Last week, I watched Dirty Dancing on back-to-back nights. And by watched, I mean, watched, sans computers and folding laundry, simply gripped by the story of this unlikely romance at Kellerman’s resort in the summer of 1963, as if I hadn’t grown up watching it a million times. I could talk about all the reasons I love it—Don’t put your heel down! blah, blah, blah. Baby? Is that your name? blah, blah, blah, but there’s a good chance you already know these reasons, and if you don’t by now, you’re likely not to care.
Having said that, on this newly rekindled Dirty-Dancing high, I found myself repeating those lines that Johnny says to the little boss-man (I believe that’s his official title?) when the little boss-man approaches Johnny on the dance floor, and brusquely asks him where Penny is. With his back turned from his dancing partner—that creepy older woman deemed a “bungalow bunny” by the equally creepy owner of Kellerman’s—Johnny puts his hands in his pockets and shouts back: “Whaddya mean, ‘Where’s Penny’? She’s taking a break. She NEEDS a break!”
I just love the hyper-dramatic indignity with which Johnny responds to his boss. How dare he ask Johnny, one of his employees, where another one of his employees is! And so, slowly but surely, these lines became a kind of mantra for me this week. Because of work, Matt and I couldn’t go home for the holidays and because we both had work specifically on Friday (Matt left for his office before 7am Friday morning), we felt we needed the day to ourselves to fully recover and so, opted out of our friends’ potluck gathering. The fact that it was basically our choice to spend the holidays alone didn’t stop me, however, from spending the beginning of the week in different stages of pouting. I didn’t want to go grocery shopping. I didn’t want to plan a menu. I wanted what I couldn’t have: to travel someplace where snow was a possibility; to be able to request multiple hugs from my toddler-aged niece and nephew, to just show up at some relative’s house where my laptop (and pending work) was not invited and have someone I knew mainly through such holiday gatherings flop turkey meat on my outstretched plate. I wanted a break. I NEEDED a break!
But then, I turned a corner. I believe it started with the idea of mulled wine. If I could just get some mulled wine simmering on the stovetop… And then, I found the recipe for mashed potatoes with parsley and cream in—you guessed it—Tender. And then, the night before, Matt and I tackled Martha Stewart’s Sky-High Apple-Cranberry Pie followed by a viewing of a Mt. Everest documentary, which just might be required viewing for humans stuck in a rut. In the morning, Matt agreed to handle the chicken, which was our stand-in for turkey. And what do you know? Come Thanksgiving, after a jog through my neighborhood, a few musical acts from the Macy’s day parade and a large mug of mulled wine at 1pm, I didn’t have to fake my gratitude.
It ended up being a delicious meal and a beautiful afternoon well spent. Many thanks to Matt who, as usual, took all of the photos and served up one of the best roast chickens I’ve ever eaten. Also many thanks to the camera crews who have lugged their equipment to the top of Mt. Everest so that people like me can watch in complete amazement as those wonderful fools traverse the death zone. Oh, and while I’m at it, thanks to those who contributed to the Mt. Everest Wikipedia page—I read it in its entirety before falling asleep on Thanksgiving night. (Fun Fact: Early in our relationship, Matt read Into Thin Air aloud to me, in its entirety.) But most of all, I want to thank you, reader, for whom I doctored up this photo last year as a portrayal of my gratitude. I should really update it though, as my complaining has really paid off, and I can happily report that my mother now reads the blog regularly. In other words, hurrah and happy holidays, friends! YOU’RE WILD!!Martha Stewart
For the Crusts
1 large disk plus 1 small disk Pate Brisee (If you don't use all 10 apples the recipe calls for (Matt and I used 6.), you could probably get away with using two small disks of pate brisee and save yourself the trouble of making two separate batches of dough, as Martha warns against doubling the recipe.)
All-purpose flour, for surface
For the Filling
5 pounds (about 10) heirloom baking apples, such as Arkansas Black, Carpentin, Jonathan, Knobbed Russet, or Northern Spy (We used Granny Smith!)
1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons heavy cream, for egg wash
2 tablespoons sanding sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make the crusts: Roll out small pate brisee disk to a 1/8-inch thickness on a floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edges, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Repeat rolling with large pate brisee disk, and cut out a 12-inch circle; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate crusts until firm, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Peel and core apples. Cut each into 1/2- to 1-inch-thick wedges, and transfer to a bowl. Toss in cranberries, granulated sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Transfer filling to bottom crust; dot with butter. Cover with top crust. Fold edges under; crimp. Cut eight 2 1/2-inch vents into dough to let steam escape. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
Gently brush top crust with egg wash; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake pie set on a rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, 1 hour 20 minutes more. (Tent with foil if crust is browning too quickly.) Let pie cool completely in plate set on a wire rack.