Thanksgiving Wrap Up

I’m proud to say it was a wonderful holiday. My parents are boarding their plane back to California and I’m nestled on my couch in pajamas, sipping Lemon Ginger tea with Tulip at my feet. I miss them a little. A good visit with family always makes me feel homesick after we say goodbye. I’m lucky to feel that way.

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The days of preparation paid off. I think this is the first year I didn’t have to run back to the store to get a missing ingredient. The timeline for the day also proved useful. It functioned more like a checklist with a sense of how long each dish would take to prepare than an actual schedule, which was fine. Dinner was served at 4pm on the nose, with everyone pitching in the last half-hour to get us to the table as my energy started to wane.

he swears the glasses protect his eyes from onions

he swears the glasses protect his eyes from onions

That said it was still a ton of work! Thank goodness my mom was willing to help out so much in the kitchen. The biggest “hits” this year were the turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. This was my first year brining a turkey and I will definitely do it again. The recipe I liked called for a pretty complicated brine, but for the sake of my sanity I went with this basic one, adding a couple of bay leaves and a teaspoon of black peppercorns for some flavor. Even with a ten-pound turkey I needed to add several cups of water to cover the bird, but the brine still worked its magic!

brine

brine

three herb butter

three herb butter

In addition to brining, I put a thin coat of Three Herb Butter underneath the skin of the turkey to keep the breast moist. I followed our old Silver Palate trick and rubbed the outside of the turkey with lemon juice followed by olive oil, salt, and pepper. After salting and peppering the cavity, half a squeezed lemon, fresh thyme, parsley and sage went in to add some flavor. My dad trussed the turkey and we put in on a roasting rack in the oven at 325 degrees. I melted some of the remaining herb butter for basting, which was helpful because the turkey didn’t release much juice and the butter was excellent for browning. I basted the turkey every half an hour, switching to homemade chicken broth as my liquid after the first hour. I have no idea why, but the turkey was done an hour early—tender and full of the herb-butter flavor all the way through. It got to rest, loosely tented under foil, until we were ready to carve.

My mom found the recipe for this unforgettable Chanterelle Mushroom Gravy. I was nervous about the amount of flour called for, but I used cornstarch to make it gluten free and it turned out perfectly. The flavor of chanterelles was amazing! It would be perfect for turning leftovers into a turkey potpie. I just plan on pouring it over the Bread Stuffing with Fresh Herbs to keep the leftovers moist.

chanterelles

chanterelles

stuffing

stuffing

The Yukon Gold and Fennel Puree with Rosemary Butter was a hands-down favorite. I’m grateful I didn’t think to halve the recipe because I know we’ll be enjoying the leftovers all weekend long. I roasted the fennel and onion to make the puree two days early, which I highly recommend. You can even make the whole recipe a full day in advance.

mashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

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We had enough time to take a light lunch break and enjoy the cheese board I put together. My mom and I took Tulip for a walk in the crisp winter weather before diving into the afternoon cooking. It was such a pleasure to be in the kitchen together. This was the first time in over thirty years my parents didn’t host Thanksgiving at their house. We were honored to have them here. Thank you, Mom, for the beautiful centerpiece and help in the kitchen. Thanks to Dad for trussing and carving and kicking my butt in cribbage. And thank you to Ben for inviting my parents to share Thanksgiving at our table. I have so much gratitude for you all.

turkey!

turkey!

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DSCN1520It was a feast!

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Thanksgiving Eve

It’s the night before the night before Thanksgiving and the preparations are well under way. Tonight I assembled a simple wet brine for the turkey, roasted and pureed the fennel and onions for the mashed potatoes, and made the base for the three herb butter. Ben prepared the salad dressing and washed all the dishes that accrued during my kitchen frenzy—thank you Ben! Sitting next to a crackling fire, I’m thinking about gratitude and everything I have to be thankful for. Among them are Ben, the fire, my dog Tulip, and a fridge so full that I had to store the brine on the back porch. It’s a metaphor for my life—the goodness is overflowing.

