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Archive for the ‘From Shana’s Kitchen’ Category

panade

After my last throat-clearing post, I’d wanted to return with something really lovely and inspiring to share with you.

Instead, I have one of the most homely dishes ever to appear in these digital pages.

I’m glad I’m posting it nonetheless for a few reasons. Blogging, like cooking, entails a good deal of putting oneself “out there.” It can be a risky transaction, the self-exposure. G3 has been blessed with gracious readers and commenters (food blogs, like many online spaces, aren’t always so lucky), so I’ve never been terribly afraid of censure from our audience or readers. It’s that I’m typically a harsh self-critic, so posting a picture of something as humble – and homely – as this dish is a good way for me to tell that critic to hush up.

Let me assure you: this dish makes up in flavor what it lacks in beauty. This is oozy, hearty stuff — even a little decadent. Somewhere between onion soup and a casserole, it’s the perfect thing for the wintery weather that’s undeniably upon us here in southeast Michigan. Making this with the last of the Tantre winter share greens, as well as some bits and ends of day-old bread that I’ve been throwing in the freezer for the past months, eases my conscience (I’m not wasting!) and domestic tensions regarding our over-stuffed freezer. Relieving us of a few bags of bread means it’s less likely that we’ll be assaulted by projectile paths of bags of frozen Locavorious produce.

Yep, it makes E happy on a few levels, and that makes me happy.

Onion, Greens, and Gruyere Panade

1 ½ lbs yellow onions, preferably a sweet variety, thinly sliced
About ½ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, slivered
Salt
1 lb or so of winter greens – kale or chard are my favorites – cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
Water
10 ounces day-old chewy artisan bread, cut into rough 1-inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
About 2 loosely packed cups good-quality Swiss gruyère

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the onions in lots of olive oil — about 1/4 cup or so. I use my Dutch oven for this, but a deep saucepan would work well. Cook until golden on the edges for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then lower the heat and add the garlic and some salt. Let cook until the onions are a nice amber color, for about 15 mins or so.

Heat a little oil in a large skillet and saute the greens for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Set aside.

Toss and massage the cubed bread with 2 or 3 Tbs olive oil, ¼ cup of the broth, and a few pinches of salt.

Now, I usually assemble the panade in my Dutch oven (the same one I used for the onions, above), but you could use a souffle dish if you like. Start with a good smear of onions, followed by a loose scattering of bread cubes, then a little more onion, some greens, and a handful of cheese. Repeat, continuing until all ingredients are incorporated and the dish is full. Aim for 2 to 3 layers of each component, but don’t fuss over it. This is peasant food, and as I already mentioned, it’s not going to end up pretty.

Pour the remaining broth and water in slowly over the assembled panade, drizzling it down the sides of the dish. The liquid should come up nearly to the top of the layered ingredients.

Set the dish over low heat on the stovetop, and bring its liquid to a simmer. Cover the top of the dish with parchment paper, then with the lid of your Dutch oven or with some foil. Place the panade on a baking sheet in the oven, and bake it until hot and bubbly, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. The top should be pale golden and a bit darker on the edges.

Uncover the panade, raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and leave until for another 10-20 minutes, to brown the top a bit. Remove from oven, and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

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I will not vouch for the authenticity–the “Korean-ness”–of this soup. I will, however, vouch for its being the the thing to make for the person you love who loves spicy food and is suffering from a terrible head cold. The very head cold that you gave him.

It’s also the perfect way to say “thank you” for off-the-chain-delicious chocolate chip cookies he made for you last week when you were the one who was sneezingcoughingrunnynosesick.

While ambitious for a weeknight dinner, a shortcut version of this soup could be dashed off with some store-bought broth, or doctored-up stock from the fridge, and some poached chicken breasts.

Korean Chicken Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine

One 3-lb. chicken
3 1/2 quarts water
1 medium unpeeled onion, quartered
2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large unpeeled garlic clove, smashed
1 t. whole black peppercorns
3 1/2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
A bunch of fresh herbs, like thyme and parsley
Kosher salt
8 oz. thick udon noodles (I buy them pre-cooked in a package from Asian grocery stores, but you could use dried)
2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 lb. shiitake (or other) mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c. finely julienne peeled ginger
One 12-oz. block firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 c. (or more) kimchee, thinly sliced
2 T (or more) Asian fish sauce
1 t. Asian sesame oil

In a stockpot, combine the chicken with the water, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, and herbs and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Discard the skin. Pull the meat off the bones, cut it into 1/2-inch pieces (if you feel like it) and refrigerate.

