Happy Thanksgiving: A Peek into What’s on my table …

thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

A Peek into What’s on my table …

Thanksgiving was a little more challenging this year, as I had a “boot” put on my foot a week ago due to a fracture that was giving me much pain. I’m out of work for a couple of weeks, so I’ll have more time to make a couple of extra “sweet potato” pies.

Menu:

Turkey

Fried Southern Corn

Cooked to Death Green Beans

Sweet Potato Souffle

Potato Boats

Broccoli Ritz Casserole

Holiday Stuffing

Cranberry Sauce (I sometimes make fresh, but whole berry works well)

Sweet Potato Pie

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Lucky for me, I still have one frozen container of my corn, and it will be my last taste of it until next year. I can’t remember why, but we ran out of time this year and never made another batch for the winter. We will savor this on Thanksgiving.

I’m sure you’re saying, “what is Cooked to Death green beans?” Well, if you’ve ever eaten green beans in the South, where the beans are cooked and cooked to death, then just maybe you do know. I’ll explain the cooking process later.

My sweet potato souffle dish comes from my cousin Betty – the crispy, crunchy, nutty topping is just to die for! It’s an easy dish to make as it can be made a day or two ahead and just bake Thanksgiving morning. It freezes well too, so make extra for another meal.

Potato Boats – I always get a funny look when I say that name, but that’s what my mother-in-law always called them. They’re actually twice-baked potatoes, but so very good. I love making them the morning of, especially when I get to lick the spoon at the end and scrape the leftovers out of the bowl.

I first ate this broccoli dish at Aunt Ruth’s one holiday, and after the first bite – I begged for the recipe. Believe me, I didn’t go home without that recipe, and it’s so easy. I remember always trying to get my father in law to eat this, but it was a no-go; he must have eaten more than enough broccoli in the Army.

Our holiday stuffing I actually learned from a neighbor when I was a newlywed. It wasn’t what I was used to, being from the South, but we fell in love with it. I have been making it now for over forty years; I’m always asked to bring the stuffing, and it doesn’t hurt that hubby says it’s his favorite!

One of the things I had to adapt to when I moved to Ct., from the Southern state of Georgia was the difference in foods. We never ate stuffing – we ate dressing; mama’s was always the best!!!

My mother was a great cook, but she really didn’t bake desserts. The only dessert I remember in my house was the Lemon Pie she made. It’s a favorite in my house, but only for my daughter and me. We often just sit with the pie dish, two forks and just eat; we don’t have to share with anyone.

Sweet Potato Pie has always been my holiday favorite, but I kick it up a notch adding an outside layer of crushed pecans around the edge. Everyone who has tasted it – has fallen in love with the nutty addition. It was also my Granddaddy Paul’s favorite pie, so it was always at their house, along with grandmamma Bryan’s sweet potato cobbler. I usually don’t make the Sweet Potato Cobbler at holidays, but if you love sweet potatoes, it will quickly become a favorite. I have memories of watching grandmamma Bryan make this, but no one ever had a recipe. So armed with the ingredients and a few suggestions, I began making it, over and over – until I perfected it.  Just ask my co-workers, as they often reaped the rewards of my baking it so often.

Ok, enough talk of foods, lets get down to the recipes!

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Fried Southern Corn

Corn – I like Silver Queen

Bacon – you’ll need a few slices

Butter

Salt & Pepper

Milk

Husk corn, wash and scrub off silks – set aside (About 12 ears will make a nice bowl, but if you want to make extra for freezing, I usually do about 5 dozen)

It helps to have a two-man team for this if you’re ambitious enough to cut the kernels off on the 5 dozen. I used to slice the kernels off with my sharpest knife and then scrape the cob with a spoon; you want all that yummy juice out of the cob. The cob should be dry when you’re done!

But wait, I have an easier way now, buy a corn cutter from Pampered Chef – how did I ever live without one. And the corn scraper I bought in Georgia a few years ago is the best – I’ve never seen such a dry cob. Saves time with the new gadgets.

While cutting and scraping, start the bacon cooking – I usually just pull it apart into pieces and cook in a pan. Use either a large skillet for 12 ears or a 5-quart pot for the 5 dozen ears.  Cook on the lowest setting, you don’t want burnt bacon. It will leave some grease in the bottom on pan – that’s ok, it adds taste. You can add as much bacon as you want, but you only need 3-4 slices pulled apart for the 5 dozen. So judge for a smaller pan.