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My parents fly in tomorrow night. It’s the first time I’m hosting them for Thanksgiving and I asked them to contribute a rather unorthodox item to the dinner—a centerpiece. Through the years my mom has used her creativity and good taste to set a stunning table for the holidays. From place settings to table runners to hand-assembled centerpieces, she does it all. I remember as a kid we had this enormous heavy wooden table that was too big for our dining room. It had to be placed at an angle so the chairs would fit. My mom would stay up the night before and decide between various linens and rearrange the assortment of items she planned to use to decorate, many of which were pretty branches or leaves she found in our yard. She wouldn’t go to bed until the table was perfectly set. This memory makes me smile and recall the anticipation I felt when I saw the table ready for our holiday meal. Like a beautifully wrapped present, it signified that this day was special.

As I look forward to time around the table with my family, I have some practical tips to share so you can keep your spirit of gratitude despite the fuss and frenzy. There are three things I’m trying out this year that I think will work in my favor. First, I decided to stock up on basics during my grocery run. I have no interest in running out of olive oil or salt and having to run back to the store. Second, I arranged my shopping list to roughly reflect where things are in the store. I know this is a little insane, but I do it with my weekly shopping trips and it saves me tons of time. It also increases the likelihood that I won’t miss an ingredient and need to make another trip. Finally, inspired by the wedding planning we’ve been doing lately, I’m creating a day-of schedule to keep myself on track. I’m not so worried about the turkey, but it would be easy to forget to add the cranberries to the salad dressing and soak the onions for the salad an hour before we sit down. These are not things that will ruin the meal, but I’ll feel more focused and confident seeing the pace written out on paper. A harried host isn’t a happy one. I’ll do what I need to enjoy the day and soak it up. It’s the stuff memories are made of.

And with that, a very Happy Thanksgiving from me to you!

Cranberry and Tart Cherry Compote & Toasted Hazelnuts

Thanksgiving cooking has begun! I started with cranberry sauce because I knew it would keep well all week long. Growing up, I don’t even remember having cranberry sauce on the table. I’m sure we did, but it was one of those strange dishes that just seemed unnecessary. I’m not sure when I became a convert—all I know is that I love a good homemade cranberry sauce. This recipe is one I’ve been using for years. It’s more tart than sweet, using cinnamon and allspice to balance out the flavor. I used dried Bing cherries and local Oregon cranberries (fresh and dried.) Since the tartness is the appeal for me, I use plain cranberry juice as the base instead of cranberry cocktail, but I’m sure it’s good either way.

ingredients

ingredients

I started by preparing the lime zest and lime segments. Use a small, sharp paring knife to separate the juicy flesh from the membranes. Once the cranberry juice is boiling pour everything except the currant jelly and lime zest into the pot. This is my favorite moment—when fresh cranberries start popping. The currant jelly will help it firm up as it cools, while also adding another layer of fruitiness. The lime zest added in at the end is a fun twist on more traditional orange.

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love these xo top view measuring cups!

love these xo top view measuring cups!

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I also took this opportunity to roast some local Oregon hazelnuts, which will be part of my cheese board and a topping on my salad. It’s fun designing a menu that incorporates some of the best local foods of the season. To roast I just pre-heated my oven to 350 degrees (the variety of nut determines the temperature) and placed the hazelnuts in one even layer in a roasting pan. A rimmed baking sheet would also work well. I roasted them for 15 minutes, shaking them every five minutes or so to keep them from over-browning. After pulling them out of the oven I poured the hot hazelnuts into a clean, dry kitchen towel. Wrapping the towel up for a couple of minutes helps the hazelnuts steam a little, which makes rubbing the skins off much easier. It’s not possible to completely remove the skins, but if you rub them vigorously through the towel the majority should slide off. I store my roasted nuts in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Nuts can go rancid, so I typically keep raw nuts in the refrigerator to preserve their freshness. Once they are toasted I store them at room temperature but try to use them up within a week. Store them in a dark place, like the pantry, to help them stay fresh.

