Nov 29, 2013

Pickled Green Tomatoes

If you live here in Hawaii, you know we have a problem with our tomatoes, it's called the fruit fly. They love to sting ripe tomatoes and lay their eggs. Eventually the tomato rots, usually on your kitchen counter. However if you eat green tomatoes, this is not a problem. Have you ever eaten pickled green tomatoes? It's a Jewish thing, and they are terrific! 

When I lived in San Francisco I used to go to a Jewish restaurant that always had pickled green tomatoes. Eventually I developed a recipe that I liked and I am going to share it with you, naturally. This is a recipe built for almost instant pickled green tomato relief, because it only takes 1 day of pickling before you can open the jar and enjoy a crisp tasty wedge of green tomato pickle. The longer the tomatoes sit in the jar the softer and more pickled they become, but I usually can't wait. This recipe is similar to my spicy pickle carrots posted this month, but with less spice.

Pickled Green Tomatoes
Pickled Green Tomatoes
Click on photos to view larger
2- 1 quart canning jars
4 1/2 tablespoons sea salt, or kosher salt
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 red or green jalapeno pepper, cut lengthwise into 8 slivers, remove most of the seeds, or use Hawaiian chili peppers as shown in photo
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and skin removed
1/2 of a small yellow onion, cut into slivers
2 teaspoons dried dill
2 teaspoons pickling spice, divided
10 large green roma tomatoes, enough to fill 2 quart canning jars (you can use cherry or regular tomatoes as well, but they need to be green or they get too soft)

Sterilizing Canning Jars
Put your jars and lids in a large pot and cover with hot water. Put the lid on the pot and boil the water on high heat. allow to boil for 10 minutes, and then turn the heat off.

To make the brining solution, to a medium sized pot, add 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) of hot water, 4 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt, and 3/4 cup of white vinegar. Stir and bring to a boil on medium heat. Meanwhile in a small skillet, saute the jalapeno pepper, garlic, and onion in the olive oil, over medium heat, until the onion just starts to get brown around the edges, but not burnt. Turn the heat off.

Sauted onions, garlic, and peppers
Next wash and cut the roma tomatoes into quarters, lengthwise, or use whole green cherry tomatoes. Divide the jalapeno peppers, onions and garlic equally and put them into the bottom of each sterilized jar, along with 1 teaspoon of dried dill and pickling spice. Now fill the two jars with the green tomatoes, gently pressing them into the jars to get as many into each jar as you can, but leave about 1/2 inch of room at the top of each jar. Put the jars into your kitchen sink and carefully pour the hot brine into each jar, leaving 1/4 inch of air space. Immediately seal the jars with the hot lids, and close them very tightly. Leave the jars on your kitchen counter at room temperature for about 24 hours. If you like crisp tomatoes, you can eat them the next day. After 24 hours, refrigerate the pickled tomatoes if there are any left that is. Makes 2 quarts.

Note: Unless you grow your own tomatoes here on Moloka'i, it can be difficult finding green tomatoes. You can sometimes find them at Kumu Farms or Farmer's Market.

Roasted Beet Carpaccio
with Pickled Green Tomatoes

Roasted Beet Carpaccio
with Pickled Green Tomatoes
Click on photo to view larger
Carpaccio is Italian. It is a side dish of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served mainly as an appetizer. I am a big fan of beets, so I am always looking for ways to serve them. While I was in the Caribbean years ago, I was served beet carpaccio in a French restaurant made from thinly sliced beets, placed in a circle on a bed of arugula, with a vinaigrette dressing. I have also seen thinly sliced roasted beets serve over thick yogurt, then sprinkled with dried mint, or thinly sliced roasted beets sprinkled with feta cheese, and garnished with watercress leaves. My version pairs the sweet taste of roasted beets against the tart and crunchy pickled green tomato. This is one of my favorite side dishes.

4 small beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
pickled green tomatoes (see recipe above)
dried dill for garnish

Pre-heat your oven to 400˚F.

