I'll resist detailing our whole menu since drool and computer keyboards don't really mix, but I'll of course tell you all about the dishes I made from Back to Basics. For one of our desserts, I made the French Apple Tart, which was a big hit as always, but since I already blogged about it, I'll move on to the new recipes. The two recipes I made were appetizers, and the first was a Roasted Shrimp Cocktail. I will admit, I made this recipe long before Ina published her most recent cookbook, but I've found it's one of the most impressive ones for people who like shrimp cocktail. Ina is all about turning up the volume on classic dishes, and you're going to need earplugs for this one.
We started with 2 pounds of shrimp, which my grandmother diligently peeled, cleaned and deveined. That's right, I let her have the lovely task of peeling the outer layer off of a dead crustacean and then slicing its back open to remove its innards.
Are you drooling yet?
I unfortunately forgot to tell my grandmother to leave the tails on, so you'll notice in pictures that these little guys are missing them, although considering the speed with which they were ingested, they probably would have just slowed people down. Once they were nice and clean, I spread the shrimp out on a foil-lined sheet pan:
Ok, so my mom was actually the one that did this, but I supervised. Next, we (read: my mom) tossed the shrimp with olive oil:
Hi Mom! And there's my sister, Alex in the background
Last was to arrange the shrimp in a single layer and sprinkle them with salt and pepper:
and into the oven they went for just a few minutes. In the meantime, we (read: my mom, again) made the cocktail sauce. I regret that my photographer (me) was seriously slacking off during this time, so unfortunately there are no photos of this process, but really guys, how hard is it to make cocktail sauce? No, we didn't make our own ketchup or use fresh horseradish. We basically just took a bunch of stuff from jars and bottles and combined it all together into a big container:
chili sauce, ketchup, prepared horseradish, lemon juice,
Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco
Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco
Once the shrimp were fully cooked, I took them out of the oven and allowed them to cool:
The shrimp and the cocktail sauce went into the fridge to chill overnight and when it was time for appetizers before the big Thanksgiving feast, my sister created a lovely arrangement:
See, you don't even miss those pesky tails
You: So Morgan, you basically made your grandmother, mother, and sister do all the work for this and you just sat back and took pictures?
And as always, these were a huge hit. The difference that roasting the shrimp makes is incredible; people just go nuts because all they're used to is the typical boiled shrimp which I gather can be sort of bland and easily overcooked.
Make this when: you're hosting a holiday party for your co-workers. You'll knock their stockings off and it can be made the day before. As Ina would say, how easy is that?
Next Course: Bruschetta with Peppers and Gorgonzola
Since my sous chefs were mostly busy either cooking, eating, or both by the time I started the bruschetta, I was left mostly to my own devices. To start, in a large skillet, I sauteed strips of yellow and red bell peppers:
While these were sauteing, my sister made the mistake of wandering into the kitchen, so I of course commandeered her to help, delegating to her the task of slicing a french baguette into individual crostinis:
That's about as far as she got before handing the knife over to her boyfriend,
Chance, to finish the job.
Chance, to finish the job.
After about 12 minutes in the pan, I sprinkled the peppers with sugar, and sauteed them for another 3 minutes:
Finally, I stirred in julienned fresh basil, capers, salt, and pepper and set the pan aside:
Luckily, I had just come to this stopping point when we got the 5 minute warning. For what, you might ask? Brace yourselves for...
The Turkey Fryer!!
DUM DUM DUUUMMMMM
That's right ladies and gentlemen, this year we truly embraced our "Southern" roots and deep fried a turkey. We'd been talking about it for years and this year was THE year. So all of those not willing to risk our lives or eyebrows gathered on the deck (a.k.a. a safe distance away from the searing hot vat of oil) and watched...
Once we were pretty sure the house wasn't going to catch fire, we went back to the kitchen and kept a' cookin. To finish the bruschetta, I brushed each slice of bread with olive oil and toasted them in the oven for just a few minutes. Using tongs, I topped each slice with a little of the pepper mixture and then dotted each with the gorgonzola. I returned them to the oven for another few minutes just to warm the cheese:
Even the smell of red bell peppers usually make me gag, so I was super skeptical of this dish. But once they were ready, I was so distracted cooking all of my other dishes for dinner, I forgot to try one! Oh no, I thought, this will be the one thing that I've made so far that I didn't even try! Well...besides the shrimp that is. But, as luck would have it, when the appetizer plates were cleared there was one little bruschetta left that had my name on it. Conveniently, it even had just the yellow peppers, and was really good. I loved the combination of the creamy cheese and fresh-tasting bell pepper, and basil just makes everything better. Unfortunately, I don't think my piece had any capers on it, but I can only believe that they would have added the touch of salt and vinegar that would have complimented the rest of the bite nicely.
Make this when: one of your friends has something to celebrate and you've volunteered to host the cocktail hour before a fun night out on the town.
Next Course: Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli
Oh, and in case you're wondering how the fried turkey came out, it was pretty good. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of it, but I'll supplement with our beautiful table instead:
Courtesy of Alex and Chance
The fried turkey was successfully cooked all the way through and had a really pretty, crispy brown skin, and thankfully, no one and nothing was set on fire. Since we weren't going to put all our turkeys in one fryer...if you will...my mom also made a 17-pound fresh turkey that she covered in herb butter and then practically soaked in butter and wine. There was some debate as to which turkey was the favorite, but for me, there was no competition. I thought the fried turkey was a little dry, and come on, butter and wine? What could be better than that?