Thanksgiving 2008 in Review

Wow, can you guys believe that it’s New Year’s Eve already? I never did get around to talking about Thanksgiving, and it seems as if the time since then has been an absolute blur where I’ve got nothing done. So before stuff that happened in 2008 ceases to be relevant, I’m going to give you guys the 4-1-1 on how we spent Thanksgiving.

Turkey Thanksgiving 2008

Since it’s a very picture intensive post, I’m putting it under a cut. Click on through if you’d like to see the dishes and the recipes.

If there’s one thing I’m known for when it comes to holidays/special occasions/parties, it’s that I tend to go a bit overboard and lay out a real spread. My mother often jokes with me that I missed my calling, that I should have been a caterer. I joke back that it’s tough enough to do that amount of work x many days a year, that doing it nearly every day would just about kill me. 😉

I’m an appetizer-happy person. As long as there are appetizers around, stuff for people to munch on, delays in dinner can be overlooked. Over my last few spreads, I’ve taken to putting a banquet table in the dinette where I put all the food, and I drag the dinette table into the foyer (which opens up to the dining area) to be able to accommodate more people. So now I can cook for 12 instead of cooking for 8, which means I can invite more people. We like more people. 🙂

At the center of almost every spread is a cheese board. I try to include artisan cheeses as much as possible, but I also have a tendency to know what my guests’ favorite cheeses are and try to include those as well. This board? Has a brie wheel in the middle, covered with Cranberry Mango Pepper Chutney, and clockwise from 1 o’clock, a Leek and Morel cheese, a Cranberry Wensleydale, Port Salut, Purple Haze, and Cambozola. The cheese board always goes over well, for some reason.

Thanksgiving Cheese Board

I had seen that a couple of other bloggers had found good use for the President Brie Logs, and was inspired by the way they used them.

Over at Supermarket Serenade, she had made these Little Brie Bites with a Cranberry-Orange Caramel Topping. I was fresh out of orange to make the garnish, and Trader Joe’s was out of the Pita Crackers, so I used water crackers instead. The topping, though – was absolutely amazing. I’d eat cranberries a lot more if it all tasted like this. Next year, I may make my cranberry sauce using this recipe.

Little Brie Cranberry Bites

Brie with Cranberry-Orange Caramel Topping
recipe from Supermarket Serenade

1 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 President’s Brie log
18 round crackers
orange zest

Melt the butter over in a medium sized sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the brown sugar, orange juice and heavy cream. Add the cranberries, bring to a boil then cook, stirring, until the cranberries have broken down and the liquid has thickened-about 3 minutes.

Slice the brie into 18 slices and arrange on the crackers. Top the brie with the hot cranberry mixture. Garnish each with a piece of the orange zest.

Robin at Big Red Kitchen had the same stroke of genius about the brie bites, and did this version with fig spread, marcona almonds, and rosemary (I changed it up a bit using savory thins from Trader Joe’s as the base since the Pita Crackers weren’t available). I pretty much left her recipe intact – what a great appetizer, the flavors go together so well.

Little Brie Fig Bites

The Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette was something that I had seen on The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch blog. Hers was an adaptation of something she had seen on Smitten Kitchen, and mine was like a cross between the two, but closer to Honeyb’s than Deb’s.

Butternut Squash Caramelized Onion Galette

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
modified from this recipe

1 medium butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of cayenne
3/4 cup fontina cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces), grated or cut into small bits
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
Single piecrust (I used store bought)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined (for neatness sake) sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.

To caramelize onions melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.

Assemble the galette – On parchment paper, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.

Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.

With lots of rich fatty foods as appetizers, I wanted there to be something a little lighter too – so I put together this crudite tray with carrots, tomatoes, broccoli & cauliflower.

Thanksgiving Crudite Tray

But what fun are crudites without a couple of dips to go with them? The first was a Roquefort dip, inspired by something I had eaten at Barcelona in late November.

Creamy Roquefort Dip

Creamy Roquefort Dip
recipe courtesy Fine Cooking magazine

1 medium clove garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb. Roquefort
1-1/2 cups crème fraîche (available in the specialty cheese section of some supermarkets) or sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a mortar or with the flat side of a chef’s knife, mash the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the Roquefort. Roughly mash the cheese with the back of a spoon. Stir in the crème fraîche or sour cream and several grinds of pepper, and then add the cream until the consistency is slightly thinner than sour cream. (It should cling to the vegetables nicely but not be thick and goopy.) Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Refrigerate until shortly before serving. (The dip will thicken in the refrigerator but will return to its original consistency as it comes to room temperature.)

And I love Trader Joe’s Tuscan Hummus on just about anything.

Trader Joe's Tuscan Hummus

These Tomato-Mozzarella Skewers are a breeze to make – just put a mozzarella ball on a toothpick along with a basil leaf and a cherry tomato. I served them with a balsamic glaze.

Tomato-Mozzarella Skewers

And here’s some homemade butter I used making Snowville Creamery heavy cream, which I served with some freshly baked white bread (not shown). The sea salt flakes in it really made it a texture/flavor treat.

