Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

While still enjoying warm and cozy Thanksgiving leftovers, a blog entry is a great idea. It's important to let nothing go to waste, neither good food nor a good mood. The cooking began on Monday night with a loaf of pumpkin walnut bread and a pan of cornbread, as well as a tray of mini sweet potato knishes. Tuesday was Baking Day: chocolate pecan pie x 2, cranberry crumb bars, pumpkin pie, and a caramel apple pie. Wednesday had me elbow deep in two kinds of stuffings (sausage cornbread and classic sourdough herb). I tinkered with a dry spice rub for the chicken wings (needs to be a little more herby). Cooking fresh cranberries into a chunky sweet tart relish, blanching brussels sprouts, mixing up a maple dijonette dressing , and finally making a few cups of white bean sundried tomato spread ended my night on a fresh and healthy note. Thursday: A big platter of crunchy Persian rice was assembled first thing in the morning. The Korean ribs were marinated and then braised, the tofu squares were pan fried to a nice crispiness and the honey-sesame-soy sauce simmered in the saucepan. Fresh chopped parsley and onion and a pinch of turmeric and salt was all the ground lamb needed before it was shaped into kebabs.
The three round tables we rented for the occasion, were set in orange tablecloths and yellow flowers and a spray of candy corn for sweet measure. The buffet table had a horn-of-plenty offering a variety of rolls and mini pumpkins, and there were turkey shaped tealights. And then it was four o'clock, two out of three of my kiddles were dressed in appropriate attire. After a few last minute switcheroo's I settled on a sparkly hostess ensemble that was hopefully festive and elegant but was definitely comfortable. Hub was sporting oven mitts, as he was experimenting with his brand new smoker out in the back.
And then the guests started to arrive. And I had to readjust and execute the next phase of operations. The people aspect, the personality intergration, the real world part of cooking and entertaining. When left to formulate and grow in your head and imagination a big holiday meal or party is as great as you want it to be. The scene from your head can be played out in the coordinating plates, cutlery, napkins, potted plants and of course, candy. It serve as a lovely backdrop where everyone happily sips apple cider, and are pleasantly catching up or getting to know each other. The kids gladly wear the paper bonnets and pilgrim hats (complete with gold sticker button) that were purchased for the occasion. People are brimming with thankfulness and cordiality.
Real life: The guest who needs a diet coke while you are spinning around in the kitchen ("Umm yeah, it's not on the side board?...Hmmm, ouch! burnt myself. "Hub!!! Can you get the diet cokes from the fridge downstairs?") the kid who insists on wearing his ratty Manning football jersey, the cranky family member who just can't help but grouse, the kufte kebabs that are running behind schedule, the mini knishes that need more work. The headache hiding in the back of the head. The chronic latecomers, who throw kitchen timing into disarray.

These gatherings do have a few sweet and perfect little vignettes in time.
There was the Mmmms and the yummms. There was the oldworld older couple who couldn't get enough of the tofu. And the grilled wings that were devoured by the bored teenagers. And the pumpkin walnut bread that was the sleeper hit of the meal. The ribs were gone in a few, along with the kebabs. And the sausage stuffing that continues to please. And then there are parts you have to look for: the table of old-timers happily chatting and catching up, the New York newlywed couple discussing with neighbors the virtues and drawbacks of abandoning City life for a semi-country pace. There was my toast that I kind of flubbed on, but was still OK. And then there are the leftovers.... and the idea that I don't have to cook at all this weekend.

By the time dessert time rolled in, I was beyond preconceived notions and expectations, I was sipping a glass of red and let someone else locate the extra forks and pie slicers. The pumpkin pie was surprisingly my favorite dessert of the feast. However, as we had a few chococrazies at our gathering it was unsurprisingly that the chocolate pecan pie made with a bar of chopped 70% Scharffen Berger garnered the most support and appreciation.

But now, what I am feeling most thankful and warmly about are the leftovers.... and the delcious fact that I don't have to cook at all this weekend.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Hear that CLINK ? That's my first draft in the can. Guided by doggedness, light terror, slight tension, real enthusiasm, and more than a little Mazel, we did it. Five weeks that were cut up with marathon Jewish holidays, the flu, and a week-long power outtage. Of course, there is a world more of work to be done on this beloved manuscript, before it is fully formed and gleaming ready to enter the world. But it is beyond the tricky first trimester.
I ended the cookbook fittingly with a recipe for Whoopie Pies with an option of classic marshmallow frosting, or a more serious Dark Cocoa Buttercream. That was fun. During this process I've learned several things: is an invaluable tool, loaded brevity is crucial in expressing an idea, I have a strange relationship with my kitchen appliances, sleep is overrated- but so is tired-looking skin, you can never go wrong when trying to create goodwill.
Up next: really trying to get a handle on my doughs, cooking for Thanksgiving- turns out, issuing an open call will result in many guests.

Whoopie Pie
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium sized bowl.
3. In large bowl beat together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar on low speed until combined, increase speed to medium and beat until light and smooth. Add egg and vanilla and beat for another minute.
4. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk to the batter and beat on low speed until combined. Add remaining flour and milk and beat until completely incorporated.
5. Using a tablespoon drop batter onto prepared baking sheets and repeat spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake each sheet individually for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed. Remove from oven and let cool before filling with frosting. (Makes 12 whoopie pies)
Classic Marshmallow Frosting
1 cup marshmallow fluff
4 tablespoons milk
½ cup vegetable shortening
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sifted confectioners sugar
1. Beat together the marshmallow fluff and vegetable shortenening, beginning slow and gradually increasing speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.
2. Reduce speed to low, add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, and beat until blended. Increase speed to medium and beat for a minute or two more.
Cocoa Buttercream
1 ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1. In medium sized bowl beat together the confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, and butter starting low and increasing speed t medium until frosting is crumbly.
2. Add heavy cream, vanilla, and salt and beat on high until smooth.