Give thanksand simplify

  • Tinky Weisblat makes her Brussel Sprout Salad. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tinky Weisblat’€™s Brussel Sprout Salad. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Virginia Corn Pudding. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • A slice of Nantucket Cranberry Pie. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Nantucket Cranberry Pie. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tinky Weisblat with her Virginia Corn Pudding. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 11/27/2019 8:41:20 AM

For years, I was ambivalent about Thanksgiving. On the one hand, I loved the idea of taking time to express gratitude for the joys of life. I also loved my family. However, I didn’t always love the stress that arose when I combined the thankfulness and the family.

By the time we finished planning, prepping and cooking and sat down around the Thanksgiving table, we were all a bit grumpy.

In my 20s, I treasured the Thanksgivings I spent away from my family. One year, the rest of my clan had to travel to Virginia, but I couldn’t take time away from work to make the journey. I stayed blissfully home and ordered Chinese takeout.

In graduate school, I was too far away from home to return for the holiday. I spent a number of Thanksgivings making only one dish and enjoying the hospitality of professors or other students. 

I devoted one Thanksgiving to my own personal movie marathon, viewing four films in one day. (I was practically the only person in the theater.)

Once in Austin, Texas., a group of students, including myself, gathered for Thanksgiving dinner at Threadgill’s, a haven of home-style Southern food and music. It was founded by a former bootlegger in 1933 and flourishes to this day. We savored chicken-fried steak and a huge variety of vegetables and desserts, and didn’t have to roll out a single pie crust or wash a single dish.

Graduate school ended, but I managed to take some of its carefree spirit back home when I returned to a more family-centered Thanksgiving.

My ever-practical mother and I established a few ground rules for the day — rules I follow even now that she is no longer with me.

We don’t worry about timetables. The dinner will be ready when it is ready. If we would rather watch a parade on TV in the morning or take a nap in the early afternoon than spend the whole day prepping for the meal, we do so. We have healthy snacks in the house to hold family and friends over until dinner is ready.

We also don’t bother to add lots of new, complicated items to the menu each year. We do like to try one new thing each year, but we prefer to be a simple recipe (even better if we can prepare it the day before). In general, we pare down the menu as much as possible.

Finally, we take a deep breath and remind ourselves not to fuss if we haven’t polished the silver,  or if something burns, or if we can’t find my great-grandmother’s turkey platter.

If the gang ends up eating spaghetti off of melamine, that’s just fine. (We have never had to resort to either the spaghetti or the melamine, but it’s nice to know they’re possibilities.) The acts of sharing a meal with others and remembering our blessings are the essential part of this holiday.

I do keep a little file of easy, go-to recipes for Thanksgiving. Here, I’d like to share a few dishes I hope readers may like to try along with their turkey on Nov. 28. All three are all simple and tasty … and they become even more so when they are prepared and eaten alongside family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

Virginia Corn Pudding

    This delectable but easy corn recipe comes from Anita Holloway of Northfield, the mother of my dear friend Pam Gerry and a darling in her own right. You can tell from reading the list of ingredients (corn, eggs, butter, and cream!) that it’s rich and hearty. 

It’s even better when made with fresh corn in the summer—but slightly defrosted frozen kernels will do just fine at this time of year.

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter

6 cups corn kernels

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 pinch Creole seasoning (Anita uses nutmeg, but I like a little bit of heat.)

6 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and set it aside.

    If you are using fresh corn, cut the kernels from the cobs. Scrape the cobs to extract all of the milk and remaining pulp.

    In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and spice.

    Whisk together the eggs, the cream, and the melted butter in a large bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients, whisking until smooth. Stir in the corn. Pour the mixture into a 3-quart casserole dish.

    Bake until the pudding is almost set, about 1 hour to 1-1/4 hours. Let the pudding rest for a few minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

Brussels Sprout Salad

I don’t care for boiled Brussels sprouts. They fill the house with an icky cabbage-y smell and take on a depressingly sodden texture.

When roasted or sautéed or used raw (as they are here), however, they smell fine, taste better, and offer a satisfyingly crunchy texture. 

You may make most of this recipe the day before Thanksgiving. Save the red onion and apple to chop and add up to an hour before you want to eat.

A note about vinegar: I go back and forth between cider vinegar and red-wine vinegar in this recipe. The cider version is more autumnal; the wine vinegar gives the salad dressing a bit more tang. 

If you’re feeding vegetarians, feel free to serve the bacon on the side. The vegetarians may want to salt their salad, however; the recipe doesn’t call for salt because the bacon has lots of sodium.

16 Brussels sprouts (more or less, depending on size)

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 small red onion, chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries (more if you like, and I like)

6 to 8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

2 small apples (or 1 large apple), cored and sliced

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon raw, local honey

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)

Trim the Brussels sprouts; then slice them with a knife or shred them with a food processor or a mandoline.

    Combine the sprouts, the celery, the onion bits, the cranberries, the bacon, and the apple pieces. Mix the remaining ingredients into a dressing, and toss half of the resulting dressing onto the salad, adding more dressing as needed. Serves 8. 

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

    Here is a pie for people who don’t like to roll out pie dough! This dessert is really more a cross between a cookie and a cake than a pie. It’s made in a pie pan, however, so it satisfies those who believe that Thanksgiving dinner MUST include pie.

2 cups raw cranberries

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional but good)

3/4 cup melted sweet butter

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

Grease a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash and pick over the cranberries. Place them in the bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the sugar and the walnuts (if you’re using them) on top. 

Make a batter of the remaining ingredients, first combining the butter and the remaining sugar and then adding the eggs, flour, and flavoring. Pour this batter over the cranberries.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Top with whipped cream. (Ice cream works well, too. Or just serve it alone.) Serves 8. 

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.




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