Sunday, November 18, 2012

Liquor is delicious. So is liquor.

Sunday afternoon cooking is awesome up until 4:45pm, when the lovely long rays of afternoon sunshine that filter through the yellowing maple leaves suddenly switches to midnight blue and you still have a massive amount of washing up to do. 


Today I am starting to prep the Thanksgiving meal. Usually I make the stuffing base early because I like all the flavors to meld together into mushroomy-buttery-garlicky- sagey deliciousness which I will combine with bread, turkey sausage, and broth on the Big Day. 

And today I got to thinking about mushroom liquor. Did you know that oysters and clams also produce their own liquor? I knew it, but I never thought it out before. Recipes for both oyster stew and for clam chowder often instruct the cook to "reserve the liquor" and now I am thinking, other than mushrooms, what other veg produces a "liquor"?

And for the record, mushroom liquor is DELICIOUS. 

Thanksgiving comes first

Oy vey. No one tells you that as you age you stop staring at your navel and start slowly looking at the world around you through the lens of experience. Which is making me into a complete Debbie Downer.


I love Thanksgiving and I am not sure exactly why I should still. It signaled the brutal eradication of an entire civilization which we mark by stuffing ourselves stupid. 

Can you imagine if in Germany there was a national holiday to give thanks for Kristallnacht? Maybe now is too soon, but in two or three hundred years? Who can say. What I do know is I can't discuss this with most people because pretty much no one wants to talk about sh*t that happened in the past, especially if they think they are going to be made to feel guilty about it. Everything ugly gets swept under the rug and we hope for better tomorrows. 

You see where I am at with this kind of thinking? Debbie Downer City. 

However I can't bring myself to not have some kind of fall celebration of gratitude. It's as though I am genetically programmed to do so deep down in the primordial goop of my DNA. Thanks for that Pilgrims. 

And so here it is the Sunday before Thanksgiving and I am finally getting into the spirit of it. 

It should also be said that since Grandpa passed away, I haven't really been as enthused about this weekend. I miss him terribly right about now. I miss picking him up, getting Dunkin Donuts coffee (small with cream and sugar) and donuts (cinnamon for him, honey-dipt for me), driving out to Wendell, getting the Turkey at Diemand Farm, and then heading home with a pit stop at the Old Mill in Westminster for a late lunch. He was my Thanksgiving buddy and it's just a small ritual that I miss. 

Now I send Dad out to get the turkey since he works out in those parts. And I sit here in the comfort of my cozy kitchen and think up a menu. I used to be totally OCD about it. I would plan out the menu in October and put it all into excel. My shopping list would be organized by the supermarket's planogram to save time. 

I think about it now, and I get a headache. 

These days I wing it. I get an idea of how many people are coming, add three to that number, and adjust my recipes accordingly. Experience tells me that I will need LOTS of stuffing, always double or triple that recipe because it's the one dish that you will want to eat the next day and possibly through the weekend. And buckets of gravy as any mistakes, food or otherwise, can been forgiven with a gravy bath. 

Lastly you should have a really good cranberry sauce. 

There are only two kinds you should consider: the canned kind that splorches out of the can ready to slice, OR Brandied Cranberry Preserves from the Joy of Jams and Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves by Linda Ziedrich*.  This is hands-down my absolute favorite way to eat cranberries. I make more of it than I need at Thanksgiving and then I eat it for days. It's good on toast, on pancakes, on roasted pork, on ice cream, just with a spoon... You get the idea. 

It's easy and it bakes in the oven, no splattering or scorching on the stove top. Anyway, here is the recipe. :

Brandied Cranberry Preserves 
Makes about 1 1/2 pints 
12 ounces cranberries
2 cinnamon sticks
Zest of 1 orange, in thin shreds
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1⁄3 cup brandy or Grand Marnier 
1. Spread the cranberries in an ovenproof 8 x 11-inch pan and nestle the cinnamon sticks among them. Sprinkle the orange zest and sugar over the cranberries and pour the brandy over all. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and put the pan into an oven heated to 250°F (preheating isn’t necessary). 
2. After 30 minutes, gently stir the berries. Replace the foil and continue to cook the mixture for another 30 minutes, or until the berries are tender. 
3. Store the cooled preserves in a covered container in the refrigerator, where they will keep, tightly covered, for at least several weeks. Or ladle them hot into pint or half-pint mason jars, add lids and rings, and process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.
Personally I reduce the sugar to about a cup, maybe a little less. It's a lot of sugar, but that is my palate - I like spicy and tangy and sour so if you don't, keep the sugar at a cup and a half. 

And that my friend is my Thanksgiving editorial for 2012. I hope that you and yours are able to gather together and share a meal and a laugh. And if not, let me know - I will have extra gravy and stuffing.

*I happen to work for the publisher of this book however this recipe is SO fricking good that I have no problem promoting it. Plus, I love this particular book. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

My name is Calamity Shazaam, and I am an addict.

Things took a turn for the worse when I bounced my forehead off my desk this afternoon. Turns out nap-nods can escalate quickly to nap-faceplants.

Uh-glee! Definitely NOT a pretty sight at all.

Why so tired you ask? Well, guess what I forgot to do today?

1:47pm - November 9, 2012

Yes. I forgot to have coffee.

It's like forgetting to put pants on in the morning. Coffee is as fundamental as oxygen and chocolate, as far as I can tell.

And then I saw this image on Pinterest (a whole 'nother addiction) and first I was like "yep" and then I was like "hahahahahahahahahah!"

I hate that I totally get it.

And also I hate that I am about to go back for cup number 2 just as soon as I click "Publish".

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Oh hey, I have a blog.

So what if I am slowly starving it to death, right?

Well thank you to YOU dear reader, you are the only one left.

What have I been up to since August? Oh, not a whole lot. I think that I've been a bit lazy of late with the blogging thing - too many photos of what Ima puttin' in mah piehole and not enough writing to go with it.

You wanna know why? Because I fricking HATE writing recipes. OMG I would rather scrape wallpaper at a hoarders house.

I know how to cook like people know how to drive a stick shift and for the record I cannot operate a manual transmission unless bunny-hopping from point to point is considered operating.  So I have lots of empathy for people who can't cook and who rely on microwave meals and powdered crap in a box.

Which you would think would make me super patient and recipe-writeable. You would be wrong. I just cook. Occasionally I will read a recipe because I've forgotten how to clarify stock or to look up the set temperature for jelly, but at this point in my life I kind of just know how it all goes together.

Right now I am eating lots of beets. And I really need to look up if eating this many beets will make me diabetic. But all I do is rinse them really well, wrap the whole lot in foil and roast them at about 375 degrees until a knife goes through them like butter buttahhhh.

When they've cooled enough to handle, using a wad of paper towels to handle, take one in one hand and use another paper towel to rub the skin off.

Chop them up and sprinkle some feta cheese all over, as well as salt & pepper. Sometimes I might splash a little vinaigrette over, or just a bit of plain vinegar, along with the cheese. At the moment I am eating the feta made from goat milk that I get in my Farmers to You order - it is a very mild feta and just so very delicious.

The other thing I am eating is sliced and roasted delicata squash.  It has made a squash eater out of me. I used to be of the opinion that all squash were just overgrown decorative gourds waiting for a coat of shellac. And now I eat squash almost every night.

All right, so there are two ways to do this, but no matter which way you go you need to give them a really good clean because you are going to be eating the skin. And think about it - squash grow on the ground, something probably crapped on it. Like a bird, or field mouse.

Scrub it well, dry it off a bit, then cut it down the middle lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and at this point you can just rub the halves with a little olive oil and roast them face down until they are soft and squidgy. Afterwards you can stuff them with a little bit of cooked quinoa mixed with a little Romano cheese, some finely diced cooked beets, a couple of raisins, and maybe a bit of chopped garlic or parsley. You can really stuff it with whatever stuffing you like. That is just how I make it. Although thinking about it, I bet a homemade version of Stove Top stuffing would be amazeballs...

Alternatively, after you've scraped the seeds out, you can simply cut them in slices, toss them with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them. Do I need to tell you that you should roast them on a foil lined sheet tray? See? THIS is why I don't like to write recipes! I never know how much detail people need or want. And also I always sound like a condescending jerk when I tell people what to do.

Roast them until they are lovely and caramelized, you will have to flip them at some point. It usually takes about 25 to 30 minutes per side. But that is just me, you will have to see what works for you in your oven.  The half-moons of squash will shrink up so make a little more than you think you will need. Leftovers are great sauteed with a little garlic and parsley and tossed with cooked pasta. Or just cold, with your fingers and some wine.

At this time of year pretty much everything that is local and fresh is best roasted. It heats the house up and goes well with parsley and garlic fried up in a little olive oil with some red pepper.

When I move on to something else, you will hear about it here first! Or maybe about four months after, something like that.