Thanksgiving 2007 Retrospective

I usually go barefoot in the house, but finally broke down this morning and went in search of a pair of old sox to keep my feet warm. Maggie’s curled up nearby. She’s had her breakfast, been for a walk, and is already snoring again. Tough life.

I woke up hungry as a bear, couldn’t wait for a normal breakfast, so ate two fig newtons along with my coffee. Not as good as pecan pie, which is my favorite breakfast, but pretty good. I have my annual piece of pecan pie on Thanksgiving morning while cooking the feast. Unfortunately, Alex and some of the other g-kids have developed a taste for it, too, so there was nary a crumb left. Went the same way as the crustless pumpkin pie. Favorite new item this year was a basmati rice pilaf with apricots, saffron, currants and slivered almonds.

Funniest (and sweetest) moment for me when I was taking a chain saw (electric knife) to the bird and Alex brought in his acoustic guitar, pulled up a bar stool, and played troubadour. He solemnly strummed and sang while I dismembered our dinner. Little Julia came in: “Why did you put that stuff in the turkey?” she asked, referring to the onion, orange and lemon chunks, sage leaves and a rosemary branch I was pulling from the turkey.

“To make it taste good,” I said. She continued to peer, her doubt obvious.

Finally, she said, “You know, it’s funny. When turkey meat — the white part — is cut in nice pieces and put on a plate, it looks real pretty. And when a turkey is alive, with all his feathers, he’s real pretty. But like this . . . it’s just gross!!”

Yes, little grasshopper. Cooking is not for the faint of heart.

Chickens On Line

We stayed up too late last night,” I said to Buck.

“Yep. 12:30,” he replied, “and the dump trucks will be coming with more clay for the foundation no later than seven in the morning.”

“Yeah, I know, I kept you up too late. But usually, you’re the one who keeps me up too late.”

“True,” he said. “But I’ve been doing it too much lately, and it’s caught up with me.”

“I’ll come on to bed in a few minutes,” I said, “but first, I’ve got to put my chickens on line.”

Here they are — two roasted; half sent home with a friend passing through, and the rest mixed in with sauteed celery and onion and a light cream sauce over sage-scented cornbread for a second meal, accompanied by an eggplant casserole and raggedy ripe peach halves. Not great, but pretty good for a work-a-day supper.

The pics:


The first night, stuffed with an entire head of garlic, sliced crosswise, plus half a lemon and a bunch of thyme plucked from outside, the chickens are resting on a bed of thickly sliced onions, with carrots and small potatoes scattered about.


Leftovers among the home building ideas and files.

Morning will come early. Sweet dreams.

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Soft Clothes and Comfort Food

Thursday was a busy day, filled with work and errands. The next-to-last stop was at Parker Custom Built Homes, where Celeste, who makes the trains run on time, needed a signature for the Notice of Commencement for our home.

We spent a few pleasant minutes, then I raced on to the grocery store to throw some supper ingredients in a hand-held basket, anxious to get home and into my soft clothes. “Soft clothes” are the best clothes in the world. Sweats, or a cotton nightgown, or whatever is most comfortable in your drawer or closet. You know what I mean. Usually it’s old. Very soft, and no tight elastic, underwire brassieres or anything else that might bind or poke.

The best suppers seem to emerge from that blind instinct for comfort. This invented, hurry-up job was no different.

1-chicken thighs in wok

I pulled out my old wok, pressed a large clove of garlic and chopped an onion into a bit of warm olive oil in the wok. Just as they were beginning to smell fabulous, I added some chicken thighs sprinkled with pepper and herbes de Provence. After browning, a few splashes of white wine and some chicken broth made a nice simmer bath. Just before serving, I removed the chicken, then added a little bit of cream to smooth out the sauce and seriously yummify it.

To go with the chicken, I fixed a box of Mediterranean curry couscous (Near East brand, I think), and sauteed some sweet red pepper and zucchini.

2-chicken and couscous

Buck and I took our plates to the couch and ate in our soft clothes by the light of the fireplace, a sweet prescription for a good night’s sleep.


