Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Kitchen Labors

I am up before dawn this Thanksgiving cooking away.  I know, Pilgrims and Native Americans, the harvest, the cooperation, the thankfullness for a better life, God's providence. I get it. Really, I do. But why does that translate into the craziness in the kitchen that we call Thanksgiving?

I heard Christopher Kimball's annual talk on NPR Wednesday morning and I was thrilled with some of the recipes (posted below). Yet, I sit here this morning while a cake is in the oven thinking on why I am doing all this today. Well, I ran across this and it just spoke to me.  It has nothing to do with Thanksgiving but everything to do with why traditional family meals matter and why you should go to the trouble of doing it yourself. Thank you Monica Bhide. Your thoughts inspired me this morning.

Why I Don't Cook For My Parents

November 10, 2010
Mussels cooked in a saffron coconut stew, shrimp fritters with just the right crispness, chicken kebabs laced with brandy — these are dishes I tell my dad about all the time. They are my passion, my creations as a food writer. He often advises me on the recipes, telling me what to add, what to change, what to increase and what to substitute. I listen, because my dad is one of the best home cooks I know.
Just a few months ago, he and I were discussing our favorite chicken curry recipe that shines with flavors of green and black cardamom. I love the way he makes it, and we were discussing changing the texture of the onions. He is in Delhi and I am in Washington, D.C., and these discussions form the crux of our conversations. Yet, in our last talk something was different. Dad kept asking when I was going to cook all these dishes for him.

About The Author

An engineer turned food writer, Monica Bhide writes about food and its effect on our lives. Her work has appeared inThe Washington Post, the New York Times, Food & Wine, Prevention, Cooking Light, Healthand Self. Her latest book is Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen(Simon & Schuster). Read more at her blog, A Life Of Spice
Strangely, I rarely cook for my parents. It isn't because I am afraid to, feel that they won't like my dishes, that they will complain or that my dishes won't be up to their standards. That isn't it at all.
I grew up nourished in spirit by my father's travel stories involving food and my mother's unerring, mouthwatering dishes. His stories evoked a world of Irish pubs, French bistros, Indian curry houses, Swiss chalets, Austrian pensions that I had never seen, and my mother's hand created perfectly spiced dishes without ever holding a measuring cup, spoon or bowl. She practiced the art of what I call andza cooking, estimation cooking — always adding a little of this and a little of that — and always created a memorable dish. My sister and I would take turns doing dinner chores. We would spend time around the dinner table talking about our day, about life in general, about the cost of okra, but always together.
I left home when I was 17 and wandered the world: college, marriage, babies, careers. I grew up in the Middle East, my parents settled in India, and I settled in the U.S. When I visited them, I just wanted them to cook for me. I longed for my mother's crisp fried okra, my dad's cardamom-scented oatmeal, or the best dish — having both of them in the kitchen discussing and making a mutton curry. I love that they have been married for more than 40 years and possibly making that same curry for that long, and yet they always discuss how to make it and what to do.
Rarely, I will volunteer to cook my creations for them. I tell them about my food, they cook from my cookbooks, but when I am there with them in their home, I don't cook for them. I was raised on their food — it is the memory and the home of my childhood. While they may miss my chicken kebabs, I know they don't long for it as I do for my father's butter chicken.
I cook for my own children in the hope that I create similar memories. I cook for my kids in the hope that when they go off into the big wide world, the memory of their mother's chicken curry, the scent of her caramelized onions with garlic, the whiff of her cinnamon-scented rice pudding will tug at their heart and bring them back home — just like my parents' cooking does for me.

Old Fashioned Pecan Pie

I have looked for a pecan pie recipe without corn syrup for years.  Finally, Christopher Kimball has some to my rescue!

Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie

Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie
America's Test Kitchen
Old-fashioned pecan pie
Pecan pie, often called 'Karo pie' in the South, is reinvented using maple syrup, brown sugar and molasses rather than corn syrup.


  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell, chilled in pie plate for 30 minutes
  • Serves 8 to 10


  1. Make Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat syrup, sugar, cream, and molasses in saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Whisk butter and salt into syrup mixture until combined. Whisk in egg yolks until incorporated.
  2. Bake Pie: Scatter pecans in pie shell. Carefully pour filling over. Place pie in hot oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until filling is set and center jiggles slightly when pie is gently shaken, 45 to 60 minutes. Cool pie on rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate until set, about 3 hours and up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Apple Slab Pie

What would I do without Christopher Kimball in the kitchen to help me muddle through?  I post this here just so it won't get lost!

Apple Slab Pie

Apple Slab Pie
America's Test Kitchen
Apple slab pie
Runny filling, a soggy bottom crust, and a lot of work for just a few slices are among the traditional downsides of the classic apple pie. Kimball's solution is the Apple Slab Pie, which he says "looks like a huge Pop-Tart." It can feed about 20 people, and can be easily sliced and served.


  • 8 Granny Smith apples (about 3 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and sliced thin
  • 8 Golden Delicious apples (about 3 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups animal crackers
  • 2 (15-ounce) boxes Pillsbury Ready to Roll Pie Crust
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 6 tablespoons Minute tapioca
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Glaze:
  • 3/4 cup reserved apple juice (from filling)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar


  1. For the pie: Combine apples, 1 cup sugar, and salt in colander set over large bowl. Let sit, tossing occasionally, until apples release their juices, about 30 minutes. Press gently on apples to extract liquid and reserve 3/4 cup juice.
  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse crackers and remaining sugar in food processor until finely ground. Dust work surface with cracker mixture, brush half of one pie round with water, overlap with second pie round, and dust top with cracker mixture. Roll out dough to 19 by 14 inches and transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Brush dough with butter and refrigerate; roll out top crust in the same way.
  3. Toss drained apples with tapioca, cinnamon, and lemon juice and arrange evenly over bottom crust, pressing lightly to flatten. Brush edges of bottom crust with water, and arrange top crust on pie. Press crusts together and use a paring knife to trim any excess dough. Use fork to crimp and seal outside edge of pie, then to pierce top of pie at 2-inch intervals. Bake until pie is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 1 hour. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 1 hour.
  4. For the glaze: While pie is cooling, simmer reserved apple juice in saucepan over medium heat until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and butter and let cool to room temperature. Whisk in confectioners' sugar and brush glaze evenly over warm pie. Let pie cool completely, at least 1 hour longer. Serve.