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 Are you preparing anything in advance? Share your best make-ahead recipes in the comments!

Cranberry and Tart Cherry Compote via Epicurious

Bon Appétit            November 2008

Let’s Lunch! Delicata and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Although I’m always grateful for good, homemade food at lunchtime, it’s the meal I never want to think about preparing. Before I was diagnosed with celiac I would stick to a standard sack lunch: a sandwich and a piece of fruit. My lunches take a little more thought these days, but they are also more interesting and nutritious.

Quinoa salads are a good starting point for lunch because quinoa cooks quickly and is full of protein, which makes it an easy and filling foundation. I was gifted with a couple of beautiful delicata squash from a friend and decided to make a quinoa-squash lunch for the week. I was inspired by two dishes that had enough in common to seem marriageable. The first is Heidi Swanson’s Lemon Scented Quinoa, which is part of my regular lunch rotation. The second is the Roasted Butternut Squash with Chickpeas and Cumin recipe from the Paradiso Seasons cookbook that I posted about a couple of months ago.

roasted delicata squash with chickpeas and cumin

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Both recipes call for chickpeas and chopped fresh cilantro, so I knew those would be going in the salad. I kept the quinoa and tahini dressing from Heidi Swanson’s recipe, but left out the red onion. From the Paradiso version I took some roasted delicata squash and sliced scallions, leaving out the cumin seeds and red chili. The result was an autumnal, protein-rich and colorful salad that held up all week long.

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To make this salad you will need:

1 cup cooked quinoa; 3-4 sliced scallions; 1 bunch chopped cilantro; 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained; 1 delicata squash, sliced and roasted until tender

one batch of tahini dressing from the Lemon Scented Quinoa recipe, link above

Toss the first four ingredients together, then add the dressing to taste. Leftover dressing can be drizzled on top each serving.

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If you have gluten friendly lunches that you enjoy, I would love for you to share in the comments!

Pan-Braised Chicken with Dried Fruits and Olives

I can’t believe I haven’t shared this recipe yet! It’s one of my favorites. It was inspired by a Chicken Marbella recipe from Silver Palette that I love and will certainly write about in the future. This recipe perfect for wintertime because the primary ingredients are dried fruits and olives, which are always “in season.” It’s also a flavorful, satisfying dish that only takes half an hour to put together.

sauvignon blanc is a nice dry white for this dish

sauvignon blanc is a nice dry white for this dish

I always double this dish because it’s delicious leftover. I don’t bother with measuring the cumin—just dust each chicken breast with cumin, salt, and pepper before browning. My dried fruits of choice are cherries, apricots, and currants or cranberries. It’s helpful to choose one fruit that is a little tart to keep the flavors balanced. Kalamatas are my preferred olive for cooking, so I substitute those for the cracked green that are called for in the recipe. Since there isn’t much preparation I typically have everything ready to go before putting the chicken in the pan.

after browning, simmer all ingredients together

after browning, simmer all ingredients together

boil until the natural sugars create a thickened sauce

boil until the natural sugars create a thickened sauce

This dish has the perfect balance of saltiness and sweetness. Serve this with a side of quinoa cooked in chicken broth and an easy green vegetable, like green beans, and you’re all set!

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Pan-Braised Chicken with Dried Fruits and Olives via Epicurious

Bon Appétit    December 1998

Hors d’oeuvres

No matter how well timed my Thanksgiving cooking is, the meal is almost always served later than expected. This is not a problem if: a) It’s not more than an hour later than my original plan, and b) I have snacks to tide my guests over.

