20191121: Thanksgiving Recipe Thread

Originally written for another blog in November of 2019. Copied here to preserve work.

Wheatie’s pies reminded us it is time for the annual Thanksgiving Recipe Thread. Please add your favorites and drop a few stories in from your favorite holiday get-togethers.

My Mother’s mother had a saying, “May I always have more guests, than I do dining room chairs.” Remember those who have no family and please, make room at your table.

The stories which come out of the family holidays are wonderful. Here’s a few from our house.

Story #1

I was a teenager. Dad was dating my soon-to-be stepmother and it was obvious the two would marry. We lived in New Orleans. We had been to her parents for weekends (Pensacola) and she had been to my grandparents for weekends (northern Mississippi), but the two sets of potential in-laws had not met. Thanksgiving at Grandma’s was the first meeting of the clans.

The Florida contingent arrived on Wednesday, scheduled to leave Friday morning, apprehensive, best to plan a short trip. On Wednesday, everyone was on their best behavior, no one drank too much, no one swore. My step-mother turns into an infant around her mother, different speech patterns, annoying. Lots of tension in the air. My grandmother was nervous and doing her best to make a good impression. I was cast out to sleep on the couch in the living room.

All the way through Thursday the tension grew. After a day of football, hors d’oeuvres, and afternoon drinks, it all came to a head as we were ready to serve dinner. Everyone was in the kitchen, trying to help Grandmother pull casseroles, ice in the glasses, pour the wine, and find serving pieces. She was trying to use the best china and insisted Grandpa carve, then place, the turkey onto a beautiful antique china platter. A bit of a scuffle ensued as we all organized dishes to the buffet.

Grandpa needed a bigger platter for the turkey. Grandma wanted to use the pretty platter. Finally, as they negotiated, Grandpa became frustrated, pointed his electric knife at my Grandmother and said, “It’s not big enough for a fuckin’ quail.”

The electric knife we only used once a year.

Silence. Grandpa dropped the F bomb. Time stood still. My eyes went wide as I looked around the room to gauge reaction. Grandma was clubbing Grandpa with a wooden spoon, using a distressed voice, “Ea—rl”, always two syllables for Earl. Ray, my step-grandfather was a former Chief Petty Officer in the Navy. He had a highball glass in his hand and spit out his bourbon all over the microwave. Tension broken. Everyone laughed. Grandpa and Ray became fast friends.

Story #2

Grandpa Ray, the Chief Petty Officer, lit up my world. I loved him. He took me everywhere and didn’t treat me like a kid. His wife was spoiled, nouveau riche, and spent money like water. Ray would give her envelopes filled with $100 bills so she and my step-mother could go shopping. I didn’t like it – seemed wrong. Ray had accumulated several little houses which he rented out to sailors. Ray drove a little pickup truck with a cab filled with house parts. He was the landlord and always fixing something. One Wednesday before Thanksgiving, he let me tag along on a housecall. Probably a leaky faucet, or so I thought.

First, we stopped at the grocery store. He insisted I grab a cart, and he had one, too. No explanation. We moved quietly through the aisles, tomato soup, boxed mac and cheese, saltines, canned vegetables, loaves of bread, hams, turkeys, ground meat, …… and then diapers, and baby formula….. and even dog food and cases of Budweiser beer. We had no babies or dogs. What was he up to? He paid the bill at checkout, over $400. I could barely swing my laden cart.

At the truck, he divided up what we bought, and we were ready to go. Back in the truck, he asked me to open the glove box. He had a stash of white envelopes there, the same white envelopes he gave his wife. He pulled a wad of bills out of his chest pocket. Each envelope was to contain 4-$20 bills and 20-$1 bills. He winked at me, “Sometimes, it’s hard to break a $20.” I nodded, “Yes, Sir.”

We were off again. Twelve stops, to “his men”. He whistled along the way. He was happy. At the first stop, I got out of the car and headed up the walkway to ring the bell. He stopped me, “Nonono, we’ll go around back.” I paused and waited for him. Each “delivery” was made to the back door, quietly, privately, as not to embarrass another man. He tucked the cash envelope into the screen door. Never said a word to the people who lived there. After the first delivery, I sat in the car and looked at him… differently, with tears in my eyes. He winked at me. He was having fun, “Gotta take care of your men.”

