Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanksgiving!!! Candied sweet potatoes (p. 302), Bread and mushroom stuffing (p. 533), Mashed potatoes (p.295), etc

Thanksgiving!! Hooray! A holiday where the main focus is where it should be--on food!!

My mom, who usually does the cooking, is experiencing neuropathy with her chemo, which makes her really sensitive to hot and especially cold. Even though we have a little thanksgiving each year (this year it was me, my mom, Josh, and his brother), it still requires a lot of cooking. So I decided to do what I could to help (and knock out some Joy recipes along the way).

First things first. What oven-cooked item could I make early so it wouldn't crowd the turkey? Candied sweet potatoes (p. 302) seemed like a good choice--and a serving size of 4! Perfect. We wouldn't have ten years worth of leftovers (and I only had 5 sweet potatoes--exactly what the recipe calls for). These were good. Not overly sweet and without marshmallows, two things I like in sweet potatoes. They also heated up really well. They were only made with four potatoes though--the last one had some gross black thing in the middle--it had to be culled from the herd. I made the recipe without lemon zest because I DESPISE zesting--well, at least until I get a microplane...

So why is there only one picture of this? And it's AFTER cooking? I forgot! No good reason--well, and the camera wasn't charged. But they do look tasty.

The only other thing I needed the oven for was toasting the breadcrumbs for the stuffing. My mother was absolutely horrified that I didn't need her to buy me ready made breadcrumbs. TJOC is big on toasting your own breadcrumbs, so I just needed her to buy white bread. That sounds easy--but getting you 100% Italian mother to buy pre-sliced white sandwich bread is not a simple task. She eventually did it, but not without a lot of complaints.

I decided to make Basic bread stuffing (p. 532), modified to Bread and mushroom stuffing (p. 533). Toasting the breadcrumbs wasn't difficult at all and they were beautiful and golden brown...

The bread pre-toast:

The bread post-toast--look how pretty it is!:

Mom was convinced this recipe was going to amount to--how did she so eloquently put it??--oh yes, stuffing a loaf of white bread up the turkey's ass. (As you can see, she's a back-seat cooker). She didn't need to worry--the stuffing was heavily spiced. I would never have thought to put nutmeg or cloves in there--although they were really good. You could definitely taste both flavors, but they were good. I mixed cremini and button mushrooms for the mushroom mix--I would have mixed more but Iowa has a pretty sad mushroom selection. I baked the stuffing in a casserole dish rather than inside the bird, so I added more broth so it wouldn't dry out. I also added two eggs which made a more firm stuffing.

Mixing the breadcrumbs and spices:

Pre-cooking--with tasty bits of butter on the top:

The tasty stuffing, after being shoveled onto everyone's plate:

I LOVE Yukon Gold potatoes. They are soooo good. So obviously, Mashed potatoes (p.295) were among the first things on my list of items to make. I was suspicious that TJOC wouldn't be able to live up to the wonderful Cook's Illustrated recipe that I made last year. And they weren't. The potatoes were good, but not great. Josh always enjoys the mashing process, I think it allows him to get out his frustrations in a healthy way. These cooked WAY faster than I expected, so they were done too early, which made me angry.

They tasted better than they looked:

At this point I was done with everything I had planned on making. But there were a lot of button mushrooms left over. So I decided, on a whim, to make Broiled stuffed mushroom caps (p. 284) stuffed with Basic flavored butter (p. 558) flavored to Garlic butter (p. 559). Oh were these great!! They were the hit of the holiday and gone in about thirty seconds. I can't recommend these enough--they were really easy and good. And the garlic butter was easy to make once I decided to mince the garlic in the world's smallest food processor. They would have been great on toast--sort of like snail-free escargot.

The butter--it makes quite a bit, I recommend having more than one use for it or halving the recipe--

The mushrooms pre- and post- broil. Thy tumbled all around! But were still nice and buttery:

So why didn't I make the cranberries? I said on the last blog I was going to...well, I specifically told my mother not to mince them and she did anyway. Unfortunately, that knocked my recipe out. And what about the pie? I'm not sure why that one didn't happen--I'm guessing lack of time.

Two more quick pictures--the turkey, although I only washed it, deserves it's day in the sun. It was very pretty. And Josh tried his hand at the electric slicer :) is a really cool "charity". It isn't really a charity--it's a micro-lender, so you make little loans (right now you can only donate $25 to each one) to needy people and they pay you back. Most of the lenders have a 0% default rate, so you will get your money back, but your helping someone who needs it. I just made four loans--all to people trying to get started in agriculture, three to pig farmers (I have a soft spot for pigs!). It's a good deed, especially around the holidays. And you're helping people get on their feet so they won't need charity any more--how great is that? If you decide to do it, use me (email me for my username!) as a referral--I don't get anything but I would like to know if I influence anyone to make a loan :) As fellow food-lovers, I implore you to get involved :)

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