We celebrated a small version of Thanksgiving yesterday with our next-door neighbors. I got to enjoy my second day off in country in nine months, and Danny only had to work half a day, so it was a red-letter day on all accounts. The dinner was overall a great success, although there was one small tragedy in the form of my pecan pie…but more on that later.

I’ve included some pictures below of the various stages of preparation — we had to use a bit of ingenuity to get around our logistical limitations here. We joked that we have a talent for creating Thanksgiving in challenging situations. Although this year was certainly more challenging in terms of acquiring ingredients (we managed to get a turkey “thigh roast” from the marines to supply the main dish, and Danny had to scrounge up every celery stick on the salad bar in order to make the stuffing), we have previously made Thanksgiving for seven in a kitchen that didn’t even have a full-size oven (I think it was 2/3 life-sized so to speak).
In order to get cornbread stuffing (something that we agree on, luckily, is that stuffing should always start with cornbread), we made corn muffins in our toaster oven first as our real oven was occupied with the aforementioned pecan pies. This actually worked surprisingly well, especially since our toaster has been much used and abused in the six and a half years we’ve been married. After the muffins were done we crumbled them and dried them, along with some bread for texture, in the oven a bit, added the sauteed onions and celery and herbs, and produced something that tasted remarkably like normal stuffing.
I will have to get a copy of the picture of our solution as to how to cook the several pounds of boneless turkey thigh meat and stuffing without a roasting pan, but until then you’ll have to imagine it. We used one square Pyrex baking dish (like one would use for brownies or sheet cake) and one square ceramic pot of sorts (like what you would use for casseroles…it has a glass lid). We put a layer of stuffing on the bottom, and topped it off with the meat in order to simulate the stuffing that comes out of the turkey, which is Danny’s favorite. We had not bet on how much juice is produced by thigh meat, however, and about half-way through had to pull the turkey off the top, drain some of the juice off the stuffing, which was swimming, and bake them separately for the remainder of the time. Thanks to the abundant amount of juice, we actually had enough to make real gravy with only a little bit of help from a turkey gravy packet.
So other than our turkey and stuffing, we had mashed potatoes, fresh bread courtesy of our neighbor, canned green beans and cranberry jello (also courtesy of our neighbors). Our neighbor also brought a pumpkin pie, which came out perfectly.

Ah, but the pecan pies. They’re Danny’s favorite, so I was very excited to be able to surprise him with them — my parents sent me the requisite ingredients, which arrived on Tuesday just in time. As they baked they looked amazing, and I was thoroughly excited to get to try them.
Not having ever made pecan pie myself before, I was a little disturbed that they didn’t seem to be solidifying as quickly as I expected underneath the beautiful brown crust on top, but I figured maybe it was just that I hadn’t really paid attention before. After all, I followed the instructions exactly.
I forgot about the altitude. We’re at almost 7000 feet elevation here. I may have noted before that this small detail wreaked havoc with my first attempts at brownies, but for some reason I didn’t think about that fact that it might affect my beloved pecan pies. As you can see, what happened is that underneath the beautiful brown crust was a pool of syrup. Very tasty syrup, mind you, but hardly the texture I was going for. So Danny gamely ate part of the crust and the top part of the pie, but the rest of us steered clear of the pecan pie soup.
I will note, however, that I have come an awfully long way from when we were first married in terms of my ability to cope with such unexpected culinary disasters. Had this happened a few years ago, I would definitely have been in tears and throwing things, inconsolable about my failure to produce a “Southern Living” quality pecan pie despite whatever practical reason there was for said failure (such as an altitude that takes two weeks for a human to adjust to before one can walk up stairs without be winded, let alone an unsuspecting pecan pie). As it was, I was cranky for about half an hour and then was able to laugh about the fate of my poor pies.