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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Wednesday, November 21, 2007
    The Not Medical Post (Warning: Recipes Ahead)

    Sigh. I saw this interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today that I was going to blog about, regarding the Family Medical Leave Act and how employers/employees/the Feds are reacting to it. It's an interesting subject to me because I have to fill those crappy forms out for patients all the time. Not without reason; sometimes people, or their parents or their kids, simply need time off for chronic or recurring health problems. But apparently the Act as it stands is subject to abuse by patients (big surprise: Do you know how many times I have to explain to people that just because sick time is there, you aren't entitled to it if you aren't sick?)

    But the point is, I left the WSJ article at work. So no blog subject there. You will just have to wait to hear me pontificate about FMLA, which you know you will, because this is NaBloPoMo and I need a damn subject to write about, okay?

    So we will default to my favorite other subject, which would be food, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving so I feel entitled and even forgiven for writing about this sort of thing. Somewhere out there is a reader desperately looking for a side dish or appetizer to serve during the 2007 holiday season which will knock people's socks off, and this is your lucky day because I got your recipes right here. Try the Celery Casserole, or you could try this awesome Artichoke Dip which I stole from Simply Recipes.

    Here you go:

    *Two cans (12-14 oz each) of artichoke hearts in water (not marinade)
    *1 cup mayonnaise (not salad dressing; you could maybe use low fat mayo but dude, it's a holiday.)
    *2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
    *two pressed or minced cloves garlic, or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    *couple handfuls shredded mozzarella

    Drain and chop artichoke hearts and combine with other ingredients. Pack into pretty microwaveable dish and nuke up to 5 minutes, stopping to stir if needed. Serve with water crackers or endive leaves or chips. It's easy, can be done in advance, and people always hoover it up (including V.'s 7 year old, who is not fond of artichokes as a general thing).

    Then we have Creamed Pearl Onions. I was press-ganged into making these by V., since I am having dinner at her place and this is one of those nostalgic dishes for her (and rightly so; everyone has their favorite holiday side dish. I will try to share a few more of mine before the end of the year). Anyway, she asked me to bring these onions because cream sauce is not her thing. I was happy to give it a go because last year I went to my brother's and his mother-in-law made excellent creamed onions.

    Pearl Onions: These are, essentially, baby onions (one stage past what are variously known as spring onions, scallions, or green onions, but a miniature version of what is sold in grocery stores in the mesh bag as Onions).

    This is what you do with them. Get your pearl onions (which will cost you a bloody fortune, by the way... easily more than a bag of REGULAR onions) and put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, let sit for one minute and then drain and peel. The peeling is fun as the little onions will pop right out of their skins like marbles. If you are lucky they will require no further cooking. (Try skewering them with a toothpick or sharp knife to check.) Update - they probably will need more cooking, but my recipe said up to 20 minutes, which is clearly too much. Try 7 to 8 minutes in a steamer.

    Then you make your cream sauce. I think these proportions will work: 1 to 2 T. butter, 1 to 2 T. flour, 1 cup milk or half and half, tad salt and white pepper. You can try freshening it with a small squirt of lemon juice or a dusting of nutmeg (you can use nutmeg with onions, right? Well, I guess we'll find out) but try to keep it simple.

    Melt the butter over low heat, stir flour in, let cook for a minute or so and then slowly whisk in the milk. Some recipes say you should heat the milk, but I don't think you have to... it does help if it's room temp or warm though. So measure out the milk and let it sit before you start to blanch the onions and you should be fine. I guess I should have told you this back at the start of the recipe. Oh well, that's why cooks say always read the recipe through first.

    Anyway, sauce is made, throw in the onions, let heat for a couple minutes if you have reason to think the onions need a little help. Or, put the onions and sauce in a casserole dish and top with buttered bread crumbs, then throw in the oven at 350 to 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbling.

    Among these three I think you, the well-meaning guest, should be completely prepared. If asked tell your host it's an old family recipe... I always do.




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