Thanksgiving | Butterball Hotline? Pffft!

This was our second year hosting Thanksgiving at our house, but other than the dishes that we might make regularly throughout the year (green beans, yay!), I can’t proclaim to remember how anything is made from year to year.

Turkey cooking time?
No Clue

Ham glaze?
Hmmm?

Roast potato?
Nope.

To be honest, previous generations must have had a huge margin of error, because I can’t imagine not having Google (or having to resort to the Butterball Hotline for cooking tips).

Here’s some examples of things I had to look up today, just in case any of it is useful to you in the future.

How long to roast a turkey

Searching for this term gets you one of the fancy new Answer Boxes, where it takes the information from one of the result pages without even requiring you to click.  The answer given, though, isn’t entirely precise. According to Butterball.com, a 10-18lb turkey should be cooked for 3 – 3.5 hours at 325F. The package our turkey came in gave a narrower range per weight.

We ended up roasting our 14lb for exactly 3 hours, with the first hour spent breast-side down. We then let it rest, unintentionally, for over an hour before carving.  The result was an evenly roasted, juicy and flavorful bird.  Hooray!

Duck fat potato?

Last year I had been working on a root veg with honey dish, that always came out with inconsistent results. I think I was getting pretty close, but honestly it wasn’t a hit a Thanksgiving 2013, so I wasn’t at all dismayed when Anie decided to do duck fat roasted potato as a throw-back to English Sunday Roast.

I nearly made a mistake with this one, as the first result provided came from Epicurious (normally a good source), but was actually for Pomme de Terre Sarladaise, which conjures up images of a more rustic, slightly crunchy version of scalloped potato. Luckily Anie grabbed this one by the horns and followed a recipe that resulted in phenomenally tasty, slightly smashed potato.

In the end, we had a terrific meal that was slightly scaled-back compared to last year, but met all the traditional requirements of too-much food and going back for seconds when I probably should have passed. We hope you and yours had a happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving | Nana’s Spaghetti, A Staple

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It’s probably why I feel very strongly about no Christmas propaganda before Turkey Day. Back off Rudolph, let the biggest meal of the year have its 15-minutes, am I right?

TurkeyDay2013

There are few things better than gathering with friends and family to indulge in comfort food. The traditions and memories that are tied to a Thanksgiving menu are not to be taken lightly. Last year, when Ryan and I hosted for the first time, we ended up with 3 bread options as an example . . . Grandma Brown’s rolls, because those are my favorite. Grandma Donna’s bread, because it’s not a holiday without it. And good ol’ American pop-the-canister crescent rolls, because my brother-in-law declared them a must.

This year, in an attempt to scale back and minimize our menu, we’ll inevitable leave something off that means “it’s not quite Thanksgiving without (fill in the blank)” for someone. Sorry in advance folks, we’re opting for duck-fat roasted potato instead of mashed this time. Oh the horror!

There is a random combination of must-haves that come from both my mom and dad’s sides of the family which make it a true Thanksgiving for me. Of these, indisputably the one that stands out the most, is Nana’s Spaghetti.

The story goes, when my dad was growing up as one of 6 kids, Thanksgiving could be quite a strain on the family wallet. His mom, my Nana, had to get creative and stretch the menu as much as possible to feed all those mouths. Enter her spaghetti . . . an incredibly simple, inexpensive, and most importantly, filling dish.

Nana’s Spaghetti

  • 1 box of spaghetti noodles
  • 1 sick of butter
  • 2 small cans of tomato sauce (plain $.99 tomato sauce can, nothing fancy, generic brand encouraged)
  • Lots of shredded cheese (think cheddar or monterey jack blend, keep it simple)
  • Nothing else, no really, don’t even use salt and pepper

 Boil your spaghetti noodles until done (seriously, Nana would have never said al dente here, just cook the damn things). Drain noodles, then melt 1 stick of butter over the cooked pasta. Ignore the shame you already feel and try to avoid Paula Deen references. Once the noodles are good and buttery, pour in the tomato sauce and stir to combine. This dish is essentially done at this point, I could eat it now and be a fat, happy lady. But, to finish it off properly, transfer the sauced butter noodles into an oven safe dish and cover with shredded cheese. Bake uncovered at whatever temp your oven is already at, until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Those crispy corners of melted cheese will be the star of the show. I’ve also been known to create noodles-cheese-noodles-cheese layers before browning in the oven. While not necessary, it just means more cheese, so really it’s a no brainer.

Here’s the thing about Nana’s Spaghetti, as you might be able to ascertain from the recipe and ingredients, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. My mom and brother aren’t fans, while my sister, dad, and I can be found over the pot, fork in hand before the meal even starts. I remember the year my Aunt Dora tried making the spaghetti using Ragu (whaaaaaaaatttt?!?!). That little mistake (that she’ll never live down) meant I was in charge of the dish going forward. Obvious health and nutrition concerns aside, it’s not quite Thanksgiving in my house without the Nana’s spaghetti. Sure, it’s kind of gross when you stop and think about it, but it was Nana’s and that memory and tradition is worth every Thanksgiving calorie.

