November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment
This past Wednesday night began with roasting a perfectly sweet, tart, and herby cranberry and hazelnut sauce for Thanksgiving. I got the inspiration here, and modified it until the recipe turned into my own.
Coat one pound of fresh cranberries in:
1 cup turbinado sugar
3 tablespoons walnut oil
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh sage
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Roast the cranberries on a rimmed baking sheet in a hot oven (425 degrees) for about 7 minutes until the berries around the edge begin to split. While the cranberries are in the oven heat 1/4 cup red wine with 2 tablespoons of water in a little sauce pan until it boils. When the berries begin to split take the pan out of the oven and mix in the hot wine then return everything to the hot oven for another 10 or 15 minutes. Stir the mixture a couple of times checking to see when the berries turn into a beautiful syrupy sauce. Leave the oven on to toast the hazelnuts. The method for the hazelnuts is essentially the same as the cranberries.
Mix 1 cup of hazelnuts with 1 teaspoon each fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage in a rimmed baking sheet. Then heat 3 tablespoons of red wine and 3 tablespoons of turbinado sugar until the sugar melts and mix with the herbed nuts. Now heat the coated nut for just under 10 minutes in the hot oven. Keep the saucy cranberries and the toasted nuts separate until just before devouring the mixture.
November 29, 2010 § Leave a comment
Wednesday Night, I planned ahead and made the turkey stock required for the indecently rich giblet gravy and earthy mushroom stuffing. I had never made my own stock before, and as it turns out, the whole process is quite simple and requires nothing but heaps of chopped veggies, pounds of turkey innards, plenty of chicken broth, and one steamy kitchen. I used this recipe, and followed closer than usual.
I picked up 5 1/2 pounds of giblets from the Country Butcher in Kennett Square when I bought my very first Thanksgiving turkey and simmered the innards in a large pot with:
3 chopped carrots
4 small chopped celery stalks with the leaves attached
2 medium quartered onions
2 medium chopped leeks including the usually discarded green tops
2 bunches of parsley stems only
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 turkish bay leaves
12 cups low sodium chicken broth
Bring the pot of vegetables and broth to a boil and then simmer the brew for about 2 hours until the giblets are cooked. Remove the turkey parts and save them to add extra flavor to the gravy then strain the stock into a bowl. I let the stock cool so that the fat rises to the top and solidifies and can easily be removed before being added to stuffings, gravies, and roasting pans.
November 24, 2010 § 2 Comments
As I walked through my kitchen door this evening I felt like a shop-a-holic. The weight of my items were almost unbearable, and yet I found myself chuckling at the though of my spending habits. My products were not boots, jewelry, body products, or any sort of typical merchandise. The goods in my hands were mushrooms from the Mushroom Cap in Kennett Square; a fresh turkey with extra giblets and bacon on the side from the Country Butcher in Kennett Square; hazelnuts from Spring Run in Kennett; leeks, onions, sage, shallots, cider, and honey from Barnard’s. Nothing could have made me happier than hauling my shopping bags into the kitchen and unloading my purchases. I can completely understand how people become addicted to the feeling of new things. Luckily for me my valuables tend to edible, so I always need more.
My Thanksgiving menu has blossomed into something I feel quite proud of. Every flavor, from the woodsy mushrooms to the warm hazelnuts to the complexity of herbs, has meandered from one dish to the other. And most dishes will be a compilation of recipes taken from articles in various magazines and basic knowledge. I am a bit hesitant to be trying out new techniques and flavors with my usually quite traditionally palated family. Although when it comes down to it, who could oppose bread pudding baked inside a pumpkin and drizzled with whiskey sauce, or wild mushroom, hazelnut, and olive bread stuffing? And roasting cranberries in red wine has got to outshine canned cranberry sauce, especially when they are mixed with spiced hazelnuts. These are the dishes which I am fairly confident will be delicious; the bird is another story. I hardly cook meat and a 14 pound turkey commands some loving care. From all I have gathered, brining the gobbler will ensure a crackling layer atop a succulent frame, and just to go the extra mile I picked up some extra thick bacon to drape over the bird as he roasts provide some extra flavor and tenderness. I mean, if I am going to eat meat it better be tender, juicy, and rich.
