For us, at least.
And though we’ve made Indian Pudding a Thanksgiving tradition for years, this is the first year we’ll cook the whole dinner.
I’ll be figuring out the entire menu, which is a lot of pressure. I like meals to hang together in attitude and flavor, so will I go classic or contemporary, Pilgrim or immigrant, full country New England or sophisticated New York?
As the guest list expands, I’m adding dishes (and counting chairs and wineglasses!), which is easy for Thanksgiving–just add more sides, which I love anyway.
We’re starting with celery gimlets, baked clam dip served with artisan potato and vegetable chips and a buttermilk and crudite dip. The celery makes me think of a kitchen garden behind a Colonial home and the gimlets make me think of mid-century Dads waiting for their suburban trains in Grand Central station. The chips are Victorian Saratoga racecourse indulgences and the buttermilk is pure farmstead.
Frankly, I could not care less about the turkey. I’d just as soon do a roast beef or a bunch of chickens or a rock cornish game hen per person, but I don’t dare mess with the iconic centerpiece. But I won’t be bullied into hauling the thing around, worrying about defrosting and disease. I’ll brine it for sure–but either spatchcock the beast or talk my skilled son into boning it into an easy-to-carve ballotine.
As for the sides, there cannot be too many. There will be brussels sprouts, crushed potatoes to mush into gravy. There’s got to be some corn–a succotash–and some autumn color–roasted carrots and braised red cabbage. And something fresh–my son and I are slaw savants–he adds candied lemon peel, I swear by green apples. And a nice savory dressing of cornbread, mushroom, and sage.
I’ve already made the cranberry sauce (and added persimmon this year just because there was on sitting on the counter) and I’ll start the giardiniere pickles this week. I’ll make the pie crusts a few days before (one apple and one pear frangipane) and Parker House rolls–mine are blue ribbon winners at the County Fair–will be baked that morning.
Then I’ll stand back while more traditional cooks take on the iconic Durgin Park Indian Pudding. As much as I’d like to sneak in some candied orange peel or a few splashes of brandy, I know better. Besides, this year, putting together the whole menu will give me plenty to fuss with.