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Nov 28 2011

How to Host Large Holiday Meals (i.e. Lessons from Thanksgiving)

By at 12:50 pm

family mealI hope your Thanksgiving was as good as mine! Thank you so much for all of your help with menu ideas and general support. Below is the recipe and actual recipes for a fail-safe, easygoing Thanksgiving – print it out and feel free to use it yourself next year to come one step closer to becoming an official balaboosta. Also, it’s never too early to start planning your Passover seder. Think about using a similar menu, just substitute brisket for turkey.

TWO WEEKS AHEAD:

  1. Assign duties. It’s called Thanksgiving, not Martyrdom Day. As we all know, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy – and you doing all the work may give everyone else something to be thankful for, but what fun is that for you? People are usually so grateful not to be hosting the event themselves that they will happily offer you assistance in the tangible forms of stuffing, sweet potatoes, salad, wine, etc. Let them! Assign parts according to your perception of the guests’ abilities (no need to say that part out loud, of course). If you or your guests have allergies/eating restrictions/kashrut concerns, spell them out so as to have no misunderstandings. And if someone is flaky, make sure they’re assigned a minor part, i.e., one that, if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
  2. Start planning out menu items.  This goes in tandem with item 1. Plan out what you want to serve and how much of it. Planning menu items can also be synced with writing out a shopping list. It’s easiest to get canned/pantry-esque stuff ahead of time.
  3. Buy copy of Leah Koenig’s Hadassah Everyday Cookbook. Great recipes that take kosher considerations in mind for kosher cooks.
  4. Arrange for a babysitter and reserve a table to go out to dinner Saturday after Thanksgiving. Yes, you will have eaten your weight in stuffing already and you will have a refrigerator full of leftovers. But you deserve to be rewarded for everything you’re about to do. Trust me.
  5. Order turkey. Fresh is ideal if possible.

ONE WEEK AHEAD:

  1. Order turkey. I know you didn’t listen the first time. Now it’s time to listen.
  2. Bake. Your oven is going to be woefully overtaxed over Thanksgiving, so it’s easiest to parse things out now. I personally bought tons of pareve Trader Joe’s bread mixes – pumpkin, cranberry, corn, etc. – and made two a day each evening after the kids went to bed, storing them under tinfoil. If you’re more industrious than I, you can also make other stuff and freeze it.
  3. Make things easier for yourself. You’re not going to transform into Martha Stewart just because it’s Thanksgiving. There is no shame in (hypothetically) buying squash soup readymade and then serving it in a neat way, like in little teacups garnished with almonds or dried cranberries. Also, start Googling “easiest turkey ever.”
  4. Go wine shopping. This should be an errand in and of itself as wine bottles are heavy. Do not bring the baby if possible, sommelier-in-training though she may be.

THE WEEK OF:

  1. Make sure you have requisite cooking implements and Tupperware for leftovers. Although if you don’t have the requisite cooking materials, fyi, it is easy to get a $23 roaster at Macy’s the day before Thanksgiving. I mean, so I’ve heard. You’re going to need things you may never have heard of, like a meat thermometer and cooking twine.
  2. Don’t be scared. You can do this!
  3. Pick up the turkey.
  4. Buffet is the way to go. This makes your life much easier, allows your guests to mingle and is better for any parent of young children, whether you or a guest.

Our Thanksgiving menu:

Squash soup served in little coffee cups with cranberry or almond garnish.

Breads, available the whole time on various tables – Trader Joe wins again.

Salad made by my sister-in-law, with a lemon/egg yolk dressing that was deliciously tart compared to the cloying sweetness of most Thanksgiving dishes.

Turkey: For those who wanted a full turkey, I used this recipe and it came out fine, though I wished it had been more browned and will do that next year by lifting the lid off my brand-new roasting pan. My mother brought two turkey breasts as well (just in case I failed abysmally), which were made simply and easily by putting the breasts in a Pyrex dish, putting an inch and a half of water in the tray, putting onion powder/garlic powder/paprika on the top, putting it in the oven and then putting maple syrup all over it before taking it out again. Very easy and good to have as backup in case of disaster.

Sweet potatoes: made by my sister, stuffing by my other sister. Both amazing.

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts which taste like french fries:

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, 3 tablespoons good olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (may use more), 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Cut off ends of sprouts and pull off any yellow leaves

Wash & dry

Mix in bowl with oil, s & p

Turn onto a baking sheet and roast 35 – 40 minutes

Shake pan from time to time to brown evenly

Sprinkle with more kosher salt

This same procedure may be done with cauliflower, too.

Maple Baked Pears, courtesy of Leah Koenig’s Hadassah Everyday Cookbook –delicious, and kids went nuts over them.

Desserts:

Serve Trader Joe’s spiced cider, heated up in pot, in those cups you’ve washed from the soup appetizer. If you want to go nuts, throw a stick of cinnamon in each.

Moist Chocolate Cake, Apple Crumble and Glazed Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookies, again courtesy of Ms. Koenig

More bread (of course)

Pecan pie (thank you, Costco!) and vegan pumpkin pie (thank you, Whole Foods.)


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