When it comes to Thanksgiving recipes, my family is pretty set in their ways. We all have our favorite dish, and if it wasn’t on the table for Thanksgiving, we would die. For one of my sisters, it is corn. Not super complex, but a NECESSITY. For my other sister, it is crescent rolls, which unfortunately we often forget in the over and are super overdone. But they are there. For me, its broccoli and onion casserole, again very simple: broccoli, onions and a cheddar white sauce, but hey I love it and it is a must have. My mother tried to change the menu one year and added sweet potato casserole (I know its a tradition in most houses, but had NEVER been present in our kitchen) for my brother in law who was spending his first Thanksgiving with us (god bless him). We were outraged that she would change the menu, even if it was just to add something. I don’t tell you this information to make you think we are resistant to change, just that we feel strongly about our traditions. Fortunately, we do not have our ‘required’ desserts, and it tends to depend on the year, and what we find at the grocery store that looks good. So when we decided to test out some Thanksgiving recipes for our dear Bakezilla, I immediately gravitated toward desert, because to test another side dish would feel a little like adultery to me. So as I was wandering around in recipe land I stumbled across Paula Deen’s cranberry sauce fritter recipe, which sounded ok, but used the canned gelatinous cranberry ‘sauce’ that we are all so used to. She simply battered and fried slices of the cranberry jello, which seemed interesting but not entirely up my alley. However, it did put the idea of cranberry fritters in my head. So I looked around for other recipes and found one that used real cranberries. I stumbled across THIS recipe, which I liked so I went ahead and tried it. The batter was easy enough to make, but when it comes time to handle it, they aren’t kidding when they say your hands need to be well floured…seriously, coat your hands.
I rolled the batter in my hands, and poked a little hole to fill with brown sugar and a cranberry and threw it in the oil. It takes about a minute to get nice and golden. Of course after making about 3, my inner fat kid escaped and had to try one. So I bit into and it was super crispy and delicious…except in the first bite I didn’t get any cranberry…crap. So I put the rest in my mouth and got a whole mouthful of cranberry as well as the interesting texture of uncooked batter that surrounded the cranberry. I think that the cranberry made it too dense to really cook all the way through, and the tang of the cranberry was all concentrated in the center, so you get sweet fritter and then BAM super sour cranberry. Recipe Fail.
Fortunately, I have failed enough times in my life (insert high school math joke here) so I know not to give up. I was determined to make this bastard work…it sounded good and dammit, IT WOULD BE. So I took the cranberries and chopped them up with my awesome food chopper. I love my food chopper…it get the job done and you get to beat the hell out of it . So then I threw the chopped cranberry directly into the batter and mixed it in. I pulled off some dough, rolled it in my well floured hands, then still poked a hole in the middle, but this time I filled it with just the dark brown sugar.
I’m not entirely sure why my hands look like weird chimp hands here, but it was super hard to take the picture with my hands covered in baking crap.
Then I rolled the dough around the sugar and fried it. Once it cooled, I rolled it in cinnamon sugar rather than the recommended powdered sugar.
I did about 10 of those and then did what most people do when they aren’t sure how something is going to taste…I had someone else taste it. Luckily, he loved it, so I knew I could eat one . The tang of the cranberry balanced out the sweet of the batter and the brown sugar in the middle made for a fun surprise. I was really pleased with this recipe. We ate most of them that night, but I may have eaten the last three for breakfast the next day…
This is definitely a recipe that I will make over and over again. I have even seen some people put in cranberry and apple, so its super versatile and I’m guessing can be adapted to most of the denser fruits.
Many thanks to Peter who was my willing lab rat, and just an all around good guy.
Being a native New Englander, I know the story of the first Thanksgiving very well. And even if it isn’t true, and even if Thanksgiving is a holiday to cover up the horrible, terrible things that the original Pilgrims did to the Wampanoag people, what with their smallpox and their venerial diseases….. I don’t care.
It’s nice, to think that in celebration and thanks for the fact that they did not die alone in the horrible New England winter (a thing I too gave thanks for, every time it got to be spring in my childhood and I still had a pulse), my forebears sent a message to ol’ Squanto, and chief Massasoit, telling them to come hang out and bring some food and some friends. Together, said Miles Standish, we’ll all celebrate the fact that we did not die. And while there may or may not have been cranberries (although cranberries originated in Massachusetts and Maine), and there may or may not have been some gnarly old heritage turkey, I think that the Pilgrims were probably pretty happy that the Wampanoag hadn’t murdered them all yet, and had in fact helped them survive.
