Saturday, November 28, 2009


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We certainly did. I'm truly grateful to have such a lovely family, both the one I was born into and the one I married into.

But this is a food blog, not a Hallmark card. Here's what we ate:

ajwain cashews 
Parsi cheese crisps
avocado crostini
dried apricots with goat cheese and pistachios
maple sour cocktails (thank-you, Justine and Michael)
deep-fried turkeys
fresh cranberry relish
candied sweet potatoes
mashed potatoes
red rice
brussels sprouts with butter and garlic
cider jelly 
spinach jalapeno casserole (again, thank-you, Justine)
chocolate chess pie
chess pie
eggnog pie
pear pie
pumpkin caramel pie
pecan pie
It was a Parsi/Cajun/Laurie Colwin/Southern/Joy of Cooking/Gourmet Today feast. Isabel and I prepared everything, save several key contributions from my sister Justine. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work and yesterday we were not so peppy.

I'm going to post two recipes here because they're spectacular and I've made them enough times that I feel some ownership, though I certainly did not invent them.

#1. Paul Prudhomme's cranberry relish

From his Louisiana Kitchen, which is a stellar cookbook. This relish is fresh and tangy and so much zippier than jellied "sauce" that I'm surprised it hasn't caught on in a huge way. You can watch a video of Chef Paul demonstrating a version of this recipe right here.

In a food processor, grind together 1 lb. cranberries, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons vanilla, the juice and pulp from 2/3 of a seeded lemon, the sections from 2 peeled, seeded oranges. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving. 

You'll have a boatload of relish; it's excellent on sandwiches.

#2. John Egerton's chess pie

This recipe comes from his encyclopedic Southern Food, another stellar cookbook. I first made this pie in 1996 and have baked it just about every Thanksgiving since. Flat and very sweet and pale yellow, it my all-time favorite.
First, make pie dough using any recipe you like and roll it out to fit in a 9-inch pan. Preheat oven to 375. Beat 3 eggs with 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 tablespoon white cornmeal, 1/3 cup buttermilk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix well. Pour into the crust and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 20 minutes more. It should be mostly set but still slightly jiggly in the middle. It will firm as it cools.

As usual, there is none of this pie left over.

As for the turkeys, they were storebought. They were not heritage. Next year, I vow to do better.

I was going to write about frying turkeys, except we're done with frying turkeys. We fried a bunch of turkeys in the mid-1990s when it first became trendy, then lost enthusiasm. Since my father-in-law really wanted to try one, we hauled out the cooker, the giant pot and seasoning injectors, bought six gallons of peanut oil, and went through the dramatic and laborious process one last time. The turkeys were tasty and spicy and much appreciated, but it's undeniably an ordeal and henceforth, we are roasting. 


  1. I don't think I agree about the turkey frying, unless the the prep of the turkey itself is too onerous. If u already have the equipment, the only problem is finding (and paying for) peanut oil and then knowing how much of it to use and when to start heating it. Of these, our only slipup on Thurs. was knowing when to start heating it.
    Fried turkey defnutly tastes better than roasted turkey. The only way roasted turkey even competes is by virtue of gravy.

  2. What's an eggnog pie, please?

    And did the news reach you that a family on Long Island set their house on fire (seemingly not too badly, or I wouldn't be making light of it) while deep-frying a turkey?

  3. I also would like to know what eggnog pie is (though I can guess). More important, can you share the recipe?

    Happy Holidays.

  4. LM: I have heard of such disasters. Thanksgiving day my father called to be sure we were doing it in the driveway or on bare earth, which we were. It still strikes me as incredibly dangerous.

    Anonymous: I will post the recipe. It was good!

  5. How are the other turkeys? What was their fate? I've never deep-fried a turkey (deep frying anything scares me), but I highly recommend the LA Times/Zuni Cafe salt curing. We've wet brined a la Cooks Illustrated, and this is much better.

  6. at the movies tonight we were treated to an All State ad featuring some famous person suggesting one should have insurance in case of a disaster and the presenting disaster was deep frying a turkey...!

    that aside, the turkey was excellent. as was everything else. i especially vote for the pear pie and the chocolate pie. and the sweet potatoes which were really a dessert...

    BTW, the movie was Precious. an all too true depiction of the impossible lives of to many of our citizens.
    the only flaws were
    1. Precious learned to read unrealistically quickly and well
    2. the optimistic ending...

    in as far as Precious and food go: the use of the bubbling pigs feet pot juxtaposed with some of the graphic violence was amazing.

  7. So, who did we eat? Nameless unhappy corporate turkey? Or backyard birds?

    On another note, we always roast our turkey upside down for the first 3/4 of cooking time and never had a bad experience. No basting either! There is still danger in turning over a 21 lb hot bird which is usually stuck to the roasting rack, but at least you will not catch on fire!

  8. Margaret -- I'm afraid we had nameless, miserable turkeys. But my backyard birds may not be long for this world. One of them has been tormenting the baby chicks, chasing them into corners and pecking at them mercilessly with his long beak. It makes me almost angry enough to . . .

  9. Well there's always Christmas! :)