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Holidays | Manolo's Food Blog - Part 6
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Slice and serve

Mr. Henry is not consumed by jealousy. He is happy when others pipe up with opinions about food, especially so when Mr. Henry concurs with these opinions.

While traveling during Thanksgiving holidays and unable to post, he read two excellent Manolosphere entries: Twistie on Christmas gifts and raincoaster on turducken, a fresh new Frankenstein monster for holidays.

Remember to partially thaw

Ayyyy! Mr. Henry recalls his very favorite recipe from the old Joy of Cooking, a recipe not included in the updated version (!). Found in the frozen food section near the back, it is an Eskimo recipe for stuffed walrus, one that often comes to mind during discussions of stuffings at Thanksgiving. Here he quotes from memory:

“Gut your walrus. In its cavity place one flock of small birds after having first removed one wing feather from each wing. Sew the cavity closed, cover the walrus in snow, and leave it outside to freeze for the winter.

Come spring, partially thaw, slice and serve.”

Please don’t try this at home.

Feasting plain and simple

Planning a meal is at least as difficult as preparing one. The planner must imagine which flavors and which textures might survive a culinary marriage all the way through the gastro-intestinal tract of each fussbudget friend.

While Mr. Henry believes that each of us is responsible for his or her own colon, he is mindful that out-of-town guests are stuck eating whatever the Henrys prepare. Therefore, menus must err towards the safe and the familiar.

feasting.jpgSince over Thanksgiving the Henry household entertained eight (yes, eight) of Mrs. Henry’s relatives for eight days, the feasting never ceased. Mrs. Henry never left the kitchen and Mr. Henry never stopped ferrying food in and ferrying garbage out.

Eight different palettes with eight different dietary regimens did not intimidate the fearless Mrs. Henry. Undaunted by the closeness of respected elders and rivalrous siblings, she brazenly posted the entire week’s menu on the cabinet, declaring that whoever wanted dinner had better show up on time, devil take the hindmost. She is a courageous woman. Martin Luther was not more bold in list-posting.

Everyone came, everyone feasted, and everyone thanked Mr. Henry, though he had done no cooking apart from the cranberries and some prep work. (A moment, please……Were they happy he had NOT cooked?) Whatever the intention, they complimented him as well on his choices of wine, for which he takes full and deserved credit. Given the size of the party and Mr. Henry’s shrinking holiday budget, none of the wines cost more than $18 per bottle. But given the global wine glut, good table wine is among the cheapest of treats today.

For those less organized than Mrs. Henry, and Mr. Henry suspects such a list does not exclude the U.S. Army quartermaster general, here is the week’s complete menu:

Dinner 1:
Cuban stew: an aromatic slow-cooked concoction of Mrs. Henry’s device made with pork or chicken which includes onions, green olives, raisins, garbanzos, plum tomatoes (seeded), and a splash of liquid (either white wine or stock will do). Sprinkled with fresh cilantro, it is served over brown rice (basmati is tastiest) seasoned with turmeric for color.
Green salad.
Wine: Rioja

Dinner 2: guests all dining at differing times.
Pizza made by each guest upon arrival using Bruno’s bottled marinara sauce (made smoother by a few moments in the blender) and for toppings a choice of mozzarella, sliced Kalamata olives, sweet sausage sautéed and crumbled, sautéed mushrooms, anchovies, and fresh basil.
Green salad.
Wine: Barbera

Dinner 3: pre-Thanksgiving low-fat meal
Broiled farmed salmon (wild was unavailable), broccoli, baked whole fingerling potatoes, Israeli pickles in rice wine vinegar.
Dessert: mixed berries
Wine: Riesling

Dinner 3: Thanksgiving.
Free range turkey, 8 lbs., cooked in convection oven for two hours at 400 degrees, mashed potatoes, sliced baked yams (NOT candied), green beans, Mr. Henry’s signature orange cranberry sauce, fresh applesauce.
Stuffing: sausage, chestnut, apple, fresh sage, and sourdough bread baked in two whole winter squashes.
Dessert: Pumpkin chiffon pie, apple pie, vanilla ice cream
Wine: Pinot Noir

