Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Debriefing

The table is cleared and the dishes are done. A battalion of plastic containers stand ready in the frig, along with a ziplock bag of sliced turkey. We're all in a food coma semi-snoring through one football game after another. The fatigue from overeating is shifting into a pleasant state of culinary satisfaction. And I'm reviewing this year's Thanksgiving menu in my head.
Manchego Cheese with Prosciutto and Mixed Olives
Brined Fresh Herb Turkey Breast Roasted on Root Vegetables
Italian Sausage and Mushroom Dressing
Cream Turkey and Roasted Root Vegetable Gravy
Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Fresh Collard Greens
Buttered Turnips
Fresh Cranberry and Pear Compote
Yeast Rolls
Warm Sweet Potato Pie with Whipped Cream

How did it rate compared to years past?
The turkey was moist and delicious--no complaints there. And nobody seemed to miss the dark meat. The dressing was only so-so. The recipe still sounds good, but the taste didn't live up to the billing. Gravy-delicious thanks to the pan drippings from the turkey and vegetables. Mashed Potatoes--maybe the best we've ever had!?? Not really any different than last year. Perhaps someone has been craving mashed potatoes. Collard Greens--for those of us who like collards, these were superb--freshly picked and cooked with a nice ham hock and plenty of black pepper. But collards aren't for everyone. Turnips, also fresh from a local garden, were really delicious, but again, not for everyone. Mama cooked them with a little salt, sugar and butter. They were perfectly seasoned. Next, the cranberries and pears cooked with some brown sugar, butter and orange marmalade--they won an overwhelming thumbs up from everyone with a request to please remember how I made them so we could repeat. Rolls were rolls. Nothing exceptional. And finally, dessert, Sweet Potato Pie from a recipe I found in a new North Carolina cookbook. Mama and I thought this pie was absolutely delicious, however, Doug was not so enthusiastic. A pie made from a vegetable? Well, yes, and better than pumpkin. He didn't agree.

Looking forward, we'll have a similar meal for Christmas, with a few changes: a soup starter (Italian Dumpling), a better dressing (cornbread this time), and I'll add a Rum Cake to the dessert list, but the Sweet Potato Pie will remain!

I'm making my lists and checking them twice! It's that time of year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Turkey Time

There's going to be a new dish on our Thanksgiving table this year, an authentic Native American dish.

I found the recipe in Spirit of the Harvest, by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs. After twenty years the James Beard Award Winning book has been reissued. Each section of the book describes the culture, diet and ceremonial use of food by Native Americans in different areas of North America.

The picture of the stuffed baked pumpkin looked so beautiful, I couldn't resist adding it to our menu. This little sugar pumpkin is stuffed with a mixture that is very similar to a Thanksgiving dressing. After giving it a test run, I can hardly wait to place it next to the turkey and cranberry sauce. It's going to make a beautiful presentation and a delicious addition to our table.

I couldn't resist giving another stuffed squash a try while working on a vegetarian dish for my non-meat eating friends. I tried both butternut and acorn squash for this dish. The acorn squash proved to be a better receptacle for the tortellini with pumpkin blue cheese cream sauce. The squash alone is so delicious when roasted. The addition of the pasta and sauce simply doubles the 'goodness'. One acorn squash will provide six side dish servings.

May your table be complete this Thanksgiving, your blessings be many and the spirit of gratefulness fill your holiday.


Serves 6


1 4- to 5-pound sugar pumpkin

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rendered fat

1 pound ground venison, buffalo, or beef (I used sweet Italian sausage--delicious!)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup wild rice, cooked

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon crushed dried sage

¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the top from the pumpkin and remove seeds and strings. Prick cavity with a fork and rub with 1 teaspoon of salt and the mustard. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add meat and onion and sauté over medium-high heat until browned. Off the heat, stir in wild rice, eggs, remaining salt, sage, and pepper. Stuff pumpkin with this mixture. Place ½ inch of water in the bottom of a shallow baking pan.

Put pumpkin in the pan and bake for 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Add more water to the pan as necessary to avoid sticking. Cut pumpkin into wedges, giving each person both pumpkin and stuffing.

Acorn Squash with Tortellini and Blue Cheese Sauce

2 Acorn Squash

2 T butter, melted

8 T shredded Parmesan Cheese


1 package cheese Tortellini, cooked one minute less than package directions, and drained

2 cups half and half

1 (15oz.) can pumpkin puree

2 T butter

One-half teaspoon salt

One-half teaspoon pepper

One-fourth teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

5 oz. Blue cheese crumbles

Fried sage leaves as garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Split squash long ways (from stem to tip) and remove seeds. Slice a little piece off bottom of each half to allow halves to sit flat. Place squash into foil lined pan. Brush inside with melted butter, sprinkle a little salt and about a tablespoon of parmesan cheese into each half. Cover pan with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, until flesh is tender, but squash still holds its shape.
Meanwhile, cook tortellini according to package directions, but about a minute or two less than directed. Drain and set aside.
Add half and half, pumpkin, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg and sage to sauce pan. Stir to combine over low heat. Finally, add blue cheese, stirring until blue cheese melts into sauce. Add cooked tortellini, and remove from heat.
Remove roasted squash from oven. With slotted spoon, add tortellini to each squash, drizzling a little more sauce over top.
Return to oven and bake another twenty minutes, sprinkling the remaining parmesan cheese over top during the last ten minutes.
Garnish with fried sage leaves, slice and serve.
(I sprinkled the top of these squash with pumpernickel bread crumbs, but they didn't add to the flavor of the dish, and I don't think they look very good, so I won't do that again!)