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Happy Thanksgiving!

The organic, free-range, anti-biotic-free Turkey was twenty-point-oh-one pounds, smack in the middle of the eighteen-to-twenty-two range that we had slapped our twenty dollar deposit on.  There were about five pounds of Brussels Sprouts, soon to be seared and dressed with a fig balsamic vinegar.  The Lord only knows how much potato was mashed.  For lunch there would be soup made the previous day, a creamy butternut squash puree, which took up all the carrots that needed to be used for the skillet carrots with onions and garlic.  There were two pies; pumpkin, made from a cheese pumpkin, that all the farms at the market said were the best for pumpkin pie (they were right) and apple-cranberry, to be topped with a pumpkin ice cream.  Surprisingly, the cranberries were found fresh at the market.

Carrots had to  be brought in by a guest, as did dish detergent.  But in the end, everything, apart from the carrots and the canned pumpkin for the ice cream had its origins within three hundred miles of our house.

We could go into detail about how J. Kenji Lopez-Alt convinced us that Brussels Sprouts could be amazing, if only just seared in the pan.  We could outline that we needed a veggie, and Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for skillet carrots came to the top of the list.  We could even wax poetic about the meaty flavor of the turkey, a flavor impossible to get from store-bought turkeys that only seemed to make turkey sandwiches better.

We could do that.  But that would only serve to miss the point.

Thanksgiving, for us, was a feast.  An absolute feast,  a long table, nine people, enough wine and beer to flood a small Guatemalan village, and more food than most of us would see in at least another year.  It was a feast in honor of tradition and autumn bounty and the hardships of our forebears.  It was a feast honoring the trials that we all undertook.

It started off at five o’clock in the morning.  Hannah, her mother and sister all went out to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade out by Central Park.  They sat on the wall on 65th Street and watched cartoon characters, inflated likenesses of puppets, and assorted shapes and colors dance across the skyline, painting the holidays across the gray buildings.

Kermit the Frog was able to be puppeted! Even that size!

When they returned home, there I was, two cups of coffee in me, cutting cubes of bread for stuffing.  When our friends Heath and Gen arrived, we had lunch: a Jamie Oliver butternut squash soup recipe that I had made the day before.  Of course, at that point, there was one last cup of coffee in me and no breakfast.  As I was in the midst of cooking parmesan toasts, the cheese started to stick to the pan (which is what cheese does) and I freaked out.  “GAH!  The cheese isn’t…it’s sticking to the pan!  The soup!  There’s…It’s not good enough and there’s…the Turkey isn’t even in the oven yet and…”  To which Hannah calmly (read: irritatedly, as she also hadn’t had breakfast yet) asked me to leave the kitchen.  I did, paced a little, calmed from my caffeine and hunger inspired tantrum, had some soup and immediately felt better.*

The turkey (20.1 lbs) was fresh, picked up the day before and jammed full of bread, mushrooms, onions, celery, apples, cranberries and butter, rubbed with butter, salted and peppered, and was thrown into the oven.  There it lived for the next four hours, looked at only once, to check it’s status.  It came out, golden, moist and finished.  Nine people couldn’t even finish half of the bird, there were probably a quarter of the breast left for sandwiches.  There is another five pound whole breast in the refrigerator.  As I write this, Hannah is making another loaf of bread for sandwiches.

Oh Lordy Lou.

But in and among the cooking, which is important for a food blog to note, there was community.  Clare (of BeerGoggins) brought a couple of beers and her fella Adam (also of BeerGoggins) showed up later with piles more beer from the Beer Room at Whole Foods.  There were probably six growlers of draft beers, two bottle of lambic (a raspberry and a cherry), and a Saison.  There was wine, oh was there wine!  There are cases upon cases of Nero d’Avola, Blaufrankish, Gavi and Gruner Vetliner.  There was hot buttered cider with bourbon.

I'll fix this caption when I know what this beer was.

Clare learned Backgammon on our brand new backgammon board.  Heath ran around with our camera snapping the photos you see here.  Albert amused himself with Heath’s stories of God-only-knows-what.  The air was thick with lies, fibs, stories, turkey, liquor and celebration.

