Sweet Potato Tart with Fire-Roasted Green Chile Sauce and Whipped Ricotta

I’m not sure if I’ve ever managed to post a Thanksgiving recipe here BEFORE Thanksgiving. And with Thanksgiving 2016 being, oh, TEN short days away, that doesn’t give me much time… but this year, I’m gonna make it happen. I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut for quite a while, and I decided the other day that a great way to get myself OUT of that rut would be to come up with some new and interesting Thanksgiving dishes. And so, here we are! I’ve got several dishes on tap for this week, and I’m gonna do my best to get them all up here in the next seven days – because, seriously, there is nothing more annoying than having ALL your grocery shopping done, and then stumbling across a recipe you really want to add to your menu the morning of Thanksgiving, and then being forced to go fight the masses at the grocery store, where you lose your will to live and begin to hate the whole of humanity. It’s possible I’m projecting my own personal issues, here.

Sweet Potato Tart with Fire-Roasted Green Chile Sauce and Whipped Ricotta

Up first is a sweet potato version of the traditional Pommes Anna, which is a delightful potato tart of sorts, made up of layers and layers of very thinly sliced potatoes. It’s a beautiful dish, and such a fun change of pace from the traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato dishes (marshmallow-topped yams, I’m looking at you).

Two disclaimers before we jump in:

1.) While a mandoline is not absolutely essential to make this dish, your life is going to be 1,000 times easier if you use one. It’s a great tool to have on hand anyway, so do yourself a favor and Amazon Prime one to your house immediately.

Sweet Potato Tart with Fire-Roasted Green Chile Sauce and Whipped Ricotta

2.) This dish is not at all hard, but it does involve quite a few steps and ingredients. The upside is that 2/3 of it can be made ahead of time. Believe me when I say, the work is worth it.

Sweet Potato Tart with Fire-Roasted Green Chile Sauce and Whipped Ricotta
serves 6-8 as a side

For the tart:
3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
olive oil
kosher salt
2oz parmesan cheese, finely grated

Sweet Potato Tart with Fire-Roasted Green Chile Sauce and Whipped Ricotta

For the fire-roasted green chile sauce:
small can of diced fire-roasted green chiles
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic
1 green onion
3 Tbsp plain greek yogurt or sour cream (NOT fat free)
1 tsp dijon mustard
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 tsp kosher salt
black pepper

For the whipped ricotta:
4oz cream cheese, at room temp
16oz full fat ricotta
kosher salt
black pepper
zest of half a lemon

1.) Preheat your oven to 425°. Grab an 8″ non-stick pan, and add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of it, ensuring it’s evenly coated.

2.) Grab your mandoline and slice the sweet potatoes on the thinnest setting. Once they’re all sliced, start layering them into the (cold) non-stick pan, overlapping them slightly in concentric circles. This bottom layer will eventually be the top of your tart, so make sure it looks nice!

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3.) Brush the first layer of potatoes with a thin coat of olive oil, and season with kosher salt. Move on to the next layer of potatoes; be sure you brush each layer with olive oil and season it with salt. As for the parmesan cheese, sprinkle an even layer in between every OTHER layer of potatoes.

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4.) When you’ve used all the potatoes, place the pan over medium heat. Once the tart starts to sizzle and the bottom layer of potatoes begins to brown (about 4-5 minutes), move the pan to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

5.) After 20 minutes, pull the pan out of the oven. Place a plate over the tart, and very carefully press the plate against the tart and tip the pan up over the sink to allow the hot oil to drain out (I prefer to do this with oven mitts on, in case any hot oil leaks out).

Sweet Potato Tart with Fire-Roasted Green Chile Sauce and Whipped Ricotta

6.) When the oil has drained, flip the tart out onto the plate. Add a bit more oil to the bottom of the pan, and slide the tart back into it (the side that was previously on the bottom of the pan should now be face up). Return the tart to the oven for 10 more minutes.

7.) While the tart is in the oven, you can make the fire-roasted green chile sauce. Simply throw all the ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.

8.) For the whipped ricotta, start by putting the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the cream cheese until it’s nice and smooth, 2-3 minutes.

9.) Add the ricotta, and continue to whip the cheeses until they’re no longer grainy, about 3-4 minutes. Be sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. When the cheese is just about done, add in the lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and whip just a bit longer.

10.) Once the tart is out of the oven, let it set for about 5 minutes before cutting into it. Slice it into wedges, and top each wedge with a drizzle of the green chile sauce, and a dollop of the whipped ricotta! You can garnish the tart with some additional green onions cut on an angle, if you want.

