Friday, November 23, 2012

the reality of a new holiday

Thanksgiving used to mean packing up the car and driving to my aunt and uncle's house in New York. Musicals in New York City on Black Friday. Radio Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular soundtrack blaring through the stereo all weekend. As time moved on, Thanksgiving shifted to dinners in Hershey. In years past, Billy and I would leave DC together and arrive at Mom and Dad's to be spoiled with good food, drinks and a warm fire.
The strangest part of getting married and moving away - is holidays. Last year, I spent Thanksgiving in India. Amazing as it was, it was sad to be away from my family. This year was a quiet dinner for Vance and me, before he headed off to the hospital. Thanksgiving has changed - but some, scratch that, most, of the food has stayed the same.
Enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, before Vance's overnight shift at the hospital.
The traditional Clark (now Clarbaugh) Thanksgiving includes an array of dishes. Last night's selection included herbed roasted turkey breast, creamed onions, candied sweet potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy. As holidays change locations, company and traditions - one of the hardest parts to adjust to (for me) is new food. Vance loves brussel sprouts, so this year, my families' beloved Le Sueur peas got bumped for some roasted sprouts.
This year, I really took to heart the importance of (well-executed) short cuts. The Le Sueur peas will wait patiently until Christmas this year, but a few other easy sides were tested last night. Fresh Market's Traditional stuffing mix was quite good. I added some diced onion, celery, apple and toasted walnuts. My mom's cranberry sauce is so tasty and the easiest thing to make over the holidays.

Mary's Cranberry Sauce (note - recipes below are via my mom - thanks Mom!)
1 can jellied cranberry sauce
about 1/3 to 1/2 cup Port wine
Turn the cranberry sauce out on a dinner plate and mush with a fork until smooth. Pour into a sauce pan and add port wine. Simmer over medium heat to cook off the alcohol. Chill and serve with turkey.

Creamed Onions
1 bag pearl onions (typically come in a mesh bag in the onion section) 
 (small and white)
roughly a cup to 2 cups of milk (2% or whole)
2-3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
nutmeg for topping
Peal the onions - this is a pain, but worth it in the end. You may wish to Google different technique suggestions. I suggest drinking white wine while you peel. Boil onions for about 20 minutes, drain very well on paper towels. Onions must be dry!
In a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour into the butter and whisk until a roux is formed. Once the roux is formed - slowly add in milk, continuing to whisk. When cream mixture is smooth and hot, incorporate onions, fold them lightly into the sauce. Pour onions into a serving dish and top with some fresh grated nutmeg.

Candied Sweet Potatoes
small sweet potatoes (cook more quickly) - for the two of us, I used about four
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
Peel and half potatoes (don't cut lengthwise), boil until almost done - probably 12-15 minutes. Drain and slice into 1/2 inch round slices. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter. Assemble the potatoes in the pan and begin to cook over medium heat. After lightly sautéing for a few minutes, sprinkle half of the brown sugar all over potatoes. This begins the "candying" process. Allow to cook for a few more minutes and carefully flip potatoes - sprinkle remaining sugar. Flip one more time ensuring all sugar has melted. These are sticky goodness! 

Another great find was William Sonoma's Turkey Gravy. This gravy is thick and delicious and you simply cut it with milk - super quick and easier than making pan gravy. Instead of a selection of wine last night, we opted for Martinelli's Sparkling Cider - Vance needed to keep his wits about him. Now, after he left for work, I took a rocks glass and had a vodka 'n cider over ice - even better.
We've always had full-turkeys, but for just the two of us, I wanted a turkey breast. The breasts are all white meat and cook at a fraction of the time.
Granted, the turkey breasts don't make for the photo-op of the year, but this herb roasted breast was delicious. We will be having turkey sandwiches for days!
You can't write a Thanksgiving post and not share a bit of what you are thankful for this year, so here I go. Not just family, but an incredibly flexible family, who travel over the US to see us. Old friendships that are even better now, then they were when we were 8, 16 or 22 years old. New friends that amaze me because they so quickly feel like old friends. A house that we continue to make a home each day. More and more memories with Vance - thank goodness for Instagram to capture it all!

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