Foodie Tuesday: After-Math

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Just for starters…don’t forget that previous meals’ leftovers can be reconstructed into the appetizers for the next meal, like what happened with the remaining bone broth ingredients that lived on after soup-making and made such a nice beef pate for Thanksgiving.

A signature of holiday cooking and eating is, logically, a host of holiday leftovers. After all, we tend to cook and eat more of everything in the first place, when holidays happen, so there’s bound to be more food around, and since most of us do fix more of our favorites on and for celebratory occasions, we’re a bit more likely to want to be careful not to waste them. Holiday leftovers are tastier than everyday ones, aren’t they.

So it is that remnants of glorious sweets will continue to lure us into the ever-so-aptly named larder and the refrigerator will, after Thanksgiving, still have some turkey lurking in it too. While a great turkey sandwich is far from restricted seasonally, the grand whole bird in its pure roasted form is less commonly perched on dinner tables outside of the Big Day, making it anything but boring to have the leftover turkey and its trimmings served without tremendous alteration at least once or twice after the party has passed.

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Red relishes are such a nice touch on holidays that when a friend said she was bringing whole cranberry sauce, I decided to add the jellied kind *and* some home-pickled beets for the trifecta.

This year, Thanksgiving at our house was both traditional and extended. Ten of us sat around the table: our musical friends from Germany (why did I write Austria, then?), Hungary, Canada, Puerto Rico, Estonia and the Netherlands as well as the US gathered with our plates of roasted turkey and a fair assortment of other treats and sweets, and though we had our feast the day before most others’, the ingredients of food, drink, and conviviality were the same, and the leftovers equally profuse. My prepped appetizers, turkey, mashed potatoes, wine/stock gravy, creamed sausage, and buttermilk cornbread (the latter two, parts of the planned southern cornbread dressing, remained separate at my husband’s request) were joined by dishes the others brought–Greek salad, squash puree, homemade whole cranberry sauce, and carrot cake and handmade Hungarian biscuits for dessert. My own dessert offerings were the apple pie and Tarte au Sucre.

The Tarte was not only a good excuse for ingesting vast quantities of fabulous dark maple syrup but, as I discovered, when it’s accompanied by salty roasted pecans it becomes a perfect inversion or deconstruction of pecan pie, another very traditional Thanksgiving treat in many homes. I made my Tarte with a crumb crust of mixed pecans and walnuts, so it was perhaps already a variation on a nut pie before the garnishing pecans even arrived on the scene. In any event, it pleased my maple-fiendish heart.

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Lightly spicy sausage in cream makes a good alternative to gravy for the turkey and potatoes, if you don’t end up putting the sausage into the cornbread dressing as you’d thought you were going to do…

The idea of creating a meal of any sort, let alone a holiday meal, for a group of ten people and coming out with everyone perfectly sated but without a jot of leftovers is, of course, more mythical than mathematical. It’s in fact ludicrously unlikely to happen, even if the ten are all people one knows intimately and whose preferences and appetites never vary–also, to be fair, a virtual impossibility–so the question of how to manage the leftovers with the best grace remains. In our house, that problem is never terribly difficult. First visitation of this year’s re-Thanksgiving was a smaller and simpler version of the original, turkey and mashed potatoes, cornbread and cranberry sauce, with a side of buttered green beans and bacon. Meanwhile, I’d already started a slow cooker full of vegetables and giblets while the turkey was roasting, and added the bones and bits afterward, so there will surely be turkey-noodle soup soon to follow.

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Thanksgiving, Round 2–and only the second of many, perhaps.

What comes after? Probably a little turkey curry or a sandwich or two, but not much more, because having grad students and young, single faculty members at table on the holiday also meant that it was rather important to see that they left with some leftovers of their own to carry them forward. Leftovers, truth be told, are really just a new beginning in their own way. Hospitality, you know, isn’t a solo; it requires participation. One person doing it all, no matter how perfectly, is not a party but a lonely and self-centered business and misses the point of the whole thing.

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Ah, do not let the focus on the main meal eclipse all of the good that can follow: a mere creamy turkey soup is a heartwarming way to honor the memory of the great meal that started it all.

Let others partake, help, contribute. And yes, do give to them: share the feast, both in the party’s environs and in the sharing of all that surpasses what was needed for the moment. And share, first and foremost, your time and attention, your companionship and humor and warmth and love. Then there should be plenty of those for leftovers, too, or all the turkey and potatoes in the world will not be enough. Much better, more filling and fulfilling, to be so hospitable that it spills over everywhere.

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The only thing better than a delicious dessert is just a little too much of it.

Foodie Tuesday: Pie Eyed

photoSince we don’t always make a big deal out of holidays, my husband and I, and even when we do get the urge to celebrate we’re not huge sticklers for partying on the officially designated day or with the popularly traditional foods and events. This year we’re being a little more predictable, perhaps, by having a Thanksgiving gathering with eight musician friends. We’re doing our dinner on Wednesday rather than Thursday to accommodate schedules, but otherwise we’re being more predictable than not. There’s a big pastured turkey, spatchcocked and dry-brining, in the fridge and it’ll be accompanied by plenty of at least somewhat traditional sides and garnish treats, and most fittingly of all for this particular American holiday, we’ll have US-dwelling friends from the Netherlands, Estonia, Austria, Hungary, Puerto Rico, Canada and yes, stateside gracing our celebration with their presence. A great way to remember part of what’s best about this country and what I’m most thankful for–and not just on this holiday.

I’m going with pies for dessert. That’s the real reason for today’s post title, not that I’m planning on getting plastered to celebrate, if that’s what you were wondering. Ahem!

Apple pie, as any of you who’ve been around here for any length of time know, is not just a supremely suitable dish for the season but my spouse’s first choice for dessert any time there’s the slightest possibility of having it. Easy choice, clearly. Another thing that’s wonderfully fitting for the season and my tastebuds is maple syrup, and since we have a jug of gorgeous dark Grade-B-heaven maple syrup, a gift from another friend, just beaming at us with its heavenly come-hither look from the pantry, I deemed it a sign that I should get around to trying my hand at another pie I’ve long wanted to make, Tarte au Sucre. Here goes!

Meanwhile, there’s other stuff to get ready. Spiced apple cider is in a big pot, infusing at room temperature overnight until I heat it tomorrow. Potatoes are [literally] half-baked and will get finished on the day as well, smashed with cream and butter and a little salt before going to table next to the chicken-white wine gravy I put up last week and am storing. The appetizers of Gouda, homemade beef pate and crackers, nuts (including some Marcona almonds I set a-swim in olive oil a couple of weeks ago) and pickles–homemade beetroot pickles along with southern style pickled okra, green beans and green tomatoes–are all ready to set out as we sip some bubbly and cider for a start. Since the turkey’s ready to roast all I have to do is take that big, handsome bird out of the fridge and bring it up to room temperature right in the pan it’s in now and roast it on the rack of celery, carrots, apple chunks, cinnamon sticks and lemon pieces it’s been resting on overnight.photo

I’m using store-bought bread but will hope to have time to make our friend Jim’s southern corn bread and sausage dressing, so ridiculously tasty that when he made it for me the first time we two ate most of the batch which I later learned from the written recipe is meant to serve twelve. Not kidding you.

I’m keeping the vegetable sides exceedingly simple, serving steamed green beans with bacon I crisped up and froze earlier, plus sweet coleslaw, so those will practically make themselves, being so easy and quick. What the others bring, if anything, will be entirely a surprise, with the exception of one person saying she was likely to bring some pureed squash and cranberry sauce, either or both of which would be deliciously appropriate. All of this, regardless of whether anyone does bring more, means that we will very likely have heaps of leftovers, one of the true treasures of the occasion and certainly one of the reasons we give thanks!

I will share pictures after the fact–not much to show for the process that will thrill or impress you for now–but first I would like to share with you my wish that whether you are planning to celebrate this American holiday this week or not, you will all be blessed with immeasurable reasons yourselves to be thankful. As I am, indeed, thankful not only for my many other privileges and joys, but most of all for the wonderful people filling every corner of my life, including you, my friends in Bloglandia. Thank You!photo montage

Foodie Tuesday: Last Suppers and Beyond

I Loves Ya, Cupcake!

I kiss your cherry-colored lips

And suddenly, straight over flips

My heart in loping, loopy leaps

As sugared-up as Mallo Peeps

Get kids at Eastertime to fly,

As ice cream piled on apple pie

And candy canes in cocoa make

Our livers strain, gallbladders quake,

Arteries cringe and capillaries

Bloat, collapse, and the Tooth Fairy’s

Rounds expand a hundredfold

When molars instantly grow old.

You get my drift: one little kiss

Of your sweet lips can lead to this

Extreme, near-paralytic dose

Of dearness, loveliness, and close-

Encountered expiration date,

But loving you is surely fate,

My cupcake, my delicious sweet,

And death of it the final treat.

 

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If one’s not careful, trimming one’s waistline can lead to wasting away. There’s an art to eating well, after all. What you eat can kill you, but what you don’t eat can, too. What to do?! Think I’ll just lie down here in this quiet spot in the graveyard . . .

The Great Equalizer

Willowy or wallowing?

Slinky or obese?

Ma likes the taste of salad greens

And Pater thrives on grease.

