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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

RECIPE: Baked French Toast

National French Toast Day is November 28th. Take a break from Thanksgiving leftovers and enjoy this baked French toast casserole—part French toast, part bread pudding.

The recipe is from Pepperidge Farm, which uses its Cinnamon Swirl Bread; but if you can’t find it, you can use any cinnamon or cinnamon-raisin loaf.

Prep time is 15 minutes, chill time is 1 hour or overnight. Bake time is 45 minutes, so if you do the prep and chill in advance, all you have to do is wake up and preheat the oven.

RECIPE: BAKED FRENCH SWIRL TOAST

Ingredients for 8 Servings

  • 1 loaf (16 ounces) Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Swirl Bread, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup sweetened dried cherries or cranberries
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups half and half or milk
  • 2 teaspons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar or confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whipped butter
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  •    

    baked-french-toast-pepperidge-farm-230

    Baked French toast is like bread pudding. Photo courtesy Pepperidge Farm.

     

    pepperidge-farm-cinnamon-swirl-230

    We love all the Pepperidge Farm swirl breads. Photo courtesy Pepperidge Farms.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place the bread cubes and cranberries into a lightly greased 3-quart shallow baking dish.

    2. BEAT the eggs, half-and-half and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Stir and press the bread cubes into the egg mixture to coat. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

    3. BAKE for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Serve with the butter and syrup.
     
    IS FRENCH TOAST FRENCH?

    Nope! Here’s the history of French Toast.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Turkey Leftovers

    You don’t have to look far for inspiration for your leftover turkey and stuffing. Butterball Turkey has an entire Pinterest gallery devoted to them.

    Beyond all the open face turkey sandwiches with gravy, triple decker sandwiches and panini are:

  • Turkey Empanadas, Enchiladas, Nachos & Quesadillas
  • Turkey & Cranberry Grilled Cheese (recipe)
  • Turkey & Cranberry Pizza (we love this recipe!)
  • Turkey Pot Pie (recipe)
  • Turkey Tetrazzini (recipe)
  •  
    But our favorite is a turkey, cranberry and stuffing wrap. Just spread cream cheese, mayo (especially chipotle mayo) or leftover dip on a tortilla, pile on the leftovers, roll and eat.

    You can do the same with lettuce wraps. Variations on a theme:

  • Add hummus to the tortilla wrap. Here’s a recipe from SheWearsManyHats.com.
  • Vary the filling in the lettuce wraps. Here’s a recipe with a Santa Fe flair, from SkinnyTaste.com.
  •    

    Rosemary-Hummus-Turkey-Cranberry-Wrap-shewearsmanyhats-230

    Spread out a wrap and pile on the turkey and fixings. Photo courtesy SheWearsManyHats.com.

     

    lettuce-wraps-skinnytaste.com-230

    Toss turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce into a lettuce wrap. Photo courtesy SkinnyTaste.com.

     

    Here are more ideas for warps from Tom Leo, Corporate Executive Chef of Grecian Delight. He likes to give the traditional turkey sandwich a contemporary makeover by swapping sliced bread for a flat wrap.

    “A flat wrap allows you to incorporate more ingredients without the mess,” he says. “Everything from side dishes to sauces can be used to create a Thanksgiving-themed wrap.”

    Here are Chef Leo’s top ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers in a wrap:

  • The Basic Bird: Pile slices of turkey atop a white flat wrap. Add shredded lettuce and as much cranberry sauce as you like for a nod to Thursday’s feast.
  • The Traditional Turkey: This wrap is for the Thanksgiving purist. Pile sides like sausage stuffing and gravy atop the turkey.
  • The Vegetarian Wonder: Chef Leo’s favorite: roasted butternut squash topped with a shredded Brussels sprout salad and pickled root vegetables.
  • The Seasonal Spin: Add some poached pears, sugared pecans and brie cheese to your turkey wrap. Also check the appetizer leftovers: We had fresh goat cheese, pate, crudités and dip to add to the turkey.
  • The Full Bird: Top the turkey with a dollop of sweet potato casserole, strands of green beans, and a hint of cranberry, stuffing and anything else.
  •  
    The great thing about the day after Thanksgiving: leftover sandwiches!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Write A Thanksgiving Poem

    If you’ve got time to fill before or after Thanksgiving dinner, have a poetry jam.

    Have guests compose their own poems, or print out some of the many at TeachingFirst.net for recitation. Here’s our choice:

    A THANKSGIVING DINNER
    by Maude M. Grant

    Take a turkey, stuff it fat,
    Some of this and some of that.
    Get some turnips, peel them well.
    Cook a big squash in its shell.
    Now potatoes, big and white,
    Mash till they are soft and light.
    Cranberries, so tart and sweet,
    With the turkey we must eat.
    Pickles-yes-and then, oh my!
    For a dessert a pumpkin pie,
    Golden brown and spicy sweet.
    What a fine Thanksgiving treat!