Turkey Soup


Take one turkey breast carcass (that’s a crass word, but it is what it is), add water, a chopped onion, sliced celery, sliced carrots, a little leftover dry white wine if you have it, a smidgeon of kosher salt and some freshly ground pepper and simmer for an hour or so. Then skim out all the solid ingredients and any fat from the top. Chop some fresh onion, celery, carrot, parsley and garlic. Add it to the broth. Pick out any nice bits of turkey and add to the pot. I added some Kasmati rice, but noodles would be good, too. More ground pepper, sage, thyme, wine and extra chicken broth, if needed. Simmer for a half hour or so. It’s really good.



At the stroke of Midnight tomorrow, I will turn into a twenty-first century version of my mother. Yikes, ya’ll.

Well, its almost Thanksgiving. By nature a seriously grateful critter, it’s my favorite holiday. I really don’t connect it with the traditional native Americans and pilgrims story, but more of a generalized grateful heart feeling; a nice preparation for the Christmas season. I love planning a menu, listening to all the Thanksgiving stories on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, and then there is the actual cooking. Sharing the meal is good, too, but it’s the smells I am really after. Onion, celery and green pepper sauteeing. Buttermilk cornbread baking: one for the dressing and one for Buck, who will be sniffing around the kitchen like some poor starving rogue dog. Ha. Cinnamon and fresh ground nutmeg for the sweet potato casserole. Grand marnier for the parisian coffee. My oh my oh my.

Okay. Here’s this year’s menu:


Marinated Shrimp with Capers and Dill (a perennial favorite)

Cheese Straws


Spicy Sweet Hickory Smoked Turkey Breasts

Smithfield Ham Baked In Madeira

Triple Cranberry Sauce (another favorite)

Sweet Potato Casserole

Hopkins Boarding House Squash Casserole

Sharon’s Green Bean Casserole          Ariel’s Creamed Corn

Yeast Rolls & Angel Biscuits

Darryl’s Pecan Pie                  Pumpkin Pie

Pinot Noir                               Parisian Coffee


I was going to roast a whole turkey, but the sad fact is nobody likes the dark meat except me. It’s a whole lot more practical to cook just the turkey breast. Plus, that eliminates any last minute bird wrassling. I ran across a recipe for smoked turkey breast that caused me to  remember my neglected smoker languishing out in the store house. I bought charcoal and hickory wood chunks today and am going smoke a couple of turkey breasts, dousing them first with Pickapeppa Sauce. Ever heard of it?

Inspirational Thanksgiving quote:  It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re surrounded by turkeys. Maggie reminded me of that. She saw a big turkey eating corn from one of our troughs today. It apparently knew it had been pardoned and continued scarfing down the dried niblets.

Good night, all. I rise early tomorrow to polish silver, pick magnolia leaves, and scavenge for acorns to put in a bowl just for looks. The sssssmmmmokin’ will begin on Wednesday.


Hickory Smoke and Mirrors

Sometimes when you see several days of food pictures here, it means some story I’m not sure I can tell is incubating. Other times it means I finally found just the combination of herbs and spices which results in a grilled chicken that makes my mouth go crazy.

Occasionally, like today, it’s both.




No sauce, just this mixture, rubbed into the chicken and allowed to sit for an hour or so before grilling: kosher salt, coarsely ground black pepper, a little brown sugar, garlic powder (works here, because what’s needed is a dry rub) , minced onions (dried version using a mix of regular and green onions), lemon-pepper seasoning with garlic and onion, cayenne pepper and the secret ingredient, Chipotle chile pepper. Sounds mundane to have such a spectacular result. (Just don’t be shy with the cayenne or Chipotle chile pepper.)

This one’s a keeper.


The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts: Roast Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Easy. Convenient. Low fat. They can be bought in large bags, dipped in a saline bath and individually frozen so that we may remove one, two or more. Useful for busy days.

You know there’s a “but” here. And you’re right.

Yesterday morning, for some reason, the remembered smell of a whole roasted chicken began to insinuate itself into my frontal lobes. Couldn’t shake it. Then I began thinking of mashed potatoes.

That was it. I grabbed the car keys and headed for the grocery store.

It was already four in the afternoon, so I bought a larger fryer rather than a roasting chicken, along with some golden potatoes, fresh Brussels sprouts, carrots and an onion.

