Thanksgiving Feast Re-Cap!

Oh no, I am so sad that I have fallen behind in the blog posts. I have so many photos of food and recipe ideas floating out there on my computer, in my head and around our kitchen. As I take some time to gather them up and put them together, I thought it would be a good idea to first post our Thanksgiving memories here before I forget.

Due to work schedules (I always have to work the day after and Grant usually plays a gig on Thanksgiving Day), we have stayed at home in Nashville for Thanksgiving for the last five or six years. Some years, my family has come to us. Other years, our good friends Lew & Shirley (who appreciate eating as much as we do thankfully) have visited us from Seattle for Thanksgiving. This year, we had sort of just planned to stay home and cook for ourselves and rest from a busy fall schedule. Our friends Molly, Jacob, and Reno sent us a lovely email the week before and invited us to join them. We know they love food as much as we do so this seemed a perfect fit.

The Smokey’s Fixin’s- Texas Tandies, Pumpkin Pie with a Pecan Crumble Top, and Broccoli Casserole.

Classic Southern fav- Seven Layer Salad

We all cooked- some family favorite recipes and some new- and met at Jacob & Molly’s house for an amazing Thanksgiving outdoors! That’s right, the weather was so perfect, we were able to eat outside and then enjoy some guitar picking by the fire! They were perfect hosts, had cooked so much all day and we had a lovely, relaxing day with them. Below are two recipes that I just had to post so we don’t forget them…

Homemade Chex Mix & Molly’s Holiday Sangria

The first one is something Molly came up with. I had never thought of having Sangria in the winter months, let alone for a holiday meal, but this was so perfect. It is so beautiful and festive, too. She found several recipes online and came up with her version that went like this-

Molly’s Holiday Sangria
1 cup water
1 cup cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large cinnamon stick
4 allspice berries
3 whole cloves
2 cups whole fresh cranberries
2 apples, diced
1 bottle Spanish Tempranillo
1/3 cup ruby port
1/3 cup Cointreau
1/3 cup cranberry juice

In a saucepan, mix the water, sugar, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Simmer over moderately low heat for 15 minutes. Strain into a bowl and add the cranberries and apples. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Strain the fruit, reserving the spiced syrup. In a large pitcher, mix the wine, port, Cointreau, cranberry juice, fruit and 3/4 cup of the spiced syrup. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve over ice.

Now Grant has cooked quite a few turkeys and he is a great cook. He tasted Jacob’s turkey and instantly realized this was one of the best he had ever tasted. It was Jacob’ first turkey, too. It was a perfectly cooked turkey and made the meal. Here’s the recipe he sent me-

Jacob Jones’ Thanksgiving Turkey

Ok, here goes, super simple….
Make sure the bird is not frozen. If it is, thaw it out in the fridge for a day or two.

Make the brine:
1 bottle Apple Juice
1 can Pineapple Juice
2 cups Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
Fresh Rosemary
1 gallon Water

Brine the turkey completely covered in the fridge or someplace cold for about an hour per pound over night. The next day, rinse the turkey off and paper towel dry inside and out. This is very important so that you don’t steam the turkey. Season the entire outside of the bird with salt and pepper.  Place the turkey breast down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. If you don’t have a rack and are using a disposable foil roasting pan (as I do), just use some long carrots in the bottom of the pan, they will keep the bird off the hot surface and act as a rack*. Take an entire package of center cut bacon and place it on top of the bird in rows. Add an inch or two of the brine liquid to the roasting pan. Add 5 to 10 fresh garlic cloves to the liquid. Sauté 1 cup onion and 1 cup chopped carrots on a skillet over medium for about 10 minutes until they are fragrant. Use a little butter or oil. Once done, let them cool and stuff into the cavity of the bird. Stuff the cavity of the bird with fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey on the lowest level of the oven rack.  Roast for about 15 minutes per pound or until the internal temp of the bird is 155. About half way through, turn the turkey over breast side up and baste with the brine liquid. Add some fresh rosemary to the top and place an oil soaked cheese cloth on the breast to trap moisture. About an hour before the bird is done, remove the cheese cloth.

Make sure the bird sits on the counter 30 to 45 minutes tinted in foil so it can seal in the juices and finish cooking.

Carve table side.  Cover in gravy. Enjoy.

* Ahem, Lady Smokey would like to note that these carrots were amazing! Bacon cooked carrots are a new favorite! YUM!

Look at all those colors!!!

We were stuffed and so happy after this amazing meal. Poor Grant had to go play guitar for four hours and I had every intention of joining him for some holiday Honky-Tonkin’ but I couldn’t leave the sofa. Somehow, though, we recovered a couple days later and managed to want more turkey and still had a few ideas brewing that we hadn’t had the opportunity to cook yet so on Sunday, our day off together, we had our own little celebration with more Texas Tandies (a Johnson family holiday tradition!).

Texas Tandies go best with Champagne or a Hard Apple Cider!

We made a stuffed turkey breast and a few fall sides for Sunday super. Grant made a yummy cornbread, apple, pecan dressing and then pounded out a deboned turkey breast, rolled it up with dressing inside, and tied it up with twine.

Making Dressing with homemade cornbread!

He dusted the outside with flour and browned each side in a dutch oven on the stove. He then cooked it in the oven. Once it was done, he sliced it. It was beautiful and really tasty!

The Stuffed Turkey Breast

We ate this with cooked carrots (with onions in a little bacon fat- thanks to Jacob for that idea!), roasted Brussels Sprouts, and fresh cranberry sauce. Yum!

