What’s for supper? Vol. 256: Sweet potato fries and unicorn pies

Happy Friday! Some of my kids have been on vacation all week, one has been on vacation since yesterday, and one still has one more week to go. Most of them are currently in the kitchen, shouting and throwing food around. I have a door that locks. This is fine. 

Here’s what we et this week:

SATURDAY
Turkey bacon wraps, pickles

Always a popular meal. 

I had spinach-colored wraps (I couldn’t discern any spinach flavor, despite what the package said) with smoked turkey, bacon, tomatoes, provolone, and spinach. Damien shopped for and cooked this meal, and brought home some Nathan’s dill pickles, which are swell. It reminded me that I want to take another crack at homemade pickles. Last time I tried, they came out too salty. I like salt an awful lot, but these were violently salty. Also the jar broke and there was broken glass in the pickles. But I think we’ll have better luck if we try again. 

Do you make pickles? What do you put in there, and how long do you let it sit?

SUNDAY
Frozen pizza and sundaes for the kids, Chili’s for adults

I still hadn’t gone grocery shopping, I forget why, and I thought I would blow the kids’ minds by offering ice cream sundaes for dinner. They made unhappy growling noises, because they’re not real children; they’re unnatural monsters. So I picked up some frozen pizzas, too, and they made happier growling noises. Damien and I went to Chili’s, and then we wandered around Target because we couldn’t quite get excited about going home yet. 

MONDAY
Regular tacos, guacamole and chips

Just regular tacos made with orange powder from envelopes, and guacamole and chips. 

My guacamole recipe:
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I bought scoop-style chips, which won me some favor among the monsters. 

TUESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, sweet potato fries

On Tuesday I managed to finally buy some groceries, and because I was running very late and it was extremely hot out, I decided it would be a swell time to make homemade sweet potato fries. I peeled about five pounds of potatoes, sliced them thin, and fried them in vegetable oil in batches, then drained them and sprinkled them with sea salt.

But not before I burned the ever loving hell out of my fingers. This is how it always goes: I hate deep frying, so the only time I ever consider doing it is when I’m in some deranged state of mind — the very state of mind that makes me terrible at deep frying. I was thinking about something else while I cooked, and carelessly tossed a handful of fries into the oil, which sloshed up over three of my fingers. HURT LIKE A MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER. MOTHER!!!! Nothing makes me angrier than burning myself. My finger’s still all purple and blistered. Dammit! It’s fine now, but I’m still mad.

The fries were fine. They tasted fine, maybe a little soggy. 

I roasted some chicken breasts with basic seasonings and served the chicken with baguettes, tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar. 
 

I also put out provolone but forgot to put any on my sandwich, alas. Some day I shall make a balsamic reduction, but not today.

WEDNESDAY
Beef and broccoli on rice

This is the best sauce I’ve found for beef and broccoli. I followed this Damn Delicious recipe exactly, except I used fresh ginger instead of powdered, and that’s how you should do it. This actually makes more sauce than you will need.

It’s a sweet and savory sauce with a sneaky amount of heat that creeps up on you. Very good meal to prep ahead of time, and then you can cook it in just a few minutes. I served it over rice made in the Instant Pot using the 1:1 method (equal amounts of rice and water, close the valve, press “rice,” and that’s it. I have stopped rinsing my rice, because either it doesn’t make a difference or else it comes out better that way but I have forgotten in what way).

THURSDAY
Sugar rub smoked chicken thighs, potato salad, corn on the cob, unicorn pie

Thursday was the day everyone in the family would hit two weeks after their second vaccination, so we had a no-mask cookout. We haven’t been masking outdoors anyway, but it still felt like a milestone!

Damien made his smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub. He smoked the thighs for about an hour and a half, then grilled them to caramelize the sugar rub and give the skin a little char. This is an unfailingly delightful and delicious way to prepare meat, and you can use the rub with chicken or pork. I think we need to try it with steak. 

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He cooked the corn right in the husks, which is a very easy way to prepare it if you’ve got the space on your grill. 

Just peel and eat. I was going to put out butter and elote seasoning, but people were already tearing in, so I didn’t bother. 

