When Alex and I started dating, and I became hopeful it would be a relationship that would end in marriage, it became imperative I find out his favorite food. I make no bones about the fact that I used my culinary prowess as a way to gain access to his heart. The power of cooking as an act of love is often underestimated. A home cooked meal has the ability to transcend all pretense and speak directly to one’s soul in a way that is warming, comforting and reassuring.
“Thanksgiving” was his reply, and it caught me by surprise. Not exactly a food, per se, but I took what he said to imply the flavors that make up the traditional American feast. I also found it symbolic that his favorite meal is one we often associate with family, love and appreciation for others. Appropriately, it was just these things I hoped to foster in our relationship through my cooking.
I don’t know whether my artfully crafted spread of roast turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries is what sealed the deal for us, but I continue to repeat the tradition every new year into our marriage. Picking a time just before the rush of the holiday season ensures I can truly enjoy the process of cooking this meal, without feeling obligated or burdened. It also seems that this meal of “thanksgiving” for my wonderful husband is more intimate, less expected and that much more genuine in nature when prepared impromptu.
This year I gathered up the essential turkey and raw cranberries, then threw together just about everything else from what I had in the fridge. Our feast was simple, yet elaborate for a weekday dinner, and one whose leftovers we enjoyed for several days to follow.
Everyday Thanksgiving Menu
- Roast Turkey with Root Vegetables
- Sherry and Roasted Garlic Gravy
- Cornbread Stuffing with Golden Raisins and Celery
- Candied Ginger Cranberry Sauce
- Vanilla Scented Kabocha Squash Puree
- Glazed Brussel Sprouts
The highlight of this meal for me was the squash puree. If you have never cooked with the kabocha variety, it is an incredibly flavorful alternative to butternut squash or sweet potato. It has a deep orange flesh with a very dense, creamy texture that has a mellow sweetness. In this recipe I roast it until tender and then puree it with a scant ¼ C of vanilla bean infused cream and a dab of butter. As a puree, it is velvety smooth with a hint of marshmallow, that is tempting to eat by the spoonful for dessert instead of the requisite pumpkin pie.
Kabocha Squash Puree:
1 large kabocha squash
¼ C heavy cream
1 Tbsp butter
1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped out
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Halve the squash lengthwise then scrape out and discard the seeds. Place the squash halves flesh side down on the prepared sheet pan and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the squash is soft to the touch. Allow the squash to cool for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the cream in a small saucepan with the vanilla bean seeds and butter, then set aside.
Use a spoon to scrape the flesh out of the squash directly into the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Add the infused cream and a pinch of salt and pepper then puree until very smooth. Taste and add the lemon juice to balance the flavors. If necessary, reheat the puree in a small saucepan over a very low flame.