Wash the beets, do not peel. Dry with paper towel. Place beets in a pouch made of heavy duty aluminum foil, large enough to enclose the beets. Sprinkle the beets with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Wrap the foil tightly around the beets. Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour (timings vary from oven to oven). Test with a sharp knife, if is slides through easily, the beets are cooked. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the skin and carefully slice the beets very thinly. Set aside.

Next, thinly slice the pickled green tomatoes. On a large serving plate or individual plates, arrange the beet slices overlapping in a circle. Now place several slices of pickled green tomatoes in the center of the beets, also arranged in a circle. Garnish with a sprinkle of dried dill. Makes 2 servings as an appetizer or a side dish.

Nov 27, 2013

Japanese Kabocha Squash

Japanese Kabocha Squash
Click on photos to view larger
Portuguese sailors introduced the kabocha squash to Japan in 1541, bringing it with them from Cambodia. Today it is eaten all over the world, and is very common here in Hawaii. 

It is a very hard squash, has knobbly-looking skin, is shaped like a squat pumpkin, and has a dull-finished, deep green skin with some celadon-to-white stripes and an intense yellow-orange color on the inside. In many respects it is similar to the Buttercup squash, but without the characteristic cup on the blossom end. It is a member of the species Cucurbita maxima, along with the Hubbard and Buttercup squashes. 

An average kabocha weighs 2-3 pounds but can weigh as much as 8 pounds. It has an exceptional naturally sweet flavor, even sweeter than butternut squash. It is similar in texture and flavor to a pumpkin and a sweet potato combined.

Kabocha squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy white blood cells, good immunity and for vibrant eyes, skin and hair. A single serving of kabocha squash provides 70% of the day’s recommended requirement! Kabocha is also a good source of iron, vitamin C and some B vitamins and fiber.

Kabocha Squash Recipes:
Kabocha Squash Rice with Edamame
The sweet squash flavors the rice, and the edamame (soy beans) not only tastes wonderful, but add a nice contrast to the dish. Serve with chicken, pork, or fish.

Japanese Kabocha Squash Rice with Edamame
1 1/2 cups short grain rice
3 cups water
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sake (Japanese rice wine)
2 1/2 cups kabocha squash (peel and cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 1/2 cups cooked & shelled edamame (soy beans)
pumpkin seeds for garnish, optional

Put rice in a bowl. Wash and pour water out, then repeat 2 more times (this gets rid of some of the milky white starch on the rice which makes it sticky). Place rice and 3 cups of water in a heavy medium sized pot. Let it soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile peel and cut the squash (I like to use a serrated bread knife because the tough to peel, so be careful). Set the squash aside. Just before cooking the rice, add salt and sake to the water and stir. Then add the cut kabocha squash to the rice and bring everything to a boil on high heat without a lid. When it reaches the rapid boil, put the lid on and reduce the heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pot stand for 10 minutes (don't open the lid.) Fluff the rice, and cooked squash, with a spatula (the squash will be so soft that it will be mashed a little bit with the rice.) Serve and garnish with the cooked edamame, or perhaps pumpkin seeds, or both. Makes
4-6 servings.

Kabocha Squash, long Beans, and Shrimp
in Coconut Milk
This is a multi-layered soup recipe that my Filipino friend Estella told me about while she was cutting my hair. Coconut milk combined with sweet kabocha squash, shrimp and long beans make for a delicious main course or as an opener to a tropical meal. Be sure and suck the shrimp heads, sooo ono!

2 cups kabocha squash, pared, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 cups long beans, ends trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths
1/2 pound large white shrimp (8 pieces), tendrils trimmed, leaving the heads on for sucking later
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups coconut milk
1 pinch dried chili pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt to taste

In a pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic just until the onion gets transparent, but don't burn the garlic. Add fish sauce and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour in coconut milk and add a pinch of dried chili pepper. Bring to a simmer then lower heat and continue for about 5 to 6 minutes or until slightly reduced.