So tonight I brine and give the salt time to suck the juice fromt the body out to the skin. The turkey will sit in a bath of citrusy salt for almost 36 hours and will be roasted Thursday morning.
Tomorrow I will roast the cranberries and toast the hazelnuts for the cranberry sauce as well as prepare the stock for the stuffing, basting, and gravy.
Thursday will be full of roasting, rotating, reducing. The turkey will cook in my oven while I prepare the mushroom stuffing and pumpkin stuffed bread pudding. Then everything will be transfered to my Grandmothers where the gravy will be made from the drippings from the turkey plus lots of extra innards, the stuffing will be baked, and the desert will be cooking while we indulge.
Recipes, regrets, and photos to come. Please help me with any suggestions or comments!
November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment
Everything feels right upon walking into the dimly lit space filled with subtle laughter and the aroma of a southern kitchen. Things get even better after reviewing the full page of bourbons, whiskeys, ryes, blends, and things which I can’t even begin to pretend to be familiar with.
Almost overwhelmed I settled on a glass of wine. Although my previous Cooperage adventures had introduced me to some delicious whiskey cocktails, but for good reason I seem to not remember the exact ingredients. Currently they are featuring a whiskey and cider concoction which struck my eye as well as their own exceptionally gingery take on the classic Jack Daniels and ginger ale which I sipped on, any more than a few sips would have been too sweet for my liking. Once the drink situation was settled I was able to really absorb the atmosphere before the indulgence began. Aligator bites fried to heavenly perfection which met their match when the indecent cornbread showed up that the table. Interestingly, it is never really the flavor of aligator which entices me. Usually it is the velvety texture suitable to be battered and fried or hidden in my favorite crawfish and gator gumbo at Half Moon in Kennett Square which makes the reptilian meat so alluring. Anyway, while we were enjoying the gator a basket of quite possibly the best cornbread I have ever had the pleasure of tasting arrived at our table. I have been fortunate enough to learn the secret to addictively sweet, spicy, salty, melt in you mouth perfection, is a sinful amount of butter and a lingering hint of chili pepper. At this point, I could be perfectly content with a meal of wine, gater, and cornbread. Then we get the beer and cheese fondue, short rib sandwich, pear salad, and sweet potato fries. Heaven help me.
Everything becomes a whirlwind of flavor. The fries find their way to the fondue. My fork finds its way to the short rib which finds its way to the fondue. The goat cheese stuffed pear finds its way to my mouth. Most things find their way to my shirt or chin on the journey from plate to mouth. By the end of the meal all plates had been wiped clean and all palates had been completely satiated. Despite the gluttony which had just ensued I found it impossible to deny myself of a post diner cheese. Actually, to be completely honest, I knew from the moment I sat down at the bar and glanced at the featured cheeses posted to the left of the array of liquor, that I would be consuming a gorgeous wedge of humbolt fog which had been daunting me with its tang of creamy love since our last encounter this summer. Cheese is one of the delicacies which I find are best when eaten alone, letting their personality shine through. This particular hunk is the affectionate type which you always want around because they always make you feel delighted without any guilt. That is exactly how to end a meal, beaming joyfully full of aligator, sweet potato, and goat cheese. And already, I am thinking about how happy I will be after the smokey mountain benedict and complementary bloody mary for brunch.
The Curtis Center
669 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
November 15, 2010 § Leave a comment
After halloween there seems to be an over abundance of pumpkins. My mind immediately thinks “eat as many pumpkins as you can”. Unfortunately not all pumpkins breakdown into the celebrated creamy texture which is baked into pies, scooped into batters, and sliced into casseroles. The pumpkins from my garden fall into the category of not the greatest eating type; their specific name is unknown.
All I know is that for my next pumpkin filling adventure (I have happily survived two in the past 24 hours) will be in a gorgeous cheese pumpkin i have had my eye on from Barnard’s Orchard. The long island cheese pumpkin is squatter, smoother, and a creamier color than the generic orange pumpkin found on doorsteps and porches as decoration and their flesh is less stringy than the flesh of my homegrown guys. Other pumpkin varieties I know are yummy are baby pam, peek a boo, small sugar/ new england, winter luxury, and trickster.
