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Archive for November, 2010

When you’ve had all the turkey-cranberry sandwiches and reheated mashed potatoes that you can stand, it’s time to make croquettes with the Thanksgiving leftovers.

Croquettes are essentially breaded and deep-fried anythings.  Usually, these anythings include bechamel sauce as a binder.  The key, then, to post-Thanksgiving croquettes is to make a big ol’ batch of rather thick bechamel and to mix it with any and all of the leftover Thanksgiving vegetables and/or turkey.  The recipe for the Rather Thick Bechamel:

  • 1/2 c olive oil and/or butter
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 3 c milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • nutmeg for grating

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil (and melt the butter, if using) over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour to make a roux.  Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, to cook some of the rawness out of the flour, about 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in about 1/2 c of the milk until smooth, then whisk in the rest of the milk.  Reduce the heat to low and add the bay leaf.  Peel and smash the garlic cloves and toss them in as well.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes; the bechamel should feel like thick cream.  Grate in a little nutmeg and some black pepper; add salt to taste.  Remove and discard the bay leaf and allow the bechamel to cool.  It should set up like that paste you remember eating in kindergarten.

This year, by food-processing the bechamel with an equal amount of filling, I made turkey croquettes; sweet potato and almond croquettes; and mushroom, arugula and Fontina croquettes.  (Don’t overprocess the croquette batter:  You want the filling to have some texture, hence the almonds mixed with the sweet potatoes.)  I also made potato croquettes with leftover mashed potatoes, but I didn’t add any bechamel to this:  I just stirred in an egg and a handful of flour to give the potatoes some more structure.

At this point, if you’ve gone through all of these steps, you’ve done plenty of the work for the day.  You could put the croquette batters in the fridge (or freezer) and wait until later before assembling the croquettes.  However, if you’re ready to press on…

Create a frying station like you see in the picture above.  Get out three medium mixing bowls and a large baking sheet; line the baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the first mixing bowl, add several handfuls of flour; stir in some Seasoning Salt.  In the second bowl, crack two eggs and stir them together.  In the third bowl, add a bunch of bread crumbs.  Take a spoonful of croquette batter (vegetarian croquettes first, please).  Drop the batter into the flour; toss it around to coat, and try to work it into roughly a dumpling shape.  Put the croquette in the egg and toss to coat.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croquette to the bread crumbs; toss to coat completely.  Place the croquette on the baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining croquettes.

Again, at this point, you could call it a day and freeze the croquettes until tomorrow, or until next Thanksgiving.  If you’ve gone too far now to turn back, pour an inch of oil into a cast-iron skillet and place it over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmery, CAREFULLY place five or six croquettes in the oil, starting at the back of the skillet.  When they’re golden brown on the bottom, after 2-3 minutes, carefully flip the croquettes and cook on the second side, about 1-2 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet; you can keep the croquettes warm in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest.  Serve hot on a bed of greens with leftover cranberry sauce (preferably homemade cranberry-orange relish).

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Pan-Seared Turkey Liver

This one’s just for the Militant Carnivores.

It’s two days until Thanksgiving.  You’ve put the turkey in a stockpot full of maple brine.  You’ve taken the giblets and added them to the contents of your chicken stock bag and are roasting them in a Dutch oven, along with garlic, onions, carrots and celery, until they’re nice and browned so that you can make a big batch of turkey stock.

And you’re left with the turkey liver.  You know it can’t go into the stock pot, as it will make the stock bitter.  And there’s certainly not enough of it to make into a separate dish to put on the Thanksgiving table.  What to do?

Stop feeling guilty, that’s what.  This one’s for you—just for you.  Toss it in a hot cast-iron skillet, sear it for about 45 seconds per side, drizzle it with a little vinegar, add a grind of pepper and a pinch of flaky salt, and eat it with some toast or crackers.  Pour yourself a glass of chilled red wine.  You’ve been working hard.  You’ve earned a little chef’s treat.  Enjoy.

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Who knew that making waffles was incredibly easy?

For some reason, I thought waffle-making was an almost impossibly difficult task, involving seasoning and re-seasoning a finicky waffle iron that was as likely to burn your waffle to a crisp as produce something edible.  Maybe that’s never been the case, or maybe waffle iron technology has improved exponentially since the last time I checked, but I have to say that my new Chef’s Choice WafflePro Express makes waffle-making a snap.  The waffles come out perfectly—and quickly.  In fact, I can get waffles on the table in ten minutes from the time I think, “Man, I could go for some waffles this morning.”

