Cooking Mara! Thanksgiving Preparations

Hooray! It’s time to show my Thanksgiving progress, some good, some bad. It’s going to be photo-heavy and explanation-light. Why? My fingers are numb: I had the windows open and it got chilly. It was a little smoky earlier from the carrots (I’ll get to that). Let’s get the bad out of the way first! I recently acquired the Flour Bakery Cookbook, and I thought wow, I am going to make my own pies for Thanksgiving, how hard can it be? Well, there’s a reason why Cooks Illustrated and Martha Stewart devote whole episodes to pies. They’re real easy to screw up. Oh, naive me… Here’s Joanne Chang’s Pate Sucrée II recipe. It was really delicious. It just shrunk a whole lot… My plan was to use this crust for her Southern Pecan Pie recipe. Pecan is my husband’s favorite pie, and being a doting wife and all, I wanted to make it. The recipe involves making caramel, making egg custard, combining the two and adding nuts, and then baking the whole thing. Easy, right? This isn’t the first pecan pie I’ve ever made, but it’s been a couple of years. Waaah! My custard curdled when I added the hot sugar mixture! I figured hey, I’ll fill it and maybe it’ll be okay! So, I worked on the filling. Who didn’t let the caramel actually turn into caramel? Meee! So, the pie didn’t ever thicken in the middle, just on the immediate outermost edges. Ah well. The crust *was* really delicious. The texture/flavor reminds me of my grandmother’s buttery Christmas cookies with egg white foam and walnuts on top. Next step was a sweet potato gratin-type thing made with regular ole’ orange sweet potatoes, Japanese sweet potatoes (white flesh), and Okinawan (purple). The tubers were sliced and layered with ricotta combined with heavy cream, whole milk, and sage. Sounds great, right? Uh… liquidy, yet dried out. Alas. No photos of that… I decided that I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to try another pie crust, so I used Pillsbury pre-made for the pumpkin pie. I kind of regret this now because I have a feeling that the filling is way too good for that so-so crust. Dangit! Lookit this artful pie! It overflowed a bit, and it would probably displease some douchebag Food Network judge, but I love the color of the filling! Those leaves, by the by, were made with a Williams-Sonoma pastry-leaf-cutter-set-thing (already gone from the website: guess they waste no time…). My mom usually decorates her pies with teeny leaves, and I saw this and thought, hey, like my mom makes, only lazier! Next, keeping on my Joanne-Chang-origin-recipie kick, I made her Red-Miso- Glazed Carrots, which I have enjoyed a couple of times at Myers + Chang. Super yum! I thought okay, the recipe asks that I use a roasting pan, I’ve got one of those, right? Wrong! I have a rusty roasting pan that is now in the recycling pile, and a too-huge one. I thought, hell, I’ll just use one of my half-sheets across two burners – it’s made of metal, it can’t get messed up, right? Well, I did sadly discover that, at some point, one of my two half-sheets warped. Aiee! Anyhow, it worked out okay. I did leave some of the carrots on one side in the hot oil for a little bit too long, but they sure looked purty-like. I used monster carrots from Russo’s. Seriously, they are probably the biggest carrots I’ve ever seen. Mashing up the glaze components was deeply satisfying. Anyhow, after fishing out a couple of black-bottomed carrots, I applied the glaze and stuck the pan in the oven, checking after 10 minutes to give everything a stir. The smell was heavenly. Another ten minutes, and… … I had carrots worthy of a fine meal with friends! Since it was lunchtime, I took a little serving for myself. They’ve got the perfect texture (not too soft, not too hard, a couple minutes more and they’d be too soft), delicious flavor, mm-mm-mmmm-mmm-MMMM! Perfect! I hope they stand up okay to reheating. I’m sure they will. Tomorrow is the rest of the cooking, although I might make gravy tonight. Since I have a teeny kitchen area, I want to make as much of my stuff now so that we’re not all bumping into each other tomorrow and getting in the way and stuff. To be continued!