Oh man. Jeff and I are trying to figure out how to write about our marvelous vacation in Italy. Three stunning cities in two action-packed weeks...we have so many adventures and great meals to describe. It was the trip of a lifetime and we will do it justice, we will! But in the meantime, we are back in Illinois, still dealing with jetlag and the realization that we have actual jobs and pre-dawn puking cats to clean up after.
And I hate to say it, but after two weeks of eating nothing but Italian food, we were in the mood for trashy American food, so much so that as soon as we left O'Hare we ate at McDonald's, and this was our first breakfast upon returning home (not pictured: orange Gatorade):
We can do better than this, I thought to my sleepless self yesterday at 3:19 a.m., my new wake-up time. If we want American food, let's do it right. Let's make America's best meal. And that, of course, is Thanksgiving. A couple of Thanksgivings ago, I was unable to go home and spent the holiday in my Town & Country & Anonymous & Transient apartment, cobbling together a mini Thanksgiving meal for myself. And it was damned good! So while poor Jeff returned to work, I made Mini Thanksgiving in no more than 90 minutes, some/many of them spent staring into space and nibbling on unused ingredients.
The meal: pan-fried turkey cutlets, sweet potatoes with bananas and pecan topping, and dressing/stuffing. A can of cranberry sauce. A roll. All of it was pretty cheap and easy to throw together, plus we had plenty of leftovers. You know how when you serve breakfast food for dinner/supper, you kind of pat yourself on the back and say, "Why don't I do this more often?" Same thing with turkey. You need to be eating this meal more than one time a year. Let's do this.
SWEET POTATOES AND BANANAS (recipe by Tyler Florence, paraphrased by me)
(double them if you want to fill a 9x13" baking dish; what I have here fills a dish that's half the size)
- 3 medium sweet potatoes, the ones wrapped in plastic that you can microwave because it's easier
- 2 peeled bananas
- 1 stick room temperature butter, divided
- 1/8 C honey
- 1/4 C flour
- heaping 1/3 C dark brown sugar
- 3/4 C chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400.
Microwave the sweet potatoes according to the directions on the plastic wrap. I was able to zap mine all at the same time, throwing them in the microwave for 10 minutes (even though I was instructed to do so for 15; our microwave is powerful). While that is going on, mash the bananas in a small saucepan and heat them gently on the stove. I am not entirely sure that you need to heat them, but it's something to do and it seems to loosen them.
Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still pretty hot, carefully snip away the plastic wrap, slit the skins, and scoop the insides into a large bowl. Add the bananas, honey, and 4 T of butter (half a stick). Mash them all together, then add salt to taste. It'll be around a teaspoon, but it varies depending on the size of the potatoes, so keep adding it a little at a time, tasting frequently until you have a nice combination of sweet and salty. Mmph. Spread evenly into a small baking dish (again, about half the size of a 9x13 dish if you have one).
In another smaller bowl, combine the flour, dark brown sugar, 4 T of butter, pecans, and a healthy dash of salt. Use your hands; it's kind of enjoyable. The topping should be similar in texture to wet sand. Wet sand with nuts. Sprinkle/arrange this nut mixture over the top of the potatoes.
This will sit happily on your counter until the stuffing is ready to go; otherwise, bake for around 15-20 minutes (watch the pecans--you do not want them to burn) and serve hot.
Note: this is sweet enough to qualify as dessert. It's especially good with ice cream.
- 2 1/2 T butter, cut into pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 2 apples such as Granny Smith or Fuji, seeded and chopped (no need to peel)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 medium zucchini, chopped
- salt and pepper
- 3 jumbo or 5 small muffins, crumbled (I've had success with pumpkin, carrot cake, and corn muffins)
- 1/4 C sunflower seeds
- 1 T poultry seasoning
- 3 C chicken stock, give or take
Heat a large, deep pan over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the bay leaf, celery, apples, onion, and zucchini. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or until softened. Remove the bay leaf. Add the crumbled muffins (FUN!) and sunflower seeds to the pan and combine with the vegetables. Add the poultry seasoning, then moisten the stuffing with chicken stock. The amount really seems to vary based on the muffins you use. You're looking for a mushy texture as opposed to runny, so start with a cup and add more as you see fit. If you have an extra muffin, crumble it up and add it to the mixture if it seems too runny or vegetable-laden. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Spread it into another small baking dish and bake alongside the sweet potatoes, also for around 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.
This muffin idea is a Rachael Ray thing, and when I saw her do it I thought it was just crazy enough to work. And it does indeed work.
- 1 (20 oz) package of turkey breast tenderloins (usually two big or three small ones in there)
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, chopped and chopped and chopped some more
- 2 T olive oil
- salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or skillet over medium/medium-high heat.
Butterfly each breast tenderloin (cut a slit in it lengthwise and open it like a pink book). Place in a plastic bag and pound with something big, like one of those kitchen mallets or a bottle of olive oil until 1/2+ inch thick or so. Sprinkle side 1 of each with rosemary, salt, and pepper.
You may need to work in batches here: place the breast in the pan with side 1 down, then sprinkle the opposite side with salt/pepper/rosemary. Cook for 3-4 minutes, flip, and cook for 3-4 additional minutes. I don't know about you, but I like to do a little sample cut into poultry to make sure all of its pinkness is gone before I feel good about it. Set the cutlets on a warm platter and cover with foil until ready to serve. They probably should rest for at least a few minutes.
Now, you could go ahead and make a runny little pan sauce by adding the juice of one lemon, a tablespoon of butter, and about a cup of chicken stock to the pan, and scrape up the brown bits and boil until you have something gravy-ish. But I tried to do that yesterday, and it wasn't quite worth it. Just eat your Mini Thanksgiving; that would be my tip.