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Suspend Politics, Prepare Best Thanksgiving Recipes, Break the Wishbone, Hope for the Best

It was a beautiful fall Sunday when I returned some items to The Home Depot. I was almost to my car when a woman I’d seen earlier inside the store with a dog on a leash ran after me and called out. When she asked if I’d dropped a credit card, I remembered that I’d set my card on the counter, and no, I did not have it. The woman said she’d found it on the floor near the register mere seconds after I’d left. She’d turned it in to customer service, where I could claim it.

How differently things could have turned out had a dishonest person found my credit card.

I thanked her profusely. Nearby was a man I recognized as someone I’d nearly accidentally bumped into earlier because I had difficulty seeing over two tall plants in my cart. As I spoke with the Good Samaritan who’d found my credit card, the man laughed heartily as he tied down merchandise on the rack of his big pickup.

“Hey, thanks for the new gate!” he joked loudly. I laughed. The man laughed. The woman with the dog laughed.

For a moment we were just three strangers in a parking lot, enjoying a lighthearted moment.

And then I saw his truck’s bumper sticker: I AM NOT A LIBERAL.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been on pins and needles anxiously awaiting Shasta County’s election results, but my lighthearted moment darkened and evaporated as I read those five words that proclaimed his disdain for someone like me.

I felt a cauldron of roiling emotions. Disappointment. Confusion. Resignation. Even anger. But mostly, I felt sad.

I felt sad because I remembered where I was: in a parking lot in Redding, California, inside Shasta County, a place so renowned for its extreme political unrest that reporters from literally around the world have flocked to the North State to see the spectacle for themselves.

I felt sad because the bumper sticker reminded me of the searing political divide that’s ripped the North State to pieces for more than two years. Those ragged pieces include friends, families, co-workers, neighbors, churches, and yes, total strangers, like the man and woman in The Home Depot parking lot.

I felt sad because I’m weary of politics and am bone tired of Shasta County’s new normal, which is to say, its new insanity.

I felt sad because I long for Shasta County’s old normal, with uneventful Board of Supervisors meetings; where our region’s most prominent features were blistering summers, the North State’s surrounding natural beauty, the Sacramento River and the Sundial Bridge.

This is Thanksgiving week, and although we are still in the dark about Shasta County’s final election results, I am comforted by the thought that even among the most politically divergent people, many of us have one thing in common: an American Thanksgiving dinner, and the variety of ways individuals define that meal.

That’s not to say that Thanksgiving is completely free of controversy. Fresh baked yams, or canned sweet potatoes with marshmallows, brown sugar and orange juice? Homemade cranberry relish (recipe below), or a gelatinous ruby-red column extruded from its container with tell-tale can marks?

And turkey! Spatchcocked, deep-fried, roasted, barbecued, or brined? Cornbread dressing, oyster dressing or sausage dressing? About that dressing, do you prefer it baked in a casserole dish, or do you like actual stuffing, cooked inside the bird? And don’t forget dessert, because for me, it’s not Thanksgiving if pumpkin pie isn’t on the menu. In fact, if I were forced to choose just one food from Thanksgiving, it would be pumpkin pie, with homemade crust (recipe below) and whipped cream. My favorite pumpkin pie recipe is on the back of a Libby’s canned pumpkin (which may or may not really be squash … please don’t burst my bubble).

This Thanksgiving here in Shasta County, I’m reminded of that 1914 Christmas story about the temporary ceasefire during World War I as soldiers put down their weapons and sang Silent Night in both English and German.

That’s how I see Thanksgiving in Shasta County: a time to set aside the election anxiety, political rancor and hostility; a time to break the wishbone, give thanks, and wish for better days ahead for Shasta County citizens.

But first, I bring you some of my beloved traditional holiday recipes, plus a new one for me; a stuffing recipe from Preppy Kitchen, one of my favorite online cooking websites.

I know you have your special recipes, too. Feel free to share them here, as well as thoughts about your ideal Thanksgiving meal.

In the meantime, I wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving, no matter what you eat, or where you are.

And come Thanksgiving, pass the pumpkin pie, and hold the politics. At least for a little while longer.

Best Thanksgiving Stuffing

I fell in love with John Kanell and his Preppy Kitchen YouTube videos a few years ago. I’ve made a lot of stuffing in my lifetime, but I was intrigued with the addition of eggs in Kanell’s stuffing recipe. I have grown to trust John Kanell. Heck, I even bought his cookbook. If he says this is the best stuffing, then I believe him. In fact, I’m so sold on Kanell’s stuffing recipe that I’m preparing it for Thanksgiving. (I’ll let you know how it turns out.)

