Sunday, December 8, 2019

Dressing for Turkey or Chicken

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 This past Thanksgiving, the dressing was particularly good, if I do say so myself. The guests remarked favorably as well, my daughter-in-law eagerly asking after the recipe. I had to think about that. I told her that, basically, it was very simple. I took one package of Bob Evans spicy pork sausage minus a slice from which I made a sausage biscuit that morning. Then, I diced up the ribs of celery that I had left that weren’t limp, a very large, almost mutant, shallot, more parsley than I thought I would need, a half a bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing that I found in the freezer, and then for good measure, two small pieces of bread slightly toasted. “That,” my son said, “is a blog post.” It certainly is. I managed to jot it down in a workable form so that I could share it, but trust me when I tell you, this recipe is very flexible.
Dressing for Turkey or Chicken

1 16-oz. pkg. Bob Evan’s Hot Pork Sausage*, with a ½” slice removed for making yourself a sausage biscuit
Melissa’s shallots, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ t. salt
¼ t.
poultry seasoning
¾ -1 14-oz. pkg. Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing**
6 T. melted butter
1 cup chicken or turkey stock

Cook sausage until done (breaking it up into tiny bits all the while), but not brown; drain. Place sausage into a large bowl. Add shallots, celery, parsley, salt, seasoning, and stuffing mix; toss to coat. Stir in melted butter and stock. Stuff turkey or chicken and bake as directed. This can also be baked, covered with foil, in a casserole dish at 375°F for 25-30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of baking, remove foil to allow the top to crisp up and brown. Drizzle with a bit of
Turkey Gravy, and serve.

* Use original if you don’t like spicy.
** Not the cubed variety.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

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Year after year I tell myself that I am going to make Thanksgiving simpler, but I have yet to actually do that. This year, I did help myself out a bit by relieving myself of what is probably the most stressful item in my entire Thanksgiving repertoire...the gravy. When that turkey comes out of the oven, and I have to cook down those juices, and stir in seasonings, and make a roux, I totally freak out. Then I end up with gravy that’s clumpy, needs straining, and slowly cools off, all while I look a strainer. You get the picture.

This year, I decided to search for a make-ahead recipe, and this one, with my changes, is a winner. Making it in advance means it can be done so in a relaxed state, tasted, seasoned to perfection, and then frozen until it’s removed from the freezer the night before. On the day of serving, all it takes is a simmer on top of the stove, and it’s ready.

If you are serving turkey for Christmas this year, do give this recipe a try, once you have, you will never make turkey gravy any other way.
Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

6 turkey wings
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
¾ c. flour
2 quarts chicken broth, divided
¾ c. chopped carrots
½ c. chopped celery
½ t. dried thyme
Pinch of rubbed sage
Pinch of poultry seasoning
Salt, to taste
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
½ c. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400° F. Arrange a single layer of turkey wings in a large roasting pan. Scatter onions over the top of the wings. Roast for 1¼ hours or until wings are browned.

Place browned wings and onions into a
5-quart stockpot. Place roasting pan over medium heat, and sprinkle flour over all. Whisk continually until a roux forms. Add 1-2 cups broth to roasting pan and continue to whisk, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour this mixture into the stockpot. Stir in remaining broth, carrots, celery, and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for 1½ hours.

Remove wings from the pot to a cutting board; set aside to cool. When the wings are cool, pull off the skin and meat. Discard the skin and save the meat for another use. Strain contents of stockpot through a large strainer into a
3-quart saucepan. Press on the vegetables to extract any remaining liquid; discard vegetables. Bring the contents of the pot to a gentle boil.

Stir in the cream, and season to taste, if necessary. Serve immediately or pour into containers and refrigerate or freeze.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Roast Chicken with Jalapeños, Lemon, and Garlic

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 Despite the fact that I only recently consumed copious amount of turkey, I was still craving fowl, thinking, no doubt, of the luscious and unique roasted chicken from Michael Ruhlman’s new book, FROM SCRATCH (the must-have for your cookbook library). Talk about magnificent! 
Generally, I am not a particular fan of roasted chicken. It always seems rather dry and mundane, but it is simple and, as such, I made this meal the first Sunday that number two son and his wife came for their extended visit while awaiting completion of their new home. I couldn’t imagine that a roasted chicken would be juicy, so I made sure to make gravy as well (we didn’t need it).
I wish you could have been here to experience not just the heavenly aroma of the roasting chicken, but its tasty, juicy, butter-like tenderness. The three of us were amazed at how scrumptious it was, all of us going back for seconds. I am now sold on roasted chicken, the Michael Ruhlman way; I have made it three times in the last three months. He has a number of different recipes for roasting chicken in his book, but this one is my favorite because the jalapeños give it a lot of zing (but not too much if you don’t like spicy). I have altered the recipe a little bit in order to yield more juices, I also roasted a bigger chicken (and hence had to bake it longer than the recipe states), because I love those leftovers! 

