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Friday, November 28, 2014

Table for Two - Grunt (Leftover Pork or Turkey Stroganoff)


From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I toyed with the idea of doing a retrospective this morning. I had planned to use the Remains of the Day recipe series as a theme for today's feature, but I just wasn't in the mood for encore performances and wanted to try something new. What I came up with is a recipe that fits into two categories. While it's definitely a candidate for the Remains of the Day series, it also slips very nicely into the on-going Table for Two recipe collection that we feature here. The recipe was developed by Kevin Weeks, and despite its rather inelegant name, I think you'll find its a wonderful meal for two people. It's also a great way to use up leftovers. While the recipe is scaled to feed two, ingredients can be doubled or tripled to feed a gang should that better fit your needs. I do hope you'll give this very simple recipe a try. If you have moist pork or turkey leftovers, I guarantee you'll be delighted. Here is how this leftover stroganoff is made.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Thanksgiving Memory


I hope this holiday finds you surrounded by family and friends, making memories that will be shared  in the future at tables in places that can't even be imagined now. I also hope, that in the course of this busy day, you'll be able to lend a thought or two to those who are now gone but once occupied places at your table and in your heart. Memory is a funny thing, and good or bad, we tend to magnify it as we get older. I am of an age where mine have begun to glow with the brightness and clarity of a nova and I've learned to surrender to that light. I view memory as a scrapbook of the mind whose  pages turn when a fleeting thought moves to the frontal lobes and demands I give it the attention it thinks it deserves. I find myself in the throes of memory this Thanksgiving and my thoughts are with the people with whom I spent a very special day. I was four years old at the time and we spent much of the day in a basement having a communal feast.

I lived in a planned community of townhouses that were built around  central courtyards. There were four buildings per courtyard and each unit in the building had 4 four duplex and 2 garden apartments. A large laundry and storage area separated the garden apartments which were several feet below street level. Hannie and Mrs P lived in the duplex units to the left of the storage area and my parents and Anita lived in the ones to the right. Both garden apartments were occupied by nurses who were known in the community as the  "unclaimed treasures". Wartime rationing was severe in 1944 and at some point the families decided to pool ration stamps and have a communal celebration in the basement. As it happened, Thanksgiving that year turned out to be a strictly female affair.

Max, Hannie's husband, was with in the JAG corp in Washington, Anita's husband was in the South Pacific, and Paul, Mrs. P's husband was  training radio operators at Scott Air Force Base. My dad was not in the military, but he was an air raid warden whose duties also included emergency management. It  was  a commitment my mother never quite understood. She couldn't picture an air raid in the middle of the country, much less a raid on the south side of Chicago. Her feelings aside, as head of the district he could not absent himself on Thanksgiving Day, so he, too, would miss the feast.

Tasks for the party were pretty much equally divided. Mrs. P was in charge of general cleanup, decoration and, because she was the best baker,  all of the desserts. That meant that several weeks worth of  egg, sugar and butter rations were sent her way, but it also meant she had to figure out how to clean the basement and make it appear, if not festive, at least clean.  She did it the old-fashioned way and scrubbed the floors on her hands and knees till the place smelled like Murphy's Oil soap. Paper decorations were out of the question, so she rehung the clothes lines and used sheets to cover the unsightly walls. She also made sure the old starch stove was functioning and would be able to keep the food warm. In addition to cleaning, she managed to make a huge tray of apple slices, a pumpkin pie, a Swedish butter cake and  cupcakes for the children. I got to spoon batter into the cupcake pans.

Hannie was in charge of bread and rolls and making stuffing for the bird. She sent the stuffing on to Anita who actually roasted the turkey. Back in the day, birds were stuffed and dressing on the side was unheard of.  To this day,  the thought of Hannie's bread brings tears to my eyes.  Save for my mom, whose forte was not the kitchen,  I  grew up surrounded by wonderful cooks, and the ventilation in our complex directed  all cooking odors to the basement. On Thanksgiving Day, the co-mingled aromas of turkey and yeast and apples and cinnamon would make even  Lucullas weep. Hannie made her famous potato bread, as well as cloverleaf rolls and cinnamon buns for our dinner. I got to help knead the bread.

