Friday, November 26, 2010


The table is set with my great grandmother, Hannah's china

It's Thanksgiving day and I've been working on the big feast for a better part of a week.  The turkey stock was the first step with five pounds of turkey wings, carrots, celery, leeks, onions stuck with whole cloves, peppercorns, and parsley.  Once done, it chilled outside overnight so I could easily lift the cold fat that rose to the surface.  Strained, and reduced, some of it was frozen for soup in January with two quarts for the big day.

My mis-matched sterling flatware, freshly polished

Cranberry sauce was next.  I've been doing Craig Claiborne's cranberry orange relish from his 1961 masterwork, The New York Times Cookbook.  Its got whole fresh cranberries (when I first started making this, Cranberries were available in pound bags, but have been 12-ounces for many years now, and I 've had to adapt Claiborne's original), orange zest, orange juice, sugar, and toasted almond slivers.  It's still my favorite and after Thanksgiving, I'm often in the fridge with a spoon, which I eat right out of the container.

I've been also making a braided loaf of bread with onion (sometimes scallions), sour cream, flour, dill weed and dill seed, salt, yeast, egg, etc.  I've made it by hand, in the bread machine, or adapted it so that the bread machine mixes and kneads the dough and I let it rise and bake it in the oven.  I've been made it into rolls.  This year I did the whole braided loaf.  It makes fantastic sandwiches for the leftovers.

I should have known there was something wrong with this pie.  It was far more pale looking than I ever remembered.

Pumpkin pie is the only dessert I'm bothering with this year--we're only five people.  I use pureed canned pumpkin, do my own spice mix and make my own pie crust.  I'll serve it with whipped cream.

Creamed onions were next.  A Mowery family tradition, my version has changed often.  At one point I was making a six-onion casserole (leeks, Spanish onions, shallots, scallions, pearl onions, and chives), but I wanted something simpler this year.  So going back to basics, I parboiled a pound of frozen pearl onions (so much easier than peeling all those little ones and no tears) and while they were draining, put two tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan and when melted, added to tablespoons of flour and mixed it into a roux for about two minutes before adding a about two cups of turkey stock and a pinch of cayenne. I finished the sauce with two tablespoons of homemade creme fraiche  before adding the onions back to the veloute.  Into a covered baking dish they went before being refrigerated overnight.  All they would need was a dusting of Asiago and Parmesan cheese before baking.  

John Baker, one of my guests, sent over a gorgeous arrangement of flowers for the table, and I decided to bring out the good china and silver and really set a proper table.

Last night I assembled the stuffing--a grand mix of Italian sausage, cornbread cubes from Trader Joe's (without the usual spices and preservatives), leeks, mushrooms, an orange pepper, celery, onions, fresh chopped parsley, egg and turkey stock.  I combined a special poultry mix of my own for the first time instead of using that classic stuffing spice mixture from the supermarket. The combination included fresh rosemary, thyme.  My sage in the garden had frozen, so the balance of herbs and spices came from the pantry:  marjoram, red pepper flakes, salt, onion and garlic powders, and freshly ground black pepper.  This was packed into a big baking dish and refrigerated overnight.

The whole Thanksgiving enchilada

I always get a small turkey--no more than 14 pounds because I've been making a turkey that I saw Julia Child demonstrate in the 80s and I never veer from this method.  It's virtually boneless (except for the drumsticks) with the wings removed entirely, and the whole thing turned skin side up in a large roasting pan.  I put a light film of canola oil over the skin, and dust it with dried thyme, salt and pepper.  I broil it for 45 minutes (tenting the bird if the skin gets too browned), and then finish the final 45 minutes in the oven.  Julia originally did it in a grill, but it's too cold to do that here.  What emerges from the oven is a gorgeously browned bird with uniformly well cooked (and not over-cooked) breast and thigh meat. It's a joy to carve and clean up is a breeze.  I have enough pan juices for an excellent gravy.

