Thursday, November 13, 2008

Decisions, Decisions...


That's right! I don't want to panic anyone, but there are only two weeks left until Thanksgiving here in the US of A! And, if you're like me and having a small horde of people over for dinner you'd better get crackin'! And if you're like me and struggle to keep your house tidy on a good day, let alone sparklingly spotless on a major Holiday, you'd REALLY better get crackin'! And if you're like me and have foolishly told a few of your guests you're hoping to serve the best Thanksgiving dinner ever known to Man, you'd better learn to stop running off at the mouth!

I'm setting myself up for failure, Man.

No, no, no, no, no, I'm setting myself up for an opportunity! An opportunity to shine, to come through, to rise to the occasion!

Yeah, whatever, let's move on, shall we?

So, I'm spending the morning looking through menus and recipes in earnest. I want to buy some of the supplies I need tomorrow so I don't have to venture forth (or send The Viking out) on an exhaustive shopping blitz next week when I'll be half-mad with desperation and distraction.

Anyone else having a hard time deciding on what to serve? I mean, we've got the basic outline planned: turkey, stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, biscuits, and pie. But, we all know there's more to it than that. There are a million little decisions to be made!

For example, the turkey: Should we just go with the usual Rosemary Roasted Turkey The Viking has made the past 3-4 years? The ingredients list is as long as your arm and that gets kind of expensive so I'm thinking of using America's Test Kitchen's method of dry-salting and their recipe for Roast Turkey instead. But then, there's the recipe found in the 1958 edition of The Idle Hour Cookbook written especially for Chambers stoves. I've used their Roast Chicken recipe and it was the most delicious, moist, juicy, tender chicken I've ever had. I'm thinking reproducing that in turkey form on Thanksgiving would be rather excellent.

Then there's the stuffing: Bread or cornbread? Apples or apricots? Walnuts or pecans? Sausage or bacon? America's Test Kitchen or Martha Stewart? The possibilities are endless!

Also? Appetizers: Butternut Squash Soup? Some kind of nutty, fruity salad? Dip? Crudites? Salsa and Chips? I just don't know!

Drinks are another annual problem: Lenny is usually our Wine Master (a role he plays with great success--and great relish--I might add) so I am blissfully leaving that to him once again. But not everyone in the family drinks alcohol and there are always the children, those breastfeeding or pregnant, and those who simply should not have more than one glass of wine but would still be thirsty to consider. In fact, now that I think of it, this year, there will only be 3 people who can enjoy liberal amounts of alcohol, so we will definitely need other drinks.

At least there are a few things squared away: Mashed potatoes are mashed potatoes as long as you know how to make them right and we do. That's covered. Lobelia is taking care of the Sweet Potatoes. She won't tell me what she's doing with them, but as long as they're cooked, moderately sweet and free from soy products, I'm happy. We're making the same Cranberry Sauce we've made from scratch for the past two years because you just cannot improve upon it. It's America's Test Kitchen all the way and the recipe is included below. Same with the Brussels Sprouts. We've decided on giant biscuits this year instead of the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and are keeping pies to a minimum, with Mom making the Sacred High Holy Most Revered Grandmom Fisher's Pumpkin Pies (shhhhh, they're really Libby's), Lobelia bringing her man's favorite Apple Pie and me making my man's favorite Pecan Pie. With copious amounts of homemade whipped cream, coffe, and tea, of course.

So, all in all, this isn't the worst two-weeks-before-Thanksgiving I've ever had. And this isn't going to be the busiest Thanksgiving I've ever had. But I still have lots to do and reeeeeeeeally better get crackin'! I gotta go!

Cranberry Sauce With Pears and Ginger
(America's Test Kitchen)

Makes about 2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes plus 1 hour cooling time

1 c sugar
3/4 c water
1/4 t salt
1 T grated ginger
1/4 t cinnamon
1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries, picked over
2 pears, peeled, cored and
cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Bring the sugar, water, salt, ginger and
cinnamon to a boil in a nonreactive medium saucepan (stainless steel, nonstick,
or enameled) over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the
sugar. Stir in the cranberries and pears and simmer until slightly thickened and
the berries begin to pop, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature before
serving, about 1 hour.

*To Make Ahead
The sauce can be
refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Skillet-Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots
(America's Test

Serves 4
Start to Finish: 30 minutes

4 oz bacon (4
slices), shopped fine
2 shallots, sliced thin
1 lb Brussels sprouts,
stem ends trimmed, discolored leaves removed, and halved
through the stem
1/2 c water
1 T unsalted butter
1 T red wine vinegar

1. Cook the bacon and shallots together in a 12-inch skillet
over medium heat until the bacon is crisp and the shallots are browned, about 10
minutes. Transfer the mixture to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

2. Add the sprouts, water and 1/2 t salt to the skillet and increase the heat to
medium-high. Cover and simmer until the sprouts are bright green, about 9
minutes. Uncover the pan and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the
sprouts are tender, about 5 minutes longer.

3. Off the heat, stir in the
bacon mixture, butter, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste before


Kayla coo said...

how wonderful to find this page with Debussy playing and I love your autumn pictures.x

Amy said...

OK but at least you don't have to prepare dinner for 6 WHILE on modified bed rest! Granted I don't have to have everything finished, but it all has to be started because the in-laws are not getting here until the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day. Helpful, huh? And you know Daria's cooking prowess. At least my cleaning girl is coming the day before.

KnC Zman said...

you are killing... if i wasn't home sick now i am. It all sounds wonderful and delicious. I can tell you have become quite the cook! That is awesome. I know it will be great. Now i wish i could just fly home for the holidays =).

Leila said...

My brother-in-law once said, after trying to make some sort of southwestern-style turkey, that there is no point in getting all complicated about the turkey. It always ends up tasting the same, and the simpler the better -- to enjoy all those sides!

Okay, that problem is solved :) Although I'm intrigued by the Chambers cookbook thing. That is just one more reason for me to be jealous of your stove.

Moving on. Put all the things you mentioned in your stuffing (choose one kind of nut -- pecan, b/c walnuts hurt my mouth). Just throw them all in. Yes, cornbread AND bread. It's all good.

Don't worry about soup. It's just a distraction. I don't even really believe in appetizers on Thanksgiving. That being said, we always have at least 8 -- must make liver pate with the liver; can't do without homemade "smoked" salmon; my mother likes to make her kipper pate; etc. etc. But soup? too filling!

Drinks (other than wine): cider and water. What else is there? Soda would be a desecration!

Okay! Aren't you glad you have me around to answer all your questions? :)

Make someone take a picture!

Off to my own panic!

Shelby said...

fabulous blog you have here.. love the music and the colors and the posts and of course, the animated turkey. how do i get him?

Amy said...

As for beverages, what about holiday punch? Everybody loves it. Or at least I do.