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kayb

eG Foodblogs: Kayb 2010 - Tradition meets "let's-try-this"

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Welcome to my kitchen.

I’m honored to have been asked to chronicle a week of my meals for an eG Foodblog; my skills and my imagination don’t come near a great number of the people who frequent this site. But I do love to cook, and experiment, and I credit eGullet with helping me expand my culinary horizons in the two years or so I’ve been following this site.

Born and raised in the rural South, those influences permeate almost all my cooking. You’ll see a traditional West Tennessee Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, not appreciably different from the ones my mother and grandmother cooked 50 years ago, although I’ve added a few of my own twists. I picked this week, partly for that reason, and partly because I’ll be off work Wednesday afternoon through the rest of the week, and you won’t have to endure my frequent weeknight meals of carryout and quick-fix. But you’ll get some of the slow-cooker soups and stews and the like that stand between me and starvation (or fast food) on weeknights, as well as some of my breakfast favorites since I’ll have time over the holiday weekend to make many of them.

I live in Hot Springs, Arkansas; I’m fortunate enough to live on the lake, as evidenced by the “mystery photo” of my sun deck in the “coming attractions.” I have a 21-year-old daughter who lives with me, along with a 15-year-old “son” I acquired this summer and am dutifully trying to teach to eat something other than pizza, mac and cheese, and burgers. I have two older daughters who live elsewhere, and one of them will present me with my first grandchild in February. I work as a business developer, which means I sometimes have crazy hours and often come home too late to even think about cooking; the flip side is I get to travel a good deal and enjoy wonderful food in some really good restaurants around the country and abroad.

I’m looking forward to cooking for you this week. Happy Thanksgiving!


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Prying minds need cabinet and fridge photos, too! And no fair hiding the "shameful" stuff behind the methocellulose and xantham gum :raz:.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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A quick breakfast post to get things started. I don't cook breakfast, usually, on work mornings, but this morning, I warmed up a couple of pumpkin-and-ricotta turnovers I'd made yesterday. These were inspired by a pumpkin-and-ricotta tamale I got at the tamale stand at the Famers' Market recently, just because I couldn't comprehend a pumpkin-ricotta tamale and had to try one. I used spicy pumpkin butter and egg roll wrappers for the outside. Good stuff!

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Chris H -- No kitchen pictures until I clean it up a little! I cooked all day yesterday, and did not leave it in as good a shape as it should be. The fridge is pre-Thanksgiving packed (the turkey is slowly defrosting in a cooler on the front porch!) But I will provide pics, I promise. No methocellulose or xanthan gum, though.

Chris A -- Moved from W. Tenn. to Memphis to go to college, lived and worked in that area for the next 30 years, moved to Hot Springs for a new position a year and a half ago. Love it here, although I do miss some of the food shopping opportunities in Memphis!


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Eggroll wrappers. Awesome.


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Will we be seeing local barbecue? It's one of my life goals to travel through the U.S. South and eat all the regional barbecues.

I will make it a point, sometime this week, to go to either McClard's (President Bill Clinton's favorite barbecue, as this was his home town) or Purity (my personal favorite). No shortage of great barbecue here!


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Lunchtime today found me in the next town over, and hungry. So I stopped by Keeney's, a mom-and-pop grocery store in a questionable area of town, with an annex of sorts at the rear, behind the meat counter, with a sign that proclaims, "Deli." Keeney's is hailed for its barbecue, but I've always been a fan of its plate lunches -- simple and unvarnished country cooking, on styrofoam, no frills. Today I opted for meat loaf, purple-hulled peas, and could not resist candied yams (as mine on Thursday will be in a casserole, not candied). The meat loaf was good, if a bit heavy on the bell pepper. The candied yams had a rather thin syrup, and I was apprehensive, but the taste was excellent, just a hint of spice and just enough sugar. The star of the show, though, was the baby loaf of cornbread.

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Tonight,it was a patched-together dinner with cheese ravioli in pesto cream sauce and open-faced meatball sandwiches. I'd made pesto Sunday from my basil that was being threatened by the cool nights, and I used the ubiquitous egg roll wrappers as pasta, because making pasta is a skill I've never acquired. The meatballs were in the fridge and I needed the room, so, voila, dinner!

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(had to run the meatballs under the broiler to melt the mozzarella, too.)

Tomorrow night is chili, as our office is competing in the Downtown Merchants Association annual chili cook-off and yours truly is the chef-in-chief. I need to bundle up all my seasonings and assorted other necessary stuff tonight, as well as starting some prep for Thursday. I think I'll call it a success if I get cornbread made for the dressing, and cranberry salad put together. So with that, I'll bid you a fond adieu until tomorrow!


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I used spicy pumpkin butter and egg roll wrappers for the outside.

What is this spicy pumpkin butter you speak of?

It's much like apple butter. Again, it's something I sampled at the Farmers Market, liked, and went home and googled for recipes. I took the basics from several different ones, and combined a 29-ounce can of pumpkin puree, 2/3 cup brown sugar, a cup of apple juice, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a quarter-teaspoon each of allspice and nutmeg, and an eighth-teaspoon of cloves. That all simmered about an hour, until it thickened up nicely (several recipes noted you could cook it overnight in a small slow-cooker), and went into a container in the fridge. It's excellent on biscuits, and on sourdough toast!


