Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving turkeys and pumpkin rolls

Thanksgiving is in a couple of days and since we live a thousand miles from my family, I will be doing things my way again this year. I’ve always looked upon Thanksgiving as the middle holiday. Sandwiched in between Halloween and Christmas, it is the starter course to the main dish of Christmas. When I was a girl, even though there were no presents involved, Thanksgiving was still pretty special because it meant getting together with my mom's family which was always an adventure. I would watch my mother begin the ritual a week in advance. Now I know that I’m no youngster but looking back these must have been near prehistoric times because my mother prepared a pterodactyl or a bird the size of one every year. Our refrigerator was totally dedicated to its thawing for what seemed like weeks. This giant fowl consumed the bottom shelf of our refrigerator for days, often leaking a watery pink liquid that was one of the only things that upon discovery could make my mother curse.

Finally Thanksgiving eve would arrive and my mother’s plans would be announced. She would wake up at 4:00 am (this is where things began to go wrong), season and prepare the bird and place it in the oven for its 12 hours cooking time (about 8 hours too long), for an estimated mealtime of 4 p.m. I hated this. Who eats a meal at 4 p.m.? I mean what do you call this meal? It isn’t lunch and it isn’t supper. I guess that’s why they really call it Thanksgiving. By the time you get to eat, you are starving and truly thankful for anything, even the petrified carcass sitting on the dining room table.

About 5:30 p.m. we would finally sit down for our meal. The turkey would always look beautiful but under that golden brown moist looking skin were breasts so dry they defy all description. Imagine that, thirteen hours in the oven and it was dry. Who knew? I love my mother and my love for cooking and eating was born at her knee but I always wondered why such a brilliant home cook would repeat this procedure year after year. I really think that it was some 60's rumor that if you didn’t bake the holy hell out of your bird, you would certainly kill your family and friends. In an effort to counteract all of the baking time and replace some of the moisture that escaped during the cooking, my mother would get creative. My two favorites were the turkey baked in a brown paper grocery bag and the other was adding oysters to her stuffing. Why she would take a perfectly good batch of cornbread stuffing and foul it with a couple of quarts of raw oysters in its liquor is a mystery to me. I really couldn’t tell you how it tasted because for some reason, I chose to eat only side dishes that year.

So here I am now, all grown up with a family of my own to torture on Thanksgiving. I’ve figured out how to combat the dreaded dry turkey, it’s called a thermometer. Between watching for the proper temperature and a couple of rashers of streaky bacon draped across the breasts, my turkeys usually turn out pretty good. Never one to leave well enough alone, I’m going to try my own version of the brown paper grocery bag this year, the beer can turkey. Karen and I tried this with chickens while I was in Nottingham with spectacular results only she had a specially made baking dish. Since I’m going to have to improvise, I figure all I need is a small turkey and a large glass jar filled with wine and spices. Then I plan on standing the turkey upright with the jar shoved up its bum and pray that it doesn’t topple over during the cooking. I will give a full report how it works on my next blog entry.

After all of this turkey talk you might be surprised that my recipe is for a sweet and not a turkey but I've got this recipe that I really want to share with you. I love traditional pecan pie but I must admit that pumpkin isn’t my favorite. I feel a little anti-American making that admission with the country’s love for pumpkin and all, so I thought that I’d try to find an alternate recipe that might be more to my liking. Last year our neighbor brought over a delicious pumpkin roll with a cream cheese filling so I thought I might give it a try. After much exhaustive research (I tore the label off the Libby's pumpkin tin and found it on the back), I finally located the recipe for this glorious dessert and present it to you here today. I usually prefer to stick with original recipes but this one is so good I’m going to make an exception. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and all joking aside, enjoy every moment that you spend with your loved ones on this special holiday, even if you spend it eating dry white meat.



Holiday Pumpkin Roll

This is such an easy and delicious dessert. Although my photo is nice, I have to admit that I rolled it the wrong way (long side) and tried to reconstruct the pinwheel pattern with so-so results, but it really doesn’t matter how it looks because it is so delicious. Just imagine if you rolled it properly! This makes a great little holiday gift. Who needs cookies?!

3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (165g) canned pumpkin (or 2/3 cup of mashed sweet potato)
3/4 cup (75g) plain flour
1 teaspoon (5ml) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) allspice
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) salt
1 cup (125g) icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, 180C.

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Line a jelly roll pan that is approximately (9x13) with parchment paper or grease and flour well; spread mixture evenly in pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Press the center to make sure that the cake springs back and is done. Immediately turn out onto a linen kitchen towel which has been generously sprinkled with icing sugar. Remove parchment paper and sprinkle with more powdered sugar and roll up, beginning with the narrow end, in the linen towel; set aside until cool. Unroll, spread with filling, re-roll and sprinkle with more powdered sugar. Wrap with cling film and refrigerate. Store in the refrigerator.

Filling:

2 tablespoons (30ml) butter, softened to room temperature
8 ounces (226g) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup (125g) icing sugar

Mix well with electric mixer until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Easily serves 8.
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