I don’t think I’ll ever buy mayonnaise again. The original recipe came from Mark Bittmann’s nifty How to Cook Everything app on my iPod touch, and it pretty much convinced me of that. It’s really easy to modify this recipe to get exotic — lots of ideas in the app for that, too.

It’s not a wholesale cut-n-paste of his recipe; we’ve found that we need lots less oil than he calls for. Here’s our base recipe; look for variations in the comments.

1 egg yolk
2 tsp mustard (honey mustard is nice for a little sweetness)
100 ml neutral oil (extra virgin olive oil would be OK too)
Salt / pepper to taste
1 tbsp acid, like sherry vinegar, white wine vinegar, or lemon juice

Sarah picked up a tall cylindrical melamine beaker/pitcher thing with rubberized feet at a nearby department store for a few Euro, and it’s perfect for making mayo with our stick blender’s whisk attachment. You can use a normal-shaped bowl too (we’ve done it, it works), but this beakery pitcher thing seems to make the process more efficient.

Combine the yolk and mustard with the whisk. Slowly drizzle in the oil in a thin stream until it thickens while you’re whipping, and it’s done when the the stuff looks like mayonnaise. Then thoroughly combine in the flavors and acids, and you’re done.

We like that this recipe makes about a cup of final product; perfect for the two of us with left-over chicken/turkey/whatever to turn into a couple days’ worth of sandwiches.

Mustard Jar Salad Dressing

This less an actual recipe than a logical thought progression. It blew up on the internet a couple of months ago and we finally almost emptied a mustard to give it a try. Your jar needs to have a tight-fitting lid because you just shake it up in there. And it calls for Dijon mustard, but you can probably use whatever’s on hand – just adjust salt and sugar accordingly.

1 T Dijon mustard, in its jar
1/4 c white or red wine vinegar
3/4 c olive oil
1/2 t sugar
1/2 t salt
pinch ground black pepper

Put all ingredients in jar, screw on lid and shake until emulsified. Taste and adjust spices.

Here’s an example of how to adjust the method: we had honey Dijon, so I omitted the sugar. I also used sherry vinegar. Other good herbs with mustard include tarragon or rosemary.

American-style Cheesecake

Cheesecake in Germany is different. It’s good, but it’s far lighter and crumblier than American cheesecake, with nowhere near the tangy flavor I expect. I’ve tried to make cheesecake over here before, but it never quite works out correctly. The flavor is always somewhat lacking and the texture is a little off. I’m certain it has to do with availability of ingredients. The cream cheese here is all spreadable – they don’t seem to have the big, dense blocks of Philly, wrapped in foil, that have to sit out and soften on the counter before you can put it in the mixer. Even if I could get the blocks (and I probably could – I have ways), I really don’t have the fridge space to store it.

While planning Thanksgiving desserts with our friends, we decided a cheesecake might be in order (counterpoint to the omnipresent pies). So I started my usual recipe search, when I had an idea; look for a German-language recipe for ‘American’ cheesecake! I found a winner here. The original recipe is in German with metric measurements, but here’s my translation.

25-30 Leibniz wholegrain (vollkorn) cookies, crushed
5-6 T (80 g) butter, melted

17 oz (500 g) cream cheese1
14 oz (400 g) quark cheese
3/4 c (160 g) sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract (wanna be fancy? Scrape a whole vanilla bean instead)
3 eggs
1 pinch salt

1 large jar sour cherries (Schattenmorellen)
2 T cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350°F/170°C.

Mix the crushed cookies and melted butter together in a bowl, until all the crumbs are evenly moistened and are starting to clump. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 24-26 cm. springform pan until they make an even layer.

In a large mixer bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and beat until smooth and light. Pour into the springform and bake for at 40 minutes or until the center is somewhat jiggly, but no longer liquidy. I prefer to bake mine a little longer, until the top is no longer shiny – but this will probably cause your cake to crack. Allow cake to cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

The topping is optional, but I like my cheesecake with cherries. Into a small saucepan, drain your cherry juice and set cherries aside for now. Put 4-5 T of the cherry juice in a small glass or measuring cup and add the cornstarch, stirring well. Bring the juice in the saucepan to a boil, then add the cornstarch slurry while stirring. The mixture will immediately thicken. Remove it from the heat, stir in the cherries and serve with the cheesecake.

  1. Edited on 2018-04-30; a previous incarnation of this recipe had the cream cheese-to-quark ratio flipped. This way (as written here, now) is even better. []

The Grand Turxperiment

I saw the video below a while ago and have been patiently waiting for a chance to try it ever since. I saw it in the How To Cook Everything app and that spurred me on. Then, with some upcoming Thanksgiving plans in mind, I advised our gracious hostesses to give us a little time to try it out. Watch the video; it’s a good use of three minutes of your time.

