For my Father and I, Thanksgiving is yet another stage to demonstrate and explore our cookery. I think every year when he and I cook together we come “this close” to biting off more than we can chew, pun intended, as there will undoubtedly be leftovers for weeks.
Some years, I have tried to get creative with my thanksgiving selections, personal Cornish hens and/or Quails, not successful. Serving the meal in courses with soups and appetizers, overwhelming. Or trying to debone an entire turkey from memory after a 5 hour drive, Franken-Turkey!
There have been many almost flops, but the best years, the ones that really make me look back and feel thankful, were the ones where I sat back and cooked up my best examples of family favorites. Nicole’s Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Marshmallow and sweet potato casserole, Mom’s Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and caramelized onions, and of course a Pie!
Here are some of my family favorites and a few extra dishes I have worked on over the past couple years.
Hors d’oeuvre (Pre-Meal Nosh)
Multi colored popcorn in a few flavors
Kettle Corn (salt & sugar)
Now that summer is over there is no reason not to continue to enjoy corn. Multi colored popcorn kernels are a beautiful ad seasonal decoration for your thanksgiving feast, not to mention a delicious treat. Use them in the base of your candleholders or other decorations, or roast them with a little canola oil over the stove with a lid until they pop to your hearts content. My favorite seasonings are salt and sugar, just like you get at most fall festivals, Parmesan cheese for a little twist, or simply truffle salt for an extra regal treat.
Last year living in Maryland I was on a Fall food kick, because I was missing the apples and colors of fall in New York. I ended up finding this guy and tweaking it to my preference. It’s all the tastes of pumpkin pie, in a wintery sipper of a cocktail, (can also be made non alcoholic of course)
Apple Cider Mimosas
A couple years ago while traveling through New England I stumbled on a little creperie just on the banks of Lake Champlain. Along with our breakfast crepes they served us apple cider mimosas, one of the most ingenious recombination of a classic drink. Simply apple cider and a dry sparkling white wine mixed to your hearts content makes this an easy hit at any gathering.
Roasted Rainbow Carrots
I love the colors of rainbow carrots, from the first time I worked with them at a Jazz Club on the Upper West Side to Working with them now at “Craft” they are a great source of flavor and color on your Thanksgiving table. I roast them in a little Schmaltz (Chicken fat) or any other rendered fat on hand, for added flavor. Feel free to garnish with fresh parsley or roasted nuts.
I first discovered these out of an old Irish cookbook, and after trying them decided I needed to eat them whenever possible. A quick preparation, wash and peal your parsnips, then coat them in a mixture of oil honey and salt, and roast them in the oven until fork tender. They should be a balance of sweet and salty when they are done.
These are from my mother and they are one of my favorite Brussels sprouts preparations. Using ground or finely cut pancetta, brown your meat in a sauté pan. Remove the meat, and leaving some of the fat in the pan caramelize some onions. Remove the onions and add some of the fat back, place your Brussels sprouts, which have been cut in half, cut side down to develop some browning, now add all of the ingredients back and as well as a 1/4 of an inch of chicken stock and cook until all of the liquid is gone, you will have the best Brussels sprouts ever. ArinMichelle and I steal them straight out of the fridge cold, if there are any left over. Be careful with the salt in this dish, as the pancetta is very salty, if your chicken stock is too, use water.
Mixed Chicory Salad with Cider Vinaigrette
Truly the key to this dish is the vinaigrette, it is so good I put it on anything. Take any amount of apple cider and reduce it by 4 on the stove, so that you have 1/4 your original volume. Now off the stove mix equal parts apple cider reduction to apple cider vinegar. Using a whisk or a blender add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to 2 cups of vinaigrette base, 6 cups of a neutral oil, like grape seed or vegetable, as well as some honey, and if using a blender, apple scraps for body. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and by adjusting the ingredients to your preference. All said and done, I think this dressing alone is a showstopper; I would probably put this on my turkey along with my gravy.
The chicory in this case is a mix of greens you can buy or mix yourself from what you see at the supermarket. Radicchio, endives, puntarelle, mixed with more neutral greens for balance, and I like like red and green leaf lettuce.
At the Weisner residence our stuffing is based in pork sausage, and dried fruit, like apricots, plums, or raisins, if I could eat them I would probably add chestnuts, walnuts, or hazelnuts, even pistachios would lend nice color and flavor, but I digress. We mix our fruit and sausage with dried bread, or cornbread and usually chicken or turkey stock. However, I recently came across an article using apple cider, and I’m a sucker for anything fall themed, or extra sweet, so this year it will be all the same, Sausage, Dried fruit, bread, Carrots, Celery, thyme, and now with cider instead of chicken stock.
It’s thanksgiving and you can’t go wrong with a turkey, at the end of it all, simple is better. No headaches, no extra worrying. Just coat the bird with some fat, like oil or butter, salt and pepper. Fill it with some aromatic herbs and vegetables, like thyme, rosemary, sage, garlic, onions, and truss it. Bake it covered in foil at 300˚ until a thermometer reads 155˚ in the dark meat and around 145˚ in the breast. Then uncover it and finish it to 165˚ dark meat 155˚ breast uncovered so the skin crisps. This will give you a moist and tender bird.
The gravy is what happens when I deglaze all of the drippings and degrease the pan from the bird, plus a reinforced stock from 50/50 chicken stock and water plus any and all turkey scraps. This is our base liquid. Using a brown roux for added flavor and thickening, approximately 1 tbsp. of roux per cup of liquid, I make the gravy and at the end I season it with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and a little cream for richness and color.
Nothing special here, I just love corn bread, and I think its best to make much, much more than you think you will eat, because a leftover thanksgiving sandwich is just better on cornbread. Make cornbread in a cast iron skillet as close to dinnertime as possible so that you can serve it with a crispy crunchy crust, that makes so much of a difference.
Because, if your going to have cornbread, or biscuits, you simply must have either maple or honey butter on hand. Of you’ve ever accidentally over whipped cream your almost there. Over whip your cream on and on and it will clump up to a mass of butter fat. Now with some ice cold water on hand, you will knead the butterfat and rinse the water through it. Just as the water starts to come out clear begin kneading grade B or Dark amber syrup and salt to taste. The dark syrup has a very potent rich flavor and a lower sweetness, so you can get a robustly flavored butter that is not overly sweet.
Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
I think Nicole would sell us off as her family if we did not have mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving. We keep it simple and delicious, Baked or boiled potatoes, sour cream, chives, salt, pepper, nutmeg, butter, milk/or cream. Boom. Don’t over mix it, or it will get pasty, and don’t let it get cold or it will get gummy, but truly straight out of everyone’s memories.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Brûléed Maple Marshmallow Topping
This started as just the sweet potato casserole of the jiffy marshmallow bag, but it has become so much more. After cooking your potatoes to preference, mash them with some orange juice, brown sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt and pepper. Here I like to also add some kick like paprika, chili pepper, or something else surprising to balance the stupendous sweetness of this dish. At the end of it all, we top it with home made maple marshmallows and broil in the oven to brown the to [and melt the marshmallows.
What would thanksgiving be with out it? I used to hate it every year, until one year, I made it, from then on it has been a must have for me. It’s simple and delicious, cook cranberries in sugar and water; finish with some orange zest and salt.
Rye Pumpkin Pie
A couple years ago Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapped, because of this there were a lot of cross over recipes. This spawned from that. The crust is similar to a Rye shortbread cookie, while the pie filling itself has a bit more kick to it than your run of the mill Pumpkin Pie, I happen to enjoy all of the wintry spices in my pie, like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Of course, this is nothing with out home made whipped cream.
Happy Holidays from my kitchen to yours!
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can coconut milk
1 can coconut cream
1 can pumpkin puree
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon clove
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
About 1/2 of a 750 ml bottle of rum, roughly 3 cups or to taste
Mix everything together and bring to a shallow simmer on the stove. Remove from heat, blend together and add the rum. This will taste fine the day of, but it is best if made a day or two ahead of time, the rum will mellow out and the flavors with come together.
Rye Pumpkin Pie
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (¾ stick), cut into ¼-inch cubes
5 tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
1 cup rye flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons caraway seeds, ground in spice grinder or with mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
one 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
one 12-oz. can evaporated milk
Special Equipment Spice grinder or mortar and pestle 9-inch pie dish
For Crust: Let butter sit out at room temperature for about 20 minutes, until soft but not melting. With the back of a fork, cut together butter and sugar in a medium mixing bowl until mixture is smooth with no lumps and the sugar is completely incorporated. Add the egg yolks and stir to combine, then add flours, caraway, and salt. Mix until the mixture is crumbly (all ingredients should be combined, but the mixture will have a slightly sandy, not sticky texture), then press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Keeping it an even thickness of about 1/4 inch. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crust about 10 minutes, just until it starts to brown.
Filling and Assembly: Preheat oven to 425°F.
Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add sugar, honey, spices, salt, and pumpkin puree, and whisk until combined. Slowly add evaporated milk, whisking just until combined. Cover the edges of the pie crust with foil, then pour the pumpkin mixture in. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temp to 350°F and cook another 50 minutes, until filling is set.
Cool before serving.