Last year I extolled the virtues of being a Thanksgiving guest. It’s the ideal recipe for the perfect holiday. You just have to show up with a hot dish or dessert in hand. And, frankly, if you buy the pies, there’s very little cleanup involved.
This year is payback. I’m hosting. I should have kept my mouth shut. Come Thursday, there will be a formidable contingent of relatives arriving at my doorstep expecting cocktails, appetizers and a holiday feast with all the trimmings.
When faced with this same conundrum, legend has it that Charlie Brown opted to set up a ping pong table in the back yard and serve his guests popcorn, pretzels and hot buttered toast. While my situation is not that dire, I have developed several strategies for navigating this day of thanks, feeding a hungry crowd, and making it safely to Black Friday when all I need to do is spend, spend, spend. I offer these for your consideration:
The Slow Cooker is Your Friend. Even my powerful Viking Professional Oven — which someone once actually had the nerve to describe as a “Trophy Stove” — is only just big enough to house a 15-pound turkey. So ziti with sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes and butternut squash will all be simmering away in my four slow cookers. What does one guy need with four slow cookers? What can I say? They were on sale.
Buck Tradition. Don’t expect a pumpkin pie. The centerpiece of my dessert table is a lemon blueberry bundt cake made with berries picked this past summer on the North Fork. For those guests who simply must have pumpkin, I’m offering individual servings of pumpkin crème brûlée flavored with a puree of Long Island cheese pumpkin harvested from Restoration Farm. You have to give me points for serving exquisitely local desserts.
Stock the Freezer. I knew this day was coming, so as I brought in produce from Restoration Farm, I started cooking ahead and stocking the freezer. Labeling each dish is a prudent move, otherwise I might not know today which is the sweet potato and which is the butternut squash puree. I’m afraid I’ve already over indexed on orange vegetables, which my nephew Dave says he despises.
Buy Wine in Bulk. While traveling in Massachusetts over the Halloween weekend, I remembered that they actually have the good sense to sell wine in the grocery store, and it’s darn cheap. So I stocked up. Big time. Not a single bit of remaining space in the trunk. I predict my guests will be very jolly. I actually got carded by the 20-something cashier. It’s the law in Massachusetts, and I took it as a huge compliment.
Open Some of Those Jars You Spent all Summer Canning. Canned food for Thanksgiving? Make that artisanal canned food! There’s a reason I spent all summer sweating over a boiling water canner. While I doubt that green pepper jam and dilly beans were served by the Pilgrims at the First Thanksgiving, they will sure show off my exceptional canning skills, and that’s one less casserole clogging the already jammed oven.
Make no Apologies. I think Julia Child may have said this, and before I make this last confession, you might want to remember what a good job I did on all those locally sourced desserts. My college roommate was appalled when he learned I was not cooking a heritage turkey. I will make no apologies. When you grow up in the suburbs of Long Island, a Butterball turkey for 99 cents a pound at Target is your heritage bird. Now if only the dang gobbler would just defrost!