Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happiness is...

...opening the oven to bake pistachio biscotti and finding a whole pan of thick-cut white meat turkey slices left over from Thanksgiving dinner! Still delicious, yippee. Especially for those of us who got only dark meat leftovers that night - not that there's anything wrong with dark meat.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day/meal of the year. And while I do miss my family's Thanksgivings back in Brooklyn (now Long Island), my little "upcountry family" gathers at my house every year and every year, the day seems to get 1) easier to put together, 2) more pleasant, and 3) more delicious. I shopped on Monday. I made fresh cranberries with Mandarin oranges and walnuts on Monday night. I worked and went to the movies on Tuesday/Tuesday night. And on Wednesday, I made Spiced Pecans, Candied Espresso Walnuts, baked Pecan Pie Squares, prepped Spicy Crispy Garbanzo Beans with Pistachios and Fresh Thyme (I grew the thyme - can you believe that??!), did mise en place for Apple Pie (with 5 different varieties of apples - Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Pacific Rose, and gorgeous little tart green apples from a tree on Irene's property that she and Henry picked especially for this pie), and Apple-Onion-Almond Stuffing. I cleaned out the fridge, cleared off all the counters, took down the glassware and plates, re-arranged the furniture to make room for the long table and set it.

All the prep made Thursday a breeze - I even got to watch some of the Macy's Parade sitting down. And by the time 3:00 rolled around, T-Harry arrived to do his floral magic with the tropicals and foliage he gathered in his own yard. By 4:00, he and I were drinking the first of the white wine, waiting for the friends who began to arrive very shortly thereafter.

Gill with his magnificently browned, crispy-skinned, 20#-organic, fresh turkey, dry-brined and stuffed with citrus, Jane with her perfect (really) Green Bean Casserole - yes, the one with the cream of mushroom soup and onion crunchies on top that you gotta have in order for it to be a REAL Thanksgiving dinner. David with his famous mashed potatoes and Geri with her always luscious roasted red peppers and mushrooms and an extra treat, herbed, oven-roasted grape tomatoes - so good. Henry with his world-renowned sweet potatoes and a new addition this year, rice and sausage casserole - a family recipe from his native New Orleans - hot, spicy and oh, so delicious. He also brought the Roselani Hawaiian Vanilla Bean and Classic Mac Nut ice cream to top the pies. And finally, new members of the tribe, Rick with a platter of perfect asparagus with shaved fennel and Parmesan and Franscisco with the most stunning-looking and best-tasting pumpkin pie any of us had ever seen/tasted. He GREW the pumpkins and grated his own cinnamon from sticks. Now that's a serious baker.

We all commented during dinner how wonderful it is to gather with friends old and new and how interesting it was that every single person at the table is an excellent cook and/or baker. I hope things were as glorious at your house as they were at mine. And I hope you didn't forget the less fortunate in your community. We all brought donations for the Maui Food Bank which I'll deliver tomorrow morning on the way to work.

One last light note, the desserts were set on a table in the guest room awaiting their fate. Someone wandered in - I think it was T-Harry - and yelled "You two should have been on the TODAY show!" No greater compliment have two bakers ever received.

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