Saturday, December 29, 2012

Complimenting the Snow with Tempura Okra

Christmastime has passed and I'm back to pay a little more attention to the archives of Louisville Lady Gourmet. I really hope that you, dear readers, had as much inspiration for culinary greatness as I did over the holiday. In my free time, I was combing the massive collections of recipes that were flooding from my fellow bloggers and food writers, and boy was I excited. I also reviewed some traditional methods that I want to perfect and keep in my culinary arsenal.

The New Year is on its way (can you believe it?), so that means making new goals and trying new least for me. I really want to investigate a few styles of cuisine that I have experienced or even cooked before, but want to see what I can do with the ingredients we have here in our fair city.

I got started early on my goals by tackling Tempura. I believe that anyone who tries tempura is truly amazed at what the Japanese have done to fried food. Tempura, if prepared correctly, is minimal on the grease, texturally exciting, packs massive taste from both the batter and the fresh ingredients, and is completely addictive. Oh yes, addictive.

So, what can you tempura fry that excites the Louisville palate? Only one of my most favorite foods in the entire world: Okra! I fried the okra whole, and doing so yielded an ethereal taste-bud explosion. The whole okra was beautifully crispy on the outside and was not soggy at all in the center. The okra seeds in the middle have always been my favorite to eat, and this tempura okra kept the seeds moist for optimum popping.

For seasoning, I simply went for salt and chili powder to give it a little kick. I felt like a tempura dipping sauce would have been a little much...and might not allow the integrity of the okra to shine through. Being the first time trying it, I wanted to get the full effect. I think that a lighter sauce, perhaps with a citrus base instead of soy base would go well with these. Honestly, I was satisfied just popping them in my mouth until they were all gone.

Let's get on with the tempura technique. I think that the tutorial by Chef Tadashi Ono via Saveur is spot on. I'll outline what I did here and you can check out the video and tutorial on Saveur from there!

Tempura Okra
2 1/2 C Cake flour
2 Egg yolks
2 C Ice water
1/4 C Crushed ice cubes
Fresh Okra

Dredging in cake flour first
This recipe can be used for any vegetable, herb, or meat that you want to cover in a perfect tempura batter. If you are going for meat, shrimp is the most popular and delectable. Vegetables should be in uniform shapes, you can even tempura herbs--my favorite is tempura's like eating bright, flavorful lace. Make sure that everything is prepared before you even start on the batter. That means whatever you are frying needs to be washed, dried, and brought to room temperature. This will maximize crunchiness.

Heat a cast iron skillet with about an inch of canola or vegetable oil to 360º add 1/4 C sesame oil before you start frying for that authentic tempura flavor. Plus, it smells awesome! If you don't have a thermometer, check the temperature with the batter. The batter should bead and immediately rise and bubble to the top.

Put 1/2 C cake flour on a plate to dredge the okra in first. This step will help the tempura batter adhere to the okra. You can dredge them before your prepare the tempura batter to ensure that the batter is fresh. When the flour from dredging and the batter meet, you get that quintessential tempura batter with crispy bits intact!

Tempura batter mixing with 4 chopsticks
Now for the magical batter.
Place two egg yolks in a large bowl. Using two chopsticks mix the yolks with 2C ice water, ice included. This reduces gluten absorption. Then grasp four chopsticks and hold upright so that they make a square in the bowl. Do not use a whisk, do not use a fork, just take the chopsticks without fear (and a little practice), and gently incorporate the flour with the egg-water mixture. Your batter should be lumpy because those flour bubbles are gold. The batter will reach the consistency of heavy cream. At this point your oil should be hot and your okra should be dredged and ready for action!

Leave room for even frying!
Using just two chopsticks now, pick up the dredged okra one piece at a time and swipe it through the batter and directly into the hot oil. Do this quickly until you have filled up the pan about 3/4 full. The okra needs to have enough room to cook evenly and not stick to itself. Make sure that they have room. Gently stir and take your chopsticks to drop more batter on top of the okra pieces. If you have some pieces left over, you can strain those out and serve them as a bed for the tempura or reserve them for toppings on salads. After about 2-3 minutes they should be fried. The color should be just turning to golden...not brown, not white as the batter, but just thinking about turning. Then quickly remove the okra and put them on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Drain on towels
Fry in batches until you are all out of okra. Remember to sprinkle with seasoning while hot. Then immediately consume with joy and happiness knowing that you can take techniques from across the world and transform our ingredients here at home. Stay curious and stay hungry!

Final product! Eat away!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sweet Holiday Happiness: The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I know, I know... it has been far too long since I have posted, but I do have a great excuse! The Handsome Spaniard is in town for Christmas and we have been busy celebrating and I have been busy preparing everything!!! Anyways, amongst all of this happiness, I have definitely had some delicious meals lined up. Today, however, I will share a sweet treat with you...the best chocolate chip cookies in existence.

Now, I will warn you that this is purely chocolate chip, nothing else special to add texture or complex flavors. Yes, it is weird coming from my kitchen, but again, I am not a natural baker :) That is usually left up to my dear roommate. My goal though is to build up a base of staple baking recipes so that I can hold my own in the kitchen, no matter what's thrown at me. I also have a brownie recipe that kicks ass, but I'll have to bring that up another day!

These cookies were a dream! I made them as big as my outstretched hand, because let's be honest, cookies shouldn't be the size of half dollars--that's just wrong. They were soft in the center with a slight crunch, and they could be reheated to softness even after a few days. Perfect with tea, a nice breakfast (for the soul not your health), a good ending to lunch, the possibilities for cookies are endless--I'm sure I don't have to tell you that!

While on the search for this recipe, I went to my normal go-to references like Epicurious, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, various food blogs, and of course my recipe book collection, but I found that a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe was not really part of my arsenal of great recipes. Then I was taking a listen to Lynne Rossetto Kaspar on the Splendid Table and I thought that she must have a published recipe on the best chocolate chip cookies ever...and sure enough, there they were.

There are times when a warm chocolate chip cookie out of the oven is just what you need to make a rainy day happy, a rough day at work a little more tolerable, and to keep that chocolate craving from taking over your life! Cozy up with your mixer and preheat that's time for some cookies!

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8-1/2 ounces) cake flour
1-2/3 cups (8-1/2 ounces) bread flour
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 Sea salt
2-1/2 sticks (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1-1/4 pounds dark chocolate chips
Vanilla Sugar
Dark Chocolate Sugar
Orange Fleur de Sel

Okay, so as far as I can deduce, baking is as simple as measuring accurately, mixing up your dry ingredients and your wet ingredients and then incorporating them together. Finally you throw it all in an oven at some set degree and you wait between 8 min- 1 hr for whatever it is you are cooking to puff up into happiness. That's the approach we're taking with these cookies too!

