All posts by Greg Laden

A Thanksgiving Day Story: Fear, Loathing, Feasting, Family

What is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a feast. But what is a feast? Anthropology is all about examining ourselves through the lens of other cultures. Or, at least, that’s what we used to do back in the good old days. Let’s have a look at this great American holiday from this perspective and see what we see. Continue reading A Thanksgiving Day Story: Fear, Loathing, Feasting, Family

Cooking Laid Back Turkey

First, consider cooking something other than a turkey

Cooking turkey is actually kind of a dumb idea. Most people don’t ever cook turkey. Turkey is like chicken … it’s a domestic bird that is familiar to all Americans … but it is very difficult to cook in a way that does not ruin it. So once a year, you cook this huge bird and try not to ruin it, and invite everybody that is important to you over to see if it worked.

As a result of this the truth is that many people have never had good turkey. They’ve only had ruined turkey. And for each of these people, what they think turkey tastes like is unique to the particular way their family’s turkey cooker learned to ruin the turkey every year.

How to cook a turkey

Continue reading Cooking Laid Back Turkey

Two great ways to make a pumpkin pie

I’ve got two pumpkin pie recipes for you. One is the way I usually make it, and it is the best pumpkin pie. The other way also turns out to be excellent, but it is designed for kids who don’t like pumpkin pie even though we think they should. I think kids are sometimes repelled by that pumpkin pie spice flavor. In fact, this kid friendly pie may be good for adults who are just plain sick and tired of everything having to taste like pumpkin pie spice this time of year and want a break, but still want their pumpkin pie.

The Best Pumpkin Pie

This makes one pie. You probably want two, so double everything.

INGREDIENTS

Dry ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt plus a pinch
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice

pumpkin-canWet ingredients:
2 extra large eggs
1 regular can of pumpkin stuff (pictured)
12 ounces of 50:50 mix of whole evaporated milk and heavy cream.

PROCEDURE

PREHEAT oven to 425F. Set the rack to above the middle of the oven but not too high up.

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl.
Mix wet ingredients in a different bowl.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together.

Put a pie crust in a pie shell. Make the edges all fancy looking by using a fork. Cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil. You may remove this foil later during the baking process, or not remove it at all, depending on how the crust is cooking (the foil is to avoid the crust burning or overcooking).

Stir the ingredients up one more time and put it in the pie shell.

Place the pie in the center of the rack.

Bake for 15 minutes

CHANGE TEMPERATURE TO 350F

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes (usually about 47 minutes)
The pie is ready to remove from the oven when a stick or knife comes out of the center mostly clean.
Don’t worry if there is a little bit of pumpkin pie stuff on the knife/stick. The pie is going to keep cooking for a while.

Place pie on top of stove/oven, which should be pretty warm, and let it cool slowly (on a rack or equivalent).

Eat or refrigerate, then eat again. You might consider covering it with whipped cream.

DISCUSSION

There are two main features in this recipe. First, the spices are approximately double the usual recommended spices. Second, the usual evaporated milk is partially substituted with heavy cream. You can if fact use 100% heavy cream if you like but the 60:40 to 50:50 mix of heavy cream:evaporated milk works best.

If you live in certain regions of the world, such as Australia, you may not be able to find a can of pumpkin puree. If so, obtain a pumpkin and cook it. Get a small cooking pumpkin for this purpose. Mush up the cooked pumpkin and measure out about 15 ounces. If you can, grind the cooked material. You may mix any form of winter squash in there if you like. Some of the best pumpkin pie is only half pumpkin, the rest butternut, acorn, or the squash formerly known as “turk’s head.” (The various winter squash may have diverse local names.)

Remember the extra stir just as you are putting the ingredients in the pie shell. The dry spices tend to settle.

To help move the pie in and out of the oven in the early stages of baking, use a flat cookie sheet in the manner that a pizza paddle is used to manage a pizza. Or use your pizza paddle if you have one.

When putting the aluminum foil strips on the crust, pinch the foil right on there to get it to stay in place and have close contact to avoid hot air circulating around the crust.

Use your favorite crust. I don’t divulge my crust recipe because it tends to enrage people and I don’t need that. But it is very good and very simple.

Kid Friendly Pumpkin Pie

Follow the same procedure as above, but change the following:

1) Use one third or even one fourth of the indicated spices. Remember, the spices in the above recipe are double the usual. You want to approach half the usual.

2) Do use at least half butternut squash. Kids like that better than pumpkin.

3) Go ahead and use 100% heavy cream instead of evaporated milk. The kids are not watching their cholesterol yet.

4) (Optional) When pouring the mix in the shell, leave a little room. Then, after the pie is cooked, make some instant pudding of your kid’s preferred flavor, and pour it over the pie so there is a layer of pudding.

5) For this recipe, covering the pie with whipped cream is not optional. It is required.

6) Optional: sprinkle jimmies or similar over the whipped cream.

How to make stock

I admit that the last several times I’ve needed stock, and that is about once a week for me as of late, I just bought it in the store. For making Amanda’s soup, which she brings to school, I combine one large container of vegetable stock, one large container of some sort of meat stock, and one large container worth of water, and go from there.

But making stock is fun, and sometimes necessary, especially if you have certain ingredients building up in you home and would rather have things go to waste than waist.

Here are my stock guidelines: Continue reading How to make stock

How The Franken Thing Is Going To Play Out

… is anybody’s guess, but I have two supportable (and very different) hypotheses.

The first is short and sweet and I’ll give it to you straight.

Tweeden and Senator Franken get together, possibly with their families, and have a pow wow. They emerge from this to announce a newly formed organization to destroy the patriarchy in government. Franken throws his viability as Senator to the voters, and stays in the Senate, but the two of them launch a major campaign to rethink and rebuild gendered relationships at the levers of public power in America. All is well.

The second hypothesis is a bit different, and in this one, Franken resigns. Here’s why. Continue reading How The Franken Thing Is Going To Play Out