For Thanksgiving two years ago I pulled out all the stops. We had a Chinese-influenced meal, with about 112 dishes. OK, only 14, but still. Culminated in bao from scratch. Phew. Exhausting.
Last year Significant Other and I were on our own and and we ate out.
This year, the kids are with me again, and the Northern California siblings will gather at my house. But we’re all already tired, what with jobs, children, and life. You know the drill. We’re thinking we will let the magic of caramelizing vegetable sugars and slightly salty gravy do all the work. Our jointly planned menu:
Mashed potatoes: Cut up organic russets into thirds, boil for 15 minutes or until you can poke them easily. Drain, keep in pot, cover. Just before serving, boil water, add bit bit bit while you mash. Add in some butter. If you must get your foodie on, boil some garlic cloves in the water with potatoes.
Roast butternut squash: Buy a container of pre-cut cubes from Whole Foods. Peeling those beasties is an impolite word. Dump them onto a baking sheet with a lip, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper. Roast at 450 or 500 degrees until they start to blacken.
Roast brussels sprouts: Recipe here. Involves pancetta and lemons.
Rolls: These, frozen, baked right before you eat them, are delicious.
Cranberry: Oh just buy the damn stuff. I was advocating canned but my sister took it up a notch and volunteered to buy cranberry-orange relish. Fine.
Molasses bars with icing and or chocolate chips: I haven’t baked these before. Every Thanksgiving needs a Dish of Adventure. Best made with your recipe, by your daughter, helped by her small girl cousin. All finger-dipping allowed.
Pumpkin pie: The recipe from the can. It’s there for a reason. Even better, your sister-in-law might volunteer to bake it, or your brother-in-law to involve your son and niece.
“Wait,” you might be saying, “Wait! What about the main attraction?”
Stuffing: Bagged Pepperidge Farm. You are going to cover it in gravy anyway, so who cares?
Gravy: This is important. Make a roux using equal parts flour and fat. Warm the fat, use it to cook the flour. Fat should be some turkey drippings, and maybe a little butter. Then stir in liquid, while whisking. Liquid should be part turkey juices (this means it is worth separating turkey fat from turkey juice, sorry to say), part broth, with a little white wine if you’re drinking (who isn’t?), and my mother’s secret ingredient, Worcestershire sauce. You’re welcome.
And for the turkey? Ultimate simplicity.
Have your brother bring his deep-fat gear and fry the thing. Just make sure he also brings a tarp to save your slate patio from a greasy death. Bon appetit! Julia approves. She says to serve with a nice Sancerre and some Pinot Noir because you can never have too many bottles of wine on the table.
Sometimes food is to make a show; of prowess, of love, of culture. Sometimes it’s just to eat well and be thankful.
Happiest of Thanksgivings to all, even to those in countries who don’t celebrate. It’s a time to share.