This is from my weekly newspaper column, coincidentally called On The Homefront. I speak to my readers as if they are my friends (actually many of them are, and even more are relatives–I am related to almost everyone in my corner of the world, and I may be mistaken, but I think some of their cats are related to mine.)
Like many of you, we had Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Sunday, and now the remnants of a fairly decent meal sit in my fridge. The remnants are the best kind of leftovers there are, just waiting to be made into soups and casseroles (in other households not mine) and the piece de resistance—the turkey sandwich. There are many ways to build a turkey sandwich and we all have our favourites, mine being white meat on buttered white bread (I know, I know, it should be a whole grain bread, but it is not) with a little mayo, lettuce, a tiny bit of salt on the lettuce, and then the sandwich cut into four dainty pieces. To make the meal complete it should be served with a side of cranberry sauce, green onions, and potato chips (if ever there was a politically incorrect meal, this is it.)
But let us go back to before the leftovers. Back to yesterday, when I was fixing the grand meal for Thanksgiving. I always have lots of food for Thanksgiving, as if I am expecting to feed an army. I guess I think the bounty of the harvest season should be on my table. The good thing about my “over cooking” is that we have lots of leftovers, which at Thanksgiving is a good thing (here I am, channelling Martha again). Speaking of channelling………
As many of you know I am not a domestic diva or gourmet goddess. I cook because we need to eat, which makes me a very practical (read: fast as I can) cook. I enjoy reading gourmet; I do not particularly enjoy cooking gourmet. So yesterday while I was making a couple of new recipes (yes, actual recipes—I was not just cooking by rote) I channelled a couple of my favourite Food Network personalities: Michael Smith, most recently star of Chef Michael’s Kitchen and Chef at Home, and the Barefoot Contessa or “how easy is that” Ina Garten.
Michael Smith, a bona fide chef, and Ina Garten, a former caterer and now famous cook, are both somewhat laid back but at the same time enthusiastic about cooking. And that is exactly what I need in the kitchen–a little enthusiasm as I peel, and chop, and cut. And follow a recipe. Most of the time when I cook, it is tried and true stuff I have made hundreds of times, thus need no instructions (take frozen lasagna out of freezer, take off plastic covering, insert into oven, set timer).
Yesterday was very similar to every holiday when I cook a turkey, as it is never as easy as you think it is going to be. In an effort not to wrestle with a thawed out turkey I got one of those already stuffed birds that you do not have to thaw before cooking. But you do have to run it under warm water for a couple of minutes. I found out why when I took off the plastic wrapping. It is to make it possible to remove a plastic package of innards (ugh) and the neck (double ugh) that is tucked beneath an immovable wing. It took a bit of a tug of war, and my youngest son pulling the stupid plastic bag from under the frozen wing with all his might (and he is no little guy at 6’1” and over 180 pounds) which led me to declare the statement I make every holiday without fail: “Hope you enjoy this bird today, because it is the last one I make” and restate my vow to celebrate all future holidays with a pot of chili.
Once we had the plastic bag and neck loose and deposited promptly in the garbage (look away those of you who find this blasphemy and boil this stuff to make gravy) I proceeded to pour some melted butter over the turkey and shove it in the oven (covering parts of it with foil as instructed). Then I just basically forgot about it—which is the way I like to cook.
I came close to enjoying the prep of the rest of the meal: the apple and sweet potato casserole with a yummy syrup was pretty darn good (even though I forgot the cinnamon); the green stuff with marshmallows was a hit; the roasted potatoes a can’t miss; and the made from scratch cranberry sauce (which I am so proud of ) was good too. If nothing else, I am a gravy aficionado—so the gravy was delicious. The meal was crowned by pumpkin pie (with my cheat of Cool Whip on top) and spice cake with cream cheese icing. All in all, it was a decent meal—with Michael and his enthusiasm and Ina and her “how easy is that?” attitude keeping me company (plus a little calming piano music in the background, and a glass of wine that helped take the edge off.)
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and better yet, that you are still enjoying a few leftovers.