Fifty years plus worth of Thanksgivings and Christmases...that I can remember.

Fifty years plus worth of Thanksgivings and Christmases…that I can remember.

The cooking has begun.

Reposing in my refrigerator as we speak are three, count them, three dishes of cranberry salad.  One will go to church with me tomorrow for the Thanksgiving potluck. One is stashed for next week’s dinner. And what wouldn’t fit in either one is in the fridge for me and Child A to eat between now and then, because she and I? Will eat that stuff like it’s ice cream.

Also made a sweet potato casserole; not the family T’giving one, but the church T’giving one, because I didn’t have as many sweet potatoes as I thought I did. No matter. That’s relatively simple to make, and I’ll get to it next Wednesday or so.

As my annual holiday gift to you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em, in case you didn’t record it last year, here’s my cranberry salad recipe. Gen-you-wine Atchison family heirloom, it is, and well over half a century old.

  • 1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 red apple (I like to use Fuji)
  • 1 green apple (I like Granny Smith)
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 orange
  • 1 small box cranberry or raspberry jello
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water

Chop cranberries in food processor. Core, but don’t peel, apples, and chop those. Zest orange, then peel and puree orange flesh. Combine all the fruit and nuts in a bowl. Make a simple syrup of water and sugar; when sugar is completely dissolved and water is nearly boiling, remove from heat and whisk in jello. Pour syrup over fruit and stir to mix well.

This doesn’t make a congealed salad, but rather, forms a sort of syrupy “dressing”  for the fruit.

Make this. It’s more important to my holiday table than anything else.

I have in my head a general schedule for cooking this week, which should involve me not half losing my mind on Friday. Having a late dinner will help.

Monday, himself the turkey will be delivered around 3 p.m. He’s 23 pounds. He will reside in the fridge overnight, and go into a two-day brine on Tuesday afternoon/evening. Also Monday, if I can get in touch with my knife-sharpening fellow, I’ll take my knives to have them sharpened. They’re due. And I’ll make cornbread for dressing; having forgotten to order dressing, I’m imploring a good friend for her recipe for crock-pot dressing that she says everyone swears by.

Tuesday, I’ll bake my coconut cake and get it in the fridge to start the “getting-right” process.  Will also most likely make the cheesecake. I think it’s going to be a peanut butter cheesecake with a chocolate topping. Because that sounds good. Because Child B is gluten-intolerant, the crust will be made from granola.

Wednesday, I’ll probably make the sweet potato casserole, to the point of getting it ready to go in the oven. Will stuff and wrap some dates for baking Thursday.

Thursday, since Child A and I won’t be doing a big T’giving dinner, I think I’ll make us a big T’giving brunch. With waffles. Because we love some waffles. I’ll get the bird out of the brine and let him dry overnight in the fridge. May mix up the dressing. Will thaw and slice the gravlax, make a relish tray (I have some pickle-eating children!).

Friday morning, I’ll get the bird on to roast moderately early.  I’ll put the dressing in the IP to cook. Will have brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes to make midafternoon, and rolls to make, though I could make them Thursday and par-bake them.

If all goes as planned, I should be relatively non-exhausted when we sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner. There’ll be eight, possibly 10, adults and three munchkins, who’ll be dining on beach towels in the floor because that’s how they roll. My table has two leaves and I have plenty of chairs (though they don’t all match). You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come on.

 

Braciole. Sunday dinner Italian comfort food.

Braciole. Sunday dinner Italian comfort food.

I have become a decided fan of rolling things up in a flattened piece of meat. I started out with rolling up a flattened chicken breast that had been spread with a layer of cream cheese mixed with pesto. Those, fried or roasted, chilled and sliced, make great luncheon fare, particularly when served with slices of tomato and a generous squiggle of balsamic glaze.

Then I graduated to rouladen, round steak pounded thin, wrapped around a bratwurst and a kosher dill pickle spear. Those get sauteed and then simmered in red wine or beer. Cured meat products are a whole different animal; bacon-wrapped dates or chicken tenders; proscuitto wrapped melon or asparagus spears; ham tucked around potato wedges.

