Friday, November 27, 2009

Our First Carolina Thanksgiving (Waldorf Salad and Elizabeth’s Cranberry Sauce)

“Can you have him call back later?” Those are seven words I don’t think I’ve ever said to Steve when our son Will has called. But yesterday as luck would have it his Thanksgiving call came at that critical moment between the turkey coming out of the oven and being served when everything seems to be happening at once.
Potatoes being mashed, carrots being sautéed, gravy being made, dressing and sweet potatoes coming out of the oven and everyone trying to snatch a taste of the turkey and not loose a finger in the process. At one point we I caught myself turning from the mixer to the stove as my brother went from the stove to the sink and it seriously felt like we were doing some sort of dance. I’m a good multi-tasker, but balancing a phone and having a meaningful conversation in the midst of it all simply wasn’t in the cards.
Thankfully Will called as he was rolling in from a morning hunting trip and in need of a shower and nap before his Thanksgiving feast with college friends and surrogate family in Montana. We caught up later in the evening and all was good.
The preparations for yesterday’s meal began last weekend with a drive out to Cane Creek Farm, which is known for raising some of the best turkeys around.

This is pig country and so pork is their main gig, but they also do a nice business in poultry. We took our niece, nephew and our little Scottie and had a great day; complete with a visit with some week old piglets and stop Maple View Dairy for some of their delicious ice cream.
I think a tradition has been born.
Wednesday we set about the business of making the brine (salt, sugar, herbs, spices, orange peel – I confess I bought the mix at A Southern Season), submerged the bird, stashed it in the garage fridge and hoped for the best.

And the best it was! Somehow the turkey on the table is always the best one ever, but I truly believe this bird was in a class of its own. Turkeys that are pasture raised look different and taste different. They look like they actually were at one point a bird and not some hormone induced freak show. And the taste – the white meat was extremely flavorful and people who never eat dark meat were asking for more. We were lucky to send a tad bit home with our guests and still eek out a day-after sandwich this afternoon.
It seems a bit odd to give a Thanksgiving recipe the day after, but these two are family favorites that are good year-round.

Waldorf Salad
(Serves 8, with leftovers)
My mother’s family started making this back in the 50s when there was some sort of cranberry blight. It has been on our Thanksgiving table ever since, and adds a bit of freshness to an otherwise heavy meal.
Make this early in the day so the flavors can meld together.

  • 1 lemon, remove the zest with a micro plane first and then juiced
  • 3 red apples; core removed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 green apples; core removed and chopped into bites-sized pieces
  • 1 cup celery, chopped into ¼ inch dice
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (east coast) or walnuts (west coast)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup Best Foods (Hellman’s on the east coast) Mayonnaise
  • Pinch of salt
In a large bowl:

  • Put the lemon juice in the bottom of the bowl
  • As you chop each apple, drop them into the juice and toss to keep them from turning brown
  • Add the rest of the ingredients
  • Stir to combine
  • Refrigerate until serving time

Elizabeth’s Cranberry Sauce
Simple and delicious is the best way to describe this sauce. Really yummy on next-day turkey sandwiches, too.
Makes just over 2 cups – It is best to double the recipe if you want leftovers
Make this the day before serving for best flavor
Note – you are at the mercy of the orange so buy a few and use the one with the best flavor.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 orange – juiced, plus the flesh and peel cut into quarters
  • Enough water to bring the total liquid (water and orange juice) to 1 cup
  • ¼ tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 12-ounce package Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

  • Combine sugar, orange juice and water in a medium saucepan.
  • Bring to boil
  • Add cranberries, ginger and salt. Return to boil.
  • Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring now and then.
  • Remove from heat and cool completely at room temperature.
  • Refrigerate. Even better the 2nd day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

When the goin’ gets tough the though get choppin’ (Fennel Chicken and Stove-Braised Butter Beans)

Ok. I’ll admit it. I had a down right lousy day. We all have ‘em. Technology issues. People issues. Schedule issues. Pick one. Pick ‘em all. That’s why the call it work and not play, eh?

Luckily cases of the work-a-day blues are few and far between. That’s not the “Hollyanna” in me. My glass may be perpetually half full, but work-wise I’m normally an honest to goodness happy girl.

When the stars don’t align and I’m dealt a bad Monday, what do I do? Cook. Of course.

So as the sun set on Old Forest Creek Road, I found myself surveying the bounty of Saturday’s Farmers’ Market. Fresh butter beans. The youngest, sweetest fennel you’ve ever seen. Organic chick thighs...

Throw that woman a shallot, Johnny, and let’s get cookin’!

