The savvy cook looks at October and sees three months of happy holiday doings — the warmth of family gatherings, child-centered parties, and merriment with friends. Kitchen jockeys (here’s a not-so-well-kept secret) will hope to bring to the family or holiday table something memorable, delicious, a stand-out kind of dish. Maybe even a signature or tradition-worthy dish.
The recipes below are antiquated (as in old-style, homey) rather than avant-garde, but that is their appeal. Also, they are pretty easy and they are like condiments — something to add interest to a meal. Which means being different is already in their favor.
BLACKBERRY OR BLACK RASPBERRY DUCK OR VENISON SAUCE
Great as gravy over meat or potatoes or served in ramekins for dipping biscuits
1 pint blackberries or black raspberries
3/4 C granulated sugar
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/4 C duck broth or pan juices from duck or other poultry
1/4 C raspberry or cider vinegar
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh lemon juice (or 1/3 tsp concentrated)
Combine berries, sugar, and garlic in a 4-cup glass measuring pitcher. Cover tightly with microwave-safe plastic wrap. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, until berries are largely reduced to pulp. Remove from oven and uncover carefully. Remove garlic from berry mixture and set aside.
Place berry mixture in a blender or food processor and puree. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, using a wooden or plastic serving spoon to mas
h berries down as needed. There should be about 1 ½ cups.
Return mixture to the 4-cup measure. Add broth, vinegar, and reserved garlic. Cover tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Uncover carefully. Add pepper and lemon juice. Taste and correct seasoning, if necessary. Makes about 2 cups.
NOTE: Recipe is also tasty for ham dishes. Use ham broth instead of poultry or venison and 1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon in place of the garlic.
STUFFED MUSHROOMS PARMIGIANA
Savory addition to a party table, these mushrooms can be side dish, condiment or appetizer
12 large fresh mushrooms
2 Tbls butter or margarine
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 oz. pepperoni, diced (about 1/2 C)
1/4 C finely chopped green pepper
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 C finely crushed buttery round crackers (about 12 crackers)
3 Tbls grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbls snipped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried oregano, crushed
pepper to taste
1/3 C chicken broth
Set oven to 325. Wash mushrooms and remove stems. Chop the stems finely and set aside. Drain caps on paper towels. Melt butter or margarine in a skillet and when melted, add onion, pepperoni, green pepper, garlic and chopped mushroom stems. Cook until veggies are tender but not browned.
Add cracker crumbs, cheese, parsley, salt, oregano and pepper and mix well. Stir in chicken broth. Spoon the stuffing into the mushroom caps, rounding the fill. Place caps in a shallow baking pan. Add enough water to cover bottom of pan to 1/4 inch. Bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes or until fully heated through. Serve warm or cold. Makes about a dozen.
An old-fashioned New England recipe, unusual and always a hit
One medium to large pie pumpkin
1 2/3 C sugar
3/4 C cider vinegar
1/2 C water
1 cinnamon stick broken into 2 to 3 pieces
4 2-inch strips lemon peel
6 allspice seeds
Using a melon baller, scoop enough pumpkin meat to measure 2 cups. A little extra is fine. Place all other ingredients into a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over moderate heat, stirring down the sugar crystals that form on the pan sides with a brush dipped in cold water. Make sure sugar is dissolved and cook syrup undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Add pumpkin balls gently to pan. Simmer 15 minutes to heat through. Transfer balls with slotted spoon to a 1 pint jar.
Reduce syrup in pan over high heat until you have about 1 cup. Pour spiced syrup over pumpkin balls in jar and let cool. Chill, covered, at least 3 hours. Serve at room temperature.