24 November 2008

Giving Thanks

In 1620 Edward Winslow and his wife Elizabeth arrived on the Mayflower. Of the 102 to arrive, Edward Winslow was one of the 55 who survived the first winter. He remarried the widowed Mrs. Susanna White in 1621, the first marriage in the Plymouth Colony. The lone account of the first Thanksgiving was written by Edward Winslow.
"Our Corne did proue well, & God be praysed, we had a good increase of Indian Corne, and our Barly indifferent good, but our Pease not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sowne, they came vp very well, and blossomed, but the Sunne parched them in the blossome; our harvest being gotten in, our Governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a more speciall manner reioyce together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst vs, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoyt, with some nintie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed fiue Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed upon our Governour, and upon the Captaine, and others. And although it be not alwayes so plentifull, as it was at this time with vs, yet by the goodneses of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

If you are interested in history as a side to your turkey, give this book a serious look: Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver, and The Plimoth Plantation. Plimoth Plantation is the leading authority on Thanksgiving. This beautiful book collects history, photographs and recipes to form a lively account of Thanksgivings from Edward Winslow to Macy's, from deere to tofu turkey, from Indian pudding to Karo pecan pie.

In a world of electronic media when "the book" is often looked upon as a relic, Giving Thanks is an homage to what book publishing can be. The book is printed on thick, glossy paper with great photography and pretty great recipes to boot!

We doff our pilgrim hat to the folks at Clarkson Potter.

I stopped by the post office today, and I had my copy of Giving Thanks in hand. Nelda, the post mistress, chatted with me and said she was thinking of making a cranberry salad her mother made but she didn't have the recipe. I flipped to the index and quickly found Thanksgiving Cranberry Salad, which was pretty much the salad her mother made for years. As with so much in this book, we not only get the recipe but why we eat such things:

According to Laura Shapiro's Perfection Salad, these tidy salads were heavily promoted by reform-minded domestic scientists, who saw them as a way to make a neat, pretty package out of a mixture of disparate ingredients that would other wise look sloppy on a plate.
Well sloppy or not, here it is. By the way the "red gelatin dessert" would be Jello!!

Thanksgiving Cranberry Salad

1 3-oz. package of red gelatin dessert
3/4 cup boiling water
1 16- oz. can of whole-cranberry sauce
1 small orange, seeded and chopped or ground with the peel
1/2 cup chopped peeled apple
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Oil a 5-cup mold or six individual molds. In a medium mixing bowl, dissolve the gelatin dessert in the boiling water. Stir in the cranberry sauce. Chill the gelatin thickens but does not set. Add the orange, apple, celery and pecans and mix thoroughly. Pour into the prepared mold. Chill until firm.
Nothing says Thanksgiving like a congealed salad!

Be sure to add Giving Thanks to your cookbook library. While you're at it, add Laura Shapiro's Perfection Salad. It has been reprinted on numerous occasions, a testament to it's enduring legacy. For more information on early America visit Plimoth Plantation.

23 November 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving began in 1621. So very American! We set foot on the shore and begin imposing order. Of the 102 settlers who arrived at the Plymouth colony only 55 were still alive to celebrate our first Thanksgiving. Most of the thanks goes to the Wampanoag Indians, without whom there would have most probably been no survivors of the Plymouth Colony. The Wampanoag shared their food with the settlers, but more importantly, they shared their knowledge of the local flora and fauna.

A short history of Thanksgiving is found at the beginning of Thanksgiving Dinner by Anthony Diaz Blue and Kathryn K. Blue. Anthony Blue is a leading wine expert and her and his wife hail from California. There is a definite Californian color to this straight forward cookbook. You will find a range of traditional recipes alongside couscous stuffing, stuffed Cornish game hens with Zinfandel gravy and corn and tomato salad with a mustard-cumin vinaigrette.

My favorite recipe, however is for Brussels sprouts. I made Brussels sprouts for my friend, Beverly, when she came to West Virginia from Alabama. It was evidently, the low point of the visit. Beverly informed me that she hated Brussels sprouts but she graciously ate one for my sake.

