Friday, November 17, 2006
Passing the Thanksgiving torch
"What spices should I buy?" she asked.
"What size pan do I need for the turkey?" she wanted to know.
"How will I know when it's done?" she wondered.
These were just some of the many questions posed last week by the 40-something daughter of a friend who was, for the first time, making Thanksgiving dinner for the whole family instead of "going to Grandma's house." She had never before faced this culinary challenge.
"Passing the torch," was how the Carlisle mother of a newly married daughter described it. The newlyweds will be hosting that family's Thanksgiving, and questions and answers about turkey and trimmings are flying.
Another Carlisle family, Marilyn and Ken Harte, will be traveling to Iowa City, Iowa, for Thanksgiving with their son, daughter-in-law and children. "My daughter-in-law is from Russia where Thanksgiving is unknown," explained Marilyn. "So my giving advice on cooking isn't the same as an interfering mother-in-law." The advice flows regularly now from Carlisle to Iowa City.
Practice before the big day
For those suffering from pre-Thanksgiving jitters and envisioning a still-frozen turkey at the table, too little stuffing and overcooked vegetables, the moms above recommended practicing beforehand. "My daughter bought an eight-pound chicken a few weeks ago," said my friend, "to practice on." She suggested that her daughter buy sage, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder, and helped her buy a roasting pan. Another cook lists more herbs that go well with poultry: oregano, bay leaf, rosemary, summer savory, tarragon, basil, parsley, saffron, marjoram, mint, sage, and turmeric.
Stuffing an eight-pound chicken or capon is not remotely like stuffing a 20-pound turkey. Most cooks make stuffing (lots of it) in a casserole dish, and mix with it the flavorful stuffing from inside the bird.
Cooking the turkey
Fresh or frozen? What size? Information on buying, selecting and preparing the turkey can be found in most cookbooks and on lots of web sites. Basically, though, there are now alternative methods of making the turkey that vie with the traditional slow-roasting in a 325-degree oven. Some people rave about the moisture and enhanced flavor of a brined turkey. Others enthuse about a deep-fried turkey, which is not for the faint-hearted, inexperienced cook. On the Web www.eatturkey.com/consumer/cookinfo/fryturk.html points out that this method is for smaller turkeys, 8 to 10 pounds, and gives complete instructions.
Butterball, the company that sells all those plump turkeys in the supermarket, stands ready to help with questions on turkey preparation if mom doesn't have the answer or if daughters (or sons doing the cooking) are too embarrassed to ask. A call to 1-800-Butterball or a visit to www.butterball.com on or before Thanksgiving will calm stressed-out cooks.
What if Aunt Sue or Cousin Kevin are vegetarians? Carlisle moms advise, "Don't consider making a tofu turkey, but just plan on offering additional side dishes." The web site www.vegsource.com/thanks.htm offers mouth-watering recipes for such dishes as Jerusalem artichoke salad with greens and herbs; butternut squash with whole wheat, wild rice, and onion stuffing; and wine and honey-glazed Brussels sprouts.
Below are some favorite vegetarian recipes for the holiday from Marilyn Harte and Marcy Guttadauro of the Mosquito staff. They are sure to satisfy everyone around the table.
Bon appetit and Happy Thanksgiving to all!
3-4 lbs. unpeeled squash
5 T. butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large chopped apple
Cinnamon or marshmallows
1. Peel squash and remove seeds. Cut into 1/2 to 2" chunks. Place chunks on rack in a pot with tightly fitting cover. (Each pound of trimmed squash = 2 cups of mashed squash).
2. Add water to cover bottom of pot. Cover pot and steam until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain well and mash.
3. Season with 3 T. butter, sugar, salt and pepper. Place in casserole.
4. Saute chopped apple in 2 T. butter and season with cinnamon and sugar.
5. Spread apple mixture on top of squash in casserole OR top with marshmallows (kids love this).
6. Bake in preheated oven at 350° for 30 minutes (until marshmallows are lightly browned, if used.)
Note: This can be made ahead of time, but do not put any topping on until final baking. The dish can be reheated, but allow extra baking time.
1 lb. whole cranberries
2 cups sugar
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1 egg white
1/4 pint (4 oz.) heavy cream.
Boil cranberries rapidly in 2 cups water until cranberries pop open. Cool. Add sugar. Makes 4 cups of sauce, of which 1 1/2 cups are needed below.
1. Strain 1 1/2 cups cranberry sauce.
2. Add grated rind and juice of one lemon and one orange plus dash of salt to strained sauce. Freeze to mush.
3. Beat well.
4. Beat white of one egg and heavy cream (beat separately). Blend together and mix in with mush, then freeze. Serve as first course.
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup cashews
1 onion, chopped
2 T. butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 oz. dried shitake mushrooms
2 T. chopped parsley
2 tsp thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp dried
1 T. marjoram, chopped, or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp sage, chopped, or 1/2 tsp dried
4 beaten eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
9-12 ounces of grated cheese (cheddar, fontina, jack - whatever you have)
1. Soak dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes. Chop mushrooms.
2. Preheat oven to 350°. Roast nuts in the oven for 5-7 minutes then chop finely.
3. Cook onion in butter until translucent, then season with salt. Add mushrooms and herbs. Cook until soft and then add to rice, nuts, eggs and cheeses. Add salt and pepper as needed.
4. Grease a 5 X 7 loaf pan and then line with parchment paper. Bake the loaf at 375° for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until the top is brown. Let sit for ten minutes and then turn onto a serving plate. Serve with some kind of sauce or gravy (mushroom, bechamel, cheese).
© 2006 The Carlisle Mosquito