You are probably in full Thanksgiving mode now, or you are all set and just doing the countdown for the cooking marathon to start. I am actually all done – our thanks were given during Canadian Thanksgiving this year, on Columbus Day. Now I am just going through the supermarket aisles wishing I could do it all over again. Call me crazy. It is my favorite holiday: it is really all about the food and who you share it with, no need for decorations or an endless list of gifts. It is a time for reflection and appreciation.
I’ve only hosted 3 times: 2 were last minute decisions during Canadian Thanksgiving with small babies and my mother-in-law involved; 1 when I was overly pregnant, with no Americans other than my kids (sort of an introduction to what a Brazilian thinks a Thanksgiving holiday is like). All of them equally cherished, especially the last one: we had the perfect combo of family and close friends. Another 2 or 3 were spent with cousins and their friends in Wilton Woods, CT, a town with homes and people that you see in commercials on TV, the picture perfect of American holidays. 2 or 3 were not celebrated at all, as we took the time to visit family in Canada. That was when I realized I actually missed Thanksgiving. Even though I didn’t grow up with it, I adopted it. I want to celebrate it. Last year was really, really special – I had a newborn. I cuddled with my baby and marveled about the miracle of life while the rest of the family feasted with neighborhood friends, with lots of left-overs to feed me for a few meals.
I learned that to make it less daunting when you don’t have help and/or a 3 oven kitchen, you either plan meticulously ahead (I will do it if we drop the meticulously), or you find some people to share the work and joy with. This time around I had the help of 2 friends who don’t like to cook. Period. Less than ideal, but extremely helpful (one even made cranberry sauce by herself – the same friend that was offended by finding an entire eggplant in her first Blue Apron box delivery – yes, her). And thankful was I for them being the best company. For the years to come, I want to partake in friendsgiving celebrations and share the love and the cooking. There you go, keep us in mind for next year, my (relatively) local friends (will travel for good food/company). You can come over here or have our cooking come to you, you pick.
For this week, if you find yourself on the last minute decision/planning team, here is what was on our last minute table other than a 12 pound brined turkey: parmesan-roasted butternut squash, kale and caramelized onion stuffing, maple syrup cranberry sauce and blackberry and apple pie. I did have high hopes for shaved brussels sprouts, but I had an event to attend followed by a mishap with an Uber driver taking me around town. So they showed up in another meal.
I really recommend all of the above and will make those again, but what I really would like to share with you is this Jaimie Oliver’s blackberry apple pie. Perhaps not because it will teach you something completely new, but because he keeps it simple and down to Earth. He makes you proud of your imperfect pie because it is made with love and it is heavenly. Every time I open his book Jamie at Home, I just want to show up at his home and have a meal with his family and friends. Don’t you? I can bring something to share.
BLACKBERRY APPLE PIE (barely adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home)
For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into small cubes
seeds of 1 vanilla bean (or zest of 1 lemon, or a pinch of cinnamon, cocoa powder or nutmeg)
flour, for dusting
For the filling:
2 large Bramley or McIntosh apples, cored, peeled and cut into wedges (I used 2 Fuji apples and 2 smaller of another variety)
4 Cox, Empire or Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and cut into wedges (I used 4 Golden Delicious apples)
1 large egg, beaten
Make the dough:
In a large bowl, sift the flour and confectioner’s sugar and whisk together. Using your hands, pinch the cubes of butter with the flower and sugar until the dough looks like a crumbly mixture. Add vanilla seeds. Add the eggs and milk and gently stir it together (or use your hands) until the ingredients are combined and you have a uniform ball of dough. Flour it and pat into a flat round, flour it again and wrap it and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Make the filling & Assemble:
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Melt butter with sugar in a medium saucepan and add the apples and ginger. Cover and cook in low heat for about 15 minutes, then add the blackberries, stir and cook for another 5 minutes with the lid off.
While the fruit is cooking, flour a work surface and divide the dough in half. Roll one half out until just under 1/2 inch thick. Butter a 10-inch pie dish and cover with the rolled dough, trimming off excess dough.
Strain the fruit, reserving the juices, and place fruit into the lined pie dish. Pour half of the reserved juices over fruit. Brush the edge of the dough with beaten egg. Roll out the other half of the pastry to same thickness and lay it over the top of the pie. Trim the excess dough and crimp the top and bottom together with your fingers. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and cut a couple of vents in the top of the pastry to let hot air circulate as it bakes. Place pie on a baking sheet and bake it for 55-60 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Let it cool for about 30 minutes and serve it warm or room temperature with ice cream, whipped cream or custard.
The secret to shortcrust pastry is to not overwork the dough or the butter will melt and the dough will not be flaky. It is best to work quickly as soon as you cut the cold butter in cubes. You can also make the dough it in the food processor by pulsing for 20-30 seconds after adding the butter until the crumbly consistency and then pulsing again after adding the eggs and milk until the dough comes together. Simply pat it on the floured counter until more compact but don’t knead it. Flatten it in a round, flour and wrap it and let it rest in fridge for 30 minutes.
We had just been apple picking and I used 4 golden delicious, 2 fuji and 2 apples of a variety that I do not recall. The golden delicious apples confer a tartness to the pie that were perfectly balanced with the other apples, more on the mild sweet side. They all held their shape and texture well. Tarter apples will hold their shape and texture better in a pie and will balance the sweetness of the syrup.