Notes From Swan's Nest


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Thanksgiving 2012

Autumn is winding down and before long, Americans will be caught up in the annual Christmas holiday rush. But before we deck the halls, shop’til we drop, and preheat our ovens for cookie baking marathons, I look forward to pausing with my family to celebrate the quintessential American holiday – Thanksgiving.

Each November, folks travel through town or across the country to gather around Thanksgiving tables with their loved ones for one of the grandest feasts of the year. It’s always been a special time for me. I can still recall the childhood excitement of riding through Pittsburgh in the back of our family car with my sisters, singing “Over the river and through the woods” as the cold and frosty air fogged the car windows during our short drive to my grandparents’ homes to celebrate Thanksgiving with aunts, uncles, and cousins. As soon as my grandparents opened their front door, my senses were met with one decadent aroma after another – a food memory that still lingers and connects me with precious family members who are now gone.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is associated with the year my husband Randy, our young sons, and I lived in Paris, France. Though I eventually became rather fluent in French, there wasn’t a French word for “Thanksgiving” when I attempted to explain the significance of this very American holiday to my butcher, and why I needed to order a turkey so far in advance of Christmas – the only time of year when turkeys were available in Parisian markets. Nevertheless, Monsieur Durand understood that a turkey was very important to this young, American customer, and so he placed the order.

Two days before Thanksgiving, I stopped by the butcher shop and Monsieur Durand smiled broadly as he told me my turkey had arrived. He disappeared into the large, walk-in cooler and reappeared, proudly clutching a 15-pound fresh turkey by its 12-inch long neck, its head drooping and feet dangling in the air. Without missing a beat, I confirmed to Monsieur Durand that the turkey was perfect, and then said, “Mais pas de tête, et pas de pieds, Monsieur”! Translation: “But no head, and no feet, Sir!” As the turkey roasted in our little French oven on Thanksgiving afternoon, our apartment filled with tantalizing, savory aromas and I was emotionally transported back to American soil.

For those who’ve tuned in and enjoyed my annual Holiday special A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving on PBS and Create stations around the country, thank you. I always look forward to reading your sweet emails as you share your own holiday traditions with me, or simply say how much the show touched your heart.

This year, my mother is joining us for Thanksgiving, and I as write, she’s in my kitchen preparing for our pie-baking marathon. In addition to pumpkin and pecan pies, we’ll make a gorgeous tart adapted from a recipe in my newest book, Celebrating Home: A Handbook For Gracious Living (Bright Sky Press, September 2012). My Cranberry Cherry Tart begins with canned cherry pie filling, a great time saver, and features tart, fresh cranberries, a bit of sugar, lemon juice to brighten the flavors, and a pretty lattice top. The tart was a big hit with Gunnar and Matthew Nelson (Ricky Nelson’s twin sons) when I prepared it on the “Texas Living” show recently, and I think it will be a big hit with your family and guests, too. I’m happy to share this beautiful recipe with you for the upcoming Holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving!



Cranberry Cherry Tart


2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling
2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 egg, for egg wash
1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
1 tablespoon clear sparkling sugar or 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 10-inch round tart pan with removable bottom

Place flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until it is pea-size.

Add almond extract and 4 tablespoons ice water, and process at low speed until the pastry is crumbly. If the mixture appears dry, add the remaining ice water and process just until the pastry comes together and forms a ball. Remove the pastry, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes or until it is cold.

In a large mixing bowl, gently stir together the cherry pie filling, cranberries, sugar, and lemon juice until they are well blended; set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a floured pastry cloth or counter, roll the pastry into a 12-inch circle. Fold the pastry in half and transfer it to the tart pan. Unfold the pastry, fit it into the pan, and trim the excess pastry by running a rolling pin over the top of the tart pan. Pour the cherry filling into the tart pan.

Gather the pastry trimmings together into a ball, roll it out, and cut the pastry into ten ¾-inch wide strips using a pastry wheel or knife. Place 5 strips of pastry across the top of the tart, then turn the tart one-quarter turn and place the remaining pastry strips across the top to form a basket weave pattern.

In a small bowl, whip the egg and water together with a fork. Brush some of the egg wash over the pastry strips and along the edges of the tart and sprinkle them with sparkling sugar.

Place the tart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove the tart from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack to cool.

Yield: 1 10-inch tart