Other food bloggers or food writers will get this: Thanksgiving is so over photographed, written about, schmoozed on, slobbered over, that we usually just don’t know what to do with it that hasn’t been done ad nauseum. (How about another post on SIDES??? Another torch-browned turkey on the front of a magazine?)
It’s my favorite holiday. I love it because it’s food, of course! I love it because I don’t have to worry about the gifts and tree; I’m not good at those things and they eat me up. (I decorated a tree by myself for the first time last year. My kids and Dave always did it while I baked cookies. Later I paid friends’ grandchildren to do it. No, I’m not picky about it–just getterdone.) I love it because it ties together my faith and a secular holiday. I can worship with just about anyone at Thanksgiving. And have. Nothing cooler. As a longtime church musician, Christmas was always a bit over-the-top work wise. Another reason Thanksgiving has remained a time of joy to this day. I just always collapsed in front of the tv on Christmas day if possible. (Let’s watch, “It’s a Wonderful Life” again. And again.)
But foodwise, folks, it just goes on and on and on and it doesn’t go on and on in a really interesting or edifying or fun way. Should I add my two cents to that?
(a little tongue in cheek now…)
*Can we talk turkey here? (Brine, brine, brine.)
*Shall we put pumpkin pie up for discussion? (Just make it at home, please. Any recipe will do. No, do not buy that Costco monstrosity; it’s been sitting there a month. This is a custard pie, for God’s sake.)
*Will one more food writer encourage you to make biscuits ahead and put them in the freezer on trays? (WHO HAS THAT KIND OF ROOM? AND I LIKE YEAST ROLLS FOR THANKSGIVING ANYWAY.)
*Maybe we could tackle the wine? (Drink what you like. Or, if you really don’t know, buy the best Pinot Noir and Riesling you can afford and stick with American wines. It’s just the right thing to do. Period. Make sure you have beer, by the way.)
*In other words, there are the same questions since God was a boy, and the answers, while they try to change, pretty much just don’t. (Does anyone truly ever call the Butterball Hotline? What the hell’s wrong with reading a basic cookbook?) Scream.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned about Thanksgiving in my 40-some odd years cooking it:
- Cook what you like. You’re cooking. It’s your prerogative. Make something new every year. For sure. Make something old. Naturally! If not, plan ahead and get everyone to bring something.
- Let everyone, as humanly possible, have the dish THAT IT IS NOT THANKSGIVING WITHOUT. Even if it means they make it (in another kitchen, of course.) So if it’s deep-fried parsnips or really spicy pasta and sausage with hot peppers, so be it.
- Have great music all day long. Pull out movies ahead of time and pop corn beforehand. Have coloring books and crayons. Cards. Games. Have everyone put their silenced cell phones in a basket when they hit the door.
NO WI-FI HERE. YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO TALK TO ONE ANOTHER.
- Buy a new peeler, an oven thermometer, and a meat thermometer. Just do it.
- If you can cook anything ahead and refrigerate or freeze it, make it so. Nearly everything but the turkey, gravy, and potatoes can be made and frozen. If you even do the mashed potatoes the day ahead and put them in a pammed crock pot a few hours ahead to warm up, you’ll be that much more relaxed.
- Take Wednesday off if your boss won’t strike you dead. Don’t go to the grocery store or the wine shop. You should have already done that. You’d be very sorry anyway. COOK! Send someone else to the store.
- Decide ahead of time what the prayer or not-the-prayer will be. Let’s not talk this thing to death while the potatoes get cold. If no one can decide, it’s your house. You simply say–as you look at each person with a big smile on your face– “We’re grateful for the food, the family, the friends. Let’s eat. Here, here! (glass raised)” The alternative is a toast. Who could argue with that? Or ask for peace. Surely this week, we could just do that.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” Once again, we gather to celebrate the harvest, to look upon the bounty of this table. We know that the real bounty is not in what lies before us — though it does smell delicious! — but in what lies within us, the bond that connects all of us as one human family. We remember those who have given us the freedoms we now cherish, and we look toward the future and the many blessings it will bring. To today’s gathering and many more to come. Cheers.
