Cooking, Crafting, Creating, Living

A lot to be thankful for! November 26, 2010

Filed under: Recipes — berkshiregirl @ 11:30 pm
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It’s that time of year again.  Time to gather with family and friends and embrace the coming cold months ahead.  Time to contemplate all of the things we have to be thankful for.  And most importantly, time for GREAT food!

Lets talk a bit about Thanksgiving.  A great American tradition.  From that first feast, to the most extravagant gourmet spread, Thanksgiving has always been a great excuse to cook.  My family hasn’t always been big on traditions, but we have been big on food.  And Thanksgiving growing up was always the same.  We had the oven cooked turkey, stuffed with my father’s “famous” stuffing.  Mashed potatoes, breaded cauliflower, butternut squash, gravy, rolls and cranberry.  Sure we would have a few additional sides from time to time, but that was our meal.  Tried and true.  And sure to please.  I’ve always loved to be in the kitchen.  I feed people.  The bigger the crowd the better.  I love all of the wonderful things that can be done with food, and I’m always experimenting with new recipes.  I have a problem tho, I’m not able to conform to the listed ingredients.  I can’t just make a “New York Style Cheesecake”  without making it “Amanda’s New York Style Cheesecake.  I can’t follow the recipe for basic pizza dough without throwing in a little something extra.  And I’m not so good at doing the same thing twice.  So this Thanksgiving we did a few things differently.  Sure we made Dad’s stuffing, we can’t have Thanksgiving without that, we even did the mashed potatoes, breaded cauliflower, and gravy same as always, but we threw in a few curve balls to keep people guessing.  And a finishing touch that would keep em wanting more. And we had a blast doing it.

Lets talk Cheesecake!

“Amanda’s” New York Style Cheesecake

Crust –

1 1/2 cups original almond biscotti (crumbled)

1/2 cup ground raw almonds

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup salted butter (melted)

Filling –

4 8oz Packages Philly Cream Cheese (room temp)

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tbls. flour

5 large eggs (room temp)

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Topping –

1 1/2 cup sour cream

3 tbls granulated sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Start by combining biscotti, almonds, brown sugar and butter in a medium mixing bowl.  Make sure that butter is fully incorporated into crumbs.  Transfer to 9″ springform pan and press into bottom and about 1″ up sides of pan.  Refrigerate.

Next, in a large mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, flour and sugar.  Mix until smooth.  (I don’t have a stand mixer or electric mixer so all of this is done “by hand”  I use a wooden spoon and a bit of brute force, but manage to make a very smooth cake. ) Now add eggs, one at a time, stirring each in completely.  Add heavy cream and extracts and stir until incorporated.  Pour over refrigerated crust and place in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes lower oven temperature to 250 degrees and continue to bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove cheesecake from oven.  Cake should be firm on the sides and only slightly “wabbly” in the center.  Set on wire rack while you prepare the filling.

For the filling, combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla.  Spread topping over cake and bake and additional 15 minutes at 250 degrees.

I decorated my cake with frozen berries and used the juice to make a glaze.  I also used melted dark chocolate to make swirled design.

I believe cooking is an art that should come from your personal taste as well as a precise amount of spontaneity.   Do what “feels” right.  Experiment!!!!  Above all have a great time doing it!!!

Lets talk Turkey!  Where the heck is it?

This year my husband suggested we try to cook our turkey “in a hole”  I had never heard of this before and absolutely HAD to do it.  After some in-depth internet research I became an expert on the subject and the more I thought about it the more excited I became.

So at 7:30 Thanksgiving morning we were in our back yard digging a 3 foot hole in the ground.  I can only imagine what our neighbors thought.  We chose a good sandy location which isn’t hard to find in Sheffield, and lined the hole with old fireplace bricks.  But I’m told stones will do.  This apparently helps to hold in the heat.  On top of the bricks went the fire.  A lot of wood, kindling and newspaper.  Brandon was in charge of this and worked it up to about a foot of hot coals.

Meanwhile I started to prep the bird.  Ours was a fresh butterball turkey weighing in at just under 20lbs.  I removed the gizzards and rinsed him inside and out.  Then I made a little herbed butter with fresh rosemary and thyme.  I used a large spoon to lift the skin away from the breast and stuffed the butter over the entire breast.  I then stuffed the cavity with whole baby carrots, red and white skinned baby potatoes and quartered sweet onions.  Finally I melted more butter and poured it over the entire bird.  Then I wrapped it in about 6 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil and made a “cage” out of hardware cloth and old metal clothes hangers.  This protects the bird from the shovel when it’s being dug up.

Around 9:00 I went to check on the fire.  Brandon had added about 6 inches of hardwood charcoal to the fire and was trying to get it to light evenly.  It’s quite amusing that our cooking utensils so quickly went from fork, knife and spoon to shovel, leaf blower and the hook we use in our wood stove.

By 10:00 the bird was ready to go in.  We pushed some of the coals to the sides of the pit and lowered it in.  Then we covered it completely with coals and about 6 inches of packed dirt.  Then we just walked away.

Five hours later we dug it up and voila: