Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Potpourri!

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!  I've got so many cool things to tell you about that I thought potpourri was a fitting title.
First I must tell you about a wonderful (somewhat unconventional) alternative to cooking a turkey for the holidays. Based on an article in the NY Times a few weeks ago, we took the plunge and ordered a smoked turkey from Greenberg's Smoked Turkeys in Texas.  Look at that gorgeous bird! When it arrived snug in its' shipping box on Tuesday, we immediately refrigerated it until Thursday morning. Served at room temp, the only prep necessary was carving and plating. The smoky essence that filled the house was intoxicating! And moist? Even the white meat (which generally holds no interest for me) was luscious.  Greenberg's has been in business since 1938. A family-run operation to this day, they will sell about 200,000 birds this holiday season.  Most of their business is from repeat customers, and they can now count us among them.

I also want to tell you about a dessert I made for the holiday. A friend was bringing traditional pumpkin pie so I wanted to do something a little different, but still using pumpkin. I took a cue from my Italian heritage and modeled a dessert on the classic Tiramisu. Taking vanilla cake and layering it with a mascarpone pumpkin pecan frosting proved a delicious twist (frosting recipe here) on the usual T-day holiday desserts.  A generous spoon of fresh whipped cream completed the picture.

Next: the good folks at Pom Wonderful were kind enough to send me some samples of their pomegranate juice to sample.  I don't know about you, but I have not had the opportunity to try pomegranate juice. With the holiday, I haven't had a chance to be too creative with the juice, but I did come up with a delightfully refreshing drink mixing Pom Wonderful, orange juice, and a splash of seltzer over crushed ice. It is absolutely delicious, and I'm sure adding a shot of vodka to the mix would make a wonderful cocktail. And the red-orange hue is very festive.

On Tuesday, before starting our T-day preparations, we took a ride to Drew's Bayshore Bistro in Keyport, NJ. This restaurant has been on my list for a long time, given their bent toward all things Cajun.  But after they got a glowing review in the Times a few months ago, I knew I had to get there.  Of course, securing a reservation on a summer weekend at a Jersey shore restaurant proved near impossible.  But Tuesday of Thanksgiving week?  No problem!

A small, simply decorated restaurant that you enter via a bar area with an open window into the kitchen; we were greeted warmly and shown to our table.  Drew's is BYO and our wine was opened and served immediately after being seated (one of my restaurant pet peeves is letting guests languish at the table without pouring the wine). We started with Sweet Potato Empanadas filled with spicy Andouille sausage and served with a delicious fruit chutney.  For mains, we totally enjoyed the Crawfish Etouffee and the Pork du Jour, which was a good-size chop (perfectly cooked) served with cheese grits and fresh vegetables.  As one who has enjoyed grits in a few Southern locales, I can pleasantly say that Drew knows his grits!  We will definitely be back!

And saving the best for last, The Cook's Tour got a mention this weekend in JerseyBites! They liked my "Cows Outside" post from a few weeks ago and linked to it. JerseyBites is a New Jersey-centric web site focusing on all the cool food-related things found in the Garden State. Needless to say, I was thrilled!

Hope you all had a marvelous holiday weekend. Drop me a line and let me know what wonderful holiday treats filled your "horn of plenty" this week.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cows Outside

Took a late autumn road trip today to Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse in Milford, NJ. It was a spectacular day here - sunny, 65 degrees - the perfect day to head to the country. I've wanted to visit Bobolink Dairy for quite some time to sample their grass-fed cow's milk cheeses and wood-fired breads, but just never seemed to get there.  Today, with the top down on the convertible, we breezed along Routes 80, 287, and 78 to the rolling hillsides of Hunterdon County.  Once you get past the crowded highways, New Jersey has some beautiful back roads. 

We arrived at Bobolink just as Geb was starting a tour - lucky us!  There was a group of about 30 people who followed Geb for an hour all around the farm, learning about the organic process of raising grass-fed cows, using the milk to create delicious artisanal cheeses, meeting the cows up close, and sidestepping cow patties along the way.  Bobolink is set on 185 beautiful acres of pristine New Jersey farmland and the cows lucky enough to call this home get to live out their days roaming the pastures.

After the tour, visitors sample the cheeses and rustic breads (now if they only had a vineyard on the property, this would be the perfect afternoon!).  We sampled 5-6 cheeses and bought the "Jean Louis" to bring home (we were told that the owner of Bobolink apprenticed with the late, world renowned chef, Jean Louis Palladin, and named this cheese after him).  

Along with the cheese, we bought their rustic Rosemary Epi (which we promptly tore into the minute we got in the car), the hearty Baby Rye bread, a delicious Garlic and Pork Fat Ciabatta, and for tomorrow morning, a delectable Cranberry Walnut Breadstick (yeah, I might have gone a little bit overboard on the breads...). 

Once home, we had a tasting of the cheese accompanied by a dollop of raw honeycomb from the Savannah Bee Company. The pairing of the creamy cheese with the essence of wildflowers in the honey was divine. A fruity Malbec completed the picture.

Living 20 minutes from NYC, we don't get much in the way of quiet here.  So standing in the midst of the pastures and the almost past-peak autumn foliage, I was repeatedly struck by the sound of quiet. There was a soft breeze in the air picking up nature's beautiful scent, an oakey wood fire burning not too far away, and there were cows outside. Let that picture fill your mind for awhile - it's good for what ails you.