Honestly, gang, we usually hate small-talk about the weather. Yes, it's cold in the winter! Man, it sure is hot in the summer.
But: Man, it sure is hot this summer!
The eastern half of the U.S. spent most of last week trapped under a heat dome. Here in D.C. we had our hottest single day in four years, and several consecutive days where the humidity tipped the perceived temperature into triple digits.
We did the best we could to stay cool: We hit the movies, we went to the pool, we stayed in with the A/C cranked up high.
And we didn't dare turn on the stove.
Which is why we were eager to try out this No-Cook Tomato Sauce.
It's kind of funny the dishes and flavors you associate with certain times of year. Oh sure, cranberries make you think of Thanksgiving. And maybe a ham brings Easter to mind. (And thanks to Starbucks, pumpkin-spice flavor now pretty much evokes everything from August until New Year's).
But we always associate chilled pea soup with the first weeks of April.
Why? Because every year, we go to this amazing fundraiser for the organization that Clay works for, No Kid Hungry. The fundraiser is called Taste of the Nation. It's awesome -- a gathering of nearly 100 of the best restaurants, wineries and bars from around the area. It's a truly overwhelming smorgasbord of amazing foods. (The organization does similar events all over the country -- you should totally go if there's one near you.) Plus: gif booths.
Anyway, the event in here in D.C. is always the first week of April. And because it's early spring and chefs are eager to showcase seasonal dishes, there are always -- without fail -- a few different places that settle on some version of a chilled pea soup.
This year we counted four. Three of 'em with crab on top. We are, after all, Chesapeake adjacent.
We're not complaining -- it's a lovely cold soup, and the crab combo can be quite delicious.
So when we flipped open the latest Food Network Magazine and saw this Chilled Pea Soup with Spicy Crab, we decided to make this Taste of the Nation staple at home.
Hey, maybe you heard we had a little snow last weekend here in DC. With windy, violent snowfall of between 24 and 36 inches over a 36-hour period, it was no weather for being outside.
In fact, it was the perfect weather for being inside, with this White Chicken Chili.
Growing up, we both had a chicken chili from time to time. But the dish always seemed to make an appearance in snowy weather. In Zach's house, especially, the hint of snow was treated as a call to arms for his mom to start cooking certain comfort foods -- cinnamon rolls, hot cocoa, chicken-and-dumplings. And, often, a white chicken chili.
White chili is a great alternative to traditional red-beans-and-beef-and-tomato chili. It's lighter, with a brighter heat. It's a "zing!" to red chili's "blam!"
This particular recipe from Food Network Magazine is a good basic blueprint, but it could use some upgrades if it's going to become a winter classic in your kitchen. Here's what we recommend.
In the final stages of Fakesgiving planning, as we were charting out our cooking that would stretch over the course of nearly a week, we started to freak out a little.
We had 24 guests coming. Would 20 dishes be enough? Would everyone be able to have a solid sample of all the dishes? Should we double a few dishes?
And that's when we lost our minds a bit and decided to double the servings of six of the recipes. See, it's not all smooth sailing over here at Bitten Word HQ. We are constantly checking and rechecking, questioning and requestioning.
And let's be real: Even if we hadn't doubled any of the recipes, there would have been plenty of food (the Cherry Spice Cake Trifle alone includes 20 full servings!). But still, we doubled. And doubled. And doubled.
One of the dishes we decided to double was this Butter Pecan-Toffee Pie. And it's the one case where we're really glad that we did.
Selecting the menu for our Fakesgiving is a difficult task.
First off, there are more than 200 recipes from which to choose. But we consider each one, and start to strike dishes off the list. The first hundred fall away easily (for the kind of meal we're doing, we're not going to do an elaborate seafood buffet as an appetizer, but we appreciate that you would, Martha).
But then it starts to get more difficult. We think about the kind of menu we want (two turkeys? three stuffings?) and we impose a limit on the number of dishes (20 is manageable; 25 might end our relationship).
Eventually we get down to 40 to 50 recipes. At this point, we're looking for variety (something fresh or green, at least one potato dish) and we don't want to make a dish that's too similar to dishes we've made before (for this reason, no Brussels sprouts ended up on this year's menu -- Brussels are well covered on Our Favorite Holiday Recipes). Plus, we want a few dishes that really push us out of our Thanksgiving comfort zone.
Far beyond our comfort zone lies this Tex-Mex Green Bean Casserole. It was on, and then off, and then back on the list. It was definitely the most unusual of all the dishes we made this year. It was a gamble.
Sometimes, gambles pay off. This is not one of those times.
220 Thanksgiving Recipes from 10 Leading Food Magazines
Yesterday, we were all about the trends, sharing what's in and what's out for this year's Thanksgiving feast.
Today, it's all about the recipes. Below, we've categorized all 220 recipes from the 10 magazines we're tracking this year.
Of course, the November issues of these magazines feature many more recipes than this -- in order to make this list, the recipe had to be part of an explicit feature about Thanksgiving. (If a recipe doesn't have a hyperlink, it means it isn't yet available online.)
Explore the list and share your thoughts: What sounds amazing? What sounds too wacky for your table? What might you try for this year's feast? Let us know in the comments -- and happy cooking!
If you're unfamiliar, it's a BBC show that's rebroadcast on PBS here in the U.S. It's home cooks taking on weekly baking challenges, but it's perhaps the most pleasant, drama-free reality television we've ever encountered.
Don't expect anyone to throw a pie here: It's all incredibly civil and absolutely delightful. Each episode features 3 baking challenges, and someone -- or sometimes two people, depending on the whims of the judges -- goes home.
The judges, whose names are Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (yes, really), are keen but kind in their critiques.
In episode 2 of this season, the contestants were asked to make English Muffins (and yes, they referred to them as "English Muffins," even though they're in England). Here's what the judges were looking for: beautifully browned tops, with browned bottoms and white around the edges. Soft texture, with a good crumb structure and a muffin that's baked all the way through. As Mary put it: "I love the feel when I touch them, the sort of squidge at the sides."
We don't know much about squidge, but we were inspired. And then lo and behold, Food Network Magazine had a feature about making English Muffins at home. We dusted off our baking gloves and got to work.