So we had the chicken, the corn, and a little potato salad. Very simple recipe: Just boiled yellow potatoes with skins, diced red onion, and a dressing made of mayo, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and celery salt. As they say on Cutthroat Kitchen, it reminded me of potato salad, so there you go. 

 

 I got it into my head to make some pies. One of the greatest triumphs of my late 40’s is that I can make a pie crust without freaking out, and I haven’t ruined a crust in years. (Maybe someday I’ll achieve this with deep frying, who knows.) I shred the butter and use ice water, I use only my fingers to incorporate the butter, I use plenty of flour on the counter, I only roll in one direction, and that’s all my secrets. I made a double recipe of this recipe

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and it was more than enough for two pie shells and two decorative tops. Probably could have made two full tops with it. 

I also brushed the top crust with egg white and shpronkled it with sugar, to give it a little sparkle. Well, Corrie did. 

As you can see, they needed sparkle because they were STAR AND UNICORN PIES. Look how pretty! 

Pretty pretty. 

I made the filling with three quarts of strawberries and one quart of blueberries. Or, maybe they were pints. I don’t know, big boxes. I used this fruit filling recipe

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(obviously substituting the strawberries and blueberries for the cherries). The almond extract gives it a nice cozy taste.

I baked it in a 400 oven for twenty minutes, then 350 for another 15, and it was a little overdone, oh well. I was smart enough to put a pan under the pies, which caught a ton of the syrup that bubbled over. 

Served with whipped cream. 

The filling was too liquidy, but probably would have firmed up if we had let it sit for longer before eating it. The flavor was wonderful, so juicy and summery, and not too sweet. 

And ha, I just realized I probably got the idea to make a prancing unicorn pie from this Twitter thread with its theory about cave art. My subconscious is always going, “Yes, but how can we apply this to FOOD?” 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein, frozen egg rolls and dumplings

And lo, it was Friday again. I think people are getting a little tired of lo mein, but NOT ME. I adore this recipe.

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The sauce is so simple and flavorful, and you can add in whatever you want. Today we’re having sugar snap peas, shrimp, with fresh minced garlic and ginger to brighten it up. Maybe some red onion or asparagus. 

A few people have asked about the noodles I use.  You can make lo mein with anything you could reasonably call a “noodle,” including spaghetti (and linguine, etc.), and nobody will arrest you or anything. I like using rice fettuccine, for the taste and for the amount of surface area for grabbing up the sauce. It is pricier than pasta, but you can get away with serving less of it than if you were just serving spaghetti, especially if you add plenty of vegetables and/or meat. Just be sure to cook it al dente, so it doesn’t get mushy when you add in your other stuff. 

And that’s it! That’s all my secrets. Don’t forget to leave tips about making pickles of you have any!

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

5 from 2 votes
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Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

 

Cherry pie filling for TWO pies

Keyword cherries, cherry pie, desserts, fruit desserts, pie

Ingredients

  • 7 cups cherries pitted
  • 2-2/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Instructions

To pit cherries:

  1. Pull the stem off the cherry and place it, stem-side down, in a bottle with a narrow neck, like a beer bottle. Drive the blunt end of a chopstick down through the cherry, forcing the pit out into the bottle.

To make the filling:

  1. Mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl and let it sit for ten minutes or so until they get juicy. 

  2. Stir the almond extract into the cherry mixture and heat in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, for several minutes. Stir in the butter.

  3. Let the mixture cool a bit, then pour into pie shells. 

Recipe Notes

This would also be fine over ice cream. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 238: Will the real potato butt please stand up?

First, some important news. I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but this week, we all saw the dawn of a new era in America. It’s easy to sit around and hope for great things on a macro level, but it behooves us all to look around and see what changes we can make on a personal level. I’ve been thinking hard about the direction I want to go in, and after much prayer and reflection, I’m ready to announce the launching of a brand new project, and I truly hope you will all join me. It’s called Potatoes with butts, and you can follow it @PotatoesButts.What it is, is a twitter account that is just photos of potatoes with butts. I got the idea last week, when I saw this potato with a butt.

Here’s the thing, folks. This won’t work if I try to do it alone. My DMs are always open, and you can submit your photos of potatoes with butts and I will share them with mankind, and together we will do our part to make the world a little more full of photos of potatoes with butts. In these unprecedented times let us all work toward unity, and never allow ourselves to be cleft in two unless we are a potato with a butt. 

