Real Cooking

“You’ll never guess what I’ve been listening to on the car radio,” I said to Keith as I stepped into the kitchen upon returning from a Sunday afternoon trip to town.

“You’re probably right, so why don’t you just go ahead and tell me,” came my husband’s reply.

“Christmas music-no, let me rephrase that. Uninterrupted, back to back, ‘Deck The Halls,’ ‘Oh, Holy Night,’ ‘Santa, Baby’ Christmas music. I couldn’t believe it. It’s not even Thanksgiving.”

“Bah, humbug,” Keith huffed as he gave me a quick hug and started off toward the remodeling project that awaited his attention.

I quickly stepped behind him eager to keep the conversation going.

“Do you know that there are people in town actually putting up their Christmas lights? The other night, I drove by two houses that were already twinkling.”

“Ah, those guys just want to get their lights up while the weather’s still nice,” he replied. “What challenge is that? Real men wait for snow, wind, and freezing sleet. Now, that’s when you put the Christmas lights up.”

As I leaned against the door frame, I chuckled at his bravado and then casually asked, “Have you thought about Christmas shopping, dear?”

He gave his head a quick shake of disbelief and then slowly drawled, ” Well, what do you think?”

And then I knew. The holiday season was truly upon us.

Holidays at our house are filled with tradition, one of them being my husband’s reluctance to join in on the festivities too soon in the season. The Thanksgiving turkey has to be thoroughly digested before Keith is ready to move onto the celebration of Christmas.

“Let’s observe Thanksgiving first before we give any thought to Christmas,” has always been his mantra. And, for this year in particular, I feel he’s absolutely right. I think as a nation we need time to reflect on the freedoms and the fortunes that we enjoy and how we take those things for granted.

I also feel a personal need to do some soul searching as to how to share the blessings I have with those that are less fortunate. And what a better time to ponder such issues and to give thanks to the Creator than on Thanksgiving?

By the way, did you know that Sarah Hale campaigned for 40 years to make Thanksgiving a national holiday? She petitioned governors, newspaper editors, senators and presidents until finally Abraham Lincoln, probably in an attempt to get the pesky Sarah off his back, declared Thanksgiving a national day of celebration.

Just a little trivia for you.

Here’s another tidbit. Americans eat 3 billion pounds of turkey a year. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But per capita, the country who consumes the most turkey in the world is-ta, da-Israel.

Just a little something I picked up from watching Food Network this week.

Our remodeling project is going great guns again now that the field work has come to a standstill, and I’ve been going through cupboards and closets in the kitchen and moving what I can into the new (yeah) cupboards and closets in the laundry room. So, I’ve caught a few cooking shows while I’ve been sorting.

Of course, the focus this past weekend was on Thanksgiving, and let me tell you, not once did I see a dish that used miniature marshmallows. How, I ask, can you have Thanksgiving dinner without mini marshmallows?

The Josts-and probably countless other American families-can’t. Every year we go next door to Keith’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner with the family. Grandma roasts the turkey and makes the mashed potatoes and gravy while the rest of us bring side dishes and desserts to complement the meal.

It’s a great spread filled with family favorites. Cranberry salad (with mini marshmallows), baked sweet potatoes (with mini marshmallows), Watergate salad (with mini marshmallows).

I’m kidding…sort of. Anyway, there’s always a nice variety of foods and flavors.

But nowhere on the bountiful table are the dishes that I saw featured by various cooks on Food Network. I don’t think I’ll ever see one of my sisters-in-law bring a cranberry conserve with hazelnuts, orange and ginger. Nor can I imagine cornbread dressing with shitake mushrooms, cranberries and pecans ever making its way to the family Thanksgiving.

And I’m not sure if Grandma Alice would ever want to spend her day basting a turkey breast roulade with a red wine marinade.

As for the collard greens with smoked turkey and vinegar-hey, what’s up with the collard greens? Every chef in America is crazy about collard greens right now.

We’ll have green bean casserole with the French fried onions on the top.

And before we dig into Grandma’s special Pumpkin Chiffon Pie and Charlene’s terrific pumpkin roll cake, the cousins-from the eldest to the youngest-will challenge each other to a group football game out in Grandma’s backyard. Come sleet, snow, rain or shine.

Because it’s tradition, it’s family and it’s a blessing.

* * *

For those more adventuresome cooks, I leave you with this recipe that I’m going to try sometime before Christmas. Alex saw it demonstrated on the Food Network and, being the turkey lover that he is, wanted us to give it a go. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Asian Spiced Fried Turkey

with Cranberry Syrup

1 (12- to 15-lb.) turkey, cut into pieces: legs, wings, thigh, breast cut into 3 parts

8 cups water

2/3 cup kosher salt

2/3 cup sugar

2 tbs. dark soy sauce

3 tbs. toasted Szechwan peppercorns

2 tbs. toasted black peppercorns

10 1/4-inch thick slices fresh ginger

4 star anise

4 bay leaves

Combine all of the ingredients (except the turkey) in a large clean plastic container, like a bucket or a cooler. Add the cut-up turkey and let soak in brine for three hours. Keep container at 40 degrees-in refrigerator or place ice packs in container. Be sure that turkey is submerged in brine.

After three hours, deep fry turkey in vegetable oil heated to 375 degrees. Cook about 12 minutes, or until done. Season with chili salt and dip in cranberry syrup.

Chile Salt:

2 tbs. salt

1 tbs. sugar

1 tbs. Korean chili flakes

1 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. black pepper

Cranberry Syrup:

1 large red onion, julienne

3 tbs. ginger, finely chopped

3 cups cranberries

1 orange, zested and juiced

1 cup rice wine vinegar

2 cups cranberry juice

1/2 cup sugar

Salt and pepper

In a saucepan over medium heat, sweat the onions and the ginger until onion is translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until mixture is reduced about 25 percent. Refrigerate leftover.

More from article archives
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN Arlene Hawkins, 52 Arlene R. Hawkins, 52, para-professional at Marion...
Read More