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Thanks for visiting our blog. Please bear with us while we restructure our various sites and pages. We'll be posting stuff as regularly as possible while we continue to work on it.

You've stumbled upon my blog which is the companion to my website Ishah 'El. This site is intended to track my progress in starting a new multi-cultural theatre arts company and bring updates to devoted supporters and curious by standers. Check here regularly for posts on what I’m up to and how it all is faring, and you can join me by posting comments & encouragement. With that I invite you to become friends and enter into my world of art, faith, life & passion. Shalom.

P.s.- This is actually 4 blogs rolled into 1... why? I don't really know. Some sort of strange urge to make it multi-dimensional caused me to lay it out this way, yet people seem to never realize that there is an index at the right which will take you to other interconnected pages. Feel free to explore and share with others!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fat Thursday, or Organic Free-Range Thanksgiving Kangaroos!

For the past several years Cheryl and I have been re-inventing the Thanksgiving dinner tradition. By that I mean we've been trying alternatives to the tried and true traditional fare, something we have grown quite weary with. We both realized that neither of us really care all that much for turkey and, as a couple, we always end up with way more food through the next week than we really need. If you're not fond of turkey then why cook more than you want or need? Cheryl isn't big on potatoes in any variety, I've never cared much for the cranberry sauce and candied yams, especially when they are served from a can like they were when I was growing up. I've never figured out what ambrosia is, where it came from or why anyone would make it let alone eat it. I suspect that ambrosia evolved into the traditional holiday fruit cake - leave it alone in the back of the refrigerator to petrify, then slice it up, serve and see if anyone is brave enough to take it. Stuffing still makes the list. We both like pumpkin pie and, to me, the arrival of pumpkin pie and egg nog officially announces that the holiday season is here. So in the past we have sought out variations on the holiday menu, some of if swiped from past traditions that have been nudged out of the way by the turkeys. We live near a game farm that does an incredible business in turkeys this time of year but also offers a variety of substitutes: geese, duck (including smoked duck), chicken and Cornish game hens. They also carry ham as well as buffalo, alligator, ostrich and kangaroo meat, but we've yet to try them. Maybe someday the phrase "Thanksgiving Ostrich" or "Thanksgiving Kangaroo" will sound as common as organic free-range does. Imagine that being shouted from your holiday circular headlines - "Organic Free-Range Thanksgiving Kangaroos!"

I once worked at a great restaurant in Cambridge called "Daddy-O's Bohemian Cafe". The philosophy and approach of the owners, Paul Sussman and Ellis Seidman, was simple and refreshing: home style comfort food with an emphasis on the ethnic traditions that our familiar American foods had evolved from. Daddy-O's was warm and inviting, earthy and unpretentious, akin to going to a block party barbeque in your neighborhood. The environment was funky and eclectic, styled as an imaginary 1950's roadhouse diner where Ferlinghetti and Kerouc might have met up for some grub after a long day of yo-yoing. Food not too far removed from your sphere of familiarity, but better, served along with a plug of seltzer, lime rickey, coffee, wine, fresh baked pies and cool jazz playing in the background. Daddy-O's also developed their own contemporary philosophy about food - we all grew up eating bad food that either our parents or the local restaurants didn't know how to cook. Rubbery veal parmigiana or breaded chicken cutlets, watery and flavorless sauces, over cooked and dry steaks, mushy pasta, thick and lumpy mashed potatoes, gravies that tasted like unset plaster of Paris with artificial turkey flavoring, instant food from a box or a can. You remember. Of course you do. Daddy-O's set out to re-define and improve upon the great, favorite traditional meals of our youth and succeeded with style, creativity and flair. Sadly, Daddy-O's closed their doors about ten years ago and I have to make do with their expert influence and inspiration. I did with our Thanksgiving dinner what Daddy-O's might have done with the holiday meal.

This year we went with the game hens. They are smaller than a chicken, gamier and better tasting (ditto for turkey as well) and will leave you with only one or two small to moderate portions to deal with the day after. The game hens were lightly coated with garlic infused extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and some ground pepper, then stuffed with a quarter wedge of onion, a few cloves of garlic, and some sprigs of fresh marjoram and sage. They also take far less time to cook - about an hour to an hour and a half. Since we had our friend Rachel over, there was one for each of us. Plus they were on sale at our store - two per package, buy one get one free. I placed the game hens breast up in our roasting pan and cooked them at 450 degrees for a half hour, then turned them over and reduced the heat to 350 for another 40 to 50 minutes. They came out perfect, with the skin nice and crisp and the meat tender and juicy.

Thanksgiving offers us a great opportunity to get a jump up on our fat layer for the winter. We accomplished this with plenty of butter and cream in the soup, sides and dessert. The week before I made a roasted squash, leek and apple soup. Using vegetable stock for the base I added the squash, leeks and apples (cooked with a light coating of EVOO, salt and pepper) and pureed it until smooth. Blend in ground ginger and coriander, a touch of honey, and lots of butter and cream while it's simmering and you have a hearty harvest soup that compliments any meal. I used the basic ingredients here except I baked the squash, leeks and apples with my Green Thai Spice Seasoning and used coconut milk instead of cream. It turned out quite nice.

For sides for the game hens I made stuffing using butter, chicken stock, fresh marjoram and sage, diced onion and sliced baby bella mushrooms. I used a package mix since I rarely ever have stale bread in bulk on hand, either for croutons or for feeding pigeons. We had mashed potatoes and mashed yams, both cooked with butter, cream and sour cream and topped with sliced green onions. For a garnish I toasted chopped pecans and hazelnuts, added butter, suger, quatre épices and a spicy pepper blend I made from a combination of dried chiles. Oh, and there was gravy, too, of course, which I made from the pan drippings.

For dessert I created a pumpkin crème brûlée galette, which was actually more of a mousse in texture. I incorporated a couple recipe outlines for pumpkin pie type deserts and modified it into a galette - a sort of open topped pie. I used canned pie filling (some day I'll have to try fresh baked pumpkins) that I folded into whipped egg whites, egg yolk emulsion and whipped cream, flavored it with sugar, vanilla, maple syrup and Grand Marnier - NO PUMPKIN PIE SPICES! All in all, the filling wasn't too sweet, more on the savory side. Rolling out a simple pie crust into about seven inch circles, I placed a scoop or two of the filling in the center and folded the edges up around it so that it sort of looked like an aperture, then baked at 380 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes and served it with a drizzle of burnt caramel sauce over it. To compliment our Thanksgiving meal we had a sparkling peach cider.

Should anyone have any interest in the recipes for these dishes - in approximates, not exact measurements, natch - you can write me back here. I'll be recreating them in writing in the next week and have them available for you.