Thanksgiving Archive

Monday, November 18, 2013

green bean casserole with crispy onions

green bean casserole with crispy onions

One of the best food books I read last year but rudely never got around to telling you about (in my defense, this time last year was a little nuts) was a 135-page, photo-free and straightforward guide called Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well by the New York Times former restaurant critic and sometimes newsroom editor Sam Sifton. And although I realize there is barely a page on the internet or of printed matter near you right now not currently angling to be the one that gets to walk you through the biggest home cooking holiday of the year next week, I like this one more. Maybe it’s because one of the earliest lines in the book is “You can go your whole life and then wake up one morning and look in the refrigerator at this animal carcass the size of a toddler and think: I have to cook that today. There is no need to worry. Thanksgiving does not have to be a drag,” and continues in that empathetic but not remotely patronizing tone for the remainder of the book, cheering you on through turkey purchases and homemade stock, classic sides and newer ones worthy of consideration, game plans and even tidbits on seating, such as whether it’s okay to separately seat the Republican, Marxist and Free Spirit factions of your extended family (in short: yes, absolutely yes).

halved and thinly sliced onion
onions tossed with flour, crumbs and seasoning

But it’s more likely because the book is compact, something you could drop in your bag and read later on the subway and be transported away from the crowds and airlessness to a glowy evening late in every November when you can shed all the crutches usually required to get through the day (shortcuts, irony, rushing, a mega-latte in a to-go cup, permanently adhered to your hand), set a table (any plywood over milk crates will do), forgo the appetizers (Sifton is adamantly anti-salad or anything else on Thanksgiving that will take up valuable stomach space better saved for foods draped with butter, cream, maple syrup and bacon*) and reminisce about that silly time you spent half the day making an gourmet sous-vide vegetable confit when all anyone really wants is the casserole they’ve always secretly loved and only get to revisit once a year.

cook a handful at a time, spread out

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

cranberry-orange breakfast buns

cranberry-orange breakfast buns

When my husband had a bit of, uh, bonus awesome free time on his hands this summer, he got into the curious habit of running while not being chased*, which led to him taking part in his first 5K a few weeks ago. To celebrate, we had people over for a little New York brunch (that is, bagels and lox, no, not homemade, not when they’re this good) back at our apartment, and, still trying to dig out from under our overzealous apple-picking, I made apple cinnamon buns. I didn’t think they were a big deal; I mean, they were good, just your standard cinnamon bun with two apples, diced small, scattered over the filling but it turns out, you cannot causally mention homemade apple cinnamon buns on the internet without causing a RECIPE PLEASE ruckus. I should know this.

bagel brunch
the apple-cinnamon buns i'd once promised

I really had full intentions of sharing the recipe (though technically, I just did) but you see, the only thing more worrisome than having more apples than one can fit in their apartment is The Day The Apples Run Out, and that happened before I had a chance. And as they did, October became November and I started getting Thanksgiving on the brain, which basically leads to me bringing absurd, barely haul-able hauls of various winter squash, cabbage, brussels sprouts, potatoes, and baskets of fresh cranberries home with exactly zero recipe agenda for them. [This morning's repeat haul is currently glaring at me from the dining table as if to say, Shouldn't you be getting to work on us and not talking to your friends inside your laptop again? Such nags!]

there will be butter, there will be eggs

Continued after the jump »

Friday, October 25, 2013

apple slab pie

apple slab pie

In one of my favorite October traditions, we picked too many apples a few weekends ago. As in maybe perhaps 25 pounds more than we needed? It’s hard to gauge. I realize that if you’ve never been in an apple orchard in October, when you’ve escaped the city to find yourselves in a quiet grove as the leaves are just starting to turn and the sky is unimaginably blue and you’re wearing your first thick sweater of the season, it’s hard to imagine how one accidentally picks 25 pounds too many apples. But I bet if you’ve been there and felt that, how fun it is to pluck crisp, unblemished, unwaxed apples from trees and let the branches snap back and the leaves flutter droplets of last night’s rain over your face, you’ve probably gotten carried away too. I think picking too many apples in October is about as important of a tradition as burning food on a backyard grill over July 4th weekend and going through a whole jar of cinnamon every fall. It’s going to happen either way; it’s best to embrace it.

