Thanksgiving Salad Days

thanksgiving2There is no right way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Growing up, we had everyone – grandparents, parents, children – all around one or two tables with bottles of Champagne, an overcooked turkey (not when my mother and father were cooking), stuffing, gravy, and my grandmother’s grapefruit and avocado salad.

As our family changed – kids moved, grandparents died, marriages dissolved – so has the celebration. My brothers and sister and their families celebrate in their respective home states. My parents bought a second home on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where the weather is warmer and the beaches are open all year.

That became a sanctuary for Thanksgiving six years ago when liver disease nearly took my life. I was in the hospital until just before Thanksgiving (and again after Thanksgiving, and again in the week leading up to Christmas). I made a small Thanksgiving dinner at home for my then-husband and I  – our daughter had gone south with my parents. I flew down the day after and reveled in the sun, sand, and club soda.

Since then, my daughter and I have been in Florida for five of the past six years. That one year in Erie was because my job demanded being at a desk the day after Thanksgiving. We enjoyed celebrating with friends, but there’s nothing like a walk on the beach without a hat, gloves, and down jacket after the meal.

Other friends have had to change their celebration as family members have aged into nursing homes, children have moved away, or divorces dictate times with children. Then you have to improvise. Last week I celebrated Thanksgiving a week early because circumstances allowed this blended family to be together. A death brought them together, but it allowed them to sit down at a family heirloom dining table. We had vegetarians, picky eaters, and omnivores. The menu reflected this – standing rib of beef along with a butternut and spinach lasagna. And everyone united around a flourless chocolate cake with caramel sauce.

Typically, my contribution to Thanksgiving dinners is a salad since the hosts take care of the main dishes. With pears and chestnuts in season now, it seemed an ideal combination. My pears, a variety called Concorde that are delicious, made the dish quite sweet. I haven’t been able to find them this week, so I used red pear in today’s photos.

Happy Thanksgiving.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Roasted Pear and Camembert Salad
This salad combines some of the best fall ingredients - pears and chestnuts - into a celebration of flavors. Perfect for vegetarians, too.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. For the relish: Bring the cider, honey, shallot, and raisins to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in the chestnuts, vinegar, rosemary, and salt. Cool the relish to room temperature before serving, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 week.
  3. For pears, if ripe to semi-ripe: Halve and core the pears. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to a large nonstick skillet. Place pears cut side down and saute over medium-low heat until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes depending on the pear. Flip over and saute about 5 more minutes. Lay a slice of cheese on top of each and remove from heat. It should melt using the residual heat of the pear.
  4. If pears are not ripe (quite firm): Bake cut side down in a baking dish in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn them over and continue roasting until tender, 5 to 10 minutes more.
  5. To serve, toss the arugula with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of the lemon and divide it among 6 salad plates. Place a warm pear half over each and top with a spoonful of the chestnut relish.
  6. Serve immediately
Recipe Notes

If you don't want to make the chestnut relish, simply top with toasted candied pecans and golden raisins.

 

Adapted from http://usapears.org/recipe/roasted-pears-with-camembert/

 

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Cider Rules in Our House

img_4416When Godfrey Run in Girard, Pennsylvania, has the first pressing of its apple cider, it is a cause for celebration in our house. We’re not juice drinkers, but we are cider lovers for as long as the season lasts. So much so, we have a refillable glass growler to keep us in stock.

Certainly we drink a fair amount, but I’m also a huge fan of cooking with cider. When it reduces, it is not only sweet, but there is a depth of some tart and caramel that you can’t get with apple juice.

I grew up drinking apple cider in the fall. As soon as the cider mill opened, my father would pile the four of us into the station wagon and head on over. We saved our plastic jugs from week to week and refilled them. I think we went through about 4 gallons a week. As the season started to head toward a close around Thanksgiving, my father would stock up on a few extra jugs and freeze them so we had cider for Christmas.

img_4414Most of the time, we drank it cold out of the fridge. But if we had an early ski season, there was nothing like coming home to a glass of hot cider that had been mulling with sticks of cinnamon and some allspice and topped off with a little Captain Morgan’s rum. My drinking days are over, but a glass of hot mulled cider is still a treat on cold days.

I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s still summer. But the nights are cool enough to roast a chicken inside and appreciate it warm.

The recipe is pretty simple – choose a chicken from a good source. Create a brine with 1/2 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 bay leaf and about 3 cups of hot water. Stir until it is all dissolved. Put the chicken in once the water is room temp and refrigerate overnight if you have time. This is the basis for all my roast chickens. Sometimes I throw some thyme in there, or rosemary, or a few peppercorns. Whatever complements the dish.

When you are ready to cook, pat the chicken off and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper or a seasoned salt.

One of the keys to cooking a whole chicken is not to put it into a roasting pan that is too big. You want a pan that is only about 2-3 inches wider than the bird in all directions. I use a ridged Le Creuset pan designed to cooked steaks because it holds heat really well and the ridges keep the bird off the bottom of the pan.

Enjoy

XOXOXOXO

marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Roast Chicken with Apples, Onions and Cider
An easy fall meal that creates its own side dish.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 90 minutes
Passive Time 12-24 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 90 minutes
Passive Time 12-24 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Chicken into roasting pan. Generously coat in salt and pepper.
  3. Core and cut apples into about 16 slices. I do not peel. Toss apples with onions in the olive oil. Spread around the chicken. Roast chicken until internal temp measures 160 degrees at thigh and breast, about 90 minutes.
  4. About 15 to 20 minutes before chicken needs to come out of the oven (temp will be around 135-140 degrees), add the 1/2 cup of cider. Return chicken to the oven and finish cooking.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. Serve with the roasted apples and onions.
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