Thanksgiving Appetizers

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we are still eating our way out of several gigantic containers of leftovers. That is in no way a complaint, by the way--we're loving it.

Perhaps one of the reasons we have so much food left over this year is because we filled up on appetizers throughout the afternoon. Here's our cocktail snack spread:

That all looks perfectly reasonable, until you remember the 22-pound turkey and vat of mashed potatoes waiting in the kitchen. Any other day of the year, this would have been a light lunch.  

In addition to a nice, cured salami and several cheeses, we had bites of red and blue tart, made from some of the last Chioggia beets of the year. Chioggia beets are my favorite because they are extra sweet and not so earthy. When raw they are red and white striped, but after you roast them the colors blend into the pink you see above. Kirk went fairly light on the blue cheese, which probably pleased our younger guests.

The kids also scarfed down the chipotle lime pumpkin seeds, which I made from the seeds of the pumpkin I used up on Pie Day. We have a whole lot more pumpkin and butternut squash to eat this year, so I should be able to make these to snack on all winter long.

We also had the first peach chutney of the year: It's finally ready to eat now that its had several months for the flavors to develop. This is one of my very favorite things from the garden, so I am very glad we made two batches this summer. Also on display are some sweet gherkins and tarragon cornichons. The cornichons were a refrigerator pickle that I actually made last year, but they are still good. 

I foolishly did not record the recipe last summer when I made them, but a bit of research reminded me that I filled a pint jar with tiny cucumbers, 4-5 peppercorns, a sprig of tarragon, and a small grape leaf (the secret to keeping pickles crisp). I also stirred a tablespoon of kosher salt into a half cup of white vinegar to dissolve, then poured that into the jar. I topped it off with a bit of white wine, probably a dry Riesling on hand for Maiwein. And then they sat in the cold back of the fridge for over a year, until yesterday when we ate them up.

I feel I should confess that one of the reasons we ate so much was to balance out the delicious cocktails our friends made. I can now say with authority that the Ampersand is the perfect drink for Thanksgiving, all brown and warm and festive with its curl of orange peel. I really wish I had managed to get a photo of these beautiful drinks, but they are as potent as they are pretty, and I forgot all about recording the day for posterity.

But I did manage to get the recipe! It's an ounce each of gin sweet vermouth, and cognac, plus a couple dashes of orange bitters and simple syrup. Shake up over ice, but pour into the glass neat and garnish with the orange peel. This isn't too sweet, but is aromatic and just right for a snowy, cold Thanksgiving. A worthy new tradition.


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