Monday, December 1, 2008

thanksgiving was awesome

I hope all you Americans had a nice Thanksgiving. This year M and I went to my brother James' place.

Sorry about the blurry shots. I must have been excited over the spread. I tried to make my photos look artsy and hip by poladroiding them.

James and his wife Yoko hosted us with a feast and then musical performances in the guitar hero/rockband sort of way. It seems we are a singin' family. On M's side, they are a dancing family. When we gather and there's music on, our respective sides will sing or dance up a storm. We just can't help it.

James and Yoko's cats were at the ready. (James: Here's the photo you wanted. Let me know if you want the original jpg, dude.)

I did a lot of cooking this past weekend. Because we had ham at James+Yoko's, and with the influx of large birds in the market, I cooked up a turkey. What can I say? I am a greedy girl. I want my ham and my turkey.

I have come to love and revere brining my fowl.

And the cranberry sauce was my particular favorite. All my life I've pretty much et cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving that came out of a can (ridges intact sometimes). Why don't we make cranberry sauce more often? It's so crazy delicious and easy to make. Rinse fresh berries picking out the soft ones. Boil in water with a cup or two of sugar. Strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a bowl. Set aside to cool. Eat and go into fresh cranberry sauce ecstasies.

The night I cooked up the turkey, I ran out of time and didn't get to bake any breadish sort of deal. But the cranberry sauce (which had jelled up nicely on its own) was begging to be spread over some fresh biscuits. And there was gravy too. So I made these the next morning (honk if you love 4 day weekends! I mean, can I get an AMEN?).

I made them once before (from a Martha Stewart Living recipe) and they were fantastic, sick good but way lumpy and ugly. I've got a better handle on working with cut up bits of butter and dough, these are much prettier.

I made some adjustments to the original recipe which calls for two sticks of butter and two cups of heavy cream (be still my heart, literally). So I'm including it below in case you want to give it a shot. The original recipe came from MSL November of 2001.

Now I'm going to try and motivate with some exercise to work off all this amazing food I've been eating.

Baking Powder Biscuits
(Makes 12 pretty biscuits, but you can squeeze out a few more with the scraps. Not as pretty, but still as tasty)

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces (make sure the butter stays cold throughout. I am serious about this. If you think the butter has warmed up at all, then stick the bowl with the flour and butter and everything in the fridge (or freezer even) for a few minutes and then work again once the butter is cold.)
1.5 cups lowfat milk (I used 2%, but I bet nonfat milk would work as well)
1/2 cup of heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Whisk together well. Add the butter and using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. Add the milk and cream and stir just until dough comes together, it will be sticky.
3. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and with floured fingers, pat down to a 1" thickness. Use a 2 1/2" round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut the biscuits, cutting as close as possible so there are very few scraps. (NB: I used a rolling pin to gently roll the dough into the general shape and thickness. And I used a small jar that was about the size I wanted my biscuits to be. I enjoyed the soft popping noise the dough would make as I pushed down on it with the glass and the air released from between the dough and glass and surface.)
4.Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool on a wire rack and serve warm.

MS has a few variations on the recipe where you can add chopped up fresh herbs if you want to serve these as a savory accompaniment to your meal.

Next time I make this, I might try and go for a version with no cream at all. Maybe whole milk and no cream? And if that works, lowfat milk with no cream? And then eventually wean myself into a nonfat milk version so that the only naughty bit is the butter. Something to think about.

Also, since it's just M and me, we have a lot of these babies left (dangerous!) and so I stored them in a sealed container in the fridge. They still taste good a few days later, heated in the toaster oven. With fresh cranberry jelly of course. Bon appetit my friends.

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