Please note that I’ve set up a page for my Thanksgiving dinner planning and preparation. It can be found in the heading line above or click here.
As the Thanksgiving holiday draws near my tastes turn more and more to those dishes that remind me of the harvest – apples and pumpkins, ginger and cinnamon, thyme and rosemary, beef or pork roasts, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and baked goods. I tend to favor one-dish meals that can easily be prepared alongside planning and preparation for the big holiday meal. Here are some things I’ve served lately that I recommend for their delicious Fall flavors and relative ease of preparation. As is often the case my recipe source is the excellent Fine Cooking magazine and website.
Oatmeal has always been a favorite of mine. Its warm, sweet flavor and stick-to-the-ribs texture is a welcome dish on cold, rainy, snowy mornings. My brother is a staunch advocate for the course, chewy, steel-cut variety of oatmeal but I had not served it that way for many years. When I came across the recipe for Gingerbread Steel-Cut Oatmeal I had to try this interesting twist on the traditional preparation. With maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar, raisins, and sweet spices added to the oats this is sure to be a favorite in our house for years to come. The overnight process makes this easy to get to the table in the morning and is definitely company worthy.
I felt the cooking times needed to be lengthened a bit and the oatmeal benefited nicely from letting it rest a few minutes in the pot before serving. Leftovers, warmed in the microwave the next day, were just as good as the first.
This is a very, very good chicken dish. I especially liked the tangy flavor the vinegar imparts – it’s a welcome change from the usual broths and gravies served with chicken and potatoes. That and the savory little onions, the sweet orange sections, and the creamy, nutritious spinach makes this recipe a keeper. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers it warms up well the next day too. I followed the suggestion to serve over mashed potatoes but you could also serve the dish over rice. Even though I blanched the pearl onions, as suggested, I say leave yourself a few extra minutes to get them out of their jackets. And I have to ask author Chef Hugh Acheson – where in the world does one find cane vinegar? C’mon man! – I substituted malt vinegar. Acheson tends to favor Southern cuisine – I guess the Pacific Northwest has not caught up with this vinegar. I’m going to send away for some just to satisfy my curiosity: Cane Vinegar.
As a child in the Midwest my family would often hunt for ducks near the Mississippi River flyway. While I loved the great outdoors in the Fall, I disliked the gamey taste of wild duck and I was fearful of biting down on a shotgun pellet. Given those biases, I’ve been reluctant to prepare duck at home even though I know that domestic duck is nothing like the wild variety. This recipe persuaded me to give it a try. Duck legs are not a staple at most grocery stores so I had to order them from a butcher shop and pick them up the next day. We had a kabocha squash left over from a Halloween display and that worked nicely except, never having prepared one, I had a heck of a time peeling it. Other than that it was a very easy dish to prepare and the duck having braised in the savory vegetable broth was sublime. Here’s a picture of the finished dish courtesy of Fine Cooking.Com.
I felt that the carrots and squash slightly overwhelmed the other flavors in the broth so the next time I make this dish I will cut back on the amount of carrots used. I also felt that the squash over cooked and turned to mush. That may have been due to the tender nature of kabocha squash but in the future I think I will briefly saute the squash and add it to the pot in the last half hour or so. The figs and the star anise provide an amazing flavor combination so be sure to include them. This is a Sunday-dinner-worthy, one-dish meal that you will want to make over and over.
Pumpkin and caramel are two of my favorite flavors. I was hooked when I saw this desert on the cover of the Oct/Nov issue of Fine Cooking magazine. Having made this desert twice I guarantee that it will garner rave reviews for its beautiful presentation, wonderful textures, and divine flavor. There are four components one must make in order to assemble the tart: candied pumpkin seeds, pie crust, caramel, and the pumpkin custard. None of these are difficult to do but they can be time consuming. The recipe allows for candying the seeds and mixing and rolling out the crust on one day, and finishing the crust, caramel, and custard the next. The desert also needs to cool at different steps and chills for a few hours once assembled so allow time for all of this. Given the time needed to make it I suggest this is a sensational pot-luck dish. Trying to prepare a full dinner with this as a desert would be a big job.
The pie crust has a little corn meal in it that imparts an interesting crunch. I thought the amount of cornmeal was a bit distracting so I cut the cornmeal back by half the second time I made it and added a bit more flour. Caramel is quite easy to make but easy to burn so watch it carefully. But fear not, it’s not a big deal to start over with caramel – it’s only sugar and water. Once it turns amber, slowly add your other ingredients and you’re done.