Southern-style Thanksgiving menu

With thanks to Lee Bailey, and dedicated to my party-planning friend.

Hush Puppies with Tabasco Pepper Jelly
Relish and cruditee tray (pickled watermelon rind, cucumber spears, carrot sticks)
Pimento-cheese stuffed celery sticks

Shrimp Bisque

Roast Turkey
Cornbread Dressing
Scalloped Potatoes
Sweet Potato Medallions
Herbed Green Beans
Jellied Cranberry Mold
Flaky Angel Biscuits

Tossed Salad of butter lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and diced radishes, homemade Green Goddess Dressing

Pecan Praline Cake
Shortbread Cookies
Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Sweet Iced Tea
Red and White Wine
Coffee and Tea

Southern-style Thanksgiving

My son will be going away to college next year (if he gets his wish), so in bittersweet honor of his “last year at home,” I gave him the choice of “what kind of Thanksgiving should we have?” Did he want Napa-style? New England-style? Southern? Tex-Mex? Vegetarian? (That last suggestion was a kind-of joke; he’s a decided meat-eater.) Southern, he said. Really? Did he really know what Southern-style Thanksgiving meant? Turns out, he did, no, really. It’s all about the cornbread dressing, he said. And the biscuits. Needless to say, I was completely dumb-founded and impressed – and I will take his comments as compliments.He was right about the cornbread dressing, and the biscuits. But I have a few other Southern tricks in my apron pocket, thanks to Lee Bailey and my longtime partner-in-party-planning. Lee Bailey was a designer-writer-photographer-stylist, Louisiana-born and –bred, who wrote almost 20 fantastic cookbooks. Based on his recipes and comments, Mr. Bailey must have been a bonafide Southern gentleman, the epitome of Southern graciousness. Which reminds me of my party-planning-partner of arts-and-crafts fame – she is also Louisiana-born- and –bred, also knows her way around a Southern kitchen, and is bonafide Southern graciousness personified. So, planning a Southern-style Thanksgiving will make me bring out my favorite cookbooks and recipes for a gracious holiday that will hopefully inspire my teenage son to return home for holidays! (Phew!)

Uala Maoli Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

This recipe comes from an old standard, Roana and Gene Schindler’s Hawaiian Cookbook. Even though it was originally published in 1970, it still sells in Hawaii today. This recipe is a nice alternative to sweet-potatoes-and-marshmallows at Thanksgiving.

6 large sweet potatoes (2½ lbs.), parboiled and peeled
6 T. butter
2 t. salt
6 bananas, sliced
1 c. brown sugar mixed with 1 t. cinnamon
1 can (16 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1 c. pineapple juice mixed with 1 t. lemon juice and 1 t. chopped fresh ginger
2 T. honey

Slice sweet potatoes ½-inch thick. Grease a heatproof casserole dish with a little of the margarine. Arrange in alternate layers starting with the sweet potatoes dotted with margarine and salt, then the bananas sprinkled with brown sugar, and then the crushed pineapple. Combine the pineapple juice, lemon juice, ginger, and honey and pour over mixture. Bake in 350°F. preheated oven for 40 mins., or until browned on top. Serves 6-8.

Blue Cheese and Pear Sandwiches

6 slices good-quality oatmeal bread
1-2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
6 oz. Pt. Reyes Original Blue Cheese, crumbled
2 ripe pears, sliced thinly and drizzled with lemon juice

Thinly spread bread slices with unsalted butter. Trim crusts from bread. Sprinkle bread with blue cheese. Neatly top bread with sliced pears arranged in a fan pattern. Arrange bread slices on serving plate, cover with slightly dampened paper towel, seal plate with plastic wrap, then place in refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Lemon Ginger Chicken Salad

This is a fantastic recipe.  It’s great for luncheons, showers, and even dinner on hot, summer nights…  From Maui Cooks Again, by Gini Baldwin, Judy Bisgard, Judy Furtado, Zelie Harders, Carol Hartley, and Penny James.

1 T. minced lemon zest
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 T. ginger syrup*
1 T. shoyu
½ tsp. Chinese chili sauce
2 T. grated fresh ginger, lightly packed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. vegetable oil
½ t. salt

10 wonton skins, cut into ¼” strips
1 c. vegetable oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
10 large romaine leaves
1 c. shredded carrots
¼ c. chopped green onion

*Ginger syrup can be taken directly from a bottle of preserved ginger, or made by cooking together 2 t. sugar, 2 t. water and 1 tsp grated ginger.
In a small jar, combine ingredients for the dressing. Cover tightly, shake vigorously and refrigerate.
In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over moderate heat until it just begins to smoke. Cook the won ton strips in several batches until light golden brown, about 1 min.
Drain on paper towels.
Gently poach chicken until tender. Cool and slice chicken into thin slices. Set aside.
Stack the romaine leaves and roll up from the long side into a tight cylinder. Slice the roll at 1/8” intervals. Transfer the lettuce to a large salad bowl.
Add the carrots, green onions, and the chicken. Shake the dressing, pour it over the salad and toss. At the last minute, gently fold in the won ton strips. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Personal notes: If I’m making this ahead, I’ll marinate the sliced, cooked chicken in some of the dressing in the refrigerator until I toss the whole thing together. Also, I never fold in the wonton strips because they fall apart and soak up the dressing, becoming soggy (yuck). I just sprinkle them on top and put out an additional bowl of them so that you can add them to your salad as you eat them.