Sweet Potato Tart with Fire-Roasted Green Chile Sauce and Whipped Ricotta

While this recipe might not be the most ideal for a huge group of people, it’s perfect for a smaller crowd! It’s beautiful, and delicious, and relatively impressive looking, if you ask me. I also happen to love that it’s sort of visually reminiscent of a slice of pie topped with whipped cream!

One final note: if you’re looking at the crust on the tart in these photos and thinking it looks a little burnt, I want to assure you that it’s not! Sweet potatoes have a really high sugar content, so they’re going to caramelize and brown more than white potatoes. DO NOT be afraid to let your food (sweet, savory, or otherwise) get nice and deep, golden brown. That’s where the deliciousness happens!

Meet you back here in a couple days,
Tina

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S’mores Cupcakes (dairy-free, if you prefer!)

S'mores Cupcakes

I have been meaning to post about these cupcakes since last summer, and I keep putting it off… because every time I pull up photos of the damn things, I am overcome with the urge to bake (and subsequently EAT) a giant batch of them. And let’s be honest, now that I’m over 30, any sort of over-indulgence results in a stern talking-to from the waistband of my pants, so… I try not to torture myself by gazing at photos of baked goods, is what I’m saying. ENJOY YOUR METABOLISM WHILE YOU’RE YOUNG, KIDS!

S'mores Cupcakes

(That got off track quickly, didn’t it?)

My point is: these cupcakes are mighty delicious! I would like to say that they’re less messy than eating an actual s’more, but that would be a straight-up lie, and I won’t do that to you. So, pull your hair back, roll up your sleeves, and just get comfortable with the idea of having bits of marshmallow stuck to your face all day. They’re worth it.

S’mores Cupcakes*
adapted slightly from here and here
makes 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk

S'mores Cupcakes

For the ganache filling:
6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream

For the frosting:
6 egg whites
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)

Special equipment needed:
a kitchen torch**

S'mores Cupcakes

1.) Preheat your oven to 350°. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugar until well-combined, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.

2.) In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt). Add 1/3 of the dry mixture to the butter, sugar, and eggs, and mix until just incorporated. Then add half the milk, another third of the dry ingredients, the remainder of the milk, and the remainder of the dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix with each addition.

3.) Place cupcake liners into cupcake tins (or spray them with nonstick cooking spray), and fill each one about 2/3 full with batter (I like to use a 4T metal scoop so all my cupcakes are even – and err on the side of underfilling the cups). Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

4.) While the cupcakes bake, make your ganache. Place the chocolate and heavy cream into a small glass bowl, and set the bowl over a small pan of simmering water, making a double boiler (keep in mind: you do not want the simmering water to touch the bowl, just the resulting steam. You only need a small amount of simmering water at the bottom of the pot, and the bowl should be a bit bigger than the pot, so it will rest nicely in the opening). As the chocolate and cream heat up, gently whisk the two together until they’re completely melted and cohesive. Carefully remove the bowl from the pot (it will be hot!) and set aside.

5.) When your cupcakes are completely cool, take a small paring knife and cut a small hole out of the middle of each one, a little larger than the size of a quarter. Eat the resulting cupcake bits as a reward for all your hard work.

S'mores Cupcakes

6.) When the ganache has totally cooled (you can toss it into the fridge for 15 minutes or so to speed the process up), it should be relatively firm. Use a small metal scoop (I like the 2t size) or two spoons to scoop a small amount of ganache into each cupcake.

7.) Time for the frosting. Set the metal bowl of your stand mixer over a pot of simmering water – again, making a double boiler. Add the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar (if using) to the bowl, and whisk to combine. Whisk the mixture constantly, until the sugar is totally dissolved, and the egg whites are warm to the touch (the sugar is dissolved when you dip your finger into the mixture and it no longer feels grainy – this should take 2-3 minutes).

Marshmallow Frosting

8.) Place the mixing bowl on to your mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and set it on low. Gradually increase the speed on the mixer as the egg whites thicken, and beat until the egg whites are about tripled in volume, and very glossy, about 6-8 minutes.

Marshmallow Frosting

9.) Pile the marshmallow frosting into a piping bag fitted with a tip of your choice (I prefer one of the star tips, so the resulting ridges will brown nicely). Pipe the frosting on to the cupcakes, and then go over the frosting with your mini kitchen torch to toast it lightly**.

S'mores Cupcakes

*These cupcakes are easy to make dairy-free, if that’s your thing. Substitute Earth Balance for the butter, and a dairy-free milk of choice for the whole milk (I went with Lactaid, but unsweetened almond milk would also be fine). The frosting is dairy-free on its own, and for the ganache, you can either use a combination of semi-sweet chocolate and coconut oil (about 2T for 6 ounces of chocolate), or totally skip the ganache filling, and instead just melt some semi-sweet chocolate and drizzle it over the top of the frosted, toasted cupcakes.

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**If you don’t have a kitchen torch, I understand you can pop these suckers under your broiler to toast the marshmallow frosting – I have never tried this, so your mileage may vary. Please report back if you give this method a shot. Also, for the love of all things holy, KEEP AN EYE ON THEM. You don’t want your beautiful cupcakes to go up in flames because you got distracted by yelling at the couple on House Hunters who insist that they can’t buy that house because the paint colors are ugly. FOCUS.

Man, these cupcakes are gooooood. The graham cracker cupcake is just slightly sweet, and the chocolate ganache is chocolate ganache, so you’ll find no argument there. Add a big pile of sweet, fluffy marshmallow with delightfully brown, toasty edges, and your guests will be putty in your hands. They’ll also probably leave sticky piles of marshmallow all over your house, but that’s why the nice people at Mr. Clean make Magic Erasers.

S'mores Cupcakes

As you’ll note in the photos in this post, these made an excellent addition to a Fourth of July celebration, but I also made them for a Christmas party, and they were well-received then, too. The allure of the s’more knows no season.

You’re welcome, and also, I’m sorry,
Tina

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

Despite my general ambivalence toward fish, I try to occasionally sacrifice my personal tastes and cook up some sea life for my husband, who loves any kind of sea creature you can catch and cook. Apparently I was feeling quite generous last week, as I purchased not one, but TWO kinds of fish while I was grocery shopping: some tilapia (keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks), and some mahi mahi. As you might expect, I don’t know a ton about different types of fish – but I know that I often see mahi mahi on menus, and that seemed like a good place to start. And so, a package of mahi fillets came home with me.

I ran through quite a few flavor scenarios in my head, and landed on “fresh, tropical, and a little spicy.” So I borrowed the marinade I made for this shrimp, and the salsa I used with this shrimp, tweaked them both, added a delicious and and creamy (and a little spicy!) sauce, and BOOM. Dinner is served.

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema
serves 4

For the fish:
1 1/2 pounds of mahi mahi fillets
2 T honey
juice and zest of one lime
one large garlic clove, grated
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp kosher salt
large pinch black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

For the pineapple salsa:
1/2 a large pineapple, cut into 1/2″ or smaller dice
one small red bell pepper, cut into a fine dice
one shallot, minced
one fresh jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
juice of half a lime
pinch of kosher salt

For the crema:
1/4 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
1/4 cup regular mayo
juice of half a lime
2-3 T chipotle sauce, to taste
pinch of kosher salt

1.) First, prep the marinade for your fish. Whisk together all the marinade ingredients (everything from the honey through the olive oil); pour the marinade into a baking dish or large, shallow bowl, and place your fillets in the marinade, flipping them once to coat. Allow the fish to marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes, flipping the fillets occasionally.

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

2.) While the fish marinates, make your salsa (add all ingredients to a medium bowl and gently combine with a spoon), and your crema (whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl). These can be made up to a day ahead, if needed, just cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

3.) When you’re ready to cook your fish, heat a large skillet over medium heat (non-stick is preferable, here). Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the pan; once it’s nice and hot, add your fillets. Allow them to cook for about 3-4 minutes on the first side (depending on thickness), until they’re golden brown and release relatively easily from the pan. Flip the fillets and cook another 2-3 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Remove from the pan.

4.) Spread a generous spoonful of the chipotle crema on each plate, top with a fish fillet, and then top THAT with some pineapple salsa. Serve immediately.

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

Even with all the chopping needed to make the salsa, this dish is pretty quick! The fish cooks up in just a couple minutes, and the crema takes no time at all. You could certainly substitute another firm, white fish for the mahi mahi (though I make no promises as to their level of fishy-ness) – and you could also choose to dice up the fish and make tacos! Spread some crema on a warmed tortilla (corn or flour, your choice), add the fish, and top with salsa.

This dish might make me a fish lover, yet,
Tina

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

Sometimes, you just need to fry something. And in the case of this particular week? That something was chicken. Not your traditional bone-in, skin-on chicken – but a well-breaded chicken cutlet, just the right size to plop into the middle of a honey-ed, hot-sauced-ed, delightfully buttery biscuit. Don’t get me wrong, the whole thing was a little involved for a Tuesday night… but despite having a lot of steps and about a million dirtied bowls and utensils, making these fried chicken biscuits doesn’t take ALL that long – and regardless, they’re totally worth it!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce
makes 8 sandwiches

For the chicken:
8 chicken cutlets*
2 c buttermilk, divided
1 T hot sauce (I prefer Frank’s Red Hot)
1.5 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 tsp black pepper, divided
0.75 tsp cayenne pepper, divided
1 clove of garlic, smashed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

For the biscuits:
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
0.25 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
12 T cold butter, cut into cubes
1 cup cold, well-shaken buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten well

