Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving is coming! It's my favorite holiday. Not only does it take place during this fantastic time of year, but it's the colors....of the sky, the leaves and the sun that are the most amazing part of November. The sunlight that filters through the trees in the late afternoon, casting long shadows, brings forth incredibly rich colors. These images are brilliant, sometimes so beautiful they stop me in my tracks as I walk my dog through the park each day. Being able to see these images is really something to be thankful for. And that's my favorite part of this holiday, the message: being thankful for all that we have.

Thanksgiving is essentially a harvest-related festival and it celebrates communal harmony.  In America, the first Thanksgiving is said to have taken place on December 4, 1619, and it was to give thanks for the Pilgrims having survived their first winter in New England. The feast lasted 3 days providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. I often wondered what was served at that first Thanksgiving and I have researched this and found that the feast consisted of "fowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, squash and turkey". Though we often think it originated in America, a number of other countries celebrate harvest-related festivals. They are observed with different names and in different seasons. Canada celebrates thanksgiving on the second Monday in the month of October. India also has a number of harvest related festivals in different regions. Other Asian countries such as China, Malaysia, Korea celebrate the festival on different dates. Each festival has folklore attached to it but ultimately harmony, peace, and a feeling of gratitude is the underlying theme of the celebration all over. What I find so beautiful about this is that despite where we live, people around the world celebrate having something to be thankful for.

Do you take the time to ask yourself this on Thanksgiving - what are you thankful for? Ok, other than the food! I know, who can resist the Thanksgiving meal?

What are you making? I am still weeding through the November issues of the cooking magazines I've collected from bygone years to find something that knocks my socks off. I'm getting closer. I'm fairly sure I know which recipes I'll be using for the sweet potatoes and the cranberries, but I'm still searching for a "green" (vegetable) recipe. Someone else in the family is bringing green beans so I can't do those this year. I'm thinking spinach or swiss chard or something similar.

I spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws and over the years we've developed a nice tradition. Where my mother-in-law would normally have everyone over at her house and do ALL the cooking herself, a few years ago I realized this was becoming too much for her and asked my brother- and sister-in-law if they would help me in making all the side dishes, to take a bit of the burden off her. They agreed and it's been a lot of fun being part of the process of preparing the Thanksgiving meal. My mother-in-law still makes the turkey, but we divvy up the sides that need to be made. This year I again offered to make the sweet potatoes, in addition to the cranberries and a vegetable. A few years ago when we started this, I found a sweet potato recipe that has now become a favorite. The sweet potato recipe of my youth and probably yours as well (you know the one: with marshmallows) has fortunately become a thing of the past.  If you love sweet potatoes, you will absolutely die when you taste this one. I think it's fabulous. I can find nothing that tops it.

Rum-glazed Sweet Potato, Apple & Pecan Gratin

3 pounds sweet potatoes, pricked several times with a skewer
3 Golden Delicious apples
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup chopped pecans
3 oz. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp. dark rum
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground mace (I don't have any so I omit it or use a wee bit of clove)

Preheat oven to 400F.
Bake the sweet potatoes in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until tender. Let them cool. Peel them and cut them diagonally into 1/4 inch slices.
Peel the apples and cut them lengthwise into eighths.
In a bowl toss the apples with lemon juice and arrange them with the sweet potato slices in a buttered 14 inch gratin dish. Sprinkle with the pecans.
In a stainless steel or enameled saucepan, cook the remaining ingredients over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Spoon the mixture over the sweet potatoes and apples and bake the gratin in the middle of the oven, basting occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until the apples are just tender and the sweet potatoes are heated through.
The uncooked gratin can be assembled 1 day in advance and kept refrigerated, covered. When ready for it on the Big Day, bake it uncovered, basting occasionally, for 40 minutes, then put the gratin under a preheated broiler for about 4 inches from the heat until the edges are lightly browned.

Makes 8 servings.

Cranberry Sauce

2 cups cranberries
Juice and chopped zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup port wine
1/2 cup sugar or more if needed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

In a small saucepan combine cranberries, orange juice and zest, port, sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until cranberries are tender, stirring occasionally. In a small cup make a slurry with cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. water. Whisk cornstarch mixture into cranberry sauce and cook, whisking, until sauce thickens. Taste and add more sugar if necessary.

Makes about 2 cups.


  1. Thanksgiving is always so beautiful when you have a lovely setting with your loved ones and great food, my favorite time of the year!

    Thanks for sharing CC, love Nita

  2. You are so right. I love having all the family dogs around us, too. We'll have 10 people and 5 dogs, waiting for scraps.


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