Happy Turkey Day!

PS – forgive the lack of pictures, nana’s spaghetti isn’t photogenic, so our turkey & pies from last year will have to do!

Marrakech, Morocco | Stall #14

Overwhelming. That’s the word of choice to describe my visit to Marrakech in September. I was on sensory overload for 5 days . . . the smells, the bustle, the poverty, the scams, the luxury, and the hospitality. It’s completely and utterly overwhelming in every sense of the word both good and bad.

There are so many memories from the trip I’d like to share (MINT TEA + heart eyes emoji!) but today I’ll start with the obvious – my favorite meal.

Traveling with a dear friend, we stayed a short walk away from the madness that is Jemaa el Fna, the main square in Marrakech. The vast courtyard serves as the entry point to the myriad of alleyways making up the souks. During the day, it’s bordered by a few restaurants, countless orange juice stalls, and several entrepreneurs trying to convince tourists they need a picture with a diapered monkey (dislike) or snake charmer (no, thank you). But as the sun begins to set, and the desert sky glows in yellows and pinks, the square transforms into another space all together.

Dusk at Jemaa el Fna, Marrakesh

Nightly, as if out of nowhere, vendors begin to set up rows and rows of food stalls as grills heat up and smoke fills the air rising high above a sea of white tents. On offer at the stalls you’ll find everything from vegetable tagine to snails, lamb brain, and a goat head (complete with eye sockets staring back at you). The “front of house” staff are unabashed sales men accosting anyone who walks by with a menu to the face and claim of the best eats in town. To say they are relentless is an understatement, but while aggressive, most were nice enough that a false promise to “come back tomorrow” would have them moving on to the travelers walking behind us.

Djemaa El Fna

A few friends who’d visited Marrakech before recommended we try Stall #55, but unfortunately we’d remembered the number wrong and were losing patience with the folks trying to lure us to their tables as we navigated the square. After snaking our way in and out of the rows of tents, we found ourselves passing by Stall #14 multiple times, only to finally realize that it had, what appeared to be, a vast majority of locals eating at its tables and queuing up for an empty seat. Not only is the presence of locals always a safe bet in my book when selecting a dining destination while traveling, Stall #14 had no obnoxious staff member convincing passersby to eat there. That alone was reason enough to quickly join the line of patrons waiting to be seated.

During our wait, we watched the ‘head chef’ man the fryers with a quiet but strong presence providing no doubt to anyone that he was in charge. Several other cooks worked around him to keep up with the high demand of food while 2-3 friendly men took waiter like roles, and 1-2 others as hosts/bus boys to ensure order in the queue and fresh paper place mats were replenished quickly for each new guest. Just as we observed enough to know how the ordering worked, it was our turn to take a place at the bench style seats.

Marrakech

Elbow-to-elbow with fellow diners, a young man smiled and brought us khobz (a traditional Moroccan flatbread) and a tomato-based dip right away. With a little pointing and neck straining to see the menu board, we happily went on to order aubergine dip, green peppers, fried fish x2, and of course chips (french fries). Everything was served on small salad size plates, and came out fairly quickly. Eating tapas style, we dug in fingers first to taste a little of everything – ripping off pieces of bread to dip in the Kahrmus (aubergine dip) and the greasy fried fish were my favorites. What Stall #14 lacks in presentation and fussiness, they fully make up for in taste – everything was delicious. So much so that we went back and ordered the exact same thing the following night.

Marrakech

Marrakech

Nearing the end of our meal, we were offered pieces of butcher paper to help alleviate our grease filled hands. As people crept in closer against us to anxiously to take our seats, our young ‘waiter’ told us our bill was 75 Moroccan Dirham – about $8.50 for two . . . We quickly threw some cash at the smiling kid, and nearly ran away in hopes they wouldn’t realize what a killer deal we just got.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Marrakech, put aside any health and safety concerns, and eat like a local at Stall #14. It’s not to be missed.

(click images for individual sources)

Sweet Potato Slider Buns

sliders on sweet potato buns with bacon, mushrooms, & avocado. #whole30 #day28

A photo posted by Rogue Pepper (@roguepepper) on

A couple weeks ago, Anie gave me a mission, to try to recreate Amazon Ashley’s Sweet Potato Buns. Armed with a brief recipe and an instagram example, I got to work.

Admittedly, it took me until the third try to pull off ones that really worked. On the plus side, however, the first two attempts resulted in some tasty chips and a handy breakfast taco shell.

This time, though, I really pulled it off.  No mandolin, just free-hand slicing skills you haven’t seen this side of Fruit Ninja.  Tossed in avocado oil, lightly seasoned and baked at 425 for ~22 minutes, these buns were just the right size to provide stability while thin enough to not distract from the sliders.

Not too shabby for something that’s Whole 30 compliant.