Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

I really wish I had a great blog to share this year. Heck, I wish I could have just reposted the awesome one from last year where I rocked that sagüesera turkey (thanks to @vicequeenmaria for the name) stuffed with Congri.

But no, unfortunately, this year’s contributions to Thanksgiving from The Project were lackluster, to say the least. And the fact that I was out of commission a whole week afterwards didn’t help the cause, either.

So now, I present…Thanksgiving, Nitza Style, 2010 Edition. The good, the bad and the bien feo (very ugly).

The good:

My mom made her spinach dip, which she has perfected over the years. No leftovers on that one, that’s for sure. It’s usually consumed way too fast to have anyone leave anything but the scraps of the bread bowl she serves it in.

My cousin, Hilda, made an Empanada Gallega for appetizer. Homemade dough filled with picadillo. Super great. Even better the next day after a little toasting in the oven. Delicious.

My sister in law’s mac and cheese – excellent. Homemade, creamy, cheesy. Always a hit.

My cousin, Jessica, recreated Cracker Barrell’s hashbrown casserole. Excellent. She could have really bought it from CB and changed the pans and no one would have been the wiser. It was a perfect recreation and one I’ll try to get the recipe for.

My mother in law’s frijoles negros were impeccable. The reason I still haven’t tried to make Nitza’s recipe for black beans. The pressure is too intense to try to beat those black beans.

For the turkeys, hubby fried up just one of the two we had bought. He made a mojo garlic injection for it that kept that bird moist and very well seasoned through the frying. Perfect and juicy with a good amount of leftovers for the next day.

My aunt brought a turkey breast and the homemade gravy she makes is delicious. Both turkey dishes were well received.

I made two recipes from The Project for Thanksgiving. One appetizer and one side dish. The appetizer makes it to the good list.

Recipe #80: Jamón Enrollado con Piña

Ingredients for Jamon Enrollado con Piña

It’s a simple dish, can be made ahead and the glaze that you top it with is really outstanding.

I bought pineapple chunks pre-cut at the grocery store and then cut them up into smaller cubes and ran them through water and salt, because Nitza says so. Maybe it’s to soften the sugar flavor, or maybe it’s to prep it for the sugar rush that it’s about to get when you put the pineapple chunks in sugar and water. Not sure the reason, but it works and the pineapple gets coated with a candy-like glaze that makes it taste great.

At this point, I let the pineapple cool and prepped the ingredients for the glaze. It was time for Nena’s sweet potatoes and Tia Gladys’ Thanksgiving lunch with my father in law’s side of the family.

Prep for the ham rolls

When we got home, I placed the pineapple chunks in a slice of ham and held it together with a toothpick.

Rolling the ham

My cousin, Sandra, helped me finish and line them all up in a greased Pyrex and poured the glaze over the top. Ready for the oven.

That’s where the good list ends. Now we start the bad list.

Actually, there’s a fine line between the bad list and the bien feo list.

The Publix ham I bought was to recreate a Cuban-dressed ham that Nitza has an illustration of in my book. I just had to cook it, glaze it and put fruit around it and I’d be able to match the illustration, just for fun. At least it looked pretty.

Cuban Ham

I didn’t love the glaze it came with. Don’t know if it was that it had too much of a clove presence, or another spice I can’t put my finger on, but it was too overpowering. There are glazes that Nitza talks about in the book, but since it’s more of a four page instructional section on Ham, I never counted any recipes from these pages into the overall 629 recipes from The Project.

Why the fine line between the bad list and the bien feo list? Well, in our exhaustion, we had forgotten to put the ham away in the fridge. The smell in the morning of the rancid ham was so overpowering, even after wrapping it, discarding all traces of it and Lysol-ing the kitchen, the smell lingered. I even thought of boiling anise star, but that would have reminded me of the glaze I was not loving more and more and decided against it. The ham jumped into the bien feo list quickly.

What about the second recipe from The Project you ask?

Recipe #143: Receta Para Relleno de Pavo

Cuban stuffing ingredients

Cuban Stuffing. During my prep, many of you asked if there was such a thing as Cuban Stuffing and I thought, heck, it’s made with Cuban bread so yeah, it’s Cuban Stuffing.

I now know that there’s a reason no one thinks of doing stuffing the Cuban way. I don’t know if the measurements table Nitza displays in the book is just totally off or what, but I, personally, hated the Cuban Stuffing. It was salty, too mushy and oh so gross.

Cuban Stuffing

Some family members tried to make me feel better by saying their portion wasn’t salty, but I don’t believe them.

And then, for the ironies of life, I’ll share with you why we don’t even do stuffing or dressing at our home for Thanksgiving.

When my husband and I first got married, I announced that I’d be contributing an apple and sage stuffing for that year’s Thanksgiving. I slaved all night with some ridiculous Martha Stuart-ish recipe, sliced my finger with the tool of the devil (the mandolin) and went to sleep probably close to sunrise in the process.

No one in the family ate the stuffing. No one. Well, maybe just one person – Javi. I think he felt so bad for me that he tried it. And hated it.

And this year, the only other year I’ve made stuffing, I had to hear about how no one in the family likes stuffing. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people, but they just don’t like stuffing.

And when the stuffing was ready, I asked Javi to try it and he did.

And he liked it. I actually caught him going back to the stove a few times to keep trying it.

Stealing from the stuffing

Go figure. It’s safe to say I’m done with stuffing. Unless it’s Stove Top, which I just love. Then I can have it for myself anytime of the year.