This time of year, there is a rapid-pace blur that starts with pumpkin, black, and skulls, and then rolls into the winter white holidaze. But for a fleeting period of time in between, we get the burnt orange acorn haze of Thanksgiving goodness.
So I submit to you that now is the perfect time to take stock in the soup of life.
Before you start daydreaming about turkey, mashed potatoes, football games, and the Macy’s parade, take a moment to think about what the holiday is really about…
I’m just kidding! In a way. Because pouring something smooth and comforting over the lumps, bumps, and charred humps of life isn’t such a bad idea.
And maybe the sauce that makes it all go down easier is good old fashioned, well, thanksgiving.
Deep, heartfelt gratitude for all you’ve got. I know that sounds preachy, and believe me, when someone tells me I should be grateful for something, it ends up feeling artificial. And I believe that being truly thankful for something isn’t a feeling at all — it’s an attitude.
You can look at glasses upside down and sideways, but if you can decide that even a drop is awesome and enough to cheer about, then you’re headed in the right direction.
And it doesn’t have to be a particular time of year with a turkey wearing a pilgrim hat to make it genuine. Although animals in fetching chapeaus always make it much easier to take things seriously (lol, etc.).
I often count my blessings. Us X-chromosomal beings tend to share our heartaches with one and other, and compassion is served best with a side of gratitude. That combo platter is also known as empathy.
I’m also grateful for a lot of happy family memories, many of which are connected to food. Thanksgiving tends to conjure up happy gastro-memories for all of us. It makes me first think of my nana who was a very formal woman with a flair for entertaining — a Martha Stewart type of lady. Everything was meticulous, save one dish that was my absolute favorite — a Cranberry Nut Mold. Eating it was sublime, but reveling in the aftermath of the messy, blood-red ring that it left on the white linen table cloth after the plates were taken away was perhaps the most delicious part. Sweet and nutty, ever shifting and chunked with unexpected delights, her Cranberry Nut Mold was a metaphor on the Thanksgiving table.
Once the torch passed from my Nana to my mom, she carried on the tradition of the Cranberry Nut Mold, and I have many happy memories of my favorite holiday spent with my cousins, who split their enthusiasm between the Cranberry Nut Mold and my mom’s legendary chocolate mousse (which I published in my very first Bitch’in Suburbia blog — I call it Vice Mousse cuz it has booze, coffee, and chocolate all in one delicious frothy concoction).
And I have one more recipe for you to be grateful for — my contribution to the holiday meal, which is a divine take on brussels sprouts that balances the sweet with the savory. So if you see me bringing side dishes to a Thanksgiving meal, just know how grateful I am that someone else is sweating the turkey! Enjoy these killer Thanksgiving recipes!
NANA’S CRANBERRY NUT MOLD
This makes a ton of Jell-O mold — enough for the mold and then some. You can cut the recipe in half if you’re already in Grinch mode OR make it all and have plenty o’ leftovers, which is of course the whole point of Thanksgiving. That and the ‘tude!
4 small packages of cherry Jell-O (regular, not sugar free)
4 cups boiling water
2 large (20 oz., “#2”) cans of crushed pineapple
2 can WHOLE BERRY cranberry sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 bag of whole walnuts
Add 4 cups boiling water to the Jell-O.
Add cranberry sauce, lemon juice, crushed pineapple WITH juice, and nuts.
Pour into a greased ring mold.
Allow to set over night.
To unmold, you might need to run the pan under hot water for a minute or so. Be gentle and take your time!
Garnish with orange slices, red grapes, and joy all around!
VICE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE — The Best Chocolate Mousse Ever!
Note: I double this recipe when I make it for a crowd. There’s usually enough leftover to eat it by the fistful late at night when everyone’s asleep. And if a person eats by the light of the fridge and nobody sees it, there’s no caloric intake. You’re welcome.
6 squares semisweet chocolate
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
½ cup honey
3-½ scant teaspoons instant coffee
3-½ tablespoons Triple Sec orange liquor (Cointreau is my preference – use the leftovers for a kick ass margarita)
2 cups heavy whipping cream (or 3 cups if you like to make your own whipped cream to top the mousse with)
A small container of Cool Whip (If you prefer your whipped topping as I do in a durable, paraffin-based format that lasts and lasts… probably until the next millennium. You could probably use real whipped cream here, but then you’d lose the “low calorie” irony of the Cool Whip.)
Melt the semisweet and unsweetened chocolate together in a double boiler. Once it’s melted, add the honey.
Dissolve the coffee in the orange liquor, add it to the chocolate/honey mix, and then put the chocolate/honey/liquor/coffee concoction into a big bowl. Let it cool completely.
Whip two cups of heavy cream.
Fold the whipped cream into the fully cooled chocolate mixture, transfer into a nice glass bowl for serving, and then let the whole thing set in the fridge for at least an hour or more if possible.
Garnish with Cool Whip and semisweet chocolate shavings.
KICK ASS BRUSSELS SPROUTS
I found this recipe for Zak Pelaccio’s Brussels Sprouts a few years back in NY Magazine — they are seriously kick ass and now a staple at our Thanksgiving table. Pelaccio is the author of Eat With Your Hands and co-chef at Fish & Game in NYC.
1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/4-inch lardons
36 Brussels sprouts, trimmed, with outer 2 leaves removed, and halved
2 tsp. sea salt
12 chestnuts (roasted and peeled, broken into chunks)
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 sprigs thyme
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup New York grade-B maple syrup (or any real maple syrup you can find)
In a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet, render the lardons over medium heat until they are a rich brown. With a slotted spoon, remove the lardons to a paper-towel-lined plate, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Toss the sprouts in the pan, season with sea salt, and cook in the bacon fat over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the chestnuts, and continue cooking for 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the garlic and thyme, and cook for another 3 minutes. Pour in the cream, and reduce by half. Season to taste. Add the bacon, pour in the maple syrup, and give a squeeze of lemon juice. Cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes, and serve.
Happy Thanksgiving, My Bitches! I’m so grateful for you — hope you have a fabulous holiday!