Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Today, all the writers have the day off. We’re in fine kitchens everywhere, or carefully decanting the wine, or fighting about how a turkey should properly be carved, or we’re sharpening our knives or crimping crusts or just leaning back in our chairs, contemplating naps. Although Dorothy and Lea report they are both in book jail.
At John and Kate’s house, on Thanksgiving, the women huddled in the kitchen, making the dinner, while the men put on their woolies, grabbed their guns, and headed out into the woods to seek the elusive deer. The separation of labor followed time-old traditions, until their feminist mother, weary of doing all the work, hatched a scheme that outraged poor Bob Clark and sent the aged relatives into a tizzy. She handed out numbered slips of paper to everyone, and the people paired by those numbers became the after-feast dishwasher and dryer until they were relieved by a subsequent team. The sight of curly-coiffed aunties and portly uncles, apron-swathed, taking their turns at the sink, was priceless.
We also had a family specialty called “Stolen Apple Pie” which is simply apple pie made from at least five varieties of apples gathered while driving along back roads looking for apple trees on abandoned farms or hanging over the road.
Just in case you’d trust our recipes, even if our cooking makes you nervous, here are some recipes from the writers:
Susan Vaughan: Perfect for Maine because it uses maple syrup
(Can be reduced or expanded easily)
3 yams or sweet potatoes, cooked, then peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
4 tablespoons butter, cut up
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup maple syrup (or less, to taste)
Sprinkle cooked and cut-up yams with spices, maple syrup and butter. Mash by hand or lightly in food processor until pureed, but take care not to overwork them.
Bake in 9 X 11″ dish at 375 for 15-20 minutes to heat. 6 servings
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett: in my husband’s family, these are always made for dessert at Thanksgiving, along with the usual pies.
OLD FASHIONED HOMEMADE WHOOPIE PIES
Cream together 3/4 cup Crisco, 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 large egg, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Sift 3 cups flour, 2 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp cocoa
add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, alternating with 1 1/2 cup milk
drop on ungreased cookie sheet by Tbsp
bake at 350 for 20 minutes
Filling: 1 cup Crisco, 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, dash of salt, 6 rounded Tbsp marshmallow fluff (or one 7 oz. jar)
whip until light
Put filling between two “cookies” and enjoy!
Lea Wait’s Chocolate Sauce (for ice cream … angel cake …. or whatever!
(Technically, this is my grandmother’s recipe … but it is one I make often (probably too often) because my husband loves it.)
Melt 1/4 cup butter in sauce pan. Add 1/4 cup (1-1/2 squares) bitter chocolate shaved into very thin pieces. Heat over low heat until smooth — then add 1/4 cup cocoa (not instant — old fashioned!), 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup light cream (or 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup milk), pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Chill. Reheat as necessary … makes about 1 pint.
Jessica Estevao/Jessie Crockett: It seems sweet potatoes are popular with Maine Crime Writers! Every year I make make my favorite recipe for sweet potatoes. I peel them and cut them into small pieces. I add them to large pot and cover them with sweet cider. I bring them to a boil and cook until tender. Drain them, mash them with a few chunks of butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Delicious!
Brenda Buchanan: Apple pie and cheddar cheese. How can you beat that combo? Here’s an easy recipe for those (not me!) who are intimidated by the notion of making piecrust. This works for all kinds of events during the holiday season:
APPLE CHEDDAR CRISP
For the filling:
7 good pie apples (Cortland, Winesap, Granny Smith), peeled and sliced
1 tsp. salt
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. nutmeg
Jar of Orange-Cranberry marmalade (Stonewall Kitchen makes a great one. Pricey, but great.)
For the topping:
½ cup flour
1 cup quick oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 ½ cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (it saves time to buy pre-shredded)
1 cup cold butter
- Preheat oven to 350°. Place all filling ingredients in a bowl and mix together, then transfer into a 9” x 13” baking pan or dish (glass or ceramic works best).
- To make topping, put the flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon and cheese in a bowl and mix well. Cut in the butter and mix with your (clean!) hands until blended and crumbly.
- Sprinkle the topping on the apples and bake for 45 minutes.
Serve warm. It can be topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream by those determined to gild the lily.
Barb Ross: One of the dishes I’ll be bringing to the feast this year are my grandmother’s yellow turnip. (Also called rutabaga.) You think you don’t like turnips, but you do.
1 turnip (2-3 pounds), peeled, cut in chunks
1 large potato, peeled, cut in chunks
2 large onions, cut up
1 tsp salt
4 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon flour
Boil turnip, potato, onions and salt until soft. (Approximately 40 minutes.) Save one cup of the boiled waters, drain the rest and mash the vegetables.
In a small frying pan, melt the butter, add the flour and, stirring continuously, add the turnip water. The mixture will thicken to create a roux.
Mix the roux thoroughly through the mashed turnips. Add sugar, salt and pepper to your taste.
Maureen Milliken: I know everyone likes the traditional pies: apple, pumpkin, mince (shudder, actually I think my dad is the only one who eats that). But if you’re not already full from Brenda’s apple cheddar crisp, here’s a “pumpkin pie” recipe with an Italian twist: Pumpkin Ricotta Pie.
If you’ve never had ricotta pie, it’s a little like cheesecake, only different. Ricotta pie is a traditional Italian holiday treat, particularly at Easter, but I like to make it at Christmas, too, sometimes adding chocolate chips or other treats. But I digress. For Thanksgiving, it’s gotta be pumpkin.
This makes a fairly large pie, but if you cut it to four eggs and cut the ricotta by one-third, it’ll fit in a nine-inch pie pan. For the full recipe, use a 10-inch. I cheat and get a graham cracker crust. I know my Nonna would be rolling over in her grave, and the traditional pie crust is light, flaky and buttery, but it’s not when I make it, so I play it safe. And I might just try it with Lea’s chocolate sauce…
Here’s the recipe:
Preheat oven to 325.
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
I 15-oz container of whole milk ricotta
Half a can of pumpkin filling
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 10-inch graham cracker pie crust in pie tin (sorry Nonna)
1/3 cup brown sugar
Beat the eggs, white sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
Stir in the ricotta and pumpkin.
Pour the ricotta-pumpkin mixture into the pie crust. Bake at 325.
When it’s been in for about half an hour, sprinkle brown sugar on top (if the sugar is on top for too long, it will burn).
Bake a total of 50 minutes to 1 hour: a butter knife inserted into the center should come out clean.
Let cool before eating.
Mangia! (And Happy Thanksgiving!)