There are tons of pumpkin pie recipes, and in November all of the food shows and magazines are filled with both classic and innovative recipes. I think I’ve tried all of them – most started with canned pumpkin, and then the ingredients vary - some use heavy cream, others swear by evaporated milk, some are heavily spiced with cinnamon and cloves.
I love pumpkin pie, but have never found what I would call the BEST pumpkin pie until recently. I was watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (the leader in test perfected recipes) called “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”. The ingredients and the method were quite original and I couldn’t wait to try it.
There are a few extra steps, but well worth it. If you don’t want to make your own crust, you can use a Pillsbury Ready Made crust. Feel free to alter the amount of cinnamon (I used Penzey's Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon Click here for Penzey's), but the fresh ginger is key to the pie’s flavor.
It would not be a holiday without this dish on our table. It takes a bit of time, but like all good things it is worth it.
Hot Water Cornbread + Cornbread Dressing/Stuffing From Old-time Tennessee
Hot Water Corn Bread
4 Cups Martha White Plain Enriched White Corn Meal
Heat Oven to 400ºF.
Add dry ingredients to Boiling Water and Bacon Drippings. Stir until all Bacon Drippings are melted. Mix well.
Use more Bacon Drippings or Crisco shortening to grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet. Some folks add a spoon of sugar and a cup of flour and others preheat the skillet for a few minutes, but according to Fannie Karnes Miller, no need to do any of that.
Pour in mixture and bake for 28 - 30 Minutes until lightly brown.
Set aside and let cool for at least 15 Minutes. The center should be a bit moist.
Remember this is not to be stuffed into the bird, but served separately... a dressing. And note, while cooking the turkey spoon off a half cup of the juice for the Stuffing.
My grandfather and several of my great uncles had a fur store in N.Y. It was called Windsor Furs (to indicate, one can only guess, a regal presence previously unknown to 14th Street and 7th Avenue). Uncle Simon and Uncle Harry kept Windsor Furs well into their 90’s. And I would like to tell you all the funny, memorable stories I know about them and the shop. But the thing that springs to mind at this moment is their business card.
“Windsor Furs - Shop Here! Soon you will know the reason why.”
You certainly don’t need me to tell you that the Big Food Holiday is next week. Everywhere you turn you see tips, tricks and ideas for Thanksgiving so you’ll understand me when I say that I’m going to join the chorus!
What are your plans? I’m giddy just thinking about our week: my parents fly in Monday, my sister joins us Tuesday, and we’ll all be celebrating a giant Thanksgiving meal here at our home. Adam will do the bird, I’ll be in charge of music, decor and the hosting duties, while we’ll be joined with our friends, neighbors and extended family.
We will toast a guest’s birthday, share what we’re thankful for, and wish my parents a 50th wedding anniversary all at the same time! While the exact anniversary isn’t until the end of December, I’d be a fool to not take the time to wish my loving folks the best of celebrations a bit early. When you make it to 50 Years you almost deserve to have those around you toast you many times over!
It’s been our Thanksgiving tradition for twenty years. The men do the cooking. The women get the day off.
I am not a cook. I am a chopstick in a world of forks. I look at my hands and see ten thumbs. And most of the other guys have culinary skills no better than mine. In fact, one guy thought the TV on the kitchen counter was a microwave and tried to put his dish in it.
Yet, somehow, each year, the meal turns out spectacular.
The tradition began in 1987 when breakups and other untimely events left four of us with no choice but to make Thanksgiving dinner ourselves.
The result could only be described as a miracle. When the Red Sea parts, you don’t ask how. You just keep walking. And when we got to the other side, we decided to tempt fate and do it again.
When friends heard about our plans for a sequel, they had a knee-jerk reaction usually reserved for lemmings. They wanted in. That’s when the original four chefs, “the founding fathers”, as we’re now known, came up with a set of rules.
Every family has their traditions. The things that make the holidays particularly memorable to them. When it comes to Thanksgiving those traditions almost always revolve around food. What graces the table is just as important as who sits around it. While some people may choose to experiment from year to year some things just aren't allowed to change. Usually it's a side dish. Sometime it's not very healthy or even classy, but it must be made.
In the case of my family it's Jell-O Salad. It has graced our holiday table for as long as I can remember. I have tried to trace the origin as it is distinctly American and probably a recipe that came from the company itself. It certainly is not something my very Polish grandmother would have created on her own. She was an expert baker and this is just too pedestrian for her talents. The closest version I came to finding online had it published in 2000. That's about 30 years too late. That version also included walnuts, which just sounds gross. They would totally mess up the the smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the dish.
I can only imagine she started making it to placate the unrefined palates of her four young grandchildren. I mean, who would ever pass up Strawberry Jell-O with bananas. It seemed more like a dessert than a side dish and added a little sweetness and color to our plates. Even when we were older we had her continue to make it, because it just wasn't the holidays without it.
I was sitting with my husband in our sorry little kitchen. It’s small. Totally old school with a swinging hinged door that closes you in. No modern open floor plan where the kitchen blends into the family room. I love our little 1700-square foot Spanish Bungalow, but I’m never sure it’s where he feels most at home -- but that’s a whole other story that I may, or may not, get back to.
This night, I had thrown together a meal. I hate cooking. It’s not something I’m that great at. It’s always a struggle. And lately, I have gotten even lazier than the naturally lazy person I was when we had kids at home. So, I might make a “salad” of pre-washed lettuce that I throw in a bowl, and my husband will make fun of the little effort that went into it. I’ll serve it with a large potato that we share -- and he will inform me that for now we can still afford two potatoes – though with retirement looming, we may soon have to cut back to one.