First you need to sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Reserve.

Cream the butter and all of the sugars together in a mixer with a paddle attachment. They should be so creamy they look like fluffy, buttery sugar clouds whipped into ribbons in your bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly between each egg. When that's done mix in the vanilla!

Mix in the dry ingredients on the low setting until just incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and fold them into the dough until just combined. You just made chocolate chip cookie dough! I feel like I eat half of the dough before it gets in the oven...this dough is irresistible...mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!

I cooked these in a preheated 350º oven for 19 minutes on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

When they came out of the oven, we added a little sprinkle of something special while they were still hot. My choice is definitely the orange fleur de sel---it put the basic chocolate chip cookie into the realm of incredibly awesome. We also had vanilla sugar and dark chocolate sugar, which were wonderful as well...I think I would be a little more heavy handed with the sugars to get the same wow effect as the fleur de sel--but that really makes it special.

Finally, stack these babies up and give them to everyone you know. Share them over a tall glass of milk with your neighbors, bring them to work, sneak a few in lunchboxes to share, and make sure that you get your fair share as well. The season of giving shouldn't just be reserved for December, so tuck this recipe away and use it whenever you need a solid pick-me-up!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

There'll be parties for hosting...And hostesses for gifting!

If you haven't yet been to your first holiday party of the season, chances are that it is coming up this week! We recently went to an open house party from a new neighbor of ours, so I can say that we've already started our merry-making outside of trimming our own tree. Also, it is about time for those work parties to celebrate the end of the year, but that's another story altogether...

I want to talk today about visiting friends and family, or accompanying your significant other on their visits to friends and family for holiday parties. Today's important subject for discussion: The host/hostess gift.

Let's turn back the clock a little bit so I can give you a full picture on my relationship with hostess gifts. I started throwing my own parties in college, where I was quite involved with international exchange students and getting them acclimated to Louisville. Whenever we would have them over for a big dinner or any get-together at our house, most of our guests would bring over a small token of their appreciation...mostly in the form of wine. There is even a word for this gift in German: Mitbringsel. It means something to bring with you. I'm just going to go right out there and say that this is a dying yet necessary art in our culture, so let's bring it back!

If you have ever thrown a party you know how much time, energy, and resources goes into gathering up your loved ones and having a successful soirée. If you are going to one of these planned soirées, it is a nice idea to bring a little something to pay back the hosts' investment in your happiness, right? Most people usually throw in the required "Can I bring anything?" line, but a sincere thought into a small gift can go beyond just absorbing the gluttony of a mob of holiday guests.

When I spent my time abroad and was considered an exotic foreigner (laughable, I know), I would bring something from Louisville to share with my friends. This still holds true for those of us who have to travel outside of Kentucky to celebrate the holidays with family. It's really easy for us to gift things from our hometown...the home of Bourbon...please. I also got creative and painted a plate from Louisville Stoneware, brought a small bat from Louisville Slugger, and basically raided WHY Louisville and took the store in one of my suitcases.

If you are spending the holiday in Louisville though, here are some suggestions for small gifts that you may give to your hosts during your many holiday party runs. I recommend edible gifts for this time of year, and you really don't have to overdo it--it's not a Christmas present, it is a hostess gift, so it is meant to benefit that person and his/her partner or immediate family. Thus, keep it small and sweet. Some of the smallest details are the best remembered.

If you are into canning, you can simply gift one of those half-pint jars with a sweet ribbon and a label telling your friend what is inside the can, who it's from, and perhaps how to use it. Some seasonal ideas for this could be apple butter, homemade applesauce, pumpkin butter, Green Tomato Chutney, Tomato Jam, etc. Also...I have found that gifting a jar of my Homemade Cozy Granola (in whatever combination I had made that week) is always well received, and often freaked out about.

If you have a favorite brownie or cookie recipe, you can easily measure out the dry ingredients in layers in a pretty jar and attach your recipe (just add egg and milk, etc!) on a ribbon around the jar. If you are one of those people who guard their recipes like Fort Knox, and I have a bone to pick with you, this will keep your magical ratios to yourself (please, get over it...good food needs to be shared!).

I have often seen this done with cocoa by mixing up their special homemade hot chocolate recipe and gifting it in a jar as well. The great thing is that it is a cinch to personalize, it is going to be enjoyed no matter what, and it is easy to whip up. Seriously...dumping stuff into a jar and tying a ribbon on it...can I make it any simpler for you? No. If you want to get fancy, here's an idea for you: Take dark cocoa powder, mix it with sugar, chili powder, and cinnamon, and gift that little Mexican-inspired hot chocolate surprise...of course you need to test out the ratios to see what you like--and then it's your recipe, not mine!

Have you ever made a house seasoning? This is a cute little gift to give, and it is impressive to boot. If you have a certain combination of herbs and spices that you think rock out together, throw them in a little tin with sea salt, shake it up, put a bow on it, and label it as your house you didn't think you had one of those. Now your host does too!

Finally, if you are already making an obscene amount of cookies or candies, you don't have to go out of your way to make something else...just wrap up a small amount in a cute box or a festive bag, and there's your present. Do you make a good party mix? Can you candy up some nuts? Put a bow on it and hand it to your happy host when they greet you at the door.

If all else fails, your life is a mess, you are working overtime, and you just want to get to that damn party and blow off some steam, do me a favor and hit up the drive-thru at Old Town Liquors on your way to the party and at least pick up a bottle of wine. If you don't know what to get, those guys can help you out with anything, so you don't even have to worry about it!

It kind of makes sense to gift to the host during this time of year...the time of great gift-giving. However, host gifts should be brought to all parties where the host actually orchestrates an evening of well-planned frivolity. You can start now!!!

Happy Holidays and stay safe during all that merry-making!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jack Fry's: That Semi-Clandestine Flavor Paradise

Ever since I can remember, Jack Fry's has been on the tongue of special occasion celebrating Louisvillians. It is truly an establishment of our fair city, tucked in the Highlands right before Bardstown Road merges with Baxter Avenue. The shades are always drawn, a rich amalgam of teasing fragrances emerge from their kitchen, and I am caught on the sidewalk every time in a daydream of Jack's fine fare. I have a feeling they keep the shades drawn to prevent wanderers like me from pasting their faces against the glass, marveling at the works of art that come to the table. However, it goes along with their speakeasy feel too, so we'll go with that.

Jack Fry's is a restaurant full of history, opening in 1933 by Jack and his wife Flossie. A more romantic story of Louisville couldn't be better told, complete with "back room" bookkeeping and bootlegging, and a love of sports and our beloved thoroughbreds. A walk into the restaurant today transports you straight back to that era, frozen in time by the myriad of photographs and memorabilia displayed liberally and delightfully throughout the entire dining area. It's funny to think that it once had a brief hiatus as a Mexican restaurant, before returning to its former glory.

