The Gleeful Gourmand: November 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Leftovers, Glorious Leftovers!

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and by now, your leftovers have mostly been consumed. But for a large portion of Americans, Thanksgiving Part Deux is just one month away - at Christmastime. Yes, it's hard to believe, but a significant amount of home cooks simply redo their Thanksgiving dinners when it comes to Christmas dinner. Before all you foodies get up in arms about that ("Amateurs," you may sniff), there's definitely a precedent for it. After all, what would Christmas be without the superb, silky vocals of Nat King Cole singing, "Everybody knows, a turkey and some to make the season bright"?

The turkey is, forgive the pun my runner readers, trotted out once again. I don't necessarily think that's such a bad thing. How many times have we said to each other after the last of the Thanksgiving turkey is gone, "We should roast turkeys more often. Why don't we do that?" Oh yeah, because it's a lot of work. It's special. I bought our bird from Whole Foods to make sure it was organic and free-roaming, and also ordered up to ensure leftovers. We brined ours this year overnight and spent an inordinate amount of time tending and taking care of it (Nigella Lawson's Spiced and Super-Juicy Roast Turkey). That's not something you just toss in the oven any old night of the week.

Brined. Organic. Fabulous.

But I digress. These days it seems that as much attention is paid to what you should do with your leftovers, as it is to the Great Feast itself. I've had turkey stews, turkey soups, been witness to lots of interesting turkey casseroles, and made turkey hash the next morning myself. The most unique and fun leftover use was done by my husband's cousins in Hawaii. His cousin Alice made a huge turkey curry the day after Thanksgiving with a bar set up full of toppings and fixings. The wine and conversation flowed, and it was delicious and fun, like the holiday just kept rolling on.

It was also wonderful because the only thing I had to do was show up and hold my glass out to be filled. But what do I really like to do with my turkey leftovers? Apparently I most like to be like everyone else in America. According to a survey done on the Food Network, I am just like 80% of viewers.

I like to make a turkey sandwich the day after.

I know, how boring is that, right? But it's not. It's something I dream about. After working so hard the day before and making everything perfect, my day after perfect is very simple: Slightly toasted WhiteWheat bread. Both sides slathered with Hellman's Mayonnaise. I don't eat mayonnaise often, but when I do, it has to be Hellman's. I hear all you Southern cooks crying foul that I don't use Duke's, but I stand firm. Hellman's it is. Freshly cracked pepper on both sides. And turkey piled high (just the white meat, I'm not a fan of dark meat). No embellishments. No arugula to give it punch and crunch. Nothing except the ingredients listed above. It's my perfect sandwich, and the only way I want to eat my turkey after the feasting is done. With maybe a dollop of my Mom's Cranberry and Orange Relish on the side. Everything else pales in comparison. Pales in comparison to a sandwich! Yes, I know how silly that sounds.

So how about you, readers? What's your most favorite way of using leftovers from Thanksgiving? Leave it in the comments!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Top Of Your Guest List - Thanksgiving Edition

"If you could have dinner with a famous person, either dead or alive, who would it be?"

That question. It gets thrown out during icebreaker games, first dates, and sometimes when everyone is just plain bored. It sounds like a simple question, but it's deceptive. Usually the person asking is trying to decipher your interests; and your character. The answer to this question could potentially say a lot about who you are as a person.   I've recently asked it of myself after reading a particular article in Bon Appétit.

As a Christian, I feel like I would be expected to say that the famous person I would have dinner with is Jesus. And while nothing would please me more, He wouldn't be my answer. First, you know the story of Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus? When Jesus came to visit, Mary sat patiently listening to Him, while Martha futzed around, trying to make things perfect and grumbling about why she was left with all the work. Jesus told her not to sweat the small stuff and just relax, but it was hard for her.

I'm a Martha. I like to lie to myself and say I'd be like Mary, but I'm totally a Martha, especially when it comes to holidays. Things don't have to be perfect (I know there's no way they every could be), but they have to be close. I would be way too nervous with Jesus there at the table. I would over-think absolutely everything about the food. And while I know in my heart He wouldn't care, I would. Secondly, I would want to ask Him a lot of hard-hitting questions. Nit-picky questions. And I have no idea if He'd answer them or not, since in this scenario I'm very much alive and not throwing Thanksgiving dinner in Heaven. I would monopolize the conversation like no one's business. I'm pretty sure my other guests would get angry. They might even leave.

So what famous person would I most like to have dinner with? Is it M.F.K. Fisher? Judith Jones? Hemingway? Jane Austen? Bono? Nope. It would be this guy:

Nick Offerman, who plays the hilariously stoic and awesome Ron Swanson on "Parks and Recreation." I recently read his Q&A in Bon Appétit in their Thanksgiving edition, and after reading it I thought, "I would LOVE to have Thanksgiving dinner with that man." First: Because he's so hilarious, and laughter is a very important part of any dinner party. Secondly: He seems to enjoy good, but simple food. His "Corn...My Way" sounds terrific, and he could bring it as a side dish. The burgers he likes to make also sound amazing (lamb and sirloin with grated Gruyere or Parmesan), so I imagine we'd get along so well he'd invite us all over for a cookout sometime. And make those burgers. Thirdly: He owns a woodshop in L.A. He could whittle a tablescape for my Thanksgiving table. Maybe some carved Tom Turkeys?

