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Thanksgiving Primer

6 Nov


*Insert pun about cracking open thanksgiving

So last year I cooked a thanksgiving dinner for 25 people. And did a trial run of the meal with a group of maybe 11. But for some reason, didn’t post any of it. But as people are starting to think about cooking this year, I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents and supply readers with some links to recipes I used for my menu.

Snacko Backo Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad. A hit for any t-day or potluck. Always great to have something green, fresh and crunchy in the meal. New thing: now using a slicing disk attachment on the food processor, makes shredding those puppies way faster.

Turkey! Did two eleven-pounders for 25 people. Spatchcocked the bird. Dry brined following Serious Eats recipe. On my test run I took out the spine myself with a pair of poultry sheers (above pic), but way easier, as I learned to just ask your butcher to butterfly it. Serious Eats has a very long explanation of why this method is the best and how to do it. Basically, it only takes 1.5 hours to cook your bird and comes out fall of the bone tender. I really believe too, that carving the bird right is what makes for great presentation. If you are not sure about how to do this, serious eats also has a video (scroll down to bottom of that link) for your spatchcocked bird. They also have how-to carve a regular turkey. Knowing how to carve a turkey is an amazing skill because it directly translates on how to butcher/carve any chicken/bird.

Gravy. Serious Eats. I chose this recipe because can make it ahead and don’t have to wait until post-turkey to assemble. Plus it’s very tasty. And I am not even a huge gravy person. The secret to this recipe is soy sauce and a dash of maramite to give it that umami, or so they say. They also have recipes on there for the post-turkey kind.

Stuffing. Again did Serious Eats. Liked, but didn’t love the breakfast sausage in it. Next time would do sweet italian or another, more mild flavored one.

Mom’s Cranberry Chutney. Always and forever.

Sweet Potatoes. Last year did mashed with a homemade brown butter fluff- a Food 52 recipe. So good, will make again this year.

Now, I didn’t make this last year. But growing up my mother always made, what we lovingly referred to as Broccoli Mush. I can’t believe this recipe is on Serious Eats, but here ya go. It’s a Silver Palate recipe, actually called Pureed Broccoli with Creme Fraiche. Last time I made this, I really fucked it up. As I recall, 2 bunches of brocc was no where near the five pounds the recipe suggests. I used more bunches to get to five pounds and ended up with an absolutely absurd amount of broccoli. Next time I make, I will report back on proper quantities. But I’d suggest sticking with the 2 bunches and disregarding the 5 pound idea. I’m not sure Broccoli Mush is an impress-your-guests type of dish but had to include for its taste-like-home factor.

Apple Crisp. Another family tradition. No holiday meal is complete without it.


Snap Pea, Tomato and Peach Salad

25 Jul

pea tomato peach

This is another snacko backo (not) recipe. Summer salads. Not something I should really have to sell you on. Fresh. In season. Don’t have to turn on your oven or bother with pots and pans.

One of my favorite things to do lately is go to the farmers and just get some tomatoes. Slice them thick. Douse with olive oil, fresh herbs, salt & pepper. And the other day I spliced in thick slices of peaches with my tomatoes. Man. Did this take things to a new summer level.

I am also not generally a huge snap pea person but some recent encounters have changed my tune. One was some fresh peas- eaten off the vine at an air bnb – and the other was a simple pea and mint salad.

Thus: Snap Pea, Tomato and Peach Salad

Combine snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and peaches. Dress with olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper. Along with any fresh herbs you have. Again, because it’s on my fire escape, I use basil and tarragon. But this salad also screams for mint.

I’ve been thinking lately too about adding some fresh mozzarella to it.


While were at it, I’m sure you 9-5ers and food blog readers are all familiar with some iteration of a mason jar salad for office lunches. The idea is- you do dressing on the bottom, then strategically stack your fixins. This way the whole salad doesn’t sit in dressing all day or overnight.

So the other week while I was at that archives I took my (bigger than mason jar) container and at the bottom: olive oil, with generous amounts of lemon juice (1.5 lemons). Then I put in shredded cabbage (cause benefits from overnight dressing soak), then cucumbers, then diced red pepper, then cherry tomatoes, then mozz (or feta would work well), avocado, peaches and of course salt and pepper. Once you’re ready for lunch- shake and enjoy.

Even less of a recipe than the first— consider it more of a call – in praise of infinitely adaptable summer salads. And fuck the lettuce/kale etc., who needs it.


Whole Roasted Trout

30 Jun

whole trout whole trout2

So I love eating fish but my repertoire for cooking it is admittedly short. There’s the miso baked salmon, there’s make-shift shrimp scampi (quickly cooked on a cast iron and tossed in lemon, butter & garlic) and… we’ll that’s pretty much it. But now we have one more to add to the books. The lady selling fish at the farmer’s market convinced me to buy a whole trout. It has its head on but was already totally cleaned and filleted inside (I’m sure you could also ask the fish store people to do this for you or maybe another time will attempt myself and report back).

