Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Wellington Style Appetizer for the Holidays

I have mentioned that I will be making appetizers for a wine tasting on December 20th. Kind of close to Christmas for my comfort, but I am diligently working on things that can be made ahead. A week or two ago I wrote about a recipe I made for Smoky Andouille Corn Pouches. That experiment turned out well, so I will be proceeding with that recipe for the wine tasting, as those little pouches paired excellently with a Malbec I happened to have.
Mock Wellington Bites
Mock Wellington Bites

So, in casting about for something else new to make, and pair with a red wine (since this group mostly prefers red wine), I thought about Beef Wellington. However, I didn't want to spend a bundle and I wanted them to be tiny enough for a couple of bites. In order to manage this, I felt that the meat would have to be diced very small. My reasoning on this: a single larger cube of meat would be harder to bite into. We are talking about walking around with a little appetizer in hand. We do not want someone to take a little bite and end up with the meat on the floor, or worse yet, take a bigger bite and end up with a large piece of meat in their mouth and the rest of the pastry empty. 
Sauteed Mushrooms, Fried Meats and Assembly
Sauteed Mushrooms, Fried Meats and Assembly

To balance this out, I felt that small diced meat would be best. And then, what else would go in them? Long, long ago, my husband and I frequented a restaurant in Kalamazoo. They had a most wonderful Individual Beef Wellington on the menu, and I have recreated this, using the things I knew were in there (filet mignon, bacon, mushroom), and then adding in things that would make these basic ingredients taste exceptional. They have always turned out wonderfully flavored and perfectly done, so I went with the flavors I used for those. Mushrooms? Absolutely. I pulsed them fine in the food processor and sautéed them in butter and oil until they started browning, then added in garlic and fresh thyme leaves and some dry Sherry for flavor, cooking it out completely.
Mock Wellington Bites
Mock Wellington Bites

I diced bacon and fried it crisp and set it aside while quickly sautéing the tiny cubed meat over very high heat. I did this in batches (with my extractor fan on high so the smoke alarm wopuldn't deafen me!), so it wouldn't steam in the pan, then removed to a bowl. It still released a lot of liquid, which I poured off. Once the meat was done, and cooled, the bacon went in with the finished meat, along with freshly minced rosemary and some Gorgonzola crumbles. The Gorgonzola is one thing I never put in my Beef Wellingtons, but I was going for maximum flavor, something that would pair well with a strong red, like a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Of course, this excellent set of mixtures would be wrapped in puff pastry, so I tried out folding little pouches just as I'd done for the Smoky Andouille Corn Pouches. It seemed to work well. I froze the pouches, to be baked later. A day later I tried out baking just 4 of the pouches to see how they baked and how the whole little package came out. As it happens, they came out really wonderfully well. The only thing was that because they were so small, at 475 degrees the outside of the pastry got beautifully browned while the inside of the pastry was still doughy. I will lower the temperature to 400 degrees when baking the remainder. 

I felt that freezing the little pouches before baking was a good idea for a few reasons. First, it keeps the pastry in place while it begins baking, so they tend not to pop open in the oven, and they expand beautifully this way. Secondly, the insides are already cooked, so they only need reheating while the pastry gets baked. Thirdly, freezing means I can have them prepared way ahead and baked briefly just before serving. Best of all worlds.

Mock Wellington Bites

Makes 32 Little Bites
Mock Wellington Bites
Mock Wellington Bites

5 - 6 slices thick bacon, diced 
2 tablespoons bacon fat, reserved from frying
1 pound sirloin steak, in ¼-inch cubes
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced finely
½ teaspoon Beef & Pork Seasoning
6 ounces Gorgonzola Crumbles

1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, finely minced
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1½ - 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
⅓ cup dry Sherry (NOT cooking Sherry!), or white wine, optional

½ medium onion, minced finely
½ teaspoon salt

1 Package Puff Pastry (2 sheets)
1 egg, for egg wash when baking

Remove the Puff Pastry Sheets from the freezer, unwrap and set on the counter to thaw completely.

Heat a large skillet and fry the diced bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to paper toweling to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease aside.

