Our present-day menus for the Thanksgiving Day feast are a bit different now. Across the country, Thanksgiving is celebrated with favorite regional specialties and unique local customs, and it is usually celebrated differently in an RV than in a big kitchen at home.
Years ago we celebrated many Thanksgiving Days in Death Valley. We barbecued Cornish game hens, and put cranberry stuffing balls into the oven alongside baked corn. Mashed potatoes, always a must, were prepared on top of the stove next to a pot of creamed peas and onions. A tray of spiced fruit was set out on the camp table. The pumpkin, mince and apple pies had been made at home before. Those were memorable times.
GRILLED CORNISH GAME HENS
Prepare the hens by placing one-fourth of a small apple and one-fourth of a small onion in the cavity of each hen. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Melt butter and lemon juice and a dash of Tabasco sauce together for marination. Marinate hens a couple of hours before grilling. Cook on a greased grill 4 inches from hot coals about 1 hour; basting often.
CRANBERRY STUFFING BALLS
1 cup of cranberries
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of chopped onion
1 1/2 cups of diced celery
Half package of stuffing mix
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of dry white wine
Toss cranberries with sugar and let stand. Sauté onions and celery in butter; add to stuffing and mix with white wine and water. Add cranberries and mix lightly. Shape into balls 1 inch in diameter. Place in a greased shallow baking pan and bake in preheated 350-degree oven 30 minutes.
Should you be traveling in the Northwest this time of year, you might want to begin the feast with a clam dip.
Blend together 1 clove of garlic, minced, an 8-oz. package of soft cream cheese, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, a 7-oz. can of minced clams, undrained, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.
Another reflection of Northwest flavor is this nutty fruit salad, paired with Stilton cheese and a curry dressing.
APPLE, PECAN, AND DRIED CHERRY SALAD DRESSING:
1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons of mango or ginger chutney
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup of apple juice
2 teaspoons of curry powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Black pepper to taste
Blend the ingredients together until smooth. Keep in the refrigerator.
1 cup of pecan halves, toasted
6 cups of mixed baby greens
1/2 cup of dried cherries or seedless red grapes
1/2 cup of crumbled Stilton cheese
1/4 cup of julienned fresh basil
2 tablespoons of minced fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons of minced fresh cilantro
2 medium red-skinned tart apples, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
To toast the pecans, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the nuts turn slightly deeper brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
Combine the pecans, greens, cherries, cheese, basil, mint, apples and cilantro in a large bowl. Add 3/4 cup of the curry dressing and toss well. Serves four.
In the South, the accents are different with dishes such as cornbread stuffing, grits, sweet potatoes, and corn pudding.
2 cups of cream-style corn
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of light cream
Beat eggs until light and fluffy; stir in corn, sugar, salt, breadcrumbs and butter. Add milk and cream and mix well. Pour into a 1 1/2-quart greased casserole and place dish in a pan of boiling water. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 50-60 minutes or until custard is set. Serves six.
The New England states have their own style, reflected in this sauce to go with the turkey.
2 12-oz. packages of fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups of pure maple syrup
1 cup (packed) of golden brown sugar
1/2 cup of water
1/4 teaspoon of maple extract
Combine all ingredients in a heavy large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until cranberries pop, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Cover; chill. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.
Finally, here’s another dish involving turkey.
END OF THE SEASON HOT DISH
12 Italian turkey sausages, cut in 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, seeded and sliced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
4 potatoes, cooked, peeled, and sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon each of fresh mint and oregano leaves
In a large skillet, cook sausage pieces; remove and drain. Add olive oil to skillet and sauté onions, peppers, carrots, potatoes, and zucchini, stirring frequently until vegetables are tender crisp. Add basil, mint and oregano. Add the sausage pieces and reheat. Serves eight.
Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in diverse and delicious ways according to regional specialties. But on that day everyone comes to the table full of deep appreciation for the plentiful crops and thankful to have quality time with family and friends whether on the road or at home.
HINT OF THE MONTH: No pumpkin for that traditional pumpkin pie? Simply use any yellow winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes or yams. The vegetables may be fresh, cooked or canned. Mash before using in your favorite pumpkin pie recipe. You may want to increase the sugar a bit.
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Marian Platt's regional narrative cookbook of Washington’s Sequim Valley, From My Kitchen Window, can be ordered by sending cash, check or money order for $25 (includes tax and handling/mailing costs) to Marian Platt, 434 Chicken Coop Rd., Sequim, WA 98382. Phone (360) 683-4691