Cranberry Compote Thanksgiving Classic

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I love everything about Thanksgiving. I love the planning. I love having my son home. I love setting my table. I love making turkey stock.

I love cranberries, especially my homemade cranberry compote. I love stuffing. I love mashed potatoes. I love pie. I love that it is a holiday without gifts. I love the smell in my house. I love homemade anything.

And, I love leftovers.

Ask anyone who spends days preparing a meal and they will likely tell you the cook barely tastes anything that day. Friday, even before anyone else rises I have already had a piece of dark meat, a scoop of cold dressing and a slice of chocolate pie. I have been known to hide a piece on Thanksgiving for my coffee time in the morning. Yum!

On Friday, give my turkey sandwich a try:

Easy Family Size Turkey Sandwich

One loaf flat Ciabatta Bread or Unsliced Italian Bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Garlic Clove

Leftover Turkey

Leftover Cranberry Compote*

Slice bread in half and put cut side up under broiler until lightly toasted

Brush Extra Virgin Olive Oil and rub garlic over bread.

Spread a layer of cranberry compote then turkey onto bread. Press down. Slice the bread into two-to-three-inch pieces. Variation: layer slices of fresh mozzarella cheese on top

*Cranberry Compote

1 bag fresh Cranberries (rinsed, removing any damaged berries)

1 Cup Orange Juice

1 Navel Orange (Zest 1-2 tablespoons of peel; cut peel and outer membrane revealing orange pulp; with sharp knife, remove wedges between membrane)

1 Cup Yellow Raisins

1 Cup Granulated Sugar

In a heavy medium saucepan add all ingredients. Take the remaining orange membrane and squeeze it into pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until thick, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, cool and refrigerate until serving.

Today and every day I am thankful for my husband, son and family who love me, a home to share with those I love and the freedom to do as I please.

I am also thankful for Tim and Dawn Schmitt who have given me the opportunity to chat with you each Thursday.

(Editor’s note: And we’re thankful for the chance to read about The Foodie’s experiences!)

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A tale of two stuffings

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The Foodie:

If you read my column you know my mother is an amazing cook and The Foodie’s culinary role model. My mother is like Edward Scissorhands. She could throw a few ingredients up into the air and make something amazing. What a gift!

If my mother is gourmet, my mother-in-law is meat and potatoes. And, that is not a bad thing at all. There is something comforting about the tasty predictability of my MIL’s cooking. You always got a protein (usually roast beef – cooked well done – something that shocked my rare sensibilities when I dined at their table the first time), a starch (who am I kidding … it was a potato and it was likely whipped into creamy mashed potatoes by my father-in-law who used the hand mixer which was stored in the box he made of popsicle sticks).

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Come to think of it, it struck me that a male was involved in the kitchen. I thought all males did on Thanksgiving was complain that we were missing the four o’clock game.

My mother spent days preparing for Thanksgiving. Soup was always involved. One potato, no — both mashed and sweet. Squash, a green vegetable, turkey with homemade gravy, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce and several types of pie (one was always pumpkin). The pies were all homemade with my mother’s incredible crust which was flaky and buttery filled with a creamy mixture of pumpkin and cream cheese. There was at least one chocolate pie with the scratch pudding which had a film on top, covered with whipped cream. The whipped cream was whipped fresh while the coffee brewed.

My mother’s stuffing recipe has a great deal of Italian influence. It includes both sage breakfast sausage and bacon. There is onion and celery, golden raisins, eggs, stuffing croutons, water and homemade turkey stock. Also included is the meat from the turkey neck, the gizzards (the outside cut off), heart and liver (good thing I did not know that when I was a kid … just sayin’). Mom threw it up in the air and it landed safely in the turkey where it would be baked to crispy/soft perfection. I love that stuffing and will make it on Wednesday. I will put some in the turkey and the remaining will go into a well buttered casserole dish along with some homemade turkey stock.

My mother-in-laws stuffing has day old white bread (she breaks it up by hand), celery, onion, butter, water and Bell’s Poultry Seasoning. That’s it. It is so delicious I can eat it alone. No turkey, no vegetables, no potatoes, just this soft and perfectly seasoned flavored carb ball.
My mother’s and MIL’s stuffing is so different they are like two different foods. I could make both and it would be just like making white and sweet potatoes … both potatoes but completely different.

My mother-in-law cared for her table but did not obsess. There was no kids table since each table was lined up in a row for a long table filled with family and friends. There are tons of aunts, uncles and cousins in my family. Because of that we were usually at our own house for dinner and had dessert together. The dessert house was the house where my grandmother was (most often at my house as my mother is the eldest of her siblings). At my in-laws you got an eclectic combination of family and friends.

