Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stuffing the ballot.

     The month of November brings the elections of our leaders, the honoring of our veterans, and the return of Libby's Pumpkin, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, and my personal favorite Bell's Seasoning to the supermarket shelves. The supermarket is a well oiled machine of suggestion. You may just be going in for milk, and come out with mulling mix, apple cinnamon air freshener and that "spray on your windows" fake snow. That is what supermarkets do best, they target people like my husband and I. This time of the year, we are attracted to any catalyst that will launch us into the mood. What better place to get in the spirit than at your local supermarket.
     Yesterday, I was waiting in line to pay for my groceries, and I noticed the once abundant display of Halloween paraphernalia. It now looked desolate and abandoned, and an employee was moving it all to it's final resting place, the 50% marked off cart. Upon further inspection, another employee was pulling up the rear with brightly colored items of red, gold, and green. In front of me, where only a mere month ago, were ghost pez dispensers and marshmallow pumpkins, now held chocolate Santa's and snowmen pez dispensers.  You never see the oompa loompas of the supermarkets. You know, the ones that roll the seasonal merchandise out, luring you in to buy Glistening Snow Glade. But I digress....
     The big dinner, is kinda like the big game for my husband.  Each aspect complimenting the next. Stuffing is the big dilemma for me at the moment. Part of me, is rooted in tradition and another part of me is looking for change.  I think my husband is too, because when I got my "prized" Food Network Magazine, November addition, it had 50 mix and match stuffing for your turkey. That was when I heard the word "cornbread". My husband really wants the cornbread, but I must confess something,...every time I think of cornbread stuffing, the slimy, salty, gloopy oyster seems to rear it's ugly head in my vision.  I must get over that and think outside the box.
     Working in the restaurant industry, I have seen my fair share of stuffing recipes. Some were really good, like maple roasted garlic and pecan stuffing, while others were terrible, like sausage and whatever you could find, to bind it together stuffing. When you have the pleasure of working with Executive Chefs, you figure out early on, that some are collecting a paycheck, while others really love food and are genuine in conveying that to the public. In my years working for a local restaurant, there were just a few Executive Chefs, that I completely respected. I instinctively knew who, I should pay attention to, and who I should give lip service to. I learned valuable information relating to Thanksgiving, in all those years.    
     Behind the scenes are magic, just let me tell you that. We, the kitchen staff arrive early, coddling each entree to the best of its ability.  Temping lamb, turkey, pork, prime rib, and still representing those that only eat seafood or no meat at all. Most of us, have family at home, trying to adapt to our lifestyle.  They sit patiently at home, waiting for a phone call, or the crunch of the pavement, when our cars arrive home. Putting off their holiday, because they love us. They manage the home front, fielding all questions that may arise, because of our absence. It is the business, and they, our spouses or significant others know that.  It truly at times, is the nature of the business. My husband, bless his heart, knew this and he put up with more than he should have. There were many holidays that I called and said "Well honey, it is going to be a little longer." It killed me to make that phone call, because I looked at my comrades and they were in the same boat as myself. We were an anomaly, a ship without a captain.
     Imagine that, it took me 21 years to get off the insanity ship. I finally said enough!  In the chef world, unfortunately that equates to a lesser paying job, but the moments that I have watched my children see the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and open the Christmas presents, that I could hardly keep secret anymore, are far more priceless than, temping the roast leg of lamb while waiting for the guests to arrive. You swap adrenaline for family, you settle down. I have been waiting for this all my life. What follows is a saltine cracker stuffing recipe, in honor of my grandmother Barbara Landers, one thing that she knew how to do was stuffing.

Saltine Cracker Stuffing

1/4 cup butter
1 large onion diced
6 stalks of celery diced
4 cups of crushed premium saltine cracker
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp Bells seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
dash of pepper

Saute onions and celery in butter until golden, pour 1 cup of chicken stock and sauteed vegetables over crushed crackers and toss. Add 2 tsps Bell's seasoning, salt and pepper and toss. Stuff turkey or don't stuff turkey as desired.

I love chicken. I would eat chicken fingers on Thanksgiving if it were socially acceptable.~Todd Barry


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