What Dish is a Must-Have on Your Table?
Athens chefs and cooks share their favorites. Add yours!
There’s a special place for this guest every Thanksgiving.
Others may come and go from one year to the next, but this particular one is faithful and constant. It may even have its own special bowl.
Yes, we all have favorite Thanksgiving foods, ones whose absence would ruin the meal. Maybe it’s Aunt Betty’s congealed salad, or your mom’s whole wheat biscuits or even a strange looking, cheese-laden squash casserole. You eat it because, well, it’s a habit bordering on becoming a tradition.
For chef and cookbook author Rebecca Lang, nothing says Thanksgiving like her grandmother’s cornbread dressing. Lang says she’s been making for years. Every time, she gets closer and closer to getting it right.
Well-known baker and cook Marilyn Gootman counts on sweet potato soufflé and apple pie to make her Thanksgiving table sing. For the soufflé, she says, she just bakes the sweet potatoes in the oven “until they’re nice and sweet,”, then peels them, adds an egg white and some cinnamon and bakes. “There’s no sugar needed,” she adds.
Sarah Dunning of Gymnopedie favors a clean green bean casserole. No, there’s no soap involved in making things clean—by clean, she means no cans of gloppy cream of mushroom soup.
And she offers the recipe: 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces; 1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, 1 Tbsp. Oil, 3 cloves garlic, minced, a generous pinch cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. fresh thyme, Salt and pepper to taste, 2 Tbsp. Flour , 3/4 cup vegetable broth, 1 Tbsp. dry white wine, 1 3-ounce can of French fried onions
Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add 1.5 T salt and beans to the boiling water. Cover and cook for 6 minutes. Drain beans in a colander. Pat dry to remove all the water. Slice the mushrooms. Combine the mushrooms, garlic, cayenne, thyme, salt, and pepper in a skillet with some oil, and cook until mushrooms are very soft. Whisk the flour into the vegetable broth and add to the mushrooms along with the wine. Simmer, stirring, until the mixture reduces, about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings and stir in the beans. Put the green bean melange into an oiled casserole dish and top with the onion mixture. Bake at 400 F for about 15 minutes. If you are not serving this right away, refrigerate the topping separately; bring to room temperature before sprinkling the topping on the casserole. Bake for about 20 minutes or until hot throughout.
Mimi Maumus, who runs Catering by Homemade on Baxter Street, says her grandmother always made pepper jelly. It was “a must have pre-dinner treat, with cream cheese and crackers.” For the dinner itself, Mimi says, there has to be oyster dressing and homemade cranberry sauce.
Here's a recipe for spicy pepper jelly. Definitely feel free to adjust the heat to your liking…or omit it altogether.
1 cup seeded and chopped bell pepper – red or green but not a mixture of both, 1/4 cup chopped hot pepper (jalapeno or serrano) or 2 – 4 Tablespoons hot sauce, 1 ½ cups cider vinegar, 6 ½ cups sugar, 4 ounces liquid pectin – these are found near the canning jars – certo and ball are popular brands
Puree the peppers with the vinegar in a blender. Pour into a nonreactive pot – stainless is perfect…just not aluminum. Add sugar and stir to combine. Heat over medium – high heat. A foam will rise to the top – remove this with a ladle or spoon – this will cloud the jelly. It will persist for a bit but, once you remove it all, you will be left with a beautiful, transparant liquid. Once you reach the boiling point, add the liquid pectin. Stir in. Allow to boil for one minute and then promptly remove from heat. Can according to jar directions or pour into glass containers to cool – if you are going to use in the next week or two.
The National’s chef, Peter Dale, says Thanksgiving isn’t complete “without my mom's pecan pie (from a Betty Crocker cookbook from the ‘70s, it's the gold standard).” His father’s family is from the North, so Peter grew up eating stuffing instead of dressing.
“It's my favorite... torn white bread with sauteed celery, onions, apples, raisins, and lots of melted butter,” he says. “When it's cooked inside the bird, the natural juices enhance the flavor. It's addictive and tastes of home.”
So what's your favorite, traditional food? Want to tell us how you make it?