I know without question I cannot bake and cook at the same time. Disaster awaits. Or at the very least, serious unhappiness. There must be either a baking morning and a cooking afternoon or some variation thereof. This doesn’t mean I won’t stir up a pan of cornbread while my beans finish cooking at 5:30 or that I’d refuse to bake cookies if the slow cooker was on. No, no, no–not at all. But it does mean I shouldn’t be chopping and adding ingredients to a soup and think I can also whip up a loaf or two of quick bread in the the short minutes between soup chores. Because if I do, the bread will be missing its cinnamon, for instance, or in this case, its very necessary salt. And I might serve the soup without making sure all of its ingredients were just as tender as they should be. Which I did — and sent it to ill neighbors like that. (I hope the carrots weren’t crunchy. God, Alyce.)
When folks “talk turkey” about holiday dinners, they, in fact, don’t talk much about turkey. Or ham. (Though they might if it’s roast beef.) They instead remember sides or desserts. Nonna’s baked ziti. Oma’s sauerkraut. Dad’s gravy. Aunt Susan’s pumpkin pie. Because of that, the menu is often a done deal. Who can fight history? As a longtime Thanksgiving cook (I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner at 24 hugely pregnant with my first child), I pore over each year’s November magazines and keep Thanksgiving cookbooks on my coffee table from September on–always interested in finding something new to dream about. You can well imagine it’s my favorite holiday.
While some Americans are having a larger Thanksgiving, quite a few are again limiting numbers and thinking about a smaller menu. A turkey roulade (roo-LAHD) — a rolled up, stuffed turkey breast served up with a pan or two of roasted vegetables is for just that more intimate occasion and will serve 1-2 with plenty of leftovers, 4 with some, and 6 without much at all in those pesky where-are-the-lids Tupperware containers. (You can double it all for a larger group if need be, but do plan on more time. I also include a couple of other options for one-pan sides.) With some prep, this beautiful meal goes into the oven all together and is done in less than an hour — which makes it a lovely small dinner party menu as well. If you can get a boned turkey breast and don’t have to bone it yourself, you are way ahead of the game. Not Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes and gravy or …? You can surely add other dishes though you don’t need them. (See TIPS below for links to Brussels sprouts I made, gravy without drippings, my spicy cranberry sauce, etc.) Easily purchased appetizers and a bakery pumpkin pie help give you most of the day off, a lot less dish washing, and time to watch “Home for the Holidays,” with Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, and Charles Durning– one of my favorite Thanksgiving movies. No movies, but want music?Here are some listening ideas.
Note: While this meal is basically gluten-free, do check all purchased ingredients, including turkey, for GF labels.Our Honeysuckle frozen turkey breast did not contain gluten, but other brands might.
When fall finally arrives (not sure it’s here yet), it’s time to bake again — and by November, it’s time to think of baking for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I am anything in life, I am a pie baker. I’m not a county fair blue ribbon winner, but I’m something better — I’m the person folks like to see walking into their house or the church potluck with a pie basket on her arm. It wasn’t always that way, but pie baking is a progressive art or one that is a lifelong undertaking. I began with pies that didn’t taste badly, but were pale and puny at best and were luckily called out by older, experienced pie bakers in the mid-70’s. (“You could have left that in the oven a while longer.”) Even now, hundreds and hundreds of pies later, there’s the occasional crust that won’t hold together, for example, and gets ceremoniously dumped straight into the garbage can. It doesn’t faze me anymore, but pies continue to be educational as long as you’re willing to bake them. If you don’t bake one for a while and then assume you’ll be fine, that pie may or may not bake into something worth eating with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.
Every once in a while, it’s time to cook up an old recipe on the blog, take new photos, and tweak the dish up to today’s standard. That’s exactly what happened the other day with the blog’s very first pumpkin soup from way back in November, 2009. With my book club meeting in my living room last Thursday, I thought I’d move away from the same-old, same-old cheese and whatever….and make a soup I could serve in coffee mugs along with the glass of wine we enjoy. Change = good. I looked at the not few pumpkin soups I’ve blogged and settled on the simple, but fun 12-year-old version that is finished off with peanuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. As I sometimes will, I tried making it right from the original recipe, which is so old it’s not even printable. While good, it needed perking up, thickening, and expanding. I was amazed, though, to see how readable the recipe was even then. That’s not to say it didn’t need editing and redoing. It did.