Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

The holidays are racing in again.  If you're like me this week begins the non-stop madness of holiday decorating, cooking and of course shopping.  Chances are, few of us will stop to breathe until sometime after New Year's Day... but those few days in between where all of the hard work pays off and we get to take a step back and enjoy it all with the ones we love, makes it all worth it. 

I promise I'm actually posting a few recipes here, but let's face it, casseroles aren't pretty, and that's what I have for you today.  Instead of boring picture of casserole, I thought I'd share a little glimpse into my mother's kitchen on a typical holiday.  It looks like utter craziness, and honestly... it can be, but there's lot of great food, conversation and laughter going on in the midst of it all, which is what the holidays are all about.... oh and tradition.  So in the spirit of tradition, I'm sharing 3 of my family's Thanksgiving staples.  These recipes are old fashioned, and very basic... but well loved and gobbled down every year. 

And, before I post the recipes, I'd just like to wish all of my friends and family a wonderful holiday season... may all the insanity pay off in the most beautiful of ways for you!

Aunt Helen's Zucchini Casserole

6 to 8 servings  (I usually double this)

4 med. zucchini, sliced 1/2 inch thick
3/4 c. shredded carrot
1/2 c. chopped onion
6 tbsp. butter
2 1/4 c. herbed stuffing cubes
1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. sour cream
Mozzarella cheese

Cook zucchini in a little boiling water until tender. Drain. In saucepan cook carrots and onions in 4 tablespoons butter until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 1/2 cup dressing, soup and sour cream. Gently stir in zucchini and turn into 1 1/2 quart casserole. Melt remaining butter, add rest of stuffing. Toss gently and sprinkle over top of casserole. Bake at 350 degrees  for 30 to 40 minutes.  Top with cheese for last 10 minutes.

Shan's Cheesy Creamed Onions

16 oz bag frozen pearl onions
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream sherry
1/2 tsp garlic, finely minced
6-8oz shredded gruyere cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs butter or margarine
2 Tbs flour
salt & pepper to taste
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Place the frozen onions and garlic in stock and sherry and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, or until onions are tender. Strain the onions over a bowl to reserve cooking liquid.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan until it bubbles. Add the flour, stirring constantly until a smooth paste forms. Reduce heat and cook gently for 2 minutes. Whisk reserved stock mixture into roux slowly, simmer until slightly thickened (just a bit thinner than a gravy). Reduce the heat and add the cream, stirring until hot, do NOT let this boil. Stir in grated cheese and work in until smooth. Place cooked onions into a lightly greased casserole and cover with cheese sauce. Grate nutmeg over top. Cover and bake at 375ยบ for 25 minutes. Remove cover and brown the top uinder the broiler for a minute or two (optional). Makes 6-8 servings.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole (VERY much worth the little bit of extra work)

4 slices white bread, torn into quarters
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
3 cups French’s canned fried onions (approx 6 oz) – or more to taste
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed, and cut in half
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 pound white button mushrooms,sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced, or pressed through a garlic press (approx. 1 Tbsp.)
ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want to keep it all-vegetable based)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

 Pulse bread, butter, salt and pepper in food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about ten one-second pulses. Transfer to large bowl and toss with onions; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Fill large bowl with ice water.

Bring four quarts water to boil in a large pot (preferably a Dutch oven). Add 2 Tbsp. salt and green beans. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Drain beans in colander and plunge immediately into ice water to stop cooking. Spread beans on paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

Add butter to the now-empty Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add mushrooms, garlic, 1/8 tsp. Salt, 1/8 tsp. Pepper; cook until mushrooms release moisture and liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes. Add flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Stir in chicken or veg stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add cream and reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced to 3 1/2 cups, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add green beans to sauce and stir until evenly coated. Arrange in an even layer in a three-quart (9” x 13”) baking dish.

Sprinkle with the topping and bake until top is golden brown and sauces bubbling around edges, about 15 minutes.