What’s odd is, their cholesterol

And blood pressure and weight

Don’t seem to correspond at all

With anything they ate.

I can’t quite comprehend how one

Eats lard, the other, toast,

And both don’t change; I guess

Food matters little

To a ghost.

Foodie Tuesday: Apple Pie Order

In most places, ‘apple pie order’ refers to perfect tidiness. Around me, not so. It has two meanings for me, each off on its own tangent. The first is very simple: it describes a standard action of my spouse’s–whenever the occasion should arise, he will order apple pie. The second meaning of the phrase in my world is quite the contrary to the idiom. When my husband’s menu request is at home, the pies I am apt to make are anything but orderly.photoAs with all of my kitchen adventures, the making of pie is always and only an approximation of reproducing a Platonic ideal of the pie concept. I am perhaps a touch the cantankerous and childish rebel in the kitchen, constitutionally unable to conform to others’ instructions to the letter. Can’t think of a lot of things as fun as playing with my food, after all. Remarkably, my supertaster spouse, with all of the palatal restrictions this condition inevitably entails, tolerates my machinations and monkeying remarkably well.

I use that phrase advisedly, since despite his uxorious generosity, he still doesn’t hesitate to remark on the results, good or bad. But he doesn’t actually turn up that fine-tuned nose of his very often, as it happens.

The mere physical assembly of a dish is unlikely to come very tidily from my hands, either, given my previously noted propensity for impatience. and slightly anarchic search for visual amusements. Needless to say, anything more pie- or tart-like than a mere crisp or crumble is more often than not going to turn out rustic as can be. Given that I’m a sort of rustic myself, I suppose it’s only fitting.

graphite and colored pencilThanksgiving‘s apple pie was somewhere in between true ‘apple pie order’ and my kind.

My mother is-was-and-ever-shall-be the indisputable nonpareil, the mistress and icon, of pie making. Her crust is legendary with very good reason. I’ve never met a filling she couldn’t make that wasn’t a paragon, the archetype of its genre. Her fresh raspberry pies, loaded with fruit of the canes she nurtured from cuttings off her father’s plants have been known to reduce adults of seemingly endless sophistication to slobbering infants in one bite, a whole slice to cause delirium, fainting spells, reenactments of the Dancing Plague of 1518, and umpteen return pilgrimages to the dessert table.

Needless to say, my pies grovel in obeisance to Mom‘s, though she’s much too modest and generous to require such a thing. So when she’s in our vicinity for any length of time, you can guess what she bakes for my elated husband. Last time, she went the extra mile and left a spare bottom crust and dough scraps in our freezer. So the Thanksgiving pie was even more reason for giving thanks: Mama’s magical piecrust, ready-made, waiting only to be filled for the big finish.

I blind-baked that bottom crust and a sheet of cinnamon-sugared leaves I’d cut out of the dough scraps, made apple pie filling, warmed all of the parts at the last and assembled the concoction just before serving time. The man with the spare tastebuds deemed the result a little too far inclined toward the nutmeg, and I agreed: I’m always a bit unclear on how much volatile oil is still present when I grate a nutmeg–guess this one was more potent than it smelled to me. But, miraculously, the pie still managed to disappear down various gullets with some alacrity. Not to mention with many spoonfuls of homemade vanilla-cinnamon ice cream.

photoThe filling was a little of this and a little of that, as usual. I always prefer a blend of tart and sweet apples, some firmer and some tenderer, so I chose a mix of Granny Smiths, Braeburns and Golden Delicious from among the grocer’s offerings. I cut them in somewhat varied thicknesses of slice and chunks both, because I like the textural variety it brings as well as the emphasis on the distinct tastes of the types. The rest is fairly standard stuff, mostly: sweetening, spices and flavorings, fat and thickener.

My favorite thickener for apple pie filling is a bit of quick-cooking (small grain) tapioca, which again contrasts in texture with the apples to liven things up a little, and keeps the pie from collapsing when sliced. Or almost does. For sweetening apple pies, I love to use brown sugar for part or all (as in this case), because it’s no secret caramel and apples are a divine pairing and that flavor comes through in a pie nicely. A dram of vanilla to smooth out the caramel flavor. A toss of salt. A little lime juice to spark the sweetness and keep the apples’ color. A good dose of browned butter to add a little nutty undertone. And a last boost of both sweetening and zing, a spoonful of ginger preserves.

That leaves the other pie spices, and I’m pretty sure I’m relatively tame and standard with my cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of cloves and that little bit of sweet-spicy ginger, even if I did accidentally go a little overboard with the nutmeg this time around. After all, I’m not a monster. It is my husband who asked for apple pie. And he does like his in apple pie order.