Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Green Beans and Chantrelles with Fried Onions

Home Fried Onion Rings
Green beans go way back in my family.  And when I think of them, it's usually not the crispy sauteed with garlic and a few shallots way I routinely fix them now, but something that's a meal in itself:  A big pot of fresh green beans with quartered, unpeeled potatoes, and lots of onions, sauteed in bacon fat, and then stewed slowly until the mixture is somewhere between a soup and a stew. We ate it for dinner, and I can imagine that it most likely was light on my mom's wallet.  It wasn't a favorite, but I wasn't allowed to mention that part because it was food.

I have found a happy medium for dinner now, occasionally.  Especially during the holidays when someone expects "Green Bean Casserole."  You know the casserole I'm talking about, right?  The one developed by the Campbell Soup company in the 1950's  and made with Durkee's fried onions?  Yes, that recipe.

Because my family never ate green beans in a casserole, and we'd never have had our version of beans at a special dinner, I'd never tried green bean casserole until I was well into my adult years.  And when it was my turn to make it for a holiday meal, I did what I normally do — alter the recipe. 

It had to be better if it was made with fresh green beans that still had a hint of crunch to them, didn't it?  And the creaminess had to be able to come from something other than a soup can.  Don't get me wrong.  If you've spent any amount of time reading here, then you know that I was raised eating very simple, wholesome food.  So, I played around with a fresh mushroom saute with caramelized onions, rehydrated mushrooms and used the broth, made a white sauce, added some garlic, but never quite got the flavors to blend well.  It always tasted like greenbeans with sauce on them.

A year ago, I saw a recipe in Saveur that I had to try.  The only problem with it was that I'd have to make crispy fried onions and couldn't imagine doing that on a busy holiday cooking day.  Who comes up with these ideas?  Clearly, someone who doesn't have responsibility for an entire meal.  The only problem is, even though I prepped everything the way the recipe read, I sort of forgot to think about the whole onion frying thing.  Oops.

Since then I've tried the recipe quite a few ways — fried onions and no fried onions, and have found the flavors so nice, that a few shallots works just fine when you're too busy to mess with deep frying.

This year, since we're seriously out of commission due to construction, I'm in charge of green beans for Thanksgiving dinner — and a bunch of other non-turkey items.  I'm going to fry the onions at home first, and store them in an airtight container to assemble the dish after the drive to my sister-in-law's house right before baking time.  I'll have to let you know how it goes since I am anything but the Queen of the Deep Fry.

Have green been casserole, will travel.  Green Bean "Casserole" with Chantrelles

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Turkey: Tips on Brining

Over the years, I’ve made and eaten turkey prepared in a variety of ways:  butter and herbs rubbed on the skin or under the skin, roasted in a bag, and yes, even roasted with a brown paper bag that was buttered and pressed against the skin.  Luckily with all the experimentation, I haven’t had any disasters — and that has paid off, because although we still haven’t deep fried a turkey, we have found that brining is what we now prefer.  We may alter the ingredients of the brine, but the basic idea is that our turkey sits in a bath of very salty liquid for at least 24 hours before it’s roasted.

As Thanksgiving nears, many stores carry pre-made brining mixes, and we’ve tried those too.  Whether you choose to purchase or make your own mix, I know you’ll find that when you brine a turkey, it will be the most moist you’ve ever had.

Basically, the steps for brining are similar regardless of the recipe you choose:

1)  Mix herbs and spices and other ingredients
2)  Measure a large quantity of salt
3)  Add to water and heat to dissolve the salt
4)  Pour over turkey and keep cold for at least overnight

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Brussels Sprouts and Pistachios

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I've always loved Brussels sprouts.  I guess the fact that my mother didn't cook vegetables in general until they were soft and grey helped.  The Brussels sprouts we had on our plates were most often whole, frozen, then cooked in a bit of water for a short time before butter and salt were added.  No nonsense, and flavorful — if you're someone who enjoys a bit of a cabbage taste.

Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable and like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, and cabbage, are extremely good for you.  Research has shown that specific types of cancer are less prevalent in individuals who regularly eat cruciferous vegetables — or vegetables that contain sulphorous compounds, which contribute to their strong flavor.  I know that doesn't always encourage people to want to try them, but I believe that often, the reason people won't eat vegetables is because they've been prepared improperly, and they're not sure what they're supposed to taste like.

Recently, I received a variety of lovely nut and dried fruit products from Oh Nuts! to sample in recipes of my choice.  They sell an amazing variety of bulk items and gift products perfect for the holidays — whether you're cooking, or making gift baskets.  Their Shelled Raw Pistachios are a perfect compliment to sauteed Brussels sprouts.

What you can learn from this recipe is that sauteed Brussels sprouts have quite a nutty flavor — and not because of the pistachios!  If you're someone who's not thrilled about Brussels sprouts, this recipe will change your mind.  I know it.

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Pumpkin Rosemary Dinner Rolls

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With all the different types of bread recipes I've tried in the last year, I can say that I not only no longer cringe at the thought of tackling dough, but can decide five minutes before I lift Bertha from her spot in my kitchen that fresh bread it will be — and tonight if I want — even if it's the traditional version.  Big Bertha, my Kitchen Aid, definitely helps since I don't have to knead the dough for 10 minutes and couldn't even if I wanted to.  One or both of my arms have been royally screwed up for the last 25 years and when I do too much grasping or clenching, lifting or pruning, I live to regret it.  I used to be able to use Chopin as an excuse, but can't remember the last time I touched my piano keys for more than dusting.  *Sorry Mom.  How much did those lessons cost when you couldn't afford much else?*

My right arm has been singing with agony for two weeks now, thanks to a couple of hours choosing travertine for our home renovations.  How much does one of those 20×20" pieces weigh?  Definitely more than my arms want to deal with.

I'm quite thankful for my Bertha who is about 10 years old.  She's not sleek, but she's more than dependable, and when my arms are healthy, she doesn't mind that I enjoy getting my hands into a lump of silky dough.

The latest dough I experimented with was anything but silky.  It was sticky and not very cooperative, but so worth it.  Let's just say I was a bit more timely in getting the little  not so carved pumpkin off my porch after Halloween to bake and puree this year to create Pumpkin Rosemary Dinner Rolls.

Talk about pillowey bread-like wonderfulness?

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