I love Thanksgiving so much I have it twice! I have the immediate family and a couple of friends, who are orphaned, on the official day and a leftover party on the Friday for my friends who are feeding and serving the people who can’t or don’t cook Thanksgiving dinner and eat out instead. It may seem over-the-top, but it’s the way the cooks in my family show our gratitude and express our love for family and friends.
I’m the granddaughter of three amazing cooks. My grandparents on my father’s side and my grandmother on my mom’s side, who I never met. From my high chair, I watched Grandma and Granddad put the pots on and cook up a storm in the pivot kitchen of their apartment in Harlem: A room so small, you could stand in the center and touch the four walls. The dining table groaned under the weight of their sumptuous Thanksgiving dinners. My grandparents not only fed their guests, but sent everyone home with dinner for the next night as well.
They taught me how it’s done. Every dish Grandma and Granddad cooked for us was cooked with love and absolutely delicious. Every meal was plentiful. They set the standard and passed their traditions down to me.
I’m passing it down to my niece, Janea, who is two and a half this Thanksgiving. Her favorite place is sitting at the kitchen counter. It’s the perfect spot for eating (I have never seen a child who clearly LOVES food at such an early age) and keeping an eye on the cooking. This week she peeled her first onion! Last night she wanted to help beat the eggs. She said, “I KNOW how to do it!” She’s hooked!
My last grandparent died earlier this fall and this Thanksgiving I want to give a very special, “Thank you!” to my ancestors. Thank you for loving me and for giving me my love of food, and for cooking and feeding others. I make “Grandma’s Rice” every Thanksgiving to keep their memory and the taste of it/memory alive.
Here is my Thanksgiving menu:
- Bacon Wrapped Sweet Plantains with Lime, Garlic & Jalapeno Mojo: Using turkey bacon for the non-believers & real bacon for me!
- Steel Cut Shrooms: Mushrooms stuffed with steel cut oatmeal, the last of my garden tomatoes, zucchini, feta & scallions.
- Pimp Out Your Egg Platter: Deviled eggs with an array of toppings: crumbled bacon, scallions, fried capers, tiny pesto croutons, anchovies, fricos crumbles, chili spiced nuts, sliced radishes, wasabi tobiko, smoked trout, pickled onions, pickled green tomatoes, pickled shallots, etc.
- Roasted Turkey: I cook two turkeys, one for each dinner. I like the spectacle of a picturesque bird emerging from the oven for my guests.
- Seriously Mushroomy Stuffing: A year of bread scrap stuffing with button, enoki, fresh Chinese black and brown & white beech mushrooms
- Giblet Gravy
- Browned Buttered Squash & Sweets Medley: A mix of delicata, butternut & sweet potatoes topped with rum plumped cranberries & pepitas.
- Jax Mac n Cheese: Seriously rich and the punishment for not making this dish is death by whining.
- Mashed Rutabagas: My mother’s favorite Simply smashed with cream, butter, S&P.
- Grandma’s Rice: A buttery pilaf with green olives and pecorino cheese. A Thanksgiving MUST!
- Roast Garlic & Pearl Onion Scalloped Potatoes: The idea is layers of roast garlic infused creamy potatoes with a crown of pearl onions.
- Steamed Asparagus & Carrots: I serve these plain in a hopeless attempt to balance all the rich food Ha! Ha! Ha!
- East 62nd St Lemon Cake: This is Maida Heatter’s famous cake, but I’m going to add yuzu juice to the lemon syrup…love the flava!
- Salted & Spiced Pecan Chocolate Caramel Slice: An Americanized Aussie classic to which I’m adding spiced pecans and sel gris.
- Funny Bone Roulade: A dense chocolate roll filled with a white chocolate and peanut butter ganache and encased in a dark chocolate glaze and crusted with honey roasted peanuts.
- Sour Cream Apple Pie: A family favorite with a yummy crumble topping. Original recipe is from the NY Times Heritage cookbook, but I double the topping recipe.
- Harvest Pie with Pear: The BFreally wanted me to make this excellent pie, I originally invented as a way to use up scraps of dried fruit. I already had a request for the Sour Cream Apple Pie, so I said,“Yes! but I’m making it with pears, this year, because two apple desserts is overkill (more diva humor!).