Thanksgivukkah Recap

by rivka on December 2, 2013 · 4 comments

in events, menus, Thanksgiving

Well, that was quite a holiday.

Thanksgivukkah 1

Thanksgivukkah was a total thrill, from start to finish. “Start” was at 6:30 am. We finished the evening around 11. In between, we turned out one-and-a-half turkeys, two quarts of gravy, four kinds of sauces (cranberry, cranapple, pear, pear-cider jelly), 32 doughnuts (sweet and savory!), and three pies. That doesn’t count the handful of bottles of wine that my parents brought; the glorious vegetarian stuffing, courtesy of my friend Jana; the five (five!) flower arrangements (biggest and most beautiful again thanks to Jana), and whatever else was arranged or consumed yesterday. It also doesn’t count the scores of laughs, the countless political debates (which occurred near constantly and yet left no scars or bruises, victory!), the speeches comparing the stories of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving (just one, but it was one for the ages), and I don’t know how many times someone said “mmmm” and made my heart feel as full as my stomach.

Thanksgivukkah 2

The weeks of testing and retesting paid off. This was my third time making most everything, and by yesterday, I felt wiser for it. I knew to use a slightly larger biscuit cutter when making the cornmeal doughnuts (recipe updated) and to pipe in that cranberry curd while the sufganiyot were still warm.

The timing mostly worked out, too. That excel spreadsheet kept me on track, or even a few minutes ahead at some points. I loved nearly everything I made.

Here’s the debrief with lessons learned:

Appetizers:
No-knead sweet potato rolls
Squash jam
Cider-pear-vanilla jelly
Harissa
Turkey fat-fried latke with cranberry sauce and pear sauce

Second course:
Kale salad with pickled radishes and pomegranate seeds
Cornmeal-bourbon doughnuts filled with stuffing

Main course:
Dry-brined turkey (double the dry brine; roast at 425 for 25 minutes, then at 325 until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165; tent and rest for 30 minutes before carving)
My favorite gravy, with dark roux, plenty of turkey drippings, and just a hint of cider
Jana’s wild mushroom-dried cherry stuffing
Pear sauce
Cranberry sauce with nutmeg and fresh ginger
Sweet potato casserole with cornflake topping (a heavily-modified version of this, possibly the greatest hit of the evening)

Dessert:
All pie crusts were this recipe, which is perfect
Apple-cranberry pie with a lattice crust
Brandied pumpkin pie
Chocolate-bourbon pecan pie
Nutmeg doughnuts with cranberry curd filling

Best moment pre-Tday: stumbling into TJ Maxx with 30 minutes on the parking meter, four other stores under my belt, and no tablecloth, silver polish, gravy boat, or salad tongs to speak of. Walking out 15 minutes and $18 later with all four in hand.

Most stressful moment: the first half-hour of dinner. I was in the weeds, stuff wasn’t done, and no one had a drink. Oops!

Best moments on Tday: our grandparents kvelling at getting to be guests in our house, eating our food, celebrating with us. I need nothing more. But, I will happily take any moment involving more gravy. I really love gravy.

Lessons learned:

When guests arrive, serve them a beverage. When folks started to arrive, I was in the weeds. I had semi-subconsciously decided to skip the punch, thinking we didn’t have many drinkers coming over, but in retrospect, that was a mistake. Having even a light beverage to sip would have made those first 30 minutes or so more engaging for our guests, and thus less chaotic for me.  Still, the rolls and spreads helped a lot with that first chunk of time.

The latke needed more oil. Late in the game, I switched the appetizer from individual latkes to one big latke, figuring it’d be easier and less stinky to make one latke than 24. Unfortunately, I didn’t test the recipe in advance. As a result, I ended up skimping on the oil and not setting the flame low enough. I burned the first one crisp. Fortunately, I made a double recipe of batter in case the first one flopped, and the second one came out better, but still not a particularly memorable dish (at least, not for me).

Kale salad

Kale salad was a huge hit. I knew I didn’t have much green on the menu this year, and I had quite a few healthy types at dinner (myself included, doughnut love notwithstanding…) so instead of a light, leafy salad, I made a huge kale salad with a pungent dressing containing homemade mustard.  I really wanted a pop of red to match the flowers, so I pickled some radishes well in advance, and they turned a lovely shade of pink. The salad was kale, those radishes, and the seeds from a pomegranate. It turned out so pretty. Plus, the salad was substantial enough that it could be served as a middle course on its own, or stand up as part of the main course. I designed it this way on purpose; I figured if the dougnhuts took longer than expected, I could serve the kale while they finished up. The way things unfolded, we put out the kale salad about 3 minutes before the cornmeal doughnuts were ready. Kale went around, and cornmeal doughnuts immediately followed. The two together made for  a nice second course that everyone enjoyed while I prepped for the main event.

The half-and-half turkey strategy paid off. I had purchased one whole turkey and one half turkey. I roasted the half turkey Thanksgiving morning, carved it at about noon, laid the slices nicely on a platter, and tented it with foil. The whole bird I’d timed to finish about 15 minutes after guests arrived, and it finished precisely on time. As a result, I actually got to join our guests for salad and doughnuts before heading back to the kitchen to finish off the turkey. While D cleared plates, I rewarmed the gravy and started breaking down the whole turkey. By the time she was done clearing, I was ready with the platter of pre-carved, rewarmed turkey, which I hit with a little of the gravy before bringing it to the table. The operation was seamless; that half turkey got me all the way around the table for round one, and while everyone dug in, I finished carving and plating the whole bird, just in time to have a leisurely first helping myself before circulating seconds of everything. I’ll definitely do this again.

Thanksgivukkah5

Out with Thanksgiving dinner; in with Thanksgiving lunch. To accommodate those who separate eating  meat/poultry and dairy, we called “dinner” for 2 pm, European style, and waited till 7 to eat all that butter-crust pie. For me, this was perfect. This sort of massive, no-holds-barred meal works much better when spread across several hours. A 2-pm start still gave me plenty of time to get everything done that morning.

and most importantly:

I love my people. Thanksgivukkah brought together my parents and D’s, and both of our grandparents, along with some very good friends. We’re still marveling at our good fortune that we got to have all those folks in our home yesterday, that we got to cook for my Bubby and D’s Safta and Saba, for our very appreciative (and helpful!) parents and friends, and that we had the resources and the time and the plausible insanity to make the feast we ate. I love this holiday. I love everything about it. Even though Thanksgivukkah is done forever, I’m already looking forward to next year’s plain old Thanksgiving.

Cheers, friends. Next up, salad. promise.

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