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Culinary Memories – Tastes Like Home

Culinary Memories – Tastes Like Home

Eat, Darling, EatHere’s hoping you had a wonderful feast and joy-filled Thanksgiving last week. But in case you were simply too busy stuffing your faces to catch this little jewel on Eat, Darling, Eat, I am linking it here. Almost too good to miss, right? Those bangs?!?! Anybody else have the Scotch-tape-and-cut method of home barbery? That swing set with the chair for the baby? Oh my! The childhood memories? The culinary memories?

I heard from EDE creators Aimee Lee Ball and Steve Baum last spring about “possible synergy”. When I read what Eat, Darling, Eat was all about, I knew I wanted in. Eat, Darling, Eat is a “multicultural collection of original stories by and about mothers and daughters—each with a connection to food. It’s a rich pathway for exploring that essential relationship—the unique personalities and formative experiences—whether told from the mother’s or daughter’s perspective. Some stories are poignant tributes to beloved mothers, while others are about more complicated women” (don’t even look at me!) “who created chaos, even damage. Many stories reveal immigrant backgrounds—whether hilarious, heartwarming, or heartbreaking.” I was so happy to see my story become the Thanksgiving feature, with a share of my/Mom’s/some sorority cookbook’s Turkey Tetrazzini. It’s no coincidence how a major holiday can inextricably link all childhood memories with culinary memories, and ultimately Taste Like Home

“So many memories of my youth are wrapped around the exquisite specialties lovingly created by my mom and both grandmothers. Individual chess pie tarts, the freshest squeezed lemonade, crab bisque with a splash of sherry, tart June apple applesauce. The cooking sessions were always filled with tips: oil the scissors before snipping gumdrops for gumdrop cookies; float Crisco in water for a mess-free but accurate measure; wait until the water droplet rolls like a ball in the hot pan before dropping your first pancake; test the candy for the hard-crack stage using cold water. These sessions gave me the chutzpah at age six to think”….click here for my “mother and me” story at Eat, Darling, Eat!

Thanks to Steve and Aimee for the chance to share. And any women out there who want to pay tribute to their mothers or daughters should join the conversation, enjoy the stories, and share theirs. We all have stories and culinary memories! Let’s share!! 

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Apple Crisp…Bourbon-Spiked…a Thanksgiving Feast Grand Finale

Apple Crisp…Bourbon-Spiked…a Thanksgiving Feast Grand Finale

Apple Crisp with Ice Cream

Though I know you are all set with the full menu I linked to in the last post, I couldn’t in good conscience send you off for Thanksgiving without a new dessert to be the crowning glory to your feast. A simple apple crisp at its heart, the addition of Jim Beam Apple liqueur with Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey elevates this fruity finish to something truly special. Must be that American oak wafting over the apples that sets this apart. I had house guests while working on this dish and one or two of them may or may not have had three or four portions. Who’s counting? If you don’t use spirits, you can easily sub with non-alcoholic extracts – vanilla or almond – or a dash of cinnamon, clove, or nutmeg. As written below, this dish is largely unseasoned, letting the farm-fresh apples and healthy splash of apple liqueur with bourbon do the heavy lifting. If you want to swap out the JB Apple, try a straight bourbon, Hotel Tango Whiskey (from a new-ish Indiana distillery run by friends), Gentleman Jack, or even Calvados. I’ll do me, you do you. 

Apples at the farm

There are just so many apple varieties available these days, whether you shop at the farmers’ markets, the grocery or with instacart. But it’s really important to grab a cooking variety so, kids, don’t try this at home. We need an apple whisperer to the rescue. This fall I have really enjoyed Sweet Tango and so I asked my local farmer – Skinner’s Homestead Acres out of Fennville, MI – how they would fare. No bueno. He said they had tried to cook Sweet Tangos a few ways and they cooked to mush. Good to know, since they are super crispy and very flavorful. Try one raw if you can. I heart!!! I suspect it may have to do with the water content – too much and there is nothing but pulp left. So it’s a balance between crispy, juicy, and flavorful that makes the perfect cooking apple.

Cooking classics are Jonagold (“fluffily crisp,” juicy, and aromatic), Ida Reds (firm, tart, and juicy) and Northern Spy (juicy, crisp, and mildly sweet with a high acid balance). The farmer recommended Snow Sweet which was new to me and so perfect. It was fantastic raw too – very white flesh which is slow to oxidize. On a subsequent test, I used Northern Spy and they worked well too. I always ask which apples will store well and load up before the season ends. I go with the farmer’s rec on “good-keepin’ apples”. 

