Happy Birthday Marie Duplessis

camellias

Reprinted from The Writers’ Almanac:

It’s the birthday of French courtesan Marie Duplessis, born Alphonsine Plessis in Normandy (1824). She was a beautiful young woman: petite, dark-haired, and slim. She was working as a laundress at the age of 13 when her father decided that prostitution paid better. He sent her to live with a rich and elderly bachelor in exchange for cash. After a year, she went to live with cousins in Paris. For a time, she was kept by a restaurant owner, who gave her a place to live in exchange for her favors. It wasn’t long before she set her sights higher. She learned to read and write, and she studied a wide variety of subjects so that she could hold her own in any social situation. She started appearing at places where the rich and powerful were likely to be, and she attracted lots of attention.

She suspected she had tuberculosis when she developed a cough that only got worse. She was treated with everything from spa cures to strychnine to hypnotism. And through it all, she kept dressing up and holding salons and going to the opera. Having grown up in poverty, she couldn’t get enough of luxury. Noblemen from all over Europe would call on her whenever they were in Paris, and they brought her expensive trinkets, which she sometimes pawned to support herself between lovers.

She began an affair with Alexandre Dumas the younger when they were both 20 years old. He was a struggling writer, and he wasn’t able to give her lavish gifts like her other lovers. He kept her with him out in the country for a while, for the sake of her health, but she missed the lively Paris scene and went back to the city after a year. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore, and broke it off with her, writing in a letter, “I am neither rich enough to love you as I could wish nor poor enough to be loved as you wish.”

Duplessis never answered Dumas’s letter. She was too ill, and she had begun an affair with the composer and pianist Franz Liszt. She wanted Liszt to bring her along on his concert tour, but he was afraid he would catch tuberculosis from her, so he left her behind. He promised to take her to Turkey one day, but he never saw her again. After she died at the age of 23, Liszt regretted not coming to her bedside, and said: “She had a great deal of heart, a great liveliness of spirit and I consider her unique of her kind. […] She was the most complete incarnation of womankind that has ever existed.”

Four months after Duplessis’s death, Dumas published his novel The Lady of the Camellias (1848). It’s the story of a courtesan named Marguerite Gautier, based on Duplessis. She breaks the heart of her lover — Armand Duval — to spare him from ruin. Dumas wrote it in four weeks. It was later made into a play, which in turn inspired Verdi’s opera La Traviata (1853).

Best Thanksgiving Leftovers – Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

In England a popular short joke regarding shepherd’s pie is a recipe which starts like this: “to make shepherd’s pie, do the following — get two shepherds and mince them”.

This recipe is shepherd-free…

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 teaspoons olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onions

2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)

1 tablespoon honey

1/8 teaspoon crushed red peppers

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon minced garlic

4 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, wiped clean, and sliced

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped or shredded roast turkey (white and/or dark meat)

1 1/4 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth

1/2 cup green peas

4 cups leftover mashed potatoes or Basic Mashed Potatoes, recipe follows

3/4 cup grated sharp or medium Cheddar

Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square or 2.2 quart baking dish with the butter and set aside.

In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, red peppers, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the flour and cook, stirring, until thick, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the meat and stir well to combine. Gradually add the stock, honey, and then the peas, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Carefully transfer to the prepared dish and spoon the potatoes over the meat mixture, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake until the cheese is bubbly and the potatoes are crisp around the edges, 22 to 25 minutes.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Basic Mashed Potatoes:

2 pounds potatoes, peeled, quartered, cut into 1-inch wedges

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a medium, heavy saucepan with enough salted water to cover by 1-inch. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 25 minutes.

Drain in a colander and return to the saucepan. Over medium-low heat, cook the potatoes for 1 minute to dry. Add the milk, butter, cream, honey, salt and pepper and mash until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Perfect Herbed Honey Oyster Dressing

 

Stuffing, also called dressing, is a seasoned mix of vegetables and starches and sometimes meat and seafood (such as oysters) that are cooked within the body cavity of an animal that is then served alongside the animal usually as an ancillary course.

