Saturday, November 27, 2010

A perfect way to say “Thanks!” – how my Thanksgiving turned out.

Thanksgiving is meant to give us a chance to reflect on all the wonderful things we have in our lives and to take a break and truly appreciate them.  On this Thanksgiving, I feel very blessed to have all the people that surround me in my life.  I am thankful to my family and friends for being a part of my world.  I want them to know how much I love them and for me the only way to do that is with food.  It is the ultimate comfort and pleasure to put a plate in front of someone and I think it shows love.   So, if I ever cooked for you, please know, I meant “Thank you!”.
Some of you commented on my planned Thanksgiving menu, noting it as either ambitious or nuts.  I must agree, especially with the crazy work schedule I have been keeping lately and this week especially.  I just think that anyone who likes to cook should be given the Thanksgiving week off; it should be in the contract. 
Nevertheless, I managed to put every single planned item on the table.  There were no major surprises and all dishes worked out.  This was astonishing to me as with all my major cooking projects at least one dish flops and at least one gets abandoned for either lack of time or energy. 
Check out my Thanksgiving:
Wild Mushroom Tartalette with Pecorino.
I scored the most beautiful Chanterelle mushrooms and mixed with Cremini mushrooms and a layer of béchamel they made the most beautiful appetizer.
I used the same crust as for the Tomato tart, but I blind baked it the day before.  On Thanksgiving day I made a simple béchamel to brush on the bottom of the tart and filled it with mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, butter with thyme and rosemary.

Simple Béchamel sauce:
2 tbs butter
2 tbs all purpose flour
2 cups of milk
1 tsp of Dijon mustard ( optional)
 Salt / Pepper
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the flour and cook whisking periodically for a few minutes, until the rue becomes to brown and smell nutty.  Wisk in the milk and cook for a few more minutes until the sauce thickens.  Add the spices and the mustard (if using).

Goat cheese and slow roasted tomato crostini.
I spread very good quality Chevre on toasted baguette and topped with slow roasted tomatoes.


Asian fried shrimp.
The shrimp where dusted with corn starch and fried in peanut oil.  Then tossed in an Asian inspired sauce which included soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, Asian hot sauce, freshly ground ginger and garlic.  I also tossed in some sesame seeds for flavor and presentation.

Freshly baked bread and compound herb and truffle butter.

I wanted to make eggs deviled with Harissa, however this great and versatile condiment was nowhere to be found.  I made a mixture of roasted pepper, egg yolks, cilantro, anchovies and a bit of mayo instead.  It really was a hit.

The French Onion soup recipe came from the book called “The Sharper your knife the Less you Cry” by Kathleen Flynn.   The soup was great, but I learned that I really should invest in proper vessels for this soup and that the crouton should fit the perimeter of the dish very snuggly, otherwise you will end up with the cheese on the bottom of the bowl rather than on top.

And the star of the show!!!  This year’s turkey was the best I have ever made, the most moist, delicious, juicy… ahh!!  And I did less with it than usual.  I did not brine, I did not stuff, I did nor fuss... I just compounded all the turkey advise I ever heard form the Food Network and made my own.
The best Thanksgiving ( or any day) turkey.
A few springs of each of the following fresh herbs: Rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano
1 lemon cut in half
1 whole unpeeled garlic head cut in half cross-wise
1 lb of compound butter (made ahead of time and chilled).  I make the compound butter with lots of all of the above herbs, salt and pepper.
Stuff the Turkey with all the fresh herbs, lemon and garlic halves.  Loosen some of the skin on top and place a few pats (about 1/3 of a pound)  of compound butter on each breast under the skin.  Salt and pepper the whole bird and place it on the rack of a roasting pan filled with a few cut up carrots, few stalks of celery and one onion.  Pour an inch of chicken stock or water into the bottom of the pan, cover the turkey with aluminum foil tightly and let stand for 30 min.
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Bake the turkey covered with foil, basting periodically at 350F at a rate of 15 minutes per pound.  About an hour before the turkey is done, take off the  foil and generously butter the entire bird with the rest of your compound herb  butter.  Continue roasting until the internal temperature at the thigh is 145F.  Take out the bird and cover with foil tightly.  Let stand for at least 15 min before carving.  The internal temperature will climb to the recommended 165F while the Turkey is resting. 

Hericot vert  blanched for a few minutes and then sautéed simply with olive oil, red pepper and garlic.  Topped with toasted almond flakes.


And would you believe I forgot to take a picture of the wild rice and vegetables and mashed potatoes and my pretty corn salad.
Now for the most important course.
The Chocolate Pretzel tarts came out perfectly.  Here is the recipe, but they work so much better when are made with all dark chocolate and as small shells.  This makes the ratio of crust to filling perfectly balanced.

Hazelnut butter cream profiteroles.
The profiteroles recipe I use is the same one used by my grandmother.  The hazelnut butter cream recipe came out of my new favorite baking book Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours.  I ended up mixing the butter cream with an equal amount of chocolate hazelnut spread to make more “hazel nutty”
1 cup of whole milk
1 stick of butter
1 cup all purpose flour
Pinch kosher salt
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425F.  In the heavy bottom pan heat the milk, salt and butter until the butte is fully melted.  Do not boil the mixture.  Dump all the flour at once and cook beating with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes a smooth ball peeling off the sides of the pan easily  about 4 min).
Put the hot batter in the food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse 4 large eggs into the mixture.  You will now have a smooth, sticky batter, which should not be runny.
Pipe your profiteroles, puffs or éclairs onto a baking sheet covered with parchment.  Bake for 20 min at 425F and do not open the oven door.  After 20 min turn off the oven and let them stand for another 8 min.  Cool on the cooling rack and poke a hole in each one to let out the steam.

Apple strudel.
I am planning a whole post on strudels, so stay tuned.


Lemon filled raspberry tarts.
The sweet dough recipe came out of the same baking book Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours.  And the lemon filling is what I always use for my lemon tart.
Lemon Filling:
1 stick unsalted butter
1  cup sugar
4 large
3 large egg yolks
Lemon zest of 5 lemons
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Cream the butter and sugar in the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time until well incorporated.  Add the Zest, salt and lemon juice.  The mixture may look a bit curdled but it is normal.
Pour the mixture into a sauce pan and cook 8 to 10 minutes until thick and coats the back of the spoon.  Turn off the heat and whisk the mixture until smooth.   I like to mix in a tablespoon or so of lemon curd, but the mixture is great without it as well.  To cool, place the plastic directly on the surface of the filling before refrigerating, otherwise it will develop “skin”.  Once the mixture is cool, fill your tarts and decorate with fresh berries.

I made enough deserts to feed an army and even ended up taking some to friend's house for a little birthday surprise.

I just got tired all over again just righting about this feast.  Let's just say, I do not want to see the inside of my kitchen for a few days.  This is what the leftovers are for.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Hope I get to do it again next year!

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