And then there’s braciole, the Italian version of the roulade. It probably has as many iterations as there are cooks who make it, but at its heart, it’s a flattened piece of round or sirloin steak, topped with a filling, rolled and tied, browned and then braised in a marinara sauce. And it’s just pure comfort food.

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Fun stuff for brunch

November 17, 2016

If you get to feeling fancy for brunch, this is the way to go.

If you get to feeling fancy for brunch, this is the way to go.

Sometimes you just want something different. Something off the beaten path.

I wanted to try gravlax.

Gravlax, if you have not ever tried it, is sugar-and-salt-and-dill cured salmon, sliced thin and served raw, usually on a dark cocktail bread with some cream cheese, sour cream, or mustard-dill sauce. It also pairs well with eggs, either in a quiche or perhaps as the filling of an omelet or frittatta. And if your knife skills are good enough, you can slice it paper thin and wrap it around some savoury thing like an olive or a piece of cucumber. Or you could go the sweet route and try it with chunks of melon, or dates stuffed with brie.

Gravlax professes to be pretty easy to make, so I tried my hand at it last week. I had a nice frozen wild-caught salmon filet that was crying out to me to do something with it. So I betook myself to the Interwebs, where I found the Serious Eats’ recipe and procedure for curing gravlax.

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Those damn stealth holidays

November 16, 2016

turkey3-2016Eeeekk! Thanksgiving is next week!

I’m not sure why it snuck up on me so badly this year. It may possibly be because we’re still having temps in the 70s and have had no more than a light frost so far this fall, or what passes for fall. Normally by this time I would have my menu all planned, and maybe even some early grocery shopping and prep work done.

There will be a few changes this year. We’re moving Thanksgiving dinner to Friday, as Child B and family will be able to come, for the first time in ages, so I’ll have everybody here. (Double eeeekkk. Got to houseclean this weekend!) Also hoping the girls’ godmother can come over. I think dinner will be late afternoon/early evening, which is good.

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Shoulda, woulda, coulda

November 15, 2016

Looked better than it tasted; method is excellent, seasoning needed work.

Looked better than it tasted; method is excellent, seasoning needed work.

Well, it SHOULD have been good.

My day having been turned crossways by the need to go fetch the sick grandchild, I didn’t get around to thinking about dinner until late. And I had this chicken…

About a third of a roast chicken, actually, the rest of him having given up most of his breast meat for previous meals, that needed to be used. And it’s getting cool at night, which means, of course, it’s soup weather. And if you think of chicken, and soup, your next logical progression is chicken noodle soup.

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Solace in the kitchen

November 13, 2016

Oatmeal wheat bread, with flax seed. From probably the 1960s.

Oatmeal wheat bread, with flax seed. From probably the 1960s.

When the world turns upside down, as it did last week (yes, I’m a Clinton supporter, and yes, I’ve been mourning the election results since late Tuesday night, and doing some fervent praying), one looks for comfort wherever one can find it.

Tuesday night and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I looked for it in a bottle of wine (good wine, too!). It helped temporarily. Wednesday I licked my wounds, Thursday I worked, and Friday I betook myself to the kitchen.

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Chicken, anyone?

November 7, 2016

A moist, juicy slab of roasted chicken breast. With potato salad and squash.

A moist, juicy slab of roasted chicken breast. With potato salad and squash.

I continue to be amazed at how easy it is to cook good chicken.

Particularly when one starts with admittedly pricy fresh-frozen chickens from one’s local organic chicken farm. A whole chicken of between 4 and 5 pounds runs me somewhere in the neighborhood of $20, but when I look at the fact I can get four meals, plus several pints of stock, out of a chicken, it’s not that bad a deal.

This week’s Mr. Chicken came sliced with sauteed squash and potato salad, because that was what I felt like.  And it made me remember all over again just how…damn…good this chicken is.

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