We were invited to a neighbor’s home for Thanksgiving this year so I did not get to make a complete holiday meal. Rather, I participated in that timeless tradition; “dish-to-pass”. I take d-t-p very seriously. I am not competitive. I don’t care whether my dish is better than anyone else’s but I want it to be well received. I try make something a little distinctive; no easy task at Thanksgiving when most people’s menus are variation of the same dishes. I also invest a lot of energy in worrying about whether people will like it. This, of course, because I am certain if they don’t like my dish it means they dislike me as a person and I will never be invited anywhere ever again …but I digress.
This year, I did something unusual. I took two dishes; neither of which I’d ever made before. I see this as high-risk behavior but both were easy recipes so I decided to throw caution to the wind. The results were mixed.
The Good: Cranberry Pomegranate Terrine (Food Network)
It was a minor hit and I was pleased by both the taste and the presentation.
- 1 8-ounce bag fresh cranberries
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups pure pomegranate juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 whole black peppercorns
- 2 large strips orange peel, white pith removed, plus strips of zest for garnish
- 3 packets (6 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
Pulse the cranberries and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor until chunky and juicy, about 8 times. Set aside for 20 minutes to macerate.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice, the cinnamon stick, peppercorns, orange peel and a pinch of salt in a saucepan over medium heat; simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat; let steep for 20 minutes. Discard the cinnamon, peppercorns and orange peel.
Place the remaining 1/2 cup pomegranate juice and 1/4 cup cold water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set aside without stirring until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Add the steeped pomegranate juice to the gelatin mixture and stir until the gelatin dissolves.
Spread a thin layer of the cranberry mixture in a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; pour in enough of the pomegranate-gelatin mixture to cover (about 3/4 cup). Refrigerate until just beginning to set, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the remaining cranberries into the remaining gelatin mixture and set aside, unrefrigerated. Once the bottom layer is set, pour in the remaining gelatin mixture and refrigerate until completely set, at least 2 hours or overnight.
To serve, run a knife around the edges of the pan and invert the terrine onto a platter. (Set the pan in warm water to soften the gelatin if necessary.) Garnish with the orange zest*.
*I added pomegranate seeds to the garnish.
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The Mediocre: Banana-Yam Casserole (Food Network)
This came out exactly as predicted but just wasn’t great. Sweet potatoes with baby marshmallows was a tradition growing up and I still enjoy them at the holidays. The streusel added more sweetness than I like and the bananas gave it an odd texture.Bananas also make it less appetizing as left-overs.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, for greasing the baking dish
- 1 1/2 pounds yams, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1-inch thick slices
- 5 ounces (about 32) sweetened round crackers (recommended: Maria Crackers), or graham crackers
- 3/4 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped*
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
- 4 large ripe but firm bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1 (10 1/2-ounce) bag mini marshmallows
*Rather than just using almonds, I used 1/2 chopped almonds and 1/2 chopped pecans
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter. Set aside
In a heavy medium pot add the yams and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. (The color of the yams will turn brighter).
Meanwhile, put the crackers, almonds, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine until coarse but not fully ground. Add 6 tablespoons butter and pulse until the mixture forms lumps slightly larger than peas. Refrigerate the streusel topping until ready to use.
Spread half of the bananas and yams in 1 layer in the bottom of the prepared dish. Sprinkle with half of the streusel and half of the marshmallows. Repeat to make 1 more layer. Bake until the marshmallows are golden, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.
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The Bad: Kazuo Ueda’s King’s Valley
Happily not a ‘dish to pass'(thank God!) but a cocktail Harper’s Other Dad found in The Whiskey Advocate that he wanted to try. We sampled it while preparing the other food. I am confident in saying Thanksgiving – 2013 will be this drink’s only appearance at Casa de Harper.
Directions: Shake well with ice:
- 2 oz. blended scotch
- 1/2 oz. Cointreau
- 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1.5 barspoons Blue Curacao
The directions say:
“The amount of Blue Curacao is approximate: the goal is to get a drink with the soft green of a valley in the Scottish highlands.”
Right! So I guess if it looked more like acid rain that had cascaded off a snake’s ass we missed the mark? As it turns out, heather-like hue was the least of the problems with this vile concoction. Just say “No!”