Thursday, November 24, 2016

Our Traditional Thanksgiving

James doesn't really like turkey. He figures 50 (or so or more over the years) is all any person needs to eat and so we've decided to move onto our own favorites. Okay -- if we have guests we still pull out all the stops and make turkey with all the trimmings (and I love doing it) -- a spread that could make a pilgrim blush. But, when it's just the two of us, as it is this year, we have our own tradition.
November marks the start of Dungeness crab season in Northern California. Though I grew up on summers filled with Eastern blue crab, as a Californian now I think my heart belongs to the winter crab. 
Our homemade Thanksgiving tradition is roasted Dungeness crab, crusty bread, roasted red potatoes, and because James loves it (if we can find it) corn on the cob.
To make the crab marinade, in the food processor  I blend together toasted, crushed fennels seeds (2tsp), parsley (1 bunch), thyme (3-4 sprigs), garlic (2 cloves), red pepper flakes (1 tsp), and plenty of olive oil (2/3 cup). Tossed in the flavorful mixture our crab sits in the fridge for a couple hours waiting to be roasted for just 20 minutes at 400º. I half-bake the potatoes so I can just toss them on the baking tray with the crab to soak up a little extra flavor.
To be honest I miss the big day of cooking. So this year, instead of buying our favorite bread from MH Bread and Butter in San Anselmo I added a little fun project for me and whipped up a couple toasty baguettes. Lately I've been using a simple recipe based on one from Daniel Leader's Bread Alone, at least as reported by Farmgirl Fare. Pretty easy, pretty foolproof, and still impressive.
 For dessert, though it's kind of a joke for us, sweet potato pie. James used to call me sweet potato pie and I hang onto the pie tradition I guess as a nod to the old days -- oh, and because it's delicious. Yes I know, it's uber-pinteresty and too cute for words but I still love the mason jar pie. These little jars make a perfect single serving, store easily, and can be ready in a flash when James just needs a little pie.
Pie crust? I've been making the same one for years. It's flaky, rich, and it never fails. 2 cups flour, 12 TB butter, 3 TB lard, 1 TB sugar, 1/2 tsp salt pulsed together in the food processor until -- as they say -- it resembles coarse sand. Then I sprinkle in 3-3 1/2 TB ice water and pulse till the dough just starts to pull away from the sides of the container. The dough chills, wrapped in wax paper and plastic for at least an hour.
I blind bake the little crusts in my jars for 15 minutes at 375º and then add my filling -- 3 cups mashed roasted sweet potato (I pop them in the oven the night before then peel and mash when it's time for pie). 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (the extra is awesome in morning coffee),  1 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, a splash of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and 2 TB melted butter all mixed together, spooned into the waiting crusts and baked for about 25 minutes at 375º.
James may forget why I make them, but he loves that I make them.
Happy Thanksgiving 2016. Another traditional untraditional year.

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