November 28, 2012

What We Ate

Each meal upstate was a feast, as usual, but Thanksgiving dinner: especially so. The meal at our house is an increasingly a collaborative one, everyone chipping in a drink, a side dish, a dessert or tending the fireplace (important for keeping up warmth and morale!)

My mom is chief turkey officer, with supreme brining technique and always slow-roasts the turkey overnight (Weds to Thursday) which ingeniously frees up the oven all day on Thursday, so there's less fighting over the racks. Aside from her killer stuffing, mushroom gravy, and some straight up mashed potatoes, everything else on the menu seems to vary year to year. I lobbed up a bunch of suggestions (as the most enthusiastic recipe gatherer of the family). This is what else ended up on the table.

If it were up to me, I'd make every single one of these things again next year.

Oatmeal Molasses Rolls: These were amazing and I'd love to make them again immediately. They're a no-knead bread, and take as short as 4 hours, or as long as you pretty much want. I made the dough Wednesday, let it rise overnight, did a second rise for 4-5 hours on Thursday, then baked them so they were hot at dinner.

Shaved Fennel Salad: At thanksgivings passed, I've missed fresh greens, so we made this citrusy + light fennel, arugula, pine-nut, feta salad that has a bright lemon dressing. I also had some extra bosc pears left over from the cake I baked, so sliced that thinly and added it here. (Note: we didn't use dill or zucchini as the original recipe calls for)

Roasted sweet potatoes with sage, walnut pesto: I moderated my recipe from this one over at Food52 and substituted korean/japanese sweet potato wedges for the squash and toasted walnuts for the hazelnuts. So good. If you're also going to substitute, use 4-5 large sweet potatoes instead of 2 butternut squash, roast at 400, covered for 30 minutes, then 10 minutes more, uncovered.

Balsamic braised brussels sprouts with pancetta: My brother and his girlfriend worked on this dish subbing thick cut smoked bacon for pancetta. Needless to say: delicious.

Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins, Onions + Pine nuts: Another moderated dish based on Yotam Ottolenghi's Saffron Cauliflower recipe. Basically, follow the recipe, but double the amount of cauliflower, omit the olives / bay leaves, and add 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts. Make sure you absolutely blister the cauliflower to oblivion -- it's so much better when it's really, really roasted.

Upside-down Pear Ginger Cake: My mom had gotten two pies from a local orchard, so I opted to make a cake for my dessert contribution. I found this via Molly, and love ginger-based desserts, so gave it a whirl. This was enormously successful, can be made up to a day ahead of time and is great with some fresh whipped cream. I didn't have a spring-form pan, so only made 2/3 of the batter (sufficient for a 9-inch cake pan). I also used 3 Tbsp of fresh grated ginger (I love ginger!).

Awesome Cranberries: A family recipe passed down from Jacob's grandmother. Awesome cranberries are a multi-year tradition and Jacob requests cranberry sauce monopoly before embarking on this recipe. These are truly awesome: plenty tart, somewhat sweet, aromatic, spicy and great on everything for weeks after Thanksgiving.

Prep and cooking time (after assembling ingredients) about 45 min. (Makes about 3 cups)

3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
3-4 whole green cardamom pods, crushed open
1 teaspoon (5ml) whole cloves
1-2 hot green chilies, seeded
3 inch piece or orange zest
1 1/2 cups water (or some juice from an orange and some water)
3/4 cup (120 g) raw sugar
1/2 cup (80 g) pitted dates, sliced
1 pound (455 g) cranberries

1.    Tie the cinnamon, cardamom pods, green chilies, and orange zest in a small piece of cheesecloth. Combine the juice or water, sweetener, dates, and spice bag in heavy bottomed, 2 quart saucepan over moderate heat and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1/2 hour.

2.    Remove the spice bag and pressing it to extract the flavor. Stir in the cranberries until the mixture thickens and the berries pop, about 15-20 minutes. Serve at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for as long as it lasts.