‘Twas the Night Before: Thanksgiving Redux

RECIPE: Spicy Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs
Yura Turkey Sandwiches

Smoked Turkey, Munster, and Lemon Sandwiches

Tonight was a strange Thanksgiving Eve.  Instead of doing my giant shop, vacillating between Brussels sprouts and green beans and then deciding to get both because, come on, it’s Thanksgiving—I was at the London Whole Foods, buying boxes of already-cooked sage and onion stuffing, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, haricots verts with shallots, butter mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, two pumpkin pies, and of course, roast turkey.  In living memory, I have never not cooked Thanksgiving.

Bitter Greens Salad with Cranberries and Goat Cheese

Bitter Greens Salad with Dried Cranberries and Goat Cheese

I have my traditions.  I always make cream of cauliflower soup, and pomegranate mushrooms.  We always open a bottle of expensive champagne, and go around toasting all the things we each are thankful for.  I put on my apron, and pad around the kitchen barefoot, listening to Ella Fitzgerald.  I sit down one night in the days before, and eat an entire pumpkin pie by myself instead of dinner.  Thanksgiving, always days after my birthday, is my favorite holiday.  Frankly, it’s the only one we ever celebrated growing up.  When I was very young, I hated turkey, and I begged Maman to make me hotdogs when she had the whole family around our expanding antique table that we would stretch out in the big foyer of our little New York apartment.  I would eat them on the floor in the next room, in front of the fire with our little King Charles Spaniel Michou, nestled somewhere between his fur and the carpet.  But I loved the holiday so much, that year by year I forced myself to eat the turkey, until lo and behold, I love it.  Mind over matter, I always say.

Maple Cracker Jacks

Maple Cracker Jacks

So it feels weird that I’m not going to be with my family tomorrow.  Or my friends, who all descent upon Florida as the cold creeps up the back of the North.  Mr. English and I are going to come home to our ready-cooked feast after work, and eat at our little pine Ikea table, a far cry from Maman’s antique inlayed with leaf after leaf for guest after friend after relative after guest.  There won’t be pomegranate mushrooms, or cauliflower soup.  But for me, it’s still like the night before Christmas must be for everyone else.  As I put my little boxes away of stuffing and sprouts, stacked neatly in my under the counter fridge, I shivered in the anticipation of getting to open them.  And tonight, as we sat watching TV, Mr. English and I shared not one, but two anticipatory slivers of pumpkin pie.  Because like any great holiday, the Eve is as worth it’s salt as the day itself.

Gwyneth's Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

Gwyneth's Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

Last Thanksgiving, I hosted a “night-after” party.  I invited all my friends and their boyfriends (and Mémé, always the life of the party) over for Thanksgiving redux.  I made turkey meatballs, stewed with bell peppers in arrabiata sauce, served in mini French baguettes.  A salad of greens and cranberries and goat cheese.  Maple-coated popcorn.  Sandwiches of smoked turkey, Munster cheese, lettuce, and lemon mayo inspired by Yura on Madison in New York.  Sweet potato chips.  Cranberry Jell-O shots.  Apple and Grape White Sangria with Calvados.  And finally, Gwyneth Paltrow’s pumpkin ice cream pie.  It made real Thanksgiving look out of season.  Engagements were announced.  Bottles of alcohol ran dry.  The meatballs were the hit of the season.  We sat around the couches in Maman’s living room, Chinet plates scattered around an enormous marble coffee table, laughing.  Eating.  Smiling.

I was thankful for them.  That is my toast every year.  Thankful for my friends and my family.  When I count my blessings, I know which ones to count first.

Apple Sangria

Apple Sangria

Which is why I just put my bottle of Champagne in the fridge.  It may sound hokey, but as I walk out tomorrow in a strange country, full of people who don’t realize it’s the best day of the year, far from everyone but one in my life, I will be thankful that I have so many to think of, and thankful to think they are thinking of me.

As they say in jolly old England,

Cheers.

Thanksgiving Friends

At last year's Thanksgiving Post-Eve Party

Last year, I took some candid photos and casual recipe notes to share with you a year later.  More recipes to come throughout the day…

Spicy Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs
serves a little crowd

Spicy Turkey MeatballsHow to Make My Spicy Turkey Meatballs

Follow your favorite meatball recipe.  This is mine.  Substitute ground turkey (not the super lean kind, just regular ground turkey) for the meat, and forget about the spaghetti and mozzarella and any extras like that.  Form the meatballs into small, Swedish-meatball-sized balls.  Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil, and bake at 425 degrees just until golden brown on the outside (they don't need to be all the way cooked through, or they'll dry out).

