Monday, December 27, 2010

A Minnesotan Christmas Eve Meal

I have had free reign on my cooking creativity for quite a few months now.  My sous chef (slash dining companion) has an adventurous palate and an open mind - a quality that rates extremely high on my list.  He may give an honest opinion, but at least he'll be open to guinea pig status.  (In turn, I promise takeout if my food sucks.)

So my mom sent me an email a few weeks ago saying she didn't have any good ideas of what to make for Christmas Eve meal at her fiancee's house.  I automatically jumped at the chance to design a menu.  Visions of stuffed mushrooms, simply simple sweet potatoes, rosemary bread rolls and the like danced in my head.  I had an extravagantly delicious meal mentally planned... and then I was brought back down to earth.  Mom informed me that mushrooms were not liked and sweet potatoes were not preferred.  This was my Minnesotan family, and unfortunately adventurous palates are not part of their personalities.  So I was tasked with designing a menu that I felt proud of while suiting the rather bland taste buds of my family. 

Enter the dilemna of chefs trying to cook for a group of people.  I'm not the first to encounter such a challenge, nor will this be my last.

I enlisted my mother as a trusty sous chef (and dish washer) and away we went:
  • Slow Roasted Turkey and Sausage Apple Stuffing 
    • 12 pound Turkey was slow roasted at 325 degrees for 4.5 hours.  Slow roasting requires less basting than higher temps.  I stuffed the turkey with the stuffing, and put the rest into a casserole dish - it went in with the turkey for the last 30 minutes.

    I was busy cooking, so I forgot to take a picture of the final product, but I can assure you my turkey and stuffing looked semi similar to this one.  (Righhhhhhhhhhhtttt...)
  • Buttermilk Parmesan Mash Potatoes 
    • I made these as is.  Although I would have preferred to use a potato masher to make these, my mom's fiancee didn't have one.  Against my will, I was forced to use a beater to mash the potatoes.  Use extreme caution - over beating potatoes with a mixer/beater can result in potatoes that have the consistency of glue.  Also, be sure to use warm milk - it keeps the potatoes from getting too starchy.  Milk can be room temperature or simmered before adding to potatoes.

  • Broccoli Au Gratin with Parmesan Toasted Breadcrumbs 
    • our Burnsville Cub Foods didn't have Gruyere cheese, plus I thought it might be too much for my family's limited palate, so I used a mixture of grated parm and mozzerella.  I used a considerable amount more than the recipe called for as well - probably a cup.  I also toasted the breadcrumbs in a skillet - melted butter, add breadcrumbs, small amount of grated parm, keep it moving.  Added a delicious crunch. 

    Excellent stuffing making an appearance in the background.
  • Spicy Green Beans 
    • this was my favorite dish.  Probably because it was so clean (my mom tells me I eat clean, and after this Christmas feast, I feel like crap and totally believe her).  I added a PINCH of crushed red pepper and sauted with the garlic.  This added a perfect amount of kick - not overbearing, but enough flavor. 

  • Holiday Mac 'n' Cheese
    • created from a mix of this and this.  Basically, I made a Roux (mix of flour and mix, whisked well) and I whisked the heck out of it until it was boiling, then continued to boil and whisk for about two minutes until it was thick.  Once it was thick, I removed from heat, added a ridiculous amount of medium cheddar, mozzerella and a chipotle jack.  (In a Kelley world, I would have used a blue, a gouda, and other exciting cheeses, but again, MN family - God love 'em.)  Then I had my mom earn her keep, put some back into it and stir away until then were melted.  This was my most disapointing dish.  After Marry Me Mac 'n' Cheese, this toned down "safe" dish just didn't make me want to marry myself.  Actually, I probably wouldn't have even made out with myself drunk at a skeevy bar.  Regardless, my  mom liked it and she was happy, so all was right in the world.

Overall, I think I did pretty well.  My mom was a HUGE help.  I have always wondered why anyone might possible need a double oven... and yesterday I learned why they come in handy.  Sweet Baby Jesus.... I had a mild panic attack thinking of my 4.5 hour turkey taking up the entire oven.... how would I possible heat my other dishes?  But I tented the turkey after I pulled it out to keep the heat in and threw all the other dishes in the oven for 30 minutes while my mom's fiancee carved the turkey.  In the end, all was warm, all was cooked.


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