Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving plans

I've been so busy posting every day on my other blog that I've neglected this one. Truth be told, my kitchen has been neglected a bit, too, but Thursday it'll be back in action!

This year we're potlucking with two other families, one of whom includes a 20-year-veteran chef. He's in charge of the meat, which, at press time, is going to be Cornish hens.

My family has a few "traditional" dishes we enjoy on Thanksgiving, which I'll be making. I'm still trying to decide about bread. I'll either bake bread or attempt to make rolls like my mom makes every year. Last time I tried to make them, it was a hideous failure. It's been fifteen years, however, and I'm a better cook. I think it might be time to try again. Plus, I have a better kitchen these days.

I put a great deal of thought into our Thanksgiving menu when we had our first Thanksgiving in our new house. That was two years ago. Last year we went out of town, to Craig's family. This year we're home again, leaving the next day to see my brother get married. Since we're potlucking, I'm not concentrating too much on the menu. Just on making sure the dishes that have to be on the table for my family are there.

From that feast two years ago, a standout was the roasted winter vegetables. It's a flexible recipe, but make sure you start early. Like the same time as the turkey. They need to cook a long time. If you don't time them right, you'll have raw vegetables on the table. I write from experience, as they were, indeed, undercooked on Christmas, when the ham took much more space in the oven than the Thanksgiving duck had.

I got the original recipe from the Food Network's website. You'll notice that the recipe is on a very small scale. So there's math to do. I also switched to new potatoes, upped the ratio of Brussels sprouts because oh my Craig does love them, substituted sage-infused olive oil (thyme-infused, rosemary-infused, or mixed with white truffle oil would all be good choices), added fresh sage to the herbs, and used kosher salt. So, by the time I'm done with it, it's more like this:

2# new potatoes, scrubbed, skins on (cut the big ones in half)
2# sweet potatoes, 3 carrots and 2 parsnips, scrubbed, skins on, in 1/2" thick slices
20 Brussels sprouts, trimmed
2 heads garlic (may need more, since my son had discovered garlic this year), cloves separated and skins removed, poke holes with a toothpick
3 sweet onions, preferably Vidalias, quartered
1 each red, yellow, and green bell peppers, julienned
1 jar kalamata olives, pitted, drained
bunches of fresh herbs - rosemary, sage, thyme (and if you're feeling it, parsley, too, but only if you start singing)
Black pepper, to taste.

This is my once-a-year opportunity to use the clay roaster. It's perfect for this dish.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and prepare vegetables.

In a large roasting pan (or tagine), add potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts. Add olive oil and salt, and toss thoroughly. Roast in oven for 20 minutes.

Add garlic and onions and toss with oil in bottom of pan. Roast for 20 more minutes.

Add bell peppers, olives, fresh herbs and black pepper. Toss with the oil in the pan and return to oven. Cook for 20 to 40 minutes longer, turning once or twice or until vegetables are nicely browned but not charred. Serve immediately.

If you're cooking this with other foods that need a lower temperature, that's okay. Just increase the cooking time. Test the potatoes for doneness with a fork.

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