By Klonowski tradition, Thanksgiving is very much a family affair. When I say that, I don’t just mean a big meal shared between me, my brother and our parents. I’m talking ten relatives who balance their crammed plates on their lap to watch football, another dozen who prefer the more traditional dining room setting, plus me, my brother and five or six cousins at what we still nostalgically call the “kids table,” even though most of us are out of college by now.
A huge portion of my extended family, including four of my dad’s six siblings and their households, live in the Chicago area. Combine that with whoever happens to be in from out of town, and you’re looking at one heck of a gathering. Ever since we moved to a big suburban house in 2009, my parents have volunteered each year to host Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, which each draw crowds in the vicinity of 30 people.
These huge family parties are of course a lot of fun, but they require a collaborative effort in order to get everyone fed. For Thanksgiving, the hosts provide the turkey and gravy, and everyone else is asked to bring either football-watching snacks, a vegetable or a dessert.
The fun part about this system is that many relatives become famous for the signature dish that they bring every year. Staples range from Aunt Mary’s beet salad, to Aunt Cathy’s enormous cookie tray, to my cousin Tom’s Keweenaw County Bowl, a shamefully delicious conglomeration of popcorn chicken, mashed potatoes and Velveeta cheese. The pie recipe here was once my signature Thanksgiving dish, back in my high school days when I was always home and could plan ahead for the holiday. In fact, it was one of the first things I learned to cook on my own in junior high.
When I was in my high school baking prime, I made this entirely from scratch. My dad found me a recipe for homemade pie crust in the local paper, and I would even roast and purée the decorative pumpkins leftover from Halloween. The procedures for those steps are documented in my family cookbook, and I’d be happy to share them via email with any adventurous pie -chefs out there. But as long as you pour your heart into the pan along with the filling, you’re sure to end up with a product that you’ll be proud to claim as your own as it’s passed around the table. To all you Scots out there, I wish a Happy Thanksgiving! And as always, bon appétit.
- 1 nine-inch, unbaked pie shell (single crust)
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups pumpkin purée (homemade or canned)
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream or evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves or allspice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out pie crust dough and place in 9-inch pie pan.
Crack eggs into a large bowl and beat thoroughly with a whisk or electric mixer.
Add all remaining ingredients one at a time and mix well after each addition.
- Pour filling into pie shell and bake until firm, 35-45 minutes. It may still be jiggly near the center since but it will continue to cook a bit as it cools.
- Remove from oven and place on an elevated pie rack or stove burner. Cool completely and serve with whipped cream!