Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Done Well

We loaded the car for our trip up the coast with all of the road trip essentials:

My son: Kindle Fire filled with episodes of The West Wing; basketball; sweatpants.
My daughter: big bag of chips; The Hunger Games trilogy audiobooks on her iPod; Ugg boots.
My husband: recent issue of The Economist; Lego(R) VW Camper Van kit; running shorts.
Me: roasting pan; chef's knives; hand mixer; kosher salt; serving platter; two nine-inch cake pans; ceramic pie plate; measuring cups and spoons; whisk; spatula; matching square and rectangular enameled baking dishes; pre-measured ingredients in ziplock bags; olive oil; three cookbooks; two cooking magazines; nested set of glass mixing bowls; baking sheet; Silpat; cooling rack; laptop loaded with cooking blogs; stretchy leggings*.
The dog: Stinky breath.

The very fitting Lego project, completed.

Later that day, we arrived at our rental house, pleasantly surprised by the following:

My son: There was a flat panel TV with all the sports channels in HD, and his bed was unbelievably comfortable.
My daughter: She got to sleep up in the loft, with a porch that looked out over the ocean.
My husband: The house was four blocks from the beach, he and the dog could roam anywhere in town, and his dad was happy to come by and just hang out.
Me: The kitchen was beyond fully stocked, with a Viking range, potato peelers, and a turkey baster, and Trader Joe's was less than 15 minutes away.  Plus, there was a brand new bookstore in town to explore.
The dog: Everybody he met wanted to pet him, and he got to roll in the sand.  A lot.

The days were warm and bright, filled with walks by the sea, reunions with friends, cozy breakfasts with Grandpa, feisty multi-player card games, a little too much email, just enough wine, hikes through cypress groves, afternoons at the movies, a few unfortunate stomach pains (mostly mended) and, the highlight for me, family gathered around a table groaning with home cooked food for Thanksgiving dinner.

It wasn't perfect. I had a lot of pangs about Mom. My father-in-law was much frailer than we'd expected.  My brother-in-law's girlfriend spent an afternoon in an ER waiting room, suffering through gall bladder issues.  I let work get in the way, and didn't sleep nearly enough**.

But somehow being together, in that unexpectedly great house, made those things less important and all the good moments matter.  It was the Thanksgiving we needed.

It was Thanksgiving, done well.

Thanksgiving Eggs
One of the cookbooks I threw into the car when I packed was a small, plain hardcover called Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, by Sam Sifton***.  I have my own tried and true staples of Thanksgiving dinner (for a recipe pack, click here), but I usually try a new veggie every year.  His braised brussel sprouts with bacon and toasted breadcrumbs were quite tasty.  But what I was really dying to make was this brilliant leftover concoction.  I added the layer of mashed potatoes to his original stuffing-only formula.  Genius!

Butter, for your pan
Leftover mashed potatoes, about 3-4 cups
Leftover stuffing, about 3-4 cups
6-8 large eggs
2-3 Tbs. grated cheddar or other cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400.  Generously butter an eight- or nine-inch square baking dish.  Spread the mashed potatoes in an even layer in the bottom of the pan.

Next, spread a layer of the stuffing on top of the potatoes.  Using the back of the spoon or a small measuring cup, press indentations into the stuffing, forming a place to put your eggs later.  (With a nine inch pan, you'll have room for 8 eggs, with the smaller plan, you'll use 6.)

Place the pan into the oven, and cook for 15 minutes, until warmed through.  Remove from the oven, and carefully crack the eggs into the prepared indentations.  Season the eggs with salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle the whole thing with the grated cheese.

Return to the oven, and bake for 10-15 more minutes, until eggs are set to your liking.  Serve immediately, with hot sauce or salsa on the side****.

Click to print this recipe!

* On the way back, we had all of the above, plus the leftover turkey carcass so I could make stock at home.
** Our turkey (named Vin Diestel this year) was also a little dry, because apparently Viking ranges cook your s%$!# quick.  Yet another reason to be wary of fancy name brand appliances.
*** You gotta love a book with an intro that reads, "You're going to use a lot of butter."
**** Also an option on the side:

 Sinful Cinnamon Rolls - The Quick Dough version shown here used up leftover buttermilk, brown sugar, and cinnamon, in keeping with the overall theme of our brunch.


  1. Wow, your husband spend $100 on a VW Lego van. Impressive!

    1. What you can't see in the photo is that he top pops up and everything. Plus the seats fold down for night time. According to him, worth every penny.