Having gone to three separate Thanksgiving dinners, and traveled four hours to do so, Darling Husband and I got to talking and have compiled our "best of" list for the holiday.
My parents. It was moist and flavorful, with lovely white and dark meat. An all around nice bird--nothing fancy, but well seasoned and cooked just right.
Darling Husband's paternal grandmother. Cooked in the bird and, therefore, wonderfully moist with the drippings from the turkey. I think we both got a touch of food poisoning from it, but it was darkly worth it. The veggies in it were not raw, as can be a problem with onions and celery in stuffing. It was the stuffing all stuffings wish they could be, and food scientists warn us about.
My parents. Flavorful, creamy, dreamy. Just right as a vehicle for gravy or a foundation for a forkful of everything.
Darling Husband's paternal grandmother. She says she'd rather bake than cook. God bless her, she's like my sister in that. It serves her well, though, as her pie was fantastic (even though she forgot the whipped cream). It wasn't glutenous or gelatinous, as pumpkin pie can be, nor was it heavy. The custard was just right. Baby Girl ate a whole piece herself.
It's a tie between my parents and Darling Husband's maternal grandmother. Actually, I think his mom actually made the gravy, and that's where the problem came in. Our mothers both made gravy the way they make gravy, and therefore we both picked our own mother's gravy as the most exemplary. My mom's was thinner than his mom's, with more of the flavor of the bird. His mom's was thicker and more stick to your ribs, with a lovely consistency. [It's worth noting that the other Thanksgiving dinner's gravy was unusually made. The aunt who was in charge insisted on using water from the potatoes for thickening the gravy. To us, it was a miss for a number of reasons, and this might have been one of them. For one thing, it just never emulsified and seemed greasy. As Darling Husband pointed out, the starch in the water would have already been cooked and done it's thing. For another, it's adding quite a bit of extraneous liquid to cook out. I guess it's an interesting idea, but for that reason or perhaps not, the gravy wasn't a hit for us.]
Best Beta Carotine Veg (sweet potato or squash):
Darling Husband's maternal grandmother. Darling Husband's aunt and uncle brought a lovely hubbard squash dish with cranberries and just a hint of cinnamon. Hubbard squash is rather pumpkiny in taste and texture; it's more fibrous than acorn or butternut. The cranberries were a wonderful bright note.
Best Veggie (unspecified):
This one also was a tie. The first veg we loved was at Darling Husband's paternal grandmother. They make a corn casserole, which is probably a spoon bread of some kind. Mmmmh, it is so good. It has corn kernels and corn meal and sour cream and I don't know what else. It's sweet but not sugary, starchy but fluffy. It's addictive.
The second veg we loved was, actually, our own. We made brussel sprouts and brought them to Darling Husband's maternal grandmother's Thanksgiving. First, we trimmed and halved the brussel sprouts, tossing them in olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Then we roasted them cut side down on a baking stone in a 415 degree oven. Meanwhile, we reduced some balsamic vinegar slightly (we've over reduced before and wound up with tar, so I was a bit gun shy and could have reduced further) and halved some dried figs. When the sprouts were out of the oven, we added the figs and a few handfuls of candied walnuts and tossed with the balsamic. Roasting them brings out the sweetness and mellows the harsh cabbage bitterness, plus adds a bit of carmelization and wonderful flavor. The balsamic was tart and sweet and rich with umami. And while figs and candied walnuts are sweet, the overall flavor of the dish has enough dark flavors that it's not overwhelmingly sweet at all.
Oh, and then there was my mother's green beans, which had grown in her garden and had a wonderful crispness... Hmmm. I guess we ate pretty well this weekend. Thank you to all our family for their hospitality, good food and generous love. We're thankful for you all.