Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Confessions: Part II

1. I never did master that tofu cheesecake, which went missing from Thanksgiving. (Obviously.)

2. I had to take my sourdough dressing out of the oven, transfer it to a bowl, add a missing ingredient and return it to the oven. Twice. The first time I forgot the roasted mushrooms; the second time, eggs.

3. We didn't have meatloaf as planned because Laird ate it before Thanksgiving.

4. Bobby Flay's Pumpkin Bread Pudding is to die. My Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise curdled and I messed up the Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce, but it was still dessert perfection. If nothing else, make the pumpkin bread. I've been trying to perfect the recipe for years, and Bobby Flay nailed it. (Thank you, Bobby. I can get some sleep now.)

5. I've lost count of the knife cuts on my hands, and the gash on my right thumb is cramping my iPhone skills.

Thanksgiving Dishes

Have I mentioned Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday? We cooked and ate our little hearts out at our beach-themed table. Below are highlights; I'll post recipes and details in a few.*

*Hopefully before Christmas.

We noshed on goat cheese and triple cream Brie with fig jam, pecans and walnuts.

I made crackers with extra pie dough, a trick I learned from my mom. After cutting the scraps into cracker shapes, I brushed them with egg wash, pricked them with a fork and sprinkled them with coarse sea salt.

Later we feasted on roast chicken (Laird doesn't have a taste for turkey, which generally isn't available in South Africa), roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon cider vinaigrette, mashed potatoes, gravy, sourdough dressing, cranberry sauce, Georgene's Fluffy Rolls, and spinach salad with goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, walnuts and shallot-walnut vinaigrette.

We made a toast to our friends and family here and abroad, for whom we are so thankful.

I made three desserts: Flour Bakery's Super Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie, Mile High Apple Pie and Bobby Flay's Pumpkin Bread Pudding. (Because I'm cutting back on sugar, remember?) Laird's Applejack brandy featured prominently in all three, which I love because a) my grandfather always served "Apple Jack Surprise" cocktails at holidays and celebrations; and b) Laird. (Don't ask me what an Apple Jack Surprise is. I have no idea.)

Speaking of Laird & Company:

Gemma looks a bit concerned about what The Headless Hound might be whispering in his ear, don't you think?

How was your Thanksgiving? Any kitchen disasters? I made a mess of my sourdough dressing. More about that later.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Wishes

Here's hoping your Thanksgiving was filled with love, laughter and good food.

Clockwise from left: Great Aunt Flora, Great Uncle Ben, Great Aunt Lillian,
Papa, Mama, Mom, Great Granddad and Great Granny.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Confessions: Part I

1. I refused to try pumpkin pie until I was in my twenties. It's now a favorite.

2. I'm not a fan of gravy.

3. Sourdough dressing is my favorite Thanksgiving dish, followed by mashed potatoes (sans gravy, of course). I could forgo everything else, even turkey and dessert.

4. Sweet potato and green bean casseroles weren't served at our family's Thanksgivings, but my grandmother (Mama) always made creamed pearl onions.

5. When I was 14 my mom and I tackled Thanksgiving without Mama's expert guidance, as she had recently passed. Everything was going swimmingly until we opened the oven to baste the turkey halfway through cooking. We had forgotten to turn on the oven.

What are your Thanksgiving confessions?

Georgene's Fluffy Rolls

Most Thanksgivings I make a batch of Georgene's Fluffy Rolls from one of my favorite cookbooks, Saveur Cooks Authentic American. (You can find the recipe online here.)

Essentially Parker House rolls, they're buttery and sweet; the sort of bread I don't eat but once or twice a year. Which is a good thing because I can't get enough of their pillowy goodness slathered in salty butter. And as I write this, it occurs to me that you could knead in dried fruit, orange zest and nutmeg for a Panettone-like holiday treat. Mmmmmm.

The rolls are quite easy to make by hand, but start them early as they require about 7 hours start to finish. If you're making them for lunch or afternoon supper, start them the night before -- make them up to the second rise, store them in the refrigerator overnight, and  finish them in the morning. My notes are in italics below.