This “recipe” is mostly just following the fish-lady’s instructions plus cooking times borrowed from this Saveur recipe.

Preheat 450. Take whole trout. Unfold (as pictured). Add salt, pepper, lemon slices and whatever herbs you like/have on hand in the cavity. [I am currently attempted to grow (read: keep alive) tarragon, basil and sage on my fire escape, so used some of all three.] Fold back together. Take two pieces of kitchen twine, wrap around fish and tie- spacing 2 inches apart. Take a tablespoon of olive oil, rub and both sides of the fish. Place on foil or parchment paper on baking sheet. Cook for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. [Saveur says until golden brown – mine got a little- but not too too golden.] Cut strings, unfold and enjoy!

Thinking this could work well on a grill too…



Sweet Cheeks Farm Salad

24 Apr

tiffani farm salad

This month I am honored to present this Special Guest blog post from Ruth. Ruth and her boyfriend Chris are food people of the highest order. And I was very lucky that Ruth brought me a sample of this salad when we went climbing last week. Delicious- thanks Ruth!

From Ruth:

Here’s something unexpected: one of the best things on the menu at Sweet Cheeks, possibly Boston’s best BBQ joint, is a salad.  I say this not as one of those crunchy-granola types, but as someone who owns three rib racks and a home smoker.  It’s hearty, comforting, and just a little bit weird (grapes?!).  Plus, unlike a brisket, it comes together in less than half an hour.

The recipe can be modified pretty easily.  I made it once with Israeli couscous instead of farro (and it was great, but also a bit lighter and less filling), and I bet it would work well with wheat berries, too (Tessa’s rec; she’s a champ).  The classic version uses candied hazelnuts, but I sub in walnuts, because (a) I’m lazy to candy my own hazelnuts and (b) I wanted to keep in something crunchy, but like my salads a little less sweet.  If you’re not a nut person, some teeny tiny croutons would also do the job.

Recipe modified from Tiffani Faison (who I just might have a bit of a culinary crush on).

For the salad:

Makes 4ish dinner-sized servings

  • 1.5 cups cooked farro

  • 1.5 cup seedless red grapes, halved

  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, quartered

  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, leaves and/or shavings (keep the leaves that fall off the Brussels you quarter, and then either peel or shave the rest)

  • 5 cups baby arugula

  • ½ cup grated Parmesan

  • ½ cup candied hazelnuts or walnuts

  • Honey-shallot dressing (recipe follows)

  • Olive oil

  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Toss the halved Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 15-18 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they’re charred but not burnt.

While the Brussels are roasting, toss farro, grapes, raw Brussels sprouts, and cheese together in a large bowl.  Wait for the roasted Brussels to cool to room temperature (you don’t want them to melt the cheese) and add to the bowl.  Toss everything with ¼ cup of the dressing.  Add the baby arugula, toss, and add salt, pepper, olive oil and/or additional dressing to taste.  Serve at room temperature.

For the dressing:

Makes about 2 cups (which is much more than you need)

  • 1 large shallot, chopped

  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar

  • ¼ cup honey

  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard (I used a teaspoon because I’m a little weird about mustard)

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

  • 1 cup canola oil

In a blender, combine chopped shallot, vinegar, honey, lemon juice, Dijon and salt.  Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Add oil in a thin stream until fully incorporated.  (We used an immersion blender for this part, and added the oil in parts–maybe ¼ cup at a time–to ensure that it emulsified smoothly)

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

21 Mar

brussel salad

Not to brag but this salad was pretty hot on the Thanksgiving potluck circuit. Though that also speaks to the great lengths of procrastination in posting it here. It’s a snacko backo original recipe and infinitely adaptable. The other day I added some shredded radicchio, carrot, and avocado and it was a big pile of rainbow deliciousness. Ruth was telling me that she throws roast chicken in there. The key to the base of this salad is shredding your Brussels. For this task I employ a mandolin. It’s a bit tedious as you have to do it sprout by sprout. Would be better – and faster – if I had a shredding disk for my food processor. But alas, I don’t. The salad feels light, crunchy, healthy and a nice change of pace from all the spinach/kale etc.  The dressing is adapted from The Butcher and the Baker dressing, posted elsewhere on snacko.

Other things to mention: Fuck it. I don’t care if there’s snow. I’m officially declaring it cold brew season. I want to reiterate on that – french press is the best method for that.


Shredded Brussel Salad

2 pounds shredded brussel sprouts

1 apple, cut in matchsticks (can douse w. lemon if doing an hour ahead)

dried cranberries

freshly shredded pecorino

red onion- thinly sliced. soak in cold water for 20-30 mins (do while prepping the rest, this just takes out a bit of the bite)


¾ cup olive oil

1 ½ tsp grain mustard (if you don’t have grain- can use all dijon)

1 ½ tsp dijon

1 ½  tablespoon soy sauce

5 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (can scale down depending on your taste- i like mine pretty vinegar-y)

optional: can add a bit of honey or minced garlic.

