Friday, November 24, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
I thought that I might get out of cooking the big Thanksgiving feast this year because I had hoped that our kitchen renovation might be under way. After Michael (Anschel of Otogawa-Anschel) told us that he wouldn't start until January, I gave up and decided just to cook up a storm. My menu was ambitious: roast turkey, mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, sweet potatoes with maple syrup, stuffing with parmesan and pine nuts, cranberry chutney, stir-fried green beans with garlic and ginger, roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet-tart cippoline onions, and Parker House rolls. My daughter Sarah brought a beet and fennel salad, and my daughter Elizabeth made a big green salad. Jim's sister Betty brought shrimp cocktail and a cheese dip with a raspberry-chipotle sauce. For dessert, I made Apple Crumb and Key Lime pies (both from Rose's Pie and Pastry Bible) and a Pumpkin Upside Down Cake from Lynn Rossetto Kaspar's newsletter.
This menu turned out to be not just ambitious, but crazy.
I took Wednesday off work to cook and I started off in a leisurely fashion with the apple pie. I make pie about once a year--on Thanksgiving or Christmas (except on the year that I threw a big Pie, Poetry, and Potables party, but that's a different story)--so my technique is not good. If I decided to throw myself into pie baking in a big way, I would have to experiment with different rolling pins and surfaces, but for now I made do with the one I picked up at Target a few years ago.
For the apple crumb pie, I used Rose's cream cheese pie crust. It was, as promised, both tender and flaky, and it tasted so delicious that you could fill it with cinnamon and sugar, roll it up, and eat it as a little pastry. I know that you could because I did. It brought back memories of childhood, when my mother would always give all of us a scrap of pie dough to shape, fill, and bake, except that this was a tastier crust than my mother made, because she used Crisco instead of butter and cream cheese. However, the crust wanted to stick to the counter, and I didn't leave enough dough on the edge to make a good tall crust. This pie is not a work of art, but it was one of the best apple pies I've ever eaten.
By the time I got the apple pie out of the oven, however, it was past noon, and I realized I could no longer work at a leisurely pace, and, besides, I needed to go to the grocery store for more supplies. It was almost 2:00 before I started work, simultaneously, on the butter-topped rolls and the Key Lime pie. Fortunately, the Key Lime pie was quick. I've made Key Lime before with bottled Key Lime juice. Although it claims to have no preservatives, it has a nasty taste. Rose recommends solving that problem by using regular supermarket limes instead of Key limes, and this turned out to be a good suggestion. With a little bit of lime zest, it was tart, and, piled with whipped cream, just sweet enough to offset the tartness. Rose's recipe calls for an Italian meringue, which would have been prettier, but we're a whipped cream family. I intended to make a stabilized whipped cream so I could cover the entire pie with cream, and I intended to garnish it with a few paper-thin lime slices, but by the time I served dessert, I was too tired to care, so I just had a big bowl of whipped cream, with an option for vanilla ice cream, for all the desserts.
Compared to the pies, the rolls were a breeze. I made the butter-topped roll recipe again, but this time I made Parker House rolls. These are the perfect dinner rolls, and they also make a super-delicious base for a leftover turkey sandwich.
By the time I finished making everything I had to make ahead of time, it was 10:00 on Wednesday night, I was bone-tired, covered with flour, and feeling more put upon than thankful.
My big question to myself in the days before Thanksgiving: should I bake three pies or should I be daring and make one dessert that's not a pie. This was not an insignificant issue. To present a non-pie option on Thanksgiving would be a serious break from Tradition. I found a recipe for pumpkin upside-down cake with cranberries and pecans that sounded so rich and buttery I thought it would might satisfy pumpkin pie lovers.
Actually, this dessert was a hit, although I was disappointed in it. The butter and brown sugar topping had 8 ounces of butter. I was thinking 8 tablespoons, or one stick, but then I realized that 8 ounces is a half a pound. Half a pound of butter! No wonder it sounded rich. I still wonder if that was a misprint, because there was so much butter that it oozed out of the cake for about an hour until it stabilized. And the texture of the cake was more like a pudding than a cake, but it did look pretty.
Thanksgiving was my family's favorite holiday because it's all about eating, and eating a lot. As a child, I remember eating seconds and thirds, especially of mashed potatoes and stuffing. Now I'm more circumspect, and I eat more vegetables and less gravy, but there is something admirable about a holiday that doesn't force you to buy presents--just to eat. And there is something very sweet about the Midwestern way of saying thank you--"Oh, you fussed! You shouldn't have!"
Posted by Marie at 4:28 PM