Gifts We Love (and How to Use Them)
We all want to give presents that will be appreciated, right? We've rounded up pretty yet practical objects that will get a workout.
Chicken pot pie may have roots elsewhere in the world, but its soul-satisfying comforts are not lost in the South. Baked family-style in a shallow casserole dish, this old-fashioned favorite hits all the right notes with a rich and creamy chicken filling and golden egg-washed lattice crust.
Active | 25 min. Total | 2 hours, 5 min., including pastry
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high. Add celery and onion, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Slowly stir in broth. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in chicken, vegetables, hard-cooked eggs, salt, and pepper. Transfer mixture to a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch (2-quart) baking dish.
2. Place the Pastry on a lightly floured surface, and roll out into a ⅛-inch-thick rectangle. Cut Pastry into ¾-inch-wide strips, and arrange strips in a lattice design over the top of the chicken mixture. Lightly brush Pastry strips with beaten egg.
3. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and bubbly, 35 to 40 minutes.
Combine the flour and salt; cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the surface of the mixture; stir with a fork until all ingredients are moistened. Shape the dough into a flat rectangle; wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 1 hour.
MAKES enough for 17- x 11-inch lattice crust
A few well-chosen shortcuts trim the prep time but not the made-from-scratch flavor. Rotisserie chicken jumpstarts the creamy filling. (One bird yields just the right amount of meat.) Frozen hash browns get meltingly tender when baked, and matchstick carrots add a crisp, fresh snap. Bonus: The steady heat of a cast-iron skillet beautifully browns the bottom crust.
Active | 30 min. Total | 1 hour, 30 min.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet.
2. Melt ⅓ cup of the butter in a large saucepan over medium; add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbly, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in Creole seasoning.
3. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high; add onion and mushrooms, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, hash browns, carrots, peas, parsley, and sauce.
4. Place 1 piecrust in prepared skillet. Spread chicken mixture in piecrust; top with remaining piecrust. Whisk egg white until foamy; brush top of piecrust with egg white. Cut 4 or 5 small slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape.
5. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and bubbly, 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes.
SERVES 6 to 8 (serving size: about 1 ¼ cups)
For a brief and shining moment in the "80s, sour cream and cottage cheese were the go-to stir-ins—amping up the creamy comforts of classic Southern Cheddar-and-elbow macaroni blends. This deluxe twist, spiked with smoky bits of diced ham and topped with buttered breadcrumbs, appeared in our stellar collection of five-star recipes.
Active | 20 min. Total | 50 min.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare macaroni according to package directions.
2. Gently stir together macaroni, Cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, ham, onion, salt, pepper, and egg in a large bowl. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray.
3. Stir together breadcrumbs, butter, and paprika in a small bowl. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture diagonally across the top of the macaroni mixture, forming stripes.
4. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Top with sliced tomatoes and parsley, if desired.
SERVES 6 (serving size: 1 ½ cups)
Georgia chef Hugh Acheson swaps elbow macaroni for cavatappi pasta—a tubular twist that captures the creamy goodness of béchamel, bacon, and leeks bound in a gooey mix of aged Cheddar and Gruyère. Baking in a cast-iron skillet seriously ups the crispy edge factor.
Active | 45 min. Total | 1 hour, 35 min.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook bacon, stirring often, in a skillet over medium until crisp, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Reserve bacon drippings for another use.
2. Cook sliced leeks in boiling water in a Dutch oven 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, reserving water. Plunge the leeks into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.
3. Add the pasta to boiling water. Cook al dente, 10 minutes. Drain.
4. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes or until golden brown. Slowly whisk in the milk. Cook, whisking constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in the dry mustard, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and ½ cup of the Cheddar cheese, stirring until melted. Remove from heat.
