We’re in the home stretch people!! At 7:30 I’ll be boarding a flight back to Chicago where I will then be whisked home to begin preparations for the next day’s feast (hopefully making a pit stop for Chicago style hot dogs at Portillos on the back from the airport…please Bill??) We’ve had very minimal prep time this year, since I had to work all week and my mom was studying for a big grad school exam (which she got an A on!) This year it’s just going to be my immediate family, so most people would probably simplify the menu and pare down the side dishes given the circumstances. As I’ve said before, I am not most people. I think we can execute a full-blown menu in just one day and still enjoy each others company and not make everyone crazy (we’ll see about that last one…we Malinowski’s can be a bit um…high strung.)
For me Thanksgivings are always a little crazy. In an ideal world I would have had the whole week to bake pies and breads, prep
potatoes and veggies, brine my turkey, and set the perfect table. That rarely happens, most of the times Thanksgivings are a bit more…dramatic. I’m an event planner and last year I had an event the weekend of Thanksgiving. After working all day Wednesday, I raced home to whip up garlic mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and then lug them on the ferry over to my cousin’s house in Connecticut. I then had to wake up at 5am Friday morning (no champagne for me that year) and cross the Long Island sound again to be back at work . A few years before that, I found myself in London on Thanksgiving, scouring the grocery store for anything resembling and Thanksgiving side dish and attempting to cook in the 1 pan, 1 pot kitchen of my friend Margee’s Kensington flat. We were in a country that hated Thanksgiving and in my opinion went out of their way to make it difficult for Americans to celebrate it. I have to say though, we had an absolute blast despite England’s best efforts to deter our little American spirits. And with a little help from Harrod’s (pumpkin pie and sliced turkey), the microwave (string beans, asparagus, stuffing), and my mom (who answered my transatlantic phone calls about how to mash potatoes without a potato masher…the answer is the base of a drinking glass and a fork) we pulled together a lovely meal that was made even lovelier when Margee’s handsome flatmates did all the dishes. (Don’t worry Matty your still my number one dish washer xo.)
I’ve learned that sometimes when it comes to Thanksgiving you just have to heed Tim Gunn’s advice and “make it work.” You’re rarely in your perfect kitchen, with plenty of time, and plenty of resources. But you know what? I think being a little crazed makes the whole holiday more fun. I enjoy the drama of it all…the buildup, the running around, the adrenaline pumping, it’s like my own Iron Chef battle. This year I’m going for it full force and I think that with enough planning (which is what I do for a living after all) everything will go perfectly. Here’s my (overly ambitious) menu…for five.
My game plan is to execute the meal like I execute an event, methodically and with the aid of an event time-line. An event time-line is simply a to-do list with a time written next to each task. It’s a great way to remind yourself what you need to be doing when. So many times during events when my stress level gets high, I lose track of what I need to be doing or what task is the most time sensitive. I’m not the most organized person in the world, but I’ve been trying to learn from the people around me who are. Everyone I’ve worked for swears by the event time-line and I think this will be my saving grace this Thanksgiving. I’ll be making it on the plane and posting it tomorrow, along with pics!
I’ve listed all my recipes below, some are my originals, some are tried and true traditions, all will somehow be making it to my table in the next 24 hours. I can’t wait to get home and get cooking! Remember to soak up every moment of this magical time of year. There’s nothing I love more than going home to my family for the holidays. I’ll leave you with the simple yet meaningful words of OAR “there are few things pure in this world anymore, and home is one of the few.”
Wild Mushroom Soup (original recipe)
12 oz. dried wild mushrooms (such as chanterelles, porcinis, woodears, shiitakes, morels
2 1/2 cups boiling water
4 tbsp. butter
1 leek cleaned and diced (only use the white part)
2 cloves garlic
1 lb. white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/3 cup brandy
3 cups heavy cream
Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl, pour the boiling water on top and allow the mushrooms to rehydrate for 1 hour, drain the mushrooms and reserve the liquid. In a large skillet melt the butter, add the chopped leek, garlic, dried mushrooms, and button mushrooms, saute on medium for 10 minutes until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and are brown. Add the fresh herbs and stir to combine. Add the brandy and de-glaze the pan scrapping up any brown bits. Add the mushroom liquid and the cream. Puree in a blender or in the pot using an immersion blender. Serve hot.