By the 3rd-4th visit, we were met at the backdoor by a guy with a gun. It was one of “his men”. He apologized profusely, broke into thanks and finally, tears. He hugged Ray tightly, and I could feel the tears sting my eyes. $100 was a lot of money back in the 70’s. Later on, we ran into another wife, three little ones at her knees, who immediately broke into tears. As we returned home, my step-mother and his wife returned from their shopping. They showed us all their new clothes, modeling for Ray. He nodded like nothing ever happened. I took my cue from him. Our trip was our secret.

Funny, that year, I don’t even remember what we ate for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Today, we don’t use as much cash, but every now and then, a $100 bill will cross my path, and I think of Ray. As a nod to Ray, when Gunner was little, in his Christmas stocking, I would roll up 20-$1bills with a little ribbon around each one. As a kid, he felt rich. When he was about 12yrs old, he asked me why I didn’t just use a $20 bill. He was annoyed with all the tiny ribbons. I explained the story of Ray and added, “Sometimes, it’s hard to break a $20.” Lesson learned. Be thankful, appreciative, humble, and “Gotta take care of your men”.

There’s a million more, but we’ll stop there.

Life is interesting when we all come together.

10 thoughts on “20191121: Thanksgiving Recipe Thread

  1. Reminder —- Thanksgiving season is suitcase season!
    Let me tell you why.
    Years ago, girlfriend of mine named Ginger showed up one morning while I was finishing breakfast for guests. She was catching up, and I hadn’t seen her since she took a job with Child Protective Services. She was standing in my kitchen, smoking up a storm, when she asked me for a favor.
    Ginger: Hey Daughn, do you have some old suitcases you’re not using, that I can have?
    Me: With my back to her, still washing pots, “OOoo, where are you going? What do you need my suitcases for?”
    Ginger: “Oh, it’s not for me. Sometimes, we have to pick up kids and remove them from a home. I had to do one last night and it’s tough. We have to accumulate some of their clothes and maybe a few toys, and we usually have to put them in trash bags…………. I just don’t want them to feel like ………… trash.”
    Weight of her words washed over me.
    Gunner was still little at the time.
    Me: Still at the sink, grabbed the edge of the sink and then sunk to my elbows with the realization. I could feel the tears stinging my eyes. I turned around slowly to Ginger, “What did you say?”

    She sat down on the stool to explain, and I dried my hands. She told me about what happened last night with this specific child. It was awful.
    Well, off we went to the attic and I found 8 suitcases in various shapes and sizes. We loaded her minivan and she was off. As she hugged me good-bye, she thanked me and said, “This is great….. this should get us through the week………….” She shut the door and left me dumbfounded.

    What? There were about 8 kids a week? To Ginger, it had become typical. I was mortified.

    I climbed the back steps slowly, thinking, trying to wrap my head around the idea that there were 8 kids a week taken out of their homes in my own community. What to do?

    I sat down and wrote out a letter, and blasted (by fax back then) a few of the local banks. It went: “Hey, this is Daughn, I need your help. Ginger in the kitch……explained the situation. Appeal for broader help…… and since this is Thanksgiving Season, and many of us are traveling, while your packing your suitcases, please take your old ones to ……. address. Closed with thanks for our healthy and happy homes…. because many of us are not so fortunate.” It was a nice letter straight from my heart.

    Well, the letter went from the banks to the churches, and within 48 hours, Ginger had over 400 suitcases. She called me to tell me “Stop, we don’t have enough space to put them.”

    Local paper did a small write up and a funny thing happened. Six other counties adopted the same plan. It was simple part of an enormously complex problem. Suitcases.

    So now, every Thanksgiving season, we have a suitcase drive. God Bless our simple homes, and may we all be forever grateful for what we have.

    Please take your extra old suitcases to Child Protective Services.

  2. 1988 – I was sitting in my apartment in Miami, not able to go home for Thanksgiving. Depressed and missing the idea of Turkey, I flipped on a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving Special on PBS. It changed my world. She went through the steps on how to properly cook a turkey. I watched closely. Wanting to try out the idea, I invited workmates to Thanksgiving dinner at my little apartment……. and we haven’t had a dry turkey since 1988.
    Here’s what you do.
    Guaranteed win, impossible to fail.

    Ingredients: 14lb turkey, 2 sticks of butter, 1 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper, 1 heaping TBSP of dried basil, regular TBSP of dried Rosemary, 1 orange, 1 lemon, sliced thinly. One apple, one onion, quartered.