- Greet each person individually as they come in. Make them welcome; tell them the game plan and where the bathroom is. Don’t hide in the kitchen.
- Don’t worry about what time dinner gets done. You’ll eat when it’s ready. So will everyone else. Enjoy your day. Really.
Above: I’ve done Thanksgiving dinner for 2. Fun with a capital F.
NEED THANKSGIVING MUSIC?
One of my favorites is this album:
as well as…
A Harvest Home by Cantus, et al
OR, for free: Click here for Boston Pops Thanksgiving recording
And if by chance you don’t have dessert planned yet, perhaps you’ll make my pie:
above: just before baking
makes one 9 inch pie two-crust pie serves 6-8
If you need more thorough directions for making a pie, please check out my Pie-101. No pears? Of course you can use just 5 or 6 apples and cranberries.. The pie recipe police just left the kitchen. Do pay particular attention to the ingredients that are listed as divided–namely sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Happy pie baking! Congratulations for baking a pie.
- Chilled Pie dough for 2-crust, 9-inch pie–purchased or homemade (recipe at bottom, if needed)
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for top of pie, divided
- 1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
- Pinch salt
- 2 Honeycrisp apples, cored and sliced (don’t peel) Can sub Granny Smith apples.
- 3 Bartlett or Bosc Pears, barely ripe, cored and sliced (don’t peel)
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg, divided
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cold butter, minced
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted for top of pie
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and place oven rack at center of oven.
- In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the water, 1/4 of the sugar cup sugar, the cranberries, and salt. Reduce to simmer, and cook, stirring regularly, until cranberries are cooked down to something looking nearly like cranberry sauce–perhaps 10 or 12 minutes. The berries should still be mostly intact if possible. Let cool. Taste and add a little sugar if needed.
- In a large bowl, mix apples, pears, flour, the other 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, 1/2 of the nutmeg, and lemon juice.
- Roll out the pie dough and place one piece of the pie dough (leave the other in the fridge) into a glass 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle the dough with the other 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon and half of the grated nutmeg. Trim edges and crimp. If there’s extra dough, and if you like, you can cut out leaves or other decorations and reserve them for adding after the top crust has been put over the filling.
- Spoon the apple and pear mixture into the dough-lined pan. Sprinkle the cold butter pieces evenly over the fruit. Spoon the cranberries in dollops evenly over the fruit.
- Place the top crust over the filling. Crimp edges, cut vents in dough, and add pie dough leaves, if using. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with the reserved tablespoon of sugar.
- Place pie on a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook another 25-35 minutes OR until pie is bubbling and browning. Cool on rack before serving. Store well-covered at room temperature for 2 days and then for another 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
PIE DOUGH for Two-Crust, 9-inch pie
- 2 2/3 cups unbleached white flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground sea salt
- 1 cup (8 ounces or two sticks), very cold or frozen—cut into pieces about 1 tablespoon (1 ounce) each
- ½ cup (4 ounces) ice water
*Place flour, salt, and cold butter in a food processor or regular bowl. Using the steel blade, two knives, a pastry cutter, or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour and salt until dough is peppered with several different size pieces of fat and flour.
*With machine running, or while stirring, pour ice water into dough in a steady stream. Process or stir (you can use your hands, but the warmth isn’t the best thing for pie dough) until the dough just barely comes together. Remove carefully from bowl or food processor, if using, and knead a bit, if needed.
*Form into a large ball quickly and cut into two even halves. Wrap each well and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
*Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper on a damp counter. Flip dough over, roll pin over once, and carefully, steadily lift paper off circle of dough.
More on Thanksgiving
- A more general Thanksgiving post on More Time.
- My Vegan and Gluten-Free Thanksgiving
- My Cranberry Bread Post
- Thanksgiving for 2 or 4
- Squash-Parsnip Soup (lovely first course)
- Pumpkin-Ginger Bread
- Turkey Soup from the Carcass
- Chowhound Thanksgiving for Beginners
- Basic Turkey
- Getting along with difficult relatives at Thanksgiving
- Thanksgiving topics, including history
An auld favorite to leave you with….
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
Until next time, sing a new song with thanks,