You probably got the memo that Thanksgiving, as it is currently celebrated, is a far cry from what probably transpired at the original feast. Rather than a cross-cultural love fest, the first Thanksgiving was more like a poker game where each player had one hand on his cards and the other hand on his pistol, under the table, aimed at another man's lap. The party did not include a quick game of tag football while the turkey cooked, because there wasn't even a turkey. Or a pumpkin pie. Or women and children at the dining table.
But who can't get behind a holiday that, stripped to its bare essence, is about being grateful for what one has? In this sense, every day should be Thanksgiving, as far as I'm concerned. And there should always be pudding. Pie is optional.
Tapioca, Coconut, Squash Pudding
Little known fact: A tablespoon or two of tapioca will improve any pudding or pie filling immeasurably. Tapioca adds a toothy elasticity to the finished product, bestowing it with the body you're looking for. My mother-in-law uses tapioca in apple pie, and since I started messing around with the tapioca trick myself, it hasn't failed me. And for what it's worth, tapioca has long been a food of indigenous peoples of Central and South America. So there's an obtuse Thanksgiving Indian angle for ya.
This recipe also includes corn meal, which thickens the pudding, while adding more complexity to the flavor. It also adds a pinch of indigenous authenticity.
I use molasses here because I really like the dark, intense flavor combined with these ingredients. I opt for the extra-intense blackstrap variety of molasses, but if you've got a sensitive palate, you should probably avoid blackstrap, and perhaps skip the molasses altogether in favor of sugar or brown sugar.
Final note: This dish is unquestionably better after a night in the fridge.
2 cups cooked squash
(preferably kabocha), or 1 cup each
of cooked squash and sweet potato
2 tablespoons granulated tapioca
(aka cracked tapioca)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 tablespoons molasses
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender. Whizz until smooth. Pour into a buttered baking pan. Bake at 300 degrees until an inserted knife comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight.
It's not an overly sweet dish, but the sweetness of the squash/sweet potato and coconut combine with the molasses for an amazing pudding experience. Or pie, if you're crusty.
Indian Pudding with Apples
This recipe comes from an old recipe booklet called Apple Talk that was published by the Northern Pacific Railroad in the early 1900s, apparently in an attempt to boost its apple shipping business. My copy of Apple Talk was found in an old homestead in Missoula, Montana, beneath a dusty stack of recipes. Apples, like squash, are in season.
When finished, the pudding will bear a black hue on top, as if you burned it. Don't worry, it's just the molasses.
"Scald two quarts of sweet milk [also known as whole milk]. Stir in one cup of cornmeal until the mixture thickens. Remove from the fire. Add one and one-sixth cups of molasses, one teaspoonful of salt, one-half teaspoonful each of nutmeg and cinnamon and two cups of sweet apples, pared, cored, and quartered. Pour into a deep pudding dish and bake for four hours. [I went with 275 degrees, and it was perfect.] When the pudding has baked for one and one-half hours, add one pint of cold milk without stirring. Serve with cream and sugar and syrup."
I've played around with variations like doubling the apples and corn meal, which makes it sweeter and thicker. It's a forgiving recipe. Maybe not as decadent as your average serving of tiramisu, but it's better for you, and closer to what may have been served in the original feast, for whatever that's worth. Like the squash pudding, this pudding is exponentially better the next day, so plan ahead.