Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for November

 

November 1, 2019 | View PDF

I was having a difficult time coming up with recipes and ideas for this month’s article, but not because of writers block. With drought conditions and record heat, one does not think about autumn stews, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and hearty soups. Nor do you think about the reason there is the month of November, Thanksgiving Day! Thanks to Mother Nature, the rains came, the temperatures dropped and my mind cleared. Now my problem is I have so many ideas, tips, recipes and stories, I do not know where to start.

To get your mind working, I will start with tips. In our house we leave the butter covered but on the counter. You have read how warm it is in our kitchen. During three seasons, the butter on the counter is soft and spreadable. However, there are two times when the butter is neither soft nor easy to spread. One is when we use all of the butter in the dish and we put a new stick from the refrigerator in the dish. The other time is winter! When we take butter out of the refrigerator and set it on the counter and it happens to be winter, the butter is like a brick. And it stays that way all winter. To overcome this malady, out comes the vegetable peeler. Shaving a thin strip off the top produces an easy melting and spreadable ribbon of butter. Our sticks of butter do not shrink in length, they become thinner.

Speaking of cold kitchens, what about the coffee cups in the cupboard. Run hot water from the tap into your cup to warm it. We run our brewer without a pod to fill the coffee cup. Let it sit while we hunt for the creamer, then pour out the water and brew our cup of coffee. Not that you do this very often, but if you over-cook your cookies a wee bit and they are dark enough on the bottom to be an embarrassment, there is a quick fix. Pull out your micro-planer and gently grate away the overcooked layer. None will be the wiser!

When I was going to school, my mother would make sandwiches for me and then freeze them. By lunchtime, the sandwich would be thawed, soft and ready to eat. That worked for some sandwiches, like the ones without lettuce! The biggest problem with making the sandwich was spreading the peanut butter, jam or other thick cold ingredients on the bread. The soft bread would tear and would not evenly spread. Solution is to freeze the bread before making the sandwich. The bread is hard enough to hold up to the peanut butter or other thick hard to spread ingredients. When it was time for lunch, the bread was thawed and soft.

Most of my recipes are meals to serve four or more. What about a single person that wants to prepare a healthy meal? How do you plan a menu, shop and prepare a single meal without having leftovers for a week or throwing away most of the cooked food? Starting with the planning, decide how many meals a week you are going to make. Are you going to plan for leftovers to fill in the gap for days you are not cooking? Next, think small as in small bags of groceries. Did you know you could buy four slices of cheese and five slices of meat at the deli counter? No more buying one-pound deli packs of sliced turkey. You can buy two tomatoes and two carrots in the produce section. If the thought of going to the grocery store to pick up so few items is a waste of time and money, then decide if you can plan freezable meals to prepare in advance in single portions. There are also single portions of frozen meals available. To make life a lot simpler, buy yourself a good toaster oven. It will look like you are cooking a larger meal when it is in a smaller oven. LOL.

I was scanning through articles from past Novembers. In all likelihood the most important tip pertaining to Thanksgiving and all your meals was in my

article from November 2015.

There are some simple rules to follow making sure that your leftovers will be safe to serve.

Web MD 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 the leftovers within 4 days freeze it. If you do re-heat the frozen food later, you must eat it immediately.

Other tips include, turn the temperature of your fridge down 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, every cutting board, counter and serving utensil will have germs and will spread to everything else you touch.

A warning about stuffing: If you stuff your turkey, you must be from up north, but make sure the stuffing reaches at least 165 degrees. It is hard to do without overcooking the turkey. I highly recommend stuffing the turkey with an onion and some herbs. This step will help you to remember to remove the neck and giblets that are in the store bought turkey. Make the dressing in a separate pan in advance, because you are from the south, thus saving time and headaches on Thanksgiving.

So with everything said and done, the following is the way that Thanksgiving dressing is made traditionally. Not step by step directions using pre-

measured ingredients but by practice over the years by the women of the family. Ingredients are listed but adjusted by taste. Ingredients are added and mixed until it looks good. Leftover cornbread, rolls and vegetables from meals past get a new life in this years dressing.

This is our families’ dressing and gravy recipes as described by my wife, Anne.