Farmstand Apples

A friend introduced me to the apple cutting technique below (note that the apples should first be peeled for this recipe). Just cut through the center on both sides of the stem, top to bottom. You can get a slice off that center slab on either side of the core. Take the two halves and lay them cut side down and slice thinly from bottom to top. It is so much easier than trying to cut a rolling side and makes it simple to get uniformly thin slices. It’s really upped my apple cutting game, and I use it for everything including cheese boards, snacks, salads, and more. It’s perfect for a Crisp when you want uniform slices for even cooking. 

Cutting the apple

So this raises that age old question – Cobbler? Crisp? Slump? Crumble? Grunt? Betty? Pandowdy? Buckle?  There is definitely both a geographical and time element to these names. While they are all fruit-based, I’m ruling out Cobblers off the bat. They have biscuits dropped on top and resemble cobblestones (old English). Grunts are right behind – New England and named for the sound the dough makes while cooking and – like Pandowdy and Slumps  – are typically cooked on the stove top. Legitimate Bettys are layered with crumbs or grahams and are more cakey, and a Buckle (which is very cakey) tends to buckle around the bubbling fruit. So finally we arrive at Cobbler or Crisp – and drum roll please…the Crisp has oatmeal. Voila! That’s what makes it more crispy than a Cobbler, which is generally pure sugar, flour, and butter streusel. Exhausted from that marathon around the dessert aisle? Hmmm…think we better dig into this delicious dessert RIGHT NOW.Bourbon-Spiked Apple Crisp

Bourbon-Spiked Apple Crisp

Now that we have the recipe name – CRISP! – and the perfect apple (your choice), and we have made the decision of adding hooch or not, there is little else to do but get peeling. This recipe comes together very quickly and then you can be on your way to worry about other details of the feast – namely is the Prosecco cold enough. I make the topping in the food processor because I like to chop the oats and the nuts just a bit. So I start by putting the other ingredients – cold butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt in the processor and pulse that until it resembles coarse meal. Then I add the oats and walnuts, in turn, giving each their half-dozen pulses. Oats will get a few more pulses than nuts, but both retain some texture. As with all things baking, set the timer 10 minutes early, so you can keep an eye on the browning factor. If it seems to crisp up before the apples are tender, lay a loose layer of foil over the top. You don’t want anything to steam, but you also don’t want it blackened. 

However you celebrate and with whomever, I send Thanksgiving blessings to you, your friends and family. It’s so wonderful to spend a day, or even a part of a day, during this season of running too fast in gratitude for our many blessings. Have a wonderful, food-filled day! Gobble! Gobble!

Apple crisp

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Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream in a scalloped edge bowl on a white square plate, twisted handle spoon underneath

Bourbon-Spiked Apple Crisp – a Thanksgiving Feast Grand Finale


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8

Description

Though a simple apple crisp at its heart, the addition of Jim Beam Apple liqueur with Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, elevates this crisp to something truly special. Must be that American oak that wafts over the apples that sets its apart.


Ingredients

Scale

Topping:

  • 2 ounces cold butter, cut into bits
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup Jim Beam Apple Liqueur infused with Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly (see notes)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350oF. Butter an 8×8 or 2 quart baking dish. 

Prep topping: Add butter, brown sugar, flour and salt to the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the oats and pulse about 4-5 times, chopping coarsely. Add the walnuts and pulse 6 times more. The goal is that the butter/sugar/flour is fine, but that the oats and nuts retain some texture. Sprinkle ½ cup of the topping in the baking dish.  Refrigerate remaining topping until needed.

Prep the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, sour cream, bourbon, flour, eggs, and salt. Add the apples. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Bake on a sheet pan to avoid spills, in the center of the oven for 50 minutes. Sprinkle remaining topping over fruit, baking an additional 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm with ice cream.

Notes

Be sure to choose an apple that can stand up to cooking. Sometimes we tend to grab a favorite eating apple, but that is not always the best choice. On my first try, the farmer suggested Jonagold, Snow Sweet or Ida Reds. I chose Snow Sweet and they were perfect, though I suspect not that easy to come by. They are also delicious “eating apples”.

The next time I tested the recipe, I used Northern Spy – a classic cooking apple. This fall I have fallen in love with Sweet Tango, but my farmer told me don’t bother. They cook to mush. That was a real surprise because they are so very apple-y tasting and super crunchy. But, I trust the farmer.

