Thanksgiving is around the corner and I wanted to come up with an alternative to the traditional roasted turkey. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, tender roasted turkey and I have a great recipe for one but it’s also fun to mix it up a bit.
I wanted to come up with a recipe that would combine several of our Thanksgiving favorites into one dish. I decided to experiment with a kind of Turkey Wellington. The idea was to wrap a boneless turkey breast in cranberry stuffing and then wrap it in puff pastry. A take on a classic Beef Wellington.
Beef Wellington was first created in England many, many years ago. It is a classic dish that my mother would prepare for the holidays. Classic Beef Wellington is made with Filet Mignon, Mushrooms, Prosciutto and Puff Pastry. It is absolutely delicious and I will be sharing my Mom’s recipe at a later date. It is a great dish to serve on Christmas or Christmas Eve.
I wanted to come up with a Thanksgiving all-in-one dish and I loved the idea of wrapping the Turkey Breast in puff pastry. Kind of like wrapping a delicious flaky biscuit around turkey. Instead of mushrooms I put a layer of stuffing which I mixed with dried cranberries. I let the dried cranberries simmer in the chicken broth to soften before mixing in the dried cubed bread. I really don’t want you to be intimidated by this recipe. You can absolutely use a store bought stuffing mix like Pepperidge Farm or you can make your own. I wanted this dish to come together fairly easily and look fantastic on your Thanksgiving table.
So I went to the supermarket across the street from my apartment and they did not have the puff pastry I was looking for so I decided to buy a box of pie pastry. You can absolutely use ready made pie pastry for sweet or savory dishes. I did roll it out a little so the pastry would fit around my Turkey Breast. I also decided to use Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix in a bag. I happen to love this stuffing, as did my mom. Of course we would also make homemade stuffing every Thanksgiving but there is something absolutely delicious about this mix in a bag. So we would make both. The other thing I would like to mention is that this beautiful fancy looking dish is very affordable. The total of all my ingredients was just over $30. The recipe can feed 6 people so you are looking at a cost of $5 per person. You can serve the Turkey Wellington with some gravy and sautéed string beans on the side or whatever side you like and you have a beautiful meal to serve your friends and family.
It is important to chill the turkey for a half hour after you wrap it in the stuffing. This will make it easier for you to wrap it in the puff pastry. Please make sure that you buy puff pastry and NOT phyllo dough. The two are similar but are not the same. Phyllo is much flakier than puff pastry and will not work well with this dish. After rolling out the puff pastry I also cut out some leaves out of the puff pastry and rolled a long string so I could make a vine shape on the top of the Turkey Wellington. I think this is a nice touch and makes for a pretty presentation on your holiday table. This is not difficult to do and only requires a knife to cut out the leaf shape. You do not need any special equipment. When you bake the Turkey Wellington the puff pastry may crack a little. This is perfectly fine and helps to show the authenticity of your dish. I think the cracks are beautiful and organic. You made it after all! Cooking is a fluid, natural process and you should not obsess over perfection. Save perfection for baking. Baking is much more precise and leaves less room for error.
I think this recipe is a big crowd pleaser. The turkey stays juicy when baked in the puff pastry and the combination of the different flavors are amazing. This recipe says “home” to me. It is perfect for Thanksgiving or any other Fall or Winter evening.
Cheesy, Creamy and Delicious Homemade Mac and Cheese
Thanksgiving is coming up and I wanted to share a great mac and cheese recipe to complement that delicious turkey you are going to make. Homemade macaroni and cheese is the perfect dish to serve at your dinner. This recipe is simple and quick to prepare. The results are infinitely better than any boxed mac and cheese you can buy. Mac and Cheese must be cheesy and creamy with just the right amount of crunchy buttery bread crumbs on top. This is a decadent dish and needs have the right ratio of sauce to macaroni. You don’t want it to be too soggy. I like to use sharp cheddar cheese in my macaroni and cheese but you can feel free to experiment with other cheese that you like. Try mixing in gruyere or mozzarella for an added layer of flavor. You can also mix in some crumbled crisp bacon into the macaroni right after adding the cheese sauce. This will give the dish a little smoky flavor. My recipe calls for a bit of evaporated milk. I think that the evaporated milk really helps make the sauce creamy and delicious. Mac and cheese can be baked and eaten right out of the oven but is also great reheated the next day. I recommend making a big dish so you can enjoy it now and later. Try serving leftover mac and cheese with a big salad the next day. In many of my recipes I pair arugula salad when I am serving a dish that is creamy. The peppery bite of the arugula helps to cut the creaminess of any dish. The two compliment each other. I think that this is the best mac and cheese recipe. It’s a great pot luck dish and perfect if you are feeding a larger group and want to be able to make something ahead of time.
