Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving Countdown’ category

Pie Party

November 28, 2013

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So with all the best intentions, I made a schedule for today that involved starting to make pies at 9:00. But when I woke up at 6:30, like a kid on Christmas morning, I realized that there was no way I could wait to start making pies. By 8:00 all three pies were well underway, and I had used a prodigious number of eggs for such an early hour.

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By 9:15 all three pies were cooling on the counter, pecan, nutmeg maple cream, and pumpkin. I love making pie, because it’s such a homey activity, and pie makes people happy in a way that cake doesn’t. Pie says wow, you made that for me? Pie says my grandma used to make that. Pie says eat me.

DSC_7761Three pies and a narcissus blooming on the counter, that’s a great start to Thanksgiving morning. I can always find many reasons to be thankful, but today, because we’ve had so much bad medical news lately, I’m most thankful to Shel for staying on the planet and making my life complete. So here’s to Shel, the best thing that ever happened to me, even though he refuses to eat pumpkin pie.

And here’s to all of you, may your day be filled with love and good food. Because really, that’s what it’s all about. And pie.

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Thanksgiving Tempest

November 25, 2013

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I’ve been cooking up a storm the past couple of days, and I imagine that you have been too. I love to spend five days cooking for Thanksgiving, the vexing problem being that we only have one fridge in our new house, so there’s a lot of strategizing involved, not to mention freezing and thawing and putting stuff outdoors, even though it’s above 40° in the middle of the day.

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The cranberries turned into Spiked Cranberry Relish, made with a generous pour of Grand Marnier and awaiting a last-minute dose of toasted pecans.

DSC_7692Turkey parts and various aromatics turned into Michael Ruhlman’s heavenly turkey stock, which takes forever to make but is no work at all. The ferry threw itself into the photo for free, but it makes my stock look oh-so-Northwest.

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I’ve made, blind baked, and frozen

DSC_7714-001pie crusts for pumpkin and Nutmeg Maple Cream pies, and for a pecan tart that is one invariable part of our holiday. It’s funny about those pies. Although I don’t even taste them, I really wanted to try something new this year, just for the fun of making a new pie, hence the addition of the nutmeg maple concoction. It sounds like you couldn’t go wrong with that combination, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The turkey is spatchcocked and dry brined and resting hugely in my not-gargantuan fridge. I’ve also made and frozen the base for Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Aged White Cheddar (Cougar Gold 3 year aged, the best!), and made the cornbread for my famous Family Harmony Stuffing, the one stuffing that finally ended the “but my Mom didn’t make it like that” wars. And I made a beautiful little porcini sauce for the low carb and vegetarian eaters who shun my normal gravy. And toasted a lot of nuts, but that probably doesn’t count.

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I haven’t decided yet whether to include these gorgeous peppers in our Thanksgiving meal, or whether to let them be part of the holiday decor and then turn them into lecso, to lighten things up a bit after the feasting in done.

So whew, and back at it again tomorrow and the next day. I hope you’re having as much fun in the kitchen as I am – cooking, it’s something for which I can really be thankful.

The One That Got Away

November 18, 2012

Tonight I made soup for a Thanksgiving starter, made of Jerusalem artichokes and celery root. It’s a very French soup, since topinambours and céleri rave are all the rage, but as I peeled and chopped I just couldn’t bring myself to cut this cute guy up, or it would have felt like cannibal soup.

Normally I’d make this soup with chicken broth, and you can too, but this time I need it to be vegetarian, so water’s the word.

The result is an ethereal little soup, savory, hinting of the dinner to come, but very light, almost a palate refresher. Which, when you think of it, is just what you want before the feast to come. That’s not to say that you can’t add some little crispy dice of pancetta, or a small dollop of crème fraîche if you wish, but keep it light, so that your guests will enjoy their dinner.

Not Cannibal Soup 
1 lb Jerusalem artichokes
1 lb celery root
filtered or excellent-tasting water
3 T butter
1/8 tsp ground coriander
tiny pinch of each: garlic powder and onion powder
salt
ground sumac  (or substitute paprika)

Fill a pot halfway with water. Peel the Jerusalem artichokes with a small sharp knife, cut each one into 3-4 pieces, and drop them immediately into the water to prevent browning. I don’t kill myself peeling all of the little knobs, I just cut them off and go for the center of the tuber where it peels more easily. Peel, slice, then dice the celery root, again dropping the pieces immediately into the water to keep them white. When all the vegetables are in the water, either add or remove water so that your vegetables are covered with 2 inches of water. Boil them gently until tender, about 25 minutes, skimming foam as necessary.

Once the vegetables are tender, remove the pot from the heat and purée everything with an immersion blender to a fine velvety texture. If you’d like the soup a bit thicker, just simmer to reduce. If you’d like it thinner, add a little water. Now begin to season it carefully with salt, tasting as you go, until the celery flavor pops out at you. Add a very small amount of onion and garlic powders, and the coriander. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Now taste again. You want to be able to taste the vegetables, with the spices being just the merest hint of extra flavor. Adjust the seasonings to suit yourself. Serve with a little sprinkle of sumac, which adds just a whisper of tartness. Lemon doesn’t work the same way, so if you can’t get sumac, just use paprika for color, since this  soup is a very delicate celadon color and will thank you for giving it a little brightening up.

Stocking Up

October 30, 2012

We have a lot on our plate right now, and so for once I’ve decided to start preparing for Thanksgiving even before Halloween. It seems outrageously early right now, but I’m sure I’ll give thanks to myself later.

I recently saw turkey wings in the store for the first time this year, so I’m starting with the turkey stock. I love making turkey stock, because it makes the whole house smell like a holiday, and keeps the kitchen warm to boot. Since I’m practically allergic to having the heat on so early in the year, this is a definite plus.

This year I thought I’d try a new recipe for the stock, and as soon as I found one that looked intriguing I proceeded to change it. I’m not compulsive that way and have no objection to following recipes, but in this case, I though I could improve on it a little without doing any violence to the original. And indeed, simmering away ever so gently, it smells quite divine. When it’s done it’ll go right into the freezer, and voilà, one thing to cross off my Thanksgiving list. How about it, have room in your freezer for a couple of quarts of stock?

Make Ahead Turkey Stock *

3 1/2 lbs turkey wings (3 large wings)
3 ounces pancetta, cut into small cubes
2 T olive oil
salt
2 carrots, cut in chunks
2 stalks celery, cut in chunks
2 large shallots, quatered
1 cup rosé, or white wine
2 T Armagnac, or use Cognac
3 sprigs fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 425°. Place wings in a large roasting pan , rub them with the olive oil, and rub excess oil around in the pan to film lightly. Sprinkle very lightly with salt, if you plan to brine your turkey, as I do, otherwise be more generous with the salt.

Roast the wings for 10 minutes. Add the pancetta to the pan, along with 1/3 cup water, and roast for an additional 20 minutes. After 20 minutes add the vegetables and another 1/3 cup of water. Roast for another 20 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Place 4 quarts of water and the wine in a stock pot and add the wings to it. Remove the vegetables to a small bowl, add the pancetta to the stockpot. Deglaze the pan drippings with the Armagnac, and scrape the deglazed pan drippings into a small freezer container. Add a cup of hot water to the roasting pan and give it one more good scraping down, adding the liquid to the stockpot along with the thyme.

Bring just barely to a low boil, then reduce heat to the barest simmer and let simmer very gently for 2 hours. Add the vegetables to the stock and simmer for an additional 45 minutes. Remove the wings and strain out the solids. If you have more than 2 quarts of stock in the pot, boil it until it reduces to 2 quarts. Cool, and freeze.

* adapted from this recipe