Reminiscing before the big day (Part 1)

DSC_0059The Big Day being, of course, Thanksgiving. Since our first Thanksgiving in 1994, my family holds the holiday nearest and dearest as a celebration of precious togetherness and, of course, food. Our first Thanksgiving was in Chicago, and was an unexpected event, as my previously London-based parents assumed we’d spend the third Thursday of November the same as, well, the third Thursday of any other month. The extended weekend was just an added bonus. My brother returned home from his seventh grade class adamant that Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings, would be celebrated in the Bhabha household. My father, a splendid cook and avid grocery enthusiast, quickly went to Whole Foods (not that he needed much encouragement) and returned with the latest Bon Appetit magazine and the necessary ingredients for many of the issue’s recipes.


Where it all began…

Since then, Thanksgiving has become our non-negotiable, number 1 holiday and each year sees us incorporate new dishes and flavors into the meal, while retaining many of the  usual suspects from the original magazine (last year an attempt at being creative involved jalapeño-infused stuffing, an err in judgement that I made sure will never again occur.) Each year, I go through photographs and recipes from the previous years, and thought I’d share some of these with all of you!

Thanksgiving 2010                                                                                                     Many sweets seem to have been prepared for Thanksgiving 2010, or perhaps that’s just what I chose to photograph:
Chocolate CupcakesDSC_0076Half Moon Cookies (from my Great Grandmother’s recipe book)DSC_0005 DSC_0040BiscuitsDSC_0061Key Lime Pie (with fresh key limes from my brother’s sunny California home!)DSC_0055Sage-infused, sugar-coated cranberries for a refreshing, fruity snack throughout the dayDSC_0077Then, of course, some savories:

A carrot, mozzarella tomato and kale stack DSC_0085Pommes soufflésDSC_0094The bird pre-roasting stuffed with herbs, herbed butter and topped, of course, with bacon…DSC_0013

A Fall-inspired SaladDSC_0089Dinner time with all the fixins (the photo leaves something to be desired, but you get the jist: cran sauce, mash, stuffin, gravy etc_DSC_00992 DAYS AND COUNTING!

10 Thanksgiving Mistakes You’re Already Making

Greetings! I’ve been drowning in work these past few weeks, but am back on the Hungry Pickle horse just in time for the best holiday to ever exist: Thanksgiving. I thought of a few common mistakes that should be avoided. Good luck and get ready for many more posts on Turkey day:

10 Thanksgiving Mistakes You’re Already Making

1. Not Brining Your Turkey (or not buying one pre-brined.) Turkey can often end up dry and tasteless, brining makes for juicier and more flavorful meat .

2. Not Pre-Ordering The Turkey. The last thing you want is to be 20 people deep in the checkout line sans turkey on Thanksgiving day. Order ahead and pick it up the day before or morning of.

3. Incorrectly Timing the Turkey Cooking. Search for cooking times online by your bird’s weight. Once you’ve decided on all of your recipes, plan an oven schedule and make sure to give the turkey enough time to rest, without cooking it so early that it becomes dry.

4. Stuffing the Turkey with, well, Stuffing. While it may be traditional to actually stuff the turkey, buck the norm and only cook it in an outside pan. Often the stuffing doesn’t reach the right internal temperature (even if the turkey is fully cooked), and you may be eating stuffing contaminated with raw turkey juices or, if you use them, uncooked eggs.

5. Not Having Enough Leftovers for Friday Afternoon Sandwiches. Everyone knows that leftover Thanksgiving sandwiches filled with turkey, stuffing and a slick of cranberry sauce are one of the highlights of the holiday. When you’re buying ingredients, make sure to consider meals for the following day as well.

6. Not Straining the Gravy. Nobody likes lumpy gravy, so before you serve it, pour it through a strainer to remove any clumps and extra pieces of vegetable or meat.

7. Planning to Make Pie Crust the Day Of. Pie crust is not only somewhat labor intensive, it also requires chilling time in the refrigerator before use. Make the dough a few days or weeks in advance, freeze it, and thaw when you’re ready to use.

8. Not making vegetarian or kid-friendly options. If you haven’t checked on dietary restrictions and/or are expecting children at your Thanksgiving table, make a quick pasta with tomato sauce in advance. It’ll eliminate any awkwardness, and vegetarian guests won’t have to cobble a meal together from just sides.

