Our Thanksgiving Favorites

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We are taking time out between movies to talk about one of our favorite holidays, Thanksgiving!  Yes, we love it of course for the eating, but also because it’s one way to bring family together…whether we like it or not…just kidding!  So with this post, all three of us wanted to share our favorite Thanksgiving dinner dishes and Thanksgiving themed movies.  Enjoy and have a great holiday!

Mimi’s Favorite:  Home for the Holidays…for Cocktails and Turkey

On one of my many recent trips to BevMo (research for the blog, of course), I came across a six-pack of Ace Pumpkin Hard Cider and I couldn’t resist tossing it into the shopping cart.  On the way home my head was spinning with ideas about what I could do with this new discovery–spiced cider pumpkin cake with a sour cream glaze, perhaps….or maybe in a hardy stew with beef and root veggies?  But then I got distracted with all the other recipes I was creating for So I Married An Axe Murderer and the Ocean’s Trilogy… until now that is, with Thanksgiving upon us.   All the familiar stresses associated with the impending holiday… shopping for the big meal, cooking The Bird, dealing with family dynamics…is enough to make a girl want a cocktail…or two!  So, of course, the first thing I came up with for the pumpkin cider was a cocktail I’m calling The Turkey Trot, a tantalizing concoction that is a lovely balance of “Thanksgiving” flavors–pumpkin, pomegranate, bourbon, and thyme.  Angostura bitters adds a touch of complexity and ties these flavors together.  Garnished with a vibrant slice of Fuyu persimmon, this cocktail is a bright and festive way to celebrate Thanksgiving.

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Serves 2

2 oz. Bourbon (preferably Bulleit)

2 oz. Pomegranate Liqueur (Pama)

1 oz. Lemon Juice

1 oz. Thyme-Infused Simple Syrup*

4 dashes Angostura Bitters

1 bottle Ace Pumpkin Hard Cider, chilled

2 slices Fuyu Persimmon for garnish

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 3-4 ice cubes and shake.  Strain the chilled liquor into two martini glasses, then top off with pumpkin hard cider.  Garnish each cocktail with a fresh slice of Fuyu persimmon.

*To make the thyme-infused simple syrup, combine a cup of sugar with a cup of water and two small sprigs of fresh thyme in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature. Strain out the thyme.

No surprise, one of my favorite Thanksgiving-themed movies, is the often underrated Home for the Holidays (1995), directed by Jodie Foster, featuring a stellar cast, including Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, Anne Bancroft, and Robert Downey Jr. (in his wildly unpredictable, drug-addicted pre-Iron Man phase).  It’s a dramedy that fully embraces all the dysfunction in holiday family dynamics, in which all the emotional and psychological baggage we carefully stuff into our closets get dragged out (literally and figuratively) when we gather together to celebrate the holidays.  And once we crack open that baggage, it’s hard to stuff everything back in again…kind of like the Thanksgiving turkey.

Whether in movies or real life, the poor bird always seems to be at the center of every conflict, every neurosis…particularly if you’re the one tasked with cooking it.  It’s a responsibility many avoid like the plague.  Whether I want it or not, the responsibility for cooking the blessed bird for my family usually falls on me (along with all the stuffing, gravy and cranberry relish)…ever since I began my professional culinary career that is.  To keep it interesting, I try to change things up a little each year.  This year, I’ll be using the pumpkin cider in the brine as well as the gravy.

This Year’s Turkey Brine

Enough for 20-22 lb turkey

6 qt. cold water

6 qt. ice

2 -12 oz. Ace Pumpkin Hard Cider

2 cups Kosher Salt

2 cups Brown Sugar

3 Rosemary Sprigs

3 Thyme Sprigs

3 Sage Sprigs

4 Celery Stalks, cut into large pieces

2 Tbsp. Black Peppercorns

Bring to a boil 2 qts. water with the salt and brown sugar; stir to dissolve ingredients then allow liquid to cool to room temperature.  Transfer the brine base into a water-tight insulated cooler large enough to hold the turkey, then add the remaining water, ice and aromatics.  Carefully lower the prepped raw turkey (meaning, take the bag of neck and organs out and rinse the bird off in cold water first!) into the brine and cover.  Let the bird sit in the brine for about 8-12 hrs.  Drain off the brine and pat the bird dry with paper towels.  Turkey is now ready to be seasoned and roasted to your liking.