Dinner 4: Post-Thanksgiving, pre-theater
Turkey soup, squash soup.
Ceasar salad.
Dessert: Tia’s dulce de leche soggy cake with peaches and whipped cream. (Hmmm. Thank you, Tia.)
Wine: whatever was open
velazquez.feast-bacchus.jpg

Dinner 5:
Leg of lamb, lentils with garlic and cumin, broiled asparagus (just toss with olive oil and salt, broil for 6-8 minutes), brown and wild rice, sliced drained cucumber & dill in yogurt, and iced mint tea.
Dessert: leftover pumpkin pie
Wine: Pinot Noir

Dinner 6:
Winter squash soup (made from the Thanksgiving leftovers), filet mignon, potatoes roasted en papillote, peas.
Dessert: mixed berry tart
Wine: Bordeaux

Dinner 7:
Broiled black cod in white miso, white rice, tsukemono (assorted Japanese pickles), umeboshi (salt plum), green beans
Dessert: mochi ice cream from Beard Papa’s
Wine: Riesling

Stuffing

Thanksgiving is the only holiday when what we do and what we eat are both described by the same word: stuffing.

How was your Thanksgiving? The answer largely depends on what you ate for stuffing, as well as how egregiously you stuffed yourself.

There is something tantalizing about a turkey and stuffing dinner. Each flavor follows inexorably to the next, the bland leading the bland. Why do we eat so much of it? Do we lose ourselves in the mesmerizing combination of enormous portions and early memories? Is it because stuffing takes up such a large area on the plate that in addressing the dinner and awaiting the ponderous toast or prayer we feel an Alice-in-Wonderland sensation of suddenly becoming very small? Staring at a heaped, steaming mound of comfort food, each portion elbowing out the other, do we imagine a family snuggling together against the oncoming winter cold? (Who will play the turkey? Who will be this year’s cranberry sauce – shockingly crimson and tart?)

The evidence is overwhelming. We overeat at Thanksgiving, with particular regard to carbohydrates. Which Founding Father decreed that we need to eat stuffing and mashed potatoes and candied yams and pumpkin pie with ice cream else we do an injustice to the memories of fallen patriots?The aftermath is all too familiar. This week we are all, Mr. Henry included, wandering around in carbo-psychosis fighting the deadly addiction hour by hour, skittering past the freezer still replete with that Olympian ambrosia, Haagen Dasz vanilla.

Despite its unappetizing name, however, stuffing can be marvelous.

The very best stuffing Mr. Henry ever ate was Nadia’s 1001 nights chestnut forcemeat cooked inside the bird – a woodsy, oriental, amber and frankincense delight that takes half the day to prepare. If you are in the mood for something subtle and heavenly, read on.
Harun_Al-Rashid_and_the_World_of_the_Thousand_and_One_Nights.jpg
Boil 3 lbs. of chestnuts (slice an X in each before), peel and roughly chop in food processor
Lightly toast 1/2 lb. of almonds, chop together with sugar and cinnamon to the consistency of bread crumbs
Chop a handful of dried apricots
Sauté the turkey liver in a bit of butter, a splash of olive oil, shallots and port wineTwolovers.jpg
Make a turkey stock from the giblets with an onion, celery, carrots, black pepper and saffron
Sauté chopped shallots or onion, then add chestnuts and sugared almonds, next add basic bread crumbs (not too many – this is a principally a chestnut preparation), chopped liver, apricots, orange zest, and enough stock to make a mixture that binds together but is not wet.

Stuff the turkey cavity and sew it closed.

Each guest will get a ladle-full of aromatic chestnut stuffing to accompany, not replace, the standard sage stuffing. The saffron, cinnamon and port lend the high notes. The liver and turkey stock gives bottom notes to the chestnut’s prevailing sweetness.

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