Thursday, November 26, 2009


I have so much to be grateful for this year. The two main things are my new (to me) house, and the fact that my long-lost roommate, Cyd, has returned after spending over a year working near Minneapolis. YAY! I am so happy to have my friend back, that instead of foregoing Thanksgiving in favor of more packing, which was the original plan, I broke down and cooked a traditional feast. We've just finished gorging ourselves on the turkey and trimmings, and while my prodigal roommate watches her football, I thought I'd get a Thanksgiving blog post in.

I did much of the preparation yesterday. I started by brining the turkey in the Alton Brown fashion, or something close to it. I dissolved a pound and half each of kosher salt and brown sugar in three quarts of hot water, which I let cool for about a half hour, maybe a little longer. I poured this into a big Igloo chest cooler, then I threw in four bay leaves, a bunch of fresh thyme and a couple of big sprigs of sage leaves, both from my herb garden (thank you, global warming!), a sprinkle of black peppercorns and red pepper flakes, and a dozen garlic cloves. Next, I added a seven pound bag of ice and my 15.5 pound turkey. I left this on the porch overnight, brining it a total of about 20 hours, though that was probably overkill. Then today, I lubed up the skin with olive oil and seasoned it with salt, pepper and granulated garlic, roasted it at 450 for about a half hour, then another 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 350. It was perfect--moist, flavorful, and not too salty.

Also yesterday, I made a classic sausage, onion, celery and sage bread stuffing that just needed to be baked off today. I did one thing differently than I usually do--I added a can of cream of celery soup to the mixture, as I recently saw Paula Deen do. It made for a very soft, bread pudding consistency, which is how Cyd prefers it, and it added another layer of flavor. Also, in Cyd's honor, we made real mashed potatoes (I am fine with just stuffing myself). And to kick them up a bit, I added 4 oz. of soft cream cheese, and I browned the butter before adding it (thanks to Elise at Simply Recipes for that fabulous tip!). I also prefer to use evaporated milk in my mashed potatoes, because I like that slightly nutty, cooked flavor, which complemented the brown butter.

The last thing I did yesterday was to make what may now become my de facto pumpkin pie. The recipe came from Anna at Cookie Madness, and it's called Marbled Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie. (Of course, I'm not a skilled marbler, so my pie ended up with globby cheesecake polka dots inside...oh well!) In any case, for those of you who can't decide between pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake, this is the solution! Cyd prefers a traditional pumpkin pie, but she loved this. And I liked it better than regular pumpkin pie. I enjoyed the lighter texture and the milder flavor, though some people might want to use a heavier hand with the spices. Then again, the only real change I made was, instead of using pecan shortbread cookies for the crust, I used ginger snaps and chopped walnuts. This was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself, and the ginger snaps bring up the spice level, of course. Just delicious! The only possible downside to this pie may be that you HAVE to make it in advance, as it requires a minimum of four hours of chill time. Or maybe that's a plus because it's a make-ahead item, so that takes some pressure off of cooking so much on the actual Day of Thanks.

All I had to do today was to roast the turkey, bake off the stuffing, reheat the potatoes, and make some ROCKING gravy from the pan drippings deglazed with a half cup of red wine, maybe half or three-quarters cup flour whisked in, and lots of lots of homemade turkey stock. The stock I made by browning the turkey neck, gizzards and heart in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil along with two stalks of celery and two carrots, both cut into chunks, one onion thickly sliced, two sprigs of fresh sage, a handful of peppercorns, two tablespoons of "Better Than Bouillion" (one chicken and one vegetable), and eight cups of water. I brought it to a boil, and then left it on the warm burner the whole time the turkey was roasting. Lastly, Cyd roasted up some brussels sprouts with bacon, and we baked some dinner rolls from La Brea Bakery that my friend, June, turned me onto. You can find them in your grocery's freezer section, and they are really awesome.

I hope all of you had a savory and satisfying day of gratefulness with your friends and family today!

Marbled Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie
Cookie Madness)

16 pecan sandies cookies, crushed to make 1 1/2 cups crumbs (I used ginger snaps plus about a half cup of hoped walnuts)
3 tablespoons flour (I omitted this)
3 tablespoons melted butter (I needed 6 T)

11 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I doubled this)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 each ginger, nutmeg, cloves)
3 large eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix together all crust ingredients and press firmly into bottom and sides of an ungreased 9 inch pie plate. Bake for 12 minutes

Beat cream cheese and sugar with electric mixer until smooth; Beat in the vanilla, then add flour and stir or beat on low speed until mixed. Set aside 1/2 cup of the cream cheese mixture, then add all remaining filling ingredients except milk. Beat on medium speed, scraping bowl often, until smooth. Pour into crust*.

Mix the reserved 1/2 cup cream cheese mixture and the milk. Spoon over pumpkin mixture. Cut through cream cheese and pumpkin mixtures to make a marbled pattern.

Cover edges of foil loosely with a strip of foil to prevent the crust from over-browning and bake on center rack for 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean, removing foil for last 15 minutes of baking. Cool to room temperature. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator.

*Though I used a deep dish pie plate, I had more filling than would fit in the crust, especially with the cream cheese swirl still to be added. So I saved the extra cup or so of filling, crushed up another four ginger snaps, mixed them with a couple of teaspoons of melted butter, and baked one miniature pie for my next-door neighbor. Cute!

1 comment:

Cyd said...

In all seriousness, everything was done to perfection! The BEST Thanksgiving feast ever! Thank you!