In other news, I am determined to be less of a potato butt on a personal level, so I started on my treadmill again, and I was passing the time by processing some food photo files. Here’s a little preview of what you’re in for this week:

That does sound tasty!

EDIT: I have unintentionally caused confusion with this joke. The screenshot above shows what autocorrect does to the names of my food photos when I’m on the treadmill and huffing and puffing too much to fix it while I upload them. If you wanted to, you could guess which of the following photos match up with irk chops, yffalo doh, hi ken plate, and Eminem inside chicken. I regret to inform you that “chickens vertical” is actually what I meant to type. I had a number of chicken photos, and in this particular one, well, they weren’t horizontal. 

Okay, here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Spaghetti carbonara, french bread

Delightful as always, and low-skill (although cooking for a crowd does require you to keep your head). I used four pounds of bacon and 3-1/2 pounds of spaghetti, and 423 mashed ends of butter sticks, and a whole thing of parmesan cheese.

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Some day I’ll get a block of parmesan and grate it fresh into the carbonara, but even the jarred stuff makes a great meal.

I haven’t made fresh bread for a while, so I was a little nervous, but it turned out well, fragrant, light, and a little sweet.

Nice simple recipe, just flour, water, salt, yeast, sugar, oil. A little cornmeal for the pan and a little butter to run over the hot top. 

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This recipe makes four long, fat loaves. (I do not intend to start a Twitter account for loaves of french bread that look like something it’s not. Because it’s VULGAR, that’s why.) A couple of them split, as you can see, because I didn’t slash them deeply enough, but no one complained. If you’re not great with bread, this is a reliable recipe, as long as you give it plenty of time to rise (it takes two rises). 

SUNDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken with fennel and lemon, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce

Now here is a tasty roast chicken. Damien volunteered to make the main course, and he followed Ina Garten’s recipe, which calls for stuffing the bird with lemons, garlic, and thyme, and roasting it atop a bed of fennel, onion, carrots.

Very, very juicy and tasty. The lemon, garlic, and thyme flavors really make themselves known in the meat, but it was the caramelized vegetables that really wowed me, especially the fennel. Must get more fennel into life.

This led to me browsing my way through Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Classic Cooking, so we shall see what fennel may come. 

And here, for the curious, is a picture of Eminem inside chicken:

I also opened up some cans of cranberry sauce, which turned out to be whole berry because I’m a monster; and I made some candied sweet potatoes. It’s a fine recipe

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but in retrospect, something less sweet would have been a better foil for the other two dishes. 

MONDAY
Hot dogs of many nations, cheezy weezies

Not even really hot dogs of many nations. I intended to serve Chicago-style hot dogs (mustard, tomatoes, pickles, pickle relish, onion, pickled peppers, and celery salt) and buffalo hot dogs (blue cheese, scallions, and hot sauce), but by the time dinner came, buffalo seemed adventurous enough. 

Ugh, I will be so glad when it’s finally light at dinnertime again. The lighting is killing me. You can see all the grime in my house, but everything looks so garish and dire. Oh well. 

TUESDAY
Oven fried pork chops, pink risotto, peas

I’m just over here exhausted with all my same old same old pork recipes, so I poked around a little and tried something different, yet decidedly un-exotic: Breaded fried pork chops.

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I was planning to just chunk them in the oven, but at the last minute I thought they really needed a little browning up first, so I fried them in oil just to cook the outside

and then baked them to make sure the meat was done. I thought they were great, if a little bit of a hassle (because I made 12).

Will make again, probably using boneless pork ribs. The breading could easily be made more spicy, but it had a good, balanced flavor, and the texture was perfect, crunchy and light, and the meat was juicy. My mother used to make pork chops often, and they looked and tasted like a mitten that had fallen in the slush by the bus stop and been run over repeatedly, so I feel pretty good about this.

I made my reliable Instant Pot risotto, which is so easy and always turns out creamy and lovely, especially when I’m generous with the butter and cheese. On this day I was a little low on cheese, so it was slightly less gooey than normal, but still very nice.

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It calls for chicken broth and white wine, but all I had was three half-empty bottles of rosé and merlot, so in they went. Predictably, this changed the flavor slightly, and the color dramatically. 

