Thanksgiving 2011!

Here at three squabbling asians, we have a rule that we cannot start talking about our Thanksgiving menu until October. This year however, due to my extreme gestational state, Little Miss and Yuan were left in limbo while I fretted about how I may have to spend my favorite holiday of the year eating hospital food turkey. As my early November due date came and went with no indication that someone had any intention of leaving the womb, I called Little Miss and Yuan to tell them that I would have have to skip Thanksgiving unless I evicted a tiny person in the next 24 hours. Thankfully, occupy my belly ended less than 24 hours later.  Just in time for me to go home and have my fellow squabbling asians come up to Davis to cook me a Thanksgiving feast!

Little Miss was highly organized as usual and whipped up our usual Thanksgiving menu items.  Because of the last minute planning, Thanksgiving was a cozy family affair this year and we pared down our menu a bit and added some flair to our usual items.  I was still incapacitated but my mom filled in for me and I contributed by sitting on the couch and eating.

To celebrate my ability to eat whatever I wanted for the first time in almost a year, Yuan brought up sweetwater and Kumamoto Hog Island oysters.  Oh how I missed that briny, succulent, raw oyster!  They were absolutely delicious.

This year, Mr. Turkey was a 15 lb pre-brined bird that Yuan rubbed with herbs and truffle butter and roasted.  He did not flip the bird this time during the cooking process, but Mr. Turkey came out very tender and juicy. Here he is in all his glory…and Little Miss picking at him.

My mom made our usual stuffing with sausage, shitake mushrooms, celery, onion, rosemary bread, water chestnuts, and the magical powder that makes everything taste like Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Bell’s Poultry Seasoning. I know turkey snobs insist that cooking the stuffing in the turkey dries it out, but the stuffing does not taste the same unless it is cooked in the turkey with all the juices! We stuffed half of the stuffing in Mr. Turkey, then scooped it out into baking dishes when Mr. Turkey was done and finished the stuffing in the oven. By cooking the stuffing again after it comes out of the turkey, we ensure that both the turkey and stuffing are cooked just right.  Here we are, inspecting Mr. Turkey for hidden stuffing bits.

We also had Molly’s cranberry relish and green bean casserole and Yuan made a classic gravy.  For sweet potatoes, Little Miss made her mom’s recipe with bacon and cheddar cheese which sounded strange and mid-Western (much like Little Miss) but was a great sweet savory combination.  Bjorn made a butternut squash bisque with homemade croutons which was also really delicious.  For dessert, we resisted the urge to have half a pie per person and limited it to pumpkin and apple staples. Little Miss made pumpkin cheesecake which she modified this year by making a half portion of the filling and making it in a shallower pie dish.  We found that it was easier to bake properly and resulted in a better crust to filling proportion.  She also made a yummy apple cheese torte.

My mom’s Thanksgiving day plate.

Many thanks to Little Miss and Yuan who came up and prepared a feast for me, Bjorn, my mom, and my new little man.  Next year little man, you too can enjoy some Thanksgiving grub.

Cranberry Eggnog Tart – A Holiday Favorite

We’ve made this cranberry eggnog tart during the holidays because it’s really yummy and looks really festive. Last year, we used a graham cracker cookie crust and baked it in a spring-form like a cheesecake. This year, I had some leftover pie dough which I rolled out into a 9 1/2 in tart pan and baked at 350 for about 15 min. lined with foil and filled with pie weights. Then I removed the foil and weights and baked it uncovered for another 15 min. After letting it cool completely, I spread a layer of cranberry jam on the bottom of the crust.

Cranberry Jam

In a medium saucepan bring to a boil, 12 oz (1 bag) fresh cranberry, 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1 in long orange peel, 1 cup water, and 3/4 cup sugar. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 min or until thickened. Cool, then force through a sieve to remove skins and seeds. If you make the jam ahead of time, melt the jam with a tiny bit of water over low heat until it is smooth and spreadable.

I let the jam set for about 5 min., then I carefully poured the eggnog mixture into the crust.

Eggnog Filling

  • 12 oz (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese softened
  • 2 tbsp of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Blend together cream cheese, heavy cream and sugar until creamy, about one minute. Add whole eggs, egg yolks, brandy, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt, and mix until smooth.

Bake the tart for about 40 min until the filling is set but still trembles slightly in the center. Cool tart completely in the pan on a rack. Spread another layer of jam evenly on the top. Chill tart, uncovered until cold, at least 2 hours. Remove from pan just before serving.

Thanksgiving Spotlight – Cranberry Relish

During my Honolulu years, my law school buddy Molly and I used to coordinate to make a Thanksgiving feast every year. She used to make this icy cranberry relish from her family Thanksgiving and now I can’t have turkey without it. I’ve heard from other people that it’s also known as the NPR cranberry relish. Wherever it came from, it’s hot pink and gives your turkey meal a spicy kick.

Molly’s Cranberry Relish

1 bag (12 oz) of whole fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sour cream
3-4 tbsp horseradish (I like to be generous)
1 small onion quartered
2 tbsp honey

Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Keep in freezer until 1-2 hours before eating. It is good when it’s still a little icy!