Thanksgiving: The First Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving! May you be gently resting off a delicious meal and your digestive system not be giving you too much grief after all the abuse and pie you stuffed yourself with.

Another Thanksgiving away from my family. I’ve gotten kind of used to it, I suppose. But, the upside of being an expat, is that there are multiple Thanksgiving feasts to attend. So on actual Thanksgiving, I was invited to dinner through work, and I brought my now-traditional dish of baked mac’n’cheese, and tried something new with bourbon and chocolate pecan pie bars. Saturday I’ll be hosting and cooking most of the meal at my friends’ apartment, because of course.

Baked Mac’n’Cheese. I mean, we all know I’m a sucker for childhood-friendly chemical blast of Kraft mac’n’cheese, but I was convinced I didn’t like “real” mac’n’cheese for a while. Not exactly sure why…but this recipe is a bit of a hybrid between my aunt’s lobster mac and Alton Brown’s standard recipe. I haven’t found a good replacement for the lobster my aunt uses, however.

1 package macaroni, cooked al dente.
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups milk
1/2 onion, diced
Green pepper, tomato, diced
2 – 3 cups shredded cheese. I used a mix of cheddar and smoked gouda.
Paprika, bay leaf, butter, 2 Tbs flour, 1 egg
Optional panko and grated parmesan

I cooked the bacon, set it aside, and used the same pan with a bit of the grease left in, melt in better. Whisk in the flour to start a roux.
Slowly add the milk, whisking it in to incorporate slowly. Then add the onion and bay leaf. After a few minutes, add the chopped pepper, tomato, and paprika.
Let that simmer for 5-10 minutes on low heat. Pour the cooked pasta into a baking dish, and mix up the bacon in there.
Beat one egg in a small bowl. Bring this and the cheese near the stove, and slowly stir in the cheese until its melted. turn off the heat, and beat the egg into this mixture.
Pour this all on top of the macaroni, and stir it up so its equally distributed. Then cover the top with panko crumbs and parmesan, then pop into a 350F oven for 30 min.

It’s hard to go wrong with this, and it can be tweaked a lot to fit people’s preferences. I’ve also fried leftovers, but that seems to be a little bit over the top.

On to the pecan pie. I don’t have a pie dish, and this was for a pot luck, so I thought maybe pie-bars might be a good solution. I went to Sanyuanli and was flabbergasted by the price of pecan (side note, no one uses the word flabbergasted  enough). RMB 50 for just about 2 cups. A bit steep, and I wanted to make a second batch over the weekend. I almost didn’t buy them. The stall keeper suggested I buy walnuts instead. I don’t particularly like walnuts, but I thought that I could mix them with the pecans. So, if you’re in a place where pecans aren’t terribly expensive, go for all pecan, or try with a different selection of chopped nuts.

1 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter
2 cups pecans (or whatever nuts you can actually afford)
3 Tbs butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup, honey, or corn starch
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs bourbon
2 cups chocolate, melted

This smells so good I could eat the bowl as I was making it. First, make the crust, mixing flour and powder sugar with softened butter, placing it in a parchment-paper lined baking tray, and baking at 350F for up to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, crumble or chop the nuts, and melt the butter in a pan. Toss the nuts over low heat for about 2 minutes then set aside.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, syrup, bourbon and vanilla.
Mix in the melted chocolate, and lastly, fold in the nuts. Pour this mixture over the cookie crust, and smooth with a rubber spatula until even. bake 20 minutes at 350F until set.

Ok this was less of a pecan pie and more of a fudgy nut chocolate brownie. But it was delicious. And someone else, who had a trusted family pecan pie recipe, also brought one, which was probably superior to anything I would have attempted.

Dinner was amazing, with all the right sorts of things, three different macaroni and cheeses, turkey and gravy and an AMAZING sweet potato souffle and surprisingly fantastic cherry-jello-based cranberry salad, among many other dishes and more desserts than you could shake a stick at, and a lot of booze, including a fantastic whiskey. I ate enormous amounts, traded recipes, lurked in a “dark children’s table” with other anti-social people avoiding talking to (perfectly nice) strangers, and eventually toddled home and went straight to bed.

Now, I get to figure out how to cook my own turkey and all the fixings tonight and all day tomorrow.


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