stories & recipes by chef/healer stefanie kelly
the tribe, got-dammit. so necessary. my friend, cultural critic/band conductor/all around prolific genius in general, GT, says about the people closest to us, that although they are the loves of our lives, inspiration when there is none, even the blood that runs through the veins, that in real life & operations, we tend to only check on our niggas to assure ourselves that they are still alive every 6 months.
which is why i had to, by hook or by crook, end up back in NY for the evening of thanksgiving, post thanksgiving @ moms. yes, it's weird to travel on the holidays, & i always felt above the fray b/c my immediate family was always in the city. but since mom retired to a condo outside the city, this holiday i became one of them: black jacket wearing, cell phone checking, path train riding ON thanksgiving tourists, seemingly intent on climbing out of my skin, if that's what it took to get me back to NY faster. i was on a mission, you see: we were in flight to the house of my brother in the kitchen, to pull him back from the brink.
now, don't get me wrong. both are sexy for days, tall, powerful, & fine as a fuck. both love nashira beyond reason, & trade barbs on the subject whenever fate's misfortune puts nashira, & the two of them in a room together - gems from the sparring, you ask? some of my favorites:
when the frequency of the lothario's visits became an issue due to his incessant jet-setting, the good one, who shall now be known as F, seized the opportunity to cast aspersions when we all found ourselves @ one of my catering jobs - "i'm sorry," he once crowed @ nashira, so bitchily (& hilariously) "little mama - what did you say? you only see that scumbag once a year? that's okay. one of the things about santa claus, honey, is that when you grow up, you realize that santa was actually a CREEP, who never actually BOUGHT shit for you. don't you worry about that fraud, god-baby - what you don't know can't hurt you... ."
"& the less you know about that flea bitten beard, the better, gorgeous", lothario crooned @ nashira as he snatched her up, while @ me he sneered, "you couldn't have settled on a secondary god father - yes secondary & mediocre - other than fuckin jesus christ 3,000 years later?" & on & on...
in any case F, the saintly one, about whom no one i know has ever had a shitty thing to say, was in the dumps... the holidays are always hard, but never more than when one has lost a loved one. that's all i want to say about his personal trials, w/the point being, that i spoke to him a day before thanksgiving. & the convo was NOT right. in fact, nothing had ever been so wrong, as far as i was concerned.
a word about F's parties:
the only word to describe two of the most important social events of the year: thanksgiving, & F's birthday party. thanksgiving has historically meant, hook or crook, hell or high water, a sweet, sensuous, prolly 500 person shindig wherein all roads meet. if you haven't seen someone you really love all year & are desperate to, you will see them @ F's b-day jam, & if not there, then @ the thanksgiving ting - yes. ting, no 'H'. b/c they are off the hook. usually, F & i will handle the food @ the thanksgiving one. but last year, i'd dropped the ball big time, showing up @ his house @ like 10pm, which, as my grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl the kundalini-enchanting/diva/siren who made it her mission to do the re-con w/me chided, is pretty much like not showing up @ all on thanksgiving. & she is so right.
something in me suspected that i might have to do some convincing to get homeboy back on board. but no one was prepared for his dull lifeless voice on the other end of the phone talkin 'bout, "it just doesn't matter. nothing is the same. y'all can do whatever. i might be in afghanistan for the holidays this year. something really exotic."
fuck. this was not a game.
i put a call in to the siren. "i NEED your help. i think F is really planning on sitting in a semi-dark room, studying that crack on the wall - you know which one - on THANKSGIVING..."