Creamed Onions Au Gratin (original recipe)
1 lb. pear onions (fresh)
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and blanch the onions for 10 minutes until soft. Shock in a large bowl of ice water and remove the outer skin and root with a paring knife. Melt putter in a large sauce pan and whisk in flour to form a roux, whisk for 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, cream, thyme and cheese. Whisk to combine. Add the peeled onions, transfer to a baking dish, top with additional cheese and bake at 350 until browned and bubbly on top.
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes (semi-original, adapted from Michael Chiarello’s recipe)
5 lb. bag of Yukon Gold potatoes – cleaned and quartered
3 heads of garlic
1 pint heavy cream
1 stick of butter
Salt and pepper
In a large stock pot add the potatoes, cover with water and 3 tablespoons of salt, let sit for at least four hours or overnight. Cut the heads of the garlic and remove outer skin, drizzle with olive oil. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until cloves are golden brown. Pop the cloves out of the skin and mash with a fork to form a paste.
Bring the stock pot of potatoes to a boil and cook until fork tender (about 25 minutes.) Mash the potatoes with the garlic paste, heavy cream, butter, salt, and pepper.
Roasted Pear and Sausage Stuffing (Original recipe)
8 cups diced bread
2 pears – sliced (into thin matchstick pieces)
1 lb. Sweet Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion diced
2 shallots minced
2 tsp. fresh sage
2 tsp. fresh rosemary
2 cups chicken (or turkey) stock
The night before dice the bread into half inch cubes, spread on a cookie sheet, and let sit over night in a cool dry place (like a turned off oven…just remember to take it out before you turn it on in the morning!) In a large saute pan heated with olive oil, roasted the pear slices until soft and golden brown. Set aside. Next add more olive oil, the sausage, onions, and shallots. Saute until the sausage is brown and the onion is soft and translucent. Add the fresh herbs and the reserved pears. In a large bowl combine sausage mixture with the diced bread. Spoon into a baking dish, moisten with chicken broth and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Acorn Squash with Bacon (My grandmas recipe)
3 Acorn Squash
1/2 lb. bacon
Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Lay a few half strips of bacon in the crevice. Place in a baking pan with a 1/4 cup of water in the bottom to prevent the bottoms from scorching. Bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour.
Cranberry Sauce (I use the recipe on the Ocean Spray bag…and its divine, I had some spices and orange zest for flavor and chopped walnuts for a little texture)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray Cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Add chopped walnuts. Refrigerate until serving time.
Citrus Infused Turkey (I basically use Giada’s recipe)
This particular recipe stuffs the cavity of the bird with fresh herbs and citrus fruit. It makes the meat incredibly moist and flavorful. She also rubs butter mixed with herbs de provence on the skin and under the skin.
String Beans with Brown Butter (original recipe)
1 1/2 lbs. string beans, trimmed
1/4 white wine
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped cashews
In large pot of boiling water blanch the string beans for 2 minutes and then shock them in a large bowl of ice water. In a large skillet melt the butter and allow it too brown and become nutty and fragrant. Add the wine and boil off the alcohol. Add the string beans to the pan and saute. Meanwhile toast the chopped cashews in a small skillet until golden brown and fragrant. Top the string beans with the cashews and serve.
Pumpkin Bread (Mom’s recipe)
Will post after the meal, she makes it a little different every year.
Store bought…don’t judge me!
Chocolate Gnache Tart (Martha Stewart’s recipe)
I use Martha’s recipe and when I’m pressed for time I buy ready made frozen pie crust. It’s a really fast, yet impressive dessert!