Thursday, November 22, 2007

thanksgiving: the menu of doom

One of our family stories speaks of my sainted grandfather Buster at his in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner in the early 20th century. The table was literally groaning under the weight of uncounted dishes, the story goes, when Buster reportedly said, "no stewed tomatoes?" My great grandmother Nellie allegedly went and opened a can of stewed tomatoes for her son-in-law. Family apocrypha does not report what she had to say.

So every year, someone in my family gets to ask for the stewed tomatoes.

Cooking for a big family is an exercise in excess. Here in the Great Middle of America, we don't have a lot of family around so we invite neighbors to simulate the "cooking for a big family" experience. Fact is, we don't know how to scale down.

This year I've made one of my favorite dishes: Magie Mahoney's Turnips

6 lbs (2 big ones) turnips, peeled and uniformly cubed
1 large onion, diced
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
1/4 cup table cream (a.k.a. heavy cream)
1/4 cup maple syrup
fresh ground pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 slice bacon, for the top

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Place turnips in stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil, adding the sugar once it comes to a boil.
3. Saute onions in 2 Tablespoons butter till translucent.
4. In another pan saute bacon till crisp.
5. Using a ricer, rice turnips into another pot. Or just mash them. Your call.
6. Add onions, bacon, rest of butter, cream, maple syrup, garlic, salt and pepper.
7. Stir to combine.
8. Put in a casserole dish with 2-4 strips of uncooked bacon across the top.
9. Bake for 1 hour - the dish is done when the bacon is crisped

We're doing my wife's family stuffing recipe (sausage), brussels sprouts in brown butter, traditional mashed praties, whole cranberry sauce.

The bird was brined for a day in some evil-looking concoction, then stuffed with a cheesecloth bag filled with stuffing (that had been microwaved for a minute prior to stuffing it in the bird) and laid on a baking pan on top of some carrots, parsnips, onions and celery. 30 minutes at 400 then 3 hours or so at 350. I've already made my sacrifices to the dark gods of turkey cooking that it comes out OK.

We took the plunge and made pies: apple and lemon mirangue.

More to follow. Happy Thanksgiving.

UPDATE 1 - It's halftime. Also known as "piatus", the hiatus between "dinner" and "pie". Dishes have been cleaned, coffee is being made, kids are off somewhere watching a movie. And I'm enjoying a few scant minutes of quiet. Stay tuned.

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