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Spice Up Your Holidays: Give the Gift of Homemade Salt & Pepper Blends

Spice Up Your Holidays: Give the Gift of Homemade Salt & Pepper Blends

Making Labels

Salt & Pepper in da House

Seasonings Greetings! Just saying that reminds me of the Christmas card from years ago where I clipped measuring spoons to my lobes and stood among hip-high bags of spices in a market – caption: Seasonings Greetings. Cheesy? You betcha. But that’s the way I roll. And giving gifts that are edible is another way I roll. Be honest. What rivals something homemade? Maybeeeeeee….something that you can use up? I think so. This salt & pepper gift pairing does double duty as homemade and consumable, and it is a perfect stocking stuffer.  Or a gift exchange. Or a hostess gift. 

Citrus Salt Ingredients

Citrus and Seeds

This salt blend benefits from a quick round of oven-drying citrus zest. Combining orange, lemon and grapefruit adds just the right amount of sweetness and acidity. And, the added fennel and celery seeds add a hint of fresh herbs, but provide a shelf life longer-lasting than fresh. 

Fennel seeds and citrus

Picking the Right Salt

I am a big fan of Maldon Sea Salt and use it for its flaky form as a finishing salt.  It’s delicate and thin, with crispy flakes. And great news! When I initially started making salts a few years ago (my maiden voyage in gift salts was a trio of this spiced citrus, along with kale-walnut and hazelnut-spice), I found a 3.3 pound tub of Maldon which had to be shipped from England, where the salt has been harvested along the coast since the early 1800s. Today that tub is available on Amazon. It makes using an uber high quality salt easily sourced and affordable for gift making, with plenty left over for personal use. Try it on anything that needs a sprinkle of salt – like chocolate espresso shortbread or salted caramels. 

Maldon sea salt

Zesting the Citrus Peel

When zesting the citrus to make the salt blend, I like to use a bar tool that makes long thin strips (use the section with the little holes, not the channel knife.) But you can also easily use a microplane which works well in removing only the outer peel of the citrus. The key is to avoid grating too deeply, thereby grabbing the white pith which adds unwanted bitterness.  

Mix all the salt ingredients and spread out on a parchment-lined sheet pan and pop in the oven. It should take about 20 minutes to dry out the zest, but check after 15 minutes and give the salt a stir. 

Spiced Citrus Salt

From Zesting to Zesty

And what’s salt without pepper? Salt: sister from another mister. Pepper: brother from another mother. Salt & Pepper: we are fam-i-ly! This particular pepper blend was introduced to me by a dear friend. I made my own ratios so the end result is a bit different, but she was spot on in marrying cardamon and coriander with black pepper to get a blend with more zip than any ingredient could deliver on its own. Yahoo!

Pepper, Coriander, Cardamom

Once the blends are assembled and the salt is fully cooled, the only thing left to do is put them in cute little spice jars, tied with a decorative label identifying the goods inside. I have taken these to a gift exchange, and this was the top sought after gift once the stealing began. Showing up with an armful of these salt & pepper gifts at any holiday party is sure to earn you the Best Guest tiara!! Enjoy!

Salt & Pepper Gifts

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Filling the Spice Jars

Give the Gift of Homemade Salt and Pepper Blends


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8 pairs (100ml jar) 1x

Description

Nothing is better than a handmade holiday gift. In my book, bonus points if it can be consumed and if it adds a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to my pantry. This spiced citrus salt and zesty pepper blend is my favorite spice combo! Salt & Pepper, you rock!!!


Ingredients

Scale

Spiced Citrus Salt

  • 3 cups flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
  • Zest of 3 oranges (I like the long strands of using a bar zester, but a microplane works too).
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 2 grapefruits
  • 1 Tablespoon celery seed, ground in a spice grinder
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seed, ground in a spice grinder

Zesty Pepper Blend

  • 1 cup ground black pepper
  • 1 cup coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cup cardamom seeds

Instructions

Make the Spiced Citrus Salt:

Preheat oven to 275oF.  Line sheet pan with parchment. 

