Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving…whether you were a host or guest. Here is a postmortem with photos of and comments on my Thanksgiving — our first Thanksgiving at home in some years. Our final menu.

 

As guests arrive
Champagne with Cranberries
Anniversary Tangerine Kumquat Martini

Hors d’oeuvres
Noah’s Tuna Tartare “Taco”
Larry’s Gougeres

Venison Pate with Quince Relish
Brandied Chicken Liver & Bacon Pate

Amazing Acres Farm Chevre with Chives
Robiola and Camembert
Larry’s Pear, Cranberry & Blood Orange Mostarda

Kohlrabi & French Radishes with Sea Salt
Pickled Okra & Watermelon Radish

Dinner
Roast Turkey
Larry’s Fennel Stuffing
Traditional Bread Stuffing — Gluten Free
Tarragon Gravy
Larry’s Traditional Cranberry Mold with Grapa

Larry’s Green Bean, Mushroom & Corn Casserole
Stir-fried Shaved Brussels Sprouts
Gracie’s Bourbon Sweet Potatoes
Noah’s Mac ‘n Cheese

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

Dessert
Ginny’s Pecan Pie
Ginny’s Pumpkin Pie
Chestnut Ice Cream

 

So, how did it go?
Mixed. My Wednesday decision to appear on Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia on the day after Thanksgiving added an element of stress and a load of additional work that made this Thanksgiving less fun than ideal.

The subject of my Fox 29 appearance, two four minute spots in the 8 AM and 9 AM hours, was Thanksgiving Leftovers. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to wing these things. They may appear quite casual to the casual viewer, but when you’re “the talent” there is nothing casual about being carefully prepared. My plan was to “make” Turkey Chowder in the first segment. I say “make” because there is nothing to cook on so you’re just dumping ingredients into a cold pot — including a stick of butter and being very animated and descriptive about what would be happening if there actually was a source of heat. Fortunately, At Home already had a recipe for Turkey Chowder. In the second segment my plan was to put together a Turkey Salad with Cranberry Mayonnaise and Pecans. I had no recipe for this and I needed to get the recipes to Fox 29 to put up on their website and show. I could not do this on Thanksgiving Day so I had to spend time Wednesday evening figuring out this recipe. Oh, except I had no leftover turkey to make the salad so I had to figure out the recipe sans turkey — and factor the turkey into the recipe. See Thanksgiving Leftovers post for these recipes.

After guests left and a reasonable amount of clean-up was completed, I started the turkey stock with my leftover turkey carcass on the way to making the soup. You see, I needed a finished chowder for the Fox 29 anchors to taste. But I also needed a turkey carcass as a prop for the show and I had only one carcass. A call to my Frog Commissary staff who were at Ronald McDonald House serving Thanksgiving dinner provided the additional carcass! I also had to prepare all of the ingredients for both recipes in those little individual bowls that recipe demonstrators use. Oh, I also had to complete my Thanksgiving Leftover blog and post it so that Fox could link back to my blog. So, I was up until about 11 PM getting ready for my Friday AM appearance. That would not be so bad except I was pretty tired hours earlier — weren’t you? — and I had to get up about 5:45 AM to be at Fox 29 at 7 AM. Like I said, a less fun than ideal.

Click here to see the Fox 29 Good Day Philadelphia segments.

What follows are photos and commentary on my Thanksgiving.

Christina set the table mostly on Wednesday evening with some finishing touches on Thursday.

I did flowers on Wednesday afternoon and finished the little bit of prep work that remained for Thursday. Rather than a single “centerpiece,” I did three smaller arrangements spread across the table — fit better than a single centerpiece and spread the flowers my equitably.

Cocktail glasses were set-out along with our red dinner wine. The white wine was sitting outdoors on a chilly day that was thankfully close to refrigerator temperature. David, who was helping us, suggested that the red spend some time cooling– an excellent suggestion as people generally serve red wine too warm. Red wine should certainly not be served chilled, but something cooler than room temperature is ideal. Our wines were from the J. Maki Winery in Elverson, Pennsylvania in Northern Chester County. I discovered J.Maki — along with their neighbor Amazing Acres Goat Cheese — on one of my farm stand journeys and both have proved to be great finds. Our “house cocktails” included the Tangerine-Kumquat Martini we served at our wedding two years ago and the Champagne with Cranberry from At Home.

