Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Last summer, just before Michael and I moved to Virginia, and when Tessa was coming home from her study abroad program in Tonga, Lauren, Ben, Michael and I went up to Montana for a few days. One night while we were there, we ate at this Italian restaurant called Moroldo's. My parents discovered this restaurant sometime in the year that they've lived there and have eaten there pretty regularly ever since. They have become pretty good friends with the Owner and Executive Chef, so when he found out that the whole family was coming to dinner, he prepared a special "Chef's Selection" 5-course menu for us. The food was SO YUMMY and we all LOVED it.

When we were in Montana for Thanksgiving, my mom planned for us to have a live cooking demo at Moroldo's and I was really excited, to say the least. For insurance purposes, we weren't actually able to do any hands-on cooking; so Fabrizio, executive chef and owner of Moroldo's, took us back into the kitchen to demonstrate how to make each dish, one by one, and then sent us out into the dining room for the tasting. By the end, we had completely stuffed ourselves on a delicious 4-course Italian meal.

First, Fabrizio showed us how to make this yummy appetizer that was like a Napoleon--with a layer of puff pastry, then a layer of thinly sliced zucchini, then a layer of a tomato/basil mixture, then another puff pastry, etc., until there were three complete layers. It was so delicious! Then we went back into the kitchen and Fabrizio showed us how to make gnocchi and a simple tomato sauce (with just grape tomatoes that had been pureed in a blender and then sauteed in a skillet--that's it!). I couldn't believe how fast and easy it was to make this dish...not to mention how the gnocchi just melted in my mouth!

Our third course was a chicken breast that had been baked in the oven and then finished off in a skillet with a gorgonzola cream sauce...also, so simple and SO DELICIOUS! All Fabrizio did to make the sauce was to melt some gorgonzola cheese into a little bit of heavy cream (just enough to get the melting started) and then let the cooked chicken breast warm through in the sauce. By this time, we were pretty full, so I don't think any of could possibly finish..and of course we had to save room for dessert! For dessert, Fabrizio first had us come in the kitchen and taste a mixture he had prepared to see if we could identify the ingredients. We each guessed one or two, but we weren't able to get them all. Finally, he told us how to make this creamy, custard-like dessert. First, he put some lady fingers in the bottom of each individual serving dish. Then he made a simple syrup with poppy extract to pour over the lady fingers, and topped it with a cream mixture of marscapone cheese, lemon juice, and pine nuts. Over the top he sprinkled some chocolate shavings and come crushed Italian cookie bits.

We had such a blast! And I can't wait to try these dishes at home!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Which is Which?

One of these is the Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream and Pecan Praline that I made as part of my family's Thanksgiving Feast. The other is the Pumpkin Cake that Rachael Ray made for her Thanksgiving edition of Everyday with Rachael Ray. Can you tell which is which? (If you are judging by the quality of the photography, that is cheating.)

From my earliest preparation of our Thanksgiving menu, I was most excited making this cake. This little project was one full of firsts for is the first time I have 1) sliced layers of cake in half, as evenly as possible, of course, 2) made my own whipped cream frosting from scratch, and 3) assembled a 4-layer cake with a lazy susan and an offset spatula. This is one of my greatest culinary accomplishments, if I do say so myself. It was almost too pretty to eat...but not quite!

What a Thanksgiving!!!

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I have never been that crazy about Thanksgiving. (Don't get me wrong, I love the holiday itself and love any excuse to leave work or school to get together with family and friends and reflect on the blessings I enjoy, but I'm just not a big fan of the traditional Thanksgiving Feast.) I don't usually get excited to eat turkey and stuffing, or apple pie, or mashe potatoes and gravy--I don't even like mashed potatoes and gravy! I've been almost embarrassed to say that I don't like Thanksgiving, feeling like it is unAmerican to admit it.

Maybe I just haven't had the best experience with this Thanksgiving fare. (My Mother, bless her...she is a GREAT cook, but I've noticed that she has really gotten into it since her daughters left home. When we were growing up, we had so much going on all the time, that not only was there not a lot of time to sit down to a big meal as a family, but she also had to work around the picky appetites of 4 teenage daughters. She would constantly hear things like, "What's in that?" or "I can't eat that, it's too fatty!" And now it seems like she is trying all kinds of new things for her two boys, or men, shall I say, still at home.)

Anyway, my mom let me run away with the menu this year and I was so excited! It has been my little project and it has been such a party for me! I prepared a prelim-menu with all the yummy recipes I've read and seen on FoodNetwork (well, not ALL, are you kidding?! Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to pick only a few out of the hundreds I've seen/read?!). After I submitted my prelim-menu, I asked each of the fam what their favorite Thanksgiving dish is--the one that it really isn't Thanksgiving without. (Everyone should be able to eat their fave on Thanksgiving, right?) Then I revised the menu, printed recipes and created a grocery list for momma. So Fun! On the menu this year was the following:

Roasted Butter Herb Turkey
Turkey Dripping Gravy
Homemade Cranberry Citrus Dressing
Parker House Rolls
BLT Mashed Potatoes
Cornbread Stuffing w/ sausage and apples
Thanksgiving Green Beans
Sweet Biscuit Wreath
Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Bananas w/ Honey
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Nutmeg and Sour Cream (more savory)
Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Cake w/ Whipped Cream and Pecan Praline

My sister Tessa got some great shots of each dish, which I will share next time. It's going to be a week of cooking, that's for sure (true to form for us Stimpsons). After the Thanksgiving Feast, we will turn around and prep for Lauren and Ben's Open House in Monty. I'm still finalizing that menu. ;)