Friday, November 28, 2008

post-Thanksgiving; stuffed

I like going home again. As few and far between as these visits have become, they are always fairly necessary in maintaining stasis on my sanity. Food isn't the only reason, of course, but it's up there as one of the best. For as many years as I've made the southward trek to have Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin Nick's home, I've been known to indulge in three or four portions too many of our family's patented chestnut stuffing. When I was very much younger, my theakoula would sit around the kitchen table with a few other family members and steam, prick, and peel all the chestnuts by hand on Thanksgiving morning. I remember very well their whispering, their rustling and the scent of nuts, still warm and cracking--their voices as palpable and sticky sweet as the odor, just as rich and full of promise. I'd find myself wandering over on purpose, seeking aimless errands that would take me into the kitchen, just so that I could be around them while they worked.

For some reason it had never occurred to me to ask for the recipe before. I had a reliable resource of it on a yearly basis, plus enough take-home leftovers to kill an ox. Recently, though, I have begun to realize that chestnut stuffing is a dish I'd like to eventually be able to bring to my own table. And I'd like to have spent enough time with it to get it absolutely right, maybe even add a few of my own twists and turns to the mix. So between glazing pears, mashing potatoes, sweating feverishly, and slicing carrots--I leaned over and sneakily asked my cousin Maria if she would be so kind as to relay the recipe to me.

These are exactly, word-for-word, the instructions that she passed down to me. The original recipe calls for both beef and liver, but Maria and Nick have long been making their version vegetarian. (Necessary in order to accommodate the variety in diets bound to be encountered in any gathering numbering above twenty.) Remember: this is a recipe intended for many, you might want to cut it down a bit if you're cooking for less than forty.

You Will Need:

white onions
1 lb. black raisins
1 lb. pine nuts
5 stalks celery
2 sticks butter
3 lbs. chestnuts (to prepare-boil for ten minutes, prick shell with knife, and peel)
1 bunch parsley
40-45 oz. vegetable broth
2 cups cooked rice

To Make:

1. Saute onions in butter. Add celery, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add pine nuts, chestnuts, raisins, and rice.
3. Add broth.
4. Bake in oven at 375 degrees covered with foil for 30-35 minutes.

And don't forget dessert:

Monday, November 24, 2008

fall is my favorite season

I am a simple girl.

You Will Need:

1 bag of cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
(that's it--seriously)

To Make:

Bring all the ingredients to a boil together in a large pot. Turn heat down to low and let bubble/simmer for about ten minutes--I don't let mine go for that long because I like my sauce pretty chunky and still loaded with lots of whole berries. Remove from the heat and let cool for a time, then transfer contents to a container and refrigerate until thoroughly "gelled". Serve cold and delicious.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

simple pleasures #3

Alex Naidus bringing you pumpkin cheesecake from Veniero's when he comes over to your apartment late on a Thursday evening.

left-hand luke and the beggar boys

I think it has been--and mind you that this is only a rough approximation--a century and a half straight since I have gotten any sleep. Move the tea bag from the cup to the plate, pour the wine, lean back, have a smoke, think a little. Resurrect a meal from the dead.

No, but seriously. I had chicken soup at the Thai wholesale market in Chelsea the other afternoon in a rare lunchtime hour interlude, and was (not surprisingly) unable to finish the straight-up trough of broth and noodle-y deliciousness that they plunked down in front of me. Luckily, it took only fifteen minutes and a few key ingredients to bring the remainders right back to life again in the form of a fragrant, salty, slurp-worthy soup.

You Will Need:
1 bunch scallions
1 bunch bean sprouts
1 large carrot
1 head broccoli
left over, pre-cooked rice noodles from Thai place
3 cups chicken broth
cardamom to taste
garlic powder to taste
salt and pepper to taste

To Make:
Bring the chicken broth to a slow simmer. Slice and dice the carrots and broccoli up into whatever size you feel like eventually fitting into your mouth. Drop them into the broth (pop one of two into your mouth as you's your right as the cook!). Shake in a bit of cardamom, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Don't worry about precision, to be exact is to be a fool! Cover the dish; let simmer. Dice the scallions, wash and strain the bean sprouts. Add them to the concoction, which should be smelling pretty delicious about now. Cover everything and let it simmer until the carrots and broccoli are soft (this will happen faster than you expect). Once the broth and vegetables are cooked, dump in the left-over noodles. Cover and let simmer until the mixture is completely warmed through. Stir, serve, and enjoy!