Monday, November 12, 2007

Getting Readied...

Tens days left before we feast as a nation. Are you prepared? As you decide on your menu for the day there are things you can do in advance to make the day a pleasurable cooking experience verses the stress-filled wreck that ruins many attempts.

Tomorrow take your knives in to be sharpened. A well hone blade makes cutting, slicing and dicing so much easier as you no longer have to fight with the knife to do the job it was designed for. If you do not know a reputable knife sharpener in your area go to the butcher and ask them for a recommendation.

Now, it is time to decide on a menu. Of course, the turkey will be there but what is going around it – stuffing, sides, sauces. Are you like me and enjoy changing it up almost annually. I tend to chose a culture and apply their flavors to my table. I did a Moroccan year and I made a couscous stuffing; sweet potato puree with cinnamon; cranberry sauce with slivers of dried apricot. Since every American celebrates at this table I feel free to beg, borrow and even, steal ideas from everyone. Not that there is any problem with a traditional set-up either. Read M.F.K. Fisher’s “Consider the Oyster” for an old fashion stuffing.

It is paramount that you organize yourself. What must be cooked last minute; what can you do four days in advance and gently work up to the day. I always do a mix of room temperature and hot for the table. This allows me to do plenty of my recipes a day or two in advance. Plus, there is the honest assessment of how much oven space do you, and how much do you really need. Remember the turkey is going to hold court in that hot box for much of the day.

So, have a great day, and over-eat.

Onions Braised in Balsamic Vinegar - yields 6 to 8 servings

1 pound small spring onions or Vidalia onions - peeled and root trimmed
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 pound unsalted Butter

Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a 9x4 shallow Pyrex or ceramic baking pan lay the onion in a single layer. Pour over the vinegar, wine, thyme, salt and pepper. Dot the onions with the butter and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 to 40 or until very tender. Serve hot or room temperature.

Fennel Orange Salad – yields 6 to 8 servings

2 fennel bulbs (approx. 1/2 pound)
4 oranges – peeled
1 small red onion – sliced very thinly
1/2 cup walnuts – lightly toasted
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut the fennel in half and then slice the fennel into paper thin half moon shaped slices. After peeling the orange cut in half and discard any pithy membrane and seeds. Then cut the oranges into 1/4 inch thick half moon shaped slices. Place everything in a bowl and gently toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.

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