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I can just imagine that everything you've shown us so far smells and tastes delicious! That pumpkin ricotta combination sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing your week with us, and please, don't feel the need to prep your refrigerator for us- why, we're all practically family!


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I feel all "comfort-fooded cozy" just from your pics and descriptions. With your crazy work hours I would enjoy knowing what your quicky go-tos are in mega time crunch moments, since we all have them. Thanks for taking us along this holiday week!

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A quick shot of lunch today:

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We have a branch of Surfas here in Hot Springs (the only extant branch, I think; thank God Les Surfas' wife is from Arkansas and wanted to retire back home), and as they're a block and a half from my office, I often walk down there for lunch. Their menu is limited, but I do love their three-cheese grilled cheese sandwich, with farmer's cheese, gruyere and blue cheese mayo, on house-baked sourdough. The salad is mixed greens with dried cranberries and walnuts, with the house orange vanilla viniagrette. And it's less than six bucks, which means I eat there maybe twice a week.


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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It's much like apple butter. Again, it's something I sampled at the Farmers Market, liked, and went home and googled for recipes. I took the basics from several different ones,

Sounds delicious. I love trying to recreate foods that I enjoy that others have prepared.

What's for dinner?

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Tonight was chili night with several hundred of my fellow Hot Springs folks. The occasion was the Downtown Merchants Association annual Chili Cookoff, always held the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, always capped off with the flipping of the switch for the downtown Christmas lights.

The last three years, we've won the best booth contest. Last year, we won best non-traditional chili (ours has beans, and so is considered non-traditional). This year? We wuz robbed!

Our booth was a work of art -- at least we thought so.

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Our chili didn't look, or taste, too bad, either.

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And a big crowd turned out, as is the general rule in Hot Springs, where if we know how to do anything, it's have a party at any excuse.

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Originally, I was named chef-in-chief for this adventure. But the duty really got shared, and the chili wound up a group effort. We all took part of the 15 pounds of ground beef home to brown it, with onions, the night before. I got the pot started with a great deal of can-opening (tomatos and beans) and seasoning (ancho, Hatch and chipotle powdered chiles; cumin; Mexene chili powder; salt; a six-pack of dark beer; a half-a-pot of strong coffee). And then I had to go to a meeting, so the rest of the crew took over and added, well, other stuff. When I came back and taste-tested, it was lacking a couple of bottom notes, so I added some cocoa and a little more cumin.

It was decent. I've made better. And I was so busy I never got a chance to eat. So I came home and had cheese and crackers and wine, which I did not photograph.

Tomorrow, it's sushi for our office pre-Thanksgiving lunch, and I'm making Reuben chowder for dinner while I do the bulk of the prep for Thursday because I haven't been nearly as diligent as I'd planned on that particular chore. But with just four of us eating, and all of us here, I can just delay service until about 5:30 or 6, instead of my planned 2:30 or 3, and give myself a couple of extra hours on Thursday.

I have, however, already had my first Thanksgiving disaster. Came home from the grocery Saturday morning, put turkey and ice on the front porch to go in cooler. Brought in and put away remainder of groceries. Did not leave the house the rest of the day, nor Sunday. It warmed up yesterday, so I figured this morning I'd best check the cooler and see if I needed to replenish the ice.

And found the turkey, and the empty ice bag, sitting next to the cooler.

Fortunately, it was a basic grocery store turkey, and they still had them on special, so I simply went back and got another one tonight. Which is in the cooler, with ice, and will go in brine tomorrow afternoon to finish thawing.

Thank God for loss leaders. A total of a bit over 24 pounds of turkey has cost me a total of a little more than $10. Next year, I'm taking the plunge and getting a heritage turkey from my local organic farmers, just to see if there's that much difference in the taste. (Not being a huge turkey fan -- this is the one I cook every year -- I'll be interested to see if it DOES, in fact, make a big difference to me.)

Lots of prep photos tomorrow!


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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.....And found the turkey, and the empty ice bag, sitting next to the cooler.....

Dont'cha hate when you do stuff like that ? I always feel, like...d'oh ! That's why I've become an almost compulsive list-maker/sticky-note leaver. They're my off-line brains...

Which of the lovely ladies (or should I say Cowgirls) in the booth is you?

Lovin' the blog so far, and as a SoCal resident, who knows from the "original" Surfas, you are one lucky lady to have one in walking distance. How do you control yourself from the rest of their seductive offerings????

BTW, I had *no* idea they had an off-shoot in Arkansas !! Blog on sister !

ETA----errrrg, messeed up the quote, but you get the drift, I hope....


Edited by Pierogi (log)

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Loving your week Kayb. You know I've never made a chilli from scratch and the list of ingredients that you mention has me intrigued. Can you expand a little on the your method, I'd love to cook a your authentic cowgirl chilli.

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Pierogi, I was the photographer; managed to stay out of ALL the pictures! And yes, I'm thrilled with Surfas within walking distance. And I spend ENTIRELY too much money there; they smile when they see me walk in!

