From My Mother’s Kitchen: We Give Thanks

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EVENT: Thanksgiving
VENUE: Cara’s Mom’s House, Riverdale
PARTY SIZE: 12-25
MENU: Turkey; Gravy; Roasted Brussels Sprouts; Double Baked Sweet Potatoes; Cauliflower Puree; Broccoli Puree; Grandma Jane’s Chestnut Stuffing; Biscuits; Chocolate Marquise with Mocha Whipped Cream Frosting; One-Crust Apple Tart; Pecan Pie; Pound Cake

My mom throws Thanksgiving every year in the house I grew up in. The size varies from about 12 to 25, depending on where my uncles wind up, but the contents of the menu rarely change, even if the quantities do. The most recent addition was the Roasted Brussels Sprouts, for some added green, and that probably happened half a dozen years ago. My mom makes the turkey, the gravy, the sweet potatoes double baked with butter and brown sugar, cauliflower puree, broccoli puree, and the roasted sprouts. Katie, my younger sister, helps with the cranberry sauce. Grandma Jane, my maternal grandmother, used to make the chestnut stuffing (secret ingredient: Pepperidge Farm croutons), but now that she lives in a smaller apartment, my mom makes that, too. Grandma Jane insists on reimbursing her for the jars of chestnuts.

As for me, I’m in charge of the biscuits. They are the classic rolled biscuits from The Joy of Cooking, but years ago we started substituting in cream for most of the butter, so they’re incredibly flaky and rich at the same time that they’re light. But that’s not the interesting part about the biscuits. The fact is, I braid them. All sixty of them–sometimes more. They bake up like little challah breads, and then you can eat them by sort of unbraiding them, separating out the strands to reach the softer interior. My little cousins (not so little anymore) particularly love them.

And then Kate and I make the desserts. Our desired ratio is 3 people to 1 dessert, but we’ve been trying to grow out of that. The problem is, there are so many good things to make! We can’t live without Maida Heatter’s Chocolate Marquise with Mocha Whipped Cream Frosting, though I have no idea how something so un-Thanksgiving-y landed on the buffet. Mom makes her famous, one-crust apple tart, along with a pear tart if the number of guests warrants it. Then I’ve taken to making pecan pie, since I truly love it, and sometimes a pumpkin pie too, since that one is up there among Jill’s favorites. We make the pound cake from The Silver Palate. Usually, only a slice or two of it gets eaten, but it tastes so wonderful the next day, toasted, that we often wind up leaving it on the menu.

Last but not least, we really do make a menu. We may have started printing it from the color printer when we first got one, back in 1991. Or maybe it was a little later. But coupled with the place cards–different every year, and sometimes edible–menu making was a nice creative diversion from cooking, even though the actual list of offerings is eternally the same.

From my kitchen, where mom’s toil on Thanksgiving gives me a day off, to yours,

Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

labor of love: me braiding the biscuits
the table

cat at his post beneath the table

gingersnap place cards

Mom pouring a whole bottle of wine on the turkey

Uncle Michael carves smoked turkey breast and Uncle Brad the whole turkey
perfect roasted Brussels sprouts
finished biscuits, before being devoured by my cousin Jordyn
pecan pie and Mom’s apple tart
Posted in: Musings
  • Kate

    This year our dessert ratio is almost 4:1! Only two more hours until dinner, so I'll see you in the kitchen in a few! Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Jessie

    Happy Thanksgiving!! Grandma's Chestnut stuffing and pumpkin pie are my favorite.

  • Alex

    Your biscuits look great with those tight little braids. Mmmmm and the pecan pie. :-) I have some from my Thanksgiving in my fridge. Let's swap some, yes? Also, awesome shot of the desserts from above!

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