Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to "Pie Up!" in the Pantry

From my vintage postcard collection.
Yesterday I cooked another large second turkey, just because it was at the bottom of the freezer. Time to "pantry up," as my friend Edie recently said (and "freezer up," too). Throughout the busy week ahead the juicy 25+ free ranger, from an Amish farm last winter, will be transformed into turkey salad, turkey soup, turkey pie, creamed turkey and sandwiches. [One reason is because I have an article deadline on December 1st and many book orders to process].

Today I'll be making turkey tetrazzini, with roasted beets and parsnips on the side and more rhubarb and pumpkin pies. We're having our Mennonite friends Melvin and Anna Hurst over for a Sunday supper of "leftovers" (well, not really, but that was the premise) later this afternoon and I'm looking forward to a nice leisurely "catch up" as I haven't seen either of them in a month. I'd even intended to host a "leftover" potluck for friends last night but it just never materialized.

As for food this Thanksgiving, back to our "simplicity" kick. I didn't make homemade cranberry sauce this year, or homemade rolls, or even cranberry nut bread. But the stuffing was arguably my best yet––from a recipe I came up with in college that I've been tweaking for the past 30 years. This year I added dried cherries and chopped pecans, as well as the Italian sausage, chopped apples and fresh cranberries that I have always included.

© Anne Taintor, Inc.
But we also had P I E! Homemade! By me! I say this so enthusiastically, and with great unabashed pride in my heart, because I've always had pie phobia–big time. The fillings are never the problem, it's the crust. Usually it is the one thing I ask guests to bring at Thanksgiving: dessert (and dessert at Thanksgiving usually equals pie). A few weeks ago my friend Rosemary back in New Hampshire sent me a pie dough recipe she had tweaked from Joanne Chang's Flour Bakery in Boston. It was the best pie dough, and easiest, I've made yet. If it sounds like there is a lot of butter, there is: but you're worth it (Rosemary also added a few more tablespoons to the original recipe). Rosemary, I should also add, was the frequent pie lady at our house (as well as my friend Linda, but I don't want to start a pie war between these two friends!).

Rhubarb pie awaits baking on Thanksgiving morning.
Rosemary's Second Amazing(ly Simple) Pie Dough
[Here is her first recipe: click here for blog archive!]

• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 10 Tbsps cold butter
• 1 egg yolk
• 2 Tbsps milk

Eli loves to help.
Put flour and salt into food processor, with blade (I used my plastic blade). Add cold butter, one tablespoon at a time, while pulsing. I combined the egg yolk and milk in a bowl and beat it quickly before adding to the flour-butter mixture in the food processor. Pulse all ingredients a few times until mixed and turn out onto floured board. Knead and flip several times and press with the back of your palm. (Rosemary said this is called "fraisaging" the dough–rhymes with "massage" and that's exactly what you are doing.) Then pat into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour. The chilling is absolutely essential for ease of roll and a resulting flaky crust. [I doubled this for a 2-crust dough and you can also freeze your disks of dough for another day.]

A perfect pie trifecta!
When sufficiently chilled, roll out dough disk on a floured board to the desired size. You will find, having chilled it, that it will roll very nicely and should feel all satiny to the touch. After it bakes, your pie will have the flakiest, melt-in-your mouth flavor and texture. I can't wait to try it with turkey pot pie later this week! As much as I like Rosemary's other pie recipe, I might just be a convert to this one.
Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie is akin to sacrilege.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Afterglow

A locally-made wooden painted turkey kit from nearby Bear Wallow Farm and a lovely pumpkin from Casey County, just a bit nibbled on by our chickens. The kit would be an easy thing to make with your children if you are crafty. (Alas, I am not.)
Here's what I love about Thanksgiving–it just extends into a nice, long weekend of leftovers and doing whatever it is that we want to do. Like hunker in on our ridge: playing games, watching old movies and family programs on television, chopping wood, general puttering around. Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday, even though this year it was just our immediate family (minus our daughter, for the third year in a row, who works at a ski resort back in Vermont where the holidays are a blur of accommodating skiers and their families). Our boys even had an entire week off from school, which we appreciated, even though we didn't travel anywhere. [And who wants to these days?]

This little fellow has the right idea after a hearty bowl of slop.

Henry chops pumpkins for the pigs.
We were thinking of going to the Liberty Christmas parade last night, and to the Clementsville Variety Show later on today (MCed this year by our friend Joberta Wells: and check out her new blog at The Casey County News where she is a columnist–she is our local "hoot" and deservedly so, as well as having coined the phrase). We were even going to see the new Harry Potter movie (which would be Henry's second time in a week). But we're not.

A late fall bull calf, born just before Thanksgiving on our farm.

