November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving! We have Ellen's mom over for Thanksgiving this year. She flew in from San Jose this morning. But hey, just because it's a holiday doesn't mean I can't get some building in.

While the girls were out shopping (I made them a list), I deburred all of the HS parts. These puppies are ready for dimpling and priming.

They got back and it was time to get crackin' on dinner. It was about 2:00pm. I'm the designated chef of the day. I started them off with some dried sausage, pepperjack cheese and some amazingly good mozzarella my mom sent from NY (thanks Mom). Also, a nice assortment of crackers and some white wine. I like Nobilo. One of the few whites I actually like. It's from New Zealand and it's very good.

Now the fun starts. First, I get everything ready for the sausage and peppers. Did I mention that we're not having turkey? I mean, who on earth celebrates with turkey?? May as well be serving porridge. I decided to do an Italian Thanksgiving this year just like my family does in NY. Turkey? Blech.

Action shot of me chopping the peppers. Knives are Henckel "S" series. Highly recommended.

Here's Ellen's mom enjoying the appetizers. In the backround you see Jommi praying that a piece of ANYTHING will magically fall on the floor and diffuse through the screen door. Sorry, Jommi. You're outa' luck.

Ellen doing something...not sure why she's standing on the chair. She does stuff like this sometimes. I've learned to just let it be.

Peppers all nice and cut up. These will eventually get seasoned with a little salt and pepper, drizzeled with oil and then into the oven covered at 450 until the peppers start to roast. Once that happens, I'll throw in the sausage and reduce the heat to about 325. Then, once the peppers and sausage is fully cooked, I'll remove the foil covering and finish them off at 450 with the oven door open. At the same time, I'll put all the rest of the food into the oven to warm back up. With any luck, the sausage and peppers will be done just as the rest of the food has warmed up.

Here I'm starting the tomato sauce for the tortellini (stuffed with proscuito. It accompanied the 50 lbs of mozzarella). THis is one onion, two red peppers, and a whole head of garlic. Everything is finely diced. They're sauted in some olive oil. It's spiced with a little salt (fresh ground, by the way), pepper (fresh ground as well) and a touch of cayenne poweder. You won't taste the cayenne but it will wake it up a bit.

"The Flip"

Another successful flip. This really is much easier than using some sort of spatula or wooden spoon. Also, it's better for the non-stick cookware in the long run. Mainly, though, it's just fun.

While that's sauteing, I put three cans of crushed tomotoes in a pot. Tomotoe cans were cleaned out with a little bit of wine which also ended up in here. When the vegetables are finished, I'll deglaze the pan with some vodka and put that in there too. Then, about 6 leaves of whole basil, and another 10 leaves or so of finely chopped fresh basil. I really like basil. It's difficult to use too much, especially when it's fresh.

Here's some really nice veal cutlets and an eggplant that I chopped up. I intend to fry these.

This for the eggplant. Just a couple of eggs on the left as a batter, and some flour, garlic poweder, salt and peppers on the right for dipping.

Eggplants frying away.

Next, the veal. Same eggs on the left, but I've switched to breadcrumbs on the right. No, I do NOT make my own breadcrumbs. I've got a plane to build so I don't have time for silly stuff like that.

The eggplants are done. These were VERY good.

Veal is on it's way.

I'm getting hungry all over again....

This is for the calimari. I thought we had some corn flour. It was semonila, though. Oh well....I'll just use white flour. I was hoping to mix a little corn flour in as well, but this will do. I don't have any more shots of this, but basically you just dip the calimari in the flour (NO egg...they're sticky enough as is and you only want a light dusting) and fry them. Very straightforward.

Flour, LOTS of garlic poweder, salt, pepper and a little cayenne.

Time to through the sausage in.

Next, on to the salad dressing. This is NOT a ceasar dressing, as you will soon see. Close, though. This is one egg yolk and some anchoives. Mash it all together with a fork. It will seem like the anchoives just clump together at first, but you'll get the hang of it. It IS do-able :)

Next I added some olive oil, some pepper and some good balsamic vineger. Done.

Quality control is inspecting the sauce. She approves.

It's getting close to show time. The sauce you see is the basic tomato sauce but I've added a little lemon juice and some crushed red peppers. Just mixed it in right in the little glass dish there. It's for the calimari in case someone would like sauce instead of lemon. THe lemon, of course, is for the calimari and the veal. It also kinda' goes on the eggplant, Ellen noticed, but I personally like the eggplant plain.

Time to grate the parmessan. If you do nothing else, BUY REAL PARMESSAN and grate it yourself. The crap-in-a-can you buy at the supermarket has no place in an Italian kitchen.

Close to showtime :)

Bring your pasta water to a boil and then salt it. Then bring it back up to a boil. Done properly, pasta (hardly even matters what kind) will be fully cooked to al dente in about 5 minutes. The only thing worse than an overcooked steak is overcooked pasta.

Here's a final shot of the sauce to show why they take so long to cook. It's not about 8:00. The sauce has been simmering for 6 hours. For the last 1 1/2 or 2 hours, I had the lid cracked open just a touch. Note how much it's reduced. Also, don't ever substitute powders for the vegetables. Even if you got the same flavor, you're missing a lot of the starches. Those will also help thicken the sauce. But mostly, it's the slow steady simmering and reducing.

Girls are hanging out by the fire.

Dinnertime. The wine is BV Coastal Merlot. You can see a little tortellini is served on the plates. Everything else is up for grabs. You'll also notice (if you haven't already) that all of our plates are different. I have this pet peeve, you see...I HATE having a bunch of plates that match, and then one plate that doesn't match. So what happens when a plate, I have to go all over the state looking for a stupid matching plate. Etc etc etc... So we got rid of ALL of our plates and things, and decided we would have exactly NO matching plates. Every one is different. Problem solved.

Oh come on,

Much better :) Here you see the happy customers after having slammed down just WAY too much food. By the way, it all came out very well. I was very pleased.

Finally, dessert. The time is now around 9:00pm. I got some tiramisu (didn't make it myself...sorry). It will be served with espresso flavored with sambuca. Off to the left you also see a bottle of grappa. Ellen's mom and I tore into that. Ellen didn't like it and decided to stick to Ouzo. Anyhow, we all had a great time. Happy Thanksgiving!

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