Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes, Redux

I love Thanksgiving. Food, friends, family squabbles - what's not to love?

Since moving to Dancing Rabbit Thanksgivings have gotten much easier - we have a potluck dinner with everyone from DR, Sandhill and Red Earth Farms who has not already gone away for the holiday. We all bring a dish or two; there are some very good cooks here.

The only snag is that more than Thanksgiving Day I love the day after, when we can make sandwiches with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, all between two slices of bread (or perhaps a brioche bun) slathered with mayo. So I often make a mini Thanksgiving for me and Kurt, and we nibble the leftovers for the rest of the weekend.

I always bring cranberry sauce to the potluck. It is super easy, and the sweet/tangy cranberry with a bit of orange zest seems to make every bite of mashed potatoes, yams, turkey and gravy taste just that much better. I was horrified, and then amused, to find that not everyone shares my opinion. Thanksgiving seems to bring out our most base, almost reptilian connections to food. For example, our friend Tereza insists that her cranberry sauce must come out of a can (and have those little dents in the side). It is not about the flavor; it is about the memories. For those folks, I bring a can of congealed cranberry sauce, complete with little indentations from the can.
RECIPE # 1: Cranberry Sauce

Makes 2 1/4 cups


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups (1 12-oz package) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • Optional Pecans, orange peel, raisins, currants, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.
  1. Wash and pick over cranberries.
  2. In a saucepan bring to a boil water and sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  3. Add cranberries, return to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.
  5. At this point you can add all number of optional ingredients. I prefer about a half a cup of roughly chopped pecans with or without some orange zest. (The recipes all say that you can add a cup of raisins or currants, or up to a pint of fresh or frozen blueberries for added sweetness. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice can be added too.)
  6. Remove from heat.
  7. Pour into serving dish, and cool completely at room temperature. When it is cool, chill in refrigerator. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.
Photo Credit: Michele Hume on Flickr

Memories are also behind Kurt's seemingly innocent request for Green Bean Casserole - you know, the kind with Cream of Mushroom Soup in it. Which created a dilemma of sorts. You see, when it comes to food (and just about everything else), Kurt is the ultimate good sport, an incredibly amiable, agreeable guy. I, on the other hand, seem to be a bit of a, um, snob. The Cream of Mushroom Soup request really threw me for a loop - how to make Kurt happy and not make myself crazy?

You can imagine my delight when I found Robert St. John's cookbook, which comes with the lengthy subtitle " to survive in a southern kitchen without a can of cream of mushroom soup." Within its pages is the most divine recipe for Green Bean Casserole, bar none. The end result has the same just-like-mom-made comfort as the original (for Kurt) and yet contains nary a drop of cream of mushroom soup - it uses Béchamel Sauce instead - which satisfies my snooty inner gourmand. Besides that, it is relatively EASY, plus you get to throw around terms like "Béchamel." This year, I am adding Robert St. John to the list of people for whom I am thankful.

RECIPE #2: Ultimate Green Bean Casserole
4-6 servings
Inspired by Robert St. John's Deep South Staples. Changes made to original recipe by me (Alline) and are not indicative of Mr. St. John’s culinary talents.


  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 4 cans green beans, drained (14.5 ounce cans)
  • ¼ cup bacon, sliced
  • 1 cup onion, medium dice
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups Béchamel Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 6-ounce can French’s French Fried Onions
  1. Make Simplified Béchamel Sauce (below)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a large sauce pot, bring chicken broth to a boil.
  4. Place drained green beans in the broth and simmer 10 minutes, Drain the green beans.
  5. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, render bacon until it just becomes crisp.
  6. Drain excess bacon grease from the skillet and add the diced onions. Cook over medium heat for five minutes.
  7. Stir in salt, pepper and Béchamel sauce.
  8. Remove mixture from heat and fold in green beans, cheese, and ½ of the canned, fried onions.
  9. Place mixture in a 3-quart baking dish and bake 30 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining fried onions over the top of the casserole and return to the oven for an additional 12-14 minutes.
  11. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Simplified Béchamel Sauce (modified from Joy of Cooking)

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt:
3 Tablespoons butter

Stir in:
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally with a wood spoon or spatula, over medium-low heat until the roux is just fragrant but not darkened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Slowly whisk in:
2 cups whole milk

and return the saucepan to the heat.

Bring the sauce slowly to a simmer, whisking to prevent lumps, and cook, stirring often and skimming any skin that forms on the surface, over low heat, without boiling, until it reaches the consistency of thick cream soup, 8 to 10 minutes.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired. Season with salt and ground pepper to taste.

Hmmm....why does this dark brown chocolate nut tart look RED? Probably because I haven't yet learned to mess with photos that were not taken by me...sheesh. For the real thing, check out the Vegetarian Times website!

RECIPE #3: Triple Nut Chocolate Tart
Vegetarian Times November 1, 2008
Serves 12 (we served 16, easily)

No one will guess this rich, elegant tart is vegan.
  • 1 cup pastry flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup vegan margarine (1 stick)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 3 cups mixed walnuts, pecans, and almonds (1 cup each), coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup vegan margarine (½ stick)
  • 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chips
  • 2 Tbs. pastry flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
To make Crust:
  1. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in bowl.
  2. Rub margarine into flour mixture with fingers until mixture is crumbly.
  3. Sprinkle in vanilla, and stir.
  4. Add 1 to 2 Tbs. cold water until dough clumps together loosely.
  5. Press dough into pie dish or tart pan until sides and bottom are covered.
  6. Chill in freezer 30 minutes.
To make Filling:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Spread nuts on baking sheet, and bake 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.
  3. Melt margarine and chocolate in saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Sprinkle in flour and salt, and stir until smooth.
  4. Stir in maple syrup and vanilla.
  5. Stir in nuts.
  6. Spread nut mixture in piecrust.
  7. Bake 25 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is firm.
  8. Cool on wire rack at least 20 minutes before serving.
Have a wonderful holiday!