Tradition!

Posted November 19th, 2010 in In the Kitchen, Posts

It’s Thanksgiving and time for families to break out the traditions most of which involve food. My daughters are very committed to “Tradition”. I remember a Christmas during which my girls and their cousins sang the song from Fiddler on the Roof repeatedly and incessantly, probably to make a point when I was trying to introduce something different to the menu. (Much like I am going to try this year).  Last month I attended the “Blogher” convention and met a blogger that I have been following and really enjoy.  At Eat the Love, Irvin bakes a lot of incredible and award winning pies and he posted an amazing recipe that I just had to try for this Thanksgiving. It is unique and very special.  Southeast Asian inspired Coconut scented Blackberry Apple Pie.  Its chalk full of secret ingredients, some of which I couldn’t find so I hope he forgives me for some improvisation.  Chinese Five Spice is the key. Never would have thought it and now I am hooked. You can find my version here and his here .  I’m still trying to convince Allison to let me make this in lieu of our traditional apple pie.  I am sure I will end up baking both. Allison is a strong advocate for her views. She usually wins.

In my family I have only cooked Thanksgiving once or twice in my life so I do not feel qualified to speak on this subject. I know you find that hard to believe, me being the Queen of Tarts and all.  I was divorced when my children were very young and my ex husband is a wonderful cook. Since Thanksgiving is the traditional eating holiday it was only fair that he would be awarded the kids for that day.  In the last few years we have all become good friends and I have even been invited to join that Thanksgiving feast the last couple of years.  Now there are all kinds of family configurations in the country these days. Divorce is common and lots of kids are growing up in step families.  My advice is to make peace with your exes out there as early as possible.  Peace and harmony for all ensues when you do.  I am not going to take credit for the peacefulness in our family today. That credit goes to the very wonderful woman who is my kids’ step mom.  She built the bridge, I simply walked over it.  So I will now step off the soap box and talk about the task at hand-THANKSGIVING!

From the time my girls were very young they participated with their dad in the Thanksgiving preparation. Before they were old enough to cook they were responsible for setting the table and they made homemade decorations. My daughter Kaitlin (the elementary school teacher who loves arts and crafts) shared this tip with me.  Trace your open hand on a piece of orange construction paper with the thumb as the Turkey head. Cut out some leaf shapes from brown construction paper and have your kids glue them to the “finger tips” to resemble feathers.  Write all the guests names on the “Turkey” body and these will become place cards.  Use small pieces of seasonal fruit-apples, pears, pomegranates etc and cut a small horizontal slice near the stem end.  Insert the paper turkey in it and set at each place.

As the girls got older they were given more jobs: peeling potatoes, chopping vegetables for their step mom’s famous and very delicious stuffing. She bakes the cornbread several days before and allows it to dry out. Her secret ingredient is lots of butter and it is a meal all by itself. Allison asks for her own casserole dish to take home for leftovers.  I was never a fan of stuffing until this one; the texture of soggy bread offends me. This stuffing is crunchy and so delicious I might never forgive her for introducing me to it.

The star of a Thanksgiving table is the Turkey and my kids’ dad makes a fantastic one so I asked him to share with all of you his secrets. He is a “briner”. He is committed to this technique and the results are fantastic.  Brining a turkey makes it moist. The salt causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings. It also breaks down the proteins resulting in a tender and juicy bird.

He uses a 5 gallon orange construction workers water jug as the brining vessel. He prepares the brine a day ahead using 1 cup kosher salt and ½ cup brown sugar per gallon of water.  Heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved and refrigerate overnight to get the brine good and cold.  You will need about 2-3 gallons for a 15lb Turkey.  Before adding the brine to the turkey, he adds a smashed clove of garlic (peel on), a bay leaf, a handful of peppercorns and a few pieces of candied ginger and some lemon slices.  You can add other spices, herbs or citrus, whatever you like. Pour over the turkey and add some ice.  Keep the turkey in the brine for 8-10 hours.  Then roast to a golden brown.  If you want to know more about brining a turkey you can watch a good “how to” video here.   This technique is also great for whole chickens and thick pork chops. The brine is the same but you have to shorten the time a lot to prevent over brining.

At the end of the day, it’s all about family. Food is what brings us together.  This year my gratitude list is very long so I am sure I will not be asked to say the grace.  I have been responsible for a cold meal on more than one occasion.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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