Use 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease in the pan and heat to high heat. Add half the meat cubes and sear them briefly, tossing until very little pink remains. Turn out into a bowl. If more grease is needed, add the second tablespoon of grease to the pan and sear the second half of the meat, adding it to the bowl when done. Giving the meat a few minutes to settle, drain off any liquids that form. Add in the salt, pepper to taste, rosemary and Beef & Pork Seasoning and toss well. Once the meat has cooled, add the drained bacon and the Gorgonzola Crumbles and toss well. Set aside. 

In a clean skillet, heat to medium or medium high heat and add in the butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms and the first ½-teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring and tossing continually. They will release a lot of liquid, but keep stirring until it has all evaporated and the mushrooms begin to take on a bit of golden brown color. Add in the garlic and thyme leaves and toss to distribute. Add the Sherry or wine, if using, and stir, cooking until all the wine has evaporated. Remove the mushrooms to a bowl.

Add the onions and the next ½-teaspoon salt to the pan and sauté the onions gently, over medium low heat, stirring often, until they get a  golden color. Add the onion to the mushrooms and mix well. Set aside and allow to cool.

Flour a surface and unroll one Puff Pastry sheet. If it is completely thawed, it will open without cracking. If it wants to crack apart at one of the folds, it is not thawed enough.  Once ready, lightly dist the top surface with flour.

Roll out the pastry sheet to about a 16½ x 16½-inch square. Keep it as squared as possible. Trim off the outer edges all the way around, leaving a 16 x 16-inch square. Cut the large square into 16 smaller, 4 x 4-inch squares: first cut the square in half in one direction, then each half into halves in the same direction. Repeat this halving in the opposite direction. Have a small cup of water at hand, for moistening the edges of the squares, when folding.

Folding the Wellington Bites
Folding the Wellington Bites
Using a teaspoon measure, scoop a generously rounded, packed portion of the mushroom mixture onto the center of each 4-inch square. Neaten it into a flat circle and then using the same teaspoon, scoop up a generous portion of the meat mixture, placing it atop the mushrooms on each square. Press the meat into neat mounds. Moisten all four edges of the square. Lift two corners, bringing the points together and sealing the seam. Lift another point to the center and press to catch the point with the previous two, then seal that edge. Now, bring up the remaining point to the center, pressing it with the other points, to adhere, then press the remaining two edges to seal. Do this with each of the 16 squares.

Set the little packets onto a baking sheet once they are completed. Repeat this whole process with the remaining Puff Pastry sheet, for a total of 32 little pouches. Set the baking sheet into the freezer and allow the packets to freeze for at least an hour. If baking that day, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

DO AHEAD: If making these ahead, once frozen, remove all the little frozen pouches to a zip-top bag and keep them frozen for up to 3 weeks. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set the frozen pouches onto a baking sheet.

Whisk the egg lightly with 1 tablespoon of water, for the egg wash. This will make the pouches bake beautifully golden, with a pretty shine. Using a pastry brush, brush the top sides of the pastries with the egg wash. Do not allow egg to drip onto the baking sheet, as this can "glue" them to the pan, making removal from the tray very difficult later. Bake the pastries for 10 or 12 minutes, as needed for the pastry to become beautifully golden and puffed. Serve hot or at room temperature, preferably with a nice glass of Cabernet at hand. 😀

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Most Amazing Breakfast

Okay, first off, this is no snap to prepare.
Tweets Poblano Relleno
Photo of Tweets' Poblano Relleno

I wrote about a wonderful breakfast I ate at Tweets Cafe while I was out in Washington visiting my son and his lady. It was called "Poblano Relleno & Black Beans with Red Cabbage Slaw, Creme Fraiche & Heirloom Tomatoes . . ." Ever since eating it, I had been thinking about how to recreate it. And finally, the weekend before last, I made it. Holy heaven, it was as good as I remembered. 

And I re-iterate: It is no snap to prepare. 

It needs some time and some planning and some organization. But I am nothing if not methodical, and I had put a month worth of thought into this, so I finally just made the decision. And the decision was that I would make this casserole in a very small loaf pan, just to serve two (albeit in very large, restaurant-sized portions).