You might be thinking, “I’m preparing a feast and I have to worry about hors d’oeuvres now, too?” Thankfully, no—there’s no need to make a fuss because the main meal is what everyone will remember. Besides, you don’t want family and friends to fill up before the turkey makes it to the table. My recommendation for a stress-free appetizer is to assemble a platter. Here are two of my favorites:

Cheese Board: This typically includes three to five cheeses, selected for flavor and variety. Ben loves smoked cheeses, and I recently discovered that Ford Farm Dorset Red is one we both love. I like to include a softer cheese—either rich and buttery like Brie, or slightly lighter like Boucheron. Boucheron is really beautiful, so I am often drawn towards it when building cheese boards. My third cheese is always a wild card—anything from Gouda to Manchego to something bold and blue. (This article explains why blue cheese has not always been considered safe for celiacs. It also links to a study confirming that blue cheese is, happily, gluten free.)

The goal is to seek out different flavors, textures, milk sources, and of course, select cheeses that visually appeal to you. I found this guide to creating a cheese board beautiful and straightforward. My favorite cheese board accompaniments include:

A Mezza Platter: A Mediterranean inspired mezza platter is a great way to satisfy almost any crowd. I start with a good quality hummus, or you can make your own, and build from there. Just be sure to balance fresh ingredients with pickled/prepared ones. My favorite accompaniments include:

  • Assorted olives
  • Pickled peppers (sweet or spicy)
  • Fresh sliced vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, and Persian cucumbers are my personal favorites)
  • Olive or Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade
  • Stuffed grape leaves or Tabbouleh
  • Za’atar (you can make your own with this recipe)
  • Chips (I like Food Should Taste Good Multigrain)

Word to the wise: If you’re assembling a platter to satisfy celiacs and non-celiacs alike, please be aware of cross contamination. Supplying gf crackers is only helpful if all of the cheese knives and dips aren’t used with gluten, too. One easy way to handle this is to allow the gf people to serve themselves first.

Although I rarely get hungry while cooking (maybe it has something to do with “taste testing” everything along the way?), having snacks around keeps me moving at a relaxed pace all the way through the meal preparation. I hope this helps you get all the kitchen time you need to make a memorable Thanksgiving dinner!

Beet and Cabbage Borscht

My partner, Ben, has a saying: “They can’t all be gems.” I know I’m a good cook, but sometimes my cooking is off just a little bit. This was one of those times. Fortunately cooking is a creative process, and lackluster results can often be rescued and turned into something more appealing.

I was craving this borscht because it’s a wintery soup that is simultaneously hearty and light. Borscht can come in many forms and from many places, but in my mind I always think of Russia. Ben spent three summers in Russia, so for him eating borscht evokes memories. Traditional Russian borscht is full of meat—usually beef. Although adding beef may be delicious, it would defeat my idea of preparing something light and healthy. This version is vegan unless you add yogurt at the end, which of course I do!

onion and cabbage sautee broth and tomatoes

onion and cabbage sauteed

I’ve made this recipe before and I typically use my Better than Bouillon vegetable stock. This time I went with Saffron Road Classic Culinary Vegetable Broth and I think it was too light to add any depth of flavor to the beets. I also tend to up the amount of vegetables I use—half of a small head of cabbage and a full can of drained, chopped tomatoes. Sadly, I didn’t increase the number of beets and potatoes this time around and I think my soup suffered for it.  The recipe calls for beets that are two-inches in diameter, which is fairly small. I typically use six beets that are almost twice that size, but this time all I could find were small beets, so I used nine and still could have used more. Ultimately the soup came out too thin and without a ton of flavor, even after adding the juice from one lemon and an entire bunch of chopped dill (which is far preferable to the parsley called for in the recipe.)

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The good news is, adding a spoonful of plain yogurt thickened it up and added some flavor (I use full fat yogurt for this recipe.) I improved the leftovers even more by boiling a potato in vegetable broth, then whipping up the potatoes with a little of the broth until I had what looked like a potato paste. A texture like really wet mashed potatoes is what I was going for. At that consistency it was easy to add the potato to the finished soup and blend it in. It thickened the borscht to a perfect consistency and somehow made the other flavors stand out.

blend veggies with just enough broth to mix well

blend veggies with just enough broth to mix well

So in this case, it turns out leftovers were better than the original! I do recommend this recipe, but consider this a fair warning to use a really high quality broth and load up on the vegetables. Plus, it’s so pretty!

