Saturday, November 28, 2009

thanksgiving 2009, part two: on the plus side

But enough of the self-debriefing. Thanksgiving 2.0 was an awesome day. Not only did I make dinner for two families, I ate more food than two families might consume in a week. And it was all delicious.

One of the difficult parts about preparing Thanksgiving is that by the time you hit the table, you’re not at all hungry. This year was no exception.

It started with a smooth-but-chunky crab dip with fresh herbs, which I ate constantly throughout the morning with slices from a fresh baguette. How I ended up sharing any of it is a mystery to me. I wasn’t surprised it was a hit with the party. While I was a little heartbroken… in a good way.

Then I overdosed on some homemade fleur de sel caramels and hazelnut profiteroles (aside: I lost my mascarpone cheese and lost track of the morning, so I whipped up a frangelico-ricotta cream with crushed hazelnuts and paired it with dollops of nutella to fill pastry puffs) with grapes before the crowds arrived.

My fingers dabbled in the pan-remains of heavenly potatoes, shitake stuffing and sweet potatoes with apple cider as I prepared the collection of dishes for dinner. I had a good 2-3 hours of pre-eating before we sat down for the big event!

I had assumed others had indulged just as much, but I think some guests weren’t as into the appetizing scene as I. (Note taken.) The new soup arrangement—served about 45 minutes before the sit-down dinner—however, went over well. And my mom’s chicken dumpling (“magic”) soup was the Thanksgiving rock star I knew it would be.

Then a weird thing happened: when the turkey breasts arrived from my mom’s house (my dad delivered the Alsatian-brined whole bird 1.5 hours earlier), suddenly male turkey aficionados flooded my kitchen. They knew how to cut the turkey, they knew what they were doing, they knew how it should served. I was elbowed out of my kitchen.

Frustrated and oh-so tired, I grabbed a bottle of champagne, filled my glass, emptied my glass, filled it again and took my seat at the head of the table. And waited.

It didn’t dawn on me until… this morning that in all the madness surrounding the turkey carving that I neglected to actually finish the birds!

The tangerine glazed never made it near the bird; I don’t know that the Riesling gravy was paired with the Alsatian turkey; who knows whether the chile-rubbed breast boasted of ancho deliciousness. All the meat was just slapped onto a single platter and delivered. Turkey experts my butt.

But since I don’t drink, the glass of champagne left the beginnings of dinner a little foggy. I delivered another underwhelming pre-dinner prayer (Thanks to everyone for being here and thanks to our respective higher authorities for all the great things we have in life, including love of our friends and family. I’m thankful for all of us that we have relatively miniscule things to worry about in life. My dad asked that I give a much better prayer than I said last year, but I had champagne, so: good food, good meat, good lord: let’s eat!) and plopped only a few bites of food on my plate before chatting up Neil’s grandmother, uncle and parents, who were quietly sitting on my end of the long table.

Minute after minute, however, I had to keep getting up because we had forgotten something (if only I hadn’t ditched the list by 3 p.m.!). Can we have the salt and pepper? Do you have more ice? Where the shrimp?

Every year, Neil’s uncles come equipped with dozens of jumbo cocktail shrimp and sauce. I pulled out the foil-wrapped plates from the refrigerator, and sweet Jessica helped me open the sauce bottles. We were struggling getting the lids open and wondered what we were doing wrong. And as I strongarm-tugged the thing open with abandon, my bottle flew open… and all over Jessica’s shirt and sweater.

Oh, I’m such a jerk.

She beautiful wardrobe-changed into a wasabi-colored cashmere bateau from my closet (and then a backup shirt from her car—she was like a glamorous award-show host) and didn’t even threaten to beat me up for ruining her clothes. As she should have.

Just when I sat down and started telling the fam about Neil’s big race, Landon surprised us with a visit! I was probably a little loopy—from the day, the exhaustion, the excitement, the champagne—for the first 30 minutes he was there, but it was too cool to see him.

Before I knew it, though, the table was being cleared and Neil’s family was packing up to go home (it wasn’t even 8 p.m.!) as my cousin Gabriella and her Mr. Ivan were just coming in.

Gone was the intermission with cafĂ© cubano and strawberry shooter, chocolate jalapeno gelato and blood orange sorbet. The chocolate tart and fig-blackberry-pear crisp sat in the fridge untouched. My mom’s bread pudding was scooped informally from her pan on the stove. All our elegance and order out the window. Was I really hosting a Thanksgiving with people leaving before dessert?

If the night had ended then, I would have probably been bummed with failure today. But Landon stuck around a long while. Gabriella, Ivan, Jessica, my mom and I toured the house, sipping various coffees and drinks, talking about art and design. My dad played Risk with Neil, his brother Joe and Joe’s chica Corinne. And many of my 10,000 dishes got magically cleaned by two wonderful elves.

By the time the house was cleared, I lasted five minutes before I was in bed. Neil and I woke up at 5 a.m. to walk to Radio Shack for his new Garmin. Then I slept until noon (so unlike me) to recover from Thanksgiving 2009. And we made it until 2 p.m. before we started planning for next year.


E-Speed said...

I wondered what Neil was playing with when I left Sunday! Now I know :) i think you did great, you certainly cannot expect the unexpected and you handled it graciously!

Nevenka said...

You outdid yourself again my little chef! Can't wait for next year's menu. When will it be available for review? Mama loves you.