Counter adjacent to sink clear was clear of anything dirty. In addition, there was a bus pan adjacent to the sink for plate stacking and a small plastic tub for soaking dirty silverware. Christina came up with the excellent idea of adding this extra shelf for extra space in our narrow apartment kitchen.

The dishwasher was empty.

All of our platters were pulled and labeled.

My venison pate was removed from the refrigerator an hour early so it would not be served cold.

Hors d’ouvres were set-out on the coffee table in the living room shortly before guests arrived including a copy of our Thanksgiving dinner menu. “Souvenier” copies of the menu were also on the dinner table.

Here is my venison pate studded with pistachios and black forest ham. I was glad I made it, but I have to say that the effort was far out of proportion to the role it played in our Thanksgiving meal. If it was not there I don’t think any guest would have said “where the heck is the venison pate.” We have lots leftover pate in the freezer — ready to make an appearance later in the holiday season.

Hardly anyone touched the pickled watermelon radishes and okra and raw kohlrabi and French radishes with salt from the Great Salt Lake. But they were all pretty simple — the okra leftover from weeks ago and the watermelon radishes made last weekend — and provided nice color to the coffee table.

I love my long and thin olive bowl and again, while guests did not have lots of olives, they were a very easy addition. In the white ramekin was Amazing Acres chevre with fresh chives and the Chicken Liver and Bacon Pate from The Frog Commissary Cookbook. As with the venison pate, I have a holiday seasons worth of che chicken liver and bacon pate.

Larry’s brought bacon gougeres — little savory puffs that were warmed and passed to guests. They are sitting on a book of photos that I put together from our recent trip to Nova Scotia.

While guests were ending cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the living room, I headed to the kitchen to carve the turkey. A few words about the turkey. First, a 25 pound turkey is ridiculously large for eleven guests, but that I would certainly do again. Turkey is a wonderful meat and we just don’t roast turkey enough. Lots of turkey means lots of leftover turkey to distribute to guests and to enjoy for days…and to have for your appearance on TV! I had a careful plan as to when the turkey would go into the oven — right there on a label on my kitchen cabinet. But when my sister-in-law called to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving and discuss her own turkey roasting plans, it suddenly occurred to me that I was an hour late in getting the turkey into the oven. Our plan for a leisurely roast at 325 degrees switched to a 500 degree blast for 25 minutes and then a somewhat faster ride at 350 degrees. The turkey had been brined and it came out on time, moist, nicely browned and delicious.

On to the platter the turkey went.

Gracie’s Bourbon Sweet Potatoes and Larry’s Fennel Stuffing — both from At Home — and a small amount of gluten-free bread stuffing for Christina.

Last week I had made simply sauteed Brussels Sprouts for dinner for Christina and myself — shaved with garlic and olive oil. Christina requested these for Thanksgiving, but they were a far cry from what I had done for the two of us. There were too many Brussels sprouts for the pan and I got called away while “stir frying” them so some overcooked and they lost their bright green and fresh quality. In general, it reinforced my notion that you don;t do this sort of last-minute dish when turning out Thanksgiving dinner unless it can receive pretty much someone’s undivided attention. Live and learn.

Larry’s — whose wife Susan disdains of Brussels sprouts — made a wonderful corn and green bean casserole with chanterelles.

In addition to his tuna tartare hors d’oeuvres, my son Noah contributed an elegant Mac ‘n Four Cheeses studded with jalapeno. He’s come a long way since Kraft.

I was particularly happy with my gravy…fully completed last weekend. What began as a few gallons of rich turkey stock was distilled down to a quart of rich gravy that got a healthy amount of chopped fresh tarragon while reheating. No fussing with last minute pan gravy.

Larry’s provided a traditional cranberry mold, reminiscent of the “open a can” cranberry sauce of his youth…except this was made with fresh cranberries and grappa — an Italian brandy. While un-molding it, we left it in warm water too long and some of it melted so we un-molded it into a platter with sides that caught the liquified cranberry sauce. Larry provided these wonderful sugar-crusted cranberries and sage leaves for garnish.

Christina’s mother Ginny’s provided be excellent pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert.

The pies were served with my chestnut ice cream. The ice cream was disappointing. The graininess of the chestnuts was strange in the ice cream, creating a texture that was not altogether pleasant. As Christina said afterward, when you are always trying new things, they don’t all work. Safe to say that I will not be doing chestnut ice cream again.