I definitely prefer white wine in this, but the kids thought pink risotto was amusing, and I cleared up some counter space, so overall a win. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

The last few times I made fancy ramen, it caused a lot of suffering, I mean really bad suffering, like really bad, because someone’s mother had made JUST RAMEN FOR SUPPER (and meat and vegetables and crunchy noodles and sprouts and sauces and eggs), and so there was a lot left over. So this time, I only made six packages of ramen. You will be surprised to hear that everyone was very excited about ramen for supper, because it’s SO GOOD, and they gobbled it up and howled for more. So Lena made some more, but by the time it was ready, everyone had left to go lie on their necks and listen to K-pop. 

Anyway, here’s my ramen.

I ha it with wilted spinach, scallions, accidentally hard boiled eggs, quick-pickled carrots, scallions, pea shoots, a little broccoli, and pork sautéed in sesame oil, then sliced and simmered in soy sauce. I usually put hot sauce on it, but I tried some sweet chili oil and it wasn’t great. The carrots and vegetables added enough sweetness. 

THURSDAY
Beef fajita bowls

I love this meal. I got the meat marinating first thing, using this very sharp, savory marinade

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I actually used lemon juice rather than lime, and didn’t really notice the difference. Then, close to dinner time, I was afraid there wasn’t enough meat, so I went out and bought more, so some of the meat only had an hour to marinate. 

Ladies and gentlemen, marinating is magic. I was too hungry to stop and take a picture, but the difference between the two hunks of meat was astounding. The acid in the lemon (or lime) juice and the Worcestershire sauce breaks down the connective tissue and makes it so tender and yielding, and really opens it up to receive the flavor. 

I made a big pot of rice in the Instant Pot, and I set out bowls of everything so people could build their dinner as they pleased. I chose, uh, everything: Rice, beef, some sweet corn slightly charred in oil, scallions, fried onions and sweet peppers, black beans with tomatoes and chili peppers, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and corn chips. Oh, and some Taijin chili lime powder.

I scooped up a bunch of the gravy and poured it over the bowl because I can’t get enough of that tangy, garlicky juice. So good. 

I really love this meal. Beef is my favorite meat by far, and this is one of my favorite things to do with it. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

I guess just tortillas, batter-fried fish from frozen, shredded cabbage, salsa, sour cream, limes, and avocados. This would be great with guacamole, or, even better, pico de gallo, but we always have it on Fridays when my ambition is so low.

Well, adios. Don’t forget to send me your potatoes with butts. DM my Twitter, or email it to simchafisher at gmail dot com, or message me through Facebook, or just throw it through my window as you drive by. 

5 from 3 votes
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Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

5 from 3 votes
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Candied sweet potatoes

Easy and pleasant. Please do not top with marshmallows, as that is an abomination.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks. Canned is fine, although they will be slightly mushier.
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease a baking dish.

  2. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Add the melted butter and stir to make a paste.

  3. If you're using canned sweet potatoes, drain them. Spread the potatoes in the dish and distribute the butter-sugar mixture evenly over them. Use a spoon or spatula to toss the potatoes so they are coated with the mixture.

  4. Cook for 30-40 minutes. If you're using fresh potatoes, stir every 15 minutes to keep the sauce distributed well. If you're using canned, let it be, so they don't turn into mush.

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

What’s for Supper? Vol. 108: In which we have two vegetables for Thanksgiving, not counting potatoes!

Just the Thanksgiving food this time! I know it makes more sense to share Thanksgiving recipes before Thanksgiving, but none of this stuff would be out of place for a Christmas meal, either, except maybe pumpkin pie and stuffing.

All of my kids genuinely helped. Except for Corrie. Corrie mainly supervised.

They chopped, sliced, trimmed, buttered, grated, juiced, stirred, basted, and baked, and I would have been a complete wreck without their help. We started baking and cooking on Wednesday evening, and by Thursday afternoon, I felt calm, confident, cheerful, and ready. I highly recommend having kids who are old enough to help!

Here’s what we had:

Turkey with gravy and stuffing. I have no desire to argue with anyone about how to make a turkey. Not Alton Brown, nor his acolytes, nor anyone. I’ve roasted dozens of turkeys. I butter it and sprinkle it with salt and pepper, turn it breast down on a rack for half the roasting, then flip it for the rest of the time, and I (well, my sons) baste it every half hour. It turns out good.

