Week Nine was Thanksgiving week, my favorite week of the entire year because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all the holidays. Even though I had a trove of options to pick from, most of what I chose to serve at our family’s table were not Ina recipes.
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where specific taste memories are vital to the nostalgic quality of the meal. I couldn’t punt on tradition, and so I stuck with some of my favorites from holidays past. I did, however, choose Ina’s Make Ahead Turkey and Make Ahead Gravy because they are essentially exactly how I roast and serve a turkey.
I say this every year, but no one wants or needs to carve a turkey in front of people, and certainly not at the last minute. Carving a turkey is a mess. It takes time and some finesse, and you are going to get juice everywhere. Save the carving routine for a quiet corner where hungry guests aren’t breathing down your neck asking when it will be ready.
I carved my turkey, covered it, and kept it warm for almost an hour before people arrive. This gave me a chance to finish up everything else and to change into a clean shirt before the meal. I followed the same idea with the gravy by making it early in the week. Eliminating as many last minute variables as possible is working smarter in my book. Make the gravy ahead and ask a willing volunteer to heat gently and stir. Less stress. Less mess.
WHAT I COOKED
Kir, Barefoot in Paris
Potato Pancakes with Caviar, Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Salad with Warm Goat Cheese, Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Rack of Lamb, Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Apple Crostata, Barefoot Contessa Parties!
French Apple Tart, Back to Basics
WHAT I LEARNED
ROASTED TOMATO BASIL SOUP. Roasting humble grocery store tomatoes once again proves to be a wonder-working formula for extricating non-existent flavor and transferring into the finished dish. I hate to sound obvious, but my favorite thing aoubt this soup is that it tastes like tomatoes. I appreciate the absence of cream or other dairy. It doesn’t taste like watery pasta sauce in a soup bowl. It tastes like tomatoes. I also really dig the texture, thanks to my new favorite low-tech kitchen appliance, the food mill. You have to get one of these. It produces results that are smooth, but not in a baby food kind of way. Chunky, yet no chewing required. The soup has body, but still requires a spoon, if that makes any sense. I love mine, and am regretful I waited twenty years to finally listen to Ina and start using a food mill.
CRANBERRY HARVEST MUFFINS. In my book, I require two things from a muffin. I want it to come together in one bowl, because muffins are meant to be eaten in the morning, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the process of mixing the batter. Second, I want them to have something that distinguishes them from cake. A lot of muffins are basically cake with fruit (or not). These Cranberry Harvest muffins meet both of my standards. One bowl assembly and lots of texture and add-ins. Check and check. The tart pop of fresh cranberries is spectacular, the heft of dried figs, and the crunch of chopped nuts is perfectly balanced. They baked up golden brown with a tender, moist crumb. I am adding this to my list of items to potentially add to the Hurley House breakfast line up. Stay tuned.
ROASTED POTATO LEEK SOUP. This soup wins. The roasting of the potatoes and leeks before you create the soup really adds a depth of flavor and richness that is typically absent in potato soup. There is a stovetop step where you deglaze the sheet tray you used to roast the vegetables, and I was nervous this wasn’t going to work on my electric range, but it did! The finishing splash of wine, the parmesan, the wilted arugula, and the crispy shallots were perfection. My ideal potato soup.
APPLE CROSTATA. AND FRENCH APPLE TART. Here’s a funny story. I made both of these desserts on the same day and served them together. It was Sunday night, and I was supposed to have made the tart earlier in the week, but I didn’t. I wanted to stay on track for the week, so I decided to turn it into a compare and contrast exercise and make them both at the same time. Because I was looking at both recipes at the same time, I noticed the following. In the intro of the Apple Crostata recipe, it says, “This is my absolute, all-time favorite dessert.” In the intro of the French Apple Tart recipe, it says, “This just might be my all-time favorite dessert.” Oh, Ina. So many favorites. Any who, they were both delicious and equally meriting of being crowned a favorite. The Apple Crostata is more like an open-faced apple pie. It needs to be served warm with a scoop of ice cream. The French Apple Tart is elegant and perfect. Timm described it as a “thin crust apple pizza.” I loved them both, but would probably make the tart again just because of my undying affinity for all things French.