Thanksgiving: Before, During, and After

Ah, Thanksgiving.  How was yours?  Mine was super-relaxing.

research

Want to know what a Personal Chef eats on the day before Thanksgiving?  And for lunch the day of?

The same thing everyone else eats: whatever is most convenient.

true story

And when it’s a pescatarian Thanksgiving meal that one doesn’t start planning until Tuesday (luckily for only three people), it’s a meal full of nothing but simple “greatest hits” that one can basically bang out with eyes closed.

Or blurry eyes, if you’ve already gotten into the bar.  And it’s Thanksgiving, so of course you have.

Clockwise, from the fish in front (and with links to recipes):
Crème Fraîche Roasted Salmon

Raw Lacinato Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad (one of my all-time favorite recipes)
Mirliton and Shrimp Dressing
Roasted Delicata Squash with Avocado Sauce and Walnuts

Dessert was a Lemon Curd Tart with a Gingerbread Rusk crust, adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  It was my one concession to the overachiever that lives in my heart.

To deal with some leftovers, I cooked up a couple of bacon slices, sautéed a bit of leftover kale and Brussels sprouts in the fat, and tossed it all with some cooked orzo and a healthy dash of hot sauce.  Beer.  Salad.  Lovely.

The day after Thanksgiving is the day I do not leave the house.  Man, forget that.  Instead, I put on Christmas music (this year’s selection), whip up some eggnog, and put up the tree.  It is absolutely my favorite holiday.  This year, I even made cookies.

so sparkle

The eggnog this year is the aged eggnog recipe from the Art of Eating, and you guys it. is. amazing.  Previously, I’ve used the uncooked eggnog from the Joy of Cooking, but always end up with a huge pitcher of eggnog that I end up dreading towards the end, but slogging through bravely.  I mean, one can only drink so much nog before it begins to wear a person down.

This recipe, though, has you mix an egg-booze-sugar base that gets aged at least three weeks (!), and mixed up one cocktail at a time.  It’s perfect.  Bonus: aging the eggs in booze actually kills all traces of salmonella, so it’s safer than my old traditional uncooked eggnog.  We do not discuss cooked eggnog around here.

If you have a copy of the magazine, I strongly urge you to mix up a batch.  It’ll be ready just in time for Christmas.

nog perfection
tinsel tree for maximum sparkles

Hope you had a lovely holiday weekend.  Now let’s get ready for the next one.

Five Minute Photo Shoot: Leftovers

What do you do with a whole bunch of leftover roasted Delicata squash?

1.  Boil some long pasta.  Toss with chunks of roasted squash and leftover avocado sauce.  Top with wodges of goat cheese, ultra-toasted panko and pepitas, and leaves of Spicy Globe Basil.  Red wine.

2.  Sauté chopped Tuscan kale.  Add chunks of roasted squash.  Pour some beaten eggs over and make a little frittata.  Top with goat cheese and ultra-toasted panko and pepitas.  Beer.

And exactly how many of my dinners involve using up bits of leftovers?

[A: Almost all of them.  Somehow.]

Roasted Delicata Squash with Avocado Sauce

Good lord, I love the colors this time of year.

There’s a whole lotta green still, but you turn a corner and WHAM, there’s the most brilliant orange lit up in the crisp sunshine.

If you happen to get my personal chef newsletter (ahem shameless plug), you saw that I featured pumpkins this month.  Such a novel idea this time of year; I’m so innovative.

And of course, because I got all into pumpkins, I had to cook some.  Running errands yesterday, I happened to park literally across the sidewalk from a small farmers market, where I saw the most adorable little Delicata squash.  Kismet.

Using the super-simple recipe for Avocado Sauce I recently developed for a client’s dinner party (I can never get enough avocado), the goat cheese still banging around in the fridge, and what I hope isn’t the last of my spicy globe basil, I had a Fall Fantasie on my plate, all orange and green and golden brown.