In a large stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat.  Roughly slice 2 yellow onions into half moons, and sauté them until they're soft.  Drain a large jar of roasted red bell peppers, and sliced them.  Add the peppers and 1 large jar of Arrabiata sauce (recommended: Mario Batali; if you like it really sauce, add 1 1/2 jars) to the pot.  Add the meatballs to the pot, and simmer, lid on, for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with toasted split baguette rolls.  Spicy, hearty, fluffy, and delicious!

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Eat, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes
 

The Secret Ingredient (Turmeric): Gobi Gobi

RECIPE: Gobi Gobi
Gobi Gobi

Gobi Gobi

Here is this week’s The Secret Ingredient, the last installment on turmeric.  I am a die-hard aloo gobi fan.  But this is my version, newly minted and a little different.  No potatoes, just lots of cauliflower with fresh ginger, garlic, chili, and cilantro, with some turmeric and cumin to spice it all up.  I toss it with a spoonful of butter at the end.  Unorthodox, but pale gold and lovely.

I am an enthusiastic frequenter of Indian restaurants, and I never leave without having Aloo Gobi, potatoes and cauliflower, cooking with coriander, cumin seeds, a bit of chili, and of course, turmeric, which gives it that golden kiss and earthen flavor.  It is an incredibly simple recipes as far as Indian dishes go, which I admittedly find unfamiliar and daunting in the kitchen.  I personally have more time for cauliflower than potatoes, so I made this my Gobi Gobi (which means cauliflower) recipe, all soft florets, earthy turmeric, a whole chili, smoky cumin seeds, hot fresh garlic and ginger, and piles of fresh cilantro.  It’s bright and light, but different and interesting and unexpected, especially if served in a non-Indian context, like along side seared fish or roast chicken.

Excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats.

Gobi Gobi
serves 2 to 4

Gobi GobiINGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh garlic
  • 1 green chili, split down the middle, seeds and ribs removed
  • 2 small heads of cauliflower, split into florets
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

PROCEDURE

Heat the oil in a wide sauté pan over medium heat.  When the oil shimmers, add the turmeric, cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, and chili.  Sauté just until fragrant—about 30 seconds.  Add the cauliflower and season with salt.  Add 2/3 cup of water, and cover.  Simmer, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.

Take the lid of the pot, and allow any remaining water to evaporate over high heat, and then allow the cauliflower to take on an ever-so-slight golden age by searing in the dry pan for just 5 to 7 more minutes.  Toss with the butter and cilantro, and serve.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Mustard Braised Beef

RECIPE: Mustard Braised Beef
Mustard Braised Beef

Mustard Braised Beef

In England there is a Sunday tradition of a roast, and when it comes to the holiday season, my heart demands that roast must be a braised brisket.  It’s never too early to start celebrating Hanukkah.  Warm, crumbly, comforting.  Doused in gravy.  How can you not salivate thinking of it?

This Sunday, I tied a brisket in the shape of a roast, and braised it with whole garlic cloves, onions, thyme, and dry mustard, blipping away in Cognac and wine and beef broth.  The result was slices of tender and intensely flavorful beef.  Then, I turned the braising bath and beef juices into a gorgeous, thick, sweet onion and hot mustard gravy.  The zing of the Dijon and whole grain mustards cut through the heaviness of the meat, and gave it a different, complex, more interesting taste than just a plain beef gravy.  A Frenchified English-Jewish classic.

We ate it at a big table in the kitchen, with all the doors to the London garden wide open even in the autumn chill.  It was just right somehow.  Heavy food, a cold bite in the air, and light company.  And two whole boules of bread to sop up that mustard gravy.  Keep the leftovers for sandwiches and slather with extra mustard.  You won’t be disappointed.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.

Mustard Braised Beef
serves 4

Mustard Braised BeefINGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 pounds brisket, tied in a round with butcher’s twine
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, skin on
  • 1/3 cup Cognac
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard

PROCEDURE

Rub the brisket all over with the mustard and thyme, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for two hours to overnight.

Season the beef liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat the olive oil over medium-heat in a Dutch oven.  When the oil shimmers, brown the meat on all sides: this should take about 12 minutes.

Set the meat aside, and add the onions to the pan.  You may need to add an additional tablespoon of olive oil if the pan is too dry.  Sauté just until slightly softened, about 1 minute.  Deglaze with the Cognac, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Place the brisket back in the pot, along with the red wine and beef broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover the pot, and simmer for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, set the meat aside to rest.  Boil the liquid in the Dutch oven vigorously until 4 cups remains.  Lift out the garlic cloves, and squeeze the contents back into the pan.  Pour the liquid, onions, and garlic into the food processor.

