Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hope you had a...HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I trust everyone had a nice Turkey Day? I sure did. With Cyd gone (sniff), I was relieved of kitchen duties at home. Instead, my sweet friend, June, invited me over to share the holiday with her family, including hubby, Tom, and the newlyweds--her daughter, Dove, and her new husband, Trevor. Eventually, we also coerced our other dear friend and trivia teammate, Vicky, into joining us, too. It was all perfectly lovely. With that many hands, light work was made of the cooking, and we had a most excellent feast! For appetizers, as we were hanging out in the kitchen and preparing dinner, we had a homemade pickle medley--carrots, dilly beans, and dill pickles--that I brought (to me, Thanksgiving will always be a pickle holiday!). Then we had June's famous pumpkin soup with cranberry-apple relish (a la Rachael Ray).

I, too, was inspired by a Food Network personality, Mr. Bobby Flay, to make the most faaaabulous (though ridiculously time-consuming and quite expensive) grilled portobello mushrooms with wild rice-almond pilaf stuffing and this amazing piquillo pepper vinaigrette. I made the wild rice filling and the flaming-orange vinaigrette at home the day before, and all I had to do was grill the portobellos on June's very cool indoor charcoal grill and then assemble. Really yummy! If nothing else, you should at least make the vinaigrette which would be great as a regular salad dressing, perhaps something with Latin ingredients and topped with crispy tortilla strips (note to self).

Grilled Portobellos Filled with Wild Rice-Almond Pilaf and Piquillo Pepper Vinaigrette
(Source: Bobby Flay,
Food Network)

8 medium-sized portobello caps
olive oil
salt and pepper
wild rice pilaf, recipe follows
piquillo pepper vinaigrette, recipe follows
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Heat grill to high. Brush both sides of mushrooms with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill caps until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Fill the caps with the wild rice pilaf, drizzle the piquillo vinaigrette and sprinkle tops with the toasted almonds.

Wild Rice Pilaf:
1 1/2 cups wild rice
3 cups chicken stock, plus 1/2 cup
2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place wild rice in a colander and rinse well with cold water. Combine three cups of the stock and the water in a large saucepan with a tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook until the grains open and are very soft, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Drain well.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the cooked wild rice, thyme, rosemary and remaining 1/2 cup of stock and season with salt and pepper and cook until heated through and flavors combine, 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and fold in the parsley.

Piquillo Pepper Vinaigrette:
5 piquillo peppers, chopped
1/2 small red onion, coarsely chopped
8 cloves roasted garlic, peeled
1/4 cup aged sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine peppers, onion, garlic, vinegar, honey, mustard, and salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and blend until emulsified.

For the main meal, we had roasted turkey, of course, mashed baby Yukon Golds with gravy, stuffing AND dressing, homemade cranberry-orange sauce, baked squash with apples and walnuts that Vicky brought, mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar, steamed asparagus, and some really terrific rolls that Dove made from the classic Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (you know, the red-and-white plaid one that you probably also have on your shelf). The rolls were crispy on the outside (from being brushed with melted butter before baking), tender on the inside, and slightly sweet. Dove assures me that the dough makes an excellent base for sweet rolls, too--and I believe her.

Dove's Dinner Rolls (aka Basic Roll Dough)
(Source: Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook)
Makes 2 to 3 dozen rolls

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided use
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg

In mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast. Heat milk, sugar, shortening, and salt together just until warm (115-120 degrees), stirring constantly until shortening almost melts. Add to dry mixture; add egg. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for 1/2 minute, scraping bowl. Beat three minutes at high speed. By hand, stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Shape into ball.

Place in lightly greased bowl; turn once to grease surface. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down; turn out on floured surface. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Shape into desired rolls (Dove prefers the classic cloverleaf*). Place on greased baking sheets or in greased muffin pans. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake in hot oven (400 degrees F) for 10 to 12 minutes.

*Cloverleaf Rolls:
Place three one-inch balls of dough in each greased muffin pan (fill pan half full). Brush balls with melted butter or margarine.

After dinner, we shared a toast with a far-too-drinkable cranberry cocktail that June whipped up (champagne and cranberry juice in a flute garnished with frozen cranberries and a slice of clementine--very festive!), before retiring to the den for a rousing game of Cranium and then Apples to Apples while our meal settled. When we were finally ready for dessert, we had several delicious choices. June made a decadent three-layer Black Forest cake, and also a traditional cherry pie (the Konda-Foleys are a cherry-loving people). And I made a variation of my famous pecan pie that almost killed me...literally. You see, I broke the cardinal rule on major holidays: NEVER experiment with a new recipe! The filling was very good, but I about burned down the house making the crust!

I decided to try the crust recipe that was featured in the New York Times a couple of years ago, but some fuzzy math when doubling the recipe for two pies caused me to add too much butter to the dough. And knew it. I knew it looking in the food processor. I knew it when I was rolling it out. And I definitely knew it when the kitchen started to fill with smoke! You see, the butter was leaking out and burning on the bottom of the oven. So I changed the aluminum foil that I line the oven with twice and thought that I had dealt with the problem. But then the kitchen began to fill with an even thicker black smoke, and when I opened the door, the bottom of the oven was in FLAMES! (Does this sound familiar?) So I grabbed some baking soda and put it out, somehow miraculously missing the pies. But it looked like it was still burning (too much) down below. So I turned off the oven for a few minutes just to be safe. Everything seemed to be ok, and I got the oven cleaned out. Then I turned it back on and put the pies back in to finish baking, this time on lined cookie sheets to catch any more leaks.

The problem was, of course, that the half-baked crusts had been sitting on the counter, melting. (The butter in pie crust needs to be cold so that it creates steam when it hits the hot oven and those steam puffs create the flaky layers that you want.) So the final outcome was two beautiful pecan pies with a delicious filling but a crunchy, cracker-type crust. BOO HISS! It was 1:00am by the time I finished, and I was practically in tears. I put a Pillsbury crust in the fridge to thaw, and went to bed, resolved to make a third pie in the morning. But when I got up, I tried a sliver of one pie, and even with the weird crust, it was darn tasty. So I decided just to swallow my pride, and take the substandard pie. After all, June doesn't even like pecan pie, so she wouldn't be having any, plus I knew there would be other desserts from which to choose. Yet everyone but June tried the pecan pie, and strangely, no one seems disturbed by the disastrous crust, as evidenced by the fact that we ate half of it in one sitting! Oh, and did I mention that I will be teaching a pie-making class for Continuing Education in the spring semester? Tee-hee. Oh will make a good story for the students, assuming there's anyone foolhardy enough to sign up after this debacle!

Burning Down the House Pecan Pie (Thanksgiving 2008)
(kind of a combo of my favorite recipe and Anna's at
Cookie Madness)

one unbaked pie crust (one with the proper proper proportion of fat to flour, PLEASE!)

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
1 cup corn syrup (half light and half dark, or brown sugar flavor)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups pecans, whole

Mix thoroughly all ingredients except the butter and nuts. In a dry skillet, toast the pecans over medium heat for about two minutes, then add the butter and "stir-fry" the nuts for another 2-3 minutes until the butter has browned and the nuts start to color. Fold the buttered pecans gently into the sugar mixture so as not to break them up. Pour filling into a pie pan lined with the unbaked crust. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until the filling has set (is no longer wobbly). Cool thoroughly before serving, preferably with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!


Anonymous said...

i saw one episode on food network where bobby flay went in to "save" a failing restaurant (like gordon ramsay's BBC and FOX shows) and it was incredibly boring. i haven't been able to trust his recipes since, because i figure that boring chefs translate to boring recipes, but i must say that that picture looks delicious.

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