A few months ago I told you about my inability to find a great dinner recipe, that one “go to” that I could throw in the oven and still look amazing when my guests show up. Instead, my guests show up and I’m still bent over the stove, trying to get my something to thicken or soften or boil so I can put it in the oven. I’m always about 45 minutes behind when someone comes over and it makes me feel like a failure a little bit. But I’m working on it.
Thankfully, I get a break from my anxiety this Thanksgiving as we are going away. We’re headed up to Boston to spend thanksgiving with my sister and her boyfriend’s family. Apparently there is a chef involved so I’m pretty excited for some awesome food that will in no way be judging me. My stress here became: what do I bring? I don’t want to intrude on the meal and the cohesiveness of the menu (since I watch too much Chopped), but I also don’t want to just bring a bottle of wine and be totally unoriginal. I wanted an nonintrusive hostess gift, something impressive but not something that would take over the table. Also, whenever you ask the host what you can bring they pretty much say nothing for a holiday like this, its not a pot luck.
(Side Note: I actually really don’t like the question, what can I bring? If I’m inviting you over for dinner I like to think I have taken care of everything. Sometimes I’ll suggest a salad of some kind, or a baguette, or wine, but other times I just say, don’t worry about it. And, this may seem rude, but if I say, don’t worry about it, please don’t show up with two extra desserts or an additional main course. It leaves me with too many leftovers and adds additional stress when I’m already 45 minutes behind on cooking my meal. Plus, I’m really just happy you came to Brooklyn in the first place.)
In my hunt for the perfect hostess gift for Thanksgiving I of course turned to Smitten Kitchen. I was saying to a friend who read my Smitten Kitchen book review, that the reason I haven’t been writing (besides NaNoWriMo) is because pretty much everything that I have cooked in the last two weeks has been out of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and frankly I think you should all go out and buy your own, so I’m not going to post all of her amazing recipes here. Anyway, in her book, Deb has a recipe for Apple Cider Caramels, which she also posted on her site. Now, there are two things that really intimidate me in the kitchen: bread and caramel. Bread I’m starting to master and at least I can identify problems when my bread doesn’t work. Caramel, though, totally terrifies me. I’m always convinced I’m going to burn the bottom of my pot or wreck my stove, or set my house on fire. Thankfully I made the caramels twice this weekend and none of those things happened.
Let me tell you, these caramels are good. Like melt-in-your-mouth-without-getting-stuck-to-your-teeth good. The sweetness of the caramel is tempered by the sea salt and the intensity of the boiled down apple cider. Apple Cider isn’t overly sweet like apple juice, so you really get the essence of apple, like what you eat in a pie. Sure there were a few moments in the cooking process that I was pretty sure I was going to screw up. Like when the butter wasn’t melting fast enough in the caramel, or the candy thermometer was losing degrees instead of gaining them (it fixed itself) or when the caramel was bubbling up really high and I was worried it was going to overflow (thankfully, David Leibowitz told me not to worry about this). In the end, after measuring, cutting, and wrapping 128 caramels and putting them in a pretty jar, I’m pretty sure I have the perfect hostess gift. I’m also sure that the hostess will actually see the gift since about 80 of those caramels are for my mom so she doesn’t take a few off the top.