Better late than never. In need of a feast before the Pre-Christmas fast, I threw a belated Thanksgiving for myself (regular visitors to this blog will no doubt also remember that the Boy’s Xmas party always falls on T-Day- good news though as I can happily report that there was no puking and no incidents of a drunken nature). As the only Yank in the house, I anointed three Brits and four Australians as honorary Americans for the day. After trawling through cookbooks and magazines and after a few calls home I put together what I like to think of as a tasty little menu.
I was attached to the stove for a few days and there were a few mishaps that I managed to fix. The results must have been good since the leftover ratio was low and everyone’s belly stuck out just a little bit more. It was a real compliment that a few people asked for recipes to add to their own Christmas lunches- especially any dish of mine that gets added to the Shah family meal since I imagine it to be an amazing feast. I have decided to put the full menu up so we (in particular Nat and pals) can bask in its glory.
Here is the full she-bang:
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Polenta Cornbread Stuffing
Green Beans with Hazelnuts
This was the first bump in the road. The Boy works near the main meat market in town and they were actually offering fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving (everywhere else was selling frozen birds). Goody gumdrops! We ordered a 10-12 pounder for pickup on Saturday. The big day comes and we get given 15 pounds of pure turkey. At first we thought that it would be all right, the Australians are a hungry bunch. But alas, the problems were only just beginning. First off, the damn thing barely fit in the fridge- everything had to come out. This also meant that I could not brine it (my preferred method). Not the end of the world. Ah, but try sticking that thing in a roasting pan. I have a fair amount of pans and roasters but that was one hell of a wide load and didn’t fit in anything! In the end I managed to stick it in a pan at a funky angle. The moral of this story kids is that you need to make sure you have a roasting pan that will fit your turkey even if the one you get is bigger than expected.
Since I couldn’t brine the thing, I took a leaf out of the Martha Stewart Living Thanksgiving issue and draped a butter-soaked muslin on the turkey. Basically, you melt a stick of butter, into which you dip a piece of muslin (the size of which when folded into quarters covers the turkey with extra to tuck in along the sides) and squeeze the excess butter from it. Place over the turkey and baste with the remaining butter every half hour. For the last half hour remove the cloth if the bird is not browned. My turkey emerged from the oven such a beautiful golden brown shade that it looked like it should be on a magazine cover.
Everyone likes mash and everyone likes his or her mash done differently. Some like it with skins still on, some like it lumpy, some like it smooth and some like it creamy. On Sunday I was in the mood for rich and creamy mash. Potatoes were boiled, drained and mashed with the red skin on. I started with a generous dollop of butter and roughly a ½ cup of warmed milk. Mash together and add small amounts of butter and milk until the consistency is smooth and slightly runny and the taste is definitely rich.
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Mmmm- my favourite part of Thanksgiving. The dish that reminds me of being a kid and feeling like I’ve struck gold and am getting dessert with my dinner. The dish that grosses any non-American out that is until they taste it. The dish that got the most compliments on Sunday and was the most requested recipe. It is a combination of my mother’s recipe with a glazing method that I saw on telly and a few additions of my own.
5 Sweet Potatoes
150 g. Brown sugar (if you have light and dark use a mix of both)
125 g. Butter
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Dash of nutmeg
Juice of 1 orange
Good size glug of Rum
½ c. Walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
1 can of pineapple in its own juice
1 bag of Mini Marshmallows
Heat oven to 200C.
Boil sweet potatoes until they are cooked but still firm (this time can vary depending on the size of the sweet potatoes but will be about 20 minutes). When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into ½ inch slices. Layer the slices into rows in an ovenproof dish that is deep enough to hold the glaze when it is added.
Drain the pineapple and break it up into chunks. Don’t worry about breaking up into uniform pieces- this is not an attractive looking dish. Sprinkle the walnuts and pineapple over the top.
In a saucepan, place the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg, orange and rum and bring to a boil. Pour over the sweet potato mixture and bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the top and cook until the marshmallows are melted with a light brown colour.
Polenta Cornbread Stuffing
This year’s food magazines’ Thanksgiving editions were of a particularly high standard this year. The choice of dishes for all cooking abilities using a plethora of standard and new ingredients was so great that it made it tough to decide what to cook. I wanted to try to use ingredients in the cupboard to keep costs down so this recipe from November’s issue of Gourmet ticked all the right boxes.
¼ c. Butter
6 ½ c. Water
2 tsp. Salt
2 c. Quick Cooking Polenta (I don’t know if what I had was put you will definitely know when you have cooked it to the right consistency)
1 lb. Italian Sausage, casings removed (I didn’t have it so I used a good quality herby sausage)
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Onion, chopped
1 Garlic Clove, minced
2 c. Chicken Broth
1 c. Finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
½ c. Finely chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
Butter a shallow baking pan. Bring 6 c. of water with salt to a boil in a heavy pot. Add polenta in a steady stream whilst stirring with a long handled spoon. Simmer, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Polenta will become very thick. Add 3 tbsp. butter and stir until butter is incorporated. Spread polenta in buttered pan and chill, uncovered, until firm, about 15 minutes.
