Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weird yet wonderful - a foodie plea

I first met my daughter's future in-laws when they flew out to Texas to join us for Thanksgiving. Normally our Thanksgiving feast is fairly traditional; however, that year my wife found a Turducken at CostCo - A turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. My daughters in-laws are not very adventurous in their culinary pursuits; so, this made quite an impression upon them - and remains a hot topic of conversation with them several years later.

This year my wife and I will be driving out to Southern California to enjoy Thanksgiving with my daughter and her family, as well as her in-laws. I would like to prepare some sort of side-dish to give her in-laws something new to talk about - I want to prepare something that is weird yet wonderful and vaguely Thanksgiving-ish

I also want something that they will likely sample; so, there are some limitations
  • Anything with seafood is probably out
  • Same with organ meats
  • These are TBM's; so, alcohol, even in minute amounts, is probably out
  • Nothing spicy (these people equate catsup with hot sauce)
So, how about it all of you top chef wannabies - any ideas for me?

Something else to keep in mind is that I won't be in my own kitchen; so, I will be somewhat limited as to kitchen gadgets and implements; but, I will be in the greater-LA area; so, presumably will have access to stores to obtain hard-to-find ingredients. Something ethnic might be nice - especially Armenian. (my daughter lives in an area with a large Armenian population).

After Thanksgiving I'll likely write about this on my food and gardening blog. Send me an email if you want a link as I use my real name on that blog and am hesitant to put a link to it on this blog.


Max Power said...

Does it have to be a true side, or can it be a dessert? One of my favorites is a variation on the pumpkin pie that I call pumpkin bake. Basically you mix up the pumpkin pie filling like you normally would, but then you pour it into a cake pan without a crust. Take a yellow cake mix and sprinkle it evenly over the top. Then bake as you would a pie.

MoHoHawaii said...

I think the technical term for this kind of post is a "bleg."

How about pumpkin soup served in a whole, baked pumpkin? The presentation is dramatic-- you take the lid off the pumpkin (jack-o-lantern style) and serve a very tasty, rich soup directly from the interior. It would definitely make a good side dish for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Here's the recipe from Ruth Reichl:

Hint: If you brush the outside of the pumpkin with oil, it will look better when it emerges.

Go out and buy a fairly small pumpkin with a flat bottom. Cut off the top, as if you were going to carve a jack-o-lantern, and hollow it out. Spread the seeds out and dry them to eat later.

Now get a good loaf of French bread, slice it and toast it lightly. Grate a goodly amount of one of the Swiss cheeses (Emmenthaler, Gruyere or Appenzeller). Layer the toast and cheese inside the pumpkin until it's almost full. Then fill the pumpkin up with cream. Add the salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg, replace the top of the pumpkin and bake in a 300 degree oven for about 2 hours.

Bring the whole pumpkin to the table. When you serve it be sure to scoop out the pumpkin flesh with the cheese and the cream.

I've made this (a variation, but the same idea) and it was visually memorable and extremely tasty. When I made it I didn't fill the pumpkin as full of cream as Reichl suggests. Be sure to use enough salt, pepper and nutmeg. This is not something you want to underseason. I would layer the seasonings in the dish instead of just putting them on top. I used about a 10" pumpkin. You might want to practice this once at home before you go on your trip.

Anyway, just a suggestion. Happy Thanksgiving.

MoHoHawaii said...

P.S. The result of the pumpkin recipe is thick, more like a gratin than a soup. If you really wanted to push the "side dish" aspect, you could add eggs to the cream so that the center would set as a savory custard or panna cotta. Then you would have a two-layer gratin of pumpkin and cheese when you scooped it out.

mandi said...

I've done the soup in a pumpkin thing- any soup that is compatible with a squash is good- but I served it in individual small pumpkins and topped each one with a pie crust with leaf cut-outs. I've also got a great squash and sausage risotto that would be nice served in a pumpkin.
But I think you want something truly unique- which is not up my alley. My Iranian uncle would be an excellent source. He uses a lot of rose water and fantastic ingredients like that. There's always saffron in his freezer.
BTW: MoHoHi- I LOVE Ruth Reichl. Her letters from the editor in Gourmet each month are my favorite read. An excellent way to start out my favorite indulgence: reading the mag cover to cover. In one sitting. So sad how seldom I get to do it.

Sara said...

I guess it's kinda late for this, but for traditional minded food people but still really good, try this. She was some kind of yup chef or something in LA who went redneck about food: