Thursday, November 25, 2010

giving thanks and pecan pie


Oh man. What a classy holiday. I don't even know where to begin.

Would it be too much to admit that I've been waiting for this day for the past 3 weeks?

I've had a menu planned out for a while now and have been cooking since yesterday afternoon. Come to think of it, there actually wasn't a ton of food: good ol' roast turkey, garlic herb roast potatoes, cheddar buttermilk biscuits, cornbread stuffing, and pecan pie with homemade whipped cream. We had more food last year, but then again, I wasn't the one cooking last year, and we had twice as many people over.

The rents and the rest of my extended family are going to a huge party this evening, so we didn't have a party here at home this year. But mom really, really wanted to eat turkey for lunch, so we had an early Thanksgiving dinner late this afternoon. Which I was fine with.

Last night, I set the turkey out to brine in a simple ice-cold mixture of vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, allspice berries, and peppercorns. I also made pecan pie, which turned out to be the best one I've made so far [we tried a butterscotch pecan pie last year, which was not a crowd favorite, and a chocolate pecan pie in the past, which is too unconventional for my liking]. So, I'll be giving you the recipe for that, should you wish to try it out!

Pumpkin Pie

For the crust, you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 9 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 4 tbsp [or more, as needed] of cold water

For the filling, you'll need:
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated orange zest 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups pecan halves

For the whipped cream, you'll need:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
To make crust: blend flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in butter and pulse on medium speed until dough has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Slowly drizzle cold water over the mixture until dough starts to come together. Add more water if needed. Gather dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least one hour in the fridge.

To make filling: in a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add in brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and add in orange zest, salt, vanilla, and agave, whisking until well blended and there are no lumps.

To assemble pie: preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9-inch pie plate. Roll out the pie crust dough until about 12-inches in diameter. Drape crust over the pan and press it down gently. Fold the overhanging dough under and gently press it to the rim of the pie plate. Crimp the edges of the dough and prick the bottom and sides lightly with a fork. Scatter the pecan halves evenly over the bottom of the dough. Gently pour the filling on top of the pecans. Place pie plate on a baking sheet and bake until the filling is set, 50-60 minutes. Let cool for at least one hour before slicing and serving.

To make whipped cream: use an immersion hand blender or electric mixer with whisk attachment on high speed to beat heavy cream until soft peaks begin to form. Add in sugar and vanilla and whisk until stiff peaks form. If not serving immediately, refrigerate whipped cream. Before serving, blend lightly once again to stiffen the cream.

I made the pie last night, refrigerated it overnight, and left it out at room temperature during the day as everything else was cooking. It kept perfectly well, and taunted us for hours before we actually got to eat it. In terms of the rest of the meal, it turned out wonderfully. I won't type out the recipes, because that would take ages, but I'll give you a rough recap:

The aromatics I used for the turkey were handfuls of fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme bunched up in a cheesecloth with one red onion, one head of garlic, and one lemon, all quartered. I brushed the outside and underneath the skin of the turkey with one stick of melted butter mixed with a small handful of thyme flakes, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and some cracked pepper. Did not use any salt at all due to the brine. The 14-pound turkey roasted for 2 hours and 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Potatoes were roasted with olive oil, dried rosemary flakes, minced garlic, and cracked sea salt. Cheddar buttermilk biscuits were made like any old buttermilk biscuits would be, with a cup of freshly grated cheddar cheese thrown into the dough. Cornbread stuffing was baked with half a loaf of cornbread, half a pack of saltines, 4 slices of toasted white bread, 2 cups of celery and an onion sauteed in a stick of butter, 3 cups of chicken broth, and 4 sage leaves.

I was also going to sautee some green beans in olive oil with minced garlic, but we ran short of time. And, honestly, I'm not sure if I would have been able to eat them alongside everything else.

Actually, originally it was just going to be mom, Yusra, and me who would be eating the Thanksgiving feast. But Mustafa called 30 minutes before the turkey was done and asked if I needed any help in the kitchen, so we invited him and Murtaza over to eat with us. Everyone loved the food, especially the turkey [I recall Yusra telling me a little while later that I have to make this exact same turkey for every Thanksgiving from here on out], and I was extremely happy about it. All those of hours of cooking paid off!

And thank god they came to eat, too, or we'd have so much leftover turkey on our hands we wouldn't know what to do with it.

Well, that's a total lie. I plan on taking some of it back to Cville with me when I head home on Sunday, and mom is dying to make a turkey pot pie sometime this weekend before I leave. Plus, since I'm skipping tonight's party [if I weren't still so full, I would be all over the thought of eating a tandoori turkey tonight], I'll probably end up nibbling on some of the leftovers when I get hungry. [Though, in all likelihood, I'll probably just make a beeline to the leftover pecan pie].

In all seriousness, though, I love this holiday. I think it's such an amazing time of year to be getting together with family and enjoying the changing leaves and comfort foods. You feel so warm and cozy, you don't stress yourself out with thoughts of finals and papers [or at least, I'm not, which I know will kick my butt in a few days], and you get to spend time at home, sleeping in, drinking freshly pressed apple juice, and wondering about in PJs all day. It's perfect, really.

Plus, there's so much that I'm thankful for. Family that loves and supports me, even though they think my philosophy degree will leave me unemployed indefinitely; friends that are amazing to be around and encourage my obsessive baking habits; the opportunity to attend a great university; living in a comfortable apartment with the best apartment-mate I could hope for. Not to mention good food. Man, am I thankful for good food. 

I hope you have an amazing Thanksgiving full of comforting food, good company, and joy. After all, it's the beginning of an excellent holiday season.

left: before dinner; right: after dinner

In other news, I have decided that there is no way I am stepping foot outside to go shopping tomorrow. Which is odd, seeing as I'm pretty sure I woke up at 4 am last year and shopped for about 8 hours.

It's funny how living on your own, working 10 hours a week, and having the 'rents stop funding you changes your perspective on personal finances.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

1 comment:

Thanks so much for reading!
I'd love to hear your thoughts :)