Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving favorites

My Thanksgiving dinner was a success!  At least I think it was… We gave thanks, celebrated a birthday, an anniversary and even a future addition to the family.
 As always I learned a few things, like that you should probably take the pictures of the desert before dinner and a few bottles of wine.  That is why there is not a single desert picture to post, although there was plenty.  I learned that the simplest things that I have done a hundred times before can end up giving the most trouble (like my little berry tarts, which shrunk and which I dropped when brining to the table) and the hardest ( duck confit) can turn out to be magnificently simple and no trouble at all.  I learned that no matter how well planned and organized I am, the dishwasher is just not big enough.  I also learned a few new tricks and some great recipes, some of which I will post later and some today.   
But ultimately I learned that food is just like happiness, it is only true if it is shared with someone… but I think I knew that all along.
I managed to make everything on the planned menu and even added a few things last minute, like the sweet potato latkes with horseradish cream, which were great and a pecan cranberry tart, which was also great.  Here are some of the highlights:

Dark Ale bread

Smoked Salmon Tartar

A Mediterranean inspired Parmesan boats with slow roasted eggplant and tomato salad.

A wonderfully refreshing salad of watermelon radishes, that I picked up at the farmers market the day before (recipe below)

Duck Confit served with homemade apple butter and a little watercress salad,, which I am very proud of ( recipe below)

Baked Liver mouse with pickled red onions, the recipe can be found here.

The turkey of course

Various root vegetables glazed with a reduction of carrot juice, maple syrup, cardamom and ginger.
Watermelon radish and cucumber salad.
2 large watermelon radishes
1 seedless cucumber
1 tbs dill minced
½ tbs of fresh mint minced
½ tsp of lemon juice
2 tbs Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
Julienne the radishes and cucumber.  Mix the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper and the herbs.  Dress the vegetables with the yogurt mixture and let stand for about ½ hour before serving.

Duck Confit… the slightly abridged (but not much ) version from the very involved one of the true French kitchen
(this recipe can be adjusted for as few or many duck legs as you need)
4 duck legs
4 tbs of kosher salt
2 tbs herbs de province
With a needle pierce the skin of the duck legs making sure to be gentle and not pierce the meat.  Pierce every few centimeter of the skin surface or the skin will not brown evenly.  Cover the duck legs with all the salt and the herbs and refrigerate for at least 24 hrs.  When ready to cook, bring the duck legs to room temperature, wash of all of the salt and pat the duck pieces dry.  Arrange in a deep glass dish so that the legs are fairly snug.  Place into the cold oven and turn the oven temperature to 250F.  Now walk away, do all your choirs, read a book, go to the movie… whatever.  The duck legs will cook for at least 4 to 5 hrs, maybe longer depending on the size.  They are ready when the meat is fall of the bone tender and the skin is deep brown.  At this point they can be stored in the rendered duck fat for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.  Use the meat on salads, pasta, whatever…  And do not through away the fat when you are done.  It is liquid gold.  Strain it so that there is no pieces of meat left and keep in the fridge or the freezer.  You can cook potatoes in it or anything else that requires fat and needs a new spin on life.

My favorite turkey recipe.
A whole turkey
1 cup of turkey or chicken stock
3 springs of sage
3 fresh bay leaves
1 small bunch of parsley
2 rosemary springs
1 lemon
1 orange
1 knob (2 or 3 inches) of fresh ginger
1 garlic head
1 stick of butter softened
1 cup of kosher salt
3 tbs of poultry seasoning

For the basting liquid
4 cups of apple cider
Zest of one whole orange
2 inches of fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 stick of butter

The day or two before you are to cook your turkey, rub it inside and out with kosher salt, wrap well in plastic and set it in the fridge breast side down.  On the day of cooking, take out the turkey, wash of the salt and pat dry.  With a large syringe inject the stock evenly into the breast of the turkey.  Gently loose the skin over the breast and smear a whole stick of butter under the skin trying to reach as much of the breast surface are as possible.  Stuff the turkey with all the herbs, cut up lemon, orange, garlic and finger.  Tie the legs together with a kitchen twine.  Let the turkey come to room temperature before putting into the 325F oven.  The turkey will cook approximately 15 min per pound at this temperature, but about an hour before it is done insert a digital thermometer into the thigh joint and set the alarm at 140F.
While the turkey cooks, prepare the basting liquid.  Combine the apple cider with ginger, orange zest, and spices.  Boil the liquid until it is reduced by at least half.  Melt the butter and combine with the apple cider mixture.  Baste your turkey every 45 min.  If the skin begins to brown too much, cover with foil.
If you take the turkey out of the oven at 140F at the thigh and let it rest covered with foil for at least 20 min before carving it, it will reach the recommended temperature of 160F on it is own.  I find that if you cook the turkey to recommended thigh temperature, the white meat dries out too much.
Serve with cranberry sauce or gravy (which is an entirely different post).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu

My well deserved tropical beach break is over.  It was wonderful, just what I needed.  My body and mind rejuvenated with both vitamin “D” (from the sun) and vitamin “R” ( for “R”um).  I am now ready for my favorite past time, planning and cooking the Thanksgiving feast.  The hours spent on the beach did not go to waste, I read about food ( a lot), I worked on my menu and fought bravely for every item on the menu that my husband wanted to cut.
In the past I had themes for my Thanksgivings, I had French inspired menu, Mediterranean inspired, strictly American traditional, you get the idea.  This year’s dishes will be inspired by the “perfect bite” concept.  I will make fewer dishes, but each will hopefully be harmonies and complete. 
Below is the 2011 Thanksgiving Menu.  The next post will be after the holiday, where I will post the recipes for the most successful dishes or entertain you with tales of Thanksgiving disasters, or both. 

Happy Turkey day everybody!


Smoked Salmon Tartar

Chicken liver Mousse with Pickled red onion

Porcini and Pecan Pate

Focaccia with caramelized onions, pears and  
blue cheese

Goat cheese and herb stuffed mushrooms with  crispy tops

Homemade Mozzarella dressed with Anchovy pesto

Duck Confit with Onion jam and figs

Grilled eggplant and cucumber salad served in the Parmesan bowls

Main Course

Turkey with crispy apple cider skin served with black currant sauce

Fig and Fennel stuffing muffins

Root vegetables glazed with honey, cardamom and ginger

Watercress salad smoky roasted pumpkin and spiced pepitas

Hericot Vert sautéed with red pepper and almonds

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes with crispy shallots

Warm salad of Wheat berry with bacon and Chanterelle mushrooms


Mixed Berry tartelettes

Caramel swirl Pumpkin cheesecake bites dipped in chocolate

Spiced doughnut holes with blackberry dipping sauce

Caramel Chocolate tartelettes
 garnished with Sea salt

Pistachio and puppy seed cookies


A nice Chablis or Blanc de Blanc for the appetizer round

Pinot Noir for the main course

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A little break before Thanksgiving.

Well I am off for a week in the Caribbean where I am going to relax, tan and plan my Thanksgiving menu.  I do not take Thanksgiving lightly and this year especially, when I get to feed a much larger and discriminatory crowd.  Not to mention a real Frenchman, how intimidating...  So as I am lying on the beach and getting a well-deserved rest, I am going to contemplate Turkey, appetizers and many, many deserts.  I am going be making shopping lists and cooking schedules that accommodate a single oven and when I am done, I will do something that is already a Thanksgiving tradition in my family – I will let my husband half he menu. 
Will be posting the menu as soon as it finished… until then, palm trees, here I come!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Venison and chanterelle stuffed ravioli with creamy chanterelle sauce.

Girls will be girls!  Who can resist a phone call from your girlfriend telling you she saw a great sale?  However this sale was not for shoes, but for chanterelle mushrooms.  Pretty rare treat around here and an ingredient that I would rarely pass up.  So when a too-early winter storm derailed my weekend wine trip plans, I was only happy to spend the Saturday cooking.  It also gave an opportunity to finally make a few things that are really too time consuming for a regular weekend cooking and too complex for a large dinner party.  The menu was designed to highlight the chanterelle mushrooms as much as possible and allow me to practice my pasta making… and I do need practice.  I also bought some beautiful, hand pulled mozzarella, that was still hot when I got it that morning, so I chose to keep thing really simple, stick to few dishes ( who knew I can do that?) and let the good quality ingredients speak for themselves.

For the pasta.
3 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 tbs of olive oil

For the ravioli stuffing
1 lb of ground venison (can be substituted with beef; however I would change the spices)
¼ lb of chanterelle mushrooms
2 small shallots
2 cloves of garlic minced
½ tbs of juniper berries
1 tbs of fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbs of olive oil
1 tbs of butter
Salt and pepper

For the chanterelle cram sauce
1 lb of chanterelle mushrooms
½ cup of sundried tomatoes
1 small onion diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
2 tbs of olive oil
2 tbs of butter
2 tbs of flour
2 cups of dry white wine
1 cup of chicken stock
1 cup of half-and-half
½ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper

Make the pasta dough.  By hand or in the standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment combine flour, eggs and olive oil and knead until the dough is smooth.  Add a few tbs of cold water if the dough seems to dry.  Wrap in plastic and let rest in the fridge for a few hrs or overnight.

When ready to make the pasta, prepare the filling.  Crush the juniper berries and rosemary leaves together in the mortar, getting the spices as fine crushed as you can.  Season the venison with the herb mixture, salt and pepper.  Set aside. 

In a heavy bottom skillet, heat the olive oil and butter and sauté minced shallots, garlic and chanterelles, until tender.  Set aside. 

In the same skillet, brown the venison and mix in the onion, chanterelle mixture.  Let cool before filling the pasta with the mixture.

Roll out the dough as thin as your pasta making skills will let you.  It should be thick enough not to tear and thin enough not to be heavy.  I used the Kitchen Aid Pasta attachment on 4 and found it just a bit too thick.  Fill and stamp the ravioli. 

These can then be cooked right away or frozen between the layers of wax paper.

When ready to make the sauce, heat the olive oil, sauté the onion, garlic until translucent.  Add the chanterelles and thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes.  Cook the mixture until the tomatoes are soft and chanterelles start to become creamy.  Reduce heat, add the butter and flour and cook the flour for a few minutes to make the rue.  Add white wine and stock.  Season with salt and pepper and let reduce on low heat by about a third.  When the sauce begins to thicken up, add cream or half-and-half and the parmesan cheese.  Re-season as needed, keep warm while boiling the pasta, which should only be boiled for 1 min and placed in the sauce to finish the cooking.

While you are cooking, you and your guests can nibble on some fresh mozzarella drizzled with Anchovy Pesto sauce.  The secret to keeping great tasting mozzarella tasting great is to never serve it cold.

Don’t forget to serve good wine.  This special 2007 Ventimiglia Merlot went well with the creamy rich sauce

Serve the ravioli garnished with more sautéed chanterelles and parsley.

And for desert, something ridiculously good, such as this caramel chocolate tart from David Lebovitz.  I swear, this is the best chocolate tart I ever made.
I am not ready for the winter quite yet, but this rich and decadent meal eaten by the fireplace reminded me that even winter can offer up some peaceful and pleasurable moments.