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As the holidays grow near, I am excited to continue the wonderful Heirloom Recipe Series that has become everything I could have ever imagined it would be. I just can’t get enough of hearing the back stories behind these special recipes, from some very special people – and this week is no exception!

Joining us today is Cynthia Wong, pastry chef at one of Atlanta’s own southern-staple restaurants, Empire State South. I fell in love with ESS even before I ever set foot into the fine establishment, simply because of my past experience with their sister restaurant Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia where I attended college. The atmosphere & ambiance is perfectly southern, with a fabulous bar and bocce ball on hand too – and the food is certainly top-notch.

With Thanksgiving week upon us, I am thankful today that Cynthia has shared a heartfelt and honest post below, sharing a special shrimp dish recipe with us all and reminding us that there are so many things to be thankful for. Many thanks Cynthia for taking the time to join the Heirloom Recipe Series!

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This recipe for shrimp dip belonged to my late father-in-law, Bob Harmon. Like my husband, who is his spitting image, Bob was a strapping man, a master of banter, talented cook, and lover of good wine and late nights. I’ve spent most of the last 13 holiday seasons with the large, loud, warm, accepting, incredibly funny Harmons, who now seem more like adopted family than in-laws. I have always been a bit shy, and was initially uneasy during Christmas visits to the Harmon family homestead. I had a hard time keeping up with the all-night, wine-soaked story telling and joke cracking that left me with hangover headache that would blister the paint off a car.

Their 10-foot long family dinner table is always set for Christmas supper with a succulent, mahogany-skinned behemoth of pork known as The Harmon Family Ham, yeast rolls and biscuits, a large jar of mustard, a heaping dish of Hellman’s mayonnaise, cranberry jelly, cornbread dressing, roast oysters, smoked beef tenderloin and horseradish sauce, sausage balls, green salad, collards, black eyed peas, and Bob’s shrimp dip. The food is left on the table after dinner, until every last bite is eaten– a practice that initially appalled me, but one that I have grown to love. Why put away the leftovers and go to bed? Would it not be better to put your feet up by the fire in the den, make another plate and tell another tale of family legend? Sleep is for later, when you are back at home and need to go to work.

I am estranged from my own family, who are as different from the Harmons as to almost seem alien. Two of the most terrible things I’ve come to learn as an adult are that some differences are truly irreconcilable, and that time does not really heal. But the best thing I’ve grown to understand is that contrary to the old saying, you can choose your family.

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Bob’s Shrimp Spread

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Be sure to connect with Cynthia by following Empire State South on Twitter and Facebook too!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

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It’s a great big, fun week here on heirloomed, with two very special new additions to the Heirloom Recipe Series!

I have been just bursting to share the delights of  Merrill Stubbs, part one of the dynamic duo behind fabulous foodie site, food52. {note: Amanda joins us tomorrow too – be sure to stop back!}  Merrill, who grew up in a home fortunate enough to have a mother for an amazing cook, has quite an extensive love affair with food. Along with her work on  The Essential New York Times Cookbook, she has also had stints at such amazing publications as Cooks Illustrated and Herb Quarterly (and you know how I adore herbs …).

Here with us today is Merrill, graciously sharing one of her very own family recipes from who else but her mother of course, adding to the collection that is the Heirloom Recipe Series!

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For years now, on the day before Thanksgiving my mother has made what my family refers to as “Tuscan Onion Goo” (slightly off putting, I know, so please don’t go by the name alone). Inspired by a visit to a family-owned trattoria in Florence called Ristorante del Fagioli, this sour-sweet onion confit was originally served to my mother as an antipasto. She enjoyed it so much that she asked, in halting but enthusiastic Italian, if the waiter would tell her how it was made. He promptly ushered her into the tiny kitchen, where the sweaty, grinning chef showed her how to put together the dish. She took mental notes and then came home and recreated it, with a few small adaptations.

The recipe has since become one of my mother’s signatures, and Thanksgiving would simply not be the same without “Tuscan Onion Goo.” It’s a great addition — or alternative — to cranberry sauce. While the flavors are very different, it serves a similar role: the sweetness provides a counterpoint to other, more savory sides, and the acid in the vinegar cuts through some of the richness that often pervades the meal.

The confit couldn’t be easier to make, although it does require a bit of a time commitment. You can use frozen pearl onions, but it’s worth trying with fresh cippollini. My mother insists that you have to be crazy to make it with anything other than frozen onions after the first time, but I find peeling cippollini somewhat cathartic. The confit keeps very well in the fridge, and it doesn’t have to be limited to turkey, or to Thanksgiving; it’s great with beef, pork and lamb as well.

Tuscan Onion Confit

Makes about 3 cups

1/4 cup pine nuts
12 ounces small cipollini onions or one 10-ounce bag of frozen pearl onions, thawed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup medium sherry
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup raisins
Salt

1. Using a small frying pan, lightly toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan back and forth to keep them from scorching. Set aside.

2. Peel the onions — either by blanching them first in boiling, salted water for about 30 seconds and then using a sharp paring knife to strip away the skins, or by simply going at the raw onions with the aforementioned paring knife. (Personally, I find blanching a waste of time here and prefer to just have at it.)

3. Put the olive oil in large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook gently (without browning) for about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until mostly reduced. Add 3/4 cup water, vinegar, sugar, raisins, pine nuts and a pinch of salt. Stir well. Simmer the mixture over the lowest heat possible for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. You may need to add more water from time to time if the mixture gets too thick and gooey or starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. It is finished when everything has caramelized well, and the flavors have blended together (you can take it as far as you’d like—I for one prefer a deep amber color).

4. Cool and serve at room temperature. Can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

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Be sure to connect with Merrill on Twitter, and with food52 on Twitter and Facebook too!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

National Tie One On Day™ is today, Wednesday 11/25, Thanksgiving Eve. In its 4th year, National Tie One On Day is an opportunity to put a little “give” back into Thanksgiving.

My dear friend, EllynAnne Geisel, author of The Apron Book, Apronisms & The Kitchen Linens Book, created this event. The event centers around wrapping a baked good in an apron, writing a note of prayer or encouragement, and tying one on…an apron, of course! and delivering the wrapped bundle to someone in need of physical or spiritual sustenance, a bit of recognition or just a kind word.

Visit her website www.apronmemories.com for more information and to enter the goodie bag giveaway! Six winners!!

I hope you’ll join me and participate! It’s such a win-win. As EllynAnne says,”Women clad in aprons have traditionally prepared the Thanksgiving meal, and it is within our historical linkage to share our bounty.”

img_0882As you rack your brain, recipe files and the internet for delicious dishes to fix for your family this Thanksgiving – often the last thing you get to is your table decor for ensuring your holiday spread is complete.

Wow your guests this Thanksgiving with an easy little treat from Mom (thanks Mom!) that is sure to be a glowing centerpiece for the table.  Simple collect varied sizes of pinecones from the yard and with a thin paintbrush, line each pinecone prong with a thin coat of polished gold paint.

These would look lovely scattered around the table amidst the dishes & platters, or piled into a tall glass hurricane vase standing high.

Share with us what you’re doing to dress up your Thanksgiving decor this year!

wishboneA wonderful family (and Thanksgiving) tradition is the coveted turkey wishbone.

As the story goes, the person who holds the majority of the wishbone has their wish come true!  A family tradition that my sister and I have always enjoyed taking part in over Thanksgiving.

In honor of this classic tradition, I’d like to share this lovely wishbone necklace by Jennifer Meyer – just in case you don’t get lucky this Thanksgiving.

As we get ready to gear up for the final two months of the year, the Fall air begins to chill and the leaves turn colors Grandma’s Pecan Pie recipe only seems fitting.

A recipe archived by my mom, I do hope you give this one a try with your family this Thanksgiving!

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