Hi, there. I hope everyone had a great, safe Thanksgiving this year. This one was a little different for me because I’ve gone through many life changes this year, which have affected how and where I celebrate the holidays. I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family for the past 10 years. The number of guests has varied from 12 to 20, but the amount of food has always been the same. My philosophy is, better to have too much than not enough. After all, people will want to take leftovers home and there’s always THE DAY AFTER.
Traditionally, for me, the day after Thanksgiving has been a day of rest. I don’t do anything, I don’t go anywhere, I don’t see anyone. I’ve been cooking all week and I want is to be left alone. Just me and my leftovers and my holiday movies. That’s it. This year, my parents cooked Thanksgiving dinner and I worked at Macy’s this Friday as a Santaland elf. Yes, I worked at Macy’s on Black Friday. I thought I was going to need tranquilizers. But I’ll talk about that experience another time.
Now, I’ve cooked multi-course Thanksgiving meals for up to 20 people without a hitch. The menu usually consisted of (with variations): Antipasto platters (I am Italian, after all), for which I roasted my own peppers and sometimes marinated my own olives, and which included things like stuffed mushrooms, cheeses, salami, etc.; the turkey (of course); cranberry sauce (homemade); stuffing; green beans almandine; corn; mashed (or other) potatoes; baked squash rings; broccoli raab; salad; and desserts. Sometimes I added side dishes, and my mother always made something(s). And even though I knew full well that everyone would bring a dessert, I still chose to make one or two myself because I enjoy it and I don’t get many opportunities throughout the year to make desserts.
This year, I was in charge of stuffing. That’s it. I did choose, however, to also make fresh cranberry sauce, cipolline (more on that), and a raspberry cheese pie. With only those few items to make, you’d think it would have been a snap. Well, just as the rest of my year has gone, things decided to go their own way. Some things chose not to cooperate. On the upside, I did learn a few things (when you cook for Thankgiving, it gives you the opportunity to really experience cooking for a crowd).
So, without further ado, here are the 5 Things I Learned This Thanksgiving.
1. When making homemade cranberry sauce, don’t skimp on the sugar. Cranberry sauce requires a lot of sugar. Otherwise, it can be so tart as to be unpalatable (for some, anyway). This year, I decided to cut back on the sugar. I used a combination of white and brown sugar, hoping that the brown sugar would increase the sweetness. Didn’t work. The resulting sauce left a bitter aftertaste. I knew I had to add sugar before I brought it to dinner, but I was afraid of grittiness. So, I added brown sugar and stirred it in very well. It was fine.
2. If you’re roasting chestnuts for chestnut stuffing, buy more than you have to because some of them will be rotten.
3. Cipolline. There is no substitute. These are small Italian onions that are available only in fall. They are a delicacy. They have a strong flavor, somewhat bitter, but Italians seem to be fond of that. It’s an acquired taste but one that is prized. I make them agrodolce—sweet and sour—and when done properly, they are addicting. This photo shows what the end product looks like. Anyway, they can be hard to find and I substituted pearl onions. Well, it just isn’t the same. They don’t cook up the same and they certainly don’t taste the same. So, if you’re going to give cipolline a try, don’t bother if you can’t find the real thing. Here’s a recipe.
4. Chocolate just doesn’t melt as well in a microwave as it does the traditional way on the stovetop. I had to melt white chocolate for the raspberry cheese pie and it came out lumpy. Is it because it was white chocolate rather than regular chocolate? I don’t know.
5. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I brought my stuffing to my parents’ house. It was assembled and ready to go in the oven just for reheating. It was just right—the texture, the flavor, the dispersal of ingredients. But I thought, “Hmm, I don’t want it to dry out in the oven, so I’ll just add the rest of this vegetable broth.” I had to heat it for close to an hour at 400 degrees just to dry it all out. In the end, it still tasted good, but the texture was somewhat gummy. So, like I said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I hope everyone had a great day on Thursday. And so begins the new Christmas season. What will you be making this holiday?
Until next week, peace.