Showing posts with label men who cook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label men who cook. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Turkey Isn't Just for Thanksgiving: Turkey Stew with Dumplings

Usually on Thanksgiving between 20-25 people come over for dinner. Serving turkey is part of the holiday tradition but there's a practical side as well: one turkey serves a lot of people.

Turkey is a food so rooted in a holiday--think egg nog and New Year's Eve--that most people wouldn't think of using it at other times of the year.

Roast turkey in the summer is a practical solution to serving large amounts of food for backyard parties without an excessive amount of work.

Sweet, moist breast meat, perfect of sandwiches, can also be tossed in salads. Thigh meat is also good in sandwiches with a bit of mayonnaise, thin slices of red onion and arugula leaves. Or, teasing flavor out of the legs and thighs by boiling them in a large pot of water creates delicious turkey stock and several pounds of meat ideal for salads, soups and stews.

Turkey Stew with Dumplings and Vegetables

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients
4 cups cooked, shredded turkey dark meat
6 cups turkey stock (fat removed)
2 carrots (washed, peeled, ends removed, chopped into thick rounds)
2 sweet potatoes (cooked, skins removed, roughly chopped)
1 medium yellow onion (peeled, ends removed, roughly chopped)
1 ear of corn (kernels removed) or 1 cup of canned or frozen corn
1 celery stalk (washed, ends removed, roughly chopped)
1/2 cup brown or shiitake mushrooms (washed, thinly sliced)
4 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 cup Italian parsley (leaves only, finely chopped)
1 small bunch spinach (washed thoroughly, stems removed)
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup half and half
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a dutch oven or a frying pan with tall sides, sauté the carrots, garlic, celery, mushrooms, onions, corn, and parsley in olive oil until lightly browned. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add the shredded turkey, cooked sweet potatoes, and turkey stock. Simmer. Drop in the spinach and cook for 10 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
To make the dumplings, mix together the flour, baking soda, sugar, season with sea salt and pepper in a bowl. Finely chop the butter, add to the flour and mix well. Slowly pour in the half and half, stirring until the batter has a thick consistency. Using 2 spoons, make dumplings and ease them them into the hot liquid.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with a salad and a baguette.

Variations

Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions or Italian parsley to the dumplings.

Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red peppers to the dumplings.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Asparagus Stalks Memorial Day Picnics

Burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw and fresh fruit salads are Memorial Day classics. I look forward to those favorites but to keep them interesting, it's good to add something new and a little unexpected.
When I was growing up, asparagus was one of the fancy vegetables. Carrots, corn and broccoli were the everyday vegetables. Asparagus was saved for special occasions. These days asparagus is affordable, easy-to-prepare and versatile.

Right now asparagus is plentiful in farmers markets. Nutritious, delicious and loaded with healthy minerals, asparagus can be enjoyed raw or cooked, as a salad or a side dish to add zest to a backyard barbecue or afternoon lunch.

Raw Asparagus Salad
Look for small to medium sized stalks that are firm and without blemish or shrivel-marks.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions


Slice in half the long way the larger stalks just before serving. Just before serving, toss the asparagus with the seasoned olive oil.

Variations

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flaky goat cheese over the asparagus.

Finely chop 1 garlic clove and lightly sauté until brown, sprinkle over the asparagus.

Grilled Asparagus

Use any size asparagus you like. 
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the grill on a medium flame.

Toss the asparagus in the seasoned olive oil and place on the grill. 

Tongs will help turn the asparagus on the grill. Be careful to brown but not burn the tender stalks. Serve warm.

Variations

Grill with carrots (sliced or whole baby carrots) and serve as a vegetable course or as a side dish.

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or an additional 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Steamed or Sautéed Asparagus with Caramelized Garlic, Shallots and Almond Slivers
Use any size asparagus you like. I prefer large or medium sized stalks, cut in half the long way so I can caramelize inside the asparagus.

The dish is as delicious whether you steam or sauté the asparagus. The choice is yours.

Blanched, raw slivered almonds are widely available in supermarkets. From my experience, Trader Joe's has good quality, affordable almonds.

