Ahhhhhh. As much as I love Christmas, I am exhaling, undoing my top button and bidding it a fond farewell. Farewell to the crowds, the seemingly endless supply of waist expanding food, and the tinsel and glitter for 2011. Life is good.
It was nice to sleep in our own bed last night. My mother has a convertible sofabed. For its kind it is fairly comfortable, but nonetheless you’re still liable to find your head wedged in the hole between the mattress and the back of the couch, and one time the air vent opened in the middle of the night and completely deflating the mattress depositing us on the springs. I like to go away, and this year it was a much-needed break. Even more than going away I love coming back home again afterwards.
This, in particular, was a packed trip leaving little time between engagements to put one’s tired feet up or turn a page in the novel packed to fill such quiet moments. During the five days we were there I read the same three pages four times and still have no idea what the book is about. I cook more when I’m at my mothers than I do at home. This was no exception.
On Christmas Day we were to have prime rib, twice baked potatoes and fresh asparagus. Brie en croute with on the menu under “appetizer” and it came out of the oven puffed and beautifully browned. It looked delicious and you could smell the pesto buried beneath the rich cheese inside the crust. By the time I got back with plates it had disappeared quicker than Rudolph could have batted an eyelash. Although I never actually tasted it, the testimonials were excellent, and I did locate a tiny piece of dough with what might have been a small bit of melted cheese attached. It would have taken CSI technician to identify it, but I placed it on my tongue anyhow and, although the size of a microorganism, it hinted at having been delicious.
Christmas Eve was, if anything, more hectic than Christmas Day. Manning the burners I was moving appetizers out of the chute faster than skeet at a shooting range. Because we had chosen prime rib for the big day, we needed to satisfy my mothers need for bird. As a gift, earlier in the week, we had been given (I can’t believe it, but I’m saying it out loud) a “bird in a bag” which I brought with me to cook on that night.
Earlier in the day I prepped the veggies, and as I had premade the mashed potatoes everything just required rewarming. After socializing with my family, dinner time was rounding the corner. I retrieved the bag with the bird enclosed from the freezer. Not having cooked one before, I spent a moment studying the cooking instructions. Apparently it goes from freezer to oven, cooking and browning inside the bag. The instructions suggested there was gravy involved. Since I’d brought frozen gravy left over from Thanksgiving, I didn’t bother to fully read that section. If my other half was to insert a thought here, he’d probably say when I don’t read the instructions disaster usually ensues. I’ll go ahead and insert it myself and save him the keyboarding time, as he is a two finger wonder when it comes to that.
I preheated the oven. From the instructions I did read, I gleaned I was to cut three holes in the bag and place it in a pan for one and a half hours. Wow, I was liking this. Why didn’t I think of such of thing??
Dinner tucked in the oven, I went off to enjoy my family and friends, setting the timer to beckon me when it was done. What a fun night. I recommend hands off cooking highly. We noshed, we laughed, my stepdad played the piano (he’s amazing, used to play in bars when he was a kid), and when when the timer rang I went to retrieve my miraculous bag o’turkey and carve the meat.
My other half shortly followed me into the kitchen. Asking where the bird was, I pointed to the bag on the counter resting in the roasting pan. After circling it for a moment looking puzzed, he inquired as to why there was gravy oozing out of the bottom of the plastic. What, I’ve cooked one bird in a bag and now I’m an expert? I had no answer, actually. I vaguely recall the instructions mentioning gravy was included, but I don’t remember the exact verbiage. What?
Donning his glasses he began to read the back of the crispy bag. It seems there were two bags involved, an inside bag as well as the bag it came packaged in. This could be why, upon opening them, the meat rather than browned and golden was more the color of Andy Warhol in a snowstorm. I’m guessing that this to be my fault? Okay, sorry.
Quite amazingly, other than the gravy package which it seems had exploded sometime during the cooking process, the bird was cooked perfectly other than looking like a lump of plaster of Paris. Now we had a conundrum. I voted for Panda Express but since the vegetables were cooked we moved forward with our albino turkey.
Somehow when it was plated atop the yummy dressing and buried beneath the savory gravy everybody scarfed it up. In the end there wasn’t anything left but the two bags to dispose of. Yeah. Another holiday story is born. Smile.
“Most turkeys taste better the day after; my mother’s tasted better the day before.” — Rita Rudner
Macaroni & Cheese with Smoked Sausage
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. freshly minced parsley
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
8 oz. elbow macaroni
8 oz. smoked sausage, sliced 1/4″
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 green onions, chopped fine
1/8 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. minced shallots
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup smoked Gouda, shredded
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsps. cooking sherry
Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 2 quart casserole with cooking spray.
Combine topping ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Brown smoked sausage in oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Drain on paper towels.
In same skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. butter. Add shallots and green onions. Cook about 3 mins.
Whisk in flour, coating vegetables. Cook 1 min. Whisk in milk and continue cooking, whisking regularly until sauce thickens slightly (about 8 mins.). Add sherry. Cook additional 1 min. Add cheeses in 1/2 cup increments whisking to melt cheese between each addition.
Stir in mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Add pasta, sausage, and sundried tomatoes.
Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake until sauce is bubbly and crumbs are browned, about 30-35 mins.