Friday, December 4, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

This is my report on my cooking for Thanksgiving 2009 and of our wonderful Thanksgiving feast.

This year we had Thanksgiving at a friend's house, but I was lucky enough to be able to bring some of the food. Of course, all my friends know that I love to cook, so convincing them to allow me to do so was an easy task.

I made two types of dressing. The first was from a recipe I got from Cooks' Illustrated: Spicy Cornbread Stuffing with Red Peppers, Chipotle Chilies, and Andouille Sausage (you may need to be a member to get to the link, or sign up for a free trial). First I found what looked to be a good cornbread recipe online (yes, with buttermilk and melted butter). Indeed, it was a great cornbread (though southerners might squeal at the bit of brown sugar in it). Then I crumbled, dried, and browned it. The cornbread itself was easy enough to make and uses chicken broth and half-and-half (and egg) for the wet ingredients. It turned out very good and just a bit spicy. Well, too spicy for some, but really, it was not that hot. It did make quite a bit. By the way, though the title calls this a stuffing, I made it as a dressing, that is, not in the turkey.

The second dressing was my version of my mother's famous Turkey Dressing. You can find the recipe on my web site here. I used mushrooms this year too, to add a bit of depth of flavor. This dressing is always a popular recipe with my friends and I've been requested to bring it to various gatherings a number of times in the past.

My friend said his roommate had bought several cans or jars of gravy, and I just gasped. "NO!" I shouted--let me bring the gravy! Fortunately, the gravy I made turned out great. I cooked some turkey necks with onions, celery and carrots to create a broth, then used that for the gravy. A roux of flour and butter (next time I'd go for a darker roux, cook it longer, but that's next time) and then the broth along with some dry white wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, if you're interested) which gave it a rich and slightly sweet note. The gravy was very good at well and we went through most of it (it made a quart).

My friend also planned on jellied cranberries from a can--he does not like the seeds, but said i was welcome to bring some of my own if I wanted. How could I pass up and invitation like that. I simmered about a pound or cranberries in some water, added sugar and a bit of tequila, then the zest and juice of a lime. I added enough sugar to give it a bit of sweetness yet letting tart speak loudly as well. When finished and all the berries were popped, i let it cool a bit, then added enough additional tequila so you knew it was there, but just barely. It turned out very good. Kind of like a sweet cranberry margarita. Yumm.

Also, I was requested to bring my Sweet Potato Balls. I baked about 4 pound of sweet potatoes in a medium hot oven for nearly an hour, until tender, then scooped them out of their skins. While still warm I pressed through a ricer, then mixed in cinnamon, cloves, and allspice (not too much, just enough to know they were there), the grated rind of and orange, a bit of brown sugar, and a few tablespoons of orange juice. Then i roughly crushed some corn flakes and added chipped, roasted pecans and a bit of cinnamon. I took about 3 tablespoons of the sweet potato mixture and wrapped it around one large marshmallow, then rolled in the cornflake mixture and really pressed that in. By the way, this is a messy process, you need to use your hands and they will get rather messy. I refrigerated them and then baked them for about 10 minutes in a medium oven just before we ate. You know they're done when they begin to sag a bit--that indicates the marshmallow is melting. Do not over-bake or they will get very flat and very messy. These were a real hit and several people raved about them.

Of course, mine weren't the only great creations we had for our Thanksgiving. We started out with an appetizer of 7-layer taco dip--it was excellent and a great way to prepare ourselves for the feast that was to follow. And before our meal, we had a round of Mimosas. Yumm!

The turkey was the star of the Thanksgiving dinner, of course, and it was perfectly done. My friend brined it and it turned out moist, tender, and juicy. And two of the guests were professional cooks, so it was expertly carved. We also had a duck--delicious. We had all the requisite sides including green bean casserole, potatoes, a rutabaga and carrot baked dish (was quite yummy), rolls, jalapeno corn muffins, and I'm sure more that I can't remember. I do remember taking small helping of everything, then going back for seconds on the turkey, dressing, and gravy. We all had a very good meal.

Later (several hours later, thankfully) we had desserts. They were all home made as well. One friend baked an apple pie that was quite a hit. Another made not one, but two cheesecakes, both delicious--one was a pumpkin cheesecake, the other had chocolate chips on it and was equally yummy, though I forget exactly what was in it. There was also some pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie. We ate well, no doubt.

As is traditional, there were leftovers, so we all got some things to take home. That was nice, too. We had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving, and I got to cook. How much better than that can it get?


  1. Agreed. Everything was quite tasty, especially the apple pie.

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