Talking turkey

Bet many of you didn't realize that is an original Yankee expression. It was coined in New Hampshire sometime before the 1840s, when a Native American and a white man, who had been hunting together, came to divide the spoils, which consisted of only a crow and a turkey. The white man, who was anxious to have the turkey, but wished to appear to make a fair division, said, "You take the crow and I'll take the turkey, or I'll take the turkey and you take the crow." His hunting partner grunted and replied, "Why you no talk turkey to me?"

There have been long forgotten stories, foods and recipes that have fallen by the wayside over the past generation or two. Many of these dishes rate far better in flavor than do the canned, prepared food that is so readily available the world over today.

Let me ask any of you if any stories have been handed down about Thanksgiving bonfires? It was a custom many generations ago that large community bonfires be lit in observance of Thanksgiving. How about enjoying Giblet Gravy, or Chestnut Stuffing? Anyone ever heard of Chicken (Pot) Pie, Apple Cider Pie, Corn Pudding or Roasted Chestnuts as a dish on the Holiday-laden table? I still remember the age-old custom of all the children being seated at their own table while the adults were carrying on a few feet away, with one of the aunts coming over at infrequent interludes to make sure we weren't flinging food at one another.

It is with a warm remembrance that I give you a couple of dishes from "the day" for all of us to enjoy now. I will, however, 'Yank' them so that they are more appealing, with hopes somebody out there in readership calls and gives me a holler and tells me how they came out.

The first recipe I would like to revamp is the classic Corn Pudding. I have the pleasure of being a friend of Melicia Phillips. Now the name may not mean much, but she is the executive chef for Durgin Park. Still not ringing a bell? Durgin Park has been a staple near Fanneuil Hall in Boston since time immemorial. They are known the world over for the vest Indian Pudding known to man. She was kind enough to send me the restaurants decades old recipe for Corn Custard. So I took this a step further and made the following side dish for your Thanksgiving table.

New England Shore Corn Pudding

The combination of lobster and corn just pairs two naturally sweet items so well together, I think you will find yourself making this within a week of Thanksgiving. Just remember, serve this as a side dish along with either soup, bread or the main course.

4 c. cooked lobster meat, chopped

4 ears of corn*, silk and husk removed.

2 c. half-and-half

4 strips bacon, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, minced

4 scallions or green onions, sliced thinly

6 eggs

1/4 c. flour

1 t. salt

1 t. sugar

1 c. shredded Monterey jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Coat eight 8 oz. ramekins or one shallow 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Remove corn kernels from each ear using a sharp knife. Holding ear of corn with the stem up (it is easier if you cut off the tip of the ear so that it stands up more securely) run the knife from top to bottom over a plate. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, puree half the corn with 1/2 c. half and half.

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until almost crisp: drain fat. Add remaining corn kernels, sweet pepper and scallion; saute for 5 minutes. In bowl, whisk remaining half-and-half, eggs, flour, slat and sugar. Stir in lobster, pureed corn, sauteed vegetables and 1/2 c. cheese. Divide among ramekins or pour into large casserole. Top with remaining cheese. Set individual casseroles or large casserole in baking pan and place in oven; pour hot water into baking pan to 1-inch. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or 5-10 minutes longer for large casserole dish, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

*Take the easy route if you wish. Use one(15 oz.) can of whole kernel corn-drained or the equivalent in frozen corn.

Something sweet nudging you in the side? Something original and worthy of its' resurface during the Holidays? How about something for the kids? Let's take something old and turn it into something new. I was at a Harvest Festival in Bangor, Maine last week and the Harvest on the Harbor Festival in Portland the week before. Having talked to thousands of people, I think I came across probably a dozen people who are still canning. Many of the event attendees did have canning, or mason, jars stored at home but no one used them. Well the Yankee Chef says (as does any true Yankee) "Waste not, want not." Let's take these canning jars and make use fo them as perfect parting gifts for children and adults alike. When you add a decorative ribbon, a label and a spoon attached to each jar, these little edible gifts will have them reliving the feast again.

Maple Monkey Bread in a Jar

After this sweetness in a jar has been thoroughly cooled, you will notice about an inch or so of dark caramel on the bottom of each jar. This is a good thing! When you reheat this, all of this sweetness will be flowing over the top of the Monkey Bread so that every bite will be swimming in a rich, maple scented glaze. Now how can you beat that?

4 (1 pint) mason or canning jars

10 refrigerated biscuits, cut into quarters*

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 t. ground cinnamon

Maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using cleaned and dried jars and lids, spray inside of each glass jar with a generous amount of non-stick cooking spray and place them into a deep sided baking tray. Into a bowl, add sugars and cinnamon. Whisk together to combine. Place cut biscuits pieces into sugar mixture. Toss to combine and coat well. Evenly distribute coated biscuit pieces between the jars. I add 4 pieces of biscuit dough, then add a teaspoon of the sugar mixture sprinkled evenly over the dough. Drizzle with a teaspoon or so of maple syrup then add another layer of cinnamon/sugared dough. Repeat with the sugars and syrup. Only fill your jars about 3/4 of the way full, if you can do one more layer then go ahead. Sprinkle the top with more sugar/cinnamon mix and drizzle some syrup over the top. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the monkey bread has risen above the lip of the jars and is golden and bubbly. Allow jars to cool completely. As they cool, the monkey bread will sink to just below the top so you can tighten on the lids. Add a tag to the jar explaining how to serve, thusly:

"Loosen the lid completely. With the lid just laying on the jar, simmer the Monkey Bread in an inch of water for 10 minutes in a saucepan. Carefully remove from pot and invert onto a serving bowl, pouring the caramel that has collected on the bottom over the top of the Monkey bread. Enjoy with some shipped cream or ice cream if desired!

*By all means make your own biscuit dough. Just make sure when you roll it out, it isn't thicker than about 1/2-3/4-inch high.

Feel free to visit my blog, theyankeechef, for even more Mason jar ideas for the Holidays. The Yankee Chef

..........It's Just That Simple!


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