Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sides for Sale

I received a wonderful offer to prepare the Thanksgiving sides for a family:  macaroni and cheese, greens, dressing, candied yams and rolls. This was a challenge because It was for eight people, plus leftovers and I'm not a big fan of traditional mac and cheese and greens.  Let me clarify that; I love traditional mac and cheese, but I never make it (I stepped up my game years back) and I'd rather have sautéed greens with a ton of garlic than greens floating in pot liquor.

Here are the highlights:

I do have to say that I did put my foot in those greens! I grabbed a forkful the next morning and they were delicious.  After cleaning eight pounds of them, I would have been sorely disappointed had they turned out otherwise. I guess I should give you some sort of recipe.

1. Cover meat, meat onion and garlic in cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the meat floats. Make sure you salt the water.  I use extra meat because I use turkey instead of pork.

2. Add the greens and cook until beyond tender (I'm Southern and we don't abide al dente greens when pot liquor is involved.

3. Remove the bones and grab some cornbread. I do a final seasoning check and add some heat, white vinegar and Tony Chachere's. What really sets them off is if you can get your heat and vinegar in the same bottle. I'm the oddball in the family (surprise) because I like a little raw chopped onion on top. I have also been known to eat them with my fingers ... (you gotta mash them up with the cornbread).  As I'm writing this, I'm thinking I should have kept some of those greens for me. I did buy a pound for myself, but those have been creamed. (Yes, I picked a total of nine pounds of greens for Thanksgiving. I must have done four pounds Sunday for dinner with friends. I will not be cooking greens again until Easter!)

Mac and cheese.  I used Cook's Illustrated's recipe for Classic Macaroni and Cheese.  It was good, but it wasn't slap-yo'-mama-good. (I have standards.)  I need to find a killer recipe for creamy regular-folk mac and cheese.  Back in the day, I was content to layer cheese, noodles, eggs and Pet milk.  I might have to revisit that. I don't like the consistency of the roux-based white sauces.  They are smooth, but I can feel the flour. This does not bother me with gumbo and etoufee, but I think it's the reason I don't like gravy.

I digress. Here are the pics:

Mac (two boxes)

and cheese. I shredded a block of colby-jack, cheddar and fontina.  I added eight ounces of shredded cheddar.

Starting the roux.

 Milk, cheese and extra seasoning.

I poured the sauce over the pasta, stirred it up and put in in a baking dish. I sprinkled cheese on top and let it cool. It will get baked today when it's heated up.

Candied yams.  My peeler got a workout!  10 pounds of sweet potatoes! I have learned my lesson from years past and now put the peels in the garbage instead of feeding them to the garbage disposal. Yeah; they got all over the floor.

Now they are all ready to go.

Layer with cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and sugar (a mix of brown and white).  Cook on low. I remember Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet being amazed at how "blacks cook candied yams."  That's right, no water.

I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish, but hopefully, you've seen candied yams before.  Now for the dressing. I take no shortcuts.  You've seen it before. I'm glad you've seen it before because I forgot to take pictures!

Yeast rolls. As I write this, I'm making my third batch for the holiday. Here are yesterday's:

Ooo wee!

I par-baked them.  They looked great when I took them out, but then they started to fall a little.

I threw in a sweet potato pie and cranberry sauce on the house.  Oh, how I love homemade cranberry sauce.

I was exhausted after I finished yesterday; I think I'd been in the kitchen for 11 hours, plus the evening before.   Only six hours were spent chopping, dicing, standing over the stove, etc. The rest went to all the dishes and cleaning up.

Speaking of which, I need to tackle the current mess.  This will be my fourth cleaning of the day. This is one of the reasons I actually like doing Thanksgiving by myself - no pressure. I can take my time and eat at 7 pm if I want to (which is usually the case). I might take a nap after I start the dishwasher :-)

If I don't post again today, Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for the opportunity to continue family traditions, knowing my way around the kitchen and my dishwasher. Of course, there are family and friends whom I'm thankful for. I can't call them now because they're eating and when they call me, I'll be eating or asleep. It's the game we play every year. Go Cowboys!

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