Adapting to the New Norm – Happy Thanksgiving!
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue – the oft-repeated refrain used to cue a new bride on the traditions inherent in the preparation of her big day can be borrowed when planning a nouveau Thanksgiving repast. This year it is indeed “new” due to recommendations to limit gatherings to a few close family members, or those living in the colder northern states, to forego an in-house celebration altogether and instead host Zoom or holiday visits.
In our slice of the country, we are fortunate to live in a sub-tropical climate where we can luxuriate in alfresco dining year-round, especially so around Thanksgiving when the temperatures are more reliable, balmy, and delightful. Whether we choose reservations or opt to stay at home and enjoy a cozy meal followed by watching the game and a nap, preparing should be abbreviated – making less, more.
For “something old,” duplicate a family favorite – mom’s pumpkin pie recipe – how can you go wrong? This recipe contains a super-secret ingredient that lends a spicy kick that’s hard to define but not hard to miss – a smidge of black pepper. Another ol’ reliable is to make the stand-by turkey breast for a quicker, easier way to get a feast au table. It will give you all-white-meat, which many prefer, a faster, easier cook time, and a go-to oven pick.
“Something new” can be a fresh starter or side – pecan mushrooms – a new twist on an old favorite with a surprise crunchy filling.
For “something borrowed,” dress your table to the nines with a dose of nostalgia – borrow mom’s tablecloth, the one she used at every family holiday, and let the memories flood back – such an excellent conversation starter! Whether it’s lacy, flowery, striped, or frumpy, this is the time to let it shine.
“Something blue” may seem a challenge, but using a bleu cheese like Roquefort as the star in this light salad, tossed with peppery arugula, walnuts, and warmed figs, makes a savory salad just as good used as a green side.
For your veggie, make a delish take on the traditional green bean casserole. Instead, steam fresh green beans, add toasted walnuts, a tab of butter, and finish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar – yum. And, don’t forget cranberry sauce – skip the store-bought stuff and whip up a winning recipe from Ina Garten that lends the sweet and tart essential accompaniment that everyone craves – and that’s oh so good the next day nestled between slices of leftover turkey and stuffing on crusty bread.
Add a pan of freshly baked cornbread and voila – a meal fit for a king – and queen. Enjoy and stay safe.
Ina Garten’s Warm Fig and Arugula Salad
(From “Make It Ahead” by Ina Garten)
¼ cup aged sherry vinegar
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup good olive oil
8 to 12 ripe fresh figs, depending on their size
1 cup whole walnut halves (4 ounces)
8 to 10 cups baby arugula (9 ounces)
8 ounces crumbled Roquefort cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil. Set aside.
Remove the stems from the figs with a small knife. Depending on their sizes, cut the figs in half or quarters through the stem end. Place the figs and walnuts together in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for five to 15 minutes, depending on the figs’ ripeness, until they begin to release some of their juices.
Meanwhile, place the arugula in a large bowl, add the vinaigrette, and toss well. Distribute the arugula among six salad plates, add the Roquefort, and then place the warm figs and walnuts on top. Serve immediately.
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
(From www.sallysbaking addiction.com)
15 oz. can (about 2 cups) pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1 and 1/4 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger*
1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg*
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves*
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 cup (240ml) heavy cream
1/4 cup milk (I use 1%, but any milk is fine)
egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk
Bring store-bought pie crust to room temperature.
For the pumpkin pie filling: Whisk the pumpkin, three eggs, and brown sugar together until combined. Add the cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, cream, and milk. Vigorously whisk until everything is combined. The filling will be a little thick.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay the crust into the pie pan. Crimp the edges of the pie crust with a fork or flute the edges with your fingers, if desired. Brush edges lightly with egg wash mixture. Line the pie crust with parchment paper. (Crunch up the parchment paper first so that you can easily shape it into the crust.) Fill with pie weights that are evenly distributed around the pie dish.
Pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment paper/pie weights. Pour pumpkin pie filling into the warm pre-baked crust. Only fill the crust about 3/4 of the way up. (Use extra to make mini pies with leftover pie dough scraps if you’d like.) Bake the pie until the center is almost set, about 55-60 minutes, give or take. A small part of the center will be wobbly – that’s ok. After 25 minutes of baking, be sure to cover the crust’s edges with aluminum foil or use a pie crust shield to prevent them from getting too brown. Check for doneness at minute 50, and then 55, and then 60, etc.
Once done, transfer the pie to a wire rack and allow to cool completely for at least 3 hours. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
NOTES: Canned pumpkin is best in this pumpkin pie recipe.
Spices: Instead of ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, you can use one teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. Be sure to add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon still.
Green beans with walnuts and balsamic
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons minced garlic
½ cup chopped walnuts (toast in a bit of butter and lightly salt)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1-pound green beans, trimmed (about 8 cups)
A drizzle of balsamic glaze
Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat.
Add garlic and cook, stirring until the garlic is just barely showing signs of turning brown, 30 to 90 seconds.
Immediately pour into a large mixing bowl to stop cooking.
Meanwhile, add one to two inches of water to a large pot fitted with a steamer attachment, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Add green beans to the steamer, and cook, covered until the beans are crisp-tender, four to five minutes.
Transfer the green beans to the bowl. Add a pat of butter, walnuts, salt, drizzle with balsamic glaze and toss to coat.
Ina’s cranberry conserve
1 (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries, cleaned
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 orange, zest grated and juiced
1 lemon, zest grated and juiced
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Cook the cranberries, sugar, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the skins pop open. Add the apple, zests, and juices and cook for 15 more minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the raisins and nuts. Let cool, and serve chilled.
Pecan Stuffed Mushrooms
24 baby portabella mushrooms, with stems (1 1/2-inch to 2-inch wide)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for greasing dish (original recipe called for unsalted butter-use if you wish or use 1/2 butter, 1/2 olive oil)
1 -2 large garlic clove, minced
1 1⁄2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
1 cup pecans, finely chopped (4 oz.)
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1⁄2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
1⁄3 cup half-and-half
2⁄3 cup heavy cream
parsley, chopped to garnish
Put oven rack in the middle position in oven and preheat to 400°F.
Trim ends of mushroom stems and separate caps and stems, reserving both.
Arrange caps, stemmed sides up, in a buttered 13″x9″ shallow baking dish.
Finely chop stems (or process in a food processor), then cook with garlic and oregano in butter (or olive oil) in a 10″ heavy skillet over medium heat, frequently stirring, until lightly browned, about five minutes.
Stir in pecans, bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook, frequently stirring, for one minute.
Stir in 1/3 cup half and half and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat.
Sprinkle insides of caps with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, then divide filling among the caps.
Drizzle mushrooms with the 2/3 cup cream and bake until filling is browned and caps are tender for about 30 minutes.
Sprinkle over parsley to garnish. Serve mushrooms drizzled with pan juices.
To make ahead:
Stuffed mushrooms can be put together, but not baked, one day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before baking.
Credits: Jean Amodea for KTS Group