Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious, healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!

How’d it work out?

Thanksgiving roasted turkey.So how was your Thanksgiving? Ours was fantastic!  My family said our dinner was the best ever. But then they seem to say that every year I cook, so I guess I keep on improving? But truly, they’re still giving me compliments today so I guess it was really, really good!

I was particularly pleased this year with our appetizers. They were different and just the right touch, pre-feast. I made two recipes from Food and Wine magazine. One was for Texas smoked salmon tartare and grilled pancetta-wrapped mushrooms along with my artichoke dip. You can make the smoked salmon tartare and the artichoke dip the day before. I also had help. Agata made all of the mushrooms while I assembled the tartare on the chips with a cilantro leaf each. It was easy!

Texas smoked salmon tartare on blue corn chips as an appetizer from Food and Wine magazine.

Texas smoked salmon tartare on blue corn chips

Pancetta-wrapped grilled mushroom appetizer from Food and Wine magazine.-Pancetta-wrapped grilled mushrooms

My butternut squash soup was the best ever, I’m told. See this quick pic of the kids licking their bowls – seriously I did not ask them to do this for a photo op! This soup is based on David Waltuck’s recipe of Chanterelle fame, except that I have made my own revisions. One important one is that instead of cooking the squash by simmering it in the chicken broth, I oven roasted it at 425 degrees and then scooped it out of the skin to add to the broth and onions. Much tastier and you skip that difficult-to-peel step that makes your hands all wrinkly.Three kids licking their soup bowls clean

Oven-roasting butternut squash and sugar pumpkins

Oven-roasting squash and pumpkin

Pureed sugar pumpkin draining

Pumpkin puree draining

 
I also made two pies this year. One pecan and one pumpkin, from a fresh sugar pumpkin I roasted with the squash and then let it drain for several hours through four layers of cheesecloth. You need to do that to get all the water out and get to the true pumpkin flavor. The pie was so light and yummy!! Definitely give that a try.

Pumpkin pie with fresh roasted pumpkin and pecan garnish

- Super light pumpkin pie

The best Southern pecan pie from Mary Frances.

My pecan pie – Mrs. Fowler’s recipe

I hope you enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving, full of good family times, providing you with sweet memories to last the year through.

Three pumpkins at nightime - the end of Thanksgiving.

The end to a lovely day.

Best turkey & giblet gravy ever!

For buttery, melt-in-your mouth white meat and even no need for gravy, follow these instructions. This is the best turkey and giblet gravy recipe, I think, you will ever find. It is a combination of recipes, from Julia Child, Sheila Lukins and my own ideas. I first put this together in 2005 and fortunately, wrote it all down. But first, you must have a great quality, fresh bird – never frozen and never from a big producer. Now some local farm bred turkeys I have found are not so great. Sometimes their dark meat is tough (they walk a lot!) and the breasts are small. My butcher, Bob, from Espisitos Pork Store in Manhattan, gets his from a farm in PA. And then upstate, Mike and Cindy of Thunderhill Farms, produce an excellent bird. Mike is really proud of his turkeys and he sells out every year.

Now I know, there’s a lot of butter here and usually I don’t make recipes that have this much, but fear not. You will not be eating most of it as you degrease the pan juices and only use 4 tbs. to make a lot of gravy.

BEST ROAST TURKEY & GIBLET GRAVY EVER!
One 14.5 – 17 lb. fresh turkey
Sea salt – fine grind
Pepper – fine grind, preferably TexJoy brand
Paprika – sweet
Cornbread sausage stuffing with apples and pecans
2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, divided into 3 uses ( 20 Tbs.), 1 1/2 sticks should be thoroughly softened at room temperature
2 stalks celery, washed and cut into 3” long pieces
2 fat carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise and into 3” long pieces
3 small onions, cut in half or 3/4″ thick slices
4 tbs. canola oil
Cheesecloth – enough to be 3 layers thick and cover the entire breast area
Giblets and neck
1/3 cup tawny port
1 – 2 cups or more of homemade or low sodium chicken broth
4 tbs. flour
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbs. chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Turkey vegetable rack.

Place the flat sides down of the carrots, celery and onions and arrange in a rectangle to create a vegetable rack in your roasting pan for the turkey to sit on.

Thoroughly wash and dry your turkey, inside and out. Sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika inside both cavities. Fill each with the cooled stuffing and seal closed with skin and metal skewers. Do not stuff too tight as the stuffing will expand while cooking.

Remove the wing tips from the bird and reserve. Skewer the remaining wings to the body with small metal skewers.

Take 1 1/2 sticks of the softened butter and smear all over your bird. Then sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika all over. Place the bird on the vegetable rack in your roasting pan. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Melt 4 tbs. butter in a small saucepan and add 4 tbs. canola oil. Place your cheesecloth in this mixture to soak up all the liquid and arrange the soaked cheesecloth on top of the whole breast area. Save any leftover liquid.