Mix salt with citrus zests and ground seeds. Mix until well combined. Spread evenly on the parchment paper and bake until the zest is fully dehydrated, about 20 minutes.  Check after about 15 minutes and stir the salt, turning over the bottom which may still be a bit wet.  Once completely dried, remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Transfer to sterilized airtight containers. Stores well for at least 3 months.

Makes 4 cups and will fill 8 100ml (3.4 ounce) jars.

Make the Zesty Pepper Blend:

Grind each seed separately, in batches as needed, in a spice grinder, mini chopper or food processor. 

Mix all spices together.

Transfer to sterilized airtight containers. Stores indefinitely.

Makes 2 1/2 cups and will fill 8+ 100ml (3.4 ounce) jars.

Notes

For zesting citrus, I prefer the long strands from a bar zester versus the shorter zest from a microplane. However, I’ve been known to do a bit of both and combine.

  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Spices

Lining up the Gifts

Don’t forget the yumster English toffee that I wrote about last year. It, too, makes a wonderful holiday gift. Cookie Exchange ladies – brace yourselves. This is headed your way!

Toffee Ready To Go

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Gobble Gobble: Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gobble Gobble: Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gentleman Jack kicks up this ginger pumpkin cheesecake a full notch!

Time is nigh for setting the table and facing that big ole mess we call family…and all that that entails. This seems to be the one holiday when everyone descends on the same day and comes with baggage instead of picnic baskets. But let’s be real – we are indeed so lucky that we can in fact gather, break bread and give thanks. I am hoping the biggest debate your gang faces on Thursday is sweet potato or pumpkin. (I’m looking at you Val – duh, pumpkin!) And my picnic basket this year is loaded with a secret weapon – a dessert that you can make a day or two ahead. Check that box. Move on. Worry about the Beaujolais Nouveau and who will do the dishes.  Dessert is mission-accomplished. This pumpkin ginger cheesecake falls smack in the middle of  the “consider it done” category. That of course assumes you can keep it safeguarded til after dinner on Thursday. It’s tempting.

Fall in Northern Michigan

Thanksgiving dinner often gets a bad rap for being a brown meal. But I love the vibrant colors of fall squashes, pumpkins and gourds. Use them for table settings, roast them for a side or salad,  make a quick bread, or whip them up in a dessert.
Setting The Table

Cheesecakes are pretty flawless desserts to prepare even if you haven’t made them before, as long as you follow a few simple tips. They are super sturdy, so you don’t need a deft hand. I would argue quite the opposite. You really don’t want to be dainty with the batter – don’t incorporate lots of air, do bang the pan, get aggressive. Be bold. If you follow my instructions and read the accompanying notes, you will be a star performer – dare I say, a pastry chef. Start with your ingredients at room temperature, use a good quality springform, and use a food processor, not a mixer. A processor will combine the ingredients without incorporating air which will cause the cheesecake to puff and fall, leaving a crater in the center. Allow all the time needed for cooling to room temperature and then refrigerating. It takes time, but not active time. And know that if all else fails – craters or cracks – you will be slathering a cream  topping on and that can cover a multitude of mistakes. Yes, indeed. You are definitely a pastry chef.

Gentleman Jack Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

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Pumpkin ginger cheesecake

Tennessee Whiskey Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 12 1x

Description

This pumpkin ginger cheesecake is surprisingly light, yet creamy. The nutty crust has that I want more-ish quality! And, a dose of Gentleman Jack Daniels keeps the party rolling.  


