Your Thanksgiving leftovers

This year’s Thanksgiving feast could only have been more low key if we’d gone the TV dinner route. My mother-in-law wasn’t able to visit, so I planned to simply roast a chicken and serve a few veggies for the two of us, but ended up doing even less than that when our neighbors invited us to share dinner with them. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve lived here for four years as of this weekend (which reminds me, this blog just turned three!) and haven’t managed to get to know them yet. I blame Gil for not introducing me around when I moved.

Not wanting to go empty-handed, I pulled out the bag of almost-overripe persimmons I’d been storing for a couple of weeks and got to work on an upside-down cake that sounded like a perfect ending to a Thanksgiving meal — with two sticks of butter, it was possibly the most indulgent cake I’ve ever made.

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I did a quick google search when the idea for the cake hit me (my standard approach, since very few ideas are truly new), and found only a couple of recipes. Joanne Weir‘s parmesan flan has been one of the highlights of my summer for the past two years, so I opted for her version of the cake and came away very, very happy indeed.

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Her secret for keeping things light and airy in such a rich cake? Whipping the egg whites, then folding them into the rest of the batter. Even so, the cake was much more soufflé-like in the pan than I expected:

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Anyway, we had a wonderful time with the Edwards family and I feel like I finally have friends in the neighborhood, which is no small thing. They’re a creative family, into drawing, painting, photography, music, fashion…so you can imagine how much I enjoyed myself. Oh, AND I finally got a house tour with details of the major renovation they did last year! So we have lots of inspiration for our own house project, whenever we start.

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The next day, I roasted the Zuni chicken (with bittersweet pimenton added to the salt & pepper rub) originally intended for Thanksgiving and made a bread-based dressing with roasted acorn squash on the side. Nothing terribly exciting, but repurposed as breakfast this morning, I fell in love:

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I pan-fried some of the leftover dressing, served it atop a thin drizzle of gravy and topped it with a fried egg. “X + egg = heaven” is undefined for Gil, so I waited till he was running an errand to work it up. (How anyone can snub a runny egg yolk over just about anything is beyond me, but hey, in sickness & in [mental] health, etc…)

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For Saturday’s dinner, there wasn’t a hint of Thanksgiving left over in the leftovers, though I forced myself to use the contents of my fridge and pantry in a stab at eating down the house. We ended up with a North African-inspired couscous dish that took maybe 30 minutes to make, but had a great depth of flavor mainly because it relied so heavily on leftovers.

To start, I made a quick harissa paste and set it aside for the flavors to develop while I worked on the rest of the meal. I hit the freezer for a package of caramelized onions, which I browned in some olive oil, then added two thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and reinforced the warm spices from the harissa — ground cumin, caraway seeds and ground coriander — in the sizzling oil. When the spices were fragrant, I added a package of Israeli couscous, bite-sized pieces of dark chicken, chopped roasted acorn squash, leftover chicken stock and two tablespoons of harissa paste. Only 15 minutes later, we were sitting down to a meal I wouldn’t even mind making from scratch someday.

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I hope you add had a filling and fun-filled Thanksgiving. Now I need to figure out a way to work from home, because the last four days spent with all of my boys has been too good to miss again for 13 hours a day or more.

recipes and sweet doggy pictures after the jump

Continue reading “Your Thanksgiving leftovers”

new post

Hey, all. I owe you a big wrap-up of our last week or so, but my mind is elsewhere today. Ru was attacked by a neighbor’s dog yesterday on his afternoon stroll with the dog walker and is at the animal hospital awaiting surgery this morning. Gil’s out of town until tomorrow, so I’m just waiting by the phone and cleaning the house from top to bottom to keep busy.

The situation is especially infuriating because this same dog (a husky) broke through his electric fence and attacked another dog just two weeks ago and it seems the owners didn’t do enough to make sure it couldn’t happen again. So our boy has a big chunk of his haunch missing and needs one surgery today to install a rubber drain and another in a month or so to remove the drain and close the wound. (Ru’s vet took plenty of pictures of the wounds and his office notified the police department, so thank goodness that was taken care of before I even got there.)

So I rushed home from work and got to the animal hospital in time to see him before they closed for the evening.

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He was even more pitiful than this when I first saw him, but at least his bed made him comfortable.

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There was some panting, but he was loopy from the pain meds, so he wasn’t in a bad mood at all. I think he enjoyed the dirty t-shirt I brought for him, too.

