Justin & Meredith Winokur's Kitchen Cooking Notebook

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More Biscotti

Sunday, December 16, 2018, 06:34 AM

Part II of holiday biscotti using my dad's recipe. The traditional ones are cherries and pistatios. I went heavy on the cherries since my dad did that for Thanksgiving 2018 and it was well received.

I also tried to make Rocky Road. I do not recall everything I did now since I am writing this nearly a month later, but I used the chocolate variant with walnuts and added marshmellows. The marshmellows sounded like a good idea but in reality, they just melted... Also, despite still using the same amount of oil, they were very hard to cut leaving big, very tough cookies! Maybe I need to cook them longer on the first bake so that they are easier to cut? I really don't know but I am very frustrated with the cholocate varieties this year!

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Monday, December 10, 2018, 08:26 AM

Meredith made use Brussel Sprout hash with bacon (see A and B). It came out pretty good as usual.

Chocolate Hazelnut and Lemon Poppyseed Biscotti

Sunday, December 09, 2018, 08:07 AM

This is part one. See part two. I’m making more next week. They are all based on my dad's recipe

Chocolate Hazelnut

This is as much a post-mortem as it is a description. The plan was the use some Nutella. The main changes were to:

Well, the dough came out super, super thick. It was hard to work with but was also extra sticky. I was able to easily spread it and form it and it barely spread! As it was mixing, I added an extra tbsp of oil when it was mixing but that didn't help much.

I also opted to not chop of the hazelnuts since they are super round and I didn't want them to roll around. Well, I think that also made it harder to cut through. They got torn as I was trying to cut them.

And cutting them was extra hard because they weren't cooked enough on the first bake! You can really see in the pictures that they needed more time. So, in the end, I also had to cut them really thick. (I hadn't yet changed cutting strategies as noted in Lemon Poppyseed below).

And I did the toast step for longer (and upped the temp later). I think this was fine though they are pretty hard and pretty dense! (They didn't spread much in the first bake...)

I think they were pretty flavor though. You couldn't taste much in the batter but the final cookies had more flavor.

I think, between this and the pumpkin biscotti experiment, I should not mess with the amount of fat regardless of what I add!

Lemon Poppyseed

I made the noted change on the recipe to double (or more!) the lemon zest and juice. I ended up using the zest of four (small) lemons and the juice from 2.5 of them. It came together nicely (and the extra time mixing that we added to the recipe helped).

The real thing I discovered was that I do not like the serrated knife for cutting. I had much better luck with a sharp Santoku. I would still slide the knife to get an initial cut and then I could press down. This worked especially well for these ones since they do not have cherries or nuts to also cut through.

Other Notes and Tips

I used my dad's air-bake cookie trays for the first time with this. I liked that I didn't have to worry about them burning and I really liked that I could slide the loaves off the tray. Since I had only two trays and was planning two batches at a time, I always used one of the trays for either the loaves or the bottom tray when toasting. When I was in "batch mode", I baked the loves in the single upper-oven and toasted in the bottom!

Chanukah Happy Hour

Friday, December 07, 2018, 06:28 PM

We had a Chanukah Happy Hour with some friends, including my Dad (it was his last night in ABQ). We went low key and only made a few things. My dad took care of the latkes and Meredith and I made sufganiyot (Jelly donuts).

My dad made the latkes with his baked latke recipe in two batches. The first one, he replaced the butternut squash with zucchini (a la zucchini fritters) though the didn't drain it well. The second batch was normal except, because it had to sit while waiting for the others, a lot of water drained out. It still tasted great but he had to trim the parts off!

Meredith found this sufganiyot recipe (LOCAL) so we went with that. This was actually my first time deep frying anything and I think it went well. I heated the oil in the enameled dutch oven (which is good since it hold the heat). Getting the temp was a bit hard since my Instant Read thermometer only goes to 300° and the candy/fry one didn't sit well. I kind of guessed and it worked out well.