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Beet and Cabbage Borscht via Epicurious

Bon Appetit            March 1988

Double-Fennel Pork Chops

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving my goal is to cook satisfying meals without spending too much time in the kitchen. That’s how I came across this recipe for double-fennel pork chops. I have a recipe for pork tenderloin with braised fennel that I adore, but it’s too labor intensive for my mood this week. Pan-seared chops seemed like a cheater’s version—almost all the same ingredients in half the time.

Be sure to buy fennel that still has some of the fronds on top. It’s not just a pretty garnish—it enhances the flavor of anise. I was tempted to add the garlic and white wine that my other pork and fennel recipe calls for, but refrained since this was my first time making this recipe. If I do add them next time I would add the garlic near the end of browning the fennel and substitute a dry white wine for the last ¼ cup of broth. This time the only change I made was to squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the fennel at the end of cooking. Lemon just brightens the other flavors up a bit, and I would definitely use it again.

braised fennel awaiting pork

braised fennel awaiting pork

I paired this meal with steamed broccoli and purple potatoes. I steam my broccoli with a little metal steamer in the bottom of the pan and I drizzle some oil, salt, and pepper on before cooking. That way when they’re done cooking, they are ready to eat! The purple potatoes I just couldn’t resist. I treated them like fingerlings—I cut them in half or quarters, depending on the size, and boiled them until just cooked. Then I drained them and put them back in the pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh parsley.

purple potatoes before boiling

purple potatoes before boiling

Although I enjoyed this dish and found it easy enough to prepare, I missed the tenderness of the tenderloin. That said, this is a great, easy weeknight meal. Enjoy!

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Double Fennel Pork Chops

Fine Cooking                         Issue 96

Planning Ahead

Planning makes the difference between a stressful Thanksgiving and a successful Thanksgiving. My first step is designing the menu.  This year my fiancé and I are hosting my parents, and my dad is a traditionalist, so we are sticking with turkey. Depending on how many leftovers you want around the house, plan for 1-2 lbs of meat per person. I’m a fan of cooking too much because in addition to leftovers, my family likes to make turkey soup the day after Thanksgiving. To my celiac friends, be sure you’re buying a bird that hasn’t been injected with ingredients that contain gluten. If you’re eating at someone else’s house for the holidays, don’t eat a gluten-stuffed bird! Whatever you put in the cavity of the turkey makes its way into the meat, so physically avoiding the stuffing isn’t good enough.

The good news is gluten free bread can make fantastic dressing. It’s one of the few bread-heavy dishes that adapts well to being prepared without gluten. This year I’m thinking of a focaccia-based dressing, but I’ve used a variety of gf breads in the past and been satisfied. If you’re a cornbread fan you might want to consider these Double Corn, Quinoa, & Cheddar Muffins either instead of stuffing or as a side dish. I made them last week as a side dish to a simple soup and they made me so happy! If you need to substitute for eggs, this recipe for flax-seed substitute has never failed me.

before the oven and after the oven

before the oven and after the oven

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When it comes to gravy, cornstarch is a common and safe way to make your gravy gf. I also like using potato flour, but it’s definitely an effective thickener, so you need to be careful not to overdo it. Another important consideration is how ambitious to make your meal. I can get stuck thinking it’s not Thanksgiving unless we match my childhood memory of turkey day. With only four of us, I sacrifice sweet potatoes for sanity and consider it worth it.

Without the luxury of multiple ovens, I reserve the oven for my turkey and maybe plan for one more dish or dessert to be baked as well. And that leads me to my final tip—cook in advance! If there are things that can be prepared ahead of time, that is the ultimately key to a fabulous, low-stress holiday dinner. I don’t even like to do all of my shopping in one trip. I am guaranteed to forget something anyway, so it makes sense to divide things up.

