Maple-Turkey Bacon Popovers

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Looking for a carby, sweet-and-savory side dish for your holiday meal this year? I got you. These popovers are easier to make than they look, and they taste oh-so-decadent: airy and eggy and glazed with a healthy brushing of maple syrup (our household is, after all, partly Canadian).

You can use regular bacon here but I love turkey bacon. Really. Don’t @ me.

Maple-Turkey Bacon Popovers

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped turkey bacon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup, plus more for brushing
4 eggs, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high and cook chopped bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Allow drippings to cool in skillet; pour into a small heatproof bowl.

2. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter to drippings; stir to combine. Spoon 1 teaspoon drippings mixture into each cup of a 12-cup large muffin pan. Place pan in oven to heat, being careful not to let the drippings burn.

3. Stir together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, maple syrup, eggs, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large bowl. Gradually whisk flour mixture into egg mixture until nearly smooth; fold in bacon. Transfer batter to a large spouted measuring cup.

4. Carefully remove hot muffin pan from oven. Pour batter into muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake in preheated oven until popovers are puffed and golden brown, about 18 minutes. Lightly brush tops with additional maple syrup. Remove from pan and serve.

Mozzarella, Anchovy, and Caper Pizza

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I love anchovies but avoided them on pizza for years because, well, I grew up watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and if there’s one thing Michelangelo taught us, it’s that anchovies on pizza are gross.

As it turns out, Michelangelo was totally wrong. Anchovies are the salty-savory umami bomb your pizza needs, and this simple pizza is proof of that. Add a handful of briny capers and you’ve got yourself the perfect casual weeknight dinner.

Mozzarella, anchovy, and caper pizza

Ingredients:

Olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small handful basil, leaves picked
1 14-ounce can tomatoes, whole or pureed
Salt
Pepper
10 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, drained
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
8 ounces mozzarella
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 pound pizza dough

1. Make the tomato sauce: Heat a medium saucepan, add a splash of olive oil and the garlic and gently cook. Once the garlic has turned lightly golden, add the basil, the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, mashing the tomatoes until smooth (if whole), then set aside.

2. Add the anchovies to a bowl with the red pepper flakes, the capers, two teaspoons olive oil, the lemon juice, and mix. Let the anchovies sit in the marinade for 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees, roll out the pizza dough, and transfer to a oven-safe pizza pan.

4. Depending on how saucy you like your pizza, smear 4 to 6 tablespoons tomato sauce over the pizza base. Scatter torn up pieces of mozzarella over the top. Lay on the anchovies, scatter over the capers, and sprinkle with a little parsley. Drizzle with the leftover marinating oil and cook until crisp and golden, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto with Brown Rice Spaghetti

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This dish is really all about the pesto. Serve it with pasta, slather it on bread, eat it by the spoonful — it doesn’t matter. Here, the spaghetti is merely the vehicle by which to eat the pesto: creamy, peppery, with just a hint of garlic and cheese.

Arugula and cashew pesto

Ingredients:

4 cups baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
12 ounces pasta

1. Bring roughly 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Blanch arugula for about 30 seconds or until the leaves become bright green. Drain arugula into a colander and run cold water over them. Press leaves to remove excess water and let drain.

2. Meanwhile, bring a pan to a medium heat, add cashews and a pinch of salt, making sure to move the pan around to prevent the cashews from burning. Toast until you begin to smell a nutty aroma and the cashews have turned lightly golden. Remove from pan and let cool.

3. Place arugula, cashews, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese in a blender and process until smooth.

4. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. When pasta is ready, strain and immediately toss with a little olive oil. Add pesto and serve garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.

Sri Lankan Chicken Biryani with Mint Sambol

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Once a year, I try my hand at making biryani. It’s typically a disaster: mushy or undercooked rice — nothing like the fluffy, fragrant grains infused with spice that I’m aiming for.

But this year is different! I finally stumbled upon a method, fool-proof for a biryani novice even like me. Success! Delicious, ghee-laden success. Accompanied with a cooling mint sambol, this chicken biryani is the real thing.

Sri Lankan chicken biryani with mint sambol

Ingredients:

For the chicken:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs but any cuts will do just fine)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon roasted curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons chopped cashews
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
1 cardamom pod
1 clove
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
1 serrano chili, chopped

For the rice:
1 pound (about 3 cups) basmati rice
3 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 2-inch stick cinnamon stick
A pinch of ground saffron
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

For the mint sambol:
3 cups mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 serrano chili
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste

1. Wash and dry chicken. Season with salt, pepper, curry powder, and cayenne pepper.

2. In a food processor, blend yogurt, tomato puree, cashews, and coconut.

3. Combine yogurt mixture, cardamom pods, clove, and bay leaves with chicken and marinade at least 2 hours to overnight.

4. When ready to assemble and cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Heat ghee in a medium pan on the stovetop. Fry the onion and chili until onions are lightly browned.

5. Remove chicken from marinade (reserving marinade), add to pan, and saute for about 10 minutes. Add a little water to the reserved marinade and pour over chicken. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and place chicken in a deep oven-proof baking dish.

6. Prepare the rice: Wash and drain the rice. Heat the ghee in a medium pan. Fry onion until lightly browned. Add cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick.

7. Add rice and fry for a few minutes until rice starts to turn lightly golden. Add saffron and mix well.

8. Pour in stock and simmer until rice is partially cooked (about 15 minutes). Add salt.

9. Place rice on top of chicken in baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in heated oven until moisture evaporates, about 45 minutes.

10. In the meantime, make the sambol: Blend all of the sambol ingredients together in a food processor to make a thick green paste. Serve with yogurt alongside biryani.

Persian Gulf-Style Chicken and Rice (Goboli Polo)

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This Persian Gulf-style spiced chicken and basmati rice pilaf is piled high with heaps of fried onions and potatoes. And I mean let’s be real: who doesn’t love fried potatoes? I adapted this from Najmieh Batmanglij’s Cooking in Iran, her tome on the lesser-explored regional cuisines of Iran. The rice is cooked in the spiced chicken broth, giving the dish a decadently rich flavor. I didn’t grow up with this dish, but it’s becoming part of my rotation now.

Goboli polo

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
6 cups water

For the rice:

2 cups basmati rice, soaked in water for 15 minutes, drained and rinsed at least 3 times

For the garnish:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground heart of dried Persian limes (limoo omani)
1/2 cup currants or raisins, soaked in water for 10 minutes and drained

1. To cook the chicken: In a large pot, place all the ingredients for the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, until the chicken is tender. Place a sieve over a large bowl and drain the chicken, reserving the broth. Return the broth to the pot and set the chicken and chickpeas aside.

2. To cook the rice: Add the rice to the broth. Give it a stir with a cooking spoon and bring it back to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until the rice is tender and the broth has been absorbed.

3. Make the garnish: In a wide skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and saute until golden brown. Remove the potatoes from the skillet and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.

4. Add the remaining oil to the same skillet and saute the onion over medium low heat for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Add the salt, turmeric, dried lime, currants, and potato, and saute for another 2 minutes.

5. Just before serving, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a wide skillet over medium heat until hot. Saute the chicken and chickpeas until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes.

6. To serve: Remove the rice from the pot and transfer it to a serving platter. Arrange the chicken and garnish on top. Serve with sabzi khordan (fresh herb platter).