While polenta is chilling, cook sausage in 1 tbsp. of olive oil while breaking up lumps. Cook until no longer pink- about 3 minutes- then transfer to a bowl. Add onion to skillet and cook over medium heat until browned. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining ½ cup of water and stir up browned bits from bottom of the skillet, then add onion mixture and chicken broth to sausage.
Preheat grill. Melt 1 tbsp. butter with remaining tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan. Invert polenta onto a large cutting board, and then cut half of it into ½ inch cubes. Toss cubes in the butter mixture in a bowl. Return the cubes to the baking sheet and place 3-4 inches under the grill and broil until there are golden patches. The recipes says to do this for 8-12 minutes, but under my grill it took 15 minutes to get all sides a golden colour.
Preheat oven to 450F. Butter a baking dish.
Coarsely mash remaining half of polenta and add to sausage mixture. Add polenta cubes. ½ c. cheese, parsley and pepper to taste and toss until combined well. Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle top of stuffing with remaining cheese, cover and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.
Remove foil and bake until top is lightly browned, 10-15 minutes more.
Green Beans with Hazelnuts
Trim green beans and blanch 2-3 minutes in boiling water. Drain and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking. Toast a handful or two of roughly chopped hazelnuts in a pan or in the oven. Heat a skillet with ½ tablespoon of olive oil and add green beans. Heat until warmed through. Add hazelnuts and drizzle a little walnut oil over.
Blanch Sugar Snaps. Put ½ tablespoon of olive oil and heat sugar snaps through. Add the juice of 1 orange and reduce by half. Eat up.
This is another thing that everyone likes in different forms. As a kid I liked the canned jellified version that kept the tin marks even after you took it out of the can. As I got older I’ve gotten a fondness for homemade versions. This year’s consisted of me boiling up the berries, adding a bit of OJ and straining it so it was more jam like than jelly like. To each his own so I will leave you to your own preferred sauce.
This became another mini drama. I always get my recipe from the wrapper of that name brand canned pumpkin that seems to have a monopoly on the canned pumpkin market. My cans didn’t have the recipe so I trolled the internet and lo and behold there are way too many out there. I picked one from the Nestle website.
First off, I fucked up the measurements and wasn’t paying attention and measured the cream cheese in American and measured the pumpkin in British cups. The result was that the first batch tasted more like Pumpkin Pie instead of Pumpkin Cheesecake and I hate Pumpkin Pie. I realised I needed more cream cheese but of course I had no more and had no time to nip out to the shops. Fortunately I had some ricotta in the fridge (that was earmarked for a ravioli filling) and dumped the tub in the pumpkin mixture. The mini cheesecakes were rich tasting yet had a slightly lighter taste than regular cheesecake. I also recommend using ginger snaps instead of graham crackers; it gives the flavour more depth and helps cut the richness of the cheesecake.
For the crust-
1 ½ c. Ginger Snap crumbs
1/3 c. Butter, melted
¼ c. Caster Sugar
For the filling-
24 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1 c. Caster Sugar
¼ c. Brown Sugar, packed
15 oz. Canned Pure Pumpkin
5 fl. Oz. Evaporated Milk
2 tbsp. Cornflower
1 ¼ tsp. Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp. Ground Nutmeg
For the topping-
16 oz. Sour Cream
1/3 c. Granulated Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine ginger snap crumbs, butter and granulated sugar in medium bowl. Press onto bottom ½ inch thick in each muffin cup. Bake for 4 to 6 minutes (do not allow to brown). Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Put to one side.Beat cream cheese, granulated sugar and brown sugar in large mixer bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs, pumpkin and evaporated milk. Add cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg; beat well. Pour into muffin cups.Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. While cheesecakes are cooling, combine sour cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in small bowl; mix well. Spread over surface of warm cheesecake. Bake for 5 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
This has got to be one of my all time favourite desserts. I love pretty much any fruit dessert but there is sometime so warming and consoling about a desert with baked apples. It’s like a warm hug in your belly. I found this recipe in Bon Appetit in 1999 and it is the dessert I get asked to make most often. I have used this as a guideline and re-interpreted other apple desserts. Make sure you use baking apples or else they will turn to mush. I made the mistake of not double-checking which apples I bought and got a couple of eating apples and had some applesauce in my pie.
I have not given the piecrust recipe since you either like to make pastry or you are happy to buy ready made shortcrust pastry. Below is only the recipe for the filling.
5 lbs. Bramley Apples (or other cooking apple) peeled, cored, cut in ½ inch thick slices
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 tbsp. butter
1 c. Brown Sugar, packed
2 tbsp. Flour
1 ¼ tsp. Chinese Five Spice
Toss the apples in the lemon juice. Melt the butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add apples and brown sugar; cook until apples are just tender, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apples back to bowl. Boil juices until thick, about 15 minutes. Pour juice over apples; cool completely. Mix in flour and five spice. Add filling to pie shell. Bake in oven at 375F.