Hashing over the Holidays with some Festive Recipes

Okay, the holidays are over but I am still relishing the memories.  And the leftovers. 

My friend Bonny Wolf’s book Talking With My Mouth Full was about my favorite gift and it’s great reading.  Here’s a quote:

“We cook and eat for comfort, nurture and companionship.  We cook and eat to mark the seasons and celebrate important events.  We cook and eat to connect with family and friends and with ancestors we never knew.  And through this baking and breaking bread together, we come to know who we are and where we came from.”

My son-in-law JB’s sauerkraut balls, daughter Jessie’s walnut spread, the cut-out Christmas cookies produced by grandchildren aged 4 to 12 and my friend Katy’s Nuts and Bolts  all played a part in celebrating and connecting with our family and friends.  These recipes are not about healthy eating or fashion.  They are all about familiarity.  

Today, New Year’s Day, my husband Paul is making his father’s stew.  The house smells wonderful and we expect to have a fine time this afternoon with friends and family drifting in for a bowl of stew and a glass of wine.  Across town, my daughter Jessica is putting together her New Year’s black-eyed pea casserole.  Maybe tomorrow we’ll exchange leftovers.

Happy New Year!   

xoxo, Mary

JB’s Sauerkraut Balls

“Marrying a man who owns his own deep fat fryer is a leap of faith” said daughter Rachael recently as JB was preparing his famed sauerkraut balls.  A deep fat fryer does say something.  Something about commitment to the glory of crunch. You can fry these babies up in a heavy skillet as well. Just be sure to have enough oil, heat it up hot and don’t crowd the pan.

1/2 pound mild Italian sausage

1/4 cup onion, minced

16 oz sauerkraut, well drained

3 oz cream cheese (not low fat)

1 tablespoon parsley, minced

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup flour

2 cups breadcrumbs (panko Japanese crumbs are good)

Saute the sausage with the minced onion, breaking up the sausage so that there are no large lumps. Drain.

Chop the well-drained sauerkraut finely and mix with the sausage, cream cheese, parsley, crumbs, mustard and garlic salt. Chill for at least one hour or overnight.

Roll into small balls (a melon baller works well for this).  Dip each ball sucessively into the flour, the beaten egg and finally the bread crumbs. 

Heat oil in a deep fat fryer or a heavy skillet and fry the sauerkraut balls for about 2 minutes or until lightly browned.  Drain and eat right away.  They can be made in advance and reheated at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Serve with a dipping sauce of half mayonnaise and half mustard.

Makes about 2 dozen balls.

Jessie’s Walnut Spread (“Real Sweet Totally Nuts!”)

“I got a huge amount of walnuts from my brother’s tree, cracked them, ground them and made this spread.  It was a fun project to do with the kids; cost pennies and made great gifts.” 

Shell and grind walnuts either by chopping or in a food processor. Add honey (that’s runny) to cover. Pack into small jars. 

Note: one pound of walnuts in the shell equals about 2 cups of nuts.

Katy’s (and Margaret’s) Nuts and Bolts

Talk about an old chesnut! Back in the glory days of the cocktail hour, Nuts and Bolts was a favorite nibble alongside that icy Martini.  My friend Katy Bayless tells me she makes it every Christmas for her neighbors.  Her recipe is exactly like my grandmother’s friend Margaret Edmonds from Columbus, Ohio.  

1 cup Rice Chex

1 cup Wheat Chex

1 cup Cheerios

1 cup pretzel sticks

1 cups mixed nuts

1/2 pound butter

To taste: garlic or onion salt*, dash of Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and salt.

Melt butter in a large pan (an iron frying pan is good) and add the cereals, nuts and seasonings.  Mix thoroughly.

Put in a 250 degree oven and stir every 15 minutes for 1 hour. Cool down and store in air tight containers or plastic close-able bags.

*Katy omits the garlic and onion salts but adds several dashes of Worchestershire. She also doubles the cheerios because her husband is crazy about them.  Suit yourself. 

Grandfather Leo Allman’s Beef Stew  

More of a soup than a stew, this recipe is homespun comfort itself.  It is one of those hand-me-down family recipes that instantly takes you back to a wintry day at home watching a good movie, that party with your best pals, or a night at the kitchen table with your grandparents.