Overall, I would say we had too much food. I know that this is common at many (most?) Thanksgiving tables, but I really would like to dial back the amount of food next year — both less food and fewer items. Even if you have only a little bit of so many items, you end up unpleasantly stuffed. But for the TV appearance prep, this would not have been too hard or stressful. Lots of people pitched in and there were a reasonable number of things to do Thanksgiving Day. One relaxed hour was within grasp! But just because you can do all this food without wrecking havoc does not mean you should.

At Home…This Thursday at The Residences at Two Liberty Place
There are still a few seats available for my Gershwin Y sponsored event at Two Liberty Place. For info. I’ll be doing some Home Entertaining Coaching. The event begins at 7 PM and will include my perspective on how to make home entertaining better and easier and well as some simple recipes. At Home’s Potato Latkes included. If you never have experienced the view from the top of Two Liberty Place, I can promise you that it’s breathtaking. I will be selling and signing At Home: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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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

Dessert
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,

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Game Day: Thanksgiving

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.
• 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.


• 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 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.

Radio Times
I am a guest on Marty Moss-Coane’s Radio Times today (Wednesday) from 11 to noon. A long time listener to Radio Times, I am honored to be a guest.

The Reading Terminal Market This Weekend – Saturday and Sunday
I will be at The Reading Terminal Market this weekend to sign books. Look for me at a table in Center Court beginning around 10:30.

As for my Thanksgiving, I will begin the day at Ronald McDonald House, head home for a small family diner (with a little help from my Frog Commissary kitchen), and if Gracie and I have enough energy, join my son Noah in his newly established Italian Market home for his first at home Thanksgiving dinner that he is preparing for his friends!

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Steve

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Stop. Think. And Delegate: Ways Guests Can Help at Thanksgiving

There’s some misguided moral notion—perhaps a hangover from that first Puritan Thanksgiving—that working to the point of fatigue is good for you. Wrong. You already work hard enough.

If you’re hosting, you’ve opened your home to friends and family for this holiday and you’ve probably taken on the lion’s share of cooking. Distributing the remaining work on the big day will give you more time to spend with your loved ones. Best of all, everyone will feel they’ve contributed to Thanksgiving.

In getting ready for Thanksgiving, people put too much thought into how to cook the turkey (there are lots of perfectly good ways to cook a turkey) and not enough thought into how to spread the work. The result: Well-cooked turkeys and exhausted hosts.

My mission is to increase home entertaining by making it better and easier, so I’ve put together the following list of rules and roles for guests. Please share the suggestions below and enjoy a better and easier Thanksgiving.

(My thanks to my blog subscribers who contributed to this list.)

Three Rules for Thanksgiving Guests

1. Don’t arrive early.
The early guest is the unwelcome guest. Hosts should always have one relaxed hour prior to guest arrival. In arriving early you disturb that hour and essentially demand that the host put down their oven mitts and pay attention to you. A carefully crafted schedule goes right out the window. Not cool.

2. Stay out of the kitchen.
Even the most experienced host needs to focus on the tasks at hand. In this case, the task at hand is the complex coordination of multiple dishes in and out of the oven—not entertaining guests who wander into the kitchen to chitchat. Unless you’re explicitly invited into the cook’s lair to help, find another place to hang out.

3. Don’t do things halfway.
If you’re bringing something for the host, bring all the components. For example, if you’re bringing flowers, bring them arranged in a vase. Bring food on the platter in which it will be served, if room temperature, or in the casserole in which it will be heated. And don’t bring something straight from your refrigerator that needs to be reheated. At least bring it to room temperature, or consider heating it and bringing it warm. Remember to retrieve your platter or casserole when you leave.

Nine Ways Guests Can Help at Thanksgiving
Ideally, Thanksgiving is a team sport. Here is my suggested line-up.

1. Staff Photographer
A Staff Photographer will take responsibility for documenting the holiday and distributing photos via email or an online album (make sure they collect everyone’s email address before leaving). Ask them to bring a camera or make sure your own camera battery is charged. This is a particularly good task for a tech-savvy young person.

2. Music Director
If you know someone with particularly good taste and a good music collection, ask them in advance to put together a background music playlist and be responsible for playing it. Otherwise, simply ask this person to pick from your collection. The Director should also pay attention to volume and replenish music as needed.

3. Maitre d’
As in a restaurant, the Maitre d’ acts as host, warmly greets guests, helps with coats and takes care of guests with any special needs, including children and seniors. The Maitre d’ can also help take care of host gifts.

4. Head Bartender
A Head Bartender, preferably someone who knows something about liquid refreshments, should arrive 30 minutes early to set up the bar, procure ice and cut bar fruit. Your Head Bartender can also help you manage early guests (more on that below). If you’re serving a “house” cocktail, he or she can help you prepare it in advance.

5. Beverage Steward
This appointee gets the dinner table ready to receive guests by lighting candles, opening wine and pouring ice water before guests sit down. The Steward should keep a full pitcher of ice water ready and refill water and wine glasses as needed. Make sure your Beverage Steward knows where backup wine is located. The Beverage Steward could also be responsible for making or initiating Thanksgiving toasts. (If you don’t have a tradition of Thanksgiving toasts, this can be a nice addition to the proceedings.)

6. Sous Chef
A Sous Chef is an Assistant Chef. Depending on the size of your kitchen, you may want to designate only one Sous Chef or several. Make sure your Sous Chef understands that the kitchen is for getting the meal ready and not for socializing, and be sure to provide them with aprons. Sous Chef tasks can include:

• Hors d’oeuvres: Garnishes platters and oversees service of hot hors d’oeuvres.
• Buffet: Sets up buffet or brings platters to dinner table. Refills platters as needed.
• Gravy: Makes sure hot gravy is ready, served and replenished.
• Turkey Carver: This role is self-explanatory, but this person should be adept and experienced so as not to botch the main attraction.
• Dessert: Makes sure dessert is ready to go. Takes ice cream from freezer to temper, warms anything that needs to be warmer, puts cakes and pies on plates and organizes serving utensils.

7. Busser
The Busser should work in concert with the Prince or Princess of Pots & Pans (see below) to separate flatware and carefully scrape and stack dishes near the sink until ready for rinsing and washing. Under no circumstances should dishes be placed in the sink until they actually need to get wet. Cocktail glassware should go directly into an empty dishwasher along with any cocktail tableware before dinner. Dinner glassware should stay on the dinner table until the very end because glassware takes up lots of precious counter space.

8. Prince or Princess of Pots & Pans
As one of your most important appointees, a Prince or Princess should arrive 30 minutes early to wash, dry and put away any straggling pots and pans, empty the dishwasher and set up the busing area. The Prince(ss) should make sure one load of dishes is run during the meal, then empty the dishwasher and reload it. A critical task is to keep the sink free of dirty dishes and pots because, as I like to say, once your sink is full, you’re sunk. Make sure you have plenty of clean and dry towels for the Prince or Princess.

9. Minister of Leftovers
The Minister is responsible for leftovers, including to-go containers and bags. After dinner, it will be their responsibility to equitably divvy up leftovers and distribute them, making sure they leave a rightful share for the host.

Two Videos to Make Your Thanksgiving Prep Easier

Weekends at Reading Terminal
Look for our At Home table in the Center Court of Reading Terminal Market on weekends between now and the end of December. My sous-chefs will be there all day to sell books and I will be there as much as I can to sign books. All books come with book-owner’s access to At Home Online, our companion website.

Mt. Airy’s Weavers Way on Saturday, December 19th
I will be signing books at Weaver’s Way Co-op in Mt. Airy from 11 AM to 2 PM on the Saturday before Christmas. Weaver’s Way Co-op, a natural foods grocery, is at 559 Carpenter Lane at Green Street.

The Perfect Holiday Gift
At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining with At Home Online, the companion website for book owners, is the perfect holiday gift. At Home is not available in bookstores, but only from athomebysteveposes.com. Order now.

Thank you for visiting. Steve

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New Video: Setting Up for Prep + Thanksgiving House Cocktail

Setting Up for Prep – The Video
The time consuming aspect of cooking is not the cooking, but getting everything ready to cook — what in our kitchens we call prep. Prep is more a matter of organization than skill. In this video I show you how to set-up your “prep area” for maximum productivity. The more productive you are, the quicker your prep work will go. At Home is filled with advice on how to turn cooking from a chore to a pleasure. View Video.

Revisit the How to Chop an Onion Video.