Laura’s Favorite: The Reason for the Season with a Side of Cranberry Sauce

Although I believe that the first Addams Family was better, the Thanksgiving scene in Addams Family Values is one of my favorite Thanksgiving moments.  Christina Ricci was the perfect casting choice to portray Wednesday Addams.  She delivers a morbid, deadpan performance as she takes back Thanksgiving from the pilgrims who brought sickness and death to so many native Americans. Wednesday was, also, able to get revenge on the girls who had made her time at camp so miserable.  Of course, one of the reasons Wednesday was unhappy was because she wanted to be back with her family and save her Uncle Fester who was married to the Black Widow.  The Addams Family, although odd to some, has a very loving family dynamic, and they are always there for one another when needed.  If this movie doesn’t epitomize the essence of  Thanksgiving, then I don’t know what does.

One of my favorite sides for Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce.  My grandmother makes a cranberry salad every year which is just the right mix of sweet and tart.  I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in a long time though, so I will be creating my own cranberry sauce this year.  It is a typical recipe that you can find on the back of your cranberry bag.  I will be adding dark cherries to give it a little bit of sweetness.  My family would probably add pecans to it because they usually put pecans in everything, but I’ll just stick to the saucy texture.  If you want to tie it to the movie, think about the blood from the scalping or the blood of family. Either way, it’s good eatin.’

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Cranberry and Cherry Sauce

1 package of fresh cranberries

1 cup of orange juice

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of frozen dark sweet cherries

Bring sugar and juice to a boil, then simmer on medium heat for about 5 min. Put in rinsed cranberries and continue to simmer until they burst wide open. Add cherries. When everything starts to lose their shape and liquid becomes saucy, then take the pot off of the burner and let it sit. When everything is cooled down, stick it in the fridge.  On Thanksgiving Day, serve in a beautiful dish and get ready to pucker.


Rina’s Favorite: Sweet Potatoes and Sisters

For the longest time, Hannah and Her Sisters was one of my favorite movies. I watched it over and over again, memorized the lines and played the movie soundtrack LP into the ground. But now I just try to forget who directed and wrote the movie, and focus on the memorable performances of the insanely talented all-star ensemble cast, particularly the actresses who played the three sisters which the movie revolves around. There is the oldest sister, Hannah (Mia Farrow) who seems to be the most successful and dependable of the three; the artistic and sensitive middle sister, Lee (Barbara Hershey); and the scatterbrain youngest sister, Holly (played by one of my favorite actresses, Diane Wiest). My own two sisters and I like to pretend that the dynamic between Hannah and her sisters mirrors our own relationship, each of us trying to figure out what real happiness is for us in our own lives, but it’s probably more so because we just want to recreate this mesmerizing scene in real life:

I never really thought of Hannah and Her Sisters as mainly a Thanksgiving movie as it also chronicles an entire two-year span of these sisters’ lives; but the movie is broken up into three acts, each one consisting of a pivotal Thanksgiving dinner scene that serves as a compass point in the movie. It’s in these scenes where we find the answers to what’s been happening to each sister since the last time they all came together for thanksgiving just as we all experience in real-life Thanksgiving dinners: who’s Lee dating now? What career path is Holly venturing into this time? And which family member is Hannah supporting this year? As an ode to Hannah, I decided to share my tried and true, always-reliable Roasted Sweet “Country Potatoes” and Yams recipe. I say “country potatoes” because not only is it good for Thanksgiving dinner but you can always use what’s left over for breakfast the next morning with a nice corned beef hash and a poached egg.

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Roasted Sweet Country Potatoes and Yams

3-4 large sweet potatoes or yams (I actually use both to give it some variety in flavor, texture and color)

3 Tb of vegetable oil

1/4 cup of honey or maple syrup

1 Tb of Cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Get a baking sheet, line it with aluminum foil. Grease the baking sheet/aluminum foil with vegetable oil. Cut the peeled or unpeeled sweet potatoes and yams into medium-sized cubes and lay them on top of the oil. Drizzle honey,  more oil, sprinkle cinnamon, salt and pepper all over the sweet potatoes and yams to your taste. Put the sheet of sweet potatoes and yams into the oven for about 20-30 minute, until they look brown and crisp. Take them out of the oven and add more oil, salt and pepper to taste and toss them all together into a serving bowl; or pour onto a paper-lined basket and eat them like french fries. The latter is usually the case for my household because I’m the only one in my family who likes sweet potatoes!

Have a safe and happy thanksgiving everyone!

Author: Puddingyrl

I'm a pastry chef (geek) whose appetite invariably exceeds the actual size of my stomach. Skinny jeans be damned! My innate curiosity usually leads to full-blown obsessions--culinary and otherwise--which is why you'll find me sticking my finger in the proverbial pudding...if not licking the whole damn bowl. Given my varied interests, I figured blogging is a good way for me to explore those ideas that are always nibbling at my brain. Along for the ride are two of my girlfriends who share some of my obsessions and have no problems diving headlong into that bowl of pudding. After all, it's more fun to share the calories!

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