Monday, November 26, 2012

Turkey Day

It has come to the point where one can't absentmindedly take a swig out of a bottle of wine without one's daughter taking one's picture and putting it up on Instagram.  One feels exposed as a wino mom, but it's the thing these days to be a wino mom, although it sets such a bad example.  Get a glass!  Wine tastes terrible straight out of the bottle.

I hope everybody had a lovely Thanksgiving.  Ours was very nice, although it is hard to live hundreds of miles from our families.  I haven't been "home" for Thanksgiving in twelve years.  Jon and I both come from families who eat Thanksgiving dinner at night, and not in the middle of the day, so at least we are spared that cause of marital strife.  I can't imagine how people are able to serve such a huge meal so early.  Even if I do some of the cooking the day before, I couldn't possibly manage to get the dinner on the table before 8:00pm.  At 1:00pm on Thanksgiving, my kitchen looked something like this:

That's Bernard Black playing me and Manny as Seamus.

Our meal must not deviate.  The stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, and "rolls for special occasions" are all straight out of the Tasha Tudor Cookbook. There must be mashed potatoes, there must be pumpkin pie, from my grandmother's recipe.  Alice Water's brussels sprouts gratin is becoming another indispensable dish.  I had a pumpkin pie epiphany.  My pumpkin pie always tasted a tad insipid compared to my mother's, though we used the same recipe.  I would always kill myself to bake the pies on Thanksgiving morning, so they'd be "fresh."  It occurred to me that maybe pumpkin pie tastes better if it is allowed to sit a day.  And so it does.

Two new recipes I tried were a chipotle cream sweet potato gratin and a cranberry upside down cake, both from The New York Times Cookbook.  The gratin was outstanding, and very easy to make. Buy a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and mix a teaspoon of the sauce (not the peppers themselves) into a cup of heavy cream.  You must slice the sweet potatoes very thinly, preferably with a mandolin.  We don't have a mandolin, but Seamus is developing mad chef knife skills. Layer the sliced sweet potatoes with the cream and season with salt and pepper.  Bake until the cream has been absorbed into the sweet potatoes.  The result is like a pudding.  I recommend being a little generous with the adobo sauce.

The cranberry upside down cake was not so successful.  It gets off to a promising start, in which you caramelize butter and brown sugar in the bottom of a cake pan, then dump some cranberries and a little orange juice into the caramel. Cake batter is poured over all and once it's baked you turn it out of the pan so that the cranberries are on top.  The cranberry part was OK, but the cake had the texture of corrugated cardboard.  I am a pretty good baker, but scratch vanilla cake that doesn't taste like crap is unattainable, apparently.

What was your outstanding Thanksgiving dish?  What was your Thanksgiving fail?


  1. Happily, a green salad has been accepted by D's family and it's ever-present. My pie turned out gloriously. I'd be miffed to have someone constantly in my face with a camera, it would definitely curb my habits.

  2. My vanilla cakes-from-scratch always seem to turn out really dry too. I've gone to boxes for those.

    That sweet potato recipe sounds great!

    I tried a new pie, and it turned out very badly :-)

  3. Bake desserts 2 days ahead, cook stuffing and mashed potatoes one day ahead, do turkey and veggies on Thanksgiving itself. Heat the mashed potatoes up in a crockpot. Works well for me. Of course, your veggie recipes are way more ambitious than mine. I just roast brussels sprouts and carrots together in a pan with some oil and salt.

    Here is our just about foolproof cranberry upside-down cake recipe. It calls for a boxed cake mix, but I always substitute our own (dairy-free, egg-free) cake batter and it works fine.

  4. We're night diners, too. But this year we did something different and went out to eat with some extended family members.

  5. We go to my aunt's in Baltimore. I only have to make pies and the biscuits. I follow my grandmother's tradition and have the biscuits be the weak link, even if it's not intended that way every year. We eat late and that's the reason for biscuit fail. I blame the wine.

  6. My big fail this year was not going to Buffalo, but now that gma is in "the prison" aka "the home" and Dave is starting a new job, it wasn't a good time.

    On the food scene, my chocolate chip pecan pie was the blue ribbon winner of the night along with my corn bread casserole.

    My mother's saurkraut was the big loser of the night. Who likes that stuff anyway?

    We ate at 6:30 -- not bad since I was shooting for 5ish.

    Next year, I say we get all the cousins together and have it catered in Buffalo. If we start planning now...

  7. My clan does Thanksgiving lunch. I would prefer dinner, but since we have to travel across the state, having the big lunch ensures that we are still home in time to eat what my household really wants for Thanksgiving dinner: Tex Mex.

    My way of dealing with the big heavy meal at mid-day is to have very small portions and no seconds so that I don't feel stuffed and bloated for the rest of the day.

    I decided after this year's big turkey feast that I can't take any more meals without fresh vegetables, so from now on, I'll be bringing a vegetable platter for us to nosh on while we cook.

  8. My turkey was ready two hours early so we ended up eating at 4 instead of 6, which was too early. We had to feed the cat while we ate because he went berserk with the turkey fumes. So then everyone in the animal kingdom was hungry again by 8.

    I think I've made that sweet potato gratin recipe, or one just like it, and it is divine.

  9. Your festive day sounds nice although tiring. I hope your holiday season will be filled with serenity.

  10. It never occurred to me to let pumpkin pie sit for a day. Brilliant!

    Since I only had to bring one dish this year, my win and my fail are both Watergate salad. I loved it. Nobody else seemed to, but that's OK - more for me!