Homemade Butter

The turkey (seen at the top of this post) came out just right, now that I’ve invested in a thermometer with a temperature probe. Perfect results every time, and the skin was crisp and delicious and just that shade of golden brown I was looking for. And let’s not even go there about the in-the-bird stuffing. There would be absolute mutiny in my house if that were ever missing.

The candied yams were my usual recipe, except that I used precut/precooked yam rounds this time, which gives you more even results. And I was a little lighter on the topping this year.

Candied Yams

Candied Yams

2 packages yam rounds (12 total)
4 tbsp. butter
2 oz. rum
Handful walnuts or pecans
Handful coconut
Brown sugar (about 1-2 cups)
Mini marshmallows (optional)

Lay the yam rounds in the bottom of a large baking dish. To make the topping, melt the butter in a nonstick saute pan. Once it’s melted, pour in a splash of rum (about a shot’s worth or less), and let the alcohol cook off a bit. Throw in a handful of walnuts (or pecans) and coconut, and then add enough brown sugar to soak up the butter. Spread the topping over the yams in the baking pan, and throw on some mini marshmallows if you don’t think that marshmallows on candied yams is an abomination. Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes, or until topping is browned, and marshmallows are melted.

We were kind of torn on what veggie to do – I thought something with bacon would be tasty, so I used this recipe for Haricots Verts. It was a little to vinegary/intense for my tastes by the time it was done, but it tasted really good about halfway through before the vinegar came into play.

Haricot Verts

Bacon Smothered Haricots Verts
recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse

1 1/2 pounds haricots verts, or small, thin green beans, ends trimmed
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 cup minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup Chicken Stock (can be homemade or store bought stock or broth)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sherry wine vinegar

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and transfer to an ice bath. Drain well.

Fry the bacon in a large skillet and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until crisp and golden, 5 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the stock, salt, pepper, and vinegar, and cook, stirring, until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the green beans and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.

Makes 4 servings

For dessert, instead of making the Two-fer pie, I ended up making pecan pie, with the recipe right off the back of the Karo’s bottle. This one is a classic.

Pecan Pie

Classic Pecan Pie
recipe courtesy Karo Syrup

1 cup Karo® Light OR Dark Corn Syrup
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon Spice Islands® Pure Vanilla Extract
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecans
1 (9-inch) unbaked or frozen** deep-dish pie crust

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla using a spoon. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into pie crust.
Bake on center rack of oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool for 2 hours on wire rack before serving.
**To use prepared frozen pie crust: Place cookie sheet in oven and preheat oven as directed. Pour filling into frozen crust and bake on preheated cookie sheet.

RECIPE TIPS: Pie is done when center reaches 200°F. Tap center surface of pie lightly – it should spring back when done. For easy clean up, spray pie pan with cooking spray before placing pie crust in pan. If pie crust is overbrowning, cover edges with foil.

NUTRITION TIP: To reduce calories, substitute new Karo® Lite Syrup for the Karo® Light or Dark Corn Syrup.

High Altitude Adjustments: Reduce sugar to 2/3 cup and increase butter to 3 tablespoons. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

And this Ginger-Mascarpone Icebox Cake was tasty, but very, very rich – one sliver was more than enough. It didn’t photograph as well, however. And unfortunately, it broke my springform pan, so it didn’t cut cleanly either. I think part of the reason it tasted so good is that I used Trader Joe’s Triple Gingersnaps. Yum.

Ginger-Mascarpone Icebox Cake

Ginger-Mascarpone Icebox Cake
recipe courtesy Fine Cooking magazine

12 oz. gingersnap crumbs, about 2-1/4 cups
2-1/2 oz. (5 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2/3 cup sugar; more for the pan
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup minced candied (crystallized) ginger (since I used TJ’s Triple Ginger Snaps, I didn’t use this)
1 lb. mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease it lightly. Dust the pan with a little sugar and knock out any excess. Combine the gingersnap crumbs and butter, rubbing them together with your fingertips to combine thoroughly. Sprinkle half of the crumbs over the bottom of the pan and pat down evenly; reserve the rest.

With an electric mixer, whip together the cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and candied ginger until smooth, scraping down the sides. Add the mascarpone and cream and whip until the mixture is thoroughly combined and just holds peaks. Don’t overwhip or the mixture may separate. Carefully spoon half of the mascarpone cream over the gingersnap crust, spreading it evenly to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle half of the remaining crumbs over the mascarpone cream in the pan. Top with remaining mascarpone cream and finish with the remaining crumbs. Gently tap the pan on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. To serve, warm a sharp knife under hot water and dry it off. Cut one slice, clean the knife and warm it again before cutting the next slice.

So that was my holiday, a feast the likes from which I am still recovering. Christmas coverage to come soon. 🙂

One thought on “Thanksgiving 2008 in Review

  1. Sally

    I made your butternut squash and caramelized onion galette last night and it was amazing!!! It was my favorite dish at the party. Thank you!

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