With no further ado, here are a few gf favorites that are making their way back to my table this Thanksgiving.

Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion, and Toasted Hazelnuts. Salad is usually the least remarked upon dish as a Thanksgiving table. Not so with this recipe! It’s the only time I’ve watched guests take seconds of salad. For the Northwest crowd, I love the use of local pears and hazelnuts. Things you can do ahead: make the dressing, toast the hazelnuts, and soak the red onion. Yes, I said soak the red onion. Soaking onion in chilled water makes them milder, so they retain just the right amount of sharpness to accompany the pears and cranberries.

Cranberry and Tart-Cherry Compote. The tartness of the lime and dried cherries are balanced by cinnamon and currant jelly. Things you can do ahead: I make this up to a week in advance.

Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. This is the most delicious cake I’ve ever eaten, and it’s great for people who are gf because the pumpkin and pineapple keep it moist. Things you can do ahead: It’s easy to make the frosting a couple of days in advance. This cake just gets more dense and delicious as it sits, so you can bake it 1-2 days in advance as well. I’ve also made it in cupcake form and it turned out wonderfully. That method is far simpler and equally delicious, so I highly recommend it. Either way, you really only need about half of the frosting.

These are just a few of the recipes I’m bringing back this year. I will be blogging all the way through the holidays and the other dishes are bound to make their way here. I hope you keep reading! I always love suggestions, so feel free to add recipes for your Thanksgiving favorites in the comments.

As a parting gift to you, my readers, enjoy these Thanksgiving links!

For the gffriendly crowd

Gluten Free Goddess Thanksgiving Tips

If you’re stressed and need a laugh

Just Put the Turkey in the Oven

A song for while you cook

This Land is Your Land by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Whole Baked Trout with Mushrooms

My mother passed this recipe along to me. She is my constant inspiration and companion in the kitchen, even though we live far apart. Just like roasting a whole chicken, roasting a whole fish can be impressive and satisfying. I was looking for a fish dish to lighten things up, but clearly the wintery weather won out. The mushrooms are cooked in butter and tossed with prosciutto, while the lemon and fresh parsley work to keep the dish balanced.

right out of the oven

right out of the oven

Impressive and weeknight dinners don’t always go together. Sometimes I get in over my head, and even though this recipe is fairly straightforward it felt like a lot of effort after a full day’s work. I would like to give a shout-out to my partner, Ben, for cranking up the music and churning out chopped vegetables like a pro. Ultimately it was worth the effort for moist, flaky fish, hearty mushrooms, and rich prosciutto, but having a sous-chef made a big difference.

mushrooms, onions, and herbs pre-prosciutto

mushrooms, onions, and herbs pre-prosciutto

The whole trout that I purchased was “dressed” but not deboned. Let me warn you that if you aren’t skilled at filleting fish, you’re much better off asking the butcher to do it for you. Trout bones are tiny! If you’re unable to find whole, deboned trout, you can shorten the cooking time to roast filets instead. And on that note—the original recipe that my mom sent came from a cookbook, but the link below is from Bon Appetite. The recipes are the same, but my version doesn’t include the celery and the cooking time is lowered to 20 minutes. It was clear that the fish were done after 20 minutes because it was so tender that the head fell off when I plated the fish! It also calls for more butter than is truly necessary. If you’re thinking about skimping, go ahead and cut back. The end result will still be delicious.

lemon, salt and pepper inside

lemon, salt and pepper inside

fill and fold, brush skins with butter

fill and fold, brush skins with butter

I served the trout with a side of sautéed kale with garlic, shallots and capers. The hearty kale and salty capers lent a nice contrast to the richness of the fish. All in all, it was a worthwhile endeavor and we both felt satisfied. I hope you will, too!

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This weekend I will be posting about meal planning and managing your holiday kitchen. Stay tuned!

Whole Baked Trout with Mushrooms via Epicurious

Bon Appetit            February 1996