So yeah, we did this, and it was great. I am polishing off a wing and some home-made stuffing (perhaps another post in the making) as I write this. I think it’s actually tastier as leftovers, but then again I think I’ve said that about every turkey dinner I’ve ever had, too. If you’re a purist insisting on a huge turkey stuffed with stuffing, this recipe is not for you — it only works for birds about 10 or 12lbs. (5.4kg). The advantage of stuffing outside the turkey — which we call dressing and might well confuse any Germans present for the feast — is that your stuffing is suddenly vegetarian-friendly.

Like all things demonstrated (to me) on the internet, it’s not as easy as it looks, but this one is really almost that easy. SDC10339We start off with a thawed turkey, still very cool, but no longer ice-encrusted, plus the biggest cutting board we have backed up by an old towel which is allowed to get bloody if it needs to, and plenty of extra surface area on the workspace. A couple of good knives, kitchen shears, and of course the devices with the recipes on them are standing by.

SDC10340I began hacking away at the spine of the bird with a good-sized boning knife, but quickly switched to the chef’s knife. I’m sure the boning knife was actually appropriate here, but the chef’s knife — particularly when cracking through bone — felt a lot more stable. Save everything you cut out if you’re going to make soup or something. That turkey spine is currently chilling out in our freezer. Following the instructions from the video and the recipe app, I cracked that bird open as widely as possible, exerting pressure on front- and backsides (or without the spine, I guess it becomes “inside” and “outside”) trying to spread everything out and take advantage of the surface area of the pan.

SDC10341We drizzled a little olive oil into our roasting pan and plopped Tom on in there.

SDC10343 I hid about 10 cloves of garlic into various turkey nooks and crannies and cut a a few slits in the skin to stuff our herb mixture (fresh chopped parsely and sage and dried thyme) in under the surface.

SDC10345Finally, we massaged a little more olive oil together with generous amounts of salt and coarsely ground pepper onto the bird, going for an equal distribution.

SDC10346Here’s what our bird looked like at the 20 minute mark, the point at which you are supposed to drop the heat from 450°F (232°C) down to 400°F (204°C), or even down to 350°F (170°C) if it looks like it’s browning “too fast.” We weren’t sure what that mean. Clearly, our bird was turning crispy and brown in places. Was this too fast? We weren’t sure, so we only dropped the heat down to 375°F (190°C)

SDC10347The bird was supposed to be done at this point (45 minutes in), but some temperature probes indicated the internal temperature wasn’t up as high as it needed to be. We let it go another 20 minutes and found lots of pink spots in places where the meat was folded over on itself — think armpits and crotch. We finally gave up and cranked the heat back up to the 400°F (204°C) mark for 10 or 15 more minutes and spread ’em.

SDC10348Finally we got the temperature readings we wanted, cut some slits into previously pink parts to check for moist whiteness and clear juices, and after letting our bird rest for a few minutes, started the carving process. That was a catastrophe, but suffice it to say that I will need more practice with that. However, the flavor, moistness of breast, and crispiness of skin all exceeded our expectations. Can’t wait for turkey sandwiches and gravy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I was wondering what vegetarians bring to Thanksgiving dinner potlucks. My favorite vegetarian over at said “roasted sprouts.” I was intrigued — at first I was thinking alfalfa or mung bean sprouts or something. When she clarified that she meant Brussels, I was inspired, having previously only had them steamed. Maybe that’s because I’ve only been eating them since I turned 32 or so … perhaps I was bound to discover the roasted method sooner or later.

I googled around and found the Barefoot Contessa’s version. Some other versions I found called for chiffonading or discarding (!) the outer layer of leafy sprouty goodness.

In the end, I opted for B.C.’s ingredients, but with an 8″ square glass baking dish to prevent any escapees from rolling off her recommended sheet pan during the shaking episodes.

1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons good olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).

Cut off the sproutbutts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Cut each sprout in half; we’re going for maximum surface area here. Don’t discard any nice green leaves which loosen up and fall off in the process — you will thank me later. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them into a glass baking dish and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shaking the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly was too risky for me, so I stirred them a few times over the course of the roast time. The loose leaves brown up and look a little weird, but they have a lovely crispiness to them. (You’re welcome!)

They were mighty tasty, hot and fresh out of the oven, but I thought they needed just a little something extra. I threw a little Herbes de Provence in garlic butter leftover from a previous variation on a garlic bread theme on there. Then they were perfect.