The skin is crisp and varnished-looking, the meat is moist and flavorful. I don’t want to argue about it! Your way is good, too! Hooray for your way! I like my way! Hooray!

I made stuffing (Pepperidge Farm herbed cubes, I think) with sauteed onions, mushrooms, and celery. Not original, but always good.

I wanted to get the gravy over with, so I started with a ton of melted butter, then added a ton of flour until it was a thick paste, then thinned it gradually with turkey stock I had made with giblets and neck, celery, scallions. Then, when the turkey was done, I added salt and pepper, a fried and diced turkey liver, and plenty of pan drippings, scrapings, and fat.

Lyonnaise Potatoes. My father brought this dish. Will add the recipe when I get it! Very tasty, and it reminded me of my grandmother’s cooking, which is high praise.

Sweet potatoes with blue cheese and walnuts. A simplified version of this recipe, which also calls for dates, parsley, and gorgonzola, rather than blue cheese. I baked the potatoes, sliced them open, mashed in the toppings, and then reheated them in the microwave before dinner.

Parkerhouse rolls. I’ve made this recipe before, with good success, but this year we just bought frozen dough. My daughter rolled the dough into golf ball-sized balls and put them in buttered cupcake tins — one ball in the mini tins, and three balls in the regular size.

 

Hobbit Bread (braided bread stuffed with onions, mushrooms, and cheese). This is (according to my 17-year-old) the best recipe in An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery.  I’ll paste the whole recipe into the bottom of this post. She used frozen bread dough for this, too, and added poppy seeds to the top.

Oven roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon. Easy peasy. Boys trimmed and halved the Brussels sprouts, daughter snipped a pound of bacon into pieces, and I mixed it up with oil, salt, and pepper, and spread it in a shallow pan, then roasted at 400 for about twenty minutes. The bacon wasn’t as crisp as I would have liked (I should have laid it on top, rather than mixing it in), but the Brussels sprouts still magically gathered in a ton of bacon flavoring. It was great.

Hasselback butternut squash with bay leaves. This dish puts the hassle in butternut squash, let me tell you. But it was worth it. So pretty and exciting. I made it the night before, then warmed it up for the meal. We ended up using jalapeno peppers instead of Fresno chilis, fresh bay leaves instead of dried, fake maple syrup instead of real, canola oil instead of olive, and salted butter instead of unsalted! Still great! We’ve never had a spicy dish for Thanksgiving before. It found myself cooling my tongue with cranberry sauce in between bites of squash. Here’s the recipe from Bon Appetit.

Cranberry orange nut bread. Worth the trouble to zest the oranges and squeeze fresh juice, especially if you have kid slaves to do it for you. They also chopped the nuts and cranberries with my lovely mezzaluna knife. Recipe from Epicurious. This is very festive-looking, with the bright cranberries and flecks of orange zest, and it makes the house smell wonderful.

Banana nut bread. I always start baking for Thanksgiving with banana bread, because it’s so dang easy. Fannie Farmer has the classic recipe.

Apple pie. I don’t really follow a recipe for the filling – just sliced apples, sugar, a little flour, cinnamon and a little numeg, and dots of butter on the top – but here is the crust recipe I use — except I use butter, which I freeze (or even just chill) and grate it into the flour, so it only takes a few jabs with a butter knife to fully incorporate it. The butter does warm up in your hand as you grip it, so be careful of your knuckles if it slips!

My 17-year-old used cookie cutters to make stars and flowers, and made an overlapping pieced crust, which was lovely. We brushed it with an egg wash (beaten up egg with a little warm water) and then sprinkled sugar on top before baking.

I baked the pies until they were almost done the day before, then put them back in the oven at 250 while we were eating the meal. By dessert time, they were hot again and perfectly browned.

Pumpkin pie. I used readymade graham cracker crust and followed the recipe on the side of the pumpkin can. And yes, I had to run to the convenience store and buy evaporated milk, because all I had was condensed milk. I always know what the difference is, except for two times: when I’m shopping, and when I’m baking.

We had whipped cream and ice cream for the pies. I intended the kids to have a choice, but they intended to have both ice cream and whipped cream on everything. Corrie skipped the pie and just had ice cream and whipped cream.