Place in your oven to roast at 325 degrees.

Baste every 30 minutes, without fail, to keep your breast meat juicy and moist. Baste under and over the cheesecloth and use any remaining butter and oil left from soaking the cheesecloth originally. When basting, take the pan out of the oven, close the oven door and baste quickly on top of the stove so your heat stays constant in the oven.

Meanwhile, take your giblets, neck and wing tips and place in a small saucepan and cover with cold fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer slowly for one hour.

Remove all giblets and neck from the liquid. Remove meat from neck and chop all finely and reserve for your gravy. Discard this liquid.

Roast the turkey until the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees and the thickest part of your breast registers 160 degrees.

During the last 30 – 40 minutes of roasting your turkey, remove the cheesecloth and discard and brush on the 1/3 cup tawny port.

A stuffed 17 lb. bird took 4 hours and 45 minutes. A stuffed 14.5 lb. bird took 3 hrs and 54 minutes. Your oven may vary, but figure on 15 – 16 minutes per pound.

Let the bird rest for one hour and let all those juices re-circulate back into the meat. Serve your soup or first course.

Meanwhile, back to the gravy. Smash the vegetables from the roasting pan through a strainer into a bowl. Degrease the pan juices and add enough broth to make 2 cups.

Melt 4 tbs. butter in a saucepan. Add 4 tbs. flour and whisk together on medium heat, letting it brown slightly for 2-3 minutes. (You are making a roux here!) Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the 2 cups of reserved juices and broth. Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the smashed vegetables, 1 tsp. thyme, salt and pepper to taste (gravy may need more salt than you think – taste it), 1 tbs. chopped parsley and reserved chopped giblets and neck meat. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add more chicken broth if you think it’s too thick or you know you have a lot of gravy lovers and need to stretch it.

Enjoy!!

My favorite Thanksgiving stuffing

Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite holiday. I love the weather, fires in the fireplace, the family is all together and no pressure with gifts. In full disclosure, it is also around my birthday – Nov. 26th – but these days I could do without remembering that!

I have been making this stuffing for more than 20 years now, tweaking it until I think it’s just right. Every once in a while I have veered off and done a chorizo dressing or something with chestnuts and this one is the one we always go back to and is requested by everyone in my family. I forgot that I shared this with some of my friends years ago, only to discover recently that yes, they are still using it too. The basis of it comes from the very first Silver Palate cookbook. I used that cookbook so much in the 80’s, that my cover fell off. I think my good friend, Deb, cooked every recipe in there. We used to tease each other, we were both making our way through it! Good stuff!

Now some people and the government think you shouldn’t stuff the bird. I say nonsense! If your bird is really fresh, you’ve washed and dried it very well, let the dressing cool completely before stuffing, you will be fine. At the table, remove the dressing into a covered casserole before you carve the bird and start passing it. Then when the feast is over, totally clean out the cavity of all the stuffing and carve all of the meat off of the bird (makes it easier for leftovers the next day) and make stock with the carcass or throw it away. This way, you will have no problems and everything will be tastier.

I hope this will become your go-to favorite stuffing recipe as well!

IMG_3976

CORNBREAD SAUSAGE STUFFING WITH APPLES & PECANS
Serves 12-14 people or more than enough stuffing for a 20 lb. bird

1 ½ sticks of sweet butter (12 tbs.)
2 3/4 cups of finely chopped yellow onions (use your food processor for this)
3 tart apples, cored and chunked, not peeled (Jonathan are good)
1 lb. lightly seasoned bulk sausage (I use breakfast sausage with sage)
3 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread (bake a Jiffy cornbread mix for this)
3 heaping cups of crustless, cubed, day old whole-wheat bread
3 heaping cups of crustless, cubed, day-old white bread (I prepare and cut my breads the night before so they can dry out a little.)
2 rounded tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup chopped Italian parsley
1 ½ cups shelled pecan halves
1 raw egg
Chicken broth to moisten

Melt half of the butter in a skillet. Add chopped onions and cook over medium – medium/low heat, partially covered, until tender and lightly colored, about 25 minutes. Scrape onions and butter into a very large bowl. The biggest you’ve got!

Melt remaining butter in the same skillet. Add apple chunks and sauté over high heat until lightly colored but not mushy. Transfer the apples and all of the butter to the same mixing bowl with the onions.

Squeeze the sausage out of the casing if necessary. Crumble it into the skillet and sauté over medium heat, continuing to break up the sausage into small pieces, stirring until no pink remains and it’s lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the mixing bowl and throw away the fat.

Add all remaining ingredients to your large bowl and fold together with a large spatula, gently combining everything. Beat an egg in a separate small bowl and fold that in as well. Moisten with homemade or low sodium chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Cool completely before stuffing the bird.

With leftover stuffing, or if you choose not to stuff your bird, spoon stuffing into a casserole, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and set in a large, deeper pan. Pour hot water around the casserole to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes at 325 degrees. You will LOVE it!