For the sandwiches:
butter
hot sauce
honey

*you want the chicken to be about 2 pounds total. I like to buy the “thin sliced” chicken breast at Trader Joe’s, but you can also take regular chicken breasts and butterfly them (some of those things are monsters, and you’d be able to get 3 thin pieces out of each breast). I have another dish planned for later in the week that requires chopped up chicken breast, so I also trimmed a couple inches off the end of each piece of chicken, so they’d be ever so slightly more biscuit-sized, rather than having 4″ of chicken hanging off the side. Proceed as you see fit.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

1.) In a large ziploc bag, combine one cup of buttermilk, one tablespoon of hot sauce, half a teaspoon each of kosher salt and pepper, one quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and the crushed garlic. Add the chicken, squeeze the excess air from the bag, seal it, and move everything around until the chicken is coated well. At this point, you can let the chicken marinate in the fridge for a couple hours (up to 8); or, if you’re short on time, just leave the chicken in the marinade while you prep and bake the biscuits.

2.) While the chicken marinates, let’s make some biscuits. Preheat your oven to 400°. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Use a pastry blender (or two knives) to cut the cold butter into the flour mixture, until the mixture looks like coarse meal, with some pea-sized bits of butter. Pour the buttermilk over the flour and butter mixture, and use a fork to gently mix everything together until everything is just moistened. (If you require more detailed instructions on making biscuits, see this post.)

3.) Lightly flour your countertop, and pile the dough together. Use your hands to VERY briefly knead the biscuit dough until it forms a somewhat cohesive lump, then pat it out into a circle about 3/4″ tall. (Keep in mind: with biscuits you want to handle the dough as LITTLE as possible, so it stays cold, and gluten doesn’t have a chance to form – so, work quickly, and with light hands!)

Buttermilk Biscuits

4.) Use a 2.5″ biscuit cutter to cut rounds from the dough. Re-roll scraps once, and cut more biscuits. Place the biscuits on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet, brush the tops with the beaten egg, and bake for about 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

5.) While the biscuits bake, you can work on your chicken! Place a large skillet (preferably cast-iron, 10-12″) over heat set at slightly above medium. Fill the skillet with oil to about 1/2″ depth; it will take about 10-15 minutes to come up to temp for frying.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

6.) Set up your breading station for the chicken. Set out two shallow bowls; in one, pour one cup of buttermilk, and in the other, whisk together a cup and a half of flour, one teaspoon each of kosher salt, garlic powder, and onion powder, and half a teaspoon each of black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

7.) Remove the chicken from the marinade, and let any excess buttermilk drip off. Immediately dredge each piece in the seasoned flour, being sure to coat them well. Then, dip each piece back into the buttermilk, and then back into the flour, for a second coating. This double coating of buttermilk and seasoned flour is what helps give the chicken a nice, crispy coating, without any skin!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

8.) When all your chicken is breaded and ready to fry, your oil should be ready. You can use a candy thermometer to check the temperature – it should be about 360°. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, throw some panko bread crumbs or a small piece of bread into the oil – it should bubble pretty vigorously around the bread, and take a minute or so to turn golden brown.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

9.) Add the chicken, a couple pieces at a time, to the pan (being sure to lay them into the oil so that the last end to go in faces away from you, in case of splattering). Be sure not to overcrowd the pan; I like to fry 2-3 pieces at a time. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side, until they’re golden brown. Once they’re done cooking, remove them to a baking sheet lined with foil, paper-towel, and a baking rack; this will allow them to drain any excess oil (and can be thrown into a 200° oven to keep warm while you finish frying, if needed).

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

10.) When your biscuits are baked and your chicken is fried, it’s time for sandwich assembly. Split each biscuit in half, and spread both sides with butter and hot sauce (as much or as little as you like). Add a piece of chicken to each biscuit, drizzle it with honey, then add the top of the biscuit. Serve immediately.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

I mean… what really needs to be said here? Do I really need to convince you that a buttery, flaky biscuit topped with hot, crispy chicken, and dripping with honey and hot sauce, will be amazingly delicious? If you need convincing, then I am not sure we should be friends, quite frankly.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Biscuits with Honey and Hot Sauce

Yeah, these sandwiches are awesome. Really, really awesome. The buttermilk marinade keeps the chicken super moist, and the double-dip in very well seasoned flour gives the coating a great amount of flavor and spice. Add in the acidic edge of hot sauce, the subtle sweetness of the honey, the buttery richness of the biscuit… what I’m saying is, it’s a damn good thing I hate to fry stuff, or I’d be making these daily, and then I’d need much, much larger pants. It would probably be worth it.

When I find a foolproof method to remove the fried smell from your house, I’ll let you know,
Tina