Mash together the butter and flour until well combined, and add along with the two mustards to the food processor.  Whiz until smooth.

Cut the twine off the brisket, and slice into thin slices.  Serve with the mustard gravy.

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Categories: Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Meat, Recipes, Series
 

Franglais: Apple and Celeriac Slaw

RECIPE: Apple and Celeriac Slaw
Apple and Celeriac Slaw

Apple and Celeriac Slaw...like Cole Slaw, but with more flavor!

Some people celebrate birthdays and weddings and anniversaries and graduations.

I celebrate celeriac season.

I’m not kidding.  Seeing those straight-from-outer-space bulbs in the produce section sends me in a fit of rapture, and I usually clap my hands together, gasp, and do a little jump before I realize that I have to keep it together in public.  Celeriac, which has a texture between a potato and jicama and a flavor akin to celery but much gentler and more delicate, is best served raw in a slaw.

If you love Cole Slaw, but are ready for an upgrade, try this slightly American take on the classic French celeriac rémoulade.  I grate celeriac and Granny Smith apples, and toss them in a sauce of good French mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice.  Tons of parsley and cracked black pepper finish it off.  The result is something different and fresh and crisp, slightly sweet, very savory.  It’s perfect as a slaw, as a topping on greens, even served on an improvised Reuben sandwich.

Next time I see one of these babies in the produce aisle, I may not hide my hysterics.  We should all celebrate celeriac.  And adding a new vegetable to your repertoire is always a good thing.  It’s like buying a new book.  Whether you read it once or a hundred times, it’s always nice to see it on the shelf and know you can pick it up whenever you want to.

Excerpted from my weekly column Franglais on The Huffington Post.

Apple and Celeriac Slaw
serves 6

Apple and Celeriac SlawINGREDIENTS

  • 10 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 pounds celeriac, peeled
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 tablespoon reserved apple juice

PROCEDURE

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Shred the celery root in a food processor, and add it to the large bowl with the rémoulade sauce.  Next, cut the cheeks off the apples, and shred them in the food processor.  Squeeze the excess juice out of the apple before adding it to the celery root, and reserve the juice.  Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved apple juice to the mixture, and toss everything together.  This tastes best if it sits covered in the fridge overnight, but you can serve it right away.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Salad, Series, Sides, Soup & Salad, Vegetables, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Turmeric): Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Turmeric, Onions, and Olives

RECIPE: Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Turmeric, Onions, and Olives
Turmeric Lamb Tagine

Turmeric Lamb Tagine

Turmeric is one multifunctional little spice.  It is used as a dye.  It is used to deter ants in gardening.  It is used medicinally, to fight memory loss and cancer.  It is used cosmetically to deter aging.  And, did I mention, it is used in foods, mostly in curries, but also as a substitute for saffron, and as a colorant in mustard.  There’s pretty much nothing that turmeric can’t do, considering that we normally see it in an innocent little glass jar on the spice aisle, not looking like much of a superhero.

But my relationship with turmeric is simple: I eat it.  And have, for as long as I can remember.  My Mémé is from Morocco, and I can’t count the number of t-shirt I’ve sacrificed to the yellow spice while watching and helping Mémé concoct her tagines as they bubbled and blipped on the stove.  I love that taste that I described last week as toasting earth, that is fragrant and almost floral, but also a touch metallic or bitter.  The idea that people use it only for its color is so frustrating, because its flavor is so distinctive and dynamic.

This tagine is inspired by Mémé, although it’s not of her creation.  I sear lamb shanks, and stew them with caramelized onions and green olives saturated with bright golden turmeric, a touch of cumin, and a cinnamon stick.  Cilantro and fresh mint finish the resulting tagine that is mildly sweet and intensely savory, colored and flavored by the very special and prominent note of turmeric.  Spooned over a bed of couscous, it doesn’t get much better than this.

It just goes to show you should never, ever judge a spice by its color.

Excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Turmeric, Onions, and Olives
serves 4

Turmeric Lamb TagineINGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced in halfmoons
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole but peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup medium-sized green olives, pits in
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Couscous

INGREDIENTS

Heat the olive oil in a high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Season the lamb liberally with salt and pepper.  Sear the lamb in the hot oil until the lamb is golden brown on all sides.  It should take about 10 minutes in the pan.

Lower the heat to medium; place the lamb on a plate and set aside.  Immediately and carefully add the onions and garlic to the hot oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Sauté, stirring often, until the onions are slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Add the turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon to the onions, and sauté until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the wine and deglaze the pan.