This morning, I boned the turkey and managed for the first time to stab myself with the boning knife twice, and then when I was breaking the carcass down to put in a bag for the freezer, a sharp bone cut a line in the palm of my hand.  I think the turkey was getting its revenge. It was a war zone in my kitchen!

The last item besides the gravy was an inspired combination.  I tossed large Brussels sprouts onto a baking sheet with a combination of cut purple, red bliss and Yukon gold potatoes and extra virgin olive oil and mixed in fresh rosemary leaves, and thyme sprigs and salt.  They would roast in the oven with the dressing and onions while the turkey rested and I made the gravy.  

The wonderful thing about this turkey preparation is that there's just a small amount of fat, so you don't really have to separate them fat from the juice--it's about two tablespoons.  So I heated up the pan juices and mixed a quarter cup of flour into about a cup of cold water.  I poured this mixed slurry into my roasting pan an stirred for about a minute or so to cook off the flour before adding about 1/2 cup of white wine and then turkey stock, whisking the combination vigorously as the flour dissolved and formed a silky sauce as I scraped up the fond at the bottom of the pan which helped to brown the gravy.  Salt, pepper, dried thyme were added next before the final addition of three tablespoons of creme fraiche.  

We sat down to eat at about 5:15 PM.  My Thanksgiving dinner was a triumph. I've never made a better stuffing in my life.  The decision to make my own sage-based seasoning, and then the last-minute idea of adding a big pinch of red pepper flakes to the stuffing added something very special.  Instead of heat, the pepper flakes added a peppery warmth that was even better at lunch this afternoon.  The other inspired decision was the combination of Brussels sprouts with the potatoes and herbs.  I'll never put myself through the inconvenience of mashed potatoes again.  The vegetables were golden and tender.  

John's Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir perfectly complimented our meal.  The table looked gorgeous and I sat watching my friends eating and drinking and laughing, thinking to myself we indeed had something to be thankful about on this day.  Even the perpetual Portland rain took a vacation.  It was sunny outside. 

So there I was smugly basking in the compliments of my guests, proud that I had not over-eaten.  We had espresso and then dessert.  Good thing Jean-Francois brought a very pretty, small white layer cake with raspberry filing and a white chocolate genache frosting.  Why? When I put a forkful of pumpkin pie in my mouth, I had a rude reaction.  "Blech," I said to myself as I put my fork down.  I forgot the sugar!  

left to right Kyle, John Baker, Jean-Francois and Jay

Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Sunrise at 6:45 am in Santa Fe 

A view from the mountains surrounding Santa Fe

Spent last weekend attending a publishing conference in Santa Fe where I was invited to participate in a panel on old and new media (me representing old) by my good friend Kent Watson.  It was fun.  I arrived tired, and sore with plantar’s faciitis in my right heel and feeling I needed some renewal. Santa Fe was just what the doctor ordered.  I flew down with my good friends, Ruth and Alan Centofante.  Alan is in the magazine business and Ruth is a writer, currently finishing up a memoir about her harrowing childhood in Mexico and her subsequent move back to the U.S. to raise her siblings after the death of her parents.  They were wonderful companions, and we pretty much hung out throughout the weekend.  We skipped the boring bits of the conference, and shopped, dined, took in the sights, thoroughly enjoying ourselves. 

Dining in Santa Fe can be a frustrating experience because so many of the most popular restaurants indulge in the ridiculous habit of no reservations.  Therefore one is constantly finding oneself standing in line waiting to for a a free table. I have always deplored this policy, especially in a popular place such as Santa Fe.  There are plenty of restaurants of quality there.  What’s the problem? Well simply put, when they are lining up outside the door, who needs a reservation. We couldn’t get into The Shed, apparently a must-go-to and hoppingly busy destination near our hotel on Thursday night, and we couldn’t get into Café Pasqual’s for lunch the next day. I don't wait for anything. Right across the street was the St. Francis Hotel. So we ended up having lunch in this beautiful Hacienda-style hotel with a gorgeous dining room called Tabla de Los Santos. We liked the look of the menu offering a small, but very well priced lunch. As we watched people wait and wait and wait to get into a restaurant we had attempted to breach across the street, the waitress served us that wonderful guacamole. Then she placed before me a not-too-large oval plate.  In the middle was a not-too-large dark green roasted poblano pepper surrounded by the most silky nutmeg brown sauce. It wasn't a mole sauce and it definitely had a European technique--no chunks or lumps. Inside the perfectly roasted pepper was finely chopped mushrooms.  It had only a hint of smoke and heat in each bite, but each bite was perfect. I've never eaten such a refined chile relleno.  The sauce was vegetable-based and it was thickened with vegetables and then put through a sieve. And for dessert we shared a dish of goat's milk flan with vanilla bean. It was denser than your typical flan but I don't meant to imply it was heavier--not it wasn't.  It too was special.  I think the bill came to about $22 per person with a glass of Alberino (one of my favorite white wines). A lovely lunch.  

I’ve never seen so many jewelry stores outside of Las Vegas, Apsen, the famous bridge over the Arno in Florence, and West 47th Street in New York City. The city boasts lots of art galleries, and boutiques selling gorgeous things.  I’m not immune and bought a wonderful widely horizontal photograph of a photoographer’s superbly scenic backyard of mountains, clouds and trees in colors of pinks, blues, grays and blacks. I’ll have it re-matted and framed for the guest room. 

My room at the Hotel La Fonda, Santa Fe

A fireplace in my hotel room

The hotel location for the conference was the vintage La Fonda—an old but well preserved Santa-Fe-style inn perfectly located on E. San Francisco—the main street one block from the town square and across the street from the huge Catholic church across the street. My room was the size of a football field. My only complaint was the stone-heavy down comforter which I couldn’t sleep under without feeling like I was being smothered. 

The hotel has an amazing concierge.  Because my feet hurt, I asked him to recommend a pedicurist and he sent me to Goro, a Japanese man of indeterminate age who had a studio a short cab ride away.  For and hour and a half, this genius (who did a lot of stars during his years in West Hollywood), worked on my feet, my shins and my calves, kneading and massaging and restoring my abused feet. It was amazing.  I think I’ve had one pedicure in my life, and realize I’m going to have to do it more often.

An amazing roast leg of lamb burrito form Atrisco Cafe in Santa Fe

The concierge also recommended a restaurant off the beaten path where I organized a group dinner after a bookstore reception on Friday night. Atrisco Café & Bar is located in a not-so-promising shopping mall outside of the Santa Fe’s town center.  And it’s as suburban looking as a restaurant can get, but at this family-run place, the food does all the talking.  I gave them very little notice that eight of us would be there for dinner at the height of dinner rush on Friday night.  The concierge told me that I must order one thing—the Roast Leg of Lamb Burrito.  As described in menu, this wondrous  creation is chocked full of the most amazingly tender locally grown leg of lamb, thinly sliced and wrapped in a large tortilla. I ordered it with the mild green chili sauce with a sprinkling of cheese which melted in the warm sauce by the time it reached the table. I was not alone in choosing this fabulous burrito.  It was thoroughly Tex-Mex in style but what a combination of simple ingredients—which always make for the best dishes. I ate every bite of this scrumptious dish and think everyone should make a pilgrimage to Santa Fe to sample it. 
On Saturday despite the gorgeous weather outside (you can understand why artists find the light in Santa Fe so special), my time was pretty much spoken for by the conference.  For dinner, Ruth, Alan and I chose El Farol, a popular and well-established Spanish restaurant specializing in tapas on Canyon Road, the popular street lined with art gallery after art gallery.  I had been to El Farol on a previous visit to Santa Fe for a week-long immersion of opera.  The menu of tapas is fantastic, and we decided that’s all we would eat. I got to select the wine and we shared a sensational bottle of tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero wine region of Spain to compliment all those lovely small plates.  There were potatoes bravas (roasted potatoes with a spicy sauce), beef skewers with a chimichura sauce, deep fried artichokes, Caesar salad, cured black olives with orange sections, spicy almonds, baked polenta, a mixture of wild mushrooms, fried calamari and other indulgent things. 

