Archive | From the Kitchen

Thanksgiving for Two

For the first time in our seven years together, John and I are spending Thanksgiving at home – just the two of us.It’s harvest_fall_thanksgivingthe most relaxed I’ve felt on this holiday since long before we were together…and I am doubly grateful for the opportunity to create a beautiful meal. There are so many things I enjoy about Thanksgiving with his family, but one thing I miss is the opportunity to contribute something I’ve made by hand. Traveling for 4 1/2 hours (or more when there is traffic) doesn’t lend well to contributing much to the table beyond wine or more sturdy baked goods.

The part of me that loves cooking misses the opportunity to be of service in a way I show love, through food. I felt left out, unable to contribute….

It feels a little strange, to be frank, and the worrier in my can’t help but wonder if grudges will be held, a staple of my childhood. Unlike my mother, John’s mother doesn’t seem to hold grudges. She’s more of a “let it go” kind of woman, realizing after 87 years here on this planet, there is a lot to let go of. (I’m not quite sure of all of the sisters, but I am hopeful).

As I sit writing, the turkey is in the oven, turkey stock is simmering on the stove, and there is cornbread dressing in tableissetforthanksgivingthe crock-pot. A slightly modified version of my Aunt Dot’s cornbread dressing, to be exact. There is a chocolate pie in the fridge and the table is set.

I still have cooking yet to do, though for now am grateful for the opportunity to come here in this space and write as I sip a glass of wine. Though I still cook a turkey after Thanksgiving, after being gifted a beautiful free-range bird each year by my favorite grocery store, I had forgotten how much hard work goes into wrestling with one. Especially with the added work of the trimmings…something I skip when I do the post-Thanksgiving turkey roasting.

I did some prep work yesterday.

John requested a chocolate pie as our dessert, something I was happy to make over the traditional Pumpkin or Pecan. It’s my grandmother’s recipe and the one her mother made: an old-fashioned custard style pie made with egg yolks, whole milk, sugar, and a lot of patience. As was typical of previous generations, it’s a base that can be customized to make chocolatepiebanana pudding or coconut cream pie, as well.

It takes an hour (or more) to make, and that hour of stirring the custard on low connects me with three generations of women.

I am grateful to play with my Aunt Dot’s Cornbread Dressing. A recipe my sister sent me, as neither of us can find our Mother’s recipe. Aunt Dot’s is close, though, with corn bread, “light bread”, and chopped boiled eggs. I made a few substitutions: whole grain bread for the white Mrs. Baird’s and real butter instead of “oleo” and I’m baking it in the crock pot (4 hours on low). I pared the recipe down from 40 servings to 10, something that took a bit of math. It’s the one dish I’ve missed the most the last six years, because folks in the Midwest tend to make bread dressing.

I can still recall that first Chicago Thanksgiving, missing cornbread dressing and mayo for the day-after Turkey sandwiches. Wanting the comfort of familiar foods and thanksgivingdinnermissing my mother so much it hurt.

This morning, I made John’s mother’s cranberry sauce: one bag of cranberries, one whole orange, and 1/3 cup of sugar tossed in the blender. We may only have a spoonful, but it’s a traditional flavor (and better than opening a can of Ocean Spray Jellied).

Now, all that’s left is for the turkey to come out of the oven. I’ll let it rest as I turn to baking potatoes and Parker House rolls, making gravy, and composing a little salad. We’ll light the candles, fill our plates, and linger over this seventh Thanksgiving together.

As John mentioned to me moments ago: we have a good life. It’s something we’ve worked hard for and something to celebrate. And certainly something to be Thankful for….

In fact, we have so much to be thankful for: health, love, friends, family, memories of the past, and hope for the future. I hope you are feeling the same.

Happy Thanksgiving and so much love to you and yours.

Making Chicken Stock

Each week I share a recipe in the newsletter I write for my coaching practice. I won’t go into the details today about why I share recipes, but will share that story soon.

This week’s recipe is for chicken stock.

I used to buy chicken broth (you know, the Swanson’s kind) and then, as I became a bit more sophisticated cook, I started using a high quality, unsalted stock (Kitchen Basics – Vegetable Stock and Chicken Stock are both in my pantry). Then, I was convinced by a friend to give making my own stock a try, and after I cooked with that first batch of stock I had made, I was HOOKED.

The stock I made had a deeper flavor and, I could make it a bit more nutritious by using chicken feet as a part of the stock. Yes, you read that right: chicken feet. Why? Because using the feet adds glucosamine chondroitin and collagen to your broth. And, as we age, some folks (ahem, me) have found that the addition of more of those in my diet helps ease my joints (especially my hips and hands).

Begin with a visit to your butcher. I am so fortunate that my favorite local grocery, Dorothy Lane Market, has a top-notch meat department with knowledgeable butchers.  To make stock, you’ll want necks and backs along with the feet. The parts come from the same local free-roaming chickens that I’d buy the breasts from.

Tell your butcher that you need chicken parts for stock – about four pounds. You will need to tell your butcher that you want FEET, otherwise he will only get necks and backs (since the feet freak too many folks out).

(I totally get it if you don’t want to use the feet. It still freaks me out when I’m using them.)

Start with a BIG stock pot. I use a double pot – with an inner basket so that I have an easier time separating all of the solids from the liquid.

In your pot add: one yellow onion, quartered, one head of garlic (cloves smashed), three stalks of celery (cut into manageable pieces), three carrots (cut into manageable pieces),  two leeks, sliced and rinsed (the white and light green parts) and a palm full of whole peppercorns.

chickenstockveggies

Add four pounds of chicken parts and an assortment of fresh herbs (I use the ones marked “poultry seasonings, which includes rosemary, thyme and sage). You may desire to add a heavy pinch of kosher salt, but I usually don’t.

makingchickenstock_herbsandchickenparts

Then add filtered water (the same water you’d make coffee with) to the top of your pot. Bring the liquid to boiling and then put heat to low, cover and let simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

After your 2 1/2 hours are up, remove all the solids and discard.  There will still be traces of herbs and whole peppercorns, so once the solids are removed, pour stock (careful it will be very HOT) through a fine mesh strainer.

Then, I begin immediately packaging it into freezable containers. I prefer BPA Free plastic containers that are designed to hold 3 cups of food. Use cup to transfer stock to containers until they are 2/3 full (leaving room for expansion in the freezer).

(Though I like to store most sauces in freezer bags so they pack flat, this will not work well for you during the thawing process for chicken stock!)

Leave stock on the counter in containers to cool enough to put in your refrigerator (about an hour). Leave in the fridge at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

If you use the feet,  your finished (cold) stock will have the consistency of soft jello.

chickenstock_squared

Pull containers out of fridge and skim off any fat and discard (fat will rise to the top). Then, freeze.

Stock is good in the freezer for up to six months. To use, put in the fridge the night before to thaw and use entire container within 3 days.

frozenchickenstock

 

I use stock in place of water in rice and quinoa, to make soups, and to enhance dishes being sauteed on the stove top.  If your recipe calls for adding your rice and liquid to the pot at the same time, you’ll get better results letting the stock come up to a warm temperature (liquid not jello-ish) before adding the rice.

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