Anita's turkey was delicious and I was especially proud of it because I had picked it out. We had a poultry store that kept live birds and slaughtered them as needed. The place was rank and  you could smell it a mile away. Anita took me with her to buy the bird and taught me how to remove pin feathers once we were home. I also got to put Hannie's stuffing into the turkey and couldn't help but think how lucky these grown-ups were to have me around. They couldn't do Thanksgiving dinner without my help.

My mother was in charge of the vegetables and sundry sides. This was trickier than you might think. Fresh vegetables were not available and you had to be pretty clever to disguise the taste of the stuff that came in a can. Mom made scalloped corn, braised celery and put together a really nice mac' and cheese casserole, as well as mashed potatoes. I helped make the scalloped corn and got to peel a few of the potatoes. A first!

Bridge tables and chairs were moved to the basement early on Thanksgiving morning and thanks to Mrs. P they had  starched tablecloths and were properly set for a party. The morning was spent going from one kitchen to another to see what was going on and generally getting underfoot. We ate in the early afternoon and it was a wonderful day. Not just because of the food. These women supported each other throughout the war and formed a band that was incredibly tight. They were the the first single moms and they made do, even producing an odd miracle every now and then. They certainly mastered the art of  making something from nothing and they did it with grace and humor and set an example that I have never forgotten. I am thankful that these women have been part of my life and I hope that wherever they are they can sense that and know they have become a part of me. A Happy Thanksgiving to them and to all of you.
      

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing


From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I've had these rolls in the freezer for a month now. My original plan was to serve them for breakfast on Thanksgiving Day, but unexpected guests depleted my freezer stash this morning. The good news is the rolls disappeared quickly, and that always is a sure sign that a recipe is good enough to share with you. The recipe was developed by Diane Rattray, a Southern cooking expert at about.com. I've worked with her recipes before, so I knew the rolls would be great. The recipe looks long and a bit complicated, but it is neither. The ingredient list contains a lot of common seasonal spices and several types of sugar that I suspect you already have in your pantry, and I'm happy to report the directions that come with the recipe, include instructions for making the rolls by hand, with a dough hook or in a bread machine. Unbaked rolls can be frozen for up to a month and those that are baked can also be frozen for that length of time if they are not frosted. I love to serve these warm and dripping with the cream cheese glaze, but there is no reason they can't be served at room temperature. If you are looking for a seasonal breakfast roll, you might want to give this one a try. Here is how the buns are made.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On the Side - Cranberries with Port Wine, Vichy Carrots and Peppered Squash


From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I did the shopping for our holiday meal this morning and then, as luck would have it, learned this afternoon that there will be more people at the table than I had planned or shopped for. At this point, I'm not about to run out and buy a larger roast or supplement it with a second meat entree, but I will add some additional side dishes to the groaning board. I've had my eye on the three recipes I'm featuring tonight for awhile now and the news was all the motivation I needed to give them a try. The first is a cranberry sauce that is made with a reduction of ruby port, and while it is not for children, those of you who are known to take a nip or two will love it. The sauce is great go-with for pork or turkey, but it would especially shine if served with fattier duck or goose. The second recipe is for Vichy carrots. The recipe gets its name from the sparkling water that the French originally used to prepare the dish. The lightly glazed carrots are simple, delicious and inexpensive to make. If you have no sparkling water, throw a pinch of baking soda into tap water and pretend you have the real thing. The last recipe is for winter squash, and, of the three side dishes, it is the most interesting. Bland squash is seasoned with fresh thyme and hot pepper that takes it up a notch or two or three. The best thing about this recipe is the the dish can be made early in the day and reheated come party time. I do hope you'll give these side dishes a try. The are all a new take on old holiday recipes and I really think you'll enjoy them. Here is how they are made.

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