Assembling the component parts
Assembling the component parts

My Preparations

I knew I would need the Poblano Peppers blistered and peeled. I bought two of them as I was still unsure how much I would be making and what I would need. The Poblanos were blistered, peeled and into a baggie in the fridge that day. I bought both Feta cheese and "Queso Fresco," unsure which I would want to use. I made a pot of black beans the day before. 

The morning of my grand event, I set out prepping things like the salad for the top. I love red cabbage (or any cabbage😋), so shredding some for the top was no big deal. My husband, on the other hand, really will not touch raw cabbage, and eats cooked cabbage only grudgingly. So I made a little green salad for his plate. Scallion greens were sliced for garnish. Sour cream was well stirred and into a squeeze bottle for "scribbling." Tomatoes were sliced for my plate (my husband will not eat fresh tomatoes). I set out Queso Fresco (finally made my decision) easy to crumble by hand, last minute. I had fried the potatoes, using my recipe for "Pan Potatoes" (but using one medium/smallish potato) and making sure they were well browned and well seasoned.

Now it was time to assemble. My initial reasoning was to whip the eggs up a bit, in the hope they would stay light in the casserole. At Tweets, the egg part of the casserole did not seem at all heavy or too compact. It held perfect shape, but seemed light, all the same. I layered the potatoes in the bottom of the pan. I had lined the pan with foil in the hope of easy release and easy cleanup. I have no idea why or how, but there was baked-on egg between the foil and the loaf pan and the egg was very well baked on. Oh well. So much for planning. So the potatoes in place, I poured on about half the eggs and let them set for a few seconds, hoping it would easily distribute through the potato layer. 

It did not.
My Poblano Relleno Breakfast Casserole
My Poblano Relleno Breakfast Casserole

Okay, so my advice is to tap, rap, bang, or whatever works to get the egg down in among the potatoes before proceeding. At Tweets the potatoes were nicely compact in the bottom of the casserole. The Poblano was nicely centered, just above the potatoes, yet well below the top of the baked casserole. This did not happen with my attempt, either. It in no way impaired flavor. It was just a puzzling out kind of thing. 

Back to the layering: After the first half of the egg mixture, I set the Poblano in a layer over top. Then I poured on the remaining egg mixture. This went into the oven at 350 degrees and I timed it 25 minutes. I reasoned that it was a very small casserole, right? What a gross underestimation. It ended up taking a full hour for that tiny 4 x 6-inch casserole. I removed it from the oven various times to check. Upon pressing on the top, liquid egg still kept surfacing. I timed it 10 minutes more, ten minutes more, etc, until finally, at one hour, it was done. Whew!

The Outcome?

Getting the casserole out of the pan was a true challenge, since the foil stuck to the pan, and the casserole stuck to the foil (despite spraying the foil with cooking spray). I finally got a knife run around the edges and turned the casserole out into my hand, then set it upright on the cutting board. Since loaf pans have a slight flare at the sides, I trimmed the edges straight, then cut the casserole in half, making two beautifully square pieces.

I put some of my reheated black beans into large bowls, then set the casserole squarely on top. I piled my red cabbage on top of my portion, and the green salad on my husband's portion. I "scribbled" the sour cream over each plate. I set pieces of heirloom tomato around my portion, then crumbled some of the Queso Fresco over each and a bit of scallion greens went over top. I also put a few cilantro leaves over each plate, since we love cilantro. 

The flavors were absolutely exceptional, and a very close match to what was served at Tweets. My potatoes ended lifting themselves up into the egg mixture, causing the Poblano to be setting on top, rather than the middle. This in no way affected flavor, only esthetics. Other than this, there was nothing I could criticize; the flavors were tremendous.

It may not be a simple "throw-together" for a weekend, but for someone really special, it is a little labor of love that is well worth attempting.

