Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, with a proclamation by George Washington after a request by Congress.Thomas Jefferson chose not to observe the holiday, and its celebration was intermittent until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, when Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1863, during the American Civil War. Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the date was changed between 1939 and 1941 amid significant controversy. From 1942 onwards, Thanksgiving has been proclaimed by Congress as being on the fourth Thursday in November. Thanksgiving is regarded as being the beginning of the fall–winter holiday season, along with Christmas and the New Year, in American culture.

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621.Very little is known about the 1621 event in Plymouth. This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendees Edward Winslow and William Bradford—it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 English Colonists.

 The only eyewitness account of the  event are reprinted below:

“And God be praised we had a good increase… Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

 Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation: D.B. Heath, ed. Applewood Books. Cambridge, 1986. p 82

“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which is place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation: S.E. Morison, ed. Knopf. N.Y., 1952. p 90

The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

These side dishes  served alongside a beautifully roasted turkey reflects a Colonial-inspired Thanksgiving menu that weaves together indigenous and Old World ingredients and traditions into a uniquely American feast.

SAGE AND HONEY SKILLET CORNBREAD

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With the help of Squanto and Wampanoag tribe, corn was one of the first crops the settlers learned how to grow and soon cornmeal became a diet staple and was used for making johnnycakes, porridges, and more. The difficulty of growing wheat in the northern colonies meant that other breads were a rare luxury, but there was always cornbread.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups coarse yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup honey

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425º F. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in oven until hot, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, sage, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Melt 1 stick butter, and whisk together with milk, buttermilk, eggs, and honey. Whisk milk mixture into cornmeal mixture until just combined.

Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Remove skillet from oven, add remaining tablespoon butter, and swirl to coat. Pour in batter, and bake until cornbread is golden, 20 to 23 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

BAKED PUMPKIN

Native to North America, pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants, having been used as early as 7,500 to 5,000 BC. As a cultivar of a squash plant, pumpkins have a round, smooth, slightly ribbed skin, and most often appear deep yellow to orange in coloration. The original pumpkins were small and hard with a bitter flavor. Rather than using their nutritional and readily available seeds, pre-Columbian indigenous tribes along the East Coast and the Mid-Atlantic grew pumpkins for their flesh. Because of their solid, thick flesh, pumpkins served as an ideal food source for storing during cold weather and in times of scarcity. Indigenous cooks would often roast them whole in the ashes of a smoldering fire and then crack the pumpkin open to scoop out the pulp from the shells, adding honey or maple syrup and cooked again in the fire in a clay vessel. One of the first American pumpkin recipes was included in John Josselyn’s “New-England’s Rarities Discovered”, published in the early 1670’s. The recipe was for a side dish made from diced ripe pumpkin that had been cooked down in a pot over the course of a day. Once the pumpkin was cooked, butter and spices were added, much like the recipes for mashed squash or sweet potatoes seen today.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 small whole pumpkin, 6 to 8 pounds
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup melted butter

Directions:
Preheat the oven to at 350 ° F.

Wash the pumpkin, removing any soil; dry with paper towels

Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and place the entire pumpkin in the oven. Bake for about 2 hours. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Using a chef’s knife, cut the baked pumpkin in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds from inside; remove the seeds and save for another used if desired. Spread the pulp into am 8 x 8- inch casserole dish.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over the pumpkin. Place the casserole in the oven and bake for another 35 minutes. Serve warm.

ROASTED DELICATA SQUASHES AND LADY APPLES

delicata squash lady apples

Photo Credit:  Anna Williams, 2012.