We topped the evening off with some Pecan Shortbread and the beginning of Christmas Music Season! What a collection we have. New this year is a collection of holiday tunes from our neighborhood. You can pick up a copy of it for yourself here and all the proceeds go to help the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. We finished the weekend off with our annual viewing of The Last Waltz. We are truly thankful to have so many good friends and family and such amazing good food and music in our lives.


Thankful for Food!

Thanksgiving 2010

I couldn’t let my memories of Thanksgiving go undocumented! One of my favorite things about the holidays is cooking and eating and Lord knows we did our share this past week. Grant and I have had so many family and friend visits these past few months, we decided to spend this Thanksgiving with each other and spent the entire day cooking and eating in our pjs. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do on Thanksgiving anyway?

Leftovers. Bird's eye view.

We enjoyed a classic NW breakfast consisting of bagels (from our awesome new neighborhood bagel shop, Bagel Face Bakery), cream cheese, and lox while thinking of Grant’s family in the great Pacific Northwest. (Notice Lighthouse Roasters’ coffee mug for added, purely coincidental, effect!)

For a lunch snack, we had the perfect appetizer which has been a tradition in Grant’s family for quite awhile- Texas Tandies! Grant’s Mom got the recipe for these from a family friend in Texas and they quickly became a family favorite. My family likes them now, too!

Texas Tandies

2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 stick chilled butter
1 cup of flour
pinch of sea salt to taste
pinch of cayenne to taste
½ tsp Tabasco
1 tsp of Worchester
2 Tbsp Water

Cut chilled butter into small pieces and mix with flour until grainy. Add cheese, salt, and cayenne.  Mix liquids and sprinkle into mixture until dough just holds together.  Form into two balls and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Pre-heat oven to 350 and roll out dough onto a floured surface.  Cut out with a small round cookie cutter and gently press a pecan onto each cookie… Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or so. Let them cool for about ½ an hour (if possible!).
Good with Ice Cold Beer or Bollinger!

Since it was just the two of us, Grant decided to get a turkey breast rather than an entire turkey. He de-boned it and flattened it and then stuffed it with the most amazing dressing ever. Recipe soon to follow…

He first seared the turkey in an iron skillet on the stove and then cooked it in the oven until done. It was super delicious!!!

As is customary in my family, we had way too many side dishes but I just couldn’t narrow it down. I made roasted carrots and parsnips and glazed them with a mixture of butter, honey,  balsamic vinegar, and a little sea salt and black pepper. They were super simple, very pretty and quite delicious.

We also made Brussels Sprouts seasoned with a tiny bit of Spanish chorizo! Grant is a genius for coming up with this!

We tried a completely new idea of a dish for us, too, Braised Leeks. They were interesting and went well with the mashed potatoes and gravy but weren’t the most amazing thing we had ever tasted by any stretch of the imagination. As for those mashed potatoes, I tried to channel my step dad, Larry, who makes the best mashed potatoes, and therefore, did not skimp on the butter! They were delightfully fluffy and a perfect vehicle for the gravy.

Now about that dressing… Grant got this recipe spot on this year. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory, moist and crispy, nutty and fruity. He used some to stuff the turkey breast and the rest, he cooked in a baking dish and we ate on the side.

Apricot Pecan Dressing

2 tsp butter (or bacon fat)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups hearty Artisanal bread (we used a crusty rosemary bread), cut into cubes
1-2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Saute onion, garlic, and celery in butter until soft. Mix bread cubes, sage, pecans, and apricots together in a large bowl. Add the onions, garlic, celery and mix thoroughly. Add stock until mixture is well moistened but not too wet.  Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Place mixture in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes covered and then 30 more minutes uncovered to crisp the top.

Oh, and there was wine. We enjoyed a lovely Oregon Pinot Noir from A to Z and a pumpkin pie with pecan crumble for dessert.

I know there are many pecan pie fans out there and I have a great recipe for it which I adapted from an Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock recipe but I much prefer pumpkin pie. Since there are only two of us, I decided to try to combine the two holiday favorites and created a pumpkin pie with a pecan crumble top. It worked quite well. So well, that I ended up taking one down to Robert’s Western World Thanksgiving night and two more to our last Red Barn Round-Up of the year this past Sunday. What a great Round-Up it was as we were fortunate enough to have the very musically talented and artistically savvy Julie Lee perform as well as Mister Paul Burch. If you haven’t heard their latest albums, the holidays are the perfect time because both would make excellent gifts! And while you are at it, you can also buy some of Julie’s art work! What better time to support local art?

So here is the pumpkin pie recipe. Please remember to make your own crust. You can find my recipe here.

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crumble Top

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp freshly ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1 1/2 cups of roasted pumpkin, pureed
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 extra large eggs
1 cup coconut milk

for crumble top:
1 cup pecans, toasted & ground
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
½ cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin open and into four wedges, clean the seeds out (I roasted them up with a little salt for a yummy snack!), cut the strings out and rub the inside with a little olive oil and place face down in a baking dish. Bake for about an hour, until the pumpkin is tender when forked. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and mix well in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together brown sugar, salt, arrowroot. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, maple syrup, eggs and mix well. Then, add the coconut milk and gently stir. Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn oven down to 350 degrees for another 40 minutes (set timer for 20 minutes, though, as you will need to add the crumble top!).

Make the crumble top. Grind roasted pecans in a food processor or chop very finely. You can then add the other ingredients to the food processor or mix by hand. Be very careful and open oven door and quickly but gently crumble the topping over the pumpkin pie. Bake for the remainder 20 minutes or until pie is set.

Lots of good music coming up this month so I should have lots to report… I am also super excited about a new cookbook we picked up at McCay’s used books this past weekend. It has recipes of Barcelona! If we can’t visit Spain, at least we can eat like we did.

Enjoy all your holiday baking!