Sunday, November 12, 2023

Thanksgiving Adjacent


People are surprised when I tell them that I don't roast the turkey on Thanksgiving. Even more so when I admit that I never have and don't really know how to do it. I mean, I suppose that I could learn but Val always cooks the bird and now multiple birds so that there is enough leftover for everyone to take some home for the next day. As I have mentioned before, the Sandwich is the best part of this autumn celebration.

I prefer to prepare, tweak and recreate Thanksgiving adjacent food. Members of the supporting cast that can tolerate a makeover without offending anyone's precious memories or introducing a new player that fits in nicely with the old standbys and holiday favorites. New cocktails are welcomed by most and easily get incorporated without much fanfare especially if they feature classic Thanksgiving flavors like, apple, sage and cranberry. Updated appetizers can come to the party, too as long as they don't upstage or overtake a classic that everyone is expecting to nibble on before the big spread is offered. 

Let's face it, I would be very angry and disappointed if someone other than Val took over baking the turkey and classic stuffing that I crave every November. In fact, I cried my freshman year of college when Val told me that we were going to eat the big meal at my grandmother's house. I love my grandmother, a wonderful hostess but a terrible cook. All I could think about was dry as sawdust turkey, overcooked green bean casserole and store bought pies. The dining hall did a number on me that first semester. All I ate was the salad bar. The daily smells from the entree line turned my stomach. I had no idea what "Chicken Tettrazini" was and I did not want to find out. I lay in bed every night those first few months of school dreaming of Val's homemade cranberry sauce, perfectly roasted bird and flaky pie crust. I know first hand not to mess with anyone's holiday meal expectations.

So, if you want to add some pizzazz and perhaps, dare I say, make an update to the traditional fare, start small and don't make too much of a big deal out of what you are about to do. Just hand someone a glass of this and a bite of that. I promise you they will ask for these again next year claiming them as new annual favorites .

Cranberry Spicetini 
(makes one)

2.5 oz. vodka
1 oz. Spiced Cranberry Syrup (see recipe below)
1/2 oz. Canton Ginger
1/4 oz. lemon juice

Shake ingredients over ice. Strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with fresh cranberries, rosemary and candied ginger on a toothpick along with a lemon twist.

Spiced Cranberry Syrup:
1 bottle cranberry juice cocktail (32 oz.)
5-6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 star anise

Bring all ingredients for syrup to a boil. Turn down to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Cool, strain and refrigerate until ready to use. Also great served with soda and a squeeze of lemon.

4th Thursday
(makes one)

3-4  fresh sage leaves
1/4 oz. maple syrup
large format ice cube or a few regular sized ice cubes
1/4 oz. apple cider vinegar
1 oz. apple cider
2 oz. cognac or brandy

Muddle 2-3 sage leaves with maple syrup in a rocks glass. Add ice, apple cider vinegar, apple cider and cognac or brandy. Stir to combine. Garnish with a fresh sage leaf.

If you prefer to strain out the muddle sage, strain after muddling then add to ice, vinegar, cider and brandy. Garnish with a fresh sage leaf.

Blue Cheese Puffs with Fresh Sage
(makes about 24)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese*
2/3 cup all purpose flour**
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 large egg

Combine the butter and blue cheese in a large bowl. Add the flour, ricotta, salt, pepper, sage and egg. Stir until well combined. Drop rounded tablespoons of mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet. (No need to space apart as you can bake these on a separate baking sheet, as needed.) Transfer baking sheet to freezer and chill until rounds are frozen solid, at least 30 minutes. Once frozen solid, the rounds can be stored in a plastic bag in the freezer until ready to bake.
To bake: preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Transfer frozen rounds to parchment lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake from frozen until lightly browned, 10-15 minutes. Transfer puffs to a serving platter, season lightly with salt, cool slightly and serve warm.

*Can substitute grated cheddar.
** Can substitute GF all purpose flour such as King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour. Baking time may take a few extra minutes for browning.