Just before Thanksgiving, I read an article on Huffington Post called "Five reasons not to fry a turkey." As you might imagine, the reasons were all safety related (no one ever says skip the fryer because it doesn't taste as good). I relayed the warnings to my husband who was waffling between frying a turkey and making a turducken (which is not to say I was pushing for the turducken, I just felt VERY nervous about frying a turkey). Travis was undeterred. He had decided to fry a turkey and didn't have a shred of concern that our house, dog, lawn, etc. might go up in flames. I suppose for the same reason that I am unfailingly confident in my ability to put together any piece of Ikea furniture, no matter the size or complexity, with only the help of that little 2D marshmallow man making hand signals. Sometimes people just feel invincible.
This year we decided to host Thanksgiving at our house with a few friends - our first official T-day as hosts. In addition the fried turkey de résistence, we had honey ham & poblano macaroni and cheese, homemade mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry salsa, roasted sweet potatoes with peppers and onions, salad with candied walnuts, blue cheese and cranberries, and green beans with french fried onions (Thanksgiving is not complete without french fried onions). We had just five adults for dinner, but I think we made enough food to feed our entire block, including pets and loiterers. Though I can't think of a single dish that I could have done without.For dessert, we joined forces with a bunch of friends who were hosting their own Thanksgivings for visiting families. For me, Thanksgiving dessert is about pie. Pie at least three ways. Since others were bringing pumpkin pie and apple desserts, I decided on a berry pie. My Aunt Mary Ellen makes this wickedly delicious grape pie, but I think it's pretty complicated and I already had a lot going on in the kitchen. (I know, grape pie, it sounds weird, right? But it's made with concord grapes and is perfectly sweet and tart and rich all at the same time. Someday, I'll make you a believer.) Berry pie is the opposite of complicated. It's like "hi, I'm the easiest pie since ever." Especially when you cheat and use a crust mix.
When I first started blogging, I felt like I had to make everything from scratch (in fact, my very first blog recipe was an apple pie that included a scratch crust). But I got over that quickly. And wouldn't you know, my most popular post is the mint oreo cupcakes that came from a box (I recently learned that a woman made them for her wedding!! To that woman: I am so flattered and hope they were a hit.). So to my fellow bakers who appreciate a shortcut, enter boxed pie crust. You just add water and roll out. And I swear on my mother, it's as good as any pie crust you can make from scratch.
With the time I saved making pie crust, I made a beautiful lattice top. In terms of wow factor, you get a lot more bang for your buck with a lattice top than a scratch crust. The rolling pastry cutter pictured above was super quick and easy to use, but certainly not necessary (one option available here). If you don't have a pastry cutter, just use a pizza cutter.
And now to recap our Thanksgiving festivities (even though we're two days shy of Christmas at this point) . . .
Inside, the fire was going and the table was set.
Outside, we were putting on a minor spectacle in our yard. How often do you walk by an industrial-sized fryer bubbling away in your neighbor's yard, while they lounge around watching it like a television set? Oh, never? Weird.The removal of the bird from 35 lbs. of 350 degree oil was definitely most exciting part. I'm happy to report that no limbs were lost and no skin grafts were required as a result. Though there may have been some casualties in the way of shrubs.
He's like a surgeon.
Back in the mines, we finished up our sides. In case you were wondering, it in fact takes three educated adults to transfer sweet potatoes from one ceramic dish to another, plus one to photo-document.
The anticipation! You can't see it, but Jenny is actually tearing up.
And finally, closing the holiday with the expanded team.
4 cups raspberries and/or blackberries (4 of the smallest plastic containers or 2 pint-sized containers)
2/3 cup sugar plus sugar for sprinkling
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tbsp. butter, cut into chunks
2 tbsp. milk or cream
Prepare pie crust and divide into two sections (one slightly larger chunk of pie dough for the bottom crust and a smaller section for the top crust; 60%/40%). Wrap the smaller section tightly in plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator. Roll out larger section into a circle and place in your pie pan. Cover loosely with a damp paper towel to keep from drying out.
Mix together sugar, salt and cornstarch. Toss berries gently in sugar/cornstarch mix. Add lemon juice. Spread berry mix into pie crust. Place butter chunks evenly over berry mix.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Remove reserved pie crust and roll into a circle. Place second crust over berries and roll the edges inwards, sealing the top and bottom crusts together. (Or try your hand at the lattice.) If using a full top crust, make 4-8 slits in the crust to allow steam to escape. Brush milk or cream over the top crust and sprinkle generously with sugar.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake for another 25 minutes. Check pie with 10-15 minutes remaining to see if crust is fully browned. If so, place a piece of aluminum foil over top of the pie for the remainder of baking time.
Note: My pie came out with some extra liquid bubbling up. One nice feature of a lattice crust is that you can pour the extra liquid out once the pie cools.