Well, it is that time of year again: Thanksgiving. I am not sure how it keeps arriving so quickly, but here it is. We have many things to be grateful for this year as always. Our family is healthy and strong, and the kids are growing up too quickly! I have a loving husband who is a devoted father to our children. We have a lovely home and great friends who are always there for us. We are fortunate in this economy, especially being teachers, to both have reliable employment. Lastly, one of the things I am most grateful for this year, is that my sister and I have grown much closer.
However, not only is this a holiday to reflect on and be thankful for what we have in life, but it is a holiday to celebrate the autumn harvest… and the best way to do that is with excellent fare!
This is one of my favorite holidays to cook for, but this year, just like last, we are having Thanksgiving at a family member’s home. This year the torch gets passed on to my sister. This is her first Thanksgiving in her own home, and she is very excited to cook for all of us (You should see the amount of texts I have gotten!)! On Wednesday she is coming over and I am teaching her how to make my pumpkin challah bread for my pumpkin stuffing, which she is making to stuff the bird. On Thursday I will be making my sweet potato gratin, which is just sinfully wrong, because it is so good! I am also going to make a pumpkin cheesecake for dessert, and deviled eggs for an appetizer. I am also going to try a new recipe for mushroom and sweet potato topped puff pastry squares as a second appetizer.
For the wine I think we will take over the Cuda 2009 Merlot (the 2008 Merlot was a hit last year and the 2009 vintage is almost as good) and the Tenuta Trinity (Cab & Sirah Blend).
On Thursday while the cousins are playing and the men are watching football, the ladies will be working in the kitchen in hopes to create a meal that is worthy of inaugurating my sister’s Thanksgiving table. I am looking forward to the time in the kitchen with my mom and my sister, passing down traditions, sharing stories, and creating new stories and memories that will be shared over Thanksgiving tables to come!
Pumpkin Challah Bread
Yields 2 Loaves
*Extra loaf can be frozen.
2½ teaspoons active dry yeast, (1½ packages)
1 cup warm water (100 degrees to 110 degrees)
¾ cup egg yolks, (11 to 12 large eggs), plus 1 large egg yolk for glaze
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for bowl
¼ cup honey
2 cups homemade Pumpkin Puree, or one 15-ounce can
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
8 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1. Proof the yeast: Place ½ cup warm water in a small bowl, and sprinkle yeast over it. Stir to combine, and let sit until mixture becomes foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine egg yolks with remaining ½ cup warm water. In a medium bowl, combine salt, canola oil, honey, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Replace paddle attachment with dough-hook attachment, and add the pumpkin mixture to the mixer bowl; combine. Add the yeast mixture, stirring until combined.
3. Slowly add flour, 1 cup at a time, until all the flour is incorporated into dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough, and then form it into two 8-inch loaves. Place the loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
5. While the dough is rising, heat the oven to 350º. Mix remaining egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the loaves with the egg glaze, and bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, and serve.
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 onions, diced
16 celery stalks, diced
1/4 cup, loosely packed, fresh sage, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
1 stale loaf french bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 stale loaf pumpkin challah bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 bunches flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups dried cranberries
1. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onions and celery, and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
2. Add sage, stir to combine, and cook 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Add ½ cup stock, and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes, until liquid has reduced by half.
4. Transfer onion mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients, including the remaining stock; mix to combine.
*** Recipe can be halved or extra stuffing can be frozen for future use.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Whipped Cream
1½ cups vanilla wafers, crushed into crumbs
1 cup ground pecan pieces
1 stick melted butter
2 pounds cream cheese, softened and cubed
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups sweetened whipped cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine the crumbs, ground pecans and the butter together. Mix well and press into a 12-inch spring-form pan.
3. In a food processor, with the metal blade, mix the cream cheese until smooth. Add the brown sugar and blend. Add the eggs 1 at a time to thoroughly incorporate into the cheese mixture. Add the heavy cream. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon and vanilla and blend until smooth. Add the mashed pumpkin and blend until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake is set.
4. Remove from the oven and with a knife loosen the sides from the pan. This will prevent the cake from splitting down the center. Completely cool the cake before cutting.
5. Combine the whipped cream and bourbon together, blend well. Garnish each piece of cake with the Bourbon Whipped Cream.
T’s Deviled Eggs
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ teaspoon prepared mustard
salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions, minced
1 tablespoon sweet relish
paprika (for garnish)
1. Place eggs in a pot of salted water. Bring the water to a boil, and let eggs cook in gently boiling water until they are hard boiled, approximately 10 – 12 minutes. Immediately place into an ice bath to cool and stop the cooking. Once cool, remove the shell, cut the eggs in half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks.
2. Place the yolks in a medium-size mixing bowl and mash them. Blend in vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, green onions, relish, salt and pepper.
3. Carefully put the egg yolk mixture back into the egg whites but do not pack it. There will be enough mixture so the whites are overfilled. Sprinkle with paprika.
Sweet Potato and Mushroom Puff Pastry Squares
Super yummy and can pop them out of the freezer if friends pop in!
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1 large garlic clove, pressed through a press
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon brandy
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2-1 cup finely diced sweet potato, about 1 small potato
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 Frozen prepared puff pastry sheets
All-purpose flour, as needed for dusting
egg yolk, beaten with a table spoon of water
- For the filling: Pour about 2-3 teaspoons oil into a saute pan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until soft and translucent, about 2-3 minutes; add garlic, and cook another minute or so, until aromatic.
- Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are caramelized. Add sage and brandy; cook briefly until sage is aromatic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon into a bowl and set aside.
- Heat 1-2 teaspoons oil in the pan over medium heat. Add sweet potatoes and cook until tender. Fold sweet potato and walnuts into mushroom mixture. Cool.
- To assemble: Dust counter or board with flour. Working with 1 sheet of pastry dough at a time. Cut into 9 squares about 2-inches wide.
- Spread a teaspoon of the mushroom filling onto each square. Fold up corners to meet in the middle, to make a little package, then place on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Freeze until hard, about 30-60 minutes, then put into Ziploc freezer bag and freeze.
- To serve: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place frozen appetizers on a baking sheet. Brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.