Thanksgiving this year was filled with enough ambivalence and indifference to almost not happen for me. I wanted to avoid joining the family in Queens but also be saved from guilt trips. My mother is never one to join any family gatherings as members are all from the father’s side. She’s never eaten with us for Thanksgiving or Christmas, not that these dinners were fun or entertaining or not awkward. Last year my cooking obsession was still fresh and exploratory and I wanted to show off my culinary pseudo-expertise by cooking an all American dinner for an all Korean family. This was pure recipe for disaster, I was disappointed they were disappointed that there was no rice or kimchi involved, only stuffing, potatoes, pecan pies, and standing beef roast that cost me half my rent. I vowed never to cook for them ever again, let alone join them at all for holiday feasts. Till the day before I had no solid plans and toyed with the idea of cooking for my mother. I have never cooked for my mother, my mother and I don’t get along, my mother is highly unaccepting of my lifestyle and roundabouts. But (enter therapy chair and box of tissues here) my urge to cook for her didn’t come from impressing her with my skills (maybe a little), rather a wanting of acceptance and acknowledgment that I never received from her. It’s almost a hopeless endeavor as the disconnect and miscommunication will always prevail but a non-language based gesture such as cooking was a last desparate attempt at making amends with her.
And, it worked.
There were awkward silences, which are no less awkward than having grown up with it my entire life, and there was plenty investigating-of-the-apartment going on. We live an hour away from each other but rarely go out of our way to visit each other because we are that dismissive and uncaring. And I’m OK with that to a superficial degree but I think in the end I still just want her acceptance and respect. And this can only be the first step to a bettering a non-existing mother-daughter relationship. I totally kicked ass in the kitchen.
First things first. I roasted chicken rather than turkey because it was just the three of us and I like chicken better. Apparently Bourdain poopoos on anyone who can’t roast a chicken and I’m flattered not to be in that category. It’s pretty damn easy and you don’t even need a oven thermometer. This is a no-fail recipe inspired by this video.
Roast Chicken with Compound Butter and Herbs
4lb Whole Chicken
1/2 stick butter at room temp
Couple sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
Couple sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves
Preheat oven at 400F. Combine butter, chopped thyme and rosemary, zest of lemon, and some s&p and mush together. Split in half and insert in the outer layer skin of the chicken and massage it ever so sexily. Fill cavity with lemon and its juices squeezed, garlic, and a few sprigs of the herbs. Lather the outer skin with oil, s&p. Make sure to get it on all sides. Roast for an hour. Done.
Now comes the best friggin’ mashed potatoes to have ever existed in the world. Why is that? Because there is bacon in it, naturally. This recipe is salty, creamy, smooth with a bit of spice and an amazing texture combo between the crispy bacon and the melt-in-your-mouth mashed up goodness.
Mashed Potatoes with Bacon
6 small potatoes
1 sweet potato
4 bacon slices cooked till crispy then chopped
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup ronnybrook milk
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Peel and cut taters in cubes, boil till tender and mash. Add bacon bits, butter, milk, s&p. Sample and orgasm.
(The rice is really white, it’s nighttime and terrible lighting that makes it so yellow).
Please welcome squash and red pepper pilaf. I had to add some sort of rice dish so my mother wouldn’t have to adjust too much to a non-korean feast. Although, the basmati rice would’ve weirded her out becuase it wasn’t sticky and aroma-less. The squash bugged her out as well but it’s a very sweet and texturally gratifying dish with a bit of mush and crunch to keep your palate cleansed and interested. Recipe is based on this.
Squash and Pepper Pilaf
3/4 to 1lb acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 red bell pepper, cut to 1/2 in pieces
1 cup chopped onion
2 bay leaves
1/4 olive oil
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
Cook squash, bell pepper, onion and leaves in oil with slat and pepper in heavy skillet, stirring for about 10 minutes. Add rice and stir till coated, add water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until veggies and rice are tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let covered for 10 minutes. Indulge.
And now the greens. Meet winter greens and shiitake mushrooms. They were minimally spiced and mildly braised to keep their raw integrity to a maximum. The crunch of greens and chewy mushrooms were accompanied by earthy and slightly peppery flavor. They were a great accompaniment to the chicken. Recipe based on this.
Saute Winter Greens and Shiitake Mushrooms
1lb shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps thinly sliced
3/4 cup low salt chicken broth
1 bunch braising greens
1 bunch kale
2 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
Heat oil in large skillet over high. Add mushrooms, sprinkle salt and pepper, saute until brown, about 10 min. Transfer to bowl.
Pour 1/4 cup broth into same skillet, add 1/3 of greens, sprinkle salt and pepper. Toss until wilted but still bright green, about 2minutes. Transfer to bowl with mushrooms and repeat 2 more times with remaining broth and greens. Heat oil in skillet and saute onions until beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, stir 1 minute. Add greens and mushrooms and toss to heat through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Eat.
And then there was pie. Cranberry apple crumble pie. I will admit a few discontents with this pie. It was a bit overdose on the crumbly, which made it dry on the outside with not enough moist juicy-ness inside. The cranberries were far too tart, it makes my cheeks flip inside out. But it was still pretty good. Gala apples are the way to go. After following this recipe, and I’m convinced Dorie Greenspan is the best baker in the world, her recipes never, EVER, fails to be nothing but the best.
Lastly, allow me to introduce to you, walnut date bread. This recipe was super quick and simple, no kneading or elongated waiting periods or any of that sort. I’ve been obsessed with dates lately, something I’ve never eaten before and wish I could boast as attending rather than consuming the describing word. Dates are a great alternative to gratifying the sugar craving and as I’m orally fixated the chewy stickiness is important, aside from its sweetness and indulgent thickness. The toasted crust of this bread is what boggles your mind because it stays soft enough to not break your teeth and contains a bunch of flavor in a small bite. I was very happy with this bread.
I think that’s enough food exposure for the day. Thanksgiving this year did not follow tradition. Chicken was eaten, there was no stuffing, or gravy, or cranberry sauce. And, my mother came which is very far from tradition, and I’m glad it was and is done.