Wednesday, December 3, 2008

turkey day and tikka masala

Thanksgiving weekend in Austin- a foodie's heaven.

The weekend started off Wednesday evening at 34th street Cafe with my lovely mother. We began with the mini lamb burgers with a mint pesto and feta. The lamb was nicely cooked and juicy and the pesto added the delicious mint element that everyone loves with lamb.

My mom ordered the maytag (bleu cheese) and tomato soup that was tangy and full-bodied. Finally, we ended with the Osso Bucco, mushroom risotto, haricot verts and a pan jus. The sauce was lacking but the pork was buttery and tender. The haricot verts were perfectly al dente with a delicious garlicky shallot glaze. The risotto was a bit gummy and heavy with the pork so I pushed it aside. Too full to finish even a third, we took the rest home to Dad.

Moonshine was the next dinner of the weekend with a group of my crazy girlfriends from high school. Underestimating the power of moonshine, we started with moonshine shots (they hit you where it hurts) and ruby slipper martinis (vodka, grapefruit juice, champagne float). We started with the "corn dog" shrimp with honey mustard and a blueberry swirl. It was ok...somewhat boring and not much flavor in the batter.

Adrienne and I then split the chile cured pork chop with bourbon apple sauce, a vegetable succotash and baked macaroni with pimento and bacon gratin. The pork and apples were a home run- perfectly cooked with a satisfying combination of sweet and heat. The macaroni was comforting and completely worth the addition to my slowly expanding waistline.

Thanksgiving dinner was a grand one- this year we had about 50 people. The menu was:

Roasted turkey and gravy
Becca's (my grandmother) famous cornbread dressing
Cranberry relish
Cranberry sauce
Squash casserole with bacon
Sweet potatoes with orange and ginger
Sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and pecans
Garlic mashed potatoes
Green bean casserole
Roasted butternut squash with sage and cayenne
Sweet corn spoon bread
Sauteed brussel sprouts with orange and pecan butter
Waldorf salad
Fresh rolls
I made the butternut squash and the brussel sprouts and my mom made the sweet potatoes with orange and ginger. All three dishes are simple with bold flavors.

Butternut squash with sage and cayenne
Dice the inards of the squash into uniform pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, a bit of brown sugar and several good pinches of cayenne. Toss to coat evenly on a baking sheet. Roast on 350 for about 40 minutes (add minced sage halfway through cooking time). Garnish with leftover sage.

Brussel sprouts with orange and a pecan butter
Blanch brussel sprouts for 3 minutes then toss in an ice bath to stop cooking and maintain emerald color. Slice in half vertically. Meanwhile, chop and toast pecans in a saute pan. Add butter, fresh orange juice and sliced brussel sprouts. Saute until tender. Garnish with toasted pecans and orange zest. Viola! Fall sides in a flash.

My last dinner in Austin was spent at the Clay Pit for some contemporary Indian cuisine- it certainly did not disappoint. I ordered way too much food in an effort to submerge my palette into as many new tastes as I could at once.

We started with an order of samosas with a trio of sauces- a mint chutney, a tomato salsa and a tamarind sauce (my favorite). The fried delights were filled with softly curried vegetables and had a beautiful golden brown hue. I then inhaled the fresh-out-of-the-tandoori naan bread with garlic and basil. To me, there is nothing sexier than the aroma of garlic first hitting heat...the bread smelled sinful.

For out entrees, I wanted a taste of everything so I ordered the mixed grill complete with tandoori chicken (moist, dark meat on the bone), another skewer with white meat chicken in a creamy garlic sauce, a lamb kabob with herbs and yogurt and a sirloin kabob with ginger and spices. All skewers came with the infamous tikka masala curry sauce for dipping and were atop coconut scented steamed rice.

To my dismay, I was without criticism for this dinner. All proteins were cooked well and tender, the spices were robust and the traditional sauces were integral to all elements of my meal. We finished with the chai tea creme brulee (light and not over "chai-ed") and a wish to return quickly.

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