Add squash and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add long beans and continue to cook for another 5 to 6 minutes. Add shrimp and continue to cook for about 4 to 5 minutes or until squash is softened, long beans are tender yet crisp and shrimps have changed color. Season with salt to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Kabocha Squash & Coconut Cream Bisque
This soup recipe is very popular in the Caribbean. They make their soup with "calabaza" pumpkins, which is similar to the Kabocha here in Hawaii. Normally they like their soup a little spicy, so they add scotch bonnet peppers to this recipe. Personally I would rather taste the squash and coconut rather than all that heat, so I only add a pinch of chili pepper to this recipe.

4 cups of kabocha squash, pared, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 quart chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
1 pinch dried chili pepper (optional)
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and added to pot
salt & pepper to taste
sour cream for garnish

Add all ingredients, except the sour cream, to a medium sized pot. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the squash is very tender, then remove the 2 bay leaves and blend the soup with an immersion blender, or regular blender until smooth. Taste and add additional seasoning if necessary. Serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream. Makes 6 servings.

Nov 25, 2013

Rosemary Pork Rib Roast with Mustard Gravy

Rosemary Pork Rib Roast
Click on photo to view larger
This cut of pork is called a pork shoulder roast at Misaki's Grocery here on Moloka'i, but it is also known as a pork rib roast. Basically it's a rack of bone-in pork chops that are not cut apart (Ask your butcher to remove the chine bone (backbone) so you can easily cut the roast apart after it is cooked). There are a lot of great things about this cut of pork. One is that it only cost me $11.45 for a 3.28 pound roast, enough to feed 5 lucky people. This cut of pork is like a prime rib roast in the pork world. It's great for company or for special occasions, or to just treat yourself over the holidays, and it's very easy to prepare.

I have a tried-&-true recipe for this beautiful roast. The recipe comes out of the fact that I have a couple of rosemary bushes in my yard that I regularly use for pork ribs, venison roasts, or when I make mashed potatoes (I use rosemary in the water to flavor the potatoes.) However if you don't have rosemary growing in your yard, perhaps you know someone who does, or you can purchase it at Kumu farms here on Moloka'i. The rosemary is chopped and covers the roast with the addition of olive oil, sea salt and lots of black pepper. The end product is a juicy thing of beauty, especially with a delicious mustard gravy. I am sure you and your family will enjoy this recipe as much as my wife and I do.

Rosemary Pork Rib Roast with Mustard Gravy
1-3 1/2 to 4 pound pork shoulder roast
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons sea salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons black pepper
1/3 cup rosemary, finely chopped
2 carrots - rough cut
1 small onion - rough cut and include skins
2 stalks of celery - rough cut
6 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon grainy mustard

Defrost pork, if frozen, completely a couple of days in the refrigerator, then let it sit covered on your kitchen counter to room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450˚F.

In the center of a roasting pan add your rough cut vegetables. Rinse the rack of pork well and pat dry. Rub the olive oil into the meat, then sprinkle entire rack with the sea salt, pepper and chopped rosemary. Place rack, fat side up, on top of cut vegetables. Place pan in preheated oven at 450˚F for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes reduce heat to 325˚F and continue to roast for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until internal temperature has reached 150˚F with an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the roast. Note: The general rule is to roast your pork roast for 20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 150˚F. 

Sliced pork rib roast with mustard gravy
and yellow wax beans from Kumu Farms

Click on photo to view larger
Remove the pork from the oven placing it on a cutting board and allow it to rest, covered with foil, for 20 minutes before slicing it. This will allow all the juices to remain in the pork, rather than have them run all over the cutting board, making the meat dry. 

While the pork is resting, remove the roasted vegetables from the roasting pan and discard, or give the carrots to your dog as I do, he loves them. Now remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil that remains in the pan. Set the pan across 2 burners turned to medium high. Sprinkle the pan with the flour and brown the flour, stirring it in the remaining oil, to a light brown color. Now add the wine and chicken stock to the roasting pan. With a wooden spoon stir the mixture for about 10 minutes, or until it thickens, making your pan gravy. Finally stir in the mustard. Taste the gravy and season with salt and pepper if needed. Cut the rack along the bones, making even portions of the pork, serve with mashed potatoes, with pan gravy and fresh green beans, or whatever vegetable you like. Makes 5 servings.