Georgene's Fluffy Rolls
Adapted from Saveur Cooks Authentic American
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

1 1/4 cups milk (I recommend whole milk but have used 1% to good result.)
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (I used butter this time.)
3/4 cup sugar (Honestly, this is a lot of sugar. I prefer to make them with 1/2 cup.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 7-gram packet active dry yeast (Or 2 1/4 teaspoons if using yeast from a jar.)
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups flour (Measured with the scoop and sweep method.)
3/4 cup butter, melted (I use only 1/4 cup because I brush the rolls with butter instead of dunking them in it.)

1. Combine milk, shortening, sugar and salt in a saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; set aside to cool. (Make sure you let it cool to warm; adding hot liquid to yeast can kill it.)

2. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water in a large bowl; set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. (This is called "proofing," and I dissolve 1/2 teaspoon sugar in the warm water to feed the yeast. You'll know within 5 minutes if your yeast is alive or not. When I made my latest batch, my newly-purchased packet of yeast was dead in the water. I started over with a different brand of jarred yeast from my refrigerator and was back in business in no time.)

3. Pour milk mixture into yeast. Stir in eggs and gradually add flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until dough gets stiff, then use your hands (dough will be sticky, so grease your hands with a little butter). Brush a small amount of butter on the inside of a large bowl and on one side of a sheet of waxed paper. Place dough in bowl, cover with buttered wax paper, and lay a damp dishcloth on top. Set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, at least 3 hours. (This dough looks like kinda grits: sticky and lumpy. But you won't need the buttered wax paper unless you're not using a large bowl, in which case the wax paper keeps the dough from sticking to the dish cloth.)

4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until elastic, then roll out to 1/2 " thickness. Cut dough with a 3" biscuit cutter, dip each round into melted butter, and fold in half. Line up, round edges up, sides touching, on a cookie sheet. Cover as in step 3, and set aside to rise, at least 2 1/2 hours. (At this point you can wrap the baking dish tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, remove them from the refrigerator, remove plastic wrap, cover with a dish towel and allow them to rise for about 3 hours.)

5. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm. (Rolls will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days or in the freezer for up to a month. Warm in a 350 degree oven before serving.)

Ma! The Meatloaf!

Nobody requests meatloaf quite as convincingly as my husband. I do believe his exact words were, "Ma! The meatloaf!"

So meatloaf he shall have. If you'd like to have meatloaf, too, here's how it's done.

Makes two loaves (recipe can be halved)

4 slices white bread
1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup milk
3 lbs lean ground beef
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup ketchup, plus more for tops of loaves
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper*

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread slices in food processor to form medium crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. Pulse the onion, celery, carrot and garlic in the food processor until chopped medium-fine. (Be careful not to over process, or the mixture will become watery.)

2. Add milk to the bread crumbs and stir until moistened. In a large bowl, gently combine the ground beef, eggs, bread crumb mixture, vegetable mixture, ketchup, paprika and salt and pepper. Be careful not to over work the mixture, or it will toughen.

3. Spoon into two ungreased 9-inch loaf pans. Smooth the tops and coat lightly with ketchup. Bake until a meat thermometer inserted in center reads 160 degrees, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

*I don't measure salt unless I'm baking. For this recipe I probably used two teaspoons sea salt and one teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

Serve with mashed potatoes, a sprinkle of parsley and a few too many proclamations of "Ma! The meatloaf!"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Baron: He Had Me At Woof

I'm thrilled and honored that my story about Baron -- the first dog I adopted among the many Weimaraners I've rescued, fostered and adopted over the years -- is featured today on Julie Klam's blog. You can read the story here.

If you haven't yet picked up a copy of Julie's New York Times bestseller, You Had Me At Woof, please do. It's hilarious and sweet and demonstrates how we don't rescue dogs so much as they rescue us.

Oh Baron, I miss you so.