28 November, 2009
Isn't the best part of Thanksgiving the leftovers? All the stress of getting the dinner itself ready at the same time is over, the tiny little voice in the back of your mind warning you how long washing up will take has been stilled. The guests have been fed, the candles have burned down and all that remains is to open the fridge, lift the foil lid, and... uncover pure gold.
The best sandwich! Roast turkey (thank goodness John had left a plate of the best dark meat hiding behind a poinsettia, because all the turkey we offered our guests was eaten!), a good sharp Cheddar cheese, sourdough bread lightly toasted, a mild red onion, mustard and mayo... it doesn't get any better than that, with a little bowl of turkey soup on the side.
What I did not get leftovers of were:
Becky’s Cheesy Thanksgiving Potatoes
(serves at least 8, but more with other side dishes on offer)
3 lbs/1 ½ kilos potatoes (Maris Piper here in England is a good choice, or a Yukon Gold in the US)
3 round shallots or 1 banana shallot, minced
2 cups/ 474 ml grated or shredded Cheddar or Double Gloucester cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
sea salt and pepper
3 cups/1 pint/474 ml single cream or Half and Half
Boil potatoes until easily pierced with a fork, then peel when cool. Grate them on a coarse grater and set aside.
Lighly oil or nonstick spray a deep glass or pottery casserole dish, perhaps 9 inches in diameter and 5 inches or so high (mine is round, which is an appealing shape). Scatter a layer of grated potatoes on the bottom, then cover with a layer of cheese, a sprinkling of shallot, a sprinkle of garlic powder, and season well. Repeat layering until you have run out of ingredients, ending with cheese. Then pour the cream over the casserole.
Bake at 180C, 350F until bubbly and the cheese begins to brown, about 45 minutes, depending on the depth of the casserole.
Becky, much-missed Thanksgiving companion during our first years here in London, has always claimed that these potatoes are even better as leftovers, but as we never had any left over, I cannot verify this! Just the same this year.
These potatoes were so good that they even featured as one of my guest's "Three Things I Am Thankful For"! Unbelievably soft and creamy, with a crisp, golden crust, they disappeared immediately. Well, with 15 guests, 8 children among them, that's not surprising.
What was a welcome surprise was my painter friend Matthew's unexpected contribution to the feast!
Matthew's Apple Nut Tart
(serves 12 easily)
2 sheets puff pastry pressed together, about 18 x 12 inches, brushed with beaten egg
apple slices to cover pastry (about four apples)
handful each: pine nuts, cashews, pecans (all toasted)
dribble of honey to cover all (1/3 cup?)
dusting of cinnamon sugar
Bake at 180C, 350 F for 20 minutes.
This tart has everything, John reports, each of the perfectly simple ingredients playing its appointed role: delicate warm pastry, soft apple, crunchy nuts, slight sweetness of honey and sugar. A really nice dessert for those of your guests who don't like pumpkin pie.
Classic Pumpkin Pie
1 unbaked pie crust (or here in London, sweet pastry shell) in pie plate
3/4 cup/150 grams granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 ounces/425 grams pumpkin puree (in England it will be part squash, no matter)
1 can (12 ounces/340 grams) evaporated milk
whipped cream to top
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture, mix well. Gradually add evaporated milk.
Pour into unbaked pastry shell and baked at 210C/425F for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 180C/350F and bake for another 40-5- minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 2 hours, then serve with whipped cream.
I'll admit it: I don't even like pumpkin pie. But it's completely necessary to Thanksgiving dinner, and Avery will eat all the leftovers for breakfast, as long as they last.
We had a lovely time. Every big dinner party should include a family of six, I think: just with one invitation, you get a huge group! "Thank you," said the dad, "No one every invites us all!" The girls all made turkey placecards with their handprints on orange paper, and the littlest girl Molly plucked kernels of "Indian corn" from the cob that's decorated our front door, so each person would have them for the "Three Things I'm Thankful For."
Somehow I managed to get eight side dishes to come out at the right time, and I should have made more of everything, because there were almost no leftovers, sadly! Cheesy spinach, caramelized carrots, two kinds of potatoes, two kinds of beans, and stuffing, all were wolfed down with children taking second helpings of all the vegetables, to their parents' delight. I've said it before: if you add enough garlic and cheese to almost anything, children will eat it.
Well, all this means only one thing: Christmas is upon us. Every day the pile in the corner of my bedroom gets a little higher: presents to pack up and take with us to Connecticut. In just three weeks we'll be there! "Why are all the gifts we're taking along so HEAVY?" John complains, and it's true. Everyone in my family wants far too many books, but as I'm the worst offender, I shall say nothing. This week I must write to Farmer Rollie and his wife Judy to specify our Christmas tree needs, from their tree farm. That's one of the best feelings of Christmas, arriving at Red Gate Farm to open up the big red barn and find trees and wreaths, breathing out their lovely resiny aroma.
Speaking of resin, or anything sticky, no such thing may enter our house as of Monday morning when Avery... gets her braces put on. I know it's something that happens to more children than not, a rite of passage of sorts. I always told her I'd never insist on braces so that her teeth were perfect, just so that they were functional, and so it is. Her incisors are hiding rebelliously up inside her gums and so must be called to account. Wish her luck! And may tomorrow be filled with caramels for every meal.