As much as I hate Halloween, I love, love, love Thanksgiving Day. Not only does it come complete with a four-day weekend, but it celebrates one of the most important things in my life: food. Most of you should know how much I love food: preparing, cooking, or eating it. Watching it be prepared, cooked, or eaten. Even reading about it being prepared, cooked, or eaten! Seriously. And I wonder why I can’t lose weight.
But back to my favorite holiday! This always was one holiday my family could all get behind: no gifts to buy for anyone, no fancy clothes to buy, no fancy foods to make. Just good old, plain turkey, stuffing, and potatoes.
There was that one Thanksgiving about 7 years ago when my aunt made the mashed potatoes and forgot to put them out. We were done with dinner, when my sister leaned over and whispered: “Where are the mashed potatoes?” I mean, we lived in Idaho folks! How could we forget the potatoes? We did, however, forget them. And yes, we are still alive, shockingly enough.
There are always staples we have in our dinners, much like everyone does in their own families. Turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams, stuffing, and Miller Salad.
What’s Miller Salad, you ask? Let me tell you. I remember making this family staple when I was a little girl. Grandma would wrap an old-fashioned apron around me to “protect” my clothes, and then she would let me go to town. My grandma, a Miller by birth, has bestowed this recipe to us. It’s pretty easy, too.
- 1 box of graham crackers, crushed into 1/2″ pieces
- 2-3 bananas, sliced
- 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
- powdered sugar, to taste
- vanilla, to taste
Whip whipping cream until thick, adding powdered sugar and vanilla near the end, enough to sweeten to your liking. Fold bananas and crackers in. Serve.
Now some of you are saying, “I thought Micaela hates bananas.” Let me tell you: if Grandma would have let me eat bananas like this, I would have eaten bananas all day long.
A few Thanksgivings ago, my cousin Josu visited us all the way from The Basque Country for Thanksgiving. He flew into San Francisco, my friends and I picked him up, toured San Fran, came to Reno for a couple of days and then flew to Boise for Thanksgiving. And the thing he still talks about: Grandma’s Miller Salad. Yup. Not Alcatraz, not Reno, not even The Basque Block. Grandma’s Miller Salad. (I wish I had a picture of the salad to show, but alas, these will have to do.)
Now, for the unusual. I am thinking about making a little Grillades and Grits for breakfast/brunch either the morning of or after Thanksgiving. My sister moved to New Orleans about 5 or 6 years ago, and ever since then I have been slowly learning about New Orleans and its cuisine. When I was there during Mardi Gras, I had the pure pleasure of having Grillades and Grits. I haven’t made it yet myself, but it was so good, I think I might try it. It is the perfect brunch dish. And it makes a nice little change after all the more traditional Thanksgiving foods. Here is Paula Dean’s recipe that I am going to try. (I had it the more traditional way, made with liver instead of cube steak.)
Paula Dean’s Grillades and Grits
- 1 (3-pound) chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Cooking spray
- 1/3 cup flour, plus 1/4 cup
- 4 tablespoons bacon grease
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 large bell pepper, chopped
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 cup diced celery
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups beef broth or water
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons hot sauce (recommended: Texas Pete)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 5 medium or 4 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 (10-ounce) can extra hot stewed tomatoes (recommended: Ro-Tel)
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley leaves
Season beef with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Dust beef with about 1/3 cup flour and toss lightly. Spray a cast iron Dutch oven with cooking spray. Heat 4 tablespoons of bacon grease and 4 tablespoons of cooking oil (you may use all bacon grease, all solid shortening, or all cooking oil if desired). Brown meat in hot fat and remove to a large bowl using a slotted spoon. Leaving fat in Dutch oven, saute bell pepper, onions, celery, and garlic. Brown vegetables and remove to bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving fat in the pot.
Add or take away to total 3 tablespoons of fat to make your roux. To make roux, add about 1/4 cup of flour, stirring constantly and slowly until flour is a nice deep brown, being careful not to burn the flour. Slowly add 4 cups of beef broth or water and stir. Bring to a simmer and add back beef and vegetables. Add bay leaves, thyme, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, dried basil and stir. Add fresh tomatoes and 1 can extra hot tomatoes. Simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, remove bay leaves and stir in 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Serve over your favorite hot buttered grits.Maybe I was hung over from a long night of drinking at the Mardi Gras parade the night before, but I am telling you, this was one of the finest things that ever passed through these two lips. I love me some grits, but stewed meat on top? Wicked better than cheese and butter ANY day!!! So, my family better be prepared this year when I try my hand at some southern cuisine and broaden our horizons a bit.