There happened to be both hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds in the pantry, either of which would have been equally good here.  I chose hazelnuts because I am a creature of free will, and for no other reason.  Yes, I dropped on a few miserly drops of truffle oil.  It didn’t need it, but it did gild the lily.

This dish is so pretty and so flavorful, I can see a long tray of it served at Thanksgiving, but it’s certainly nutritious enough for everyday dining.  Don’t forget to serve it with a little salad and some crusty bread.

Roasted Delicata Squash with Avocado Sauce

Yield: 4 servings, plus extra Avocado Sauce

If you tend to have sensitive skin like I do, you might want to consider donning a pair of rubber or latex gloves while preparing raw winter squash. Delicata might not cause the same reaction, but after cutting a butternut years ago and dealing with "Elmer's glue hands" for a week, I don't take any chances.

Ingredients

    For the Squash:
  • 2 Delicata squash (look for ones that have more orange or yellow color to them)
  • 2 tablespoons softened bacon fat, butter, olive oil, or a combination
  • Salt and black pepper, as needed
  • 5 to 10 bay leaves (optional)
  • For the Avocado Sauce:
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 small shallot
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • Water, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • To finish:
  • Goat cheese (4 to 6 ounces should do it for 4 servings)
  • Toasted and chopped hazelnuts (about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh basil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Truffle oil (optional)

Instructions

For the Delicata Squash:

1. Preheat oven to 375º F, and position a rack in the middle.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (optional, but absolutely prevents any sticking).

3. Slice the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds (either roast those separately or discard). Halve the squash with a diagonal cut, and then again, cutting each squash into 8 long triangles. You can, of course, cut it any way you like, as long as the pieces are about the same size.

4. Put the squash on the prepared pan, and rub the pieces with the softened bacon fat (or whatever you're using) until evenly coated. Sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Scatter the bay leaves around the squash.

5. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, or until browned on the edges and the flesh is soft (check by piercing with a sharp knife; it should meet no resistance). Let cool slightly.

6. While the squash roasts, prepare the Avocado Sauce, and toast and chop the hazelnuts.

For the Avocado Sauce:

1. Roughly chop the avocado and shallot. Purée with 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a small food processor, scraping the sides as needed.

2. While the processor is still running, drizzle in the melted butter. If the sauce looks very thick, add water by tablespoons as needed to thin.

3. The sauce will taste a little flat and tart at this point. Sample it, and add salt, pepper, and/or additional lemon juice to taste. Add a spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream if you have it, and the mood strikes you.

4. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps. You may need a spatula to force it through. If making a day or so in advance, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. If you want a warm sauce, or if it becomes too thick in the fridge, gently heat it in a small saucepan over low heat, or in the microwave on short bursts.

To finish:

1. Put a few pieces of squash on a plate. Spoon some avocado sauce over the top, and crumble the goat cheese over that. Scatter the hazelnuts and basil leaves (torn into small pieces if large) around the plate, and drizzle with olive oil if you like.

2. If using truffle oil, carefully drop on a very few drops (only a VERY FEW please!). The focus isn't truffle here, so please use it judiciously. I'm talking 4 or 5 drops on the whole plate. It's potent stuff.

http://www.onehundredeggs.com/roasted-delicata-squash-with-avocado-sauce/

Five Minute Photo Shoot: Twice the Fun

I couldn’t decide which of these to feature, so I’m posting them both.  These meals were both tossed together in less than 15 minutes with things I had banging about in the kitchen, so no recipes or amounts, as everything was eyeballed.

This first one was a quick sauté of gorgeous yellow squash (orange, really) from my Old Kentucky Grandmother’s house, edamame, mint, parsley, garlic, green onions, and possibly something else I’m forgetting.  Served over brown rice, topped with a bit of crème fraîche that melted instantly and tied the whole thing together with tangy lusciousness.  Luscious, truly; no other word for it.

And this was last night’s orecchiette with sardines, red onion, garlic, minced green olives, piquillo peppers, white wine, parsley, and dried red pepper.  On top are shavings of Parmesan.

Wow, two posts in one week?  It’s like I’m taking this seriously.