Turkey Potpie

Thanksgiving is over.  In the past three days I have served a total of 41 guests at various times.  Now, my husband is on the way to the airport with two of my children who are heading back East, where they live.  My future daughter-in-law will be leaving tomorrow and I am already experiencing the ache that always fills the space they leave behind.  Still, I continue to be grateful, even days after Thanksgiving, that they still come home.

When I wasn’t entertaining, I was thinking about change.  In my last post, I wrote about having asked my mother to make Thanksgiving dinner.  This weekend, I sat and wondered how she felt about that request.  It never occurred to me that perhaps she felt hurt, sad, or worried that her child was going to grow up and become too American, rejecting the things she stood for.  Did she wonder why I wanted American food rather than her Eastern European fare?  Did she understand my wish to belong? Although I will never know how she truly felt, I must admit that she would have been right to worry.  The reason having American food was so important to me was the naïve belief of a child that it would define who I was, or at least who I wanted to be.

I have a “day after Thanksgiving” tradition.  I take all the leftover meat from the turkey and turn it into potpie.  Nothing in my family’s culinary background could have led me to this dish.  Potpie was just another step into an American life, a dish that is creamy, definitely not kosher (although I have adapted the recipe), and about as far away from a kugel as one could get.  Chopped bits of poultry swimming in sauce covered by a layer of pastry?  As an adult, I am much more comfortable with my background, embracing my history along with the food that goes with it.  Still there is a place inside me that just wants a piece of potpie.  I think my mother would approve, seeing that we can have it all.

Turkey Potpie

Use as much leftover turkey as you like, white and dark meat, diced

1 large brown onion, diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 carrot, diced

2 Tbsp oil

1 stick parve margarine

1/2 cup flour

6 cups chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

Crust

1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, rolled out to 9 x 13 rectangle

In a large pot sauté chopped onion in oil for several minutes until onion is translucent.  Add celery and carrot and sauté an additional 5 minutes.  Remove vegetables from pot and set aside.  In the same pot, melt the margarine.  Add the flour and blend together over a low flame for 2-3 minutes.  Gradually add 6 cups of chicken broth, stirring constantly.  Season with salt and pepper. Add diced turkey and vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes.  Pour into a shallow 9 x 13 baking pan.  Cover with dough and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Serve hot.

Enjoy,

Irene

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

My sister recalls that I came home from Kindergarten and told my mother that I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving.  At that point my parents and sister would have been living in the United States for about seven years,  and were open to the idea of celebrating this “American” holiday.  That was the beginning of a new tradition for our family, Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember my mother roasting a turkey, prepared the same way she prepared roast chicken for Shabbat, with lots of garlic, salt and pepper.  She made candied sweet potatoes, a dish she learned from my cousin’s housekeeper Edith, and a delicious stuffing made with challah, mushrooms, celery, carrots and caramelized onions.  It was sort of an Eastern European Thanksgiving dinner.  No guests, no fanfare, no cornucopia, but I always found it special and meaningful.

As a child of immigrants, the Thanksgiving narrative of people who came to America searching for religious freedom always resonated with me.  As a child of survivors, I understood that my family had much to be thankful for.  It was not a story from a textbook, it was the story of my family.  America welcomed them and gave them a fresh start, shelter, the ability to live openly and proudly as Jews, and a place to put down roots and watch their families grow and flourish.  For each of those reasons, and more, I will always be thankful.

Our Thanksgiving dinner is very traditional, given some dietary restrictions.  We have mulled cider, Turkey, stuffing, corn bread, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and our favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

3 1/2 cups flour

3 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup oil

2/3 cup water

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips, tossed with 1 tbsp flour

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Combine eggs with oil, water and pumpkin and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients.  Fold chocolate chips in to batter.  Divide mixture among three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for one hour or until toothpick inserted into loaf comes out dry.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Enjoy,

Irene

Salmon with Diced Tomatoes

Our family was very small.  None of my mother’s siblings had survived the war, but my father had two brothers and a sister that lived close by.  His oldest brother, Uncle Jack, was the debonair one in the family, always beautiful dressed with his Homburg perched perfectly on his head.  Jack had emigrated to France as a young man, married and had three children.  In the 1950s, the three brothers and their families immigrated to the United States where I was born.  Uncle Jack was a furrier by trade but we all thought of him as an artist.  His manners were impeccable, he was bright, engaging, and always walked into our home carrying a clear square box , filled with pastel-colored chocolate mints.  As a child, I adored my uncle and his children, my older “French” cousins.  They had striking good looks, charm, a joie de vivre that was contagious, and spoke English with beautiful French accents.

