Cumin and cinnamon: a world of difference when it comes to pie

Published 5:43 pm Friday, November 26, 2021

This past Thursday, Thanksgiving for you people in the know, I once again was responsible for the day’s meal.

In short, everything went fine. I experimented with some things in order to make an effort to try and add something new to each dish, which featured all of your standards: mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, cranberry sauce, and naturally turkey.

And I didn’t even have to take out a small loan to afford the meal. Hah, hah, hah … everything is so expensive.

The cookie in Chateau Johnson started around 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning, with plenty of prep time installed for the process of getting out of bed thanks to the furry alarm clocks, 5 a.m. if you must know.

First things first, I decided to attempt making my own broth this year. It’s not the first time I did this. A couple years ago, I made a whole chicken, and with all of the confidence of a man who didn’t think he needed to look up a recipe created a unique tasting water that immediately went down the drain.

Having learned from past mistakes as a pro who has made a lot of mistakes, I opted to follow a recipe this time, throwing into the pot of already deposited celery, onion, garlic and carrots the roasted neck and giblets of the bird.

With the broth boiling away, adding a magnificent aroma to the kitchen, I turned my attention to the making of homemade biscuits. Not a particularly difficult task, but necessary as I learned from another mistake from past years — don’t try to cook everything at once in a tiny kitchen.

The mistakes of yonder days led to a kitchen of pots and pans piled in complicated puzzles on any piece of open counter real estate I could find. Often, they were stacked precariously to the point that should a fork be wiggled there, or a bowl be shifted here then the whole thing would come crashing to the floor in a clatter for the ages.

It only took me five years of cooking Thanksgiving  dinner to learn that I should develop the meal in stages, washing dishes as I go and avoiding culinary Jenga.

As it turned out, the biscuits were the only real casualty of the day. They burned a bit as I tried a little to hard to brown the tops. Of course, I didn’t realize that it would be my only real mistake of the day, so I was reasonably sure the meal was on its way to disaster.

Next on the menu timetable came the stuffing. I would gladly eat a Thanksgiving meal of stuffing alone. I’m a connoisseur of the holiday staple, developed early on by my grandma who made the best stuffing in the world. No, it wasn’t your grandma that made the best, it was mine. The sooner you accept this fact the better it will be for all of us. It’s awkward with you just standing there … being wrong.

Grandma’s stuffing was indescribable, but as I would learn years later, it was built on somewhat of a fib. An unintentional fib, but still. For years I was under the impression that grandma made her stuffing from scratch. It tasted like nothing I had ever had before. No other stuffing could claim the throne. It was to be only an imposter to the throne.

This notion went on deep into my 30s when one fateful Thanksgiving, I boasted about the kitchen how expertly crafted her stuffing was. She finally looked at me with these simple words and said, “I don’t know why you are so excited about this. It’s just Stove Top.

The world slowed down about me as the news sunk in. Grandma was simply using a name brand stuffing and name brand chicken broth. I didn’t know what to say.

But this was my grandma … so it still is the best stuffing I’ve ever had.

Anywho, the potatoes for mashing went to boil next and would later find their end result mashed with butter, sour cream and milk with a dash of salt. They were perfect, if not revolutionary. I should write it down so I remember it for later. I won’t, but it doesn’t change the fact that I should.

By the time the potatoes reached the end boil, I took the turkey out and let it rest before carving. The new rub I used was spectacular as was the smell.

All in all, the meal turned out great if I do say so myself and clearly I do. By the time we reached the pie, the day was a success, even if the pie wasn’t quite what I expected. Mom’s pumpkin pie was, but that’s just what I’ve come to expect. It’s always great.

Rather, it was my butternut squash pie that turned out differently than I expected. But here’s a hint my fellow chefs. Check out your spices and be sure of one very important thing: That the cumin is not next to the cinnamon.

Believe me: It matters.