In Colonial America, English settlers were introduced to the pumpkin by Native American tribes. For the most part,  “pumpkin” (actually, “pompion” or “pompkin”) was the catch-all word for squashes of all sorts. In this sweet and savory side dish, the “pompions” are in the form of pretty Delicata squashes. The savory kick comes from slab bacon, an acknowledgement to the fact that pigs  were introduced by the Spanish conquistadors, thrived in the New World and pork was essential component of  the Colonists’ diets.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 delicata squashes (1 1/2 pounds total), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices,
   seeds removed
10 lady apples (1 1/2 pounds), cut in half
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into
   lardons (1/2 inch wide)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black  pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 ºF. Toss together squashes, apples, oil, sugar, bacon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; season with pepper. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast until golden on bottom, about 50 minutes. Flip squashes and apples over, and roast until tender, about 5 minutes more. Sprinkle thyme over mixture, and serve immediately.

CRANBERRY RELISH WITH PEARL ONIONS

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Native Americans had been growing and eating cranberries long before the Pilgrims arrived, but the first recorded instance of cooking them into a sweetened sauce to serve with meat shows up in the 1670s.

Yields  2 1/4 cups

Ingredients:
21 white pearl onions
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

Directions:
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook onions 2 minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain. Peel onions, and cut in half. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cover, and cook over medium-low heat until cranberries burst and onions are tender, about 40 minutes.

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Cuban Chicken Soup with Plantain Dumplings

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Recipe adapted from the cookbook
Cuba! Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen
by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn and Jody Eddy
2016

The winter doldrums continue and there is nothing more perfect than a comforting bowl of chicken soup to warm your soul.

But wait!

This is not your grandmother’s chicken soup and dumpling recipe, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a Cuban grandmother. With its long simmering time and the addition of calabaza, a tiny orange-and-white squash, this is a wonderful way to warm up on a chilly day. The additional of Bijol, a traditional Cuban blend of ground achiote, cumin and corn flour, infuses the soup with a pleasant yellow color, but if you don’t have a Latin specialty market in the neighborhood, a pinch of turmeric makes a good substitute. The plantain dumplings are a lovely combination of sweet and savory, but they do not hold well. If you have leftover soup, the dumplings will completely disintegrate overnight. If you are not planning to eat all the soup in one dinner serving, add only enough dumplings to suit your hunger pangs, then freeze the soup without dumplings and whip them up whenever you are ready to dive into the leftovers.

And like every recipe, this soup has many variations throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. In Ecuador it is known as Caldo de Bolas and in Columbia, it is called  Sopa de Pollo y Platano Verde. Where as in Puerto Rico it takes on the name  Sopa De Pollo con Mofongo which is considered the Puerto Rican version of Matzah Ball Soup. Imagine that!

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
For the Soup:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
1 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups calabaza squash, cut into 1-inch dice
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Bijol (optional)*
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the plantain dumplings:
2 ripe plantains, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup rice flour

Directions:
In a large pot over high heat, combine the chicken, onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.

Using tongs, remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool slightly. Using 2 fork, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Return the chicken to the pot and add the squash, tomatoes, cumin cinnamon and Bijol. Simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, make the dumplings: Place the plantains in a microwave-safe bowl with 2 teaspoons water and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave until very soft, about 2 minutes. (If you don’t have a microwave, place the plantains in a fry pan with 1/3 cup  water, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium heat until the plantains are soft, 12 to 15 minutes. NOTE: Do not use any more water than this or  the plantain’s sweetness will leach out into the water. Sprinkle the plantains with the salt and pepper and mash them with a fork until smooth. Add  egg, cornmeal and rice flour to the plantain mixture until a combined. Roll the mashed plantain into smooth balls about 1 inch in diameter.

Drop the plantain dumplings into the soup and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

*Cook’s Notes:
Six to seven bone-in chicken thighs can be substituted for the chicken breast if you like more flavor to the soup.

If Bijol or tumeric are not readily available, Goya Sazon Culantro y Achiote® seasoning is available in most major supermarkets and grocery stores. With its combination of garlic, cumin, coriander seed, it can be the perfect seasoning for this soup, also giving a vibrant red orange color that is visually appealing.

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

Protected by Copyscape