A Cape Cod Thanksgiving
Cape Cod Thanksgiving Menu
This colorful spread includes a hearty chowder, moist turkey, and flavorful sides.
Home for the Holidays
When my parents, ninth-generation Yankees, were transplanted to the cornfields of Indiana for a few years during my childhood, they wanted to make sure I experienced the kind of Cape Cod summers they knew as kids: sunny barefoot days spent living in a bathing suit, swimming or waterskiing at high tide, playing cards or clamming when it was low, and boating on Sunday with aunts and uncles. So they shipped me off to coastal Massachusetts to live with my cousins for four summers, beginning when I was 9 years old.
I loved it. The lazy pleasure of those summers forms some of my most vivid childhood memories, not to mention a lasting bond with my cousins and a love for Buzzards Bay that continues to this day. An hour south of Boston, Buzzards Bay—formed by glaciers and tucked between the South Shore of Massachusetts and the Cape—has a craggy coastline and steady southwest breeze that make it a sailor's delight. My family has had a presence on these shores for generations, and though we cousins are grown, we still sail and swim together in the summers when we can. We've also developed a family tradition in November: Before buttoning up for winter the cottage that my husband and I now own, we have a Thanksgiving feast merely 20 miles (as the crow flies) from where the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
Fresh Caught Clams
The water is cold in November, so my cousin Doug and I put on waders and go out at low tide to rake for quahogs. They've been harvested here since the time of the Wampanoags—Native Americans who also summered on these shores—and are the clams in the chowder for which New England is famous. Ospreys (the "buzzards" of Buzzards Bay) circle skeptically when we get close to their nests in the marsh. Most of my cousins hoot and holler from the shore, beers in hand, or keep the woodstove stoked and the cottage toasty warm, waiting for Doug and me to haul in the harvest so we can all start cooking together. We usually spend the rest of the day cooking, some of us taking time for a beach walk while the bird roasts, and then tuck in for an evening of eating by the sea.
- Next: Quahog Chowder
I've found over the years that chowder is the perfect dish on a boat or in a small cottage—easy to assemble, hearty, requiring minimum fuss (just one pot!), and highlighting the saltiness of the sea.
- Recipe: Quahog Chowder
This classic roasted turkey is seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper, before being filled with Oyster Stuffing.
- Recipe: Roasted Turkey
- Recipe: Oyster Stuffing
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Garlic mashed potatoes and turkey are a perfect union. For seasoning, I like to experiment with different flavors of sea salt—dulse seaweed sea salt from Maine, or Nantucket's smoked black lava sea salt. Artisanal salt makers have revived this colonial craft, and it tastes so good.
- Recipe: Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Butternut Squash with Cranberries
Our cottage is a stone's throw from local working bogs, which still cover more than 14,000 acres in the region. I can't imagine a Thanksgiving without cranberries. In this dish, they add luster and color, like a jewel.
Arugula Salad with Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
The thing I love most about this salad: using fresh, organic, local greens. (Conditions are particularly good for farming in nearby Westport, Massachusetts, keeping local farmers' markets stocked.)
I grew up skating on the bogs of southeastern Massachusetts, and my father endearingly called me a "bog-trotting swamp Yankee." Here's another essential cranberry dish.
- Recipe: Cranberry-Orange Relish
Lemon Soufflés with Raspberry Sauce
When I inherited my mother's wooden recipe box, inside were recipes in the handwriting of my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. My great-grandmother's soufflé was so simple, but it's just what you want at the end of a big meal: a light, lemony froth. Drizzling it with raspberry sauce enhances it, if that is possible.
Lavender Gin Cocktail
This lavender-infused cocktail is refreshing and pretty.
Lavender Gin Cocktail
1 lemon wedge
2 ounces dry gin
2 tablespoons Lavender Syrup (recipe below)
Squeeze juice from lemon wedge into a highball glass filled withice, and drop lemon into glass. Add gin, lavender syrup, and a splash of club soda. Stir and serve. Makes 1 cocktail.
Seaside gardens love lavender, which grows in abundance here. Picking the lavender every fall, I have made many lavender sachets, and this year decided to experiment and make a simple syrup infused with lavender. It’s delicious in tea or cocktails (and would also make a great hostess gift in a pretty bottle with a ribbon).
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dried lavender buds
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan; turn off heat, and let lavender steep 30 minutes. Strain mixture, discarding solids, and transfer to a glass jar. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. Makes 1 1/3 cups.