I fully did not expect to make it through this week.
In fact, it was so daunting that it loomed over me all weekend, like a giant mountain in between me and the kickoff of my favorite season, which is ushered in by my favorite holiday.
(Is it any surprise that my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is one that’s all about food?)
But good news, friends, it’s almost here! Not just the weekend but also the start of the holiday season!
One way or another we survived the week, and now there are only 5 days left until I head to Texas to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Our menu for the big day is always pretty much the same – we’re Turkey Day Traditionalists. And delinquent though it may be, I’m still trying to figure out what my contribution will be. I’ll help with the usual sides of course – stuffing, sweet potato casserole, cauliflower gratin, infamous nasty jello mold that only my aunt eats – but I want to add my own flair this year.
I’m considering something with Brussels sprouts and bacon. It recently occurred to me the other night as I was on the phone with my mother around dinner time how shocked our parents would be to realize that we now eat Brussels sprouts not only willingly but with abandon. Whoever would have thought that would be the case?
Turns out all they needed was a good crisping in the oven, a creamy Dijon mustard sauce and some meat fat to be perfectly palatable.
I’m also testing two other Thanksgiving recipes – this black bottom oatmeal pie for a Friendsgiving I’m going to on Saturday and this stuffing with caramelized onions and kale for my work potluck on Tuesday. Stay posted for results.
Speaking of kale and things we never would have thought would have a place on the Thanksgiving table, I’m considering offering up this salad as my contribution next Thursday.
It’s from Ina’s new cookbook and despite the presence of a certain leafy green, I promise you it’s anything but healthy. There are croutons and bacon and homemade Caesar dressing for crying out loud!
By the way, it’s the best recipe for Caesar salad dressing I’ve come across. It’s creamy but not overwhelmingly so, bright with citrus and salty from the anchovies and mustard. (If anchovies and uncooked egg yolk aren’t your thing, leave them out and use mayonnaise instead.)
But most importantly, it may enable me to trick my cowboy Texan grandfather into eating kale…and that sight would be something to be thankful for.
Kale Caesar salad with pancetta
(Adapted from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey, reproduced here)
4 anchovy fillets, drained, optional
1 large garlic clove
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature or 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, at room temperature (2 lemons)
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese, divided, optional
1 pound Lacinato kale
4 ounces pancetta, diced into small cubes
1 cup bread cubes from a crusty loaf of bread
To make the dressing, place the anchovies if using, garlic, mustard, egg yolks or mayonnaise, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt,* and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend for 30 seconds until mixture is smooth. With the processor running or, if using a blender, in batches, slowly add the olive oil and blend until the mixture emulsifies. Add 1/4 cup of the Pecorino if using and blend just until combined. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
Wash the kale and remove the center ribs. Slice thinly using a trick I just learned from Deb Perelman that will make our lives SO much easier: stack the leaves, roll them into a tube and slice them crosswise. Add them to a bowl, drizzle them with a tiny amount of olive oil and massage it into the strips to break them down a bit.
Then, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pan, add the pancetta and cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, tossing frequently, until browned and crisp. Transfer the pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Add the bread cubes to the pan and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing frequently until evenly browned and watching closely so they don’t burn.
Add the pancetta, toasted bread, and shaved Pecorino if using to the kale, add desired amount of dressing and toss.
*: As always, Ina is liberal with the salt. If you want to tone it down, try a 1/2 teaspoon here.
Kale salad with pancetta and pecorino: Ina Garten’s Cooking For Jeffrey, reproduced here, http://www.today.com/recipes/ina-garten-s-kale-salad-pancetta-pecorino-recipe-t104291