Thursday, November 28, 2013


HAPPY THANKSGIVUKKAH! For the first and only time in any of our lifetimes, the first day of Hanukkah falls on the same day as Thanksgiving, and this convergence will not happen again for 70,000 years! I suppose the right thing to do would be to create a Thanksgiving menu infused with kosher touches, and I did consider it. But it ended up being just me and my roomie celebrating at home this year, so I just went with traditional Thanksgiving dishes with a few new (non-kosher) twists. This year's menu included:

Apple Cider-Brined Turkey
Sausage and Sage Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes and Turkey Gravy
Cranberry Strumpet
Creamed Succotash
Spicy Vinaigrette Green Beans
Marbled Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie
Maple Rye Pecan Pie

This year's turkey was definitely the best brined bird I've ever done! I loved the sweetness from the apple cider and orange juice. And between the brining and roasting it breast-side down, it was perfectly moist and juicy. WINNER!

Apple Cider Brined Turkey
(Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman

3 cups fresh apple cider
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 gallons (6 quarts) cold water
big handful of whatever's left in the herb garden--thyme, rosemary, tarragon, sage
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled but whacked with a knife
1 cup canning salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons peppercorns
5 whole bay leaves
two lemons, washed and quartered
1 large onion, quartered

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover. Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution, then refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. When ready to roast turkey, remove turkey from brine. Submerge turkey in a pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt from the outside. Discard brine. Remove turkey from clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your normal roasting method. (I just slather the bird in a stick of butter and sprinkle it liberally with black pepper then roast it--breast-side down--at 325 until the thigh meat reaches 180F.)

I don't really have a recipe per se for the creamed succotash. I melted about a half stick of butter in a large skillet and sauteed a diced onion with mild chili pepper (Cubanelle), seeded and diced. Then I added a box of frozen bicolor corn and a box of frozen baby lima beans and cooked them risotto-style, adding turkey stock by the ladle-full until the veggies were tender and the last addition of liquid was absorbed. Then I finished the dish with salt, pepper, and maybe a half cup of cream. I might have added a teaspoon of dried thyme in there as well, as is often my way. Simple and delish!

The other vegetable I prepared was French-style green beans with almonds. As I was getting ready to cook the beans, I spied an easy, tasty-sounding recipe on the back of the package, and on a whim, gave it a try. It was yummy! The only thing I did was to add about a half cup of slivered almonds at the end. Oh, and I steamed the beans in the microwave instead of boiling them on the stove.

Spicy Vinaigrette Green Beans 
(Source: adapted from Pictsweet Recipes)

4 cups frozen French-cut green beans
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup slivered almonds, optional

Place frozen beans in a saucepan and cover with water. Place on a stove top and bring to a boil. Boil three minutes and drain. (Or microwave with a half cup of water added, covered, for five minutes.) In a small mixing bowl, combine garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk oil into garlic mixture. Pour mixture over cooked beans. Add about a half cup of slivered almonds to finish (optional).

I made two pies this year, a pumpkin pie swirled with a cheesecake filling that I've done before (but in a regular pie shell instead of a cookie crust), and then a new pecan pie recipe made with rye whiskey that I saw in The New York Times. My roommate has been on a rye kick lately, and we have a bottle, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. My twist was to swap out the molasses (too strong a flavor for my tastes) for local maple syrup. I also cut back on the rye to balance the flavors with the lighter-tasting sweetener, and it was still plenty boozy. Also, I only used whole pecans all mixed into the filling, which is how I prefer to do it. You can artfully arrange them on top if you like, but they always scorch that way, in my experience. Anyway, my version came out beautiful and scrumptious, if I do say so myself!

Maple Rye Pie
(Source: adapted from The New York Times)

5 eggs
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar 
6 tablespoons butter, melted 
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup 
1/3 cup light corn syrup 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
2 tablespoons rye or bourbon, not more than 90 proof 
2 cups pecan halves 
whipped cream (better yet, ice cream!) for serving 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prick bottom of dough with a fork. Lay a piece of parchment or wax paper in pan, then a piece of aluminum foil. Fill foil lining with dried beans to top of pan. Bake 15 to 25 minutes, until the sides of the crust have set and turned a light golden brown. Remove from oven and lift out the beans, foil and parchment. Patch any holes with reserved dough, pressing firmly. Bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden brown. Let cool at least 30 minutes before filling.

Lower oven heat to 325 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, melted butter.* maple syrup, corn syrup, vanilla, salt and rye or bourbon. Gently mix in the pecans.* Place baked pie shell, still in the pan, on a sheet pan. Gently pour in the filling. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, just until filling is firm and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into center. (Tent with foil or a pie shield if the top starts to get too dark.) Let cool completely. Carefully remove outer ring of pan. Slice with a large, very sharp knife and serve with whipped cream or ice cream. 

Yield: About 12 servings. 

*A tip that takes pecan pie over the top: As you're melting the butter, add your pecans and toast them in the butter until it all starts to smell, well, nutty, and the butter starts to brown. Let this cool a bit before adding to the rest of the filling ingredients to avoid scrambling the eggs.

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