Based in Los Angeles, Savour Fare is the home of Kate, a working mom who is low on time but high on life. I hope this site helps you find ways to make your life richer, easier, more beautiful and more delicious. You can read more about me and the site here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!
Halloween is over, and we’ve all recovered from our sugar highs (theoretically). Now is the home stretch for home cooks – less than three weeks until Thanksgiving, and then the sprint through the December holidays into New Year, when we all collapse in a faint of exhaustion. I know you’re already planning your Thanksgiving menu, so to make it easy, I collected the Savour Fare Thanksgiving recipes into one easy place. The best, most foolproof, most delicious, juicy, crisp-skinned roast turkey? We’ve got that. Instructions on making your own pie crust (with a bonus recipe for silky smooth, perfectly spiced pumpkin pie)? You’ll find that here. In the next few weeks I’ve got a few exciting new recipes coming up — another savory sweet potato dish, a refreshing fall salad, and new twists on old favorites like stuffing and cranberry sauce, but in the meantime, here’s the roundup of Thanksgiving recipes for your inspiration:
Despite what my husband thinks, I do try to avoid foodie preciousness. I’m short on time, like everyone else, and I make liberal use of shortcuts in my cooking. I get that premade ingredients make cooking easier and more accessible. But there are some things that making from scratch is such a deeply ingrained habit that I wouldn’t think of buying them premade. For example: I never buy bottled salad dressing.
Salad dressing may not seem like a hill to die on, but homemade is so simple (once you know how), and it tastes so much cleaner. It’s free of the gums and sugars and preservatives you get in even high-end bottled dressing. And it’s pretty infinitely variable.
Making salad dressing has become like breathing to me, but as I’ve been trying to put my feet up lately and assigning the salad making task to the husband, I realized that it’s not universal knowledge. The key is knowing what ingredients to use and what ratio to use them in.
I didn’t always grow up on homemade dressing. Sure, my mom always made Caesar from scratch, and my dad was a dab hand with blue cheese, but I remember a parade of bottles of Italian dressing marching through my childhood. Then balsamic vinegar came on the scene, and we started to dress salads with oil and vinegar. But it never had the feeling of “salad dressing.” I remember sitting at a little cafe in the South of France one summer when I was in high school, and wondering why my oil and vinegar dressing wasn’t like the perfect vinaigrette you find on every green salad in France.
My darling husband is not a picky man. He will cheerfully eat just about everything I put in front of him with nary a complaint. There is, however, one thing that he insists on: pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.
In the early years of our marriage, I struggled with this. I made pumpkin chocolate tarts and pumpkin bread puddings, pumpkin panna cotta and pumpkin cheesecakes. He always took a polite bite and reached for the plain pumpkin pie (that someone wiser than me always provided).
Now I’ve wised up and have come to realize that he was right all along — there’s something really marvelous about a perfect piece of pumpkin pie — the smooth pie filling with its faint vegetal flavor warmed by spices, the crunch and plainness of the crust contrasting with the creamy flavorful filling. Now I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving table without plain old pumpkin pie.
But since I’m me, I wasn’t satisfied with plain old pumpkin pie. It had to be perfect plain pumpkin pie. The best pumpkin pie you’ve ever tasted. And when I tasted my aunt Sally’s pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving, I knew this was it. And I begged her for the recipe, so I could share it with you. (Together with step by step photos of pie crust making — read on!)
Of course, no great quest comes without its trials. I made the pie last weekend — the crust got too dark. Armed with a pie shield and shortening the blind baking time, I baked another crust on Tuesday, and it shrunk and warped horribly. Thanks to some internet advice and more pie weights, I tried again Thursday night — nailed the crust, but the filling curdled and the top got too brown. Finally, on Saturday, I invested in an oven thermometer, lowered the heat significantly, moved the rack down in my oven (I think this was key), and managed the pie you see above.
It really is perfect — dreamy creamy, it slips on the tongue like a French kiss. The spices add warmth and that “holiday” aroma without becoming bitter or overwelming, and the pumpkin flavor shines through. When it comes out of the oven, it has just a little jiggle to add to the excitement. Nobody could call this pumpkin pie plain.
I was very sad to have missed the summer jam season this year. With all the craziness around buying the house and moving, I never got around to putting up plum jam, or strawberry balsamic, or peach and basil, and my stash from last year is getting dangerously low. Fortunately, I still have a few seasonal fruit tricks up my sleeve. Like this pear jam with vanilla beans, which will make your heart swell with domestic pride and impress anyone you care to give it to.
Jam seems terribly intimidating, but really, it’s not. Yes, there are a few basic steps you need to go through to make sure it’s safe to eat (or really to store) but the risks of contaminated jam are much lower than for canned vegetables because both the acid and the sugar in jam act as preservatives. You don’t need any special equipment, other than jars (I get mine at the local hardware store — you can reuse jars, but make sure to get new lids, which you can buy separately) and a big pot to boil them in. An hour’s worth of effort (and not MUCH effort, really – most of it involves occasional stirring or waiting for the water bath to boil.)
And the result? Golden jars of sunshine, lined up in your pantry, making you proud, waiting to be doled out to deserving friends and family this holiday season.
And if you think that you or your family and friends don’t eat jam, here are some serving ideas:
Stir it into oatmeal
Top crackers with brie and a dollop of pear jam
Spoon it atop ice cream
Plop into pastry shells to make jam tarts
And there’s always toast. We’re quite fond of it in our house.
Peel the pears, core them and cut them into small chunks. Place in a large saucepan with the remaining ingredients. (I like my pear jam chunky to preserve some of that grainy “pear” texture -if you don’t, mash them a bit in the pan). Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the jam begins to gel –test it by dropping a spoonful on a cold dish and dragging the spoon (or your finger, after it’s cooled a bit) through it — if it leaves a trail that takes a few seconds to be filled in, it’s ready.
