Meeting holiday expectations can be hard.
Sometimes the expectations (and hopes) we have around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Valentines, take such an idealistic shape thanks to the messages we get on TV, in movies, and all around us, that unless we have a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, we’ve somehow come up a bit short.
While I’ve had some great Thanksgivings as weighed against that metric, and, well, let’s just say some not so much, they’ve been mostly filled with people I care about and who care about me. And I’m thankful for that.
But as the years have passed, I find that more than any other holiday, Thanksgiving has evolved from the family Thanksgivings of my childhood, into a day that reflects where I am in life, and what’s important to me, at that point in time.
Childhood and Teen Years
- Resentfully wearing my Sunday best
- Generally resentful
- Fried clam dinners at Howard Johnson’s on shiny, smooth, cold formica table
- Family friends
- Aroma of my mom’s Pecan Pie, baking in the oven
- First cheesecake I made; huge Grand Canyon crack down the middle
- Wanting a large, noisy family to have Thanksgiving with
20’s and 30’s
- Large, noisy, orphan-dinners (for single people far from home)
- Cooking together
- More wine
- More wine
- Team Pictionary after dinner
- Friends with college-age / adult kids
- Football on TV in the den
- Bringing a favorite dish to share
- Extended families
- China and crystal on a pristine, crisp tablecloth
- Husband’s family
- Adult children and their spouses I care very much for
- Laughter and antics of young children now in my family and heart
- Friends that are family
- Caring for elders and those not well
- Great food, thoughtfully prepared
- Wine to toast our thanks
For me, that says it all.
And now, a dish from our Thanksgiving table this year. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving as measured against any metric you choose; no matter how small and intimate, or large and noisy it was.
Braised Endive and Fennel Gratin with Cranberries
- 4 heads of Belgian Endive, cut in half, lengthwise through the root
- 3 medium bulbs of fennel
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, or enough to immerse the fennel
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- handful of fresh cranberries
- 1/3 cup or more of Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lay the halved endive in a baking pan.
- Cut the stalks from the fennel bulb and discard (or keep for another use). Cut the bulb in half lengthwise, and cut very thin wedges, lengthwise, keeping part of the bulb root that holds each wedge together. If that’s not possible, don’t sweat it. The most important thing here is to cut the fennel as thinly as possible. Scatter the wedges around the endive.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a small skillet. Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the flour to form a paste. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth until smooth. Add half of the cheese, and the rest of the broth and pour over the endive and fennel. Add enough vegetable broth to just submerge the fennel.
- Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the top, followed by the cranberries and breadcrumbs. Just before putting the dish in the oven, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until the fennel is tender and the cheese is nicely browned.
- Serve immediately.