Post Thanksgiving: A Turkey Day Recap

This post may seem a little untimely, but I left my computer cable Sofia and was unable to retrieved it till this weekend, so I apologize for my Thanksgiving re-cap post about 2 weeks late!
Still full of Turkey Day spirit!
I don’t think the term shattered completely encompasses how I felt the day after Thanksgiving.  The mass quantities of wine ingested during the course of dinner probably didn’t help much or the copious amounts of food.  The meal was a success for the most part, but there were a few snafus along the way. Looking back on the meal, the cooking, the preparation, I feel the need to share a few things that I learned.

My Thanksgiving meal starts a few weeks before the actual day, when I begin gathering my research materials, which help me build my menu.  Usually, I try to find a theme to bind the meal together, but this year, I kind of winged it; selecting recipes and sides that sounded delicious, but also making sure that many colors were represented. I have a large selection of Thanksgiving recipe books and old November issues of culinary magazines, plus a folder of random loose recipes that I have printed out over the years.

I gathered my reading materials and started to sort through and tag with post-its possible 2010 contenders and managed to narrow it down to these lovely dishes, which I photocopied to preserve my books and resources (anal retentive… yes, I know):
Glittering Spiced Walnuts
Spinach Dip with Crudités
Spicy Three-Cheese Spread
Americano’s Chanterelle Mushroom Soup
Sage-Brined Roast Turkey with
Whole Wheat Stuffing with Pomegranate bacon, Chestnuts and Parmesan
Potato Gratin with Mushrooms and Gruyère
Braised Chestnuts with Madeira Cream Sauce
Maple Braised Butternut Squash with Fresh Thyme
Chiffonade of Brussels Sprouts with Diced Pomegranate Bacon and Hazelnuts
Cranberry Sauce
Apple Crostata with Cheddar Crust
Pear Crostata with Figs and Honey
Persimmon Pudding

Once I figure out the recipes, I begin to assemble a shopping list and schedule.  This year I decided to forgo typing my schedule, but keeping organize with my white board.  I think I prefer this method of organization because it is larger and allows me to really visualize what I have yet to do. Although my typed version is much more detailed breaking down recipes into various steps and elements.
This was my status mid-afternoon on Wednesday.

While Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, including my birthday, which not technically a holiday, but does falls on Groundhogs Day (US), I always overdo it, just in different ways every year.  For example, the first time I hosted a Thanksgiving in 2000, I made 9 different pies for 9 adults.  For those of you who have trouble with math that is a pie a person… so, in retrospect I now consider this an unhealthy pie to person ratio. This year, while hosting only 4 adults and my 2 girls; created 3 starters, a soup, a turkey, 6 side dishes and 3 desserts, which wouldn’t be that bad, but I neglected to adjust the original serving sizes from 8 – 10 people.

The amount of food was insane.  I felt horribly wasteful.  Most of the leftovers were eaten over the course of a few days, but one of my pies just completely went to waste and got moldy before we could touch it!

R.I.P Apple Crostata with Cheddar Crust

TIP: Cook for the actual guests you in attendance, not the dinner party in your head.  Just because you are a glutton doesn’t mean everyone else is too!

A few days before Thanksgiving, I received some frantic phone calls and text messages about where to find a turkey in Bulgaria. I have never had a problem finding a frozen turkey in Sofia or Kyustendil.  They are available in the frozen meat section.

Пуешко месо (pu-esh-ko me-so) = turkey meat
For the last 4 years, Doux has been the only brand of bird that I have found.  If you are lucky enough to know someone who keeps live turkeys, then that would be your best bet for procuring a fresh bird.  My only concern is the storage and transportation of the bird after it has been killed.  Turkey is not something that Bulgarians eat regularly, so be mindful of salmonella and other such things. 
TIP: If you are buying a frozen bird.  Allow yourself at least 4 DAYS to thaw the bird in the refrigerator. So, this means you need to buy your bird on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  Most rapid thawing of frozen poultry lead to questionable flavors and textures.  If you have ever had rubbery/gummy chicken in a restaurant in Bulgaria, you know exactly what I mean.