Prawncrackers, chili is sort of one of those eye-of-the-beholder things. Tradition would call for cubed beef chuck, peppers and stock; no tomatos, and assuredly no beans. I, on the other hand, prefer the version that has about 2 or 3 pounds of coarsely ground beef (or part venison). I brown that with onions and garlic; drain it, put it in a stock pot with diced tomatos (about 2 29-oz cans), tomato sauce (a 14-oz can), and the seasonings that strike my fancy; add three or four cans of kidney or red beans (or pinto beans, for that matter); add a bottle or two of whatever dark beer I have on hand, a cup or so of strong black coffee from that morning, and simmer away for at least 3-4 hours, tasting and correcting seasonings. About an hour before serving, I'll add the cocoa powder -- a tablespoon or two for a normal sized 6 1/2 quart stockpot holding around a gallon of chili. About 30 minutes before serving, you can add some masa harina to thicken, if needed.

Some people like thicker chili, some thinner. I prefer thicker, myself. Some don't like beans, and I've made it without beans. Some add whole kernel corn, which I've done on occasion. Some will serve it with grated cheese and sour cream; others won't. The important thing, to me, is a variety of chiles, so you get different layers of chile flavors, and a lot more cumin than you think you'll need.


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Tomorrow, it's sushi for our office pre-Thanksgiving lunch, and I'm making Reuben chowder for dinner while I do the bulk of the prep for Thursday because I haven't been nearly as diligent as I'd planned on that particular chore.

First pumpkin butter and now Reuben chowder? I need more info.

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Serious prep is under way! I've made cornbread for the dressing; the cranberry salad; the fig-and-olive tapenade, about to start on the pate, and bake the pumpkin pie; had take a break at the computer to check recipes. Also have sweet potatos baking for tomorrow's casserole. Have yet to brine the turkey and string and snap the beans; the rest takes place tomorrow.

The final menu, unless I change my mind or forget something:

Turkey (oven roasted, as it's supposed to rain)

Dressing

Giblet gravy

Praline sweet potatos

Barley pilaf

Mac and cheese

Maybe -- still undecided -- garlic mashed potatos with sour cream

Green bean casserole (homemade version of the canned soup and FF onions version)

Cranberry salad

Rolls

Desserts will be Chocolate Saffron Pots de Creme, pumpkin pie, and a cranberry-molasses steamed pudding with hard sauce. The last noses in because I was entranced with the idea, and it sounds so much like a traditional Thanksgiving dish.

As is typical, there will are five dishes on the menu that have been on every Thanksgiving table I can remember -- the turkey, the dressing, the gravy, the sweet potatos (OK, when I was a kid, Mama candied them, but we've had the praline style for 30 years) and the cranberry salad, which is my absolute favorite part of the meal. And there are three things I've never made before -- the chocolate, the steamed pudding, and the homemde version of the casserole.

Way too much for four people, but I can't help it. It's in my genes.

Maggie, the Reuben Chowder is a recipe I ran across recently and decided I had to try. It's here:

http://foododelmundo.com/2010/03/17/reuben-chowder/

Photos later. Back to work!


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Pardon please if I missed it- but if the cranberry salad is your favorite part of the meal, can you elaborate? I am stockpiling fresh ones in the freezer because I am currently entranced.

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Whew! I'm tired! But all I have left to do tonight is to puree the pate in the food processor, pour some clarified butter over the top, and stick it in the fridge until tomorrow.

Here we go:

Cornbread, cooling, ready for tomorrow's dressing.

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Fig and olive tapenade.

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Chicken livers, simmering, for the pate. It's the Bourbon (except I use brandy) chicken liver pate from Gourmet, back in around 2003.

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The aforementioned Reuben chowder (verdict: pretty good. Would've been better if I hadn't been almost too tired to eat.)

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And last but most assuredly not least, the cranberry salad. This has been on every Thanksgiving and Christmas table as far back as I can remember. I have no idea if it's my mother's recipe, or if she got it from somewhere else, but she always made a double recipe and kept it in the fridge, as I still do today, where I will go to it like you'd go back to the ice cream carton or the cake or pie plate. I eat it for breakfast, I eat it for lunch, and I will make it as long as there are fresh cranberries to be had. (I've tried freezing, and it just isn't the same; the thawed berries tend to get soft.)

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If this were any easier, it'd be illegal. For a single recipe: 1 bag cranberries, washed and picked over; 1 green apple (I use Granny Smith); 1 red apple (I use Honey Crisp or Jonathan); zest and flesh of one orange; 1 cup pecans, chopped; 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 package raspberry Jell-o. Chop all the fruit in the food processor and toss together with pecans in a big bowl. Heat the water with the sugar until it's almost at a boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in Jell-O. Pour over fruit and stir; chill overnight before serving.

Don't be hating on the Jell-O, here. Rather than congealing, it tends to make a syrupy base that sort of glues the whole thing together.

The turkey may not get brined tonight. He may get roasted straight as he sits. The sides are what the dinner's about, anyway.

Oh, and I forgot the curried fruit when I was detailing my menu. That's a standby from my former mother-in-law.


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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