Thanksgiving Countdown 2012

OK, the countdown is on! TG minus 2 days. I thought I’d update you on my plan. Saturday, I’ll admit, I made the cranberry sauce and tossed it in the freezer. Please somebody remind me to take that out of the freezer tomorrow. But, today (Tuesday) I really began to prepare in earnest. I am having a tiny Thanksgiving dinner (in number of participants only). But, I still like to prepare my essential favorites.

The Turkey

Yesterday, the UPS man, dropped off the turkey. I kid you not, my Greenberg Smoked Turkey is in my fridge right now waiting for the main event. I will merely bring it to room temperature for the feast. If you have never had a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, consider it one of these years. Taking the turkey out of the kitchen equation is rather huge, in terms of freeing you up to play with the fun things, like sides and pies. And, at this point I think my husband would actually be disappointed if I roasted a turkey, because (I’m not sure) I think the feast is something he genially tolerates in order to have cold smoked turkey sandwiches (white bread, mayonnaise and seasoning salt only) for the rest of the week. I believe a lot of BBQ spots and other rather fine establishments are starting to offer smoked turkeys for special order on Thanksgiving. But the Fed Ex drop-off is pretty hard to beat.

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Roasted Cranberry Sauce

Ah, Thanksgiving. It is that time of year when I come face to face with the fact that I really don’t like cranberry sauce all that much. In fact, I think it is fair to say that I make cranberry sauce for others, meaning that I never spent much time really tasting it and coming to terms with it. As it turns out, I have a sweet tooth. Nooooo, you say. Yes, I do. And, it appears that this extends to cranberry sauce. So this year, I just kept adding it and adding it, and finally, I like cranberry sauce.

Also adding to my desire for more sugar is the use of the orange zest. Orange zest can be a bit bitter, as it is in orange marmalade. Cranberries are a bit bitter to start with. So, for me, a full ¾ cup brown sugar was necessary to bring it all into harmony. But you should taste and adjust as you like.

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Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

This is easy. This is so easy. Yet it is one of the best soup recipes I’ve made. The hardest part of this recipe is cutting the acorn squash in half to roast them. After that it is a cake walk. But if you haven’t done this before and you are not particularly strong in the hands, take extra precautions. Heck, even if you are a linebacker, cutting one of these at the wrong angle can lead to a pretty unfortunate knife incident, so please be cautious (see notes). In the photo the soup bowl is surrounded by herbs but for once they are just for show. My garden is a profusion of herbs at the moment and the Mexican Mint Marigold is in bloom and I find myself making bouquets of herbs just for the beauty and the scent.

I made sweet and spicy croutons to go with this. It is a nifty flavor jolt in a sublime soup. Other than the spices used in the croutons, this is a low spice/seasoning affair. The squash sweetens as it roasts and is wonderful without any seasoning at all. One of my husband’s favorite dishes, in fact, is a half of a roasted acorn squash, with the cavity filled with melted butter and a heaping spoonful of brown sugar. I will not judge if you pull these beauties out of the oven and decide to just dig in, as is. For that same reason, the soup doesn’t need a lot of gussying up. I sautéed onions and garlic, and pureed the squash with the onions, garlic and chicken broth. After that, a light splash of cream and a teaspoon of maple sugar are all that I add. It is really lovely.

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Sausage and Artichoke Dressing (Stuffing)

Thanksgiving is about the people and not the food. And some of my best ones have included canned peas, cranberry jelly shaped like a can, and pumpkin pie picked up 3 for $10 at the grocery store. Why? Because I loved the people I was with and love makes food taste good. No amount of effort or fancy ingredients can make otherwise great food taste good on Thanksgiving if you are spending the day with jerks. Insist on a good day, even if that means it’s just you, a TV dinner on a TV tray, and the Cowboys game. My family has always had really nice, jubilant, silly, pot-luck types of gatherings…but I hear about some doozies. And, I have the ability to do the cook-all-day-martyr-routine, which let’s face it, is pretty unappealing for everyone involved.

But, my hope for you is that you are planning a nice, peaceful Thanksgiving (allowances for bone-crushing backyard football games, or course), whatever form it takes. I’ve said it before, I’d rather have Thanksgiving at Luby’s with people I love (and I know from experience that they do a pretty darned good to-go Thanksgiving) than a “gourmet” meal with people who aren’t being nice to each other.  But, if you are cooking, and cooking for people you love, you might want to add this stuffing to your list of Thanksgiving contenders.

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Thanksgiving Inspiration

Are you having any holiday blahs, or a total lack of inspiration? Or are you already halfway through your menu, with groceries purchased and a bird in a cooler brining away? My Greenberg Smoked Turkey arrived yesterday and all of a sudden, I’m “in the mood,” so to speak. Also, I’m overcome by the desire to let you know that I am thankful, in a big way, for each of you. If your eyes are reading these words right now, know that there is a person in this world who is specifically grateful for your existence and your kindness. I appreciate that you have let me be a part of your kitchen routine, or a part of your culinary imaginings. I don’t deserve you. You have made PIE fun.

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