    Defrosted turkey, remove livers and neck and wash thoroughly in a CLEAN sink.
    Place in a roasting pan, breast side up.
    With your fingertips, work your fingers between the meat of the turkey breast and the skin. Tip the turkey up and pour in about 1/4 bottle of a good white wine, into each side, 1/2 bottle in total.

    Mix up the herbs/salt/pepper, grab a handful and smear the turkey breast between the skin and meat. Both sides.
    Cut up ONE stick of butter into about 12 pats. Slice up the oranges and lemons. Between the skin and breast meat, alternate a pat of butter with lemon or orange slice, butter, citrus slice. Keep going until both sides are filled and stuffed.
    Place the quartered onion, apple, and any extra citrus, into the gut of the turkey.

    Take the extra salt/pepper/herbs and smear all over the top and legs of the Turkey, then PAM the crap out of the bird. Only use PAM (others have alcohol) and you will get that golden brown color from magazines. I cook at about 300-325 for about 4 hours and use a meat thermometer………. but even if you forget about the turkey, you can’t screw this one up.

    When it’s done, remove from oven and let it sit for about 15 minutes before slicing. Important to stabilize the juices. It’s fabulous.

    Footnote: Over the years, we’ve stuffed turkeys in the same way with various combinations. Champagne and cranberries is particularly good but makes the turkey meat pinkish. We’ve tried beer and Cajun mixes. Nothing, however, is as good as regular roasted Turkey.

  3. No Fail Mashed Potatoes for a crowd.
    Ingredients: 5lbs peeled and skinned white potatoes, the cheaper ones. Nothing special, buy in a bag.
    2 sticks of butter (I use Unsalted butter all the time – if you have salted butter decrease the added salt)
    about 12ounces of sour cream
    2tsp of salt
    1/2 tsp of pepper
    (NO MILK – forget the milk.)
    Peel potatoes and place in a stock pot covered with water, boil until fork tender. My stove takes 20 minutes. Drain in a colander. Place potatoes in a mixer.
    Add ONE stick butter, quartered to melt faster, sour cream, salt and pepper.
    Go slowly, mix but don’t kill it, overmix, and turn to soup.
    Dump all the mashed potatoes into a “PAMMED” (“to Pam” is a verb in our house) casserole dish. Cut up the other stick of butter and use about 6TBSP to dot the top.
    Stick the whole thing in a microwave – UNCOVERED. (If you cover the potatoes, the steam condenses and comes back to the potatoes, making them soupy – I’ve killed my fair share of potatoes)

    When you’re ready to serve, microwave the mashed potatoes for 4 minutes on high, blend in pan. Steamy hot mashed potatoes, every single time, and no worries about one dish being ready way before others are ready. Makes it easy on the cook.

    Garnish with Chives if you have them, but your husband will eat these mashed potatoes out of a shoe.

  4. Killer Carrots – So good, my kids eat the leftovers, cold, on a vegetable platter.
    5lbs of carrots, peeled and sliced.
    1/2 cup of Brown sugar
    6TBSP of butter
    1tsp of ginger
    I use an 8 quart stock pot for 5lbs of carrots. Cover carrots, just barely, with REAL orange juice, not condensed and reconstituted.
    Boil on med-high, until al dente, about 17 minutes on my stove.
    Make this the LAST dish to place on the buffet, because they will cool off faster than other casseroles.
    They are outstanding and taste like “healthy” candy, even when they’re cold.

  5. Daughn’s Dip – I’ve made the mortgage payment selling this dip.
    Started out as an accident, turned into a generational winner.
    Note: Look for a sour cream with an expiration date in January. Mix up several batches and the dip will last all the way through the holidays. GREAT time saver for drop in guests. We’ll make 5lbs at a time and sell by the pint.

    Recipe for a 16oz container of Sour Cream (one batch).
    16ounces of real sour cream, do NOT buy low fat, it has too much water in it. Open container and pour off any liquid on top.
    1 package of Ranch Dip Mix (but it’s too much, only use 2/3-3/4 of the package.)
    Stuffed Handful of fresh grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 1/2 cups (smooshed), be generous.
    8-12 drops of Hot sauce, anything will do, I use LA Avery Island. (for a double batch, I shake bottle hard, three times, and call it a day)
    1/2—3/4tsp of pepper
    Mix and let it sit overnight.
    Cover and refrigerate. Mix again in the morning.