To deceive the eye, the shallot and garlic clove should be sliced to resemble the almond slivers. The surprising sweet-savory/soft-crunch contrast adds to the fun of the dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1/4 cup blanched, raw almond slivers
1 large shallot, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 large garlic clove, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Add the asparagus, cooking in batches if necessary. Don't crowd them in the pan so they cook evenly. Use tongs to turn them frequently to brown and avoid burning.

Remove the cooked stalks to a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pan, cook the shallot, garlic and almonds until lightly browned. Add a touch of olive oil if needed. Season with black pepper.

Either add the cooked asparagus back into the pan with the almond mixture and toss well or plate the asparagus and top the stalks with the almond mixture.

Serve warm.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pork Belly and Vegetable Pasta

I wrote a recipe for Zester Daily about my latest, favorite dish, a pasta with pork belly meat, flavored by Vietnamese style pickled vegetables.

I love pork belly but not pork belly fat. 
The recipe is my attempt to split the difference. 
I let the fat tenderize and season the meat. 
The only part of the fat I put into the pasta is the thin crackling layer, that luscious bubbling, crispy top layer. 
The cracklings are ground up and sprinkled on the pasta to give a sweet crunch to the tender, moist meat.

The pickled vegetables add to the pork's deep rich flavors. Included in the pickling are pieces of ginger which brings a subtle heat to bear on the dish.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

An Oscar Party's Best Snacks

Unless you use a dvr to record the Oscars so you can compress the show to fifteen or twenty minutes of highlights, you'll need some good snacks to keep you going during the 3+ hour festivities.

The easiest route is to order-in.

A large pizza with your favorite toppings and a green salad will do nicely. Getting one from Dominos is ok. From Pizzeria Mozza in West Hollywood or Milo + Olive in Santa Monica would be even better.
If you want to treat yourself but do very little cooking--just enough so you showed you care about what you eat--a big bowl of freshly made popcorn, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and tossed with a goodly amount of melted sweet butter will definitely keep you happily snacking through the first hour. (Be sure to have plenty of napkins for buttery finger-and-face-clean up.)

On the other hand, you could put in the time to prepare an elegant dinner party, served in front of the television.

Prosciutto and a soft cheese like triple cream with crackers for an appetizer, home made gnocchi with fresh vegetables, grilled lobsters stuffed with sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms and a banana walnut chocolate cake and coffee at the end would be delicious.
This year, we'll have a simplified version of a dinner party for our friends who are coming over to watch the Oscars.

During the opening monologue and the first awards, we'll have a homemade tapenade with butter-olive oil fried lavash crisps as an appetizer.
For the main course, we'll have a tossed arugula salad with carrot rounds and a reduced balsamic-olive oil dressing and a spaghetti with farmers market vegetables.
We'll save dessert for the last half hour so. As the final awards are announced, we can be enjoying a plate of Valencia orange sections and a selection of the chocolates I've been making (and devouring at an alarming rate).

Tapenade


Better quality olives produce a better tasting tapenade. Use whatever olives you enjoy. Green, black or red. The choice is yours.

Yield: 4

Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

2 cups, pitted olives, black oil cured or cracked green
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
2 tablespoon capers
1 garlic clove, peeled, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne, a light dusting
2 anchovies (optional)
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Directions

Put all the ingredients into a blender and pulse until the olives, capers, and parsley have combined into a paste. Slowly drizzle olive oil into the pulsing blender until you have the desired consistency.

Lavash Crisps

Fresh lavash is available in most supermarkets. If you live near a Middle Eastern market, you will find a good selection of whole wheat and white flour lavash. Check the labels and find ones without chemicals.
Yield: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 large sheets of lavash
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Directions

Spread a single sheet of lavash on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the sheet in half. Lay that sheet on top of the first and cut in half again. Cut the lavish into pieces approximately 2" square.  Stack them up and put aside. 

The uncooked squares can be stored for several hours in the refrigerator in sealed plastic bags.

Place a layer of paper towels on a large plate or cookie sheet.

In a large frying pan, melt half the butter, add half the olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Heat the oil over a low flame. Cook the lavash in batches. 

Add lavash squares to the pan being careful to avoid overlaps.

As they cook, be careful they don't burn. Turn when they brown on one side and remove when they are brown on the second side. 
Remove the lavish crisps and place on the paper towel. Do not overlap. Place a paper towel on top.

As you fry the crisps, add more butter and olive oil as needed.

Serve the crisps at room temperature. To keep them crisp, serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

Variation
Just before serving, on top of the lavash crisps sprinkle freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese with rosemary.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tailgating in Your Dining Room for Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is only a few days after my birthday so for the past couple of years, I've had a Super Bowl Sunday Birthday Party.

What fun!

Lots of friends come over an hour before the game begins. We have time to catch up and eat some food. My version of tail-gating is to put a lot of plates on the dining room table, buffet style. That way everyone can fill up a plate before the kick off and return for refills during the game.

After the game, we have dessert (and the birthday cake with candles!), coffee and tea.

What to serve

Picnic food is perfect for watching the game: rosemary fried chicken, egg salad with grilled vegetables and bacon, lobster salad, carrot salad with lemon soaked golden raisins, green salad, oven roasted beets tossed in seasoned olive oil, chicken wings, Caesar salad with grilled shrimp, baked parsley-garlic chicken breasts, sage and shallot stuffed porchetta, and brown sugar pork ribs.

And for desserts, we'll have some choices: handmade chocolates, apple pie with candied ginger crust, ice creams, banana chocolate chip-walnut cake, vanilla custard, dried fruit compote and fresh fruit (Valencia orange wedges and Fuji apples).

My favorite


I love chicken wings. Deep southern fried wings with a light, seasoned flour dusting or marinated and roasted with Korean (kimchi) or Vietnamese (nouc cham) spices.

For this Super Bowl Sunday, I'm making the Nuoc Cham Gung version. Spicy, sweet, moist and delicious. They are a crowd pleaser.


Spicy Sweet Ginger-Garlic Chicken Wings

Serves 4 as an entrée or 8 as an appetizer
Ingredients

2 pounds chicken wings, washed, disjointed, wing tips discarded or reserved and used to make stock
½ cup white sugar
½ cup warm water
¼ cup fish sauce--preferably a light caramel colored brand
¼ cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
4 cloves garlic minced
1 dried Chinese Szechuan pepper, stem removed, seeds and skin minced
3 tablespoons or 3” ginger, peeled, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste

Directions

1.       In a large non-reactive bowl, dissolve the white sugar in warm water. Add the other ingredients, stir to mix well and add the chicken wings. Transfer to a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate one hour or, preferably, overnight.

2.       Remove the wings and transfer the marinade to a small saucepan, adding the brown sugar. Stir to dissolve and reduce by a half or, if you want a thicker glaze, by two-thirds over a medium flame to create a glaze that should have a good balance of sweetness and heat. Taste and adjust for more sweetness if desired by adding another tablespoon of brown sugar.

3.      The wings can either be grilled on a barbecue or baked in a 350 F oven on a rack on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Turn every ten minutes. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

4.       Place the wings on a large plate of Asian noodles, steamed rice, or shredded lettuce. Just before serving, pour the hot glaze over the top.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bacon Braised Chicken

Braising is a perfect one-pot, cold weather cooking technique that doesn't take much effort. The resulting meat is fall-off the bone tender. Adding fresh vegetables and herbs completes the dish.

As the braise simmers, the kitchen fills with a warming sweetness, further helping to banish the cold.
Using bacon with it's smoky flavor and good fat content adds even more flavor to the succulent chicken.

For Zesterdaily, I wrote a recipe for Bacon Braised Chicken that is perfect any time of the year, but especially on those cold and damp days when nothing gets you warm.

Friday, December 16, 2011

10 Delicious Holiday Recipes

I'm happy to say I published my first cookbook, 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes.
I wanted to create a cookbook with ten easy-to-make recipes perfect for the holidays.
I'd like to hear what you think about the recipes and I would certainly like it if you would buy the book. For $2.99 you get a great collection of cocktails, appetizers, salads, sides, entrees and a couple of dynamite desserts.

I used Amazon and Kindle, but if you don't own a Kindle, no problem. You can download the Kindle App that works for your smart phone, computer or iPad. It's free and downloads easily.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you.  Have a great holiday!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Best Post-Thanksgiving Comfort Food: Turkey Dumpling Stew

Usually on Thanksgiving between 20-25 people come over for dinner. This year we had a smaller group. With 15, we had time to talk and there wasn't quite as much work getting the meal ready. Out of habit, though, we bought the same size turkey we always buy, a 25 pounder. So we assumed we'd have a lot of food left over, enough for several days of sandwiches.

When we looked in the refrigerator on Friday, we were surprised that we had very little cranberry sauce, almost no stuffing, and only enough white meat for a couple of sandwiches. But, happily, we did have a lot of dark meat and almost a gallon of turkey stock we'd made Thanksgiving night.

For our day after Thanksgiving dinner, I didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and I wanted a good comfort meal. Dumplings with anything is always great, but with richly flavored turkey stew, there's nothing more satisfying.

Turkey Stew with Dumplings and Vegetables

Yield: 4-6 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups cooked, shredded turkey dark meat
6 cups turkey stock (fat removed)
2 carrots (washed, peeled, ends removed, chopped into thick rounds)
2 sweet potatoes (cooked, skins removed, roughly chopped)
1 medium yellow onion (peeled, ends removed, roughly chopped)
1 ear of corn (kernels removed) or 1 cup of canned or frozen corn
1 celery stalk (washed, ends removed, roughly chopped)
1/2 cup brown or shiitake mushrooms (washed, thinly sliced)
4 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 cup Italian parsley (leaves only, finely chopped)
1 small bunch spinach (washed thoroughly, stems removed)
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup half and half
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a dutch oven or a frying pan with tall sides, sauté the carrots, garlic, celery, mushrooms, onions, corn, and parsley in olive oil until lightly browned. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add the shredded turkey, cooked sweet potatoes, and turkey stock. Simmer. Drop in the spinach and cook for 10 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

To make the dumplings, mix together the flour, baking soda, sugar, season with sea salt and pepper in a bowl. Finely chop the butter, add to the flour and mix well. Slowly pour in the half and half, stirring until the batter has a thick consistency. Using 2 spoons, make dumplings and ease them them into the hot liquid.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with a salad and a baguette.

Variations

Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions or Italian parsley to the dumplings.

Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red peppers to the dumplings.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes: Turkey, Stuffing, Appetizers, Side Dishes & Dessert

For Thanksgiving we keep it simple. We don't brine our turkey or do anything exotic with seasonings.

Friends and family contribute desserts. Cousin Leslie makes a pumpkin pie. Cousin Ron (hopefully) will make homemade ice cream. Our friends Clay and Lesli are having dinner with another friend this year so we'll miss her mixed berry fruit salad.
I've been making miniature chocolate bars, which I think are very cool, so I'll make those as an addition to the dessert table.

We'll straighten up around the house. I'll finally throw out those stacks of newspapers I wanted to go through.

If we have time, we'd like to find a new tablecloth for the dining room table. But if we can't find one, the old one will do since there will be so many platters of food, plates, glasses and silverware on the table you'll be hard pressed to see the tablecloth anyway.

We'll cover the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil so clean up after the meal is easier. Cleaning out the refrigerator makes room for the turkey after we pick it up from the grocery store and so there's space for all those delicious left-overs after the meal.

Besides shopping at the grocery store we'll visit our local farmers market to pick up fresh vegetables for the sides dishes: beets, sweet potatoes, lettuce, celery, carrots, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, corn, leeks, and onions.

We'll buy an organic turkey and use the neck, heart and gizzard to make stock for the gravy and the liver to make a mushroom-garlic pate.

Even though Thanksgiving is a lot of work, the key is organization. Writing up a menu is the first step, pulling out our favorite recipes, making a shopping list, and finally creating a time-line for the day before Thanksgiving and the day of the meal.

STUFFING, TURKEY AND GRAVY

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausages, Dried Apricots, and Pecans

The most important part of the meal is the turkey and no turkey is complete without great stuffing.

Over the years my wife has developed a crowd-pleasing stuffing with a contrast of textures: soft (corn bread), spicy (sausage), chewy (dried apricots), and crunchy (pecans).

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 boxes corn bread mix
3 celery stalks, washed, ends trimmed, leaves discarded
1 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter
1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock
4 Italian style sweet sausages
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the corn bread the night before and leave the pan on the counter so the corn bread dries out. Use any cornbread mix you like. My wife uses Jiffy. It's inexpensive and tastes great. The instructions are on the box.

Saute the sausages whole in a frying pan with a little olive oil until browned, remove, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Pour off the excess fat. Add the celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the pan with the stick of butter and saute. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, then add stock and summer 15 minutes.

Cut the cornbread into chunks and crumble into a large mixing bowl. Add the apricots, pecans, and the saute. Stir well and set aside until you're ready to stuff the turkey.

Roast Turkey

The most difficult part about cooking a turkey is size. Even a 15 pound turkey is larger than any roast you'll ever cook, so it's important to have somebody around to help strong-arm the turkey.
The rule of thumb about cooking time is 15-20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees but there are so many variables, you can also use a roasting thermometer and, our preferred method, jiggle-the-leg and if it almost comes off, the turkey's done.

Yield: 20-25 servings

Time: 7-8 hours

Ingredients

1 turkey, 23-25 pounds
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Unwrap the turkey. Remove the packet with the liver, neck, heart, and giblet. Use a pair of pliers to remove the piece of wire that holds the legs. It can be a real pain to get the wire off. Wash the turkey inside and out.  Pat dry on the outside.

Reserve the liver to make a turkey mushroom-garlic pate

Put the neck, heart, and giblet into a large saucepan with a lot of water, at least five inches higher than the turkey pieces. Replenish whatever water boils off. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat on the neck falls off if you touch it with a fork. Strain the stock and reserve to use for gravy. Pull the meat off the neck and save to make turkey soup. Use the giblets in the gravy.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

The next step is easier with a friend. Drizzle olive oil on the outside of the turkey. Using your hands spread the oil over the entire bird, front and back. Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper inside the cavity and on the outside.

To put in the stuffing, either my wife or I holds the turkey upright and steady while the other loosely packs the stuffing inside the large cavity, one handful at a time.

Use 8-12 metal skewers and kitchen string to close the large cavity. Carefully turn the turkey over so you can put stuffing into the top area. Use 6-8 skewers and string to close that cavity.

Use any kind of roasting pan. Whether you use a disposable aluminum foil pan or an expensive stainless steel roasting pan from William Sonoma, the result will be the same. The important thing to remember is the pan must be at least 2" wider than the turkey, otherwise as the bird cooks, its juices will drip onto the bottom of your stove and make a mess. To insure that the turkey browns evenly, you'll need a wire rack.

Place the turkey on the rack, breast down and put into the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

After that, every 30 minutes, baste the turkey with the fat that drips down into the pan. If the skin starts to brown too quickly, put an aluminum tent over the top.

After 3 hours, turn the turkey over. With a large bird this is easier said than done because now the turkey is not only heavy, it's very hot.

Another set of hands is a big help here. My wife and I have choreographed this crucial moment. I lift the roasting pan with the turkey out of the oven, placing it on the cutting board. Michelle stands at the ready with a pot holder in each hand. 

As I lift the rack with the turkey, she removes the pan. I flip the rack with the turkey onto the cutting board, having first put a kitchen towel along the edge to prevent juices from falling to the floor.

We pour all the juices and fat from the pan into a basting bowl, scrapping off the flavor bits on the bottom of the pan to make gravy.

The rack goes back into the pan. The turkey goes onto the rack, breast side up. After a good basting, the turkey goes back in the oven, covered with an aluminum foil tent.

As the turkey continues to cook, if the wing tips and drumstick ends brown too quickly, wrap them in aluminum foil.

Continue basting every 30 minutes. When the turkey is finished, remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Carve the turkey on a cutting board, removing the wings first, then the legs, thighs, and the breasts. Either place the pieces on the platter whole, to be carved at the table, or sliced for easy serving. Open the cavities and spoon out the stuffing.

Mushroom-Giblet Gravy

While the turkey is cooking, start the gravy.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 turkey giblet, cooked, grizzle removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, tarragon, or Italian parsley
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, finely chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups turkey stock made with the turkey heart, giblet and neck
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Place the turkey heart, giblet and neck into a large sauce pan and cover with water. Simmer for 3-4 hours or until the neck meat is falling off the bone. Add water as needed to keep the turkey parts covered. Reserve the giblet for the gravy. Pick the meat off the neck for the gravy as well. Discard the heart.

Sauté the giblet, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add turkey stock and the flavor bits you scraped off the roasting pan, simmer and reduce by 1/3. Taste and adjust the flavors. If too salty, add more stock and a pat of sweet (unsalted) butter.