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But even getting his favorite new toy (John Calamari or Squid Vicious, depending on which one of us you ask) didn’t stop him from accusing me with his eyes when I was ready to go.

a week’s wrap-up after the jump

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Breakfast of champions

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Because I’m such a good girl during the week, eating heart-healthy cereal and fruit for breakfast, I like to change it up on weekends. But the last thing I want to do is start off the day with a sugar bomb — that just leaves me cranky and sleepy — so I’ve been gravitating toward more savory fare in the last year or so. Often it’s just a matter of treating oatmeal as a grain and topping it with butter/olive oil/poached egg, but I wanted something a little more involved last Saturday and turned out this meal.

It started with a base of polenta cooked over a low flame for 30 minutes, then flavored with a bit of butter, a bit more parmesan, and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. For a topping, I grabbed a bag of oyster mushrooms that had been languishing in the fridge for a full week and sautéed them in butter and olive oil with thinly sliced shallots until they’d caramelized. Adding a poached egg and a drizzle of truffle oil just brought the whole thing over the top and, I think, made Gil just a tiny bit envious (but he’d already had his bowl of cereal).

Odds & ends

As you can see, I’ve been cooking. Oh, how I’ve been cooking. But there hasn’t been a lot to say about the food. I mean, we can all get behind a great roast chicken, but really, what more could I possibly tell you about it? Well, OK, just a word about this one, then we’ll move on…

I was craving another Zuni roast chicken for dinner during the week, but my way-back machine was in the shop and I couldn’t have one seasoned in time for that evening’s meal. So I did the next best thing; I used Thomas Keller’s method of seasoning and dry roasting a chicken in a 450-degree oven for an hour. (Thanks for the heads-up, Dietsch.) It’s very similar to the Zuni method, only it requires no advance planning. It’s also very similar to my grandma’s roast chicken: 500-degree oven for an hour, but she bastes it in butter whereas this one stayed completely dry, the better to crisp the skin, my darlings. It was a delicious bird, only not seasoned through the way it would have been if I’d started the project three days earlier. Live and learn.

One thing among many I’m grateful for is that my husband remains unmoved by chicken butt. Rufus and I go crazy for it, so there must be some primal instinct that Gil’s missing. Whatever — more for me. (What? You don’t really think I’d actually share this little morsel with a dog, do you? He got a few bites of chicken skin after we’d finished eating, which was all the reward he was getting. Did he help me lift the heavy cast iron pan into the oven? No. Did he help me make gravy from the salty pan drippings? No. He just napped cutely while I did all the hard work.)

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A short tale of two breakfasts

Breakfast is a subject I take seriously. Most mornings I start the day with some sort of heart-healthy cereal because let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger. But on weekends, that sensible thing flies right out the window, especially when I’m waking up to a frosty morning.

And nothing says weekend breakfast like eggs — they’re so delicious and versatile. Saturday morning, the last of our farmers’ market eggs provided the base for a refrigerator frittata — we had leeks, potatoes and a big bag of spinach hanging around, so into the pan they went along with some pecorino romano and good, fruity olive oil. Just the thing to get us going.

Our Sunday ritual continued with taking Rufus to the 9am (!) greyhound hike at Wawayanda State Park, so I decided to make another big breakfast to keep the chill out of my bones on the long trek. One of my favorite things about eggs is that you can poach one and add it to just about any leftover, and presto –  instant brunch! So that’s how I polished off the last of my leftover aloo gobi experiment from a few nights earlier. So good, and it really kept me going on the long hike. I’m not saying this breakfast was the reason I felt energetic all day, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

Penance

But it isn’t really penance if you enjoy it, right?

The simplest of dinners was in order after the weekend’s feast: Steamed asparagus with browned butter-spring garlic-lemon sauce, one egg over easy, and a sprinkling of sea salt, parm/reg and black pepper.

Leftovers, schmeftovers

That thing I had against leftovers? Not a problem anymore. No sirree, not after last night, at least.

I had quite a bit of filling left after adapting the Plump Pea Dumplings recipe from 101 Cookbooks, so I pondered for a while what exactly to do with it. Then I remembered another recipe I’d bookmarked from Delicious Days (whose photography just kills me) for Egg Yolk Ravioli and dinner was taken care of!

So I mixed together a double recipe of pasta in my food processor (if it’s good enough for Lidia, it’s good enough for me!) and kneaded it until it was pliable, then formed it into a ball before setting it in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.

