Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Trifecta: Scalloped Potatoes & Butternut Squash with Leeks, Deep Dish Caramel Apple Pie & Fabulous Fudge Cake!

I hope everyone had a delicious Thanksgiving 2009! We certainly did with the help of some fabulous recipes from “Savor the Moment.” While the main course was our traditional Roasted Turkey with Rosemary & Sage Butter, done on the grill this year with excellent results (thanks, Hon), we managed to incorporate a delicious side dish and a couple desserts from STM as well.
The side dish we chose was the Scalloped Potatoes and Butternut Squash with Leeks (pg. 221). It sounded like the perfect side dish to go with Thanksgiving dinner and I just love leeks and butternut squash. I doubled the recipe since I was having 12 guests and baked it in a buttered, 13" x 9” glass baking dish. Like a lot of potato gratin dishes, it takes some time to assemble. I grated the Fontina cheese and sliced the leeks and squash the night before. Unfortunately, while slicing the butternut squash, I forgot to use the blade guard on my mandolin and, before I knew it, off went a good portion of my fingertip! Can you say "ouch"?! I think I might have said some other things but, hey, I was in pain. Anyway, I’m happy to report the finger is healing nicely - it definitely could’ve been a lot worse.
After doing most of the prep the night before, the day of the meal I sauteed the leeks in butter until they were nice and tender. While they were sautéing, I warmed the milk in a saucepan. Be sure to keep an eye on the milk because, if it starts boiling, it will overflow onto your stove top and is veerry difficult to get off! Once the milk is hot, you essentially use it to make a béchamel sauce that is layered over the potatoes, squash and leeks – yummy! A béchamel also known as white sauce, is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine. It is traditionally made by whisking scalded milk gradually into a white flour - butter roux (equal parts clarified butter and flour) – which is what this recipe calls for. The thickness of the final sauce depends on the proportions of milk and flour. Be sure to season the sauce liberally with salt and pepper to add some nice flavor.
Once the sauce was ready, I peeled and warily sliced my Yukon Gold potatoes with that menacing mandolin and started layering. It’s ok to slice the leeks and squash the night before but do NOT slice the potatoes in advance or they will turn a very icky gray color. Once everything is ready, layer the sauce, potatoes, squash, cooked leeks and cheese and repeat 3 times until you’ve got a gorgeous looking dish - before it even hits the oven! After baking 30 minutes I removed the foil and unfortunately most of the cheese came with it – be sure the foil is not touching the top of the dish when you put it in the oven. I quickly grated some more and sprinkled it on top and back in the oven. Because the carving of the turkey took longer than expected I think the dish may have baked slightly longer than the recommended 20 minutes which may explain why the potatoes were a little “firm." It looked so beautiful coming out of the oven though, all bubbly and brown on top. The orange of the butternut squash also looked terrific on the Thanksgiving table! This dish had lots of delicious creamy, oniony flavor and was a nice additon to our Thanksgiving meal.
Once sufficiently stuffed with turkey, caramelized onion and corn bread stuffing, ham, potatoes, cranberry sauce and Brussels sprouts with pancetta we sluggishly yet eagerly moved on to dessert. I made the Deep-Dish Caramel Apple Pie (pg. 267) and my standard Pumpkin Gingersnap Trifle while my sister tackled the Fabulous Fudge Cake (pg. 252). I must confess, I recruited my sister Jennifer to make one of the desserts after my kitchen injury.
The apple pie sounded like a perfect choice to follow Thanksgiving dinner. I had never made an “oil pastry” before and, it turns out, it’s pretty easy. The problem, I think, was that there was so much of it. I am not much of a baker but it seemed like there was just a lot of dough for the 10” pie dish. However, I chose to follow the directions as is, and it did turn out a little on the doughy side. The caramel mixture is delicious and, once assembled and baked, it truly is a gorgeous pie (see photo). If anyone has made this recipe I’d love to hear from you. Perhaps I needed to cook it for a longer period of time since the inside was a little watery as well…help! Not sure where I went wrong...
I am happy to report the Fabulous Fudge Cake definitely lived up to its tagline, “sophisticated, yet unpretentious; rich, moist and delicious.” The cake itself is fabulous enough and the marshmallow fudge frosting poured over the top adds an extra layer of decadence. While slightly difficult to transport, simply because you’re supposed to pour the frosting over warm cake, it was definitely worth the effort. We reheated the frosting in the microwave before pouring. Be sure to blend the frosting well to avoid any clumps of confectioners’ sugar but, more importantly, sit back and enjoy this fabulous cake just like we did - it is truly delicious! Also, when you make it, be sure to send some home with your guests because unfortunately, it gets better and better with each passing day - very dangerous.
Many times over the holidays, Thanksgiving in particular, which wine to serve can be quite a conundrum. There are so many diverse flavors, it's hard to pick just one to base your wine choice on. For Thanksgiving, I start by narrowing things down considerable by serving only American wines – being an intrinsically American holiday after all. I also stick with wines that complement a variety of dishes - not too light or too heavy. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are generally good contenders and satisfy a variety of palates as well. Of course no holiday meal is complete without a sparkling wine to create a festive mood and, fortunately, sparkling wine goes very well with a variety of holiday dishes (remember, it's not Champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France!) This year we served a magnum of 1999 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Anderson Valley Brut Rosé, a vintage, sparkling wine from California we had been saving for a special occasion and the 2007 Red Car Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. It’s always fun to open a large format bottle on a holiday - #1 because it makes a very festive presentation and #2 you know it won’t go to waste – at least not in my family! Both wines complemented our meal very nicely and were also enjoyable to sip on their own.
I sincerely hope your Thanksgiving Day was mishap free and was enjoyed with family and friends. I’d love to hear about your experiences and any advice you might have on any of the abovementioned recipes. Overall, it was a fabulous meal on the perfect day of the year to Savor the Moment.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there, thanks for visiting my blog! I am just having a browse around yours :). Now that I live in the UK, I dont get to celebrate thanksgiving, but i don't m ind drooling over the goodies on other people's websites :D

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