Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Madness

25 Nov


The Thanksgiving table!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Our meal was excellent, and both our stomachs and our fridge are still completely stuffed. Everyone in the family put in some cooking time, but since Father Spice is in charge of the turkey we thought we’d let him do a special guest post. And though the store-bought chocolate pecan pie was rather good, my Godmother Marcia was kind enough to send along her recipe, which I will definitely be trying next time. It is posted below! Hope everyone’s Thanksgivings were full of good food and company, and now here’s Father Spice– Gina

Getting everything ready to go

Part of the fun of Thanksgiving for us, as the girls have said, is to mix up European stuff with American traditions, which is what we do with the turkey. We always cook the turkey (at both Thanksgiving and Christmas) in the French style, which involves… well, you’ll see.

The bird about to go in

The first step is to make a turkey stock, so at noon I sautéed the giblets, neck, liver, the works, in some olive oil, with a whole onion and a couple of small bayleaves. Seasoned, chucked in a few peppercorns, about a liter of water, brought to the boil and simmered. Cleaned the bird and seasoned it inside and out, rubbed the skin with soy sauce and dotted a little butter over it.

While the stock was simmering, I got to work on my stuffing. I have no idea what American stuffing is made of – bread, I guess (we use bread in a different way, as you will see.) Anyway, it tastes like wet wool. So we do two proper ones. Mother Spice had made hers, which is all about prunes and chestnuts, last night. Mine is based on sweet Italian sausage with herbs. (Recipe below.)

Sausage stuffing in the works

The nice thing about Thanksgiving is that the rituals remind you of the past. Like, I chopped my herbs for the stuffing in a neat little spice chopper that our friend (and GingerSpice #2 godfather) Mike gave us at Thanksgiving 11 years ago. That was the first and only time we ate deep-fried turkey, at a neighbor’s house. Don’t think we’ll repeat that experiment, though I did like having a cigar with the men-folk over the deep fryer, though to be honest I like having a cigar pretty much any time. Anyway, having thought about Mike I thought about my first Thanksgiving, with my friend Marcia (a GingerSpice #2 godmother) in Evanston, Ill., in 1974. So I called her while the stuffing was cooking and she emailed over her recipe (Marcia is an ace baker) for chocolate and pecan pie.

Father Spice demonstrates how to stick cloves in an onion, for bread sauce

When the stuffing was done I stuck it in the big cavity ,then turned the bird upside down and stuffed the other end with the prune and chestnut, knitting everything in place with strategically placed skewers. Then I placed the bird in a deep roasting pan, poured stock around it until it was about an inch deep and covered the whole thing in a tightly-fitting foil tent. (With this method, you’re really steaming the turkey for three hours, then you take off the tent of foil and let the bird brown for an hour or so.) I’d preheated the oven to 350 degrees, and stuck in the bird at 1.00.

Father Spice prepares to carve the turkey

That done, I turned to my other job at Thanksgiving , which is to make bread sauce, a traditional English accompaniment to poultry and game. Now, I’m prepared to concede, this doesn’t sound that exciting. In fact, The Constance Spry Cookery Book, which was first published in 1956 and is something of a Bible in our house, is brutally frank when it comes to bread sauce. “Flavourless, lumpy or unseasoned, it can be unpleasant, and because it is a homely sauce if often carries all these defects.” The sauce should be “neither sloppy not stodgy,” admonishes Constance, while warning that if you don’t get things right “the whole affair can take on the texture of a poultice.” But if you follow my recipe below, you’ll be more than fine – and discover that the creamy sweetness of a good bread sauce is the perfect compliment to tart cranberries as an accompaniment to turkey.

One plate of food...

... and one of pie!

Sausage stuffing


1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 medium onion

2 stalks celery

1 apple, preferably tart (Bramley perfect, but hard to get in US)

Sage and other herbs

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1 or 2 eggs


Chop the onion, celery and apple finely. In a heavy frying pan, soften the onion in the olive oil, then add the celery, apple and sausage. Season with salt and pepper. Chop a good handful of sage with a bit of whatever other fresh herbs you have to hand in the garden (I used thyme and marjoram) and stir into the mixture. Cook over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, being careful to ensure that the mixture doesn’t brown. Drain it thoroughly of all fat, leave to cool, and then bind the mixture together with an egg, or two of them if you’ve got them from the farmer’s market and they’re small. Stuff into turkey’s large cavity.

Bread sauce


Four thick slices of good farmhouse bread, preferably a little stale

1 medium onion

1 pint of milk

About 12 cloves


Cayenne pepper


A decent knob of butter

As much heavy cream as you need


Peel the onion and stick it with the cloves.  Place the onion and bayleaf in a pan with the milk, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Don’t let it boil over. Turn the bread into breadcrumbs however you want – I use a food-processor. Take the onion and bayleaf out of the milk and stir the breadcrumbs in. Add a decent seasoning of salt and pepper, a knob of butter and a generous pinch of cayenne. Then get your nutmeg – I’m still using a bunch I got from Grenada (whose flag has a nutmeg on it) in 1982, and they’re super nutmeggy. Grate as much of it as you like into the mixture – I like lots – stir and cool. As the sauce cools it will look like wallpaper paste. Don’t panic! When you come to reheat it, add a big dollop of heavy cream, and keep adding it until the mixture starts burping like one of the geyser beds in Yellowstone. Or New Zealand, I suppose, but I’ve never seen those. That’s when you know it’s ready. Serve piping hot with the turkey.

Chocolate Pecan Pie (Courtesy Marcia)


2 ounces (2 squares )unsweetened chocolate)…You can use the supermarket kind or a more fancy pants chocolate… just remember UN sweetened.
3 Tablespoons butter

1 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 and 1/2  cups pecans. Marcia uses a cup pecan halves and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a 9″ pie plate with pastry and crimp edges
Mix the sugar and the corn syrup together and boil for two minutes undisturbed.. take off heat. Add the chocolate and butter and stir until they have melted.  Let cool slightly..beat the eggs in a medium large bowl….pour the syrup mixture over the eggs slowly,   stirring constantly the whole time (you don’t want to cook the eggs).  Add the vanilla and pecans and turn the mixture into the prepared pie plate. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the pie is completely puffed across the top, and the crust is browned. Don’t overcook as you want that nice gooey center. The pie will deflate as it cools..this is OK..serve with whipped cream.


Pies, Pies, Pies

24 Nov

The Ginger Spices with their finished pies

One of the things I love most about coming home is that my friends at home bake just as much as I do. Instead of getting together to watch movies or whatever it is most teenagers do, in High School we would usually make cookies or a cake or something whenever we were hanging out. So of course, when I found out

Megan brought her own ingredients. And zester.

that my friend Megan was going to be home on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as well, I proposed a pie bake-off. This basically meant that Roxie, Megan, and I all gathered in our kitchen to simultaneously make pies, which predictably turned out rather crazy. We ran out of sugar, and I think we’ll need to pick up some more butter before the real Thanksgiving cooking begins. There was pie crust being rolled out on every surface and manic pleas for another clean mixing bowl, but somehow we got three pies in the oven safely and they all look delicious. Unfortunately, we can’t actually judge the bake-off until after tomorrow—but seeing as both families are only having four or five people at their dinner, and three pies each, I’m sure we’ll have some leftovers to trade.

Gina: "Wait, I have to look serious while I'm peeling"

Roxie was planning on trying to make a pecan pie this year, but our mother bought a pecan chocolate pie the other day so, alas, she will have to conquer that next year.  Instead she made a Nantucket cranberry pie, which is not so much of a traditional pie as it is lots of sugar piled over cranberries with cake batter on top.  Whatever it is, she already ate too much of the batter because it tasted so good and now reports that she feels slightly sick.

Roxie putting the finishing touches on her pie.

I am making an apple cream pie with a pecan crumble topping and many decadent things like heavy cream as well as sugar, eggs, etc, and Megan is making a lemon meringue pie.  I made the all-butter crust Roxie posted here previously for both of these pies, although after making it I started worrying about the fact that Megan’s Aunt Heather is a baker and will be very judgmental about my crust. I also made it in a food processor instead of by hand, but it looked like it came out pretty well. We par-baked Megan’s pie crust while she was furiously making the lemon curd, which was scary but seemed to work.  We covered it with foil and put beans in the crust for the first 20 minutes, and then took off the foil and let it brown for another 10 minutes.  Although it puffed up a bit, I am confident by the look of the end product that everything has worked out fine.

Megan furiously stirs the lemon curd

Amazingly, even though the kitchen looked like a tornado of sugar and flour for a couple of hours, it is all cleaned up now in preparation for the storm of cooking our family will be doing tomorrow.  We will be posting some pictures of the madness tomorrow, as well as a possible Father Spice guest post.  Happy cooking (and eating) everyone!

Here are the recipes we used:
Megan’s Lemon Meringue Pie

Roxie’s Nantucket Cranberry Pie (She used hazelnuts instead of pecans to avoid pecan-overload)

Gina’s Apple Pie

Apple-pear Pie and Other Thanksgiving Nonsense

19 Nov

Apple-pear pie. Yes please.