For the chicken, I pre-heated the oven to 425, then rubbed a little salt and pepper inside, and stuffed it with a lemon cut in half, an entire head of garlic sliced in half (knife in the middle, not top to bottom), a bunch of fresh marjoram (wanted thyme, but the store didn’t have any and the marjoram was beautiful), then sprinkled a little lemon juice, salt and pepper on the outside, plus rubbed in a bit of olive oil. Popped it in the oven. I cooked it at 425 for about 25 minutes, then reduced the temp to 325 and added a dish of veggies to the oven to roast. The veggies were whole carrots, an onion chopped into quarters and the Brussels sprouts. Drizzled that concoction with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and dried thyme.

Soon, our cottage began to almost vibrate with the unmistakable aroma of roasting chicken. Buck and Maggie almost passed out from delight when they came in from the woods. And when Buck saw those mashed potatoes (you know they are authentic when there are still a few lumps) his eyes were like a child’s on Christmas morning.

I meant to take a picture. I really did. But we fell on that dinner like a pack of hungry dogs.

The chicken was crisp and brown on the outside, and densely flavored and moist on the inside. The garlic, lemon and marjoram had worked their magic, but barely left a fingerprint.

It was a reminder of something I knew, but had almost forgotten: a whole chicken, cooked with its parts still connected, just tastes better. A lot better.


Sunday Supper: Lemon Oregano Chicken

The good, the bad and the ugly. I’m going to try to make an entry for our everyday suppers this week. The first is a simple grilled chicken dish. I used a whole chicken, split down the middle, but individual breasts would work just as well. The herb mixture (some chopped parsley, garlic, grated lemon rind and oregano) was massaged in underneath loosened skin, then a little bit of olive oil rubbed on the outside.

Lemon Oregano Chicken (Broiled or grilled)
Corn on the Cob
Saute’ of Yellow Squash, zucchini, Sweet Red Pepper and Onion

For dessert, a couple of squares of Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate (for your health, of course)

This simple meal is a keeper. It looks and tastes like a blast of summer smack in the middle of winter.


Thanksgiving Day 2003

We had a good Thanksgiving and hope all of you did, too. It was a windy, stormy warm Panhandle Florida kind of day, building into torrents of rain through the night, followed by a strong cold front and freezing temperatures on Friday.

Here’s the menu and some recipes:

Marinated Shrimp with Capers and Dill

Roast Turkey with Herb Rub and Shitake Mushroom Gravy

Triple Cranberry Sauce

Cornbread Dressing

Hopkins Boarding House Squash Casserole

Bourbon-Laced Sweet Potatoes

Glazed Baby Turnips

Green Beans with Mustard and Thyme

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream


I had been reading about brining turkey before roasting, and decided to utilize a short-cut and bought a Kosher turkey (Empire brand) rather than brining a turkey myself. The meat was very tender and moist, but too salty for my taste. Maybe I didn’t rinse it well enough before cooking. I would appreciate feedback from any of you who have had experience with brining turkey or roasting a Kosher turkey. What has your experience been?

My favorite parts of this meal (hands down) were the shrimp with capers and dill and the triple cranberry sauce. We made supper out of the shrimp on Friday. They’re great to just have around. As to the cranberry sauce, what makes it special is the combination of cranberry juice concentrate, fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, some orange juice, and just a taste of Grand Marnier.


Marsala Saves the Day

Mary Beth’s Kitchen (North Carolina version) is officially closed for the season. Tomorrow we load the truck and the car, go have a big late lunch somewhere, then a pbj and a glass of milk for supper, and prepare to arise early and descend from the mountains down, down, down to the Gulf coast flatlands, hoping to arrive sometime before dark-thirty.

I was determined not to waste anything that could be turned into one last supper before the fridge gets spic and spanned. Surprise! We had an excellent little dinner.

Here ’tis:

Smoked almonds

Thin slices of English cucumbers and small (Flavorita) tomato halves, marinated in Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, ground pepper and a little kosher salt.

Boned chicken thighs, with sautéed onions (actually half an onion remaining in the fridge) and sliced mushrooms, sparkled up with some Florio Sweet Marsala, then finished off with the tablespoon of Dijon mustard remaining in the jar and some sour cream.

Basmati rice.

And the last two chocolate-covered ice cream bars in the freezer!

I found the Marsala when I went searching for a bottle of Pernod which I wanted to take back to Pensacola so I can make Oysters Rockefeller next week. I’m not real keen on sipping Pernod, but for certain dishes with oysters and lobster, especially, there’s just no substitute.

You guys all stay safe. I’ll be back on-line when we get our system set up in Florida. That may not happen until Monday.