Thanksgiving and the Beach

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AHHHH…THANKSGIVING. It’s the reason for time honored recipes, stockpots and wagers on

family behavior. The season of familiar relatives, old friends, new acquaintances— and casseroles, dressings, pies, rolls, more pies and tryptophan induced snoozes. It is also time for my annual serving of a slice of humble pie when guests decide to ignore home-cooked cranberries with orange and walnuts in favor of perfectly sliced tubes of canned sauce with those rings of authenticity.

I always hope for a cold, clear and crisp Thanksgiving Day. Summer often points its long, sweaty fingertips late into October and can make a Halloween costume frighteningly itchy. So I rely on November to deliver the promise of the season. I don’t know of a single citizen of this fair state who doesn’t anticipate the arrival of cooler weather, like a New Year’s Eve countdown clock.

With trepidation, my wife and I first started accepting invitations to the beach for the Thanksgiving holidays. There’s a carnival atmosphere inherent in beach getaways, and a tank top and flip-flop culture that doesn’t mesh with my seasonal expectations. So now as I load a cooler with an apple-brined turkey as hostage into my car, in my mind’s eye I imagine all of that white sand as snow. There’s an aspect of off-season at the beach that evokes an Edward Hopper kind of solitude, realism and cool silence. It is an intimate setting of quiet, peace and kinetic energy.

Thanksgiving, with its simple and uncomplicated reminder to be thankful for life’s blessings is my favorite holiday. While the traditions of the holiday have evolved, the graceful spirit of inclusiveness and welcome remain. The only expectation is that of a good meal. For me the holiday has become, to borrow a phrase, a moveable feast.

Cooking notes: The pressure of roasting a whole turkey for an audience can weigh heavily on the confidence of a home cook. It is center stage, performance art and extremely nerve-wracking. For many years I have had the responsibility of anchoring the Thanksgiving meal by preparing a brined, roasted turkey. You can find the recipe in our SW magazine online archive published November 2017. The recipe and cooking technique has never let me down. This year I would like to add a recipe for a local side dish of mirliton and shrimp casserole which is a tradition at our Cajun/ Creole feast.

The one tradition that does not change over time is thankfulness.

Mirliton and Shrimp Casserole

Ingredients:

6 Mirliton, halved, seeded, olive oil/kosher salt baked @ 450 till tender 30 mins?

In butter 4 to 8 T (use as much as you like to cook evenly)

2 medium-sized onion

3 ribs celery

1 large bell pepper

2 bunches green onion white parts-save green tops to finish

4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon hot sauce

2 sprigs thyme

1 sprig rosemary

3 bay leaves

4 fresh sage leaves optional

1 tablespoon creole seasoning

2 pounds shrimp tails

2 cups chicken stock

4 cups bread crumbs

 

Directions:

1. Bake mirliton in 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes until tender.

2. Sauté onion for 3 minutes. Add celery, bell pepper, garlic, green onion bottoms

and spices for 3 minutes.

3. Add chopped mirliton and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer five minutes.

4. Stir in enough bread crumbs to absorb moisture.

5. Add shrimp and cook until just pink.

6. Pour into casserole dish and dust with bread crumbs.

7. Bake in 375 oven for about 30 minutes until brown and bubbly.



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