Some tradition and some fun _ home _ calaverasenterprise. com
I used to think that everyone everywhere celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends seated around the home dining table as the golden brown turkey was presented for the feast. Boy was I wrong. Come to find out that depending on where you live, what your lifestyle is, if you’re married or single, how many people might be there for dinner and whether you even like turkey at all plays a part in how this holiday is commemorated.
Since families come
in more sizes and shapes than ever these days, and members are all in one place or divided by distance, the joy of this holiday really comes from celebrating with those we love; it’s not exactly about the menu. Some celebrants feast and then attend the latest movie at their local theater. Some rent cabins and muster on the slopes before the feast. Others start their day watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as the aroma of the bird roasting in the oven permeates the house. Still others will meet at the beach with baskets in hand, brimming with or without the traditional foods reserved for this day.
My cousins, the Malmquists, used to celebrate every other Thanksgiving with their college friends and their children at the Ahwahnee in Yosemite Valley. A traditional meal was rarely cooked, which didn’t bother Linda at all. She dislikes the taste of turkey.
Some of my Baxter cousins who reside in Hawaii roast a turkey, but their stuffing is far from what we might consider customary. It’s made with assorted flavors from other ethnic foods found on the island.
I have always celebrated this holiday in my home or at another family member’s, although a few years ago I found myself sitting in a restaurant dining with my family sampling everything from turkey to prime rib and ham. We helped ourselves as we strolled through the buffet line and there was no golden brown turkey presented before we ate.
Another thing to consider is that it’s hard to prepare a dinner that suits everyone. Some people are finicky eaters, and then there are the fancier eaters, the weight watchers (yes, even on Thanksgiving), and those who suffer from food allergies. So how do you serve a dinner with all of these things presumably working against you?
I say, let the turkey be your mainstay and offer choices for relishes, starches, salad dressings and desserts. Make it a potluck if you feel it will be too much work for you to prepare the whole meal, or ask the person with food concerns to bring a side dish they can enjoy that might turn the rest of your group on to a new flavor sensation. By providing selections for different tastes and diets, your guests can pick and choose, and everyone will be pleased. Roast Turkey
12 to 14 pound turkey
Salt and pepper
Stuffing of your choice
Remove the truss from the turkey. Rinse it under cold water, removing the giblets and any excess fat. Pat it dry on the inside and outside. Stuff the cavity, if desired, with a rice – or bread-based stuffing. Rub the bird all over with plain or flavored olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Place breast side down on a V-shaped rack and set in a roasting pan. Roast in a 350-degree oven for an hour. Remove from the oven and tip the turkey to drain the juices into the roasting pan. Then carefully turn the turkey breast side up. Place a thermometer in the thickest part of the breast and roast until it reaches 160 degrees, about 2.5 hours.
Well, once the turkey soup, turkey sandwiches and other delicious turkey leftovers have been devoured, it’s time to focus on what seems to be everyone’s favorite holiday, Christmas. This is definitely the party season. I love planning parties! I’ve planned personal parties that have included as few as two and as many as 150 revelers. The time of year usually dictates the number. In warmer weather it’s much easier to host a large gathering outside. Around the holiday season, I like to keep my guest list to 25 or fewer partiers. This way if I decide to have a sit-down dinner party, I can accommodate that number of guests.
I like to begin with a simple afternoon cocktail party that includes some light hors d’ oeuvres. You know, the after-lunch-but-before-dinner get together. Or sometimes I’ll hold the party from 5 to 7 p. m., just enough time to have a drink or two and a little nibble before guests head home to make dinner for themselves and their families. A cocktail party usually runs about two hours.
When I make my guest list, I like to focus on inviting people from different walks of life. It makes for lively conversation. You can make the dress code casual or festive, which suggests dressy, but not formal. For the food, I look for recipes that would make the food fun to eat, served in a way that’s just as fun for guests. For instance, a soup party in the kitchen where everyone works at a station preparing a portion of the meal can be quite enjoyable. The laughter, comments, spirits served and participation all make for a dinner party that’s casual and entertaining.
And don’t think that Christmas parties always have to be evening affairs. It just takes a little inventiveness to think of new ways to intrigue your guests. Throw a Sunday morning breakfast with Tequila Sunrises, Bloody Marys, Mimosas and Gin Fizzes accompanied by a continental type of meal with muffins, a fruit platter, hard boiled eggs, those kinds of things. Or maybe you throw a full blown brunch.
And, if you can, live music provides the icing on the cake, no matter what time of day your party is scheduled. In fact, if you know some musicians, invite them and their instruments. You might even make it a potluck, with you providing the beverages and place settings. Make it a time to see one another and be together before the craziness begins.
And, speaking of which, have you noticed that the Christmas trinkets have already been placed on the shelves? The newspaper circulars and TV commercials are advertising what’s for sale to make this Christmas the Christmas (natch).
Here’s a recipe for your holiday congregating that can be used as a meal that allows everyone to cook in your kitchen, for you to serve as a first course or that you serve as the main event. Seafood Chowder
½ pound each white fish, crabmeat and scallops
1 pound of shrimp (20 to 25 size), peeled and deveined (save the shells to make the stock)
Cut the fish, scallops and shrimp into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl with the remaining seafood.
1 stick good quality butter
4 diced carrots
3 diced celery stalks
1 diced onion
1 cup diced red potatoes
Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the vegetables and saute until the potatoes are barely cooked. Sprinkle a quarter-cup of flour over the top and stir constantly for three minutes to dispel the flour taste.
Add the seafood stock (see below) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the seafood. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
2 tablespoons each heavy cream and chopped parsley
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Seafood Stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
Shells from the shrimp
2 chopped onions
2 chopped carrots
3 chopped celery stalks
2 minced garlic cloves
6 cups water
½ cup white wine
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
10 sprigs fresh thyme
Heat the oil in a pot. Add the shells and vegetables and saute for about 15 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Add the garlic. Then add the water, wine, tomato paste and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for an hour. When the stock is finished, strain it and press the ingredients through the mesh to get as much liquid as possible. You should have a quart of stock. If you don’t add enough wine or water to make the quart.