Cooking Survivor: 36 Hours of Prep
Happy Holidays, If They Are For You
I suppose that subtitle enlists me in the war on Thanksgiving, but I quite like Thanksgiving. I just hate the idea of indiscriminately blaring at everyone about my holiday in the assumption that they also must be celebrating it. I am happy to hear about anybody’s version of their holiday, also. I suppose at the least I like making a feast, and this year, we’re hosting after a few years of nobody going anywhere.
I start the planning by knowing what my family insists on. We do a turkey. I like turkey. I don’t even think it’s that hard to deal with. I’m brining this year, though I don’t often—it’s a bigger turkey. Gravy is required, and that’s no biggie—any time I roast anything that throws off some fat, I’m going to do something with it. Mashed potatoes are a requirement from my spouse, so those also will be made. My kid wants to make Kenji-Alt’s mac and cheese, so that will be made.
I’m rebooting my bread making with a new levain, so tonight about six I’ll have it rising for baking early tomorrow morning.
I’ve toyed at times with doing a theme Thanksgiving with everything inside a single strong cuisine’s flavor profile. That is not this year: I’m going with the usual range of things. Right now I’m mulling over a soup that I want to make as a kind of small first course to drink out of coffee cups. I’m thinking of it as an all-Americas mix: sweet potato, squash, chiles, tomatoes, corn. I’ll use some lemongrass and ginger to give it a brighter, less heavy feel, and a bit of cream to make it smooth after blending and food milling. I’ll make that today and reheat tomorrow. Chop a bit of cilantro into it with some creme fraiche at service.
For snacks, I’ve got a bunch of different radishes courtesy of Philly Foodworks (also the source of our turkey, from Koch’s), so I’ll use those with a green herb dip. Some smoked salmon in cucumbers, some fried chickpeas, some guacamole.
For the main dishes, the basic idea is always to have a contrast of tastes, textures, and look. Plus managing oven space and not having too many things that need last minute attention.
I might make parsnip-pepper biscuits if I get ambitious, courtesy of Edward Lee’s Smoke and Pickles.
Stuffing with bread, sausage, prosciutto, mushrooms, leeks. I’ll improvise that but that’s probably what’s going in it. I never put it in the actual turkey, though.
An orange, olive, fennel, greens, cucumber, pomegranate seed salad. Trying to decide how to dress that—maybe an anchovy dressing, maybe something else.
Cabbage, apple, bleu cheese, walnuts. Eh, I know, it’s a cliche, but it’s good. Toying with a quick under-the-broiler browning of thin-sliced cabbage as a wrinkle in this.
I have brussel sprouts. I’m kind of tired of the bacon-and-maple move for those, so I might roast them and then dress them with a thickened soy-and-sesame oil glaze instead. (Though that’s becoming a cliche too, so maybe it’s time to do something really different, like a curry yogurt sauce for them.)
I have cranberries, but you know, nobody ever eats cranberry relish. This also requires some thinking today. I’m almost toying with just chopping them with a bit of orange and mint and infusing that into some vodka. Otherwise, maybe I’ll experiment today with cooking them down into a thick sauce with some different angle of approach to it. Or maybe cranberry banana bread for Friday.
Anyway, whether you’re cooking, feasting, or it’s an ordinary Thursday for you this week, best wishes. 8X7 will be back this coming Monday.