As feasts go, Thanksgiving is the ultimate in my book - over the years we have added so many traditions that it takes at least two plates and a VERY measured eye to get a little of everything...and it's impossible to do that and not feel like the Titanic as it's last bulkhead was filling with sea water. There are just things that we cannot do without on that most delicious Thursday of the year - it would seem like a hollow gesture to the Pilgrms and Native Americans (I didn't say Indians, that would have been racially insensitive) who dined on nuts, berries and eel on that first "family dinner". I mean, they would have had Cool Whip too if it had been invented then.
The cool thing about this holiday is that everyone contributes something - even the swingin' bachelors will stop at 7-11 on the way and pick up a 2 liter bottle of 7-up, a couple Slim Jims and a bag of Funyuns - there's a reason they still aren't married. My gramma, bless her heart, would always bring some beautiful dish that never quite lived up to it's good looks - some people have the desire, but kinda miss the mark on "audience appeal". Once my better half took a big helping of Gramma's jello mold, only to get a snootful of "aspic".....if you don't know what that is, imagine tomato juice jello with pearl onions and celery. If you can pop a bite of that in your mouth and swallow without gagging, you must have no taste buds whatsoever. We love our Gramma tho, and in order for her to feel special, we would scoop out large amounts of her offering and hide it somewhere for disposal later so it looked like her dish was a hit...sorry Gramma.
There are always some standouts, always appetizers (yah, that makes sense - bring a snack to the biggest friggin meal of the year), and always pies - the only day of the year you would even consider eating 3 different kinds of pie after consuming as much food as Jenny Craig would glady sell you for a month. Besides my faves, home-made stuffing (OK, I use Franz stuffing cubes) with Walt's gravy, brussel sprouts and the cranberry jello mold, another beloved family tradition is the cauliflower. Yes, I said it - CAULIFLOWER. It may be an acquired taste, but I acquired it a looooong time ago, and it would not be Thanksgiving without a big heaping helpin' of that big white brainy-looking veggie. Now I'm not really sure how everyone else does it, and I've tried a couple different things, but this is my favorite...it has a nice nutty flavor that offsets the blandness of the cauliflower, and I love, Love, LOVE it!
1 LARGE head cauliflower
1/2 C. (one stick) of real butter
1 sleeve Ritz Crackers
Tackle that cauliflower! When you pick one out, get a big one, and make sure it has no or very little dark spots on it - I hate having to cut those off because it ruins the look of the florets. Cut off all the leaves, and trim off anything that isn't pure as snow, then start cutting off each "floret" and putting them in a colander. When you have them all cut off, you can cut up the core if you want and throw that in - just peel off any skin that looks bad or that has any green on it. Or just toss it - it's actually very sweet, but whatever. Rinse all the florets well, then if you want to make them smaller, you can cut them apart from the stem end - if you cut the stem in half, you can pull it apart from there and it will give you a prettier floret rather than cutting through the "blossom end".
Put them in a pot big enough to hold them - it's up to you if you want to use a steamer or just put them in the water - and put in a couple cups of water and sprinkle liberally with salt. Bring to a boil and cover, turning down to medium-ish, and let boil/steam for about 10 minutes. Check them with a fork or stick a paring knife in the stems to see if it's ALMOST tender, dump in colander immediately to drain and slow down the cooking, then put in a baking dish or pan and set aside.
In large skillet, heat butter until melted. While that's going down, take that sleeve of crackers and put the whole thing, unopened in a ziploc or bag big enough to hold it with extra room and seal the end. Unless you like cleaning cracker crumbs outta your wazoo, because it will make a MESS. Then take out your agression on those Ritz...pound em with your fists, beat em with a mallet, bulldoze em with your rolling pin or a big can of food....whatever works, just smash em to smithereens! Didn't that feel good? Now open the bag, take out the wrapper, and pour those crackers into the melted butter. Stir constantly, over medium heat until they get a little browned and start to smell REALLY good....the butter will start to brown, giving it that nutty flavor that I know you all love. You can taste it if you're not sure, but it will be salty - and then you will have to do it again because you can't eat just one spoonful of butter toasted Ritz crackers....no lie.
Spoon buttered crackers all over that steamed cauliflower and put in the oven to keep warm, or just start eating it - it's good even if it cooks a little more, you really can't screw it up unless you burn it or decide it isn't fancy enough and put some capers on it and make the food Gods VERY ANGRY...they hate capers, just like me. Oh how I love this dish....I think I should practice it this weekend; wouldn't want to choke on Thanksgiving and end up pissing off the food Gods....