Today, Jack's is a restaurant that continuously serves up fine cuisine from the very soul of our hometown. Although it is not quite within my means to visit Jack Fry's with any regularity, it is and has been one of my favorite spots to celebrate a special occasion. On this particular visit, we were celebrating my mother's birthday, and seeing as that Jack Fry's is her favorite restaurant, we were more than happy to oblige.

We were kindly greeted at the door and quickly led to our seats (I would recommend making a reservation, especially on the weekend and during the holiday season...good luck during Derby). Our waitress was pleasant and attentive, delivering baskets of bread and their just whipped butter cream happiness on the side. The specials were recited as we swooned in our upright chairs, and we were soon faced with making a very important decision: what were we going to eat for dinner?!

Beef Filet
My mother and sister settled on the beef filet served on a crispy potato cake (an unforgettable combination of textures and flavors, causing my mom and sister to uncharacteristically order the exact same dish), with asparagus and prosciutto served with a sinful sage beurre blanc sauce and rounded off with parmesan. You can cut this filet with a fork and the elements of this plate pieced together on a fork will subsequently melt in your mouth. Please, just writing that description makes me relive the moment...give me a second to read that over again 50 more times...
Lamb Shank

...Okay, that's out of my system.

On my side of the table, I decided to go with the lamb shank. If I'm going to spring for Jack Fry's I like to try something on their menu that I know only Jack's can get right. It is a special occasion after all. Served garnished with garbanzos, Spanish Marcona almonds, prunes, and golden raisins, the lamb shank was slow-braised with vegetables until only their deep sweetness could tell their story. Finally, it was scattered with sesame seeds that happily danced in the sauce waiting to be sopped up by the lamb shank. The meat literally fell off of the shank with the slightest whisper of movement. I merely had to think about using the fork, and there it was, ready to bring on the food coma. I was happy to submit.

For birthday dessert, a sweet individual chocolate chip bundt cake was presented topped with a house-made scoop of ice cream and a birthday candle, drizzled happily with a sweet salted caramel sauce. Three of us helped devour it and we were more than satisfied. It was the perfect amount of sweetness to bring us down from our savory adventure of a few minutes before.

We took a moment of reflection before the check arrived, and everyone was very joyfully satiated. Another successful birthday celebration. When's the next one?

Jack Fry's
1007 Bardstown Rd.
Phone: 502.452.9244

They also feature live jazz nightly, and are available for carry out!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Latkes for Hanukkah!

Latkes with a Greek Yoghurt-Sour Cream Sauce
Traditionally served with Applesauce
The holiday season is upon us, and Hanukkah begins this weekend. For those of you who celebrate it, I'm sure you have your own family recipes. My own recipe is inspired by the original, and I make this recipe throughout the year to satisfy that fried potato craving that I know we all have :)

Check out my article published today on Inside the Kitchen for Insider Louisville: Just in time for the Holidays: Latkes!

I also outline some alternatives to the pure potato pancake, including adding zucchini and carrots, different spices...and I almost forgot--adding cheese...oh yes!

Enjoy and Happy Hanukkah friends!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Warming Winter Soup: Potato and Leek Soup with Fresh Rosemary

Getting through the winter for me means always having a hot pot of soup on the stove. I am also a fanatic of hot tea, so that goes in the same category. Whenever I enter the house and I find myself a bit peckish, I want to be able to heat up a cup of soup, crunch on some crackers, and drink some tea. At that moment, all is well in the world. Because of this habit, you all will be hearing a lot about winter soups--hope you don't mind! If you do, sorry, go check out the Recipe Box tab...I'm sure you'll find something!

Anyways, winter vegetables are absolutely choice in soups due to their velvety textures, ever-present richness, and that fantastic ability to get better on second and third day reheats. As winter progresses, and we fade out of the squash season, leafy greens become more sparse, and fresh herbs are all but a wisp of the imagination, I move on to my bean-based soups and stews...that means chili! For now, we are making a soup that can survive the transition with potatoes and leeks. This lovely soup can be pureed to a silky smooth texture, even though leeks are notorious for their stringiness--this is where the hand emulsifier becomes super handy...sauces, soups, drinks, everything!

This soup was made richer by adding chicken stock. This is a good opportunity to whip out that leftover turkey stock you froze from Thanksgiving. Just a bit will make a difference, but you can go purely stock instead of stock/water to cook up this soup.

Another thing that I think brought out some rich flavors was tearing up the rosemary instead of mincing it like most people would. Because I knew I was going to use the hand mixer to puree everything at the end, I was able to sacrifice a few larger pieces without worry about someone's cheek getting stabbed by a stray rosemary leaf (those spineys are rough). I have found that torn herbs give a better flavor because their oils are not lost on the chopping block when you go at them with a knife. Let's get on with it already!

Potato and Leek Soup with Fresh Rosemary
5 or so Red Potatoes, chopped 
1 Leek, whites and greens sliced
1 sprig Fresh rosemary
4 C chicken stock 
(water, vegetable stock, or turkey stock works as well)
Black Pepper

That's right, without seasonings, this soup requires four ingredients. I told you it was a winter staple! Chop up the leeks and potatoes first. You can choose to keep the skin on or off of the potato. Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat and sauté your leeks in butter (2-3 Tablespoons) until they soften and just start to brown on the edges. Then add in the potatoes and lower the heat a bit, cook until they begin to soften too. There might be some potatoes and leeks sticking to the bottom, but that's okay--that's your flavor! You could splash a little white wine in there at this point to deglaze the pan and add more flavor. 

Then you add enough stock to cover the potatoes and leeks and bring to a boil. As always with soups, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. That's all!

I served it with pecorino romano cheese, sprinkled with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. Warming and delicious!

Enjoy this as a meal in and of itself or as a first course. I had it on the second day with a leftover lamb shank from Jack Fry's (don't worry, you'll be hearing about it). 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Breakfast specialty: Louisville Lady Gourmet Eggs in a Basket!

The original Egg in a Basket
I can't believe I haven't written about this magnificent breakfast yet! I am pretty much known for my Eggs in a Basket. If you ever get to brunch at my house, it's either these babies or some form of pancake. This time we didn't have decent maple syrup in the house, so eggs in a basket it was.

I was originally inspired to try this out when I first saw V for Vendetta, way back in the day. I think perhaps it was the reaction of  Natalie Portman's character Evey, to that first breakfast with her kidnapper. She was overwhelmed with how delicious it was, and V quietly said that he had had plenty of time to master it. One of the true culinary-inspired scenes that stick out in my mind. I do think it is something to master...and I think I have, at least to my tastes.

