I make sweet potatoes for every holiday that I host. And, every time, I’m the only one who eats them. Invariably The Wife or The Father will have a couple as a show of support for the hard work that went into the meal, but they are largely panned by the rest of the gathering at these meals.
This year, I decided that I was going to make a small sweet potato dish for me, and if anyone wanted some, they could join in. Ordinarily, I like my roasted potatoes to be burnt to an everloving crisp, but my single-oven setup meant that the turkey took priority. And the bird’s low and slow cooking method meant the sweets were going to cook at, oh, 175 degrees below the recipe’s recommendation. I threw them in for over an hour, but they were still a little soft.
But, they were good. Damn good.
I think that covering seafood in Old Bay is silly and takes away from the flavor of the fish. But, a heavy dusting of the stuff on potatoes is a very different flavor that complements the sweetness of the veggie.
I got into a rut last year with Meatless Monday where everything was a soup. Frankly, it’s the easiest thing to assemble when we are talking about a completely meat-free meal. This year, I seem to be stuck in a pasta cycle when it comes to the first weeknight meal of the week. So, to break one rut I decided to reach back to the salad days of soupmaking on Mondays.
As advertised, this is a very hearty soup. The escarole and barley not only give the soup bulk, but a unique flavor that could ordinarily get lost in the mirepoix, tomato or soy sauce.
WHAT WORKED: Parmesan rind. That’s the other thing I wanted to mention. This is a mandatory ingredient. Parm rinds not only bring the salty, nutty cheese flavor to the stockpot, but it helps to thicken the broth. Just make sure to discard before serving because eating this would be disgusting.
Three self-evident truths:
- Corn pudding is terrible.
- Cornbread is good.
- There are not a lot of ways to prepare corn for Thanksgiving with The Family.
A few years ago, I did an edamame succotash, with corn, soybeans and peppers. It went over like…it didn’t go over. Like everything else, they like their corn the way they like it. Steamed and mushy. The problem is that I don’t like steamed and mushy corn. I don’t mind it steamed, but corn is like the elderly relative of Thanksgiving. You pick it up from the home, plop it at the table, pour it something to drink and ignore them until everyone is ready to eat. Corn gets microwaved, left in a bowl covered with plastic wrapped, placed on the table or buffet line and no one thinks of it again until the turkey is done.
My co-worker Toni sent me a text message about going to the Wegmans in Dewitt on Wednesday morning to grocery shop for Thanksgiving (it appears at right).
I am not afraid of grocery store crowds. They annoy me, but the people who shop on the day before a major holiday are largely driven, organized shoppers with lists and an idea of where everything is. It’s the “Do I Want 1% or 2% Milk Because I Am Incapable of Making Decisions” Sunday shopper that sends me into stages of madness.
Now, all of that said, Wegmans Dewitt at 8:30 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving was…moderately busy. I’ve tried shopping there when it is overflowing with people and it’s rough. Wednesday’s trip was easy. (I go across town to the “Big Wegmans” because they have an unbelievable selection of things I can’t get at my store around the corner. Add in a quick stop at the liquor store, and our trip took less than 45 minutes.
That may have been the worst of the week. Otherwise, dinner went together without a lot of problem. I herb- and salt-crusted the turkey, which produced an awesome result. I made the gravy using frozen homemade turkey stock and fresh pan drippings. (Mmmmm…pan drippings.) The stuffing came from The Mother-In-Law and was warmed. The Sister was on mashed potato duty and used both a ricer and hand mixer to prep 5 lbs. of Yukon Gold.
I added three sides that worked out with differing success. The caramelized corn was strong, the Old Bay roasted sweet potatoes were good but missing something. The Brussels sprouts were a disappointment. I’ll offer posts on all three this week.
And now that the heavy lifting is done, I have about two weeks to come up with menus for Christmas Eve and Day.
The Kid is walking around the house crying as I type this. She went from lying on the floor to walking to now staring out of a window, all the while crying. And now she’s turning off all of the Christmas lights. This is great.
Why, you may ask, am I sitting here typing something while my child is crying? Simple. The Wife told The Kid that she could not have potato chips for breakfast.
Symbolically, this is the end of the gluttonous Thanksgiving week. Turkey? Sure. Pizza? Absolutely! Chicken wings and beer? You didn’t even have to ask.
(Now The Kid is rummaging through cabinets in the dining room looking for “a snack.” This is spectacular. She’s lost her mind.)
After every holiday, The Wife declares that we are going to start eating healthy again and that she wants to go to the gym. Never mind that we were not eating particularly healthy before the holiday and that her gym is open 24 hours a day.
(The crying has moved to the kitchen, where The Kid now has “a snack” and is attempting to extract an episode of Sesame Street from her primary captor, The Wife.)
As it is December 1 — HOLY SHIT IT’S DECEMBER ALREADY — we have about 20 calendar days until the next extended buffet approaches. Between the plates of cookies that arrive at work, the annual holiday dinner out with The Wife, an endless stream of post-work, weekend and celebratory alcohol, and, of course, the two-day consumption marathon surround the birth of our Lord and savior, the idea of eating healthy and going to the gym is really a ruse. It’s an attempt to hoard unused calories like Weight Watchers points so that you can jam as many cookies in your craw as possible.
(I’ve now moved to the kitchen, where a happy version of The Kid is eating quietly, so The Wife can get dressed.)
It’s obesity in the name of family. It’s eating in honor of the season.
And it’s okay.
Jesus wants you to eat those cookies.
(The Kid has returned to her normal happy, chatty state. Start to finish…20 minutes.)