Well, we’ve made it through gratitude week and I’m ready to use this space to complain about my kids again. I’m only sort of joking. It’s been a great week, a long week, full of family togetherness and good food. One kid or the other or both have also napped almost every day this week, which means we’ve been up with them until 11 or so with no time for Andy and I to be alone or do the stuff we want to do without a kid on our laps. Today, George didn’t nap and I was so glad I’d be able to write my blog post on time. But then he fell asleep at 5:30 and woke up at 7 and would not go back to sleep. He was delightful the whole evening- playing games with us and making pictures with glitter and glue- but he didn’t fall asleep again until 12:30. Then I snuck out and wrote a paragraph about deviled eggs, and then Henry woke up. I held his hand for 45 minutes and he was just not falling back asleep. I love these kids so much but I was so frustrated I felt like throwing a brick through a window. Or bursting into tears. So I asked Andy to come lie with Henry and that brings us to here. It’s 1:23 in the morning and I’m writing my blog post in a dark house because I want to, dammit, and tomorrow night will probably bring more of the same so I may as well do it now. I know there are other ways to do this- throw the kids in a dark room and tell them they can’t come out until the sun rises or something. I don’t want to do it differently. I want to do it the way we do it and I want the kids to just go to sleep at night. And if they don’t I want the right to complain about it. If this were still the one week a year where we’re grateful for stuff, I’d say I’m grateful to have healthy kids who want to hold my hand and lie next to me. For a warm house, and food, and family, and all those things that I take for granted. But Thanksgiving’s over and I’m tired and surly so instead I’ll just wish for what I don’t have! Here’s what we ate this week.
Apple Crunch Pie. I’m putting this pie at the top of the post, out of order from when we actually ate it (our at-home Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday) because it looks a far-cry better than the milquetoast mushroom soup we actually ate first, and I didn’t want the sad soup to be the cover shot of this week of feasting and gluttony. Pie is a far better representation. I love this pie. My mom found the recipe 20 years ago and it’s been my favorite ever since- the standard I compare all other apple pies to. The topping really does stay remarkably crisp and crunchy, even after refrigeration. The apples are sliced thinly and dressed simply, and the whole thing is piled into an all-butter crust. What more could you ask for? (Besides kids that go the fuck to sleep! Wink wink.)
Balthazar Creamy Mushroom Soup. When I scrolled through my photos of food from the past week, I saw this and thought, why is this soup so brown? What is this? Before remembering it was mushroom soup and supposed to be that color. In spite of the murkiness of the photo, this is a deep, rich, earthy soup that I think is just the thing for fall. When you put your head over the pot when you’re browning the mushrooms it smells like meat and dirt and I mean that in the very best way. It’s from a fancy-ish GOOP-looking website. I didn’t read the headnote and don’t know who or what Balthazar is. Perhaps it’s a restaurant-to-the-stars somewhere? In my mind, Balthazar means a large bottle of wine or one of the three wise men or possibly both or possibly neither. It’s late and I’ve got no time for fact checking. We ate this with more of that challah bread that I keep making, with one of the two loaves cubed and dried and used for our Thanksgiving stuffing.
Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce, Venison Meatballs. This was Tuesday, parkour day. If you recall, a very rough parkour session two weeks ago is what inspired us to turn off the screens to see if it would help improve all of our moods. This week, one of the instructors took me aside to tell me that Henry has been amazing- patient and kind with everyone. She couldn’t believe his transformation. It was so nice to hear, I could have cried. We came home and celebrated with everyone’s favorite dinner.
Dry-Brined Roasted Giant Chicken. I’ve tried several of the heritage turkeys on offer through farmers’ market vendors over the past several years, and haven’t been very happy with any of them. They cost a fortune and they’re too tough and stringy. Then Dewberry Hills Farm started selling mammoth 12ish pound chickens for holidays, so we tried it and never looked back. They’re fantastically moist, tender, succulent. All the words. I cooked it just like a turkey, following all the steps in this recipe, except not flipping the bird over and over again during cooking, because I don’t like the rack lines it leaves in the breast when you cook it upside-down.
Our Thanksgiving Spread. I am a complete traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. Our tradition, as you can see, is full of meats and starches, and only the slightest acknowledgement of vegetables, in the form of a small bowl of green peas, so far on the periphery that it didn’t make the picture. I burned the dinner rolls and used canned cranberry sauce but other than that this meal was aces. It was also the second Thanksgiving dinner I cooked that day.
A few years ago my sister-in-law Joanna, who is a do-gooder of the highest order, hooked us up with a Thanksgiving volunteer opportunity to provide ready-to-eat traditional T-Day fare to food-insecure families in East Austin. I did it again last year, and then thought I would skip this year because of lack of money and time. But then on Monday a neighbor stopped by and said she’d received a turkey through her husband’s work and they didn’t want it, and could I use it? I took it as a sign. I made the turkey, a huge vat of stuffing, and 5 pounds of mashed potatoes and the boys and I delivered it. I’m sharing this story for two reasons: 1) to persuade you that I’m not as entirely self-absorbed as this blog’s opening paragraph might lead you to believe and 2) so you’ll know that I’m a badass who cooked two thanksgiving dinners in one day.
My First Helping. I like this stuffing, made without sausage, because it’s as close to a real-food version of my beloved Stove Top stuffing as I’ve ever found. The potatoes are the standard variety. The gravy is that amazing stuff that you can only make when you’ve roasted a huge bird and have two cups of drippings and loads of sweet, sweet bird fat. The sweet potatoes are roasted, mashed with butter, and topped with cubes of crispy pepper bacon. The rolls are, don’t judge me, more of that challah, this time shaped into small rounds and baked in a 9×13 pan. They would have been great if I hadn’t wanted just a bit more color on them. I put them under the broiler and forgot about them until I smelled them burning. This is a mistake I keep repeating- using the broiler to add just a bit more color to something when I’m multitasking in the kitchen. It never works out.
Virginia Willis’ Deviled Eggs. I am hoping that it will come as a surprise to you that I have an ego about the food I cook. Or is it obvious because I have a food blog and document all the things I make and that sort of thing wouldn’t take place if you didn’t have some level of hubris about the food you’re making? Either way, these deviled eggs brought out my big hulking ego. We spent actual-Thanksgiving with Andy’s extended family in San Antonio. I don’t think any of them read this blog, but before I tell this story, let me preface by saying they are all lovely, warm, and welcoming people. Who don’t bake their own desserts. Every get-together is a potluck, and the food is always delicious, and the desserts are always from Costco. For Thanksgiving, that means massive sturdy 15-inch pies that come out of some sort of pie-making machine. So when I got my potluck assignment of deviled eggs, I was decidedly put out. Deviled Eggs?? They want me, the brilliant pie-maker, who uses grass-fed butter in her homemade crust, organic ingredients, the best recipes, to bring deviled eggs? I’m truly that awful. I shut up and brought the deviled eggs, and they were enjoyed. Also there was only one giant Costco pie this year, but also a suite of pies from a bakery where one of the family members works, and they were delicious, along with a delightful homemade white chocolate bread pudding made by the hosts. So I’m officially the worst.
Leftovers. All three of these things are just vehicles for that gravy. Yes, we put gravy on our leftover turkey/chicken sandwiches. I recommend it.
Bouchon’s Quiche Lorraine, Gluten-Free. After two days of Thanksgiving foods we met at Andy’s parents house for a light brunch of bacon quiche, kolaches, and donuts. It’s been a week, y’all! This is a true celebration quiche- it takes three days to make. It’s got a pound of bacon lardons, 2 pounds of onion confit, comte cheese, and a custard that you scald and then aerate in a blender. These things together are pure magic.
Oatmeal Cream Pies, Gluten Free. Oh yeah, we also ate a platter of oatmeal cream pies with the donuts, kolaches, and quiche. And there was bacon. We win the gluttony award. Also probably the heart disease award.
Butternut Risotto with Parmesan, Rosemary, and Lemon. Flush with chicken stock from our giant bird, Henry pleaded for risotto. I made it for him, but Andy and I are so tired of it we both ate more thanksgiving leftovers instead.
Suppli with Tomato Sauce. The very best thing about risotto is making these breaded and fried risotto balls with the leftovers. I mix an egg or two and more cheese in for binding, then do the classic flour/egg/breadcrumb dredge and deep fry the suckers. They are miles more delicious than the original risotto, and completely over-the-top perfect when dipped in leftover tomato sauce.
A Food52 Potluck: Rice Salad with Nuts and Sour Cherries, Brussels Sprouts Salad a la M. Wells, Beet Tartare with Burrata and Crackers, Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Ganache, and Heavenly Oatmeal-Molasses Rolls. Sadly not pictured: adorable chocolate brownie heart cookies, and salted caramel ice cream made by drbabs. Savorthis, a brilliant home chef from Denver and fellow food52er was in Austin for the holiday, so some of the local food52 crew got together for a potluck. Lucky me that these beautiful chefs brought some vegetables into my life! Food52 potlucks are the cream of the crop and this one was no exception- everything was fantastic. Dr. Babs, the public demands a recipe for that pumpkin cake! Please and thank you.
Tamales! Red Chile Chicken, Lentil Falafel, Beet Tartare. I’m not shitting you. These are the tamale flavors we made. As my contribution to the potluck, I made a red chile chicken filling and tamale batter to use up the rest of our chicken leftovers. The women graciously helped me spread, fill, fold, and wrap each tamale, but then they weren’t done steaming by the time the party was over and so they’re all for me. So my contribution was less a contribution and more an appeal for free labor. I also got to keep all of the leftovers from the above picture, so I’m officially the greediest potluck host of all time. We had extra batter and so we stuffed some weird shit into tamales. Some of the beet and burrata tartare pictured above, and also some leftover lentil falafel mixture. I gotta say, they both made surprisingly delicious tamales! The beets were sweet and the flavors went well with the porky corn flavors of the masa batter. The falafel was flavored with cumin and garlic and tasted great and right at home in the tamales too. A thousand thanks to the beautiful and generous women who joined me today!
I’ve officially stayed up way too late, but I wrote a thing! It’s full of complaints and bitterness, I know, but I’m happy I got to write it. I’m also happy I get to slip into bed next to a still-sleeping George and wake up in the morning to spend the day with my Henry. And who knows, maybe Andy and I will get to spend an evening together one of these days! I’m lucky to have all of it. I know it, honestly I do.