Instead, our entertainment over the past few days has consisted of moving some cattle (including some of the neighbor's that had escaped). We watched our great friend, Chuckie Willard, back in New Hampshire, and the coverage of his trebuchet-building for Science Channel's On the Road to Punkin Chunkin [on the link, click on the "Tired Iron" video]. We also watched The Fabulous Beekman Boys first-season marathon on Planet Green (what a joy they are, and their animals, friends and Farmer John, who lives on the premises, and we can't wait for their Christmas special on December 8–on so many levels this is a worthwhile new reality series). Oh, yes: my husband's favorite actress of all time, Marjorie Main, had several feature movies on TCM this week, too. And who can not watch the annual reshowing of The Wizard of Oz? I still cry each time that Dorothy goes home again and it is delightful to experience this movie with our own children.

A daily reminder on my mantel.

Our wine glasses!
This year our holiday mantra will continue to be "simplify." Our Thanksgiving set the tone for that: we were all clean and well-scrubbed but changed into our comfortable pajamas after feeding the animals on the farm. Our boys wanted a "Jammy Thanksgiving" and they got it. If you are not entertaining anyone but yourselves, I highly recommend it! I didn't even pull out all of the decorative stops that I usually do. And we used paper towels for napkins! (OK, so I haven't ironed in a while.)

Part of my "Country Fare" in the hutch in NH.
We did pull out our silver and paired it with our Country Fare–my favorite every day pottery, made by Zanesville Pottery from the 1940s-60s (eventually bought out by Louisville Stoneware in Kentucky). Who knew one day that I–an Ohio girl, born and bred, raised in New England–would eventually be living in the state that adopted my favorite Ohio pottery?! Those are our farmer friends Peter Sawyer and Eric Tenney in our kitchen in Hancock in early December 2007, when we had another Thanksgiving dinner all over again, but our last in New Hampshire. [Our dear bull mastiff, Lucy, is curled up for a nap: she passed away here in Kentucky almost two years ago now.]

John, Tom and Patch in January 2009. Today was their second birthday (but Patch disappeared when he was six months). This is my favorite photo of them altogether, on my favorite chair.

Our former Hancock home in a Wallace Nutting print.
Thanksgiving is time to give pause to our many blessings, the love of each other, and memories of holidays past. I'm glad that I am at a point in my life now where I can remember the magical holidays of childhood and beyond without a full immersion of bittersweet sorrow, or even a tinge of it–where I can be in a memory or a feeling or a place in my mind and linger there, a bit, but not dwell too much in what has past. It's not always an easy thing for me. ["Dwell, Stew, Obsess!" in the words of cartoonist Roz Chast.]

Edward Henry Corbould (1869), Cold
I know why the holidays can be the hardest time of year for some people: I have been in that place. I now embrace the winter months like a warm, cozy throw. It is admittedly less wintry here in Kentucky but still just as dark, cold and bleak as any mild winter we have experienced in New Hampshire. Winter is now something I am happy to put on and to wear, like a shroud, as I tuck in for a few months of reflection and repurposing. It's a necessary system reboot for the soul.

What Sting said so poetically about the winter season of darkness in his notes for his beautiful album, If On a Winter's Night, captures what I feel about winter now:
Peter Ilsted (1861-1933), Woman Reading by Candlelight
Walking amid the snows of Winter, or sitting entranced in a darkened room gazing at the firelight, usually evokes in me a mood of reflection, a mood that can be at times philosophical, at others wildly irrational; I find myself haunted by memories. For Winter is the season of ghosts; and ghosts, if they can be said to reside anywhere, reside here in this season of frosts and in these long hours of darkness. We must treat with them calmly and civilly, before the snows melt, and the cycle of the seasons begins once more. 
A Footnote:
Seeing the credits roll past at the end of On the Road to Punkin Chunkin, we realized it was Chucky's tractor trailer driving out of town, east on Main Street in Hancock where we used to live in New Hampshire. But seeing it, in such a blur, we were able to stop the frames with the slow motion feature of TeVo, and there was our old house, in the top photo (at left, with the brick end). A strange encounter, indeed. The whirring of the sped up film also reminded me of how I process memory: that it flies through me in a blur and then it is gone again, like the wind. But where does it go?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours ~ may your blessings and gratitude be in abundance and your hearts and kitchens filled with family and friends ~ and good things to eat!

Our boys, now 13 and 10 1/2, and my husband, happy on our farm. The only thing missing is daughter Addie,  working hard back in New England--we love and miss you! 

We are having a PJ Thanksgiving this year: all the food and fixins and best silver (not polished in a while, however!) but in our comfortable pajamas (a good call, too, because our boys have bad chest colds). Really the opposite of what we've done for so many years and a fun change this year as we hunker in from the raw stormy weather after an eventful year and fall. 

I am sorry not to have been posting regularly. If you troll through the archives at this time for the past five years you can read about Thanksgivings Past in the Pond home or search on any number of ingredients for recipes: I highly recommend Rosemary's pie dough and I'm about to make a rhubarb pie with her crust.

If you've ordered a copy of The Pantry it will be on its way to you very soon and I appreciate your patience. And, a reminder that they make wonderful holiday gifts: I am happy to inscribe them and ship them to anyone on your gift list.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by here in The Pantry and reading along with me for the past five years. There are changes to come, but all good ones.

We are blessed and so very grateful.