For the non-drinkers in the crowd, feel free to omit the bourbon and consider some extracts like vanilla or almond. I used vanilla on one of my tests but found it in competition with the bourbon, so ended up eliminating it. If you are not using the alcohol, try adding in some alcohol-free extracts.

For those adding the alcohol, consider a straight bourbon, Hotel Tango Whiskey (from a new-ish Indiana distillery run by friends), or even Calvados, in lieu of the JB Apple.

Serve with ice cream. Vanilla is classic or salted caramel would be a serious upgrade.  

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 80 minutes
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Apple Crisp

Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream

Thanksgiving Desserts

Tennessee Whiskey Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gentleman Jack Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Be Inspired by these Cupcakes for a Cause

Cupcakes for a Cause

Day After…Going Cold Turkey?

I know you probably can’t come down from your L-tryptophan rush on Thursday cold turkey, so how about easing in with some breakfast pumpkin chia pudding (though it has been served for dessert by many) or the best turkey leftover recipe ever!!

Pumpkin Chia Pudding – Dessert or Breakfast Porridge – you decide!!

Pumpkin Chia Pudding

Turkey Tetrazzini – best use of leftovers EVER

Heaping Helping turkey tetrazzini

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Thanksgiving Harvest Salad & Menu Must Haves

Thanksgiving Harvest Salad & Menu Must Haves

Thanksgiving Harvest Salad

Before you hit delete thinking “Who needs a Thanksgiving Harvest Salad when I can have fat, fat, and more fat on Thanksgiving?” I am here to tell you – YOU DO!! I talked my friend Cozy into this a couple years ago and I know it was a hit because she called me brilliant. I don’t often forget those who think I am brilliant. 🙂  As she quickly found out, this is all about the herbs. If I didn’t have to measure them for a printed recipe, I might just call for a crap-ton. You’ll want just that much. 

The Thanksgiving Harvest Salad is everything you want in a salad, lots of green goodness with just enough rewards to make it not quite a salad and a bit more of an indulgence: fall fruit, tangy cheese, and sweet and spicy nuts. Think of it as your cheese board dumped on some greens. Genius, right? 

Just as I was last making this salad, I found a new produce vendor on its maiden voyage to Michigan’s organic Sweetwater Market. I was squealingly happy! I thrived all summer on Summer Blend Gardens’ lettuce mix which included colorful nasturtium flowers and more. Highlight of the summer. But ba-bye, Marty. It’s fall now. Meet my new besties Caleb and Cindy-Beth at A Garden in the Woods. They bring the most gorgeous array of produce to this indoor winter market after spending their summer outdoors in Pentwater. How lucky am I? Even if you don’t live in the area, treat yourself by checking out their Instagram. Gorgeous. Stunningly beautiful!

Picking the Greens

For this salad, pick any assortment of greens you want, but I like a mix of colors and textures. Some salad blends at the grocery, like baby romaine, are heavy on young greens that don’t have much texture. So if that is your base, be sure to throw in some arugula or watercress. These add both pepper and bounce.

More Salad Greens

Even though I had no intention of adding radishes to the harvest salad, once Caleb told me these were not baby beets, but purple radishes, I had to. I just had to. Check out the cut radish in the salad photos – a gentle sponging of lavender fading across the cut surface. 

Purple Radishes

Thanksgiving Harvest Salad

I see this wave of comprehension starting to wash over you, yet I still feel your skepticism – salad with lots and lots of herbs for Thanksgiving? I wasn’t kidding about the crap-ton of herbs. For 8 ounces of greens, I would add up to a cup of chopped, mixed herbs. I know I am still in sales mode on this herby addition, so I am ratcheting the herbiage down to a mere 1/2 cup in the recipe below. But be bold. Go for it. Add additional herbs if you are so called. Cozy reported that she ended up with arugula and spring mix with lots of fresh herbs. “You were right! The herbs made the complexity of the greens jump.” So trust us on this. 

Lots of Herbs

Now that you have a base in place, my go-to accoutrements are fall fruit, bits of cheese and sweet & spicy nuts. I used apples here, but if you have ripe juicy pears, they would be wonderful, as well as figs or persimmons. And while I used Barber’s Vintage Cheddar 1833 (it’s white) in small cubes (more interesting texture than grated), a perfect pearing (get it??) might include a blue like Roquefort or Stilton. Persimmons and fresh goat cheese anyone? I made that once at the request of Florence Fabricant of the New York Times, using Indiana’s Wabash Canonball, so if it’s good enough for her…………

Like most things in food and in life, winning combos are based either on similarities or contrast. Remember my celery root slaw? It was both! I made all the ingredients look the same (similarity), so you didn’t know til you tasted that there were three very different textures and tastes (contrast). Celery root, white cheddar and apple – all white, all grated. Surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrprise! Similarity and contrast all rolled into one humble slaw.

