Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Borrowed recipes with a twist

We celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend. There's no big story associate with Canadian Thanksgiving - no pilgrims, etc...As far as I know, it's just a day set aside to celebrate bringing the harvest in. I like to think of it as taking time to celebrate what we have, family, friends, and yes, food.

I love the food we eat at Thanksgiving, right down to the Brussels sprouts. Years ago, when I was vegetarian, turkey was one of the foods I missed the most. The foods my family eats are mostly not the recipes I grew up with. The cranberry sauce I remember from my childhood came from a tin (I remember being particularly impressed when it kept its shape, a stumpy jewel-red log, complete with ridges.) We didn't have pumpkin pie, we had apple pie. And the potatoes were mashed rather than roasted. But over the years, we've built our own traditions, including our own favourite foods.

Recipes have to come from somewhere. Just because they aren't treasured family recipes passed down from generation to generation, doesn't mean they can't become part of family tradition. Here are a few of my family's favourites:

Beauty paste:

This is the recipe I learned from my mother, though I suspect it comes from the Madam Benoit cookbook she had when I was growing up. I have no idea why it's called a beauty paste, but it pretty much guarantees that your turkey will come out of the oven with lovely burnished skin. You can also use it on chicken, and for roast beef. Sorry for the vague measures, but family recipes tend to go by feel.

a couple of tablespoons of softened butter
about half a teaspoon dry mustard (or you can use Dijon mustard)
salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients. Dab liberally onto turkey, after you've already rinsed, dried and trussed it. Roast the turkey following your usual instructions (we like to put it in at the broil setting for the first five minutes, and then turn the heat down to 325C.)

Cranberry sauce

This recipe comes from "Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant," by the Moosewood Collective (Fireside Books) a book I bought when I was vegetarian, and still use regularly. The recipe is really easy, embarrassingly so, as it seems so impressive. My personal twist is that I am generous with the spices and go light on the maple syrup.

12 oz. (about 4 c.) fresh cranberries
1/2 to 2/3 cup maple syrup
Freshly grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Wash and dry cranberries, removing any soft cranberries and any leaves or stems. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cranberries, maple syrup, orange zest and juice, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have popped and sauce is thick. Remove from heat and cool.

Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is the one from the back of the tin of E.D. Smith Pumpkin Purée. I have met purists who used fresh pumpkin they have boiled and drained themselves, but have never felt the need to put myself through all the extra effort. I like to double up on the spices for this recipe. As well, I don't follow their instructions for the pie crust, as I find it turns out too soggy. You can use the pre-made graham crust (I bet a chocolate graham crust would work really well.) But I like to make my own crust, so I'm including my own pie crust instructions, using a recipe I originally got from Canadian Living:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup shortening, cubed
1 egg yolk (reserve the white)
1 tsp lemon juice
ice water

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add butter and shortening and blend with a pastry cutter. In a liquid measure, beat egg yolk with lemon juice, beat in enough ice water to make 1/3 cup. Drizzle over dry ingredients and stir into dry ingredients. Press into disc. Chill.
When you're ready, to bake, preheat the oven to 400C. Roll out the dough. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the edge to 1-inch overhang. Then fold under and flute the edges. To blind bake the shell, you could line the shell with tin foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. But I don't have pie weights, and don't like the idea of wasting dried beans. So, I just prick the shell all over with a fork. It seems to work well. I bake the pie crust for about 12 minutes, until it's almost, but not quite, done. Once the pie shell is cooled, brush with the egg white. This will prevent the crust from getting soggy once you add the filling.

2 eggs
1/2 can (28 oz/796 mL) pumpkin purée
1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
3/4 cup (175 mL) evaporated milk

Beat eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Add pumpkin purée, sugar, nutmeg, ginger and salt - stir until well-combined. Blend in milk. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Cover the edges of the pie crust with tin foil. It's a little fussy, but means the crust won't burn. Bake at 425C for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350C and continue baking 30-35 minutes more. Let cool.
If you want the pie to look lovely and glossy, add a glaze, apricot jam (heated and strained) works well. What works best is a teaspoon of maple syrup, brushed on with a pastry brush.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. What are some of your favourite recipes?

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