Recipes and Stories

8 November 2017: Old-Fashioned Scalloped Oysters

November 8, 2017

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Oysters, Scalloped Oysters, Family Traditions

Old-Fashioned Scalloped Oysters
Since fall is my favorite season for cooking, it shouldn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that Thanksgiving is my favorite cook’s holiday. Normally, the second week in November would find me up to my elbows in planning—gathering recipes, happily mapping out every detail, stocking up on the basics.

And by the week of the feast, my kitchen is fragrant with a simmering broth pot, bubbling cranberry conserve, baking cheese straws, and toasting pecans. For the space of that week, no kitchen job—not even peeling brussels sprouts—seems tedious.

This year, however, my kitchen will be a lot quieter, not to mention less fragrant. (more…)

27 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving XII—The Gravy

November 27, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Gravy, Pan Gravy, Madeira Pan Gravy

Madeira Pan Gravy
It isn’t my job to tell you what kind of gravy to serve with your turkey. Whether or not you add wine to it, and whether you include the giblets and add chopped boiled eggs is up to you. My job is to show you how to make gravy that’s silky-smooth and delicious. You will need a roasting pan with a heavy enough bottom to withstand direct heat, a degreasing pitcher (fat separator), and a flat whisk. (more…)

26 November 2014 Mastering Thanksgiving XI—Turkey and Dressing

November 26, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Cornbread, Cornbread Dressing, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic American Cooking

The cornbread, biscuits, and seasonings all tossed toghether for the dressing, awaiting its moistening dose of rich broth
If all has gone well and you’ve done enough basic prep by tomorrow, your only really big job will be the turkey and dressing. If you haven’t tried to roast a turkey in a year (or have never done it), relax: a turkey roasts just like a chicken – it just takes longer. Allow plenty of time and remember that it doesn’t have to look like those magazine covers. (more…)

26 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving X—The Art of the Biscuit

November 26, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Biscuits, Dressing, Classic Southern Cooking

The secret to perfect biscuits is just like getting to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice, and making them for dressing is the perfect time to do it.
The other key ingredient in my family’s cornbread dressing is actually another kind of bread altogether: biscuits. They give the dressing body and help bind it together without having to add eggs, which can sometimes make dressing a bit heavy.

Unfortunately, few home cooks seem to make biscuits very often, which is too bad. Because once one gets the knack, they’re drop-dead easy, and serving forth a basket of delicate, piping hot biscuits never fails to impress company. They always think you’ve gone to a lot more trouble than you actually have. (more…)

26 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving IX—Cornbread for Dressing and Stuffing

November 26, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Cornbread, Cornbread Dressing, Classic Southern Cooking

Skillet Cornbread for dressing: the hardest part will be restraining yourself from eating it all before you can make the dressing!
Before tackling the stuffing or dressing, a quick word about tradition, with a word (and recipe) for one of the ingredients from my own tradition.

The wonderful thing about what you put into that savory bread pudding that accompanies your turkey, no matter what you put in it and whether you bake it in the bird or out of it, is that it’s one time that sticking to tradition will win for you every time. You really don’t have to think about it, analyze it, or reinvent it—you just make it and sit back and bask in the praise. (more…)

26 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving VIII—Turkey Down to the Wire

November 26, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Last Minute Thanksgiving

If you're worried that your turkey will still look like this when the company's coming through the door, relax: it won't. But you need to get moving now!
Until now, this series has been about planning ahead, doing ahead, and keeping calm. This installment, however, is for those of you who have, until now, done none of that, either because cooking the dinner was not supposed to be your worry or because you’re a world-class procrastinator.

It doesn’t matter why you’re not prepared, and the purpose of this is not to shame or judge you. (more…)

25 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving VII—The Oysters

November 25, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Scalloped Oysters, Classic Southern Cooking, Ruth Adams Bronz, Ramona Bernard

Lucy-Mama's Oysters, finished as Ruth does them in individual scallop shells.
One of the lovely things about Thanksgiving dinner is the way family traditions are perpetuated from generation to generation as we gather around that common table. Even lovelier is the way other traditions get adopted and shared as people come into our family and as we get absorbed into theirs, sometimes through legal ties but more often just because we love one another. (more…)

24 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving VI—Traditional Pumpkin Pie

November 24, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Classic American Cooking, Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Custard

All American Pumpkin Custard Pie
Now that we’ve established that I take an ecumenical approach to the traditional sweet potato and pumpkin custard pies on Thanksgiving’s dessert board, and have shared my grandmother’s recipe for the former, here’s how she made the latter.