Clare learning backgammon

There were snacks:  leek confit, goat cheese and baguettes and a hot pepper balsamic chutney with pita.  We ate all day and when it came time to have dinner, everything came right together.  We sat down, passed food, pigged out, slathered our insides with cranberry bourbon sauce and gravy, clogged our maws with stuffing, lusted after the sprouts, fell into ecstasy at the smells and tastes that mixed beautifully.  We grew heavy.  When we tried to engage Adam in conversation, he said, “Can’t talk.  Eating,” and returned to his hunched posture and his face firmly planted in his plate.

Fit for kings

We rested for an hour, drinking and talking.  Abbie did the dishes, Paula dried, Gen cleared.  I regretted the amount of food I ate that night, knowing that I had to eat all the more in an hour.  And when that hour was up, when the dishes were all done, we dirtied up more.

Before we started in on the pie, we tried Adam and Clare’s inaugural homebrew, named “Rye Are You Mad At Me.”  You will have to keep a weather eye on BeerGoggins.com for details on that.  My review:  Outstanding considering the issues that went into it.  I was there at the first and considering what we witnessed, it’s a miracle there was even a bottle of anything other than anger to pour.  But on a serious note, for their first go at home brewing, they made a very drinkable beer that indicates they will have huge success in future beer-speriments.

Mad Hops earns his title

Then there was pie.  Pumpkin made from a for real roasted pumpkin topped with homemade whipped cream and an apple cranberry pie with pumpkin ice cream.  I had the pumpkin pie.  Hannah had the same.  Adam and Heath, in an effort to out do each other, had one of each.  I can’t imagine they were terribly comfortable.  I certainly wasn’t.

Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiies.

In the end, Heath and Gen had to head out, Adam and Clare stuck around a bit to try to finish up the beers.  They ended up leaving with most of the beer they brought.  Albert and Paula sacked out on the couch and Abbie took to knitting.

We did what you do at Thanksgiving.  We rung in the holidays properly by celebrating.  We got full and drunk and happy and had wonderful food and camaraderie.  This is something that we feel many food blogs seem to forget about.  The meal as social event.  They talk about how to caramelize the sprouts, or how to get your cookies just right on the bottom, or what they feel like when they eat their waffles, but they seem to forget that we are social creatures and that our meals should reflect that.  In our dinner, we honored the food traditions from all over the world: Eat together.  Drink together.  Make merry.  And we did.

BUUUUHHHHHHHHH!

And I hope you did too.

*Remember:  If you’re cooking for 9 people or more, be sure to eat breakfast and plenty of it.  You’re working hard.  Otherwise, you’ll throw a pan out the window and scald your elderly neighbor who’s off to see her grandkids and possibly could call the police on you, which would not make for a happy Thanksgiving whatsoever.

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This weekend is prime tomato season, so we’re putting up sauce for the winter!  We’re also making another batch of Bread And Butter pickles and lordy-lou the house already smells awesome from Hannah’s Buttermilk Bread.

* Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce
* Bread and Butter Pickles
* Finishing touches on Limoncello
* Paella with Chicken and Fresh Littleneck Clams
* Spanikopita with Braising Greens and Fromage Blanc

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As Hannah has pointed out, there isn’t much about my childhood that isn’t idyllic. We lived on the mighty Susquehanna River, a two minute walk from a 1930s style movie theatre (kids were $0.50, adults, $2.00 for a night show. $1.50 for a matinee), right next to an immense forest that would defy any child not to play and explore in it, and it was all right in the heart of Pennsylvania.

It’s a beautiful state with a rich and fascinating history (birthplace of the nation, first woman governor of a state, etc etc etc), and it has its very own culture, quite literally. The Pennsylvania Dutch. The Pennsylvania Dutch are the hereditary result of German immigration to Woods of William Penn, and the reason those of us from PA talk different.

It’s a state filled with famous foods, like Shoo-Fly Pie (a pie made to be so sweet that it would attract the flies to the other end of the table at a picnic. It was never intended to be eaten. Until someone tried it), Cole Slaw, Pork and Saurkraut, Scrapple, and of course, the summer staple:

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Pickled Beets.

Ah, the Pickled Beet. Root vegetable, distilled vinegar (we Pennsylvanians are simple folk), a few spices here and there, toss in some eggs and Lord amighty, you have yourself a nice picnic side dish. I love pickled beets. If it were up to me, I would eat a whole batch of these in one sitting and never look back. But that is gluttonous and though I have the heart and mind of a glutton, my stomach just isn’t in it for the long haul.

