Normally I make pumpkin curry soup, which is a serious fork in the road from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner road driven by my predecessors. We never had soup in my family, and if we did, it sure as hell would not have been pumpkin. My mom, the primary Thanksgiving cook, hates pumpkin, and I do not recall that my grandmother had any particular affinity for it either. When I decided to start a new tradition of making soup, I wanted something that incorporated pumpkin (one of the most important Thanksgiving ingredients in my opinion) but that was not dull or plain (as so many pumpkin soups can be). I used curry to give it its kick. Generally when I make this soup, I use coconut milk (making the soup vegan), but at Thanksgiving usually dose the soup with a generous few gulps of cream.
Pumpkin curry soup (You can use pureed butternut squash in place of pumpkin here if pumpkin is hard to find… might even be better that way. I did this year just for a change)
3 tablespoons butter or oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups water
3 bouillon cubes (I use vegetable)
15 ounce can pumpkin (or the “meat” of a baked butternut squash)
1 cup half-and-half or cream (can replace with coconut milk if you want a non-dairy option)
Sour cream garnish
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium high. Add onion and garlic. Cook 3 to 5 minutes til tender. Stir in curry powder, coriander, cayenne. Cook 1 minute. Add water and bouillon. Bring to boil. Reduce to low, cook, stirring constantly for 15 to 20 minutes to develop flavors. Stir in pumpkin. Blend until smooth. At this point, you could cover and refrigerate the soup for a day. This develops the flavors further and of course means you can plan ahead.
When ready to finish and serve, place soup on stovetop and mix in cream (or coconut milk or half and half). Cook 5 minutes or til heated through. Garnish with sour cream if desired.
Okay, now that I think about it, a lot of my recipes for Thanksgiving are not at all traditional and I am coloring outside the lines. I have partly adopted and totally adapted the recipes and dishes to suit my own tastes and what I feel like cooking. My family has always made a corn and oyster casserole that I find one-hundred-percent disgusting. Oysters! Bleh. I do see corn pudding as having a role in Thanksgiving, and I like things like crab much more than oyster. I think perhaps next year I will try lobster, which I prefer to crab. This dish is one of those that I stubbornly insist on making – but that most people don’t really eat once it is done. Yet I carry on…
Corn and crab pudding
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup shallots, minced
¼ cup fresh poblano chile pepper, seeded and chopped (I used far less than this)
12 ounces corn kernels
1 ¾ cup half and half (I used cream)
3 tablespoon flour
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 ½ cup cooked crab
4 tablespoons parmesan
Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Lightly butter 8 ramekins. In heavy skillet on medium melt butter. Add shallots and chiles. Sauté til pepper is tender (3 mins). In blender, puree corn, add half and half, eggs, flour, salt, sugar, nutmeg, and white pepper. Pulse til smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in crab and poblano mix. Divide among ramekins, sprinkle ½ teaspoon cheese on each. Place cups in large roasting pan, pour hot water into pan. Bake 50 minutes until set.
So, mashed potatoes are one of those things that are so easy one should not need a recipe to make them. But you’d be surprised. At many of my Thanksgivings I make the potatoes featured below as well as more basic ones that just include potatoes, milk, salt, pepper and a tiny bit of nutmeg. These should be made just before serving while the recipe below is one that I make a day in advance (to make Thanksgiving easier to deal with). Clearly the amounts shown below are just guidelines and you can experiment with what tastes best to you.
9+ peeled/cubed potatoes
6 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
In boiling pot of salted water, cook potatoes for about 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Mash until smooth.
Mix in cream cheese, sour cream, onion powder, salt, pepper and butter. Put potatoes into a lightly buttered baking dish, cover, refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Take potatoes out of oven a couple of hours before serving. Preheat oven to 175C and bake about 30 minutes or until hot.
Another way my Thanksgiving menu differs markedly from that of my mother’s is that I adopted this sweet potato casserole from somewhere that has proven to be exceptionally popular with all the guests who have been to my Thanksgiving table over the years, across the countries and nationalities who have stuffed their faces graciously. No one in my family really cares for sweet potatoes, so it was never part of the menu. I differ in that I am always making things and doing things for others that do not necessarily satisfy me – it is just part of my nature to please. And it is quite true that just because I don’t like something does not mean other people will not.
Sweet potato casserole
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 large), scrubbed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus more for the preparing the pan
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200C). Put the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and pierce each one 2 or 3 times with a fork. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool.
Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F (160/170C). Scoop the sweet potato out of the skins and into a medium bowl. Discard the skins. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the eggs, butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Whisk the mixture until smooth.
Butter an 8-by-8-inch casserole. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pan and sprinkle the top with the pecans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a bit puffy. Serve immediately.