It’s not too soon to talk turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.
“Thanksgiving is the meal we aspire for other meals to resemble,” says novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. Another quote by journalist Nora Ephron, “The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Is there anything else we can agree so vehemently about? I don’t think so.” Great food for thought.
Before I get into the food and recipes, I thought I would share some interesting facts about Thanksgiving. Curious to know how the date came about, I did some research. The holiday was originally celebrated on the last Thursday of November. And would you believe the date was changed to the fourth Thursday of the month due to the economic factor in years when November has five Thursdays. Here’s a bit of the history about the date change from the Center for Legislative Archives.
“In 1939, however, the last Thursday in November fell on the last day of the month. Concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen the economic recovery, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November. As a result of the proclamation, 32 states issued similar proclamations while 16 states refused to accept the change and proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November. For two years two days were celebrated as Thanksgiving — the President and part of the nation celebrated it on the second to last Thursday in November, while the rest of the country celebrated it the following week.
“To end the confusion, Congress decided to set a fixed-date for the holiday. On October 6, 1941, the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day. The Senate, however, amended the resolution establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday, which would take into account those years when November has five Thursdays. The House agreed to the amendment, and President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, thus establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.”
Not all were happy about this change. This August 28, 1939 article from Time magazine talks about the confusion and why calendar manufacturers and football coaches were not happy with the date change. https://bit.ly/36DZejC
Did you know?
— The first Macy’s Thanksgiving parade was in 1924.
— Minnesota raises the most turkeys, followed by North Carolina and Arkansas.
— Seafood was present at the first Thanksgiving, in Plymouth. Mass., a food we rarely see today at the Thanksgiving table.
— Green Bean Casserole was created by the Campbell Soup Co. in 1955.
— An estimated 20 percent of cranberries are eaten on Thanksgiving.
— The average Thanksgiving dinner contains 4,575 calories.
Are you hungry now or are you getting stressed thinking about the crowd you will be hosting at your home in a couple of weeks?
Have no fear with these two resources, “Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Thanksgiving Recipes” ($12.95), available in the magazine section of your supermarket and magazine stands, includes 140-plus recipes that will help you prepare for the biggest cooking day of the year. You’ll find several recipes for cooking the star of the table: Low-Stress Turkey for a Crowd, Classic Roast Turkey on the Grill (just think, cooking your bird on the grill frees up the oven for cooking all of the sides and don’t forget those sumptuous desserts); Julia Child’s Turkey, Updated; Easier Roast Turkey and Gravy; Oven-Braised Turkey; Roast Turkey Breast with Gravy (this one works for most of my family, except my dad who prefers the dark meat); Boneless Turkey Breast with Gravy; and those who prefer a smaller bird that cooks much faster try the Roasted Cornish Game Hens.
You’ll find variations of a favorite, mashed potatoes, and learn how steaming and rinsing potatoes prevent them from becoming gluey. You’re covered with twists on stuffing, sweet potatoes and the recipe below for a real homemade version of the quintessential Green Bean Casserole. A Thanksgiving table isn’t complete without one! It will be tough to decide which desserts to make. Will it be one of several apple pie recipes, pear crisp, Pumpkin Cheesecake Perfected, or something a bit more basic such as Cranberry-Sour Cream Pound Cake. Check out the recipe for Cranberry Upside-Down Cake at https://bit.ly/32qbeSz.
“Thanksgiving Playbook” by America’s Test Kitchen ($7.95), available as an eBook at https://bit.ly/2NLAqNZ, focuses on the classic recipes that home cooks say are their “go-to” favorites — the recipes that their families and friends look forward to seeing on the holiday table year after year. There five turkey recipes included Old-Fashioned Stuffed Turkey and Easy Roast Turkey Breast with Lemon and Thyme. Butter Fan Rolls and Savory Corn Muffins have the bread basket covered. The standards, stuffing (recipe below), mashed potatoes sweet potato casserole, pumpkin and apple pies are included. Check out the butternut squash gratin recipe at https://bit.ly/32uc6FH.
1. Topping: combine panko and melted butter in a bowl. Microwave, stirring occasionally, until panko is olden brown, about 2 minutes. Let cool completely, then stir in fried onions; set aside.
2. Casserole: adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine green beans and 1/2 cup water in a large bowl. Cover and microwave until beans are just tender, about 8 minutes, stirring halfway through microwaving. Drain beans in a colander; set aside.
3. Melt butter in a 12- inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook until liquid is nearly evaporated, 6-8 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth, cream, and wine and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, 4-6 minutes. Transfer green beans to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Pour sauce over green beans and toss to combine.
