Our Thanksgiving party was a semi-potluck (my mom initially invited people saying we would have a pizza party, but seriously, can you see my mother ordering pizza and serving it to her guests?! PULEASE). Here’s our entire set-up:
The two chickens my mom roasted:
Originally, my mom was going to prepare a big turkey but since David and I already had turkey and no one else really likes the meat, my mom decided to do chicken instead. She created a rub that included rosemary that she dried from her garden (I use the dried rosemary on ribs occasionally).
Shrimp and asparagus:
The dish ingredients are simple, but the presentation is really colorful – the shrimp is coated with eggs, vodka, a little corn starch, and some spices. My mom cooks the shrimp, sets it aside, and then in the same pot, sautee’s the asparagus. David arranged the asparagus so they all pointed in one direction and I arranged the shrimp in the middle.
Mung bean “noodles” with sesame paste and cucumbers (served cold):
I absolutely LOVE this dish and mung beans have a lot less carbohydrates than pasta, but have a similar texture. The sesame paste was mixed with a little soy sauce and dripped on top of the noodles, which are made from a powder and set overnight. Here’s a photograph of me preparing the dish:
Lion’s head meatballs:
The meatballs are made with a pork base and I used to absolutely detest these when I was a kid. There were too many different vegetables in the meatballs and I just didn’t like the taste of pork (look how different I am now!) The meatballs are served on top of bean thread noodles and cabbage to soak up the extra juices.
For dessert, I made the double chocolate cheesecake (pictures coming soon) with raspberries but I really wanted to point out THIS dessert:
Um, HELLO VIENNETTA?! I used to eat these when I was a kid! I didn’t know that they were still making them! It’s actually just vanilla ice cream with layers of crispy chocolate. When I was a kid, when I walked down the frozen desserts aisle in the grocery store, I thought Viennetta was such a sophisticated dessert.
Overall, my favorite dishes were the mung bean noodles, the lion’s head meatballs, and the stuffed eggplant (which is also pictured in the lion’s head photograph). How was your Thanksgiving? Any interesting dishes?
· December 1, 2008
This year, we didn’t have turkey in North Carolina (my mom made two chickens instead). We hosted two parties (one that lasted until 5AM!) and had an amazing array of Chinese dishes, including lion’s heads (that’s a literal translation from Chinese to English – they’re Chinese meatballs served with cabbage and noodles), sticky rice, stuffed Japanese eggplant, mung bean noodles (it might sound a little weird, but it was actually my favorite from both nights) and other great dishes (I’ll post close up pictures later):
I spent the rest of my Thanksgiving break lounging around in my pajamas, rock climbing, spending time with my family, and making upgrades to gracenotesnyc.com.
David and I landed in North Carolina on Saturday afternoon and the first thing on my mind was Cook Out. Cook Out has the absolute best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had (trust me, I’ve had quite a few) and the “restaurant” is conveniently located close to my house, so every time I come home, I have to go at least twice. In terms of fast food restaurants, it’s probably one of my favorite places to go, next to In-N-Out. Cook Out isn’t really a restaurant – it just has 2 drive-thru windows and a walk-up window:
The prices are also ridiculous – I mean, you get a full plate AND a drink for about $5. They also have Cheerwine, which is something I’ve only found in the South, but is a cherry flavored soda that’s pretty tasty. A full plate is a pulled pork sandwich and TWO sides – the sides aren’t great, but the pulled pork sandwich is so amazing that you don’t even remember to eat your sides. I usually order a pulled pork sandwich with fries and a corndog or chicken nuggets:
Cook Out features North Carolina style barbeque, which I think is the best, and the pulled pork sandwich is topped with an amazing coleslaw; the coleslaw is a basic cabbage and light mayonnaise mixture that really adds a wonderful touch to the sandwich. It is seriously the best sandwich EVER.
They also have great flame-grilled burgers:
Last time Chris came to visit, we went to Cook Out because I told him how amazing it was and after he tasted the pulled pork sandwich, we ended up going two more times before we flew back to New York. Cook Out is really an amazing little shack, especially because they make 36 different kinds of milkshakes (they have their own wikipedia entry). My favorite shake is the banana pineapple mixture (next to the strawberry banana shake):
They use fresh bananas and canned pineapples (which I’m usually not a fan of) but the ice cream semi-freezes the pineapple chunks, which makes the shake unbelievably good. They also have seasonal flavors, like watermelon in August and egg nog in December. The fruit flavors are better than the candy mixes because the candy chunks are still kind of large and you end up eating the shake with a spoon instead of drinking it with a straw, but all of the shakes are pretty amazing.