He was deep in thought. We have five kids. We often worry about one or another or sometimes all, so I thought he must be brooding about a child. I love to communicate. I’m a woman. A communicator. So I asked.
“What are you thinking about?”
“My new coffeemaker.”
“Seriously? You’re that deep in thought about your COFFEEMAKER?”
So you're preparing for Thanksgiving and you’re already irritable just thinking about the cooking tasks that lie ahead of you. You wish that it was your sister-in-law who was the one cooking, as usual, but she is bailing this year and going to Paris (where they have lousy pumpkin pie, by the way).
So there you are with the piles of sweet potatoes and cranberries, getting crabbier by the minute. Then you find out that two of your guests are non-dairy and two are gluten-free.
Before you have a nervous breakdown, try this dessert. It’s so easy you can make it plus a pie (for those who are gluten-gobblers and live for butterfat) and still not lose your mind.
Also, you will like it–it’s delicious, especially with a little whipped cream which your dairy-phones won’t like, but, hey, let ‘em eat cake.
I decided I wanted to try out some new Thanksgiving side dishes, it’s always fun to mix new tastes with old favorites.
Turnips and parsnips are not a taste I grew up with. It kind of surprises me as I was exposed to all kinds of different foods, heavy with Eastern European influence (not that the turnip or parsnip originated from that part of the world). However, root vegetables were a staple in my childhood household, but I don’t remember turnips and parsnips being part of the repertoire.
Fast forward into adult life, my husband introduced me to what is now one of my favorite tastes, parsnips. Have you ever had parsnips mashed up like potatoes with butter and garlic? Or added them to soup? They are mild and sweet, and were used as a sweetener before the arrival in Europe of cane sugar. They mimic the taste of a roasted carrot, but with more complexity. I also add them to stews for a layer of unsuspected flavor.
For me, eating turnips was just a natural progression from parsnips. They are however very different in flavor from other root vegetables, more like a peppery radish with a bitter edge. Very distinct in taste but amazing when roasted, which brings on a milder flavor.
Thanksgiving isn't complete without some sort of sweet potato dish. There's the traditional marshmallow-topped sweet potato side dish or the classic dessert of sweet potato pie. Sweet potatoes are almost magical when cooked or baked. Their bright orange flesh turns soft and almost creamy. Roasting them heightens their natural sweetness even more. Many holiday recipes further improve upon the sweetness by adding brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup. With the holiday only one week away, it's time to start planning. I'll be making a few new recipes to add to my repertoire.
Sweet and savory flavors are the basis of many classic Thanksgiving recipes. This side dish strays from the typical in favor of something a bit more gourmet and savory. Roasted sweet potatoes are mashed with butter, cream, and maple syrup and then spread in a gratin dish. The mashed sweet potatoes are then topped with fluffy panko breadcrumbs, fresh sage, and chopped walnuts. It's then drizzled with melted butter and broiled, turning the top golden and crunchy. It's a side dish that's sure to please both sweet potato traditionalists and those looking for a new take on a holiday favorite.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm truly an American. I mean, I have never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, I have never eaten at Taco Bell, and despite its nearly iconic status in American cuisine, I cannot abide green bean casserole. You know the one – green beans with cream of mushroom soup, topped with crispy fried onions.
Growing up, I never knew what a casserole was; my mom (and grandmother) never made them. After hearing about green bean casserole from friends at school, I felt like I was missing out – I told my mom, "It has fried onions on top! It's like green beans with Funyuns!" The next day she bought the ingredients for green bean casserole; I couldn't have been happier.
Unfortunately, she made the green bean casserole in front of my grandmother, Nan. I still remember her look of shock when my mom opened the can of fried onions. "Onions in a can? Who ever heard of such a thing? And who puts soup on string beans?" she said, "Bah, that's American food." I reminded her, "Nan, we are American." "Yeah," she replied, "but we cook Italian."
Despite Nan's protests, I got my green bean casserole. I was giddy with anticipation. Unfortunately, with the first bite, my giddiness ended. Green bean casserole was nothing more than mushy green beans topped with salty soup and greasy onions.
Thanksgiving is my favorite national holiday. It is not focused around the obligatory (bad) gift, it’s secular, and the abundance of flavors, color, and creativity in the food and recipes cannot be beat.
I started creating my Thanksgiving menu over 25 years ago, in a 2 bedroom duplex with a very small kitchen. The size of my kitchen didn’t matter, nor did the fact that I only had one oven.
I was organized, made lists, prepped and did as much as I could in advance. My pumpkin soup and this cranberry sauce remain the two constants on my holiday table. Today, I may have a slightly larger kitchen, two ovens, an extra fridge, but the joy of this holiday remains the same.
No matter what you say, my mother made the best Thanksgiving. It was not at noon or at four; we ate at dinner time when it was dark. Stuffing was my favorite part and still is unless you make creamed onions. When it's my assignment I use this recipe. One reason it doesn't taste quite like hers is that I don't have old bread. She calls it turkey stuffing but that can't be right because she never made turkey, only capon. My father did not eat turkey and nobody knew from brine.
Esther Kaufman's Long Island Simple Stuffing: 8 cups stale white bread cubed, no crusts; 1 cup minced onion, 1 tablespoon salt, ½ cup butter, 1 cup diced celery with leaves; parsley, sage, thyme and pepper. Dry out the bread at 325°F but don't let it brown. Cook the onion in butter, add the seasonings. Add the celery, cook 3-5 minutes. Pour over the bread, mixing well, and stuff the bird. It was perfectly okay to stuff . . . then (after seat belts and before helmets were fitted at birth).
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