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
Noah’s Tuna Tartare “Taco”
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
Larry’s Fennel Stuffing
Traditional Bread Stuffing — Gluten Free
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
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.
Your Home Entertaining Coach