Ingredients

Scale

Crust:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Filling:

  • 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 ounces Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

Topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Instructions

Make the Crust:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine flour, brown sugar, pecans, and melted butter and mix until crumbs adhere. Press into a 9 or 10″ sturdy nonstick springform pan and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Remove and cool. Wrap pan in heavy duty foil. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

Make the Filling:

In food processor, puree pumpkin until smooth. Add cream cheese and puree until smooth. Add Gentleman Jack, sugar, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg and pulse until mixed. Add eggs and pulse 2 – 3 times only until just combined. Do not overprocess.

Pour filling into cooled crust and bang pan on the counter to eliminate extra air. Place in a roasting pan and fill with hot water, halfway up the side of the springform. Bake for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours or until set. It may still be a bit wobbly in the center, but it will firm up as it cools.

Turn oven off and leave the cheesecake in the water bath in the oven for 30 minutes more. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and carefully remove the springform from the water.  Remove foil and cool on wire rack until room temperature. Refrigerate until fully chilled.

Make the Topping:

Combine sour cream, Gentleman Jack, and powdered sugar and spread on top of cheesecake. Refrigerate until set.

Gently run a knife or thin metal spatula around inside edge of pan. When cheesecake has released, open outer pan ring and remove.

Notes

Feel free to substitute a dark Rum or Bourbon if you prefer. 

Tips to cheesecake success:

  • Room temperature ingredients
  • A sturdy springform pan
  • Combine the filling without beaters or a whisk. I use a food processor
  • Wrap the springform pan in foil and bake in a roasting pan filled with hot water half-way up the cheesecake pan
  • Cool slowly and refrigerate well before serving
  • More tips on how to remove the pesky springform bottom below in comments
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 90 min (plus chilling time)
  • Category: Desserts
  • Cuisine: American

Happy Thanksgiving and Gobble Gobble!

Thanksgiving bounty

This post contains affiliate links. For more of my must-have favorites, including the mashed potato essential – a potato ricer – and the best book  ever on Thanksgiving, visit my shop.

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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Hunger: Breaking (and Sharing) Bread

Hunger: Breaking (and Sharing) Bread

Harry Truman

I’m struck once again by the cyclical nature of the universe. Different times, different responses, same problem – a world full of hunger. This month marks seventy years since Harry Truman broadcast the first televised address from the White House. Since most households still didn’t have television in that post-war era, the story came across the airwaves as well. Truman’s request was basic, yet eloquent:

  1. Use no meat on Tuesdays
  2. Use no poultry or eggs on Thursdays
  3. Save a slice of bread every day
  4. Public eating places will serve bread and butter only on request

Food Rations

“It is simple and straightforward,” said the President. “It can be understood by all. Learn it – memorize it – keep it always in mind.” (NY Times, Oct 6, 1947) Winter was settling in and Americans cutting their consumption of proteins and grains would help hungry Europeans struggling to rebuild.  Church World Service (I’m a board member) started with Friendship Trains that crisscrossed the country picking up food donations for transport to Europe. The last stop was New York City where a ticker tape parade sent these cars on their way, while celebrating Americans’ proud role in this hunger effort.

Hunger Breaking Sharing Bread

Truman went on to say “If the peace should be lost because we failed to share our food with hungry people, there would be no more tragic example in all history of a peace needlessly lost” … ” the food-saving program announced tonight offers an opportunity to each of you to make a contribution to the peace.” 

The White House menus for that Tuesday and Thursday?

Tuesday luncheon

–grapefruit, cheese soufflé, buttered peas, grilled tomatoes, chocolate pudding

Tuesday dinner

–clear chicken soup, broiled salmon steak, scalloped potatoes, string beans, sautéed eggplant, perfection salad, sliced peaches

Thursday luncheon

–corn soup, peppers stuffed with rice and mushrooms, lima beans, glazed carrots, baked apples

Thursday dinner

–melon balls, baked ham, baked sweet potatoes, asparagus, cauliflower, green salad, coffee mallow

Got a hankering for perfection salad? Mrs. Truman would be so proud!

Perfection Salad

perfection salad recipe

 

That was then; this is now!

