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Recipes and Stories

27 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner X—Turkey Soup

Turkey and Pasta Soup


Of all the turkey leftovers that we enjoy in the days following Thanksgiving, the one I most look forward to is soup. All of them have their charms: sliced and piled into sandwiches; creamed and ladled over dressing; mixed with rice; molded into croquettes, and of course diced and folded into casseroles like tetrazzini. But none of those can quite equal the soothing, soul-nourishing comfort of a bowl of fragrant  Read More 

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26 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner IX—Making the Most of the Leftovers

The Post-Thanksgiving Stockpot, ready to simmer and turn the leftover turkey carcass into liquid gold


Two of my favorite things about cooking Thanksgiving dinner are the broth pots that begin and end it. Not only does that wonderful aroma fill the house twice, that second batch of broth squeezes out every ounce of goodness the bird had to offer, and extends the holiday feasting into the weekend and beyond.


By Thanksgiving night, since we had a small bird and a large crowd, Read More 

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24 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving VIII—The Gravy

Turkey Pan Gravy, here thickened with a roux made from flour and the turkey fat


It's none of my business what kind of gravy you serve today. Whether you add wine, include the giblets and add chopped boiled eggs, or thicken it with a roux or butter is up to you. But here's how to make that gravy silky-smooth and delicious. Read More 

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23 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving VII—Damon Lee Talks Turkey (and Dressing)

My Favorite Roast Turkey


Hands down the best turkey roasting advice of 2022 is "Just put the ******* turkey in the oven!"


The more you fuss and stress over it, the more you're opening yourself to angst and disappointment. Relax: It roasts just like a REALLY BIG chicken; it just takes longer. Allow plenty of time, use a reliable meat thermometer to gage doneness, and remember the only thing that matters is how it tastes. It doesn't have to look a magazine cover shot.


So, before we turn in for the night, here are a few thoughts on that bird and its quintessential accompaniment—the dressing. Read More 

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23 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving VI—My Grandmother's Pumpkin Pie

My Grandmother's Pumpkin Pie


I'd like to tell you that my grandmother's pumpkin pie recipe was an old family one that has been passed down for generations, but I can't. She got it right off a can of pumpkin puree, varying it only in the spice and liquid she used, since I was allergic to cloves and my father to nutmeg, and she but rarely had cream in the house but always had evaporated milk.


You can make the filling completely from scratch with a pumpkin you've roasted and pureed yourself if you have nothing better to do; but Read More 

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23 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving V—Pastry

Pastry is simple stuff, just flour, cold fat and water, and just enough salt or occasionally sugar to bring up its flavor.


Today is pie-making day in my house, and in the chill of the morning, I'm putting together the pastry so it'll have time to rest before I roll and prebake it later this afternoon.


If you've never made your own pastry, this may not be the time to try to learn. Not that it's complicated or difficult: it isn't. But it does take some finesse and experience to do it well. If the very thought paralyzes you, then a ready-made roll-out crust from the market is your safest option. Buy and use it without apology. Read More 

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21 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner IV: Homemade Turkey Broth

Roasted Turkey Broth


My late Baptist-preacher father used to love relating the story of a minister who one bright Sunday morning delivered a rousing sermon on love, and then repeated it word for word the following Sunday. And on the next one. And again on the one after that. Finally, a deacon cautiously approached and, after complimenting the stirring words of his message, gently pointed out that it was the same sermon the preacher had delivered every Sunday for at least a month.


The preacher smiled, nodded, and said, "Well, yes it is. I'm glad you finally noticed. I had to keep repeating that message until I thought you all were hearing it."


Well. Here we are four days from Thanksgiving and here comes the same sermon about homemade broth that y'all have heard from me dozens of times. Read More 

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20 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner III Cranberry-Orange Preserves and Relish

Cranberry Orange Preserves


In her memoire, Amarcord, the late Italian cooking maven Marcella Hazan humorously related her first encounter with one of our country's most enduring Thanksgiving traditions, that of accompanying the turkey with a tart-sweet condiment made from cranberries.


Thinking the sauce that her host had solicitously spooned over her turkey was akin to peperonata (a savory sauce of red peppers and caramelized onions), her first bite was such a shock that it took all her self-control to keep from spitting it out.


Eventually, Signora Hazan was able to embrace the sweet tomato ketchup that was persistently slathered on her hamburgers, but never made her peace with cranberry sauce. I couldn't blame her: Read More 

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19 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner II—Menu Planning and Mama's Buttermilk Bread

My mother's Buttermilk Yeast Rolls, here baked in a seasonal decorative muffin pan, which unfortunately made them too small and crusty. I'll make regular cluster rolls for Thanksgiving Dinner


If you've not already planned your Thanksgiving menu and started shopping for it, it's time you got cracking. You don't want to wait too late to plan and shop or you could be faced with rethinking your menu when the store sells out of some of the essential ingredients.


Planning that menu will be simple if you are wise and stick to your family's traditions.


Every single autumn social media is riddled with cooks asking for "something new and different" for this meal, claiming to be tired of and/or bored with cooking and eating the same old things every Thanksgiving.  Read More 

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15 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner I

There's always Roast Turkey at my house, but if you hate the big bird, there's no law saying you have to have it.


Thanksgiving may be a little over a week away, but it's not too early to start planning. In fact, if you haven't already started doing that, you're a little late—but not dangerously so.


Big holiday dinners don't have to be complicated, but we're easing out of a pandemic and even seasoned cooks are a little out of practice. As for you who are unseasoned, if the closest you've ever come to turkey in your kitchen is the deli-sliced variety in a sandwich, you really do need a plan—and help, so don't be shy about asking for it.


To that end, over the next week leading up to Thanksgiving, I'm resurrecting Mastering Thanksgiving, the series Read More 

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11 November 2022: Whiskey Cheese

Potted Cheese, also known in our house as Whiskey Cheese


As the winter holidays approach, especially now that we live in a different place, my mind keeps slipping back to the holidays of my childhood. Most of us do that at this time of year, but these days I'm much more conscious of it. Despite the way we "preacher's kids" love to grumble about growing up under watchful and often judgmental eyes, not just of the church, but of the entire community, it did have its perks, particularly during Christmas.


Not only did my mother and both grandmothers turn out their usual bounty of seasonal treats, we were always showered with food offerings by the church congregation, even from people who didn't really like us. They ranged from homemade baked goods to store-bought chocolates, tea samplers, and elaborate cheese boards. One of the things I remember looking forward to the most was a sturdy brown conserve crock filled with potted cheese.


Potted cheese is a simple, old-fashioned conserve Read More 

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9 November 2022: Southern Comfort and Buttermilk-Cream Biscuits

Buttermilk Cream Biscuits, here buttered and stuffed with thinly-sliced cooked country ham


When Southerners begin to talk of the foods that most comfort us in times of grief, joy, or homesickness, biscuits almost always come into the conversation. So it's no surprise that when the Covid pandemic forced us into lockdown, soft-wheat flour, shortening, and buttermilk disappeared from grocers' shelves and were hard to come by for months.


Luckily, I had just restocked those things, and we're a small household, so I never felt the pinch of the shortage. And I probably made more biscuits during that first month than I'd made in the previous couple of years combined.


Most of them were cream biscuits, a simple formula of flour, baking powder, salt, and heavy cream. They're disgracefully easy, practically foolproof, and I'm lazy. The dough is simply stirred together, folded a few times, then cut and baked.


But they do have one big drawback: Read More 

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