Another Thanksgiving has come and gone and the holidays are almost upon us.  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving where- and however you celebrated – full of wonderful food and great people.  I had a fantastic day.  I got to cook!  I prepared two very different Thanksgiving meals.  The first was a traditional meal. For the second meal, I played with my food.

Because we enjoy leftovers, the 2:00 pm meal was classic roast turkey with all the standard sides my family likes to have.  On the menu was a natural turkey that our great neighbors Nira and Bill purchased at the Willy Street Coop.  I soaked it overnight in an apple cider, sugar and salt brine, then slow-roasted it.  My friend Kevin’s comment after his first taste was, “This is what Thanksgiving tastes like.” (or something like that).  I took it as the ultimate compliment.  The stuffing was Pepperidge Farm embellished with sweated onions and celery like Dad used to make.  I made plenty of my Heavenly Mashed Potatoes–or so I thought.  There were not as many left as I had planned on having (think Shepard’s Pie).  I also made roasted sweet potatoes skinned, sliced and bathed with butter and maple syrup; steamed carrots with peas and (more) butter; and one of my favorites, Scalloped Corn Supreme.  Wisconsin Cranberry Sauce made with sugar and water (just like the package directs) along with my Cream Biscuits rounded out the savory menu.  For dessert I made an apple pie and my first-ever pumpkin pie. (Really.  I usually make a Sweet Potato Tart.)  But the star of the desserts was the pecan pie that Olivia made, so perfectly sweet and plum full of pecans.

The second meal was my “fun” meal, where I played around with some traditional foods.  On the menu was Grilled Turkey “Ham” (boneless turkey leg and thigh), stuffed with homemade duck sausage, caramelized onions with orange and chicken breast batons and indirectly grilled with charcoal.  I am not going to say “Turducken” but you can if you wish to, it was all there.  For the sauce, I sautéed sliced Portobello mushrooms, deglazed with plenty of Ruby Port and added gravy from the first meal (no need to start from scratch again).

Rutabagas were always part of our Thanksgiving meal when I was growing up, and wanting to include them but do something different, I grated the rutabaga and made Rutabaga Latkes which were garnished with homemade Apple Butter (from my Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen class) and some Crème Fraiche (which magically evolved from some heavy whipping cream I left uncovered in a bowl on my three-season porch kitchen counter for days).

I had seen a picture of a Brussel Sprout Tatin in an old food magazine, so I made one of those with plenty of shallots and the rest of some wonderful vomFASS Fig Balsamic vinegar I had been saving in my cold basement pantry.  Just so it wouldn’t look lonely on the plate, I garnished it with Maple-Smoked Bacon Jam, Toasted Cashews, Parsley, and Parmesan cheese.

Another food magazine picture gave me the idea to make Slow-Roasted Onion Blossoms.  These were delicious!  I peeled whole onions, cut them in quarters leaving them attached at the root end, placed them in a baking dish, doused them with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper then slowly roasted them covered until they were cooked through and had bloomed (opened up).  Then I topped each one with Jarlsberg cheese.

I usually write down titles of recipes that sound interestingly tasty to me.  This is true for the next dish I prepared: Roasted Carrots with Marshmallow Fluff.  I just had the title, though, so had to create the actual recipe.  I peeled whole carrots, drizzled them with olive oil and tapped a little cinnamon on them and roasted them until golden brown.  For the marshmallow fluff I browned dollops of Italian Meringue in the oven.  The presentation may have left some room for improvement but remember, this was dinner number two and the third NFL game was on and perhaps I had had an adult beverage or so.

Finally, we have had our fair share of fresh raspberries this summer and fall, from the garden, the Dane County Farmer’s Market and the store.  I had been thinking of a tart I hadn’t made for years.  It is a Raspberry and Chocolate Tart sealed with a luxurious raspberry glaze.  We didn’t get around to eating it on Thanksgiving Night because we had had so many other amazing desserts, but the first taste sure was wonderful with my steaming cup of coffee on Friday morning, even as I glanced over at the mound of dirty dishes.

Chef Joel