thanksgiving was nearly a week ago (bearing in mind we celebrated on saturday) and i think i'm still recovering. i've been cooking simply all week (thank you leftovers) and generally been rather low key. i think i used so much energy and concentration on the Big Meal that i lost my cooking mojo for awhile afterwards. i can feel it creeping back in today as i contemplate going to see what goodness my fish man might have today.
as the week has gone by and i thought about my thanksgiving cooking frenzy, i realized that there was an awful lot of improvisation going on in the meal i cooked. it's not easy to cook a traditional american meal outside of the US, there will always be something you can't get (canned pumpkin, pecans, condensed milk, proper canned mushroom soup) and there will always be things (sweet potatoes, cranberries) you have to adjust to the palates you find in the culture before you and there will always be things (stove top stuffing, crisco, velveeta) you'd never allow in your kitchen anyway, even if you were in the US. and so you improvise.
on the thursday before my thanksgiving, i picked up my turkey and then had a small nervous breakdown which you can read about here. but in the end, despite the issues i had with it, it turned out perfectly and was probably the best tasting, moistest (is that a word?) turkey we've ever had and so totally worth the small fortune that i had to pay for it. and no one even noticed the big spot i had cut out of the skin on the breast, they were so impressed with the sheer size of the bird (more than 10 kilos!) that they didn't even see it.
i learned something interesting about my smeg stove. the turkey, as i said, was more than 10 kilos and although it fit, there wasn't a lot of extra room in there. and i think that after three and a half hours, the warm air oven, which is what i always use, didn't like that. i suspect it didn't have enough ability to circulate the air as it would have liked because the turkey was taking up so much of the space. so my oven went out. i discovered it when i went to take the turkey out and let it rest anyway, but i was pretty concerned (what with sweet potatoes, honey-glazed root veggies and corn pudding to go in) when i saw that the clock had gone dark. at first, i thought it had blown a fuse. the stove is on its own fuse, but i could see that it hadn't blown and the second, smaller oven was still working. it was just the big main oven. but i removed the turkey and left the door open for a few minutes, allowing it to air out. and the clock came blinking back on after about 5 minutes or so, so i could reset it and go on with the cooking of the other things. husband was standing by, ready to run to borrow the neighbors' ovens, but once it came back on, it was fine. but it's not exactly reassuring that such a wonderful oven (with a retail price of 27,000DKK (or more than $5,000) - tho' we got a much better deal on it than that) cut out when the going got tough, especially as it's only just over a year old.
i thought i'd share one of the recipes i improvised, a pumpkin pie with walnut brown sugar topping from the november 2009 issue of bon appetit. since we don't have canned pumpkin here, i baked down a whole pumpkin on wednesday evening, then put the big chunks of flesh in my colander to drain overnight. pumpkin has a lot of water in it and if you don't drain it, your pie won't be the right consistency. the next day, i whizzed it all up in my blender so it was a smooth purée and refrigerated it until it was time to use it. the original recipe called for only 1 cup of pumpkin, but it didn't look like enough, so i used two cups. i also used 4 eggs rather than 2 because mine were small. i think it made it more of a smooth, custard consistency. the original recipe is here, my modifications are as follows:
pumpkin pie with walnut brown sugar topping
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces
- 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 1 12-inch round Pie Crust
- 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (i'm not that fond of cloves, so i actually left them out)
- 2 cups canned pure pumpkin
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
i used a pie crust that my mom said was one of my grandma's favorites - already there, i improvised because the recipe called for shortening and i substituted lard.
grandma's favorite pie crust
(from her blue cookbook - it says in my mom's handwriting)
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C shortening (i used lard)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
i used my food processor (i'm all about easy) and added 3 tablespoons of ice water in order to bring it together. then i pressed it into a disc and refrigerated for an hour. i rolled it out and pre-baked it for 20 minutes before filling it with the filling. i always use a cookie cutter to make leaves or pumpkins since i'm rubbish at making those pretty pie crust edges.
even tho' i had doubled the amount of pumpkin and eggs, the filling fit perfectly into my pie tin and it was definitely the favorite of the two pumpkin pies i made. this is the other one. what's interesting is that from tasting the batter, i thought the caramel pumpkin pie would be the best, but i think the walnut and brown sugar on top of this one made it unbeatable.
and now i'd better go improvise some dinner around here. :-)