Along with laying an extra place for the people who might show up, and the people who are there only in spirit, my family is mindful of tradition. My father, true to his Yankee heritage, makes cranberry sauce every year, from a very nice recipe by Jeff Smith, that old preacher-man, whose ingredients are essentially, if memory serves, cranberries, oranges, and sugar. Dad, correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.
While I’ve often eaten it, I can’t say that cranberry sauce is one of my favorite parts of the actual holiday table. Cranberries are tough to eat, very bitter and sour. But I’ve long been intrigued by them, and wondered if it was just me, or Jeff Smith’s pairing of them with something that could ALSO be bitter and sour. So, emboldened and embarking on a trip into the land of Thanksgiving foods, I decided that Cranberries should be tested.
Cranberry Chipotle Relish
Via Epicurious – Bon Appetit November 2009
The ingredients here are pretty simple: 1 pkg of frozen cranberries. 1 1/3 cup of sugar. Juice of 1 lemon. 2 chipotles in adobo (don’t bother soaking a dried chipotle. Trust me.) Garlic. Cinnamon (I’m working on a replacement). Cumin.
You combine the cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, and chipotles (rinsed. trust me.) in a saucepan, and bring them to a simmer. You can put the cranberries in still frozen, I learned. Once the sugar and lemon juice have dissolved and everything is at a simmer, let it go for about 5 minutes. I mashed some of the cranberries up with a potato masher, although I also mashed some of the chipotle by mistake, but didn’t see any adverse effects.
You add the garlic, cinnamon and cumin, and simmer until things start thickening and darkening. When this happens, immediately scoop or pour your cranberry relish into a clean bowl, and rinse. out. your. saucepan. STAT.
Melted sugar, especially when combined with fruit sugars, WILL TURN TO CEMENT. It’s a fact. Sort of. Regardless, you need to wash your saucepan while the sugar is still warm, and therefore liquidy, to avoid a situation that involves you chipping caked-on sugar out of it (sidenote: anyone know how my new saucepot got a dent in it already? dub tee eff?)
Back to the relish. Once it’s in the bowl, put it in the fridge while you prepare your baked chicken and brussels sprouts (roasted with bacon and garlic. delish. who knew?? not me. this was the first time I’d ever even SEEN a brussels sprout in person. legitimately.)
And there you have it! A winning update to a Thanksgiving classic, and a TON better than whatever you shake out of the can on the big day, I promise. Not to mention, I bet if you mixed this with some honey mustard, it would create a sandwich spread that would rival the delicious one that I slathered on turkey burgers last year, at the behest of my girl, Rachael Ray. Also, it keeps for ages. Make it on Saturday and put it in the refrigerator until Thursday, and you’ll have one dish less to worry about on Thanksgiving.
Simplicity in the face of chaos – that’s really what we’re looking for, isn’t it?
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays resplendent with color: vibrant oranges, browns and reds; harvest time. A cornucopia centerpiece never graced my family’s table, but if it did, I’d make sure it burst with colorful seasonal fruits. While Thanksgiving is an American holiday, I believe the Japanese have the right idea when it comes to a complete meal: everything should be balanced by the varieties of color, texture and flavor, which is why when creating meals, I strive for harmony, case in point, my colorful dinner party the other week. No better time to put this in practice than now, when seasonal fruits and veggies are a huge component of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.
This year I’ll be home and in all likelihood, my mother and aunt will insist on cooking everything themselves. Usually we’ll feature the standards — turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, canned cranberries that none of us will actually eat, and of course pumpkin. Despite autumn’s bounty of seasonal options, my clan tends to go for the heavy stuff and far too many starches.
If I distilled down to a bento box of what Thanksgiving foods mean to me, here’s what I’d feature:
- Pumpkin phyllo cups (hors d’ourves)
- Apple and butternut squash soup
- Arugula and cranberry salad with almond slivers
- Wild rice with parsnip and squash
- Smashed sweet potatoes
- Sauteed collard greens, meatless
- Roast turkey with rosemary sage stuffing
- Pumpkin pie made with homemade whipped non-dairy cream or pumpkin whoopie pies (using Tofutti cream cheese for the filling in this case)
When hosting guests, a great bite-sized hors d’ourves is pumpkin phyllo cups, which are also super easy to make. Take a 15 oz can of pureed pumpkin, stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg; adjust to taste. Scoop them into little phyllo dough cups and bake at 350 on a cookie sheet until phyllo becomes golden. It’s like mini pumpkin pies!
The first time I ever tried pumpkin, in fact, was eating a variation of this, in boreka-like phyllo pockets, rather than cups. My love affair with pumpkin started then.
