Thanksgiving

It snowed two days ago–enough to cover the lawn with 3 inches of the fresh white stuff.  The whole appearance of my world changed while I slept.  I get this awed feeling every year at the first snow and it brings back memories and nostalgia that overwhelms me.  I love living in Minnesota, with all its drawbacks, especially for this wonderful change of seasons.

The first snow, and the cold that cames with it, ushers in the start of the serious holidays.  Of course, the media has been touting Christmas for a few weeks already–starting back in the middle of September as the leaves were just beginning to change.  What a shame!!  Hurrying life along so fast doesn’t allow us to savor each time for its own beauty and depth.  God has been so good and so merciful to give us the seasons, the beauty of nature, the love of family and friends, the plenty that we enjoy, that it is truly a shame to skip over any of it too fast.

Thanksgiving is exactly the right name for the special day that we take time to truly appreciate all that we have.  This year, Zig and I are going to Clearwater Florida to join our family for a celebration.  We have, between us, four children, their spouses, and nine grandchildren.  That alone is reason to give thanks.  Since we all live at a distance from one another, it is rare for all to be together –and only one will be missing–our oldest grandson who cannot get away from work in Missouri.

Tradition will reign.  Of course, I’m not the hostess but I think I know my family well enough to know that my lovely daughter-in-law Whitney will plan a traditional meal.  Her side of the family will be coming, too and everyone will probably bring something–so it will be fun to see how tradition plays out with them.

When polled, over half the people named Thanksgiving as their favorite holiday.  Why is this so?  Well, of course, there’s the food and food is of central interest on Thanksgiving.  The gathering is great, too, since people get together to enjoy food, the day and the unique pleasures of being American such as football games and full stomachs.

But I think the main underlying reason is that it is the quintessential American holiday.  No matter what our ancestry or ethnic background, our religion or lack thereof, we all seem to identify with the concept that brought our forefathers here from somewhere else and we share in the thankfulness for being Americans,  Thanksgiving is American Pride Day.

At the first Thanksgiving, the fare was more meager than we sometimes like to think.  The Pilgrims were only marginally successful with their first year’s crops and half of their population had been lost over the prior winter.  Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag tribe was invited to attend and when he showed up with a large assortment of other tribesmen, the Pilgrims must have been more than a little worried.  But as Providence would have it, these Indian people saved the day.  They began by going hunting and showing the Pilgrim men some tried-and-true methods for bringing back the five deer–along with game birds and eel–which are listed along with leeks, wild mushrooms, groundnuts, dried berries, wild plums, watercress and other “sallet” greens as the foods eaten during the three day meal.  Corn bread and succotash were on the menu too,  Perhaps it wasn’t until later that pumpkin and turkey and cranberries became staples on the Thanksgiving menu,

Never mind.  Those foods were naive to the New World and surely showed up soon afterward and our Thanksgiving menus pay homage to the ingredients available during the early periods of New England’s history.  Here are some traditional recipes that I especially like–but do your own traditional dinner.  I can hardly wait to find out what ours will be this year.

 

THANKSGIVING DAY MENU

Roast Turkey with Giblet Gravy (and without)

Wild Rice Dressing

Cranberry Orange Relish (also jellied cranberries)

Sweet Potato-Apple Casserole

Green “Sallet” with Mushrooms, Leeks and Watercress

Buttered Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

Parmesan Rolls

Pumpkin Pie

Pecan Pie

Sweet Potato-Apple Casserole (8 servings)

2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and halved to fit feed tube of food processor
2 16-oz cans sweet potatoes, drained (or peel and boil fresh sweet potatoes to equal about 3 cups)
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt

Butter a casserole.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice apples in food processor with steel knife.  Remove.  Coming sweet potatoes, butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, sherry, cinnamon and salt in work bowl and process until well blended and pureed.  Spread 1/2 mixture in casserole; arrange 1/2 apple slices over, overlapping evenly.  Repeat layers.  Brush top of apple slices with 2 Tbsp. melted butter.  Bake 45 minutes

Green “Sallet” with Mushrooms, Leeks and Watercress (8 servings)

6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large leek (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
½ tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1 pound mushrooms (wild and/or button), thickly sliced
One-fourth cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp. dried marjoram

6 cups mixed baby lettuces
1 large watercress bunch, trimmed

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in heavy skillet over high heat.  Add leek and carrot and sauté 1 minute; add crushed red pepper and sauté 1 minute. Add mushrooms, vinegar and marjoram. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove skillet from heat.  Add remaining 4 Tbsp. oil; season to taste with salt and pepper.  Transfer mushroom mixture to small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Combine lettuces and water cress in large shallow bowl. Drain marinade from mushroom mixture into small bowl.  Toss greens with enough marinade to season to taste.  Arrange mushrooms in center of greens.  Serve, passing any remaining marinade separately as dressing.

(Adapted from Bon Appetit November 1993)

If you’re looking for a different or an additional dessert to add to your dinner besides the usual pies, I have one that is absolutely delicious.

Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake—8 hours preparation time (includes baking and chilling)

Three-fourths cup crushed graham crackers
Three-fourths cup crushed ginger snap cookies
Three-fourths cup chopped pecans
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
One-fourth tsp. ground ginger

One-fourth and one-eighth tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla (divided use)
2 lbs. cream cheese, room temp
1 jar of Robert Rothschild Pumpkin curd and tart filling
3 eggs, room temp
1 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of 9” spring form pan.  Mix cracker and cookie crumbs, ginger, melted butter, and pecans until moist.  Press into bottom of pan.  Bake 8-10 minutes until slightly brown.  Cool completely on rack.

Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees.  Beat cream cheese with mixer low speed until smooth.  Add three-fourths cup pumpkin curd, 1 tsp. vanilla, sugar and one-fourth tsp. pumpkin spice and beat on low until just combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low until combined. Pour filling onto cooled crust and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake, covered with another baking sheet until center still moves slightly, but not soupy.  Bake 50-60 minutes.  Cool 2 hours on rack, then cover and chill.

Beat heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, one-eighth tsp. pumpkin pie spice and ½ tsp vanilla until stiff peaks form.  Fold in remaining pumpkin curd gently and spread over top of chilled cake.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill 2 hours.Serves 10-12

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