If only those efforts ended world hunger. With the earth’s population tripling in those 70 years (while the planet has pretty much stayed the same size!), hunger continues to persist. Obviously, I’m be dramatic and grossly simplifying what is a complicated situation. There are many factors at play, but there ARE also a few things we can all do to be part of the solution.

Sharing is Caring

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization marks World Food Day each year on October 16, the day on which the Organization was founded in 1945. Despite many gains over the last decade, global hunger is unfortunately on the rise again. The newest numbers show an estimated 815 million people around the world are hungry and malnourished, especially those living in rural areas. Even here in the US, 85% of those in rural counties report persistent poverty – with many also suffering from food insecurity and childhood hunger.  How can you help??? I thought you’d never ask!

Hunger

Walk for the Cause

All year long, but especially in the fall, walkers from all faiths recruit pledges to support their walks to benefit the CROP program. Over the past 25 years, more than $300 million has been raised to benefit those in need both in the local community and around the world. People of all ages join to form teams and raise awareness to the plight of so many who are hungry. You too can organize a team. What a great way to enjoy this weather and help a brother out! If you are not a walker, but still want to help raise awareness and funds, you can add your financial support to my hunger campaign at TeamCWS.

Be Less Wasteful

In the US, we are still wasting 40% of our food supply. That’s a crying shame.  About a year ago when I first started writing about food waste, I took on two very simple habits and have not only saved food, but saved a stash of cash while doing so.

40% Food Waste

 

  1. Before I lose any fruit that is about to spoil, I trim, peel, chop or whatever is needed and put it in Ziplocs in the freezer. Ripe bananas ready for banana bread? Check! Blueberries for my smoothie. You bet!! I sometimes find multiple things going at once and make smoothie packs…. like one cup blueberries, 1/2 pear and 1/4 avocado in one Ziploc ready for my chia smoothie. Just add coconut milk and chia. (Thanks Lyn-Genet!)
  2. And before I lose vegetables, I make soup. If I don’t have time to make a full batch, I will sauté the vegetables and cover them in stock and then freeze, so I have a soup starter when I do have time.

You can thank me later!

Feeding the Future

As all this waste was churning through my mind, I happened upon a food truck on Columbus Avenue one Sunday afternoon. Or was it? No, despite handing out burgers (or were they?), it was not a food truck. It was The Economist. They were wrangling subscribers, but by highlighting a very real issue, while handing out pea burgers. How do our culinary trends and food production impact our planet? I have to say this graphic caught my eye.

Cost of Livestock

Their campaign Feeding the Future (please, please, please check out the amazing info here!) raises very real questions about everyday decisions that have meaningful impact on climate change.  Meatless Monday does more than cut your own cholesterol. It reduces methane gases. More greenhouse emissions from agriculture than all motorized transport combined? Color me surprised.

Pea Burger

I tried their pea-based burger and it surprisingly tasted and felt like beef. I am not sure that is a good thing. I usually like alternatives that are a replacement with a whole new concept. Innovate don’t mimic. But the point was well taken – you can have a meaty burger without killing a cow. Don’t worry – I’m not going all veg-head on you, but if we sub a few alternatives here and there, those drops in a bucket across millions of people will add up to positive impact. I swear it!

#RealSchoolFood

And if none of this is for you, here is something that you can do for school children with virtually no effort. Everybody is for healthy food for schoolchildren, right?

Real School Food

Snap a photo of yourself/your friend/your dog holding a sign that is tagged #RealSchoolFood and post on social media. Make sure it is public (if posting on Facebook) and tag my friend Chef Ann! (Facebook: @Chef Ann Foundation, Twitter: @ChefAnnFnd, Instagram: @chefannfoundation). And for that tiny little effort on your part, the sponsors of #RealSchoolFood will donate a $1 to improve school meals for all our kids. I call that a winner!

Find a way to make a difference. And help spread the word. Here’s to better eating for all!!

