Friday, November 23, 2007

Out with the old and in with the new!

Thanksgiving is a funny kind of holiday for me. I'm so normally focused on the foods of the Old World (specifically, medieval Europe) that New World foodstuffs are relegated to the back burner. Of course this changes around Thanksgiving, when I spend quite a bit of time doing this odd mental dance. I want to celebrate the foods of the New World and find interesting new ways to serve them, but still keep true to the (young) traditions of the Thanksgiving meal.

Here's what I made this year:

Turkey - The only big surprise here is that the turkey was huge! We wanted a fresh turkey and ended up with a choice between one that was too small and one that ... wasn't. The 22 pound bird just barely fit into the roasting pan, and was lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, and tarragon.

Stuffing - Cooked inside the turkey, I used a mix of white bread and pumpernickel, with onion, sage, thyme, celery seed, and dried cranberries.

Mashed Potatoes - Yes, potatoes and stuffing. My family has always operated on the principle that there is no such thing as too much starch.

Gravy - Made from butter, flour, and the drippings from the roasting pan. Gravy is one of the four food groups.

Green Beans - I wanted this to be a little fancier than just plan green beans, but didn't want to stray too far from traditional Thanksgiving fare. What I ended up doing was to steam them and serve them with a cream sauce with tarragon, and top them with some home-made croutons.

Cranberry Chutney - This is great stuff, sweet and tart, with a little extra zip. I keep the recipe here so I don't lose it.

Cranberry Sauce - Some of the family prefer the jellied cranberry sauce from a can to the chutney recipe above. Fortunately I've found that this kind of sauce is very easy to make with fresh cranberries. Put two cups cranberries (washed and cut in half) into a saucepan with one cup water and one cup sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until it thickens (about 20 minutes - a drop of the juice should gel when put on a cold plate). Strain through a fine sieve and chill.

Pumpkin Pie - served with fresh whipped cream.

Apple Pie - a crumb-topped pie, my wife's family recipe.

All of these, with the exception of the apple pie, are New World dishes (had to make the apple pie though, or the family would revolt). I'd like to have a corn-based dish for next year, so I'll have to look for something suitable. Anyways, I think it's time for another slice of pie before returning to the food coma.

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