It’s go time. That mad rush to what I consider the best holiday of the year. It’s not about gifts or even décor, though you certainly could go off the rails with the latter if you so choose. Thanksgiving is about friends and family and being together, thankful for what you have. And it’s about food. Oh boy is it about the food. And maybe football. Can’t have Thanksgiving without good food and football, methinks. It’s a rule.
I’d bet anything that sometime last week, most of us were circling the wagons, trying to figure out what to make whether we’re hosting or spending the day at someone else’s table. Frantically digging around, trying to find your mother’s stuffing recipe, the good one with the peppers and Italian sausage, or that silky pumpkin pie recipe scribbled on the back of a receipt. Those classics that you “put somewhere safe” the Friday after Thanksgiving every year and spend the days before the current holiday digging through piles of crap and bottomless junk drawers trying to find again. What would a holiday be without a little stress? I keep my favorite holiday recipes in the little notepad app on my iPhone. Last year, they mysteriously disappeared. I about had a heart attack. There I was Thanksgiving morning, cursing up a storm digging through the junk drawer, knowing I never really throw anything out. Egad.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, most people have their set menu items: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. You pretty much know what those are going to be. It’s the side dishes where you usually have a little wiggle room. Maybe this year you’re thinking about putting a spin on Aunt Velma’s sweet potato casserole or adding some mustard to the brussels spouts everyone insists must be on the table. But there’s usually a gap in there somewhere, where you need one more vegetable thing, something not too weird or experimental that everyone will like.
This is it. A creamy, silky pudding full of delicious corn flavor. A little sweet, a little savory from the onions, it’s a real crowd pleaser that fits perfectly with the autumnal theme of the day. It also has something else going for it that is crucially important in the logistics of the day: it can be made ahead and reheated if desired, or served room temperature. When you’re playing oven tetris, these things are important considerations.
I’ve made them here in individual ramekins but honestly, I rarely do that. At my mom’s house, this is always made in the black oval casserole dish a few hours ahead and plunked down without reheating, because in the rush to get things on the table, I often forget. Within minutes, the dish is empty, clearing a spot for something else. You really can’t ask for something better than that.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: HIGH/LOW. High reward, low stress. Let’s face it. Thanksgiving can be a cluster%&*$ if you’re the one cooking. You have to be super organized and at least aim toward effective time management. If you’re one of those people with endless counter space, two refrigerators and multiple ovens, well than, damn. Feel the collective resentment shooting your way. But most of us have 6 square inches of counterspace, a refrigerator where the ketchup tumbles out every time the door opens and one oven that barely fits an average sized turkey. You have to have a plan and recipes that can be made ahead that don’t have to be reheated play a major role. Score.
Other good holiday side dishes: Baked Squash Bread Pudding, Escargot Roasted Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus w/Stilton Sauce, Stuffed Round Zucchini, Modern Three Bean Salad, Squash & Onion Tart, Roasted Beets w/Whipped Goat Cheese, Sauteed Beet Greens, Sherry Candied Walnut Salad, Roasted Delicata Squash – 4 Ways, Shaved Mushroom and Fennel Salad, Maple Bourbon Carrots, Maple Mustard Glazed Delicata, Brussels Sprouts & Shallots, Sunchoke Soup
Six years ago: Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Five years ago: French Apple Tart
Four years ago: Salted Caramel Apple Pie
Three years ago: Kale & Squash Salad
Two years ago: Classic Pumpkin Pie
Last year: Baked Brie with Savory Fig Jam
BAKED CORN PUDDING – adapted from this recipe
This works a bit better if you’ve defrosted the corn, or better yet, if it’s at room temperature. The melted butter does weird things if it hits pureed frozen corn. I try to remember to throw the bag into the fridge the night before but have also simply tossed the frozen corn in a colander and ran hot water over it for a minute or two.
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the pan
4 cups frozen corn kernels (about 19 ounces), completely defrosted
4 large eggs
¼ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
good pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (½ stick)
4 scallions, white and green parts, finely diced
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Butter an 8”x8”x2” baking dish or 8 individual 4 ounce ramekins and set aside until needed.
- Reserve about ½ cup of the corn and puree the remaining corn, eggs, sugar, baking powder, salt and cayenne in a food processor until almost smooth.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cream, milk and melted butter until combined, then add the reserved corn and chopped scallions.
- Pour the batter into prepared dish(es).
- Bake until golden brown and the center is just set, about 45 minutes (25 minutes or so for the ramekins).
- Cool 10 minutes; serve hot or at room temperature. If desired, reheat 15-20 minutes in a 350°F oven until hot.