Roast Chicken with Jalapeños, Lemon, and Garlic
Adapted from FROM SCRATCH by Michael Ruhlman

Kosher salt to taste

1 3-4 pound chicken
2 jalapeño peppers, cut into 1/4-inch rounds, seeds and all*
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges, seeds removed
10 - 15 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup chicken stock
1 to 2 tablespoons beurre manié (recipe below)

Preheat your oven to 450°F.

Salt the chicken aggressively and put it, breast-side up, in an oven-safe skillet. Scatter the jalapeño slices, lemon wedges, and garlic cloves around the chicken. Carefully pour in chicken stock. Place pan into preheated oven and roast for one hour, basting the chicken several times during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Remove the bird from the pan and let it rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes before carving. Place the skillet over a burner set to medium-low and simmer the sauce to thicken. If you wish, add the beurre manié while simmering the sauce, or simply spoon the sauce, garlic, lemon (one wedge per plate), and peppers over the cut-up chicken to serve.

*I used Melissa's Pickled Jalapeños. I always keep a jar of them on hand for anytime I need jalapeños.

To make Beurre Manié:

Beurre Manié is a great sauce thickener. It is nothing more than equal parts softened butter and flour, blended together to combine.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Shrimp Roll

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I recently had the opportunity to view Abrams Publishing’s new book, The Saltwater Table, Recipes from the Coastal South, by Whitney Otawka. There are so many delicious looking recipes that I hardly knew where to begin. But begin I did, with this luscious Shrimp Roll. I am a big fan of lobster rolls, but rarely make them due to the high price of lobster. Why it never occurred to me to substitute shrimp for the lobster meat, I have no idea, but shrimp makes an excellent, easy-to-acquire, more economical substitute.

What I liked about this recipe was that the celery, fennel, and shallot, were sautéed ahead of time to bring out the flavor. This is an excellent combination of ingredients (I did have a bit of a heavy hand with the hot sauce because I like my food spicy), and, if you are the seafood lover that I am, is one you will certainly enjoy.
Shrimp Roll

1 Bay leaf
½ lemon, sliced
2 tablespoons + ¼ teaspoon salt

1 pound shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoons small-dice celery
2 tablespoons small-dice fennel
1 tablespoon small-dice
Melissa’s shallot
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¾ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
6 soft rolls or hot dog buns
6 large lettuce leaves, such as butter head or bib

In a medium pot, bring 2 quarts of water, the Bay leaf, lemon slices, and 2 tablespoons of the salt to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook until bright pink and cooked through, about two minutes. Remove the shrimp and place in an ice water bath to stop them from cooking further. Drain the shrimp and dice into small, bite-size pieces. Set aside.

In a small sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the celery, fennel, and shallot, and cook until softened, about two minutes. Transfer to a bowl and chill until cold.

In a bowl, combine the shrimp, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, the chilled celery-fennel mixture, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, celery seed, chives, and parsley. Mix until combined.

Stuff each roll with a leaf of lettuce and 1/2 cup of the shrimp salad.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Mulled Wine with Cranberry Juice

Relaxing in front of the fire takes on a whole new meaning when paired with this delicious combination of mulled wine and cranberry juice. Nothing says “seasonal” like mulling spices, and this is a real winner. I have found, from my own personal research, that it is welcomed at brunch, lunch, dinner, or late at night. I don’t think any beverage is quite as versatile as this one. Treat yourself and your friends, and make up a big batch…or two. It’s the perfect winter warmer while waiting for Santa.
Mulled Wine with Cranberry Juice
Adapted from Sweet Paul

1 bottle dry red wine
2 cups cranberry juice
1 2-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s Mulling Spices
¼ cup brown sugar
1 orange, sliced
3½ tablespoons kirsch (cherry liqueur)

Place all ingredients into a large pot, and let it sit for 1 hour. Slowly heat the mixture. (Do not allow the wine to boil; excessive heat will kill the alcohol.)  Once warm, strain to remove spices, and serve.

Garnish with cranberries floating on top, a cinnamon stick, and a clove-studded orange slice.

Serves 4

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

"Centering" on Thanksgiving

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There is no better example of “rolling with the punches” than this centerpiece.
I host Thanksgiving every year, and look forward to decorating when the weather turns cool. This year, however, when the weather turned cool, my son, his wife, and their two cats descended upon me and my quiet abode for a six-week stay during the completion of their new home; it was challenging for all of us. 
I wanted to set glorious tables for us every night, but they and their stuff managed to present quite the obstacle between me and my stuff.
It wasn’t a question of not being able to get to my seasonal storage; I couldn’t even see it. So, I grabbed what I could, interspersed it among things that I had, strung some lighted fall leaves, and we all found it quite appealing.
The gourds (something I absolutely love year after year) and mini Indian corn are courtesy of Melissa’s Produce. After all, does anything say fall more than colorful gourds and Indian corn?
Seasonal fall décor like gourds and corn come in handy for adding texture, height, and color. The string of lighted maple leaves, bought on a whim, was tucked here and there.
Considering this was a “make do,” we all quite enjoyed it. Flipping the switch on those lights came to be a bit of a ritual, signaling dinner.
 So, no excuses, any of you. Even if you have nothing by way of holiday decor, a few seasonal elements -- gourds and a simple string of lights -- can make a festive addition to your existing table or centerpiece.

Get the look:

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Oaxaca's Guacamole

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 I love guacamole, I have a book of nothing but guacamole recipes (this one), and I could eat it morning, noon, and night. That’s not a bad thing, considering all of the nutrition packed into the superfood known as avocado. Despite my having a variety of recipes, I had never used oregano in mine. To me, oregano seemed like an Italian herb. Indeed, it can be used in a lot of Italian food, but the jar of Mexican oregano that I have in the pantry doesn’t say “Mexican” for nothing (Slap to the head). 
This recipe is from Abrams’ wonderful new book by Bricia Lopez called OAXACA, Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico. If the author’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she is one of the family members behind LA’s legendary Guelaguetza Restaurante, specializing in Oaxacan food. 
 If you love Mexican food like I do, this book is a must for your cookbook library. If you similarly love guacamole, you absolutely have to try this one. It is so easy to put together, that you can do it in a flash, and kick up your morning avocado toast with a little heat and spice. Kids seem to love it as well, and will appreciate a bit of wandering from normal breakfast fare.


6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 Serrano chili, stem removed
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
3 avocados, pitted and peeled

In a blender, combined the lime juice, salt, cilantro, chili, and oregano, and blend until smooth

In a large mixing bowl, mash the avocados. Poured the lime juice mixture over the top and mix until everything is well combined.

Makes 2 cups

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Abram Publishers as a part of my participation in "AbramsDinnerParty."

Monday, November 18, 2019

Giving Thanks Tablescape

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This was my Thanksgiving table from last year. I had wanted to post it back then, but I was so frantically busy trying to get ready to serve 12 for dinner that I really didn’t get a chance. Fortunately, I photographed it. This year, I am posting it, in memory of my dad, and I and I calling it my “Giving Thanks” tablescape. Little did I realize we all sat down to dinner last year that would be the last Thanksgiving we would spend with my dad. So, I’m going to ask all of you to sit down at your dinner table this year, and look at each person at the table individually, and be thankful that you’re able to enjoy dinner with them.
This is a table setting that I tend to vary only slightly from year to year. I have had the Johnson Brothers “His Majesty” dishes for nearly 35 years. It’s hard to think of a Thanksgiving without them. The tablecloth is from Williams-Sonoma, and seems to complement various holiday tables quite well. 

The flatware is from Cabela’s. Cabela’s may not be the first place you think of when you think of flatware and dinnerware, but you might be surprised at the interesting offerings they have.
This pitcher, by Fitz and Floyd, is one of my favorites. My mother had the female companion piece that will be gracing my table this year.
This vintage squirrel was a new addition to the table, and quite fragrant, filled with fresh sage from my garden. 

I wish you all a joyous and memorable Thanksgiving. Be thankful. Be grateful. Seriously.

