Thursday, November 13, 2008

T-Day minus 15


this morning when i got to work and looked at the calendar i was dismayed to see that it is already November 12th. i ask you, where did 2008 go? it surely felt like a blur. and i dont know if i have anything to show for it.

after what seemed like an exceedingly long day at work, i came home for a tryst with the elliptical machine, then gave myself a well-deserved glass of wine and sat in a bubble bath accompanied by Nigella Lawson's Feast. the boy gave me this book a few years back, and i know that i read through it at the time, but had completely forgotten about it. so i sat back and read her first chapter about Thanksgiving and Christmas. after a few minutes reading, it was all i could do to remain in the bath and not rush out, getting foamy footprints all over the carpet. that one chapter got me in the mood for Thanksgiving; it was like a shot of B-12 or a heavy dose of Nyquil without the sluggish after effect. in fact, i feel quite sane and awake right now. i know it's a bit early for it (although the tv ads have beaten me to it), but today i suddenly feel like we've started the 2008 holiday season, and i don't feel too badly about it being so early.

like a lot of cooks, our Thanksgiving menu doesn't vary that much year to year. there may be the occasional addition of something, or removal of a dish that wasn't too popular in previous years; but for the most part our menu has remained the same. i'm willing to bet yours hasnt changed much either in a few years. if you're new at this, welcome! welcome to a lifetime of treasured memories. some will be good, some may not be, but it definitely won't be boring. one year you might find yourself in charge of the meal and you'll have no help. you will look at a room full of faces, all turned towards you, eager and / or doubtful. and you'll get scared, and you'll think, "There is no way in fucking hell that i'm going to pull this off". i'm telling you right now, you will pull it off. be confident. and if something funny should happen, like oh say for instance you forgot to pull out the baggie of innards from the inside of the turkey before shoving it in the oven, you will laugh at that memory in years to come. it may not seem so funny at the time (and you probably wish that the ground would open up and swallow you whole) but i guarantee that you will not forget that particular thanksgiving ever again. and what is life without memories? they definitely keep me entertained when i'm on one of my interminable deployment calls in the middle of the night.

for the next couple of weeks leading up to T-Day i've decided to post some of the recipes of dishes that i know shall make it on my Thanksgiving table this year. i may or may not have pictures for each dish; after all, i only started taking pictures of food about two years ago and it's sometimes hard not to dig in without commemorating the moment. i oftentimes purposely don't take pictures of a dish because i'm famished and want to eat Right Now, and then regret my decision 15 minutes later (like the red cabbage braised in red wine that the boy made the other night. sigh). so i'll do the best that i can.

i love this particular combination of roasted shallots and cranberries. i'm more inclined towards savory dishes rather than sweet, so when i saw Andrea Immer make this on the Fine Living channel a few years back, i felt obligated to try it. however, she calls for 18 whole roasted shallots, which seem like a lot even for an allium lover like me. and just to make sure i wasn't totally deranged, i ran this recipe by my mom last year, who also agreed that it seemed like a lot of shallot (it's not often that we are in agreement so i take it where i can get it).

you can make this recipe a few days in advance, and i urge you to do so because i feel that a cold stay in the fridge melds the flavors well together.

roasted shallot and cranberry sauce
, adapted from Andrea Immer Robinson

8 or 9 shallots, peeled and cut into quarters
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup red wine
2/3 cup ruby port
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
one of those bags of fresh cranberries from the produce aisle
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss shallots with oil, thyme, and liberal amounts of salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet or cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown and start to smell yummy, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Drizzle one tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar over shallots and toss to coat. Continue roasting until shallots caramelize, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine the wine, port, brown sugar, remaining four tablespoons of vinegar and sugar, and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries; cook until berries pop, stirring occasionally, about eight minutes. Mix in parsley (if using) and shallots. Transfer to bowl with tight fitting lid, and chill overnight.

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