Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I have to admit, I’ve been a little bummed. I was scheduled to work the night before Thanksgiving, so made no plans– most definitely not to cook. Christmas is my jam, and I didn’t think that I would be sad about a low-key Thanksgiving, just going out to eat or something simple. We don’t have family in town, and I didn’t try to weasel an invitation to a friend’s house. But now I’m rethinking things. I do love a good Thanksgiving meal. The turkey, the sweet potatoes (emphasis on sweet), and the stuffing– oh, the stuffing! Good Yankee stuffing, of course, not that dressing stuff that the South tries to pass off as the real thing. I feel that we’ve been so isolated recently; a potty-training toddler, a baby, crazy work schedules night shift, and the perpetually messy house that accompanies all of that tends to dampen the social calendar. At least it does for me. I’ll keep it in mind for next year that I need just a little bit of something different… and pie. I have been looking forward to this Friday Night Dinner, though, and bought the ingredients this week, so this will be our Thanksgiving! Plus, I need to get this post to you today; otherwise you’ll never read it because… GILMORE GIRLS REVIVAL IS JUST HOURS FROM NOW! Squeal!!! I’m sure your Netflix account is up-to-date and pre-loaded. Are you going to be up at 2am CST and binge watch, or try to drag out the episodes? I’m planning to be there as it starts. We’ll see how far I get into it before I crash, but the PopTarts, pizza, candy, and coffee are at the ready.
What, then, are we eating for this FND? Well, S2E8 (The Ins and Outs of Inns) opens in the middle of Emily’s dining room with this sequence:
EMILY: How’s the meal?
LORELAI: Very tasty. New cook?
EMILY: Yes, Marisella. She’s introduced us to some wonderful dishes so charmingly specific to her native country.
LORELAI: What country is she from?
EMILY: One of those little ones next to Mexico.
LORELAI: How charmingly specific.
RORY: Too bad Grandpa’s not here. He likes weird food.
Once again, the camera angles make it unclear as to what exactly they are eating, so I get a bit of artistic license, not only with the dish, but also with the country of origin, yippee! I decided to play a game. A talk show host on one of our local radio stations, Sara Osburn, has been doing this cool thing with her boyfriend every week where they spin the wheel and make a meal from whatever continent it lands on. Antarctica was a challenge, I imagine. For this meal, I decided to copy that fun concept and put all of the Central American countries into a hat. The winner? Panama. Hmmm, Panama. I feel like Alec Baldwin impersonating Trump: “Siri? Tell me about Panama.” The Panama Canal, Mariano Rivera, coffee… I’m out. I’m reading some cultural articles and Googling recipes and stopped here: Panamanian Style Tamale Casserole. Sold. I love tamales, but have no desire to learn the involved process to make them. If this casserole tastes like tamales, I’ll be a happy girl. Let me tell you a story about tamales. Yankee that I am, my first introduction to tamales was when I first moved to Texas in my mid-20s. Before that, my references were to the cinnamon kind and some hazy memory of a Looney Tunes show. Sad, I know. So, one of my first nights in Texas, I was sitting around a backyard campfire with my cousins, tamales heating in the coals. Their 3-mo-old baby was sleeping in my arms, so my cousin brought me a tamale. I’m holding this strangely-textured thing in my hand thinking, “Well, great, now what?” He notices that I haven’t eaten it yet and says, “Oh, you’ve got the baby– do you want me to unwrap it for you?” Big sigh of relief, “Yes!” So that’s what you do. Glad I didn’t get a big mouthful of corn husk.
I was kind of nervous about this recipe, as it appears to have lost a bit in translation. For example, there are ingredients described in the directions that don’t appear in the list of ingredients or give their amounts. Annoying. One is tomatoes. I could be wrong, but I’ve never tasted tomatoes in a tamale before, so I’m just skipping that. Mistakes like that make me question the rest of the recipe, so fingers crossed. There are 4 lbs of pork in it– that’s a lot of meat! It looks like a 9×13 pan in the picture, but I’ll be surprised if it all fits, along with all of the veggies and masa (that’s the cornmeal dough). We may need to invite friends over for leftovers. S1 still has the eating habits of a toddler, although he’s had more of an appetite recently. I guess that learning to use the potty deal takes up a lot of brain energy. S2, at seven months old, is decidedly unenthusiastic about trying solid foods. Oh, the faces! I am decidedly less concerned about it than I would have been with my first child. I mean, look at those sweet chunky thighs! He’s not missing any meals.
Thanksgiving morning! Er, afternoon? I slept for a few hours, then started the casserole prep. Quite a few steps for a casserole, if you ask me. Sauté the veggies, pulse in food processor, set aside. Sauté the pork, pulse in food processor, set aside and mix with veggies, olives, and capers. Mix masa with cooking liquid and water until consistency of mashed potatoes. Add fresh corn to masa and layer half in bottom of pan. Cover with all of the sofrito (isn’t that a pretty word?), then top with remaining masa. Prep time approx. 60 minutes and cook time 60 minutes. Whew! I feel like I just cooked a Thanksgiving dinner. According to Wikipedia (don’t tell my English professors that I went there!), “typical Panamanian foods are mild-flavored, without the pungency of some of Panama’s Latin American and Caribbean neighbors.” Glad to hear it, because I was kind of wondering about that, too. The only spices in the recipe are salt, pepper, and oregano (besides the onions and garlic). I’m okay with mild, but I’ll put the salsa on the table for my husband. He wants to travel to Panama someday, with the primary goal of visiting Mariano Rivera’s church (he’s a preacher in his alternate life) and maybe go fishing with him. 🙂
So, I covered that very, very full pan with foil, closed the oven door, and did a little Native American fireside dance for a good outcome. It cooks for an hour, so I busily typed while letting S1 and S2 watch the Thanksgiving classic, Toy Story. (I totally dropped the ball on their Thanksgiving education this year. I was sleeping off my night shift during the Macy’s Parade and forgot to insist that my husband put it on for them. Also, we don’t own Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving, and why isn’t that playing on repeat today? More notes for next year.) It came out of the oven looking and smelling beautiful, agreed? Hope it’s as good as Emily’s charmingly specific maid cooks. I’m not going to say much more about this episode. It’s kind of a sad one, actually. Lorelai and Sookie fight about starting their own inn, and Emily takes a humiliating step to satisfy her curiosity and finally meet Mia, the owner of the Independence Inn who sheltered a young runaway with a baby so many years ago. It’s another glimpse into the layers of hurt around this mother’s heart, as she asks for photos from Rory’s baby years.
Result? True to Wikipedia’s word, a little bland, but an overall pleasing taste with nice pops of flavor from the olives and raisins. A bit dry, too. That surprised me. Easily fixed, though– just keep a bit of liquid in the sofrito and make sure the masa is a little thinner than mashed potatoes. I would make it again, and think the prep time would be a little shorter with knowledge of the recipe. S2 begged for some, but it was his bedtime by the time I finished, so we missed out on that adventure. S1’s facial expression does not match his opinion of the meal, of course. Toddlers. Dessert? Need you ask? It’s a Gilmore girls love fest tonight! Bon appetit!
(Excuse me now– I have to go take a power nap. See you in 6 hours!)