By Marcia Pilgeram
Holy fowl, last week, I was reminded that a 26-pound turkey goes a long way — especially when there are last-minute guest cancellations. Sadly, daughter Casey and family could not make it due to a couple of sick youngsters. For the first time since I can remember, my Thanksgiving gang could sit around the dining room table, and I knew my son-in-law Russ was secretly thrilled. (He didn’t need to move and measure the living room furniture, recreating a movie set-worthy dining room scene for 24 guests).
We didn’t even bother with an elaborate tablescape this year, forgoing the Royal Doulton wedding china and even the standard four-stems-per-person Waterford crystal (handwashing, be damned!).
Some traditions never die, and young granddaughter Fern singlehandedly shook a chilled canning jar filled with cream until, much to her delight, we had a ball of butter for the dinner rolls and buttermilk for the mashed potatoes.
These young people are all stepping up, and grandson Alden is no exception and has taken over Aunt Casey’s mashing duties. We remain a family of mashed potato lovers (and critics) who gather around the pot, spoons in hand, tasting until we agree that we’ve got the perfect amounts of warm cream, butter, white pepper and salt added to the pot. The potatoes are always mashed by hand, and there’s no greater shame to the masher than serving up an errant lump. We found ourselves a worthy new masher.
We also found ourselves in no hurry to clear the table and lingered long over the meal (and wine), regaling one another with past Thanksgiving anecdotal history that even the grandchildren found amusing. It’s hard to believe that the older ones have passed the threshold to adolescence and continue to develop their wicked sense of humor.
Back to that huge turkey. There were only six carnivores at our table; and, with a fridge full of fowl, Ryanne was loath to let me prepare anything else. So, we had a variety of leftover turkey dishes to sample (before I packed them up for a week’s worth of Moscow meals-to-go).
I recently purchased a rice cooker and have been anxious to use it. Still, the Japanese-to-English-translated manual directions were a bit confusing; so, with Ryanne in charge of the rice cooker operations, I chopped and sauteed leftover crudites for an Asian-style turkey dish.
When I first mentioned to Ryanne that I had comprehension anxiety with the manual, my professor-daughter alleged that it was, perhaps, a “lack of learning effort” on my part. Say what?
Eventually, Ryanne and I agreed on the manual’s complexity. Soon after that, she offered up a cooker filled with white rice that we spooned over Thai-ginger turkey and vegetables. It was pretty darn tasty.
Next, we whipped up a batch of our favorite turkey salad for lunch. There was still more than enough turkey for yet another meal, so the following day’s entrée was a spicy Panang-curried turkey, ladled over — yes — another batch of rice (I’m becoming a rice cooker pro).
Ryanne is frugal like me, making us a pretty handy duo in the kitchen, where we incorporated nearly all of the remaining leftovers into the curry. I am happy to report that according to my grandson, Will, even the vegetarian version was practically worthy of a Michelin star.
According to Ryanne, both leftover turkey dishes deserve a written recipe for future Thanksgiving-gathered generations. But, of course, we already have plenty of family recipes, some dating back to our poor Irish ancestors (Irish potato stuffing), and we never tire of the stories we serve with the food. But though I cherish the recipes and the origins as I know them, I wish I knew the whole story of all the foods we so love.
I have a recipe many deem the best potatoes they’ve ever eaten. The first time I made them, I was trying to find a use for an unopened quart of soon-to-expire whipping cream. The dish drew rave reviews and numerous recipe requests, so I carefully measured and timed the process the next time I made them.
Rosemary au gratin potatoes are now a beloved mainstay at my table; and, even though there’s nothing I love more than an embellished story, there is nothing more to add to their conception. I hope you and your family like them as much as we do.
Scalloped rosemary potatoes recipe • serves 6-8
These rich and savory potatoes are perfect accompaniment to beef, lamb or chicken.
• 1 quart heavy cream
• 1-2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
• 2 shallots, peeled and finely minced
• 1 fresh rosemary sprig
• 1 fresh bay leaf
• 1 (more) fresh rosemary sprig, finely diced
• 2 tsp sea salt (split in half)
• 1 tsp fine ground white pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wash and peel potatoes. Slice washed and peeled potatoes as thin as possible; put them in a bowl filled with cold, salted water; set aside.
Saute shallots (and garlic, if using) in a medium-sized saucepan, stirring until soft. Add fresh rosemary sprig and bay leaf. Add the cream and slowly bring to a boil, stirring until it begins to thicken. Turn down heat and simmer a few minutes to infuse herb flavor. Remove bay leaf and rosemary sprig, add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper, and stir. Make sure you have all the shallots (and garlic) mixed well).
Mix minced rosemary, and sea salt in a small dish, set aside.
Butter a 9- x 12-inch oven-proof pan. Add ⅓ of the well-drained potato slices in layers. Pour ⅓ of hot cream over the potatoes, repeat with remaining potatoes and cream, finishing with cream. Sprinkle top with the rosemary and salt mixture.
Bake uncovered on middle rack of oven for about an hour, until potatoes are soft and top is lightly browned (cover loosely with foil if they are browning too quickly).
Garnish with additional rosemary sprig — you can use a biscuit cutter to make individual rounds of potatoes for fancy holiday dinner plates.
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