Ruth and me doing the tourist photo posing at El Farol

Tapas as El Farol

Me, Kent and Alan in a garden sculpture gallery in chairs made of stone

Wind Sculptures on Canyon Road, Santa Fe

Fall colors in Santa Fe

A crazy fountain of sculpture on Canyon Road

On Sunday morning, well fortified with a good breakfast, we hit Canyon Road, walking into one gallery after another.  But the thing I really love about Santa Fe is its architecture, and I got to add a few more “doors” to my collection (I photograph doors wherever I go--some of the best in the genre can be found in France and Italy). 

It was great little get-away. Back to rainy Portland where my garden and spirits are thoroughly drenched.  

Monday, November 8, 2010


Before I get to the depressing news of the week, he's a sweet photo of my niece, Christina-Marie and her mother, Rossi.  My brother, Doug, 

Between Dancing with the Stars and the elections, my nerves took a helluva beating this week.  Why in the world has Dancing with the Stars allowed Sarah Palin’s ungainly, clumsy daughter to remain in the competition to the point where she is in the final five and presumably because of Palin’s Mama Grizzlies, could end up in the finals??? Florence Henderson, Audrina, and now Rick Fox, all of whom have received superior judge’s scores over Bristol's, are now gone.  For the moment, the fix certainly looks in for Bristol’s success and it is sickening.  I have no axe to grind with the girl other than the fact that she is a supremely untalented dancer in addition to being a total blank on stage.  Dumb that she’s been allowed to advance so far. 

Then we had the elections.  We were led to believe Barney Frank’s congressional seat was in serious jeopardy, only to find out the day after the election that he had trounced his competition, and by a considerable percentage.  Good to see Harry Reid survive the vicious, mean-spirited and insanely fictional campaign Sharron Angle launched to unseat him, only it blew up in her face.  She falsely claimed that the huge Nevada Hispanic population is either a scary bunch of gang thugs, or are getting free health care because they are illegal immigrants. Good thing that pack of lies blew up in her face.  Hope she fades forever.  Then there was Christine O’Donnell, beloved media icon who went down in flames in Delaware.  Good riddance.  The Tea Party lunatic fringe is doing nothing for their constituency by backing embarrassing candidates such as these two. The Fox legal department is working overtime on contracts for these imbeciles.  

Meanwhile, none of the Republicans who ran for office claiming they will lower government spending can tell us how they will lower spending.  Let’s hold their feet to the fire.  Score cards in two years, please.  And then we can send them packing. 

Here in Oregon, Governor Kitzhaber won his third term by a hair.  I’m not all impressed—I mean, what did he do in his first two terms in office?  Not much, is my guess, but he beats his Republican opposition any day of the week.  One thing he could do is insist that local governments stop wasting tax payer dollars by renaming streets, such as in Portland where SE 39th Ave. has been changed to Cesar Chavez Boulevard.  No disrespect to Mr. Chavez, a hero to farm workers everywhere.  But couldn’t they have renamed a park after him?  All that new signage was expensive and unnecessary.  And couldn’t the city council have been better utilized on more important issues?

And while we're kicking dumb, offensive, stupid, and mendacious politicians, let's not forget the media.  Keith Olbermann donating to Democratic causes was simply wrong.  He's a journalist (or pretends to be) and an important oppositional voice, and now he'll have the jackals at Fox and fatso mouth himself (I cannot bear to name this insanely mendacious radio host) crowing with glee over his stupidity.  Will people never learn--you don't give Repugs any ammo, ever.

So instead of a nervous breakdown, another photo of my adorable niece.