Lessons learned from this noble attempt at cooking Almost All of Thanksgiving Dinner:
- If you put bacon in it, they will eat it, even if it is Brussels Sprouts.
- Conversely, if your mom repeats a few hundred times how much she doesn’t like sweet potatoes as you slice 4 pounds of sweet potatoes, she’s not going to like the Sweet Potato Gratin, even if it is delicious and tastes nothing like any sweet potato preparation she’s had before. (NB: Seriously, though, MAKE THIS. So Good. I subbed panko for regular bread crumbs and added a bit more cream but otherwise the recipe is perfect. Also, be sure to use a mandoline to get nice thin slices.)
If your stepfamily is out in the backyard shooting off 6 types off guns–including an M1–while you are trying to baste the turkey, you will spill hot turkey juice all over the oven and maybe yourself.
If you’ve never made stuffing before, maybe don’t start with a recipe that advises you to add liquid “according to your tastes.” Because you won’t know how much liquid you like in your stuffing and it will turn out weird.
- People are highly suspicious of cranberry sauce that is not can-shaped.
- Ricer for mashed potatoes. Always, from now on, forever and ever.
And the biggest lesson of all: When your mother assures you she has a cast iron pan in her kitchen, there is no guarantee that it doesn’t look like this:
Out of the dishes I was responsible for, I would say I was 4 for 5, the stuffing being the one loser from the bunch. And when I say loser, I mean not that it wasn’t edible, but that no one raved about it. I was bummed that I couldn’t do the Brussels Sprouts in the cast-iron, since Mom only had Teflon other than that and I worried I couldn’t get it hot enough to get a good sear, but I think it all worked out.
The verdict: Next year, I want to do at least this much cooking, if not more (homemade rolls, anyone?). While it wasn’t necessarily as traditional as years past, it was nice to have some bright flavors and fresh veggies on the plate. Lots of color and texture. And you know what? After this year, I’m looking forward to one day, probably quite a few years from now, when I can host the whole shebang, and cook the whole meal in my own kitchen. A girl can dream.