Various kinds of stuffing go as far back as the Roman Empire, where recipes appear in De re Coquinaria, a collection found within a kitchen anthology called Apicius that chronicles thousands of Roman dishes. In De re Coquinaria, chicken, rabbit, pork and dormouse stuffings are made available. While some scholars argue that because of the language used in Apicius, which is closer in ways to Vulgar than Classical Latin, that many of the recipes contained within it were not cooked in Rome, there are long traditions and other historical references that corroborate the wide use of stuffing in Ancient Italy.

Stuffing in America is not uncommon in restaurants but is not regularly utilized in most households. Rather, it is traditionally served during the Thanksgiving holiday. 

This is the perfect Thanksgiving stuffing/dressing!

Ingredients

2 loaves Italian or French bread (1 lb total), cut into 3/4-inch cubes (12 cups)

1/2 lb sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (if needed)

2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme, crumbled

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 2 teaspoons dried sage, crumbled

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

18 oysters, shucked, drained, and chopped (3/4 cup)

2 1/4 cups turkey giblet stock or low-sodium chicken broth

 Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Spread bread cubes in 2 shallow baking pans and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until golden, 25 to 30 minutes total. Cool bread in pans on racks, then transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet.

If bacon renders less than 1/4 cup fat, add enough oil to skillet to total 1/4 cup fat. Cook onions, celery, thyme, sage, garlic, salt, and pepper in fat in skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with bread cubes, then stir in bacon, honey, parsley, butter, and oysters. Drizzle with stock, then season with salt and pepper and toss well.

Transfer stuffing to a buttered 3- to 3 1/2-quart shallow baking dish. Bake, covered, in middle of oven 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until browned, about 30 minutes more.

Honey Roasted Turkey

This is an English recipe that I love! The honey butter glaze gives the skin a crispy, tasty flavor. Be sure to use a smaller turkey for best results.

Ingredients

1 (10 pound) whole turkey – thawed, neck and giblets removed

1 lemon, cut in half

salt and black pepper to taste

1 small apple, peeled

1 small onion, peeled

1 small potato, peeled

3 ounces butter

6 ounces honey

1 cup chicken stock

Directions

Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels. Rub the cut lemon halves lightly over the skin of the turkey. Season inside and out with salt and pepper to taste. Place the lemon halves, apple, onion, and potato into the cavity of the turkey. Place into a close-fitting roasting pan.

Stir the butter and honey together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is evenly blended. Spoon the honey mixture over the turkey, coating the entire outer surface. Allow to stand 30 minutes, reapplying the honey mixture several times.

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Bake the turkey in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, basting two or three times with the drippings and honey mixture. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and cook 30 minutes more, basting frequently. Use a cup of chicken stock to keep the pan juices from drying out.

Cover the turkey with aluminum foil, and continue roasting until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, 1 1/2 to 2 hours longer. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove the foil during the last 15 minutes and baste one last time.

Remove the turkey from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and allow to rest in a warm area 15 minutes before slicing.

Awesome Turkey Burgers

The secret ingredient is honey!

  • 1 1/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 hamburger buns, split
  • 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  • 1 carrot, coarsely grated
  • 1 small red onion, cut into rings
  • 1 tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard

Mix together turkey, onion, bell pepper, garlic, cilantro, oregano,honey, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Form into 4 (4 1/2-inch-wide) patties.

Heat a large griddle or 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until hot, then lightly toast buns.

Oil griddle, then cook patties, turning once, about 10 minutes total or until done through. Transfer to buns.

Mix together cabbage, carrot, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then cook, turning occasionally, until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Divide among burgers.

Oil griddle again, then sear onion and tomato, turning once, until slightly charred, about 2 minutes total. Divide among burgers.

Stir together ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard, then top burgers with sauce.