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Buttermilk Clouds

My Pumpkin Cocotte

I get unusually excited over kitchen paraphernalia. It is a glitch in my personality. I love the way a perfectly designed kitchen utensil makes a mundane task a joy.

Enter the newest member of my kitchen gang. It is only the most beautiful of all pots imaginable. Calling it a mere pot seems a disservice.

That is why Francis Staub has named it a Cocotte. This is a 5 qt. enameled cast iron dutch oven. Inside is a black matte enamel finish. The lid handle is a brass stem. Each piece was designed by F. Staub and individually cast in a sand mold. Each mold is unique, and destroyed after each use, meaning that every piece is unique.

Cocotte [koh-KOT]
This French word for "casserole" refers to a round or oval casserole with a tight-fitting lid. It can be either individual-size or large and is traditionally made of earthenware. The phrase en cocotte means "cooked in a casserole".

How did it come about that this piece of culinary art is now sitting on my kitchen counter? Serendipity my friend, serendipity.

ser·en·dip·i·ty (sěr'ən-dĭp'ĭ-tē)
n. pl. ser·en·dip·i·ties

1. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
3. An instance of making such a discovery.

OK, I promise, that was my last definition today.

On with the story. Black Friday. My daughter and I braved the cold and the crowds and got right in the mix of it all. We were up bright and early...4AM. In line (yes, in line) at Best Buy by 4:30. This line spanned the entire front of the store, continued down the side, then wrapped around the corner and stretched the length of the back of the store. We got in line somewhere mid-back.

I could tell you all the gory details, but this post is centered on my beautiful Cocotte. By 9AM the Avenues Mall opened, so we, of course, were all about that. We had no direction or purpose in the Mall. We just walked and shopped. This plan of attack eventually led us to Williams-Sonoma.

We entered the store, much like we entered all other stores, full of excitement of the moment. We turned left, as we always do, unless there is a point to being in the store, in which case we go directly to the object of our attention. Upon turning left, we followed the aisle admiring all the beautiful items. I looked to the display on the right. At eye level was the most beautiful enameled cast iron pot I have ever seen. (Cue the heavenly music.) I peeked at it's underbelly to see the price. My jaw dropped, my heart sank and I said louder than I knew "This is too expensive! I'll never get one!!" It was $199.95.

Luckily, I did say it loud, and as luck would have it again, was overheard by a nearby saleswoman. She came immediately up to me and instead of hushing me and shooing me from the store, she told me with a huge smile and much gusto that they are on clearance (those magical words) at the back of the store.

I was excited to hear this, but I thought even on clearance, which normally is 50% off, I wouldn't be able to afford it. Nikki and I continued shopping in our usual fashion, not hurrying to the back. When we finally got to the back, and to the clearance table, there were no pots to be found. Not to my surprise.

We continued on. I don't know who saw the 3 boxes sitting under the coffee machine display bar, but we saw them. Just 3 boxes sitting on the floor beside a couple of bar stools. I glanced down and saw the price: Original price - $199.95 Clearance price - $49.95!! Immediately we pulled a bar stool on each side of the boxes, sat down and grinned liked idiots at each other. Nikki said she wanted to get it for me for Christmas. I almost passed out and fell off my bar stool.

Eventually another saleswoman asked us if we needed assistance. "Yes, they are on sale." "Yes, for $49.95." "Yes, they are the large pumpkin pot." "Yes, we will hold one for you behind the counter while you continue shopping."

Giddy describes me. We were giddy. We shopped for all of 30 seconds and couldn't concentrate, so we gave up the pretense and danced back to the cash register.

Thank you Nikki and Robert, for a most wonderful Christmas present!!!

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By: Sharon Pickering | 11/24/2007 at 7:47 AM | | If you want, you can leave a comment by clicking here.

Time for Turkey Math

This is a serious math, folks, but not yet taught in our educational system. (Do I need to start a movement?) All women and men that orchestrate a holiday dinner need to be fluent in turkey math. Some know it instinctively and use it without being aware of this ability. Others simply flounder and know that something is wrong when they and their hungry family are waiting two hours for the last dish to be brought out of the oven and the mashed potatoes have turned into a chilled mass.

So, what is it exactly? This is a timetable for preparation of a holiday dinner from expected time to eat backwards to the beginning of preparation. The turkey is the cornerstone which we build this timetable.

To do turkey math, a couple of things must be in place.

  • You need a solid menu...set in stone. Meaning, no "corn or baked squash casserole". It either has to be one or the other or both. No choice at the last minute.
  • You have to know the weight of your turkey for cooking time.
  • The time you want to sit down for dinner.

With that information in hand, you are ready to do turkey math. I will demonstrate how it works.

Menu (this happens to be our menu for this year...works out well for me, now my turkey math is taken care of):

The turkey weighs 14 pounds. It will have to bake @ 325 for 4 hours since it will be stuffed. We want to eat at 5:00. (hmmm...this is starting to sound an awful lot like high school algebra.) A turkey out of the oven should sit awhile to let it rest before carving. This works into my master plan.

Here is the turkey math action plan.

A week before:

  • Make the menu
  • Make a shopping list
  • Grocery shop for your holiday ingredients
  • Do turkey math

Three days before:

  • Remove turkey from freezer and place in refrigerator (thawing time: 24 hours per 5 pounds of turkey)

Two days before:

  • Make and freeze 2 pie crusts

The day before:

  • Make and refrigerate - Creamy Mashed Potatoes
  • Make and refrigerate - Butternut Squash Puree
  • Make and refrigerate - Watergate salad
  • Peel, chop and saute onions for dressing - refrigerate
  • Set bread out to dry

The night before:

  • Put turkey in brine

The day of:

  • 9:00 Make pumpkin pie and bake
  • 9:30 Make chocolate pie and bake
  • 10:00 pies should be out of oven and cooling
  • 10:00-11:00 take a break
  • 11:00 Make dressing
  • 11:30 Stuff turkey
  • 11:45 Put turkey in oven
  • 12:00 Set the table
  • 12:30 Clean up the kitchen
  • 1:00-2:30 have a glass of wine...nap...ponder the meaning of life
  • 2:30 Remove casseroles from refrigerator to come to room temp
  • 3:00 Assemble broccoli and rice casserole
  • 3:45 Remove turkey and keep covered
  • 3:45 Put all the casseroles in oven
  • 4:15 Make gravy
  • 4:30 Carve turkey
  • 4:45 Remove casseroles from oven
  • 4:45-4:59 Put all the yummy food on the table
  • 5:00 Eat!!

Good luck, all you little turkey mathematicians!


By: Sharon Pickering | 11/15/2007 at 10:26 AM | | If you want, you can leave a comment by clicking here.