Thanksgiving, that most American holiday, is really a culinary triathlon. First, you do the 100-meter swim through hors d’oeuvres, then a relay race of turkey with sides, and finally a sprinting cycle toward tender, flaky pie. It’s enough for me to engage in a level two panic attack (launch the Godiva!), but there’s also something so cozy about gathering together your family and cooking for them. There’s a tangible level of affection that comes across with food. And let’s not forget that moment when you emerge from the kitchen, victorious, your gleaming turkey displayed like an Olympic medal.
I’m not exactly Giada De Laurentiis so my preparations for the big event begin with a serious online browsing session for purchases that will give me an advantage, or––let’s be honest––a lifeline when the mashed potatoes look a little gray and the turkey is flambé.
Freestyle Hors d’oeuvres
Starters and nibbly bits are where most people like to get fancy. They break out the mini tart pans and sweat over perfectly curled lemon peel as if diffusing a bomb. I’ve detonated enough kitchen bombs in my day. When people show up, they’re hungry, and there’s no reason they should be waiting for an oven timer to go off before they can eat. These people need sustenance to give thanks. I’ll already have enough cooking to do, so I’m going to just set out an assortment of olives, a chunk of fine cheese, and crackers, and save the heavy lifting for the actual meal. I’ll get olives stuffed with garlic––so good they’ll make your eyes water––from Paesana available at Cyber Cucina. For cheese, I’ll go for a soft triple crème that everyone can enjoy. Artisanal Premium Cheese has a lovely Nettle Meadow Kunik that’s like a creamy wheel of butter. Finally, when in doubt about anything epicurean, I go French. Fauchon makes killer crackers that will make you turn your back on Ritz forever.
The Main Event
Turkey isn’t a very forgiving meat to cook. At it’s worst, it tastes like shredded paper with a clammy skin. That doesn’t exactly inspire you to shout “Mmm, mmm, good!” But any turkey mistakes are amplified times five because you’ll be stuck eating dry turkey sandwiches for a week. “Mmm, mmm, no good!” So I have to approach this task with every tool at my disposal. It’s time to upgrade from my basic paraphernalia (pan and ladle) to the stuff of champions. Invest in the Chefs Perfect Turkey Tool Kit. At the very least I’ll look like I mean business with my marinade injector and voice alert count down. Such serious tools shouting out fractions of measurement are sure to clear my family out of the kitchen.
The portion of the meal I remember the most is dessert. I say that because I’m a sugar fiend, but also because it’s the last thing I taste, lingering on through the evening like the last note in a song. Thing is, people can be very particular about pie. It seems like the vote gets split between apple pie and pumpkin pie, with key lime pie making up the independents. I’ve found that you can keep everyone happy without developing rolling-pin-related spasms. Get a Little Pie Company Sampler from Virginia’s Best. Tiny pies in each flavor keep the peace just long enough to get everyone over the post-turkey low and over to the door. Mission accomplished! Then I give thanks.
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