I love this time of year. The smell of the air changes and the days are shorter and cooler. But the reason I love the fall the most is because it’s the beginning of the holiday season. As soon as Halloween is over, it’s time for the wonderful bounty of the fall. We love to entertain during this time of year. I often bring home fresh pheasant and we serve them to our guests with seasonal vegetables like butternut squash, bitter greens, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. As a kid, I remember that we would have our Thanksgiving dinner at either our house, my aunt’s house, or my uncle’s house. All of my Dad’s side of the family would get together and we would have a big feast. It was always a fun affair and often the only time during the year that I would see some of my extended family. The family who was hosting would be responsible for the turkey, stuffing and gravy, and all of the family members would bring various dishes. One year we had an informal contest to see which cousin could eat the most pie. I won with 21 slices, but lost it later.
In recent years (when the economy has been booming) we have all been splurging on luxury. This Thanksgiving, I recommend a simple, delicious dinner that doesn’t require a chef’s knowledge to execute. Enjoy cooking a simple, beautiful meal and reflect on all that you have to be thankful for. Here’s my menu that is simple, easy, and delicious.
Sage Roasted Free Range Turkey
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
To make your Thanksgiving Day less hectic, some of the work can be done in advance. Here is the schedule and recipes.
Make Cranberry Relish (the flavor improves as it sits for a couple of days).
2 cups orange juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
2 bags cranberries: freeze them for best results.
In a large pot, combine all ingredients except the cranberries. Bring to a boil and reduce until there is a cup to cup and a half of liquid.
Pour frozen cranberries into the pot and stir until all of the cranberries burst (more or less).
Pour onto a sheet pan to cool. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Peel potatoes and place in a large pot for cooking. Add a few cloves of garlic to the water.
Make roasted wild mushroom mix for stuffing. Select 3 or 4 varieties of mushrooms. If any exotic mushrooms (like hedgehog, black trumpet, porcini, chanterelle, or woodear) are available, add a few to a mix of shitake, crimini or portabello, and oyster mushrooms.
4 cups mushroom mix: shitake, crimini and oyster
Remove the stems from the shitake and oyster mushrooms and cut into bite sized pieces.
2 cups exotic mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces (use more of the mushroom mix if you can’t get exotic mushrooms)
½ bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
½ bunch fresh oregano, chopped
½ bunch fresh sage, chopped
2 medium size shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On the stove, heat a large sauté pan with about ¼ cup of olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until shallots are translucent (should be about a minute). Add the mushroom mix and chopped herbs. Sauté until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Place pan with mushrooms into the oven and roast for 30-45 minutes or until all of the water from the mushrooms is absorbed back into the mushrooms. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for use on Thursday.
Cut up 1½ loaves of French bread (your choice, I like a whole wheat sourdough) into 1 inch squares and toast in the oven at 300 degrees until they are completely dried out. Once cool, store them in a plastic bag for use on Thursday.
Prep Brussels sprouts and bacon. Halve the Brussels sprouts and store in the refrigerator for use on Thursday. Cut bacon into ¼” sized pieces. The bacon can be cooked at this point or done on Thursday. Cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy and the oil begins to foam. Drain off the fat and let cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator overnight.
Sage Roasted Turkey
1 12-15 lb. turkey, preferably organically raised
1 bunch fresh sage
¼ lb. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Salt and Pepper
Roast the turkey. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Set the rack in the oven on the lowest position. Unpack turkey and reserve neck and giblets for the gravy. Rinse the turkey with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Slide your hand between the skin and the breast and place butter inside. Place the whole sage leaves (stems removed) all over the inside of the skin. If you are going to stuff the turkey, do it now. Mix one whole egg with 3-4 cups of the mushroom and bread mix and add one cup of water or chicken stock. Fill the cavity of the turkey with the stuffing. Reserve any leftover stuffing mix to cook separately. Put one cup of water in the roasting pan, and place turkey in the oven. Roast for one hour without basting. After the first hour is up, rotate the pan180 degrees and add another cup of water. Roast another 45 minutes, basting every 15-20 minutes. The total roasting time should be 2-2.5 hours. Using a meat thermometer, insert into the thick part of the thigh, near the bone, but not touching. The temperature should be 160 when done (the residual heat will continue to cook the turkey after it’s been removed from the oven). If the turkey is getting too brown and is not yet done, cover loosely with aluminum foil for the remainder of the roasting time. If the turkey is stuffed, add approximately 45 minutes to the roasting time. Use the meat thermometer to check that the temperature in the middle of the stuffing is at least 150 degrees.
Wild Mushroom Stuffing
Mushrooms cooked on Wednesday
Bread toasted on Wednesday
1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 ½ teaspoons salt (preferably kosher salt)
½ ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1½ cups chicken broth
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter or spray with Pam a 9x13 Pyrex pan if not stuffing the turkey. In a large skillet, melt butter and sweat onions until translucent. Add celery, salt and pepper and remove from heat. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and fill cavity of turkey, or place in the Pyrex pan. Cover pan with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook for 45 minutes covered, then remove cover and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve!
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes peeled on Wednesday
½ - 1 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
4-8 ounces unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ - 1 cup buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste
If the potatoes were in the refrigerator, take them out and let them get to room temperature well before you need to cook them. (If you forget, don’t worry, they’ll just take longer to boil.) Boil potatoes until they are cooked through (poke with a knife and see that they are soft all the way through). Strain the potatoes in a colander. Put ½ of the butter into the pot that the potatoes were cooked in. Using either a ricer or a food mill, pass the potatoes through until all potatoes are used. Add some of the crème fraiche or sour cream and buttermilk. Stir until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Adjust taste with more buttermilk, butter, and crème fraiche or sour cream. Make sure to use enough salt to get your desired flavor!
(The gravy is made after the turkey comes out of the oven)
Pan juices reserved from cooking turkey
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups turkey stock (chicken stock will do as well)
Skim fat from pan juices and reserve 1/4 cup fat. Add 1 cup turkey stock to roasting pan and deglaze over moderately high heat, scraping up brown bits. Add to remaining 3 cups stock and bring to a simmer. Whisk together reserved fat and flour in a large heavy saucepan and cook roux over moderately low heat, whisking, 3 minutes. Add hot stock to roux in a fast stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in additional juices from turkey platter and season gravy with salt and pepper.
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Prepared Brussels sprouts and bacon
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Water, as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts and brown. Once the Brussels sprouts have begun to brown, add ½ cup of water and the butter and cover. Cook until tender. If water evaporates before they are done, add more water. Once they are tender and all of the water has evaporated (if they are done and there is still water in the pan, drain off the water), add the bacon. Cook for a minute or two, tossing until the bacon is hot and crispy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
20 oz can pumpkin
13 oz can evaporated milk
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
¾ cup chopped margarine or butter (I use butter)
1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
1 package dry yellow cake mix
Mix together milk, spice, sugar, eggs, salt & pumpkin. Pour into 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with Pam or another vegetable oil spray, top w/ dry cake mix, chopped butter & nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-50 minutes, until knife poked in the center comes out clean.
(Cover loosely w/ foil if top becomes brown.) Serve w/ whipped cream or ice cream --- or both!!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I truly love to entertain. I feel like there is nothing more enjoyable than inviting guests into your home to share a meal. In my house, I’m in charge of the food and wine and music, my wife is charged with the table setting and décor. I love to try to cover every detail in planning the party. I recently had a little faux pas when we invited some guests over for a family dinner. I decided on cooking rabbit, because I hadn’t cooked it in a while. I really love to make rabbit, it’s so delicious when done well and goes well with earthy red wine. Our guests were on their way and the rabbit was well along it’s way to being ready when I remembered that the children of our guests had a pet rabbit. It was too late to change what I was making, so what to do? I had to tell them. I told the father when they arrived and it wasn’t a big deal. I told him we could tell them it was chicken, but he told them the truth and they were okay with trying it. (I am okay with lying about food if it gets a child to try something they wouldn’t otherwise try.) I probably wouldn’t have cooked rabbit if I had remembered that the kids had a rabbit for a pet!
Below are a few more questions, sent by my friends, that can help you entertain better and avoid an awkward situation.
Q. I am having a group of about 10 adults over to dinner, but their eating habits are all over the map (one's a vegetarian, one keeps kosher, etc.). What is the best way to accommodate them all?
A. When entertaining it’s important to keep in mind what you goal is. Simply, it is to make your guests feel comfortable and at home in your home. You want to accommodate all of your guests without killing yourself. It’s best to have something that each distinctive guest can eat. For my kosher guest, I would find a local kosher deli or restaurant and serve him or her something from there. Your friend will be quite pleased that you made the effort to accommodate their special diet. For the vegetarians, I would include one or two dishes that are vegetarian that everyone would like, maybe guacamole and a crudite platter. For serving dinner to the vegetarians, I would simply leave the meat (or fish, etc.) off of the plate and serve them a little larger portion of the side dish and vegetable. Make sure to plan the quantity of your side dish and veggies accordingly if they will be the main course for your vegetarian friends.
Q. Cocktails before dinner: When is it appropriate to serve a chilled sherry? Any favorites?
A. There are two types of sherry, fino and oloroso. Fino sherry is pale, light and best served before dinner, chilled. oloroso is aged longer, sweeter, and more robust, making it a better choice for dessert or an after dinner drink. For a sherry apertif, try a Sherry Cobbler, described by pioneering mixologist Harry Johnson in 1882 as “without doubt the most popular beverage in the country, with ladies as well as with gentlemen.”
4 oz fino sherry
½ tablespoon superfine sugar (also called “Baker’s Sugar”)
Slice of orange
1. Cut a slice of orange 1/8 of an inch thick, then cut it in half.
2. Muddle the orange slice and a few of the berries gently in a cocktail shaker.
3. Fill shaker with ice and add the sherry and the sugar.
4. Shake and pour, unstrained, into a tall glass and artfully place a few pieces of fruit on top.
5. Serve and hark back to the time when this was the most popular drink in the country!
Q. We are having a party with 50 or so people. There has been some bad blood (cheating spouses, etc.) amongst some of the guests. Should I dis-invite any of the offending parties?
A. If you have already sent the invitations, well, you’re up a creek. When planning a party, one of the most important things to consider is the guest list and how everyone on it interacts with each other. It is slightly boring to have a party that is attended by only those who really like each other. I often throw in a wild card to see how it goes and keep the evening interesting. The caveat is that I know the wild card well enough to know that they won’t be too much trouble. My advice: Cancel the party and reschedule for two dates, separating the guests with bad blood. If this is not possible, go to your local sporting goods store and pick up a few pairs of boxing gloves. If it gets ugly, at least you can have the battling factions entertain your guests!