Poblano Relleno Breakfast Casserole

Serves 2
Poblano Relleno Breakfast Casserole
Poblano Relleno Breakfast Casserole

MAKE AHEAD (one day, at least):
1 Poblano Pepper, blistered, peeled
2 cups black beans (cooked ahead or use one can, divided between plates)

1 medium potato, quartered, sliced thinly
oil for frying
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt for potatoes
6 eggs, whisked to combine
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon salt

1 small "salad" portion, per plate (red cabbage, salad greens, arugula, etc)
2 - 4 small cherry tomatoes
sour cream, thinned if needed
scallion greens, sliced or chopped
cilantro leaves, optional
Feta Cheese or Queso Fresco (1-ounce per plate)

Fry the potatoes in enough oil so they do not stick, and sprinkle with the ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt. Toss them frequently, until they are nicely browned, crisp and cooked through. 

Spray a small loaf pan (4 x 6-inch) with cooking spray. Press the potatoes into the bottom of the casserole. Whisk the fresh thyme leaves and the ½ teaspoon salt into the eggs. Pour half the egg mixture over the potatoes and rap the pan various times to get the egg to penetrate the potatoes. Allow to set for a few minutes, while this occurs. Cut the peeled Poblano in half lengthwise, then set the halves over top of the potatoes so they cover the whole surface. Pour on the remaining eggs. Bake the casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven for about one hour, checking after 50 minutes, as all ovens are different. If wet egg seeps up when the casserole is pressed on top, it needs more cooking time. 

While the casserole is baking, assemble all the garnish ingredients. Heat the black beans, whether homemade or canned. When the casserole is done, give it a few minutes to set, then run a knife around the edges and remove the casserole from the pan. With a very sharp knife, trim the outer edges and cut the casserole in half. Place about 1 cup of black beans into each of two large bowls. Set a slice of the casserole on top of the beans in each plate. Place a portion of salad or slaw on top of the casserole, then "scribble" some sour cream artfully over the whole plate. Set the tomato slices around the casserole, crumble on the cheese and strew with scallion greens and cilantro, if using. Serve immediately.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Various Things I Have Been Working On

Middle Eastern Cookbooks
Middle Eastern Cookbooks
I haven't been writing many blogs. It certainly isn't due to lack of cooking.

Ever since my husband came home with a stack of Middle Eastern cookbooks for me to try out, I have been reading through recipes, book after book . . . and trying some of them out. I've made a version of "Rose Harissa," though mine is not hot spicy, but just spiced. I made a Moroccan bread with cheese rolled and folded into it. These flat breads were amazingly delicious, but loaded with a tablespoon of butter/oil per bread; lots of fat calories, not even counting the cheese. They sure were good though! And I made a Moroccan dinner with chicken and rice, loaded with dried fruits. Last evening I made "Nan e Barbari" from the "Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook" (third from the bottom of my "stack"), available at their site here, or on Amazon.

This bread recipe is found all over on the internet, usually under the name of Persian Flatbread or just Barbari. Looking through many of the recipes (at least 10 of them), they are all very similar. It is a simple enough recipe, using flour, water, salt and yeast. What sets this particular bread apart is the shaping of it, and also the fact that it uses a cooked flour/water topping called "roomal," that seems to play the part of sealing in moisture and creating a nice crust.

Persian Flatbread - Nan e Barbari - Barbari
Persian Flatbread - Nan e Barbari - Barbari
Looking through the recipes, I also watched one video, and liked how this young woman made her Persian Flatbreads. The site I watched was on YouTube, here, and shows the method well. I believe it helps to have the recipe in front of you, or like me, to have already tried it, and then see what kinds of changes might have been good. 

For me, I added more flour, in an effort to approximate what the book said the dough should be like, but might have been better off leaving the dough just as wet as it started out. A wet dough leaves nice big holes in the finished product, and would be a definite plus. Other than that, for such a simple bread, the flavors were absolutely tremendous, and I would certainly make it again in a heartbeat.

I had already started a dinner from another of the cookbooks, one that was supposed to use lamb stew meat, but instead I used beef stew meat. It was highly flavored with so many things I was really curious how it would taste in the end. It used allspice and cardamom, dill and garlic, sesame tahini and a LOT of sumac! I mean a LOT! The recipe was for two pounds of meat, but I was using just one pound, so I divided the recipe in half. Even so, it called for ONE CUP of ground sumac. Yikes. Well, for starters, though I had sumac, I certainly didn't have a whole cup of it, so I used what I had, which was ¼ cup. Even at that much, the dish was decidedly pink colored from the rosy sumac, and for my husband and me, had sufficient sour notes to not need more. We are not Middle Eastern, and not accustomed to some of the flavors. But regardless, the flavors were extremely delicious and we really enjoyed the meal.

