November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving, Part II

I did it! And it was awesome!!

I actually pulled off a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings (except pumpkin pie -- my fave) for six people.

And it was all thanks to my Mom's super suggestions and advice, and Paul's invaluable help. I just don't get how all you Thanksgiving makers make all those dishes simultaneously. I ran out of hands a few times. Paul jumped in to make the mashed potatoes while I finished up the gravy, green beans and stuffing (and entertained and early-arriving guest).


One bottle of Champagne, four bottles of red wine, one 12-pound turkey, seven potatoes .... you get the drift ... and one meal with five contented companions. We were five Yanks and a Brit, and we talked some shop -- the one thing we all have in common -- and a little about our adopted country and what the holiday was about. But it was just nice to do a dinner in a home. A dinner party. A special dinner party.

You don't really need the details though, as you're all about to embark on your own. So as I wish you all the best for a wonderful holiday, I will leave you with this anecdote.

I'm cooking the turkey, we're about halfway into the time. I hear a switch click and about five minutes later realize that not only was my water not boiling, but the turkey had stopped bubbling.

I thought this was weird. Who would guess that you could turn off the main gas line from outside the kitchen. In fact, from a switch that is (and was) right next to the door to the bathroom. Which has no light switch inside.

Well, you can.

I finally made the connection between the switch and the fact the oven turned off -- and then had a bear of a time (and a bit of a panic attack) trying to get the oven back on. I was only halfway through cooking!! What would I do with a half-cooked turkey??

Our hostess, who might have known what to do (but really, I don't think so), was sound asleep. I wasn't about to wake her. We had already invaded her apartment to make the dinner.

Now this wasn't the first issue with the oven. The night before, on the advice of my mother, I tested the oven to see if cooking times were accurate, if it had any weirdness, and it did. In fact, the night before I was planning to make a cake to test the oven. When I set the oven, it never got hot. Again, a dilemma. And again, my hostess was not available.

It turns out with this particular oven, a well-regarded brand (Siemens), you must leave the oven door open for three minutes so that the pilot light can catch properly. Never heard that one before. I eventually figured it out, the cake was fine (it cooked on the fast side), and I had an idea of how the oven was running.

So with the turkey, I made sure to leave the door open at the start. But now, I had no gas. The switch was on again, but that made no difference. Finally, we found the door to the gas panel, and there were some convoluted directions. It seems that we could restart the gas by turning various nozzles and switches and get it started again. The diagram explaining all this bore no resemblance to what we actually did.

After a 15-minute delay, we managed to turn the oven back on. Phew.

That was the only major mishap (OK, Paul, who was taking the turkey out of the oven -- which was by now two inches deep in boiling turkey juice -- almost dropped it when the oven rack slipped and he had only tea towels to hold on to the roasting pan. And I dropped the leftover cake on its head on my way home.)

But considering I had a handful of pots and utensils not quite meant to do what we needed them to do (too small, too big, too shallow, too deep) the whole thing turned better than I could have hoped.


(check this link in the next day or so to see photos)

November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving, Part I

As many of you may have read on Paul's blog, I decided to make a Thanksgiving dinner for a handful of people.

(We're doing it on Wednesday, because we're both off that day. When you do Thanksgiving a. abroad and b. in the newspaper business, you have it as close to the day as you can with the most people available.)

For most of you, this is not terribly remarkable. But it's my first turkey. And Thanksgiving is absolutely my most favorite holiday. I find it sad that I have missed Thanksgiving at home oh, about 9 of the last 12 years. My friends in Paris put together amazing Thanksgiving dinners, and I think my all-time favorite was the rotisserie turkey we got one year. But ultimately, I like my Mom's best. Always have, always will.

And so, in a bit of a panic, I called her the other day to let her know the plan. She was very calm and encouraging. I really appreciated that last part. I was pretty pleased that we managed to find all the necessary things for the meal, but frankly, I've always stuck to the cranberry relish and pumpkin pie as my contributions. I don't know the first thing about turkey, gravy or stuffing.

After studying recipes on the web and talking to my mom (her advice: follow the directions on the turkey, don't forget to clean out the packages that are inside and don't stuff the turkey your first time) I think I can do it.

Right now, I've just finished prepping the gravy and it smells so good! It makes me really enthusiastic for the rest of the meal.

I'll leave that on the stove for a few hours, and afterward, I'm heading to a friend's house to test her oven. It's beautiful and brand new, but I don't think she's used it for anything other than toast. So i'm going to bake a chocolate cake (couldn't find brownie mix) just to make sure it's all good.

I'm so excited!!