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Recipes and Stories

1 December 2014: Creamed Turkey on Toasted Dressing

A Quick Fix for Leftover Turkey and Dressing that I never tire of making or eating: Creamed Turkey on Toasted Dressing

Last night for supper we finished the last of the dressing and a big chunk of the leftover turkey with creamed turkey over pan-toasted slabs of dressing. For those with smaller households who said that most recipes for turkey leftovers just created another “leftover” problem because it made more than one person would eat, just make a smaller batch: it divides easily. Read More 

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27 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving XII—The Gravy

Madeira Pan Gravy

It isn’t my job to tell you what kind of gravy to serve with your turkey. Whether or not you add wine to it, and whether you include the giblets and add chopped boiled eggs is up to you. My job is to show you how to make gravy that’s silky-smooth and delicious. You will need a roasting pan with a heavy enough bottom to withstand direct heat, a degreasing pitcher (fat separator), and a flat whisk. Read More 

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26 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving X—The Art of the Biscuit

The secret to perfect biscuits is just like getting to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice, and making them for dressing is the perfect time to do it.

The other key ingredient in my family’s cornbread dressing is actually another kind of bread altogether: biscuits. They give the dressing body and help bind it together without having to add eggs, which can sometimes make dressing a bit heavy.

Unfortunately, few home cooks seem to make biscuits very often, which is too bad. Because once one gets the knack, they’re drop-dead easy, and serving forth a basket of delicate, piping hot biscuits never fails to impress company. They always think you’ve gone to a lot more trouble than you actually have. Read More 

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26 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving IX—Cornbread for Dressing and Stuffing

Skillet Cornbread for dressing: the hardest part will be restraining yourself from eating it all before you can make the dressing!

Before tackling the stuffing or dressing, a quick word about tradition, with a word (and recipe) for one of the ingredients from my own tradition.

The wonderful thing about what you put into that savory bread pudding that accompanies your turkey, no matter what you put in it and whether you bake it in the bird or out of it, is that it’s one time that sticking to tradition will win for you every time. You really don’t have to think about it, analyze it, or reinvent it—you just make it and sit back and bask in the praise. Read More 

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26 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving VIII—Turkey Down to the Wire

If you're worried that your turkey will still look like this when the company's coming through the door, relax: it won't. But you need to get moving now!

Until now, this series has been about planning ahead, doing ahead, and keeping calm. This installment, however, is for those of you who have, until now, done none of that, either because cooking the dinner was not supposed to be your worry or because you’re a world-class procrastinator.

It doesn’t matter why you’re not prepared, and the purpose of this is not to shame or judge you.  Read More 

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25 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving VII—The Oysters

Lucy-Mama's Oysters, finished as Ruth does them in individual scallop shells.

One of the lovely things about Thanksgiving dinner is the way family traditions are perpetuated from generation to generation as we gather around that common table. Even lovelier is the way other traditions get adopted and shared as people come into our family and as we get absorbed into theirs, sometimes through legal ties but more often just because we love one another. Read More 

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24 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving VI—Traditional Pumpkin Pie

All American Pumpkin Custard Pie

Now that we’ve established that I take an ecumenical approach to the traditional sweet potato and pumpkin custard pies on Thanksgiving’s dessert board, and have shared my grandmother’s recipe for the former, here’s how she made the latter.

It’s just a standard pumpkin custard without frills or “reinvention,” varying from most other American recipes only in detail.  Read More 

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24 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving V—MaMa’s Sweet Potato Custard Pies

My grandmother's Sweet Potato Custard, a holiday essential in our family for at least four generations

I am not entering into the argument over whether pumpkin pie is a Yankee thing and sweet potato is a Southern one. My grandmother always served both at Thanksgiving, and both sweet potato and pumpkin pie (they were sometimes just called “custard”) were included in one of our earliest published records of Southern Cooking, Mary Randolph’s classic The Virginia House-Wife (1824), and both were included in most every antebellum Southern cookbook that followed, from Lettice Bryan’s Kentucky Housewife (1839) through Mrs. Hill’s New Cook Book (1867). Read More 

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23 November 2014 Mastering Thanksgiving IV—The Pastry Cook

More than half the battle in perfecting the Thanksgiving pies, whether they are sweet potato (shown here), pumpkin or pecan, is a flaky, made-from-scratch pastry

Never mind the arguments over whether the pie should be pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan or not pie at all, but cheesecake: the easiest way to deal with whatever you’ve planned for the grand finale is to sweet talk someone else into doing it. However, if you’ve not done that (or you’re the person who got sweet-talked), and are contemplating a ready-made pastry, know that the difference between a memorable pie and a merely good one is the crust. Read More 

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22 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner III—The Cranberries

A truly American berry for an all-American holiday, cranberries have been paired with turkey for at least four centuries.

On Thanksgiving day, practically every table across the country on which the centerpiece is our quintessentially American bird, one can almost take for granted that the turkey will be mated with another quintessentially American thing: cranberries.

And despite the hundreds, if not thousands of cranberry sauce, compote, chutney, and relish recipes that are presently cluttering the internet, most of those berries will be served straight out of a can, which is odd. Read More 

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21 November 2014: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner II—The Broth

Since I've not yet made my own broth, this is a picture of last year's stockpot. Let's face it: broth isn't terribly photogenic while it's in the making, but at Thanksgiving, it's the difference between a good dinner and a great one.

One of the most essential elements of Thanksgiving dinner, the one on which the rest of the meal rests, is the one that is the most often neglected: the broth. Each year, of the big packaged broth companies hawks its chicken broth with a warm, fuzzy thing about how caring cooks who love the process always rely on packaged broth to boost the flavor of their best dishes. Read More 

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20 November 2014 Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner I

Thanksgiving may be a week away, but that's not as much time as you think: if you don’t already have a plan in place, it’s time to stop daydreaming over those picture-perfect magazine table-settings and turkeys and get real.

As you begin to plan, be aware that your three greatest weapons are good organization, the make-ahead dish, and the fine art of delegation (also known as sweet talking someone into doing something for you), but at the risk of sounding scriptural, the greatest of these is organization. Read More 

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