Cook Out is also open really late, so if you’re ever craving a milkshake or a pulled pork sandwich around midnight, you don’t have to go to bed hungry!
· November 20, 2008
I actually got the idea to brine the Thanksgiving turkey from Alton Brown – I was up late at night watching the Food Network and Alton came on explaining why brining a turkey is better because you don’t open and close the oven constantly AND the overnight brining makes a big difference in flavor. I think my mom usually brushes the turkey with its own juices, but she’s been preparing turkeys for a while and knows what she’s doing and this was my first turkey so I wanted to experiment a little.
ANYWAY, as I was walking through Williams-Sonoma, I saw a recipe packet for Thanksgiving ideas. One of the first recipes was for a buttermilk brined turkey, which sparked my interest. Buttermilk? The picture looked really delicious, so I decided to give it a try. The main ingredient was a brining package that you buy from Williams-Sonoma (which I passed on because it was mostly salt, peppercorns, star anise, sage, rosemary, and other things that you could put together yourself). The FIRST thing I had to do was BUY a turkey:
Trader Joe’s had the best deals on turkeys – they were $1.79/pound (compared to $4.99 at Whole Foods) and they were all around 15 pounds, which was perfect for our party because you’re supposed to prepare about a pound – pound and a half for each guest. All of the turkeys were pre-brined (in a salt water solution), so I took that into consideration when I put together the buttermilk brine (I barely used any salt when I put together my brine).
Ingredients for brine (for a 15 pound turkey):
4 quarts of buttermilk
Whole peppercorns (a handful is enough)
A little salt (if the turkey is already brined)
I bought a large brining bag ($4.99 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond), stuck my turkey in it (after I removed the gizzard and the heart, liver, etc) and then started pouring in the buttermilk and other ingredients. If you have a turkey that hasn’t been brined and you end up putting salt in the mix, melt the salt in water before you add it to the turkey. Here’s what the turkey looked like pre-brine:
The brine didn’t cover the entire turkey, so halfway through the night, I turned the turkey over so it would be evenly brined. In the morning, I washed off the brine, patted dry the turkey (inside and out), and put together an herb butter (butter mixed with thyme, sage, and rosemary) underneath the turkey breast skin so there would be a little more flavor during cooking. I covered the turkey with aluminum foil and stuck it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 4 hours (occasionally, I would open the oven door, and brush the turkey with a mixture of maple syrup and butter to get a really crispy crust). Here’s the final product:
To make sure your turkey is done, don’t rely on the thing that pops up on the turkey breast! I used a thermometer and made sure the temperature by the upper thigh (not touching any bone) was at 160 (although the USDA says it should get up to 165). The turkey ended up being really juicy and tender and was cooked really well, so I think it was pretty successful! I wish I could’ve made one turkey without brining it so I could’ve tasted the difference, but I barely have one oven so the buttermilk brine was good enough for me (and my guests)!
· November 20, 2008
Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday of the year because we always have a big party in North Carolina. One of my favorite sides happens to be stuffing – not the stuff you make from a box like Stove Top, but the kind where you can taste big chunks of freshly made cornbread. I decided to make cornbread this year and let it sit out for a week so it would be really hard (to absorb all of the flavors and still have some texture). Here’s the recipe for the stuffing after you make the cornbread:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced (for color)
1/3 cup diced liver (chicken or turkey)
6 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3 cups hot reduced-sodium chicken broth
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for dish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add liver; cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. In a large bowl, combine onion mixture, cornbread, and sage. Pour broth over mixture; stir just until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a buttered 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish. Dot with butter. Bake until golden brown on top and crisp around edges, 40 to 45 minutes.
Here’s a picture of me mixing together all of the ingredients:
The cornbread stuffing turned out really well and I think everyone enjoyed the new take on a traditional side dish.
Next up: preparing a turkey!