Nov 23, 2013

Spicy Mexican Pickled Carrots

Spicy Mexican Pickled Carrots
Click on photo to view larger
Zanahorias en Escabeche or Mexican Spicy Pickled Carrots are one of the best ways to enjoy a pickled condiment. These carrots are found in many Mexican restaurants across the country, usually already sitting on the tables, ready for someone like me to sit down and dig in. What makes these spicy carrots so good is that they still have a bit of a crunch left in them, not soft or mushy, and the brine is a wonderful combination of flavors.

These pickled carrots are great with Hawaii meals as well. Serve with roast pork, or pork belly, with fried fish, or cut up the carrots and mix with your favorite poke, or on top of saimin noodle soup. I like them skewered on a bamboo stick and put into a bloody mary along with some of the pickled carrot juice, at happy hour.

One of my favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants is located in Salinas, California, called Rosita's Armory Cafe. They always have spicy pickled carrots, but that is only for starters. If you are ever visiting Monterey or Carmel, California, go a little out of your way and find Rosita's in Salinas, by the old Greyhound bus station.

The best Mexican Food Ever!
This great Mexican restaurant in Salinas, California

 unfortunately has closed after many years of great food.
Rosita's Spicy Mexican
Pickled Carrots

1 1/2 pounds of large carrots
1 large yellow or white onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 fresh green and/or red jalapeno peppers
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/8 cup of olive oil
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 pint canning jars and lids, sanitized*

Peel the carrots and slice into 1/4 inch pieces either straight across or diagonally. Peel and cut the onion into 1/4 inch slices, peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves. Slice the chili peppers into thin rounds with the seed intact.

In a pot mix the water and vinegar and bring to a soft boil under low medium heat. Let sit covered.

In a a large frying pan heat the oil, add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Next add the chili, onion, garlic, and bay leaves then cook for another 5 minutes. Add the salt, oregano and peppercorns and cook for about 3 minutes more, stirring to combine the spices and vegetables well. Don't overcook, the carrots should be crispy.

Carefully take the 3 jars out of the hot water and put them in the kitchen sink. With a large spoon, place enough carrot mixture in each jar until it is about 1/2 inch from the rim, then pour in water/vinegar mixture to about 1/4 inch from the rim. Seal tightly with sanitized lids and set aside to cool, make sure they are tightly sealed. Once they are at room temperature you can put them in the refrigerator. Let them sit in there at least overnight or longer if you want, the longer the more the flavors will mix. The carrots will keep up to a couple of months in the refrigerator.

*To sanitize the jars and lids place them inside a large and deep pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Leave the jars and lids inside the boiling water until the carrots are ready to be poured in. Another way to sanitize the jars by washing them in a dish washer with very hot water temperature. Makes 3 pints, or about 4 1/2 cups.

Nov 10, 2013

The Other Asparagus... SEA ASPARAGUS!

Fresh Hawaiian Sea Asparagus
Click on photo to view larger
There is another asparagus called Sea Asparagus. It grows on shorelines and in marshes across North America, as well as in Great Britain and parts of Western Europe. It also is grown hydroponically here in Hawaii, in Kahuku on the North Shore of the Island of Oahu by Marine Agrifuture. Salicornia virginica, or sea asparagus, is a distant relative of beets and spinach, however it doesn't taste like either. It has a crisp texture and salty flavor and tastes of the sea. Sea Asparagus look like delicate miniature asparagus, and is teeming with nutrients. Because it is very salty, it needs to be soaked in cold water before eating.

Traditionally, Sea Asparagus is a vegetable that is served with fish. Here is Hawaii, we blanched them and use them in salads, steam them and toss them with butter and serve them with cold smoked tuna, or we serve them with sushi, or pickle them. Note: Sea Asparagus should be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap if not used immediately. It will keep in the vegetable compartment for no longer than 3 days. 

Today I bought Sea Asparagus from a vendor at our farmers market here on Moloka'i, and have put together several recipes for you to enjoy.

