Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas hightlights, part 4: good eats

It's all about the nosh, baby. Not just at Christmas, but every major holiday involving food. I'm not super-picky, except about a few particular foods that have to be served for certain holidays, or they just don't feel right.

You'll probably laugh, but my holy grail of holiday fare (essential for both Thanksgiving and Christmas) is green bean casserole. My need for this traditional dish goes back to some time in the far distant past; my first distinct casserole memory is when I was a freshman in college and I went down to Mesa, Arizona, to have Thanksgiving with Nana, my maternal grandmother. She had a small spread but I remember we were both particularly concerned about the green bean casserole, and she showed me how to make it.

Everybody's got their favorite recipe; mine's basically a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, a 16-ounce bag of frozen julienned green beans, and a couple handfuls of slivered almonds. Mix those all together in a casserole dish, top with onion rings, and bake at 350° F for 30 minutes. Presto! Tried, true, tasty, portable, and above all, goof-proof.

Earlier in November, Jim was watching his favorite cooking show, Good Eats with Alton Brown. It wouldn't be a stretch to say Jim has a bit of a man-crush on Alton. Not at all. In fact, I think Jim wouldn't have reached his current level of evil-genius-in-the-kitchen without Alton's inspiration. But I digress.

So, Jim was watching the "Bean Stalker" episode, and Alton presented his own recipe for his "Best Ever Green Bean Casserole". Now, we've tried enough recipes from Good Eats to know they're usually pretty reliable, but to claim to have the "best ever" green bean casserole? Hmfft. So it's got fresh green beans. But one of the ingredients is nutmeg? I was skeptical.

To humor Jim—and because it's always my assignment to bring green bean casserole—I made Alton's recipe and took it to the family Thanksgiving dinner. Where it received rave reviews, even from me. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm not going back to my condensed-soup-and-frozen-green-bean recipe. Ever. The nutmeg won me over.

So I made it again for our Christmas Day dinner (eaten from paper plates while wearing our jammies) and Jim made another favorite Alton recipe about which I cannot say enough good things, brined roast turkey. It's so moist, so tender—like turkey-flavored butter. Yum. Accompanied by fresh cranberry sauce, made from berries grown by my mom's Uncle Walt down in Grayland. And of course I made mashed potatoes, with a little bit of garlic and heavy cream.

All this building up to the pièce de résistance: Jim's chocolate pecan cheesecake with made-from-scratch caramel sauce. Just look at the picture; there are no words. Except, of course... Evil. Genius.


aubrey said...

uh. yeah. you had me at turkey-flavored butter. i'm always up for new recipes to spice up my dry turkey. plus, i will have to give that green bean casserole a try. i've never been a huge fan of the gloppy cream of mushroom soup dish. it always tasted too bland for me.

No Cool Story said...

So I don't know what your post is about. I didn't read it...
Because the picture of that cheesecake made me drool and the faint.

Drool + faint = Not pretty.

No Cool Story said...

Ok, I read it.
I love AB! We use his Fruit Cake recipe and it comes out excellente.

chicklegirl said...

Don't worry, NCS--I averted my eyes and missed the drool/faint combo. Now ya'll look so purty and pulled together in your fancy party hat!

And you're right: AB definitely rulz! Aubrey, you should try the turkey recipe; it takes some extra effort but it's SOOOOOOO worth it.