From Our Table To Yours

Mary Ann Fitzmorris November 26, 2019 02:00 Do Try This At Home

Turkey icon by Jackson Fitzmorris

For nearly twenty years, we have hosted a gathering on Thanksgiving. We have always loved to cook for all these people. The memories are strong. We started the first one with an official invitation including an anecdote about the first Thanksgiving. The gathering started with a prayer of thanksgiving. The kids were little and I tried to rope them into helping with decorations, like gathering prairie grasses for centerpieces and making little turkey place cards, but mostly it was all a whirlwind of warmth and good food.

Thanksgivings have changed throughout the years as people have come and gone, and that includes us. Our first grandson has a birthday that falls in there, and we are often in LA when the holiday rolls around. This year, we will do a fair amount of cooking, but will bring it to another home. Having absorbed ML’s household while her renovation continues, there is little room for anything.

But through it all, some things remain, like the menu. Here are some favorite recipes if you are hosting, starting with the all-star Root Beer Glazed Ham.

Root Beer-Glazed Ham


  • Glaze:

  • 24 oz. (two cans) Barq's root beer

  • 1 1/2 Tbs. pepper jelly

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Tabasco Caribbean style steak sauce (or Pickapeppa)

  • 6 cloves

  • 1 stick cinnamon

  • Peel and juice of one-half an orange

  • Peel of half a lemon

  • 1 cured, smoked ham, about 8-10 pounds

  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard

  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar


I usually make the glaze the night before, so I can get the ham right into the oven in the morning. Combine all the glaze ingredients in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer, and cook for about a half-hour. Strain the pan contents and discard the solids. Reduce the liquid to about a half-cup. Refrigerate if you do this in advance.

Place the ham on a rack in a disposable aluminum pan. Cut shallow gashes in a criss-cross pattern across the top half. Spoon the glaze over the ham to completely wet the surface.

Combine the brown sugar and the dry mustard and pat it all over the ham. Pour a half-cup of water into the pan. Put the ham in the oven at 350 degrees.

Spoon some of the glaze over the top of the ham at 15-minute intervals until it's all used up. Try to get some glaze on all parts of the ham. Add more water to the pan when it dries up.

Continue baking until the ham reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a half-hour before carving.

The Connell Family Mac’N’Cheese for 6-8

My mother made this in a very large pan for a lot of people. It was simple macaroni, cooked and salted, with some cans of evaporated milk and margarine, and lots of real cheese. When I met Tom, my tastes changed dramatically, and I started to be drawn to real food. My mother’s mac’n’cheese remained the same except all the ingredients were swapped for better quality. The macaroni was a diverse selection of pastas, and the cream was heavy whipping cream, with white Vermont Cheddar. (We only stumbled into this wonderful upgrade when Vermont Cheddar sent us a sampler pack and we didn’t know what to do with it. We never went back to the orange kind.


2 pkgs boiled pasta of your choice, slightly al dente 

1 quart heavy whipping cream

3 pounds white cheddar cheese grated

In a large pan, mix half of each pound of pasta and put down the first layer.

Pour the cream over it until there is about ½ inch in the bottom. 

Completely cover this layer with cheese.

Repeat this process, making sure all cream and cheese is used.

Bake at 375 until the top has a crust.

NOTE: If you are as cheese-obsessed as the Marys, you can flip the top layer over when it is crusty and layer more cheese to bake again, but you’ll need an extra pound of cheese. This step is not for the faint of heart.


Middle Eastern Sweet Potatoes  for 8


6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced

1-2 sticks of butter

2 Tbs each of turmeric, cumin, curry, cinnamon, ginger 

1 Tbs nutmeg

Melt the butter. Then combine all the spices. Fill a large baking dish or roasting pan with the sweet potatoes. Pour the mixture all over the potatoes and make sure they are coated.

Cover and bake at 375 until they are done (when a knife comes out clean.) These should be basted often and water can be added to slightly dilute the mixture and steam them.


String Bean Casserole for 6

¾ cup olive oil

1 medium onion chopped finely

Half a pod of garlic chopped very finely

2 cans green beans

2 cans artichoke hearts, chopped well

1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

1 cup parmesan cheese finely grated

2 Tbs melted butter 

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add onions till blond, then add garlic, stirring constantly.. Gradually add all ingredients in order, When this is fully mixed, pour into a baking dish and generously sprinkle more parmesan and breadcrumbs. Then drizzle with the melted butter.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350.


An appetizer I loved to make was shrimp poppers, like the ones they did at La Cuisine.

Broiled Shrimp  for 10


2 lbs shrimp 10 count rinsed and peeled, tail on.

1 lb pepperjack cheese

2 lbs your favorite bacon


Slit the shrimp and devein, inserting a slice of the cheese there. Wrap bacon around the shrimp, leaving tail exposed.

Broil until the bacon is cooked. Cheese should be oozing.

Serve with an Asian chili sauce.

And finally, dessert...

Orange Cheesecake

I learned the basic recipe for this great cheesecake--one which I make and bring to every family function--from the late Lonnie Knisley. One of the best pastry chefs who ever worked in New Orleans, he made all the desserts at Andrea's for years. The orange aspect is my wrinkle on it; I have a personal passion for that flavor, and I think it's especially good in this. You can sub pumpkin, or I also do satsumas.


2 packages graham crackers (out of the standard three in the standard box) 

cinnamon graham crackers

1/4 cup sugar

1 stick butter, melted

4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

4 eggs

1/2 pint whipping cream

1 Tbs. vanilla

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup orange juice

Zest (grated peel) of one orange

1. Put the cream cheese and the sugar into the bowl of a mixer and blend on medium-slow speed until completely blended and fluffy--about 10 minutes.

2. While that's going on, make the crust. Grind the graham crackers into small crumbs in a food processor. Add the sugar and the butter and process until the butter has soaked all the crumbs.

3. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Dump the crust mixture in and press a wedge of crumbs into the bottom corner all the way around. Then make a bottom crust, and finally press the remaining crumbs up the sides of the pan. It is not necessary for the crust to come all the way to the top of the pan. Set aside.

4. Add the sour cream to the mixer bowl. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl after this and each other ingredient addition throughout the recipe.

5. Add the eggs, one at a time, allowing them to blend in completely before adding the next one. (Break each egg into a cup first to make sure it's okay before you add it.)

6. Add the cream, the vanilla, the juices, and the zest. Mix for another five minutes or so.

7. Pour the filling into the crust. Place the springform pan in a shallow pan (i.e., a pizza pan), and place it in the center of the oven at 275 degrees (no convection). Pour warm water into the bottom pan. Bake for 90 minutes, until you see the cheesecake has just a hint of browning on top.

8. Turn the oven off, but leave the cheesecake inside. After an hour, open the door a crack and let the cheesecake cool in the oven another half-hour. Remove the cheesecake and let it finish cooling on a counter. After another hour, remove the sides of the springform pan and put the cheesecake into the refrigerator. Chill at least three hours before serving. This must be done slowly and gently, or you'll have cracks in the top.

Makes one ten-inch cheesecake; serves twelve to sixteen.