2 pounds stewing beef, cut in cubes

2 tablespoons oil

Beef stock or bouillon cubes in hot water – about 2 cups liquid

2 large cans whole tomatoes (or stewed tomatoes)

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

5 potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 stalks celery, peeled and sliced

3 cabbage leaves, whole

3 bay leaves

Salt, pepper, miscellaneous seasonings*

Pat dry the beef cubes with paper towels.  In a big stew pot, heat the oil and sear the meat a few pieces at a time.  As each batch lightly browns, remove to a plate.* Put all the meat back in the pot and cover by about 2 inches with beef broth or hot water with beef bouillon cubes dissolved in it.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Add everything else and simmer very slowly for about 2 or 3 hours.  For seasoning, add about 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of sage or thyme and 1/2 teaspoon paprika.  Check for salt before serving.

Serve in bowls with french bread.

Serves 4 to 6

* A word about searing. This process is intended to quickly brown meat without cooking it through.  If the meat is wet, or the oil is not hot enough or too much is put into the pan, the result will be a lot of gray meat with a lot of juice pouring out.  It will still be good in the stew but it won’t be seared.  So: Dry meat. Hot pan with some hot oil. No crowding. 

Jessie’s Lucky New Year’s Casserole

In her own words…

You cook greens (collard, mustard, chard, etc.) in a pan with bacon and jalapenos and water and apple cider vinegar.  Cook rice with jalapenos and bacon (sounding like a theme?) and cook black-eyed peas with anything hot you can find (pepper flakes, jalapenos, etc.) plus garlic and …Bacon!  Layer: rice on the bottom, then greens, then black-eyed peas.  Top generously with pepper jack cheese.  I like a little extra vinegar on top.

It’s Lucky!!

Here are a few more details:

1 cup dried black-eyed peas, soaked the night before (or 2 cans black-eyed peas) 

1 bunch (about 1 pound) fresh greens, washed and chopped

1/2 pound bacon

1 cup rice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup (or more) apple cider vinegar

Jalapenos – fresh or pickled to taste

1 cup shredded jack cheese

If using dried peas, drain after soaking and cook in a large pan with about 2 inches of water to cover.  Add one jalapeno or 1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes, the chopped garlic and 2 slices of bacon, chopped.  Cook until peas are tender.  For canned peas, add the seasonings and a little water and simmer about 15 minutes.

Saute a few slices of bacon in a pan, drain some of the fat and add the chopped greens, jalapeno, a little water and about 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  Cook until tender.

Saute another slice or two of bacon in a pot and drain off some of the fat. Add the rice, stir to coat and add 1 1/2 cups of water (for jasmine or basmati rice or 2 cups for long grain).  Add some jalapeno, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook rice for 15 to 20 minutes until done.

In a large casserole dish, make layers starting with the rice, the greens, the peas and finally the cheese.  Sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of the vinegar. 

Heat thoroughly in a 325 oven until bubbly.

Serves 6

The Cut-Out Sugar Cookie 

Christmas is over but Valentine’s Day, President’s weekend, and spring break are on the horizon which means, for some of you, a few days at home with the kids in not-so-great weather without a plan.  A seasonal and cozy activity might just help. 

Here’s the challenge: the cut-out sugar cookie. Children really like making cookies with cutters but they always seem like such a pain. How do you make dough that’s not a sticky mess? How do they get  onto the cookie sheet and still sort of resemble what was cut out? Making cookies once a year or once every two years, I always forgot just how awful that whole process was.  But finally, I’ve figured out how to do it without a lot of teeth gnashing.

  1.  Make the dough the night before.  Have the kids help with the stirring and measuring if you must but remember, what they really like is the decorating so I suggest you start them out fresh the following day with the dough all ready to go.
  2. Roll the dough out on lightly floured wax paper.  Be sure your rolling pin is floured and the surface of the dough is floured.  Don’t use a lot of flour but keep adding just a little to keep things smooth.  Don’t dawdle with the rolling.
  3. Cut out the cookies with the cutters and then put the whole sheet of paper in the freezer for about 5 or ten minutes.  Once they’ve firmed up, it’s a snap to peel them off the paper and onto the cookie sheet.
  4. Line the cookie sheet. Parchment or non-stick baking paper is the best thing to have happened to home bakers that I can think of.  You can use your sheet pans over and over without washing in between and there’s no more prying the cookies off the sheet. Don’t even consider baking without this marvellous stuff.
  5. Set up a decorating station.  I use my dining room table, covered with a sheet.  For unbaked cookies:  Put various colored sugars in small bowls (the shaker tops are just frustrating). For baked and cooled cookies: Make colored icing (kids 5 and up can do this) using confectioners sugar, food coloring and a few drops of water to a spreadable consistency.  Have toothpicks or small brushes for painting.  Each child needs a little elbow room for their creations and to cut down on the squabbling.     

