This year, my sister and her family came to visit us for Thanksgiving. It took me forever to decide in a menu, nothing really inspired me. I knew I wanted to make poultry for dinner – both as a stand for the traditional turkey that nobody likes, and because my mother, who won’t eat poultry, wasn’t coming, so it seemed like a good opportunity. First I thought about making Basque Chicken, and from there do a Basque meal. But I couldn’t find enough vegetarian recipes without peppers to satisfy my daughter’s likes. Then I read a post on FB that mentioned someone was making chicken and dumplings, a recipe I just love and that my father used to make when I was a little kid. So I thought I’d make a menu based on family recipes – but it turns out most of what I used to eat growing up is not special enough for a Thanksgiving dinner. So, I finally decided to make Calypso Chicken, because it was an old favorite, and ended up with an “old favorite” menu. Originally, it was /also/ supposed to include a bunch of persimmon dishes: soup, lassi, sorbet and pie – but this year my persimmons are ripening slowly, so I only managed to get a couple for the soup.
I didn’t sleep well the night before Thanksgiving, however, and I was really exhausted through dinner. That means that I messed up some things as I slept walk through it.
This is what I ended up with.
- Make Your Own Salad
- Buttnernut Squash, Carrot and Persimmon Soup
- Assorted Appetizers:
- Calypso Chicken & Roasted Vegetables
- Granny’s Sponge cake with lemon frosting
So my original intention was to make a salad based on this Pear & Goat Cheese Salad with Caramelized Walnuts and Cranberries recipe I’ve made before and liked. But the road to hell is paved with new intentions. First, I decided to use butter lettuce instead of mixed green because my kids – who ended up not eating it anyway – only like lettuce. Then I decided to cut corners and use a store-bought Raspberry Poppy Seed dressing instead of making a vinaigrette with olive oil and raspberry vinegar. And I decided to use an apple instead of a pear. But when the time came to actually make the salad, I realized I’d forgotten to buy the cranberries and I had ran out of goat cheese. Then it turned out that my brother in law, like one of my daughters, only likes Caesar salad. So I put out the lettuce, all the dressings I had and the caramelized walnuts – forgetting the apple and green onion slices. At least the raspberry dressing was good.
Buttnernut Squash, Carrot and Persimmon Soup
While most of my persimmons didn’t ripen in time, I was able to find two of them ripe enough for this recipe. They gave a very pleasant sweetness to this soup. At first, I felt the soup was too carrot-y, but that flavor profile mellowed the second day. Still, next time I might use just one carrot. It’s slightly modified from superchef’s recipe at allrecipes.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled & thickly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 20 butternut squash cubes
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- pulp from 2 Hachiya persimmons
- 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
- salt & black pepper to taste
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and bay leaf and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the butternut squash and continue cooking for 5 minutes, also stirring occasionally.
Add the white wine and continue cooking until it evaporates. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the persimmon pulp. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Alternatively, wait until it cools down a bit and transfer to a blender, then return to the pot. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt & pepper to taste.
For my appetizers, I reverted mostly to old family favorites. I hadn’t made bacon-wrapped bananas in a long time, and I thought it would go well with the Caribbeanish theme of the dinner. This time I used a maple hickory bacon and it was delicious. I had originally planned to make coconut shrimp, but then I thought I had too many sweet flavors in this meal, so I decided to do shrimp wrapped in cheese and bacon instead – though it was a bit repetitive with the bananas. This time I used Havarti cheese and the maple bacon, and my husband loved them (but he always does).
The goat cheese & caramelized onion tart was a variation on my blue cheese & caramelized onion squares from yester holiday meals. I simply substituted goat cheese for blue and thyme for rosemary. My daughter, who doesn’t like blue cheese, loved it but I think the rest of us prefer it with blue cheese. Still, it’s an easy appetizer to make and you can make the caramelized onions in advance. I used Vidalia onions this time, but any onion will do.
The Sundried Tomatoes and Garlic Butter Bruschettas, from a recipe I found at Scrambled Chefs. It’s not really bruschetta but cheesy garlic bread with chopped sundried tomatoes on top. BUT it was very good cheesy garlic bread, mostly because it had a lot of garlic and I used a lot of butter on each slice.
Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Tart
- olive oil
- 4 large onions, sliced
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp sugar (optional)
- 8 oz goat cheese
- 2 puff pastry sheets, defrosted
- 1 Tbsp chopped thyme
Heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium-high heat in a sauté pan. Add the sliced onions and turn heat to medium. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and stir in sugar, if using. Continue cooking for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat to low and continue cooking until the onions get the consistency and sweetness you want. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a large baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper.
Set puff pastry sheets on the baking sheet. Spread goat cheese on the sheets, leaving about a 1/2 ” margin. Spread caramelized onions on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle chopped thyme on top. Pinch the edges of the tarts, making a border. Bake until the the crust is golden, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Sundried Tomatoes and Garlic Butter Bruschettas
- 1 baguette
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 5 garlic cloves, minched
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 to 1 cup Mozarella or other shredded cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
Preheat oven to 350F
Cut baguette into inch-thick slices
Place the butter in a small bowl and stir until soft. Add the parsley, garlic and salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Spread butter on baguette slices. Arrange on baking sheet. Top each slice with shredded cheeses and top with chopped sundried tomatoes. Bake until the cheese starts to brown, about 5-7′
Calypso Chicken & Roasted Vegetables
Calypso Chicken is a dish that you can find throughout the Caribbean in different iterations. I’d made a Dominican recipe originally and repeated it for this dinner. Alas, by this time in the meal I was too tired and full, and went to bed before tasting it, leaving it to my husband to do the honors. He apparently just served the chicken without the sauce, and thought it was just OK, though my daughter said she liked it. We all enjoyed the leftovers the next day, however, when I did heat them up and serve them with the sauce. It’s really a solid dish. I made roasted potatoes, carrots, green beans and asparagus to go with it – I just mixed them with olive oil, garlic powder, oregano and salt and pepper, and I’m told people enjoyed them. There were very few left the next day. I had also planned to make air fried plantain slices, but I was too tired to follow through with that.
Granny’s Sponge cake with lemon frosting
This used to be my favorite cake as a child, one that I would ask my Grandmother and later my aunt Gladys, to make for my birthday. I’ve made it a couple of times before and my daughter specifically asked that I make it for Thanksgiving. While I didn’t eat it the night of the meal, as I was already in bed by then, everyone else enjoyed it and we had the leftovers the next day. I was extremely proud that the cake tasted exactly like I remembered it from my youth. I made it with no whipped cream in the filling and only 1/4 cup of whipped cream for the frosting. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, and I think my grandmother probably didn’t use it, but it does make it easier to spread. In any case, both the cake and the frosting came out perfectly and I was glad that my sister could try something my grandmother – who died years before she was born – made.