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

 
Ingredients

  • 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
 
Directions
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.

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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
immediately.

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

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cookbook sundays

categories and cravings

I often find myself categorizing my dinner guests according to their food and drink preferences.  After someone has sat at my table a few times, I will usually know which categories they fall into.

For instance, I will know if you like red or white wine and whether or not you are a beer drinker and if so, do you prefer a lager or a pale ale?  In our house, there are two categories of beer: Corona and brown shi#*.  Can you tell which one I like? 

I will know whether you are a boring traditional meat and potatoes sort or if you have an adventurous palate and are up to trying different ethnic foods.  And if so, what level of heat do you like/can you stand?  I have three categories: Wimp, Middle of the Road and Masochistic.  So tell me, are you hot or not?

Do you like seafood?  If not, I will usually make you try a fresh Sockeye Salmon dish, at least once, because this fish has been known to convert more than a few non-believers.  In my opinion, it is the least fishy of fish.  GWH likes to push the raw oysters on our guests because he simply cannot understand how anyone could not like these little morsels of oceanic ambrosia.  I have discovered that under the right circumstances, i.e. lots and lots of champagne, that they are actually pretty good; the taste is reminiscent of a light ocean breeze.  Did I mention that he insists that you chew them?  Eww, right?!

Do you have a sweet tooth?  There are some people that you can count on to have dessert. Every. Single. Time.  You barely have the question out of your mouth and they are nodding their heads in agreement, fork in hand and a gleam in their eye because they know that their craving for sweet will soon be satisfied.

And speaking of cravings, how do you feel about chocolate?  Are you passionate about it?  Do you crave it?  Do you hide it in the freezer?  And if so, do you prefer milk, dark or white?  This week’s theme at  I Heart Cooking Clubs is Chocolate Cravings and I chose to make Chocolate Pizza from Giada’s Family Dinners cookbook.  As you will notice, in this recipe there are three different flavours of chocolate to satisfy each category of chocolate lover.  Although, because all the chocolates are melted together, this really will not work for those in the “all foods must be kept separate and cannot touch” category.

Chocolate Pizza

Ingredients
1 pound homemade pizza dough, recipe follows, or purchased pizza dough
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Position the oven rack on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.

Directions
Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the dough to a 9-inch-diameter round. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Using your fingers, make indentations all over the dough. Brush the dough with butter, then bake until the crust is crisp and pale golden brown, about 20 minutes. Immediately spread the chocolate-hazelnut spread over the pizza then sprinkle all the chocolate chips over. Bake just until the chocolate begins to melt, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the pizza. Cut into wedges and serve.

Pizza Dough:

Ingredients
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bowl

Directions
Mix the warm water and yeast in a small bowl to blend. Let stand until the yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes. Mix the flour and salt in a food processor to blend. Blend in the oil. With the machine running, add the yeast mixture and blend just until the dough forms. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm draft-free area until the dough doubles in volume, about 1 hour. Punch the down dough and form into ball. The dough can be used immediately or stored airtight in the refrigerator for 1 day.

Notes:  

  1. I used Pilsbury pizza dough.
  2. I sprinkled a little brown sugar on the outer edge of the pizza crust.
  3. I added dried cranberries and used pecans instead of hazelnuts.
  4. Next time I would reduce the cooking time for the crust as I found it took a little longer than one minute to melt the chocolate and the crust was a little too hard.

I have linked this post to the following sites.

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