Thanksgiving dinner ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

28 November 2008

Thanksgiving dinner

Ok! So that menu didn't happen exactly as planned. I think it was probably good overall, though, since the changes essentially reduced the total amount of food.

Actual thanksgiving dinner:

- Several kinds of red wine
- Havarti with dill, goat cheese, crackers
- Black bean sweet potato soup, take two
- Sauteed kale with garlic
- More or less classic stuffing with shallot
- Apple pie

Yeah, that's plenty for two people. We ate all of it except a serving of soup (now in the freezer) and half the pie. Then I woke up at 6:30 this morning, couldn't get back to sleep, and went down the street to get a whole wheat bagel with basil cream cheese. Apparently my body really wanted all the food, which is good, because the food was awesome.

Red wine is self-explanatory. I went to the Trader Joe's wine store at Union Square on Wednesday. There was a line halfway down the block, so I got in and waited. Fortunately, the wait was pretty short. Everyone was clearly into grabbing things and getting out as instantly as possible. I got: Old Moon 2006 Zinfandel, Gascon 2007 Mendoza Malbec, Ripasso Tenimenti Conti Neri 2006 Valpolicella, and Reserve de l'Estey 2005 Bordeaux Medoc. We actually had the zin Wednesday night, but you know. These were all pretty passable for wines under $10.

Cheese and crackers are even more self-explanatory. We ate them. I made the mistake of getting an assorted box of crackers, which turned out to include digestive biscuits, but that was ok. They would be good with brie, or cheese and fruit pairs, but not the cheese we had. So when we ran out of crackers, we just ate the cheese.

Black bean sweet potato soup.

This one was a little different from my previous attempt, and turned out much, much better.

soaked and/or cooked black beans
vegetable broth
sweet potato
olive oil
bay leaf
cayenne pepper
salt, pepper

Stick your soaked black beans and a bay leaf in a pot and boil them in a couple cups of water or broth for at least an hour, or until tender. If your beans are already cooked, bring them to a boil in all broth. Let them simmer, adding cupfuls of broth as the water evaporates, while you roast the sweet potato.

Peel a sweet potato or two roughly equal in volume to your beans. I had a gargantuan potato, so I only used half of it. Cut your potato into big slices about half an inch thick, then toss to coat in some olive oil. Spread the slices on a baking sheet in one layer, season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and stick a crushed clove of garlic on each slice. Roast them at 350F for about a half hour, or until they're golden brown around the edges and soft in the middle.

Slide your roasted potatoes into the soup pot, then simmer it some more while you cook everything else. After simmering at least 15 minutes, fish out the bay leaves, pull the pan off the heat, and puree the soup with a stick blender. You could also roughly break up the sweet potato with a big spoon if you want a chunky soup.

Now you can stick the lid on the pot, stick it over low heat, and wait until you're ready to serve. The nice thing about this soup is that it can pretty much stay on the back of the stove forever.

Eat with lots of greens.

Sauteed kale with garlic

olive oil

This is super easy and takes very little time, so make it right before you want to eat. Warm a largish splash of olive oil in a saute pan while you crush, peel, and chop a handful of garlic. Cook the garlic slowly in the olive oil. This way the garlic will caramelize and the oil will get good and garlicky at the same time.

In the meantime, cut out the tough stems of a handful of kale leaves. I had flatleaf purple kale, but any kind should be fine. Chop your deveined kale into big rough pieces.

Add the kale to the pan, stir to distribute the oil, and cook on medium for about five to seven minutes. When the kale turns bright green and wilts, it's ready.

Serve bowls of soup, then garnish them with big whacks of kale.

Stuffing with shallot

butter/olive oil
vegetable broth
sage, thyme
salt, pepper

This one is also super easy, as well as open to improvisation. I assembled it first of everything, minus the broth, then let it sit on the counter while we made everything else. Eventually we baked it with the pie.

Ok. Melt some butter or warm some oil in a saute pan. Peel and finely mince a couple shallots, then soften them in the butter. Peel and finely chop some carrot roughly equal in volume to the shallot, add it to the pan, and continue to soften. Other vegetables to use: onion instead of/in combination with shallot, celery with the carrot. Mirepoix is clearly the classic choice for stuffing, but I somehow managed not to get any onions or celery. Fortunately, the shallot and carrot were totally delicious.

While the vegetables are softening, cube up several pieces of bread. I used four or five pieces of our regular seedy wheat bread, and it worked fine, so probably anything you have will be ok. The bread is supposed to be day-old or dry, but whatever. Mine wasn't.

In a baking dish, mix the cooked vegetables, the bread, and a large seasoning of sage and thyme. These two are key to make the stuffing taste stuffingy, so be generous and season until the pan smells right. Add salt and pepper if you want. I think I didn't add any, actually.

When you're ready to bake, add vegetable broth halfway up the side of the pan. Bake at 350F until the liquid is all absorbed and the stuffing is hot through.

Seriously, I am going to have to make way more stuffing in the future. It was a more than worthwhile endeavor. We ate the entire pan, and I for one wanted more.

Apple pie.

You can berate me for not making pumpkin pie later.

I totally used the exact crust recipe and technique from Smitten Kitchen the other day. The only thing I changed was to use whole wheat flour. I also didn't bother to let the dough chill after I'd made it, but went straight to rolling and pieing.

I'm going to say this was one of the easiest and best pie crusts I've ever made. I'm not sure why, since the great majority of crusts I've made have been from slight variation on this recipe, but still. Visible butter! Two sticks of visible butter!

It may have helped that the butter was actually frozen to start with.


Ok, technically this was an apple and pear and also asian pear pie, but it was mostly apples so I'm calling it apple.

five or six apples
two little pears
one asian pear
lemon juice

Peel, core, and slice up all your fruit. You want enough fruit to make a big mound in the pie dish, so add more if you need more.

Put the fruit in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of sugar, several big shakes of cinnamon, and the juice of a lemon. Mix it all up, then pile it into your unbaked pie crust. Dot chunks of butter all over the top of the fruit.

Top with your second crust. Crimp the edges together as prettily as possible. My edges were Not pretty, but whatever. Cut a bunch of slits in the top crust, then pop the business into the oven.

Bake at 350F until the crust is browned. Let it cool on the stove while you're eating dinner. Then cut it up and eat it.

Eat another piece later.

Be full.

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