There is so much tradition involved in holidays and yet families change and thus traditions must. I have a small, but mighty, family. Through death and divorce our table this year was the smallest it has ever been. It was just me, my mama, my 9 year old brother, and my 91 year old grandpa. I didn’t mind, it was all of my favorite people present. My grandpa is used to cafeteria food and my brother was most excited for store-bought cupcakes in the shape of a turkey that he persuaded our mom to buy. Needless to say, the expectations on the food weren’t that high. This is really the best formula for kitchen creativity. I got to create whatever I wanted and it truly was my dream thanksgiving. Last year, we started a tradition of cornish game hens: they are moister, everyone can have their own bird and it is a nice turkey alternative. Unfortunately, my brother is now at the age where he proceeded to call them “Horny Gay Hens.”
This entire meal came together on thanksgiving day eve and thanksgiving day. My mom and I ended up at a gas station to buy gum on T-day and were sold yams by a guy out of his trunk. My mom and I both showed off our spanish skills, she pretended to be from Oaxaca, and within hours I made a yam mash for the table. This was probably one of the more boring dishes on the table but it was a staple that we needed.
As mentioned, this was my holiday now and I needed to include my new favorite veggie: brussel sprouts. My mom told me that when she was married to my step dad she never ate them because he called them devil cabbages. I felt it was my job to re-introduce my vegetable loving mama to these delicious babies cooked up just the way I like them: olive oil, salt and pepper, baked for 35 minutes at 400 degrees with some fried onions on top.
For me, the three most important parts of the food on thanksgiving table are: cranberry sauce, stuffing, and dessert. I have been making my own cranberry sauce for probably six years now. It is so darn easy and I find it unbelievably gratifying to see cranberries pop in the pot. Of course, I made some but when it came to stuffing I knew I had to step it up. I am a fruity girl, hence mission FRUITion, so I always like fruit-centric stuffings. My cooked grape stuffing last year was okay, but this thanksgiving I wanted amazing. I turned to the experts at Williams-Sonoma and made the Corn Bread-Apricot Dressing with Rosemary. I followed the recipe exactly and made the cornbread a day in advance and left it out to dry up uncovered.
Here are the onions, apricots, and herbs sautéing and below is the final cornbread dressing. This was my favorite (food) stuffing I ever had.
For dessert, I was inspired by Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding but that recipe was far too complicated. Instead I used this much simpler recipe from About.com. The recipe called for French bread but when I saw that my mom had also bought brioche for dinner rolls. I made a quick swap and made pumpkin brioche pudding instead and we served the French bread for dinner. I almost always crave dessert but I rarely know what I want. I am not a chocolate lover, I love fruit but not pie, and this dessert was perfect. Not too sweet because it had a little tartness from cranberries. Plus, bread pudding is the perfect texture compromise, not too creamy and not too carby. This dessert is perfection and will become a new tradition but I’ll always substitute brioche for French bread.
I have done a lot of talking this Thanksgiving about wanting to get some November stuffing. However, even if my dating life is currently not that satisfying I am learning that I can take care of myself. I have a family that I love and adore to no end. I also have a hungry and discerning palate that I could satisfy, and holy shit I can make 90% of a thanksgiving meal with ease. I kind of kicked thanksgiving’s ass this year and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’ll admit it, I am thankful!