Sitting in the beautiful limestone mansion located on 81st street off of Fifth Avenue you can’t help but be transported to an earlier period of time. This neo-Renaissance building was built in 1902 by J.C Lyons as a single family six story home. It is now the home of Sistina restaurant. Sistina was located on second avenue for 33 years before moving to the new space on 81st street. It is here that Sistina is dishing out wonderful Italian food with understated, professional service.
Our evening began with cocktails as we read over the menu which includes a nice variety of options to suit any palate. The waiter approached the table before we had decided on our dinner to impeccably recite what must have been no less than fifteen specials for the evening. I was immediately impressed that during these difficult times Sistina is able to offer such a wide variety of specials. The list ended with a showing of beautiful white truffles that were being featured that evening. We are now in Truffle season and I will be reviewing them but not in this post. I have a standing annual Truffle tradition with my best friend so you will be hearing about that shortly.
At Sistina I ordered the Grilled Octopus to start which was served with roasted peppers, capers and white beans. The octopus was cooked perfectly tender and the flavors balanced well with each other. For my entree I ordered the Branzino al Sale, which is European bass cooked in a salt crust. This is a wonderful way to prepare fish since the salt crust holds in the flavor of the sweet, flaky fish. We also shared the Veal Tortelloni served with black truffles. I am still dreaming about this pasta. The evening ended with a celebratory Soufflé for my dear friend’s birthday. We left feeling so satisfied sharing a wonderful evening with friends and great food.
So if you are looking for an escape to an earlier time I would suggest Sistina. If you go, spend a moment looking around the inside and outside of the space. The detail on the facade is exquisite and a fine representation of early 20th century architecture in NYC.
Ah, the cupcake. A perfectly sized single serving dessert usually eaten as a child. Why should kids have all the fun? I have added coffee, a little spice and some brandy to these cupcakes which make them ideal to serve at your next grown-up dinner or holiday. These cupcakes also work well served bite sized. Just use a 24 cup cupcake tin and reduce baking time in half. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top before serving or some edible gold stars.
The orecchiette shape literally translates to ‘little ear’ and originated in Southern Italy . This pasta is perfect for catching sauce in its cup-like shape . Making the pasta fresh, by hand, is a fun activity to do alone or with friends and family. The dough is mixed together in a matter of minutes and only requires a half hour of rest time before you can start making the pasta. The result is also infinitely better than boxed pasta. The recipe listed below was one of the most popular pasta dishes at my restaurant. There was a time when I tried to remove it from the menu in order to make room for a new dish and I had to put it right back on due to popular demand. I mix hot and sweet Italian sausage together but you can absolutely use one or the other depending on how spicy you like your food. This pasta shape will also work well with my Simple Tomato Sauce.
mix together then remove from bowl and knead until dough is elastic (about 5 min)
Place dough in a bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap
allow to rest for 30 minutes
Make the shape
flour a working space on counter
cut dough into 8 pieces
roll each piece with your hand into a ½ inch rod
cut each log into ½ inch pieces
use your thumb to press and swirl dough into small cup shape
place pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil
add ½ tbsp of salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil
drop orecchiette in pot
when orrecchiette rises to top allow to cook for another minute
Total cooking time should be around 5 minutes
Please don’t worry about every piece of orecchiette looking exactly the same. This is homemade pasta. You will get the hang of it as you go along. Some people like to use a measuring spoon to help push the pasta into a cup shape.
For a special treat head on over to Kappo Masa on Madison Avenue for some of the most delicious a la carte sushi on the Upper East Side. This restaurant is located sub-level under the Gagosian Gallery. After descending the modern staircase you encounter a grand floral arrangement that fills the entrance floor to ceiling. It is the perfect touch of minimal, luxurious decor that sets the tone for the meal that you are about to have. The room is decorated in medium toned wood and toffee colored leather seating. There is a circular sushi bar that can fit about 10 but is not currently open due to Covid. My husband, Mark, and I settled into a cozy corner and were so happy to be in such a tranquil, beautiful place after a long week. Our server immediately came over and we ordered drinks before deciding on food. I highly recommend the ‘Cucumber in a Rice Field’ cocktail. It is a cucumber sake martini that has the perfect balance of flavors. The service is professional and friendly and they never rush you. Dining at Kappo Masa is an experience that satisfies all your senses. I always leave here feeling peaceful and satisfied.
We have been dining at Kappo Masa for several years and we are so happy that they have reopened. Their menu is much smaller than pre-covid but every dish is expertly prepared and the quality of sushi is exemplary. We order a la carte here but you can certainly order Omakase. Some menu standouts are the Duck and Foie Gras Tacos, Chicken Dumplings with Cilantro, Masa Toro Tartare Caviar, Grilled Asparagus Goma Ae and the Sushi. Some of my suggested menu choices are not currently available but I was assured by the Manager that they will be adding items back. No worries, the dishes they do offer are great. They also offer a special take out menu for those who wish to dine at home.