Saturday, December 11, 2010


Between this:

And This:

There was a LOT of work. DS asked if he could make the dressing this year, and I was delighted. I made the stock the day before, with the carcasses of two Sam’s chickens, celery, onion, a little chicken base, a little garlic and salt, and stashed the gallon in the fridge. Though we were making dressing and gravy only for seven, he likes LOTS of broth to make the dressing moist, and we make two kinds of gravy.

The plain, bland kind with just boiled eggs (it’s a Southern thing, and I’ve taken enough flak for it on cooking sites to last forever---it’s amazing how many ways folks can find to spell “EWWWWW”).
And the de rigueur Giblet Gravy, made just with livers this year.

The Dressing in Progress:

Lots of folks like to sauté the vegetables first, and that’s certainly a delicious way to make dressing, with those caramelly onions and celery and perhaps even mirepoix with carrots. But there’s a moment there, a split-second of the preparation, when the scent of the cornbread crumbled into the big bowl, and the tiny mince of raw sweet onion and just-cut celery, along with a generous scatter of fresh-ground black pepper and a good shake of the McCormick Poultry Seasoning---leaning over that bowl for the Fall’s first scent of Dressing-in-Progress---smelling those only-that-one-combination aromas---that’s when the Thanksgiving Dinner begins.

Not when I’ve polished up the silver, or got out the pretty cut-glass dishes gathered from so many tables not my own, or when the sweet potatoes go in to bake, but at THAT MOMENT, that inhaling of the scents old as Southern cooking, readily available for probably centuries and compiled of the essence of the dish---THAT’S the instant the clock turns to Thanksgiving, no matter what the calendar says.

For the first time, we cooked Golden Acorn Squash, stuffed with apple, craisins and Sultanas. Chris is very fond of the green ones, and happened to see this recipe online a day or two before THE DAY.

This dish is one of my favorite old pieces---it’s my Mammaw’s Homer Laughlin pieplate, never absent from any holiday or “fancy” dinner. I love old and faded and chipped pieces, but not necessarily around food---but this one has been in constant use since probably the Thirties or Forties, and it's like an old retainer with fumbly hands and clumsy feet, kept around because of respect and such long, faithful service.
The Sweet Potato Custard---I made up the streusel topping, and as the plate was so full, and the time flying by, I never did add it to the dish. We served this with the Dessert Course.

The green beans, contrary to tradition, were tee-ninesy Haricots Verts, cooked down low with soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil---a family favorite.

I’d made the beets several days early to let them marinate a bit---pickled with vinegar and some sugar, a little bit of spice, and a tiny drained jar of cocktail onions---I love the little glowy pearls.
The "other" Cranberry---with apple juice, orange peel, vanilla and Splenda:

The REAL cranberry---at least to Chris, without which . . . And, as always, the little pleats from the can add the authentic touch.

Crisp, briny Pickled Okra:

The “Kickshaws and Garnishes” as they used to say, with the celery the only nod to the Relish Tray tradition:

The finished dressing:

Couldn't you just step up and lie RIGHT DOWN?


If Turkey seems a bit streamlined, it’s because Chris took both Breast Lobes from the carcass, stashing one in the fridge for our trip on Friday, and slicing the other across the grain, for a really neat presentation. The thigh meat is hidden beneath the wings. He always carves in the kitchen, for it’s a messy business, all that dismembering and such, unfit for children’s eyes. (Though they do come running for a taste as soon as he brings it into the house).

It’s VERY moist, with just a hint of smoke, and simply delicious. (My first TEE-HEE. I just noticed that the picture shows Turkey topless, and she looks as if she's trying to retain her modesty with her wing-tips).

The table photos look like spreads from a 1974 Gourmet Magazine---all wine-dark and in somber tones---we were quite busy, and hurrying while things were HOT.


Everything was eventually tinted with the cranberry and beets, and once it hit the beans---which one of my Faithful Readers can recognize Gagh??

So---desserts later, OK?? I think this is a surfeit for one afternoon---Chris is taking me to dinner, and I can’t think of a thing that sounds good right now.

Moiré non about dessert and our weekend trip to TN,


Jeanne said...

Dear Rachel, your post is steeped in tradition with a bit of the new. Chris has a flair for the best recipes. I love that in a man. My oldest son loves cooking and he and his wife do everything together.

Your meal looks so delicious and even though I thought I would never eat again after the wonderful potluck food last night at our party, I could really enjoy this wonderful spread. I LOVE cornbread stuffing and yet we never have it for Thanksgiving. Alas, my Yankee roots are showing. Smile. Even after being raised in the
South. Our deepest roots stick don't they?

Thank you for sharing your beautiful Thanksgiving menu. I enjoyed it very much. Especially the modest turkey wings. Smile.
Blessings and warm hugs,

steelersandstartrek said...

I don't know what brings me the bigger smile, the fact you even KNOW the reference to gagh or the fact that you thought to mention it. You are, indeed, a well traveled woman.

The meal looks just wonderful. Your family is so blessed by the love, food, and fellowship at your home. Thanks for sharing.

Kat said...

Hi sweet friend! We're back home from NY and tonight is the first time I've had some time to visit. I don't think I'll every catch up with my emails, blogging, facebooking,laundry, shopping, etc. but I'm giving it a go. I've had fun reading all your posts I've missed. Oh.My.Word! Your meal looks incredible! Incredible!

Much love and big hugs,

Southern Lady said...

I love traditions and rituals and "The Making of the Dressing" is both at our house. It has evolved into a joint effort (including "official tasters") of four generations (my mama, daughter Whitney, Avery Grace, and I) and we make it twice a year -- at Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is no recipe other than the one in Mama's head, passed down from HER mama, but it is heavenly and I would be perfectly happy just having dressing, with no trimmings ...

Yours looks and sounds delicious, and those beets and green beans make my mouth water, too.

Kim Shook said...

What a beautiful dinner, my friend! I heartily agree about the moment when Thanksgiving begins - with that fragrance! I have that EXACT same devilled egg platter! It was Bomo's and I treasure it. I am going to steal your idea for the center - find a little footed dish to put some relishy things in. I never know what to put in there - extra eggs just skate around! The modest turkey and 'real' cranberry sauce cracked me up! Love the de rigueur ridges.