Thursday, November 24, 2011


A quick note while the turkey roasts.

I love Thanksgiving.  It's basically an excuse to cook as much as I can stand--and I can stand a lot of cooking.

But--and this may surprise you--I don't do anything ambitious or fancy for Thanksgiving.  To me, Thanksgiving isn't a gourmet occasion; it's a time for nostalgic food, well prepared.

So here's what's cooking:

Mom is bringing cheese, crackers, and a spinach dip she makes using a packet of Knorr vegetable soup.  I think the recipe is on the box.  We'll nibble on those beforehand, in case the turkey takes longer than I thought it would in the oven.  (Have you noticed that timing the roasting of a turkey is a distinctly iffy business?)

We're having turkey, of course, with stuffing.  I do cook the stuffing inside the bird, despite all the snobbery against it.  I'm sorry; it just tastes better when it's soaked up all those juices from inside the bird.  My stuffing is bread, onions, celery, and chestnuts with some seasoning.  OK, so I got adventuresome this year and threw in the grated rind of a lemon, the juice from said lemon, and two chopped Granny Smith apples.

In the past, I've brined the turkey, and it turns out well.  There are two drawbacks:  first, it's murder to find something large enough to hold the bird that will also fit in the refrigerator, and second, it can wreak havoc with the stuffing--all that salt water soaks into the stuffing, making it both too salty and rather soggy.  So when I heard of a different method that involves salting the bird but not using water, I thought it worth a try.  It was discussed on NPR last Sunday, and the article describing the method is here, in the latest issue of Saveur, a great magazine.

Along with the turkey and stuffing, there's gravy, of course (Miriam thinks this is absolutely crucial).  We're sauteeing Brussels sprouts in olive oil and garlic, we'll steam some butternut squash, and we'll have mashed potatoes.  Sue will probably make a salad with some nice Comice pears we found in the market.  (I love Comice pears.  This is the variety made famous by Harry & David; you can find smaller specimens that are just as tasty for a lot less money in many grocery stores these days.)

We have some students joining us.  Justine will bring some homemade cranberry sauce--otherwise, I would have made a compote of cranberries, apple, pear, orange, and pecans.

For dessert, there's pumpkin pie and chocolate cream pie.  The second strikes me as unusual, but another student, Melissa, adores this and for her it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.

Some years ago, we began inviting students to join us--I hated the idea of students who couldn't get home having no place to go on this family-oriented holiday.  Each time, I've asked them to tell me what dish says "Thanksgiving" to them, because to me, that's what it's all about:  that one dish that just takes you back to those Thanksgiving holidays of your dreams.  One student said it was creamed corn; she was astonished when I pulled out the corn, butter, and cream.  I think she was used to something from a can or a frozen packet.

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving with that one dish that is de rigueur.  I know we'll be enjoying ours--the turkey smells amazing!

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