♦ Thankful

Dear Shaina,

Reading your letter made me want to make those scones and muffins so badly, but I was a little overwhelmed getting ready for Thanksgiving.  I will make them, someday…and I have a great rye scone recipe to share with you…someday. In the meantime, here’s a tip for keeping butter cold when making scones. Freeze a stick of butter and then grate the butter into the flour using the larger holes on a box grater.  It’s easier, less messy and the butter stays really cold.

I have to say this year’s Thanksgiving was one of the best I can remember, ever! From the minute you walked through the door (leaving a trail of suitcases, bags, shoes, clothes…) until you left a week later, we didn’t stop…talking, cooking, eating, shopping, eating, cooking, cleaning, talking, eating and cleaning some more…with family, friends, more friends, more family…I LOVED it!!

And so many firsts… I will take full credit for inviting our favorite massage therapist and her family to Thanksgiving dinner, that is if she wanted to work during the day doing massages in our downstairs “spa-for-the-day” den. She did. All the women in the family scheduled an hour massage and enjoyed our transformed “spa” basement complete with scented candle and refreshing citrus infused water as they indulged in the pleasure and pain of an Eleanore massage.  Our masseuse, who is now like family, earned a little cash, didn’t have to cook and enjoyed a wild Thanksgiving dinner, with her family, at the Schuster/Shealy household. All agreed that this was a new tradition worth repeating!

Then there was the turkey…my first KOSHER turkey. (see Recipe below) I must say, the Rabbis know nothing about depilatory techniques. Little did I know I was opting for a bird with a 5- o’clock shadow and a serious case of in-grown stubble that defied the usual turkey wash-and-rinse once-over. I scrubbed and scraped and pulled at those feather nubs till my fingers cramped. What?!…No electrolysis, laser hair removal, Nair?  There must be a better way! I dug around in my kitchen drawer for some modern day feather-plucking kitchen tool that surely I had picked up because I knew I would need one someday. And there it was, a relic from the seventies waiting to be repurposed, a hemostat.  It was the perfect tool! Time consuming? Yes, plucking each hair follicle one by one! Two hours later, my turkey (we got real up-close and personal) was clean, exfoliated and stubble-free…I mean, this turkey got the full Brazilian!  It was delicious…and I would do it again…but I sure do wish those Rabbis would get some advice from their wives about hair removal before sending their turkeys out that way.

Shaina’s Sweet Potatoes and Kale?!

And finally…Shaina in the kitchen with Mama…did I say cyclone? My turkey and dressing (see Recipe below)…your sweet potatoes with coconut milk and kale(?)…my green beans with lemon zest and parsley (see Recipe below) and your lemon scented basil quinoa, again, with kale.  We had sugar free, gluten free, non dairy, vegan, vegetarian and every other option too. Was everyone happy? How could they not be? They’re coming back next year…all 25 of them!

Most of all, I loved trashing the kitchen with you…watching you slice and dice and taste and mix and adjust and taste some more until it was just right. You take risks with flavors and ingredients and trust that they will turn out alright…and they do, in fact better than alright. I promised myself that I will try some of those strange spices that sit in my spice drawer waiting for you to come home.  I even enjoyed cleaning up the trails of droppings you left in the wake of your cooking experiments.

This was the first Thanksgiving that we really did together! I really love being with you always, but the kitchen…is a really special place when you’re in it. 

Oh, did I say how thankful I am? I am so thankful for my life, for my family and friends, for our good health and good fortune and… for all the blessings that I enjoy every day!

Love, Mom
xoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxo

ROASTING A TURKEY (It’s Easy!)

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Two – 14 pound turkeys fed 25 people and left plenty of leftovers.

  • 1 Turkey (or 2 smaller ones if you have a lot of leg and thigh lovers)
  • 1 Garlic bulb, peeled and minced (more can be used if you have a very large turkey or if you like a lot of garlic)
  • 3-4 Celery stalks with the leaves
  • 4-5 Carrots cut into 3″ chunks
  • 2 Onions cut up
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil

If frozen, thoroughly defrost the turkey so it will be ready to clean and season the night before you plan on roasting it. Clean the inside and outside of the turkey thoroughly, removing the neck and any other parts from the cavity. Kosher turkeys only come with the neck which I clean and roast with the turkey. Kosher turkeys also tend to have a lot of ugly stubble, so leave extra time for cleaning.  Pat dry and place breast side up on rack in the roaster that you will be roasting the turkey in.

Mix a little olive oil with the minced garlic and rub all over the turkey inside and out, including a little under the breast skin.  Salt and pepper the turkey liberally inside and out.  Place celery, carrots and onions in the bottom of the roaster around the turkey. Reserve a piece of carrot, onion  and celery and place inside the cavity of the turkey.

After seasoning, I truss the turkey using string and tying it around the legs and breast horizontally and vertically. It makes it a little easier to get it out of the roaster when it’s done.  Cover the turkey with the roaster lid, or aluminum foil if you are using an open roaster, and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

On cooking day, take covered turkey out of the refrigerator a few hours before cooking time and let the turkey come to room temperature before placing in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Place covered turkey in oven and check after one hour and then every 45 minutes after that until almost done.  When checking, baste juices over the top and sides of the turkey.  Cook turkey about 14 minutes per pound or until legs separate slightly from the body of the turkey and juices run clear. Roast turkey uncovered for the last half hour to brown the outside.  A little oil may be brushed on the skin to facilitate a brown crispy skin.

Remove turkey from the oven when done and let it “rest” uncovered for about 20 minutes before slicing and serving.  Remove the roasted carrots and place on the serving platter with the turkey. Enjoy!

GRAVY
Pour the turkey juices from the roaster into a pot.  The onions and celery can be strained or removed with a slotted spoon if you like a clear gravy.  Add some parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (or poultry seasoning) and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat over the stove while turkey is “resting”.  If you leave the celery and onions in the gravy, you can use a stick blender to chop and blend them into the gravy to add a little substance. Small scraps of turkey from the carving process can also be added to the gravy.

If you like a thicker gravy, place a tablespoon of flour or potato starch into a small cup and stir a few tablespoons of turkey juice into the cup stirring the flour and gravy until smooth.  Continue adding turkey juice to the mixture in the cup and stirring until the flour mixture is soupy and not lumpy.  Pour flour mixture into the pot of gravy/juice and bring to a boil. Cook over low heat until gravy thickens and serve with sliced turkey.

DRESSING: NORTH MEETS SOUTH
I never stuff my turkey, but my family loves dressing. I have always tried to appease both sides of the family by making two separate dressings; a southern style cornbread dressing sans veggies and a typical northern bread stuffing with onions, carrots and celery.  This year I combined the two and everyone was happy, especially me! This dressing is vegetarian and can be made vegan by leaving off the eggs. It makes  about 20 servings.

  • 1 Bag Cornbread Stuffing Mix
  • 1 regular sized loaf of whole wheat or white bread toasted and broken into pieces
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 4 Carrots, chopped
  • 3 Stalks of Celery, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • About 2 quarts of  Chicken Broth (vegetarian chicken soup powder and boiling water
  • 3 Eggs
  • Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme or poultry seasoning mix
  • Pepper

Sauté chopped onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oil until soft.  This may be done the day before.
Mix together cornbread mix and regular toasted bread.
Add cooked veggies to the bread mix.
Add “chicken” broth to bread mixture.
Add enough broth to make a very loose liquidy dressing (the consistency of cooked grits for the southerners out there).  You can add boiling water if the mixture is too thick.  You don’t want to see any pooling liquid in the mixture, but you want to be able to pour the mixture into a casserole.
Taste and add spices as desired.
Lightly beat 3 eggs and thoroughly mix into dressing mixture.  Eggs may be omitted for vegan diets.
Pour a little oil into the bottom of an oversized casserole dish or 2 smaller casserole dishes and preheat in a 350° oven until oil is heated.  Pour dressing mix into hot casserole dish and bake uncovered until done.
30 minutes for smaller casseroles and up to an hour for a large casserole.

The dressing should hold together loosely but not be dry. Top can be slightly browned.

GREEN BEANS (inspired by the Barefoot Contessa)

  • 1 pound Haricots Verts (French Green Beans)
  • 1/2 Bunch fresh flat leafed parsley, chopped
  • Zest of 2 lemons (1 TBLSP)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • Olive oil Salt and pepper

Microwave Haricots Verts for 3 minutes on high or until slightly undercooked for desired doneness. Mix lemon zest and chopped parsley and set aside. Heat olive oil in large sauté pan toss in Haricots Verts and minced garlic and cook until beans are done to desired tenderness. Remove form pan and toss with lemon zest and parsley.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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