Sea Asparagus Recipes:
Ahi Poke with Sea Asparagus
4 ounces fresh sea asparagus, blanched*
1 pound fresh ahi steaks, cut into cubed, bite-size pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce (shoyu)
1/4 cup chopped green onions (tops included)
1/4 cup chopped Maui onion (or yellow onion)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 chili pepper, cored, seeded and diced (optional)
sea salt, to taste
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish

*To blanch the sea asparagus, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the asparagus. Blanch for 30-40 seconds. Remove the sea asparagus and cool it in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes. Mix all ingredients and chill in fridge for 1 hour before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Tomato & Sea Asparagus Salad
2 cups blanched sea asparagus, drained*
4 medium or large tomatoes, sliced 1/4inch thick
1 small sweet Maui or red onion, julienned
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh, minced
1 teaspoon sugar

*To blanch the sea asparagus, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the asparagus. Blanch for 30-40 seconds. Remove the sea asparagus and cool it in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes. Mix all ingredients and chill in fridge for 1 hour. Makes 4 servings.

Sunomono with Sea Asparagus
Sunomono is a Japanese word meaning vinegared dishes, usually marinated vegetables, and is served as a side dish to go with various Japanese-style dishes.

4 ounces fresh sea asparagus
5 to 6 ounces Japanese saifun noodles or vermicelli noodles
1 medium size Japanese cucumber
roasted sesame seeds for garnish

Ingredients for dressing:
6 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons tamari sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Blanch the sea asparagus in boiling water for 30-40 seconds, plunge into ice water. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Cook the noodles in boiling water until just tender. Rinse in cold water, drain and transfer to medium bowl.

In a small bowl, stir the dressing ingredients. Toss, cover and chill the noodles with the dressing.

Peel and seed (cut lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a spoon) the cucumber, chop into small moon shaped slices.

To serve, divide noodles into 4 or 5 serving bowls and arrange the cucumber and sea asparagus on top. Lightly sprinkle with sesame seeds. Makes 4-6 servings.

Pickled Sea Asparagus
3 pounds fresh sea asparagus
1 tablespoon pickling spice
whole dried red chilies
3 1/2 cups white vinegar
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3-5 garlic cloves

Place spices and 3 to 5 peeled cloves of garlic in each sterilized jar. Clean and soak sea asparagus for 1 hour in cold water (to leach the salt away). Drain; chop into 2- to 3-inch lengths and pack fairly tightly into the jars.

Bring vinegar, water and sugar to boil and simmer 15 minutes. Pour hot solution over sea asparagus, leaving l/2 inch headroom. Seal jars and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Makes about 10 pints.

Note: The asparagus is pickled after a couple of days, but gets better the longer it keeps.

Nov 4, 2013

Scared of Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner?

Preparing a Thanksgiving turkey dinner has always been a scary time for many people. Whether you are preparing a turkey dinner for your own family, or for friends and family, you start to think, what if the turkey turns out bad? What if it is dry, or the stuffing isn't right? The bottom line is that the pressure is on the cook to deliver a beautifully prepared, elegantly presented, perfectly cooked meal in a timely manner.

I think the problem is that we don't prepare Thanksgiving everyday, or we forget where the recipe is, or in my case, which recipe did I use last year? And then there are all of the side dishes to prepare, not to mention the dessert. This can be a frightening time for the cook in the house.

It is common in Hawaii to have pot luck meals. Neighbors, friends and family all bring something so the cook doesn't have to do all of the work, and if the cook is smart he or she will also think about disposable plates and dinnerware to cut down on the cleanup. Although cooking a turkey can be scary, you are not alone. Thousands of home cooks are as intimidated as you are. With a bit of effort and a little luck, your holiday turkey will be a success.

I have prepared many Thanksgiving meals over the years and have accumulated a lot of good recipes that I would like to share with you. Perhaps these recipes will become a favorite with your ohana (family, in Hawaiian), I hope so. Check out these turkey safety tips and recipes that I posted last year on this site... click here to link to that post.

