Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Not just for Thanksgiving...

I had the privilege of going to the beach with Mendi's (a very dear friend of mine) family. Her Dad is an excellent cook. I had such a blast watching and learning from him all week. We ate so good that week! This squash casserole is the best I have ever eaten...seriously. I hope you try it sometime and enjoy it. It is amazing! The picture is of the casserole before it has been cooked. I will upload another after I've cooked it tomorrow.

Squash Casserole

5-7 yellow squash (depending on size)
kosher salt & pepper to taste
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
6 oz shredded sharp (very important) cheese
2 eggs
kosher salt & white pepper to taste
3/4 sleeve saltines crushed
4 tbsp butter, melted
1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 sleeve saltines, crushed
2 oz shredded sharp cheese
2 oz shredded parmesan or romano cheese
2 tbsp butter, melted

Wash squash, slice & sautee w/ 2-3 T butter & salt & pepper until tender. Don't use water; it creates its own as it cooks. Be sure to stir frequently. Drain.

Beat eggs w/ sour cream, add soup, salt, pepper, butter & mix thoroughly. Add squash, saltines, garlic, cheese, onion & mix. Pour into greased casserole dish. Mix remaining saltines, butter, cheese & sprinkle on top.

Bake 350 for about 45 min until knife in center comes out clean.

Alton Brown's "Not Your Mama's Green Bean Casserole"

I can assure that my posts will slow down tremendously after Thanksgiving...hehe. I am just so excited! I will stop boring you and this will be my last post tonight...promise. Tomorrow, I will post the rest of the recipes that I am using for our dinner...Roasted Chestnut Sausage Dressing, Yummy Mac-n-Cheese, Mendi's Dad's Squash Casserole, Mashed Potatoes (still deciding on the kind), Cheddar Rosemary Biscuit, and (of course) gravy. And, yes, it is just myself, Chris, and our boys eating : )!

For the topping:
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs (love these!)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Nonstick spray

For beans (to cut time you can just buy the steamfresh green beans in the freezer dept. and skip these steps...i like the whole beans not the cut):
1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed
1 gallon water
2 tablespoons kosher salt

For sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Bake in the oven until golden brown, tossing every 10 minutes, for approximately 30 minutes. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use.

Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.
While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Add the half-and-half and cook until the mixture thickens, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

The Turkey Volume I

Ok everybody...here we go! Tonight I will start the fun process of my favorite part of Thanksgiving...the turkey. I begin with brining my turkey for 24-48 hours. We will be eating a late lunch on Thursday so I am going to get mine into the brine tonight. The brine will help make the turkey extremely moist and also add a lot of flavor.

First of all, you need to plan how long it will take to thaw your turkey. The rule of thumb is for every 4 lbs of turkey it takes 24 hours to thaw. So, if you have a 10-12 lb turkey, you will need to set your turkey in the refrigerator 72 hours before you plan on brining it. DO NOT let it sit at room temperature on your counter. If you are in a pinch, you can put the turkey in the sink in ice water but you MUST trade the ice water out every 30 minutes to prevent bacteria from growing. You can thaw and brine at the same time just make sure that the water is well iced. If you are thawing in the refrigerator, place the turkey on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan to keep it from dripping and contaminating other foods. I also place mine on the bottom shelf to be on the safe side.

The Brine:
(This recipe is one I have adapted from other brining recipes I made in the past. It makes enough brine for 18-20 lb turkey.)
5 quarts cold water
2 quarts stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
6 bay leaves
1 tbsp juniper berries (You should be able to find at whole foods or earth fare. If you can't find them, just leave them out.)
2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp allspice berries
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
2 medium onions (just cut in quarters...no need to peel)
1 head of garlic (just cut in half...no need to peel)
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bottle dry sweet wine (such as a riesling)

Bring 1 quart of the water to a slow boil. Add the salt, bay leaves and spices. Stir until the salt is dissolved. Let cool about 10 minutes. Line a large container (large stock pot, cooler, or bucket - needs to be big enough to fit turkey and liquids) with a brining bag or trash bag. Place turkey in bag breast side down (remove the neck and giblets and place in ziploc bag in refrigerator for stock/gravy...they will be just inside the cavity). Add salt mixture, remaining water, stock, onions, garlic and thyme. Tie the bag. Weigh the turkey down with something heavy if it is not fully submerged in the liquids. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours, flipping turkey a couple of times. If you don't have room in your refrigerator, place the turkey bag in a cooler full of ice. Just make sure you continue to add ice so that the temperature remains at 40 degrees.

More to come...

Chestnuts roasting on...

...a baking sheet! This is just a little test post for my new blog. I am mainly doing this blog to keep a record of my favorite recipes and tips. However, I hope you come along with me, try the recipes, and tell me about your favorites. I have NO formal training but have a huge passion for being in the kitchen and am an avid watcher of every show on Food Network. My passion has really developed over the last four years since I have been married and wanted to provide my husband with a hot meal after a long day at work. Now, four years and two kids later, the passion still stems from the desire to serve my family but has also developed into an absolute love of cooking. My husband is very excited that I have finally found a "hobby".

Today, is my first Taste Test Tuesdday. I roasted chestnuts for the first time. I want to continue to try new things. I plan on using these chestnuts in my stuffing for Thanksgiving. Here is what I discovered:
- Make sure you make slits on the flat side. Some people say that you can just poke them with a fork. However, the chestnuts don't pop open which is what makes for an easy peel. Also, you may not open it up enough with a fork. If it doesn't have enough room to steam, the chestnut will explode in your oven. It happened to one of mine!
- Roast them at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until the chestnut pops open.
- Peeling chestnuts is easy.
- Fresh chestnuts, roasted at home, taste much different than roasted chestnuts that you buy at your grocery store. Fresh roasted are much better!

Tonight or tomorrow I will be posting my Thanksgiving menus and recipes in case you need any last minute dishes!
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