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Recipes fit for the holiday table

>>>How to Cook a TurkeyBy the editors and contributors of Fine CookingThe Taunton Press / 2007 / $19.95

Turkey-cooking is just a facet, just a chapter, of what How to Cook a Turkey offers in more than 200 well-designed, photograph-heavy pages.

The Fine Cooking staff attempts to guide both novices and veterans alike through a holiday feast - from appetizers straight through dessert, and on to leftovers. Though specifically aimed at Thanksgiving with its turkey, stuffing and cranberry selections, the bulk of the recipes would be at home at any sort of celebratory meal.

I found the recommendations for how to make good use of all the inevitably uneaten turkey meat particularly helpful.

It's a creative selection - everything from turkey and fall vegetables in a saffron-scented broth to turkey enchiladas to a turkey soup with ginger, lemon and mint.

The pasta prepared with turkey, mushrooms and capers, though a wee bit fussy in preparation, turned out to be amazing - and tasted nothing like Thanksgiving. A huge mushroom fan, I'd make the earthy-flavored, porcini-laden pasta again - even without the turkey.

Also good was the Turkey and Blue Cheese Salad With Tarragon-Mustard Vinaigrette. Extremely easy yet stylish and tasty, the tart apple, creamy cheese and tangy vinaigrette would be a refreshing answer to the heaviness of a Thanksgiving spread.

>>>Thanksgiving 101By Rick RodgersWilliam Morrow / 2007 / $15.95

Rick Rodgers' book also attempts to demystify the Thanksgiving meal. It includes a 15-page section that attempts to answer questions about turkey that you probably didn't even know you had.

I focused on his impressive side-dishes chapter. Though turkey tends to grab the spotlight, the vegetables should get at least as much consideration - particularly if you expect any vegetarians at your holiday table.

Rodgers, a New Jersey author who has taught Thanksgiving cooking classes, doesn't impose any fancier-than-thou ideas of what the holiday meal should include. He acknowledges the appeal of marshmallows, noting in a Cider-Mashed Yam recipe, "If you wish, this dish is easy to marshmallowize."

I tried Rodgers' traditional Maple-Glazed Roasted Yams and his re-interpretation of the low-brow but beloved green-bean casserole made with cream of mushroom soup.

The sweet, mapled yams were not only tasty and exactly the kind of dish people expect on their Thanksgiving plate, but inexpensive and easy to put together. The quite-clever Green-Bean-and-Cremini-Mushroom Gratin was a fresher-tasting, more sophisticated version of the soup-can classic.


Pasta Shells with Turkey, Mushrooms and Capers

Serves 2 generously

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 3/4 cups warm water for 30 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided use)

1/4 pound fresh button mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, and sliced

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 cup dry white wine

6 to 8 ounces dried pasta shells or farfalle

splash of sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

1 cup turkey, cut in 1/2-inch dice kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

grated pecorino Romano for serving (optional)

Strain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid. Squeeze them dry, chop them into small pieces and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine sieve or a coffee filter; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter has melted, add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and most of their liquidhas evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Add the shallot, garlic, rosemary and chopped porcini.

Cook, stirring, until the shallot is soft, about 4 minutes. Pour in the wine and the reserved porcini soaking liquid. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by more than half. Taste; if it's not flavorful enough, continue reducing a bit more.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until just tender. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. Add the vinegar, capers and turkey. Toss to coat everything, and heat gently for a few minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter; taste again, adjust the vinegar, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with the grated Romano, if you like.

From "How to Cook a Turkey"

Per serving: 651 calories, 38 grams protein, 22 grams fat, 12 grams saturated fat, 75 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 109 milligrams cholesterol, 300 milligrams sodium


Turkey-and-Blue-Cheese Salad With Tarragon-Mustard Vinaigrette

Serves 4

SALAD:

2 cups cooked turkey, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 cup thinly sliced celery hearts, including leaves

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly golden

1 sweet apple (such as Honeycrisp or Fuji), cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 ounces creamy blue cheese (try Roquefort or Maytag Blue), crumbled, about 1/2 cup

1 large Belgian endive, separated into spears

VINAIGRETTE:

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, toss the turkey, celery, almonds and apple. Add the blue cheese.

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl; taste and adjust the seasonings. Pour over the turkey mixture and toss well; taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve with the endive spears on the side.

From "How to Cook a Turkey"

Per serving: 384 calories, 21 grams protein, 30 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 8 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 61 milligrams cholesterol, 392 milligrams sodium


Maple-Glazed Roasted Yams

Makes 8 to 10 servings

four pounds orange-fleshed yams, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks (see note)

¶2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced

salt and pepper

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil an 18-inch-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Spread the yams on the sheet in a single layer. Add the vegetable oil and toss to coat the yams.

Bake, turning occasionally with a metal spatula, until the yams are almost tender, about 40 minutes. Drizzle the yams with the maple syrup and mix well to coat. Bake until the syrup has evaporated into a glaze and the yams are tender, about 15 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven.

Scatter the butter over the yams, and let stand to melt the butter. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl and serve hot.

Note: The yams can be cut eight hours ahead, stored at room temperature. The yams are best roasted just before serving.

From "Thanksgiving 101"

Per serving (based on 10 servings): 195 calories, 2 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 34 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 9 milligrams cholesterol, 42 milligrams sodium


Green Bean-and-Cremini Mushroom Gratin

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

5 tablespoons (1/2 stick plus one tablespoon) unsalted butter

12 ounces cremini (baby portobello) mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons chopped shallots

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cups half-and-half

1 1/3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook the green beans in a large pot of lightly salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook, because they will bake in the oven. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again. Pat the green beans dry with paper towels.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid has almost evaporated, about 12 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with the flour and stir well.

Whisk in the half-and-half, chicken stock and soy sauce, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the green beans and mix well.

Spread in a buttered 2-quart baking dish. (The gratin can be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce, pierce a few holes in the wrap to allow the steam to escape, then cool to tepid and refrigerate. Remove the wrap before reheating.)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle the parmesan over the gratin. Cut the remaining 1 tablespoon butter into tiny cubes and dot the top of the gratin with butter. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the top is browned, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve hot.

Can be made one day ahead.

From "Thanksgiving 101"

Per serving (based on 10 servings): 145 calories, 5 grams protein, 10 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 29 milligrams cholesterol, 199 milligrams sodium

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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