Thanksgiving House Cocktail — “Champagne” with Cranberry
Starting off any party with a well-chosen House Cocktail is a excellent way to set a festive tone for your guests. Part 2 of At Home by Steve Poses begins with a section called Welcoming Guests and includes lots of options for you including Four Seasons of Champagne Cocktails. A favorite is Champagne with Cranberry — especially apt for your Thanksgiving. Use a moderate quality sparkling wine like prosecco or cava or moderate priced champagne rather than fine champagne. Also an excellent gift to bring to a Thanksgiving to which you are invited!

Do Ahead Sweetened cranberry juice and optional candied cranberries may be made up to 10 days ahead and refrigerated.

1 1/2 cup simple syrup (See Note)
2 cups cranberries
2 cups water
2 bottles sparkling wine

Making the Sweetened Fresh Cranberry Juice
Combine cranberries and water in saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Puree in blender or food processor and strain through a fine strainer. Stir in simple syrup. This will make a sweetened fresh cranberry juice.

Combining with Sparkling Wine
Your ratio in the recipe is 2 parts sparkling wine to 1 part sweetened fresh cranberry juice. It is important that sparkling wine and juice be well chilled. Pour sparkling wine into a wide pitcher or large measuring cup. Allow foam to subside. Slowly add a small amount of the sweetened cranberry juice. It will foam again. Let foam subside again and add more continuing until all juice has been added. Immediately pour into champagne or wine glass. It will again foam so go slowly. Serve immediately. If you have extra, keep in refrigerator where it will hold its sparkle for at least a half hour.

Candied Fresh Cranberries
These yummy candied cranberries make a fun but totally optional garnish.

1 cup large fresh cranberries
1 cup simple syrup

Combine cranberries and simple syrup in a sauce pan. Bring to rapid boil and cook over moderate high heat. Cranberries will swell and pop. Continue cooking for 8-10 minutes as syrup thickens. With a spoon, transfer cranberries to wax paper or parchment. Cranberries will now shrivel. Allow to cool and refrigerate. Add 3-4 candied cranberries to cocktail. You can save the syrup and use to make a cranberry “soda” by combining with seltzer or use on top of a little pound cake or other Thanksgiving dessert.

Note: Simple syrup is the combination of equal parts sugar and water, heated until the sugar is fully dissolved. Combine sugar and water in sauce pot over low-moderate heat, stirring until sugar is fully dissolved and liquid clear. If you make only the sweetened cranberry juice combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to yield 1 1/2 cups simple syrup. If you also do the candied cranberries, combine 1 2/3 cups sugar and 1 2/3 cups water for a total of 2 1/2 cups, divided. Simple syrup has many uses and stores in your refrigerator for weeks.

Coming Attractions
Monday – Using Re-positionable Labels
Wednesday – What Guests Can Do to Help

The Perfect Gift for Your Thanksgiving Host
At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining with At Home Online, the companion website for book owners, is the perfect house gift to bring to your Thanksgiving host. At Home is not available in bookstores, but only from athomebysteveposes.com. Order today in time for Thanksgiving.

Weekends at Reading Terminal
Look for our At Home table in the Center Court of Reading Terminal Market on weekends between now and the end of December. If you have not been to the Reading Terminal Market recently, you are missing one of the great treasures of Philadelphia. And there is no more exciting time to be there than the holiday season. My sous-chefs will be there all day to sell books and I will be there as much as I can to sign books. All books come with book-owner’s access to At Home Online, our companion website.

Mt. Airy’s Weavers Way on Saturday, December 19th
I will be signing books at Weaver’s Way Co-op in Mt. Airy from 11 AM to 2 PM on the Saturday before Christmas. Weaver’s Way Co-op, a natural foods grocery, is at 559 Carpenter Lane at Green Street.

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Thanksgiving Wine

What Wine for Thanksgiving?
People obsess way too much about wine. If your family Thanksgivings are anything like mine, they border on chaos. Hardly anyone is focused on the fine points of wine.

At Home includes two very useful charts to guide you in your wine selections for all occasions. As I was working on At Home I went online to see what wine charts were available. Everything was way too complicated. I thought there was a need to provide something that helped demystify wine that struck the right information balance — not too heavy and not too light.  One chart I created is Selecting Wines for Entertaining. This was originally titled An Oversimplified Chart for Selecting Wines. It provides on a single page a detailed enough overview of all the major wines varieties, their characteristics and what they go with. The other chart — A Simple Food & Wine Pairing Chart — provides a grid with all sorts of food down the left side and all sorts of wines across the top. Little dots within the grid provide your guide to what goes with what. It is a very useful guide to help you pair wines and food. Nothing like either is on the internet.