It’s just a standard pumpkin custard without frills or “reinvention,” varying from most other American recipes only in detail. (more…)

24 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving V—MaMa’s Sweet Potato Custard Pies

November 24, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Sweet Potato Custard, Classic Southern Cooking, Essentials of Southern Cooking.

My grandmother's Sweet Potato Custard, a holiday essential in our family for at least four generations
I am not entering into the argument over whether pumpkin pie is a Yankee thing and sweet potato is a Southern one. My grandmother always served both at Thanksgiving, and both sweet potato and pumpkin pie (they were sometimes just called “custard”) were included in one of our earliest published records of Southern Cooking, Mary Randolph’s classic The Virginia House-Wife (1824), and both were included in most every antebellum Southern cookbook that followed, from Lettice Bryan’s Kentucky Housewife (1839) through Mrs. Hill’s New Cook Book (1867). (more…)

23 November 2014 Mastering Thanksgiving IV—The Pastry Cook

November 23, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Pastry, Pie Crust, Classic American Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic French Pastry

More than half the battle in perfecting the Thanksgiving pies, whether they are sweet potato (shown here), pumpkin or pecan, is a flaky, made-from-scratch pastry
Never mind the arguments over whether the pie should be pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan or not pie at all, but cheesecake: the easiest way to deal with whatever you’ve planned for the grand finale is to sweet talk someone else into doing it. However, if you’ve not done that (or you’re the person who got sweet-talked), and are contemplating a ready-made pastry, know that the difference between a memorable pie and a merely good one is the crust. (more…)

22 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner III—The Cranberries

November 22, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Cranberries, Cranberry Preserves, Classic American Cooking, Essentials of Southern Cooking

A truly American berry for an all-American holiday, cranberries have been paired with turkey for at least four centuries.
On Thanksgiving day, practically every table across the country on which the centerpiece is our quintessentially American bird, one can almost take for granted that the turkey will be mated with another quintessentially American thing: cranberries.

And despite the hundreds, if not thousands of cranberry sauce, compote, chutney, and relish recipes that are presently cluttering the internet, most of those berries will be served straight out of a can, which is odd. (more…)

21 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner II—The Broth

November 21, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving Dinner, Homemade Broth, Soup

Since I've not yet made my own broth, this is a picture of last year's stockpot. Let's face it: broth isn't terribly photogenic while it's in the making, but at Thanksgiving, it's the difference between a good dinner and a great one.
One of the most essential elements of Thanksgiving dinner, the one on which the rest of the meal rests, is the one that is the most often neglected: the broth. Each year, of the big packaged broth companies hawks its chicken broth with a warm, fuzzy thing about how caring cooks who love the process always rely on packaged broth to boost the flavor of their best dishes. (more…)

20 November 2014 Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner I

November 20, 2014

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving may be a week away, but that's not as much time as you think: if you don’t already have a plan in place, it’s time to stop daydreaming over those picture-perfect magazine table-settings and turkeys and get real.

As you begin to plan, be aware that your three greatest weapons are good organization, the make-ahead dish, and the fine art of delegation (also known as sweet talking someone into doing something for you), but at the risk of sounding scriptural, the greatest of these is organization. (more…)

28 November 2012: Creamed Turkey on Toasted Dressing

November 28, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Thanksgiving Leftovers, Creamed Turkey, Historical Southern Cooking

Thanksgiving Dinner's Last Hurrah: Creamed Turkey over Toasted Dressing
This is how we polished off the last of the turkey and dressing in my house. Although it’s now too late for your Thanksgiving leftovers, it’s worth keeping on file, especially if you have turkey and dressing at Christmas. And if you should not have any leftover dressing, try it on waffles, biscuits, or just buttered toast. (more…)

21 November 2012: Thanksgiving Lagniappe—Purefoy Cranberry Relish

November 21, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Cranberry Relish, The Purefoy Hotel, Historical Southern Cooking

Purefoy Cranberry Relish
If you’re getting down to the wire with Thanksgiving and don’t have time to make cranberry sauce, but still don’t want to open a can, here’s a quick and simple classic that requires no cooking. If you have a food processor handy, it comes together in five minutes flat—and will keep until Christmas if you keep it well-covered and refrigerated, and use only a clean silver or stainless steel spoon to dip into it. (more…)

21 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving VIII—Damon Lee Talks Turkey (and Dressing)

