese sandwiches that instead of saying "oops" when those bits of melted cheese run off into your skillet, increases them, and makes it intentional. Once you make grilled cheese like this and the smell of toasting and browning cheddar infiltrates the air, there's no going back.
AN INTERVIEW WITH NATASHA FELDMAN
My shelves are full of wonderful cookbooks I don’t get to talk about enough so I’ve added this section so you can get to know the cool people behind them. Today we're chatting with Natasha Feldman. Tash’s cookbook, The Dinner Party Project, came out this spring but couldn’t be more perfect to tuck into right now, for the holiday entertaining season.
1. What inspired your cookbook?
Gathering with people and food you love is the best free healthcare. Did you know the Surgeon General just came out with this crazy statistic that loneliness is AS bad for your health as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes a day!?
After teaching zillions of cooking classes to help people find confidence and joy in the kitchen, I realized that there is one thing holding most people back from using their new confidence and skills. It’s the idea that a dinner party is a big deal. Instead of thinking of a dinner party as a delicious meal where you’re laughing hysterically with people you love, people envision spending all day cooking to impress friends and family. As soon as I figured that out, I knew I needed to write a book showing how easy and fun a dinner party can be, even for the host.
You shouldn’t have to bend yourself into a human pretzel to have folks over – the dinner party should meet you exactly where you are. And that’s what this book is all about! It offers tons of menu suggestions, thoughts on what you should make in advance (and how), and items that are just as good store bought. Most importantly, it reminds you that if your day goes up in flames, you can always abandon your original idea, order takeout, and still host a great party. Sometimes those last-minute, throw-together meals end up being the most memorable!
2. What recipe are you the most proud of in the book, or felt the most triumphant when you got it right?
I’m most proud of my brisket recipe – a family heirloom perfected :) It’s one that started in Poland with my great great grandmother, took a boat to Ellis Island with my great grandfather, bopped across the four corners of the US (NY, Miami, Portland, San Diego) and then ended up in the pages of my book after some tweaking in my kitchen in LA. I had to make sure it’s the best version that it can be! I think brisket is the most comforting dish and I feel really connected to my family when I make it. It’s a classic Eastern European brisket with dried apricots and prunes, lots of red wine, onion, garlic, carrot and beef broth slowly braised until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. For a winter dinner party, there is nothing better. Except for the leftovers…
3. What recipe is so low-effort, high-reward that it's worth cooking for dinner tonight, even if we're tired and don't want to cook?
Hahah, so you mean, like most nights? The “Pan Seared Salmon for Any Mood” is our go-to with the pistachio-date salsa verde. I usually keep a jar in my fridge so that I can plop it on anything. Pan-searing is the easiest/quickest way to get a really flavorful and beautiful piece of fish with zero prep and really only 10 minutes between you and eating. Steam or roast a veggie and, bam, dinner!
4. What's something you wish more people knew about your book?
I’m dyslexic and I often have a hard time following recipes in cookbooks, which isn’t something I’ve talked much about! Between scanning the recipe, going back to the ingredient list, and looking at the photos, I tend to lose my place and mess things up the first time around. So when working on this book, I really wanted to create something that was easy and accessible for people with all different learning styles.
Three ways I addressed that:
1. I added the exact amounts into the write ups of the recipe (in addition to the ingredient list) for quicker reference.
2. There are illustrations and doodles all over the book to help explain knife cuts and other things that would take too many words to explain clearly. Long explanations can be really overwhelming to read. These drawings and diagrams help you get the info you need right away.
3. The photos really show what you can expect from the final product, how big things are cut, what the color looks like, and how it can be realistically presented. We did that so that you could use the photos as a roadmap during the process.
I would love for anyone to be able to pick up this book and feel confident and relaxed and enjoy having people in their space, creating great food and memories!
Thank you, Tash! You can order The Dinner Party Project right here.
Ever wonder where I get my cutting boards, paring knives, offset spatulas and more than you see when I cook? I've created a page on Smitten Kitchen with links to some of my favorite kitchen items, the ones I'm asked about the most. I recently added several new favorites I’ve bought in the last year. For each item, I've attempted to provide a range of shopping links so we're not just focusing on one giant retailer.
See you next week!