Get to Gather: Christmas Eve Dinner

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Every year since I can remember my family has done the real Christmas celebrating on Christmas Eve. We go to a Christmas Eve candlelight service, eat dinner, and then open all of our gifts. Not one, all of them. Yes, you heard that right, we open all of our gifts on Christmas eve. Okay, I suppose we save our stocking gifts for the Christmas morning, but all of the big-ticket good stuff is received on Christmas Eve. Patience is not a family virtue.

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This year for dinner I volunteered to make the same ham I feasted on at Thanksmas. The rest of the meal was left to my mother.  I’ll take the rest of this post to share our meal and the semi-homemade cooking style she exudes.
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Foodie Adventure: Toro Bravo

You would think that the wait for a table would be reasonable on a Monday night, right? Not at the famous tapas restaurant Toro Bravo. The wait for a group of four was over an hour when we arrived at 6:30, and boy was it worth it!  My cousin Beth, our friends Vashti and Amy, and I weathered out the wait upstairs at Secret Society. Toro Bravo called us when our table was ready, but that wasn’t until after the Red Cross called and roped me into my next blood donations.  I don’t think a group of people have ever been as disappointed by a red cross cold call as we were.
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Above is the menu for Toro Bravo. You see that star next to the Griddled Bacon Wrapped Date, that was my way of marking a dish we ate. My group and I chose to embrace the adventure of the evening and order the Chefs Choice Tasting Menu. We were informed the Chefs Tasting Menu consisted of six to eight separate dishes with enough for everyone. On a previous trip to Toro Bravo the server had been very clear on the strict nature of the Chefs Menu, so I was surprised when our wonderful server said she could just do the choosing and keep our tasting within budget and low on the gluten side for our gluten free party members. After going over the menu that I took for research purposes there are twelve dishes with stars by them. Our server was a rock star.
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Get to Gather: Thanksmas

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I’m pretty sure you understand that if you read any of my Thanksgiving associated http://wp.me/p2UOdB-1U. The sadness that accompanied the end of my Thanksgiving leftovers was just too much for me. So I decided to celebrate Thanksmas! I was so proud of myself thinking I made this up, but I didn’t. I suppose everything can be found on urban dictionary these days. For me, Thanksmas is that special time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas and is meant to be spent with those special friends that aren’t family, but might very well be more fun to hang out with.

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Christmas and Thanksgiving can be stressful, that is not what Thanksmas is about. I am a virgo, so I can have a hard time letting go of control sometimes. That’s why I usually make everything for my dinner parties. Everything. You can’t have a coursed meal if someone might be bringing some random crap. Okay, it’s not crap. It’s just not what I can work with when planning a nice meal. Well I decided to throw that psycho attitude out for Thanksmas and have a potluck! Each person was asked to bring a traditional holiday meal side to accompany the main courses I made. I am happy to report that no one brought any crap, just amazing food that I’ll share with you!
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Thanksgiving Repurposed: Part 2

I left off talking about my Thanksgiving Pizza. Since I had so much fun repurposing my Thanksgiving leftovers this year I had to do 2 blog entries. I’ll continue now with Potato Croquettes and my mother’s Cream of Turkey.

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I’ll start with the Cream of Turkey I grew up eating. It was an after Thanksgiving staple in my house. I remember my favorite way of eating it was on toast. But I’m pretty sure it was also served with rice or some other carb that was lying around the house. But on toast it is like an open faced piece of creamy turkey bliss. And this is from a child that hated the dense whole wheat toast it was smothering. But I guess I learned early that anything can be yummy if smothered in a cheese sauce.

There’s another thing. I didn’t realize exactly how simple it was to make the cream of turkey my mom has been dishing up all these years. Technically all it consists of is a bechamel sauce with chunks of turkey mixed in. Seriously. That’s it. I call it bechamel, my mother calls it white sauce, my stomach calls is amazing. It’s all the same in the end.

So you take 2 tbsp butter and melt them in a sauce pan. Then you add one cup milk and stir together. Then add 2 tbsp flour. Once mixed add one cup shredded cheese. I used mozzarella because it was on hand, my mother recommends white cheddar. Slowly stir until all the cheese is melted and the mixture thickens, then add more cheese because you can. I was advised to double the batch. I didn’t and wish I had. It was easy adding a little of this and a little of that to get more sauce, but starting out by doubling it would’ve been easier. When I had enough sauce I mixed in about 1 1/2 cups of chopped up turkey. Et voila! Cream of turkey.

Now I know I talked about the classic move of toast smothered in cream of turkey, but I like to pretend I’m classier than that. So in an attempt to uphold my fancy pants I chose to use my leftover brown butter mashed potatoes to make potato croquettes as a carb base for the cream of turkey. Potato croquettes=pan fried breadcrumb coated mashed potato balls. So not only did the snob in me feel like I made something fancy, but I got to practice pan frying breaded carbohydrates. Another win/win situation.

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To make potato croquettes you need about 4 cups of mashed potatoes. I added one egg and half of a finely chopped sweet onion to the mashers. I mixed it all thoroughly. I also added a half cup of buttermilk which probably wasn’t needed. It made my mashers a bit hard to shape into balls, so you will only need milk if you have super dry mashed potatoes. Then I took a large spoonful of the masher mixture and shaped it into a ball. Next I dredged it through a bowl with two whisked eggs and then coated the ball in panko breadcrumbs. I filled a frying pan with an inch of vegetable and heated until shimmering, then fried the croquettes in batches until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Then I set croquettes on some paper towels to soak up the excess oil while frying up the next batches.

I then steamed some broccoli (because I suppose you need something healthy at a meal) and smothered the croquettes in the cream of turkey. Yeah, it was pretty decadent. There was some left over masher mixture which I threw in the fridge. I used it to quickly whip up some more croquettes for raclette a couple days later. You don’t know what raclette is? Just wait, you’ll see soon enough. 🙂

P.S.
I think I fell in love with pan-frying breadcrumb coated anything… Watch out, I think this may be dangerous.

Get to Gather: Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving. Here I sit in a food induced stupor on my parents couch watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I regret nothing.  Earlier my mom informed me that turkeys only go to the table whole in Norman Rockwell paintings; I decided he is my idol.  Though now I understand why my Bon Appétit magazine had a beautifully carved into pieces bird on their cover.  There’s always next time.

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I’m lucky enough to be the magic maker in my parents’ kitchen on this day of giving thanks. A few years back, with no big Thanksgiving plans on the horizon I volunteered to do the cooking at my little apartment. When I think of it now it seems insane that I would have attempted this, because I couldn’t even make a descent pasta salad on my own. But my obsession with the food network paid off with a brined turkey breast and all the fixings and a little tradition was born; I now cook Thanksgiving for my parents each year. Today I’ll share the feast I planned and prepared for my parents and our lovely Texan guest Amanda Rae.

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