To some, mastering might mean achieving perfection in one means of preparation, and the ability to replicate that one dish flawlessly for infinity. To me, mastering is being able to truly understand the dish and how its qualities can lead to constant, always delicious, evolution. I could crack and egg in the middle of some toast frying in a skillet any day...but can I transform that by adding ingredients and techniques to make the meal special and just as tasty every time? Yes, I think I can, and that is my goal in cooking. I clearly won't be making it to Le Cordon Bleu anytime soon :)

A seemingly simple breakfast: cutting a hole out of a piece of bread and frying an egg inside. But oh how many problems can arise, as well as many possibilities. You can have the heat too high and burn the bread before the egg is flippable, you can flip too soon and splatter egg all over the pan (easily redeemable, just cut around the toast and eat it as such), you can forget to season, and worst of all--you can have pale yellow yolked eggs...pure evil.

From my always optimistic point-of-view, you can turn this simple dish into something truly delicious.  The best way to accomplish this is to play with your seasonings. Curry and chili powder work amazing in eggs. Salt, white pepper, chili powder, and Hot Chili Sauce are incredible. Thyme, parsley, salt and black pepper work well with a squeeze of lemon. My recommendation is always going to be experimentation.

Also, I've never tried it, but I am sure that frying up some omelet ingredients and adding that to your egg in a basket is a fine idea--especially for those of the insatiable appetite quality. Now, something I have added that is pretty much common sense, is plenty of cheese. You can mix it in with the egg, sprinkle it on top, or fry it up in the pan...I would go with romano cheese or a nice shaving of parmesan.

Enough talk about your breadth of choices with this fine breakfast, let's get on with the recipe!

Eggs in a Basket
Eggs (one per slice of toast)
Hearty bread, preferably whole wheat or multi-grain
Real unsalted butter

Biscuit/cookie cutter or small glass
The idea is very simple, but I'm going to give you two specific variations on this, dependent on the form of the eggs. 

In any case, the first thing you're going to do is cut out the center of your bread so you have a hole, also known as the basket. You can use many tools for this project, the easiest being a biscuit cutter, but if you can't find yours for the love of god, like I can't, then you can use a small glass and press it into the bread until you can pop a circle out. I also got cute with this one and made a fleur de lis basket with our handy-dandy cookie cutter. It doesn't really show up after you cook it, but it looks adorable in the pan, and you fry up the fleur de lis you cut out anyway, so I just set that on top--so the happy diner would know that it was a fleur de lis cutout. Okay, enough of my kitchiness.

When you have cut the hole out of your bread, you need to take a moment to reflect on how you like your eggs. Here is where the two styles of preparation come in. Do you like the idea of a warm, silky flow of rich egg yolk bursting forth from the middle of your egg in a basket, just waiting to be sopped up by the surrounding buttery bread? Or would you prefer an evenly seasoned scrambled egg full of melted cheese and spices, and perhaps you're scared of the aforementioned yolk of my dreams? Those are your choices, friend.

The Louisville Egg in a Basket
If you want a full egg, you just crack the egg in the middle of the hole you made and go to town. If you prefer a scrambled egg, you can whisk the egg up and add cheese and salt--the other seasonings I would add while cooking in the pan for even distribution...spices tend to clump up and sink to the bottom with scrambled eggs. Then pour that mixture in the hole you made.

Your skillet should be heated pretty hot, but you will have to decrease the flame when you are cooking the egg, so as to not burn that side, and to cook the egg enough from the bottom up not to splatter it when you do decide to flip it. You can melt about a tablespoon or two of butter in the pan, and instead of buttering the other side of the bread, I just press the bread down into the butter and flip it over before adding the egg. That way, when you flip it, the other side of the bread will brown evenly and it saves on the amount of butter you need to use. If you're too scared to flip a piece of bread by hand in a hot skillet you can brush melted butter on it. Season the egg with your seasonings--remember to sprinkle high so that you get an even distribution of spices. You will know to flip the egg when the inside white is not so jiggly, then muster up some courage and flip it over!

If you are cooking with scrambled eggs, you will inevitably end up with more egg than fits in your basket. What I do in this case is take the hole that I cut out and soak that in the remaining egg mixture--then you have a french toast hole! It's going to be a thing...Finally, you can garnish with hot sauce and cheese and serve with a side of bacon or fresh cut fruit. I think this would be a nice side to salad too, especially in a brunch scenario.

So you can't tell it's a fleur de lis? Put the
bread on top of it while serving!
Yolk lava...mind-blowing!

Enjoy my favorite breakfast! ¡Buen provecho!

Monday, November 26, 2012

City Café: Never Fail, Delicious Vittles!

I am a near religious listener to WFPK Radio Louisville, and among the generous sponsors of our city's best radio station is one of the best cafés, City Café. I can recite to you that they offer citywide delivery to any location and that they provide the boxed lunches for members at WFPK's live lunch programs. They are an integral part of our fair city, and I credit them with numerous delights that they've brought to my table.

The location I have visited time and time again is next to Baxter Avenue Theatres. I personally know City Café from many post-cinematic visits, discussing films and grabbing a light meal. I have seriously never been disappointed. Their food is well-executed, not too fancy, and the perfect backdrop to discussing a thought-provoking (or quite the opposite) movie. To me, City Café has nailed the café style: relaxed, a perfect variety on their menu, dish-ware that can be washed after use, recycling for the rest, and real, honest food. Plus, they ask you if you want bread with your soup or salad...yes, yes I do!...but no wasting for the rest of you carb-counters. On top of everything, they have an ever-changing list of specials, and they are always conscious of what's available that season.

I could probably turn back the clock and name you a novel's worth of meals I've had at the City Café, but I'm just going to focus on what I had during my last visit after seeing Cloud Atlas, which by the way, led to a really great conversation. I found the film to be very entertaining and thorough, but that's for another blog altogether! I wasn't starving, but wanted something to please the impending grumblies, and that happened to be their soup of the day: Creamy Mushroom and their pasta salad special. My friend got their Balsamic Glazed Portabella Sandwich, which is always a favorite.

As usual, the meal was everything I wanted it to be. The soup was warm and comforting, with just the right amount of spice and richness. The pasta salad was chilled and speckled with peppers, cheese, and served with that happy slice of baguette. My friend was equally as delighted, savoring her sandwich with the City Café side of tortilla chips--I love that twist. This was actually the place where I discovered the combination of Sriracha sauce and tortilla chips...I highly recommend it!

On top of honest food, this café is honestly priced. You won't pay a ridiculous amount of money for anything, and their lunches sit at a happily priced $7.25. With three locations and citywide delivery, I daresay this should be your go-to for mealtime decision-making.