"oh NO. that is NOT going to work. you keep stalking him. i'll get on it, too. we don't have much time." & we really didn't especially since i had been inviting people to his crib all month. i should mention here that the siren is also a game raising producer par exellence (she produces for real, but also produced my baby shower!!!). & she had officially shifted into that mode.
producer or not, as a diva, she is sometimes almost as challenged around timeliness (although no one on earth could really be THAT bad - my idea of officially late is if i leave @ the same time i am supposed to BE there) as i am.
which is why, on thanksgiving, after having finally gotten a grudging, albeit heroically hard-won "y'all can come if y'all want to" from homeboy, we were more shocked than anyone to find ourselves early to Fairway, & even had time to stage a mini photo shoot (as proof/celebration) before F arrived, uncharacteristically tardy to the party.
it was a blizzard of activity, since we got there one hour before fairway's scheduled holiday closing. how humiliating!!! - we even came across a normal family, who, they informed us, had already eaten dinner, & were out to simply shop for the weekend, but still, were completely supportive of our insane efforts - "'bring it!!!" exhorted the wife in front of her toddler - "you may be eating @ midnight, but fuck it!" & yet, from the moment i got into NY 4 min early, w/barely enough $$$ to accomplish a damned thing ($80), despite mercury retrograde, i knew that it would be a charmed evening. & although F started out mad listless, intoning in a doomsday-ish way shortly after arrival that although he was contributing, that he was not cooking, i could see a bit of mirth tugging @ the corners of his mouth. for F & i, it was impossible to be in fairway w/out falling in love w/life all over again. by the time we had worked out our budget, (deciding that since we each had 1/3 of the money we would do $75 on meats, $75 on veg, & $75 on incidentals,) & started fondling $30 worth of teensy racks of lamb, paralysed w/indecision, F showed us a peek of the nigga i knew remained, & shut the game down forever. "bitches, fall back," his grin screeched, as he snatched up our pathetic (& did i mention miniscule???) rack of lamb & thwopped a ginormous & truly lovely filet mignon into the cart. this was the moment of realization that F, & his cock, ("b/c wasn't it just so PHALLIC? blam!!! - he may as well have just tossed his dick into the cart, yo!" i squealed later on, only to get shut down by the siren, who was mortified on our cabbie's behalf) were back in the mix.
we were off. back to F's house where we knew we had to boogie if we wanted to throw dinner on the table before midnight.
luckily, the siren proved to be not only an amazing prep-onista, but as well, the best papparrazzi in town, alternating between chopping vegetables, & shooting really magical pics of all of our guests (& some of the best pics of my food ever in life!!! - see above & below) as they came in. these are some of the folks i hold dearest to my heart, but also some of the peeps that i see so much less than people who are not as important to me. so it was about raising F's flagging spirits. but, that night, i realized, it was also about the healing of each of our individual souls.
"why do you think it went SO well?" the siren quizzed me the next day. i thought back to F's changing mood, to the state he was in when we arrived, to the last sounds i heard upon leaving his joint @ 3AM the next morning: his cackling laughter, wafting into the hallway behind us, good wishes till the next gathering; the wind @ our backs...
"i think it's b/c we are all givers, & fly-assed motherfuckers, creative, but also gentle, & the world doesn't always know how to treat us. so when we get together, & can give all of that to each other, it means a lot."
not exactly words of wisdom, but you get my drift, right?
we were lucky enough to get a lovely kosher 10 pounder:
pre heat the oven to 425
10# turkey pref. free range or kosher
1 head garlic pureed
1 head garlic, whole
1 whole shallot
remove giblets & make stock w/them, 1 onion, @ least 3 stalks celery, 1 carrot, thyme, rosemary & 2 quarts water)
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
butter sliced thin & slid between the meat & skin of the bird along w/the garlic puree.
load the cavity w/the whole head of garlic, the herbs & the lemon.
the packaging said 3 hours, 20 min, but this method will get you to 2 & 1/2 hrs.
start the bird on its breast, let it rip for 30 min. then turn the oven down to 375. *flip the bird (lmbao!!!) after 1 hour & turn the oven down to 325, then baste for that last hour. after 45 min, move the leg around in the socket. if it's loose, well then your *goose, i mean turkey, is cooked.