For the vinaigrette, I chose a lemon olive oil and a maple Balsamic. Gobble! Gobble! I have also used a pear Balsamic when using fresh pears. When using flavored Balsamics, I tend toward a one to one ratio with the olive oil because they are so much sweeter than a traditional vinegar and don’t require a lighter hand. In this case, the maple Balsamic is quite dense, so I scaled it back. If you are choosing your own flavors, start testing with a two to one oil to vinegar ratio and add more vinegar, as you need. Because this dressing is special to this menu, I am only making a small batch, and I short-cut the prep by putting it all in a bottle and shaking before serving. A proper vinaigrette, as you know, has the oil added last in a drizzle so that it can incorporate and emulsify. We are streamlining today because we are busy!! Of course you can prep all your ingredients and the dressing a day or so ahead, except any fruit that would oxidize like the apple. Just keep the ingredients wrapped separately in paper towels and zip bags, and assemble toward serving time. 

Harvest Salad with Apples & Cheddar

Now that we have settled on this glorious, fresh and palate-cleansing salad, there are a few other things that you might need to get on that table. Perfect roast turkey and gimme-more gravy? Check. Goat cheese and thyme mashed potatoes. Done. Brussels sprouts and prosciutto. You bet. And some delish cranberry ginger kumquat chutney. Done,done, done. All that is left is a winning Tennessee whiskey pumpkin ginger cheesecake. I have got you covered. All these recipes, complete with tips and must have equipment – looking at you potato ricer – are linked below. 

I will be back in a few days with another dessert idea – a Bourbon-laced Apple Crisp – so check back in. Above all, remember we are giving thanks in an extra special way right now – so take a deep breath, be grateful that you have food to cook with and people to cook for, and leave that stress at the grocery check out lane. And if Dear Abby were around, she’d probably ask you to put a basket at the door for cell phones and ask your friends and family for the gift of presence. Enjoy this week with a heart full of gratitude. Be back soon. 

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Harvest Salad overhead shot On a white plate with candied pecans, mixed greens, apple chunks and cheddar chunks, with purple radish slices

Thanksgiving Harvest Salad & Menu Must Haves


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8

Description

The Thanksgiving Harvest Salad is everything you want in a salad, lots of green goodness with just enough rewards to make it not quite a salad and a bit more of an indulgence: fall fruit, tangy cheese, and sweet and spicy nuts. Think of it as your cheese board dumped on some greens. Genius, right? 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1/2 pound mixed greens, 8 cups
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed herbs, including parsley, cilantro, dill and mint
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 apple, chopped, or other fall fruit such as pears, figs, persimmons, or dates
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 pound white cheddar, cut into small cubes (I use Barber’s cheddar)
  • 4 radishes, sliced
  • 1/3 cup lemon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5-ounce package of sweet & spicy pecans

Instructions

Combine greens, herbs, scallions, apple, avocado, cheddar and radishes in a large salad bowl. Toss to combine. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

Make the vinaigrette, by combining the lemon olive oil, maple Balsamic, salt and pepper in a bottle and shaking to emulsify.

At serving time, drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Top with the sweet & spicy pecans.

Notes

The herbs really define this as a special green mix, so don’t skimp here.

I always like to use a fruit for sweetness, the cheese for richness and a tang, and the nuts for crunch. All other ingredients rotate in and out depending on what I have around. The purple radishes were calling out to me and that avocado wasn’t getting any younger. Both were fresh new twists at Thanksgiving.

Trader Joe’s is a good source of several sweet & spicy nut mixes.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: No Cook
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Thanksgiving Salad

Menu Must Haves

Thanksgiving Essentials: Roast Turkey Perfection and Gimme-More Gravy

Roast Turkey Perfection

Goat Cheese & Thyme Mashed Potatoes with a Thanksgiving Must-Have: The Potato Ricer!

Pot o Spuds

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots & Prosciutto

Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto

Spiced Cranberry Ginger Kumquat Chutney

Spiced Cranberry Chutney

Tennessee Whiskey Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gentleman Jack Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

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Gobble Gobble: Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gobble Gobble: Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake

Gentleman Jack kicks up this ginger pumpkin cheesecake shown with a pumpkin

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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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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