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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Preparation is half the fun

Well, I've been keeping one eye on the events across The Pond as the CofE meets in General Synod, and one eye on the momentum gathering for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, while the rest of my body is in the kitchen, baking pies and breads and organizing the kitchen for the rest of the preparation for Thanksgiving.

It can be hazardous - especially around sharp objects and open flames.

It's a lot of work but you know, I wouldn't have it any other way. Part of the joy of family holidays is all the preparation: the menu planning; the marketing; the baking and cooking; getting the dinner linens out; washed and ironed. Even vacuuming and dusting the house feels less of a burden.

And, I LOVE the way the house smells. Cinnamon. Ginger. Nutmeg. Cloves.

It smells like Love. You know?

Every year, I delight in making the "old family favorites" and then finding something new that may become a favorite of my family. Two years ago, I found the recipe for Vegetarian Sweet Potato Stuffing from Charlie Trotter's Restaurant in Chicago. It's now a staple on our table - and not just for our vegetarian daughter.

I think I've found this year's entry. It's Caramel Croissant Pudding.

I made a batch of it earlier today. Can I just say, "OMG"? I almost ate the whole thing at one go, even before it properly cooled. It's going to be amazing, served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream - because, well, it's a holiday.

I know, I know. There were no croissants at the first Thanksgiving. But, I'm sure there was a kind of bread pudding. And, if there were croissants, the 'bread' would have been croissants. Trust me on this.

Okay, okay. So you want the recipe, right? You got it. Here it is:

The recipe says "serves two" but don't count on that.
Caramel Croissant Pudding

2 stale croissants
1/2 cup sugar
2 T water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 T bourbon (or, some vanilla extract)
2 large eggs, beaten.
1. Heat the oven to 350.

2. Tear croissants into pieces and place them into a small gratin dish that holds about two cups

3. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and swirl around to help dissolve the sugar before placing the saucepan on a burner over medium to high heat.

4. Caramelize the mixture by letting it boil for 3 - 5 minutes or until it turns a deep amber color. (If you haven't caramelized sugar before, know that it will foam and then become hard and lumpy. Don't panic. It will then melt and, as you break up the clumps, begin to liquefy before it begins to turn brown.)

5. Reduce the heat to low, add the cream and, while whisking, add the milk and bourbon. Any solid toffee that forms in the pan will dissolve easily if you keep whisking over low heat. Take the pan off the heat and, still whisking, add the beaten eggs until it forms a custard. (It will be a bit thin, which is okay.)

6. Pour the custard over the croissants, and - if the croissants are extremely stale (never in my house) - let the pudding stand for 10 minutes to steep.

7. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve.

Note: I think I might experiment by adding some walnuts next time. I can also report that it tastes yummy cold and served with a dollop of whipped cream.
Yes, I bake like this every year. Just ask my family. This year is a bit different, however. This year I'm on Sabbatical, so there's no trying to write a sermon and dashing out to make pastoral calls, doing emergency crisis intervention with a family in need who "just happens to drop by the office" at 3 PM Thanksgiving Eve - all the while trying to keep the office and staff running while attempting to get everything done.

This year, the focus is on the family, to coin a phrase. The stress level is much, much lower, which simply intensifies the joy of preparation.

I am so deeply grateful for this time, for my friends and family, for my health, for our wonderful, wee cozy cottage on the Bay, and for furry, four-legged critters who love unconditionally.

Oops! It's back to the market for me. I make lists and lists of things, but there always seems to be one or two more things I've forgotten - or thought I had enough of on the pantry shelf.

Off I go, then.

It's all good. It's all fun. I can't wait for Thursday!


Matthew said...

I will be quadrupling this recipe even though we don't have a ton of people coming.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

It's really good. Careful with the bourbon. It can be strong. Better to drink it than add it to the pudding. Then again, that's what I'd do ;~)

it's margaret said...

Oh yum!!!

Paul Powers said...

Best wishes for a joyous Thanksgiving, Elizabeth! I often disagree with you, but one of the things I'm grateful to God for is that he made Elizabeth Kaeton.

LVTfan said...

Okay. I looked for the sweet potato recipe online, and couldn't turn it up ... would you mind posting it?

Tomorrow I'm buying some croissants ... This recipe seems to have it all!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Paul. Thank you for your kind words. The mark of Christians is not whether we agree or disagree - like or dislike each other. It's whether or not we love each other.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

LVT fan. Hmmm . . . Here it is. It's down at the bottom of the post, past all the pictures.

JCF said...

Um, can I be adopted by you?

(I'm only HALF kidding! ;-/)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Only if I can be adopted by you JCF.

Brother David said...

Along with the walnuts or pecans, (or macadamia nuts?) I would be tempted to try a handful of chopped dried cranberries.

We learned while living in Seattle that a US T-Day can never have too many cranberries. If you have not tried cranberry sauce as a cranberry jalapeño salsa, you have not lived. It can add just the right zing to a fading traditional meal!

The Lord's blessing my sister as your family gathers to give thanks. May all travel safely.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hmmm . . . cranberries. Sounds wonderful. Next year, you'll have to come and be my sous chef.

I made some cranberry sauce the other day. I'm going to serve it with baked brie I'm going to make as an appetizer along with the dinner.

I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.

Paul Powers said...

The cranberrry sauce with jalapeños sounds wonderful!

LVTfan said...

As a longtime NPR listener, I heard Susan Stamberg's mother-in-law's cranberry relish recipe annually for perhaps 15 years before I finally made it; it is now part of our table. And on the same page on the NPR website is another recipe for cranberry chutney with ginger and garlic, of which I made a quadruple batch yesterday.

Thanks for the link to the Sweet Potato recipe!

Brother David said...

Paul it can be a wonderful new addition. And some newer recipes are being made with the chipotle chili, which is a smoked jalapeño. You can use is as the crumbled dried chili or from the can with some of the adobo sauce they are packed in. They add a smokey component in addition to some zing to the traditional sweetness or cranberry sauce.

And to zing up some T-Day left overs, spoon 3, 4, or 5 tablespoons of your favorite chunky picante sauce into your leftover poultry gravy. It is delicious over turkey & dressing and mashed potatoes, as well as a new twist of an open-faced turkey sandwich.

You can also liven up your turkey sandwiches with a two potato salad. Make your favorite picnic potato salad*, but substitute half of the potatoes with sweet potatoes or yams. Just peel, cube and gently boil them in salted water until fork tender as you would the white potatoes. If you still have some green beans in the fridge that did not get used for the green bean casserole, crisp tender cook or steam them and toss them into the two potato salad as well. I like to season the potato salad with fresh cracked black pepper, fresh ground sea salt and a few pinches of dill, all to taste.

Can you tell that I am a frustrated unfulfilled chef?

*Perhaps leave out the mustard!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mustard in potato salad? Never! But, the rest sounds FANTASTIC. Really, my darling, you have to come here next year for Thanksgiving. Forget sous chef. I'll be YOUR sous chef.

Paul Powers said...

Elizabeth and David need to collaborate on a cookbook.

Madpriest could run a contest for its title.