Friday, November 1, 2013

Start Thinking About...Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays—all those memories of sitting in nice straight lines with our yellow music books open in our laps and singing, “Over the River and Through the Woods.”  Do children still do this?   And do families still go to their grandparents for Thanksgiving dinner anymore? Oh, I sure do hope so.  If they do, and they come to their grandparents in Palm Beach, Thanksgiving Day is more likely to look like this.

This year, my granddaughter, Leta, will be on vacation from her first term at Westminster School, and she will come along with her sister, Allegra, and her parents, Sallie and Mark.  I can’t wait.  We will probably have our dinner at the Bath and Tennis Club here in Palm Beach, but in days gone by, when Kit Pannill and I used to cook all day to have dinner together, this is what we would have.  It would be a big buffet so that the children could go first and then go sit at their own special table, and the tables would be beautiful, set with Kit’s beautiful Herend china in pale orange—

Perfect with all the pumpkins and leaves and candles—and my silver,

 And beautiful crispy white napkins—all on the mahogany table.

And this is what we would have...

Roast Turkey with Stuffing and Gravy
Cheese Grits Casserole
Tomato Pudding
Cranberry Relish with Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Kit’s Green Watermelon Rind Pickles
Regular Crudités
Hot Biscuits with Butter and Guava Jelly
Mince Pie and Pumpkin Pie
Hot Apple Pie and Hot Late Summer Peach Pie
Whipped Cream

The best recipes for roasting turkeys are usually found in Food and Wine magazine or Bon Appetit—(I used to rejoice when the fall issues of Gourmet would arrive—what a missed magazine),  where they will have many choices and many ways of doing your turkey.

The recipe for Dressing in this month’s Bon Appetit is almost exactly the way we used to make it, so use it, and of course, use their recipe for gravy, since we always had Giblet Gravy which many people will not eat—especially children.

Classic Dressing—page 28, Bon Appetit, November, 2013

Tear 2 one-pound loaves of country-style bread into one” pieces (about 20 cups), spread out on cookie sheets and dry out overnight.

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil (we used butter) over medium heat.  Add 2 chopped onions, 4 chopped celery sticks, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage, and ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves.  Salt and pepper and cook until medium soft, about 10-12 minutes.  Add 1 ½ sticks butter, cut into pieces, pinch of cayenne pepper,. And 1 ½ cups of chicken broth.  Toss, and put into well-buttered 13 x 0” baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, uncover and bake until browned and crisp, adding a little broth if needed.

There are some great hints scattered throughout this November’s issue, including 2 which I strongly endorse: one, baste your turkey (or other bird) with a brush rather than a baster—easier, safer, and better on wings and legs, and two: always put water or broth (or both) in the bottom of your roasting pan (I put my bird on the top of a broiling pan, well greased, and usually I start my bird upside down to keep the breast moist), so that the drippings from the bird mingle with this liquid and make better (and easier) gravy.

If you want to harken back a bit, you can use the recipe for Roast Turkey with Cream Gravy from the last Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet (SOB!)

When it comes to the Thanksgiving centerpiece, most people aren't looking for a lot of bells and whistles—they simply crave a big, juicy bird with golden skin. This recipe delivers. Cream gives the gravy, which is equally straightforward to prepare, a velvety lushness that your guests won't soon forget.


1 (12-to 14-pound) turkey, neck and giblets (excluding liver) reserved for turkey stock
2 1/2 cups water, divided
About 4 cups hot turkey giblet stock
Melted unsalted butter if necessary
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup heavy cream
Equipment: a 17- by 14-inch flameproof roasting pan with a flat rack; kitchen string; a 2-quart measuring cup or a fat separator


Rinse turkey inside and out and pat dry. Put turkey on rack in roasting pan and season inside and out with 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Fold neck skin under body, then tuck wing tips under breast and tie drumsticks together with string. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lower third.

Add 1 cup water to pan and roast, without basting, rotating pan halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into fleshy part of each thigh (test both; do not touch bone) registers 165 to 170°F, 1 3/4 to 2 hours total.

Carefully tilt turkey so juices from inside large cavity run into pan. Transfer turkey to a platter (reserve juices in roasting pan) and let rest, uncovered, 30 minutes (temperature of thigh meat will rise to 170 to 175°F). Discard string.

