Now that it's November, I can remind you that Thanksgiving is just three short weeks away. It's time to start thinking about who's hosting, what you're bringing and whether you're going to stick to the same Campbell's mushroom soup green bean casserole or try a new recipe. Our special Thanksgiving Taste section, with recipes for everything from stuffing to dessert and a game plan for the big day, publishes Sunday, Nov. 20, to ensure you're fully prepared early in the week. (There will be no Taste section on Wednesday, Nov. 23.)
This is also a good time to figure out what you can easily outsource. For our Thanksgiving issue a couple of years ago, Times food critic Laura Reiley rounded up the best places in Tampa Bay to grab a pie for the big feast. We like the idea of letting someone else whip up a pumpkin or apple dessert, so you can focus on the rest of the meal. (When taken in a more savory direction, pie is also an easy meal idea to get you through a hectic couple of weeks. For recipes, see Pages 4E-5E.) Here are three spots in particular that we rely on each year to churn out classic holiday pies.
Wright's Gourmet House
1200 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 251-5242
It's best to get your order in early to this South Tampa stalwart. Laura says: "These longtimers are justifiably famous for pecan pie. No doubt, its flaky crust, deeply toasted pecan flavor and sweet, custardy filling are among the best around. They are $31, which includes a $5 deposit on the returnable Pyrex dish (and I'm telling you, because it's in Pyrex, it's pretty tempting to offer it up as your own handiwork)."
Multiple locations; villageinn.com
A classic spot that may seem pedestrian in today's artisanal hipster food world, but don't overlook it. This place moves thousands of pies during Thanksgiving week, and their strawberry rhubarb, country apple and coconut cream varieties have won awards. From Laura: "They sell so many pumpkin pies during Thanksgiving week that some locations station a freezer truck outside, selling the pies right off the truck. ... You can order from the website or just walk in and get yours topped with fresh whipped cream."
12777 Walsingham Road, Largo; (727) 593-1884
The colorfully decorated storefront is hard to miss in Largo. It's been around for more than 25 years, and is known for a wide range of pies. From Laura: "No fillers, no applesauce, just real sliced apples seasoned with cinnamon and other homey spices. That's why the Pie Factory sells more than 500 apple pies the week of Thanksgiving. The other big sellers are the holy triumvirate of pumpkin, pecan and key lime. ... Standing in front of the glass case at the Pie Factory can be daunting. Which to choose? Another option is to pick single slices of a range of pies to appeal to all your Thanksgiving guests' tastes."
Using sugar pumpkins
This week's recipe is a twist on typical pumpkin dishes. It calls for cubing the gourd and working it into tacos. Avoid the enormous, carvable pumpkins for this recipe because they tend to be flavorless. Instead, look for pie pumpkins, also known as sugar pumpkins, which are usually about 2 pounds. You could also easily substitute butternut squash or even sweet potatoes if you don't want to use pumpkin. Alternatively, the chorizo could become ground beef or even ground turkey. Don't skimp on the chipotle, though, which brings lots of flavor to the party.
Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.