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

This recipe can easily be doubled.  Once the first batch is started, you can get a kind of assembly line going and have the kids alternate cutting out cookies and decorating.  About decorating: colored sugar needs to be sprinkled on before baking.  Use icing after the cookies are baked and cooled.

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 2/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Wax paper

Various cutters

Sprinkles, colored sugar, silver balls

For colored icings: small bowls of confectioners’ sugar mixed with a tiny bit of water. Add food coloring.

Toothpicks or small kid’s brushes

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until fluffy (this takes a few minutes).  Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat.  Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and nutmeg and stir into the butter mixture.

Shape the dough into a large (1/2 inch) square and cut into 4 equal pieces.  Wrap each piece in plastic and refrigerate overnight (or at least 3 hours).  Let soften about 10 minutes before rolling.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using once piece at a time, roll the dough on a floured piece of wax paper to about a 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out cookies with the cutters (if they stick, dip them in flour) and put the whole sheet of paper in the refrigerator to firm up. 

Pull away the dough surrounding the cookies. Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and space them about 1 inch apart.  Put the scraps together and refrigerate them to reroll later.  At this point, the cookies can be decorated with sprinkles and colored sugar.

Bake until light brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Cool.  Plain cookies can now be decorated with confectioners’ sugar icing using toothpicks or small brushes.

Continue rolling and baking the remaining dough.  Store the cookies in large tins or other airtight container. 

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Thanksgiving – Yikes!

It’s just a few days away and you’ve been asked to bring ‘something’… I suggest my friend Pat Devine’s potato dish.  One of the least exciting elements of getting the feast to table is how to keep things hot.  On Thursday, in thousands of households, there will be nail biting over last minute mashed potatoes.  But hold on there, pilgrims!

Pat’s potatoes can actually be made in advance and while you’re sawing through that turkey, her ‘souffle’ can be quietly heating up.  Try it!

I’m also including my sister Claudia’s turkey roasting method in case you misplaced it.  It does require that you stick around the house but that’s part of the holiday, right?

Careful readers will immediately scream “Retreads!” at these recipes but be charitable: 

Right now, I’m in Paris and cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 100 people who come to Jim Haynes’ house.  Jim has dinners every Sunday night for about 100 people and has been doing it for the past 30 years.  The cooks are volunteers and anyone can come for a modest contribution.  Thanksgiving is a lot of fun with a huge crowd of American, French, English and assorted other nationalities who either are homesick, hungry, curious or a mixture of all three. 

Jim admits he’s no cook but at Thanksgiving, he does have a favorite and this will appeal to the Southerner in all of you… If you’re having a hundred folks in your cozy living room, this should feed them nicely.  (But I’ll cut down the recipe just to be fair.)

Following are the recipes.  Gotta go and find some cranberries in this town!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Mary

MASHED POTATO SOUFFLE

I got this originally from Pat Devine, my neighborhood friend. It isn’t really a souffle but I call it that because it does puff up and get nice and brown on top.  It’s unusual to find a hot potato dish that can be made in advance and actually be reheated.  In fact, Pat used to freeze this. A great dish if you have to bring something for Thanksgiving dinner.  Don’t overdo the garlic.    

  • 10 (about 2 ½ lbs) medium red potatoes
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • Garlic – 1 clove, minced
  • Chives (optional) – 1 – 2 teaspoons minced
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Butter 

Cook and mash potatoes.   Mix the cream cheese and sour cream and add to the hot potatoes.  Add the garlic,chives and baking powder  and put the mixture into a greased 8 inch baking dish or round souffle pan.  Dot with butter. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  This can be made in advance.Serves 4 – 6 

LARGE RECIPE

To make the peeling simpler, I sometimes use russets instead of the smaller red potatoes.

  • 12 large baking potatoes or 5 pounds of medium red potatoes
  • 1 lb. cream cheese
  • 1 lb. sour cream
  • Garlic – 1 large clove, minced
  • Chives (optional) – 1 heaping tablespoon, minced
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Butter 

 

Proceed as above using two pans or one large oblong baking dish (13 x 9).

This will serve at least a dozen people.  It’s rich so just a spoonful will do if there are other vegetables.

