Lemony Smoked Salmon Dip

Lemony Smoked Salmon Dip

This is a recipe I think Ina would appreciate, especially when she notices that I followed her high/low rule by serving elegant smoked salmon with simple potato chips straight from the yellow Lay’s bag. This recipe also closely follows the make-ahead and low or no-cook rule by helpfully improving with time in the refrigerator and requiring a minimum of mixing and prepping to be incredible.

Last time I made this dip I whipped up a batch the night before knowing it was exactly the type of item I could hand off to literally any early arrival - up to and including a middle-schooler - and say “put this in a bowl, sprinkle it with these herbs, and pour chips around it” with utter confidence it would be perfect when guests walked through the door.

Lemony Smoked Salmon Dip

SuperBowl parties are coming up, so add this baby to your repertoire and sleep soundly smug in the knowledge you have a knock-out appetizer up your sleeve and it took almost no effort to prepare.

Lemony Smoked Salmon Dip (serves: 8-10)

8 ounces smoked salmon
2 cups whole milk greek yogurt (I prefer a milder flavor like Fage here)
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup minced fresh chives, plus more for serving
1/3 cup tablespoon minced fresh dill, plus more for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt, minced herbs, lemon juice, salt* and pepper until well combined. *Both smoked salmon and potato chips are pretty salty (duh) so go easy here!

Using your fingers, pull the smoked salmon into large pieces and fold into the yogurt mixture until evenly distributed.

Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the dip with more chives, dill and freshly ground pepper. Dip can be made 2 days ahead. Place in an air-tight container and refrigerate.

Re-written and adapted from Bon Appetit’s Lemony Smoked Trout Dip by Alison Roman.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100%. I used a medium mixing bowl, chef’s knife, medium cutting board, and rubber spatula. The recipe is easy to eye-ball, but if you want to be precise then measuring cups & spoons.

Lemony Smoked Salmon Dip
Lemony Smoked Salmon Dip

Sugar and Spice Candied Pecans

Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans | Image: Laura Messersmith

Over the holidays Mike and I were given an amazing gift basket from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI – famously portrayed as Jason Segal’s sandwich making domain in The Five Year Engagement. The basket had brownies, cheddar cheese, smoked sausage and a ton of other dangerously delicious goodies, but the unexpected gem of the basket was the small bag of Spiced Pecans.

Normally chocolate is my jam but these were addictive. Each pecan was generously encased in a sweet and surprisingly spicy mixture of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper – all the better if you could find a cluster that had a little extra coating. We had to consciously ration them to keep from inhaling the entire contents. I mean, ridiculous. So, I resolved to figure out the recipe and recreate these amazing treats so we wouldn’t have to wait for next year’s basket.

I read a ton of recipes, including Zingerman’s, and taste-tested until I got just the right balance of sugar and spice – a hard job right? The heat is layered, the coating is crunchy, and the mellow nutty flavor of the pecans still comes through. I hope you’ll try these and let me know how you like them.

Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans | Image: Laura Messersmith

Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans (yield: 3 cups)

5 tablespoons room temperature butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg white
1 pound (3 cups) pecan halves

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the granulated sugar, salt, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. Mix until the spices are evenly distributed through the sugar.

Add the butter – very soft room temperature, but not melted – is key. Use a fork to mash together until the butter is totally combined with the sugar and spice mixture and resembles dark, wet sand.

In a small bowl separate the egg and beat the egg white until frothy. Add the egg white to the sugar and spice mixture and mix well until pale brown and opaque.

Stir the pecan halves into the sugar and spice mixture until well coated.

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheets with aluminum foil (this is essential!) and spread the coated pecans out evenly. Bake for 18-20 minutes, checking and using a rubber spatula to gently move the nuts around at the 10, 7, and finally 3 minute mark until deep golden brown. Watch carefully especially during the final 3 minutes of baking to prevent the nuts from burning.

Slide the aluminum foil off the baking sheet and onto a wire rack. Allow the pecans to cool completely before serving.

Adapted and rewritten from Zingerman’s and Trisha’s Southern Kitchen.

Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a medium mixing bowl, two small bowls, one baking sheet, a wire rack, a rubber spatula, table fork, and measuring cups and spoons.

The Verdict:
I put out some for our SuperBowl “Don’t Call it a Party” Hang-out last night and was pleased to see that these Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans were as popular as I hoped they’d be. Mike declared the flavor spot on, and since a bowl of these babies is in serious danger when I’m around they’re a good thing to make when we have guests! I could also see sprinkling a few on a salad, maybe along side some slices of pear or with a small wedge of gorgonzola?

Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans | Image: Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders | Image: Laura Messersmith

Back in the day (like 7 years ago) Mike and I took a roadtrip from Boston, MA to Dallas, TX and decided that we’d make it a BBQ Tour since our route took us through the Carolinas, Memphis, and then of course, on to Texas. Since then we’ve both developed some strong opinions on what constitutes “good” barbecue. Don’t get me wrong, I love some Lockhart smoked brisket, but I also can’t get enough of Kansas City-style sauce.

This recipe started from one I spotted in an issue of Cooking Light and after making it over and over again I eventually developed my own version that combines the sweet, spicy, layered flavors that I love so much. The chicken cooks in a thick, molasses and ketchup based sauce that has a little tang of vinegary umami from the Worcestershire sauce add in the smoky depth of cumin and this pulled chicken is so, so good.

And, since you might be in the market for some Game Day ideas this is one I’d recommend since it’s really easy to make ahead and reheat before serving (an extra splash of chicken stock will help if it seems a little dry.) I put these together with a few different toppings – fresh arugula, pickled red onion, dill chips – but a spoonful of coleslaw, or some sweet pickle relish along with an extra smother of sauce would be great.

Keep this baby in your back pocket for a summer cook out too – it works in all seasons!

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders | Image: Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders (yield: 12 sliders)
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1/4 cup tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons spicy brown mustard (I like Gulden’s)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons dark or light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 dozen mini hamburger buns
1 cup dill pickle chips
1 1/2 cups pickled red onion
Barbecue sauce, for serving (I like this one from W-S)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot or French oven, whisk together the ketchup, mustard, molasses, cider vinegar, chicken broth, brown sugar, and spices. Warm over medium-low heat until the sauce comes to a simmer. This is a good time to taste the sauce if you want to make adjustments.

Meanwhile, trim the chicken breasts and dice into large pieces, about 1 inch square. Add the chicken pieces to the sauce and toss to coat evenly. Cover the pot and place in the oven to braise the chicken for 50-60 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Allow the chicken to cool slightly and shred into pieces with two forks while still warm. It will appear at first that there is too much sauce, but as the chicken is shredded it will absorb the excess.

Serve on toasted mini hamburger buns with dill chips, pickled red onion (recipe below), coleslaw or fresh arugula.

Recipe adapted and rewritten from Cooking Light.

Quick Pickled Red Onions
5 ounces (1 medium) red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Boiling Water

Boil 2 - 3 cups of water in a kettle.  Peel and thinly slice the onion into approximately 1/4" slices or half-moons.

In the container you plan to store the onions, add the sugar, salt, vinegar and flavorings.  Stir to dissolve.

Place the peeled and sliced onions in a sieve and place the sieve in the sink.  Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions and let them drain. Add the onions to the jar and stir gently to evenly distribute the flavorings. Seal the jar and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

The onions will be ready in about 30 minutes, but are better after a few hours. Store in the refrigerator. They will keep for several weeks but are best in the first week.

 Recipe rewritten from The Kitchn.

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! For the pulled chicken I used my trusty 5.5 quart French oven, a large cutting board, serrated utility knife, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, a rubber spatula, and two dinner forks.

The quick pickled red onions need a teakettle or pot (for boiling the water), medium jam jar or other glass container, small cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons.

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders | Image: Laura Messersmith

A Super Excuse to Have A Party

Whether you actually like football, follow a specific pro team, or give a hoot about the SuperBowl - for me those answers are: yes, yes, and kinda but mostly about the commercials and any half-time show starring Beyoncé - it’s a great excuse to have friends over and whip-up some delicious food.

In my book it’s also a great excuse to make an adorable invite to said Super Bowl Party. I had an idea in mind and design came together pretty quickly with a combination of green gradients, chalkboard brush strokes, and a simple twist on a football strategy staple. Hope you enjoy!

Original Design:  Laura Messersmith

Original Design: Laura Messersmith

And, because I can’t just leave it at that, I pinned some recipes for my favorite football-watching snacks. After three years in Dallas these crowd pleasers are Tex-Mex inclined and that’s just how we roll. 

Lime-Cilantro Chicken Wings


Beef & Bean Chili (served with shredded Jack cheese and Fritos please!)

Black Pepper & Molasses Pulled Chicken

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies