Thanksgiving 2009

I realize my Thanksgiving entry is a bit late, but it's okay because all the recipes I'm posting were soooooooooo nummy. Tried and true mos def!! Recipes I can go back to over and over again. Recipes I can pass down to my children to share with THEIR children for years to come. Recipes that are so good you'll devour and start your diet tomorrow kind of good. Okay I'm done blabbering :)

After SEVERAL attempts and having lots of guinea pigs to experiment on, I finally found a WINNER!!! I made three different pumpkin pies within the week before Thanksgiving to find the perfect one. You may think it's a little extreme, but it was our first Thanksgiving as newlyweds and we were hosting. Therefore, unappetizing food was not an option.

I tried the Libby's famous pumpkin pie recipe...blegh! Not enough spices and tasted very mealy. The second pie recipe I found online was tasty but was not your "traditional" pumpkin pie per se like this one is. It was much lighter and custard like. More of a danger zone for me since it was so light and fluffy I felt myself being able to eat more and more of it. But the following recipe ended up the winner and what I served for Thanksgiving. It was well received nonetheless.

The following is a list of the winners:

Cook's Illustrated pumpkin pie

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can (see note)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon table salt

1. For the filling: While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 12 minutes.

2. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Rewhisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Foolproof Pie Dough
- makes one 9-inch double-crust pie -

The trick to this pie crust is the inclusion of vodka. Eighty-proof vodka, which is 60 percent water and 40 percent alcohol, adds moistness to the dough without aiding in gluten formation since gluten doesn't form in ethanol. Although the recipe includes 8 tablespoons of liquid, the alcohol vaporizes during baking, resulting in a tender crust that only contains 6 1/2 tablespoons of water. Because of the extra liquid, the dough will be moister than most standard pie doughs and will require up to 1/4 cup more flour.

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 2 pieces
2 tablespoons vodka , cold
2 tablespoons cold water

1. Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

4. Trim overhang to ½ inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against rim of pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp.

Non traditional pumpkin pie
Ginger Custard Pumpkin Pie
- makes one 10-inch pie -
Adapted from by Sweet Melissa's Baking Book by Melissa Murphy.

1 prebaked 10-inch pie shell
One 6 x 1-inch piece fresh ginger, unpeeled, sliced thinly, and coarsely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups fresh or canned pumpkin puree

1. Position a rack in the bottom third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the ginger, crushed cinnamon sticks, heavy cream, and milk to scalding. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes. Return the saucepan to medium heat and bring back to scalding.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt until pale yellow. Whisk in the hot ginger cream, little by little, until combined. Strain the mixture into a clean pitcher and set aside.
4. In a separate bowl, briefly whisk the pumpkin puree until smooth. Slowly whisk in the ginger custard until incorporated.
5. Pour the pumpkin custard into the prebaked pie shell. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until set-the center is no longer jiggly. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
6. The pie keeps tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature overnight. For longer storage, it keeps wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (the crust will suffer slightly from the chilling).

This recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetit. You can find the recipe here. I adjusted to my taste because when I originally tried the recipe the ginger was overwhelming and the cranberries tasted a little chalky. Here is my revised version.

Cranberry sauce - 8 servings

1 12-ounce bags cranberries
½ cup of sugar + ¼ cup sugar to taste for seasoning
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
1 ½ teaspoon grated orange peel

Combine all ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until cranberries pop, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Mash the cranberries against the side of the pot. Then add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar to taste depending on how sweet you like it. Cool. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) - longer it simmers better it tastes

Cook's Illustrated's Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4 to 6. Published November 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.
Note that this recipe calls for starting the potatoes in a cold oven. Choose potatoes that are as even in width as possible; trimming the small ends prevents them from burning. If you prefer not to peel the potatoes, just scrub them well before cutting.

3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6 medium), ends trimmed, peeled, rinsed, and cut into 3/4-inch thick rounds (see note)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter , unsalted
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon table salt

Ground black pepper

1. Whisk 1/4 cup maple syrup, 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, and 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves together in small bowl. Toss potatoes in large bowl with oil, salt, and pepper to taste until evenly coated. Line 18- by 13-inch heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange potatoes in single layer on baking sheet and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Adjust oven rack to middle position and place potatoes in cold oven. Turn oven to 425 degrees and cook potatoes 30 minutes.
2. Remove baking sheet from oven and carefully remove top layer of foil. Return potatoes to oven and cook until bottom edges of potatoes are golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes.
3. Remove baking sheet from oven and, brush potatoes with half of glaze, flip slices over with thin metal spatula, and brush with remaining glaze. Continue to roast until bottom edges of potatoes are golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes longer. Remove from oven; let potatoes cool 5 to 10 minutes; transfer to platter and serve

Cook's Illustrated's Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic and Herbs - serves 4

Note: This recipe yields crisp-tender beans. If you prefer a slightly more tender texture (or you are using large, tough beans), increase the water by a tablespoon and increase the covered cooking time by 1 minute. To serve 6, increase all of the ingredients by half and increase the covered cooking time by 1 to 2 minutes. Do not attempt to cook more than 1 1/2 pounds of green beans with this method. For our free recipe for Sautéed Green Beans with Tarragon and Lime, go to

1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
4 ½ medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ teaspoon olive oil
1 ½ pound green beans, stem ends snapped off, beans cut into 2-inch pieces
Table salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup water
Sprinkle all around with juice from lemon (eyeball it)
1 ½ tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Combine butter, garlic, and thyme in small bowl; set aside. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until just smoking. Add beans, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
2. Add water, cover, and cook until beans are bright green and still crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove cover, increase heat to high, and cook until water evaporates, 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Add butter mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until beans are crisp-tender, lightly browned, and beginning to wrinkle, 1 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer beans to serving bowl, toss with lemon juice and parsley; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately

Chunky Pecan Pie Bars
Adapted from brown eyed baker website

**These are sooooo good. They are VERY rich, gooey and chocolatey so I only made half the recipe and munched on them all week.

For the Crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¼ cup packed brown sugar

3 large eggs
¾ cup corn syrup OR substitue 1/3 cup of agave nectar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cups coarsely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chunks in a bag!)
1½ cups chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. For the crust, mix together the flour, butter and brown sugar until crumbly. Press into the baking pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown.

3. For the filling, beat the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla extract with a wire whisk. Stir in the chunks and pecans. Pour evenly over the baked crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set.

4. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cool completely and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the refrigerator if you live in a warm/humid area with no air conditioning).