All in all I would categorize the meal as a success.  I am certain next year will be my best Thanksgiving thus far.  I am already planning it now.  I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays thus far.  Do you have any holiday meal planning tips that help you year after year?

If you enjoy reading my blog, please Follow, subscribe via feedbecome a fan of my page on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

Turkey Moussaka: Top Turkey Scholarship

My favorite time of the year is drawing near, Thanksgiving, and it got me thinking about all of the different places that I’ve celebrated this holiday through out my life.  One place in particular was the house that I grew up in, in Brooklyn.  We had a formal dining room with a large wooden table and eight chairs.  I knew that the holidays were near when my father brought up the extra leaves for our drop leaf table.  This act signified the start of the season filled with the trifecta of family, food and friends.

Now, I am a wife and a mother hosting my own Thanksgivings, albeit very far from the homes of my youth, which I think is why I put such emphasis on having my annual grandiose Thanksgiving in Bulgaria.  The first thing I do is research recipes. I start by gathering some of my favorite recipe books, old November issues of culinary magazines and my printed out Thanksgiving recipe file. My goal is to find a theme or common idea to bind the dinner together, one year my theme was Provençal flavors. This year will be no different, except for the fact, I will be visiting the US 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, so I will be able to stock up on research materials and if need be smuggle a few bags of Ocean Spray cranberries in my luggage (FYI – they travel well!)
While I am not certain what recipes I will be preparing for the actually Thanksgiving holiday, I do know what I am planning to do with the leftovers.  Like last year, I am entering The Culinary Institute of America’s Top Turkey Scholarship competition.  The only difference is that this year I need to win… Why you ask?… Well, I will make the formal announcement soon.  Stay tuned!
The premise of the competition is to come up with a fantastic recipe to make use of your leftover turkey meat.  Last year, I made Turkey and Cranberry Raviolis with Gravy but this year, I wanted to find a harmonious collaboration between my American heritage and my adopted homeland Bulgaria.  One dish in particular came to mind and that was Mousakka.  The dish would lend itself well to a day after Thanksgiving meal because of its simple preparation.  Now, before a cultural war breaks out between the Eastern European nations, this is not only a Greek dish, but Bulgarian as well.  All of the neighboring countries Eastern Europe or former Ottoman Empire share many similarities with their cuisines.  That being said, I first experienced Mousakka in August 2001, during my inaugural trip to my husband’s homeland. I finally learned how to make Mousakka when my mother-in-law lived with us in New York after my daughter Maya was born in 2003.  The recipe she shared with me was not exact, nor could we communicate in the same language, so in order to explain the dish to me she prepared the dish and I made notes and observations about her ingredients and technique. It was quite a interesting experience.

I adapted her original recipe to use turkey meat and thyme instead of ground pork and summer savory to capture the essence of Thanksgiving. I also added some dried cranberries because I love the way the tart sweetness blends nicely with the other savory elements.
18 oz (500g) ground turkey
18 oz (500g) potatoes, cut into ½” pieces
7 oz (200g) sweet potatoes, cut into ½” pieces
3.5 oz (100g) or 2 lg carrots, cut into ½” pieces
3.5 (100g) tomatoes, peeled and seeded, roughly chopped
1 large onion chopped
½ cup dried cranberries (optional)
1 tbsp thyme
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
4 eggs
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste.

Pre heat the oven to 350F (180C)

In a large pot, heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat.  When hot add the onions and carrots cook till onions are soft about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat; add the turkey meat to the pot along with the cranberries and herbs.  Season with salt and pepper then pour into a 9 x 13 inch dish. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes till the potatoes are soft.  Remove from oven.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together with the milk, season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the dish and return to oven for an additional 10 – 15 minutes or till the egg mixture has set and has a golden hue.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 – 15 mintues before slicing and serving.
I would love to hear from my readers about some of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes, menus and memories.  Thanks for sharing!

If you enjoy reading my blog, please Follow, subscribe via feedbecome a fan of my page on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

Maple Ginger Roast Vegetable Soup

I was going through the leftovers in my fridge and I had a hell of a lot of the Maple Ginger Roast Vegetables. I wasn’t sure what to do with them… but then it dawned on me. I had a bunch of chicken stock too. Things were percolating in my brain and voila… soup! I google “Maple Ginger Roast Vegetable Soup” and I got nothing, so to my chagrin, I set out to create.

The results were great. The girls and I loved it. Angel is not really a soup person, but he managed to get it down.

Give it a whirl, you won’t be disappointed.

  1. 4 medium carrots (3/4 pound), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  2. 1 medium head cauliflower (2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch florets
  3. 1 small butternut squash (2 pounds)—peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
  4. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  6. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  7. 4 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (2 tbsp for roasting)
  8. 2/3 cup pure maple syrup (1/3 for roasting)
  9. 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  10. 2 tablespoons butter
  11. 5 cups of homemade chicken stock
  12. 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  13. chopped chives for garnish (optional)
  14. roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the carrots, cauliflower and squash with the olive oil and nutmeg and season generously with salt and black pepper. Spread the vegetables on a large rimmed baking sheets and roast for 30 minutes, until the vegetables begin to brown. Scatter 2 tablespoons of ginger over the vegetables and drizzle with 1/3 cup maple syrup; toss well. Continue to roast the vegetables for 25 minutes longer, until they are tender and golden.
  3. In a dutch oven, melt butter, then add butter and the rest of the ginger and shallots. Sauté for a 2 – 4 minutes till the shallots are soft. Add the vegetables and the rest of the maple syrup, stir to incorporate.
  4. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Then simmer for 15 minutes at medium heat. Remove from heat.
  5. Once cooled, put in a blender in batches or use a hand mixer and blend completely. Mix in cream.
  6. Return to heat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
I only added the chopped chives because my plant needed a trim and I like chives. You could also toss in some roasted seeds for some crunch and protein.


Thanksgiving… the best holiday ever!

For those of you that were unaware, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday: Food, family, friends and wine, what more could you ask for. Normally, I like to prepare a few weeks in advance by gathering old issues of November cooking magazines and going through some Thanksgiving centric cookbooks to drum up some ideas. This year, I found a recipe on Epicurious, Roast Turkey with Prosciutto and Hazelnut Crust, so that became the building block that I tried to work around.

This year I was a little pressed for time being that we only got back from Australia on Sunday, so I had to tone down the number of side dishes. Here is my menu:

Roast Turkey with Prosciutto Hazelnut Crust

Aunt Jeanie’s Coconut Custard Pie

Bourbon Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Pie Filling:

15 oz Pumpkin Puree
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 tbsp bourbon
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar packed
1/2 cup chopped pecan pieces
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of fine sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F with the rack in the middle. Line the pie crust with parchment of foil and fill with dried beans. Bake for about 20 minutes. Carefully remove dried beans and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Cool completely.

Combine ingredients for the topping and set aside.

Whisk the filling ingredients together and pour into cooled shell, then bake for about 40 minutes, gently sprinkle the top of the pie with the topping and bake 15 minutes more till golden.

Cool completely!

The pumpkin pie was my own hybrid of a variety of recipes and I should have kept it in the oven another 10 – 15 minutes before I topped with the pecan mixture. I adjusted the above recipe accordingly. This recipe is a work in progress, but still delicious!

With the amount of food I made you would think that I was cooking for an army, but in reality, it is Angel, the kids and I, his parents and brother, plus Lindsay and Mitko.

For the most part, everything turned out OK, but I over did it… again!!! There were some tweaks that I would make. The panna cotta did not have the right consistency, but that was OK because it tasted like melted vanilla bean ice cream. The internal temperature of the bird was not to my liking, but I change my method every year, so it was to be expected. I would have liked the white meat to be a little moister, especially since I got lazy and didn’t make any gravy. Also, if you don’t like mustard you won’t like the cranberry mustard relish. It was zesty to say the least. I am going to turn the leftover roasted vegetables into a soup… recipe to follow!

I was thinking next year to have an ex-pat Thanksgiving celebration in Kyustendil. What do you think?