Thursday, November 26, 2009

Up & At 'Em!

Happy Thanksgiving! I am about to finish everything. Once Chandra and Livvy arrived, Livvy and I decided to play the Wii. She's quite a little bowler! I think we'll be eating around 2, which really means 3. (Why break my record of serving the latest dinner ever?) I have pics and maybe some video from yesterday. I'll try to post later today. I may even convince my pint-sized sous chef to be my guest blogger.

It's turkey time!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009 -- Part II

The dishwasher is full. The washer and dryer are going and the pound cake is in the oven. Time to take a break.

The Mad Dash

Usually, a mad dash is a quick trip to the store, running for the car in the rain. Mine is around the house to do some last-minute straightening up before my company arrives. Chandra and Livvy are like family, so museum-quality clean is not required. I'm just doing some touch-up work. I'm not even worried about the kitchen. It reflects what I've been up to today. Speaking of which, I've knocked out dressing, sweet potato pie filling and compound butter. If I start the rolls and clean the greens before going to bed, I'll be a happy camper.

Off to put in my Merry Maids duty!

Thanksgiving 2009 - A Little Progress

I am a genius! In a stroke of brilliance yesterday, I decided to take a nap at 4:30. I wasn't officially up until 12 hours later! So, I'm a wee bit behind on my schedule, but no worries. Let's recap the progress. My goal is to really blog about everything I make this year; even if I done an entry about it before. Here we go.

First was the cornbread for the dressing. If you're new to the blog, let me tell you now that I'm in love with Cook's Illustrated. Most of my recipes are theirs. They were no slouches with the All-Purpose Cornbread recipe either. This has the sweetness of Jiffy with a better texture and real corn flavor.

First, and this is where my heritage meets the recipe: heat a cast iron skillet so that it's screaming hot. Cornbread should be made in cast iron. There, I've said it. I put the skillet into the cold oven (on the baking stone) and heat it as the oven preheats.


Next, process the wet ingredients: buttermilk, corn and brown sugar.


Add the eggs.


Perfect! Thick and creamy with bits of corn.


Before I start with the dry stuff, I take the skillet out of the oven and add canola oil. Do not use butter or extra-virgin olive oil. They will burn. I put the skillet back in the oven while I finish the batter.


Now, grab flour, cornmeal and and a scale. (Baking is a science; measuring is necessary.)


Add the leavenings and salt. Table salt for baking, kosher for everything else.


Whisk together and make a well for the wet stuff.

Grab a spatula and fold unitl moistened. I like to have a few dry bits left before I add the butter.

Bring on the butter!

Get the skillet and plop the batter in there. Hear that? See those bubbles? That's exactly what you want.


Smooth out the top and bake!


Golden brown and delicious! Just look at that crust! That piece is for the cook and the chili I pulled from the freezer:-)


Once cool enough to handle, break it apart and leave it out to dry out overnight.


Now for the trukey brine. This is recipe is from Emeril Lagassee.

Grab a stockpot. Orange juice, wine (dry please) start us off. I chose a pino grigio.


It is a brine - salt and sugar are required.


Add peppercorns, ginger, thyme and bay leaves. Take a moment to rough up the thyme a little to release the flavor. I got lazy and didn't chop the ginger. If I had been putting the turkey in immediately, I would've chopped it. I added the water last.


I refrigerated the brine separately. My intent was to add the turkey a few hours later, after the flavors had melded. They certainly melded since I fell alseep and the turkey didn't make the introduction until this morning!


Butterball added a gravy packet this year. That went straight to the trash along with the gizzard, heart and liver. I don't like gravy just enough to know it should be homemade. I have to be in the right frame of mind to eat organ meats, especially gizzards. It happens once every few years.


Do save the neck and tail. (Butterball didn't think I needed my tail) Use those to make stock for the gravy. This is missing some herbs. I'll add those later. I still have to get some parsley.


Tools of the trade:

I'll add these later.

Gasping & Crying

For me, this is the Thanksgiving of the parsley. I went to one store Friday and three on Saturday (had three separate transactions at one store 'cause I kept forgetting stuff) and yet managed to come home without parsley. Parsley is a must have for Thanksgiving and turkey burgers. Anyhoo, I braved chilly Chicago weather, a full parking lot and a vehicle that really needs to go to the shop for parsley. It's really a longer story that involved tears, but I'll spare you the details.

Before I headed out, I called my Aunt Carolyn who was fixing the first of her two Thanksgiving meals. Today's is for the employees. In mid conversation, she gasped as she realized she had one can of creamed corn and one can of regular corn. This would not do! She quickly got off the phone to head to the store. (She and I like to be done with grocery stores no later than the Saturday before the holiday.)

Just got of the phone with cousin Cheri. Cheri lives and dies by Patti LaBelle's first cookbook, especially Miss Patti's sweet potato pie recipe. I loved Patti back in the day, but she ain't got nothing on my sister-in-law's, Pam's, sweet potato pie. It was the best I'd ever had (until she gave me the recipe and I added my secret ingredient). One Christmas, Cheri showed up with Miss Patti's pie and Pam showed up with hers. Pam's was wiped out and Cheri's was left looking forlorn! Cheri tasted Pam's and then realized why. Cheri called me yesterday and asked for the recipe. I told her I'd email her today.

