Thanksgiving

So I have mostly always made my same Thanksgiving appetizer, and I have to say it really is pretty much amazing. Sweet potato biscuits with ham and horseradish cream.  Just going to say, thank you once again to JW because this was all him. He was the best caterer for UNC-Chapel Hill while I was there and I totally took the idea and ran with it.DD_0184

Even so, I wanted to find a new appetizer for this Thanksgiving. But I do think I will make my small little sweet potato biscuits with all the best things, just because I can. But maybe this year my excellent cranberry sauce will be part of this mix.  Indeed.

That said, I have been looking for Thanksgiving appetizers – they all seem to involve cranberries or Rosemary – thank you most overwhelming pinterest. Sigh. Do love some Rosemary, but isn’t there anything else?

When I was young, Thanksgiving was a huge deal at our house. The only downer part about it was being stuck at the kids’ table. Really? Ugh. I understand that my older brother and sister were a LOT older and were pretty much married by the time I was 9-ish, but I was stuck with my younger sister and nieces and nephews – it was just insulting.

One of those weird things that I remember was a glass dish that my mother would take out for Thanksgiving and put gerkins on one side and olives on the other. Olives = ick. Gerkins = loved them. Besides Bread ‘n Butter pickles, gerkins were the only pickles I ever liked.

I  can totally see that glass dish. Should have asked for it long ago and now it is too late. Let that be a lesson – do not wait –  ask for what you want from your parents because if you do not you will be forever disappointed. I know I will be giving things away very early – like my Dad’s mom did. Simplify everything.

That just got slightly strange – but on to the Thanksgiving plans. And planning is involved – lots of it.

Apparently spell check does not like the word gerkins. No, it sure doesn’t.

So we are about a week-ish out from the big day and, my friends, this is go time.

1. Make decisions on what to make and how much depending on your guest list – my list, this year, is small. But that is not a bad thing because The Boy will be joining us and that makes me very happy.

2. Develop a grocery list of what you need and when you need to buy it. And then develop the “making” list – ie. when you can/will make each thing, but do what I do … plan for a catch up day on the Wednesday before the big day. That day, with nothing planned, will save you.

3. Order your turkey from the butcher shop. And also call your favorite bakery to order Parker House Rolls – I have been doing this forever. No need to make yourself crazy at this point. They will, pretty much, be better than anything you can make – unless you are making biscuits for Thanksgiving – and in that case, I salute you.

4. Pick one, just one, no seriously just one, new recipe to try. I will try.

5. Figure out what appetizer to make. Just don’t go overboard – less is more in this case. See above.

6. Add staples (butter, eggs, heavy cream, lemons, chocolate chips, local pecans, etc.) to your regular grocery list.

7. Watch grocery ads for Thanksgiving specials. Traditional there are lots of them. Hello fresh cranberries.

8. Decide if you want girkins. Hope you do for my sake.

Thanksgiving

My biggest food memory of Thanksgiving is waking up to the smell of onions and celery sautéing for cornbread dressing. My mom always made two pans of cornbread a couple of days before, usually while I was in school, but the dressing wasn’t made until Thanksgiving day. That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow – and it will be awesome, at least in my mind. I made my cornbread tonight, pretty boring stuff that I wouldn’t eat on its own because I have the best cornbread recipe from one of my very good friends, Dawn. It is such a good recipe that I toast a piece with salted butter for breakfast. Yep, it stands on its own.*

Many years ago, I started making my own cranberry relish – that I also shared half of it with my friend Dawn, so now another Thanksgiving food memory is the smell of orange juice, cranberries, and then the addition of horseradish. I made my second batch tonight – gave away the first batch because so many people like it. It really hit me, making it tonight, how much that is part of my memory. I don’t think it would be Thanksgiving without it – no, I’m sure it would not be.

