Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Homecoming Meals & Thanksgiving Tryouts

My girl KF moved to Alaska not long after we finished college. She and her husband were supposed to be there 1 year and it has been much longer than that! Which means when she comes to CT to visit, it's a special occasion that I mark on my calendar and nothing gets between me and heading home to see her.

KF and I stumbled through our first cooking-to-live experiences together when we were living in Germany during our junior year of college. It's a stretch to say we were great cooks, in fact, I think we bordered on awful. At the time I blamed it on bad kitchen gear (we were using a shared dorm kitchen) and unfamiliar grocery stores, but the fact of the matter was, we had no idea what we were doing.

We did survive, mostly on pasta with frozen vegetables, salads, cereal and an occasional burger, but I think it's fair to say my cooking has improved since then. So when KF came to visit last weekend for the first time since my wedding (more than a year ago) I decided to cook her some favorites and show her how much I have improved.

Since the dinner was at my parents house, Mom and I collaborated on the menu. We planned balsamic braised cipolline onions, steaks, potato fries, salad and crunchy baked fennel. Both the cipolline onions and the fennel casserole are Food & Wine Thanksgiving specials that we were testing for Thanksgiving this year.

Jared and I headed down Saturday afternoon and Mom and I got to cooking. I haven't cooked a lot with fennel, but I like the taste of it and want to start cooking more with it, so I was excited about the experiment. The end result was good, I should have listened to the instructions and used 10 fennel bulbs (I used 6 - it looked like so much) but the flavor and crunchiness was perfect. It's a definite yes for Turkey Day.

The onions, which I had made a couple of times before, were like candy. Each tiny little onion is pillow of bliss for your to bite into. It's creamy and sweet and just melts in your mouth. They went with the steak perfectly, but they did not make the Thanksgiving day menu purely because of the time and effort it takes to peel each little onion. If you are having a small dinner, these would be a perfect addition, but for group of more than 6, this recipe is a daunting task.

As always getting to spend time with KF made me realize how much I miss her. I am constantly coming up with schemes to convince her to move back here. (For example, we are going to move our husbands to Vermont to start up a goat cheese farm just as soon as they move home.) In the mean time, I'll continue to save my weekends in Ashford to spend with her when she visits, and hope to persuade her with my much improved cooking.

If you need an additional vegetable dish for a crowd, here is the Crunchy Fennel Casserole Recipe.

If you are looking for something decadent for a smaller group, here is the recipe for the

Balsamic Braised Cipolline Onions


2lbs cipolline onions (these are the small red and white ones, small boiling onions work as well)
1 1/2 cups fat-free low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1t brown sugar
3T heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or fresh pomegranate seeds if you are feeling decadent)
olive oil


Fill your large soup pot half with water and put over high heat. Once boiling, blanch the onions in the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove them from the boiling water and immediately submerge them in cold water.

Cut off the two ends of each onion, and peel them leaving the core intact. This should be really easy because you have blanched them already.

Heat a dollop of oil in the same pot you blanched them in, and add the onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté until brown on both sides.

Add chicken broth, red wine, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Turn up the heat and increase the boil until the onions are soft and the liquid is thickened, stirring frequently.

Add the heavy whipping cream and dried cranberries, simmer until the sauce coats the onions. (If you are using pomegranate seeds, add them right after you have turned the heat off.)

1 comment:

Marjorie Roy said...

After the successful experiment with the fennel casserole DR suggested we combine the fennel with our grilled onion soup recipe. It is cooking as I write. I grilled both the fennel and vidalia onions. It is simmering on the stove for dinner tonight. I'll let you know the results.