It is the cooking season!
October and Halloween are over and everyone has had their fill of Candy Corn, Jell-O Shooters, Mummy Hot Dogs, Skull Cheese Balls, "Boo"nana Pops, and Green Slimed Popcorn.
Now is the time for some serious eating and more importantly, some serious cooking. And I do mean some serious cooking. This Thanksgiving you will be focused, organized and have pride in what you prepare for your family and friends. No more burning down the garage trying to deep fry a frozen turkey. No more opening a can of sweet potato chunks packed in heavy syrup, dumping it in a glass 9x13 dish, then covering that with brown sugar and marshmallows and baking it until the basic elemental carbon molecules start to appear. No more canned cranberry sauce: the sauce that has no pieces of cranberries in it and retains the shape of the can for days in the serving dish.
Do not serve green bean casserole if all of the ingredients come from a can. Canned green beans: mushy, flavorless and not really green. Canned cream of mushroom soup: modified food starch, water and dehydrated milk whey does not make cream. The first ingredient is canned French Fried Onions is not onions.
The Ambrosia Salad ingredients, like with the green bean casserole, should not come from cans or from the freezer section of the grocery store. Recipes for Ambrosia from Nathalie Dupree, Emeril Lagasse, The Southern Cook's Handbook, The Book of Regional American Cooking: Southern and from the 1967 edition of Joy of Cooking do not and I repeat, do not call for Cool Whip or even whipped cream to be added to the fruit mix. Secrets from the Southern Living Test Kitchens has a dollop of whipped cream added to the individual serving dish.
I want you to put your right hand on a copy of Joy of Cooking and hold in your left hand your favorite and most cherished cooking utensil and pledge:
I will with the best of my abilities and intentions, prepare meals that will be made from the freshest ingredients, cooked as to preserve that freshness and served to show that I care. And I will follow sanitary procedures in the preparation and cooking and storage of the ingredients and even the leftovers.
Now that we have gotten the formalities out of the way, let's talk about cooking this month. November 3rd is Sandwich Day. With all the leftovers, Sandwich Day should be after Thanksgiving. There is nothing better to quickly satisfy hunger and try something new than a sandwich. There are many fast food sandwich restaurants and even the ones that specialize in hamburgers usually have a sandwich on their menu. The top favorite sandwiches are cheesesteak, po'boys, any breakfast sandwich, Reuben, grilled cheese, ham and cheese,
lobster roll, BLT, and the list goes on and on. A recipe for a sandwich would be put whatever you want to eat between two pieces of bread. A popular sandwich after Thanksgiving is the Gobbler. You only eat a sandwich made from leftover turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing once a year, but it is the first thing you think about eating after Thanksgiving Day.
So now I'm going to stick my neck out (in remembrance of the turkey) and tackle two traditional Southern foods. I mentioned Ambrosia and its issue with Cool-Whip. The other is sweet potato casserole.
I looked on PINTEREST to research recipes for Ambrosia. If the description said best Ambrosia ever and you can whip it together in minutes, I skipped it. Most of the recipes looked like a pile of LEGO blocks and Borden's glue.
The next endeavor is to convince people that casserole recipes do not have to begin with, "open can of cream of something soup". This is a recipe for green bean casserole from Alton Brown. No cream of something soup and the onion topping is baked not fried.
I think Thanksgiving Dinner is the meal that has a higher than normal potential to make you and your family sick. Not from the cream of something soup or the blood sugar spike from the sweet potatoes, but from the food sitting out lukewarm for hours on end as people breathe on it and pick at it to make sandwiches. Nothing will ruin a happy occasion faster then spending it in the bathroom or worse, at the doctors. Now you know why leftovers are mentioned in the pledge.
There are some simple rules to follow making sure that the leftovers will be safe to eat.
WebMD had a 2-2-4 formula to remember.
2 hours-Store all leftovers in the refrigerator or freeze no more than 2 hours after cooking. This includes turkey, gravy, anything with milk or eggs and rice.
2 inches- Store food in 2 inch deep containers. This will help the food cool quickly and slow the bacteria growth.
4 days- Eat the leftovers within four days. If you are not going to eat something within 4 days freeze it. If you do re-heat the frozen food later, you must eat it immediately.
Other tips include, turn your fridge down a little temporarily while prepping to compensate for the extra door openings and closings. Also, a very important rule to remember is to frequently wash your hands. If you are handling the turkey, cutting boards, counters, serving utensils germs will spread to everything you touch.
A warning about stuffing: I you stuff your turkey make sure the stuffing reaches at least 165 degrees. It is fairly hard to do without overcooking the turkey. Stuff the turkey with an onion and some herbs and make the dressing in a separate pan. This can be done in advance, saving time and headaches on Thanksgiving Day.
May your stuffing be tasty.
May your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes and gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious and your pies take the prize, and
may your Thanksgiving Dinner stay off your thighs.
Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness
And just be happy.
Please see recipes on the pdf page of this paper.