Pretty Dishes

Giving Thanks
November 27, 2011, 6:44 pm
Filed under: Recipes

I had hoped to get this posted before Thanksgiving, but between working, planning, and recipe preparation, it just wasn’t in the cards. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt to recap the meal and share the essence of the holiday after the fact.

I have quite a lot that I’m grateful for at the moment. First of all, I’m happy to report that I’ve completed all of the big projects that have stolen me away for the past eight months or so. Suddenly I have a little more time on my hands and no guilt hanging over my head, both of which are glorious things.

And yet, as I say that, two of the most prominent reasons that I am both extremely thankful and very preoccupied are also directly tied to my availability, especially in the near future. I was promoted to a managing editor position in early August (translation: lots of meetings, later nights, and more eating out), and around the same time, I learned that my husband and I would be expecting our first child at the end of March. We are beyond thrilled, but it will mean many changes and adjustments, so I’m trying to be flexible and leave my schedule pretty open. It’s hard to say definitively whether my presence here will stay about the same leading up to the birth and then drop off completely for a bit, or if, with other obligations finally off my plate, I can better manage my time and maintain some more consistency with updates. Ideally it will be the latter, but I don’t want to overpromise.

I’m sure my cooking habits will change in the next year as a result of the infant addition, but my desire to continue challenging myself in the kitchen and documenting excellent results won’t. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep writing interesting posts as well as further developing my photography skills. This site has provided great learning opportunities and has been a real accountability tool. I’m so pleased you’ve been around to witness it all and offer feedback—many thanks.

All right, back to Thanksgiving Day. My parents hosted this year, and I helped my mother decide on the menu. There were myriad options to choose from, but we eventually settled on the following:

Butter-and-Herb-Roasted Turkey with Madeira Jus (Fine Cooking)

Harvest Bread Stuffing (Fine Cooking)

Cranberry Orange Relish (Gourmet)

Classic Green Bean Casserole (Cook’s Illustrated)
I made this particular green bean casserole recipe after reading M’s rave review of it last year; she noted how the homemade cream-and-mushroom base (I used creminis) plus fresh green beans and bread crumbs (I used artisan French bread) really take what is already a tasty dish into a whole new stratosphere. I couldn’t agree more. This version is truly exceptional, and it is destined to be a holiday staple in my home for many years to come.

Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots (Bon Appétit)
This hash is a favorite of mine that I prepare throughout wintertime.

Grape Broccoli Salad

Of course there were also simple mashed potatoes, traditional sweet potatoes, rolls, and pumpkin and pecan pies. And I made Caramelized Cashews with Cayenne to accompany the other typical snack starters of crackers, cheese, crudités, and dip. It was quite the spread.

Then there was the Pumpkin Cheesecake with Marshmallow-Sour Cream Topping. This turned out to be the star dessert, and it really deserved the honor. It comes from Bon Appétit and was picked as one of Epicurious’s blue ribbon, top-rated recipes. I would recommend a few adjustments to the original recipe, so I’ve compiled my own adaptation of the original here.

First, I decided that this would be my chance to try out the Crack Pie Crust with a cheesecake, rather than making the Gingersnap Crust (in part because I had all ingredients on hand and thus wouldn’t need to purchase or make crystallized ginger and gingersnap cookies). I did parbake the crust for about 10 minutes, with some hesitation given the short Crack Pie baking time in comparison to the lengthy cheesecake baking time, and it turns out that while it didn’t hurt, it didn’t seem to help either—partway through baking the cheesecake, butter from the crust was oozing out the side of the springform pan. Thankfully I had placed a sheet pan beneath it (thinking that the filling might spill over), so no oven disaster ensued. In spite of this, however, the crust matchup worked beautifully.

As for the filling, I found that the original recipe simply makes too much for the suggested 9-inch springform pan, so after the pan was absolutely filled to the brim (and of course puffed above while baking, though it settled back down after cooling) I had to discard about 3/4 cup of filling. Therefore I’ve adjusted the amount of cream cheese in my version just a tad (4 ounces less) to compensate for that; I haven’t tested it this way, but I’m sure it would not compromise the texture and would just result in a slightly more concentrated pumpkin-spice flavor. Or use a 10-inch springform and stick with the original amounts.

All in all, this cheesecake is a winner and is sure to impress family and friends. It is an especially decadent and welcome alternative to store-bought pumpkin pie. Note that it’s a bit labor-intensive and does require setting overnight, so you’ll have to plan ahead for this one. I’m kicking myself that I failed to get a photo, even though my camera was on hand. Next time, perhaps.

What dishes did you especially enjoy this year?

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Marshmallow-Sour Cream Topping and Crack Pie Crust

Cookie for crust

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour
Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 egg
Scant 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated. With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.

Spread the mixture onto a 9-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.


Crumbled cookie for crust (recipe above)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with nonstick spray.

Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together). Press the crust into the pan to form an even layer along the bottom and 2 inches up the sides. Set aside.


3 1/2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the pumpkin. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on low speed to incorporate each addition. Add the flour, spices, and salt; beat just to blend. Beat in the vanilla.

Pour the filling evenly over the crust. Bake until the filling is just set in the center and the edges begin to crack (the filling will move slightly when the pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool for 1 hour. Run a knife around the sides of the pan to release crust. Chill the cheesecake, uncovered in the pan, in the refrigerator overnight.


2 cups mini marshmallows or large marshmallows cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream

Stir the marshmallows and milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until the marshmallows are melted, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Cool marshmallow mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Add the sour cream to the mixture; fold gently just to blend. Pour the topping over the cheesecake and spread evenly, leaving 1/2 inch uncovered along the edge. Chill for at least 1 hour to set topping. Cut into 12 slices and serve.

The cheesecake will keep for several days in the refrigerator.


1 Comment so far
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GO GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE!!! I think we should have a Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake-Off. Mine was damn good, too. :)

Comment by M

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