Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Menu (Keepin' Up With the Joneses)

Having just read Coffee Jones's blog's Thanksgiving menu (with links to recipes), I gotta get in the game. Our company was much smaller: me, my ex- and current-husband, and our lovely neighbors, Nina & Rudy. She's Swedish, meaning the Europeans outnumbered the Americans 3-2, but there's a nice quality to Thanksgiving that is universal: Be grateful. And full.

Here, then, is what we made:

Crab Canapes with Cumin. These are lovely, and can actually be done in a low-fat, no-guilt version. (Really the only difference with the way I did them was I used full-fat sour cream and didn't worry about the amount of olive oil I used.) Unfortunately, I had forgotten that Starman has an issue with shellfish (could be rational, i.e., he is allergic, or irrational, i.e., he had it once and got sick so decided Never Again, but the bottom line is he doesn't do shellfish) and that Nina has gout, for which shellfish is verboten (along with chocolate, whole wheat, and legumes). Oh, well, more for Hub 1.0 and me!

Apricot-Glazed Turkey with Onion & Shallot Gravy. Very tasty, even if I over-cooked it (note to self: trust the recipe to know what it's talking about!) It's fussy, true enough, but when you taste that gravy (easiest in the world to make -- just take all the yummy onion goop in the bottom of the pan, skim off all the fat, then run the solids through the blender and heat), you'll be a convert. I wouldn't make another turkey recipe without a gun to my head.

New England Sausage, Apple & Dried Cranberry Stuffing. Also fussy. (Sorry, I just do fussy. Not newly-nuked-sweet potato-and-marshmallow fussy -- can't keep up with Coffee on that one! -- but yeah, I do fussy. Only if it's yummy, mind!) But surprisingly un-stodgy. The bread-to-veggies & fruit ratio on this one is not that bad, so if all your kids eat is stuffing - - ?

Red Cabbage with Apricots and Balsamic Vinegar. I don't recall why this is in our Thanksgiving repertoire, but it is. Luckily, as I've not been at my best this week, I had Hub 1.0 acting as sous-chef, and he literally made the entire thing from start to finish. And it's really good. (Even better when someone else has made it!)

Cranberry, Shallot & Cherry Compote. Are you getting the trend here? I cook with fruit. I like it, I like the juxtaposition of sweet fruitiness next to the richness of the gravy. Like the red cabbage, this has a sweet & sour quality from some wine & vinegar used to cook the cherries and shallots before the cranberries are added. It's principal merit is as a topping to the Perfect Turkey Leftover Sandwich!

Sweet Potato Puree with Brown Sugar and Sherry. Okay, so everything else was very yummy, but this is sublime. Food-of-the-gods good. But here's a tip: The recipe is unnecessarily fussy about timing. Roast the potatoes well in advance and leave them someplace to cool. They mix up in the mixer just fine at room temperature, and the whole thing reheats pretty easily on a low temp. What Coffee Jones's dad would have called "a bead of flame." Of course, these days we've all got fancy solid surface cooktops, but still....

We didn't get to the Green Beans with Roasted Onions. In fact, due to the fact the turkey finished early, we didn't even do the green beans just as a veg. Oh well, maybe next year...

For dessert, just one pie: Apple Pie with Walnut Streusel. I need a bigger pie pan for it, but it worked well, and I would definitely make it again. Served with vanilla ice cream.

Our house has a miniature version of today's McMansion great rooms: the kitchen is part of a larger room with the wood stove and comfy chairs. (In 1800, it was called the Keeping Room.) So our guests were able to chat with us even as we got the last recipes underway. That stage flowed into the dining room for the meal and good conversation, then dessert and more conversation, then just conversation. We're very lucky to Nina & Rudy next door. They leave in a month for their annual Skiing Sojourn: three months in Bozeman, Montana. I always regret their departure, and mark spring with their return.

One last note, and it's a serious one: I've taken a certain amount of flak from people -- loving, concerned people who can't be blamed for making normal assumptions -- about the divorce. Well, I wish they could have seen how hard Hub 1.0 worked on this dinner. He was my prep chef for many of the recipes, and my sous-chef on the cabbage and the canapes. (Literally -- I would swoop in and correct the seasoning. Pure Top Chef!) Then, yesterday, as I was still recovering from the cold and post-Thanksgiving and Starman was doing his four hours of coding, Hub 1.0 got all energetic and stripped down and recoated a butcher block counter with food-grade wood oil. Just because he felt like it.

Well, we just don't do normal here. Hub 1.0 is happy with his life in Philly, Starman is happy (enough) to have Hub 1.0 visit, and I'm so grateful -- sure, for the help in the kitchen, but also to have someone I know and love as much as Hub 1.0 be on good terms with us.

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