30 November 2008

Thanksgiving Leftovers

One should never be afraid of the unknown. Especially in the kitchen.
~ M. D’Eigh

mmmm. Thanksgiving weekend. A very homemade time of year in the food department. At least it should be. I am always amazed at the amount of fear that people exhibit when it comes to cooking. Dearest readers, the turkey will not suddenly sprout fangs and jump out of the oven at you! And if you keep him covered with aluminum foil and give him a nice bath now and then, he will not wither and dry out either. ;-)

Most of my friends have anointed me a kitchen goddess because of the culinary creations I conjure up. Contrary to popular belief, however, I did not arrive in the world with a Calphalon pot in one hand and a KitchenAid mixer in the other. Shall I let you in on a secret? Great chefs are born not made. And they are born from hard work and multiple burnt dishes and colossal casserole failures. I have come to believe that in order to be a good cook one must have a healthy dash of humility and an enormous capacity to laugh at oneself. I have a lot of the latter and am still working on the former. ;-)

There is a story told in our family of the time my mother asked me to help her fix dinner. Her instructions were simple enough: fill the pot three-quarters full, let it come to a boil and then drop the spaghetti in. Simple enough indeed. I proceeded to put three-quarters of a cup of water in the pot. Ah yes, dear readers, well may you laugh! My family still tells this story. So all my readers who ever ran screaming from raw chicken, take heart! You too can learn to boil the correct amount of water and serve a brilliant pasta dish!

This is all to introduce a new take on a Thanksgiving classic: stuffing. I arrived back in Arlington late last night and was so intent on making it back before collapsing from blocked sinuses, that I forgot to take leftovers along. And of course, there is nothing like comfort food to help cure an Advent cold. So I whipped up more stuffing. But alas! No celery or onions or chicken stock could I find! Well, a stuffing isn’t stuffing without something green in it ~ at least in my humble opinion. As I think I have mentioned here before, I am a very big proponent of using what you have in your pantry before wasting gas or money to get “must haves” for a recipe. You can always find an acceptable substitute. Being a Southerner, there is one vegetable I manage to have copious amounts of in the freezer: okra!

Into the pan, along with about three tablespoons (eh, give or take) of butter and two cloves of garlic, chopped, went the okra. Once that had sautéed for a couple of minutes, I added a little beef stock and heavy cream. In a bowl, I cracked two eggs. Well, one actually, but it had two yolks ~ jackpot! I had some leftover cooked, shredded chicken and I added that to the eggs. I took a sheet of bread crusts out of the oven, which I had broken up and seasoned and baked for roughly fifteen minutes at 350 degrees. I added them to the bowl with the whisked eggs and poured the butter broth on top and mixed it up with a fork. Once the mixture was coated and had soaked up a good portion of the liquid, I placed it in a buttered pie plate and baked it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Ahhh ~ comfort heaven! And salt-free by the way. Even better!

So you see, you should fear the kitchen no longer. Cooking is an art, yes, but one that is at the same time an act of love and adventure. Enter it with abandon!

I hope y’all had a blessed Thanksgiving surrounded by loved ones.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
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