Like everyone else in the food blog world this week, I greet you with tales of Thanksgiving dinner. Although mine is already cooked. You read that right: my turkey, gravy, stuffing, and all the usual suspects have already been prepared. No, I wasn’t trying out some new fad in holiday cooking–make everything 48 hours before you serve it. Rather, Michael and I offered to host a pre-Thanksgiving meal at his house for his Michigan family members since we’ll be with my folks for the holiday. When I agreed to the plan, I believe he thought I was just being the accommodating, food-obsessed girlfriend he’s come to know. My oh-so-secret agenda, however, was that I’d never headed up a Thanksgiving dinner before, so I jumped at the chance. In my family, there is an unwritten rule that Thanksgiving must be hosted by, like, married people who own their own homes. And, preferably, a set of china. Single girls–especially apartment-dwelling single girls–need not apply.
So we hopped to it, and the plans were proceeding beautifully–ahead of schedule, even!–thanks in no small part to the lovely and talented Anne, who helped me conceive a menu that would be relatively straightforward and would accommodate the range of palates of our guests.
- Assorted Cheddar Crisps
Salami and cheese plate
- Herb-roasted turkey with Shallot pan Gravy
Herbed oyster stuffing
Cranberry sauce with crystallized ginger
Roasted sweet potatoes with thyme
Spicy greens salad (mizuna, mustard greens, arugula from Tantre Farms) with roasted beets and carrots with champagne-shallot vinaigrette
With the addition of some store-bought Avalon Lafayette Baguette Rolls, some sides brought by the guests (mashed rutabaga, creamed onions–family favorite, both) and some pies (pumpkin, apple), it felt like all was under control.
So, armed with a plan
A man (who is capable in the kitchen at things I’m wimpy at, like carving a turkey)
And a gorgeous, new roasting pan
we were ready to Put on a Thanksgiving Dinner.
We were not ready, however, for the following, uh, complications. Here’s a list of our lessons learned, some kinks to work out the next time I wrangle my way into Thanksgiving dinner planning:
- Lesson #1: A 17-pound turkey takes up lots of room in the oven. I mean, LOTS. So no room for the oyster stuffing to bake in its pan. This is why it is good to be friends with your next-door neighbor. (Thanks, Chris!)
- Lesson #2: A 17-pound turkey is really freaking heavy. And it’s hard to speak kindly and not be kinda
bitchybossy when you’re cradling said 17-pound naked bird in your arms, trying to rinse it and pat it dry. (Sorry, Michael!)
- Lesson #3: Children under 10 aren’t super keen on salami caliente and homemade cheddar crisps. They do, however, really dig sparkling apple cider.
- Lesson #4: The timing of the last 30 minutes of the meal are crucial, people. Taking the turkey out of the oven, tenting it with foil, making the gravy, getting the mashed potatoes ready, carving the bird, placing the bird on the platter and plating up all the other dishes WITH serving utensils. And getting said platter and dishes on the table while the food’s still hot.
- Lesson #5: The Thanksgiving meal, for me anyway, will always yield up a bit of disappointment. It’s a hell of a lot of heavy food, mostly of the same texture and consistency and color (the “tan group,” I like to call it). Eat a lot of salad.
- Lesson #6: Remember that you wanted to do this in the first place. Appreciate your mothers and aunts and cousins who have worked at preparing Thanksgiving meals for your family forever. Be secretly glad that you aren’t yet grown up enough (according to them) to host Thanksgiving yourself.