Tasty dishes for the holiday season
Story By Kim Domick
Photos Ed Keller
In 1829, Michigan Gov., Lewis Cass, declared Nov. 4 as Michigan’s first Thanksgiving. The proclamation called upon citizens of the territory “to set aside a day to acknowledge such blessings as their civil and religious freedoms, equal and stable government, the diffusion of knowledge, advantages of education, and general prosperity.”
This proclamation was quickly embraced by the early settlers and immigrants of Monroe County. Thirty-four years later, Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation making Thanksgiving an official federal holiday.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Naturally, being a chef, I gravitate toward all food-centric occasions and cherish any time family and friends can gather around a table to share food and the pleasure of being together.
Thanksgiving is a priceless holiday that somehow escapes being bogged down by consumerism, and keeps at its core a basic theme. It is the time to take a moment to pause and give thanks for those close to us, as well as those who are far away. We thank mother nature for another season of bounty and take time to give thanks to whatever higher power you believe in. It is a blessing to just have another year.
You don’t have to stage your own personal Norman Rockwell dining scene, although to me, this is the one time of the year that I think deserves the good china and a well-set table. A true family Thanksgiving really needs no more accoutrements other than an actual family, be they blood relatives or strangers that will soon be friends. It needs no more than a plate from which to eat. The most beautiful thing about Thanksgiving is the sentiment. However, if you do have silver you don’t mind polishing, this is the day. If you do have chairs, this is the day to sit in them. If you have cloth napkins, this is the time to decide you really do like to iron and be thankful you can.
Many of the old menus from hotels and restaurants in the 1900s in Michigan offered lavish Thanksgiving meals that started with turtle consommé and ended with mince pie. Almost every menu included a relish tray and a stuffed roasted young turkey. In Monroe, we are blessed to have access to all the ingredients to create a lavish Thanksgiving meal within our county boundaries. One can purchase a fresh Amish Turkey from Danny’s Fine Foods (Orders for these delicious birds, will be taken beginning November 1). One can buy fresh vegetables aplenty from our farmer’s market. Calder’s Dairy is a wonderful local source for all of your butter, cream, milk, and buttermilk needs, and numerous local grocery stores stock everything that a buffet table would need. Many even will prepare an entire meal for customers to pick up.
This year you don’t need to really clarify a turtle consommé, but you can still bake a pie. Gov. Cass proclaimed that you should.
Southern Pecan Pie:
1 cup of dark brown sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
4 well-beaten eggs
½ tsp salt
1 stick melted butter
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans plus shelled pecan halves for garnish on top
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the eggs until they are light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter and vanilla. Beat until mixture is well incorporated. Sprinkle the chopped pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie crust in the pie pan. Pour the filling gently over the pecans. Carefully arrange pecan halves on the top of the filling. Place the dish in the center rack of the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking for 25-30 minutes. If the edges of the pie crust start to brown too quickly, crimp a small amount of aluminum foil around the outer crust. Cool completely before serving.
My Favorite Pumpkin Pie:
1 15-oz. can of pure unsweetened pumpkin
1 12-oz. can of evaporated milk
2 large well-beaten eggs
1 cup of sugar
½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1 9-inch unbaked single pie crust.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, milk, and sugar. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Add the spices, salt and eggs. Combine well and pour into the unbaked pie shell. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees, and bake the pie on a middle rack for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and continue baking for 35-40 minutes. The pie should wiggle a bit, but will continue to cook when you remove it from the oven. Cool completely before serving.