#RealSchoolFood

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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Best Gifts are Homemade: English Toffee aka Grandmother’s Butterscotch

Best Gifts are Homemade: English Toffee aka Grandmother’s Butterscotch

Toffee Ready To Go

It’s impossible for me to wrap my brain around the holidays without thinking about family and reflecting on memories from childhood. Especially when it comes to food. English toffee? Yaas!!! All those special meals and holiday traditions that started in the kitchen. Hells Yaas!!! I was lucky enough to have three amazing women (four, if you count Florence on whom they all relied) that each had their own special place in the kitchen. Mom read Gourmet magazine in the 60s and was the first of all my friend’s mothers to make spinach dip. In a bread bowl. Mic drop! She loved party-fied food and was always looking for that next something special that was sure to dazzle. Her mother – Gaga – was legend for fancy food. Crab bisque with a splash of sherry or Belgian waffles dusted with powdered sugar. To be fair, I mainly saw her at holidays and birthdays so my sampling may not be statistically valid and may show a bit of bias. But when it came to Christmas cooking, nobody beat Grandmother Keck (“don’t call me Gramma!!!”). She was well known in our small town and she shared her holiday baking with all. Her English toffee was the best in town. JMHO.

Actually, all her Christmas candy made her a rock star – date balls, divinity, chocolate salted-peanut clusters, apricot balls and what she called butterscotch. It was really toffee. The thing that stands out in my mind is that I don’t have a single written recipe of hers. I think she just really knew how to cook. I have recipes from the other three women, but not her. Yet I can trace many of the things I know how to make straight to her. She was nearly 70 when I was born (she’s the one on the right in this photo) and had had more than a few years to hone her kitchen skills. This photo is from my baptism which was on December 18….a few years ago. As the story goes, city water was out and the font was dry, so they sourced my eternal life spring from a church furnace. It really explains so much when you think about it.

Katy's Christening with All the Family

I spent a good bit of time cooking with Grandmother and usually came home and wrote it all down. I have to smile when I see in my handwriting a note on chess pies: don’t remove the pie from the oven when you set it back. Even then my computational brain was worried that turning the oven down might result in a period when the temperature was between the high temperature and the more moderate one and that would not be correct. Should I wait til it reaches the new temp? I understand that little girl’s thinking so well. Her baking skills were not so great – removing a pie mid-bake would be disastrous – but she asked the right questions. 

I had not made butterscotch in many decades when I made it three years ago. I didn’t even have to look for proportions because it was so clearly ingrained on my brain. I call for 14 Tablespoons of butter below but the way Grandmother told me: use two sticks of butter and take 1 Tablespoon off of each. Add 1 pound of brown sugar. Boom. Done. Never forgot it.

Butterscotch aka English Toffee

She too made it in long ribbons over rows of pecans. I have changed nothing.  I also love that she taught me hard crack candy using a cold water test. She didn’t have or need a candy thermometer. Just a glass of ice water in which you drizzle the candy and then test to make sure it cracks and crunches when you bite into it.  I remember going to others’ houses and having a gummy crumbly crystallized version of this. They had not taken the sugar far enough.  At 10, I knew the difference and there was no comparison to butterscotch done right. Might have been a little judgy, was a little judgy. But come on people, make it right!

The cold water test is always good to know in case you don’t have a thermometer or it’s not working right and needs recalibration.  As sugar cooks, the more the water is cooked out, the harder it will be.  Drizzling a teaspoon of the candy into cold water will result in increasingly harder textures as the cooking time lengthens.  Starting with “thread”, then passing through the “balls” (soft, firm, hard) and on to soft crack, a hard crack, the sixth stage, is reached at about 300oF. 