November 21, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Roasting Turkey, Dressing, Sage and Onion Dressing, Bacon Dressing, Sausage Dressing, Counry Ham and Pecan Dressing

Roasting a Turkey perfectly is no harder than roasting a chicken--it just takes longer
It’s now time to talk about the Thanksgiving cook’s central job: the turkey and dressing. If you haven’t tried to roast a turkey in a year (or have never done it) the first thing to do is relax: a turkey roasts just like a chicken – it just takes longer. Allow plenty of time and remember that it doesn’t have to look like those magazine covers. (more…)

20 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving VII—The Pastry Cook

November 20, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Pastry, Piecrust

The elements of pastry are very simple: low-gluten pastry flour (a good all-purpose will do), a bit of salt, cold butter, an ounce of chilled lard (for tenderness), and ice water to bind it
You’ll notice that up till now there’s been no mention of pastry-making (which I’d normally be doing either today or tomorrow). Happily, thanks to the gentle art of delegation (also known as sweet-talking), someone else is making the pies and dinner rolls.

If, on the outside chance the pie-making still falls in your lap, today is not too soon to make the pastry, (more…)

19 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving VI—Tradition and Oysters

November 19, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Ruth Adams Bronz, Lucy-Mama's Oysters, Oysters, Thanksgiving Traditions

Lucy-Mama's Oysters
This morning my own stock pot came off the pantry shelf and I set to work cleaning and slicing carrots, celery, onions and gingerroot. Deciding to give the broth a little extra color and depth of flavor, I tossed my hoard of turkey wings and necks into a large roasting pan, lightly coated them with oil, and set them to roast in a hot oven (425° F. for about 45 minutes).

While that was going on, (more…)

18 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner V—The Perfect Mash

November 18, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Perfect Mashed Potatoes, Potato Ricers

Perfect Mashed Potatoes, courtesy of the potato ricer
For some reason, Thanksgiving dinner tends to be a feast of starches: there’s that quintessential dressing/stuffing, yeast rolls, sweet potatoes, flour-thickened gravy, pastry, and often even cake. My own family also had baked macaroni and cheese. And just in case that’s not starch enough, many families throw in mashed potatoes. And what could be better? Fluffy, cloud-like, and meltingly tender, they’re the ultimate comfort on a fork. (more…)

17 November 2012: Mastering Thankgiving Dinner IV--Cornbread and Dressing

November 17, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Dressing, Cornbread Dressing, Cornbread

Cornbread the way God Meant it to be: made with no sugar and baked in a cast iron skillet.
Today’s post is late because it’s my birthday, and is about dressing and cornbread because—it’s my birthday, and for this one day I can be personal and frank.

Whoever figured out how to recycle stale bread by seasoning it with herbs and spices, moistening it with broth, and then shoving it into a roasting fowl so that it slowly baked, basting itself in the juices from the bird while it rotated on the spit, is one of those thousands of unsung culinary giants that has been lost to history. But that the idea survives to this day is a testament to its sheer genius, and it’s a shame that they never got due credit. (more…)

16 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner III

November 16, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Broth, Homemade Broth, Soup

It doesn't look like much, but the contents of this pot make all the difference between a good Thanksgiving dinner and a great one.
Today, let’s talk about the foundation on which the entire Thanksgiving dinner will rest: broth.

The most neglected pot in far too many American kitchens is the stockpot. At Kitchenware Outfitters, the kitchenware store where I work and teach, we sell a respectable number of these pots, but inevitably the words “cooking pasta” or “spaghetti sauce” or “chili” or “stew” come up, accompanied by a lot of questions about other possible uses for this tall, relatively narrow pot. (more…)

15 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner II

November 15, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner, Cranberry Orange Conserve

Cranberry Orange Conserve with Bourbon
Thanksgiving is just a week away. If you haven’t already started to plan, you need to know that time, as they say, is wasting. You aren’t in trouble yet, but you will be if you wait until next week to start planning and shopping.

Your three greatest weapons are good organization, the practical art of the make-ahead dish, and the fine art of delegation (also known as sweet talking someone into doing something for you). (more…)

14 November 2012: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner I

November 14, 2012

Tags: Thanksgiving Dinner

The Perfect Roasted Turkey is not hard to accomplish. Stay with me and learn! Photography by John Carrington
For the first time in more than a decade of writing for the Savannah Morning News, my November columns will have nothing to do with Thanksgiving. My friend Teri Bell (brave woman) has decided to take on the subject in her Miss Sophie feature.

You’d think I’d be happy: (more…)