When it comes to holidays, we are a family cemented to tradition. Change and innovation do not come lightly. Something as a simple as the suggestion of a change to the Christmas Eve menu has been known to cause actual rioting. So it's no surprise that on Thanksgiving, our table has always been filled with traditional fare: turkey, of course, plus gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and roughly one 9" pie for every two people in attendance. Delicious, indulgent, tryptophan-triggering? Of course. But I felt something was missing: the color green. So I asked my mom, who hosted this year's get-together, if I could bring brussels sprouts.
As I mentioned in my review of The Harrison, I love brussels sprouts. This is not an enduring affection but rather a newfound passion, still young and bright and wallowing in the puppy-love stage. You see, prior to this fall, I had never tasted brussels sprouts. Never. But we got some in our CSA one week and for me, it was love at first bite.
For Thanksgiving, I sliced three pounds of loose sprouts in to halves and roasted them with a little olive oil at 400 degrees for about forty minutes. The outsides turn dark, nearly black, but the inside becomes a soft, creamy treat. I tossed the roasted sprouts with crisped pancetta, grated parmesano-reggiano, and some lemon juice. The sprout eaters at the table were very satisfied, and I got to eat the leftovers for days.
Incidentally, this year there was another green dish: Aunt Liz's spinach casserole, which is absolutely delicious. I'm going to get the recipe from her and will write about it in a separate post soon after I do.
You may have noticed the s in the title and thought it a typo. It's not; this year, we were blessed with two Thanksgiving dinners, as my in-laws decided to push their celebration up a few weeks and have a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings in late October, to coincide with a visit from Great-Aunt Rose. The menu was similar to that at my mother's, with a few variations. Lynn, my mother-in-law, makes an awesome homemade cranberry sauce (while my side of the family is married to the canned kind). Also, because Lynn is Armenian, instead of mashed potatoes, she serves pilaf. (Pilaf holds a very special place in my husband's heart, so years ago I secured his mother's/grandmother's recipe; when he asks what's for dinner and my response includes pilaf, I'm guaranteed praise for days.)
For this early Thanksgiving dinner, I made a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and busted out my piping tips to add some old-school decorations. The pattern was not planned: I just went where the frosting took me, which was apparently back to the 1970s, as the bright orange frosting, inspired by the frosting carrots that top bakery carrot cakes, reminds me of nothing more than the orange formica countertops in the chalet my family once owned.
The carrot cake (based on this recipe -- I skipped the pineapple and used whole wheat flour) was moist and delicious and I had fun making it. My decorating skills have deteriorated, though, so I might have to start using my piping tips more often.