She told me she made the pies 'cause she couldn't wait on my email. She made five pies! I was impressed. (Cheri was never a lover of the kitchen. She married a chef, so why bother?) She said they were good, but not Pam's. She ran down her list of ingredients and said that the pies were flat. I asked her how many eggs she used. Her answer was three. "Cheri, you didn't use enough eggs." Gasp. Found out she didn't use enough sweet milk either. Gasp again.

She tried to take credit for using sweetened condenced milk instead of evaporated milk. Sorry. No points given, you're supposed to use sweet milk. "I talked to Mom and she uses evaporated."
"Cheri, yo' mama's pies are good, but they ain't Pam's pies." Moan and mumble from her.
"Your pies are probably good, they just aren't perfect like Pam's. Trust me. Whoever you made them for will eat them."

I'm headed back to the kitchen now to marvel at parsley.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting Ready

I did the shopping Friday and Saturday. Got everything except for pecans and parsley. Since I'm feeling especially lazy and it looks like rain, I'm wondering if I can get on without them. Ha! I'll probably make a Wednesday morning run. Hopefully, someone will want a pound cake and I'll need to leave the house anyway.

So here are the goods. The fridge is packed!


Check out the herbage.


Fruit and veggies: apples and cranberries for the pie (plus cranberry sauce) and lots of greens. There are some carrots and celery peeking out.

Aromatics and potatoes. There are six pounds of potatoes elsewhere in the kitchen.


And here's the guest of honor! He'll look much more auspicious on Thursday ;-)


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009: The Menu & The Schedule

Alright. Turkey Day approacheth. Since I have company coming, it's got to be traditional. Here's the plan:




  • Turkey
  • Dressing
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Yeast Rolls
  • Candied Yams (for the guests. In my old age, I'm not a big fan of candied yams anymore.)
  • Greens (traditional, sauteed & creamed) Here's why: Although creamed collards absolutely rock, they are simply too fattening to eat every time I reach for leftovers. I can eat sauteed greens every day, but not everyone embraces the concept like I do. I'll have some old school ones for backup.)
  • Sauteed Corn
  • Butternut Squash Ravioli (I have to have at least one new dish! I need the challenge.)
  • Pound Cake (this goes home with the guests)
  • Chocolate Cake (I've been beaten by this cake twice, I think. This is my year!)
  • Apple-Cranberry Pie
  • Sweet Potato Pie




Friday - buy turkey (done)



  •  Brine turkey
  • Make cornbread
  • Make ravioli
  • Make pie crusts
  • Make pound cake
  • Air dry turkey  
  • Prep veggies
  • Make pies
  • Make chocolate cake
  • Start Rolls

  • Bake turkey
  • Bake dressing
  • Make greens
  • Bake rolls
  • Make cranberry sauce
  • Make tea
  • Make Candied Yams
  • Cook Ravioli

 I already have plans for the leftovers:

  •  Sweet potato and corn chowder
  • Turkey noodle soup
  • Turkey salad
  • Sweet potato creme brulee

Saturday, November 21, 2009

And So It Begins ...

I'd decided that thanksgiving was going to be rather low-key and simple. Heck, I'd been talking myself into making a pan of dressing and calling it a day. Yep, that's the mood I've been in for a while. Shocking, right?

2009 is the year of the budget. It's the year of balancing two hobbies -- cooking a sewing. Both compete for my time and my wallet. And up until last night, sewing was winning.

What turned me around? In spite of a good friend saying that she and her daughter were thinking about visiting from Cleveland, the Thanksgiving drive hadn't kicked in. Last night, I went out to get the turkey. That's when it hit me!

Getting the last 10-lb turkey made everything kick in. A little over 24 hours later, I have everything I need except fresh parsley and maybe more wine and liquor. I really don't need the wine or liquor; I'll be the only one imbibing.

Anyhoo. And so it begins!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I took Thursday and Friday off for my birthday. I ran a few errands, but I spent most of the time and a good part of Saturday behind the sewing machine. I was so happy and I took the time to recognize it. Today started with a rousing church service and then time spent behind the stove. I have been in or near the kitchen off and on since 10:30 this morning.

The blessing is that I was able to flex my culinary muscles a little. This makes two weeks in a row. It was something very comforting in planning how I was going to attack making five complete meals without repeats. And I'm going to bed with a clean kitchen - including a swept floor! I ran the dishwasher three times during the cooking marathon. This is good training for Thanksgiving.

I really am happiest at home. Not in that I-just-want-to-sit-around-all-day kinda way, but I really enjoy doing the things women fought to liberate me from! I say the suffragists fought to give me the choice. Who wants to be told to stay at home and cook?

Well, I've broken another camera. It's being repaired and I should have it back in a couple of weeks. I'm just a little agitated because the repair costs almost as much as the camera. Lesson learned. I have pics from last week, but I'm waaaay too tired to put them into a coherent post. Perhaps by the end of the week.