It cannot be denied that my culinary heritage inclines to the, well, leaden. It comes most directly from Eastern European Jews on the one side, and the East End of London on the other, but most of all it comes from poor people and hard times. All of my grandparents were genuinely, seriously hungry pretty regularly, and my parents, later reasonably prosperous, did not have all they wanted to eat as children.
People who are not certain where their next meal is coming from are happy to be replete when they have finished their meal. Of course, they usually eat a lot of carbohydrates and fats, because they are cheap, satiating and carry other flavors well. Later, when they can, the previously poor sometimes reject these traditional dishes, which remind them of hard times, and prefer a lighter (and more costly) diet, except for bouts of nostalgia, which may center around holidays. Holidays involve feasting, extra food, and often, memories of closeness and youth...so they are a bit different.
In my melting pot of a family, we go for all holidays to which we can claim any connection, and which can be construed as primarily about food. We are religiously unaffiliated (for generations unconnected with any official religious institutions, pretty much on all sides-with the occasional Unitarian here and there.) Food is more or less the secular sacrament around here. All of the above is by way of excusing my need to assemble a Channukah dinner which can be eaten or applied directly to the arteries without discernably different results. You don't have to eat it, but I'm going to...telling myself that it is but once a year* (albeit for eight days-but I'm only doing one belly-bomb fest), and all that. And Channukah is all about a seemingly endless supply of oil, right?
So here's the menu, should you wish to join me, in whole or part. I was interested in a recent article in the Food Section of the New York Times by Joan Nathan, concerning traditional Hungarian recipes as prepared by Hasidic jews of Hungarian descent in the US today. My turkey is a variant of her "Chicken Stuffed Under the Skin", which sounded awfully good to me. The original is made with chicken quarters. Mine is made with turkey thighs, which I love, and which are very easy to stuff under the skin. Brushing the turkey with paprika-laced oil makes the skin a beautiful mahogany color, as well as crispy.
I'll pass along that recipe as adapted here, link to those I've posted before, and follow up with further posts on my hybrid kugel/latke and the Times/Nathan recipe for the Hungarian pastries, which also I was also moved to try. I have cheated by posting the old photos from prior posts- I couldn't get excited about taking another egg salad picture, and I'm kind of busy here, anyway.
Starters: Raw Vegetables "Relish Platter"-radishes, carrots, fennel sticks, olives, etc, with half sour pickles. (Make lots, and leave them on the table throughout, you need this to crunch and balance the stodgier aspects of the meal.)
The Other Egg Salad and Suzy's crackers
Main Thing: Turkey stuffed Under the Skin, With Roasted Vegs (see below)
Sides: Aforementioned Roasted Veg : Carrots, Green Beans and Onions
Kugel/Latke hybrid (coming soon to a blog near you)
Keep on eating those carrot sticks, and whatnot.
Dessert:Cute little Hungarian Cheese Pastries (also coming soon), coffee
Turkey Stuffed Under the Skin with Roasted Veg (serves 4)
6 thinnish slices good bread, not too dried out (I used whole grain bread)
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms (I used oyster mushrooms)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 onions, one chopped, one quartered
one egg, lightly beaten
minced parsley-several tablespoons
fresh whole green beans
peeled carrots, sliced in chunks or sticks
4 tbsps of vegetable oil
hot hungarian paprika
2 turkey thighs. If you bone them now, they are easier to slice later
Preheat the oven to 400F. Saute the mushrooms, garlic and chopped onion in 1-2 tbsps of the oil, until browning. In a bowl, crumble the bread, and moisten all over with water. Squeeze and drain all the water out, so you have a pasty ball of dough. Mix that up well with the egg, parsley, and the mushroom mix, and some salt and pepper.
Oil a baking pan just the size to hold the turkey and veg. Scatter the veg over the bottom of the pan. With your fingers, wiggle the skin away from the meat of the turkey thighs, leaving the outer edges attached as much as possible, to form a little pocket. Stuff half of the bread/mushroom mix into each, and set them on the veg, In a little cup, mix the remaining oil with plenty of paprika, and brush the top of each thigh.
You can brush them occasionally while baking, when you think of it. Bake for about an hour and a half, turning the oven down to 350F after an hour. If it gets too, too, brown, cover it loosely with foil, but make sure to end it uncovered, for crispness.
I'll be back soon for the potato thing and the pastries, always assuming I can move again after this dinner. And, by the way, I posted that special egg salad a long time ago...check it out, it is really, really good.Really good.
*In a week or so, I will be noting that Christmas comes but once a year , too. As do a number of other dinner-worthy occasions.