Turkey Day

Thanksgiving is my favorite of all the holidays. Having none of the gift-giving stress which accompanies Christmas, it’s a time to give thanks, to enjoy family and friends, and just concentrate on eating! Last year at this time, I shared some of our traditional side dishes: Sweet Potato SoufflĂ© and Cranberry Applesauce. Now I thought

I’d give you my versions of the turkey, gravy, and dressing. Before I get into the recipes though, I want to stress the importance of buying the best bird you can afford for the holiday. I used to always purchase a frozen turkey from the supermarket until I discovered that the fresh variety is so much tastier. Usually, the bird is the least interesting dish on the Thanksgiving table, but last year we had an especially good one from Plainville Farms in central New York State. Their turkeys, antibiotic- and hormone-free, are so much better than average; I remember that I kept saying “Wow! The meat is really delicious!” Of course, it’ll be more costly, but in my mind, it’s worth it.

When our boys were small, I bought the November issue of Bon Appétit magazine which featured a beautiful roasted turkey; it has been my go-to Thanksgiving recipe ever since. You take a 12-14 pound turkey and season the cavity with salt and pepper. Then
rub 2 tablespoons of softened butter, 1 teaspoon of oil, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard all over. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each paprika, thyme, and rosemary. (Don’t worry about being too exacting with any of the amounts.) Put the bird into a roasting pan and place into a 375 degree oven and, after a half-hour or so, begin basting every 15 minutes with the juices in the bottom of the pan. When the turkey is done, cover it with aluminum foil and let stand for at least 30 minutes. This last step is important because it keeps the meat from drying out.

Meanwhile, start making the gravy by covering the turkey neck with water adding some salt and pepper, chopped onion and celery. (Actually you can add whatever you want to make the stock—bay leaf, thyme, and carrot slices, for example.) Bring to a boil and then simmer until done, about 30 minutes. My family used to make giblet gravy by
adding in the heart, gizzard, and liver; I sometimes use some or all of the innards to make the broth, but I don’t chop them into the final product. In a separate pot add three tablespoons of butter and the same amount of flour; cook and stir for a minute or two and then strain in some of the turkey stock you made. Use the juices at the bottom of the turkey roasting pan to give added color and flavor to the gravy. At this point I also put in two or three chopped hard-boiled eggs.

As for the dressing (we call it that because we don’t actually stuff the turkey), I do it more by feel than by following an actual recipe. At least four days ahead of time, I make the cornbread from the recipe on back of the yellow cornmeal box to allow it to dry out. On Thanksgiving morning, I melt butter in a pan and cook 1 cup of chopped onion, 1 cup chopped celery, a ½ cup chopped fresh parsley, adding in small
amounts of sage, thyme, and rosemary. When done, I put the mixture into a large bowl containing the cubed cornbread and about ½ a bag of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing. I then mix in 3 hard-boiled eggs, 3 raw eggs, ½ cup chopped pecans, and at least 3 cups of chicken or turkey broth. It’s important that the mixture be kind of soupy so that it won’t dry out too much in the oven. You then bake the dressing covered with aluminum foil for about a half-hour.

So there you have some of my traditional favorites. Whatever you decide to serve this Thanksgiving, I hope you enjoy it. Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

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Joie de Vivre

Our trip to Manhattan in October lasted a mere twenty-four hours, having been cut short by an improbably early nor’easter which brought snow to much of the area. Still, we had enough time in the city to get a lot of exercise pounding the sidewalks, to take a free neighborhood tour, and to experience the form of entertainment we love

best: enjoying good food. Whether it’s just the two of us at home, a small dinner party, a large backyard barbecue, or dining out at a restaurant, for us eating is truly one of the great pleasures of life. The enormity of the Big Apple and the sheer number of eateries to be found there can be, to say the least, daunting. But, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, we’ve had good luck in the recent past researching restaurants by neighborhood, cuisine, and price range through New York Magazine online.

Hole-in-the-wall ethnic places abound in big cities and usually allow us to sample cuisines we can't always get back home. Because we were walking back from Times Square, we decided to visit Korea Town in the garment district on 32nd between Broadway and 5th. The tour we took of the area around Times Square had gone on way longer than we had envisioned
and by 3:00 we were starving and wondered if restaurants would be open at that hour. (This notion probably stems from being disappointed several times in France where the kitchen staff nearly always takes its break before the dinner service starting at 2:00.) No need to worry in this country, however. Woohoo! Dumpling makers were hard at work in the front window at Mandoo Bar--mandoo being the Korean word for dumplings, as it turns out. A table was available in the stark but clean place, and, lucky for us, they offered free pickles and kimchee (and even refills) which helped to quiet our rumbling, grateful stomachs. For my lunch, I chose Mandoo Soup with pork and vegetable dumplings, which was soothing on the very cool windy afternoon. Hubby had Mool Mandoo, which turned out to be 10 dumplings exactly like the ones in my soup. Except for this ordering mistake on our part, we were pleased with the healthy and relatively cheap luncheon meal. A man nearby had a big bowl of what seemed to be bibimbop, which would be worth a try next time.