I needed a recipe for the pickled beets and as I didn’t want to give away my mom’s recipe online, I called my friend JJ, who lives in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch territory: Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This recipe comes from Lancaster, PA. It is the recipe his wife uses and her mother uses. It’s about as authentic as you can get.

And no, I won’t give you my mom’s recipe.

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Pickled Beets & Eggs
Yield: About 2 Quarts (I only made a pint because, well, we didn’t have that many beets)

2lb Beets
2 C White Distilled Vinegar (for true Pennsylvania taste, use Heinz)
3 C Water
2 1/2 C Sugar
3 tbsp Mustard Seeds
3 tbsp Celery Seed
3 tbsp Salt
6 eggs

Hard boil your eggs. Peel. Let rest.

Poil your beets until soft and edible. Peel and slice. Combine vinegar, water and spices and bring to a boil. Add beets and boil for 10 minutes. Place in a big ol jar, with eggs. Cool and refrigerate overnight (until eggs are purple). Eat and enjoy.

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You sit and you sit and you wait around for water to boil and for the San Georgio pasta to finish cooking to a point where it’s no longer a moderately hard, possibly still slimy, wholly inedible mess, and you think to yourself, My God, there must be a better way.

You think that when you pour your pasta sauce on top; a thick mess, with the same flavor as last time, with the expected sweetness of King’s Table Syrup and the richness of a penny.  It has an odd greasiness, the source for which you just can’t place and it just sits there on top of your not quite fully cooked pasta and looks back at you.  You’re vaguely reminded of the Nietzsche quote about the abyss looking back at you.

The cheese, for so it is called on the plastic container, is pulverized; a dairy blizzard contained in the petrochemical container.  You shake it onto your pasta with sauce and winter comes to Pastaland.

And then, in a flash, you are transported.  The world is new, your kitchen is bright.  You have in front of you, a pile of flour and a carton of eggs.  You have the makings of a dough, and inexplicably, you begin to put it together:  flour, eggs, elbow grease.  The dough, a thick, plastic substance in a lump, looking at you, expectantly, like an ominous sort of nineteen fifties B-movie monster baby, that looks cute, but will kill you at a moment’s notice!

Relax, that’s not the case!  You don’t need the fire extinguisher, Steve McQueen.  Just let it sit for a bit.  You’ll see.

After it has melded and you’ve finished your drink (because that is important while cooking.  Be sure you’ve gotten some whiskey or some wine), you get up, fire up your pasta press and you run your pasta dough through it, a very zen action.  In.  Through.  Fold.  In.  Through.  Fold.  In.  Through.  Fold.  When it’s smooth enough, you turn it down, to a smaller setting, and smile devilishly, as you begin to consider your pasta as the Chief guard from the Temple of Doom.  He doesn’t have a chance!

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Thinner and thinner the pasta gets.  You have some problems here and there, but it gets easier and it gets smoother and it gets better and better and soon, you have an edible curtain of egg and flour.

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What to do with it though?

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You have fresh, local, organic zucchini and garlic scapes in the refrigerator and a jug of olive oil on the counter.  Some salted water, two minutes and a quick saute of the veggies later, you have an amazing new meal that will fill you up, help you sleep and give you some vegetables.  You shave a bit off the block of Parmesan that materialized on your table and as you take a bite, the crisp scapes snapping under your teeth and the zucchini, soft and a bit salty from the cheese, with a touch of oil to smooth it all out…

Homemade tagliatelle with zucchini and scapes

You wake up and look at your plate of industrially manufactured “pasta sauce.”  It was all a dream, there was no such experience.

But there could be.

Pasta
serves 2 generously

2 cups of flour
2 large eggs

Pour flour into large bowl (if you’re ambitious and have no fear of insane messes on your counter, pile it up on your counter).  Make a well in the center.  Add your eggs.  Use a fork to gradually incorporate eggs into flour.  When it becomes too thick, switch to a wooden spoon or your hands.

Form dough into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap, rest in fridge for 30 minutes.

Break dough into quarters to run through your pasta maker (note:  if you don’t have a pasta machine or want to be like the Italian mamas, slap that thing on the counter, and use a rolling pin.  That’s called doing it old school.) Be sure to have plenty of flour around, in the event that your dough is a little too sticky.  Thickness and width of noodles should be to your own preference.

