Top Ten Reasons I’m Fat After Thanksgiving
On the art of Thanksgiving cooking…
Too many people far better than I have come out with ingenious things to say about cooking. Even some less than stellar people have said more than their share about cooking. But I find, after a long weekend of culinary exploits and eating, it’s only appropriate to create a top ten about food. I cook because I like to. More correctly, I cook because I like people praising me for my cooking. So Thanksgiving became an ideal time to roll out every technique I possibly could to create a happy environment for family and loved ones to gather around… and praise me.
Unlike most dinner parties I put together, I decided to serve family style, as in everything on the table for people to dig in. Seemed only appropriate given the holiday. So rather than an impressive appetizer I did crudite with three dips, an herbed anise, a green onion and mint and the tastiest of the bunch, a spicy lemon aioli. Matched with lots of fresh veggies, this was the light appetizer to start the meal off on the right foot, with a big ol’ glass of wine in your hand.
From there, it was all about starch! There were classic mashed potatoes, filled with buttery and creamy goodness. I went a touch non-traditional with sweet potatoes in a balsamic reduction. I found this recipe to be a bit lackluster, although it could have been my preparation. I seemed miffed by the idea of pieces of sweet potato, as opposed to whipped or cubed, and then I overcooked them, much to the delight of a few at my table. I had much better luck with a farmhouse herbed stuffing recipe that honestly tasted like every other stuffing recipe, but I love stuffing, so it was delightful.
Because I like my food with an extra bit of bite, I decided to go with a twist on a classic with tart cherry cranberry sauce. Thanks to my mom for paying attention to the cooking of this item, I was ready to pull it off the stove way before it’s time. The end result was an odd and wonderful combination of sweet and tang that to me, is a lot better than the standard cranberry sauce, which I never understood. To match that cherry goodness, and to break up the starch parade, I did a green bean salad with cherry vinaigrette and roasted walnuts.
And then there’s the big bird, in all its glory. I’m not really the squeamish type in most things in life, but having your arm up in a turkey’s, ummm, cavity, is not ok with me, especially when you have to pull out the neck. Oh yeah, a shiver just went down my spine remembering that whole episode. But of course, I can’t do a normal turkey. I chose to make a pancetta-sage turkey, which basically means creating pancetta-sage butter and sticking it underneath the skin all around the bird. It’s not a pretty process, but I’m very happy to say the final result was tender and tasty, especially when doused with the unreal pancetta-sage gravy, which is basically just fat, stock and wine rendered down with some shallots. Yum.
To close out the meal, it was all about the classics. I tried a new apple pie recipe from Mario Batali that, despite only minor adjustments from a classic recipe, proved delectable, with the inspired addition of extra lemon juice and a bit of maple syrup. Now next time I’ll just have to remember to add that bit of flour before baking to make the innards congeal appropriately. Oops. And then I tried my hand at a caramel pumpkin pie. I’d call it a failure, but honestly it tasted like all other pumpkin pies I’ve ever had… kinda bland. Although part of me thinks that it might have been the caramel bit that really tripped me up, the shock of pouring milk over the burning hot sugar and watching the entire thing coagulate into a giant suck candy. Cooking is like science!
Wow, this was basically a column all about look at me kids, I can cook! And hey, at the end of that Thanksgiving meal, all the smiling faces were much in the service of the same thing. It feels good to be able to get an ego boost while bringing people you love to the same table. Next year, ten new recipes to hopefully bring more Thanksgiving cheer…
MOVIE Woman in the Dunes – a horrifying and gorgeously shot Japanese picture about captivity and conformity. Worth a viewing if for the cinematography alone… B+
ACTOR Leslie Nielson – I can’t claim undying love for him, as his movies weren’t exactly my thing, but he certainly occupies a high seat of honor if for nothing else than Airplane!… no, I wont rate a dead guy, that’s just wrong