Add all cut kernels and scraped corn mush to your bacon in pan – keep on low as you add some milk. You don’t want it swimming, so I’d add some along. The corn mush will add some liquid also. Add salt and pepper, and taste along. Don’t forget to add butter, and that depends upon how much corn you’re cooking. For a skillet of 12 ears, I’d add maybe 2 pats of butter; you can always add more if you want, but better to not overdo it – as you can’t take it out. It’s all to your liking. (Some people use cream instead of milk, but I’ve had it curdle on me, so I use milk. If you use cream, never let it get above a low simmer)

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Cooked to Death – Green Beans

Italian flat green beans (frozen) or canned kitchen sliced (Green Giant)

Bacon (few slices)

chicken stock – low sodium

pepper

onion – chopped (abt. 2 thick slices)

I like to use the frozen Italian flat green beans, but the Green Giant kitchen sliced ones work well too. If you use the can ones, like my mama told me – pour out the liquid in the can, rinse beans and add to pot. Just about cover the beans used with chicken broth.

Add bacon, pull apart in pieces, add chopped onion – a few thick slices chopped is good, and don’t forget the pepper. I don’t usually salt until almost ready to serve – you may not need any as you cooked them to death in chicken stock. I usually use the low sodium chicken stock, but even so, it’s still salty.

Bring to a boil, and then simmer for a couple of hours or more – cooking a long time gives its flavor and cooks the beans till their soft. Southern green beans are really cooked down.

You can always judge your bacon and onion – it depends on what size pot of beans you are cooking. There’s no right or wrong – cook to your taste! They can even be cooked the day before the holiday – and reheated; makes for an easier preparation on the holiday itself.

Now you know why I call them Cooked to Death – as you literally do!

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Potato Boats:

Russet Potatoes – depends on guests

Butter (1 – 2 sticks; depends on how many potatoes)

Light Cream – judge

Salt & pepper

Kosher Salt

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I lay parchment paper on my baking pan; I use this in all my baking. Besides saving your pans, I find it helps the baking process. Wash and dry potatoes, lay on baking pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil; turn the potatoes until all coated – then sprinkle with kosher salt. I love the extra taste it seems to give them by adding kosher salt to the outside and I’m told it helps the potatoes cook fluffier inside. I haven’t found anyone that doesn’t love seeing me walk in with my boats!

Bake 350 – 400-degree oven; depends on your time crunch. You’ll know when they’re done, they will be smelling delicious and soft when tested with a knife. Remove pan, let them cool down until you can handle them without burning your hands too much. I always end up with red palms!

Cut potatoes in half, if they are big – if not, slice the top off.  (Save the tops, they make nice appetizers with cheese and bacon sprinkled on) To scoop out the yummy insides of the potato, I use a spoon (your choice of size), but try not to scoop so close to the bottom or sides that you cut through the skin. But if you do, don’t worry – I love to save those for another day.

Scoop out the yummy potato insides and put in a bowl (judge size you’ll need). Cut up butter in bowl before you add the potato pulp; it will melt from the warm potatoes. Judge how much butter you like – or want! You can never have enough butter… Try and refrain from licking your fingers while scooping out the potato insides – all that kosher salt from handling the potatoes is tasty!

Finally, when through scooping, add more butter if needed or wanted, salt and pepper to your liking, light cream (it’s a matter of how many potatoes; just remember you can always add, but you can’t subtract, so go slow in adding. I like to mash them down with an old-fashioned potato masher, and then if you want them really smooth and creamy, grab your hand mixer and whip away. Or if you just want a chunky mix, then the potato masher is good enough. Have a clean pan, lined with parchment paper ready for your potato boats; they will be going back into the oven.

Now, the fun part – fill the boat skins. Don’t overfill, as you want to make sure you have enough filling for all your boats. You can go back and add more – or you can just eat the extra. I like to cut a small wedge of butter and stick in the top of each boat – pressing down just a little.

You’re Done! Set the pan aside – cover the potatoes – and return to oven later for a short time before serving. Just long enough to warm the potato boat and melt the butter. Don’t overcook them or all that mixture will overflow over the side of your potato boats. Trust me – I’ve done it!

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I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.

If you have any questions about the making any of my recipes, please feel free to ask. I enjoy sharing family recipes.

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Click to read more Family Recipes and Memories

© 2015, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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