Find them at:
1250 Bardstown Rd. Lunch and Dinner hours: 11-9 or 10
Phone: 459.5600  This location is now Closed :(

505 W. Broadway: Lunch Hours 10-3
Phone: 589.1797

500 S. Preston (UofL Health Sciences Center): Breakfast and Lunch hours 7.30-3
Phone: 852.5739

Website: City Café

Don't forget that they cater for breakfast and lunch!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftover Madness!

I wrote an article for Insider Louisville on handling Thanksgiving leftovers! The original article was published on this link:
Insider Louisville Thanksgiving Leftovers!

Now that Thanksgiving is over, and your house is still full of varying amounts of leftovers, it is time to get creative! I enjoy this part of the holiday as much as preparing the fresh ingredients because it gives me the opportunity to try new experiments…and if they don’t happen to work out, no worries, chances are it will be difficult to recreate the ingredients until the next Thanksgiving rolls around.

Let’s brainstorm a little bit to see what we can come up with, then I’ll try and throw a few recipes at you.

Turkey can be great in the post-Thanksgiving staple sandwich, but let’s think outside the box for a second and see where this versatile meat can take you.

When I was in Europe, I lived with quite a few Spaniards, who loooooved their croquetas. Croquetas can basically take any filling you like, but the turkey croquetas we whipped up were especially delicious and plentiful. These little fried bundles of joy can fill you and a small army of friends up in no time at all. When made correctly it is like eating a turkey-flavored cloud in light, crispy breading.

Regarding the nasty bits (the carcass and giblets, if you didn’t put them in the gravy), throw all that glory into a pot with some aromatic herbs and veggies and water and make yourself a stock! Then you can use it in soups all winter…it freezes like a dream!

Something else you can do is make a Strata (here’s my recipe), and layer the turkey, vegetables, leftover bread, even stuffing could be livened up in this dish. Then, if you have leftover cheese from you hors d’oeuvres, serve with a side of cranberry sauce.

Thanks to our friends down south, we have a great abundance and respect for the corn and flour tortilla.
Ever thought of making leftovers taco-style? Add some cumin to those green beans, mix some salsa into the stuffing, add a dollop of sweet potatoes, and reheat the turkey with garlic and peppers. Pile all of these onto a taco and you’re ready to go! Along the same vein, you can scatter various leftovers over some tortilla chips and heat them in the oven–Thanksgiving nachos…you’re welcome.

Hmm, what else? I bet you can mix turkey meat with stuffing and an egg, form them into patties and grill up some turkey burgers. Top with your cranberry sauce and some leftover salad greens and you have a party in your mouth.

Turkey Chili…you can run with that one if you want.

Ah, and to top it all off, I found something really intriguing at the store: gyoza wrappers! I’m sure rice wrappers for spring rolls could pull this off too, but gyoza wrappers (also commonly known as wonton wrappers or potsticker wrappers) are just begging to be filled with whatever combination you can imagine.

Cut the turkey into miniscule pieces and mix with caramelized peppers and onions and ginger, then fill the wrappers and steam, fry, or steam AND fry them. A similar combination can be made with desserts and you can have dessert bites. Fill these with your vegetable sides and you have a nice bite-sized meal ahead of you.

Making gyoza is a wonderful way to get people involved in the kitchen–take this opportunity to kick back after your 2-day cooking marathon and have everyone get their hands into some food. I guess this might be a good recipe to leave with you since it does involve a procedure that you may not be familiar with.

Leftover Gyoza
Gyoza wrappers (can be found at Asian supermarkets, and apparently mainstream ones now too)
Various leftover combinations
Bowl of water for finger-dipping

Make sure that you cut your leftovers, onions, ginger, and garlic into tiny pieces–that’s the secret to most Asian cooking, notice the small pieces that cook fast and evenly…I know, how could you have missed that detail?! Basically, you are going to mix up all of the ingredients except for the wrappers and sauté them until they become a nice little filling. Then you put about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Here comes the technique:

Dip your finger into the water bowl and swipe it along the top half-moon of the wrapper. This will allow you to fold up the bottom half-moon and adhere the wrapper dough to itself. If you want to look really authentic and hold in your ingredients well, you should fan-fold the wrapper before pressing it down on the dampened end. This is exactly the same technique you use when you are folding crimps into a pie crust. Call in your friends to help you here…it’s tons of fun!

When your gyoza are all folded and ready, you can throw them in a frying pan with a little peanut oil/sesame oil combo and brown them on both sides, then you can choose to steam them or hold them in the oven on low heat to keep them warm. When all your magnificent gyoza are finished, you can serve them with a ponzu sauce or simple soy sauce.

I hope that this guide can at least inspire some ideas for using all those delicious leftovers aside from just reheating them. Have a happy holiday and I hope you were able to enjoy Thanksgiving for all that it gives us!

Enjoy friends and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Ode to Louisville: This is what I'm thankful for...

This Louisville Lady Gourmet has tons to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. While my soup is simmering on the stove (we all know it's better the next day!), I would like to take a few precious minutes to digitally express my thanks for our fair city. I think that many people have not discovered the true gem that we have made our hometown. However, those who do know her and are well acquainted with her are sure to say that she's quite a looker, intelligent, friendly as can be, a magnificent cook, and can surprise you everyday, while remaining familiar and comfortable. This is my city and I couldn't be happier to seize this exciting life on the banks of the Ohio River.

I grew up thinking that many things unique to our city and state were just natural parts of life for any other American. This city has, in fact, brought some of the most interesting people,  events, ingredients, and traditions into my life, just by existing and being a place that ignites innovation with a community that can take it to great success.

I always thought it was normal for a kid to have a Benedictine and Bacon Sandwich in their school lunch--I just learned last year, at a Derby party in Spain, that nobody outside of Louisville knows what the heck Benedictine is (it is the most delicious cucumber cream cheese spread for you deprived ones). Bourbon is celebrated around the world, and the best and most traditional bourbon whiskeys come from our region; adding complexity, sweetness, and earthy qualities due to our limestone rich geology, golden corn-based agriculture, and the reverence and celebration of quality and variety in our products. Louisville is the crossroads of all fine food in our country. We have access to an incredible diversity of produce, a long history with our beloved swine, and in our past we have had countless characters moving in, out, and through our city to create the food culture we see today. Now we have an abundance of inspired chefs and food artisans to appease even the most particular foodie's fix.

But it isn't just about food (well, it is, but there are other details too!). Louisville lit the first display of the electric lightbulb. During the Southern Exposition, Thomas Edison's lightbulb prototype lit up that glorious space in what we call Old Louisville, to show the world where we were headed. To me, this is astounding. For Louisville to have that nugget of history in its pocket is amazing, and I still see the spirit of awe and fancy in our city everyday. Take a stroll in Old Louisville and see the most beautiful Victorian homes, full of history, ghost stories, and homeowners who aren't just living in their homes, they are preserving the great history and souls of our city's residents and visitors. Perhaps you haven't noticed, but Louisville shows up in that lovely book by F. Scott Fitzgerald--you should check it out and see where Daisy, the Louisville debutante came from--harkening back to the glistening age of the 20s and all of the bootlegging glory.