Rows of Pecans

It is best to be ready to pour when that moment ………more like 1/2 or even 1/4 moment…..comes, so in advance I lay out rows of pecans on wax paper on the counter. The second the candy hits hard crack, the color reddens a bit, it becomes very pourable and there is a whiff of char in the air.  Turn the heat off and move quickly.  When I pour, I walk down the kitchen island pouring on the row farthest away within reach, then reversing the pour on the next row, etc.  For this much toffee, I make 8 rows of pecans, each about 4 feet long. I start pouring on the fourth row back, then 3, 2, and 1. Then I walk around the island and repeat.

Rows of Toffee

The toffee will set immediately. Because of the amount of butter, it will peel right off the wax paper, breaking naturally every few pecans. I like to try for 3-4 nuts per piece.  Since the candy is in long strips, I was happy to pack my gifts in the cutest rectangular candy tins I found on Amazon. Rectangular works so much better than round tins.

Rectangular Tins

English Toffee with Pecans

  • 1 pound light brown sugar (you could also use dark brown, but the light brown is easier to track changes in color)
  • 14 Tablespoons butter, cut into 1 Tablespoon pieces
  • 4 cups of pecans, about 12 ounces

Cover your work surface with wax paper and lay out the pecans in rows, about one inch apart.  I got 8 rows, each about 4 feet long.

Pecans in Waiting

In a large non-stick sauté pan, melt the butter with the brown sugar and stir until combined. This pan and your spoon (no plastic spoons or rubber scrapers) will be the next 30 minutes of your life. Relax. It’s kind of Zen. For the first 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stir casually as the butter and sugar melt. It will likely look like there is too much butter at that stage. The butter will not entirely incorporate.

Once combined, turn the heat down to medium and stir constantly.  Assuming you are not at altitude* (you are on your own there, but you are probably used to compensations), practice your wax on/wax off stirring technique.  Not much will happen for 20 minutes, but don’t walk away. Keep stirring. It will start to bubble and look kind of gritty, and it will be a bit stiff. 

Not Hard Crack

Do as I say, not as I do. This spoon didn’t make it any further because I realized the sugar was about to get way too hot. Only use metal or wooden spoons.

Stir on. Between 20 and 25 minutes, it will start to get much more liquid and very shiny. You are getting close. Start cold water testing (see above) after 15 minutes, just so you know what you are dealing with.  I made this twice yesterday and both times the magic happened right at 28 minutes (not including that first 5 minutes). That is when it turned reddish, I got a cold water hard crack, it became very liquid and easy to pour, and it fell in ribbons off the spoon. Right then exactly, I also got a whiff of char. If you are using a candy thermometer this will be about 300oF. Here’s more info on temperatures and candy stages.

When you are getting toward a hard crack in your cold water test, it is time for diligence.  And once you get a whiff of char, turn off the heat and move the pan ASAP.  Remember the pan is hot so this is still cooking. Pour quickly using the technique I outlined above.

Even if you miss a few nuts or your pouring is uneven, no one will know once it is broken into pieces.  I try to get every last bit, just pouring the last dribs and drabs in a puddle and perhaps studding with a few more nuts on top.

Filled 6 tins

*Julia Child side bar note: Once I watched the grand lady make a caramel in Aspen at Food & Wine.  She wasn’t prepared for high altitude, but quickly realized the liquid was cooking off too quickly and at a lower than expected temperature.  It was a surprise, but she was unflappable. She grabbed a nearby bottle of rum – the nearest liquid – and muttered, “Well then, I have added some rum, probably not enough. But, I need some for me, too.”

Grandmother Keck's Butterscotch

Jingle Bells!

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© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2016. All rights reserved.

