Saturday, May 03, 2008

Passover, the Papa & Heritage Turkey...

So... Obviously, I am behind in writing about these dinners. And truthfully, I really did try to write this entry before I left town on Tuesday, but I had so many other things to accomplish that I just couldn't finish it.

I am so glad I waited to sit down and write, because it lets me share a little secret: It is a fuck of a lot easier to write a blog entry from the balcony of a room at the Cancun Ritz Carlton than from one's sofa in Queens.

Did I mention the music of the crashing waves on the beach, playing loudly in front of me?

So it turns out that Hemingway was onto something (and, in no way am I comparing myself to Papa.) I aspire to drink a little more, beginning in an hour, and find out just how onto something he was... I'll report back, hungry little kiddies!

Seriously-- can we just write the whole book from here? With this kind of inspirational setting, we might create something worthy of one of those fancy "Kitchenaid® Awards for Cookbook Excellence..." But, enough about me and my nascent sunburn. On to our "Passover, the Papa and the Great Thanksgiving Dinner."

Here's The Invite:

Hello there, hungry kiddies!
Sacrelicious! (I stole that from Karl, who stole it from Homer Simpson...)

Passover is upon us, and the Papa is coming to NYC. I hope he isn't planning on converting any Passover celebrators? We would like to celebrate this strange collision of events by cooking a sort of traditional Sunday Dinner... via Edna Lewis. (she is the closest thing that I can truly believe in when it comes to Saviors, so it seems especially appropriate to me). Think of it as The Great Thanksgiving.... in Spring!

Roasted Heritage Turkey with Lemon/herb gravy
Karl's special cranberry sauce
Roasted Beets and their tops in vinaigrette
Biscuits!! (not with the Papal Seal)
Wilted Salad
Asparagus with cucumber dressing
Peas and cream or last of the tomatoes i put up last summer and baked bread... or both
Some sort of cake or pie..... perhaps caramel?

If you can't get tickets to see the Pope, join us for a family style Sunday Dinner instead! Same as always rules apply-- First 20 people get the seats. Address will be sent to you with confirmation.

In love and garlic,

Tamara (Mrs!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008
Dinner Promptly at 6pm (for all you worker bees!!!)

"Turkey dinner in April? This is bullshit, man..."

Something I learned from this dinner: there is a reason real Thanksgiving is held in the Fall, when cranberries are in season, i.e. You cannot fucking find cranberries, dead or alive, in April.

Huh. How about that?

The truth of the matter is, I hate cranberries, but they are a very important part of Karl's Turkey Experience, so I didn't feel like I could axe them from the menu. And I hope he sees it as a testament to my love for him that I visited every grocery store in Astoria, all the veggie markets and BOTH organic stores before I located some, and they were frozen and ridiculously overpriced.

I will assume the sauce was good, since people ate it all, and it sure looked pretty.

I also learned how to make Millicent's drop biscuits. It is unbelievably easy-- I shudder to think how many i may have consumed had I but known earlier! flour, BUTTER, baking powder, milk....... fucking simple, people! And, true to their form, delicious!

I also learned how devastatingly sad it is to use one's LAST pint of canned tomatoes, put up last summer. Good thing it is getting warm again and I was able to plant 6 new tomato plants in the ground... More Later.


Okay, truth be told, I kept getting sidetracked at the Ritz-Carlton by the fucking GLORIOUS ocean.... but now I am in Puerto Morelos, where it is much more downscale, and not nearly as distracting. Zora and I are holed up, writing furiously in the heat.... 88 degrees in the shade, y'all! I know it sounds like I'm bragging, but I'm not. I mean, there are mosquitoes! I just had to walk all the way next door to get a beer... and it is my first one of the day! (it's almost 6pm, for Christ's sake!)

Okay, back to Turkey Dinner. Jesus -- maybe one of the reasons that I can't get this thing written is that it feels indescribably ridiculous to be sitting in Mexico, and writing about a Thanksgiving Turkey dinner that we served in April...

Things that I already knew but which were confirmed for me:

Everyone, except me, loves beets.

I am happy to make them because people just swoon. For these, we tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them on about 350 degrees for a little over an hour. They cooled, were peeled, (ok, that part is a pain in the ass), sliced them into quarters, and set them aside.