When the wine has reduced by about half, add the vegetable broth and the olives.  Bring the liquid to a boil, and add the lamb back into the pot.  Cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer, covered, for 3 hours, turning the lamb over once in the pot.  Then, simmer uncovered for minutes, to allow the sauce to thicken slightly.  Serve over couscous and top with the fresh cilantro and mint.

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Categories: Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

French in a Flash: Haricots Verts du Sud

RECIPE: Haricots Verts du Sud
Haricots Verts du Sud

Haricots verts, stewed with wine, tomatoes, garlic, shallots, and olive oil

I have been making this recipe for years!  Maybe I didn’t publish the recipe because they are my best friend Anna’s favorite.  But she is always telling me to share, so here I go.  These are haricots verts, fine French green beans, stewed with all the flavors of the South: olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, wine, and a few shallots for good measure.

What I love about the French is that they are genuinely not into the trendy, undercooked vegetable.  French vegetables are COOKED.  And these are no different, stewed well past the point of tender crisp until they are soft, and sweet, and punchy from the tomato and wine.  These are good on their own, and I often have them in a big heap with a warm crust torn off a big loaf of country bread.  But they would also go beautifully on the side of a grilled salmon, or a seared whole fish, or on a big vegetable plate.  These are about as mighty and delicious as the little haricot vert can muster.  They don’t get better than this!

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.

Haricots Verts du Sud
serves 2 to 4

Haricots Verts du SudINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 small shallots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 pound haricots verts
  • 2 tablespoons dry rosé or white wine
  • 3/4 pound cherry tomatoes, pureed in a blender until almost smooth
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

PROCEDURE

Heat the oil in a wide high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Add the shallots, and sauté for 3 1/2 minutes, stirring often.  Add the garlic, and 15 second later, add the tomato paste.  Cook for 15 seconds, then add the haricots verts.  Toss with the tomato paste mixture, and add the wine.  Cook for 1 minute, then add the cherry tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid, and simmer another 5 minutes.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian
 

Franglais: French Purple Potato Salad

RECIPE: French Purple Potato Salad
French Purple Potato Salad

French Purple Potato Salad, with pancetta, mustard, and thyme

I like doing things that don’t exactly break with tradition, but are just ever so slightly different.  And therefore, special.  Just a little bit of thought can change the same ol’ same ol’ to a showstopper.

Enter potato salad.  I love nothing more than to head to the deli counter and buy the traditional stuff full of mayo and onion and gherkins.  But French potato salad is a bit different.  It’s mustard- and vinaigrette-based, rather than built on mayo, and usually involves a little bacon.  How can that be bad?

So, when I saw a bag of purple potatoes for sale at the supermarket for a buck fifty, I thought, now is the time to make showstopper potato salad.  It starts with crispy pancetta, and a vinaigrette made from the pancetta drippings, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and spicy Dijon mustard.  Added to that is the sharp zing of fresh shallot, and the earthy, grassy flavors of fresh thyme and parsley.  In the warm vinaigrette bath I plunge my hot purple potatoes.  I toss them and let them sit and toss them again, until they have little drunk up all the pancetta and vinaigrette and mustard into themselves.  Serve them room temperature, and you will never, for better or worse, be tempted by the deli counter again.  It is the best potato salad I’ve ever had.  Suddenly, the humble potato has reached its fully Versailles potential.  Plus, no mayo to go off at a picnic.  The French think of everything…

Bon app.

French Purple Potato Salad 2

Excerpted from my weekly column Franglais on The Huffington Post.

French Purple Potato Salad
serves 4 to 6

French Purple Potato SaladINGREDIENTS

  • 2 ¾ pounds purple potatoes, halved or quartered
  • Salt
  • ¼ pound cubed pancetta
  • 10 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper

PROCEDURE

Put the potatoes in a big stockpot and cover with water by at least 2 inches.  Season with salt, cover, and cook over high heat until just tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette.  In a wide sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat.  When it shimmers, add the pancetta, and cook for 3 minutes.  Set the pot aside, and the pancetta will continue to crisp while it cools.

Once the pancetta is cooled, add the remaining olive oil, vinegar, mustard, shallots, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Whisk until emulsified.

Drain the potatoes, and put back in their big hot stockpot.  Pour the vinaigrette over the hot potatoes, and gently toss to coat.  Allow to sit, tossing every now and again, until completely room temperature.  The potatoes will suck up the dressing.  Serve at room temperature.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Salad, Series, Sides, Soup & Salad, Starches, Vegetarian