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The Great Thanksgiving Feast: Bread Item

There are a few food groups I very simply could not ever give up. Not for anything. One is shrimp. I love shrimp. If it were not expensive and I wouldn’t be putting myself at risk for mercury poisoning, I would eat shrimp multiple times every day. No joke. Hot, cold, grilled, boiled, baked, fried…I love it all.

Along the same lines? My love for bread. My family has a lot of its own vernacular and one of my own contributions to it is: bread item. As a kid, no meal was complete without a bread item. I wasn’t too picky about what it was, but there had better be one. Last year my mom convinced me that making rolls wasn’t necessary and that the effort required could be better spent elsewhere. Being 20-something and ya know, no longer 8 years old, I decided to go along with it. And it was so. very. sad. I don’t know if anyone else in my family noticed, but I totally did and vowed not to do it again this year.

So this year! Rolls were a priority. I relied on my stand-by BHG recipe (found here) and off set the prep time by cooking them literally weeks in advance. Well, not cooking. Making, proofing and freezing. These froze incredibly well after the second rise and after setting them out, covered on baking sheets (all over any flat spot in my living room), baked wonderfully the next day.

As you can see, I doubled the recipe. AND made them pretty small, so the yield on this was probably closer to 60.

My small cast iron skillet served as the Island of Misfit Toys/rolls.

I didn’t do the dollop of butter on the inside of the roll, but they did get a pre- and post-bake brush of melted butter.

And aren’t they lovely!CommentsThe Great Thanksgiving Feast: Veggies12/17/2010 07:54 PM Filed in: recipesIn the caloric extravaganza that is pretty much any holiday meal, including good vegetable dishes is crucial. In keeping with the general theme of the meal, most of these are Thanksgiving standards, with a family specific twist.

Every single dish required peeling and/or cutting. So along with the apples for the apple pecan brie (and apple pie), we had a peeling station.

The first dish is a new one my mom wanted, roasted parsnips and carrots:

Through my own mistakes in past years, key lesson: if you don’t want curly carrots, keep them submerged in water.

This year we did the peeling Thursday morning, but they could have been done on Wednesday. See how nicely they hold up?

Anyway, spread them in a single layer on a jelly roll/cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and generously sprinkle cumin, salt and a bit of black pepper. Roast at 375 or 400 (on Thanksgiving the turkey takes oven temperature precedence, so that temperature is based on the turkey, not the vegetables.

I did not broil these at the end of the 20 minutes, but I think that would have been a nice addition.

In past years, I’ve made the (clichéd) traditional sweet potatoes, with the marshmallows and all that. Snore.

Even though I’m not a big fan of sweet potatoes (I have a major sweet-savory thing), I wanted to try something new but still provide something my family would like. So I went to my go-to cookbook: Cook’s Illustrated’s Best New Recipes. I read their basic sweet potato recipe and…promptly wandered off the reservation.

I peeled and cut up the potatoes and braised them in a skim milk and fat free half ’n’ half combination (80% skim, 20% half ’n’ half?), covered, on medium heat for 35ish minutes, or until a piece broke apart easily when stabbed with a fork.

Added butter and heavy cream

And sugar.

Aside: look at this awesome picture!! My sister Alex was my foodtography assistant for the whole show and she took this super-cool shot of sugar being poured. I love it.

Mashed, by hand. Stupid cheap hand mixer that I totally destroyed the night before.

Until creamy

Then into a baking dish. This one coincidentally matches beautifully!

Garnish with brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped toasted pecans (left over from Wednesday’s massive pecan preparation)

And now asparagus! This is one I make at virtually every family gathering. We all pretty much like asparagus and the method is incredibly easy. And I totally made it before it was in every women’s magazine in EVOO ads.

Chop off the woody part of the stalk and place in a single layer on a jelly roll pan, drizzle olive oil and go wild with the salt, pepper and a grated parmagiano reggiano.

Roast for…well the time varies on the thickness of the stalk. These were thick and took 18ish minutes. I cooked them for 20, 22 and it was too long. A more “baby asparagus” thickness will be done at 12 minutes. Keep an eye on them.

And the major one, and one of my minor Thanksgiving disappointments: the smashed.

With the aformentioned hand mixer death, these mashed potatoes never got to where I wanted them. I’m now wishing I had a ricer, ‘cause that would have solved the whole thing. But anyway.

Yukon Golds. Peeled, rustically, and cut into about 6 pieces for an average potato. Keeping the size of the pieces consistent is important.

Cook in salted water

That pot is overfull. Oh well. Cooked covered for 30 minutes or until the pieces break apart easily when stabbed with a fork.

Drain into a colander.

Look at all that steam! Love this picture.

Why I put the potatoes back into the pot escapes me. But I then scooped them back over to the ceramic insert for the slow cooker.

Added butter and mashed a bit until it was all melted. Added half ’n’ half and mashed some more. Salt, pepper and garlic. More mashing. These never quite got where I wanted them to be, sadly. But they were pretty good. The seasoning is all to your personal taste.

It’s my mission to get all the Thanksgiving posts up before Christmas. Still outstanding: starches, desserts, method, decor and activities and…I think that’s it!

So, what is your absolutely crucial Thanksgiving dish? What dish has to be there, or it’s not Thanksgiving? Mine is turkey and mashed potatoes. And cranberry jelly, even though I don’t eat it. It’s just tradition.