GRANDMOTHER TUCKER’S DRESSING

Serves 20

Make cornbread – I use buttermilk and lots of bacon grease (You can also use saved and frozen cornbread from other meals.) Crumble cornbread in a large bowl.

I cut up an entire package of celery and three onions so that I will have enough left over for the gravy. I cook the onions and celery in chicken broth and butter. Save.

Add to crumbled cornbread: 8 slices of toasted or dry bread, 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, 8-10 biscuits or dinner rolls and 1 sleeve saltine crackers. Crumble and mix together.

Add:

2 or 3 cans cream of chicken soup

I also add a can of cream of celery soup

1 box chicken broth

3-4 eggs

Add by the ladle full, the cooked celery and onion and the broth to taste

salt and pepper to taste

sprinkle of sage, onion powder and celery salt to taste…you might not need this poultry seasoning if needed to taste.

(You will need more broth than this…. You mix all of this with a big spoon or your hands until all of the crumbles of the breads are broken up…it’s the feel and texture of a thick cornbread mixture with onions and celery. You do not want to be able to see parts of a piece of bread or a biscuit. I have even used a hand mixer to mix everything completely.

I also add about a half a stick of melted butter.)

TASTE…even though it has raw eggs in it! I would be dead by now if it were dangerous! You want to check the salt pepper and sage flavors. Some broths are very salty and I don’t like a lot of sage.

Bake in a greased baking pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes – check often to be sure it does not burn.

I make dressing on Veterans Day since I am usually off from work. It “freezes beautifully”! I have it defrosted, and ready to bake on Thanksgiving morning,

I keep a baggie in the freezer and save those extra pieces of bread at the end of a loaf and the slice of cornbread that might be left over or biscuits so when it is time to make dressing..I have the breads ready. Originally dressing was a way to use all the stale breads. This is also a good time to use all of those frozen baggies of left over broth or the broth you put in ice cube trays over the year! Grandmother Fuller used to keep a large mason jar in the freezer and she would add to it when she had any left over broth. This recipe is exactly like Grandmother Fuller’s except she loved sage (and I think she used too much) and did not cook the onions and celery. I think cooking the onions and celery like Grandmother Tucker makes all the difference!

Grandmother Fuller also taught me to keep a jar of left over vegetables in the freezer. When you are cleaning up after a meal and you have a spoonful of beans or corn or whatever, just add it to the jar rather than throwing it away. When the jar is full, it is time to make vegetable soup!

ANNE’S GRAVY

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of celery soup

1 can chicken broth or more to make the gravy as thin or thick as you like..you can also use the broth from the turkey

2 or 3 boiled eggs diced – this will thicken the gravy some.

cooked onions and celery to taste, from making the dressing

chopped giblets from the turkey or small pieces of dark turkey

There is no controversy of either serving stuffing or dressing with this

family, however the Thanksgiving item that has stirred up controversy and the most jokes with every family is the cranberry sauce. If you ask four different people what type of cranberry sauce they prefer, you will get five different answers. I do not know how anyone can call a jelly like glob that has can indentations on the side, a sauce. There are people that swear by it. And there are people who swear at it.

I introduced a cranberry sauce recipe in my November 2016 article that will liven up any dish.

Thoughts for the holiday:

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie. Jim Davis

There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving day is the one day that is purely American. O. Henry

CRANBERRY SAUCE

Yeild: One cup

INGREDIENTS

1 cup fresh cranberries,

about a quarter of a pound

1 tablespoon lemon zest

4 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup water

Pinch of salt

1 1-inch stick of cinnamon

METHOD:

1. Over medium heat, add

cranberries, water honey and lemon zest to a sauce pan.

2. Bring to a boil uncovered for about 5 minutes. The cranberries will start to pop open, mush with a spoon any cranberry that has not popped.

3. Add pinch of salt and stir until thickened, remove from heat and

remove cinnamon stick.

4. Save until service if made the same day, or keep in refrigerator and take out and let come to room temperature before service. It’s bright and tasty and fresh.

Note: depending on freshness of cranberries, water amount may be adjusted depending on how thick of a sauce you want. Same goes with the honey and sweetness.

A variation on this recipe is to omit the cinnamon stick and stir in one teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Another way to add sweetness and thicken the sauce is to add some dried cranberries that have been soaked in apple juice.

 

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