No luscious lickable photos, no backstory, no cozy memories of Thanksgivings past or harried tales of the frantic buildup toward the one to come. All I offer you at the moment are some of my favorite recipes, developed over years of family Thanksgivings. I'm planning to use them myself if I ever finish work, go shopping and actually get this meal on Thursday's table. In other words, recipes now, stories to come later. I just thought that if anyone out there is still trolling for ideas, these might be of use.
One recipe of your favorite cornbread, baked, chunked and allowed to dry out for a day or two
1 lb. sausage, removed from its casings
2 Tbsp. butter and/or olive oil or mixed
2 large onions, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
6 cups of herbed bread stuffing (I use Pepperidge Farm)
2 large handfuls of chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. minced fresh sage if you have it; if not, 1 tsp. dried
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)
2 flavorful tart-sweet apples (Macouns or Northern Spies or Golden Delicious), peeled, cored, quartered and sliced
1 tsp. or more of Bell's Seasoning (a poulty herb-mix which can be found in supermarkets; comes in a small yellow box)
salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt; there are a lot of salty elements in this stuffing)
1 1/2 - 2 cups boiling chicken broth
handful of crushed walnuts (optional)
Sauté the crumbled sausage, and reserve. Add the butter/olive oil to the drippings in the pan, and saute the onion and celery until soft and translucent. Add the cornbread, bread-crumb stuffing, fresh herbs, sausage, apples, and seasoning; toss till combined. Gradually add broth, tossing until the mixture is nicely moistened but not soggy. Add the chopped walnuts if desired. This is plenty to both stuff into the turkey if you wish, and to bake in a glass or ceramic baking dish until crusty and moist within, about 30-45 minutes at 350F. The mixture that's baked in the dish will need more broth, and perhaps a baster full of turkey drippings, since it tends to dry out.
My Sainted Mother's Cranberry Sauce
This is the very simple, basic, fresh whole-berry sauce that my mother always made for Thanksgiving. A few years ago when we went to catered T'giving dinners at the houses of other family members, my brother emailed me and begged me to bring cranberry sauce "a la Mom" as he called it. Add more sugar as it cools, if you like...we tend to prefer it very tart.
1 12 oz. pkg. fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 large navel orange
Put the cranberries, sugar and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, and cook just until the cranberries start to pop. Turn off the heat. Grate the rind of the orange into the still-warm sauce, and squeeze half of its juice in as well. Section the other half, and cut off all the membranes -- or scoop the little half sections out with a grapefruit spoon. Add them to the sauce. Cool to room temperature and then chill it in the fridge. Serve in a pretty bowl. Makes about 2 cups.
Souffléed Pumpkin Pie with Brandy
Truthfully, I never liked pumpkin pie very much -- until I had the one that inspired the creation of this recipe. This is light and creamy and spicy. Even people who think they'd prefer a traditional pumpkin pie end up loving this one. I invented this a couple of years ago when I was asked to bring a pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving dinner at my brother's in-laws. I reconstructed it from a memory of that first pumpkin pie that I ever really liked, which was baked by a cousin of mine who then claimed to have lost the recipe. Harrumph.
1 16 oz. can pumpkin
1/2 c. heavy cream
3 eggs, separated
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. good cognac or armagnac
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell
Preheat oven to 425F.
Beat together all ingredients except the egg whites (and the pie shell, of course). Beat the egg whites stiff, and fold gently into the pumpkin mixture, trying to aerate it as you would a souffle. Pour into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350F, and bake for 30-35 minutes more, until the filling is puffed and firm. (You can use the old "stick a knife in the center and see if it comes out clean" test, if you're not sure.) Serve with whipped heavy cream, very lightly sweetened and flavored with a spoonful of cognac or armagnac.
Vermont Maple Pecan Pie
I developed this recipe a number of years ago after I first tasted maple pecan pie at my favorite Blue Benn Diner in Bennington, Vermont. I was busy breaking up with someone at the time, but somehow that didn't keep me from filing away the taste for future reference.
1/4 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup dark amber Vermont maple syrup (Grade B is best; organic if you can get it)
3 eggs, well beaten
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp dark rum
1 cup pecans
1 9" unbaked pie shell
Cream butter and sugar. Add syrup, eggs, salt, flour, rum and vanilla. Mix together and add pecans. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes at 300F or until firm. Makes one 9" pie.