Monday, November 24, 2008

Our Fowl Play Day

One of the signs that you are settling in as a Domestic Engineer Guy is changing the Thanksgiving menu each season. My Thanksgiving menus have become “one and out” recipes. It is not about “been there, done that” or rendering a recipe into something only the dog would eat – been there, done that. It is hard to resist the annual deluge of Turkey Day temptations from the likes of Food Network, Bon Appetit Magazine, and the LA Times food section.

My bias remains for variations on American traditions, rather than something of foreign origin, or with sprouts, tofu, or couscous, decidedly non-guy foods.

I know that deep-frying a turkey is a guy thing, but I don’t recommend it, unless you have a back forty. Those firefighter folks suggest that if you are chromosome-bound to the dangers of turkey deep fryers, that you do it at least 20 feet from your house. A football field length would be better. If you go that route, check your homeowners insurance. If covered, at least you can dress up like a fireman, which was your career goal in elementary school.

Basically I move into the kitchen, open up a bottle of wine and sip my way through the day.

This year’s menu:
...Roast Salted Turkey. I have been brining the last few years. This recipe received more favorable feedback from LA Times readers than any recipe in their turkey history. Worth a try. I’ll partially stuff it with chopped onions, celery, carrots and a sprig or two of thyme. I’m still thinking about the gravy but leaning towards a recipe with turkey stock, pancetta, shallots, white wine, rosemary and sage.
...Not Your Mama’s Green Bean Casserole. I found this one on Food Network: green beans (I use haricot verts) shallots, two kinds of mushrooms, thyme, sage, sherry, cream, and frizzled leeks. Frizzled leaks? Frizzled is usually reserved for the cook. Frizzing is basically a frying technique. This replaces that canned French onion stuff.
...Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash. This one is so sweet it will make your mouth pucker. Consume in small bites.
...Parsley, Sage, and Celery Cornbread Dressing. I was going to pass on the dressing, in an effort to minimize our waists and waste. Then PJ, the family traditionalist, threatened to go buy something in a Stovetop box.
...Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Topping. It is as good as it sounds.

I am still thinking about the wines for our feast, but something red. Hey, I’m a guy.

The common ingredient thread this year is sage. Sage is one of the healthiest herbs in my herb garden. Based on my herb garden, maybe next year I’ll do a rosemary theme. The rosemary bush is on steroids.

Yes, this is a 2-3 pound gain day. It’s a good thing we are only thankful once a year.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Basil Me

After returning from my recent trip to New Orleans, PJ expressed angst over envisioning my plane crashing, not because of losing me, but because she didn’t know how to make my basil dressing. It is always good to know where one stands in a relationship.

I confess to more than a fondness for basil. I would grow it in my herb garden except that I use so much that I would have to turn our entire hillside backyard into a basil plot. But then the dog wouldn’t have a place to dig.

I use basil lots of ways but two favorites are as a replacement for lettuce on sandwiches, and on beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with kosher or sea salt and pepper. Then there is pesto. I never buy pesto. My favorite lamb topping is a mint-basil pesto recipe.

I never buy salad dressings anymore. They are too easy to whip up fresh, whether a simple vinaigrette and all its variations, or my basil dressing, the easiest of them all. I read it somewhere and memorized it. If I can memorize a recipe upon one viewing then you know it’s easy. The basic ingredients are:

3 cups of lightly packed basil leaves (I discard the thickest stems)
2 cups olive oil

· Combine in a blender until finely chopped (do not puree)
· Pour mixture into a pan and heat over medium heat.
· Stir occasionally until the mixture bubbles around the pan sides.
· Remove from heat and let cool for about an hour.
· Line a strainer with two layers of cheesecloth and strain into a large enough storage container.
· Store the basil oil dressing in the refrigerator and use on any number of lettuce varieties found in grocery stores.

This quantity lasts us a week. You can vary these portions as necessary based on usage. It will solidify in the refrigerator, so take it out at least 30 minutes prior to use.

It is that simple. PJ takes half of the mixture to work along with other salad fixings. Sometimes I get the containers back.

After you try this you will understand her sense of loss if something happens to me.