“The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School” by Alison Cayne: Sweet potato with gremolata

Best cookbooks of 2017

“The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School” by Alison Cayne

After having five children in eight years and getting a master’s in food studies at New York University, Alison Cayne pursued her dream — cooking. She took it a step further when she opened Haven’s Kitchen in New York City and offered cooking classes to inspire rookie cooks and teach them confidence. That philosophy is reflected in her debut cookbook, which has teaching recipes that offer variations and illustrative guidelines on how to use a pairing knife or dice an onion. It’s a great for anyone who loves food but is befuddled as to where to begin in the kitchen.

Alison Cayne says: Don’t dump the bowl out out on the baking sheet. Instead spread the sweet potatoes out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. It’s important to use the parchment paper as it’s a nice conduit and creates a moisture-resistant surface. It also helps in the cleanup.

First Thanksgiving: I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner when I was 9. It was a miserable failure. I didn’t know that I had to defrost the turkey and neither did my mother, who is not a big cook.

Turkey trick: I let the turkey thaw in the refrigerator for three days and let it air out uncovered as it will make the skin get crisper. On Thanksgiving Day, after tempering it on the kitchen counter, I place the bird on a rack and rub it with a little salt and olive oil. I stuff the cavity with rosemary and apple. I first put the heat on high and then lower it and let the turkey roast. I always use a meat thermometer to check if the turkey is done.

Crowd-pleaser stuffing: I don’t stuff the bird with croutons but instead bake it as I like the stuffing to be crispy. I first sweat the onions, fennel and celery in a pot. Then I toss in nonseasoned croutons and pour chicken stock to dampen the bread. They are spread out on a pan and drizzled with olive oil. It’s a total hack but people love it.

Constants on the table: In addition to the turkey and stuffing, there’s the cranberry sauce made with OJ, orange peel and honey or brown sugar; wild rice with dried cranberries, pecans and shredded kale; a few different salads such as Waldorf or spinach with mushrooms; and vegetable sides like cauliflower steaks and sweet potato.

Desserts outsourced: I am not much of a baker and so ask friends to bring the desserts. If I make something it will be poached pears.

Least favorite part of the holiday: Hosts tend to put so much pressure onto themselves that sometimes they can be so unpleasant to be around. I don’t care about perfection. My goal is to make sure that everybody feels welcomed.

Sweet Potato With Hazelnut Gremolata

PG tested

Always line the pan with parchment when roasting as it creates a moisture-resistant, nonstick surface.

3 sweet potatoes, sliced into ¾-inch discs

Extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Hazelnut Gremolata (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss sweet potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place potatoes in a single layer on the prepared pan. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan after 20 minutes.

When sweet potatoes are evenly brown and tender, transfer them to a serving platter and drizzle with gremolata.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side.

— “The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School” by Alison Cayne (Artisan Books; April 2017; $35)

Hazelnut Gremolata

1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, minced

⅓ cup chopped hazelnuts toasted

Extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

Fine sea salt

Finely chop parsley and place it in a bowl with lemon zest and garlic. Mix in hazelnuts and olive oil to reach desired consistency.

Stir in lemon juice and salt to taste.

Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes 1 cup.


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