Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 was a totally new experience for Sean and I. We’ve never really spent the holiday separated from friends and fam before. I was a litte sad at first, but then I realized we could pretty much make/do what we wanted ALL DAY LONG. That realization turned things around and we had a pretty amazing 2-person feast with leftovers for days. We didn’t have to worry about anyone elses tastes or preferences, or even worry about having a timely meal.

We began the day with sour-cherry champagne cocktails (sour cherry juice boiled down with a vanilla bean and some sugar, reduced by half to make a syrup, plus champagne) and ended it with too many pieces of pie. 

Instead of breakfast I made a cheese and fruit plate–there’s some port cheddar and some super aged (deeelish) gouda. I set the table with our wedding tablecloth–a gift from Sean’s BFF and best man. BFF/Best Man brought us that cloth all the way from Ecuador, PLUS he brought me some palm sugar that he harvested with his own hands. Major. My mom sent me early-Christmas in the form of golden flatware. I am obsessed.

Since we were celebrating couple-style, I wanted to do something festive in regards to being thankful, so we wrote each other cards–that’s what you see on top of our plates. Sean always writes me the sweetest notes, I always write him goofy-crazy ones.

I nuded up part of our turkey by picking it’s skin…it was just so crispy-good! It couldn’t be helped. Those are pumpkin-herb rolls and they made the best leftovers sandwiches. I love pumpkin  but I hate pumpkin pie…that last photo is the top of a black-bottomed banana cream pie: shortbread crust, ganache, bananas, brown-butter pudding, and so much whipped cream…SO GOOD.

This year was different, but great. I got to lounge around with my best pal AND eat AND drink, it was totally merry.

Updated Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole never graced the Thanksgiving table of my youth. It was one of those things I only ever had at other peoples houses and gatherings. At it’s simplest and most processed, it’s a mix of canned soup, green beans, and canned fried onions…and, I loved it.

Fast forward to adulthood, and I can’t really get with canned, cream-of-whatever soups anymore. They just don’t do it for me–too bland, yet somehow too salty, as well. I can, however, get with those crazy fried onion dudes…so, I made the soup and stuck with the store-bought, french-fried alliums*, and ditched the canned beans for fresh ones.

The soup starts with mushrooms, plus some shallot and garlic for flavor, and is finished with an odd-yet-totally appropriate mix of chicken stock, fish sauce, and a little half & half. I first sweat, then caramelize the mushrooms–which seems counterintuitive, but it makes for little nubs of mushroom that are super nutty and flavorful. The fish sauce adds savory depth and zero fishy-weirdness.

This casserole is a nod toward the original, but with better flavor, layered richness, and a fresher, more vegetal profile from the fresh beans and homemade mushroom soup. The crunchy topping is everything you remember (and love) of the classic version, with a little bit of an update underneath.

*You can go with the OG French’s brand of onions, but there are a number of store-brand options out there. I have, personally, had good luck with the Trader Joe’s version.

Updated Green Bean Casserole

Since the soup part of the original casserole is the sodium-flavored-condensed-variety, I wanted the soup base for this to be super flavorful. My secret addition is a bit of fish sauce for another layer of savoriness–you can leave it out (along with subbing veg stock for chicken) if you want to go vegetarian or don’t have fish sauce on hand. I like to keep a bottle on hand in the refrigerator for asian dishes–a little goes a long way and it keeps well. I also added turmeric–I add it to a lot of things since it’s good for the brain, it just adds a warm color to the sauce and the faintest earthiness, but it’s totally optional here. 

“Condensed” Creamy Mushroom Soup:

2 teaspoons olive oil

8 ounces cremini (brown) mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

1 large shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons butter, unsalted

2 Tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon cayenne



2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)

1 Tablespoon half and half


1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 recipe creamy mushroom soup

1 1/4 cups french fried onions

In a medium to large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped mushrooms to the pan and season lightly with salt–the mushrooms should release a good amount of liquid after salting–continue to cook until the mushroom liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms bits begin to take on some caramelized color and turn fragrant, stirring occasionally. Add the shallot and stir, cook until shallot is translucent and beginning to soften. Add the garlic, stir, and cook about 1 minute. Add the butter to the pan to melt, stir in the flour, along with turmeric and cayenne (if using), to make a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out the raw-flour flavor. Stir together the chicken stock, fish sauce (if using), and half & half. Begin adding the chicken stock mixture to the mushroom-roux mixture, stirring out any lumps, until all of the liquid is incorporated. Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Continue cooking the soup base until it begins to bubble and has thickened a bit. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook green beans for about 2-3 minutes, until just tender. Drain the beans and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350*F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine green beans with the soup base, mix to coat well. Add about 1/4 cup crushed, french fried onions, and mix to combine. Pour the green bean mixture into a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling. Remove from oven, top with remaining french fried onions, and continue to bake another 5 minutes until the topping is crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.



Holiday in Pictures: Thanksgiving 2011

I have a whole lot to be thankful for…far more than I’d like to lay out here. Instead, I’ll share some Instagram  pics from last weeks festivities (follow me on Instagram @ cindychae).

Sewing napkins

Thanksgiving Eve Pizza
Lemon Coffeecake Breakfast
Banana Cream Pie Prep
Cheesecake to be baked
Green Bean trimmings
Just a couple of Carrots
Brussels Sprouts
Setting the Table
Gin + Cranberry-Gingerale
Gingerbread Place Cards
Cranberry + Hard Cider Jelly
The Feast
Browned Butter Banana Cream Pie + Cheesecake with Sour Cherry-Orange Sauce
Trimming the tree with two of my favorite childhood ornaments–glass + glitter ice cream cone and elf cookie bake-shop.

We ate, drank, gave thanks, and were joyful. Afterwards there was napping/lounging, and on Friday we decked the halls. How was your Thanksgiving?