In the month that I’ve had this thing, I’ve made waffles four or five times, never using the same recipe twice.  I made these savory waffles (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics)  at my Lovely Vegetarian Wife’s request; I served them for dinner to company along with mushroom gravy and collard greens.  Who said that waffles were just for breakfast and maple syrup?

makes about a dozen waffles

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1 T sugar
  • a large pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2c buttermilk
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 3 or 4 green onions, trimmed
  • 1 c smoked cheddar, coarsely grated

Preheat your waffle iron, following manufacturer’s directions.  If you want to serve all of the waffles at the same time, preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  (All waffles are better hot out of the iron, though.  See if you can persuade your guests into being served one at a time.)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate and smaller mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, buttermilk, butter and mustard.  Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined (there should still be some lumps of flour in the batter).

Chop the green onions and stir them into the batter along with the cheese.  When the iron is ready, add a scoop of batter (my waffle iron takes 1/3 cup of batter).  Follow the directions for the waffle iron.  Serve immediately with any condiments, sweet or savory, that you choose.

(Full disclosure:  The picture below is of a plain buttermilk waffle, not a smoked cheddar waffle.  We were too busy eagerly devouring them to get a good picture!)

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A year ago, my Lovely Vegetarian Wife and I joined the late 20th century by acquiring a microwave.  We had just moved across the country and were setting up our apartment, and our friends said that they had an old one which they didn’t use anymore.  We accepted it, somewhat reluctantly:  We had gone for most of our adult lives without having a microwave in the kitchen, and we had come to regard it as an unnecessary crutch for frantic yuppies who couldn’t be bothered to take the time to cook properly.

We have come to see that the microwave is very useful and has its place in the kitchen.  Obviously, it’s great for heating up leftovers and cups of coffee.  It is really the best way to make good nachos (a toaster oven gets the chips brown before the cheese melts).  It defrosts things effectively.  It allows you to melt butter in a glass bowl instead of using up another pot and room on the stove.  It cooks sweet potatoes perfectly.  However, there is one important concession that we will not make to the microwave:  We will not make popcorn in the microwave.  We make popcorn on the stove.

Aside from the fact that microwave popcorn contains God knows what, popcorn on the stove is easy and fun.  I won’t say popping corn on the stove is as easy as boiling water, but if you can saute an onion, you can make popcorn.  Simply put a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add a thin layer of oil and a test kernel; cover the pot.  When you hear the “Ping!” of the popcorn popping, the oil is hot enough.  Add the rest of the kernels.  Cover the pot and shake it over the burner.  The popcorn should take off almost right away.  When the popping starts to subside (or when the popcorn starts to push the lid off the pot, which is really seriously cool), dump the popcorn into the largest bowl you have.  (And watch out for stray exploding kernels.  I must say, this is half the fun of stovetop popcorn for me:  I love food that fights back.)

At this point, you can toss the popcorn with WHATEVER YOU WANT.  Seriously.  Have a hankering for kettle corn?  Toss some sugar on with the butter and salt.  Going vegan?  Use olive oil (extra virgin, of course) and a few grinds of black pepper.  Like cheese?  Grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.  Pimenton, curry powder, quatre epices, Chinese five-spice powder… if you like the flavor, it will probably taste good on popcorn.

I like buttery—really buttery—popcorn; I have fond memories of large buckets of movie theater popcorn, slathered with whatever the hell that orange stuff actually is.  These days, though, I can’t quite justify the calories.  So, I compromise (and unlike most compromises, this one leaves everybody happy):  I swap out half of the butter for olive oil.  I don’t see the point of omitting garlic from anything, and a little fresh rosemary just takes this to a whole new level.

I guess it’s time for some actual quantities here:

  • 1/3 c popping corn
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for cooking the popcorn

makes enough popcorn for grazing at a small party, or for snacking on while watching Netflix Instant at 2 am

While preparing the popcorn per the directions above, place the butter in a microwave-proof bowl.  (Or, if you want to swear off the microwave entirely, put the butter in a small pot over medium-low heat.)  Smash and peel the garlic clove; add it to the butter.  Strip the leaves (needles?) off the rosemary sprig and roughly chop them, if you want; add the rosemary to the butter as well.  Microwave the butter on high for 1 minute until it’s melted; stir in the olive oil.

When the popcorn is finished, drizzle the butter-olive oil mixture over top.  I toss the garlic clove in as well—it’s delicious.  Sprinkle generously with salt (and a few grinds of black pepper, if you’re so inclined); toss thoroughly to combine.  Bring the whole bowl (and, ideally, a steaming mug of hot chocolate) over to the couch and put on a good, mindless movie.  Enjoy.

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