5. Gently stir together the pasta, cheese sauce, half each of the cooked bacon and leeks, and egg yolk. Stir in the Gruyère cheese and remaining ½ cup Cheddar cheese. Spoon the pasta mixture into a buttered 8-inch cast-iron skillet, and sprinkle with the remaining bacon and leeks. Drizzle with the cream; sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
6. Bake at 375°F for 35 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
SERVES 4 (serving size: 1 ½ cups)
Brisket is the legendary low-and-slow-cooked cut of the Lone Star State, but its fame extends far beyond Texas borders. This recipe came to us from a reader in Alexandria, Louisiana. Hickory-smoked with a bold brown sugar-Cajun spice rub, it topped our annual list of favorites in 1995. There's no barbecue sauce. None needed. The heavenly flavor of the brisket speaks for itself.
Active | 10 min. Total | 13 hours, 20 min., including chilling and smoking
1. Stir together dark brown sugar, salt, Cajun seasoning, lemon-pepper seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce. Place brisket in a large shallow dish. Spread sugar mixture on both sides of brisket. Cover and chill 8 hours.
2. Combine hickory wood chunks with water to cover; let stand 1 hour. Prepare smoker according to manufacturer's instructions, bringing the internal temperature to 225°F to 250°F; maintain temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Drain wood chunks, and place on coals. Remove brisket from marinade, reserving marinade. Place brisket on lower cooking grate. Pour reserved marinade over brisket, and cover with smoker lid.
4. Smoke brisket, maintaining a low temperature inside smoker between 225°F and 250°F, until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 180°F, about 5 hours. Remove from smoker; wrap brisket in aluminum foil, and let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Cut against the grain into thin slices.
SERVES 12 (serving size: about ½ lb. brisket)
Champion Texas pitmaster Christopher Prieto opts for a whole brisket to feed a crowd and uses a fiery dry rub, a seductively sweet sauce, and a judicious use of smoke: Wait until the intense early smoke clears before adding the meat.
Active | 40 min. Total | 12 hours, 45 min., including chilling and smoking
1. Brush or rub beef brisket generously with Worcestershire sauce. Coat brisket with Beef Rub; cover and chill 1 to 4 hours.
2. Remove brisket from refrigerator, and let stand 1 hour.
3. Prepare a charcoal fire in a smoker according to manufacturer's instructions. Place 3 or 4 pecan, hickory, or oak wood chunks on coals. Place a water pan in the smoker; add water to fill line. Bring internal temperature to 250°F to 260°F; maintain temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Place brisket, fat side down, on top cooking grate; close the smoker. Smoke until a meat thermometer inserted in center where the point and flat meet registers 165°F, about 5 hours.
5. Remove brisket from smoker, and wrap tightly in wax-free butcher paper; return brisket to smoker. Cook, checking temperature each hour, until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 200°F, 3 to 5 hours.
6. Remove brisket from smoker; open butcher paper, and let steam escape for 4 minutes. Close butcher paper, and let brisket stand 2 hours.
7. Remove brisket from butcher paper, reserving ¼ cup drippings in paper. Place brisket on a cutting board. Slice meat across the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices. Stir together reserved drippings and El Sancho Barbecue Sauce, if desired. Serve with brisket.
SERVES 14 (serving size: 8 oz.)
Active | 5 min. Total | 5 min.
Stir together all ingredients until well blended. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.
MAKES 2 ¼ cups
To sauce or not to sauce? The debate rages on. Purists balk at sauces that blanket the flavorful crust or "bark" of smoked brisket, while other "cue fans think sauceless brisket seems, well, naked. We say try it both ways.
Active | 40 min. Total | 40 min.
Stir together vinegar, ketchup, tomato paste, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, granulated onion, granulated garlic, salt, hot sauce, pepper, and liquid smoke in a medium saucepan over medium until well combined. Stir in sugar and honey, and bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
MAKES 3 cups
Frozen lemonade concentrate was introduced in the late 1950s and soon became a favorite ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. Here it teams up with soy sauce for a quick-fix basting sauce that amps up the smoky flavors of charcoal-grilled chicken. Feel free to substitute frozen limeade or orange juice concentrate.
