Lifestyle & Culture

A Pro’s Approach to T-Day Dinner

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THIS THANKSGIVING I’m leaving the crazy supermarket shop to someone else, the search for the perfect bird and the agonizing over which pies to make. This Thanksgiving I’m making reservations.

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It’s not exactly a revolutionary act, I  know other people do it—and in fact I did it last year as well. The thing is, I’m kind of a Thanksgiving maven.

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While others fret over timing and organization, I’ve got that down. My years as a professional food writer and recipe developer have prepared me well for the endurance-test cooking called Thanksgiving dinner. I can get up at 8am and have that meal on the table at 4pm, no sweat. 

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I know how to build the menu, balancing the offerings so it’s everybody’s Thanksgiving. I have perfected  the cranberry sauce my brother-in-law loves, the stuffing my husband swoons over, and my mashed potatoes make people cry with delight. Pies, no problem, I always throw in three or four different pies so EVERYONE has the one they’re looking for—I can roll out pie dough in no time flat.

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Oh, and the turkey, you ask? The bane of the T-Day cook. I can grill it, smoke it, steam and roast in the Asian fashion, or brine and bake. I have made the bird stuffed with herbs, basted with flavored butters, or sweet as can be after a two-day soak in an apple-cider bath. I’ve got the turkey thing covered.

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Vegetables, that’s my happy place. Roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta, green beans glistening with lemon and olive oil or asparagus lightly charred on the grill are all part of my repertoire. My  glazed carrots taste like candy, really.

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I have mastered this meal in every respect but one. In the end, after impressing my guests and myself with my cooking, efficiency and execution, I have always had one big problem: I never actually sat down and enjoyed the meal myself. After all that steaming, roasting and brilliant turkey-carving, I would finally sit down at the table as everyone else was finishing up, with absolutely no desire to eat the feast I had created. Worn out by my effort, a little overwhelmed by the volume of food and late to the party, so to speak, I was cooked too. In my happiness over having produced another successful holiday meal, I didn’t really care. Job well done, I always thought to myself. I can always eat later.

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Last year,  I asked my family if it would be okay if just this one year we could eat out. My sister’s family had other plans, my elderly relatives aren’t able to travel anymore and it was going to be just us. Quickly, almost frighteningly fast, they agreed. A steakhouse, they chimed, would be perfect—my sons, hungry carnivorous teenagers, are always angling for charred beef.

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Was the meal a Thanksgiving feast? Not exactly. The restaurant we chose was busy, the extra staff on for the holiday was a little inexperienced, and the food was good but not great. Did I care? No. At the table, Ben, then 19, said, without any hesitation, he thought this was almost better, that we were finally all together at the table. Sam observed that at last I was actually eating Thanksgiving dinner with them and wasn’t that the point.

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I’m not saying I’m done with my role as Thanksgiving chef just yet, but let’s say I’m taking a mini-break. The day will come when my sons have partners and small children and eating at home will be the best option. But today is not that day.

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This year when my sister called to make the holiday plans, I suggested they join us on our holiday opt-out. After a quick consult with her husband and kids, we made reservations. We may even catch a movie beforehand. Now that sounds like a holiday to me.

—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

Editor’s note: We’re off tomorrow to digest our turkey and extend the holiday. See you right back here on Monday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 



3 thoughts on “A Pro’s Approach to T-Day Dinner

  1. Carol says:

    Oh, some day… but then we have no leftovers. My Thanksgiving has morphed over 50 years from going to my in-laws when first married (so we could go to my family at Christmas ) then my turn to cook for all my husband’s family for many years, around 25 guests, yes, I rarely sat down to eat. Then to my daughter’s in NJ, now we just go down the road in Annapolis to my son’s. I’m so lucky to have them, good cooks all. I still make the pies, although fewer now, today only 4 plus snickerdoodles for my grandson. I used to make 10! HAPPY THANKSGIVING

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      good grief, 10 pies!!!you’re a kitchen warrior, for sure, carol!

  2. Mary says:

    Love this Stephanie! Enjoy your charred meat and movie!

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