Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Buffet with Sides of Veggies

Thanksgiving Buffet 
This Thanksgiving dinner was hosted by my sister-in-law in her wonderful home a stone's throw from The Main Line. This year, dinner was served buffet style. Twenty-some people were expected to attend. Each family was to bring part of the dinner. Our family, there were to be only two of us as our children were either in London or working at the Movie Tavern, were expected to bring two side dishes - a spaghetti squash dish and candied carrots. You would think that would be easy. I never do anything the easy and I do the cooking.

I am known to not follow a recipe exactly as written. As a matter of fact, there are few times I make anything the same way twice. Plus, I like to try new recipes no matter how important the occasion.

My wife expected the spaghetti squash dish to simply contain tomato sauce and cheese along with the obvious spaghetti squash. She also expected the candied carrots to be just like frozen in the supermarket. I expected better than that. So I was off to the internet to find some recipes.

I follow a few food blogs. One of them is The Pioneer Woman who has a cooking show on the Food Network on Saturdays. On her show last week she made green beans with whole canned tomatoes. I thought that sounded good.

I also Googled "spaghetti squash" and found several other recipes using, feta cheese, ricotta cheese, spinach and nutmeg, none of which I have ever used in my spaghetti squash. So I synthesized my new recipe from all the above sources. Here is what I came up with.

3lb/ 1.36kg spaghetti squash
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
15oz/ 425g ricotta cheese
1 beaten egg
1lb/ 453g mozzarella cheese, shredded 
1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cans of diced tomatoes, unseasoned
1 lb chopped raw baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Cut the squash in half length-wise, remove seeds, place in baking pan cut side down and pour 1" water into pan. Bake at 400ºF/ 205ºC until done.
Throw the chopped onion and minced garlic in a saute/frying pan on low-medium heat until the onions are just showing some golden brown color.
While baking squash, mix the onions, garlic, ricotta, beaten egg, 1/3 shredded mozzarella, 1/4 cup Romano, chopped spinach, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and nutmeg in an enormous bowl.

When squash is finished baking turn over and pull a fork across the flesh from blossom end to stem end and create spaghetti-like fibers. Mix then into the cheese/tomato mixture until blended. Transfer everything to a casserole pan. Evenly spread the remaining mozzarella across the top of the pan. Spread the remaining Roman over top of mozzarella.

Bake at 350ºF /176ºC for about 25 minutes or until the cheeses are bubbling and browned in places.

I thought it was good, but then I was invested.

The recipes for candied carrots were also researched on the web. I was looking for a more interesting recipe, a thicker sauce than just brown sugar and butter. I like orange marmalade. I thought the orange would complement the sweetness of the carrots. I decided to use orange marmalade in my candied carrots. Below is my final recipe for candied carrots.

4lb / 1.8kg baby carrots
1 cup orange marmalade
6 Tablespoons cold water
4 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, I only buy unsalted so I can add my own salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons corn starch
4 oz Imperial whiskey

Steam carrots until hot and still firm

While steaming carrots mix:
marmalade, 4 Tablespoons water, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt, pepper and nutmeg into a sauce pan. Heat while stirring or whisking the ingredients in the pan until blended.
In a small bowl whisk 4 Tablespoons of water with 2 Tablespoons of corn starch until smooth.
Slowly add the corn starch and water mix to the sauce pan while continuously stirring. Continue to stir and heat the mixture for an additional five minutes as the sauce thickens.
Turn off heat, add the whiskey and stir until combined.

Drain steamed carrots, place in a large bowl. Add in all sugar mix from sauce pan and mix to cover all carrots.

One of the recipes I found on the web called for the addition of rum to the mix. I only had a few liquors in the house and rum was not one of them. Of the two single malt scotches, gin, Kahlua, tequila, red vermouth and Imperial whiskey, I thought the Imperial would work the best.

Again, I thought it tasted good. On the other hand, I thought blue cheese vodka would taste good.

To make a long story short, and let's not mention the fact that I ended up being "Drunk Uncle in the Corner", the meal was a success. Everyone liked my spaghetti squash and candied carrots. Or at least that is what I think they were telling me. 

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

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