Saturday, November 12, 2011

Harvest Dinner




This is our Eid harvest dinner inspiried by a "thanksgiving" menu.
We put together a little of east and west, bringing in some elements of kurdish eid feasts which also consist of turkey but served with rice an stewed apricots.

Here we roasted the organic, free range turkey in the oven after brining for 24 hours using Nigella's recipe. We chose organic because I was convinced it was the only way to go after watchigna program about how the traditional turkeys are raised sitting down most of their lives to develope a very large bird with alot of breast meat, which seems unnatural to me. Our organic turkey was a lot pricier but well worth it, hopefully the bird had a great life running around the farm before ending up on our table.

The dinner was planned weeks before the actual date and was very much stress free. I made the cranberry sauce around Canadian thanksgiving when fresh cranberries were in stores then froze the batch in the freezer until the date of.

Cranberry sauce is very easy to make, it's just a matter of boiling the cranberries in a saucepan with sugar until they burst (which is a matter of minutes!) Do not let it boil further or they begin to taste bitter. Your sauce can be spiced or with a hint of orange juice or zest. It's delicious!

My apricot sauce consisted of soaking dried apricots until plump then gently stewing in a pot with liquid. Blanched almonds were added towards the end and a tablespoon of apricot jam.

Blanched almonds can be store bought or in my case it's just a matter of pouring some boiling water over almonds and then removing the skin when they swell up a bit in 15 minutes or so.


Stuffing:

We went with a leek and mushroom stuffing with toasted oats.
Mushrooms add a lot of flavour and I used both fresh shiitaki and cremini, sauteed with leeks, celery and a tad bit of fresh garlic.
We chopped up rye bread in small cubes and toasted them off in the oven after pouring some good olive oil over them.

A little oatmeal (oats) were toasted on low in a shallow pan over the stove top.

On the day of we simply combined the sauteed leek mushroom mixture with the toasted bread and 1 egg and homemade chicken stock (we always have this in our freezer!) Then toasted oats were sprinkled over and tiny knobs of butter added to the surface.

(Stuffing bakes for 30-40 minutes on 375)

Mashed potatoes:

Very easy, peeled, washed and chopped potatoes added to a large pot of salted water and boiled on the day of. Let them sit in a bit of the water with the lid on until closer to serving time.
When ready to serve just mash them up adding warm milk (as much as it can absorb) and some butter. Whip it with a whisk and pour in a serving bowl.

Gravy:

I did grandma's traditional german meat gravy (made weeks in advance and frozen) and we added some of the turkey drippings to it.

If you have enough drippings and caramelization at the bottom of your turkey roasting pan you can simply add flour to the oils, whisk then add a liquid until it comes together. Season to taste and you've got a lovely sauce.

Roasted vegetables:

My sister wanted a roasted vegetable dish adn so she selected butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot, to which I added some slices of red onion and small white pearl onions and they all roasted on 400-425 until tender with a bit of olive oil and seasoning, as well as fresh sage.

My mother sauteed some fresh green beans garnished with toasted almonds for our second vegetable dish, my sister added some cherry tomatoes in there as well.

Butter and buns:

We had some homemade butter on our table as well! It's much easier than you think. I tried a different method this time than the traditional kitchen aid (..blend until you're past the whipped cream stage and until it solidifies) and decided to pour 1 carton of room temperature whipping cream into a large jar with a secure lid and shook it while watching television.
In 15 minutes it came together, you'll feel a ball developing inside the jar and then it will go completely solid and white and you'll wonder what's going on and finally immediately it'll go back to a ball and you'll have water splashing around it inside the jar (the buttermilk!!)

I strain out the buttermilk and set aside (this will be used for my dinner rolls)

The butter is then washed 7 times with ice water in a strainer on a piece of cheese cloth and then I press all the remaining water/buttermilk out and salt lightly (for preservation) then it can be rolled it a cling wrap until ready to use, can be frozen too!)

You could add herbs or garlic or anything for a nice compound butter.

On the day of just leave it out and then set it in a bowl along side the buns.

For more photos and instructions click here


Homemade buttermilk rolls:

Here I went with feel and touch, no official recipe, bread it one of my passions and I love playing with dough.

I pretty much mixed the following, give or take a little.

1 tsp instant yeast, proof with sugar and a bit of warm water until frothy.
Adding in:

2 3/4 - 3 cups all purpose flour
1 egg
1/3 cups melted butter
Sprinkling of salt
As much warm buttermilk (heat in microwave) as needed to form a dough.

Knead for 10 - 15 minutes. It is an important step, I knead by hand until it's very soft.

Set aside in an oiled bowl with cling wrap over overnight (so this was made the night before)

At dawn I cut the dough into small balls, much smaller than you would expect because they will puff up. Forming little balls I set them on a tray (not too close as they will expand) and then covered with cling wrap)

Before heading out to the Eid prayer with my family around 8 AM I brushed them with egg wash after they had expanded and baked at 350-375 for 20-30 minutes or until they were no longer doughy inside but nice and soft, fluffy and just perfect!



Dessert consisted of homemade pecan pie (very easy!) Made the crust in advance and froze it in the pie dish, and it came together the night before the big day. With Pecans toasted in advance and pie crust made in advance and set in the fridge to thaw out a bit the filling was very easy.....


Pecan Pie, served with homemade vanilla ice cream (recipe below)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups shelled pecan halves
1 cup golden or light corn syrup
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature




Directions
Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread pecans on a large baking sheet; place in oven and toast pecans just until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together syrup, brown sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing each until just combined. Pour in pecans and stir to coat. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell. Adjust pecans so that they are evenly distributed and right side up.

Place on center oven rack and bake for about 60-75 minutes, the center will puff slightly. You can serve warm or at room temperature.


Homemade Vanilla ice cream also made week in advance.

The base is made over stove top then set in the fridge for 12 hours, then it's put through the ice cream machine (mine takes about 20-30 minutes to churn) then I put it in a plastic container and freeze until needed.

In a large pot mix:

2 1/2 cups whole whipping cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped and bean added.


Bring to a simmer on medium low and remove from heat, let it sit for an hour or two until the vanilla infuses.

Now when ready to make in a bowl whisk together:

1/2 cup sugar
10 egg yolks

I use this method so the egg yolks do not scorched, some sugar mixed with them prevents this.


Once the vanilla infuses bring it back to a simmer (on medium low!!!) and take a laddel full and gently pour it into the egg/sugar mixture and whisk, just small bits at a time to temper it. Once it is all incorpirated add the egg mixture into the pot and mix that well.

As soon as you can draw a line in the mixture on the back of a spoon (like you would do with cream sauce but it's much thinner and still drips like a liquidy dropplet) then it's done!

Remove from heat and strain pouring into a shallow baking dish, cover, setting aside in the fridge for 12 hours.

Churn according to your ice cream maker's directions.
For step by step instructions with photos click here


For any questions feel free to contact me :) I hope that covers it all. It was a wonderful dinner!! Definitely requires a strategy to keep it all flowing and stress free but when it comes together you really have a great time with family. This is my first time preparing such an elaborate meal (out of my middle eastern comfort zone) and I just want to say that you can most certainly pull it off too.