In any case, I have now figured out the basics of pumpkin stuffing and am happily formulating experimental stuffing possibilities. Last night we feasted on curried black rice with leaks, apple, and walnut filled into the pumpkin. The downside with rice in pumpkins is that the rice must be cooked first and then plopped into the pumpkin’s cavity. This defeats the whole novelty of cooking things in the hollowed out pumpkin. I want to use the pumpkin like a dutch oven, filling it with loads of delicious raw ingredients, giving it a stir and letting everything slowly cook together.
That is exactly what I did this morning. Essentially what I made was baked oatmeal; an Amish classic which combines oats, eggs, milk, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and apples and bakes to perfection. Of coarse I had to fool with the basic recipe and I fooled around so much that I created something completely different, but completely the same. Impossible? Find out.
Oatmeal Stuffed Pumpkin
1 5 pound pumpkin
2 cups whole oats
1 1/2 cups almond milk (or cow’s milk)
1/2 cup apple cider (or juice of your choice)
1 chopped apple
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt
Turn the oven to 375 degrees. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all of the seeds and gook. Save the seeds to roast. Now fill the hollow pumpkin with your dry ingredients and give everything a stir. Then add the honey, milk, and cider. Stir everything around again. Put the top on the pumpkin and place the pumpkin in a dutch oven or on a baking sheet. Leave in the hot oven for about an hour, this time will vary depending on the thickness of the flesh. I took the lid off for the second half of cooking. It is ready to be eaten when the skin and flesh feel like butter upon being pierced. In the last five minutes throw a handful of walnuts into the oven on a baking sheet to toast then sprinkle them on top of the goodness you just created.
November 15, 2010 § 1 Comment
Usually, the freshest things on my plate are fruits and vegetables from Barnard’s or Highland Orchards, the farmers market, various CSAs, and occasionally my garden. In fact, I have gotten so accustomed to the plethora of obscenely crisp produce in my diet that my unconsciously have transformed in a pseudo vegan. This may upset some hardcore vegans as there is no real way to be half vegan. But if there is, I have discovered the animal-less jackpot and I feel glorious. There is defiantly something to be said about veganism, and I am overall glad that food awareness has become/is becoming as mainstream as it is.
Although the fundamental reasons that I love eating like a vegan; the real and whole foods, the exposure to different foods, the pureness of the foods are the same reasons why it seems impractical. When I discovered how great I felt with a significant decrease amount of cheesy, buttery, milky, bacony, food in my belly I began to think about converting completely to the green side. Fortunately, a few things stopped me.
One being my love of croissants and all baked goods for that matter (preferably a la mode and ice cream is absolutely a vegan no-no). I am just not really that okay with using butter substitutes. Not that I have not fallen in love with many different kinds of oils in the past year but there is just no way to replace the sweet salty velvety heaven of fresh cream and butter. I find that these dairy fats are essential in baking. And I love to bake. So sorry veganism I choose butter. No oleo-margarine, it simply contradicts my whole eating philosophy of simple and fresh and delicious.
Which brings me to the freshest dairy a food lover could hope for. Every day I drive by the hills speckled with the happiest cows grazing on grass, not hormones in feedlots. Seeing the cows just makes me want toast with butter melted all over it.
The dairy just opened up to the public in the spring of 2010 after selling their milk to Land-O-Lakes for years. And while I am in favor of drinking raw milk as I believe that the pasteurization process eliminates the enzymes in the milk which make is human digestion friendly, I have talked to the Bailys about their pasteurized milk. They flash pasteurize which makes it safe to sell as pasteurized but is not heated to levels which kill off all of the good enzymes like mass produced dairy.
Now I stop into the market once a week to pick up my supply of cream line milk and pearly cream for baking and ice cream for eating (as we drive by the farm to school the 4 year old I nanny for always asks which cow made the ice cream and it makes me so happy that this question is even possible). At this point they are still working on selling their own butter. And I am waiting patiently, err, impatiently.
This dairy may be the reason for my inability to commit as a vegan and I could not be happier to be drinking and baking with the milky creamy products of the happiest cows I know.
8121 Lenape Unionville Road
West Chester, Pa19382
Open daily 10 am- 6pm