9. Trying Out a Fancy New Recipe. Cooking for Thanksgiving is already stressful enough- having to master timing, juggling multiple dishes and entertaining guests. This is not a time to experiment with dishes you haven’t prepared before. Unless it’s a very simple recipe, stick to what you know and do it well.

10. Forgetting to Buy Liquor. If you’re planning on serving cocktails, wine or beer at your Thanksgiving, head to the store a day or two in advance. Many states require liquor stores to close on national holidays, and many close by choice.

10 Food Terms You Should Know

I just wrote this up for Marie Claire, and thought I might share it with all of you!

1. Pan-Roasted
While delicious, pan roasted is not the healthier option you might think. Generally, pan roasting means cooking meat or fish in fat, and continually basting it. If you’re looking for a lighter option, stick with a grilled protein.

2. Confit
While the French word confit simply means “preserved,” the culinary term refers to cooking meat, vegetables or fruit at a relatively low heat in either fat (meat and vegetables) or concentrated sugar syrup (fruit.) If a menu lists meat (usually duck) served confit, it means that it’s been cooked in its own fat, rendering it unbelievably tender. Vegetables confit are prepared in oil, while fruits confit are cooked in a very thick sugar syrup.

3. Lardo vs Lardons
These two words, of Italian and French origin respectively, both refer to pork fat, but in slightly different preparations. Lardo is thinly sliced pork fat served as one would salami, or sometimes whipped into a thick spread (sort of like páté, but without any actual meat.) Lardons are small strips of pork fat more of the bacon variety, and often come in French frisée salads alongside fried eggs. Extra tip: the Italian version of lardon is pancetta.

4. Tartare vs Carpaccio vs Crudo

While these terms all refer to raw meat or fish, they have rather different preparations. A tartare is generally presented as a small mound of cubed meat or fish, frequently accompanied by a sauce (steak tartare being the most famous, but tuna and salmon are also common). Carpaccio, often made from beef, veal or tuna, is very thinly sliced then pounded paper-thin. Crudo, in Italian and Spanish, simply means “raw,” so the preparations vary. Crudo often refers to fish served in thin slices similar to sashimi.

5. Farro
Of late, this ingredient has been popping up on all manner of menus, from Italian to farm-to-table American. Farro is a wheat grain with a slightly earthy taste and hearty, chewy texture similar to wild rice. It often serves as the base for grain salads featuring vegetables and herbs.

6. Reduction / Gastrique
Consider these more fancy names for “sauce.” Chances are, if you’ve had a dish with an artful drizzle of very flavorful sauce, you’ve had a reduction or gastrique. A reduction occurs when a liquid is boiled down, therefore thickening the consistency and intensifying the flavor. A gastrique is a form of reduction, but the liquid is always a combination of vinegar and sugar. The sticky sweet/sour sauce is then infused with a different flavor, which can be almost anything, often including citrus, liquor, onions, or herbs.

7. Tostones / Tostadas

While these two words sound familiar, their only similarity is that they are both fried snacks. Tostones, a common Latin American snack, are crunchy slices of plantain, a large banana-like fruit that is mostly consumed cooked. Tostada literally means “toast,” and in Mexican cuisine it consists of a fried crispy tortilla topped with other ingredients—like a flat, inside-out taco.

8. Burrata vs Fresh Mozzarella
We’re all familiar with the water packed fresh Mozzarella you can get at many stores. Burrata, a fresh Italian cheese that has seen immense popularity in the last 5 years, is made from mozzarella and cream. The outside of the cheese is solid, but the inside is very soft and creamy—almost liquid.

9. Sweetbreads
Though this word may conjure visions of pastries, sweetbreads actually refer to certain prepared internal organs of animals. Sweetbreads often come from the lamb or calf, and include organs in the throat and/or stomach region. They are considered a delicacy in many cuisines.

10. Crostini / Bruschetta

These two Italian bread-based appetizers are virtually indistinguishable, except for two things: firstly, crostini are served on small slices of bread (baguette style) whereas bruschetta are served on larger slices on bread (think a country loaf.) Secondly, bruschetta are often rubbed with garlic after toasting, but crostini are not. Both are toasted then topped (or served alongside) various dips, spreads, cheeses or meats.