Another Wine Tasting Coming Up

Meanwhile, another wine tasting has been scheduled, this time for December 20th. So close to Christmas, this will be a bit of a busy time to be making so many extra things. Still, my appetizers are part of the deal, so I have been thinking on what to make for this wine tasting. I like to pair my foods as closely as possible to a particular style of wine, so that both wine and food are at their best advantage. In this case, I do not have much control over which wines will be served, so I can only hope and suggest. For now, I am working on two new appetizers. I made one a few days ago, using two different methods. I am still deciding which I shall ultimately use. One is decidedly easier, and the other decidedly more finicky to make, though these last are cute as buttons, so I am leaning in that direction.
Smoky Andouille & Corn Tarts or Pouches
Smoky Andouille & Corn Tarts or Pouches

I opted to use some Andouille sausage, along with corn, mozzarella and smoked paprika as flavors. If Andouille sausages are not available, use any smoked and highly flavored sausage, such as a good Kielbasa. Despite the fact that I used the smoked paprika in both the tart dough and in the filling mixture, the "smoky" flavor seemed curiously absent. Still, the dough had the most lovely warm hue. And either way, the flavors were wonderful, so these are a keeper, no matter what. Best of all, they pair magnificently with a nice Malbec (I was drinking "Layer Cake" Malbec).

Making the little tarts, shown at left in the photo above, you would proceed the same way as for countless other tarts. Divide the dough into little balls, then press into mini tart tins. And, I am talking of mini, as in 24 little tiny bites in one tart tin. These are all of 1½-inches across. Lovely little appetizer bites. Easy to pick up and walk with. Easy to take a bite and then a sip of wine. 
Two little cookie scoops
Two little cookie scoops

I used one of the two mid sized "cookie scoops" to scoop the filling into both the little tart shells and into the pouches, but more about the pouches in a minute. If you don't have these little cookie scoops, firstly, you really should get some, because they are absolutely invaluable! But, the smaller sized scoop I have is about a two-teaspoon capacity. The slightly larger one is one tablespoon capacity. The two-teaspoon sized scoop is just right for both these tarts and the pouches. Just for decorative purposes, I set a slice of jalapeno pepper on top of each of the tarts. This is entirely optional.

Smoky Andouille & Corn Tarts or Pouches

Makes about 45
Smokey Andouille & Corn Tarts
Smokey Andouille & Corn Tarts

½ cup unsalted butter
6 ounces cream cheese
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 andouille sausages (about 12 - 13 ounces, total), chopped finely or in tiny dice
1⅓ cups canned corn, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces mozzarella shreds
3 scallions, minced
3 large eggs, lightly whisked
1 - 2 fresh jalapeños, sliced into thin rings, optional
1 egg, mixed with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash (optional for pouches)

Make Tart Dough: Cut together all the ingredients with a pastry cutter or two forks, or rub together with fingers. Once the dough starts to come together, bring it all into a ball and allow to rest for a few minutes. Divide the dough into the wells of 48 mini tart pans (approximately 1-inch across at the base). Press into bottom and up sides of the wells, then set into refrigerator until needed.
Smoky Andouille & Corn Pouches
Smoky Andouille & Corn Pouches

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make Filling: Combine all filling ingredients except the jalapeno and egg wash, and mix well. Using about 2 teaspoons filling per tart shell, fill the shells. Top each little tart with one jalapeño slice and bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until golden and set.

ALTERNATE POUCHES: To form the little pouches instead of tarts, roll the dough out very thinly. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares. If any square is a little too thick, roll it a bit more and trim. Moisten all along the outer edge of the square with water. Begin by making a little pocket to fill. As shown in the first picture below, bring up two of the corners and pinch closed the seam this creates, creating a pouch at one end. Scoop some filling into this little "cup" (figure 2), then bring another corner to the center, pinching along that seam (figure 3) to seal tightly, and finally bring up the last corner, and pinch the seam to either side to seal the pouch completely. 
Making Smoky Andouille Corn Pouches
Making Smoky Andouille Corn Pouches

Make the egg wash and using a pastry brush, apply the wash to all the upper surfaces of the pouches. Set the pouches onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes, or until golden.

MAKE AHEAD: If needed, these can be made, baked and cooled, then frozen for up to 3 weeks. To reheat for serving, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set the frozen pastries onto a baking sheet and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until heated through.


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Please Enjoy My November Newsletter

A Harmony of Flavors November 2017 Newsletter
View this email in your browser
turkey, Thanksgiving Dinner, sharing
It's Time to give Thanks,

For those of us living in the U.S., Thanksgiving is coming up shortly. Technically, Thanksgiving is time to give thanks for all the abundance we have in our lives, though this sentiment is easily eclipsed when we get so caught up in what foods to make, who is arriving, guests in the house, relatives to contend with, cooking, cleaning and so forth. If you haven't gotten your pumpkin or squash to make pies, then assuredly you will be buying some canned pumpkin or buying ready-made pies.

My turkey is in the freezer right now, patiently waiting, but that is the most preparation I have accomplished, despite my love of making things as far in advance as possible. Holidays can be stressful, unless we realize that nothing really matters more than being thankful for all we have. In this newsletter, I will be linking to some of my recipes for Thanksgiving foods, in hope these might be of use to some of you out there.

Please check "A Harmony of Flavors" website and "A Harmony of Flavors" blog site, continually being updated with new recipes. There is a lot to choose from!
Thanksgiving, Turkey, Stuffing, Dinner
Thanksgiving, side dishes, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberries
Great Thanksgiving Sides

Turkey is a no-brainer, if you are going traditional. While many in my extended family are definitely non-traditional with their menu choices, for my husband and usual guests, traditional has been the absolute norm; no deviations allowed. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, sweet potatoes. Salad or anything green is frowned upon, though I, personally, would welcome the greens!

Clockwise from top left:
  • Mashed Potatoes. I grant, these are a little jazzed up. I add a couple of parsnips (peeled & sliced) to cook with the potatoes. I prefer to "rice" the potatoes, for absolute smoothness (without becoming pasty from over-beating). I use 2 to 4 ounces of some kind of cheese (based on using about 4 medium potatoes and one or two parsnips), whether cream cheese, Boursin, Cheddar or other melting cheese and place this into a bowl with some minced scallions and/or chives. The potatoes are riced straight atop the cheese mixture (which softens the cheese nicely for blending) and stirred in. I use some of the cooking water to thin the potatoes to my taste. Delightful!
  • Stuffing / Dressing. This recipe is based on my Mom's recipe from way back when. Again, I added quite a few things to it and now I call it "Better than Mom's Stuffing." I no longer stuff the turkey with it, but just bake it in a casserole, and everyone comes back for seconds (or thirds).
  • My Gravy. I wrote a couple of blogs detailing exactly how to make a really delicious turkey stock (or chicken). Flavorful stock is the best way to ensure a delicious gravy. Making the gravy need not be a stressful event. I have been successfully been making gravy since I was in my 20s (a very long time ago). You certainly can, too. Read about how to accomplish making a great gravy with a roux or with no fat at all.
  • Cranberry Orange Relish. This is so easy and quick to make and so far superior to anything bought in a can, there is just no excuse to not make it yourself. The best thing? This Cranberry Orange Relish can be made even three weeks ahead and kept tightly covered in the fridge until needed.
All these recipes I have detailed above are ones I have made so many times I can't even count them anymore, so they are really tried and true.

Below is a button to connect with a really great Bonus Recipe for this month.