     
    It could become an annual tradition, with judging and chocolate turkey prizes.

    WISH YOU A JOYOUS THANKSGIVING!

     

    Bourbon_Red_tom_mattbillngs-wiki-230

    This heritage turkey breed is the Bourbon Red. Photo by Matt Billings | Wikimedia.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Tips

    taylor-classic-meat-thermometer-230

    You need to use a meat thermometer when you cook a turkey. Photo courtesy Taylor.

     

    If you’re cooking for Thanksgiving, take a look at these 50 tips from top American chefs, courtesy of the Food Network. A sampling:

  • Plan ahead for leftovers by cleaning out the fridge today. Be sure you have enough foil, plastic wrap and storage containers.
  • Be sure you have a meat thermometer.
  • Leave the turkey unwrapped in the fridge overnight. The skin will turn out crispier.
  • Coffee beans in the turkey cavity? One prominent chef adds half a cup of coffee beans to creates “great depth of flavor.”
  • Rub the interior of the turkey for more flavor. Use concentrated chicken base (such as Knorr) or a homemade chicken-stock reduction and butter.
  • Insert metal skewers in the turkey thighs before roasting. Insert several skewers into each thigh. They direct heat to the thighs more efficiently, so the thighs cook more quickly (and the less time in the oven, the less time the breast has to dry out).
  •  

  • Spread a mixture of breadcrumbs, fresh herbs and pork fat under the skin of the bird. Particularly under the skin of the breasts, the pork fat keeps the breasts moist and adds flavor.
  •  
    Check out the rest of the tips. While some require advance prep, it will be next Thanksgiving before you know it!

     
      

    Comments

    STOCKING STUFFER: Stonewall Kitchen Maple Bacon Jam

    Here’s a spot-on holiday gift for anyone who loves bacon. Bacon jam is a sweet and savory combination that adds a little something extra to most of the foods you eat—breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

    You can spread it on toast or waffles at breakfast, enjoy it on a sandwich, serve it as a condiment with your protein at dinner or mix it into the pan juices to create a delicious sauce. Enjoy it as a cheese condiment.

    For entertaining, use it to make quick canapés with a bit of cheese, meat or poultry.

    While you can make your own bacon jam (a link to our recipe is below), you can also buy it.

    Stonewall Kitchen makes theirs from cane and brown sugars, apples, shallots and yellow onions, vinegar and bacon. We had a taste at a trade show earlier this year and put it on our list of stocking stuffers.

    An 11.75-ounce jar is $7.95 at StonewallKitchen.com.

     

    bacon-maple-onion-jam-stonewallkitchen-230

    A delicious sweet and savory jam. Photo courtesy Stonewall Kitchen.

     

    MAKE YOUR OWN BACON JAM

    Here’s our own recipe for bacon jam.

      

    Comments

    RECPE: Ambrosia Salad For Fall & Winter

    ambrosia-salad-tangerines-melissas-230

    Ambrosia salad. Photo courtesy
    Melissas.com.

     

    In Greek mythology, the gods ate ambrosia and drank nectar, fragrant foods that were typically reserved for divine beings.

    While no descriptions of either these foods survive (the word ambrosia means delicious or fragrant and nectar indicates a delicious or invigorating drink), scholars have long believed that both ambrosia and nectar were based on honey. (Mead, popular with the ancients, is a fermented honey drink.)

    Modern ambrosia is a variation on a traditional fruit salad. It originated in the southern U.S. in the last quarter of the 19th century, when oranges became more available in markets across the country. The original recipes were simple layerings of grated coconut, sliced oranges and powdered sugar, sometimes called iced oranges.

    The recipe became popular in the early part of the twentieth century, according to FoodTimeline.org. Many variations proliferated. Today, it’s a retro recipe that is too often laden with maraschino cherries, canned pineapple and whipped topping.

    But make it with the best ingredients, and you’ve got but a fun fruit salad substitute for the colder months, when primo fresh fruit options are fewer.

     

    In addition to the coconut and orange or mandarin, ambrosia recipes typically contain pineapple, miniature marshmallows and coconut. Other ingredients can include bananas, cherries, dates, grapes, grapefruit, raisins, strawberries and pecans or walnuts.

    For a devilish modern touch, add a bit of diced jalapeño.

    The salad is typically bound with something creamy: mayonnaise, whipped cream, sour cream, yogurt, even cream cheese, cottage cheese or pudding.

