My family is fairly set in its traditions for Thanksgiving. My moms side of the family shows up the night before or around noon, the football game is on and at approximately 1:00 ish we decide that it is damn near 5:00 in some part of the world.
A bottle of bubbles gets popped and the girls toast to our family and the fact that we are here together and lift our eyes to the sky, raising a glass to my Nana who left us some years ago, but is with us at every family gathering.
I am thankful to have spent as much quality time as I could with my Nana before she passed.
The boys then gather around the counter where we have vodka, Clamato, Tabasco, celery salt, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, Magi seasoning, horseradish, fresh lemons, olives & celery and proceed to make Bloody Mary's in various degrees of preference....extra salty and no vodka for Bapa, no olives for Uncle Jay, tons of horseradish for Brock....you get the point!
Partially boned out turkey (wings & legs intact), stuffed with a boned out duck, stuffed with a boned out chicken, stuffed with Cajun sausage. Sounds insanely good, right? There isn't anything in there that none of us like, and yet....
I am thankful that my Bapa is with us on every holiday and is as sassy as they day is long. And that he passed on his personality and twinkling eyes to my Uncles Jay & Brian.
In anticipation of a fabulous and very hefty meal, we limit our consumption of appetizers to cheese & crackers, venison sausage from Dad's latest hunting foray and last, but in no way the least as there are usually several bags.....of Puffy Cheetos.
The McKaye branch of the fam just can't have a gathering without these, no person is immune and we are not afraid to fight for the last one. Orange fingertip are a badge of honor and woe to the man (or woman) who brings the crunchy variety instead of the puffy.
I am thankful to whoever the genius is that invented Cheetos, but wish that my Uncles would bring a crispy bag once and a while for mom & me. I am also thankful for my Dad and Brock who know how to bring home the "bacon" or elk or deer for us to snack on!
For dinner this year, Mom opted to try something a little different for our main course and the centerpiece of the meal...instead of doing a brined and baked turkey, she ordered a specialty from cajungrocer.com.
Meet the Tur-duc-hen!
It was kind of boring. It lost a lot of liquid and didn't have much flavor in that you could not tell one meat from the other once you cut it up. Plus, there were no good drippings in which to make gravy, so that kind of sucked and we had to fake it. And fake gravy is really not the best kind, Next year we go back to brining the turkey, stuffing butter & herbs under its skin, roasting it and fighting over crispy morsels of turkey skin while waiting for it to be carved.
I am thankful for turkey skin...or duck skin...or chicken skin...as long as it is seasoned and crispy I am thankful. Trying to fit in to my pants afterwards is another story...
The sides, however, are a whole different ballgame!
Butternut squash with sage & brown butter, mashed potatoes (no fanciness here, just good old fluffy taters with butter & milk), Parmesan & Swiss chard stuffing, green beans with a mustard lemon vinaigrette & almonds, cranberry & fig sauce with port and from my friend Sarah, a jar of cranberry apple sauce.
Nothing ostentatious or over the top, just good food, prepared well and enjoyed completely.
I am thankful for my mom who I love to cook with and for friends who cook their tasty recipes and are good enough to share with me.
Dessert was brown sugar pecan cupcakes stuffed with pumpkin custard & frosted with caramel butter cream. My mouth waters just thinking about the butter cream because it is not only caramel which I will go for over chocolate any day, but it is also salty caramel....I can't come up with the words to tell you how good the butter cream is, you just have to hope I make it for you because I can't share this one!
Included in this issue is the Cranberry Fig Relish recipe....Ever since I "inherited" a cranberry sauce recipe from my friend Mandy's mom, I have had way too much fun experimenting on different ways to make that plain old jellied stuff in a can in to something amazing.
I am thankful for my friends....the ones who have contributed in the present or past, been a guest at our table for and the ones who I see rarely, but think of often.
Cranberry & Port Relish with Dried Figs
1-2/3 C Ruby Port
1/4 C Balsamic vinegar
1/4 C (packed) Golden Brown Sugar
8 Dried Black Mission Figs, Stemmed & Chopped
1-6" Long Sprig Fresh Rosemary
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1-12oz Bag Fresh Cranberries
3/4 C Sugar
Combine first 6 ingredients and bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the rosemary and add in the cranberries and remaining sugar. Stir over low heat until cranberries have burst and the sauce thickens. Chill until it is time to serve.
I am thankful that I can write this and know that at least a few of you will appreciate it and hopefully try out one of my recipes.