Sunday, November 29, 2009

And so it begins!

It's hard to believe that another holiday season is already begun! The last year has flown by, and I'm looking forward to a wonderful holiday season this year. It was off to a great start this past week, when Joe and I got to spend Thanksgiving with my family for the first time since 2003. My family moved overseas while I was in college, so I spent the last handful of Thanksgivings either with extended family or with Joe's family. I have yet to have a bad Turkey Day, but nothing compares to spending the day with my parents and siblings.

The master chef prepares the table.

I think Thanksgiving is a lot of foodies favorite holidays, and I can see why. My mom, sister, and I had been discussing menu ideas for weeks, and we ended up cooking quite a feast. My future brother in law is a vegetarian, so his dietary restrictions added a fun challenge to planning our meal. I planned two dishes to contribute-- a savory bread pudding (like stuffing on steroids), and maple glazed Brussels sprouts. The bread pudding was vegetarian and everyone seemed to love it. I couldn't resist making Brussels sprouts with bacon, because I really believe there is no veggie friendly alternative to bacon. They were amazing, and I think these will be a side dish that could fit in with any fall or winter meal. We also had 3 kinds of home brewed beer-- an E.S.B. from Dan, a Pumpkin Ale from Joe, and a Grand Cru from my dad. They are a talented bunch of brewers!

My Savory Bread Pudding is in the top right corner of the picture, and the Brussels sprouts are in the middle on the left.

Our after dinner tradition is a nice long walk around the neighborhood, and this year the weather in St. Louis was perfect. It wasn't warm, but the brisk temperature was the definition of great Thanksgiving weather. We finally invested in a copy of the movie Elf this year, and enjoyed that while eating apple and pumpkin pie. It was a relaxing day, full of fun family bonding, and I couldn't have asked for a better Thanksgiving! I hope everyone else had a great holiday weekend!

These recipes are all from Thanksgiving classes at The Chopping Block.

Sweet Corn and Gouda Bread Pudding with Gravy

Yield: 6-8 servings

1 sourdough loaf, cut into 1 inch pieces (about 8 cups)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 pound Tuscan kale, torn into 1 inch pieces
4 cups frozen corn, defrosted
Salt and pepper to taste
7 eggs
2 1/4 cups half and half
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon thyme, rough chopped
3/4 pound Gouda cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Mushroom Gravy (recipe below)

1. Lay the cut up bread out to dry for about 2 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a large baking dish.
3. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Sauté the red onion, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized. Add the kale and cook until wilted. Fold in the corn and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, white wine, Dijon mustard and thyme.
5. Fold in the bread, kale mixture and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow this mixture to soak for 30 minutes.
6. Pour into the buttered baking dish and bake on a parchment-lined sheet tray until the center is set and the top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.
7. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and then serve with the Mushroom Gravy.

Mushroom Gravy
Yield: 3 cups

1/2 stick butter
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon parsley, rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Sauté the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 8-10 minutes.
2. Stir in the flour. The mixture will look very pasty. Cook the roux for about 2 minutes.
3. Whisk in the stock, wine and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
4. Whisk in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Yield: 4-6 servings

1/4 lb bacon, cut into matchsticks
1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed & cut in half
3 Tbsp walnut mustard
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup chicken stock
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat a heavy, wide pan over medium-low heat and add the bacon pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just crisp.
2. Toss in the Brussels sprouts, and saute until lightly caramelized.
3. Add the mustard, maple syrup, and chicken stock, and mix well. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to a glaze and the sprouts are just tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Ready for the feast to begin!

Lounging around, recovering from far too much good food.

I wish I remembered what was so upsetting ... either Elf of the black Friday deals!

A perk of my family living in St. Louis is that I get to see awesome friends like Danielle when I go back for the holidays! We had dinner and drinks in Lafayette Square, a really cute area near downtown. Miss you Dani!