According to my At Home pairing chart, here’s what I suggest for your turkey.

White wine: Viognier (a personal favorite), Gerwurztraminier (a spicy wine), Chenin Blanc or Pinot Blanc. You could also serve a Sauvignon Blanc.

Red wine: These should be light.  Zinfandel (a light variety), Tempranillo (Rioja) or Pinot Noir. I would also consider a Shiraz. Merlot/Cabernet Saivignon are too heavy for turkey.

How much wine?
You have to know your guests. In general, I would offer a choice of white or red. If I had 12 guests, I assume half would drink white and half red and some might start with white if I served a first course and then switch to red for turkey. I would plan on two to three glasses per person. So let’s say 2.5 glasses per person. At a dozen guests, that’s 30 glasses. You get five glasses from a standard 750ml bottle and 10 glasses from a 1.5 liter bottle. So I would need 6 standard bottles or 3 double bottles. Me, I would plan for 40 glasses and get 4 standard bottles of white and four red. I generally do not get the double bottles, but feel free. I would get two double bottles white and two red. Open as you go. Use this as a guide and adjust to your guest number.

Coming Attractions
On Friday my blog will include a video on how I suggest you set-up for prep. I think you will find it very helpful. Look for it and please pass it along if you think of friends and family it would help.

Getting Around I
At Home is not available in bookstores, but generally just at our website. However, there will be a number of retail opportunities between now and year’s end.

Weekends at Reading Terminal
Look for our At Home table in the Center Court of Reading Terminal Market on weekends between now and the end of December. If you have not been to the Reading Terminal Market recently, you are missing one of the great treasures of Philadelphia. And there is no more exciting time to be there than the holiday season. My sous-chefs will be there all day to sell books and I will be there as much as I can to sign books. All books come with book-owner’s access to At Home Online, our companion website.

Mt. Airy’s Weavers Way on Saturday, December 19th
I will be signing books at Weaver’s Way Co-op in Mt. Airy from 11 AM to 2 PM on the Saturday before Christmas. Weaver’s Way Co-op, a natural foods grocery, is at 559 Carpenter Lane at Green Street.

Getting Around II: Virtually
Huffington Post
A child of the Sixties who grew up on the New York Times and I.F. Stone’s Weekly (a prize to anyone who actually knows who I.F. Stone was!), I am a blogging rookie. So it is of some note that I had a blog posted today on The Huffington Post based on my advice about how to avoid Thanksgiving panic. Here’s the link.

Uwishunu — Philly. From the Inside Out.
At Home had a wonderful “review” posted by Marisa McClellan on Philadelphia’s Uwishuknew site. Thank you Marisa. It’s perhaps our best yet endorsement of At Home.

More
Tomorrow I tape with Jim Coleman of WHYY’s A Chef’s Table, due to air on a December Saturday at noon. I will also be a guest on Marty Moss-Coane’s Radio Times on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I feel honored to be on these two great shows.

What Guests Can Do To Help
I am still looking for your suggestions for What Guests Can Do to Help. Please post your suggestions for What Guests Can Do To Help on this blog by using the “Leave a Comment” under this post or send an email to me at steve@athomebysteveposes.com.. Suggestions will be posted on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

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The Perfect Gift for Your Thanksgiving Host
At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining with At Home Online, the companion website for book owners, is the perfect house gift to bring to your Thanksgiving host. At Home is not available in bookstores, but only from athomebysteveposes.com. Order now in plenty of time for Thanksgiving.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve

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Do Ahead, No Compromise Turkey Gravy Recipe

Making Turkey Gravy is a bit like a football game. It takes hours to watch a football game. But, on average there are 125 plays per game, each lasting about 7 seconds for a total of just 14 plus minutes of action. This leisurely paced recipe — strongly recommended for this coming Sunday before Thanksgiving — begins at the pre-game show and is ready for your Thanksgiving turkey by the end of the second game. Most of the time can be spent watching TV.

Why is this “No Compromise” Turkey Gravy?
It’s no compromise because it’s simply great turkey gravy based on a rich wine-enhanced turkey stock that gets it’s flavor from roast turkey — in this case turkey legs — including pan drippings just as if you did this on Thanksgiving Day.

Do Ahead This gravy should be made the Sunday before Thanksgiving or up to a week ahead. If longer than a week place in freezer. Do not add optional tarragon until reheating. Defrost in refrigerator two days prior to use.