For the Luau version, I simply left out the chicken; the lemon zest in the dressing lets this salad stand out on its own.


Cucumber Sandwiches

6 slices good-quality white bread
1 container Garlic and Herbes Boursin Gourmet Spreadable cheese
1 c. chopped watercress
½ cucumber, sliced very thinly into circles
grated lemon peel of 1 lemon

Spread each bread slice on one side with Boursin cheese. Trim crusts off each bread slice. Top each bread slice with chopped watercress, then sliced cucumbers (slightly overlapping cucumber slices). Sprinkle grated lemon peel over cucumbers. Place bread slices on serving dish, cover with slightly dampened paper towel, and seal with saran wrap; place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

California Coastal Tea menu

In addition to showcasing local California ingredients, this menu also catered to my vegetarian guests…

Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvee (sparkling white wine)

Yorkshire Gold Tea
Good Earth Original Spiced Tea
Milk and sugar cubes

Avocado sandwiches: Sliced California avocados and microgreens served open-faced on whole wheat bread, sprinkled with California walnuts
Cucumber sandwiches: Thinly sliced cucumbers and chopped watercress served open-faced on white bread, sprinkled with grated Meyer lemon peel (from my tree in the backyard)
Blue cheese and pear sandwiches: Thinly sliced Pt. Reyes blue cheese with sliced pears served open-faced on oatmeal bread

Cream scones with chopped California raisins
Mock Devonshire cream
Fresh organic strawberries grown locally at Tanaka Farms
Tanaka Farms Organic Strawberry Jam
Store-bought lemon curd

Sugar-glazed (Meyer) Lemon Cake
Assorted See’s Candies (Dark Bordeaux, Coconut Bonbons, Dark California Brittle, Marzipan)

Rancho de Philo Triple Cream Sherry (from California)

Avocado Sandwiches

1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 T. unsalted butter
1 c. microgreens
¼ c. California walnuts, coarsely chopped
6 slices good-quality white bread

Sprinkle lemon juice over avocado slices; let drain. Thinly butter each slice of bread on one side, spreading butter to edge of crusts. Trim crusts from bread slices. Divide microgreens into 6 portions and sprinkle on bread slices. Divide avocado slices into 6 portions and layer neatly over microgreens on top of each bread slice. Sprinkle walnuts over avocados on bread slices. Place on serving dish, cover with slightly dampened paper towel, and seal with saran wrap; place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sugar-Glazed Lemon Cake

(from Having Tea, by Tricia Foley)

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
Grated rind of 2 lemons
1 T. lemon juice
1 c. sour cream
2 t. vanilla extract
6 egg whites
Pinch of salt
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 c. blanched almonds, finely chopped

Syrup: ¼ c. lemon juice
¼ c. water
½ c. brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a Bundt pan or 10-inch loaf pan.
In a bowl, cream the butter with ½ c. sugar. Beat in the lemon rind, lemon juice, sour cream, and vanilla.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Gradually beat in the remaining ½ c. sugar.
In a third bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder. Stir in the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, along with a third of the egg whites. Gently add the rest of the egg whites and stir until thoroughly folded in. Mix in the almonds.
Carefully pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hr. and 10 mins. or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested in the center. To make a syrup, combine the lemon juice, water, and brown sugar in a pan and cook, stirring over low heat, until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven, prick the top with a long-tined fork or thin skewer and pour the lemon juice-brown sugar syrup all over the top to cover it completely. Cool in the pan to let the tangy syrup soak in.

(Notes: I used Meyer lemons for the grated lemon rind and juice; I ground the almonds in a food processor until they were finely chopped – but not until they were a paste! I made the syrup first and chilled it in the refrigerator while preparing and baking the cake; I poured cold syrup over the hot cake.)

California Coastal Tea

I planned this Tea in honor of an English friend, who came to visit my parents.  I wanted to make her feel at home, but I also wanted to showcase the bounty of California.  On top of that, she is vegetarian, so I factored that into my menu, as well.  I will never forget the look on her face when she walked into my living room.  My tea table was ready with all my tea things, and everything looked so tasty and fresh – it was absolutely lovely!

I sourced my ingredients as locally and organically as possible – sometimes from my own backyard.  It made my preparations even more personal.  Some of my sandwich inspirations came straight out of Tricia Foley’s Having Tea, a treasure-packed book of ideas and recipes.  We had a marine layer that afternoon, so I had lit a fire in our fireplace.  And I had just enough time to cut some roses and make a beautiful bouquet.  It seemed everything just came together to make that afternoon truly memorable.