Hindsight: Notes for Next Year

Always make the stock, pie crust and cornbread ahead of time – anything you can think of – don’t put it off until Thanksgiving Day if you can help it. Iron everything at least week in advance.

No matter how prepared you are, the last hour will be very busy and, unless you have nerves of steel, quite intense.

On pie:

  • Sugar on a pie crust makes it crunchy and sweet but also encourages over-caramelization (burning) – see maple leaf decorations above
  • There is a very fine line between caramelized and blackened – again see maple leaf decorations
  • Fraisage is the key to the perfectly flakey crust and it really is no big deal – notice the totally flakey (albeit slightly burnt) maple leaf decorations.

12 year old girls make excellent sous chefs.

12 year old girls make excellent table setters.

5 year olds can totally peel all the carrots. In other words, put your kids to work!

Perfectly polished sterling salt cellars and pepper shakers make the table look pretty but nobody actually ever uses them – is it worth polishing them? Consider this.

Masses of inexpensive carnation or daisy type flowers in a single seasonal color can make striking table arrangements.

Dressing/stuffing is one of my favorite foods but I can’t be responsible for eating the ten extra servings I produced in my zeal for stuffing leftovers. If serving ten people, there is no need to make stuffing/dressing for twenty. Stuffing for fifteen should suffice.

Fine grain cornbread is the better choice if you have to decide between fine and medium grind. Northern style cornbread is better for stuffing/dressing – as in the sort of cornbread that has some regular flour in it, along with the cornmeal.

I’m thinking that our ceramic fondue pot might make an excellent gravy boat – keep that gravy nice and hot! However if you have no fondue pot, don’t worry. If you need to hold the gravy while finishing up vegetable sides, set it in a double boiler, or a make-shift double boiler with a lid over water that has just reached a boil. Should be quite hot for at least 20 minutes. Then you can pour it into a warm gravy boat and bring it to the table when everything else is ready.

Shoving a brining bag into your largest stockpot is a good way to increase the volume of the pot and avoid having to use a cooler to brine the bird.

If you can commit to brining for 72 hours, then you can get away with significantly less salt and the gravy won’t be ruined by overly salty turkey drippings. 3/4 cup of kosher salt + 2tbsp per 2 gallons water is the right salinity.

Rinse and dry the bird before brining and afterwards. If you can manage it, remove the turkey from the brine the night before Thanksgiving, and having rinsed and dried it, inside and out, allow it to dry out overnight in the refrigerator, lightly covered with parchment.

Play a game of Monopoly or watch at least part of the football game. Don’t spend the entire day in the kitchen. You will be able to do this if you have a good plan.

Inviting a Thanksgiving expert makes a lot of sense. I asked “the Thanksgiving Queen” to come dine with us and not only did we have a wonderful time, but at key moments, I got really solid advice!

I had already made my turkey stock from the carcass when I found this recipe for making in the oven. I’ll have to give it a  try it next year!

Finally, it’s hard to believe, but Turkey Tetrazzini is actually pretty delicious. Use the turkey stock you made (you’d better have made some!) for the velouté. Sliced baby shiitake mushrooms sautéed in butter until brown and crisp are so much more compelling than the typical button mushrooms. (As if Turkey Tetrazzini could ever be compelling!) The recipe in the Joy of Cooking or Fanny Farmer will be just right.

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