 

CLAUDIA BUSHEE’S MOST DELICIOUS ROAST TURKEY

(Also, gravy)

Claudia’s method – which was her father, Derak Ward’s method first – is suitable for any size turkey.  It produces a beautifully browned bird that is perfectly moist. A package of Cheesecloth is an essential purchase. 

In her own words…

Clean and stuff bird.  Fold a large piece of cheese cloth so that it completely covers the turkey.  If the cloth is triple, that is fine.  Remove cheesecloth but keep it in its form.You are going to need at least a pound of butter, if not more.  Melt ½ pound in a little bowl.  Spread some on the naked uncooked bird.  Then immerse the cloth in the bowl o’ butter.  Slap the cheesecloth on the bird.

Every half hour, you must do some thing.  At the first half hour check, baste with butter on top of the cheesecloth.  Don’t be stingy with the butter.  The next half hour interval (so the bird has been in an hour), remove the cheesecloth.  Dip in water.  Get fairly wet but don’t wash all the butter out of the cloth.  Pour more butter over the cheesecloth once the cloth has been draped over the bird again.Alternate between just basting and pulling the whole thing off on the half hour.  Remove the cloth the last half hour to allow turkey to brown.

I follow the New York Times cookbook low temp roasting method to know how long to cook. 

Mary’s note: The low temp method is 325 degrees throughout; length of time depends on whether your turkey is stuffed or not (stuffed is usually an extra ½ hour cooking) and its weight.     

Turkey Stock

Plan to make this stock the day before Thanksgiving so that you can use it for the gravy. 

Neck, giblets, liver of the turkey

2 large onions, peeled and chopped in a rough dice

2carrots, peeled and chopped in a rough dice

3 stalks celery, chopped in a rough dice

Handful of celery leaves

A few garlic cloves

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme

5 sprigs fresh parsley

4 or 5 pepper corns

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with cold water.  Bring just to a boil and skim the accumulated foam from the surface.  Reduce heat and simmer very slowly for two hours.  The broth should have a robust taste but will be somewhat insipid due to lack of salt.  Strain and discard the meat and vegetables.  Stir in several spoons of salt or to taste.  Cool and refrigerate.  When cold, skim off the fat. 

Turkey Gravy

Turkey stock (see preceding recipe) – about 6-8 Cups

Pan drippings

¾ to 1 Cup flour

Salt and pepper

Bring the turkey stock to a simmer in a large pot and keep warm. Combine the accumulated pan drippings from the turkeys into one roasting pan, warm the pan over medium heat and add the flour (shaking it in through a sieve to remove lumps) whisking continuously.  Cook this mixture – the roux – until the flour is cooked (about 8 to 10 minutes, approximately).  Add the heated broth several cups at a time stirring with each addition. When the gravy reaches the desired thickness, lower the heat and simmer several minutes.  Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary.  Let cool and reheat for serving.

Jim’s Glazed Carrots

This is less of a recipe and more of an engineering marvel.  Jim Haynes somehow perfected a method of packing a large pot with row after row of carrots, standing on top of each other end to end.  Once that’s done, the rest is easy.  

For 100 servings                                               For 25 servings 

22 lbs carrots                                         5 ½ lbs carrots            

2 lbs light brown sugar                          ½ lb light brown sugar  

1 lb butter, unsalted                              4 oz butter, unsalted

5 cinnamon sticks                                1-2 cinnamon sticks     

Salt and pepper                                    Salt and pepper

Water                                                               Water 

Wash and peel the carrots. Slice into julienne strips about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. (Another general way to think of it is: cut the carrots in half, then each half in eighths)  They will not all be the same but take care not to cut the carrots too thinly or they will be too soft when cooked.

Now, the engineering part.  In the large pot, (we use a very tall-sided pot, but a fat will one do as well), stack the carrots in bunches on end.  Continue until the bottom of the pot is covered with a tight row of carrots.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Repeat with a second row on top of the first.  Continue in this manner until all the carrots are tightly pack in the pot.  There should be about 2 to 3 inches remaining at the top.Add water to the pot just to the top of the carrots. Strew on top of this:   the butter, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.Bring the contents to a boil. (This will take quite some time)  Immediately turn off the heat. Keep the pot covered, leaving the carrots to cook as they cool down. They can simply sit there stewing in their juices for a couple of hours.  Reheat before serving if necessary but they stay hot quite a long time.