Read his Q&A here, and tell me you don't think he would make an awesome guest. Who's at the top of your list? Leave it in the comments, and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Food and Politics

*This post is in no way intended to endorse either candidate.*

One more day. That's what I keep telling myself every time I turn on the television or radio. The noise from the political ads has gotten so loud, and so annoying. Is it just me or do they seem to be gaining in quantity? Over the weekend I counted too many times my husband and I shouted at the TV screen when a political ad came on. We didn't care who the ad was supporting, we just wanted it to stop.

The truth is, no matter how much our commercials have evolved and gotten slicker, political ads to me will always be the equivalent of a Hollywood actor proclaiming, "If so-and-so wins, I'm moving to Canada!" It gets your attention, and it's interesting, but there's not a whole lot of truth behind it. Mostly these ads are just a nuisance in the background that don't sway me either way, even when they're using real people. Some are heartfelt ("My wife died of cancer, and it's that guy's fault!"), and some are downright silly ("Welcome, daughter...this is what your life is going to look like if that guy wins...and FYI, it will STINK."). Of course, I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist.

Bill's Barbecue, a Richmond institution.
Then I came across this article written about one of Mitt Romney's ads that focused on the former owner of a Richmond food institution, Bill's Barbecue. Bill's Barbecue, for those not in the know, was a chain of barbecue joints that kept Richmond in barbecue, pie, and limeade for more than 80 years. I will say this, right off the bat: I used to love Bill's Barbecue. Whenever we had a half day in high school, my friends and I would head to Bill's where I always got the same thing: A pork barbecue sandwich, no slaw, onion rings, and a lemonade. At the time there weren't a lot of other barbecue choices.

Regrettably for a lot of die-hard Bill's Barbecue fans and nostalgia enthusiasts, the owners closed up shop this September. The overwhelming feeling was that it was sad, but it was time for Bill's to go. The political ad Romney's camp put on TV, however, features Rhoda Elliot, the company's owner (and daughter of its founders) talking about how President Obama's policies put Bill's Barbecue out of business. That they just couldn't keep up with "market changes and the high cost of upgrading operations."

Well, that's simply a lie. (Shocking, politicians lie? Gasp!) I have no doubt that the economic collapse of 2008 hurt Bill's, just like it hurt all of us small business owners. But to claim in a national television spot that it was the President's policies at fault is sheer folly, and I'll tell you why:

First, just as the article says, Richmond over the last 5 years has seen its food scene explode. Yes, many restaurants have closed, but many more have opened in their place. Within that boom of new restaurants we've seen more barbecue places open that simply do it better than Bill's: Alamo BBQ, which is nothing but a hole-in-the wall, but so good that people make the trek all the way to Church Hill just to eat there; Buz and Ned's (my personal favorite) who took on Bobby Flay on "Throwdown" and won, and recently expanded their restaurant to a second, hipper branch; and Q's, a simpler operation with pretty good barbecue, and a huge following.

Here is my second point about why this ad is false: Those restaurants I mentioned did what Bill's has refused to do for decades - change. The last time I ate at Bill's was the spring right before the girls were born and we were on our way to a baseball game. The place was dirty and dingy, the décor had not changed one bit, the service was sub-par, and the food was disgusting. We could barely choke down our sandwiches. Rhoda Elliot can claim that it was the President's fault, but the truth about Bill's is this: Better operations came along and upped the ante in the barbecue game, and Bill's failed to respond in the market by being smart and changing its ways. Maybe they thought Richmonders would be upset if they changed their institution. Maybe they were just lazy. Maybe they had terrible business advice. But whatever the case, all of it added up to them closing their doors. Richmonders sank their teeth into other barbecue and declared it tastier.

I want to explain why this ad, above any of the other nonsense from both sides matters to me. I really, really care about Richmond's food scene. I love that it has grown and gotten recognized nationally, and I want it to continue to grow and shape into its very own tourist attraction. I want RVA to be known as a destination "Food Town." I recently attended a wonderful panel of speakers comprised of Richmond restaurant owners, and they all agreed that while Richmond is very slow to change, and is behind cities like New York City or Austin, we will certainly get there in the near future. The ambition and desire is there. I think we're witnessing that change right now and it's exciting to watch it all happen (and also taste it!).

I also really, really care about barbecue. I love it, and am very passionate about it. I hate that Richmond was thrown into the spotlight because of this ad, which is false, and not because of our other non-chain restaurants that are working so hard to make this town a rising star in the food scene.

I know politicians lie. They ALL lie, and all their ads are ridiculous. I just wish this one hadn't received so much press when it's so false and involves my town.