Although our small family comes to our house every year for Thanksgiving, we really don’t cook for them; we cook for us.
Like I’ve said, my mother doesn’t spend much time in the kitchen except around the holidays. And by “holidays” I mean just one in particular--Thanksgiving.
We look forward to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving the whole year. It’s our time to cook all day. Uninterrupted. Together. We love the food preparation so much that when family members ask what they can bring, we usually suggest they bring their choice of beverage.
Our family expects food the next day, yes, but the number of items, and the complexity of each one, we decide solely for our benefit. This is my mom’s moment to pull out her favorite recipes, and this is my moment to create new dishes and, as I like to put it, revitalize and revolutionize the normal “Thanksgiving food.” I know what some of you are thinking, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Dry turkey: broken.
Flavorless stuffing: broken.
Boring green bean casserole: broken.
You’ve already been exposed to pumpkin-everything for a month, so pumpkin pie: broken.
With that being said, here are our objectives beyond spending our most treasured day of the year together in the kitchen:
Meredith tries to whittle down the number of items. Meredith envisions the recreation of classics. Julie compromises. Julie likes the envisioning. Julie throws immovable last-minute curves balls like traditional stuffing. A menu comprised of new and old is born, with fewer and fewer random items each year.
Here’s what made it to the Thanksgiving table this year:
- Coffee and Chili-rubbed Pork Loin
- Cornflake Potatoes
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash in a Pomegranate Glaze
- Lemon Parmesan Kale Salad
- Sourdough Bread with Garlic Butter
- Dark Chocolate Rosemary Pecan Tart
Added at the last minute:
- Stuffing--which my mother insisted be classic.
- Cranberries--which my mother exclaimed to me: “fix this!”
The cranberries, I will say, resulted in possibly the best I’ve ever had. I took over the pot and stared into the red sugary substance. Immediately ginger came to mind as well as lemon. I quickly peeled and finely chopped a small piece of ginger I had left in the fridge, and zested a whole lemon. I had just made tikka masala two nights before and as I opened the spice cabinet, looking for a boost to the now spicy and sour-like cranberries, a wave of coriander and cardamom hit me. I grabbed the coriander--understanding it’s love affair with lemon full-well--ground the seeds up, and added them liberally to the mixture. As an afterthought, two dashes of cayenne made the pot as well. To quote Guy Fieri, it was “so good I would eat it off a flip flop.”
Another important thing to me is the dessert. Because Thanksgiving desserts are always plain jane and usually have something to do with pumpkin. This year I decided on a rosemary-infused dark chocolate tart with a pecan crust. It’s rich, delicious, and nods at two of the most-used ingredients around the holidays: rosemary and pecans. I didn’t make enough for us to taste-test it (fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants-style), so we had to be surprised the next day along with everyone else. But it was a hit, and went extremely well with coffee.
Cooking, cleaning, taste testing, Christmas music. The evening was both magical and productive. I hope everyone had a beautiful Thanksgiving; I sure am thankful for everyone around me. And off we go into the Christmas season, friends! Cheers!
Lemon-Ginger Cranberry Sauce
1 package of fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
A ½ inch piece of ginger, minced
1 lemon, zested
½ teaspoon of coriander
2 dashes of cayenne
Combine the first three items until the cranberries become soft and boil into a sauce, stirring continuously so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Remove from heat and add in all the other ingredients.
Serve cold with your choice of roasted meat.
Rosemary-Infused Dark Chocolate Pecan Tart
(From Thrive Market, slightly altered)
For the crust:
2 cups lightly toasted pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
6 tablespoons raw sugar
For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
4 sprigs rosemary, needles roughly chopped
14 ounces 70-percent dark chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
Large pinch Maldon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Raw cacao powder, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Infuse the cream:
Combine cream and rosemary in small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Turn heat down to low and let simmer a couple minutes. Cover, turn off heat, and set aside to infuse, at least 30 minutes.
Make the crust:
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the crust until it comes together as dough. Evenly press into bottom and sides of long rectangular tart pan with removable bottom. Bake 7 minutes.
Make the filling:
Strain the cream and discard the solids. Place the cream in a heatproof bowl with chocolate and butter. Place bowl over a saucepan with 2 inches of simmering water. Whisk chocolate mixture until melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from heat and whisk in eggs, sugar, and salt. Stir in vanilla.
Assemble the tart:
Spoon filling into crust. Bake in oven about 20 minutes, until filling is set but still jiggly in center. Cool completely. Dust with raw cacao before serving.