And don't get me started on my home in the Highlands. I love this neighborhood, and from the Highlands through the corridor to Crescent Hill and Clifton I feel most at home. This city is alive with interesting people with a past they'd love to share with you. Shop owners start to build business relationships with you the second you walk in the door, and after maybe your third visit, you are considered family. Restaurants are, of course, where the spirit of our city shine, using local talents and resources to celebrate our hometown the best way we know how. Finally, we can wash it all down with a local craft beer or a bourbon cocktail (the Old Fashioned cocktail was invented in Louisville in the late 1800s, btw), and a spirited conversation among friends--we are all pretty much friends around here.

This Thanksgiving, I am going to be surrounded by friends and family, some I have known for ages, some are new but still welcome as family. We will go to Wild and Woolley tonight to get some rentals from our favorite local video shop (cult, classic, horror, foreign :D), hit up Old Town Liquors for our final bottle(s) of wine, record the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade, throw on our aprons and go to town on a fabulous meal. My turkey came from our local butcher Kinglsey Meats, our veggies came from our earth, and you can be sure that I'm going to splash some bourbon here and there to add that complex note of Kentucky's fine liquid amber. I will remember this Thanksgiving as I remember all I have celebrated in the past. I live in a wonderful city that I am proud to call my hometown, and I have the opportunity to share that city with people I truly love and am delighted to explore and experience life with.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! Celebrate this holiday around a delicious table, and if you are brave enough to risk your life on Black Friday, remember to shop local. You can find a special insert from the Keep Louisville Weird people (Louisville Independent Business Assoc.) in the LEO magazine today, which has quite a few coupies and a comprehensive list of where you can get anything and everything...from your neighbor!

Bon appétit and a safe and happy holiday weekend to you!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving Extravaganza 2012!

This turkey's waving at us! Photo credit: Levent Neyse
Thanksgiving is coming up on us quick and all I can think about is how incredible it is going to be! So many happy people in the house, anticipating delicious food, laughing and munching on some hors d'oeuvres before the turkey comes out of the oven. I'll most likely have the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade playing in the background (recording it earlier in the morning). I heard some people even start playing their Christmas music at this time. I reserve that for the day AFTER Thanksgiving, when we can plow through full-on decoration mode while being nourished by mountains of leftovers!

Oh, I can smell the rich perfume of a turkey roasting in its juices, wine, and aromatics, the Glühwein simmering away on the stove, the pies taunting me on the windowsill (does anyone else do that to themselves?). You know, the sense of smell is the strongest sense attached to memory, and I can tell you that the fragrance of Thanksgiving brings back some lovely memories from Thanksgiving here at home in Louisville as well as the holiday I bought along with me to Austria and Spain. You can always find loving people to share a glorious meal with, even when you're far away.

I know I'm waxing poetic and you can probably see the stars in my glazed over eyes, but seriously this holiday is a dream for me. People often find it stressful, what with all the relatives and friends coming over, wrapping your head around a double-digit guest list, and preparing the meal of the year for at least a full day, if not two. If you're worried about any of the above (plus any other grievances you might have), my advice to you is to relax and don't freak out! If something doesn't turn out right, chances are you have 15 other choices to make someone happy. If you have a list of dietary restrictions to take care of, don't worry--there are plenty of substitutes to make sure everyone is full. Finally, whether this is your first or 50th Thanksgiving, remind yourself that we are all fortunate to be able to share a great meal together, in peace and good company. So, take it easy! There's no need to stress. Here are some tips to get you through the holiday:

Planning is key! Check out Insider Louisville for Preparation & Decoration suggestions Follow this link: 
Louisville Lady Gourmet's Thanksgiving Special Part I: The Game Plan

Collect and organize your recipes into a menu. If you have never tried a recipe before, it would behoove you to put it through the test kitchen before unveiling it on the table.
Here is my menu for this year with some extra suggestions (I'm not really making ALL of this):

Assorted Cheeses and Homemade Crackers
Cheese Straws
Candied Pecans
Roasted Chestnuts

First course:
Root Vegetable Terrine
Celery Root and Apple Soup
Autumn Salad 

Main course and sides:
Herbed Buttered Turkey
Cornbread Stuffing
Sourdough Sage Stuffing
Roasted Potatoes and Apples (AMAZING)
Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Maple
Sweet Potato Soufflé
Braised Red Cabbage
Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Cauliflower Gratin
Roasted Assorted Squash (Butternut, Acorn, Pumpkin, etc)
Roasted Cranberry Sauce
Fresh Baked Rolls

Derby Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Chess Bars


So, I clearly won't be able to give you all the recipes (you'll have to wait a few years for the release of my cookbook, hah!). However, the suggestions featured in bold will be written out below, and the linked recipes are already on the blog!

To tackle this day, it is smart to plan which recipes you can make ahead and which recipes you must make day-of. Desserts can all be made the day or night before Thanksgiving, and that frees up your oven. Much of the food can be prepped the day before, like chopping and grouping ingredients together by recipe. If you can set out your mise en place ahead of time, your assembly will be much much easier to handle.

So, for every recipe you can measure out the spices and reserve them in bowls with labels, chop up all the onion you need and put it in a bag in the refrigerator, then measure out what you need from there. Same thing goes for your carrots, celery, etc. Float your chopped carrots and celery in water though, so they don't try out. I've done this before and it makes the Thanksgiving flow much easier to handle, and the kitchen is cleaner throughout the day. Plus, you are more relaxed ahead of time, so you are less likely to miss ingredients in a mad rush.

Herbed Buttered Turkey
Butter, softened
Aromatics (rosemary, thyme, sage)
Root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, potatoes)
White wine
Turkey Stock
Sea salt

I have been fortunate enough to never have a dry turkey on my Thanksgiving table, and I give my thanks to this wonderful recipe (and the patience to wait for the turkey to soak up all its glorious juices). I buy my turkey fresh, not frozen, every year. Many people chose to brine their bird to seal in the moisture, but I have neither the patience nor space for that, so I use this herbed butter rub to prepare my bird.

Spanish Turkey: Photo Credit: Levent Neyse
Preheat the oven to 425º

First you need to wash and dry your entire bird inside and out. Reserve the "nasty bits" including the neck for your gravy or for turkey stock. 

Mix together about a stick of softened butter and your choice of aromatics. I think an herbes de Provence mix would be nice, and I use a mixture of rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and black pepper. Season to taste.