Return the bones to the pot, partially cover and simmer for 1 hour, until the broth is richly flavored. Strain the broth into a clean heat proof bowl and rinse out the pot. Return the broth to the pot and boil over moderate heat until reduced a bit, about 20 minutes. Season with a generous amount of kosher salt.

If using dried noodles: in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the udon until al dente. Drain and cool under running water. Drain again.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring, until golden, about 7 minutes. Scrape the mushrooms into the stockpot and add the udon, ginger, tofu, kimchee, fish sauce and sesame oil. Season with salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer until just heated through. Ladle into bowls and serve.

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mushroom bourginon

Upon ordering roasted marrow bones and toast at an Ann Arbor restaurant recently, the waiter asked me if I was from France, or had lived in France. When I told him that I had studied there years ago, he said, “Well that explains it. Only people who have spent time in France ever order marrow bones.” “Ah, but I was a vegetarian when I lived in France!” I thus confounded his theory. (The story of how I went from eating no meat to loving marrow bones is perhaps for another day. Let’s say that bacon played a key role.)

Since I learned my way around the kitchen during the years when I was not eating meat, vegetarian cooking is my foundation. I don’t really feel like anything is “missing” from a dish if it lacks meat. That said, I had been on quite a tear lately with the heavy, meat-laden dishes: in the space of about two weeks, I had made braised short ribs, cassoulet, roast chicken, coq au vin, and a meaty lasagne. I think this is my way of battling the brutal Michigan winter: spend hours in the kitchen, tending to something steamy and comforting in the oven or on the stovetop. This has the lovely effect of filling the house with awesome smells and the belly with hearty fare. It also has the unlovely effect of fattening up both me and E.

Something had to give.

The dish I want to share with you is the best of both words: a traditional French dish, sans beef. It’s great for when you want something that will sustain you on a cold February night, but don’t have the time or will to go to the gym twice a day to pay for it.

pearls

Mushroom Bourguignon
[Modified version of the recipe from Smitten Kitchen]

2 T or more olive oil
2 T or more butter
2 pounds mushrooms (I used some portobello and button, but crimini would be nice as well)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
2 cups broth (veg, chicken, or beef – whatever you have on hand)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in two batches. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.

Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrots, onions, thyme, salt and pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn up the heat until the liquid reduces by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir in. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, continue to boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

Spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles and sprinkle with chives or parsley; add some sour cream if you like, though I don’t think it’s all that necessary.

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2009 will be a good cooking year for me if the past several weeks are any indication. I finally overcame a decade-long fear of baking with yeast, after a baking experiment gone terribly awry in an old boyfriend’s Red Hook apartment, and took the plunge with that No-Knead Bread everyone was talking about, well, forever ago. For any of you who placed “yeast baking” on your list of New Year’s Resolutions or bucket list or what-have-you, I heartily recommend you try this method. For such a teensy bit of effort, such glorious results.

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No-Knead Bread – Shana’s Way
Yield one 1 1/2 pound loaf

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting [I used King Arthur’s all-purpose flour]
¼ teaspoon instant yeast [I used Red Star brand]
1¼ teaspoons salt [I used Baleine fine sea salt]
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed [I used coarse-ground yellow cornmeal]

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. [I let my dough rest at least 18 hours both times I’ve made it.]

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth)–or a piece of parchment paper, if you want to avoid washing extra towels– with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal [as above, I used coarse cornmeal]; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel or piece of parchment paper and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. [I used my Le Creuset 6 quart dutch oven–it’s enameled- coated cast iron and works beautifully for this.] When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. [I notice that my oven runs hot, so I only do 5 minutes with the lid off.] Cool on a rack.

* * *

The other small miracle I’d like to share with you was the side of salmon I roasted over the holiday. Again, it’s a tiny bit of effort with awesome results: my favorite style of cooking. You can easily halve the recipe for an easy weeknight meal, and serve it with some roasted potatoes and a salad. Or you could make the whole recipe for an easy yet elegant dish for entertaining; try it with wild mushroom risotto and braised fennel.

Roast Side of Salmon with Mustard, Tarragon, and Chive Sauce
Epicurious

2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup spicy brown mustard (such as Gulden’s)
6 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
6 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1 3 1/2-to 3 3/4-pound whole side of salmon with skin (about 1 1/2 inches thick at thickest part)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 450°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Season mustard sauce lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Place salmon, skin side down, on diagonal on prepared sheet. Spoon 1/2 cup mustard sauce atop salmon, then spread over, covering completely. Sprinkle salmon generously with salt and pepper. Roast just until salmon is opaque in center, about 15 minutes. Using parchment as aid, transfer salmon to platter. Cut crosswise into pieces and serve with remaining mustard sauce. Can be served right away or at room temperature.

