Thursday, November 17, 2005

Family, Stories, and Early Thanksgiving

Since E will be recovering from surgery on Thanksgiving, we're planning to celebrate early. Festivities begin early Saturday afternoon, probably one ish, with dinner scheduled for later in the day.

Our menu so far:

1. Turkey.

Wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it. The 20-pounder's been defrosting in the fridge since Sunday. My fingers are crossed it's ready in time. Haven't decided yet whether to grill it or fry it. Both ways taste great.

Though grilling's definitely healthier, frying's fun and fast. Despite its size, the bird will fry up in less than an hour--so much faster than the time it'd take the traditional way--and then there's the benefit of setting up the big metal pot out in the yard. It's fun to huddle around the bird as its sizzling. It smells great, feels like camping, and gives everyone a chance to poke at the carcass while it cooks.

2. P and J's famous baked-cream-cheese potatoes with extra onions and garlic.

Haven't called them yet to see if they have time to make these...No problem, I'll just add it to my to-do list.

3. Mom's old-fashioned stuffing bake.

This dish is soooo good. In addition to breading drenched with turkey broth, it's chock full of sausage, nuts, and raisins. Yum.

Reminds me of my growing up days celebrating Thanksgiving at my Aunts' house. They lived in a two-flat located off Kimball Avenue just west of downtown Chicago. Their flat faced an old factory, a huge, hulking, behemoth of a building made of brownstone and dark windows. It was a predominantly Polish neighborhood back then. Folks sat on the steps out front, chatting or watching the cars go by. Each holiday promised a plate of blessed and unblessed kielbasa, and stuffing like Mom's.

Before dinner, with the promise of turkey and mashed potatoes grumbling in our stomachs, my sisters and I explored the nooks and crannies of the old place, marveling at the artifacts added to my aunts' collection from their latest trips abroad. There were dolls from Poland, glittering trinkets from the Istanbul market, leather sandals from Greece. And then there was Aunt Lee's closet. Pushing aside clothes and boxes and bags, we'd burrow from one end to the other. Magically, it seemed, it led from her room to her sister's.

Saturday, my sister C will make the stuffing. Mom would if she could, but won't be in a position to do so. She and hubby B will be traveling that day. After 15 years or so in Arizona, they're moving back to Illinois. Come Saturday they'll be somewhere on this side of the Colorado mountains. Mom expects to be back in time to sit with P and I at the hospital Wednesday. I bless the universe when things like this happen. The timing couldn't be better.

4. Cheesy broccoli rice casserole.

This dish is another family favorite. Probably came off the back of a Cheez Whiz box back in the 70s. No matter. There's just something about its cheezy gooey veggie taste. Haven't asked anyone to make this yet. Another thing to add to the list.

5. Oriental cole slaw.

My specialty. Also a must at every family get together. Imagine a huge bowl of fresh cole slaw. Add six chopped green onions, a cup of slivered almonds and sesame seeds browned and candied in a skillet. Toss the green onions and cole slaw mix with a zesty dressing--a mix of oil, lemon juice and oriental seasoning. Add a bag of ramen noodles for crunch. Top with the nut mixture. And voila!

6. Desert

Pumpkin pie ala Sara Lee, pumpkin roll ala SJ. (if she agrees to trade me one for a Frango mint fudge cake), and a Frango mint cake of our own. The cake's another specialty of mine. Imagine three layers of chocolate heaven. The bottom layer is a cake so rich and moist it alone takes one can of Hershey's chocolate syrup. The middle section is a thick layer of green mint butter cream frosting. The top layer is made from one cup of bitter sweet chocolate chips melted with so much butter that the sauce smooths into a thin layer over the green frosting, hardening into a candy shell over the entire cake. Totally decadent. Elena's favorite.

7. Family

The gathering will include aunts, uncles, cousins (four of them, plus my three girls), my dad (if he behaves well enough at rehab for his therapists to let him out to play), our golden retriever Buffy, our cat Mr. Ginger, lots of laughing, and stories. Always stories.

Makes me warm thinking about this weekend. Helps me remember where my stories come from.


Anonymous said...

Help!!! I recently moved and lost my frango mint cake recipe!!! I did a search on the web and found your reference to THE cake. I know it must be the same one, three layers, yum! A friend gave me the recipe years ago. I can duplicate the second and third layer, but not the cake part. Could you e-mail the cake part to me? I would be so grateful, this is my favorite cake!!
Jody Kanikula

Anonymous said...

Frango Mint Cake recipe (once given to me by Jody Kanikula)

Bottom Layer:
1 16-oz can Hershey's syrup
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. flour
1 t. vanilla

Mix and bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins.

Middle Layer:
2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 tbsp. milk, as needed
1 t. peppermint extract
Green food coloring

Mix and spread over chilled cake and chill again.

Top layer:
6 tbsp. butter
1 c. chocolate chips

Melt and spread over middle layer. Chill overnight.