Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving, Family Visits & Cookbook Writing

The last few weeks have been busy. The week and a half before Thanksgiving, I went on a multi-city trip to see my family. First to my hometown, Fairmont, WV, to visit my parents, grandmothers and great aunts; and then on to Houston, TX, to visit my aunts, uncles and cousins. I spent some time on both places collecting family recipes and interviewing family members for my cookbook. It is going to take time to do all the recipe testing, writing, photography and design, but it is a labor of love and it feels good to have a start on the project.

I spent some time in Aunt Rosie's kitchen, always a highlight of my trips to Fairmont, and talked to my greats aunts (Aunt Rosie, Aunt Mary and Aunt Irene) about making traditional Italian cookies, homemade pasta, gnocchi, cutlets, you name it! I can't wait to start holiday recipe testing and sharing all the goodies with my friends.

I also spent a lit of time talking recipes and traditions with my family in Houston. In fact, some of my aunts and cousins and I canned peppers in sauce the way my grandparents did every year in the fall. We had a great time and canned over 40 pints of delicious peppers. For more pictures of our canning adventures, check out my Mobile Me gallery:

I got back home just in time to prepare for Thanksgiving. I cooked for 10 people and everyone seemed to really enjoy the food. The turkey was exceptionally juicy and flavorful this year. I think the brine I created this year is a definite keeper recipe.


Savory Turkey Brine
1 gallon water
8 vegetable bouillon packets
4 chicken bouillon packets
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large bunch fresh rosemary
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 head garlic, broken apart and cloves smashed (no need to peel)
1/2 cup peppercorns

Stir ingredients together well and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully. Place Turkey in a large container or brining bag. Place in fridge or on ice overnight before roasting.


Our Thanksgiving appetizer was the pumpkin fondue I wrote about in my last blog entry. It was a huge hit again this year. To accompany the turkey, I made mashed potatoes, wild mushroom-rustic bread stuffing, pork and rice stuffing (a family recipe), lemon roasted Brussels sprouts, Parmesan roasted winter squash (butternut, kabocha and sugar pumpkin), French style green beans and homemade Parker House Rolls. For dessert, I made a pumpkin pie from scratch and our guests brought apple crisps and a pumpkin cheesecake. It was a true Thanksgiving feast!


Parmesan Roasted Winter Squash

1 small baking Pumpkin
1 small-medium Butternut squash
1 small Kabocha squash
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350º. Peel all three squash and cut them into bite size cubes. Toss squash with cream and 3/4 of the cheese. Top with remaining cheese and bake for 45 minutes to an hour — until squash is fork tender and top is light golden brown. Serve hot.

Leftover note: Make patties of leftover squash, coat them with a light layer of flour and fry in butter like a potato cake for breakfast the next day.


Stephanie's Homemade Pumpkin Pie
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons ice water

4 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
2/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup heavy cream
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time and mix until dough just comes together.

Pat dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Press dough into a flat disk and gently roll out with a few pushes of the rolling pin in all directions, turning dough as necessary, until you have a 12 inch circle of dough. Place dough in pie plate and crimp edges as desired. (I am not great at pie crust edges yet, but the crust always tastes good regardless!) Chill in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375º. Line crust with a sheet of parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dry beans or dry rice. Blind bake the crust for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the crust blind bakes, prepare the filling. Separate one of the eggs, reserving the yolk and discarding the white. In a large bowl, combine, pumpkin, brown sugar, cream, egg yolk, remaining whole eggs, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt and whisk until smooth. Pour filling into partially baked pie shell. Place pie in middle of preheated oven and bake about 50 minutes, until filling is set, but center is still slightly jiggly. Let cool completely on wire rack. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

No comments: