Most of our Thanksgiving recipes change every year, but these two are always on the table. While it may be a familiar story, my grandmother taught my mom how to cook and my mom went on to teach me. These ride-or-die recipes were handwritten with love and they will always have their place in the spread. The stuffing is simple enough that it’s easy to pull off in the chaos of Thanksgiving day, and the yams can be prepped one or two days before and reheated in the oven just before serving. The yams were the star of our Friendsgiving dinner this year, sharing the spotlight with Stella, our turkey. This year I used Bon Appetit’s Dry Rubbed Roast Turkey, and it was delicious. I definitely recommend this method, you can find that recipe here.
Mom’s Stuffing with Sausage, Apples, and Fried Sage
1 box Cubison’s cube herb stuffing (or stuffing mix of your choice)
2 Italian sausages, casing removed
1½ stick melted butter, divided
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 granny smith apples, peeled and cubed
1 pinch cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 sprigs fresh sage
Approx 1½ cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 casserole pan with nonstick spray. Cook sausage, breaking it up into small pieces in the pan. Strain sausage to remove grease and put in the prepared casserole dish. Wash pan and melt 2 tbsp butter over me, add celery and onion and cook over medium heat, until onion is translucent. Add celery and onion mixture to the casserole dish, then melt another 2 tbsp butter in the pan and sauté apples and cinnamon over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add to the casserole dish along with stuffing mix and remaining 1 stick of melted butter. Yes, I know that’s a lot of butter, but that’s how the cook’s mama do. Plus you can’t argue once you try it. Add chicken broth a little bit at a time, tossing gently with your hands. Add just enough broth for the stuffing to become slightly moist around the edges, but not so much that it gets soggy. Cover with foil and bake for 25-35 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until golden brown on top. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and fry sage leaves for 1-2 minutes until crispy. Top stuffing with fried sage and serve.
Grandma Jack’s Famous Yam Casserole
3 cups yams (sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into large pieces
¾ cups white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cardamom
1 pinch nutmeg
½ cups half and half
1½ sticks melted butter, divided
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans or almonds
½ cup bakers coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil yams until soft when pierced with a fork, about 8-10 minutes. Spray a 9x9 rectangular baking dish with nonstick spray. In a large mixing bowl combine yams with white sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, ½ stick melted butter, half and half, cardamom, and nutmeg. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread in prepared baking dish. In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine brown sugar, remaining stick melted butter, flour, nuts, and coconut. Spread topping over yam mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes until top is golden brown.
Ah, Thanksgiving. The start of the holiday season, celebrated by every American family. The time of year when we give thanks for all our blessings and the wonderful people in our lives. Or for some, it's the time of year to buckle up for a ton of stress over pleasing family, having your life look together, cooking, cleaning, and being constantly surrounded by people who need something- be that a five-minute chat or a different cut of turkey. It can be exhausting, especially for an introvert.
One great thing about pumpkin pie is it can be prepped a day or even two before serving, and is JUST as delicious. For me, taking a few hours out of a busy schedule to bake is exactly what I need. While I'm baking, I feel no need to justify my life choices to the dough, no fear that the roasting pumpkins are displeased with the cleanliness of my oven. It is a perfect haven in a chaotic time, and exactly what I need to pause and be thankful for all the people in my life who care about me.
For the No-fail Flaky Pie Crust Recipe
1 stick salted butter (½ cup)
1 ¼ cups flour
¼ cup ice water
1 egg yolk
The first step is to pop your butter and your mixing bowl in the freezer. Once they’ve sat for at least 30 minutes, pull out your butter and use a cheese grater to shred the frozen butter. This prevents a need for a pastry cutter and cuts your time WAY down. Plus, it ensures regular, perfectly-sized chunks of butter distributed through your crust! You can use salted butter, which I do, which eliminates the need to add salt granules to your dough (which I think gives it a better flavor). However, if you want more specific control of how much salt is in your crust, use unsalted butter and add your own (about ¼ tsp salt is usually all you need)!
Once your butter is grated, if it is very sticky and almost melt-y, pop it back into the freezer for no more than 10 minutes. If the butter is still cold, mix it straight in with the flour in your chilled bowl. Use a fork and your fingerTIPS to “rub in” the butter to combine it with the flour. (Add salt at this point if using unsalted butter). Try to keep contact with the butter to a minimum, as your hands will warm and melt the butter, keeping you from achieving that lovely, flaky texture we’re all drooling over. When the butter is in smaller-than-a-pea sized chunks, well coated/mixed into the flour, whisk together your ICE water and the egg yolk. Pour the liquid into the flour/butter mixture a couple tablespoons at a time (excluding the ice. You want the water as cold as it can be, but you don’t want actual chunks of ice in your pie crust!). Mix everything together using a fork until all the liquid is combined. At this point, your dough should start to stick together and look like, well, a dough! If it is still dry and crumbly, with lots of pockets of flour, add more ice water one tablespoon at a time until there are very few dry spots, and the dough sticks together when you squeeze a ball of it in your hand. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate while you get started on the filling!
Pumpkin Pie Filling
2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade, or plain, unseasoned canned pumpkin puree)
⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
1 egg yolk
⅔ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ “rounded” tsp fresh black pepper
½ tsp cardamom
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
A pinch of salt (or to taste)!