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Tablescape Thursday

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Anne Byrn’s Skillet Love, Reviewed

There is a new cookbook from Grand Central Publishing that needs to be on your Christmas giving or receiving list this year. It is Anne Byrn’s Skillet Love, From Steak to Cake: More Than 150 Recipes in One Cast-Iron Pan. If you have been confounded by cast iron in the past, if you have your grandmother’s cast iron pan tucked away in a closet somewhere, get that pan out, and get this book. You will become an expert chef in the blink of an eye by reading Byrn’s 10 Principles of Cast Iron Cooking, and experimenting with all of these mouthwatering recipes. Why cast iron, you may ask? Let me answer with her words:

“...[a] cast iron skillet allows you to cook boldly. Big flavors are achieved by a number of techniques and tricks, but the most important is high heat. The next time you go out and look into the open kitchen at your favorite restaurant, you will likely see fire and flame. You will hear sizzling, and you will smell char. In the world of food science, that means flavor.”

This beautiful book features recipes for every time of the day, from breakfast and brunch, to lunch, small plates for snacks, dinner, side dishes, even desserts. As someone not particularly familiar with cast-iron cooking, I have to say that my eyes were really opened with this one. 

I had no idea that so many things could be made in one pan. I think I was most surprised, first by the breakfast dishes, and then by the sides. My experience with cast-iron has generally been cooking steaks and scallops; I love the wonderful sear, as well as the butter-like tenderness. But to make an entire meal to serve right in the skillet, with no additional pots and pans involved, to use it for side dishes, or just serve a beautiful pan of caramel rolls is something completely out of my realm. Experimentation has already begun, and, thus far, I have been very pleased.
Whether you are a seasoned cook, or just starting out, this book has equal value for both. Recipes are clearly written, ingredients are those you are likely to have on hand, the techniques are clearly explained, and you will end up creating a meal that makes you proud to serve, and that your friends and family will doubtless enjoy.
I think the biggest surprises in this book were the Bacon Jam and Bourbon Peach Preserves. I’ll be trying both of them; my mouth waters as I write. Prior to reading this book I wouldn’t have considered a cast-iron skillet for such a thing, but the evenness of heat, steadiness of temperature, not to mention being able to get a good char on the peaches, as well as the bacon, makes a lot of sense. Trust me when I tell you, that next peach season I will be exploring the latter and give a full report. Meanwhile, Bacon Jam is on my list for today. I can only imagine how good that’s going to taste on top of a cheeseburger.
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Cinnamon Ice Cream

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 The late Mr. O-P did not like cinnamon. Can you imagine? I, on the other hand, love cinnamon, but, as spouses and partners often do, they give things up, or least put them on the back burner, in favor of something mutually agreeable. The other day while shopping I spotted a Dutch apple pie at a favorite local Italian market that somehow ended up in my cart. On the drive home I couldn’t help but think how wonderful a slice of that pie would be topped with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream.
Having never made cinnamon ice cream before, but also having an ice cream maker perpetually at the ready, I decided to give it a try. It is both easy, and delicious, although in my case not without incident. I may have mentioned that while number two son (and his wife and two cats) await the completion of their new home, they are living with me. While I was making the ice cream, the younger, more curious of their two cats, decided to knock down a picture. It startled me, I turned, mid-whisk, splashing some of the custard on the floor, stepped in it with my barefoot, slid, splashed my face and glasses with the custard that remained on the whisk, while not even breaking stride in the stirring process. Fortunately, no harm, no foul, both picture and I remain intact, and that calls for a scoop!
Cinnamon Ice Cream

2 large eggs
1 c. granulated sugar
¾ c. whole milk
1¾ c. heavy whipping cream, divided
2½ t.
ground cinnamon 
1 t. vanilla

Crack eggs into a medium/small bowl; set aside. Whisk together sugar, milk, and 3/4 cup of the heavy cream in a medium saucepan, and place over medium-low heat. When the mixture begins to simmer, remove from heat, temper eggs,* and s-l-o-w-l-y add the whisk-warmed beaten eggs in a stream, whisking quickly so that the eggs do not curdle; stir in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and whisk in vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside to cool for 35-40 minutes. Refrigerate 6-8 hours, or overnight.

Pour chilled mixture into an ice cream maker (I use
this one), and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

* The trickiest part about making ice cream is preventing the eggs from curdling. To do this you need to temper the eggs, which means to warm them up a bit so that the cold egg mixture is not shocked when it hits the warm custard mixture. I have found the best way to do this is to beat the eggs with the warm whisk from the custard mixture. Pull the whisk out of the custard, quickly beat the eggs in a separate bowl, put the whisk back into the custard, give it a couple of stirs, remove it and beat the eggs again. Repeat this back-and-forth process 3 to 4 times. At this point, the eggs have warmed up significantly enough to be added in a slow stream to the custard.