Then you slather that turkey in the butter. Separate the skin from the breast and liberally distribute the butter under the skin to protect the precious white meat (this is where most people experience dry meat).  Coat the rest of the bird, wings, legs, bottom, everything in the herbed butter. If you sprung for fresh sprigs of your herbs, throw them in the cavity of the bird so you can get flavor from the inside out. Also rub some of that butter in the inside cavity. Bonus!

Put the turkey on a roasting rack and distribute the onion, garlic, root vegetables, 1 C wine and 1 C turkey stock in the roasting pan. SO. MUCH. FLAVOR!

Follow Tom's turkey ritual by following the link above. You do lower the temperature after the first 20 minutes or so and make a foil tent, so don't freak out--it's still low and slow. I am cooking a 14 lb bird, so it will probably take 3.5-4 hours. A meat thermometer is indispensable in this case--especially if you want the Norman Rockwell bird and not something that's been hacked into 1000 times.

Roasted Potatoes and Apples
Red potatoes
Granny Smith Apples
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh black pepper

This was a magnificently easy recipe, whipped up with whatever I had laying around the house before my next shopping trip. I had red potatoes and green apples and I saw the beautiful and festive color combination, then I tried to imagine the tastes together in my head: red potatoes with their wonderful texture and complementary flavor, roasted green apples evolving from tart to deep sweetness, and the opportunity to marry those flavors in the oven...yes please!

Preheat your oven to 400º

I probably cooked up 5-6 red potatoes about the size of my fist and one granny smith apple. This ratio worked out because the green apple was able to make a pleasant surprise without overwhelming the red potatoes. Every other bite I would run into a sweet, tart roasted green apple delicately kissed with olive oil and thyme and it was so lovely. The trick here is to cut the potatoes smaller than the apples so that everything cooks about the same--the apple, due to the sugars, will roast quicker and become soft before the potatoes, so give it a chance to compete!

Mix the olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and thyme together and pour it over the chopped potatoes and apples in a roasting pan. Now get your clean hands in there! Your hands are the best mixer ever, no wooden spoon can compete (unless you're turning hot things in the oven), and this way you can make sure that every piece is covered with the olive oil mixture. Your hands are waterproof, so just wash them afterwards--if you do this with salad dressing too, you'll never go back!

Roast away in the oven and turn every 10-15 minutes until they reach your desired golden happiness. Great accompaniment to the Thanksgiving spoils!

Braised Red Cabbage
1 Head red cabbage
4-5 Garlic cloves, crushed
Olive oil
White wine -or- Apple cider vinegar 
Sea salt
Garnish: fresh chives

This recipe can be made ahead of time and reheated, but it will not take up room in your oven on Thanksgiving, so you can choose what to make of it. It is a delicious alternative to cranberry sauce next to the turkey for those looking for something less sweet, but still with that incredible color!

Chop the head of cabbage into two and remove the core. Then you simply slice off thin strips of the cabbage until you've cut it all up. Then crush your garlic cloves and you're ready to go! Easy prep, easy cook.

In a large pot, heat about 2 T of olive oil until it is shimmering and add your cabbage. Toss and turn that cabbage until it is well coated and has a chance for every piece to get some heat. Throw in the garlic and stir with the cabbage until you smell those warmed cloves release their fragrance. By this time you might have a few pieces sticking to the bottom...never fear it is time to add the wine or apple cider vinegar! About a 1/4 cup will do, if you need more then just add more, there really isn't a measurement. Now listen to that hiss...and scrape up the brown bits at the bottom--they add such a wonderful flavor to the entire dish. At this point you can stir well and put a top on it, checking periodically if the liquid has dried up and tossing the cabbage up a bit. The top will help cook everything through, and deal with the quantity of cabbage because a full head can be a big deal.

Braising means slow cooking, so you can cook as long as you want to. Keep tasting the cabbage until it reaches the desired braise, sweetness, and color you are aiming to achieve. Serve with a garnish of fresh chives.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole
  • 1 lb fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut in half
  • 3 T Olive oil
  • 1 Onion, sliced as thin as you can manage
  • 1 lb Mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 1/2 C White wine
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 Whole cloves
  • 2 C Half and half
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2T Flour

I love love love The Splendid Table, and this recipe has changed me forever on Green Bean Casseroles. I am the one who strategically places herself next to the green bean casserole on Thanksgiving in order to sneak bites directly out of the casserole dish. That's love. What Lynne has done with this recipe is add some real surprises like flavoring with bay leaf, clove, and nutmeg...and it seriously changes the dynamic from wonderful to mind-blowing! My only suggestion would be to make a roux and stir it into the cream of mushroom as a thickener. If you follow the link above, she actually gives you another recipe for Cream of Mushroom soup, and perhaps that will come out thicker. Either way, the flavor is so phenomenal that I could sacrifice the gloopy soup for that delightful cream sauce. 

As you can see, the ingredients do not include French's French Fried Onions, and you may scoff, but I think I've moved on from that point in my life. These thinly sliced onions crisped up in olive oil add the perfect flavor to this dish. I'm aiming for as much non-processed food as possible, and I found that my beloved Green Bean Casserole was the first to be revamped! Couldn't be happier that I chose to do that!

Your first step is to blanche the green beans in boiling salted water for a little under 5 minutes. They will bloom into a bright green color and swell a little bit. At this point, drain the beans and set aside in a colander.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Wait until the olive oil is shimmering and then add the onions, they will sizzle and start to caramelize after about 3 minutes if you sliced them thin enough. Cook them to your desired shade of golden awesomeness without burning them, strain and remove them from the oil and lay them on paper towels or cheesecloth. Reserve. 

Preheat your oven to 375º at this point.

Prepare the cream of mushroom by reheating the olive oil over high heat, and adding the quartered mushrooms. The quartered mushrooms are incredible in the final product--even non-mushroom lovers have commented on how great the taste and mouthfeel are! Brown the mushrooms in the skillet. What will happen is the mushrooms will release their water and start cooking in their juices, when the juices evaporate and redistribute, the mushrooms should be brown enough. Then it is time to add the bay leaf, cloves, salt and pepper, then deglaze with wine, scraping up the bottom of the skillet. 

If you are making a roux, do so while the wine is reducing. Heat a skillet with a bit of olive oil over high heat and add 2T of flour, then cook until your desired color, which will be pretty light for this dish. Add the roux at the end as a thickener. 

Allow the wine to reduce almost completely and then pour in the half and half. Heat on medium heat now until the half and half thickens. Go fishing for the bay leaf and clove and remove them, then season with salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. You can add your roux now and thicken up the soup. Throw in the green beans and get everything mixed up. Then turn into a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes in the oven. Then put the onions on top and cook another 3-5 minutes until warmed.

NOM NOM!!!!!!