We in the Ginger Spice household love Thanksgiving.  Behind Christmas it is definitely the most elaborately celebrated holiday in our family, despite the fact that both of the parental types are 100% British/Scottish/Welsh, and had no idea what Thanksgiving was until they moved to the US  twenty odd years ago. (Ok, they probably had some idea what it was. Father Spice wrote a book on American history. Or something. Should probably read that one of these days.)  Being that they didn’t grow up with Thanksgiving you would think we wouldn’t make such a big deal of the holiday.  But instead it has grown into a hybrid American-British affair, and we have been able to create traditions of our own.  For example, I somehow don’t think that having an annual “Port Report” where we drink various ports at the end of the meal and then comment on things like it’s clarity and depth of flavor, is part of a traditional Thanksgiving.  But it’s pretty fun.  Less fun are the history quizzes and being forced to memorize 16th century poetry while slaving away over the cranberry sauce.

Artfully arranged Thanksgiving ingredients

Tonight I am hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at my apartment for friends before we all head out of DC for the real deal next week.  Both my roommate and I like to cook, so we split up the dishes and are even taking on making a turkey, once I can get the courage to take it out of the fridge and wrestle it into a pan.  Since we are basically making a full on Thanksgiving meal, we started the grocery shopping/preparations on Tuesday, so all we have left to do today is make stuffing, vegetables, sweet potatoes and the turkey.  All of these are pretty simple so I’m not too worried about getting everything done in time, and we already have mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and apple-pear pie completed.

I know there is a lot of to brine or not to brine debate out there, but we bought a Trader Joes kosher turkey, which isn’t brined but according to the package is salted in a similar way to being brined.  At home we have never brined our turkey and it always turns out just fine. We use a so called “French method” of cooking the turkey (because clearly we have to be a bit European), which includes putting chicken stock in the base of the pan and covering the bird with foil until the last hour.  I was a bit worried about figuring out when it’s fully cooked, as we are clearly not investing money in a meat thermometer over say, more wine, but Father Spice has said for a 13 pound turkey I should leave it in for 3 1/2 hours, and “the best way to test is to put a skewer or thin knife deep into the thigh meat, leave it there for 10 seconds, and then put it on the back of your hand. It should be hot enough that you don’t want to leave it there! (ie, not quite “ouch!” but more than tepid.)” Thanks Dad! I knew he was useful for something.

Pie just before putting it in the oven. Look at my fancy lattice-ing!

Last night I made an apple-pear pie, and I’ll put the recipe below.  I used an all-butter crust because I didn’t feel like going out and buying shortening, and judging by the smells coming from my oven it worked out pretty well.  Pies are actually not too difficult to make, even the crust- I made the crust the night before because it needs to chill anyway, and then all I had to do yesterday was chop the fruit and roll out the dough and put it all together.  If you don’t have a pastry cutter or food processor I’ve always had success just rubbing the butter and flour between your fingers to get the mixture to form crumbs.  I’m also putting our recipe for candied yams/sweet potatoes below, and these are Pioneer Woman’s delicious mashed potatoes that I made.  In case you were wondering, I have used roughly 4 sticks of butter in the past two days of cooking, and need to go to the store this morning to buy more for the turkey and sweet potatoes.  So for anyone planning on eating all of this food tonight, you have been warned.

Apple Pear Pie

Equipment: Pie pan, rolling pin, pastry cutter/food processor (optional), knife

For the crust: this is the crust I use, I swear it’s not that scary: Really yummy easy pie dough

For the filling:
3 Macintosh or other sweet apples
2 Granny Smith or other tart apples
2 Pears
3/4 Cup plus one tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Teaspoon plus one pinch cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 400 F.  For the filling, peel and core the fruit, and cut into quite thin slices (I cut each apple quarter into 4s, and had roughly the same size pear slices).  Toss fruit with flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla, lemon juice and zest, and leave in bowl while you prepare the crust.  Roll the crust out until it is about 1/2 inch thick, making sure to flour both the surface and the rolling pin quite a bit throughout the process.  Roll the dough over the rolling pin and place in a greased pie pan, trim excess and pile fruit and juices into the crust.  If making a double crusted pie, roll out the second half of the dough, place over, cut vents into the top, and seal with a fork around the edges.  For a lattice top pie, cut the dough into strips and weave them into a lattice (here’s a tutorial).  Seal the edges with a fork, and brush the top of the pie with the milk, then sprinkle with the extra sugar and cinnamon.  Place in the oven and reduce temperature to 375 F.  Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, tenting with foil if the top is browning too quickly.  When you take it out the crust should be golden and the filling bubbling.

Candied Yams/Sweet Potatoes

Equipment: Big pot, baking dish, knife

6 Sweet potatoes
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Cup dark brown sugar
1/2 Cup water
4 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Cook potatoes in jackets in boiling salted water until nearly tender, drain, peel, and cut into slices ½ inch thick.  Place in greased shallow baking dish and sprinkle with salt. Cook together sugar, water, butter in a pan for several minutes, stir in lemon juice and pour mixture over potatoes. Bake in preheated oven at 375 for 20-25 minutes, basting occasionally with syrup.