No meal is more universally recognized than the Thanksgiving Day menu.
Globally, our hotels offer Thanksgiving menus for holiday travelers, expats, and locals wishing to join the US in the annual celebration of thanks for the nation's first settlers and their native hosts. Tables across the globe will be filled with the US staple of sweet and mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, green beans, the famous Turkey and pumpkin pie. How many turkeys are cooked for Thanksgiving? Some estimates say well over 600 million pounds of turkey are purchased in the month of November. However you calculate it, that's a lot of birds.
Every family has a wide range of "traditions" that make the holiday unique, embellishing the core staples with flavors and side dishes carried from one generation to the next. Do you put sausage in your stuffing? Oysters maybe? Cornbread or not? Cook an extra dozen legs to satisfy the giant drumstick fans, or just use the legs to make the gravy because no one eats the dark meat? I remember my grandmother's amazing rhubarb pie and her mashed potatoes, always a bit lumpy and buttery. To this day, I prefer her style of Thanksgiving fork-smashed potatoes streaked with buttermilk and flakes of black pepper. No classic "pommes puree" for me on the last Thursday of November for me. The variety is endless, and always unique to a family's tradition. The food is important, yet secondary to the memories it creates.
My mother is a great cook and had a profound influence on my own culinary interest. In addition to our backyard garden, we had an old apple tree that produced beautiful Honey Crisp apples. These heirloom apples were sweet and tart, and the base of her amazing apple cake. A perfect fall recipe that always works, and a nice accompaniment to the traditional pumpkin pie. I made it recently for a high profile lunch meeting and thought I'd share her recipe, though I did dress it up with more caramelized apples and a bit of ice cream. Try it out, though according to my mother "it should only be served with a bit of lightly whipped cream", and not the ice cream we added!
3/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups diced, peeled tart apples that hold their shape during baking.
§ Cream together until smooth
§ Add eggs, beat until smooth
§ Measure dry ingredients and sift together
§ Add the dry ingredients a little at a time until mixed and then fold the apples into the batter
§ Grease and flour a cast iron skillet (or cake pan)
§ (I add: 4 apples peeled and halved, caramelized in 1 cup of caramelized sugar until soft and browned, layered on the bottom of the greased pan)
§ pour in the batter and spread the batter so it is flat.
§ Place into a 325°F(170°C)oven. Bake about 1 hr and 10 minutes, checking after 1 hour with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.
Place on a cake rack and within a couple of minutes turn the pan over and remove pan no more than 10 minutes later. A hint is to take a knife and be sure the cake is loosened around the side. If you have greased and floured the pan well, it will come out very easily.
(Mom’s note: BE CAREFUL AS THE PAN IS HOT AND CUMBERSOME WHEN INVERTING THE PAN. This is one of my most popular desserts. Personally, I like it plain, but is great with a little whipped cream and a cherry on top if serving company. It is almost better the next day and freezes well.)
What's on YOUR plate today?