Ellie's Cucina Italiana 11.22.05

I have a great tip that was passed on to me via reader feedback (how exciting to be getting feedback!) that I’d like to pass on. In my last column, I shared with you my recipe for sausage and peppers, here’s a great tip on how to serve:

“I was just reading your latest recipe column. While I do believe that your sausage recipe sounds quite delectable, here is what I would do in place of rolls. Obviously such a thing could not be done for a large group, but for two, give it a try. This is a fav of mine.

Instead of rolls, take a loaf of Italian bread and cut it in half so you basically have two tubes. Pull the soft inside bread out. Stuff the goodies in there with some mozzarella cheese, and then bake until crispy. It is similar to a calzone, but crunchy and flakier. Also, all the good stuff doesn’t fall out the sides.”

What a great idea! By hollowing out the loaf of bread he’s created a nice “pocket” to hold the sausage and peppers in and by adding mozzarella cheese well…cheese is just darn good when added to just about any sloppy Italian dish.

Great tip, please keep them coming!

Last week I had dinner at my parent’s house, the food was great but the conversation was even better. We discussed two of my most favorite topics; family gossip and Thanksgiving dinner. An Italian family always has the best family drama and lots of yummy holiday foods. After spending more time than necessary on the family gossip, we moved on to Thanksgiving dinner. This is where we get to remind mom to make all our favorites; sweet potatoes and stuffing for me, while my brother always asks for mashed potatoes with lots and lots of gravy. I was really surprised when he volunteered me to make the mashed potatoes this year! So was my mom, but I think she’s glad for the help!

I have a great recipe for mashed potatoes that were inspired by a great local restaurant. It’s a slight twist on garlic-mashed potatoes that are sure to both impress and please even your most diehard mashed potato fans. I also have a very simple, no fuss recipe for homemade gravy. Hmmmm….gravy. J

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Feeds: 6-8 (6 if you’re feeding a lot of big eaters)

*3 heads garlic (cut ½ inch off the top)
*3 tablespoon olive oil
*2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
*1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
*1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
*Salt and white pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the garlic in aluminum foil tilting sides up and around it (making a “purse”). You should have enough aluminum left over to cover the top then drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet, place in oven and roast for 35 to 40 minutes. You’ll know the garlic is done when it’s tender and a pretty, golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
2. After the garlic has completely cooled, squeeze the garlic cloves from the head and place in a small bowl (they should pop right out). Using a fork, mash the garlic until smooth, cover with plastic wrap and put to the side for later use.
3. Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the potatoes until tender to the touch of your fork, (about 15 minutes).
4. In a small pan, over a low flame, heat cream but do not heat so that it boils. You’ll add the warmed cream to your potatoes shortly.
5. Drain when cooked through, careful to save the water, as you’ll use the water later when making the gravy. Place the potatoes back into the pot and return to stovetop but turn heat off. The excess water will cook off the potatoes – this is a great trick, it keeps you from having watery mashed potatoes. Leave on heat for about a minute or two then remove.
6. Give the potatoes a good crumbling with your fork. Try to break them up into smaller pieces. Add the garlic and butter. Then using a hand held electric mixer, mix together the butter and garlic into the potatoes. Add warmed cream slowly until you reach the consistency you like, although the potatoes should still be sort of lumpy.
7. Add salt and pepper to potatoes – as much as you like.

But what Thanksgiving would be complete without yummy gravy to smother all over everything? I promise, you’ll love it. This recipe makes great gravy for any roast poultry, pork or beef. The secret is in the drippings from the pan, and while it’s still completely unhealthy, it uses a lot less of the drippings than most traditional Thanksgiving Day recipes.

Ellie’s Easy Gravy

*3 tablespoons drippings from roasting pan (aim for the drippings, not the fat)
*3 cups water (you get the best results with the potato cooking water!)
*1 tablespoon Arrowroot starch (thickening agent) dissolved in ¼ cup cold tap water
*Salt to taste

1. Drain all but 3 tablespoons of the turkey drippings from the roasting pan. Place the roasting pan on your stove top on medium heat.
2. Add 3 cups of potato cooking water to the pan and with a wooden spoon scrape up all the drippings and browned bits stuck to the bottom of the roasting pan. This is where all the flavor is!
3. Once you’ve gotten all the bits up and everything is heated nicely, remove pan from heat and pour gravy through a small strainer into a saucepan.
4. Bring the gravy to a rapid boil over high heat, when it’s reduced down some (about 5 minutes or so) reduce the heat to low and add your arrowroot-water combo SLOWLY. You may not need all of it to reach the consistency you like for your gravy. Be certain to stir the gravy constantly while adding the arrowroot-water. Your gravy will thicken very quickly.
5. Add salt to your liking. Let the gravy cook for a minute or so longer. The gravy will be ready to serve when it reaches a glossy appearance.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, stay safe, stay happy, and stay well!

Ellie

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