If I do say so myself, the results were pretty darn good. An omen for the day that will be tomorrow. For now, I’ll capture the recipes and give them to you…

As always,


Two recipes today: Chicken & Fennel; and Stove Braised Butter Beans. Serve with wild rice cooked with beef or chicken stock rather than water.

Chicken and Fennel

Serves 2 with leftovers. You do the math for a larger group.


  • 4 chicken thighs – boned and skinned
  • ½ shallot, sliced thin
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 young bulbs fennel (about 1 cup) sliced
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • Olive Oil to coat a large skillet
  • 1 to 1.5 cups cup chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs dried thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp butter


  • Heat a large skillet with a lid
  • While the pan is heating season the chicken thighs with salt, pepper and a pinch or two of the thyme
  • Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil
  • Add the chicken and brown both sides
  • Now add the shallot and cook until soft
  • Next add the garlic, fennel, mushrooms and remainder of the thyme
  • Sauté until all veg are getting soft.
  • Now add the chicken stock, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan
  • Bring to a boil and cover for 20 minute
  • At the 20-minute mark, check the chicken for doneness (juices should run clear)
  • Lower heat and add the butter to the remaining mixture.
  • Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed
  • Keep warm until you serve.

Stove Braised Butter Beans

Full disclosure – until I went to the Farmers’ Market here I had never seen a fresh butter bean. Until tonight I’d never cooked one. Steve tells me they are really good. I humbly have to agree.


  • 1-½ cup fresh butter beans
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • ½ shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 ½ cup chicken stock
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp butter
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  • Heat a large saucepan with a lid
  • Add the oil
  • Add the shallot, pinch of salt, few grinds of pepper and cook until soft
  • Add the garlic, butter beans and thyme and sauté until the butter beans are just starting to look soft (about 5 minutes)
  • Add the broth. It should just cover the beans.
  • Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and cook for 25 minutes
  • Check for doneness. The beans should be soft but not mushy.
  • Stir in the butter.
  • Keep warm until you serve

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back on the Radar (Smothered Chicken)

So no, I have not fallen off the face of the earth; and I’ve not given up my blogging. It’s just been a bit hectic; but I’m back in the swing of things and enjoying a little “me” computer time before I get back to unpacking boxes and also doing a bit of office work.

We moved into the house on Thursday. I really should say that Steve moved us into the house. I’m in the middle of a couple of big projects at work and missed the bulk of the activity. But suffice to say, by the time it grew dark, we were out of storage and the condo and into our home. And it feels good. Cluttered with boxes - but good nonetheless.

Last night was Halloween, a great way to get to know the neighbors. After a day of unpacking and moving furniture, we ran over to see my niece and nephew in their very scary costumes. Then we dashed back to our place to had out candy.

Our new home has a very steep driveway, so the kids had to work for it. But about probably around 75 kids took the challenge, only little tricker treater took a header on the wet leaves (it rained earlier in the day and the hardwoods are shedding their autumn foliage - and yes, she was fine and Steve made it all better with extra candy), plus most of the parents took the time to introduce themselves and welcome us to the neighborhood.

When it was all said and done we headed over to the home of our new next-door neighbors’, who have a wonderful front yard fireplace for some adult refreshments, and an impromptu lesson in what the locals call beach music and a dance step called the shag. Thankfully the video cameras were not rolling.

Another highlight of the day – I fired up my new Wolf Range and made a yummy chicken dish that is perfect for a fall evening. The recipe literally came together as I was making it, but I jotted it all down for you. I hope you have a chance to try it.

Smothered Chicken

Serves 2, with possible leftovers depending on size of the chicken thighs. You can also make this with breasts, but if you do go for bone-in as there will be better flavor.


  • 4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin off
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • ½ sweet potato, ½ inch diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, ½ inch diced
  • 6 crimini mushrooms (also called baby portabellas), sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 Tbs olive oil (lightly coat the skillet)
  • 1 Tbs dried thyme
  • 1 ½ tsp dried sage
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper


  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper, dust with the flour and set aside

In a skillet with a lid:

  • Heat the olive oil over a medium heat
  • Sauté the onion until slightly soft
  • Add red bell peppers and sweet potato and sauté slightly
  • Add the thyme and sage and stir to combine thoroughly
  • Push the sautéed mixture to the sides of the skillet
  • Add the chicken, reserving the extra flour.
  • Don’t freak out – the flour and remaining veg residue is going to crush up on the bottom of the pan. This is good.
  • When you’ve reached a slightly browned stage, add the mushrooms and the remaining flour. Stir to combine.
  • Add the broth; scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan; bring to a boil
  • Lower the heat and cover.
  • Simmer for 35 – 40 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Serve with wild rice/brown rice (look for a combination of the two) made with chicken stock rather than water.