Thanksgiving fires with patience, cooking with love, and hoping against hope for the future

The year has come full circle.  Last year at just this time, we were booking ourselves in to the only little inn in New Hampshire that could fit us...The Monadnock Inn in Jaffrey, NH.  We had one home sold and no home purchased.  We were at a cross roads for sure, and it was a cross road that led us to our sweet little spot here at the base of the Mink Hills in New Hampshire.  

The Warner river that runs along our farmhouse

The snow was falling...inches by the hour.  It was a spectacular setting for our family.  Not having seen significant snow in so many years, we were squealing and giggling with the wonder of the landscape as it changed overnight as if someone had spread out a beautiful just-pressed white linen tablecloth all over the land.

Our Nehemiah Ordway Farmhouse...which was initially called Maple Farm and later changed to Pleasant View Boarding House

What a difference a year makes.  The house we were going to buy...we didn't buy.  The house way in the back of my mind that kept nudging at me...we rented.  New Hampshire had the harshest winter on record to date last year and we were party to its might firsthand in our drafty rambling farmhouse rental.  

We scrambled to gather enough firewood to last us through the winter, grateful to the home owners for leaving a stash in the big red barn.  Just getting it up our hill in 2 feet of snow was an interesting dilemma.  We had the fireplaces burning all day throughout last winter. Patrick was thrilled to "play with fire" as he put it.  Within minutes, he would arrange the tinder, whisper sweet nothings into the fireplace, and a jiffy, a roaring fire crackled and snapped warming up these century old rooms.

The Warner River below our house

Playing with fire has been more of a learning curve for me.  Try as I might, getting the fire going takes patience and perseverance.  I do have perseverance...but it's rather 'meh' on the patience part. I've already been perusing the magazines like Plow & Hearth and looking longingly at their supply of kindling...all nicely cut in perfectly even lengths of ready to go sticks.  

I think I'll order a supply and wrap it up for Patrick for Christmas.  And, then when he looks at me quizzically (because purchased kindling would probably be unforgivable in NH) I'll feign hurt feelings, swipe the lovely kindling from him in a huff and happily stack it neatly in the large ceramic crock near my fireplace.

We each seem to have claimed a fireplace in the house.  Mine is the kitchen fireplace that is directly behind me as I work away at the kitchen table.  His fireplace is in the room closest to his office.  

We both seem to have developed the habit of nonchalantly passing by each other's fireplace in order to take stock of the fire starting success.  Needless to say, I am failing miserably. Keeping a fire going takes so much work, babying it and tending to it...and it requires oodles of  patience.

This year is our first official Thanksgiving in our home. The kitchen still has some renovation projects to wrap up but the master bedroom/bath is finished.  We were fully aware when we bought the home, there will be projects in this beautiful old home for years and years to come.

We took time out this week and cooked up a storm in the newly renovated kitchen.  It was determined this year that Thanksgiving would be about a return to the classics...and then Christmas dinner will be a bit more outside the traditional fare.

Our big beautiful has been on the land since 1828

The weather here in New Hampshire has been vastly different from this time last year.  We are still taking long walks each day in jackets only.  The skies have been gorgeously blue and the leaves that have all fallen are crisp and crunchy.  Most all the apples have been picked clean off the ground by the birds.  Flocks of turkeys can be seen running frantically through fields.  The colors of the landscape are a cozy and serene patchwork of sages, chocolates, burnt oranges, and crimson reds.  Last year, everything in sight was covered in snow and the landscape was certainly more one of Christmas time than of Thanksgiving.

Experimenting with the Flavors of Ghiradelli Chocolate for my Chocolate Espresso Tartlets

Votes were taken all round and it was decided the Thanksgiving menu would be the traditional turkey as the main.  I made a big pot of brine out of cider, star anise, garlic, cinnamon, and ginger.  The turkey soaked in the brine for 48 hours.  I stuffed the turkey with onions, apples, and a handful of herbs and rubbed it all under the skin with butter before it went into the oven.

I kept a pot of stock simmering on the stove top the day before Thanksgiving in order to make a turkey gravy. Turkey stock, Calvados (or apple brandy), and white wine simmer for hours with onions, butter, and flour until it cooks down into a silky smooth gravy.  When the turkey comes out of the oven, I just add the turkey juices to the stock with some apple cider and simmer it altogether once more.   It is divinely delicious poured over the turkey.  What is nice is there is plenty of sauce to freeze for use at Christmas time.

My cornbread dressing (I'm too southern to call it stuffing) has been remarkably accepted by my family and year after year it surprises me that they don't wrinkle their noses at this dish. My cornbread dressing is deeply southern....cajun deep south Louisiana southern.  I can't even find a recipe online that has the ingredients that go into mine.  My recipe has been carried through all of our moves for 30 years from my little cookbook written by the women's Junior League of a small town in Louisiana.

The recipe begins with slow cooking ground chicken livers and kidneys for 2 hours along with bell peppers and onions.  Flavors and spices are added in and then the mixture is gently spooned into freshly made cornbread until blended.  The flavors are wonderfully savory and sweet and herbal and moist.

Chocolate Espresso & Sea Salt Tartlets

This year, I used Williams Sonoma's recipe for Green Bean Casserole.  I made a roux of mushrooms, spices and flour.  I fried some sliced shallots in a seasoned flour mixture until they were nice and crunchy to use as the topping.  It was a close race between this casserole and roasted brussel sprouts.  I won this year.

For dessert, I always love when each person has their own little tartlets.  I love making tartlets and this year, I came across a delicious recipe for Chocolate Espresso Tartlets.  I decided to use Ghiradelli's Sea Salt chocolate to give the filling that extra flavor...the espresso and the salted chocolate is smooth, creamy, and luscious. 

From the Kenney's up here in New Hampshire, our family would like to send warm wishes of peace and joy to all the families around the world this year.  We are all as a country and a world, recognizably in a place of uncertainty with the future of events involving the political global stage.  As much as we seem focused on national celebrations, our hearts go out to all the nations that are being brutalized by acts of war. Sitting down to a meal at Thanksgiving is essential to giving thanks for our many blessings but we also acknowledge that there are so many people around the world who are suffering. We wish everyone could be able to sit down with one other without the threat of war, upheaval, and violence around them.  The righteousness of religious ideology, whatever the religion, has caused global violence since the beginning of history.  Let's take this Thanksgiving to be thankful that we have the history of the world as examples of how to make decisions in the next year.

How fortunate we are to enjoy the meals we do but it is with that thankfulness and acute awareness this year that we turn our attention to hoping and steering each country of this world to offer the same possibility of safety and warm meals to all those who are fleeing persecution and acts of terrorism.  

Mentions in this Post:

The Monadnock Inn (Thanksgiving Dinner)
379 Main Street
Jaffrey, New Hampshire

Ghiradelli Sea Salt Chocolate 

William Sonoma Green Bean Casserole

William Sonoma Sweet Potato Casserole

Make Ahead Calvados Gravy

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