By Barbara Beltrami
So it’s Thanksgiving. Bearing foil-covered trays and pans, tracking in wet leaves, and offering sumptuous hugs and air kisses, here they are … your family and your friends and probably a couple of strays from work.
The turkey is nowhere near done, a fact which my mother-in-law, Rose, reminds me is because I didn’t do it her way. Uncle Hal is already smashed and proselytizing about the election. My 2-year-old great-nephew, Harley (named after his dad’s bike), is poking holes in the pumpkin pie. My great-niece, Opra (without the “h”), is wired to her iPhone. Aunt Dolores is already out on the deck having the first of many smokes, and my sister Lynn unveils a bowl of her “famous Brussels sprouts” while I internally grimace and mutter, “You shouldn’t have.”
To get him out of the kitchen because his after shave lotion is so staggeringly overpowering that I’m starting to feel woozy, I ask my brother-in-law, David, to go to the family room and turn on the parade or game and take platters of nibbles with him. Predictably, others follow in his wake and start gobbling (pun intended) everything in sight as if there were no dinner coming soon.
I ask my brothers to swirl their wine glasses outside while they light the grill to cook the oysters. No one except Uncle Hal has had enough to drink yet to bring up politics, but that should get rolling any minute and reach a crescendo over what’s left of the pumpkin pie.
With apologies and wishes to all perfect and imperfect families, Happy Thanksgiving!
Dolores’ Cranberry Cheddar Spread
YIELD: Makes 24 servings
8 ounces softened cream cheese
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons half and half
¼ teaspoon mustard
¼ teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries
In a medium bowl, vigorously combine all ingredients except cranberries. Stir in cranberries. Place in a serving bowl and refrigerate or serve immediately with crackers and crudités.
My Grilled Oysters
YIELD: Makes 12 servings
1½ sticks softened unsalted butter
4 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
2 tablespoons hot sauce
Scant half teaspoon coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 dozen large fresh oysters, scrubbed but not opened
Place the butter, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until completely combined. Transfer to small bowl. Meanwhile, light the grill. When it is hot, place the oysters, flat side up, on a sheet of aluminum foil on the grill rack. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until they open. Using tongs and being careful not to spill any of the liquid inside the shells, remove the oysters from the grill, remove the top shell and divide the prepared chive butter evenly among them. Return to grill, cover and cook until butter is mostly melted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully remove from grill and transfer to a platter. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and toasted baguette slices.
Not My Sister’s Brussels Sprouts
YIELD: Makes 12 servings
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
10 garlic cloves, peeled
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large pan, heat oil over medium high heat, then add sprouts, cut side down. Evenly distribute garlic, salt and pepper, and roast, shaking pan frequently, until sprouts are browned on bottom and tender inside, about 35 minutes, depending on their size. Remove from oven, transfer to a large serving bowl and toss with balsamic vinegar. Serve as hors d’oeuvres immediately or at room temperature accompanied by a dry rose or white wine or as a side dish to dinner.