    This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown’s and is so easy that you can assign it to an older child to prepare. Prep time is 30 minutes, plus two hours of chilling.

     

    RECIPE: AMBROSIA FRUIT SALAD

    This recipe is adapted from an Alton Brown version. It is best served on the day of preparation. The sugar can cause the oranges (and other fruits) to release their juices and the dish can turn to mush.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 ounces sour cream
  • 6 ounces homemade mini marshmallows or store bought, approximately 3 cups
  • 1 cup clementine orange segments (approximately
    6 clementines)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup red or purple grapes
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries*
  •  

    valencia_orange-crate-floridajuice.com-230

    Ambrosia salad was developed as oranges became more widely available in the late 19th century. Photo courtesy FloridaJuice.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the cream and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Add the sour cream and whisk to combine.

    2. ADD the marshmallows, orange, pineapple, coconut, pecans and cherries; stir to combine.

    3. TRANSFER to a glass serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.
     
    *The best maraschino cherries, worth of a connoisseur, are from Tillen Farms, all natural and made with sugar instead of corn syrup.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Seasonal Sangria

    Zulka-Sparkling-Apple-Cider-Sangria-Zulka-230

    Celebrate fall with Apple Cider Sangria. Photo courtesy Zulka.com.

     

    Sangria is a popular party drink, and you can moderate the amount of alcohol or use none at all.

    Here’s the version we’re serving at Thanksgiving, compliments of Zulka Sugar. Fall is apple cider season, so Instead of fruit juice, this recipe uses apple cider and sparkling apple cider.

    Cider s available in alcoholic and non alcoholic versions. In the U.S., alcoholic cider is known as hard cider. (See details below.) Find more delicious recipes at Zulka.com.

    RECIPE: SPARKLING APPLE CIDER SANGRIA

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup Calvados or other apple brandy
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) white wine (Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc work best)
  • 1 bottle sparkling apple cider
  • 5-6 apples, cored and sliced thin (use red apples for better color, or a combination of red and green)
  • Garnish: Cinnamon sticks
  • Optional: ice cubes
  •  

    PREPARATION

    1. COMBINE the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Pour a little of brandy in another small bowl. Dip the glass rims in the brandy and then the cinnamon sugar. Add a few apple slices to each glass. Set aside.

    2. ADD the remaining cinnamon sugar to a large pitcher. Add the apple cider and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Top with the brandy and wine and mix. Add the rest of the apples. Chill until ready to serve.

    3. ADD the sparkling cider right before serving. Garnish with an apple slice and a cinnamon stick. Serve chilled. Add ice if desired.
     
    WHAT IS CIDER

    While in the U.S. and parts of Canada, the term “apple cider” is interchangeable with apple juice, in Europe a glass of cider is not kid stuff: It’s an alcoholic drink that many prefer to beer.

     

    bottle-glass-original-230

    One of our favorite cider brands. Photo courtesy Crispin Cider.

     
    Usually made from fermented apple juice (although pears can be used—pear cider is known as perry in the U.K.), the juice ferments for eight weeks after the apples are pressed. The cider then matures or several months, is blended, filtered and carbonated.

    The result is a drink with the carbonation and alcohol of beer and the flavor of apples. As with beer, each brand has a distinct flavor profile and alcoholic content, generally from 3% ABV (alcohol by volume) or less to 8.5% or more.

    In the U.S., alcoholic cider is called hard cider, and it’s becoming more popular. Like wine, it has a relatively high concentration of antioxidants—but enjoy it for the crisp, refreshing taste!

  • Hard cider is best served chilled or over ice.
  • Cider is naturally gluten-free.
  • Cider is less filling than beer.
  • The apple flavor is all-natural (as opposed to artificially-flavored malt beverages).
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Snacking On Chestnuts

    chestnut-package-melissas-230

    New School: Buy chestnuts ready to eat. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    In the old days, winter meant chestnut vendors on street corners. We’d buy a bag, hot off the embers, and burn our fingertips in our eagerness to devour the toasty treats.

    Then we learned how easy it was to make our own (recipe below).

    But these days, we buy bags of whole cooked chestnuts, peeled and ready to be popped into the mouth, tossed into recipes or microwaved to make them toasty. What you miss in the smoky flavor nuance, you gain in moistness.

    Chestnuts are delicious cold or hot in various recipes or as a garnish. There is no need to add anything to them; they are full of flavor and ready-to-eat. (In fact, you can eat chestnuts raw, but they are sweeter and have a better flavor when cooked).

    WAYS TO SERVE CHESTNUTS

    You can eat chestnuts as you would any other nut. Versatile, they work in savory or sweet recipes.

