Sunday, December 7, 2008

A visitor in town, part 1: Thanksgiving, away from home

I'm way late with my Thanksgiving post (surprise, surprise) but I couldn't go without posting about the delicious meal that we had.

TL was flying in that afternoon, and CH and MH had invited us to Thanksgiving dinner with several other friends at their house. I had spent the morning and the day before preparing several dishes for the feast—stuffing, creamed corn and spinach, orange-cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream—and I thought we had quite a load to ferry over. But as you can see, others contributed to make the meal simply enormous. Along with what I had made, there was a juicy, flavorful turkey, a green bean casserole with fried onions, potatoes roasted with herbs and whole cloves of garlic, a breadcrumb-topped vegetable dish, mushroom gravy, and a pan of pecan-crusted sweet potato puree that TL couldn't get enough of.
The creamed corn and spinach I made was essentially this creamed succotash recipe with spinach swapped in for lima beans (I couldn't choose between making straight creamed corn or straight creamed spinach, so I combined the two).
I used a bag of Pepperidge Farm herb seasoned stuffing and a bag of their cornbread stuffing as the bread base for my sausage and apple stuffing. To make it, first I browned a pound of Italian sausage in a skillet (I used the Boulder Sausage brand), breaking it up into crumbles. In a different pot, I melted one stick of butter and added in two cups of chopped onion, four cups of diced celery (I used the entire bundle, because I didn't feel like having leftover celery around), and two cups of diced Fuji apples (next time I'll add the apples in a little later, as they cooked too long and became indistinguishable from the celery). After the veggies were cooked, I poured in four cups of organic chicken broth.

Once the broth began simmering, it was time to combine the broth and vegetable mixture with the stuffing croutons. The tricky part, I've found, is doing it evenly. If you pour over all the broth at once, as directions sometimes indicate, some of the croutons turn sodden while others remain dry or stay hard in the center. What I did was ladle the broth/vegetable mixture a few scoops at a time, turning over the moistened areas so that the dry parts got uncovered. By slowly adding it in, I ensured that the stuffing mixture absorbed the broth consistently. As for the sausage crumbles, I added them in as I added the broth and veggies.

Once at the house, the pan went into the oven uncovered to heat and crisp up. At the table the stuffing was well received, with fans even among those usually uninterested or picky with stuffing. I had made a huge pan, and it was more than half gone by the end of the meal.
Here's me plate. Man, I wish I could eat everything on it again right now.
For dessert I baked two pumpkin pies, one classic recipe and one that I decided to jazz up with a layer of orange-cranberry sauce at the bottom of the crust and swirled into the top. The latter got mixed reviews: while some really dug it, others remained steadfast to the classic. I thought the cranberry worked and added a nice tartness to the pie, but in the end I, too, still liked the classic version better.
Mustn't forget there was whipped cream to top our slices, and I daresay the whipped cream was the real winner here. Ever make your own? Super easy: using an electric mixer, beat one cup of very cold heavy cream with one tablespoon of powdered sugar or 1/4 cup granulated sugar until soft peaks form; add in a half teaspoon of vanilla extract at the end. Voila: about two cups of fluffy white crack.
IMG_9768 IMG_9766
We also tried these chocolate-covered potato chips, a local specialty of Dayton, Ohio. There, Mike-sells is considered to be the best in potato chips and Esther Price the best in chocolate, so this combination is the best of two sweet and salty worlds.
As you can see, the chocolate enrobing the potato chip was quite thick. It was clearly of high quality, but because of the ratio of chocolate to potato chip I could barely taste the 'tater aside from its crunch. It was actually sort of like Krackel, with better chocolate.

I think it could benefit from fleur de sel on top, for extra oomph to the salty-sweet, but that's probably too fancypants.
Bear got in on the clean-up action. She knew what she had been missing.

This year, for the first time ever, I spent Thanksgiving away from my family. At the beginning of the semester I had thought it might be a night I passed alone. Instead, I spent the evening among great company and friends, eating delicious food and sharing in cheer and laughter. With TL's presence providing a little bit of home, I was full of thanks indeed.

A Visitor in Town
Day 1: Thanksgiving, away from home
Day 2: Silver Grill Cafe, Red Robin
Day 3: Earl's, Sri Thai, Rio Grande
Day 4: Cafe Bluebird, Celestial Seasonings tour, Sherpa's
Day 5: Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine, Austin's American Grill


  1. SL - This is a great post. You made our Thanksgiving look fancy and a feast. I had fun with you and TL. Hopefully, we will have Thanksgiving again at our house. We love having friends for dinner! CH

  2. CH, it was an awesome Thanksgiving! Thanks for having us over!