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Time was that a fella needed to eat on weekends when he was working a job in a television studio.  Glamorous as that sounds, being a cameraman for a six o’clock and eleven o’clock local news station three days a week with a retired English teacher as your only companion is not the world’s greatest job.  In fact, there is a seriously good chance that it’s the worst job ever.

Point is, a fella needs to eat between seven o’clock and the eight-thirty bumpers.  In Lancaster, PA, you have a few options.  You can go to the grocery store and buy an apple, some cider, a roll of questionable quality, and a hunk of cheddar.  You can bring something sketchy from home that had a good to GREAT chance of being spat in by roommates, or you can go fast food.

Sadly, fast food was the only option within walking distance that was cheap enough to let me afford rent.  Was it burgers?  Was it subs?  Was it chicken?  No.  No, it was Taco Bell.

I would go and order a supreme gordita meal and an apple cinnamon empanada, sit at a table by myself, and read a comic, or a book, or something sad and pathetic, all the while wishing my career path would take a drastic turn.

1 grind it up

Fact of the matter was, the best part of that moment, that time in the Taco Bell, sadly, was the taco sauce, those little mylar packets that you open with your teeth and squirt all over your pseudo-Mexican food.  It comes in Mild (sissy), Medium (perfect for me) and Hot (Hannah).  It had some tang and some heat and was just generally something that made the “food” palatable.  I always wondered how someone would make it.

Five years later, and uncountable packets of taco sauce consumed, I gave it a shot.

2 boil it up

I looked up how to make taco sauce on the internet and there were a whole bunch of things on how to make Taco Bell’s Taco Sauce, but I wasn’t convinced that I really should be making something with Garlic Salt, Onion Powder or The Blood Of Immigrant Children, so I decided with those general ideas and an immersion blender, I would concoct my own.

Feel free to make adjustments and create your own version.  I would recommend even adding a couple splashes of apple cider vinegar at the end for a touch of tang.

5 hot sauce suppertime

Matthias’ Taco Sauce

(yield: 12-15 oz)

  • 1 15oz can diced organic tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)
  • 1 medium onion diced (or half a large one)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (or more if you like it hot)
  • Sprinkle of dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Canola Oil

Dice up your onions and throw them in a saucepan with a glug or two of canola oil and a pinch of salt.  Cook over medium heat for about 15 -20 minutes, until they are soft and starting to brown a little.  In a mortar and pestle, finely grind the cumin and coriander. Toss in your garlic and let that cook for a couple minutes (remember, you don’t want that to brown; it’ll get bitter).  Add a couple dashes of oregano and stir it into the garlic/onion mixture, along with your cumin and coriander.

When you’re satisfied that this is all set, pour in your tomatoes.  Add the chili powder and cayenne.  Stir.  It’s going to dry up a little, but that’s ok.  Turn the heat to medium low and let it simmer uncovered for another 10-15 minutes.  When the flavors have all combined, take an immersion blender (or just ladle it into a regular blender, be sure to leave a small gap between the vessel and the the lid, lest you should risk explosion) and zizz it all up until you have a smooth, deep crimson paste.

It will last a little while.  Don’t worry if you don’t use it all at once.

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Hi.

So we just started here at WordPress.  We’re still figuring out the ins and the outs, so bear with us as we do.  In fact, we’re previous bloggers. Circumstances caused us to abandon that one.  We won’t abandon this one.

The first post is coming soon.  We promise.  And it will be good and it will be pretty.  For honest.

🙂

In lieu of a real post with real recipes, here’s a few ideas, not all of them good, that we’ve had for leftovers:

– Turkey sandwiches on homemade buttermilk bread, with homemade mayonnaise, a lettuce leaf, white meat, Maldon salt and homemade cranberry sauce.

– Peanut butter and cranberry sauce sandwich.

– Roasted garlic mashed potato cakes

– Eat the left over refrigerated gravy right out of the jar.

-Turkey stock (onions, carrots, herbs,salt, whole peppercorns, carcass, water)

– Gnaw on the bones (but don’t choke.)

– Put your face into a whole punkin pie.  Breathe it in.  Try not to clog your nostrils.

– Get fat.

Eat, drink and be merry.  I mean it.

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