There was one thing that was absolutely the same at each house. Both women prepared their food with love and the knowledge they were doing something positive to gather their family and friends. They only wanted to give them a reason to sit at the table and simply share time, the ultimate gift.

It was with this wonderful family that I began to understand that, as my son described to a neighbor friend, some people you are related to by blood and some people you are related to by love.

Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours!

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A few bites from my food journal

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The fall and winter months mean lots of travel for me since we try to get to most of our son’s swim meets on the East Coast. I know its cliché, but we really do travel on our stomach. Here are a few samples of my recent journeys:

Pizzeria Molto (1215 Post Road, Fairfield, Conn.): I celebrated our son’s 21st birthday with a crisp glass of Rock Hollow chardonnay and a small plate of osso bucco. It was hard for me to picture a small plate of osso bucco but, sure enough, they placed a small plate of four very small bones and small portion of homemade gnocchi. They were aromatic with the meat falling off the bone. The gnocchi were light and served with a pan butter sauce with fresh parsley. The wine bar is a place I know we will all enjoy now the remaining school year.

Gina Tina Ristorante Italiano (602 E 187th St. No 1., Bronx, N.Y.): When I think “Little Italy” in New York of Mulberry Street in Manhattan. There are those who would argue that the Bronx is where the “real” little Italy is located(and the folks from Brooklyn would say we are both wrong). I was here last week to grab a bite before attending my son’s swim meet.

20120612-141020.jpgI ordered the house Montepulciano which came in a large glass filled only a third full. Perfect. I enjoyed the wine and ate some crusty bread with green olive oil, such a simple pleasure for a busy day. I ordered baked clams which were broiled to a crispy top. They were a perfect complement to my wine. As I strolled along Arthur Avenue I glanced into other restaurants and know I will come back and sample other wonderful Italian options.

Bambino Bar and Kitchen (297 Franklin St., Buffalo, NY): This was our pre-hockey dinner spot before the Sabre’s game last night. I love the compact structure and the pictures of the owners when they were children. I think I may be related to them (no, not really but they looked like typical Italian American kids back in the 60’s). Our server Mary Beth was knowledgeable and funny. Everyone enjoyed something different with rave reviews. I had a caprese salad with their homemade mozzarella cheese. The cheese was mild and the tomatoes were not over seasoned. I also had baked clams here (I am picking up a pattern). They were large clams topped with a bread stuffing and a piece of provolone. I liked it a lot. Last, I had a roasted bone marrow salad on fresh parsley. I ordered it just because it sounded bizarre. I love the bone marrow the best when I have osso bucco so why not try this. The plate had two large bones (about four inches long) standing up on a bed of fresh parsley. There was no need for dressing because the juices from the bones provided all the seasoning necessary. I was given a small fork and knife to dig into the bones. The first one offered a few delicious bits of marrow which I ate with the parsley. It was great. When I lifted the second bone to loosen the marrow a huge portion slid out. It was one of the most unique and delicious flavors I have ever experienced.

The First BTF Christmas Cookie Recipe Exchange:

Here are a few tools of the trade which will make your cookie preparation easier and fun:

20120612-141012.jpgHeavy cookie sheets: I have four of them. Be sure they are sturdy and have sides. I went to a restaurant supply store and bought seconds for a fraction of the price. They said they were scratched but I did not care because they would get scratched the first time I used them.

Parchment paper: This may be the single best time saver of all. Before my cookie baking extravaganza I will sit in front of the television cutting and folding about 30 sheets of paper to line my sheets. I store them in between stacked pans. I use fresh paper for each batch (kind) of cookies. When I finish that type then I throw them out and start with a fresh liner. This way I do not have to wash the cookie sheets between recipes and there is no sticking. Brilliant!

Cooling racks: Years ago when one of the discount department stores was closing I bought about 10 cooling racks. I line them up on my kitchen table and cool my cookies until ready to frost or store.

Cookie scoop: I started out using a melon baller to get the cookies all the same size. Eventually that broke and I invested in this scoop. Having all the cookies the same size does several things. The baking time stays the same, they are visually better looking on the platter and they are easier to store.

The deadline for submission is: Tuesday, Nov. 15

Please e-mail: BTF.TheFoodie@gmail.com and put Virtual Recipe Exchange in the subject. If you are a new cook and want some great ideas, please send an e-mail to BTF.TheFoodie@gmail.com by Nov. 20 and I will send you the first annual http://www.BelowTheFalls.com Virtual Christmas Cookie Recipe Exchange.

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