If you’re making your own pumpkin puree, use 1-2 baking/sugar pumpkins, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, roast them at 375*F for 40 minutes to an hour, uncovered. BAM, you’re nearly done! Allow the pumpkins to cool, scoop out the insides, pop them into a food processor or strong blender, blend until smooth. If you want an extra-creamy, smooth texture, press the puree through a sieve to remove anything chunky or stringy.
Put 2 cups of puree in a bowl, add all the other ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Taste, confirm deliciousness, and you’re done, pumpkin pie filling made!
Now it’s time to roll your dough. On a well-floured surface, unwrap your dough ball. I begin by using the palms of my hands to bring together the dough/squish out any cracks, then press the dough into a thick, roughly circle-shaped disc on the counter. Then I flour the top of the dough (or my rolling pin, depending on the day), and begin to roll out the dough very thin. If cracks start to form on the edges as you roll, make sure to squish them back together ASAP, as they’re more of a hassle to fix later. If necessary, use a drop of water to help seal the cracks. Once your dough is in a circle large enough to cover your 8-9” pie pan, roll it over your rolling pin and unroll it on top of the pan. No need to butter or flour the pan, it won’t stick.
I like to lift the dough and settle it into the edges of the pan, rather than pressing it in, since that can make your crust a bit tough and too thin in parts. You can also fold the excess crust under, pressing it together with the top layer, to make a nice thick layer to do a decorative edge! The two fingers-and-a-knuckle method of crimping edges is my favorite.
Here comes the part where you have to make a major decision: do you want to pre-bake your crust, giving it a lovely crispy texture, or do you want to pour in your filling and bake it all together, creating that slightly doughy, soft layer of crust that our moms always make? The choice is up to you, young grasshopper. If you want to pre-bake, make sure to use parchment paper and sugar or rice as a pie weight, to prevent the bottom from bubbling up! Bake at 425*F for 6-8 minutes, remove the parchment and weight, and pour in your filling. You can use an “egg wash” to coat the exposed parts of the crust if you choose, giving it a shiny and golden-brown color. This just means whisk up an egg and brush it onto the edges using a basting brush (or your fingers if you’re careful!). Immediately lower the oven temperature to 375*F, and allow to bake for 40-55 minutes. There should be no cracks in the surface of your pie when you bring it out, and there should be a decent wobble in the center when you jiggle the pie. Allow it to cool for about 2 hours, then dig in!
Thyme and Gruyere-crusted Apple Pie
Makes one 9-9.5” pie with a double crust.
For the Crust
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks salted butter
1 ½ Tbsp cider vinegar
About 1/3 cup ice water
¼ lb cup gruyere cheese
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
1 egg yolk
If you didn't read my instructions for my flawless pumpkin pie crust recipe, here's a quick recap of what you need to know. Freeze your butter and grate it using a coarse (wide-holes) cheese grater, then pop it back into the freezer to firm up again if necessary (or if you have something else that needs doing, which in this recipe, you do). Once your butter is shredded, do the same with the cheese. You can finely or coarsely grate it, either is good for this cheese. Bring your butter back out, add flour, cheese, and butter to a bowl, mix together and pop back in the freezer for half an hour (ish). This will keep your ingredients nice and cold while you're working with them.
In the meantime, mix the apple cider vinegar, egg yolk, and ice water together. Strip the thyme from its stems and mince (or leave it whole, but minced gives better flavor). When your dry ingredients are ready, add the thyme and mix in, then add the liquid mixture in, about 3 Tbsp at a time, using a fork to combine until there are no big dry or floury patches, and the dough sticks together when pressed in a ball. Place on plastic wrap and refrigerate while you start on the filling!
For the filling:
8 green or tart apples
1 stick salted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅔ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
2 1/4 Tbsp cornstarch
Preheat your oven to 375*F.
Peel and core your apples, then slice them nice and thin. At least, that's how I like them, and that helps reduce cooking time. If you have a REALLY large sauté pan, you can cook the apples all at once, if not, mix the spices, sugars, and apples together in a big bowl, but cook half at a time (SAVE CORNSTARCH FOR LAST). Melt the butter and cook the apples until they are JUST soft (about 10 minutes, depending on lots of variables, but you know your stove so trust your instincts). Once both batches (or the one big batch) of apples are cooked, mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water (or juice from your cooking apples if you have it), create a 'slurry,’ and pour this in with your cooked apples, mixing thoroughly. The slurry helps prevent the cornstarch from clumping, and the cornstarch helps thicken the juices released from the apples as they bake, keeping your crust from getting soggy! Place your cooked apples in the refrigerator, and remove your chilled dough.
On a well-floured, smooth surface, cut your dough in half. Place half back in the plastic wrap and in the fridge to keep it from getting warm. Work the remaining half into a disc, sealing any cracks as they form. Roll out the dough until it is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pan. Do not trim the excess yet!
Fill your crust with the cooled, cooked apples, and place the filled pie in the fridge, so you can work with the other half of your dough! You can do a full-top pie, a lattice, or any kind of decorative topping you prefer. Roll out your crust in the same way you did the bottom and design to your heart's content! Just make sure the steam from the apples has a few spots to escape from, such as slits if you use a full-top crust. I did a simple, thick lattice, and brushed it with an egg wash.
Place your pie in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the crust is a beautiful golden brown. Allow it to cool slightly, and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream!