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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Other Side of Thanksgiving


Oh, sure...we could be talking about cranberry sauce right now...or rehashing the old pecan vs. pumpkin pie debate.  Or, maybe I should try to persuade you of the wisdom of a dry brine, but no...well actually, I can't help myself...I think I will reference an article below about dry brining a turkey, you know...just to get you to consider it. 

Really though, I think it's my duty to remind you all of an important point about Thanksgiving.   
There are those other meals.

I had to learn this the hard way years ago.  Having spent weeks before Thanksgiving studying all the November issues of the cooking magazines and going through my shelves of cookbooks, I was obsessed with my grocery list for the big meal.  I checked and re-checked my ingredient lists.  I did several rounds of grocery shopping at different stores to round up everything we needed.  We were going to have a house full of family members and were cooking dinner for 16 or 18--I can't really remember the exact number--and I worried about the turkey...and the side dishes...and the pies....and everything really. 

And, then, you know what happened?  My brother-in-law walked into the kitchen around noon on Thanksgiving.  He was hungry and wanted to make a sandwich.  And, umm...actually...there was nothing to eat.  Right then.  I mean...later, yes, there would be plenty to eat...but in that very moment?  Uh, there was nothing ready and I realized that I never thought about anything outside the main meal, which is kind of silly, because, people actually do get hungry before the Thanksgiving meal...and then, too, the next day, and the next...and, if they're staying with you for the weekend, well, there's that too.

Yes, Thanksgiving is about that big deal with the turkey and everything, but then, it's kind of about the little meals here and there you'll be sharing with your family and friends over those couple days too.

Sandwiches are an easy way to have a snack earlier in the day on Thanksgiving and will help everyone keep from getting too crabby while waiting for the main event.  Trust me on this.  I stock up on some sliced salami or prosciutto and crusty baguette for a little change from all that turkey we'll all be eating over the next several days. 

Breakfasts are nice to share with family that's visiting over a holiday weekend.  Make sure you've got enough coffee, milk, fruit and cereal.  Figure on cold pumpkin pie (oh.  is that just me?) or cold cereal that following Friday morning for sure...but maybe shoot for something a little more fun on Saturday or Sunday...I've talked about pancakes here before...and frittatas are lovely as well, but here's something I tried last month that I think I'll make again next weekend after the holiday:
sugared popovers.

Popovers are delightful because they're easy, but make a bit of a show-off-y splash when you pull them out of the oven with their crisp, golden bubble tops.  A spin-off of the savory Yorkshire pudding, a popover's eggy dough is a natural partner for any kind of jam you'd care to slather on, making them perfect at breakfast time.  These sugared puffs take popovers a delicious step further.  Developed by David Lebovitz for a New York Times article on a 1966 Maida Heatter recipe, they're like what would happen if cinnamon toast married a doughnut and had kids.   You whiz the batter together in the blender, then pour and bake in a muffin pan.  Ridiculously easy, but with an awesome 'wow' factor.

My own Thanksgiving planning is in full swing.  The menu is coming together.  I'm going to be making the chutney this coming weekend.  And, yes, I've got the deli meat, bread and chips on the grocery list...
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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Sugared Puffs
adapted from David Lebovitz
(makes 9 to 10 puffs)

Softened butter for greasing the muffin pan
For the puffs:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milke
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup flour

For the sugar coating:
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a non-stick muffin pan (or popover pan if you've got one) with softened butter.

For the puff batter:  
Combine 2 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, milk, salt and sugar in a blender and pulse for a few seconds.  
Add the flour and pulse for 5-8 seconds, just until the batter is smooth.
Pour into the muffin tins, filling each cup about half way.
Bake for 35 minutes, until the puffs are a deep golden brown.

Remove from the oven and wait a few minutes until cool enough to handle.  

Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
Remove the puffs from the pan and brush with melted butter and then dredge in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat.  Let cool on a baking rack.

Share with your house guests.

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Talking Turkey
Yes, I've tried brining, but all the wrestling with the bird, the bucket and making room in an already overstuffed Thanksgiving time refrigerator kind of wore me out, so I threw in the towel.  Until last year, when I tried the same technique I use with roast chicken--simply salting the bird a few days in advance--on the turkey.  Success!  And no giant bucket of salted water to contend with.  
Here's a link to the recipe, if you'd like to give it a try. 

 http://www.latimes.com/theguide/holiday-guide/food/la-fo-saltedturkey,0,3863680.story