Meredith had halved the biscuits so they were a reasonable size (and they grew!). After they were done and had sat on paper towel, Meredith tossed them in a bag with granulated sugar. We used the piping gun to fill a few but then decided to let people spread whatever they wanted on them.

They were really good! I think I should get a thermometer gun though if I am going to fry things again!

Caprese Quiche

Saturday, December 01, 2018, 05:30 PM

Meredith had made this a few times. It is based on The Kitchn's Quiche. She sautés a few big handfuls of tomatoes and then, when they cool, she adds that to the custard. She then adds a big squeeze of basil paste (from the supermarket) and uses mozzarella as the cheese.

This is always popular and really good!

Pumpkin Bread

Friday, November 30, 2018, 05:52 PM

Meredith made pumpkin bread as discussed in October. She used the Joy The Baker recipe but replaced all banana with pumpkin and added 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice

Thanksgiving 2018

Thursday, November 22, 2018, 06:36 PM


Meredith and I decided to host Thanksgiving this year since we didn't want to travel with Caroline. I also wanted to do it since I never really got to host something all by myself.

I did the majority of the planning via a Google Docs which is also attached as Excel, csv, or zip.

I will go into specific details for each items.


The full list is below with links to respective sites as needed

I had to serve some of the cheese and crackers on Wednesday when everyone arrived hungry. I also then put of some of the other stuff earlier on Thursday because people were hungry then too


I made this on Saturday so it had ample time to (a) get less spicy and (b) let the flavors meld


Meredith made this right before serving. Since all of the ovens were being used, she couldn't toast the bread. Instead, she used some leftover gluten-free Panko which worked out well (and meant everyone could eat it)

Shrimp Dip

Ann made this on Thursday (or was it Wednesday). She doubled the recipe so we had to buy extra shrimp. I am not sure what she did for flavor enhancer

Soup and Salad

Cauliflower Soup

The soup was basically a combination of curry roasted cauliflower and roasted broccoli soup. I tossed three heads of cauliflower with tons of curry powder, salt and oil (went heavy). I forget which day that was but it was ahead of needing it. Then, on Thursday, I added it to water, added more Better Than Boullion Garlic and Roasted Veggie. Plus more curry powder. From there, my dad did the blending with a huge block of cheddar (Need to come back and see how much. I think ~1 lbs). It was not very flavorful so he added more base. That was exactly what it needed except it was pretty salty!

We had leftovers for dinner later in the week and it was better with croutons!


I did the salad as per usual though I felt like the dressing came out a bit too lemony. The big change was that, after adding (pre-packaged) pomegranate, I tried one and they were bad! Thankfully I only barely mixed them because I had to pick out as many as possible. I was not happy about that! But the salad was very popular.

I made way too much rice and stored the rest which worked out well since we ran out of rice later when we brought in food.


Corn Bread

Emily wanted to make corn bread from Kodiak Kakes (which we were finally able to find and order from Target). I need to double check with her but I think she added corn to both and jalapeños and cheddar to one of them. This was actually really good!

We needed gluten free corn bread for the sausage stuffing and since I had found the Bob's Redmill one, I made it for both (it also didn't have buttermilk!). I used almond milk so my mom could have them. I found them to be pretty flavorless but it didn't matter for the stuffing and, with butter, people liked the regular.



I debated how I wanted to cook the turkey. My first thought was to deep-fry since it is fast and I do not have to give up an entire oven. However, besides being dangerous, it takes constant attention, is weather affected, and is less precise with timing. The oven however takes a really long time and I didn't want to do that.

So, I decided to spatchcock the turkey! And, to make it even easier, I dry-brined it instead of a wet-brine. I bought a ~22lbs turkey from Kellers ("Fresh" but actually lightly frozen). I picked it up on Sunday and prepped it Tuesday morning so it could finish thawing.

I used new, very-sharp poultry shears to cut out the back bone and then I flattened it. As you can see from the photo, it was a bit cockeyed but not too bad (I also cut a bit of the breast bone to make flattening it easier. The "brine" was from Serious eats (LOCAL) or 1/2 cup kosher salt (I used Diamond Brand) and two tbsp baking powder (crispier skin). I actually did 1.5x that but didn't need to.