How can you hate Brussels sprouts?? Seriously?

Back to Thanksgiving...

This is a great recipe for two reasons aside from being Brussels sprouts.

1. You can make this dish a day ahead of time.

2. It is served room temperature so there is no need to waste oven space.

Make it on Wednesday, take it with you and by the time dinner is served, it will be ready.

Brussels Sprouts with Maple-Mustard Sauce.

4 cups Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon coarse-grain mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil.

1. Trim the Brussels sprouts by cutting an X in the stalk end and removing the bitter outer leaves. Drop the sprouts into a large pot containing 7 to 8 quarts of rapidly boiling water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring the water back to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer slowly for 5 minuets. Remove from heat and drain thoroughly, letting the sprouts stand for a few minuets.

2. While the sprouts are cooking, mix the vinegars, syrup, mustards, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Whisk thoroughly. Slowly add oil, a drop or two at a time, then in a thin, steady stream. The mixture will get thicker and lighter in color.

3. Add the Brussels sprouts to the bowl containing the sauce. Toss well to coat each sprout. Serve at room temperature.

Beverly aside, give this recipe a try.

22 November 2008

A Southern Thanksgiving

A Southern Thanksgiving is a wonderful little book. It has one menu for Thanksgiving -- the menu Robb Forman Dew has cooked for twenty years. Dew is an award winning Southern novelist. Her books, Dale Loves Sophie to Death, The Evidence Against Her, and The Truth of the Matter are staples on bookshelves as her Southern Thanksgiving Dinner is a staple in the kitchen.

Instead of filling the book with multiple recipes, she gives you the gift of her favorite dozen recipes interspersed with a great story or two. Dew informs her reader that potatoes are really a kinda "Yankee" thing.

Rice is the staple of New Orleans and Baton Rouge and Savannah and Charleston that potatoes seem to be in the Midwest and New England. Do, however, keep a box of instant mashed potatoes, a stick of butter, and a small carton of cream on hand in case you encounter a guest -- as I once did -- who becomes teary at even the notion of Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes. I never invited her for a meal at my house again, but, then she wasn't related to me.

A true Southern lady -- accommodate your guest but remove them permanently from future invites!

Here is my Thanksgiving recipe -- instead of taking a bottle of wine to your host, give them the gift of A Southern Thanksgiving by Robb Forman Dew. Oh yes, and eat what you are served!

21 November 2008

The Thanksgiving Cookbook

With Thanksgiving next week, I thought I would post some Thanksgiving cookbooks on the site. While it may be possible to get away with a standing rib roast for Christmas, it is hard to do Thanksgiving without some type of fowl. Ruth Reichl, well know editor of Gourmet summed it up this way:

"On my watch, we will never not do a turkey. I believe very firmly that there are some traditions that should be honored. And one of the great classic American traditions is the classic Thanksgiving meal."

Lucky for you, I am not going to share a turkey recipe with you. If you can't make a turkey, call the ladies at Butterball. One piece of advice -- you have a 30 pound frozen turkey sitting in the freezer, put it in the refrigerator NOW!!

The Thanksgiving Cookbook by Holly Garrison offers a lot of plain old-fashioned help. She takes you from setting the table to the leftovers.

Garrison offers buying tips and cooking info on most every bird found at your grocery or in your backyard, from squabs to turkey. She will even give you tips on a standing rib roast of a ham (but don't tell Ruth Reichl!)

The book is all text, so if you need to see the finished product you are out of luck. The recipes are calm and straightforward. While she advocates fresh vegetables, she is not adverse to cheating with beets. Don't listen!!! If you are cooking for days, there is plenty of time to roast some beets. Here is her recipe for Beets With Lemon Sauce.

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Three 16 oz. cans whole small beets, well drained
1/8 teaspoon salt
Big pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large heavy sauce pan. Stir in the brown sugar and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the beets until they are well coated. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the beets are glazed, about 20 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper. (May be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated) Sprinkle the beets with grated lemon rind and serve.

For another take on Thanksgiving beets, check out my recipe for Beets With Candied Ginger In Yuzu Honey at the Lucindaville site.
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