4. Bake until bubbling and green beans are completely tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, top with fried onion mixture, and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve Serves 6-8.
To make ahead: At the end of step 3, let casserole cool completely. Cover dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To serve, bake casserole, covered, until green beans are heated through and completely tender, about 40 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until edges begin to brown, about 10 minutes longer.
The headnote says, “To maximize the crunchy, buttery portion of our holiday stuffing, we started by toasting bread cubes (we used a baguette for its high crust-to-bread ratio) in a hot oven, instead of simply drying them out. We then moistened the bread cubes in a mixture of chicken broth and eggs. We melted butter in a skillet, packed in the stuffing, and let it fry for a golden-brown bottom crust. Finally, we brushed the stuffing with melted butter and transferred the skillet to the oven to crisp up the top.”
NOTE: If your nonstick skillet doesn’t have a metal handle, wrap the handle in a double layer of foil before placing it in the oven.
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange bread evenly on rimmed baking sheet and bake until light golden brown, 12 to15 minutes, stirring halfway through baking. Let bread cool completely. Do not turn off oven. Whisk broth and eggs together in large bowl. Stir bread into broth mixture until evenly coated. Set aside, stirring occasionally, to saturate bread. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 12-inch, oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and salt and cook until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in thyme, sage, garlic, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir onion mixture into bread mixture.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over low heat. Add stuffing to skillet, pressing firmly into even layer with spatula (skillet will be very full). Cook until bottom of stuffing is browned around edges when lifted with spatula, 7 to 10 minutes. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in microwave and brush evenly over top of stuffing. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until center of stuffing is hot and top is golden brown, about 20 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Let cool for 10 minutes. Serves 8.
Chefs of Our Kitchen Series: Cookbook author Mike Urban will feature dishes from his work, “The New England Diner Cookbook,” one of four books he has written on New England cuisine. Nov. 13, 6 p.m., Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 203-285-2617, $65 includes pre-event reception and three-course dinner, with wine pairings and a copy of the book. Mingle with Mike at the reception and then watch Dave McCoart, former executive chef/owner of Sage American Grille, demonstrate the dishes being prepared as you enjoy dinner. Reservations required. Validated parking (bring parking ticket to event) at the Temple Street Garage. Proceeds benefit Gateway foundation. Tickets and series information at www.gatewayfdn.org/cook-tickets.
Italian Gems Wine Dinner, Nov. 19, 6:30 p.m., Bin 100 Restaurant, 100 Lansdale Ave., Milford, 203-876-1600, $100 per person inclusive. Menu at https://bit.ly/2WJjZG6.
Consiglio’s Demonstration Cooking Class: Nov. 20, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Menu: Sausage, Kale and Tortellini Soup, Cranberries, Goat Cheese, Walnuts over Baby Spinach with Bacon Tomato Vinaigrette, Cavatelli and Braciole, Pumpkin Crème Brulee. https://bit.ly/2Nd0xAg
Big Taste at the Big Connect Business Expo, Nov. 21, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, 155 Temple St., New Haven, $20. Take one part tastings and add twice the amount of networking. The Big Taste is a phenomenal way to meet face-to-face with fellow business professionals. Pre-registration required. Sample menu specialties from some of Greater New Haven’s finest restaurants. I will host this event. For participating restaurants and registration, visit https://bit.ly/2K1bTUn.
Elm City Brew Festival, Nov. 23, 1-5 p.m., College Street Music Hall, 238 College St., New Haven. Tickets: $45 in advance, $50 at the door; $60 VIP tickets include early entrance at noon; $10 Designated drivers. Features 50-plus breweries, food vendors and music by local artists. For participating breweries, details and tickets, visit https://bit.ly/2q3wjVv.
“Worth Tasting,” A New York City Culinary Experience, Dec. 16. I will meet you at Grand Central Terminal (GCT) at 1 p.m.; $275 includes full lunch with one beverage at Le Marais, with chef/owner Jose Meirelles. We’ll stop at Bookmarks Lounge on the rooftop of the Library Hotel for one beverage, before we head to the Brooklyn Museum (includes roundtrip MetroCards for subway between GCT and the Brooklyn Museum and back to GCT). VIP entry to the renown NYC Latke Festival where we will eat our way through countless latke variations plus other holiday treats and open bar. You will have access to the exclusive VIP Lounge, with another open bar, a buffet of latke complementary comestibles and another open bar. At 8:30 p.m., we will travel back to GCT and get you to your train for your return to New Haven. Limited to 10 people. More information at https://bit.ly/31rN8GH. Tickets, call Stephen at 203-415-3519.