    Great for any chip or vegetable. Husband uses it as a substitute for mayonnaise for leftover grilled chicken sandwich.

  6. Andouille Cheese Grits Dressing with Crawfish Gravy (recipe for 8, doubles/triples well)

    This is our family preferred dressing, but please use yours if more comfortable. The REAL KILLER is the Crawfish Gravy.

    Here is the Dressing Recipe, first:
    First do the grits, which are the cracker crumbs normal people use.
    3 1/2 Cups of Chicken Broth + 1 Cup Water + 1 1/2 cups of quick grits
    1/4tsp of red pepper or 1tsp of Zatarain’s Crab Boil
    1 Cup (smooshed) High quality sharp Cheddar Cheese.
    Bring the broth to a boil, add grits, cover, reduce heat, 7 minutes stirring a couple times. Add the cheese, crab boil, until cheese is melted.
    Spoon into a 13″x9″ casserole, cover and chill overnight.
    In the morning, loosen the edges, cut grits into 3/4″ pieces. Grease (Crisco) a jelly roll pan and place grits, single layer, into a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Toss and turn the grits at this point. Bake another 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven.
    Note: Keep the kids and husbands out of them, they taste like gourmet Fritos. Really good.
    These will serve as your cracker crumbs for stuffing.

    Next is the stuffing mix:
    12 Ounces of Andouille Sausage, cook in a skillet about 5 minutes.
    Add 6 Ounces of fresh shucked oysters (drained and quartered) Cook another 5 minutes until sausage is done and oyster liquid is gone and edges start to curl. Remove sausage/oysters from pan. Dab out excess grease but do NOT clean the pan.
    Back the heat down to medium and add:
    2 Celery Ribs – diced
    1 Medium Onion – diced
    1 Red Bell Pepper – diced
    1tsp (heaping) minced garlic.
    Saute until tender, deglazing the drippings from the pan.
    Remove from heat and chop up,
    1/4Cup fresh Parsley

    In a large bowl, combine sauteed vegetables, Andouille sausage/Oysters, grits, parsley.
    Crack and whip
    2 Eggs whipped, and blend it all together.
    Turn whole mixture into a “Pammed” casserole dish. Cook at 350 degrees. I do 20 minutes covered and 20 minutes uncovered.

    It’s supposed to be for the stuffing, but it can be a meal when ladled over mashed potatoes or leftover turkey.
    (One Recipe makes 4 Cups, I usually do 4X’s recipe and make it the day ahead)
    Ingredients for ONE recipe:
    6TBSP of unsalted butter
    1lb of peeled and cooked crawfish tails. (Do not chop them)
    1 large shallot (I use a half of a small onion) pureed into thick soup texture
    1 Celery Rib (puree with the onion)
    2 Cloves garlic (about 1heaping tsp fresh minced – puree with the celery/onion)
    1/4Cup of flour + a pinch (all purpose)
    2 Cups of Chicken Broth
    1/2 cup of Good White Wine (the kind you are serving, preferably)
    1tsp of Zatarain’s Crab Boil
    1 Bay leaf (I use 3-4)
    1 1/2tsp of ground thyme
    1/4tsp of fresh ground pepper.

    Melt the butter on medium heat and saute the crawfish for 3-4 minutes (they will curl). Remove the crawfish but DO NOT CLEAN THE PAN. Add onion/celery/garlic for another 6-7 minutes until tender.
    Now, we’re going to “Make a Roux” and you will never have lumpy gravy again. It sounds fancy, but it’s easy. Back down the heat to med – low, so we can go slowly.
    Add the flour to the pan. With a strong wisk, mix the butter/onion/garlic with the flour. What we’re going to do is “cook” the flour to a slight tan. It will take about 10-12 minutes but constantly whisk and move the ingredients around the pan.
    Add the 1/2 Cup of wine and with your whisk, incorporate the liquid into the solids.
    You’re doing great!!
    Now slowly add the chicken broth, Don’t DUMP, because it’s too hard to whisk, go slowly, and incorporate the liquid as you go.
    Add the Crab boil, thyme, bay leaf, pepper.
    Well done.
    Now, bring the temperature back up to a medium, whisking fairly constantly, for about 7 minutes until it thickens, slightly.
    Add the crawfish, turn over carefully, and you’re done.
    Refrigerate asap.
    Pick out the bay leaf in the morning.
    Next day, I will usually warm it in a crockpot on low (saves a burner on the stove and keeps the gravy warm without fussing.) If you warm it in a pan on stovetop, you may need a little more chicken broth, or half glass of wine will work just fine.

