Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My Happy Diversion

All over the world today, there is trouble. Every news headline, every post on Facebook, every Tweet serves to remind us what a dangerous place our planet has become. Donald Trump, who is spewing neo-Nazi rhetoric and scaring the crap out of everyone (even the GOP), the recent terrorist attacks by Daesh, Syrian refugees trying to escape the violence and turmoil in their country only to be met with hatred, prejudice, and lack of hospitality from the one nation in the world that is best equipped to take them in, and Russia threatening both Syrian and Turkish borders pushing us dangerously near the brink of WWIII, are all events that serve to make us feel powerless, fearful, edgy, and hopeless.

But today I am in my kitchen, for tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Today my eyes are on my laptop screen where I've pulled up all the recipes online that I'm using for my family's feast. Today my head is into
checking to make sure I've gathered all the ingredients I need to make the brine for our turkey, and checking to make sure that we have enough heavy cream to use in my creamed confetti corn dish, and making sure I don't over-bake the pumpkin pies so they won't crack. Today my heart is overwhelmed with love and gratitude for my family, and I'm pouring all of it into every dish I prepare for them. When I do this, I shut out the world and all its troubles. I shut out fear, confusion, anger, hatred, and hopelessness. Today is about love and about the people I love most.

So here's to happy diversions. Here's to turkey and all the trimmings. Here's to family. Here's to world peace. Here's to gratitude for what we've been given.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Don't Mess With Tradtion

My family goes for a very traditional Thanksgiving - turkey with all the trimmings. However, they aren't picky about how the "trimmings" are prepared. They allow me the license and creativity to find new ways of preparing the traditional Thanksgiving foods, so it keeps things current and interesting. I always do a traditional roast turkey (we all seem to prefer it over the popular fried and/or
smoked versions), which almost always turns out tender, moist and flavorful, but this year I've decided to try brining for the first time. I'm going with a slight variation on Alton Brown's brine recipe and useing his roasting method (which I've used now for several years, and love).

Stuffing and/or dressing is my most "messed-with" Thanksgiving side dish. From year-to-year I never seem to prepare it the same way. For years I used my mother's traditional southern cornbread & biscuit stuffing recipe and didn't deviate from that at all. My mother actually got offended if I tried recipes for traditional foods that weren't her recipes. (One year I made Christmas sugar cookies from a friend's recipe which was given as part of a gift of Christmas cookie cutters. I thought my mother was going to disown me for it.)

It wasn't until Mother passed away in 2001 that I really began to explore my own culinary creativity and style and started searching for new and different ways to prepare traditional dishes. After Steph and I got together, I learned that she really wasn't fond of cornbread based dressings and so that gave
me license to do something different for the first time. Since then, I've added different variations of nuts, berries, fresh herbs, bacon, sausage, and varied the types of bread I use in my homemade stuffing. And every year my family compliments me on my creative culinary endeavors.

Sorry Mom, it's not that I didn't love your Thanksgiving dressing when I was a kid. But I'm a big girl now with my own family, and I love making them happy and hearing their compliments and
accolades at the Thanksgiving table every bit as much as you did.

So here's to "messed-with" Thanksgiving recipes and to those who aren't wed so much to tradition as they are to the love and togetherness that those traditions inspire.