I think I’ve read the memories of smells are most evocative and I really believe it. Celery and onions are my perfect example, but so is, totally unrelated, diesel fumes in cold weather – to me that will always be London. It happens every time, unbidden, but it always makes me smile. And miss England, again

plain cornbread drying for dressing

Drying Cornbread – for Cornbread Dressing

So here is the cornbread recipe for tonight – just for dressing. The one I plan to leave out overnight to get a bit stale – you need to do that to make the cornbread dressing work. It does make some degree of sense.

Cornbread

1 1/3 cup cornmeal
1 1/3 all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 large eggs
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cup buttermilk

Mix together the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. I whisked with a fork. Melt butter and let cool a bit.  Mix into the dry ingredients the buttermilk, and then the three eggs and finally the cooled butter.

Pour into a baking sprayed 8 x 8 pan and bake for 30 minutes, rotating half way through until the edges pull away from the baking dish and the top and bottom seem brown-ish.

Keep in mind this is only for dressing. I don’t think you want to eat this otherwise. Just tried it, and the answer is  – ugh, no.

*See related post that I have yet to write, but since it might (?) be getting close to chili weather, it could happen.

Pre – Thanksgiving – Sweet Potato Biscuits

I always seem to make too many sweet potatoes for my most requested Sunday Sweet DD_0184Potatoes  – I just never know how many potatoes makes how many cups. Or how many sweet potatoes make a pound or whatever. I suppose one day I will have to figure that out. Ugh – math. Oh, and in November / December sweet potatoes are really inexpensive. Like .49 cents per pound – hello, just buy lots. If I remember correctly, they are also a local crop for us. Cool.

Our dogs love mashed sweet potatoes. Yes, they do. The Big Dog was a huge fan. They also keep for a good while so you can surprise the pups with them through January and February. I always did almost anything to make the Big Dog happy.

DSCN0133

Duke – The Big Dog – Best GSD. Ever.

Another thing is to make sweet potato biscuits. Sublime things, that are stupidly simple.

I was living in Chapel Hill, NC the first time I had sweet potato biscuits and they were served just like this – with salty ham and horseradish cream. Heavenly. The caterer for my job (love you JW) was the one that introduced me to it. I cannot believe, being a kind-of* Southern girl, that I had never had them. My mom made biscuits often, although if you asked me to re-create them, I would not be able to, but she’d never made sweet potato biscuits of any kind, even though she was from NC. Not sure where the “lost in translation” bit happened. I will just be grateful I found these when I did.

 

 

Sweet Potato Biscuits

5 cups self-rising flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
2 Tbsp. salted European butter, melted – spend the little bit extra.

Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter cubes and shortening into flour mixture with pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Cover and chill 10 minutes.

Whisk together buttermilk and sweet potato in a large measuring cup. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t over work this – I think it will affect the rise.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead lightly 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, reshaping scraps once (Do not twist cutter – this is way more important than you may think, but biscuits are a bit fussy about things like this – just don’t do it. The won’t rise well if you twist.). Place rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425° for 18 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven, and brush tops of biscuits with melted  (salted) butter – do this.. Serve immediately.

Makes 3 dozen.

Source: Foster’s Market – Foster’s is on the 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Durham, NC. It is a fanciful place that does so many things well. I miss it greatly, but I loved going there. Sara Foster is gifted in a way not many people are and it was a great joy to be able to frequent the shop/restaurant/coffee shop/whatever. The Foster’s Market Cookbook is the ONLY signed cookbook I have. Ms. Foster is charming, engaging, and lovely.

Made a half recipe this time, but they were excellent.

Had been using Emeril’s recipe for sweet potato biscuits for years – a dozen or so, but I think the Foster’s Market version rose a bit better. I do like the use of ground pecans in Emeril’s recipe. Need to figure out how to combine the two. Both recipes are now in my Thanksgiving binder, so that means something

*You have to put the “kind-of” in front of Southern if you are raised in Jacksonville. Sigh. Even if your parents are really Southern.

