On my way home from Boston last week, my travel mate and culinary cohort was complaining that her daughter wanted the same sweet potato pie again this year, which just quells my friend’s adventurous spirit in the kitchen. She adores trying new recipes and happily accepts defeat if it turns out poorly. To her, half the fun is in the process.
In our home, the immovable Thanksgiving tradition is the stuffing. I’ve already been “told” (in a helpful kind of way) that if my broken foot would prevent me from making the expected stuffing, my SIL would step in because it just won’t be Thanksgiving without it.
But at the same time, we’ve added some new dishes to the table in the last few years, recipes that are now indelibly etched in our ever-evolving Thanksgiving tradition.
Key Lime Pie
Vegetable Wellingtons to satisfy an expanding family that now includes some pescatarians (fish only, no meat).
And I also experimented with a savory cookie appetizer served with a complementary cocktail – fun fun fun!
I haven’t actually served this at Thanksgiving but if you want to wow your guests or your host, try Dorie Greenspan’s Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. It’s a beautiful addition to the buffet and a mighty tasty and flexible side dish as well.
James Beard’s Persimmon Bread – My New Tradition for 2012
My new adventure this year started with a bowl of hachiya persimmons gifted to me from my friend @yumivore. After learning the difference between hachiya and fuyu persimmons — fuyu (the short squat persimmon) is eaten like an apple, hachiya become soft and the pulp becomes suitable for baking — I researched the myriad possibilities and decided to make a variation on James Beard’s famous persimmon bread.
After taste-testing a mini-loaf and gathering feedback from family and neighbors, I’ve tucked a large loaf away in the freezer for use on Thanksgiving day. I’m guessing it will be a lovely addition to the buffet – providing complementary flavors to the rich, sweet, and savory aromas of the day.
Traditions start somewhere, sometime – how about starting one right in your own kitchen this Thanksgiving?!
What’s your favorite must-have dish at the Thanksgiving table and what would you change if your family would let you?
My modified version of James Beard’s Persimmon Bread Recipe:
- 3½ cups sifted flour (I used 2 cups white whole wheat flour and 1½ cups of Bob's Red Mill Unbleached White Flour)
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg, ¼ tsp allspice, ¼ tsp. cardamom, and a generous ¼ tsp. cinnamon)
- zest from one medium orange
- 2 to 2½ cups sugar (I used 2 cups with a ½ tblsp. of orange zest rubbed into it - I used coconut palm sugar and organic sugar because that's what I had in the house)
- 1 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- ⅔ cup Cognac, bourbon or whiskey (back off to ½ cup if younger kids are going to eat the bread)
- 2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)**
- 2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped (I used about 1½ cups.)
- 2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates) - I used raisins soaked in orange juice and cinnamon - about 1 cup)
- **I removed the pulp from 17 persimmons which yielded 4 cups of pulp - I froze the other 2 cups in one cup containers for later use.
- Extract the pulp from the hachiya persimmons: Wash them, cut them in half through the equator, and just scoop out the pulp with a spoon. You can puree the pulp in a blender or food processor - I like it a bit chunky so I just used a hand potato masher.
- If you need to toast your nuts, start that process now as well as macerating the raisins if you plan to add this step. If you macerate the raisins - just add enough orange juice to immerse them and about a tsp. of cinnamon - pour out most of the juice before you use them.
- Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess. (I used one loaf pan and one 8 compartment mini-loaf pan.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. (I did not sift the sugar - I just added it to the flour mixture.)
- Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.
- Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (the mini loaves took 30 minutes and the large loaf took 50 minutes)
- Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.