Are you cooking Thanksgiving dinner?

In my family, my grandmother owned this tradition for most of my life. In her later years, it became too much work for her and no one else was ready to take it on. We went to a restaurant in Menlo Park instead. Besides grandma, I don't think anyone else truly enjoyed those Thanksgivings. Since grandma died, we've been casting about for new traditions.

I'm the only person in my family who I think genuinely enjoys making the big holiday dinner. It is a little stressful since no one taught me how to do it. I'm still learning, and I'm getting more confident every year. People insist it's tremendous work, but it's not exactly work. It's a challenge.

Last year I did Christmas, and it was a success. This year we're going to see Guy's family in Florida for Christmas, so I'm doing Thanksgiving instead. Everyone wants to bring something. The fact is, I don't want anyone to bring anything. My family can't cook. They don't want to cook. They'll go buy something already made and bring that instead. But I don't want to eat that, and I don't want to serve it. So, please. Don't bring anything! Just show up on time, and be gracious. That's all I ask. Let me take care of it. I want to.

Is that wrong? Am I rude? Thanksgiving only happens once a year.

My people are very conventional, and they expect the routine fare. Anything else would be a surprise. Blank stares and furrowed brows. Faint sights of disappointment. So to satisfy my desire for novelty and culinary sophistication, I tweak a little bit here and there. If I tweak a little bit more every year, maybe one day they'll be more...like me!

I've been making this two-layer pumpkin-pecan pie for a few years now. I'm going to make it again this year, and then make something else as a surprise. That way I fill the predictability quota while also getting a chance to spread my wings. My turkey wings.

Pecan Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin layer:
3/4 cup pumpkin
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp sour cream
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

Pecan layer:
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
3 tbsp melted unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp grated lemon rind
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup pecans
1 9-inch uncooked pie shell.

Preheat oven to 425 deg F.

Pumpkin layer: In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, egg, sour cream, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.

Pecan layer: In another bowl, combine syrup, brown sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, lemon rind, lemon juice and salt. Stir in pecans.

Spread the pumpkin layer into the pie shell, then carefully spoon the pecan mixture over it. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 for 20-30 minutes more. The filling will puff slightly, but the center will not be completely set. Serve warm or at RT.


weeder1 said...

Oh! That sounds decadent and wonderful!Lucky your family!
Yum yummy yum!

Laurene said...

That's not being rude. You're the host (/artist) & it's your show. I think it would be fun to see the choices you made for your Thanksgiving dinner. I bet you'll make them with a lot of flair!

Anonymous said...

Hi Chuck, good luck with your big dinner. I am the grandma here and normally do the traditional thing too. You are right to insist no one bring anything. How about letting them bring wine? Or is that not good either? Your pie sounds delightful. We are trying a new pumpkin dessert here that I saw on a blog, pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars, but there had better be the straight pumpkin pie too or there will be an uprising!

Christopher C. NC said...

I would certainly eat it, but relatively speaking it seems like a waste of a perfectly good pecan pie.

My crazy cousin and her partner from Columbia SC are coming up to stay a few days with me. She will be cooking us a dinner. I'll help. The last time she fed me it was a bit off. Whatever we have I want it to be cooked.

I'm going to check in with my neighbor the widower entomologist recently from NYC and see if he wants to join us for dinner.

sweetbay said...

I don't cook Thanksgiving dinner any more (too much pressure lol), but I do make Thanksgiving dessert. The pumpkin pecan pie sounds good.

Anonymous said...

Our extended family generally eats at "grandma's" house, and the rest of us bring a couple of sides. How I'd love to be invited to a dinner like yours, to be experimented on and not asked to bring a thing! I'd bring you flowers and count myself lucky.

chuck b. said...

It would be awesome if someone brought me flowers. Wine would be fine if anyone wanted to bring wine. But they have to drink it. Guy and I already have cases of wine. (It's part of our earthquake preparedness kit; this is California, you know.) How cool to have a entomologist in the neighborhood.

lisa said...

"...I fill the predictability quota..." that's awesome. I don't think you're rude at all for wanting to do it all yourself, makes perfect sense to me. I think you're at an advantage learning as you go. You can absolutely make it all your own that way! (Which is amazing, of course! Sure wish I were local/rude enough to crash your holiday! :) I'm totally making this desert, BTW!

Brent said...

@ Christopher C NC: "'m going to check in with my neighbor the widower entomologist recently from NYC and see if he wants to join us for dinner."

I imagined the end of this sentence was going to be "and see if he wants to bring any delicious bugs." Since I've eaten Chapulines myself, I didn't think it was too far afield.

@ Chuck: I've known of people like your relatives - always at the ready to spring into the dessert breach with Vons market brand pumpkin pies. Showing up with unwanted "bakery" cakes with spackled-on frosting a mile thick. "Contributing" their very best side dish of Boston Market brand macaroni and cheese.

Really, they ought to just bring flowers, a bottle of wine, or their brilliant smiles instead.

You'll have to be a master of self control when in response to perfectly cooked haricots verts with toasted slivered almonds and a little Irish butter they ask where the Campbells mushroom soup sauce is.


I'll be doing some cooking this year. We have a number of good cooks in the family. And no one who will dare to ask for the canned cranberries when fresh are so simple to make.

Annie in Austin said...

We're invited to a big gathering where everyone is assigned part of the dinner. It will be fun, but I may cook a few traditional dishes here so we'll have leftovers for the weekend.

I'm not too sure about that pie, Chuck - adapting the Barry Fitzgerald quote from The Quiet Man, "When I eat pecan pie I want pecans and when I eat pumpkin I want pumpkin".

Happy Thanksgiving!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Anonymous said...

I am impressed! No one wants to cook anymore and it seems that the food chains are dictating taste trends. Good for you for making dinner and starting your own food traditions. This is my second year cooking Thanksgiving dinner as my mother in law passed away last year and she always cooked with joy. I am adding a few new dishes. In New England there is a lot of boiling going on so the carrots au gratin will be a surprise. Enjoy the day and all the quirks those family members bring with them. Makes life interesting don't you think?