Thanksgiving Redux: Game Day

This is a re-post from last Thanksgiving with added content.

With At Home I see myself as your “home entertaining coach” — not just a provider of recipes.  The central task of great coaches – and I aspire to be a great coach – is to have a good game plan and get the players mentally and physically prepared to play the game. But, it’s the players who actually take to the field. The coach stands on the sidelines. So, as you prepare to take the field, some last minute advice and a final thought.

For hosts
• The less you have to think about, the better. Tape your menu to your refrigerator or kitchen cabinet, plan and post your reheating schedule, and label all your bowls and platters with what goes in and on each. (Ideally your table was set by Wednesday evening, your wine chilled, platters and bowls pulled and labeled.)
• Clear counter tops of everything that is not related to serving your Thanksgiving meal.
• Start with an empty sink and dishwasher and set-up your bus area according to this plan. (For book owners, generally review Part 1 of At Home — Planning to Entertain.)

• Review Monday’s post for ways your guests can help and assign tasks.
• Plan one relaxed hour prior to guest arrival.
Remember, you are already a Good Enough Entertainer. Relax. Your Thanksgiving will be great.
For more on the Good Enough Entertainer, check out this previous post: A Conversation with Myself

For guests
• Do not arrive early.
• Stay out of the kitchen unless you have a clear kitchen task.
• Don’t bring anything that creates more work for your host.
• Review Monday’s post for ways you can help.

A final thought
Here’s something important you need to bring to Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving is not about the food and gluttony. Way too much energy goes into what’s on the menu and not enough about what’s in your heart. Thanksgiving is a time to pause and acknowledge what we have to be thankful for…most of all the family and friends gathered at tables…at home around America. Take it as your responsibility to bring this perspective to your Thanksgiving table. You will be happy that you did.

Last Thanksgiving Day the lead editorial in the New York Times was A Thanksgiving Toast. It’s still worth reading.

Our Game Day
Christina and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year in our apartment. Two years ago this time preparations for our Thanksgiving Weekend Wedding left us no time for Thanksgiving so — slightly embarrassed to say, we just dined out with my mother, Christina’s mother and younger brother. It was at our neighborhood Smith & Wollensky’s where I enjoyed their Pork Porterhouse. Last Thanksgiving we were in the midst of assuming operation of The Franklin Institute restaurants and book promotion and…yes, we dined out again! My recollection is that I switched to their turkey dinner.

This year we are having a family Thanksgiving that includes Christina’s brother Larry and his family, her mother and brother Mike as well as my son Noah, his mother and grandmother.

The tasks are nicely spread and most of my cooking is complete. Here’s our menu with notes as to who is responsible for what.

As guests arrive
Champagne with Cranberries (See At Home Page 43) (Steve)
Anniversary Tangerine Kumquat Martini (Steve)

Hors d’oeuvres
Tuna Tartare (Noah)
Venison Pate with Gingered Quince Relish (Steve)
Brandied Chicken Liver & Bacon Pate (from The Frog Commissary Cookbook) (Steve)
Amazing Acres Chevre with Chives (Steve)
Kohlrabi & French Radishes with Sea Salt (Steve)
Pickled Okra & Watermelon Radish (See Quick Pickles At Home blog post) (Steve)

Buffet Dinner
Roast Turkey (Brined by Frog Commissary kitchen, Steve to roast)

Larry’s Sausage Stuffing (See At Home Page 332) (Larry)
Tarragon Gravy (Steve) (See At Home blog post)
Pear, Cranberry & Blood Orange Mostarda (Larry)

Sauteed shaved Brussels Sprouts (Steve)
Green Bean, Mushroom & Corn Casserole (Larry)
Bourbon Sweet Potatoes (Steve or Christina)

2006 Chardonnay & 2004 VSP
J.Maki Wines, Elverson, PA

Pecan Pie (Ginny)
Pumpkin Pie (Ginny)
Chestnut Ice Cream (Steve)

Christina is responsible for “front of the house” including wines, setting the table, and pulling platters plus general household organization. She will also be the principal host for the day.

Behind the Scenes
Here’s my Football Sunday Do Ahead No Compromise Turkey Gravy.

A generous amount of turkey parts were well roasted until nicely browned.

Vegetables were also roasted. No oil, just vegetables in the oven.

Everything went into a big pot and cooked slowly for several hours until the leg meat fell off the bone. This stock was then strained. It sat for a while until the fat rose to the top. The fat was aggressively skimmed. The strained stock went back into the pot — cleaned first — and reduced by about two thirds.

In a separate pot — in this case my favorite enamel over cast iron, I sauteed shallots and garlic in butter, added flour to make a roux and poured over the reduced stock. To this I added some white wine, rosemary, thyme and tarragon and let it simmer until it reached the consistency of heavy cream.

What began as about ten quarts of stock was is now a quart of “restaurant worthy” sauce. Tomorrow I will add some fresh chopped tarragon, heat and serve.

My signature effort this Thanksgiving was venison pate — two of them — accented with orange peel, juniper berries, coriander seed and pink and green peppercorns, Calvados and studded with Black Forest ham and pistachios  — plenty to take us deep into the holiday seasoning. Here they sit in the blessedly cool weather just outside our kitchen on the outdoor service porch. When pates come from the oven they need to be weighted overnight in order to compress their texture and transform them from an elaborate meatloaf into a pate.

My re-positionable labels sit ready to guide Christina in pulling platters and setting the table. Also my menu sits ready to tape up on the kitchen cabinet.

Christina has a good start on setting the table and will finish this today. I will get flowers and make a centerpiece for the table. If you serve your Thanksgiving meal family style on platters placed on the table, you should probably remove the centerpiece once guests are seated. We are serving as a buffet on the side board in the dining room.

The coffee table in the living room is ready to go…but for hors d’ouevres that will be placed there shortly before guests arrive.

Good Morning Philadelphia on Fox 29
As of today, I expect to be appearing on Fox 29’s Good Morning Philadelphia on Friday morning where I will provide some coaching on Thanksgiving Leftovers. On Friday I will also have a post about Thanksgiving Leftovers.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under Entertaining at Home, Family and Friends, Tips

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