Soooo . . . I was really dying to write this post, but then I decided not to because I figured nobody would really be interested in yet another post about what I ate for Thanksgiving. But then Michelle (through whom I am vicariously living in Umbria) asked me how it all turned out, and I figured, as I usually do, that if one person is saying it then there must be at least ten or twenty of you thinking the same thing. Right? So here’s a little rundown on how all those Thanksgiving recipes actually worked out for us.
I went to bed with my hair smelling like bacon grease on Thanksgiving night. Which may explain the strange dreams. I don’t believe I’ve ever spent so many hours in one day cooking, from 5:30 a.m. when I woke up and remembered that the turkey was still frozen after two days in the fridge, and got up to put it in water in the sink until 5:30 p.m., when we finally got Thanksgiving Dinner on the table. The only thing that kept me going was remembering that I wouldn’t be cooking for the next three weeks as we ate our leftovers.
Not only did we cook all day, but we also sort of ate all day. Or at least we divided Thanksgiving dinner into two segments and had the first for lunch and the second for dinner.
Lunch consisted of:
Pickled Okra . This was amazing. I made it a couple of days before so that it would have time to marinate and I would have time to cook everything else on the menu. I thought the spices sounded a bit bland, so I googled “pickling spices” and came up with this useful page. I just threw in whatever ingredients I had from both sides, including, among other things, allspice and juniper berries. And I skipped the canning step, since I didn’t have the equipment and I’m perfectly capable of eating two pints of pickles in the course of a few weeks anyway. They ended up tasting like extraordinarily flavorful bread & butter pickles. Just an adviso, we are talking about okra here, so if you don’t do slimy, these are not for you.
Pigs in a Blanket. These turned out delicious. I’ll never use vienna sausages again. My kids also had a great time rolling the sausage into snakes and then brushing the finished rolls with egg wash. And since I omitted it from the first post, here’s a link to The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book, whence came the recipe.
Heirloom Squash Farrotto.I did not end up procuring any farro, nor did I stir my rice for 45 minutes straight to make a real risotto, but this was excellent as a rice pilaf. I sprinkled very coarse sea salt over the cubes of butternut squash before roasting, and they were transcendent. I have another butternut squash in my pantry already so I can make this recipe again. Also, I forgot the garbanzo beans, but it was still good.
We still had plenty of recipes left over for dinner:
Per Tony’s request, I did end up wrapping the entire turkey in bacon (not pancetta, unfortunately).
Before wrapping it, I followed the slathering steps in Pancetta-Sage Turkey with Pancetta-Sage Gravy. And I made the gravy too, although I didn’t add any extra bacon. The turkey did turn out incredibly moist. But the whole thing tasted like bacon. It’s pretty weird, although not entirely unpleasant, to have 14 pounds of meat with the consistency of turkey and the taste of bacon. Especially after all the bits of crispy bacon we ate off the outside of the turkey, the bacon-flavored turkey swimming in bacon-flavored gravy was just a little much. But if you are one of those people who can’t possibly get enough bacon, this recipe is for you.
Here’s a picture of our Thanksgiving dinner, arranged a bit haphazardly.
Italian Sausage and Bread Stuffing and Apple, Sausage and Parsnip Stuffing. I followed the former recipe, with the additions of apple, parsnip, and sourdough bread from the latter. Stuffing/dressing is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal, so I consider myself something of a connoisseur. And this stuffing was the best I have ever eaten. Seriously amazing.
Not Your Mother’s Green Beans were delicious, as always. We had them with balsamic vinegar, shallots, and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Roasted Winter Vegetables were also good, as always. Remind me to always use cauliflower. It caramelizes delightfully.
Cranberry Tangerine Conserve. I was surprised at how much I liked this recipe, which has only five ingredients. I prefer my cranberry sauce rather tart, so I reduced the sugar by about half, and it was perfect. I didn’t have sultanas, so I used regular old raisins, but I think it would be even better with the sultanas. The curls of tangerine peel were delicious, and very tender after simmering, so I recommend not taking them out.
Bubble-Top Brioches. These were just OK. I thought they were unusually hard on the outside, and they tasted a little yeasty, but they rose beautifully and the rest of my family liked them.
Key Lime Pie. We’ve become key lime converts. This pie was delicious. I had much internal debate beforehand over whether or not to cook the filling. I did taste the filling before it was baked and didn’t drop dead of salmonella. But I chickened out at the last minute and cooked it for the recommended ten or fifteen minutes because I am a bit allergic to raw egg. I can eat the occasional bite of cookie dough, but a whole piece of pie would probably leave my throat feeling raw. I read all 351 reviews of the recipe on Epicurious, and followed sundry advice like increasing the filling by 1/2 to fill up the pie pan, cutting the key limes in quarters and juicing them with a (very clean) garlic press, and leaving the whipped cream completely unsweetened.
The crust was divine too. I had gone to the store earlier in the week intending to buy graham crackers, but couldn’t bring myself to buy any of the brands I found, because they all had corn syrup, preservatives, and other nasty stuff. I even considered a ready-made crust because of all the other recipes I was planning to make for Thanksgiving, but I just couldn’t do it. So I came home and made these wonderful graham crackers from Smitten Kitchen. Seriously, they are so good it’s almost a shame to hammer them up into crumbs. But we made sure to make some just to eat too.
The only thing I didn’t like about the pie was that weird taste of canned sweetened condensed milk (which I would normally never use in a recipe, but which according to my research is the only way to make an authentic key lime pie, since Florida at the time that it was invented did not have a population of cows, so condensed milk coming in on the supply boat was the only dairy product available). My mom suggested making my own condensed milk by adding powdered milk to regular milk. I’m not crazy about the taste of powdered milk either, but it really might be worth a try. Alternatively, I think I may make it sometime with cream, which although inauthentic would probably be delicious.
We didn’t end up making the Berry Streusel Pie until Sunday, since I had neglected to buy vanilla ice cream and Tony did not think it could be eaten without. My well-known pie crust phobia leaves me a little high and dry when it comes to pies. But here’s my secret weapon: French Tart Crust. Read through the recipe, dear readers, and be shocked, delighted, mystified, and cautiously hopeful. If you have ever wrestled with cutting in butter and sprinkling ice cold water and chilling and rolling and vainly striving to handle your pie crust as little as possible in quest of some elusive, unattainable, possibly completely fictional state of flakiness, this recipe will change. your. life. I use it for savory quiches and tarts as well as dessert pies. It’s easy, meltingly tender, and works perfectly deliciously with half or even all whole wheat flour.
As far as the Berry Streusel Pie, it was delicious. I used frozen berries, so I thawed them on the stove with the sugar so they would produce enough juice to hydrate the tapioca, being careful not to cook them. We had only one disaster. I love warm berry pie, especially with ice cream. So I didn’t take seriously the recipe’s injunction to let the pie cool for at least three hours before serving. We had the missionaries over, and I was forced to serve them Berry Streusel Soup topped with vanilla ice cream. It was still good, but I am resolved in the future to let the pie cool properly.
This is the first Thanksgiving where I really could happily re-use nearly every single recipe. So we’ll call it a success.