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The prodigious amounts of leftovers from our Thanksgiving feast are tucked away in many (dozens?) of tupperware containers or wrapped in various layers of foil and plastic. I indulged with such abandon yesterday that today I wasn’t even tempted by the possibilities of turkey sandwiches or any creative way to use up what remains. I was, however, seduced by the pan of noodle kugel my mom made this afternoon — one of her standbys, a traditional dish she learned how to make from her mother-in-law. It was due to accompany my sister back to school tomorrow, and I had to plead with her to let me have some. She finally relented, and I savored this pudding which I have never thought to make myself. I’m not sure why, exactly, except that it’s one of those special things I look forward when I come home. It’s my mom’s dish, but I think it’s time I add it to my repertoire. Tasting it today, I was struck by the small but unmistakable miracle of such humble, traditional foods — how a few eggs and noodles and cheese and butter, sweetened with some sugar and spice, becomes something so much greater than the sum of its parts.

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Lokshen Kugel (Noodle Pudding)
8 oz. broad noodles, cooked and drained (we use Mrs. Weiss’s broad egg noodles)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cottage cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased 8 x 8 pan. Bake, uncovered in 350 F oven for an hour.

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It’s Thanksgiving Eve and I’m back in my hometown. I walked in the door with armfuls of groceries, including big stalks of Brussels sprouts. My father screwed up his face in a “I hate those things” expression and my mom exclaimed “I’ve never seen how Brussels sprouts grow! How unusual!” So I’m dealing with some skeptics here. But you’ve asked for Brussels sprouts recipes and I won’t let you down.

I’m making Molly Orangette’s recipe this year. I’m thinking that the lemon and poppyseed flavors will contrast nicely with of the heavy meal. It was a toss up between this one and a recipe featuring currants and chestnuts. Claire suggests cutting the sprouts in half, lengthwise, and roasting in some olive oil, and tossing the lot with some blue cheese and some pine nuts. My friend Liz made the recipe below for the pre-Thanksgiving meal, with one modification: substituting chicken broth for water. For tomorrow, she’ll try caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar as substitutions.And Maria is making their household classic, braised with bacon, shallots and chestnuts.

That’s a whole lot of choice in good autumnal flavors for the Thanksgiving table. So defy the skeptics and break out the sprouts. They’ll win the hearts and minds of your dinner guests.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Bon Appétit, via Epicurious
November 2007
Molly Stevens

Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided
1/2 pound shallots, thinly sliced
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes.

Halve brussels sprouts lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into thin (1/8-inch) slices. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown at edges, 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 3 tablespoons butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, 3 minutes. Add shallots; season with salt and pepper.

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Time for Chili

ancho chili sauce prep

One of the ways that my brother and I used to weather the boring moments of childhood was–I wish I were joking–to practice telekinesis. (I wonder, do children these days have boring moments? Do they bide the time doing similarly weird shit? Discuss.) We’d be sitting at a relative’s house, or at a restaurant, and one of us would say to the other, “I bet you can’t get that fork to move across the table.” Or, “try to make the plate levitate.” And we’d concentrate really hard, with constipated looks on our faces, trying to will matter into obeying our psychic commands.

This memory comes to me tonight as I lie on the couch, swaddled in sweaters and blankets, with mummy-arms stretched out over my laptop keyboard, wishing and hoping that somehow, some way, the chili I made yesterday that’s sitting in the fridge would open the door, float over to the stove, turn on the range, and heat itself up for me.

Sigh.

Even though it was a relaxing, nicely-paced weekend, I’m feeling . . . ragged. Not for any particularly good reason, but I’m sure it’s due in part to having dragged my butt to the gym four times this week (2x the usual). And there’s the weather, which encumbers me with coats and scarves and hats and just makes everything feel like more of a production. And this craziness of putting up a blog post every. single. day. It’s been great to be reconnected with this space and with our readers, but folks, this little blogger is getting tuckered out.