Crock pots were very useful. I made the gravy on the stovetop, then transferred it to a slow cooker, to free up space and keep it warm, and filled the gravy boat from that. I also microwaved the gravy boat, so it stayed warm while it was on the table. I used my other slow cooker for mulled apple cider.

It was my husband’s turn to worry that there wouldn’t be enough food, so he bought an extra turkey breast, so we roasted that, too. I helpfully added garlic eyes so it could glare at us.

And now for the Hobbit bread recipe!

Next time she makes it, I’ll take pictures at different stages, so you can see how the dough gets that braided effect.

Braided Bread Stuffed with Mushrooms, Onions, and Cheese

This hearty bread is practically a meal unto itself. In celebration of Hobbits well known love of mushrooms, this is stuffed with mushrooms, onions, cheese, and English country herbs. It’s best fresh from the oven while the cheese is still runny, but the leftovers are almost as good served alongside supper to help soak up a hearty plate of mutton or venison gravy.

Dough:
1 ½ c / 300 g water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
4 tbsp / 85 g honey
4 eggs
½ c oil
6 ½ -7 c / 825 – 850 g bread flour
1 tbsp coarse salt
8 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp fresh basil leaves, minced

Filling:
2 tbsp butter
2 c / 200 g sliced mushrooms
2 onions, diced
2 c / 250 g shredded mozzarella
2 cloves garlic in filling
1 tbsp rosemary in each
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp coarse salt
To make a loaf , start by dissolving your yeast in the warm water. Feel free to add an extra tsp of honey at this stage to help kick start your yeast. Walk away for ten minutes. When you come back, the yeast should have bloomed so it looks like a mushroom cap rising up out of your bowl. It knows its fate.

Mix in the eggs, oil, salt, and the rest of the honey. When you achieve a soupy mass, add the minced garlic , fresh rosemary leaves, and fresh basil. It should smell delicious.

Now mix in the bread flour. Modern cooks with a stand mixer can attach the dough hook and let it knead away for 6-8 minutes. If you want to get a real feel for the period, knead it by hand for 8-10 minutes. The dough should be soft, pliant, and not too tacky.

Form it into a ball, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and let it rise for an hour, or until double in size.

Meanwhile, make your filling. Melt your butter in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add your onions and cook until they start to brown . You want them to lose a lot of moisture while gaining some flavor.

Once the onions start to brown, add your garlic, rosemary, and basil. Keep cooking for another 3-4 minutes, or until the garlic barely starts to brown . Finally add the mushrooms. You don’t want to overcook them. Mix them in and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Take the pan off the heat and finish it with the coarse salt. Set it aside to cool while the dough continues rising.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Flour a clean surface and roll the dough into a rectangle . Put that rectangle on a sheet of parchment paper so you can easily move the finished loaf to a pan. Trim away any rough edges.

Now that you have a trimmed rectangle of dough, mentally divide the rectangle into thirds. The center third is where you place your filling. The outer two thirds will be cut into braid strips. To give it an attractive , braided top, make neat, even, 1 inch 2.5 cm wide cuts along each side. Make a bed of cheese in the middle ⅓ of your bread. Pile the mushroom filling on top of that. Cover the filling with any remaining cheese. Fold both end pieces inwards so they cover some of the filling.

To create the braided top, pull the cut edges of dough over the center, alternating sides and tugging tight, so the dough completely covers the filling. This makes a single, massive rectangular loaf . Slide it onto your largest cooking pan. If you don’t have any oversized baking sheets, just slide it into a heavily buttered 9×13 glass baking pan. Either way, let it rise for another hour. You put this much work into it, so you might as well make the bread pretty. Whisk together an egg and 1 tbsp of water to make an egg wash.

Use a pastry brush to paint the surface of the bread. If you’d like, sprinkle another 1 tsp of coarse salt on top. Bake the bread at 350F / 180C for 35-40 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover it with foil.

Due to the moist interior, the bottom of this bread has a tendency to get soggy if you leave it out overnight. That means it’s your duty to consume the entire loaf before bedtime. If you don’t have a party of dwarves or a couple teenagers on hand to help you finish it, you can always use the leftovers to make savory mushroom bread pudding for tomorrow’s dinner.

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