Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007: Peppery Ginger Cookies

It's the day before the biggest eating day in America! Are you as excited as I am at the prosepect? I'm excited, but admittedly a little less so this year. For the last two years I've had the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving in my humble home. For the food obsessed, I'm sure you know that Thanksgiving is it! What with poring over recipes, planning the menu, shopping for just the right ingredients, and preparing foods that reflect fall's bounty, nothing compares! It's the best kind of stress for me really. I love to plan AND I love to cook. Watching the food shows; contemplating something new to merge with the old standbys that everyone demands, I mean, expects to have; and of course sharing it all with loved ones. Organizing it all in a spreadsheet to map out a timeline and show what to have for each course and what dish it will be served in, what could be more of a high for a ganbaru cook?

Just reviewing last year's spreadsheet, I see we had hors d'oeuvres of crackers with caramelized onion, tuna mousse, assorted pickles and cheeses, crudite with hummus, spiced nuts, and cauliflower soup. For the main event, brined turkey with fennel spice rub; collard greens with onion and adobo; butternut squash a scapece; yukon gold mashers with parsnips, celeriac, roasted garlic, and roasted scallions; herb cornbread stuffing with turkey bacon and fennel, buttermilk biscuits with parmesan cheese, cranberry chutney, and, of course, gravy! And let us not forget the desserts: peppery ginger cookies, honey lavender almond ice cream, and my sister's apple pie. Believe it or not this menu for seven was composed AFTER learning my lesson from the previous year when I cooked way too much for 16! But I think you get the picture! Yes indeed, I thrive on this stuff!

I set all that up to inform you that this year I won't be hosting as my family are all converging in Orlando. I can just hear your collective, "Awwww..." In fact as I write this from Washington, DC, everyone else is already in Florida (except my partner and me) enjoying the balmy weather and making their way to Sea World. Fortunately I prevailed upon them to wait until Friday for Disney World, which I hope none of us will regret as rain is in the forecast. But if it's a nice day, won't everyone in Orlando want to go to Disney World on that Friday? Are we mad? I guess we'll find out!

So the only thing I'll be preparing this year is the peppery ginger cookies, which are easy to transport AND my cousin loves them. She favors them because a) she loves anything with ginger, and b) unlike most ginger cookies that come out crisp, these are nice and chewy thanks to the brown sugar and molasses. Plus they've got a secret ingredient for a little added kick: a half teaspoon of freshly ground pepper (I wouldn't substitute pre-ground), which is in addition to both powdered and candied ginger. So I hope that as you make your way over the river and through the woods, your journey is safe and all is well with you and yours.

p.s. If you're dreading the obligatory trip home, hope your day doesn't end like Washington Post food blogger Kim O'Donnell's a few years back!

Peppery Ginger Cookies
Yields: 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon (freshly ground is transformative)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (YES!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup candied ginger (snipped into small pieces)
Turbinado (raw) sugar for rolling (adds flavor and sparkle)

Melt butter; stir in molasses and vanilla and let cool. In separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and all the spices and salt.

Add the beaten egg to the cooled butter mixture. Fold into the bowl with flour and spices and add the candied ginger. Cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes to make the dough firm. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Put the raw sugar in a shallow dish. Using a cookie scoop, make balls of the dough, rolling in the raw sugar. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10 minues until cookies are starting to brown on the bottom and the tops start to crack. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes -- they will firm up a bit at this point.

Important: Do not overbake, or cookies will be brittle and bitter. These are wonderfully chewy, spicy, and addictive cookies.

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