Every year, being away from family on Thanksgiving feels a little harder.
I don't know why traveling for Thanksgiving seems so much more difficult than traveling for Christmas. Maybe it's just that with only 10 days of paid vacation a year and families across the country from one another, you really only get to pick one big holiday for traveling. But having grown up loving Thanksgiving partly for the food and partly for the feeling of having my mom's family crammed into one of our too-small houses, the absence of old traditions feels poignant.
We used to go to a Friendsgiving at a coworker's, which was an acceptable substitute for a rowdy, family-filled feast. The last two years, though, it's been just the two of us. The first year, I made an event of it. We planned a fun menu and spent the afternoon together in the kitchen. I baked an entire layer cake just for us. It was a little lonely, but we had a good time.
This year, between busy work schedules, too much life to manage, and an early holiday, it was Wednesday morning before Turkey Day when I realized that we had zero plans and not even enough food in the house even to fake a meal. I didn't have the energy to plan something fancy and was afraid the grocery stores would already be stripped of all the usual Thanksgiving "necessities." So I decided to make a meal that crammed the spirit of Thanksgiving into a single dish: empanadas.
I KNOW. As if Thanksgiving wasn't already about appropriation, I had to go and commit this cross-cultural atrocity. But listen, even if the execution wasn't exactly picturesque, it was delicious. So in case you find yourselves in a similar situation one day, here are some loose guidelines for Lonely Thanksgiving Empanadas:
Crust: I used this recipe. I have a strange aversion to rolling out dough and no biscuit cutters of the right size; so when it came time for filling, I just pinched off a hunk of dough, rolled it into a ball, and flattened it with my hands. They weren't perfectly round, but aesthetics were pretty low on my priority list.
1lb ground turkey
1 cup mushrooms
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt, pepper, sage, thyme
splash of chicken stock
greens of your choice
roasted sweet potato, peeled and mashed
I did the filling by the seat of my pants. I used mushrooms and escarole because I had both in the 'fridge on their last legs. I sauteed the onions and garlic, then added the 'shrooms and greens, and finally dumped in the meat. I didn't measure any of the seasonings, I just sort of went for it. Oddly, while I find the precision of baking very therapeutic, I also really enjoy the freedom to be a little slapdash that comes with cooking.
In each empanada, I put a spoonful of the turkey filling and a dollop of sweet potato. I brushed the outsides with egg white and baked at 375 until the shells looked brown on the bottom.
Garnish: Perhaps because I'm a New Englander, I find cranberries integral to the holiday season. I made a cranberry sauce using a bag of fresh cranberries, orange zest, a little maple syrup in place of sugar, and about half a cup of cabernet sauvignon. It made for a fun little dipping sauce for the finished product.
Nothing can stand in place of family and traditions, but at least Thanksgiving was preserved in my taste buds and tum.