Friday, November 26, 2010

Grateful for Laughter and Twice Stuffed Turkeys

Yesterday was American Thanksgiving but in Canada, we celebrated over a month ago. This works out perfectly for me because I have a tendency to be late.  So this is my Canadian Thanksgiving post just in time to coincide with American Thanksgiving.  So depending on which country you are in, I am either tardy or timely.

Cooking has always been a passion of mine.  Through my teen years I loved to cook and did a lot of it to help out my single, working mother.  Holiday dinners and cooking turkeys, though, were ultimately the responsibility of my mother even though I helped her with every step of the process.

I was around twenty when I was setting up my first household and decided that I should invite everyone over to my house for Thanksgiving dinner.  I was going to make the best Thanksgiving dinner any of us had ever had.  There would be turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie from scratch.  If they did not know that my middle name was Susie, as in Homemaker, they would surely find out soon.

I made the stuffing the way my mother always had:  tear the bread, chop the onions, add the seasonings and the melted butter, and then stuff the cavity of the bird.  While chopping the onions, I had a little accident that involved my finger and the knife and had to find a band-aid to quell the flow from my bleeding digit.  No big deal, it was just one more incident in a series of kitchen mishaps.  Carry on.  I proceeded to stuff the bird using my hands to press the moist bread mixture as far into the cavity as I could.  Next I seasoned the bird with poultry seasoning and other spices, laid sliced onions over top and put it in the roasting pan.  I stood back to admire my work, proud of my accomplishment.  

This feeling of pride was short lived because it was then that I realized that my band-aid was missing.  I did not want to consider the possibilities of where it might be and, frantically, I searched everywhere – the counter, the floor, the garbage can– but it was nowhere to be found.  I had no choice but to “unstuff” the bird.  How many of you have “unstuffed” a bird before it was cooked?  I emptied the contents of the bird’s cavern into a bowl and then moved it, piece by piece, to another bowl in an attempt to find the missing band-aid.  Did I find it?  No, but I felt fairly satisfied that it was not in the stuffing so I re-stuffed the turkey and placed it in the oven.

Before dinner, I did end up finding the elusive band-aid hiding in a corner on the floor where the baseboard and the wall met.  I can’t tell you how relieved I was because even though I went through every single piece of stuffing and was fairly satisfied that the band-aid was not there, I still had visions of someone taking a bite and getting that odd look on their face.  You know the look.  The one that says, “I am not exactly sure what I just put in my mouth combined with how am I going to get it out of here as fast as I can without anyone noticing.”

The rest of the dinner went well.  The mashed potatoes were buttery and creamy and the turkey moist and delicious.  And then there was the stuffing.  Well, the stuffing was superb, if I do say so myself, and only the beginning of what was to become known as my signature holiday dish.  Everyone loves my stuffing.  It is probably the one thing that my ex-husband misses about me so I often save some for him to send via my daughter. 

It was only after dinner when we were all sated and languishing, in that comatose state that is only brought on by eating a turkey dinner, that I decided to share the story of my twice-stuffed turkey with my guests.  We had a good laugh.  Occasionally, over the years, this story has been retold and then we laugh again.  I am grateful for this laughter.

This year I invited Giada to join us, teeth and all.  She wanted to add lemon rind to my stuffing but I wouldn't let her.  I don't thing she really "got" us but we did enjoy her mashed potato dish.   

Baked Mashed Potatoes
with Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs 
from Giada's Family Dinners, by Giada de Laurentiis
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter and set aside.

Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until they are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return the potatoes to the same pot and mash well. Mix in the milk and melted butter. Mix in the mozzarella and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish. Stir the bread crumbs and remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mashed potatoes. Recipe can be prepared up to this point 6 hours ahead of time; cover and chill.

Bake, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

causing a stir

Risotto is the dish to make if you want to cause a stir because that is exactly what you will be doing for about a half an hour - stirring.  This is the first time that I have made risotto but definitely not the last.  It has all the makings of a comfort dish, especially this one by Giada de Laurentiis which includes vanilla and butternut squash.  Mmm, creamy.  This is not a dish to be making if you don't have a kitchen where you can visit with your guests while you are cooking because you will be tied to that pot for a while.  You could always insist on a new kitchen before you make it.  That would probably cause quite a stir.

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto
from Giada's Kitchen - New Italian Favorites 
by Giada de Laurentiis


  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large vanilla bean
  • 3 cups peeled cubed (1-inch wide) butternut squash, about 12 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped onion (from 1 onion)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives


In a medium saucepan, warm the broth over medium-high heat. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add them, and the bean, to the broth. When the broth comes to a simmer reduce the heat to low. Add the butternut squash to the simmering broth and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon remove the butternut squash to a side dish. Turn the heat on the broth down to very low and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Discard the vanilla bean. Turn off the heat. Gently stir in the butternut squash, Parmesan, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and salt. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chives. Serve

Note:  I used chicken broth instead of the vegetable broth.


cookbook sundays

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ode to a pumpkin

Ode to a Pumpkin
Oh Pumpkin, Oh Pumpkin, how great thou art
There are all sorts of recipes of which you're a part
Your orange globule presence is everywhere
In magazines, on doorsteps and the food blogosphere
It must be the season for your merits to be shown
We all want to claim you and make you our own
In muffins and cookies and casseroles and soups
You must use a pumpkin to remain in the loop
Oh Pumpkin, Oh Pumpkin, you're a glorified gourd
But frankly, I admit you're making me bored
So here is my recipe, I've had my fun
I've cooked with a pumpkin and now I am done

Pumpkin and sweet potato puree
with orange and thyme
from Fine Cooking Magazine Oct/Nov 2010
Online here

Serves 4

2 Tbs. unsalted butter; more for the baking sheet
1 small (1-1/2 lb.) Sugar Pie pumpkin
1 medium (2- to 2-1/4 -lb.) Sugar Pie pumpkin
1 large (14- to 16-oz.) sweet potato
2 Tbs. light brown sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
Generously butter a rimmed baking sheet. Cut the small pumpkin in half lengthwise and put it cut side down on the baking sheet. Cut a 1/2-inch lid from the stem end of the medium pumpkin and put both pieces cut side down on the same baking sheet. Cut the sweet potato in half lengthwise and place cut side down on the same baking sheet.

Cover the vegetables tightly with foil and bake until the sweet potato and halved pumpkin are very tender, and the larger pumpkin is tender when pierced with fork, about 1-1/2 hours. Let stand until cool enough to handle.

Scoop the seeds from the halved pumpkin and discard. Remove the skin and put the flesh in a food processor. Peel the sweet potato and add it to the processor, along with the butter, brown sugar, orange zest, and thyme. Purée until smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Scoop the seeds from the larger pumpkin, leaving the shell and flesh intact. Season the inside of the pumpkin lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the purée to the pumpkin shell and top with the lid. (If you can’t fit all the purée, put the remainder in a small baking dish, cover, and bake alongside the pumpkin.) Put the pumpkin on the baking sheet and bake until the pumpkin and purée are heated through, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and serve, spooning the purée from the pumpkin.

  1. I added Rosemary and garlic to this recipe because I am on a Rosemary kick right now and garlic is a must.
  2. I have nothing against pumpkins or those that choose to cook with them.  I was just taking note of how many pumpkin inspired recipes there are right now.  A lot.


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