For a holiday dinner, simplicity is the key

Posted Nov. 21, 2008, at 5:26 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:16 a.m.

By this time next week, you will have had your Thanksgiving dinner, turkey and pumpkin pie and all. With luck you will have a turkey carcass to toss into a pot for soup to which you can add celery, onions, carrots, rice or pasta, and bits and pieces of turkey meat. How can anyone complain about leftover turkey?

A couple weeks ago it was my pleasure to speak about the Thanksgiving holiday to the Machias area Maine Extension Homemakers group. When I finished my part of the presentation, president Dot Gaddis asked everyone around the room to say something about Thanksgiving dinner — advice, thoughts, memories. She started with me and I said that I liked to keep Thanksgiving dinner simple because the day is about being with family and friends, and the classic menu is actually an easy one.

The turkey is roasted, the potatoes mashed and the squash or turnips boiled up and served with butter, and three kinds of pie for dessert. I am in favor of doing the pies in advance, and if I make rolls, I prepare them in advance, too, making my own heat-and-serve rolls. I bake them for just enough time to stop the rising and pull them out before they brown. On the big day I finish them in the oven while I make the gravy. The only nerve-wracking thing I attempt is a molded cranberry, apple and orange gelatin salad that has to be turned out onto a plate. That’s about all the stress I want on the holiday.

I have a friend who gets a charge out of following the recipes in Gourmet magazine’s annual Thanksgiving menu feature, but she does this with a friend or two who love to cook, and they amuse themselves all day long fixing a grand, complicated meal. She does it because she thinks it is fun, not because anyone expects an elaborate menu. It is very sporting of her.

On Thanksgiving, and any other day for that matter, I am in favor of the dishwashing being done by anyone who did not cook. Fair is fair. Too many women my age remember Thanksgiving as a time when a lot of tired ladies clustered in the kitchen while the gents hung out in the living room, presumably smoking cigars and watching football. There does seem to be a new, improved model of American male who likes to cook and washes dishes without being asked, and we ought to encourage more of that.

Several of the Homemakers mentioned a cranberry relish that they like to serve, and it reminded me how much I like that relish, too. I also recall when I was a child how much fun it was to operate the grinder that my mom clamped to the edge of the kitchen counter as she filled it with cranberries or orange chunks for the relish. Lots of folks replaced those grinders with food processors, but if you still have one and any children or grandchildren around, chances are good that they will enjoy cranking their way through several cups of relish. It is so simple to make that you could easily add this relish to the table along with jellied cranberry sauce. It’s pretty, too.

Looking for … St. Lucia buns. Surely there are some Swedes or descendants of Swedes who have a recipe for these special buns to serve on Dec. 6. Would you be willing to share your recipe?

Cranberry Orange Relish

Yields about three cups

2 cups fresh cranberries

1 orange, quartered and seeded

1 cup sugar

Run the berries and orange quarters through a food grinder using the medium blade or process in a food processor until you have a medium-coarse texture. Be careful not to make it too fine. Stir in the sugar. Chill in the fridge over night.

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