I debated following the directions on how to store it. Kellers had given me a large food-grade plastic bag so I decided to put the whole thing back in there and then cover that with a trash bag. This way I had extra protection but also had food-grade plastic touching the turkey.

Before cooking it, I spread herbed butter (melted) all over. No additional salt.

To cook it, I started at 450° + convection as per many recipes but it started to smoke. I turned it down to 400° and turned off convection. I was running around so crazy that I don't recall the exact time but I think it was about two hours before the leave-in-thermometer read 160°. After checking it a few different places, I decided to give it even more time.

When I finally took it out, I checked the temps all over and was happy with it. Except when my mom and I went to carve it I found half the dark meat seemed a bit undercooked. I decided to just save that half and I would cook it later (ended up freezing it). There was still more than enough.

I didn't do the best job carving (my mom and I each took half) but we got the job done. It was pretty well received though I thought it was inconsistently salty and not amazing. Certainly not bad per se, but not the best turkey I've had. Also, my mom decided to put some of the carrot and celery junk on top when serving (I would not do that again). Next time I will watch more videos on carving

Carne and Seitan Adovada

I followed my regular recipe except roughtly doubled with two changes:

For the regular carne, I used 4 lbs of pork. I made it and baked it all ahead, let it cool, and then reheated it on the stove for serving.

For the seitan, I did the same basic thing as before except I cooked the seitan in a broth (mostly water, white wine, and soy sauce) to fully cook it before it absorbed the adovada sauce. I stored it in the adovada sauce but didn't cook it again until it was time to serve. I think it was okay but certainly not as good as the pork version. It just had less flavor (could have done better with the seitan) and was an odd texture. And it still absorbed some of the sauce!

Seitan Turkey

My dad followed his recipe except forgot the nutritional yeast. He made a really flavorful broth which we kept for a bit. We reheated the whole thing in the liquid at Dinner to make it faster and easier. I think this worked well enough. It was more moist than usual and still really good.

Vegetarian Lasagna and Parm Bake

My dad made a vegetable lasagna plus a small red-pepper parmesan bake that was gluten free. I will update with more details later


I used some old Emril Seasoning and then (presumably) even older cajun seasoning we had. They came out really good but once reheated they were less flavorful. I ended up doing a #10 can plus two smaller cans (I wanted to do four more but two of my smaller cans were diced, not whole)


For the sausage stuffing, Ann made it from her recipe except she used gluten free bread and corn bread. I think it tasted the same though.

My dad made a vegetarian stuffing using fake sausage (brand?) and real bread. I will come back and add more notes if he has them but I know he wanted some sweetness and ended up using some dates (including really old ones)

Green Bean Casserole

We had Ann make her Green Bean Casserole but with Trader Joes mushroom base (since it was vegetarian). It turns out that most of the regular mushroom soups are also vegetarian but we weren't sure. We also had her double it. I didn't have any but Meredith said it wasn't as good so maybe it was the doubling it or maybe it was the base.

Stuffed Mushroom Casserole

I made a double or triple batch (not really sure) of Stuffed Mushroom Casserole. I basically just did my own thing inspired by the recipe and our changes (sans chicken). I wanted it to be gluten free so I use gluten free bread crumbs (again, plain with added salt and italian seasonings) and made my own shallots. I tossed slivered shallots with some rice flour and fried them. They didn't have the flavor (or real breading) of the store bought but they were fine for this. I really just eye-balled it on the cheese but went heavy. And used my dad's shaved parmesan.

Cranberry Relish

I decided to try the classic NPR Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish. I used the white (and creamy?) horseradish. I wasn't a huge fan but some others liked it. I think I would pass in the future but I am glad I tried it.


I went back and forth on what I was going to do with the gravy but eventually gave up! My mom said she was fine with the little bit of gluten in the canned stuff so I put her in charge. She used two cans and then doctored it and added more stuff. She used some of the drippings from the turkey and (I think?) the vegetables. She made additional with some brown-rice flour. She wasn't too happy with the color which I think is because she didn't let the new roux brown enough but I really do not know.