  7. Here’s the Prime Rib

    This is for Plain Jane – “How to cook the Prime Rib, from Karl, the old Milwaukee Butcher.” I received this recipe in the early 90’s, and we’ve done it this way for decades in our home with great success. Tried and true recipe = no fear.

    The size of the roast makes no difference. Have Rib Roast at room temp; season well. Place in a preheated 375 degree oven and roast for one hour.
    Then, turn oven off.

    DO NOT open the door for any reason.

    Roast may sit this way for 4-5 hours. Turn oven back on when ready to serve. Roast 30 minutes for rare, and 40 minutes for medium rare.

    Carve and serve at once.

    Note: I take the Prime Rib out of the fridge, season with salt and pepper and fresh minced garlic….. then spray well with PAM, which seals juices and makes a nice crust. I let the roast stand on the counter for about an hour to rise to room temp, THEN put it in the oven on a rack with pan underneath. That way you get a crust, all the way around.

  8. Okay, I have to give you all the killer recipe for Christmas Morning. Occasionally, I will make this for guests. Since I found the recipe in 1989, I’ve never had leftovers when serving it. It’s a win, every time.

    Scratch Corned Beef and Hash.

    The secret is in the prep of the Corned Beef.
    Buy a packaged corned beef at the store (I’ll do two at a time). Throw it into a crockpot and discard the juice from the packet. It will come with a seasoning packet. Add that to the crockpot. Cover with about 3-4 beers, I use Budweiser or whatever is in the house. Add:
    1TBSP each of Mustard seed, Minced Garlic, Dill Seed, and
    about 1/2tsp of pepper (no salt)
    Turn the crock pot on low, in another room, for about 18 hours – ON LOW.
    Remove the corned beef from the crockpot and place on a board with drain catch. Cover with a towel for about 15-20 minutes.
    If any fat remains on an edge, trim and discard.
    The result is perfectly lean corned beef.
    Cut into slices about 3/8″ thick and it will fall apart, into fine shavings.
    I do this a day before, or a week/month before and freeze it.

    To assemble the “Hash”
    2cups loaded of Corned Beef Shavings.
    1 medium onion, pureed
    3-4 Potatoes, skin on, cut into cubes, about 3/4″
    3-6 Cups of beef broth (I put the cubes into a big glass measuring cup, add 6 cups of water, and microwave for two minutes, cuz I’m never sure how much I will need).
    4 Tablespoons of butter.
    A big broad sided skillet with a cover. I use a 15″ chicken fryer with scooped edge.
    4-8 eggs, depending on how big your skillet is.
    DO NOT add any more seasonings, salt/pepper, anything, it doesn’t need anything.

    Melt the better and add onion, cook on medium for about 3-4 minutes.
    Add the potatoes and toss with the onions. Let them cook on medium for about 5 minutes, uncovered. Toss with hard metal spatula.
    Add the Corned Beef (more is better), and mix.
    Add enough beef broth to almost cover the mixture (don’t drown it).
    COVER the pan. Lower heat to medium low for about 15 minutes. Potatoes should be about 1/2 done at this point.
    Uncover and hard scrap bottom, turning and tossing. You might need a little more broth, but go a half cup at a time.
    Cover for another 10 minutes. Uncover, stir and toss, and taste test a potato. Are they done? Is the beef broth almost completely absorbed?
    Do they need 5 more minutes?
    You’re ready for the eggs.
    Make an indentation in the mixture with the back of a spoon, and drop a cracked egg into the indentation.
    Moving around the skillet like a clock, fit in as many eggs as you can, crack them carefully to not break yolk. Work quickly to get the eggs in at roughly the same time.
    About 5 minutes and the eggs will be done.

    Flat pancake spatula to remove to plates, like you’re removing lasagna from a pan, with the egg in one piece.

    This is almost like a lumberman’s breakfast. MEN love it. All it needs is strong coffee, OJ, and maybe fruit to lighten it up.

    Get out of the way of the men.

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