Pile all salad ingredients in a bowl. Put all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake. Mix dressing with salad by eye (you might not need all). Salt and pepper to taste.

Endive & Citrus Salad

17 Feb

Endive citrus saladThis winter salad is super refreshing and has a touch of creaminess from the avocado/goat cheese. It makes for a really nice treat from or alongside heavier winter fare. Citrus is in season and you could also use orange, blood orange, pomelo or any combination thereof. The great thing is the juice from your citrus becomes the dressing base. Can add honey at the end depending on your taste and how tart your citrus is. And man, endive, what an underutilized and classy veg (1).

It’s a snacko backo original recipe so measurements are loose and feel free to play around with ingredients and proportions (2). This is enough for 2 small bowls (or one big bowl) of salad. Scale up or down depending.

1 ½ endive, sliced

1 avocado, diced

1 grapefruit. Quarter grapefruit, peel it, then removed the fruit from the pith and membrane of each slice. (Is this completely necessary? Maybe not. But just do it. It’s easy and the whole thing mixes together better if you do. Be sure to do this over a bowl so all the juice ends up in your salad.)(3)

Goat cheese (the first time I made I used this awesome Adirondack honey lavender goat cheese. Loved the touch of sweetness. When I couldn’t find any next time I made the salad, I subbed regular goat cheese mixed with a touch of honey).

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a small glug of olive oil, salt & pepper and an optional drizzle of honey.


Best to serve immediately. When you mix up, it looses this ordered look and becomes a creamy and delicious mess. So, if having a dinner party, I might wait until serving to mix. If you wanted to do ahead, I’d prep everything then throw in the endive last minute so it stays nice and crunchy.


  1. my mother actually would actually use endive all the time. it was salad standard fair. her dressing would be lemon/olive oil/salt & pepper and pinch of sugar. So good.
  2. Ibid. Maybe recipe not so original. For other inspiration source see: this.
  3. special thanks to CD for his work on his grapefruit/orange peeling for this photo. And the delicious pulled pork that accompanied it. recipe coming soon…?  Also, CD & Rachel initiated this 2016 once-a-month post challenge. 2 for 2, bitches.

Sesame Noodles

1 Feb

sesame noodle2

So I was challenged to make a new years resolution: add one post a month to snacko backo in 2016. I didn’t quite agree, but here we are anyway. Made on Jan 31 and posted Feb 1- let’s say this one falls right under the wire. I had a craving for Sesame noodles last night- and I’m going to go ahead and say these are better than the take out version. I think these would be really great for a dinner party type/pot luck situation because they come together in like 5 mins and taste a bit outside the box. Plus good warm or cold. Perhaps could make w. beef and broccoli or easier ginger pork, with dumplings, scallion pancakes and maybe a wonton/egg drop or miso soup. Original NY Times recipe serves with some slices of cucumber- so I think Vietnamese cucumber salad (gah, realizing that recipe never made it to the blog- will add) would be especially nice. But – after a trip to the overwhelmingly inspiring Russo’s in watertown (with obscure produce I hadn’t seen since my co-op days)- I ended up with some baby bok choy and chinese spinach.

For the baby bok choy, I gave a quick sear in a cast iron with some olive oil. Once just cooked, I took out, and tossed in a bowl with a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce. I treated the spinach similarly. But after seared and wilted, instead of sesame/soy, I added equal parts miso and butter (maybe a tsp or so of each) to the cast iron. Stirred to coat. Inspired by an old Japanese turnip with miso butter recipe, it adds a nice sweet coating.

Perhaps I should add- the skill level for this noodle recipe is naught. The only effort is buying the ingredients- after that- i think it would be pretty difficult to fuck it up.

Closely adapted from a Sam Sifton NY Times recipe
1 pound Chinese egg noodles (1/8-inch-thick), frozen or (preferably) fresh, available in Asian markets *

2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash

3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar

2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste*

1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste, or to taste*

Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks

¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts

*Ingredient notes

– I used fresh lo-mein noodles from H-Mart (Asian grocer). Also I found that to get the dressing to noodle ratio coating right- I only ended up using ¾ of my cooked noodles with the amount of dressing made below.

– yes, there is a difference between tahini and sesame paste. Sesame paste is made from toasted sesame seeds so is darker and richer in flavor. I’d say if you have tahini already on hand- use it and add a dash more sesame oil to compensate. I got sesame paste from H-Mart, since was already there.

– I used siracha for chili paste


Bring medium pot of water to boil. Add noodles. Cook until barely tender. About 5 mins (timing maybe less if fresh noodles)- they should retain a bit of chewiness.

Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again, toss with a splash of sesame oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.

Add in pasta a bit at a time, stir to coat. As noted above, add enough noodles for desired coating – for me it was ¾ pound noodles.

Chop peanuts and add to serve.



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