Meanwhile, heat 4½ pint jars in a stock pot full of boiling water. When your jam is ready, pull the jars out of the boiling water and fill them with hot jam. Leave ¼ inch space between the top of the jam and the top of the jars, and run a clean (pref sterilized) knife around the edge of the jars to let any air bubbles escape). Wipe the top of the jars with a clean damp towel to ensure a seal. Cover the jars with the lids and the rings, and return them to the boiling water, making sure the water covers the jars entirely. Cover the pan, and let boil briskly for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the pan, and let them cool to room temperature.
Fall themed desserts are all over these days – pumpkin bread puddings, cranberry panna cotta, pecan trifle. And those of us with a confirmed fear of rolling pins grasp at these desperately. But now it’s time to get real. You and I both know that Thanksgiving is about pie. Preferably multiple types of pie. The table should be GROANING with pie. Pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie, apple pie … Panna cotta, while a very lovely dessert, just doesn’t cut it.
Which means, fair readers, that if I’m going to do Thanksgiving right by you, I need to get over my fear of rolling. I need to summon the reserves — the wisdom of the elders, nerves of steel, hands of ice, and my own experience of parenting a three year old, and tell that pie dough, “You are NOT the boss of me. I am the boss. And don’t you forget it.” And then I’m going to fill it with something wonderful — in this case, a variation on the Thanksgiving classic pecan pie made with walnuts and maple syrup and no corn syrup in sight. And then I’m going to tell you all about it.
Let’s start with the crust, shall we? I am tired of feeling anxiety about pie crust. I just want to make it and be done. Which means, for me, ignoring the tips and tweaks, and going back to basics. Armed with Michael Ruhlman’s ratio for 3-2-1 pie dough, Julia Child’s food processor method, Amanda Hesser and Dorie Greenspan’s plastic wrap rolling technique (though Amanda might never forgive me for calling her an elder — sorry Amanda!), I made pie crust. And it took about 3 minutes. Freeze a stick of butter, cut it into cubes (I cut it into about 24 cubes (you can reverse these steps), then pulse it in the food processor with flour and some salt until it’s coarse and uneven (about 9 pulses should do it). Add water in one fell swoop, pulse a couple of times more, then dump it all out onto some plastic wrap, pull the wrap around it until it looks like a disc of dough rather than a pile of crumbs, and chill for about 30 minutes. Then roll it out between two sheets of parchment (Amanda and Dorie use plastic wrap, but mine wrinkles like crazy) using your favorite rolling pin (and I will add that the acquisition of a French Rolling Pin has improved my rolling technique immensely). Peel off one piece of parchment, arrange the dough dough side down over the pie dish, peel off the other piece of parchment, press it in, trim the edges, and use the trimmings to replace any holes or divots. Voila. No gimmicks. It might not be perfect, but a) it will taste good (thank you butter, not Crisco), b) it will be tender and flaky and c) it won’t give you a panic attack.
Now the filling. I love a traditional pecan pie, but it is so sweet my teeth ache just thinking about it. I also don’t love all the corn syrup because it’s messy and has a funky flavor and questionable health effects (though frankly, pie isn’t health food.) When I saw the French Canadian maple sugar pie recipe in Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts (which is my desert island dessert book (dessert island?) and should be in your library), my interest was piqued. Instead of pecans, it features walnuts, which give it a lovely bitter edge, and instead of corn syrup, the pie gets texture (and a lot of flavor) from maple syrup (use Grade B, which is not only cheaper but more flavorful.) It has a few other additions which cut the sweetness — apple cider vinegar, which adds an acid bite to counter the sweetness, and brewed tea (I used PG Tips), which adds some more bitterness and also flavor. The combination is a little more layered than the traditional pecan, which is just SWEET and nuts. (Not that I don’t love both sweet and nuts.) Plus, my family is French Canadian, so I was just tickled to have a “heritage” pie in my repertoire.
The best thing, too, is that the filling takes no time at all to mix up and dump into your pie crust, which we’ve already established takes no time at all. So this becomes a quick and low stress dessert. And yes, this is pie we’re talking about.
In the food processor, combine the flour and the salt. Throw in the butter, and pulse 9 times — the mixture should look like uneven crumbs. Add the water all at once and pulse a few more times until it’s incorporated. The mixture should resemble dough at this point, but a semi-pebbly dough rather than a homogenous mass.
Dump the entire mixture out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, fold up the sides of the plastic to mush it all together so it is a homogeneous mass. Shape it into a thick disc, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment until it’s about a 12-14 inch circle. Peel off one sheet of parchment and transfer, dough side down, to your 9 inch pie plate. Lay the dough on top. Peel off the second sheet of parchment and press the pastry down into the pie plate. Trim the edges until there’s about a ½ inch overhang, then fold that under and pinch it to the pie plate to crimp (the crimping is not just decorative- it helps keep the crust from shrinking down the side of the plate). Use the trimmings to fill in any holes or divots in the dough.
Line the pie crust with foil, then fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool.
For the Filling:
Toast the walnuts (I use a toaster oven) then roughly roughly chop them.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs, add the sugar, molasses, maple syrup, melted butter, tea, vinegar and salt and whisk until combined. Add the walnuts and stir.
Set the prebaked pie shell onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Pour the walnut mixture into the pie crust.
Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the center has just a slightl slight wobble. (Watch the top in the last 10-15 minutes of baking – if it seems to be getting too browned, cover with foil.)
Let cool to room temperature and add to your groaning pie board.
Filling Adapted from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax