Aunt Grace has arrived, and the Thanksgiving plans are all coming together. We're having a nice, doable crowd - 8 adults, 3 kids. All good friends, nobody high-pressure who I feel I have to take care of. You know what I mean? Sometimes we'll have somebody that doesn't really know anyone, and I feel responsible for keeping them entertained. And sometimes there will be somebody who doesn't eat a damned thing, so I have to cook special dishes for them (which makes me sort of insane). But this year should be nice and easy and everybody's a good eater.
Last year, I wrote what I think is my definitive Guide to Thanksgiving According to Me. I suggest you review it. Warning: I'm a bit opinionated about the whole thing. I'm switching things up a tiny bit this year, but not much. I'm not making the Sweet Potato Soup - sorry, just felt like trying something new. Anyway, here's this year's plan...
Cranberry Cocktails -
I found these recipes in Southern Living Magazine. My Cousin Keith gives me a subscription to SL every year for Christmas, and I adore it - makes me feel like I'm still a southern girl at heart. I can't decide which of these cranberry cocktails to make, so I think I may offer both. Cranberries, get it? It's Thanksgivingy. They both start with something called a...
2 cups cranberry juice
1/2 cup canned jellied cranberry sauce
1/4 cup sugar
4 dashes Angostura bitters
1 (3 inch) rosemary sprig.
Boil first 4 ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes or until smooth. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half and slightly thickened. Add rosemary; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Discard rosemary. Cool, cover and chill. Can be stored in an airtight container in fridge up to 1 week.
Then, you use this fabulousness to make these...
Cran-Bourbon and Orange
Fill tall glass with ice. Add 3 parts bourbon, 1 part Cranberry Reduction and 1 part fresh orange juice. Top with a splash of club soda.
Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Add 3 parts vodka, 1 part orange liqueur, 1 part Cranberry Reduction and 1/2 part lime juice. Shake and strain into martini glass.
Shrimp & Crudite with Green Goddess Dip -
I don't like to make anything too heavy for an appetizer, but at the same time, I want to give folks a little something to put in their stomachs while they're sucking down the aforementioned cocktails. And since Jimmy's a seafood fiend, I like to work in some kind of seafood for the appetizer. Here's the recipe courtesy of Epicurious.
I am a briner. I just started doing it about 4 years ago, but I've become a complete convert. YES, it's kind of a pain in the butt, but it makes for an amazingly moist and tasty bird! And truly, the trouble is part of the fun! It's such a silly and elaborate process - Mix together 2 1/2 gallons cold water, 2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup sugar, 2 bay leaves, 1 bunch of thyme, 1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled and 5 whole allspice berried (crushed). Stick the big bird in a giant hefty bag, pour all that brine on top of it, tie the bag closed (get as much air out as possible), then stick that puppy on a shelf in the fridge for 24 hours. It's a good idea to turn it occasionally too. I'm telling y'all, you should DO it.
Another note on the turkey: I always like to thank the bird. When I'm preparing him for the oven, I always find myself lovingly rubbing him with some lemon juice and giving him his little melted butter massage, and telling him thank you for giving up his life for our feast. It just seems like the right thing to do.
Buttloads of gravy. My Mama was a brilliant gravy maker, and so I take the stuff seriously. Daddy loved Mama's gravy so much that he wanted to bottle it and sell it. He wanted to call it "Good Gravy". Hehe.
Cornbread Dressing -
Cornbread/Sage Sausage/Dried Cranberries/Pecans/Onion/Celery/Sage dressing. No recipe. Just kind of winged. Or would it be wung? I winged it? I have wung it? Sigh...
Mashed Potatoes with Sage and White Cheddar Cheese -
I've made this recipe a couple of times before, and it's damned too. It's a good balance of traditional and funky. The recipe is HERE.Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Red Onions -
I've been thinking about this since last year when Aimee posted the recipe on her blog HERE. I love roasted vegetables, and I'm always up for something to do with sweet potatoes that doesn't involve marshmallows. I might even get crazy and toss in some parsnips. Or not.
Balsamic Green Beans -
Yes, technically, this is a green vegetable, but considering it includes a mess of bacon and butter, I think I'm still following my Thanksgiving Rule #5: Nobody gives a damn about green vegetables. This will be a memorable green vegetable, if anybody can actually locate the vegetables underneath all the bacon, almonds and fried shallots. Yum.
Balsamic Green Beans
2 pounds fresh haricots verts (tiny green beans), trimmed
6 large shallots
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup lightly salted roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cooked and crumbled bacon (about 5 slices)
Cook beans in boiling salted water to cover 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge beans into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Cut shallots crosswise into thin slices; separate into rings. Pour oil to depth of 1 inch into a heavy saucepan; heat over medium-high heat to 350°. Fry shallots, in batches, 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp. Remove from skillet using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Cook vinegar and sugar in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes or until reduced to 3 Tbsp. Stir in butter until blended. Add beans, and sauté 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated; season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on a serving platter. Top with shallots, almonds, and bacon. Serve immediately.
Though I must admit that I'm planning on cooking the beans the day before, then cooking the shallots at the last minute so they stay crispy. Cross your fingers.
Mama's Chocolate Cream Pie -
This is Jimmy's favorite dessert in the world, and it was also Daddy's favorite dessert in the world, so it has always been a Thanksgiving staple in my home. This recipe is actually from my great-grandmother, Mathilda Hansen Hanson. Yes, that was her real name. It's so far superior to your run-of-the-mill store-bought chocolate cream pie that it's an altogether different beast. Enjoy.
Mama's Chocolate Cream Pie
1/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups milk, scalded
2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Baked pie shell
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar
Mix flour, sugar and salt in top of a double boiler; gradually add scalded milk, mixing well. Add chocolate squares to the mixture. Cook in double boiler until chocolate is blended and mixture is thick, stirring constantly. Add a small amount of hot mixture to egg yolks; stir into remaining hot mixture. Cook 2 minutes. Cool; add butter and vanilla. Pour into baked pie shell. Cool. Whip whipping cream and additional sugar until stiff; top cooled pie. If you prefer meringue, beat 3 egg whites with 6 tbsp. sugar until stiff. Spread on pie and brown in 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.
Apple Cherry Pie -
Just because I feel like there ought to be at least two desserts. And I know pumpkin is the traditional thing, but I'm not a big pumpkin pie fan, and usually, we'll have a pumpkin pie and two people eat a tiny sliver of it and then the rest goes to waste. So...no pumpkin this year. This apple cherry is delicious, and leftovers make for a great breakfast treat with a cup of coffee.
Apple Cherry Pie
3/4 cup sugar
4 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
3 lbs. Granny Smith or Pippin apples (about 7), peeled, cored and sliced
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup cherry preserves
2 pie crusts
1 egg, beaten for glaze
Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Stir first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in apples, dried cherries and preserves. Arrange one pie crust in the bottom of a 9-inch glass pie pan. Brush inside the top edge of crust with beaten egg. Spoon filling into crust. Cut a small hole in the center of top crust. Arrange crust over the filling. Seal top crust to bottom crust at edge. Fold under and crimp edge. Brush crush (except edge) with beaten egg. Place pie on a baking sheet. Bake until apples are tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cover with foil if browning too quickly.
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls -
Yes that is right. Do not judge me. They are Jude's favorite thing in the world. The child will wolf down a half dozen. What can I say? Mama made them too, and it just isn't the holidays without them.
Alright, there you have it. As you see, I have a bit of work to do, so I don't think I'll be checking in here until Friday for my Spin Cycle post.
Hope you all have a beautiful Thanksgiving, filled with lots of food, family and...well...thanks.