Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I had it easy for Thanksgiving this year - I made two pumpkin pies and the cranberry sauce. I also spent all of the long weekend writing papers for the encroaching term end, and honestly I'd much rather have been struggling with smooth gravy and browned turkey skin than my "policy memo."

My mom made the turkey and gravy, as well as stuffing from homemade cornbread and a salad with walnuts, blue cheese, red grapes, and mustard-herb vinaigrette. My mother-in-law steamed brussels sprouts and baked them with ground almonds and parmesan cheese. My cranberry sauce was more of a chutney with fennel, pear, and golden raisins.

I found my cranberry inspiration in a Fine Cooking Magazine recipe search. Their website offers many recipes for free, but requires a paid subscription for full access, and the recipe I was interested in for Cranberry Chutney with Fennel and Golden Raisins was behind the paywall. However, thanks to the blogosphere, I figured I could find a copy anyway, and a simple google search led me to the full recipe (along with four alternative versions from the article) at The Bitten Word. The version below has some of my own adaptations (especially since the boys over at bitten don't seem to bother responding to questions from their readers... I'm not trying to trash-talk them, but most bloggers seem to find interacting with readers to be the entire purpose of their posts.)

Fennel and Cranberry Chutney
Serves 12
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 large bulb fennel, chopped to desired size (I made my pieces just slightly smaller than a raw cranberry) - about 1 cup
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground anise seed
1 d'anjou pear, diced
1/2 cup golden raisins

Heat oil and butter over medium-low heat. Stir in fennel and cook until softened, 10-12 minutes. Stir in cranberries, sugar, water, and vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved and cranberries are popping. Stir in diced pear and raisins, and cook to desired consistency. Sauce will thicken some as it cools. Stir in ground anise, and salt if needed. Chill.

After many years of trying to creatively interpret pumpkin pie into pumpkin cheesecake or pumpkin mousse tart, or dress it up with streusel or caramel or toffee toppings, I have finally come to appreciate a traditional pumpkin pie. I use the recipe from Joy of Cooking, but have landed on the particular balance that I prefer. Although for Thanksgiving, I'm sure I will continue to make the expected pastry crust, my choice is definitely to use a ginger-pecan shortbread crust for the pumpkin filling, which also works pressed into a 9x9 or 9x13" pan for excellent bar cookies. Whatever crust you use, here is the filling recipe for 2 pies (actually, this makes more than I can fill in 2 9" pies - I always have enough left for a third pie or some bars, or use deep-dish pie pans.)

Pumpkin Pie
makes 2 pies
Par bake crust (line unbaked crust with foil, fill with pie weights, and bake 12 minutes at 350, then remove weights and bake anouther 3-5 minutes until golden).

5 eggs
1 29-ounce can pumpkin puree
3 cups cream
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons bourbon

Whisk ingredients together until thoroughly mixed. Pour into crust and bake 35-45 minutes, until firm. Chill and serve with whipped cream.

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