We never host Thanksgiving. It’s almost always at Jon’s aunt Judi’s house, and her kids and grandkids, Jon’s parents and our family are generally in attendance. This year, as they do every few years, Jon’s parents visited their middle son in New York state instead, and (for the first time I remember), Judi’s oldest son and his family could not come either. So we were a small-ish group– only eight– which seemed like the perfect number to try out a few recipes. And, by a few, I mean nine.
The main dish was not from the cookbook– Judi & Alan made a turkey, and I made a Quorn-brand vegetarian “roast.” There weren’t any roast-like dishes in the cookbook and, besides, the whole family has traumatic memories of the last “roast” I made (from Linda McCartney’s cookbook, in 1995– horribly dry and repulsive). Instead, I made cornbread dressing from my mother’s cornbread. I had expected to go to my mom’s recipe cards and find the dressing recipe alongside the cornbread recipe, but it was nowhere to be found. I guess it came from her head, which left me to search for a reasonable facsimile on the internet. I found one, from Paula Deen, and cooked it two ways– Jon’s family likes their dressing baked in a shallow baking pan, to maximize the crispiness. My mom always cooked it in a loaf pan (and Jon’s mom, when she’s there, always makes me a pan this way), maximizing the moistness. I made mine two ways, too, though Paula must have been swilling her cooking wine when she wrote the recipe, because it called for seven cups of broth– and after I’d added four cups I realized it was already too wet. It came out fine, though, after a little extra cooking time for the loaf pan version, and was delicious– tasted just like Mom’s.
From the cookbook we had Roasted Potatoes with Garlic and Herbs, made with little fingerling potatoes. I was concerned Iwaited too long to put them in the oven (I prepped at home and cooked most of the meal at Judi’s), but they got done just in time. I spent most of the morning preparing the Rice and Winter Squash Gratin (while watching the parade), and I baked it once I got there. Jon and I thought it was excellent– made with Acorn Squash and Basmati– but I don’t think Judi’s family tried any. I cut up three pounds of asparagus at home and cooked Slivered Asparagus Saute once we got there, and discovered that three pounds is way more asparagus than eight people can eat.
On Wednesday I baked my first loaf bread from the book– Peppered Cheese Bread. It cooked much more quickly than it was supposed to, so I was worried it wouldn’t be done in the middle, so I had to cut it ahead of time to check. It was delicious. 🙂 Thursday morning I prepped the carrots to braise at Judi’s; you’re supposed to cook down the liquid until it’s syrupy, but the carrots were really, um, well-cooked by the time that started to happen. I also made Gingered Cranberry Sauce, which sounded great to me (I love ginger), but was very ginger-y. I added lots of sugar to make it more palatable to my audience, and they seemed to like it fine (though Jon’s cousin couldn’t get over its spiciness).
The piece de resistance was the Angel Biscuits. Or, at least, they were supposed to be the piece de resistance. Instead they were a near-disaster. They are yeast biscuits, but you’re not supposed to let them rise. Since I had to make them well before they’d be baked, so I decided to put them in the freezer for ten minutes to stop them from rising, then take them out and leave them in the cold garage until time to transport them. I had to run up to take a shower, so I set the timer and put Madeline in charge of moving them out of the freezer. Apparently, though, a few minutes after I left, Jon asked Madeline to go change clothes so she could go with me to Judi’s. She said, no, she had to wait until the timer rang, because she had to take the biscuits out of the freezer. Jon assured her he’d do it, and sent her upstairs.
An hour later, I’d finished my shower, Madeline was dressed, and we packed up to go to Judi’s. I was partway there when I realized we didn’t have the biscuits; I asked Madeline if she took them out of the freezer. She explained what had happened, and I called Jon to ask if he took them out. “What?” he replied. The short version is that he apparently did not listen to anything Madeline said, past, “timer blah blah take out blah blah,” and when the timer rang he took the dressing out of the oven (which was, in fact, turned off anyway).
The biscuits had been in the freezer nearly two hours.
There’s a happy ending to this story, though– Jon brought them when he came to Judi’s a little while later, I let them thaw while I cooked everything else, and they came out just fine. In fact, they were darn good, despite the fact that I did not have a pasty cutter and had nearly given myself Carpal Tunnel trying to cut butter into flour with two knives. Who thought that up, anyway? It’s just sadistic, that’s what it is. I have since bought a pastry cutter and had one occasion to use it, and I have to say, that thing rocks.
Elwood update: Jon says we should change his name to Chanukah, because he was only supposed to last a day and he’s still here more than eight days later… It seems as though his heart is holding up better than expected, and he’s still enjoying his newly steak-enriched diet (though it turns out he has no use for chicken livers), as well as all the attention we’re lavishing on him.
Roasted Potatoes with Garlic & Harbs, p. 411; Rice and Winter Squash Gratin, p. 546; Slivered Asparagus Saute, p. 335; Braised Carrots, p. 351; Peppered Cheese Bread, p. 667; Gingered Cranberry Sauce, p. 80; Angel Biscuits, p. 650; Paula Deen’s Cornbread Dressing