Active | 15 min. Total | 40 min.
1. Preheat grill to medium (350° to 400°F). Stir together concentrate, soy sauce, seasoned salt, celery salt, and garlic powder.
2. Grill chicken, covered, until skin begins to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Brush with lemonade mixture, and grill, covered, turning and basting often, until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with lemon.
SERVES 8 (serving size: ¼ chicken)
It's a bold claim, but this just might be the finest chicken ever to come off our Test Kitchen grill. Embellished with fresh lemon, garlic, and rosemary, the tea creates a brine with remarkable flavor. Molasses-tinged brown sugar lends a subtle sweetness that caramelizes as the chicken slowly cooks over indirect heat.
Active | 30 min. Total | 1 day, 2 hours, 35 min., including 1 day chilling
1. Bring water to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium-high; add tea bags. Remove from heat; cover and steep 10 minutes.
2. Discard tea bags. Add brown sugar, salt, pepper, onion, lemon, garlic, and rosemary sprigs; stir until sugar dissolves. Cool completely, about 45 minutes. Stir in ice.
3. Place chicken and tea mixture in a large ziplock plastic freezer bag; seal. Place bag in a shallow baking dish, and chill 24 hours, turning occasionally.
4. Preheat grill to low (300°F to 350°F) with an area cleared of coals or a burner turned off. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Grill chicken, covered, over indirect heat until done, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer chicken, skin side down, to direct heat area, and grill until skin is crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.
SERVES 6 to 8 (serving size: about ½ lb. chicken)
In 1980, Rome, Georgia, reader Bessie Burk won the National Catfish Fry with her buttermilk-marinated, cornmeal-crusted catfish fillets expertly fried two at a time in hot peanut oil. The ultimate cookware for such crisp golden-brown perfection? A deep cast-iron Dutch oven that evenly holds the heat and is wide enough to fry without overcrowding.
Active | 25 min. Total | 8 hours, 25 min., including 8 hours chilling
1. Cut shallow diagonal slices 2 inches apart into thickest portion of both sides of fillets. Place fillets in a large shallow dish.
2. Stir together buttermilk, pepper, and salt; pour over fillets. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours, turning fillets occasionally.
3. Remove fillets from marinade; discard marinade. Dredge fillets in cornmeal mix, pressing to adhere.
4. Pour peanut oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches in a large cast-iron Dutch oven or deep skillet; heat over medium-high to 370°F. Fry fish, 2 fillets at a time, until golden, about 6 minutes. Drain on wire rack lined with paper towels.
SERVES 6 (serving size: 1 fillet)
Ready to move beyond the predictable catfish-and-tartar-sauce combo? We thought so. Our new condiment of choice: the addictive sweet-and-sour bite of pickled peppers. We used a mix of banana peppers and jalapeños, but feel free to sub in serranos, Fresno, Thai, or poblanos.
Active | 20 min. Total | 20 min.
1. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Whisk together eggs and water in a separate shallow dish. Combine cornmeal, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper in a third shallow dish. Sprinkle catfish with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Dredge fillets, 1 at a time, in the flour mixture, shaking off excess. Dip in the egg mixture, and dredge in the cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess. Place on a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in a cast-iron Dutch oven. Heat over medium-high to 350°F. Fry fillets, 2 at a time, in the hot oil until golden, about 6 minutes. Drain on wire rack lined with paper towels. Serve with banana pepper and jalapeño rings.
SERVES 4 (serving size: 1 fillet)
We all want to give presents that will be appreciated, right? We've rounded up pretty yet practical objects that will get a workout.
Lessons learned after a six-month, 45,000-mile odyssey through hundreds of restaurants in 20 cities: eat more bread, do more day drinking and don't pass up the bologna.
It’s officially party season. Time to invite friends over, fire up the grill, and chill the rosé. We tapped the coolest.