4-5 Bottles red wine (quality is negligible)
3/4 C sugar (see why it's negligible?)
Peel of 1-2 Oranges
2 Cinnamon sticks
5 Whole cloves
1 t Ground ginger
Optional: additional spirits like bourbon, rum, cognac, vodka, etc.

I fell in love with Glühwein when I lived in Austria. This drink is typically served at the Weihnachtsmarkts or Christmas Markets--and yes, they are as magical as they sound. Because I associate this warm drink with a happy holiday, lifelong friends, and soaking up the culture of the "Old World", it has become a staple to my holiday season. So here is the recipe I brought back with me, along with many happy memories.

In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients together and heat until the sugar has dissolved. This is the perfect time to serve the Glühwein, but you can keep it heated over low heat or even in a crock pot--open for self service. If you are adding additional spirits to give this mulled wine a little kick, stir it in while the Glühwein is heating. Serve in festive mugs and I can guarantee merry-making will ensue.

Turkey napkin: folded at my home workstation :)

And that, dear friends, is my guide to a Happy Thanksgiving! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send me a comment. Also, check out my planning and decorating suggestions:

“The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things…” (thank you Lewis Carroll) of turkeys and stuffing and cranberry sauce, of pies and napkin rings!
Thanksgiving is the kickoff to the greatest time of the year, in my humble opinion–although I have a feeling I’m not alone. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I absolutely love planning Thanksgiving: from menu selections to compiling recipes and grocery lists, from decorations to pulling off that epic meal. I cannot wait to have my home full of friends and family.
I do have a few Thanksgivings under my belt, serving small crowds from 10 to 21 hungry guests, and enjoying every minute of it. So in the pursuit of happy holidays, I do have a few recommendations, and especially some advice for Thanksgiving in our fair city. The first part of Louisville Lady Gourmet’s Thanksgiving special will give a guideline to shopping and decorations as well as organizing a so-called game plan for the big day.
The Turkey
If you’re going for a vegetarian or vegan, pescatarian or turkey-alternative thanksgiving, I’ll point you in the direction of Rainbow Blossom, Fresh Market (awesome fish selection), and Kingsley Meats respectively.
For the rest of you, let’s get down to logistics: you should buy a turkey that weighs about a pound and a half per person attending your meal. Sure, nobody is going to eat a pound and a half of meat along with all of those sides, but you are paying for the bones as well. If you have an emergency cancellation, no worries, leftovers are a celebration in and of itself (I’ve only managed that one year…).
As for where to purchase your turkey, I highly recommend a fresh Heritage bird or an Amish bird. These turkeys taste legitimately richer, they aren’t injected with saline solutions or chemicals for preservation’s sake, and preparing a healthy bird is a true way to celebrate our harvest–respecting everything that comes to our tables. Two of my prime recommendations for fresh turkeys are available right in Louisville: Grasshoppers CSA and Kingsley Meats.
Grasshoppers is currently taking orders for local farm-raised, organic Thanksgiving turkeys 14-25 lbs at $4.25/lb to be picked up on Nov. 19th or 20th between 10AM-6PM. I love the Grasshoppers CSA people; they are truly doing something great for our city–and now for our holidays. They also offer accompanying Thanksgiving sides, produce, and tested recipes, available for order.
Kingsley Meats is where I have personally bought my turkey for my Thanksgivings in Louisville, and they offer Amish turkeys based on whatever size you request. The Kingsley Meats people are always pleasant to do business with, and I was able to schedule my pick up time (very helpful for Thanksgiving madness). They run $3.69/lb and you can order in person at their 2701 Taylorsville Rd. location or order by phone like I did at 502.459.7585.
**Note, if you are getting a fresh bird, try to make your pick up within a day or two of Thanksgiving day. This gives you enough time to brine the bird if that’s the way you go and keeps the bird in the safe zone for refrigeration.
If you’re not into cooking the turkey (say what?!?!), I recently heard that our local Mark’s Feed Store is selling 12-14lb smoked turkeys for $29.99. They also have sides available. Orders for the turkeys have to be in by Sunday the Nov. 18, and they can be picked up before Thanksgiving (they’re closed on Thanksgiving day). This offer runs all the way through the season until Christmas Eve (also due the Sunday before).
Now that the bird is arranged for, I suggest you make a list of recipes that you are going to use on Thanksgiving. Try something new, gather some traditional recipes, or dig in those food memories and call up a family member who would love to pass on a Thanksgiving favorite. This is the best part of preparation, and it is what gets the ball rolling for the rest of your planning. Break the recipes up into make-ahead and day-of preparation…the more you can prepare ahead of time the better, but consider refrigeration space.
The Grocery List
Next, you need to build your grocery list from your recipe collection. Include measurements so that you buy enough, and don’t forget that ingredients often repeat in other recipes. Break your shopping into two trips if you need to: first trip you can go to the farmer’s market or the local grocery to buy ingredients for dishes you can make ahead of time, and the second trip will be for the rest of your ingredients and whatever you forgot (you will forget something, no matter how much you plan). This is a good point to decide who your kitchen wingman/wingwoman will be, because you’ll need to call on them for prep assistance/damage control/emergency grocery runs.
Festive Decorations
Food is the first priority of course, but there are other important aspects of the holiday celebration including decorations and how you will plan the meal. Centerpieces or cornucopias are traditional, but I think some smaller details like candles and flower arrangements can make a great ambiance. Going to the local florist can be a great way to get this started. I love getting ideas from someone who knows what they’re doing, and you can choose something unique. I use Pinotti’s Florist on Bardstown Road by the Twig and Leaf.
You need to decide how you want to serve your meal, if you want to serve in courses, family style, or buffet style (or plan a pot-luck…I’ve never done it, but it does require some organization and commitment from your guests)–all have pros and cons. I think serving in courses is a good pace for the host because everything can come out hot, and it gives the turkey time to rest while the guests can start with a salad and terrine or soup. It really depends on the number of people and how you want to plan the meal.
Also, you should consider place settings. Setting a festive table will make everyone feel like it’s a special occasion. A simple way to accomplish this is by folding your napkin in a turkey shape (yes, I’m that nerdy), or finding autumnal napkin rings. Also you can set the table with all of the silverware necessary to plow through the meal–it will be easier on you and make for a nice presentation.
My final idea is to have a Thanksgiving tablecloth runner or wall tapestry where your guests can write down something they’re thankful for. My family did this and every year we could look at what we were thankful for–it’s nice perspective to remind ourselves who and what is important in our lives.
I think that’s enough to chew on for this part of the Thanksgiving special. I’ll be back later this week with some menu suggestions, recipes, and an outline for having a really Happy Thanksgiving! Can you feel my enthusiasm yet?

The happiest of holidays to you and your gathering of friends and family. It's sure to be delicious!