Pre – Thanksgiving Prep Week

For me planning is the ultimate part of putting Thanksgiving together. List-making is a close second, but maybe that’s just me (I know I am a list maker) although it is a close run between list-making and grocery shopping. That said, here are the other things I would like  to get accomplished in the week before Thanksgiving.

Making two pans of cornbread for … wait for it …. cornbread dressing.
Make cranberry relish. It’s better made earlier. Yep.
Toast a pan of bread until dry. For cornbread dressing. My Mom’s instructions.
Roast some sweet potatoes. For Sunday Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potato Biscuits. I’ve been boiling them, but will roast them this year.
Spinach Dip because the Boy loves it, and secretly, so do I. With Hawaiian Sweet Bread.
Trying a new carrot cake this year and will make the layers ahead.
Pecan pie made a day or two ahead.

Won’t tell you how many of these things I’ve already done.  – Cranberry – yep – sweet  potatoes – yep – bread – yep. Cornbread will be tomorrow, I think. Do have to go grocery shopping again. Seems always to be the case.

So I’m left with the day of making corn pudding, Sunday sweet potatoes, cornbread dressing, sweet potato biscuits, the Boy’s request for Upside Down Butterscotch Apple Sour Cream Cake. Hoping we are eating at about 3:00pm or so, because I’m not getting up early. Just not going to happen.

Oh, and then there is the venison. But that’s an entirely different post.

Pre – Thanksgiving – Sweet Potatoes

This is the recipe that everyone in the family demands requests each holiday season. I have my wonderful sister-in-law to thank. She DD_0315brought this recipe to our family when she married my brother in the 1970s. I’m sure it was a family recipe of hers long before, but I can not imagine Thanksgiving without it. It is “technically,” a side, but tastes so much like dessert that, well, you get the idea.

Here’s the pre Thanksgiving part – boil or roast the potatoes ahead of time. Store them in the fridge.

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Mix potatoes, sugar, milk, 1/3 cup melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Put into glass casserole dish*. Blend coconut, pecans, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 cup melted butter. Top potato mixture with coconut/nut mixture. Bake at 375 degrees F.20 – 25 minutes or until brown.
Bench Notes:
You can use a 9 x 13″ glass casserole or a 11 x 13″ glass casserole (which I think is a better ratio – more crunchy bits on top).
I also usually use a mix of pecans and walnuts and always use more than 1 cup  because that is what you should do.
Since I never have any idea of how many sweet potatoes are needed to make three cups of mashed sweet potato, I always end up with extra – hello, sweet potato biscuits. Now a traditional Thanksgiving appetizer stuffed with ham and horseradish cream.
Recipe from my sister-in-law – Wanda

Pre – Thanksgiving – Cranberry Sauce

DD_0320_bThis is the week that I start to make all the things I can for Thanksgiving. I’m waiting for the fresh cranberries to go on sale – which is usually buy-one & get-one and I love to put the extras that I must buy in the freezer. This recipe really works well. I also buy new horseradish and also ground cloves.  It is just a thing I do. Just before every Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Horseradish Relish
2 pkgs (6 cups) fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/3 cup prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Combine sugar and orange juice in sauce pan. Boil until sugar dissolves while stirring. Add cranberries and bring to a low boil. Simmer until cranberries begin to burst. Lower the temp and simmer a bit until the pectin starts to thicken everything. Let cool completely; mix in horseradish and cloves. Refrigerate. Pectin in the cranberries makes this work – I’d like to call this science and make my self sound smart, but it’s just pectin – and it is cool. And horseradish makes this recipe amazing.

Notes: I’ve been making this since the 90s and I love it more than words can say.  But maybe that is just me. Back in the 1990s when I first started making it, I made the recipe and split it with my best friend. It may be an acquired taste, but it would not be Thanksgiving without it. Although family and friends ask for it still, so maybe I’m not the only one that really enjoys it. It is excellent on leftover turkey sandwiches with bleu cheese dressing the next day. Although I love it with leftover dressing and giblet gravy. Yep. Could totally skip the turkey. Couldn’t we all?