CLICK HERE for a Bonus Recipe
Hallowe'en, Fall, pumpkins
Stew, beef, recipe, mushrooms
An Easier Way with Turkey

Treat the Turkey like an Overgrown Chicken and cut it into parts. I grant, this does not make that grand statement at the table, but cutting the turkey into breast, wings, thighs and legs certainly makes roasting easier, plus that dilemma over having the breast meat too dry or the legs under-cooked completely vanishes. If you cannot cut apart a turkey, have your local butcher do it for you. I have to say, of all the turkeys I have made over the years, this is by far and away the best: shortest baking time, most even cooking, juiciest turkey. I used a 12 pound turkey, which is easier to handle. Make 2 turkeys if more servings are needed.

For more flavor, run your hands underneath the skin of the breast, thigh and leg pieces and fill these spaces with fresh herbs, onion slices and/or garlic. Especially for the breast portions, you might want to mix some herbs with butter and spread this under the skin. Set all the pieces, skin side up on two rimmed baking sheet(s) (white meat on one, dark on the other). Rub the skin with a mixture of 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons Kosher salt and refrigerate uncovered overnight. Remove from the fridge early on Thanksgiving Day, to bring closer to room temperature before roasting.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees to start, with the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Pour a little wine, water or stock around the turkey pieces. Add some onion around the meat, if desired. Set the pan with the white meat on the lower rack and the pan with the dark meat on the upper rack for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350 degrees and roast the white meat for 20 minutes more and the dark meat for 30 minutes more, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees. Rest the meat, covered, for at least 15 minutes before carving or serving.
Brussels Sprouts, side dish, cooking tips
A Green Side Dish

If you love something green at Thanksgiving or at any meal, this recipe is a real stand-out. It is a recipe for Brussels sprouts which, granted, are not everyone's favorite vegetable. Still, I believe one reason so many people detest these poor sprouts is that they are so often overcooked. Overcooked, they become bitter. Just slightly under-cooked (not crunchy, but just barely tender), they are just heavenly. Make this recipe for Dijon Caper Brussels Sprouts and you will see how good they can be.
Thanksgiving, Turkey, Stuffing, Dinner
pie, pumpkin pie, spices
And, we Cannot go Without Pie!
Pumpkin Pie is traditionally Thanksgiving dessert. Others like different kinds of pie, such as mincemeat or pecan pies. I prefer a lot more spice added into my pumpkin mixture than is common, so I created a recipe for Spicier Pumpkin Pie, which is my favorite. I also love mincemeat, though it is getting harder to find jars of it in my area. Long ago I assembled a mix of mincemeat pie with a cheesecake layer and called it Cheesecake Mincemeat Pie. It is a real winner. The cheesecake layer tames down the strong spice of the mincemeat, making a match made in heaven. Then there is always someone requesting pecan pie, and My Best Pecan Pie is just fabulous. A variation on this theme is a Double Chocolate Pecan Pie that has both chocolate added to the filling as well as a chocolate pie pastry!
spice mixtures, pumpkin pie spice
Special Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
So many people prefer to buy spice mixtures rather than use individual ones. My objection is that sometimes the particular spices used are not ones I care for, or maybe the amounts of some are objectionable. When I have a spice mixture on hand, I want it to be exactly how I like it.

In this particular case, I have mixed up the spices to make pumpkin pie, my way. If you choose to make my "Spicier Pumpkin Pie," use 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of this mixture. If you are making a regularly spiced pumpkin pie (such as the recipe on a can of Libby's
® Pumpkin), just use1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of this mixture. Save the remainder for another pie or for spicing up a pumpkin loaf or pumpkin cookies.

Combine thoroughly: 6 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 6 tablespoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cloves and 1 teaspoon ground allspice.

author, Chris Rawstern
Celebrating Thanksgiving here in the US, I wish to extend greetings to all my subscribers and friends. I hope you will visit all my sites and try some new (or old) recipes, learn something new about an herb or spice or other subject, or maybe just daydream. However it is accomplished, I endeavor to provide articles of interest. Not everyone cooks these days, due to time constraints, though I did cook meals for my family back when I had 4 youngsters and worked 2 jobs, so I know it can be done. It requires some real attention to detail, to be sure. Many of my newer, more complex recipes have been created now that I am retired and have extra time on my hands, yet many are easy and quick.
Thanksgiving, Turkey, Stuffing, Dinner
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