Thursday, November 23, 2006

Eating Someone Else's Turkey

It is infinitely easier to be a guest at someone else’s table. I had the luxury of making just a couple of side dishes for a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

This is our second year to join two other neighborhood families that have been teaming up for years to make Thanksgiving dinner. They have their traditional roles. One family makes all the appetizers and desserts. The other family makes the rest. I still feel much like an outsider coming armed with my two little contributions.

One interesting difference about today’s dinner was the appearance of the first grandchild, who is only 2 weeks old. This was the best baby I have ever seen, willingly being held by virtually everyone in attendance. It wasn’t that he slept for 3 hours, it was just that he didn’t feel the need to cry. We all watched as our 20-something daughters held the baby, imagining what the first grandchild would be like. At one point I looked at my daughter and said, “Can you imagine having a baby of your own?” She suddenly got a rather terrified look on her face as she simply said, “No.” So today’s dinner included guests from 2 weeks to 85+ years old – 4 generations.

Our traditional menu included:
– Spinach-red pepper-sour cream spread with crackers
– Brie baked in a crust with preserves on top
– Turkey
– Bread stuffing with sausage in it
– Gravy
– Mashed potatoes
– Cranberry relish
– Cooked onions
– Gratin of squash, leeks, and rice *
– Corn and tomato salad with mustard-cumin vinaigrette *
– Parkerhouse rolls and butter
– Pecan pie with ice cream
– Crustless cranberry pie
– Cheesecake

There was no shortage of food. It’s only 7:00 and I feel drugged on the tryptophan that comes with eating turkey. I don’t even particularly like turkey, but I do like the feeling of being in a big family group with a lot of people I like.

Here are the recipes for my two dishes. They are both quite simple to make.

Gratin of Squash, Leeks, and Rice

2-1/2 pounds of yellow squash and green zucchini, grated
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
½ cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium leeks, well cleaned white and light green parts only, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Place the grated squash in a colander set over a bowl and add 1 teaspoon salt, tossing to distribute evenly. Allow the juices to drain for 15 to 30 minutes.
2. Squeeze the squash in handfuls or wring it out in a clean dish towel over the bowl to collect the juices. Reserve the juices and dry the squash carefully on paper towels.
3. In a medium saucepan bring 1-1/2 cups of water to a boil and add the rice. Simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and reserve.
4. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the leeks until slightly soft, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the remaining olive oil and saute the shredded squash over medium-high heat until almost tender and all liquid is evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley. Saute for 1 minute.
6. Sprinkle with the flour and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the partially cooked rice, ½ cup half-and-half, and 1/4 cup vegetable liquid, and stir to combine. Continue cooking, stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
7. Continue adding the cream, ½ cup at a time, cooking until thickening begins to occur. After the last of the half-and-half has been added, stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Add the remaining salt and the pepper.
8. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Transfer to a greased casserole if desired. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the dish. Bake until browned and bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Cumin and Tomato Salad with Mustard-Cumin Vinaigrette

4 cups frozen corn (in a bag), defrosted
1-1/4 cups chopped red onions
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine the corn, onions, tomatoes, and parsley. Stir.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously.
3. Pour the vinaigrette over the corn mixture and stir to combine.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Blogger Kristin said...

I NEVER want to eat again, which means I'll be raiding the fridge in about two and a half hours.

Dinner sounds lovely - good food, good friends, a good baby and time with family. Perfect. Glad you had a good one!

9:39 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Your 2 dishes sound really different and yummy! What is cranberry relish? We just do simple cranberry sauce with water and sugar.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- I really enjoyed your post on Thanksgiving.

MOI -- I think the cranberry dish was more like the one you described. I just called it relish!

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Quentin said...

Just getting started with our day-after "orthodox" Thanksgiving. Here's a simple cranberry chutney that my girls make for us:
1 cup chopped orange
1/2 cup orange juice
1 pound cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup chopped apple
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
(I like to sneak in a cup of raspberries tooo when I do it)
Everything into a saucepan, bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for either 5 minutes or until the cranberries split, whichever comes last.
Mmmm, good. Especially on that day after sandwich.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep those recipes coming!

2:29 PM  
Blogger steve said...

excellent looking recipe' Quentin...
There is nothing quite as elegant as Baked Brie en Croute.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Quentin -- I'm sure you and your girls got rave reviews on the cranberry chutney. One of the best things about this recipe is that it has a lot of ingredients but looks EASY! The day after Thanksgiving eaten at someone else's house is where I wish I had leftovers. I love the tastes of stuffing, cranberry anything, and gravy. Yummm... and yes, that day after sandwich would be great right about now.

Steve is an ex-chef, so that's high praise coming from him.

OL -- What did you cook for Thanksgiving?

Steve -- And you, sir chef, how about you? The menu?

9:56 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Quentin: Sounds great! I'm definitely trying this new spin on cranberry sauce! Thanks.

Steve: What is the croute part of baked brie? I've had it on phyllo pastry with preserves on it.

10:38 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Ya'll have read about my moms Asparagus and I ate a ton of that.... All I had to make myself was 15# of Mashed Potatoes... there were no complaints. i am starting to miss MY Dressing and Gravy (which are untouchable) and just might have to take that over someday. the ghighlight down here is 'Fried Turkey" which is about as stupid a way to cook a turkey as I have ever seen, but I keep my mouth full and say nothing.
Brie en Croute is with Puff pastry...

11:43 AM  

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