I’ve been talking a lot lately, more than usual, which can be a lot on a good day. And it’s mostly about my lah-dee-dah, unhurried approach to my favorite food holiday. It’s less than 10 days away, and I really don’t know why I haven’t stepped it up. I’m hoping that all the blah-blah I keep spewing will strike a nerve and I’ll spring into action.
Just how far behind am I? Um, a bit. I still need to finish the menu, set the timeline, write the shopping lists, and get the final headcount. I can’t finish the menu until I’m done fiddling around with some recipes. And I can’t write the timeline and the shopping lists until… I finish the menu! Now, my mom thinks I’m not really in the weeds – yet. “You’ll get back on track. It’s not as bad as you think.” Ah, the power of positive thinking. Always believe your mom.
Despite the encouraging words, I sure could use a sous chef right about now.
In the last week or so, I’ve been working on two recipes, a riff on cranberry sauce and an updated mashed potato dish (back this year after it was unseated by potato latkes for the once-in-72,000-years Thanksgivukah). The stuffing is still up in the air, but I’m leaning toward cornbread. Any suggestions?
Here’s a look at the cranberry-plum-ginger chutney that I’m really digging. It’s a blend of sweetness, a tart bite with a cinnamon-y warmth and just enough heat on the back of the palate. Mostly, I like it because it’s a nice twist on the typical holiday cranberry dish.
Cranberry, Plum & Ginger Chutney
(adapted from Sur la Table)
Note: This recipe serves 4 to 6. For Thanksgiving, I’m going to double the recipe, except for the red pepper flakes; I’ll probably bump it up another 1/8 teaspoon so it doesn’t get too hot for some of my guests.
1 1/2 to 2 pounds red or black plums, pitted and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
6 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked to remove mushy fruit
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/4 cups golden raisins
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 small onion, small dice
1 cinnamon stick
1 2-in strip of lemon rind (one swipe with a peeler should do it)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all the ingredients. Stir occasionally to keep the fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
2. When the mixture is boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally, and keep an eye on the liquid that should be reducing and the mixture starting to thicken. This could take up to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the saucepan.
3. Check the chutney about 5 minutes early; if the cranberries have started popping and the plums have softened, it’s done. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm.
Notes: You can make this a day ahead and keep it in a covered bowl in the fridge. Warm the chutney in a saucepan to serve. Or, you can make this ahead of time and freeze it. Remember to take it out of the freezer.
As I mentioned, I’ve also been tinkering with the mashed potatoes. In the past, I’ve made them with crispy shallots, with garlic and chopped mint, things like that. This time, I’m going for something a little less heavy, so I tried something new. I whipped up a test batch of mashies and asked my resident taster (yes, eager husband!) what was different. He’s an astute guy and knew immediately that they were lighter, but didn’t know why. I told him I added parsnips to the Yukon Golds. Got a honest thumbs up, which is good enough for me. For TG, I’ll amp up the nutmeg a little and add some mint or parsley. Here’s hoping we have a new favorite on the table next week.
Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips
(adapted from this recipe from chef Tyler Florence)
5 pounds of Yukon Gold (or butter) potatoes, peeled and diced*
2 1/2 pounds of parsnips, peeled and cut into coins*
3/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 stick of butter, softened
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste
chopped fresh mint or parsley (optional)
* Cut the potatoes and parsnips close in size; it will help them cook evenly in the stockpot.
1. Fill a stockpot or large saucepan with cold water. Add the cut potatoes and parsnips to the pot; make sure the water covers the veggies. Add a couple of pinches of salt, and turn the heat to medium high.
2. Stir occasionally. When the water boils, reduce the heat and let the veggies simmer until they are fork tender, about 30 minutes or so. (Hint: I like to test the doneness of the veggies by poking some pieces with a cake tester.)
3. Drain the potatoes and parsnips well, then put them back into the pot and turn the heat to medium. Stir the veggies until they start to dry out, then take them off the heat. This makes it easier to put them through a food mill or potato ricer.
4. Press the potatoes and parsnips through a food mill into a clean bowl. Add the half-and-half and the butter; stir until well combined. Sprinkle the nutmeg and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Notes: You can make this a day ahead and keep them in a covered bowl in the fridge. The day you want to serve them, reheat them in a bowl over simmering water (my favorite way).
I hope you try these recipes; let me know what you think. And stay tuned. More to come on the rest of the TG menu.