As a rule, when it comes to dinner, we like to find a place near our hotel, figuring that we’ll be exhausted after a day of sightseeing and won’t want to bother traveling far and wide. Since we were staying at Broadway and 27th, I paid particular attention to both the East and West 20s selections on New York Magazine’s website, being sure to check out their critics’ picks, also noting readers' reviews. We made an online reservation for 8:30 at Resto on 29th at Park. The menu of this Belgian restaurant, which includes a four-course prix fixe on Sundays for $38, has the typical moules frites, which are always quite tempting,
but because of our late lunch we decided to go with something less caloric and heavy for that time of night. We started out following highly-praised reviews of deviled eggs on pork toast; they were indeed tasty, though a bit greasy for our tastes. Both of us chose small plates as our main dish. My crispy pig’s ear salad had a nice mix of spinach, egg, and oyster mushrooms, though the pig's ear chips reminded me a bit too unfavorably of the pork rinds preferred by former President George H. W. Bush. My husband really enjoyed the tête de cochon salad, served on brioche toast. Resto has a large selection of Belgian beers and a small, but expensive wine list; we did find a quite palatable rosé to accompany our meal. The service was very good, but I would be remiss in not talking about the noise level inside the restaurant which bordered on unbearable. I pointed this out to our server who said that her parents had just told her the same thing when they dined there the previous week. The management should really think about carpeting the floor or at least a wall to absorb some of the sound. Over all, we were happy with our choices of restaurants in the city and welcome any advice readers have for future visits.

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Give My Regards to Broadway

Long-time readers of this blog are fully aware that we are true Cheapos. On previous trips to New York City we have spent time enjoying what there is to do and see at no cost: walking through Central Park and the South Street Seaport; taking free guided tours of the public library and of Grand Central and its neighborhood. Our visit to the city last week was no different. After googling “free stuff to do in NYC” once again, we decided to take advantage of the tour of Times Square on Friday.

The online instructions told us to meet at noon on Broadway between 46th and 47th Streets at the Times Square Visitors Center, which in the 1920s was the elegant Embassy movie theater. Judy, our guide, began the three-hour tour by
telling us that Longacre Square changed its name soon after the New York Times moved to this part of the city in 1904. It was actually because the subway system, which opened for operation the same year, called its stop Times Square that the designation began to change. The location’s reputation has evolved over the years as well. For a long while, 42nd Street and its surroundings were filled with prostitutes, porn shops, and peep-shows. By 1986, however, a group now called the Times Square Alliance was well on its way to reinventing the area. In its current form, Times Square has been “Disney-fied”; the blocks in and around it contain one quarter of all of the New York hotels; it is also the entertainment center of
the city, being at the heart of the theater district. This transformation was in part accomplished by a non-profit organization, the Theatre Development Fund (TDF), which got the idea of attracting people back to the theater by offering low same-day purchase prices at the TKTS discount booth. Once an unsightly trailer, the building is now an unusual, triangular shape, complete with glass steps which offer stadium-type seating for people waiting hours to buy tickets.

Our guide pointed out other landmarks on or near the square. The Palace Theater (1913) was home to many vaudeville acts and in 1941 was the site of the premier of Orson Welles’s famous film Citizen Kane. The renovated
Renaissance Hotel has beautiful copper paneling and hand-blown glass lighting; the view of Times Square from its stylish bar is nothing short of amazing. The eleven-story Art Deco style Brill Building housed music industry offices from 1931 till the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll; performers such as Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole
leased offices in the building; songs such as Yakety Yak and Save the Last Dance for Me were produced here. Saint Malachy Catholic Church (1903), lovely with its murals of angels, set up a midnight mass on Saturdays for actors. The I. Miller building (1926) provided shoes for dancers and non-dancers alike; the exterior is decorated with statues of four famous women of the period, including Mary Pickford. The New York Times building still stands on the south side of the square, but is unrecognizable because it, like most structures here, is covered with huge electronic billboards. In fact, it is now a requirement that all Times Square buildings have bright, moving lights on them.

We learned a lot from the tour which only cost us a tip for the guide. There’s so much fun to be had for next to nothing in the big city. Future trips will allow us to see the Union Square area and perhaps Bowl-Mor lanes, located in Times Square.

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