At some point I began spending a week or so of each summer with my cousin Micheline who lived outside of Philadelphia.  She and her family lived on the Main Line, a lush, green suburb full of large trees and great expanses of lawn.  It was a wonderful break from the hot city streets of New York.  I would arrive at her home and it was if I walked into a different world.  Micheline painted, developed photographs in her dark room, knit, crocheted, did needlepoint, read voraciously and cooked incredibly delicious French dishes.  Every young child has someone who they want to be like when they grow up, I always wanted to be like Micheline.

Two weeks ago when we were visiting New York, Micheline drove in from Philadelphia to join us. The next day we headed back to her home in Villanova and that evening we were joined by the rest of the family for dinner. Micheline made us a wonderful meal that included a poached salmon covered in a light sauce of sautéed tomatoes.  Simple and delicious, served with grace and charm and ease.

Micheline’s Salmon with Tomatoes

Use your favorite method for cooking a side of salmon. This topping would work well on grilled, baked or poached salmon fillets.

8 Roma Tomatoes peeled, diced and seeded

2 large chopped onions

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in frying pan, add chopped onions and sautee for about 15 minutes or till golden.  Meanwhile peel tomatoes, cut in half, squeeze out seeds and then dice.  Add garlic and diced tomatoes to onions and season well with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10-15 minutes till tomatoes collapse.  Pour mixture over salmon and serve.

NOTE: Micheline served this with salad, a crusty French baguette and a small dish of dipping sauce that she prepared with olive oil, a very good bottle of balsamic vinegar and a few cloves of coarsely chopped fresh garlic. DELICIOUS!!

Enjoy,

Irene

Egg Cream

I have been away for ten days visiting family and friends on the East Coast.  As always, my trips to New York City bring back memories that surface with the simple turn of a street corner.  This particular trip had a purpose, to hear my older son present his senior sermon to his peers and professors.  As I sat there listening, surrounded by my husband, children and family, my future daughter-in-law and my future machatunim, as well as our oldest friends, it felt as if our past, present, and future had all come together for this special moment and I could not have been prouder.  We celebrated the occasion over food and wine, enjoying each other’s company, sharing stories, laughing and crying.

Of course the entire week was filled with food: thin pizza with the crispest of crusts, frankfurters, smothered in warm sauerkraut,  with a skin that burst with your first bite, bagels with a perfect balance of exterior and interior, silky thin slivers of smoked fish, tender artichoke leaves sautéed in olive oil, warm soft knishes that look like billowing pillows, fresh cannoli, black and white cookies and delicious sticky nougat bought from a street vendor in Little Italy.  We dined at Maialino, Darna, Va Bene, Eataly, Fine and Shapiro, Barney Greengrass, Lombardi’s Pizza and Clinton Street Bakery, just to name a few.

I spent one morning walking through the Lower East Side with my youngest son, pointing out some of the places that I remembered going to with my mother.  After taking a wonderful tour of The Tenement Museum we strolled down Houston Street stopping at Yonah Schimmel for a potato knish, and then went on to Russ and Daughters to pick up lunch. We were walking out of the store when I suddenly decided that I had to have an egg cream, my favorite childhood drink.  As I stood there reaching for the soda, I remembered how thrilled I was as a young girl from The Bronx when I had an egg cream, and honestly after a memorable morning on the Lower East Side, it was still just as thrilling.

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Egg Cream

1/2 cup cold milk

1 cup plain seltzer

3  Tbsp Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

Pour syrup into a tall glass. Add milk and seltzer to top of glass and stir vigorously with a long spoon. Drink up immediately and enjoy!

Irene