Monday, December 7, 2009

The verdict

Thanksgiving 2009 is over. A lot of cooking took place, but the humble homage to Gourmet, like the magazine, is now done. The leftovers were distributed between the attendees, the pumpkin cheesecake has been devoured, and the napkins are washed and ironed. Overall, the three turkey extravaganza was an unmitigated success, prompting one diner to propose a toast: "To four turkeys next year!"

I'm sure you remember seeing the three brined birds lined up before cooking. One was to be deep-fried, one barbecued on a spit, and one oven-roasted.

Thankfully, the fried turkey was not the explosive, fiery mess I had been worried about. Nonetheless, preparing for the worst, I made my dad wear eye protection in the form of a shield he uses for welding. It turns out that this was overkill. He lowered the turkey into the hot oil slowly, and it was very "fire burn and cauldron bubble" (hot oil often is, I guess), but at no point was I concerned for his safety.

Forty-five minutes later, the turkey was done! It was nothing short of a miracle. I don't have a picture of the traditional turkey roasting in the oven, but I DO have a (very short) movie of the barbecued turkey.

Impressive, right? However, one lingering question remains. Which turkey won the taste test? I know you're all at the edge of your seats! After some discussion, we decided to vote by asking each person at the dinner table to pick their favorite turkey. (Drum roll, please.) The final tally was as follows:
  • Fried: 6*
  • Barbecued: 4
  • Oven-roasted: 2
*B's sister E also voted for the fried turkey, but she had a head-cold and could hardly smell anything, so her vote is not included. Additionally, my 98-year-old grandfather partook in the eating, but not the voting.

My mom (in a breach of voter confidentiality, I will inform you that she did not vote for the fried turkey) calls the results "not definitive." Which means, of course, that she's seriously considering the possibility of having four turkeys next year, if she can think of a fourth way to cook a turkey. Which would mean lots and lots of leftovers.

The turkey leftovers this year were surprisingly manageable, considering the large number of turkeys cooked. We ate turkey sandwiches (twice), a reheated Thanksgiving reprise complete with stuffing and other sides, and chilaquiles. I've already written about the delicious roasted tomatillo salsa that makes the chilaquiles exciting (and frequently requested by B). The chilaquiles were, I have to say, particularly delicious this year since we made them with the spicy leftover fried turkey. In order to inject flavor into the turkey, my dad literally injected flavor: a hot sauce went into the thickest parts of the meat with a big syringe. Frankly, this unexpected extra punch may have been what caused the fried turkey to win the overall competition.

Chilaquiles are basically a casserole, with chips and salsa and cheese standing in for tuna and crushed potato chips and cream of mushroom soup and whatever else people typically put in a casserole. With the weather as cold as it ever gets in San Francisco right now (it's 38 degrees as I write this), cheesiness and warmth and layering are desirable traits for an ideal dinner. Chilaquiles form a south-of-the-border casserole, while gnocchi make an Italian one.

Gnocchi are the easiest pasta to make. They start with one of my favorite ingredients, potatoes, which are mashed with egg, salt, and a little flour. The dough is rolled out into cylinders (or, as I used to call them when I was young, "worms") and chopped into pieces with a sharp knife; then each piece is shaped by pressing the back of a fork into it. It's important to use plenty of flour to keep each gnocchus (?) from sticking to the next. Also, try to make them a somewhat uniform size; when B helps, they tend to get larger and larger as he goes along.

Many recipes using cooked gnocchi exist in the world, but there is only one that B asks for, what he calls "red gnocchi." This "casserole" is perfect for a cold winter night, with two layers each of gnocchi, mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, and marinara sauce. It's warm, and cheesy, and fortifying if you, for some reason, need to leave the house and venture outside. It takes some time to make, and it doesn't use turkey, but the leftovers are quite satisfying as well. Enjoy!

Red Gnocchi
Adapted from Pasta Fresca

Time: 1 hour active, 1 1/2 hours total
Serves: 4, with leftovers

For the gnocchi:
1 russet potato
3-4 medium red potatoes
1 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 egg

For the marinara sauce:
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1 t. dried oregano or basil
1 t. salt

For the casserole:
4 oz. ball of mozzarella, sliced in small pieces
1 c. grated Parmesan
1/4 chopped Basil

First, place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork (the russet may take a little longer than the red potatoes), approximately 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the marinara sauce. Heat the olive oil in a small pot until hot but not smoking, then add the garlic. After 1 minute, when garlic is starting to turn golden, add tomatoes, basil, and salt. Lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes or until desirable consistency.

When the potatoes are cooked, peel them, running under cold water if too hot, and place peeled potatoes in a large bowl. Mash, then mix in flour, salt, and egg, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Heat salted water in a large pot to cook the pasta and preheat oven to 450. While the water is heating, place a handful of dough on a well-floured board, and roll into a cylinder about 1/2-inch in diameter. Slice into individual gnocchi about 1 inch long with a sharp knife. Press the back of a fork into each gnocchi, and then dip cut edges in flour, shaking off excess. Place gnocchi in a single layer on a well-floured surface. Repeat with remaining dough.

Cook gnocchi in boiling water until they begin to float to the surface. Turn heat off, and place half of cooked gnocchi in a 2 to 3 quart oven-safe dish using a slotted spoon. Cover with half of the marinara sauce, then with half of the mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil. Repeat. Place casserole in the oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts and begins to bubble. Serve immediately.

1 comment:

  1. Quite impressive that you managed to blog the same day you returned. It's also funny you mentioned chilaquiles because that's what we had tonight.I will have to try your recipe next time!