One of the more infuriating parts of watching the Dolphins-Bills game last night — aside of the fact Miami couldn’t get anything going after a few impressive defensive stands — was the NFL Network continually reminding people that their brand of Thursday Night Football would return in two weeks. Naming and brand are important, but there was nary a mention of the slate of Thanksgiving games next Thursday, one of which happens to be at night. It’s still your league to promote, you might want to get people excited for Patriots-Jets.
Two sorts of Thanksgiving diners, ones who believe in eating early and having leftovers again later in the day and those who don’t have their celebration until late afternoon or evening. The former means getting up at 5 am to start roasting a turkey, the latter means torturing yourself with cups of nuts as not to spoil the feast. It also means considering going through the early game of Houston-Detroit — and perhaps even Washington-Dallas, depending on your time zone — without having a snack.
Nonsense. You’re going to need game time snacks that can feed a crowd and also not spoil your appetite, and perhaps one that is relatively healthy. Ones that compliment the autumn table. Earthy tastes of mushrooms, herbs and wine, warm butternut squash and sage spiced with cayenne and chili.
Small mushroom pithiviers make for great appetizers and can be made a few days ahead of time and frozen for enough snacks to feed a full house during the battle of Suh versus Schaub, a butternut squash sage dip is a healthy choice on a day that is already filled with calories. Interceptions are especially fatty, so you might want give this recipe test run when Tony Romo (13 INT) faces Brandon Weeden (12 INT) this Sunday.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Dip
You will need:
1 2-pound butternut squash
1-1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
5-6 fresh sage leaves, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
Preheat oven to 425º.
Wash and dry the butternut squash, chop of the top stem and then slice in half. Remove the seeds and brush the inside of the squash with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Roast the squash for 40-45 minutes, until the thickest part of the gourd is tender and easily yields to a knife being inserted into its flesh.
Once the squash has roasted, allow to cool for a few minutes for easier handling. Peel off the skin and put into a food processor or blender. Add the garlic, kosher salt, sage and spices and puree. Drizzle in the remaining olive oil 1/2 tablespoon at a time while blending until desired constancy is reached. Can be made ahead of time and refrigerated before serving, but gently reheating is recommended.
Serve while still warm or at room temperature with multigrain crackers or tortilla chips.
Yields 2-2 1/2 cup dip, enough for about 4-6 people.
Savory Mushroom Pithiviers
You will need:
1 3/4 pounds fresh mushrooms (I usually go for about 8 ounces of white button mushrooms, 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, 3.5 ounces beech, 3.5 ounces shiitake, 3.5 ounces enoki and then a few other fancy mushrooms like chanterelles just to round out the weight and add to the woody taste without breaking the bank.)
3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons minced shallot,
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary (When chopped together, you should get 1-2 teaspoons fresh herbs)
1/4 cup red wine
2 pounds frozen puff pastry (4 sheets)
Clean and trim the mushrooms, removing the stems and gills from the button and crimini mushrooms, cutting off the bottom of the stems of any other mushrooms you may have selected.
Depending on your school of cooking, you either wipe off each mushroom by hand with a clean paper towel or kitchen towel, or you can rinse and rapidly dry. The argument against getting mushrooms wet is that they’ll absorb too much water, but unless you’re making something very delicate, you shouldn’t worry too much about water retention. Since we’re cooking them down anyway, don’t feel bad about rinsing them in water. (What I usually do is run them under water, wiping them with my fingers and then giving them a whirl in the salad spinner.)
Once cleaned, set the mushrooms aside. This is a good time to take your frozen puff pastry out of the freezer to thaw.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt two tablespoons butter and then add the shallots. Cook the shallots for a minute and then add your mushrooms. If they don’t all fit in your pan at once, allow some to cook down and then add more mushrooms as you go until they’re all in the pan.
The mushrooms will start to release all their moisture, keep stirring until most of the water has left the fungi. When the mushrooms are almost completely cooked down, chop the herbs and add them to the pan. After another minute or two and there is hardly any water left in the pan, add 1/4 cup red wine and reduce the heat slightly. Keep cooking and stirring until the wine has completely reduced and you have a thick mushroom mixture. Remove from the heat and swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Allow the mushrooms to cool while preparing the pastry dough.
Preheat oven to 450º.
On a floured board or clean floured counter, roll out one sheet of pastry dough to be about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2 inch round biscuit cutter or a glass with a thin edge, cut two circles of pastry dough. In the center of one pastry round, spoon in a generous teaspoon of the mushroom mixture. Lay the second round on top of the bottom round and using a fork, crimp the two circles together until sealed all the way around. Place on a lined baking sheet and repeat the process until you’ve filled one tray of pithiviers. Prick a small hole in the top of each pithivier to allow steam to release while baking.
In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together 1 egg and 2 tablespoons of water to make an egg wash. Brush each pithivier with the egg wash and then bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Repeat until you’ve gone through all of the mushrooms, gently rolling the scraps of dough together from the cut sheets to get the most out of the dough if needed.
If making ahead of time or saving part the batch for later, make the pithiviers and brush with the egg wash. Flash freeze in a single layer on a tray for one hour and then place in a freezer safe container or bag for when ready to bake, adding a few minutes baking time.
Yields 3 1/2 – 4 dozen 2 inch pithiviers.