About that Thanksgiving menu.
The Diestel heritage turkey, delicious. A meat thermometer is critical, however, as it cooked much faster than advised. Gravy from roux (half pan drippings, half butter, plus flour) and giblet stock, with chopped turkey liver? Do pour in the glass of wine that the Diestel site recommends. Tasted just like mom used to make. Hers was salty too.
How about the carbs and sugar? Salted caramel apple pie? Divine. Salt, sweet caramel, and the tree-redolent tang of apples kind of divine. Your son using his childhood origami skills on a pie crust lattice kind of divine. Meanwhile the recipe-from-can pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes with hot water and butter/no milk, boxed cranberry sauce, and frozen rolls all tasted just fine.
On to side dishes. A simple salad of dried cranberries, mixed greens, red onion slices. The usual vinaigrette, refreshing. Californians go crazy if they don’t get a salad in a big meal. I’d give soy-roasted brussel sprouts an A. The lap cheong fried rice, which I’ve made umpteen times, was reliably good and OK to serve room temperature if you are prioritizing last-minute stove time.
Which it seems I always am.
What didn’t work? Bagged bread stuffing. The wholesome Whole Foods version of our family Pepperidge Farms favorite comes out soggy and boring. And, sadly, the fried pumpkin. Not enough taste to the gourd, not enough crunch in the crust. The salted egg sauce was pretty good though.
So, next time I host, I think I will repeat the menu, with a few changes.
That’s a revolutionary statement. I’ve always been a cooking thrill-seeker, no truck with the tried and true. Partly because I love the new over the known, partly because I felt powerful in big new recipes.
But we change, for better or worse.
For worse – there, I’ve said it – I no longer have the working memory of my middle years. Then I could execute 3 dishes I’d never tried, all at once, saute, braise, bake, chaos no obstacle. I remembered all the steps without checking cookbooks as I worked. These days I can’t follow more than one recipe, especially when I have to also deal with the monitoring and checking required by hot things on stoves.
For better, for the first time in my life I’m happy to choose favorites. I would rather cook peacefully and eat happily than beat my chest. Adult children help with that. There are people at my table who can make pies and carve turkeys. When I said to my daughter, “What if something doesn’t work?” she answered, “Then we will just laugh.”
I think I’ll focus on small improvements to our family menu. Next time I host, butternut squash tempura? Maybe sweet potatoes, same method? And we can give up stuffing altogether, fried rice suffices. Like a simple thank you.
Have a wonderful weekend, maybe with favorites of all sorts.