Easy Roast Turkey with Basting Sauce
Basting a turkey is very important. The basting sauce helps to flavor the turkey, as well as to make the skin crisp. Cooks note: Be sure to allow at least 3 days for a frozen turkey to thaw properly in your refrigerator. Never thaw a turkey outside of your refrigerator, like in your kitchen sink, or in a cooler. You and your guests run the risk of salmonella poisoning, and I don't think you want that.

To roast a turkey, preheat the oven to 375˚F. After you take your thawed turkey out of its plastic bag, be sure to rinse it off with cold water, inside and out, and then dry it off with paper towels. Place the dry turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and brush some basting sauce over the turkey. Roast the turkey for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325˚F. Baste the turkey every 20 minutes or so. A turkey takes roughly 15 minutes per pound to roast; a 12-pound bird will take about 3 hours to
Meat Thermometer
cook. I rely on my meat thermometer to tell me when the bird is cooked to perfection. It should read 165˚ inserted in the thick thigh meat. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and cover it with foil to let it rest 15 minutes, then the juices won't run all over the cutting board. It will still be warm for up to 30 minutes if you keep it covered.

Ingredients for basting sauce:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Melt the butter in a medium pot. Add the remaining ingredients and heat to a simmer. Leave on very low heat while basting the turkey every 20 minutes or so, while it is in the oven.

Easy Giblet Gravy
For those of you that don't know what giblets are, they are the bits of turkey meat usually found in a little paper bag inside the turkey that consists of the neck, gizzard, Kidneys, heart and liver. Some people don't like to add giblets to the gravy, my wife being one of them. To me they are missing out on a lot of flavor, and besides the giblets are totally cooked and minced before adding them to the gravy. This is an easy giblet gravy to make and tastes really great!

2 tablespoons butter
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
A few cracks of black pepper
Giblets from a turkey
A few sprigs fresh thyme (found at Kumu Farms on Moloka'i)
1/2 cup drippings from a roasted turkey
2 tablespoons flour

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the celery, carrot and onion for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onions are soft and beginning to color. Add a few cracks of freshly ground pepper.

Add the giblets, thyme and enough water to cover. Raise the heat and bring to a gentle boil then reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about an hour. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

Strain the broth into a bowl. Transfer the cooked giblets to a cutting board and discard the sprigs of thyme. Remove as much meat from the neck as possible, then discard the neck bones and neck fat. Chop the neck meat and giblets into very fine pieces.

In a medium skillet, heat the pan drippings over medium low heat. Add the chopped giblets and sauté for a minute. Add enough flour to make a thick roux, a teaspoon at a time. Allow the roux to cook and darken for a minute. Add the reserved broth 1/4 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly into the roux.

Continue adding broth as the gravy cooks and thickens. If necessary, add additional water to bring gravy to proper consistency. Taste for seasoning and serve. Makes 2 cups.

Classic Biscuits
Biscuits and gravy for Thanksgiving is always a winner. Biscuits with honey or jam is good anytime. This recipe is tried and true.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening, butter or margarine 
3/4 cup milk

Heat the oven to 450°F. In a medium bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until mixed. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or fork, until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in the milk until mixture forms a soft dough and leaves the side of the bowl (dough will be soft and sticky).

Lightly sprinkle flour over a cutting board or countertop. Place dough on floured surface; gently roll in the flour to coat. To knead dough, fold dough toward you. With the heels of your hands, lightly push dough away from you with a short rocking motion. Move dough a quarter turn and repeat 10 times. Dough will feel springy and smooth.

On the floured surface, flatten dough evenly, using hands or a rolling pin, until dough is 1/2 inch thick.

Before cutting each biscuit, dip a 2 1/2-inch round cutter into flour to lightly coat it so it will cut cleanly through the dough without sticking. To cut, push the cutter straight down through the dough without twisting or turning. Cut the biscuits as close together as possible. On an ungreased cookie sheet, place biscuits about 1 inch apart for biscuits with crusty sides, or place with sides touching for biscuits with soft sides.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm. Makes 12 biscuits.