Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving! And Tacos!

We didn't have a hard and fast Thanksgiving tradition when I was a kid, growing up in Phoenix.  Sure, we always ate turkey, but where and with who changed from year to year. We often ate with my Mom's extended family, rotating houses from year to year. My Uncle Charles had a wonderful house, with a pool and horses, but they didn't allow drinking, so while it was a favorite with the kids, the adults were less enthusiastic. I didn't understand the big deal then, but I certainly do now. I remember fondly a food fight in my Aunt Kay's back yard, started by her son Andy.  Thank goodness we were outside, and no wonder we rotated.  Who wanted to sign up for that potential every year?
Beautiful, Lovely Aunt Irene
Taking a well deserved break from cooking. Dig the sweat band!
One of my favorite was when my Aunt Irene hosted. Her house felt like home. Irene was married to my mom's brother, Boyd, and they lived right across the street from my grandparents for years. We would run back and forth between the two, and play ball in the street in front of them. I knew both houses well, but I loved Irene's the best. When she hosted, it wasn't just Boyd's (and my mom's) side of the family who attended. Irene's sisters would be there, too, and her niece, who I knew as my cousin Allyn. Allyn had hair like Streisand in Funny Girl.  She was an adult - 10 or 15 years older than me - but still a cousin. Irene is the one who taught me that the definition of family should extend to include everyone you love. She's also the one who taught me that you should embrace the culinary traditions of where you come from and where you live, so Thanksgiving at her house always meant turkey, and tamales.
When I was about 12, our old neighbors bought a house in Northern Arizona, in Prescott.  And for years after that we spend Thanksgiving with them.  These were some of my very best Thanksgiving memories.  The best years, of course, were when we would wake up to snow Thanksgiving morning.  Growing up in Phoenix, this was a big, big deal.  But more than the snow was the whole weekend in the house with all the leftovers.  Thanksgiving seemed to last for days there. And it seems like we had pie at every single meal.  Of course, pie for breakfast on Black Friday is a tradition I still observe....
When I was in college in Tucson, my folks moved to Rhode Island. That first year I spent Thanksgiving with them, but after that it just wasn't financially feasible to fly for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so for a while, I was on my own.  Rather than resenting it, it gave me such freedom! As an adult child, I knew I had options. I could always spend the holiday with my parents, but I was free to stay with friends, travel, etc. The world was my oyster stew.....
Two important things came out of my childhood Thanksgivings, for me.  One was that I view Thanksgiving as a very flexible holiday.  Some years we travel.  Some years we visit family. Some years we stay home and invite everyone we know. The second thing?  I'll get to that at the end of this post.
My step-dad also enjoys when my mom and I cook together.
He just had to take this photo before breakfast one year....
This year, we cancelled our plans to go to Big Bend after I realized something.  I miss Thanksgiving with my mom. I don't think either of my kids have ever spent a Thanksgiving at her house.  And although she and I both love to cook and have more fun in the kitchen together than you can imagine, it's been a few years since we've been together on Thanksgiving.  (And the last time was at a condo in Destin - it was fantastic, but it wasn't a kitchen either of us knew, you know?) So this year we're going to my mom's house.  We're still deciding what to cook, but I know that it will include some Minnesota Wild Rice - since regardless of where we ate as kids, I always knew my mom would make wild rice from her childhood state.
The second thing that came out of my childhood Thanksgivings ties into so much of my past.  The love of regional food.  The glory of the leftovers, and the need for a little something from my childhood.  This, my friends, brings me to my favorite use of leftover turkey.  My mom's turkey tacos. This will be the rare recipe on my site that doesn't celebrate local ingredients (although I encourage you to source your turkey locally) but it does make good use of quality ingredients on hand, while allowing you to enjoy the holiday weekend. And you know what else? It's fresh tasting.  No gravy. No heavy - nice and crunchy, which is a nice break from the hot and mushy of Thanksgiving, frankly.
Best. Leftovers. Ever.
Diane's Turkey Tacos

Approx 2 or 3 cups leftover turkey meat, shredded
1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 can chopped green chillies (you pick the size - depending on how many chillies you want....)
1 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (hey! I have some of this in this week's farm share!)
salt and pepper
1 package crispy taco shells
chopped lettuce
diced tomatoes

diced raw white onion
grated cheddar, Monterrey jack or similar mild cheese
La Victoria Green Taco Sauce (this is what makes it taste like home, to me.)
Line a baking pan (a 1/4 sheet cake pan works well) with the taco shells (upright, ready for filling) and set aside.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Very lightly coat a frying pan with canola oil or olive oil

Add the chopped onions, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes
Add the turkey, green chillies, cumin and salt and pepper, and cook until everything is warmed through.  Toss is the cilantro. Fill the taco shells and place in the heated oven for 5 - 7 minutes, until the edges of the shells crisp up, and the bottom gets just a wee bit chewy from the turkey filling.....
Remove, fill with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and smother with La Victoria.
Enjoy with a side of rice and beans, and a nice cold beer.

I hope you all enjoy the upcoming holiday, however you spend it.

2 comments:

  1. Yummmm! We have just found a source for a "grand dinde blanc americain." That would be a big ol' white American turkey, for us big ol' white Americans. The butchers around here kind of balk at the idea of anything bigger than 7 or 8 pounds, but we're having 17 to our house for Thanksgiving (8 adults, 9 kids) so we need the biggest bird that will fit in my tiny French oven!
    The Mexican-/Japanese-American couple are bringing tortillas, frijoles, and oysters. The Australians have promised to bring something "Australian" (but they haven't decided yet, b/c they are Australian). The French/American couple are bringing a root veg. casserole. Lots of wine, lots of kids, crafts, food ... I am probably more excited about this meal than Christmas, if only because Christmas brings with it all our immediate family on both sides, and the tensions therein. Vive le Thanksgiving!

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  2. Enjoy! It sounds like it will be wonderful. Big Bend will always be there.

    I wish I could have given CX a Thanksgiving with my mom and grandmother. This year I'm cooking a turkey, which I haven't done in at least 12 years, so it should be interesting. CX wanted homemade dim sum and I was all ready to go there, but NC seemed to really want a traditional meal this year (which surprised me). Maybe we can do dim sum for Christmas.

    -wen

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