Thanksgiving is going to be weird this year – very weird. Rather than getting together with family and friends, we have been asked by those who are trying to protect us from harm to stay home for the good of ourselves and those we love. So OK then…how do we make the best of that situation, and retain a little of the happiness the holidays bring? I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and pretend we are actually doing what we usually do, which is to go to my brother Gary’s house for a family feast. My sister-in-law Ivory is from South Carolina, and her food is always full of southern charm and delicious. I will REALLY miss the macaroni and cheese she always makes, and her banana pudding is so good it almost makes a person weep. Ivory always has a huge turkey in the oven, and often Gary will put a smaller bird on his outdoor rotisserie. This is in addition to the other various hunks of meat he prepares out there, and well as the best grilled/smoked vegetables I’ve ever had. I will try not to dwell on what we are missing, but focus on what we usually contribute. This usually entails Dick grilling a ton of asparagus with just the right amount of smoky char. I make Apple Crisp and have been adding a Salted Caramel Sauce on the side. But the dish I bring that’s most popular are these Yeasted Dinner Rolls. I plan on making batches of them this year to share with family and friends. This will probably just involve running up to their front door, ringing the doorbell, and leaving a dozen or so of these dinner rolls with a jar of Strawberry Jam, but at least it’s a connection to what this holiday is all about – being thankful and sharing with others.
These dinner rolls are my attempt at coming close to the delicious rolls my grandma Liz used to make. As a young aspiring baker, I’d watch her assemble dozens of at a time, tossing an armload of dough around like it weighed nothing, and tearing off perfectly shaped rolls that she would let rise by her wood stove. She never measured anything, mixing and baking by feel alone – and they were perfect. I have fond memories of eating as many as I possibly could every Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve – or as many as I could get my hands on. Grandma had seven children and hordes of grandchildren, and when everybody got together it was like a small city which means you had to move fast before my seemingly huge uncles with even larger appetites beat me in line.
Grandma did not have a recipe as you may have guessed, so I spent years trying to get as close as I could to what she did so effortlessly. I finally got to where I think she might be proud, and I owe it all to Julia Child because this is pretty much her recipe. If you have a bread machine laying around, haul it out and use the dough cycle for this recipe – that’s how I handle it. These dinner rolls can be made grandma’s way, with just your two hands and a sturdy wooden spoon. There isn’t much better on the planet than biting into one of these babies. Slathered with butter, of course. Recipe adapted from ‘Baking with Julia’.