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Thanksgiving 2022 – Menu & Recipes

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.

Salad

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Assorted Appetizers

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Marga’s Party & Holiday Menus & Recipes

Apple, Onion and Bacon Pie recipe

I have to bring an appetizer to a Holiday Party for an organization I belong to, and for some reason I decided that I wanted a fruit-based savory pie.  After some online research I ended up with this flavor combination, and then I found a recipe for a galette with these ingredients which I easily adapted to make a pie.

It was great! Easy and delicious.  Actually, more like satisfying and addictive.  It tastes good warm and cold, so it’s perfect for a holiday buffet.

Apple, Onion and Bacon Pie

Ingredients

  • 8 oz bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 or 3 apples, thinly sliced
  • salt & sugar to taste
  • 2 9″ pie shells

Directions

Cook bacon over medium heat in a deep frying pan until crispy.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon bits and set aside.  Pour out all but 1 Tbsp. grease from the pan and reserve.  Add the onion slices and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.  Add the apple slices and cook until soft.  Return the bacon to the pan and mix.  Taste and add salt and sugar as needed.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400F (or the temperature indicated by your pie shell recipe).

Put the pie shell into your pie pan and press tightly.  Add the cooled filling.  Top with the other pie shell, sealing the borders with the bottom shell. Make several cuts on the top shell and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.

Margarita’s Favorite Recipes

Marga’s Food Site

Cookbook Review: Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food

I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest fan of Gordon Ramsay’s (I’d probably have to eat in his restaurants to really appreciate him), but I do like watching Kitchen Nightmares from time to time – even though the program is all in all pretty repetitive.

Anyway, I saw Ramsay’s cookbook (Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food) at the library and thought I’d give it a try. During the week, I do need recipes that can be done rather quickly. Plus I wanted to see if he’s as good as he believes.

One thing I can say, is that his book reflects his personality, at least as seen on TV. The book is completely frantic, going from one topic to another apparently randomly. Instead of having the recipes organized by ingredient, they are intercepted by recipes from different cuisines or courses. A chapter on working lunches, for example, is followed by one on Mexican flavors. The book is also very colorful and has pretty pictures of all the included dishes. The recipes are relatively simple, though not necessarily cheap.

The first dish I tried was his Pasta with pancetta, leek & mushrooms. Rather than spend $ on pancetta, I used bacon. I did use creme fraiche, which was a waste of money (I bought it at Safeway, it’s half as cheap at Trader Joe’s). I can’t imagine it made too much of a difference. In any case, I was not impressed. The dish was quite bland. It’d have been much better (but much more caloric) with twice the amount of bacon. I did add a lot of Parmesan cheese, and that helped – but then again, pasta with Parmesan cheese by itself is pretty good. I would not make this dish again. You can find my adaptation of the recipe below.

The second dish was Baked pork chops with a piquant sauce, a recipe which you can also find online. I followed this one pretty closely as well, though I used a different type of mushrooms and used dried thyme instead of fresh (because I couldn’t find fresh thyme last time I went to Safeway). My one big mistake was misreading “1 Tbsp” sugar for “1 tsp” sugar – so the resulting sauce was a tad too sweet. Mike liked the overall dish, but I wasn’t too impressed yet again. It just seemed like an average dish, not bad, not great. I probably wouldn’t make it again either. My version of the recipe (with the correct amount of sugar) is below as well.

BTW, IMHO, the recipe produces too much sauce for the pork chops, I’d either reduce it by a third or use it with 6 pork chops. I served them with buttermilk mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Finally, I made Sticky Lemon Chicken, another recipe easily found online. Indeed, it seems that you can find many of his recipes online, so it may not be worth it to buy his cookbook at all (it’s pretty sad that he has to recycle old recipes into a new book, rather than coming up with new ones). In any case, even though I skipped the fresh thyme and parsley listed in the original recipe, the results were quite good. I should say that the recipe calls for 1 large chicken cut into pieces – there is no suggestion that the chicken should be boneless. HOWEVER, as I suspected, my bone-in chicken parts did not cook in the 15 minutes it takes for the sauce to cook. I’d suggest that you either use boneless chicken for this recipe, or be prepared to cook the chicken for at least half an hour. I’d also suggest that you cover the dish while cooking. My suggestions are incorporated into the recipe below.

When l originally wrote this posting, I forgot dessert! Indeed, I made one of the desserts from the book, the Banana mousse with butterscotch ripple, it was very easy, quite good and extremely caloric. Still, it’s definitely the sort of dessert you can whip up when you really, really, really want something sweet to finish a meal – and happen to have both bananas and whipping cream handy. I did like how easy it was to make the butterscotch. This was my second adventure in candy making (the first being toffee).

Recipes

Penne with Bacon, Leeks & Mushrooms

  • 10 oz dried penne
  • salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large leek, finely sliced
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. creme fraiche
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese

Boil the penne in salted water until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil to medium-high in a large skillet. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown. Add the leek and mushrooms; season with salt & pepper. Cook over high heat until the leeks are tender, about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Drain the pasta and immediately mix with the leek/mushroom mixture and the creme fraiche. Season again with salt & pepper. Sprinkle with the parsley and mix. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Baked Pork Chops with a Piquant Sauce

  • olive oil
  • 4 pork chops
  • sea salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 3 rosemary sprigs (leaves only)
  • 1/2 head of garlic, separated into cloves but left unpeeled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red Jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 8oz white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly oil a baking sheet large enough to accommodate the pork chops.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the pork chops. Place in the baking sheet and sprinkle with thyme. Put the rosemary leaves and unpeeled garlic cloves on top of the pork chops. Drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven and cook until done 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, red pepper, jalapeño and mushrooms. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and add sugar, mix. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the onions are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Once the pork chops are ready, let them rest for 5 minutes. Plate them, pour any liquid remaining in the baking sheet onto the sauce, and mix well. Spoon the sauce onto the pork chops and serve.

Sticky Lemon Chicken

  • 5 lb bone-in chicken pieces (or equivalent boneless chicken)
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 lemon, finely sliced

Salt and pepper the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and garlic and sprinkle with thyme. Brown the chicken on both sides.

Add the sherry vinegar and boil until reduced by half. Add the soy sauce and honey and shake the pan to mix. Add the hot water and lemon slices. Mix well. If using bone-in chicken, cover the pan and cook until the chicken is almost done (half an hour or so). Then uncover and boil the liquid until syrupy. If using boneless chicken, cook uncovered until the chicken is done and the liquid is syrupy, around 10 minutes, turning once.

Banana mousse with butterscotch ripple

  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate

Place the bananas in the freezer for 1-2 hours, if possible. When they are ready, peel and chop them.

Meanwhile, make the butterscoth sauce by putting the sugar, butter and 2/3 cup of whipping cream in a small heavy pot and cooking it over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted, stirring constantly. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes, still stirring, and then remove from the heat and let the sauce cool down completely.

Put the bananas, the lemon juice and the remaining whipping cream in a blender bowl. Blend until smooth and creamy.
To assemble, spoon some butterscotch along the sides of 4 glasses or serving bowls. Pour in the banana mousse and top with some more butterscotch. Grate some chocolate on top of each bowl and serve.

Marga’s Best Recipes