Kitchen collection: Crafting a Thanksgiving meal from a pile of cookbooks

This toothsome Turkey Day feast came from six cookbooks with Cuban recipes and more.

click to enlarge Kitchen collection: Crafting a Thanksgiving meal from a pile of cookbooks - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
Kitchen collection: Crafting a Thanksgiving meal from a pile of cookbooks

Mid-brainstorming sesh, as I pondered about what dish to contribute to CL's barbecue-themed Thanksgiving potluck and sifted through some recipes (I'm still not sure what the heck I'm bringing), another thought came to mind: Could you organize an entire feast for the holiday from a handful of cookbooks lying around?

The answer, is yes.

My kitchen's got a mishmash collection of books, which is why the spread, from starters (including a bourbon-inflected punch bowl) to dessert, incorporates Italian and Cuban influences alongside vegetarian, student and Amish food formulas. 

Although the meal features some alternatives to the classics, such as turkey swapped for rib roast and sweet plantains instead of sweet potatoes, the butternut squash soup and pear ginger pie make nods to more traditional offerings.


Boathouse Punch
Serves 20
Good Catch by Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand and Heather McPherson

1 cup extra-fine sugar
Colored peels and juice of 3 lemons
Colored peels and juice of 1 large orange
1 cup bottled mango juice
1 quart bourbon
1 quart freshly brewed strong green or white tea, cooled
1 bottle dry sparkling rosé
Crushed Iice
Orange slices, for garnish
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

Place sugar and peels in the bottom of a punch bowl. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, mash ingredients together. Let stand 1 hour.

Gently stir in lemon juice, orange juice, mango juice, bourbon and brewed tea. 

Add sparkling wine just before serving. Serve over crushed ice with orange slices and freshly grated nutmeg.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Rosemary Soup
Serves 4
Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking by Mary McCartney

1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons light olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the squash
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
A pinch (1/4 teaspoon) chili flakes (optional)
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream, plus more for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out and discard the seeds and put both halves on a baking sheet. Drizzle some olive oil over the squash and lay the rosemary springs in the hollow of each squash half. Bake for 45 minutes.

Allow the squash to cool slightly, discard the woody rosemary springs but keep the leaves, then peel off the outer skin of the squash and chip the flesh into cubes.

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, sauté the onions, celery and carrots in the oil for about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash pieces and the chili flakes, if using, and then pour in the vegetable stock; simmer gently for 15 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper and a little sea salt.

When the mixture has cooled slightly, ladle it into a blender (or use a handheld blender). Mix in the crème fraîche or sour cream and blend until smooth.

Pour the soup back into the saucepan, heat through and serve topped with a dollop of crème fraîche.


Fried Sweet Plantains
Serves 4 to 6
The Versailles Restaurant Cookbook by Ana Quincoces and Nicole Valls

2 to 3 cups corn or vegetable oil
2 or 3 very ripe (black) plantains

Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Peel the plantains as you would a banana. Because they are soft, the skin will come off easily. Slice the plantains diagonally into 1-inch pieces. Carefully place 4 or 5 plantain slices into the hot oil and cook, turning only once, for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Transfer the fried plantains to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and continue with the remaining plantains. Serve immediately.

Florentine String Beans
Serves 4
From Flavors of Italy: Tuscany by  Sara Vignozzi and Gabriella Ganugi

1 1/4 pound string beans, washed, topped and tailed
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 onion or shallot, very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
2 large ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons hot water

Cook the beans in boiling, salted water until they are tender but still crisp. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet over a moderate heat and sauté the garlic and onion or shallot for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the fennel seeds, tomatoes and salt to taste and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes before adding the cooked beans.

Season with pepper and mix carefully. Cover and cook for about 12 minutes. If the mixture dries out too much during cooking, moisten with the water. Serve hot.

Rosemary Potatoes
Serves 4
The Student Cookbook by Ryland Peters & Small

2 1/2 pounds floury potatoes (such as Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 olive oil
2 garlic cloves
A small handful of fresh rosemary needles, chopped
Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the potatoes in a bowl, cover with water and let them soak for 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Pour the olive oil into a roasting pan and put it in the preheated oven. Heat for 3 to 4 minutes until the oil is hot.

Remove the pan from the oven, add the potatoes and return the pan to the oven. Roast the potatoes for about 35 minutes, until crisp and golden, and almost soft.

Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the garlic, rosemary and some salt and black pepper over the potatoes. Stir and return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Drain the potatoes on paper towels before serving.


Sunday Rib Roast
Serves 6 to 8
From Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

1 3-rib standing rib roast (7 to 8 pounds)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Mustard Horseradish Sauce (recipe follows)

Two hours before roasting, remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place the oven rack on the second lowest position.

Place the roast in a pan large enough to hold it comfortably, bones side down, and spread the top thickly with the salt and pepper. Roast the meat for 45 minutes. Without removing the meat from the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and roast for another 30 minutes. Finally, increase the temperature to 450 degrees and roast for another 15 to 30 minutes, until the internal temperature of the meat is 125 degrees. (Be sure the thermometer is exactly in the center of the roast.) The total cooking time will be between 1 1/2 and 1 1/34 hours.

Remove the roast from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board. Cover it tightly with aluminum foil and allow the meat to rest for 20 minutes. Carve and serve with the sauce.

Mustard Horseradish Sauce:
1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk together the mayonnaise, mustards, horseradish, sour cream and salt in a small bowl. Serve at room temperature.

Note: An instant thermometer is very helpful for this recipe. Don't allow the meat to sit covered with aluminum foil for more than 30 minutes or it will overcook.


Skillet Pear Ginger Pie
Serves 8
From Me, Myself and Pie by Sherry Gore

Two 9-inch unbaked pastry pie crusts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinammon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
7-8 fresh bartlett pears, peeled and sliced
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Caramel sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay one pie dough circle into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Slice pears and place in large mixing bowl.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, ginger, cinnamon and sugars. Stir in lemon juice and cream. Add pear slices to mixture; toss to coat. Pour into pie crust. Cover fruit mixture with top layer vented pie dough, lattice crust or other decorative design crust. Brush dough with 1 egg yolk mixed with 3 tablespoons heavy cream. 

Bake for 40 minutes or until pear mixture is bubbling.

Let cool enough to set and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired. Caramel sauce drizzled over to makes an extra tempting treat.

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