Friday, November 4, 2016

Thankful, Indeed.

   This is the first year in many that I will be hosting Thanksgiving, and in typical Cole fashion, I am browsing 'simple Thanksgiving table' images on Google rather than reading 'How to Read the Akashic Records' in preparation for my class on Sunday. (I did mention this is fairly typical for me, correct?) Part of me is wondering if I should even have people over for the holiday, as I don't have much space, and what space I do have is crammed with bookshelves (my fault), toys (not my fault), and various exercise equipment and laundry baskets (mostly my fault). Will a good vacuuming and dusting make this place presentable enough? Will everyone be squashed together like sardines? Only six people are invited, but add myself and my husband, and three of our six children (for dinner; two more may show up after the fact: one for pie, the other for a second dinner...and pie. Honestly, I have no idea where he puts it all. Yes, he is a 21 year old young man. Yes, he is a Sasquatch. But still.) and I'm looking at eleven seated around my beloved, care-worn, scarred kitchen table. Thirteen in my living room for tea and dessert, where the seating is even more limited.

      Should I even be worried?

     Of course not. The people invited to my house for Thanksgiving are all people that know and love my family, and are familiar with our home. They know we have littler children charging around the house; they expect cars, trains, trucks and robots to be scattered around the living room floor and plastic swords littering the hallway. They've been here before, and are familiar with my literary obsessions, which is why the shelf crammed with books by and about Alcott will elicit compliments and queries rather than sniffs. (Though I will make sure they are properly dusted just the same.)

     The people coming to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family aren't coming to look at my house. They are coming to celebrate togetherness and thankfulness, to enjoy a meal and share stories. I know I won't hear 'Your house is too small.' I'll hear 'Something smells good,' and 'Did you make this pie?' Words like 'I'm so happy we're together' will be said, not 'You need to dust more.' Music will be played, toasts made, and laughter shared. Yes, this week begins the frenzy of cleaning this place from end to end, but come November 23rd, I will look around and say 'Enough is as good as tomorrow's feast.' I will drape my green tablecloth over my dear table that is greatly in need of a facelift and lay out a mix of my white and my grandmother's red-and-white patterned 'Memory Lane' china. My husband will serve the cider-and-sage turkey as our little guy serves everyone a sweet potato roll and our older son ladles out mulled cider. Our dear friend (practically family, really) will be talking football with my husband's grandfather and my mother will be making friends with Grandpa's guest, an old friend of his. Really, the only one who won't enjoy the day will be the cat, who hates crowds, and pretty much everyone.

     I am aware that I am my harshest critic (who isn't, really?). I am also aware that it will take a great deal of effort to not try to make things 'better' for Thanksgiving, thereby spoiling the day for myself. I am going to do my best to live in the moment. We will be making memories that day, memories that I want to be able to reflect on days and months later with thankfulness and joy. I will prepare as best I can, and if on Thanksgiving morning the living room carpet doesn't get vacuumed, too bad. I'll just be thankful I have a carpet, and leave it at that. 

For a unique (and tasty) twist on your Thanksgiving pie display, try this recipe I found last year. It sounds really weird, but is in fact faboo!


Apple Cider Cream Pie (Recipe by Allison Kave via Food & Wine, November 2011)

Crust
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice and chilled
  • 3 tablespoons cold milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • I WILL STATE HERE AND NOW THAT I DID NOT MAKE THE CRUST. I bought a frozen one and baked it. Much easier, and far more cosmetically pleasing than any of my pie crusts ever come out.
Filling and Topping
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
In a food processor, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse in 1-second bursts until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine the milk and vinegar and drizzle it on top of the flour mixture. Pulse in 1-second bursts until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather up any crumbs and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough into an 11-inch round, a scant 1/4 inch thick; ease it into a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate. Trim the overhanging dough to 1 inch and fold it under itself. Crimp decoratively and chill the crust until firm, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the lower third of the oven for about 15 minutes, until the crust is barely set. Remove the parchment and pie weights. Cover the edge of the crust with strips of foil and bake for about 10- 15 minutes longer, until the crust is just set but not browned. Press the bottom of the crust lightly to deflate it as it puffs; let cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350°.

In a medium saucepan, boil the cider until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Whisk in 3/4 cup of the sugar, the sour cream and salt, then whisk in the eggs.
Pour the custard into the pie shell without removing the foil strips. Bake the pie in the lower third of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custard is set around the edge but the center is slightly jiggly.

Let the pie cool completely.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon until firmly whipped. Mound the whipped cream on the pie, cut into wedges and serve.

The pie is best eaten the day it is made, but it will keep for up to two days in the fridge. If you plan on making it in advance, do not top with the whipped cream until you are ready to serve.

     

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