by Irene Morse
The Cookers & Kibitzers Club is a group of women in Visalia who get together each month to enjoy cooking good food and having great conversation. Irene shares their monthly meeting, recipes, and fun with KRL each month. However, this month they took a break so Irene is sharing some cooking fun she had with her granddaughter, Hannah, this Thanksgiving, along with some great recipes for your holiday cooking. These dishes could be served for your Christmas dinner as well!
Rising before dawn on Thanksgiving morning, putting a turkey in the oven and then preparing mashed potatoes, dressing, side dishes, desserts, etc. is just no longer a logical game plan for me. Just as my stamina has begun to wane, my family has begun to grow exponentially and more of the food needs to be pre-prepared a day or two ahead of time. Even at that, a sous chef is an invaluable gift.
This year, we were expecting an overflow crowd including four cuter-than-most toddlers and a baby. Clearly, this called for a rational and well-prepared plan. Talking about my problem with the Cookers & Kibitzers, I was overjoyed to learn that my friend, Janet, thought cooking together one evening would be fun.
My granddaughter, Hannah, has also expressed an interest in cooking together. She likes to help out and she wants to learn how to cook and maybe pick up a few culinary tricks to impress her friends. A few minutes to plot out a game plan and I was good to go.
The Menu served thirty-one adults and four toddlers (the mom took care of the baby) with leftovers. Our family loves leftovers because the grandchildren are beginning to move out on their own, start families, go to school or begin entry-level jobs; a left-over is a break in the Ramen noodle diet. Family members brought additional hors d’oeuvres, side dishes and desserts.
I began on Tuesday morning. My family likes Bridgford Parkerhouse Rolls, so I put out 8 dozen of them to defrost and rise. I used all the cookie sheets I own plus broiler pans, pizza pans, anything flat. I put them on top of the washer and drier–the warmest place in our house–and covered them with dish towels.
By the time Janet got off work and came to start cooking, the rolls were nice and plump and ready to go in the oven. We baked them a couple of dozen at a time and, after they were cool, stored them in plastic bags.
While I busied myself with the preliminary preparation for dressing, Janet cut out 36 rounds of pie crust to fit in muffin tins. She also did a dozen to fit mini muffin tins as a treat for the great-grandkids. Store-bought pie crust worked just fine for this recipe; she rolled the dough out a little bit to get the most rounds per pie crust. We pre-baked the tarts for about 20 minutes as they had to be stored until Thursday.
Lemon-Herb Carrot Tarts
We had to increase the recipe 5 times–but this single recipe makes a good-sized batch.
Store-bought or home-made pie crust
1 ½ lbs Carrots, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme, chopped
2 tsp Fresh Sage, chopped
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Egg Yolks
Salt and Pepper to taste
• Fill individual tart (or muffin) pans with pie crusts.
• Meanwhile, cook the carrots in a pot of salted water (you may use chicken broth to add flavor) until tender. Drain the carrots and put in a food processor or blender. Add the butter and process until smooth.
• Stir in the herbs, lemon zest and juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the egg yolks and mix well.
• Fill tart shells and bake at 350 degrees until crust is golden brown and filling is set–about 25 minutes.
NOTE: May be served warm or at room temperature. Carrots don’t have much flavor on their own but the herbs and lemon bring out their sweetness and this makes a great side dish. For our family feast, I stored the filling separately in the refrigerator. I filled the pie crusts Thursday morning and baked them. They were served later at room temperature.
Hannah and her partner, Matt, rode in like the cavalry on Wednesday morning. While Matt and my husband, Gary, peeled thirty pounds of potatoes, Hannah and I got started on the rest of the meal.
During the day, Hannah cooked and mashed all of the potatoes. We had to boil them in batches, of course, and we had two stock-pots going most of the day. As each batch was ready, Hannah added butter, sour cream and a splash of heavy cream to the pot, mashed the potatoes with a bit of salt and pepper to taste and put them in two large casserole dishes. They were ready to be re-heated in the oven on Thursday. Hannah learned how to make mouth-watering mashed potatoes and to not worry much about calories on Thanksgiving.
In addition to the sous chef drudgery of preparing mashed potatoes, I wanted to give Hannah some experience in simple, yet delicious, hors d’oeuvres with which to wow her friends. While I finished up the dressing and prepared the turkeys for baking, Hannah made Parmesan Crisps and Salami Crisps (Shh, don’t tell anyone how easy these are to make).
Makes about 1 dozen – we multiplied the recipe times 3 or 4
1 Container of Shredded Parmesan
• Cover a flat baking sheet with parchment paper
• Make ten or twelve mounds of Parmesan Cheese – about a tablespoon each – on the baking sheet and flatten them
• Bake at 350 degrees until firm and golden brown – about 10 to 12 minutes
• Cool on the baking sheet before transferring to a serving plate with a spatula. They are fragile to handle
Makes about 30 crisps
1 Package of Dry Salami
• Cover a flat baking sheet with parchment paper
• Lay salami pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet
• Bake at 350 degrees until slightly colored and firm – about 15 to 20 minutes
• Cool on the baking sheet before transferring to a serving plate. They are crispy and a bit fragile
• Serve with sour cream dip. We stirred in finely diced garlic and Herbes de Provence for additional layers of flavor in the dip
Voila! Friends (and family) impressed!
Hannah and I made the Pineapple Upside Down Cake together. Neither of us had made this particular dessert before but we plunged right in. I had found a recipe online but decided to substitute a yellow cake mix for the dry ingredients.
While I prepared the pineapple and brown sugar in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish, Hannah made the yellow cake. We substituted a cup of buttermilk for the water but followed the box recipe otherwise. The cake took a bit longer to bake than the cake mix indicated but, when a toothpick inserted in the center came out clean, we knew it was done. And it was delicious.
Next we tackled the sugar cookies for the great-grandkids; we decided on store-bought cookie dough. Hannah sliced and baked three dozen cookies. Once they were cooled, I taught her how to make Ganache for the frosting.
Frosts about 18 to 24 sugar cookies. This ratio of chocolate to cream works for making larger or smaller batches of ganache
1 Cup Semi-sweet Mini Chocolate Chips
½ Cup Heavy Cream
• In the top of a double-boiler (simply two pans, one smaller than the other so it can sit above the heated water), add the chocolate chips and cream
• Bring the water in the bottom pan to a rapid simmer, stir the chocolate mixture often
• When glossy and slightly thickened, it is ready to frost the cookies
• We put red and white peppermint candies in a plastic bag and pounded them with a rolling pin to break them up. Then we sprinkled them on top of the warm ganache
At the end of a very long day, we had a Thanksgiving feast pretty well under control. Hannah was still fresh and full of energy but I was ready to put my feet up and enjoy a glass of wine before crashing. There’s no doubt that Thanksgiving would have been a much sparer affair had it not been for my star sous chef.
I love cooking with my grandchildren. We usually end up sharing thoughts and plans and I’m always impressed with what caring, inspiring young people they are. Not all of them are interested in cooking–they are all willing to help out–but it’s nice to share family recipes with those that are or to show them how to take recipe liberties
Right now, Hannah seems to be the most enthusiastic and I’m thrilled to be able to enjoy cooking with her. She’s an amazing young woman and is on her way to becoming a wonderful cook.