the galas had a bad year

But when we got back to our distinctly not-grove-sized apartment, we didn’t have anywhere to put them. So, we started with applesauce, eight pounds of it. We moved onto oatmeal cookie-ish crumbles (would you like the recipe?), which chipped away at a few pounds apiece, and then my son’s preschool was making something with apples and I was all “LET ME DONATE THEM PLEASE.” There were whole wheat apple muffins (which enlisted 2), then apple pancakes (another 2), and then we made more applesauce (4 pounds) and all of a sudden we had only 6 apples left and I was devastated, because I’d forgotten to make pie. Who forgets to make pie? Nobody you should be friends with.

apples, apples, everywhere

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

pancetta, white bean and chard pot pies

pancetta, white bean and chard pot pies

For the last month or so, my cookbook had been on a boat, an image which delighted me to no end. I pictured it heading to a dock at the edge of a continent, like Arya at the end of Book 3 of Game of Thrones, and hoping that someone would give it passage. I imagined it splashing through waters rough and calm on a long journey, like the one depicted in Lost and Found. And then I imagined it arriving at the shipping docks, unloaded by the likes of handsome Nick Sobotka in Season 2 of The Wire (er, hopefully under happier circumstances), its container being fitted to trucks or rail cars and heading to a warehouse where it would tap its feet impatiently until October 30th arrived and it could finally come out and see you.

And now you know the truth: the inside of my head mostly looks like pages from picture books and scenes from HBO. I don’t know how I hid it so long.

pretty, pretty rainbow chard
pancetta, chard and bean pot pie prep

The first printing did indeed arrive at a warehouse in Maryland last week, but lest you think authorship has any privileges, I have seen but three copies of the book, one that I was allowed to hold briefly on QVC, one that was quickly snatched up by my parents, and a third one disappeared at my husband’s office for a while. The good news is, nobody hates it. The bad news is, people are kind of mad at me. “When did you make this and why didn’t we get any?” they ask and oh man, scrambling for answers is getting uncomfortable. My husband asked me this about a vegetarian taco dish that the babysitter and I completely inhaled the second I got the photo I needed, and decided to keep this information to ourselves. (Soo busted.) There’s a potato salad I didn’t share at all, just tucked away in the fridge and had for lunch for a perfect few days. (I’m not sorry.) And the giant pancake? Well, it’s not my fault that the toddler was too smart to share it all eight times I made it for him for breakfast.

under the pot pie lid, a hearty fall stew

Continued after the jump »

Friday, October 5, 2012

pumpkin cinnamon rolls

pumpkin cinnamon rolls

Something kind of terrifying is going on around here, and it started in the back of the closet. I found shoes there, old shoes, shoes that did not fit. They had to go. Thus far, this is the snoring-est horror story yet, but wait, the discontent simmers: Half the closet followed, all of the plastic hangers that drove me batty were replaced with nonslip ones, sweaters were color-sorted, dresses were arranged by season and my husband’s closet is on notice too.

pumpkin rolls, let's do this
it's the most wonderful time of the year

It gets worse: What began as a vague declaration that “this coffee table needs to be replaced” turned into an entire living room overhaul, from a fresh paint job to a new sofa, chairs, and yes, tables too. The throw pillows are looking nervous, as well they should. The kitchen cabinets got purged and everything that remained went into airtight glass jars. With labels. It’s like Aunt Pinterest came to town in there. Lest you think my three year-old has escaped my high straightenance bender, I bought every single pair of his pants in two sizes this fall, in case he goes on another wild growth spurt right around the time the universe runs out of pants; I picked up his Halloween costume on Labor Day weekend, and then, the shelves in his room just didn’t feel right to me and it turned out they were missing colorful baskets to hold his toys.

mixing and mixing in new glass bowl

Continued after the jump »