It’s time for that annual Thanksgiving ritual of the cooking & baking frenzy. I’m not even hosting the feast this year and I’m still in a tizzy over my culinary chores. I’ve signed on to bake a pumpkin pie, make a pan of dressing (it’s not stuffing unless it spent some time as turkey innards) and whip together a yam casserole.
Of course, I can’t just pick up one of those pre-made pie shells at the market. My step-dad, Harry, who taught me the finer points of perfect pie crusts, would be spinning in his grave at the thought. Yet I have this love-hate relationship with pie dough. You’ve got to get the shortening cut in just right. You can’t add too much (or too little) water. And if you muck about too much with rolling it out, you’ll end up with a tough, hardtack mess. I barely even look at my pie dough after it’s mixed, and I roll it out so gently, it never even feels the rolling pin.
Then there’s the pumpkin for the filling. Yes, I could get the canned stuff. But it is so cool to bake an actual pumpkin, peel it and moosh up the pulp, then throw that into the pie. Can anyone tell the difference after you add milk, eggs, spices and a ton of sugar? Well…what does that matter, anyway? With fresh pumpkin, you get bragging rights. People are that much more impressed with your pie.
If I’m using fresh pumpkin for the pie, I’ve got to use real yams for the yam casserole. Not that my grandma, a fabulous cook, ever did. She’d buy those canned yams and she wouldn’t even mash them the way I do. She’d dump them into a baking dish as is, throw on some brown sugar and butter, shove them in the oven until they were hot. Then she’d top them with marshmallows and call it good.
I, on the other hand, lovingly bake fresh yams, peel & moosh (see pumpkin, above), then mix in orange juice, cinnamon, ginger and brown sugar. I spread the mooshed yams into a casserole dish, heat them through, spread miniature marshmallows on top…then the real fun begins. Do you know how long it takes for miniature marshmallows to burn when you put them under the broiler? About 1.2 seconds. One moment you’re looking at white marshallows, the next, they’re black and about to burst into flame. It’s a real Thanksgiving tradition, the burning of the marshallows. One year, it took three applications of marshmallows before we got golden brown instead of black. No lie.
But the dressing should be easy, right? Well, mostly. Other than having to bake a pan of cornbread for crumbs. And cutting up bread into cubes (store bought bread–I’m not a complete masochist). Chopping celery, onions, apple. Cooking sausage. Sauteing the vegies with some fresh sage plucked out of my garden. Then mixing the whole mess together. No marshmallows required, burnt or otherwise.
That’s my day. Spending crazed hours in the kitchen. Ain’t I got some fun ahead of me?