But the chili. The chili. That was a production, but well worth it. It gave me a good chance to slow down and chop and tear and measure and mix. It filled the house with the most seductive, warm, spicy aromas. And after more than four hours in the oven, and several hours to rest, the flavors mingled beautifully and the texture was velvety and [if I only concentrate hard enough, a steaming hot bowl of it will appear in my hands any moment now . . . ].

texas beef brisket chili

Texas Beef Brisket Chili
Modified from Bon Appetit, October 2008, via Epicurious

As is my habit, I made a bunch of modifications to the recipe, which are indicated below in brackets. The reasons for the modifications were: in order to save some dough, to eliminate a trip to a big grocery store, and to cook this beast of a recipe in my favorite 5-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.

This recipe has lots of steps, so I suggest starting it first thing in the morning–or better yet, a day or so in advance–so that the flavors have a chance to mingle.

A final note: butternut squash in another otherwise all-beef chili might sound odd to some. It certainly doesn’t adhere to any chili traditions I’m familiar with. And yet. And yet. Butternut squash is a really good vehicle for ancho chiles; it absorbs the sauce really nicely and is a sweet and mellow counterpoint to the deep, rich, and spicy sauce.

Ingredients

6 large dried ancho chiles [to the local readers: Sparrow sells packages of 6 ancho chiles for $1.99)
6 ounces bacon, diced [I used applewood smoked bacon]
1 1/4 pounds onions, chopped (about 4 cups) [I used 2 medium onions]
1 5-pound flat-cut (also called first-cut) beef brisket, cut into 2 1/2- to 3-inch cubes [I used just under 4 pounds]
Coarse kosher salt
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 10-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles (1 3/4 cups) [I used a can of whole tomates that I diced myself]
1 12-ounce bottle Mexican beer [I used Dos Equis lager]
1 7-ounce can diced roasted green chiles
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems
4 cups 1 1/2- to 2-inch chunks seeded peeled butternut squash (from 3 1/2-pound squash)

Garnishes: [I only used fresh cilantro]
Fresh cilantro leaves
Chopped red onion
Diced avocado
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Warm corn and/or flour tortillas

Preparation

Place chiles in medium bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to cover. Soak until chiles soften, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Mine were soft in about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sauté bacon in heavy large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat until beginning to brown. Add onions. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle beef all over with coarse salt and pepper. Add to pot; stir to coat. Set aside.

Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Place chiles in blender or food processor. Add 1 cup soaking liquid, garlic, chili powder, cumin seeds, oregano, coriander, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt; blend to puree, adding more soaking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if very thick. Pour puree over brisket in pot. Add tomatoes with juices, beer, green chiles, and cilantro stems. Stir to coat evenly.

Bring chili to simmer. Cover and place in oven. Cook 2 hours. Uncover and cook until beef is almost tender, about 1 hour. Add squash; stir to coat. Roast uncovered until beef and squash are tender, adding more soaking liquid if needed to keep meat covered, about 45 minutes longer. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper. Tilt pot and spoon off any fat from surface of sauce.

If you’re making this ahead of serving it, cool for 1 hour. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

If using garnishes, set them out in separate dishes. Rewarm chili over low heat. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.

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It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving and good, well-organized cooks everywhere have planned their menus, assembled their shopping lists and are about to embark upon an epic cooking adventure.

And then there are the rest of us. Well, actually, and then there’s me.  About half the time I’m a good cook(the other half I would say I’m a very utilitarian cook).  But I would not call myself well-organized. Planning ahead, for me, generally means pulling the cookbooks out on Saturday morning when I’m starting to think about Saturday night.

But Shana and Anne? Man, they put me to shame.  These women know how to put together a menu. Anne, in particular, puts all of her considerable organizational skills into menu-planning. The woman is a demon with a pack of post-it notes and a pile of cooking magazines. They keep me on my toes, those two, and in effort to learn from their good example, I actually planned my menu more than a full week ahead.

But I don’t expect the same from you. So, in the spirit of sharing the planning load, I present three variations on a theme, in the hopes they might inspire. Each of us has started with the idea of Thanksgiving, but each of us is cooking for a very different crowd in terms of numbers, ages and tastes. We helped each other out a bit, and here’s what we came up. So, without further ado, three menus, each one constructed in response to constraints as well as opportunity.

Shana Cooks for the Family

The crowd: The Kimball Family

The constraint: As with every family Thanksgiving, some items are non-negotiable

Shana’s notes: This is a rough sketch. Starters and dessert are TBD. As is where I should source the turkey. I’m worried that this menu is too sweet. Suggestions are welcome about how to add some contrast or otherwise offset the carby-sweetness. (Though this is just the problem of thanksgiving, isn’t it?)

SALAD

greens w/ pears, walnuts, blue cheese

-or-

Radicchio and Radish Salad with Pear and Parmesan

BIRD

salted roast turkey with herbs and shallot-dijon gravy

TUBERS

mashed potatoes [a la my mom]

OR

w/ creme fraiche and chives

SWEET TUBERS

Garnet yams with maple syrup and maple sugar streusel

CRAN

cranberry-pomegranate

-or-
Cranberry Chutney with Crystallized Ginger and Dried Cherries

BRUSSELS

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

-or-

Brussels sprouts with currants and chestnuts

Anne cooks NY Style

The crowd: Anne’s hip New York City friends and family

The constraint: A New York City apartment kitchen

Anne notes: We are going to go to Chelsea market or somewhere else fun on Sat and buy noshes like cheese pate etc.,

My girlfriend is doing this panzanella as a first course:

then for the main I’m doing this:

Roast Squab with Bacon and Grapes

with a trio of purees:

Vichy Carrot Puree

Chestnut Puree

Celery Root and Turnip Puree

Then my friend is making an apple tart that we will serve with crème fraiche.

NB: Anne is actually cooking her dinner this very weekend, so early reports may be in on Monday or Tuesday.

Maria Cooks Thanksgiving in Minature

The crowd: Family of four, two of whom are way under legal drinking age, one of whom is under three feet.

The constraint: Pleasing four variously developed palates. The need to use up some of the great big Thanksgiving share due to arrive from Tantre Farm. And a smoked turkey. What sides complement smokiness?

Homemade assorted cheddar crisps to snack on

Smoked/grilled turkey (exact brining method is still under discussion) from The Big Green Egg.

Savory bread pudding (exact plan TBD but along these lines)

Cubed  turnips and sweet potatoes, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper, roasted

Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts.

Salad of some sort (On the light, palate cleansing side), with some cheeses

Pear cobbler with dried blueberries.

Shana kindly pointed out that there is no cranberry sort of thing here. Must think about that. Maybe those pickled grapes of hers?

Tune in next week to see if any of us actually stuck to our menus. The best-laid plans . . . Looking forward to hearing reports from out there in the cooking world.

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Since sharing with you some stupid things I do in the kitchen, I’m finding myself in a rather tell-all mode. Don’t worry, I’m not going all truth & dare on you, but I do want to confess my undying affection for all things pickled. Since I was a little girl, kindergarten-age or so, one of my favorite snacks was kosher dill pickles. My brother and I were so into them that my mother had to keep gallon-size containers in the fridge just to support our habit. Strange, I know, but also typical of my and my brother’s weirdness as kids. (I.e., we were known in our teenage years to engage in screaming fights over whether the U.S. constitution should be interpreted according to the founders’ original intention (him), or whether it was a “living document” whose meaning would change over time (me). But I digress.)

We didn’t make our own pickles at home. That practice didn’t start for me until, after a visit to Seattle’s Boat Street Cafe and savoring a plate of assorted pickles that is a specialty of this Provencal-inspired restaurant. Each vegetable and fruit was pickled in a different brine, and I was blown away by the strong yet subtle and nuanced flavors in each. They were beautiful to boot.

I recently discovered that Boat Street is now selling their pickles to the world, not just to those lucky Seattleites, which is super exciting to me. Check it out: pickled figs, raisins, red onions, and prunes. I hope Zingerman’s is reading this.

So until I place my order, or until my local gourmet food emporium starts carrying them, I’ll continue making refrigerator pickles chez moi. Until the other day, I had only made quick vegetable pickles. I was a little skeptical of giving the pickle treatment to fruit–in this case grapes–but I needn’t have been. Making pickles out of fresh or dried fruits makes you feel like you’re tasting that fruit for the first time. It tempers and heightens the sweetness of the fruit, confusing your tastebuds a little bit but only in exciting, tangy ways. I’ve been eating these pickles with pork and duck, and I have a mind to serve them as a bold alternative to the canonical Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Renegade pickle-lover that I am.

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Pickled Grapes
Adapted from a recipe in The Times Picayune, which I tracked down after reading about Orangette’s adventures with quick pickles

Makes about 3 cups

1 pound seedless grapes (I used a combination of red and green)

1 cup white wine vinegar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon allspice

1 (2 1/2-inch) cinnamon stick

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Rinse and dry the grapes, and pull them carefully from their stems. Put the grapes into a medium bowl, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then pour the mixture immediately over the grapes.

Stir to combine. Set aside to cool at room temperature.

Pour the grapes and brine into jars with tight-fitting lids (or cover the bowl with plastic wrap), and chill at least 8 hours or overnight. Serve cold. Keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, if you can leave them alone for that long.

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