I like a challenge, but I almost overdid it with Thanksgiving dinner this year. When perusing magazines, do you ever see complete menus for holiday meals laid out in photographic splendor? The magazine was AARP (shut up) and the article was from a year ago, but I found the recipes online and decided, if I was going to cook, I was going to COOK. I tried to be organized about the whole endeavor, but there were still a few surprises along the way.
Surprise number 1 was how much money I spent at the grocery store on the ingredients for a dinner for eight. It could have been more, because usually I buy the organic, free range turkey. I was not organized enough for that this year, but I also did not buy the cheap bird, either. Then there were many ingredients I did not have on hand, like the fresh herbs, some of which at least came from my garden. And, in case things did not go well foodwise, I bought plenty of beer. Still, I could have taken everyone out to a very nice restaurant for that kind of money. And not had to clean the kitchen six times in the course of two days. (Surprise 1.5 was how difficult it was to find dried apples.)
Surprise number 2 was my ineptitude in the kitchen. I live alone and don't cook much anymore. Still, you'd think I would remember things like to put the lid on the blender before pressing the puree button. I don't think it was my fault when I did get the lid on, only to have it fly off when I tried the puree button again. Surprise number 2.5 was that the mess wasn't as bad as I expected.
The recipes had been touted as being healthier than the normal Thanksgiving day fare. By that, I guess AARP means no pie. Surprise number 3 was the amount of butter and oil used throughout the recipes. But I think holidays are exempt from the low-fat rule.
Surprise number 4 were all the little details in the recipes: cooking the turkey broth until it was reduced by three-quarters, adding egg yolks one at a time, beating this, then folding in that, fresh herbs here, dried ones there, etc. There are probably logical reasons for all these instructions, but I sometimes think chefs make recipes difficult to execute just because they can.
Surprise number 5 was the amount of stuffing that the authors think can go into a 12-pound turkey. There was easily twice as much, so I threw the extra into a pan and baked it while we ate. Can anyone say "leftovers"?
Surprise number 6 were absences from the table: my son came down with the flu and could not muster the energy to drive seven hours just to watch us eat while he sipped Sprite and nibbled on Saltines. I wish he could have been there, but I'm glad he chose to keep his germs to himself. Because of a scheduling lapse, dinner was late, and my son-in-law was expected at a family poker game. At least he got to sample the soup before he left, and I sent plenty of leftovers home with my daughter.
But the best surprise of all was how delicious everything tasted, especially the Roasted Butternut Squash with Honey-Pecan Butter and the Dried Apples and Corn Bread Stuffing.
Despite all the work, I enjoyed the cooking. It made me wish for a bigger kitchen, with a bigger oven and more counter space and more cupboards for used-once-a-year kitchen appliances. Maybe I should have remodeled the kitchen instead of adding on the new room. Maybe next year. *sigh*