Make gravy while turkey rests: 

Strain pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve into 2-quart measure and skim off fat (or use a fat separator), reserving fat. Straddle roasting pan across 2 burners, then add remaining 1 1/2 cups water and deglaze pan by boiling over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Strain through sieve into measuring cup containing pan juices. Add enough turkey giblet stock to pan juices to bring total to 5 cups.

Put 5 tablespoons reserved fat (if there is less, add melted butter) in a 4-quart heavy saucepan and whisk in flour. Cook roux over medium heat, whisking, 3 minutes. Add stock mixture in a fast stream, whisking constantly, then add cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring to a boil, whisking, then stir in any turkey juices from platter and simmer 5 minutes.

Serve turkey with gravy.

Tomato Pudding—this is the dish for which, more than any other, I am begged for the recipe.  If is equally good with turkey, quail, smothered chicken or roast pork or Smoked wild pig and venison sausage

I cook by feel so measurements are approximate

Put one whole loaf of very good white bread on cookie sheets and make into Melba Toast—ie. bake at 200 degrees for as long as your oven needs to slowly toast the bread—usually between one and two hours.  Then put this bread in the Cuisinart (I used to have to do all the chopping by hand, so this was a real project—it’s so much easier today.  Put in very large mixing bowl.

In the Cuisinart, chop coarsely 2 peeled yellow onions—the kind which make you cry—add to bowl.  Then 2 large cans of tomatoes—best if they are fire-roasted, but that’s new.  I do use Muir Glen organic fire-roasted—chop coarsely and add to bowl.  Now—believe me—this is right—at least one cup of white sugar .  Stir everything together well and taste—it should be quite sweet.  Stir well into it ¼ cup or so of red chili olive oil (optional) and at least 15 grinds of black pepper—I use more.  Put into two baking dishes (probably) and then cut into slices at least 1 ½ sticks of butter and lay them on the top of each filled dish.  Put into 300 degree oven—could be 325 if your oven is not hot enough—and bake for between 45 minutes to an hour.  Open oven and carefully stir into the puddings the melted butter on top—cook more—probably at least 20 more minutes until tops are crusty and brown and bubbling madly.  This can sit for about an hour on top of the stove without losing its heat.

Cranberry and Orange Relish

Put into Cuisineart (what did we ever do before them?????) one bag of frozen cranberries, pulse quickly, and then add the juice of 2 lemons and 1 orange, 1 cup of sugar, pulse just for a second, and let sit overnight in a glass bowl in the refrigerator (never in plastic or metal).  Then the next day, add 3 oranges, totally peeled and all white pith removed, seeded and chopped, and ¾ cup of pecan halves, coarsely chopped—almost not at all (you can substitute almonds, if you like), and serve in a dish surrounded by the terrible (but yummy to the extreme) jellied cranberry sauce in slices.  You can disguise this with bunches of mint leaves—everybody scorns it, but it will be gone long before the relish is.

You can’t get Kit’s absolutely fabulous watermelon rind pickles, but you can probably buy an approximation.  As for the biscuits, unless you are a dab hand at baking, see if you can’t find someone to make them for you.  Or try Lee Bailey’s Southern cookbooks.  But be forewarned, really good hot flaky biscuits are a seldom encountered treat.  You can buy really good Guava Jelly, especially if you are in the Bahamas.  Barring that, you can also order it from Blue Ridge Jams.

From them you can also buy Habanero Pepper Jelly And Jalapeno Pepper Jelly.  It was fun to see in the new Bon Appetit that they recommended Pepper Jelly on Cream Cheese as a topping for canapés—talk about Harking Back to the Past!  Still when something is delicious, it should have no Expiration Date.

For the rest of the menu, you’re on your own.  Just remember: crudités should be kept on ice until served and if you forgot to freeze any late summer peaches for your pies, the frozen ones in the grocery store are fine for this.  Get the ones with no sugar.  And remember, the best pastry crust is made with LARD!!!

In our boutique, (e-mail We have beautiful Thanksgiving placecards from The Printery—along with lots of other wonderful stuff and Christmas things that just arrived.

Happy Eating ! 


1 comment:

  1. I love your Thanksgiving thoughts! In Kentucky, we have three "meats", roasted turkey, escalloped oysters and country ham with yeast rolls. Mama always served Philadelphia cream cheese topped with pepper jelly with wheat thins with drinks then the real feast began....succotash, wild rice, tomato aspic with homemade mayonnaise , cranberry relish ending with peppermint ice cream and hot fudge sauce. All the flavor and smells go together.....I can hardly wait!