I’m doing as much of my Thanksgiving cooking ahead of time as possible.
I already told you about cooking the pumpkin in advance – it’s mashed, and in the freezer. I’m about to take it out so it will thaw, then, at the last minute, I’ll blend it with precooked onions, precooked chicken broth, silk tofu, and pumpkin pie spice, and heat it all to make a first course soup.
I sautéd sausage with onion, celery and carrots. That’s in the freezer, now, too – I’ll combine it with bread cubes and chicken broth for stuffing.
I cleaned, trimmed and blanched Brussels sprouts. They are – you guessed it – in the freezer… On the day, I plan to pan roast them (which will only take a few minutes, as they are partly cooked already.) If I don’t feel up to it, I can just microwave them a minute or two… This is not something I normally do unless I’m trying to preserve a short season vegetable, but here, the convenience is worth it.
I did get a container of commercial Turkey Gravy – just in case… I intend to make my own, but… this gives me a fall back option.
I have a large sweet potato. Now… This is the year of Thanksgivikah. If you haven’t heard about this – Thanksgiving is the First Night of Hanukkah. Not only is this unprecedented (in the relatively short time we have celebrated Thanksgiving) but it is also something that will not happen again for thousands of years… So, even though we don’t normally really celebrate Hanukkah, I do feel a need to tip my hat, so to speak, to this conjunction. I have made sweet potato pancakes before – they are quite good. That will be my last minute dish. (And if I’m not up to it – they’ll just be baked or even microwaved… still perfectly all right. Neither of our families ever did the marshmallow thing, so we don’t miss that.)
We never did the green bean casserole thing, either. Green beans aren’t in season, this time of year. The casserole was invented to make canned green beans something special, for those (especially in cities) who didn’t have access to fresh vegetables. Obviously it worked… but in Manhattan, in my adult life, it has always been possible to get good fresh seasonal vegetables in November. Since this is essentially a harvest festival, I go with them.
I’m going to make an Apple Cranberry Crisp – I’ll cook the filling this evening, assemble and bake it Thursday. I used to make just apple crisp – Rich suggested the cranberries, and they add a wonderful ruby color, as well as a tartness we both like. I’ll make a small crisp – but I’m going to make plenty of filling, and eat it on my breakfast oatmeal all week… That will be a treat!
And – an experiment, this year – Mom’s Cranberry Orange Relish.
When I was little, she used to make this, with a meat grinder. As I grew old enough to learn to cook, though, she was seriously ill for a while, and this was one of the traditions that fell away, never to return. (I still remember the year she got sick on Thanksgiving – she called the deli across the street, and the sweet lady who owned this Mom-and-Pop store packed up the last of the stuffing, and some gravy, along with the turkey Mom asked for, and Dad and I went to get it, and she clucked over me sympathetically… I was 11. Probably one reason I’m so determined to be prepared.)
Mom told me about the relish, though, when I was older. The key was – and she was proud of this – it is just the fruit. Cranberries, and an orange with the peel, ground together, the orange sweet enough that you don’t need sugar. (It is a relish, after all, not a dessert!) What I’ve been wondering about, though, is the pith of the orange peel – which is bitter. So – let me experiment… That will happen Wednesday, so there is time for the favors to meld, but it is still fresh and crisp. I’ll report back…
And there just seems something right about celebrating the abundance of a land which gives us both cranberries and oranges – which grow thousands of miles apart, but combine beautifully to make something distinctly American.
We have much for which to be Thankful.