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Good morning, and a week of thanks-giving to each of you.
Today, you have but one request, and it is a comprehensive one: Pay attention at Thanksgiving dinner, and send the rest of us ideas for next week's column in two categories:
• What you made that was a great success.
• What you loved eating around the Thanksgiving table.
We will use your answers to get ready for Christmas and the other celebrations of December, right around the corner.
It's only appropriate this week that we heed the advice: "Serve dessert first; life is uncertain." So goes the sign in many kitchens. Linda Morris of Lookout Mountain sent this one in answer to a request for a Heath bar dessert.
13/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
3/4 cup cold butter or margarine
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup crushed Heath bars
In a bowl, combine flour, sugar and cocoa. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press firmly into a greased 13- by 9- by -2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat milk, vanilla and 1 cup of chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Pour over the crust. Sprinkle with nuts, coconut, Heath bar pieces and remaining chocolate chips; press down firmly. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Cut into squares when partially cooled. Yield: 3 dozen.
Here's a fun note about the genesis of a now-treasured recipe, and thank you, Bonnie Case of Ooltewah, for sharing it. She wrote, "The original recipe for the wet chocolate cake from Oct. 24 was created in 1962 by a chef who owned a Piccadilly cafeteria in Memphis. I first tasted it when he came to visit his son who was a patient in the hospital where I worked as a nurse. He finally shared the recipe with us. He said he was trying to find something that was easy to make and serve, not very expensive and very tasty. He called it Chocolate Sheath Cake because the frosting had a smooth and glossy appearance. His recipe has taken a lot of turns. Cracker Barrel makes it, substituting Coca-Cola and calling it Coca-Cola Cake. The sheath soon became sheet because of size, I guess. I saw it somewhere called Grandma's Chocolate Cake. I think he would be pleased to know it is still being enjoyed."
Enjoyed indeed. Isn't that all a cook wants from his or her creations -- that they be enjoyed?
Now we enter the stuffing place, with three recipes, the first from Barbara Elbert of Cohutta, Ga. "With the holidays looming on the horizon, I thought to share a recipe, which for our family is not only a traditional family favorite but a necessity whenever turkey is on the menu. My mother-in-law first copied it in the late 1940s from a radio chef she called the Gold Chef and shared it with me after my husband and I were married in 1960. Shortly thereafter, my husband purchased a hefty (1,256 pages) cookbook for me called the 'The Gold Cook Book,' by master chef Louis P. De Gouy, with an introduction by Oscar of the Waldorf-Astoria. Going to my cookbook, I found my hoped-for answer ... the identical recipe.
"To shorten time on the final preparation day, I prepare the stuffing the evening before, refrigerate overnight and stuff the turkey just before roasting. Per my mother-in-law's suggestion for the bread crumbs, use bread that is a few days old, stack several slices and slice through crossways to make cubes."
Oyster Stuffing, New England Style
This amount is sufficient for a 5-pound chicken. Double for a 10- to 12-pound turkey, and triple for 16- to 18-pound turkey.
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 large onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup green celery leaves (tops only), finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon green pepper, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
11/2 quarts soft bread crumbs
1 pint drained, chopped oysters
Melt butter or margarine in a large skillet or pan; stir in onion, celery, parsley and green pepper. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, sage, thyme, mace and cloves.
Cook 3 or 4 minutes over low heat, stirring almost constantly. Add soft bread crumbs, and mix thoroughly. Last of all add oysters. Stuff turkey, or bake separately.
Diane Haidairi is up next, sending a beautifully hand-lettered recipe, one that hails authentically from the Eastern Shore, as does the sender.
"I'm from Westminster, Carroll County, Md. This dish is reputed to have been served at one of President Washington's official formal dinners, as noted by Sen. William Maclay of Pennsylvania.
"For shopping, I would suggest that Rebecca D. try Fresh Market on Gunbarrel Road in regards to the fresh briny oysters."
Eastern Shore Oyster Dressing
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup butter
2 (12-ounce) containers oysters, drained and chopped
8 cups toasted bread cubes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Sauté celery and onion in butter in a large skillet. Add remaining ingredients, and mix well. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 400 F for 25 minutes.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
And now we'll turn to a dressing where the oysters are optional, and that sounds good to me personally. I will omit the oysters in making this one, featured in a cookbook from Rock Creek Fellowship. The original recorder of this recipe, Abigail Lavin, credits generations of her forebears for the evolution of the recipe but particularly her beloved grandmother, GiGi Harris.
Mother's Cornbread Dressing
11/2 cups melted butter
6 cups cornbread (make your own; see note that follows)
4 cups soft bread crumbs (not stuffing mix) from day-old bread
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
6 beaten eggs
1 pint oysters and liquid (optional)
1 cup chicken broth
1 large can evaporated milk
Make your own cornbread -- and not from a mix. Buy Arrowhead Mills yellow cornmeal and use the recipe on the side. Before you even start making the cornbread, be sure you have a big, heavy, cast-iron skillet in the oven with at least 2 tablespoons of butter melting. It needs to be hot so that when you pour in the batter, it sizzles. The combination of the skillet and the butter adds a good, crisp, bubbly edge.
Crumble cornbread and white bread crumbs together, tearing the white bread as you go. Add remaining ingredients, including or omitting the oysters according to your taste. Mix together gently but thoroughly. Pour into a 3-quart casserole. Bake in a 400 F oven 45 minutes to an hour. Serves 15.