Making ravioli from scratch meant digging out the pasta maker we received as a wedding gift and only used once. Not exactly sure why it isn’t in the rotation more often because it turned out nice, thin sheets of ravioli dough.

First, I quartered the dough and ran half of it through the machine to make sure the rollers were completely clear of metal shavings before I got down to it.

And then slowly I rolled, step by step, inch by inch.


Oh yeah, that’s why I don’t use this more often! My arm nearly fell off.

But, as I said, it turned out nice, thin sheets, which I then topped with about a tablespoon of leftover dumpling filling per egg yolk I planned to use. This left me with four frankly not-very-attractive balls of green stuff, into which I formed little craters so the egg yolks wouldn’t escape.


See? Unattractive, but just you wait.

Then I used the egg separators right at the end of my arms to separate the yolks from the whites. The whites went into a bowl and the yolks just sat very perkily atop the green mounds.

Well, ok, not ALL of them were so perky…


That guy at left? He was trouble.

After that balancing act was done, I brushed the dough all around the fillings with egg white and set the other strip of dough on top, carefully sealing each ravioli and doing my best to squeeze out all of the air. Not sure I succeeded on that count, but none burst in the water, which is all I need to consider myself a culinary genius. Set the bar low, kids.


I’m no Martha, but I do love a scalloped edge.

So these babies boiled for 2-3 minutes while I scurried frantically around the kitchen, warming the plates, melting the truffle butter (yeah, you heard me), and getting out the microplane grater so I could top each eggy pillow with cheese before it had a chance to cool off.

I’d say it all turned out well, wouldn’t you?

It isn’t always about bread pudding

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With lots of time to cook on weekends, I like to skip the healthy yogurt of my weekday mornings and indulge a little. During summer, my go-to brunch moves from bread pudding to more seasonal fare — roasted tomatoes and asparagus with soft scrambled eggs. No one respects the egg more than a French chef, so I pulled my old, battered copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking from the bookshelf to make sure I’d get them right. Ordinarily, I’d just get to cooking without consulting a cookbook, but if you’ve ever had French-style scrambled eggs, you know how important it is to cook them just so — the end result should be soft, creamy, curds custardy in texture and positively rich with butter.

Turns out, it’s really quite a simple recipe. You start with a cold pan and cook over very low heat while stirring constantly, which is basically the exact opposite of how I usually make scrambled eggs. But the extra effort is definitely worth it.

As Julia would say, “Bon appetit!”

recipe after the jump

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A heavenly brunch

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Sunday brunch has long been my favorite meal of the week. It’s a huge deal in New Orleans, and I’d always indulge whenever I found myself there after a long night of doing what college kids do on Saturday night. (No, never Bourbon Street — we had some standards.) Once I moved to the working world after grad school, my cravings went unsatisfied; I was the hardest-working woman in St. Louis on Sundays, you see. After my gig as minister of music at a local church, I went straight to my day job for a double shift of putting the catalog to bed for the week. Saturday brunches just weren’t the same, somehow, so I sucked it up until I moved to NY and got to enjoy the boozy brunches offered all over the city.

Sadly, there aren’t any places in Ringwood for a proper brunch, so I’m left to my own devices when the mood strikes. And strike it did this very morning. So, inspired by a Mario Batali recipe, I decided to make use of lovely hen of the woods mushrooms from Trader Joe’s and tomatoes from my friend Mew’s garden (lucky duck, her yard gets plenty of sunshine and no deer at all).

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I didn’t want the typical scrambled/fried/poached egg and bacon axis — though a side of bacon was a no-brainer — and remembered a baked egg recipe from Orangette I’d been meaning to try. (Btw, she’s getting married today — let’s all send good thoughts her way!) Apart from my ramekins being too small (which later spelled disaster), it seemed like an easy enough recipe to attempt in my morning-addled state.

I washed the mixing bowl thoroughly to remove any speck of grease and set the whites to whipping. As the stand mixer was doing its thing, I grated the cheese and greased the ramekins. It all went smoothly, though I made a couple of extras just in case my previous bad luck with meringues/soufflés continued.

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While a couple of yolks went Frank Lee Morris on me, the other two remained where they should’ve and put a fine spin on the typical eggy brunch dish. The yolks were blanketed with creme fraiche and nestled into delicate clouds of cheese with the faintest crunch on the edges. Yummmmmm…

Despite the rich cream, this was the most ephemeral of brunch dishes and one I’ll definitely try again, only next time with larger ramekins.

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “A heavenly brunch”