In the future, if I again decide not to make gravy, I will buy the Costco ones that seemed nicer and richer than the cans.


Pecan Pie

I used the Taste of TX recipe but, as per their instructions, split it into three. Actually, I ended up with three plus two little ones. For the pie crust, I used store-bought rolls from Smiths (Simple Truth -- the store organic brand). Unlike the frozen ones from Trader Joes that Meredith has used in the past, these were super simple to lay out (no need to roll) and were pretty good. Blind baking them was hard only because I didn't have a lot of weights.

I eyeballed it with the amount of pecans as can be seen in the photos. I was very happy with the end result though they didn't come out very pretty.

Cake Balls

I kind of decided at the last minute to make cake balls. Since it was so easy last year, I used mayo chocolate cake. I baked it as a square in a disposable half-tray chafing dish and then let it cool.

The next day, I made the icing and then made the balls. I (somehow) managed to find room in the chest freezer to let it harden before chocolate coating them. I had found real white chocolate chips so I used that with some coconut oil to thin it. In the end, I do think thinning it was the right answer but I wish it had less of a coconut flavor. Meredith thinks it could be because the oil is old but I am not sure.

Anyway, after dipping them, my Dad and I melted dark chocolate (again, with some coconut) and drizzled it. Overall, I do like them but I think they do not look like the amount of work they really are. I had forgotten how much work they were until I had already started it.

Carrot Cake

I was really excited to try Bravetart's recipe. We followed it pretty closely except that we were out of clove. We decided to use Chinese 5-Spice powder instead which has some clove but also a lot of other flavors. Making the cake went pretty well. In the end, I liked the flavor but it wasn't "the best" carrot cake ever. Could be due to the altitude or the clove missing. My dad thinks it needed coconut but I am really not sure.

I also made the Bravetart Icing. I made the custard (really, basically pudding) and then let it fully cool. When I combined it all though, I thought it just wasn't even close to sweet enough. I ended up adding powdered sugar but it still seemed not sweet enough. It worked fine all together though.

My dad did the icing since he is faster and we were in a hurry. We did a crumb-coat, let it freeze a bit, and then another coat. We did not do anything else fancy since we were so time-limited.


My dad made cinnamon buns. I will have to update this with more details later but I think he used Challah for the bread and then this particular Mardi Gras King Cake filling for the filler. Topped with a simple powdered sugar glaze.


We had to seat 21 plus Caroline. We purchased two 8-foot tables and borrowed two 6 (4?) foot tables. First, during the actual prep, I set up both small tables in the garage as a prep space. It also served as a cooler room (though certainly not a fridge). I was able to use that for serving bowls and just have a lot out of the way.

For the actual meal, I cleared one of those tables and put it out next to the kitchen bar. That table was the "meat" table and the bar had everything else. I used the induction burner but I do not think I really needed it. The cast iron kept it more than hot enough. I am glad I didn't use chafing dishes. Things stayed as hot as they needed to be.

We set up the tables as the patio table in the dining room connected to an 8-foot table jutting out. Then, with a space for egress, we had the round dining table with the 8-foot sticking out. See sketch.

For reheating, I did most things on the grill while the turkey was in the oven. After some trial and error, I used just the center burner and on low with a sheet pan underneath the things I was heating. I think that gave me a good temperature. Once the oven was free, I moved everything into the oven.

Next Time

I have a lot of notes for how to do this better next time. The biggest is that I should have less variety and just more of the same things. Keep it easier and simpler. Plus, that will be easier to pack up

Another problem was that most of the guests were from out-of-town so they all came over really early. I hadn't planned any kind of lunches which meant that I had to put out appetizers earlier than I had wanted. I should have planned some simple snack meal food earlier.

Additional Photos

Of serving, etc. No great photos of everything

Lasagna Soup

Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 07:22 PM

Lasagna Soup

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