Thanksgiving is a good holiday. It’s somewhat low pressure…we’ve spent many travelling or on our own and it has never led to the isolation and corresponding abjection of Christmas spent outside the embedment of family. It’s all about the food and as long as one can make or at least order a feast of one kind or another, that’s all that really seems to matter.
This year, we actually were with family – both sides, as a matter of fact. But we weren’t totally traditional. We tried something different and made smoked turkey breast on the barbecue. This was more fitting than we’d anticipated because the weather was, by my standards, revoltingly warm. The weather at Thanksgiving should be brisk, with sunlight and a stiff breeze; one should be considering whether to put on a sweater, not trying to minimize the retention of heat on a muggy day. In the end, we were very grateful to be standing by the barbecue for four hours, rather than over a hot oven. I neglected to take a photo of the turkey breasts, which I regret, because those were some m(*&^f(*&^%^& big chunks of meat. We bought them from a local purveyor, Houston Natural Meats, in Cobourg and they were a far cry from the pathetic specimens from the grocery store that we had experimented on a couple of weeks before. These were Fred Flinstone-style meats, weighting 16 lbs per piece of two attached breasts. It was a wrestling match, trying to brine them the night before in sugar and salt, a match played out on a mat of two huge metal bowls, and requiring the tag-team assistance of someone with much stronger arms than I. This epic struggle was followed by a three and a half hour vigil at the grill. In the end, they were wonderful, as were our slowcooker mashed potatoes, sauteed brussel sprouts, sherry-cream sauce, and glazed carrots. It wasn’t exactly the kind of meal you might normally want to eat on a day with a high humidex index, but it turned out well.
However, the standout of this meal was, without a doubt, the pumpkin cheesecake with caramel sauce. I adapted a few different recipes that I found on the interwebs, added the caramel sauce and the result was silky, rich, and every so slightly spicy. Here’s the recipe, and a picture, which I did remember to take albeit after the meal was over and most of the guests had departed.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce
9-inch springform pan
ceramic or metal roasting pan
Directions: Wrap three or four layers of tin foil around your pan. Crimp around the upper edge to seal it. Fill the roasting pan with hot water and set it aside.
I now use a scale to weight my baking ingredients whenever possible, by the way. I strongly urge you to do the same
228 grams ginger snap cookies
15 grams unsalted butter, melted
Directions for crust: Grind up ginger snaps to fine crumbs in the food processor. Add butter and pulse until fully blended. Press into the pan and bake at 350 for approximately 12 to 15 minutes until crispy and slightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack while you make the filling. Reduce the oven heat to 325 for the cheesecake.
450 grams fresh cooked pumpkin
160 grams of white sugar
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of very finely grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp of dried
1/2 tsp of cloves
pinch of salt
125 grams of plain greek yogurt
125 grams of sour cream
3 250-gram packages of cream cheese, softened
5 large eggs at room temperature
To cook your pumpkin, open it up and take all the guts out. If you are industrious, save the seeds for roasting and noshing later, but if you’re not, just throw it all away like I did. It was Thanksgiving for christ’s sake! Wash the pumpkin thoroughly and chop into slices. Peel it carefully (it’s easy to cut yourself doing this) and chop into small pieces. Place in about 1 – 2 cups of water and cook until the pumpking is soft. Drain thoroughly.
Place cooked pumpkin in a saucepan with the sugar, salt, and spices. Cook down until it is glossy and thick, stiring constantly. Let cool for a bit.
Place cooked pumpkin in food processor and whiz until it’s smooth. Add sour cream and yogurt and whiz until it is smooth again. Add eggs through the feed tube one at a time until each is incorporated. Don’t overdo it with the eggs, because it can get tough.
Pour into the baked crust and quickly place in the roasting pan full of hot water, then in the oven. Bake at 325 F for about 90 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature for about three hours, in the pan, then at least four hours in the fridge or preferably overnight. Remove the sides of the pan after it’s thoroughly chilled to reduce cracking. Serve with…
200 grams of brown sugar
115 grams of unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
Place brown sugar and unsalted butter plus salt in a heavy saucepan, heat on a medium burner until the sugar and butter are melted and foaming. Cook for a couple of minutes, while stirring. Watch that it does not burn! Slowly pour in the cream, whisking the whole time to incorporate. Let it come back to a simmer, whisking all the while. When it looks thick and glossy, pour into a heatproof pouring vessel. Let cool, then cover and leave at room temperature until ready to eat.
To serve, drizzle generously over each piece of cheesecake.