Reheat before serving.

Turkey Stock

When you're eating Thanksgiving dinner, odds are you aren't thinking about your next meal, but I am. 

Admittedly, it's a bit obsessive, but before I sit down to join the dinner, all the bones and scraps go into a large stock pot filled with water. By the time we're clearing the table, the stock is finished.

Turkey stock is rich and flavorful. Perfect for making soups, stews, and pasta sauce, and like chicken stock, freezes beautifully.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 1 hour
Ingredients

1 turkey carcass, skin, scraps
Water

Method

Put the carcass into a large pot. If any of stuffing makes it into the pot, all the better for flavor and richness. Cover the bones with water. Simmer 1 hour. Strain and refrigerate. Pick the meat off the bones to use in a soup or stew.

The stock keeps in the freezer for six months.

SIDE DISHES

Side dishes need to be flavorful and easy to make.

Everyone has their favorites. Here are ours: Roasted Whole TomatoesArugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, and Avocadoes, Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad, Blackened Peppers with CapersRoasted Brussels Sprouts, and, my new favorite, baked sweet potatoes stuffed with a garlic-mushroom sauté.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sautéed Shallots, Garlic, and Mushrooms

I prefer sweet potatoes that have a bright orange flesh. Find ones that are slender, appropriate as a single serving. For a dinner party, pick ones that are about the same size.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients

4 sweet potatoes, washed, skins on
2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 cup shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves only, washed, finely chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Cayenne (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap each sweet potato in tin foil, place in the oven, turn every 30 minutes. Depending on your oven and the size of the sweet potatoes, they can take anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. When the sweet potatoes are soft to the touch, they are done.

While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, drizzle olive oil in a frying pan, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and sauté the shallots, garlic, parsley, and mushrooms until lightly browned.

Remove and discard the tin foil. Take a sharp paring knife and slice each sweet potato open the long way. Using your fingers, push the sweet potato in from the ends so the cut section opens like a flower. Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter and a light dusting of cayenne (optional). Top with the shallot-mushroom sauté and serve.

DESSERT

We always have a half dozen desserts, ranging from custards to apple pies with crystalized ginger crusts but my absolute favorite is a light and chocolaty banana cake.

Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

For a festive presentation we use a castle mould and dust the top with powdered sugar to give the cake a happy snowy look.
Yield: 8-10 servings
Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

4 ripe bananas
1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup half and half or 1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups white flour
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and paint the inside of a 9 x 3 round cake pan, then put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. (The frozen butter prevents the batter from sticking to the pan.) On a cookie sheet bake the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so; let cool, roughly chop, and set aside.

In a bowl mash the bananas with a fork, add the baking soda and vanilla. stir well and set aside. In a mixer use the whisk to cream together the softened butter and both sugars. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, half and half (or cream) and whisk until blended. Mix in the flour half a cup at a time, being careful not to over-beat. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to blend in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the buttered cake pan; it will only fill the pan half-way.

Bake the cake in a 350 oven for 60-70 minutes, turning the pan every 20 minutes so the cake cooks evenly.  Test to see if the cake is done by inserting a wooden skewer. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top. When the skewer comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven and place on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan, putting it back on the wire rack to finish cooling.

Just before serving, dust the top with powdered sugar and shaved chocolate. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Planning Thanksgiving So You Don't Make Yourself Crazy

If you are hosting the meal, Thanksgiving is the best of times and the worst of times.

For my mother, Thanksgiving was the best holiday of the year and I agree with her whole heartedly.
Thanksgiving gives us time to pause and enjoy our family and friends.

But hosting the meal can seem daunting. So many details to take care of, so much food to get on the table and so much to clean up.

How do restaurants and caterers deal with the stress of putting on big events?

They plan out every detail so there are no surprises.

The Guest List


Start with the guest list. Most importantly you'll need to know how many people are coming. That will tell you how many chairs you'll need and how big the dinning room table has to be.

These days, many people have dietary restrictions, so it is good to know that as well. Along with the invitation, ask if there are ingredients or foods your guests need to avoid.

If you expect a lot of children, decide where you want them to play and organize that space as carefully as the dinning room.

Recipes


Write up the menu.