*sorry - but not really - about the bad puns, y'all.
the drippings from the turkey, (surprisingly more than 2 cups, w/the 10 pounder)
perhaps 1 - 2 cups turkey stock
flour, about 1 cup
thyme & rosemary, & sage, also parsley if it's hanging around
skim the fat from the top of the gravy drippings, about 3 TBSP. add to this 1 TBPS butter. stir & fry the flour in this till runny & toasted about 5 - 7 min on med - high heat, then add the drippings, & if necessary, 1 - 2 cups of your simmering stock. cook till reduced, from 20 - 30 min.
1 whole wheat baguette
sage, fresh, chopped 1/2 - 1 whole bunch
toss all together & bake @ 375 till golden brown then add
3 - 6 turkey or chicken sausages, removed from casings, & sauteed to light brown doused w/
3 cups turkey stock
& 2 tbsp cold butter
then bake once more, @ 375 till all liquid is absorbed, & the top of stuffing is light brown 35 - 40 min.
Freedom Greens: (vegetarian, pure brilliance - intead of any smoked meat, sesame oil - the BOMB, & not my invention)
4 bunches collards, washed 2X, by immersing them into a sink full of ice-cold water, then pulling them out, & once more, refilling the sink, & torn roughly, removing most stems & discarding
8 - 10 TBPS sliced garlic
2 shallots, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1 red pepper diced
1 orange or yellow pepper diced
2 jalapenos diced
1 or more kitchen spoons soy sauce
1 kitchen spoon sesame oil
a touch lem j
2 TBSP vinegar preferably live apple cider
1 bay leaf
fresh thyme to taste
saute all veg - garlic, too, except collards when fragrance starts to come off the garlic, & the oil is popping hot again, add the collards, & all remaining liquid. simmer to preferred doneness.
Macaroni & Cheese:
1 lb macaroni (or penne in this case)
1/2 lb. ricotta
a four cheese mix - asiago, parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar about a pound plus 1/2 lb cheddar, all grated
1/2 lb butter
1/2 cup flour, 8 oz heavy cream, 8 or more oz milk
1 doz eggs
while boiling pasta - to al dente - in copious, salted water, make the bechamel:
melt the butter w/the thyme. add the flour, & stir continuously till light brown uniformly. add milk & cream,& whisk, stovetop, till smooth.toss the pasta in this mixture, then add 3/4 of the grated cheese, then the eggs - this is important, order, b/c you don't want the eggs to scramble. sprinkle the rest of the cheese, then breadcrumbs on top. bake @ 375 for 1 - 1 & 1/2 hrs.
8 large idahos - make an x on either end w/a knife, not too deep. then boil. when cool, skins will slip right off.
20 cloves roast garlic (honestly, i was in a time crunch, & christopher ranch does a bangin pre-packaged roast garlic - otherwise, roast 20 cloves of garlic in a 375 degree oven till golden brown, around 45 min.)
10 oz heavy cream (- do i have to mention, pref. grass fed here? really?)
10 oz milk (see above)
sea salt & pepper to taste
1/2 pound butter
simmer milk & cream w/the roast garlic till garlic mostly dissolves, about 45 min. then puree in a blender or w/a wand blender. mash w/hot cream garlic mixture. whisk in butter, salt & pepper. - it's once a year for goddesses' sake. stop bitchin.
there's a story within Like Water For Chocolate, which talks of the main character, losing her mind w/grief, along w/the ability to talk. she's not being a bitch she just, can't talk. or cook. she spends months gazing @ her hands, until an old friend comes over to loosen her tongue w/a traditional beef stew.
welp, friends, it only took a really, REALLY long filet mignon to resuscitate F, & this is what he did w/it:
mixed it w/copious sliced garlic, rosemary, & a mysterious ethiopian spice, & let it marinate for about an hour. he then sliced it into perfect rounds of about a 2-inch thickness, & seared each one to rare, about 5 - 7 min each, then let the meat rest about 15 min before serving.
if you really want to please the kitchen goddess, you then feed the slices to your good, foul mouthed friend/kitchen homie, after you have both collapsed from exhaustion.
happy whole holiday season, y'all, & thank you for your time!