Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Pecan Malt Syrup Tart

Of all the wonderful pies I’ve had over my life, my favorite from back when I was a child is pecan pie. This southern classic has to be one of the sweetest pies I have ever eaten, and I recall baking it middle school with a pre-made pie shell and both light and dark corn syrups. This was the default recipe one found on the side of every Karo corn syrup bottle and back then, when it came to desserts, the sweeter the better. Now as an adult, I find pecan pies to be cloyingly sweet, but I still have fond memories of the dish, so I started experimenting with ways to reduce the sugar level while maintaining the integrity and the custardy structure of the pie.

My solution is, rather than using corn syrup for the entire pie, I substitute half of it with barley malt syrup, as malt syrup has less sugar than corn syrup. Plus it has a malty flavor that I love! I also reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe and added more pecans. And of course, I made my own pie shell. Overall, the recipe is pretty easy. There is some advanced preparation required with the par-baked pie shell, but you have that ready, it’s easy as pie. I recommend you make this dish for Thanksgiving or your next holiday gathering. Enjoy!

1 par baked 10-inch tart shell (see recipe below)
2 cups of pecans, chopped
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of organic corn syrup*
1/2 cup of organic barley malt syrup
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of unsalted melted butter, cooled
Special equipment:
10-inch tart pan
Pie weights or dried beans

1. Heat the oven to 350°

2. Spread the chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Let cool.


3. In a large bowl, add the eggs and sugar and whisk for about 1 minute.


4. Add in the corn syrup, malt syrup, salt, vanilla extract and melted butter and whisk until combined.


5. Put the par-baked tart shell and the pan on top of a baking sheet. In the tart shell, add cooled pecans and spread evenly.


6. Give the custard mixture a final whisk and pour over the pecans.


7. Place the pecan tart in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes (turning the tart at the halfway mark) until the center is set.


*Organic Light Corn Syrup and Barley Malt Syrup can be found in most natural foods market like Sprouts or Whole Foods.

One 10-inch Tart Shell

1 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of cold butter (cut into cubes)
1/8 cup of cold water

1. To make the tart crust, place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times.


2. Add butter. Pulse 3 to 4 times.


3. Add water. Pulse 2 to 3 times until the dough comes together.


4. Move the dough to work station and gently knead it until it just comes together, and then form into a disk. Do not overwork the dough or it will yield a tough crust.


5. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

6. Heat the oven to  325°

7. Roll out the tart crust wide enough to cover the tart pan. This will be roughly be 13 inches in diameter


8. Press the crust down into the pan. Using a rolling pin, roll over the crust and to cut the portion hanging over the tart pan.


9. Place the crust and pan in the freezer for 5 minutes.

10. Meanwhile, cut out a round piece of parchment paper about 12-inch in diameter.

11. Remove the pie crust from the freezer and line the parchment paper over the crust. Add the pie weights. Par-bake for 20 minutes.

12. Once out of the oven, remove the pie weights and parchment paper. Let the shell cool completely on a wired rack.


Fried Brussels Sprouts and Shallots with Asian Dressing

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It’s the one meal I get really excited about cooking. I usually spend a day planning the menu, a couple of days prepping the ingredients, and several hours cooking in the kitchen. Aside from the turkey or ham that is central to the meal, there are side dishes that my family looks forward to every year: roasted Brussels sprouts, savory pain de mie stuffing, cauliflower gratin, among others. My family raves about how yummy everything tastes and it puts a smile on my face. Cooking is a true labor of love.

But cooking a Thanksgiving meal wasn’t always easy or fun for me. I remember my humble beginnings, cooking my first Thanksgiving meal back when I was in junior high. My immediate family and my Korean neighbors (there were a total of 20 guests) were excited about their first traditional Thanksgiving dinner…only to learn the centerpiece of the meal was missing from dinner table. I completely miscalculated the cooking time of a 22 lb. turkey and it still had a couple more hours left to cook in the oven when everyone arrived. Since my guests were hungry, they ate the stuffing, candied yams, and mashed potatoes while the turkey was still roasting. A couple of guests even ran back to their places and brought over some rice, kimchee and several ban chan for the table. When the turkey finally came out of the oven, it ended up being dry and pretty bland, a major disappointment after such a long wait. I felt awful and vowed to never make the same mistake again. Next year, the turkey was ready early!

As we ramp up for Thanksgiving this year, I will be posting a couple of my favorite side dishes. Here is a great Brussels sprouts dish with an Asian twist. It is flavorful, has a hint of heat and different layers of texture. This will be a great addition to any Thanksgiving table.

Fried Brussels Sprouts and Shallots with Asian Dressing

Serving Size: 6-8 as a side dish

2 tablespoons of organic soy sauce
1 tablespoon of fish sauce (Three Crabs brand)
2 tablespoons of organic sugar
1 teaspoon of Asian chili paste (Sambal Oelek)
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups of vegetable oil (sunflower oil)
Sea salt
1 pound of Brussels sprouts, quartered
¼ cup of toasted sliced almonds

1. In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, chili paste, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce thickens a bit (about 5 minutes).
2. Remove the sauce from heat, add the lemon juice and set aside to cool.
3. Place 2 cups of oil in a wok or a deep fryer. Bring the temperature to 275°.

4. Add all the shallots at once and fry for about 8-10 minutes or until the shallots are golden brown.
5. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon or spider strainer and place in a colander lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside.

6. Increase the heat of the oil to 350°.
7. Add ¼ of the Brussels sprouts to the oil and fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a colander lined with paper towels. Repeat this process 3 more times. (Make sure you bring the oil temperature back to 350° each time before adding the Brussels sprouts.)

8. Transfer all the fried Brussels sprouts to a large bowl. Add the toasted almonds.
9. Add 2 tablespoons of the sauce and toss to coat. Taste to see if it needs more sauce. If so, add one more tablespoon of the sauce and toss to coat.

10. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with shallots and serve.