2-3 medium to large onions, root and shoot end removed, quartered
4-5 celery ribs, rinsed cut into 1″ pieces
3-4 large to medium carrots, rinsed and cut into 1″ pieces
2-3 parsnips, rinsed and cut into 1″ pieces
1 tablespoon oil
5-6 cloves garlic
6-8 springs parsley, rinsed
6-8 springs fresh thyme
3-4 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Approximately 12 cups water plus some to de-glaze roasting pan
3 1/2 cups dry white wine*
5-6 turkey legs, about 6 pounds
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves (stems removed) and diced, optional

Start during local pregame show – about 1 1/2 hours before kick-off. During this time you will roast turkey legs and get the stock ready to cook.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pat turkey legs dry and lightly oil bottom of roasting pan. Place turkey legs in roasting pan and roast for about 1 1/2 hours until legs are well browned. About half way through, turn legs.
2. While turkey legs are roasting, get your stock pot(s) ready. You will need one large 10-12 quart pot or two medium pots. Combine onion, celery, carrots, parsnips, garlic, parsley, thyme, garlic, parsley, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns. If you are using two pots, divide ingredients approximately equally.
3. When turkey legs are done roasting and nicely browned, add to stock pot(s).
4. Pour out all rendered fat from roasting pan. Add water to a depth of about 1/2-inch. Place pan over burner over moderate heat. Scrape bottom of pan as water is heating to remove and dissolve crusty bits of turkey. Pour into stock pot.
5. Add white wine and enough water to cover ingredients by about an inch.

During the first game the stock will cook slowly.
6. Bring to simmer. Stock should be lightly bubbling but not boiling. When stock begins to simmer a bit of scum will form on top. Remove this with a large spoon or ladle. Repeat as needed. Simmer until the first game is over — about 3 1/2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure ingredients are still covered with liquid.

Just prior to kick-off of second game you will strain stock and allow stock to sit through the first half of the second game so you can remove grease that rises to top.
7. Off heat. Strain stock through a medium strainer into a large bowl or clean pot. With back of sturdy kitchen spoon or ladle, gently press against solid ingredients in strainer to extract liquid. You will need to do this in several steps. You should have about 10 cups stock.
8. Allow stock to sit though the first half, or at least 30 minutes, to allow fat to rise to surface. With a spoon or ladle, carefully remove fat.

During half time of the second game you will degrease stock and begin reducing to concentrate its flavor.
9. Pass de-greased turkey stock through a fine strainer into pot. Over moderate high heat, bring to boil. When boiling begins, a pale foam will collect on surface. Using spoon or ladle, remove and discard. Reduce stock by about half to 5 cups. If you reduce it too far, simply add back some water to get 5 cups liquid. Check occasionally during commercials to make sure stock is not cooking away.

If the second game is close, just wait until it’s over to finish gravy. If not, proceed to next step – turning stock to gravy by thickening.
10. In a medium pot — large enough to comfortably hold reduce stock — over low-moderate heat, add butter and melt. Add flour. This makes a roux. Whisk for about a minute taking care not to brown. Add hot turkey stock, increase heat to high-moderate. Bring to slow boil, whisking to break-up any bits of roux. Reduce to simmer. Check sauce for thickness. Sauce should lightly coat a spoon. If sauce is too thin, increase heat to slow boil and reduce to thicken taking care to check often. Add optional tarragon and salt and pepper. Allow to cool and refrigerate.

Thanksgiving Day
Reheat sauce over moderate heat until very hot.

Yield 5 cups turkey gravy serving 18-24 guests

If you must, you can add the pan drippings from your Thanksgiving turkey roast — though this sauce does not need it. To do this, remove turkey from roasting pan. Pour off all rendered fat. Add water, chicken or turkey stock or a bit of white wine and place pan over burner at moderate-high heat. Scrape pan, loosening and dissolving bits of stuck turkey. This should take less than a minute. Pass this liquid through a fine strainer into gravy. This will likely thin out gravy too much so cook gravy over moderate heat until it returns to desired thickness. Stir occasionally taking care not to burn gravy.

*Note about buying white wine for cooking: There is no reason to spend more than $8 – $12 on a bottle of white wine for cooking or utilize some leftover wine from large bottle.

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Filed under Entertaining at Home, Holidays, Recipes, Tips