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There are many suggestions flying around for grand meat centerpieces and hearty stews for these holidays, but it seems to me that we just did the big sit-down-dinner thing. And many of those turkey eaters will be back for seconds. I lean more towards the latke crowd, oh, and thanks New York Times for the obvious brilliant idea for blini and caviar. We’ll be doing both of those, but first a dinner that’s a bit of a throwback.
I suspect that this is common: Often when I’m grocery shopping I zone out and go on autopilot. Flowers, apples, spinach, Muenster, and at the meat counter, hot Italian sausages (for pasta sauce), chicken thighs (for soup), and skirt steak (for salad). Last week, as I waited daydreaming for assistance, I took a closer look at the wares on display. And, boy, am I glad I did. At my Whole Foods I found beautiful pork belly, something I’ve never seen un-cured or -cooked before. Despite having no idea how to prepare it, I didn’t hesitate.
More than 15 years ago, I moved to Georgetown just a few blocks from Bistrot Lepic, then only a couple of years old. I was very excited about, though inexperienced with, traditional French fare, so I went the first chance I got. It was a date and in my mind it plays sort of like the German dinner in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. We were kids pretending to be adults. I may have had a fake ID. I definitely had lamb and red wine. We sat in that brightly lit, shoebox-sized dining room and had a gay old time. My date’s credit card was rejected.
The food sections this week range from meh (baked beans cover story) to ick (squirrel gravy with a description of butchering the rodent that will make your stomach turn), so steer clear. Or maybe just read Pete Wells’ review of the vegetarian joint Dirt Candy, and if you missed it last week, his review of the new outpost of M. Wells at MoMa PS1. I would have loved to try their short-lived diner of decadence in Long Island City. Escargot nestled in bone marrow? Foie gras grilled cheese? Truly a moment in time. And don’t forget the rant it inspired in GQ–a must read.
Let’s be frank: Turkey doesn’t hit you over the head with its flavor. It’s subtle, fragrant, earthy, fresh even. So, as you dress it up in its many iterations this year, you might want to keep some of these flavor enhancers in mind. Of course, they are good to have on hand year round. You’ll use them again and again.
I’ve made my lists and shopping has begin. Cooking for Thanksgiving is my favorite food event of the year. My turkey’s pretty standard with the olive oil and dried herbs, and my stuffing’s the same each year: with ground pork, onions, and apple. The gravy’s always made from the innards; the potatoes are always mashed. Mid-day the cooks feast on slivers of the turkey’s heart with salt and a bit of the liver seared with the leftover apple bits. Oh, and a bottle of the good bubbles gets popped.
Here’s a kitchen truth: You can have too much of a good thing. I recently made a meal whose individual parts were all lovely, but together they left “pleasant richness” in the rear view mirror. I guess we needed some salad in here somewhere. Or a level head guiding the hand in my larder.
I made my first foray into a Little Serow-inspired odyssey for new and exciting flavors in my own cooking. As promised, I started with good ol’ chicken soup. My technique has long been to simmer chicken parts in stock and water along with all my herbs and spices before pouring it through a sieve. I pick the meat and add it along with a few vegetables and maybe a starch to the broth. I enjoy the complexity (read: heat) of the broth alongside the simplicity of the ingredients in the final product. I decided to use this familiar approach and just mix up my flavors. No more French; now Thai!
I’m still roasting those squashes (and sunchokes!), but I’ve got a new shortcut that makes these vegetable sides into a meal. The first day I made a stuffing that hung around all week, making its way into the acorns and …
Things were definitely getting out of control. It started with a butternut and a delicata, which made me feel autumnal, and moved on to acorn, then spaghetti, then pumpkin, which started to make me feel like a hoarder. Soon very little of my dining room table was visible, and no one was eating any of the mounting squash. Every outing added to the heap and I started to feel choked by my good intentions.