How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Feast with Friends

Cranberries (James)

The day before Thanksgiving, as an icy drizzle began to fall on our town, I called a friend a few blocks away, to let her know I would be driving to her house. She waited at the door, so that she would be ready to trot out with a precious cargo -- a large bag of large cranberries -- so that I could rush them from her freezer to ours.

During this year's harvest, she had been moonlighting in quality control at Ocean Spray, the grower-owned cooperative that markets our region's most important crop. Work in QC means taking samples that cannot be put back into the commercial supply chain, so our friend has more delicious cranberries than she can handle, and she rightly surmised that we would put some of them to good use. 

Image: Chiltepin was Chile of the Month last April for the World of Chiles online chile club.
Rather than our usual rum-based preparation, we decided to try something from our previous home in Arizona, from a survey of Thanksgiving culinary traditions recently published in the NY Times. Of course cranberries do not grow in Arizona, but chiles do, so this would be another entry in our sweet-hot series.

I made a few substitutions in the recipe; if it is successful, I'll invest some time next year in getting it right. First, whereas our local grocery store in Tucson had an entire aisle dedicated to chile peppers, here our options are much narrower. I am certain I could have found the chiltepin called for in this recipe, but used some dried peppers of unknown provenance we keep on hand for just such emergencies. Two other omissions I cannot blame on geography: I simply forgot to put a lime and an orange on my shopping list, and decided four grocery runs in two days would have to be my limit. So I omitted the lime-zest garnish and substituted a splash of Triple Sec for the orange zest.

Preparation was quite simple, actually: I brought everything (including the cranberries directly from the freezer) to a simmer in our indispensable cast-iron skillet and then kept it on a very low simmer for about 20 minutes. I then transferred it back to the fridge.

I am especially intrigued by the chiltepin, which resembles both coffee and cranberry fruits. We have a good location for chiles in the sunny front yard of our house, so hope to have some harvested and dried by this time next year.

The Bird (James)
As we have for the past couple of years, we purchased a free-range turkey from Misty Knoll Farms in Vermont, delivered as part of our regular dairy order from Crescent Ridge. Among the many things for which we are thankful are companies such as these, and our financial ability to support them. One should not ask why ethical, healthy food is so expensive, but rather what corners are cut to make so many other foods relatively cheap. A few years ago, we learned that we could free up room in the ovens -- and have better turkey -- if we prepared the turkey outside. Rob began preparing the coals in an ordinary grill early in the morning, and when we arrived he put a pan on them to hold some white wine and to catch drippings. I had rubbed the turkey with a paste of paprika, garlic, and olive oil, and we set it right on the grilling surface, but over such low heat that it just roasted in a winy mist. As it neared the safe-food target temperature, Rob added a couple of slivers of milled oak for smoking. (Stuffing, by the way, was prepared in separate baking pans.)
Roasted, not grilled.
Beets from the Farm Box (Pam)
Our last farm box pick up for this season was several weeks ago. We had eaten and/or frozen most of what we had from this year's "harvest," except for the last of the beets. We are not crazy about beets, and have tried all manner of ways of preparing them to hide the flavor. Some recipes have turned out better than others. I ran a search on for beets to see if there was something new to try and found a recipe actually called Thanksgiving Beets which was pretty simple, and made use of a lot of spices. so I figured it would do a good job in covering the bitterness that we don't like. Although there were not a lot of beets, and there was a fair number of people (13) at dinner, only about half of this dish was eaten. We did have one true beet lover at the meal though, who was happy to take all the leftovers.

Dessert (Pam)
One of the special things about Thanksgiving dinner is that there are so many desserts to try. This year's options included homemade double-crust apple pie; homemade pumpkin pie; homemade bread pudding; homemade Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey's Cream Cheese Icing (Pam's contribution). I emphasize that all of these are homemade because virtually all those who partook in yesterday's meal also had a hand in preparing it.

We got the Bailey's Bristol Cream a few months ago from an estate sale (the same one where I got the biggest bottle of wine. Ever. Which was also enjoyed at yesterday's dinner). The cake was rich, but not too sweet, and appeared to be a bigger hit than the beets.

It was a feast of foodies, with many of the victuals grown locally, in some cases at the same house where they were prepared.

Franksgiving Follow-Up

Thanksgiving is the holiday that keeps on giving -- in the form of leftovers -- and as we continue to reflect with gratitude on our many blessings, we also continue the feast, beginning with our Franksgiving hash.

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