thanksgiving [and brown butter, sage + cheddar pull-apart bread]

This year, we split our Thanksgiving holiday between Henry’s family and mine. Miles enjoyed his first snow at Henry’s aunt and uncle’s in New Hampshire, galloping under bowed pine branches and uncovering buried sticks, while we spent time with family over delicious meals and by roaring fires.

After Thanksgiving, we joined my family on the Cape for our annual lobster feast, where Miles discovered a profound love of sand, seaweed, and driftwood [and rediscovered his love of chasing Beau and birds] on the beach at low tide. Back at home, we spent evenings playing cribbage by the fire and enjoying Gram’s delicious pumpkin pie.

We’re home now, and while these cherished moments are behind us, my heart is full with memories made. Until next time … 

brown butter, sage + cheddar pull-apart bread

If you’ve never tried pull-apart bread before, you need to. It’s delicious, fun to eat, and it hides all imperfections. This version is inspired by fall flavors, but the filling can easily be substituted depending on the occasion [try a fruit puree, or butter, cinnamon + sugar for a delicious breakfast bread].  


for the dough:

[dough recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman]

2 cups milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

4 cups bread flour + 1/2 additional cup 

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

for the filling:

6-8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup fresh sage, minced

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup grated cheddar cheese + 1/4 cup for garnish

Add milk and butter to a small sauce pan. Warm over medium heat until butter is melted and milk is starting to steam. Turn off heat and add sugar. Allow to cool until mixture is very warm to the touch [you should be able to put your hand in it without immediately pulling it away, but it should be warmer than bath water]. Once it cools to this point, stir in the yeast and allow to sit for approximately 10 minutes, or until mixture foams. 

In a stand mixture with a dough hook, combine 4 cups of flour with liquid mixture and mix until dough comes together. Cover bowl first with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and allow to sit in a warm place for an hour, or until dough doubles in size. 

After an hour, add additional 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix with dough hook until combined. 

Meanwhile, add butter to a small sauté pan and melt over medium heat. Continue to cook over medium to medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes, until butter is light brown [make sure to keep an eye on it, as it can easily burn]. Once butter is light brown, add sage and salt and sauté for about 1 minute – or until aromatic. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool slightly. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a loaf pan. On a floured surface, roll out dough to about a 1/4-inch thickness into a rough rectangle shape. With a spoon or pastry brush, spread butter mixture evenly over the top of the dough – making sure to spread all the way to the edges. Sprinkle 1 cup of the grated cheese evenly over top.

Next, cut the dough into about 5 long strips [about 4-inches wide]. Stack these strips on top of each other to make one pile. Now, cut the pile into 6-8 even slices. Place each “slice” sideways into the bread pan [depending on how many slices you have, you may have extra pieces left over]. Although tempting, do not try to fill the sides of the pan with extra pieces – there should be a little bit of room on either side of the bread. 

Cover the bread with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise for about 20 minutes. 

Remove kitchen towel and sprinkle the top of the bread with an additional 1/4 cup grated cheddar. Bake for 50 minutes, checking after 30 to make sure the top of the bread is not browning too much. If after 30 minutes, the top is too brown, cover with aluminum foil before baking for the remaining 20 minutes. 

Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15-20 minutes before removing from loaf pan.

pan roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and creamy polenta

autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile

— william cullen bryant

pan roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and creamy polenta

this dish is familiar and comforting – a welcome heartiness in contrast to the light and crisp dishes of summer. the polenta provides a creamy, rich base to the crisp, tender brussels sprouts, which are pan roasted in bacon drippings and apple cider. a garnish of pomegranate seeds brightens the dish with a tart freshness. this would be wonderful served as a main course, or as a side dish for the holidays. 

**note: you will want to cook the polenta and brussels sprouts at the same time, to ensure that polenta is creamy (and not firm) when you are ready to serve. if you find the polenta is finished before the brussels sprouts, keep warm over low heat, whisking occasionally. if it does firm, you can always add a bit more cream (a little bit at a time) until it is back to your desired consistency.

for the polenta:

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 cup coarse ground cornmeal

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (optional)

in a large stock pot, bring chicken broth up to a boil. once boiling, slowly add cornmeal, while whisking. continue to whisk until mixture has thickened (about 5 minutes). once thickened, cover and reduce heat to medium-low (slow bubble) and allow to cook, whisking occasionally for 20-25 minutes. 

after 20-25 minutes, whisk in chopped thyme, butter, salt, and cream. allow to bubble for about 5-10 minutes longer. once polenta is finished, serve immediately or keep warm over low heat (whisking occasionally). 

for the brussels sprouts:

about 1 pound brussels sprouts 

1 medium sweet onion, chopped 

4 slices thick cut bacon

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup apple cider

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

salt to taste

pomegranate seeds for garnish

add bacon to a cold pan and turn heat to medium high. cook bacon, flipping once, until golden brown. turn off heat, remove bacon, and let drain on a paper-towel lined plate. set aside and once cool, chop into pieces.

wash brussels sprouts and remove any dirty or withered outer leaves. cut larger brussels sprouts in half or quarters, while leaving small ones whole, so that the pieces are all similar in size. 

remove about 2-3 tablespoons of bacon grease from pan, leaving the rest. add 1 tablespoon of butter to the reserved grease and heat pan on medium-low heat. once butter is melted, add chopped onions and allow to cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, until translucent and slightly browned.

after 8 minutes, deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of the cider. increase heat to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until cider is completely reduced. 

increase heat to medium-high and add brussels sprouts and mix to incorporate (making sure that sprouts are not just sitting on top of the onions). add an additional 1/4 cup cider and season with salt and chopped thyme. allow to cook, untouched for 10 minutes. 

after 10 minutes, stir sprouts (the pieces that were touching the bottom of the pan should be browned and caramelized) and add the remaining 1/2 cup cider. Allow to cook again, untouched, for 10 additional minutes. 

turn off heat and stir in chopped bacon. 


to plate: add polenta to a large serving dish and top with brussels sprouts. garnish with pomegranate seeds and enjoy!

**note: leftover polenta will firm up and take the shape of whatever container it is placed in. if you think you will have leftovers, spread extra polenta in a shallow container before plating. once firm, polenta can be sliced and pan-seared or grilled as leftovers (delicious!)