The rest of the menu has links to their recipes or are pretty standard, but combine well altogether to highlight the bounty that nature brings us this time of year, as well as sharing it with the bounty of our loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving!
I’ve never been a huge fan of pumpkin pie. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the flavor with its sweet, spicy amazingness, I think what always got me was the intense density of the dish. That is probably why, once I was old enough to try eating my favorite Halloween decoration, I stuck more to stealing a couple bites of my dads pumpkin chiffon pie, which was significantly lighter than the traditional pie. So when I stumbled across a recipe for pumpkin mousse, I thought that it would be perfect for me since it would have the great pumpkin flavor that I like, but be nice and light in texture. It took about 15 minutes of actual prep time and so far has the approval of 10 high school freshman and one actual adult besides me.
Pumpkin Mousse: ( as stolen from Dave Leiberman on FoodNetwork.com)
-1 can pumpkin (the 15 oz, not that huge beast of a can)
-3 pints (cups) of heavy cream
-3/4 cup of confectioners sugar
-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1 Tbsp vanilla
Seriously this is wicked easy. Just take the pumpkin, sugar, pie spice and 1 cup of the cream and put it in a sauce pan. Cook it over medium heat until it is all combined and smooth. I ended up putting in an extra dash of the spice, just because I wanted the flavor a little stronger. Once that is cooked, set it aside to cool. You can put it in the refrigerator if you would like, but I just left mine on the counter to cool, and it took about 20 minutes. Then take the remaining 2 cups of cream and whip them with the vanilla. Fold the pumpkin mixture into the whipped cream until it is smooth, and Voila! you have pumpkin mousse….I know, I know…its not REAL mousse with the eggs and everything, but trust me when I say that you barely notice the difference. I put mine in the fridge to chill for a while and make sure that it set nicely.
I also went a little crazy and made a vanilla bean-cinnamon whipped cream to garnish. Just whip some cream and put in a dash of cinnamon and vanilla from 1 bean. I didn’t sweeten it because the mousse was sweet enough, but if you have a bigger sweet tooth, then just use cinnamon sugar rather than just cinnamon
Ialso am a big fan of this with a little bit of chocolate syrup added …but I’m a firm believer that everything is better with chocolate
There are some things that are synonymous with Thanksgiving, with the holidays. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Squash. We’ll get to all of these except the turkey as we help our dear friend Bakezilla work her way through her first Thanksgiving dinner, as well as sharing stories adn tales about our own personal holiday faves.
A big one for me at the holidays has always been Pumpkin Pie. I went through a phase where it was my favorite thing ever. I’ve kind of cooled on it lately, which is odd given my recent love affair with most things pumpkin. I’m more into combining pumpkin with muffins, or brownies, or jello shots.
However, my friend and all around awesome lady, Jackie, brought me back to pumpkin pie. She has an allergy to cinnamon, which means that her fave dessert has the chance to put her into anaphylactic shock. This is not a cool thing, as you might imagine, because I love Jackie and do not want her to die from dessert. She asked the Pretty Girls via Twitter to try and hack pumpkin pie to produce something she could consume. I promised to try.
A couple days later, while washing the dishes, my mind wandered away from the crusted on remains I was scraping off my casserole dish, and suddenly, I had it. Cumin, and Cayenne, would provide the heat and spice that cinnamon give. Nutmeg and Cardamom would provide warmth and spiciness.
I had it. And I had to immediately try my theory. I abandoned the dishes and immediately ran to the store to buy pumpkin and evaporated milk.
Pumpkin Pie for Jackie
Preheat oven to 425.
Roll out your pie shells and place into your pie plate. If making 1 pie, make it a deep-dish pie plate.
Combine 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar in a bowl. Reserve.
Beat 2 eggs in a large bowl. Add in 1 can of pumpkin puree and the sugar-and-spice mixture. Once this is combined, add in 1 can of evaporated milk.
Pour the filling into the pie shell, thump it on the counter a fe times to get rid of the air bubbles, and put it in the oven. I baked my 4 mini pies and 1 mini springform for 15 minutes at 425, then reduced the heat to 350, and baked them for 35 minutes. For a larger pie, make it 45 minutes at 350.
This pie was 2-boy-approved: Jesse and our friend Steele both decided it was pretty darn good. While you notice the lack of cinnamon, I certainly didn’t miss it. The spices work brilliantly with the pumpkin, creating a general feeling of warmth, and the cayenne provides a nice slow burn at the end.
In fact, you could probably use coconut milk instead of evaporated milk, if you’re lactose intolerant.
But in the end, the best part is that Jackie can have her fave again, without anaphylactic shock. And that’s a win.