Meanwhile, the tops were blanched in salted water and set aside, and I made an aioli with tons of lemon and garlic. They were then served with the tops on the bottom (!) coated with some of the aioli, and with the beets on top, with more olive oil, salt and pepper. They were instantly devoured.

Peas with butter, cream and fresh mint is simple, delicious, and very comforting to eat. It is like someone loves you in springtime, in a bowl.

Wilted Salad with BACON is always a highlight of every one's week. Buy yourself some slab bacon, dice and fry it up with a couple of tablespoons of water to keep it from browning too fast.

When the bacon is done, drain it on paper towels and set aside. DO NOT EAT IT ALL. You will want to. Trust me.

Tear up Green Leaf, Boston and Red Leaf lettuces and toss in a bowl. Slice radishes and cucumbers thinly and toss them in too. If you have any parsley or dill, throw that in. Then, reheat your bacon fat (yes, I am going there), and add at least 1/3 cup of cider vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar (more if you've cooked more than 1/2 lb of bacon.) Whisk until it comes to a boil, add salt and pepper, and toss the whole damn thing over your salad while it's still hot (the salad will 'wilt.') Serve it up. The tartness of the vinegar combines beautifully with the fat, smoke and salt of the bacon, and the brightness of the sugar mellows it all out...

Mashed Potatoes need more butter and cream than anyone really wants to know about. And you know what? That's the way it's supposed to be. The next time you find yourself making mashed potatoes and holding back on either butter and cream in the name of "moderation" I want you to imagine me frowning a terrible, stern, disappointed "haven't you fucking learned anything?" frown, and ADD SOME MORE. Mix, serve, and know that every person at your table will be grateful, even the lactose intolerant ones.

Heritage Turkeys (there are still, as of this writing, a few available from Heritage Foods) are absolutely FABULOUS. Even after having been frozen and thawed.


Flavorful, juicy, fresh turkeys who lived happy lives... in short, a standard to which all turkeys should aspire!

I put ours in a big roasting pan, and rubbed it thoroughly inside and out with pomegranate compound butter (a mixture of 1/2 pound butter with about 1/4 cup of pomegranate molasses and 1 Preserved Lemon, chopped.) Then, I put the remaining butter (maybe 1/4 stick,) into the cavity with a regular lemon cut in half, a medium onion cut into quarters, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme and sage, chopped.

I browned the turkey neck in a medium saucepan with some shallots and covered with water to make a stock for gravy and basting.

Finished up by pouring 2/3 of a bottle of dry white wine into the base of the pan and popped the whole thing in a 375 degree oven to roast for between 4 1/2 and 5 hours. I basted about every 1/2 hour. When the pan juices ran low, I added a little turkey stock and more wine. For the last 20 minutes, I cranked the oven to 425 to get a delicious, crispy skin without drying out the breast. I pulled it out of the oven, let it rest for 2o minutes, and then Karvin Karl did his thing. I think the picture speaks for itself.

There were deviled eggs to start, good old fashioned ones topped with a little paprika,

and Edna Lewis' Asparagus salad with Cucumber Dressing. This was blanched asparagus and white onion slices, cooled to room temp and finished with a dressing made of dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, olive oil, chopped dill, parsley, tarragon and thyme, and capers and cucumbers, diced into tiny pieces. Unbelievably refreshing.

And lastly, the Tomato Bread.

Crusty bread, cut up and topped with pats of butter and canned tomatoes, sugar and salt. Tossed in the oven for about 20 minutes. Via Edna Lewis. I have said it before and I will say it again: Like the hot, deconstructed version of a butter and tomato sandwich. Fuck yeah!

Karl made some good old fashioned Banana Cream Pudding, with Nilla Wafers. We did not make the wafers-- Keebler or Nabisco, or whoever the hell makes them seems to have it down, and I truly don't think I could do any better. I do think, though, that Karl makes a hell of a good banana cream pudding!

He used Edna Lewis' recipe up to a point, and then winged it in true SND In Astoria fashion. There were at least 2 ladies I know, who housed theirs, housed seconds, and then got sent home with takeaway thirds because they were too embarrassed to eat it right then and there. Now that is success you can measure!

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