Six courses! Each meticulously prepared and beautifully plated! Sparkling punch! Three desserts! And, a solid chocolate turkey! It was Thanksgiving 2.0, unfortunately, as the old saying goes, “too much wine before you dine / the photos come out less than fine.” Not a very old saying, but true, nonetheless. And so, of the luscious lobster bisque, asparagus tartare with frizzled leeks and oh-so-elegant balsamic reduction flourishes on the chilled plates, roasted turkey breast with dressing and cranberry-pear sauce, made-from-scratch green bean casserole (no can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, thank you very much), turkey confit and impossibly cheesy aligot, emerald green herb salad, pumpkin cheesecake with an ice skating rink-like topping of bourbon sour cream, raspberry tart, and chocolate-caramel-walnut tart, I have little physical evidence, but, cross my heart, everything was absolutely divine. My apologies to the chef for the shoddy reporting, but also heaps of thanks for a spectacular Thanksgiving.
Eating is an emotional activity. We all know the clichéd pint of ice cream in a woman’s clutches can mean only one thing: she’s having man trouble. A complex carb binge fills the vacuum of an impossibly frustrating workday. Chicken soup soothes the soul, etc. etc. For me, slipping on my yellow polka-dot apron and making (rather than eating) food is the best antidote to a poisonous mood.
Sunday evenings I typically shut down at around 3:00 or 4:00pm, especially during the fall and winter when it’s so freakishly dark I begin to wonder whether the apocalypse is at hand. I rarely venture out on a Sunday night, preferring to stay home and pout because the next day is Monday, and Mondays stink. But even in the drippiest of moods, I manage to peel myself off the couch to make dinner. On this week’s menu: roasted beets, sautéed beet greens, spiced nuts, and even apple-prune braised pork and cream of carrot for the next day. Now, don’t you think Negative Nancy deserves a gold star?
ROASTED BEET & ORANGE SALAD with SPICED NUTS
Serve salad alongside seared or grilled chicken breast. Extra lovely with a wedge of soft, peppery cheese like Constant Bliss.
For the Spiced Nuts
Spiced nuts can be made up to a week in advance and stored in a Ziploc bag.
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon water
2 cups walnuts or pecans
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
– Preheat oven to 300 degrees and adjust a rack to middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
– Whisk egg white and water together in a medium bowl. Add the nuts and toss to coat. Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a separate medium bowl. Add the nuts and toss until well-coated with sugar mixture.
– With a rubber spatula, spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the nuts are crisp and fragrant, about 45 minutes.
– Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and cool completely. Break nuts apart with your hands and store in a Ziploc bag.
For the Beet Salad
Warning! If you have latex gloves, use them, as the beets will stain your fingers. You might want to wear an old t-shirt, too. You’ll only need 3 roasted garlic cloves; use the remaining garlic cloves as a spread on crusty buttered bread.
1 bunch beets with greens attached (4 to 6 golf ball-sized beets), beets scrubbed and greens thoroughly washed
1 head garlic
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
– Preheat oven to 400 degrees and adjust a rack to middle position. Trim the greens from the beets, discard the stems, and coarsely chop the greens. Trim off the part of the beet that looks like a rat tail. Wrap the beets individually in foil, place them directly on the oven rack, and roast until fork-tender, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Cut off the top quarter of the head of garlic. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, cover with trimmed top, wrap in foil, and roast alongside the beets.
– When cool enough to handle, unwrap the beets, peel, and cut them into ½-inch-thick slices. Unwrap the garlic and squeeze out 3 cloves. Reserve beets and garlic in separate bowls.
– Peel the orange with a sharp paring knife, making sure to remove the rind and the white pith. Working over a bowl, cut between the membranes to remove the orange segments. Reserve the segments and squeeze the juice from the orange.
– Add vinegar and mustard to the bowl with garlic and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and whisk to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper. Toss beets with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mixture.
– Heat 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette in a large skillet and sautée the chopped greens until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to colander set over large bowl. Drizzle with orange juice.
– Arrange the wilted greens, sliced beets, and orange segments on plates. Garnish with spiced nuts and serve.
I’m always on the lookout for ingredients that’ll cover up chicken breasts – i.e. my least favorite thing to eat other than tripe – and the ketchup-prune preserve sauce I glazed that meatloaf with a few days ago was a pretty convincing disguise. Shred your leftover chicken and make a sandwich for lunch the next day. Inspired, I know. And yes, of course, there’s bacon in it.
SWEET & TANGY ONION-SMOTHERED CHICKEN
Serves 4 (or 2 plus leftovers)
You can substitute apricot jam for the prune preserves.
1 cup ketchup
½ cup prune preserves or jam
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, halved crosswise
– Whisk the ketchup, preserves, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl; set aside.
– Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon; reserve. Pour the bacon fat out into a bowl; reserve.
– Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat to the now empty skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Cover and continue cooking until completely softened, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the onions to a bowl.
– Add an additional tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat to the now empty skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin-side down, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onions to the chicken. Pour the sauce over the chicken and onions, cover, and cook on medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes (temperature should read 160˚F). Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover it loosely with foil. Increase the heat to high and simmer the sauce until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir any accumulated chicken juices to sauce and pour over chicken. Sprinkle with reserved bacon and serve.