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October 23, 2016

Food Thread: Is It Too Early To Think Of Thanksgiving? [CBD]

Front end loin chops.jpg

Eh....why not. It's 33 days away, and if you aren't on the ball, you will miss out on ordering your free-range, organically grown, responsibly raised, heritage breed, humanely "processed" turkey.

Or you could do what I do, and that is let my SIL worry about all of that shit. I'll cook it, but I will be damned if I am going to wait on line to pick up a turkey. On the other hand, the bone-in pork roast is serious food, and I will be chatting up the butcher (the front end of the loin is the best part) and poring over ancient texts for just the right brine recipe. And the best part of cooking the pork roasts is that they will be on the rotisserie...on the patio, away from, uh....everybody.

Those chops in the photo are cut from the front end of the loin, near the shoulder, where there are wonderful, flavorful muscles and copious quantities of that most marvelous of flavors and textures: fat. And notice that the bones have not been "Frenched," because I am not a savage. Yes, I have ranted about this before, but anybody who scrapes off the best part of a chop in the interest of appearances is painfully deluded about the point of eating.


Back to the topic at hand: Thanksgiving planning. We are picking up three extras for dinner, which requires major redesign of the seating plan. Which I hate doing. But the menu will be revised slightly to simplify it to preserve the cook's sanity, in which I am quite interested.

The problem is that throughout the year I will notice dishes that seem fun for Thanksgiving, both in their own right and as a vehicle to push the turkey off to the side. Yes...one day Chez Dildo will have a turkey-less Thanksgiving, and there will be much rejoicing and, probably, gnashing of teeth of those who think that turkey makes the day.

Cranberry and goat cheese puff pastries. I had these at a wedding last year, and again last weekend. Damn, they were good. And no, the recipe is not to be had, because the owner of said recipe is a conniving, grasping harpy without a shred of dignity. And I would do the same.

Wheel O' Brie People show up wanting a drink, and having something ready to go as they slurp down their margaritas and martinis is probably a good idea. Otherwise people will get shit-faced too soon. Besides, it's easy.
1. Buy wheel of brie.
2. Place on plate.
3. Place bowl of crackers on same table.
4. For extra snootiness, a baguette on a cutting board always works.

Squash Soup, because it's really easy, tastes great, is seasonal and, last and least, looks good too. I garnish it with toasted baguette rounds on which I place a dab of goat cheese, and then a drizzle of good olive oil.

Brined, Roasted Bone-in Loin of Pork because it is tough to beat for its combination of flavor, ease of cooking, relative frugality, and the opportunity for the cook to hang out on the patio, in peace and quiet, with a beer or a bourbon. Plus, the obvious pleasure of gnawing on a bone covered in crispy fat and tender meat, with the juice covering your hands and dripping on your lap is bound to piss off the one vegetarian who invariably shows up at the table.

Roast Turkey

Roasted Vegetables. Why the hell not? They taste great. Hot oven, lots of olive oil or butter, salt and pepper, and roast the hell out of them until they are a little brown and crispy. Green beans, Brussels sprouts, whatever floats your boat. I add sliced shallots or red onions on the bottom of the baking dish, then toss half way through cooking. They add a nice flavor.

Mashed Potatoes done well are not just a blob on the plate. I play around with sauteed onions or shallots, and you can try roasted garlic. Just be sure to add a lot of fat, in the form of both butter and cream. It's for your health, to decrease the carb load. Really!

Salad. Yeah, I know, that's sort of weird, but as a palate cleanser it works really well. Just make sure you use a good dressing...one that isn't too creamy and thick. I make a vinaigrette (Oil,mustard, vinegar), which is a bit tart and is a nice contrast to all of the rich food.

And here is where my plan to simplify breaks down. Most people really get a kick out of a bunch of pies and other assorted goodies for dessert. As they say, A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, so what the hell. I make fresh chocolate chip cookies and a pumpkin pie. Somebody, probably everybody else is going to bring a pie, so just have plenty of ice cream on hand.

******

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 butternut squash, about 2-3 pounds: peeled, seeded and cut into one inch cubes
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce duck fat (or replace with equivalent butter)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 quart Chicken Stock (and make it yourself. It’s easy, and much, much better)
  • ½ & ½ to taste.
  • Salt to taste (but be careful).

Sauté the onion in the butter and duck fat over medium-low heat until it softens and just begins to caramelize.
Add the thyme and sauté for another minute. Then, toss in all of the squash and mix it around to coat with the butter and onions.
Keep cooking for 10 or 15 minutes, continuing to caramelize the onions and starting to soften and caramelize the squash.
Pour in the chicken stock (I told you to use fresh, so don’t wimp out on me) and reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes, until the squash is perfectly soft.
Purée thoroughly with a hand blender, or make a huge mess in your kitchen by using an upright blender and spraying soup all over the ceiling.
Taste, and add a bit of salt if needed. If the soup doesn’t seem rich enough, a bit of ½ & ½ is perfect to smooth it out and add some thickness.
Serve hot with a toasted goat cheese crostini floated in the middle of the bowl, and a drizzle of good olive oil.


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