If friends and family want to contribute to the meal, work out who will bring what. Give people assignments so you don't end up with three platters of green beans and no pumpkin pie.

Organize your recipes and do the math. Most recipes are written for 4 servings. Given the number of your guests, make the appropriate multiplication.

Go through the ingredient lists for all dishes and write up a master ingredients list. For example, if the stuffing recipe calls for 1 cup of mushrooms and the gravy recipe needs 1/2 cup of mushrooms, you know you need a total of 1 1/2 cups of mushrooms for the meal. Put that on your ingredients list.

Once you have a master list, divide up which ingredients you want to buy at farmers markets, specialty stores (like bakeries and cheese shops) and the supermarket.

We rely on farmers markets for fresh produce. In our neighborhood, four days from Thanksgiving, we'll shop at the Sunday Palisades farmers market for produce that can last most of a week: root vegetables like beets from Underwood Farm or yams and sweet potatoes from Yang Farms and G Farms for pluots and oranges.

For us, the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market is a good place to pick up leafy greens, berries and fresh fruit. Any farmers market the day before Thanksgiving is going to be crowded, so get there early before the crowds.

If you want a specialty turkey (organic, kosher, heritage), it would be good to order your bird now from your local butcher or supermarket.


Time Line


Just about as important as settling on the menu is understanding what needs to be done and when.
Put into your time line details like when you will clean the house, wash and dry the tablecloth, check and clean all the dishes, silverware and glasses you want to use and, if you don't have enough, when you will pick up what you need to borrow from a friend.

Do you have enough chairs? If not, when you will pick up extra ones and from where.

Also indicate when you will pick up flowers and the turkey.

If you are ordering a cake from a local baker or a ready-to-serve dinner, put that into your time line, and check when they open and close. You wouldn't want your guests to miss enjoying your turkey because you arrived after the store was closed.

To figure out the time line for your menu, sit down at the dining room table with a pad of paper, a pen and a glass of wine or cup of tea and organize the dishes in terms of preparation and cooking time.

Some dishes can be prepped or made the day before. For instance, we always serve a roasted beet salad that we make on Wednesday. We also wash, dry and wrap in aluminum foil the sweet potatoes and baked potatoes that we will cook Thursday.

If you are buying a ready-to-serve meal, you still have to allow time to reheat the dinner. If you are cooking the entire meal, which we love doing even if it makes the day crazy-hectic, you need to account for every minute of the day.

Our kitchen is the size of a New York closet, which I like because I don't have to move much when I want to go from the sink to the stove, but when there are two or more people in that small space, it can get kind of hectic.

In our small kitchen, we have a Wolf stove. I love the six burners, which helps big time on Thanksgiving but because there is only one oven, we have to strategize when to bake our pies since the turkey will monopolize the oven for most of the day.

Planning out the day in as detailed as possible, helps keep the craziness manageable and fun.

We write up a schedule for the day that looks something like this:

6:00am wash and prep the turkey
6:15am saute onions, Italian sausage, shiitake mushrooms, parsley and garlic for the stuffing
6:30am preheat the oven to 350F degrees
7:00am put the turkey in the oven
7:30am make the cranberry sauce

And so on, going hour by hour, we backtime each dish so we know when it has to be cooked so it will be on the table at 3:00pm when we want to serve dinner.


Clean up

Don't forget to preplan clean up.

Work out who will be doing clean up during the meal. As courses are finished, serving platters and plates need to be cleared.
Since our house is small and the kitchen is open to the dining room, we clean as we go. After each course, we are joined by members of the dinner party who help bus the dishes and silverware into the kitchen. After they help clean up between courses, they reset the table with clean plates.

We have a tradition of taking a walk with our friends and family walk around the block after the entrees, before desserts are served. A selected few remain behind to clean up the dining room and kitchen so when everyone returns, desserts are on the table with fresh plates and silverware.

Having organized clean up as part of the meal, the kitchen is in good shape and we can enjoy dessert. With a little bit of planning, Thanksgiving is a lot more fun.

Ready. Set. Time to Pickle - Kosher and Moroccan-Style Pickles for Thanksgiving and Anytime

Pickles are delicious anytime of the year. For many years I have made my two favorite kinds of pickles for Thanksgiving. Kosher dill pick...