I braised turkey legs in Guinness today, and made apple turnovers, mini versions of November classics that always make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I guess you could say it’s practice for the real thing, when you’re not ready to go whole hog (or in this case, whole turkey) just yet.
I’ve always liked mini versions of all kinds of things: lotion and soap for your travel kit, half bottles of champagne for gift baskets, a collection of small scented candles arranged just so in the bathroom. I’m a youngest child, the baby of the family, so I suppose tiny little things have always held a place close to my heart… the place that reminds me of home.
But in the kitchen, mini versions of food just make a practical choice. I opted for turnovers today, using the apple pie recipe that I’ve shared with my sister as my guide. I normally make the whole pie, but then… who’s going to eat it? Since it’s best served warm, right out of the oven, a whole pie sometimes turns mushy after everyone has had their slice. Turnovers make a cute and easy alternative: I bake about six, then freeze the rest. Served with The Hooligan’s heavenly bourbon whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, it’s winter holidays in one bite!
The turkey legs were fun to make. As avid foodies, The Hooligan and I rarely make a menu; we just go to the store and see what’s fresh. Turkey legs were the big winner this time. Braised in Guinness with veggies and a hint of allspice, it’s an easy, one pot dish that you just chuck in the oven for a few hours. All the better to linger over that second cup of coffee with.
Oh, make sure you sprinkle your stew with crushed garlic, lemon zest and parsley before serving on a bed of polenta. Dining fireside is optional.
Many girly talents are exhibited early in a young female child’s life. Mothering instincts are practiced on dolls; business skills are learned while babysitting; socialization is demonstrated by hosting little tea parties for stuffed toys.
I never kept dolls (I liked books and baseball equipment); I watched my younger siblings for free; and when I was in kinnygarden, my mother gave me a delicate tea set made of porcelain and it had taken me less than five minutes to send one dainty cup crashing to the bathroom floor. My mother shook her head, and sighed.
I was never much of a girly girl, lacking as I was in basic skills that came so naturally to much of the sisterhood. Like braiding hair, one of those early abilities that I have never been able to develop was baking brownies. My cookies are killer and I’ve made brilliant cupcakes; but the gift for turning out a batch of moist brownies has slipped through my grubby fingers. I’ve avoided making them Brownies scare the bejeezus out of me and the fact that I can’t donate a batch to bake sales has made palpable dents in my self-esteem. It’s just not normal.
The real culprits are those wonderful gourmet brownies that are a far cry from the ones baked from an instant mix. Dark as sin and baked with Guinness, for example, these uber-brownies just raised the bar for me. Surely I’ve made batches that were more than edible. I’ve watched my galpals swoon in delight while I served them my early attempts. But my palate is just spoiled that way, and I had fallen short yet again.
Until today. Today, I have had a brownie epiphany. Craving combined with writers block does crazy things. I have made personal history today, my friends.
This recipe by Jamie Oliver took me about 20 minutes to whip up. When I saw how beautifully silky the batter was, I knew I was over that hump. Like everything Jamie creates, these brownies, with the surprising addition of dried tart cherries, are sexy and edgy and unconventional. And toe-curlingly awesome with vanilla ice-cream.
No wonder my friends were making brownies by the time we all turned 8. I thank my patient mother-in-law for her advice to beat well after each egg, beat well after each egg, beat well. After. Each. Egg.