I’d print his recipe here, but I don’t have his permission, so you can visit his website and find it there.

John Kanell of Preppy Kitchen. Photo from Preppy Kitchen.com.

Spiced Orange Cranberry Relish

I’ve been making this cranberry relish for many, many years. It’s a classic, and I can’t imagine a holiday dinner without it. If you have any left over, it’s great on turkey sandwiches, and you can even make a cranberry relish tart by putting the mixture in a shallow tart crust and baking it until the crust is golden brown. Top with vanilla ice cream. You’re welcome.

Spiced Orange Cranberry Relish

1 (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries (about 3 cups), rinsed
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup orange liqueur (or more orange juice)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds (optional)

Combine cranberries, sugar, orange juice, orange liqueur and spices (including cinnamon stick) in a medium, non-reactive saucepan.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the cranberries pop and the mixture begins to thickened. (This takes about 10 minutes.)

Remove the cranberries from the stove and let cool slightly. Stir in the orange rind (and nuts, if desired). Spoon the mixture into bowl, mold or container with a tight-fitting lid.

Cover and refrigerate until serving time, up to several days. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes about 2 cups.

Judy Smith’s Refrigerator Yeast Rolls

I can’t remember what yeast rolls I made for the holidays before friend Judy Smith shared this recipe with me. They’re so delicious that I’ve heard that in less genteel circles these yeast rolls are sometimes referred to as simply, BFRs. (Hint: The first word is best, and the last word is rolls.)

Judy Smith’s Refrigerator Yeast Rolls

6 c. flour
½ c. sugar
1 ½ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
1 ½ t. salt
½ c. butter
½ c. warm water
1 t. sugar
1 pkg yeast (or 1 tablespoon)
1 ¾ c. buttermilk

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture (by hand or in food processor).

In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the 1 tsp. of sugar. Let rest and rise about 10 minutes.

Mix all ingredients together, including the buttermilk, the only ingredient left, until smooth and elastic.

Store in large covered container in fridge. (If you want to make the whole recipe immediately, let rise, form and let rise again as below.)

To use, take out of fridge as much as you want. (1/2 recipe makes 9 large rolls or 12 medium.) Place in covered container and let rise in warm spot until double in bulk. Form, put in greased pan with the rolls barely touching, let rise until double in bulk again.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or so—until hollow sound when tapped. I usually brush the tops with butter as they come out of the oven.

Makes 2 dozen medium rolls.

Rob Roger’s Mother’s Mustard Sauce for Ham

For those who like to serve ham at the holidays, this mustard sauce takes it to another level. As the recipe title suggests, I got this recipe from Rob Roger, who got it from his mother. You may recall Rogers from his bygone days as a top-notch Record Searchlight reporter.

Rob Roger’s Mother’s Mustard Sauce for Ham

2 beaten egg yolks
1 T. sugar
3 T. prepared mustard
2 T. vinegar
1 T. water
3/4 t. salt
1 T. butter
1/2 cup whipping cream

Whip cream. Set aside.

Mix well the yolks, sugar, mustard, vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan.

Cook over low heat until mixture thickens (about 3 to 5 minutes).
Remove from heat. Stir in the butter. Refrigerate until cool. Fold in the whipped cream.

Can be made 2 to 3 days ahead.

Andrea Charroin’s Easy Pie Crust

Long ago and far away there there was an adorable bakery, Rene-Joule Patisserie, located in downtown Redding across from the Cascade Theatre. Andrea Charroin was the owner and pastry chef. For a time Charroin had a column here on A News Cafe. Rene-Joule is gone, and Andrea turned in her apron for a teaching degree, but her recipes live on. This is her pie crust recipe. It’s a keeper.

Andrea Charroin’s Easy Pie Crust

2.5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks ( 1/2 lb.) unsalted, cold butter
1/4 cup ice water

In a medium size mixing bowl: Cut butter into small bits. Let’s say dime size.
Toss into the flour and salt mixture

Using the best kitchen tool ever…YOUR HANDS work the butter into the flour until the flour/butter mixture looks like rocky sand.

SLOWLY add the ice water, there are times when you won’t need all of the water, and times you might need a little more. Work the water into the flour until JUST combined. Take a small handful of the dough, squeeze. If the dough holds a shape, you are done.

Form into 2 rounds. Wrap or place in your favorite container. Let rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Make your favorite pie!

Recipe courtesy of Andrea Charroin.

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If you appreciate journalist Doni Chamberlain’s reporting and food stories, please consider a contribution to A News Cafe. Thank you!

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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