Thursday, November 08, 2007


I love Thanksgiving. Not only does it officially kick of the "holiday" season, but it is a day pretty much devoted to cooking and food. Nothing smells better than that turkey roasting in the oven, and nothing tastes yummier than that first succulent bite of meat, gravy, stuffing... hang on, I'm having a Homer Simpson moment (drool...).

But for some of you all out there, Thanksgiving is more to be dreaded than enjoyed for one reason or other. I understand; I've been there--I feel your pain, people! But don't despair another moment; all is NOT lost! You can get your pilgrim on like the rest of us. I am here for you. Following are some of my favorite survival tips for a lovely turkey day:

1. Does your turkey cook up as dry as the Sahara Desert? Does the very thought of cooking a whole turkey put you into a blind panic? Don't know where to start? Good Eats' Alton Brown has the easiest turkey roasting primer in the world. Note: I don't brine my turkeys like he does; I prefer to slather herbs and butter under the skin. But I follow the rest of the instructions every time and it works perfectly every time. Trust Alton. He knows.
2. Thanksgiving is just as much about timing as it is about kitchen skills. Lots of things can be done ahead of time (gravy base, pies, rolls, side dishes, etc.) and warmed up while the turkey is "resting" after it's done.
3. To add to #2, give your children/guests assignments, like peeling potatoes or setting the table. It keeps them from going through your medicine cabinet, and takes some pressure off you. It's a win-win!
4. Don't clean your kitchen floor until about 1/2 hour before your guests arrive. I don't know about you, but my kitchen floor is vinyl tile that attracts all the dirt and cat hair in the universe. So if I mop it right before everyone shows up, it looks really good for the first hour--after the first hour the booze kicks in, so who cares?
5. To add to #3, there's absolutely no shame in asking guests to bring stuff, like appetizers or cookies or wine or something like that. Wine is especially nice. Sterling Vintner's Reserve Pinot Noir is an affordable $14 or so, goes well with food and is very drinkable. Yes, definitely tell them to bring wine.
6. Uncork that wine early and do some quality control tasting on it. This is very important.
7. Resist the urge to open the oven or baste the turkey. Trust Alton. Alton knows.
8. The perfect pie begins with the perfect crust. But really, unless you're like some sort of crust conoisseur, pre-made crusts work FINE. They taste good, they're easy, and you don't have to peel them off the fricking rolling pin.
9. There's a really easy pumpkin pie recipe on the label of Borden's Sweetened Condensed Milk. It rocks.
10. Get real whipping cream and whip your own. Chill the bowl and beaters beforehand, and put in maybe a tablespoon of sugar per 1/2 pint and whip the crap out of it (this is astoundingly easy if you have a stand mixer--set it and forget it.). Trust me here. Homemade rocks.
11. Save the best part of the turkey--the scallops--for yourself. No, I don't know what they are really called, but they are the medallions of meat that rest on either side of the lower part of the spine. You can strip them out with a spoon (or, if you're greedy like me, your fingers) and they will practically melt in your mouth. Son and I fight over these every time.
12. Wear elastic/expandable waist pants. Or maybe a tent dress. Then when you're bloated like a bullfrog from too much good cheer, your belly can expand to its full potential.
13. Expect the unexpected. Like, for example, your MIL showing up with ten store-bought pies when you just slaved over your homemade ones. It's okay. Let the guests eat the crappy store bought ones and save the good stuff for yourself. For later, after everyone's gone home.
Happy, happy holidays, all!


Robyn said...

I dunno. I love Alton, but he's sort of a snob. I baste my turkey every year, and it comes out beautifully. And since we don't live in the same town as our families, and hubs usually has to work until 5, we can't visit and no one visits us. I LOVE it. I can do the food any darn way I want to.

BTW, can you email me at I have a fabulous cover for you to decimate.

StarvingWriteNow said...

Isn't it great when there's no family pressure? Last year everyone was "too busy" and we had the loveliest Thanksgiving. Perhaps it will happen again someday; hope springs eternal!

PS: I'll definitely email you!

Bernita said...

Our Thanksgiving is earlier and over, thankfully.
#13 - Yours does that too?
Or canned cranberry sauce after I've made my own.
I HATE that.

spyscribbler said...

We brine the turkey. It makes it extra super flavorful and moist. It's good the other way, too!

And we love having our own little Thanksgiving, too. Food's better, plus we have lots of leftovers!