Monday, November 30, 2009

Hits and Misses of Thanksgiving

"When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else; who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be."
Molly Wizenberg from A Homemade Life

I had a wonderful time planning and preparing for my Thanksgiving meal for twenty this year. I like to try a few new things every year and stick to the classics that always work. I decided to venture out in the appetizer department. We tend to nosh all day until meal time around 5pm. I put together a beautiful pickled vegetable platter (insalata di rinforzo) surrounding a steamed head of cauliflower drizzled with a red wine vinegarette. Well it looked nice and I loved it but not a lot of people ate it. I may just have to accept the fact that my family is not Italian. I won't let it deter my lemoncello making endeavor!

Then I tried a recipe from David Lebovitz's fabulous book The Sweet Life in Paris. He called it chicken and apple spread but it's chicken liver pate. My kids were scarred by the smell of it cooking but a lot of others tried it. I think it was a great recipe if you like chicken liver pate, unfortunately a lot of people at my house on Thanksgiving did not. It is definitely a grown up taste and I would make it again for a cocktail party.
My brother always brings the oysters and they roast them over our fire pit.

As to  the main meal:  I got a 22 lb. fresh turkey and decided to try brining for the first time. My dad and I mixed up our brew in a cooler. We put water, salt, brown sugar, buttermilk, peppercorns, garlic and sage. We let the brine sit overnight and then soaked the turkey in it for 24 hours. I rinsed it well before cooking, but it browned so quickly! I had to cover it with foil after only 2 hours. I think the meat had a lot of flavor but we were joking that the dark meat was so dark it looked black.

For the sides we had mashed potatoes, stuffing, spinach gratin( I was told it wouldn't be Thanksgiving if I didn't make this as usual) and cranberry relish. My mom always orders an Edwards ham sliced thin. My brother Jack  does the creamed onions and gravy. He used the cooked bits in the bottom of the pan for the gravy and it was so flavorful. My dad made a wonderful pot of kale and collard greens too. I roasted a mix of butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and brussel sprouts with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

And a new addition this year was rotkohl or german red cabbage. I think it went really well with the meal.

A week before I made and froze these pull apart rolls and sweet potato biscuits.

And on the dessert front. Another miss was David Lebovitch's dulce de leche brownies. I had such high hopes for these but they were so dense. I don't know what went wrong.

 Otherwise I made pumpkin pie, bourbon pecan tart, and a walnut pumpkin cheesecake.
 I feel full just thinking about it all. It was a great gathering with those I love!

Monday, November 23, 2009


So much food activity around here lately I haven't even found time to blog about it. We've celebrated a couple of birthdays, one with a fondue dinner. Always fun and delicious, we usually do cheese first with bread and vegetables to dip and then hot oil with chicken and beef to cook. I make a bunch of sauces to dip the meat in, but the curry is usually everyone's favorite. I'll remember to photograph next time!
 Also had a Japanese meal which we started with a  saketini  made from a combination of different recipes (which is how I tend to cook too). I started with vodka, added a splash of a very mild sake and then some juice from the Lychee's which I garnished them with, á la olives.

When we lived in Los Angeles I used to go downtown where there was an entire Japanese department store and huge grocery store. I acquired a lot of my Japanese dishes and sake cups there. It was much easier to get all of my ingredients in one place too.

We had edamame, miso soup, cucumber salad, chicken yakitori, and a variety of sushi. Seafood @ West Main had some really nice sashimi quality tuna and salmon. Some folks drank Sapporo beer and others had cold or hot sake.

For dessert I made my first icecream bombe and served it with ginger cookies. It was mango sorbet, raspberry sorbet and strawberry icecream with a raspberry sauce on top. It got me thinking about all of the different icecream and/or sorbet combinations you could do...

The last sliver!

Monday, November 9, 2009


Years ago when we lived in Los Angeles my girlfriends and I would get together for tea at one of the nice hotels. It was a bargain to be able to sit for hours at the beautiful Hotel Bel Air.  For $22 we would get a glass of champagne, little sandwiches, scones, cookies and all the tea we could drink. Sometimes they would have to ask us to finish up because the dinner patrons were arriving!
That's what inspired me to start making scones at home. I used to make créme fraiche to go with them for special get togethers.
I still love them and make a batch almost weekly, more so in the fall/winter. Late in the afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea, they are a perfect treat. A great after school snack or for breakfast with scrambled eggs.
Our favorite kinds are cheddar dill, buttermilk currant and chocolate chip orange scones. My children absolutely love the chocolate chip orange scones and I've been asked for this recipe more times than I can remember so I'm going to share it here. Once Upon a Tart,  Barefoot Contessa and Joy of Cooking all have some great scone recipes too.

Chocolate Chip Orange Scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
 6 T.  cold unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
1 egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
grated zest of one orange
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender. Stir in chocolate chips. Whisk together cream, egg and orange zest then add to flour mixture. Stir with rubber spatula just until it comes together. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and pat the dough into an 8 inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges, place on baking sheet and brush with cream. Bake at 425º for 12- 15 min.