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My ideal Thanksgiving feast

November 10, 2009

The boy and I are going to Ohio to visit my grandparents and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins for Thanksgiving. So I won’t be cooking. But since Thanksgiving is such a great food holiday, I thought I’d give my thoughts and list some recipes for my ideal Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving is a strange holiday, food-wise. It is both comfortingly traditional and yet strangely unlike what most Americans normally eat during the rest of the year. It is a time of coming together with family and friends, of cooking special dishes and family recipes. And it is not generally a time of trying new things.

My ideal Thanksgiving would be with family and friends, a huge gathering, yet intimate. Someplace with long wooden tables and plenty of seating and a fireplace and big paned windows looking to the frosty air outside. I’d use the good dishes, but I think the special brown turkey patterned plates and amber glassware are a little overkill. And the food? Oh! The food!

Until this year, I will have spent nearly all of my Thanksgivings at my paternal grandparents’ (excepting the last two years). Aunt Karen would make amazing twice-baked mashed potatoes with plenty of cream cheese and butter. Grandma would make pumpkin AND pecan pie (she hilariously thought that pecan pie was a tradition in my mom’s family when she and my dad first got married, it’s not, but I love it anyway!) in addition to buttery rolls and homemade bread. Grandpa would roast/grill/fry the turkey (depending on the year). Alas, there were also canned yams baked with marshmallows on top, green bean casserole made with canned green beans and cream of mushroom soup, “sea foam” salad (lime jello, canned pears, and cool whip all whipped together and set in a nice mold), stovetop stuffing (but baked in the turkey cavity) and cranberry sauce out of a can. So here are some old favorites and some new takes on traditional dishes:

Aunt Karen’s Mashed Potatoes – Peeled & boiled potatoes whipped with cream cheese, butter, and salt, then transfered to a baking dish, topped with more butter, and baked until the top is golden brown. Amazingly dense and creamy and delicious. Definitely no butter needed!

Vanessa’s Dinner Rolls – I totally stole this recipe from her and made these rolls last Thanksgiving (which was at my parents’ house). They are the boy’s absolute favorite.

Cranberry Pomegranate Salad – I invented this recipe last Thanksgiving. I used two bags of whole fresh cranberries, one apple, two navel oranges, some ground ginger, and brown sugar simmered all together until the cranberries burst. Then, when it was cooled, I added the pomegranate seeds from one whole pomegranate. The pectin in the apple (which you can’t taste, btw) thickens the sauce/salad up a bit, the orange adds a little acid, and the pomegranates add a fresh sweetness. Still tastes like cranberries, but better!

Here’s the recipe if you really need it:

2 bags (2 lbs) whole fresh cranberries washed and sorted
1 apple, finely chopped (skin on!)
2 navel oranges, peeled and roughly chopped (if you wanted extra orange flavor, you could zest them and add that, too!)
1/2 cup brown sugar (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or to taste)
1 large pomegranate, peeled and seeds washed and sorted (if you peel and remove seeds into a bowl of cold water, the bad seeds and white pith will float and the good seeds will sink!)

Cook cranberries, apple, and oranges with a few tablespoons of water to start cooking process until cranberries have burst and the sauce is thick. Add sugar and ginger to taste. Remove from heat and cool. When room temperature, mix in pomegranate seeds. Chill and serve!

Grandma Ruby’s Buttered Turkey – She basically rubs it in and out with butter and salt. So tender, so juicy, SO GOOD!

Mustard Green Beans – I don’t love green bean salad, but I love fresh green beans, so I’d steam those then toss them in a dijon mustard/olive oil/white wine vinegar sauce while still hot. Yum!

Here’s my ratio/recipe for the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth and emulsified. Pour over hot green beans and toss to coat.

Grandma Eunice’s Pecan Pie – She’s not Southern, but for some reason this is always my favorite pie. Maybe it’s the pecans she sometimes gets from her sister in California!

Sonja’s German Apple Pie – Essentially a slab pie. Haven’t tried it yet, but it looks amazing! (Alas, I don’t know Sonja, just that her recipe looks really good!)

Pumpkin Pie – Recipe on the back of the Libbey’s can plus Joy the Baker’s no-roll pie crust = amazing!

Mom’s Pecan Maple Sweet Potatoes – Forget marshmallows, my mom just peels and cuts the sweet potatoes up into chunks, then tosses in maple syrup and chopped pecans and bakes. So good!

Vanessa’s Stuffing – She uses real torn bread, apples, onions, and sage. I don’t even like stuffing and I couldn’t stop eating this stuff!

I don’t think I’m forgetting anything, am I? Relish tray, of course (olives, pickles, etc.), that’s a tradition in my family. Oooh! Maybe some corn or cornbread? Other than that (yes, there are three pies in that list), I think that’s it!

What do you think? Am I missing anything? How do you do Thanksgiving?

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