     
    SAVORY CHESTNUT USES

  • In an omelet
  • In breads and muffins
  • As an appetizer wrapped with bacon
  • Pureèd into pestos and dips
  • In soup—try this (cream of chestnut soup recipe)
  • As a garnish: meat, poultry, seafood—whole, diced, mashed or puréed
  • In stuffing: for duck, pheasant, pork, turkey, quail, veal.
  • In salads, whole or quartered
  •  

  • With vegetables: Brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms
  • With grains (risotto, pilaf), diced
  • In casseroles
  •  
    SWEET CHESTNUT USES

  • Candied (marrons glacées)
  • Puréed and added to hot chocolate
  • In ice cream—puréed or diced
  • In a sweetened bread spread
  • Mousse or Mont Blanc, sweetened chestnut purée in a meringue shell, topped with whipped cream (here’s a riff on Mont Blanc: dessert pasta)
  • Cakes (here’s a chestnut loaf cake)
  • Chestnut soufflé and a multitude of other desserts
  •  

    roasted-chestnuts_histomil-230

    Old School: Buy raw chestnuts, cut an X, roast them, peel them. Photo courtesy Histomil.com.

     

    HOW TO ROAST CHESTNUTS

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Wipe the chestnuts with a damp paper towel.

    2. PLACE the chestnuts on a cutting board, flat side down. Use a small, sharp knife to cut an X on the top (rounded) side of each chestnut. This allows the steam to escape and also makes peeling the cooked chestnuts a lot easier.

    3. MOVE the chestnuts to a baking pan or sheet with the X facing up. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the shells burst open at the X.

    4. COOL a bit until the chestnuts are comfortable enough to touch; peel while they are still warm.

    Note that chestnuts can begin to rot inside the shell, and you won’t know it until you’ve roasted and peeled them. So if you need a certain number, buy 20% more to be on the safe side.

    CHESTNUT HISTORY

    Chestnuts were eaten by prehistoric man, and have been cultivted since about 2000 B.C.E.

    The chestnut tree, Castanea sativa, was introduced to Europe via Greece and Asia Minor. The majority of the chestnut trees currently found in America are of European stock, but Native Americans ate an American genus, Castanea dentata, long before the European tree came to America.

    In 1904, a fungus on diseased Asian chestnut trees that were planted in New York spread and nearly wiped out the American chestnut population. While there are some domestic groves in California and the Pacific Northwest, today most chestnuts are imported from China, Italy, Japan and Spain.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Fika Gourmet Malted Milk Balls

    maltballs-fika-230

    Gourmet malted milk balls with a seasonal look. Photo courtesy Fika New York.

     

    Forget Whoppers: Lovers of malted milk balls know how to search out the best malted milk balls. Our reigning favorites are the Mint Chip Maltballs from Marich, malt centers encased in dark chocolate and a mint cookie coating.

    But there’s a new entry for your consideration from Fika. Under the snowy surface of confectioners’ sugar are sweet milk chocolate-covered malt balls. The malted milk balls are handmade in Fika’s New york City facility.

    At $12 for a clear gift box of 10 ounces, they’re available FikaNYC.com, along with many other treats.

    For a respite, drop in at one of Fika’s 10 locations in New York City for coffee, pastry or a light repast.

     

     
      

    Comments

    STOCKING STUFFER: Cowboy Toffee Co. S’Mores Toffee

    For toffee lovers, here’s a delightful variation: S’mores Toffee from the Cowboy Toffee Company of Oakdale, California.

    There are classic toffees we like better. Our gold standard is the uber-buttery Enstrom’s, which also is made in a sugar-free version. (It has so much butter, you’re advised to store it in the fridge! It’s also certified kosher)

    We’ve never seen s’mores toffee flavor before. Enhanced with mini marshmallows, mini graham cracker squares and a cover of milk chocolate, it’s something new, different and fun.

    A four-ounce rustic gift box is $9.99. Get yours at CowboyToffeeCo.com.

    (Note that the toffee photo on the website isn’t too attractive. We devoured our sample before it could be photographed. The toffee looks much tastier in person.)

     

    cowboy_toffee_box-230

    Inside the box: S’mores Toffee! Photo courtesy Cowboy Toffee.

     

    WHAT IS TOFFEE

    Toffee is a hard but chewable candy made by caramelizing sugar with water and butter. American recipes can add vanilla and other flavorings, plus milk or cream. The ingredients are boiled together at a high temperature until the mixture is golden brown and stiff.

    The hot toffee is spread onto a shallow pan or countertop to thicken and cool. The slab is then broken into smaller, irregular pieces. Some toffees are poured into individual molds to create individual square or round pieces.

    Here’s more about toffee, including English-style toffee and the difference between toffee, buttercrunch and caramel.

      

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