Friday, November 22, 2013

food on friday: we gather together

Thanksgiving is next Thursday. I'm not sure how that escaped me. Until a few days ago, I thought we still had a week to go. So this is the last Friday before Thanksgiving, and it's Food on Friday, so let's talk about Thanksgiving food.

I'm among the many who could do without the turkey. I'm not a vegetarian, but turkey takes up too much room on the plate when there are so many other good things to choose from. Sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing, corn casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, what am I leaving out? It's all good.

For years now we've joined together with several other families in our neighborhood for Thanksgiving. It can be tricky to do a major holiday with other families, because you never know exactly how to mesh traditions. And Thanksgiving is all about food traditions. Somebody volunteers to bring the mashed potatoes and then uses instant, which would be a hanging offense at my house, but I'm told that some people can't taste the difference. Which always just makes me shake my head, because how can you not tell the difference? I've had instant that were OK, but they are definitely not the same.

But fortunately I am the least proficient cook in this group, and nobody would bring instant mashed potatoes, so we're good on that front. In fact, I'm probably the most suspect (I bet you're really suprised) because I use the rolled up pie crusts in the red box and always have. So shoot me. I usually make 5 or 6 pies every year, and who the heck wants to make that many homemade pie crusts?

I started feeling a bit guilty about it last year, though, so I decided that this year I would try making at least one homemade pie crust. I was going to practice all fall so that I would be good at it by the time Thanksgiving rolled around. You can probably guess how that went--it's less than a week until Turkey Day and I'm not even sure where my rolling pin is.

At our house, the bare essentials--the things we absolutely must have--are: real mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, grape salad, and pie. There are lots of other things we like --and come to think of it, Dean and MadMax would probably insist on turkey-- but those are the things without which we would feel cheated. Although we could probably make do in a pinch with just pie. We all have a different favorite pie, so that means I usually end up making four or five. At a minimum, apple, pumpkin, cherry, and chocolate pecan, and also usually an experimental one. A couple of years ago I tried a cranberry walnut recipe that was great but I haven't ever been able to find it again.

So of our essential items, probably grape salad is the one you don't have a recipe for, so I will give you mine. I'm just helpful like that. Grape Salad is in the same class of foods as jello salad, but slightly (ever so slightly) more sophisticated. It's one of those odd recipes that seems like nothing the first time you try it, but then the next time you think, hmmmm, this is pretty good. Then you find yourself sneaking in the day after Thanksgiving just to get another little taste of it, and after awhile, it is essential to Thanksgiving. I originally got the recipe from my younger sister.

THE Grape Salad

3 lbs seedless red grapes
1 bag fresh cranberries
3/4 C sugar
1 C whipping cream
2 T powdered sugar

The night before, wash and halve the grapes (this is a great job to give to a kid who wants to help--as long as they're old enough to be safe with a knife, of course). Rinse the cranberries well, then pulse them in a food processor until you have cranberry bits, but not so long that you have cranberry mush. Stir together the grapes, cranberries, and sugar, cover and let sit overnight. The next day, drain off most of the syrup. Whip the cream, gradually adding the powdered sugar. Gently fold the whipped cream into the grape/cranberry mixture and serve. It will hold for an hour or two, but after that, even though it still tastes great, it starts to look a little funky.

1 comment:

  1. I have made my own version of this salad so many times now that I can't even count them. And all because you told me last year about the family grape salad. What a terrific legacy.

    (Also? HOLY CRAP, has it been a year already?!)