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Hungry for More? Turkey Tetrazzini – The Let’s-Keep-This-Party-Rolling Leftover Fave

Hungry for More? Turkey Tetrazzini – The Let’s-Keep-This-Party-Rolling Leftover Fave

Turkey Tetrazzini

Are you full yet? I know. I know. The mind reels that we are still talking about food. But trust me – this dish does not disappoint. And, be honest. Turkey sandwiches start to feel redundant. Turkey Tetrazzini, a dish I grew up on, however is creamy, hearty, and full of mushroomy goodness. My mom found her recipe (very, very loosely translated below, in part because 50 years ago directions were vague and ingredients were more a suggestion when “the homemaker” already knew how to cook) in the 1968 Panhellenic Meats Cookbook. “Every home should have a good meats cookbook. This cookbook is filled with wonderful recipes submitted by sorority members over the nation. Here you will find all sorts of mouth-watering meats – from tried-and-true favorites such as hamburger pie to exotic foreign treats.” These gals surely got around because despite foreign dishes starting off with lasagna and Canadian meat pie, they also ranged from Turkey to Taiwan to Tahiti.

I'll take that one

Speaking of the 60s…who’s doesn’t like a good road trip to pick out dinner? I’ll take THAT one!

Tetrazzini was invented in a hotel (debates over whether it was San Francisco or NYC) in the early 1900s. Opera star Luisa Tetrazzini is its namesake. There is seemingly no standard for what ingredients are required, but it generally includes poultry, a cream sauce and long thin pasta. The Meats Cookbook recipe may or may not call for sautéing the onion in bacon grease. I am not sure I can in good conscience call for that. And I’m here to assure you that I always choose the healthier EVOO. But you should know that is probably a lie. It is definitely a lie. It’s your cholesterol. Do what you will. For goodness sake, it’s the day after Thanksgiving. Is this really the time to show restraint?

Instead of talking turkey, let’s just let the Tetrazzini do the talking!

Hot from the Oven

Turkey Tetrazzini

  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • About 4 ounces butter, divided per instructions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, stem removed, seeded and diced
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 4 cups chopped turkey
  • 2 cups grated cheddar
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 6 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled (are you saving the fat for shallot sauté?)
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs or seasoned breadcrumbs

Heaping Spoonful

Preheat the oven to 350oF. Butter a 9x13x2-inch 3-quart casserole.

Make the White Sauce or Béchamel:

I’m switching it up here and making a cross between a milk-based Béchamel white sauce and a chicken broth based Velouté. That makes it creamy and also a bit lighter.

Start by making a roux, using 3 Tablespoons each of butter and flour. Melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux the texture of wet sand. Let it start to bubble and continue for one minute. Whisk in the milk and chicken stock. Combine well. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the celery and peppers and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened, whisking from time to time to make sure the sauce does not stick, and the vegetables are softened.

Prep the Veggies:

Meanwhile, add 1 Tablespoon of the remaining butter (or the bacon fat if using) to a sauté pan and add the shallots. Sauté until golden and a bit crispy, about 8 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.

Add an additional 2 Tablespoons of butter to the pan and sauté the mushrooms until browned.

Cook the Pasta:

Cook the pasta according to package directions, under-cooking by a minute or so. Drain.

Time to Combine:

In a small bowl, combine the parsley, shallots and Parmesan.

In a large bowl, add the pasta, turkey, mushrooms, cheddar, and gradually add the sauce, folding to combine evenly.  Add half the parsley/shallot/Parmesan mixture and toss well. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish.

Top the pasta mixture with the remaining parsley/shallot/Parmesan mixture and sprinkle with the bacon and breadcrumbs, dotting with 1 Tablespoon butter.

Oven Ready

Bake it Off:

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes until bubbly.

Note: Sometimes when I make this, I let it cool to room temperature and freeze until I need it. In that case, I add all the parsley/shallot/Parmesan mixture to the pasta before freezing, and wrap well, without additional toppings. Then when I am ready to bake it off, I top the thawed casserole with bacon, breadcrumbs, and a bit of fresh Parmesan or grated cheddar. Per Darryl Hannah in Steel Magnolias, “it’s in the freezes beautifully section of my cookbook.”

Bon appetit!

Serves ??? How much do you love this? At least 6 or 8, and more if you are willing to share.

Heaping Helping

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