This week’s meal comes from the Junior League of Rhode Island‘s Windows:  A Tasteful Reflection of Historic Rhode Island, which I thought would be appropriate for Thanksgiving week.  I didn’t initially set out to make a Thanksgiving-type dinner – there was a recipe for pork tenderloin with whiskey-peppercorn sauce that I had my eye on – but things eventually shook out that way.

I also hadn’t set out to make a ridiculously easy Thanksgiving-type dinner, and didn’t realize this until I was going through the recipes this morning and realized that I could have the whole thing made in less than two hours.  Later this week, I am going to have a proper, much more fussed-over Thanksgiving dinner with my family in Pennsylvania, but it was nice to have something tasty and festive at home beforehand.

This menu could also be nice if you were hosting a very small Thanksgiving dinner, if you didn’t like to cook, or if you just didn’t have the time to roast a bird and do all the traditional fixings.

Cranberried Chicken Breast

Cranberried Chicken Breast

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
3 T. margarine
2 1/4 cups cranberry juice
3/4 cup whole cranberry sauce
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Brown in the margarine in a skillet over high heat for 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a platter and keep warm. Add the cranberry juice and cranberry sauce in the skillet. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Add the cranberries. Simmer for 2 minutes or until the berries pop. Spoon over the chicken to serve.

The chicken was tender, and butter-crisp on the outside (you know I’d rather saute my food in turpentine than margarine), and the sauce was tartly sweet and delicious.  However, I must say that I have a bone to pick with Ocean Spray, which carelessly packed JELLIED cranberry sauce into a can clearly labeled WHOLE cranberry sauce.  The fact that the label was also affixed upside-down should have tipped me off to the fact that something was amiss.  However, I made do, and though the sauce was certainly thinner than it ought to have been, the taste was not affected.

Next, I made a batch of mashed potatoes.  These take no more time than regular mashed potatoes, but the flavor is different, rich, and very nice.

Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

3 3/4 pounds red potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
9 large cloves of garlic
Salt, to taste
2 T. butter
2 T. chopped fresh rosemary or 2 t. dried rosemary
1/2 cup (or more) chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste
Fresh sprigs of rosemary

Cook the potatoes and garlic in salted boiling water in a saucepan for 30 minutes or until very tender; drain. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the butter and chopped rosemary. Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a saucepan. Add to the potatoes gradually, beating constantly until smooth. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper. Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with rosemary sprigs. Yields 8 servings.

I was surprised how easily the cooked garlic cloves mash right into the potatoes, and also at how delicate and understated the taste was.  I would have thought that with 9 cloves in there, it would be a little overpowering, but it wasn’t.  Also, I don’t know about most people, but I’ve always used milk in my mashed potatoes, not chicken broth, but I didn’t notice that the potatoes were any less creamy.  Flavor-wise, it was also a good move.  I didn’t have gravy, but these didn’t need it.  They also didn’t even need any extra butter – shocking.

Finally, for dessert, I decided on this recipe. You might notice that, despite its fancy name, it is essentially pumpkin pie without a crust.

Spiced Pumpkin Pudding with Walnut Cream

Spiced Pumpkin Pudding with Walnut Cream

3 cups half-and-half
6 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 T. unsulfured (light) molasses
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ginger
3/4 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. (or more) ground cloves
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 cans (16-ounce) solid-pack pumpkin
Walnut Cream (below)

Bring the half-and-half to a simmer in a small saucepan. Beat the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the pumpkin and warm half-and-half. Spoon into a buttered shallow 8-cup baking dish. Place in a larger pan and add hot water halfway up the sides. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted two inches from the center comes out clean. Cool completely. Serve chilled or at room temperature with Walnut Cream. Yields 8 servings.

Walnut Cream

1 1/2 cups whipping cream, chilled
3 T. confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 T. spiced rum
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted, finely chopped

Whip the cream in a medium mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners’ sugar and rum and beat until smooth. Fold in the walnuts. Yields 8 servings.

And you know what it tastes like?  Pumpkin pie without the crust.  Sure, it’s a little bit lighter, fluffier, and creamier, but it is pretty much pumpkin pie without the crust.  As far as the recipe, it took about an hour and ten minutes for mine to set up, and for the whipped cream, I’d say the rum is definitely optional.  Though there’s only a little bit in there, the flavor is strong, and some people might not care for it.  The toasted walnuts, though, are a nice touch.

Is it Thanksgiving dinner like Mom used to make?  Probably not, but in a pinch, it might be just the thing.

After I get back from my Thanksgiving with family, the holiday cooking will begin in earnest.  Last year, my sister got me a cookbook from the Junior League of Greensboro, North Carolina that is nothing but Christmas recipes.  I may have to purchase several pounds of butter and bake me some cookies.