With only a few days left until Thanksgiving, hopefully, you've already got some semblance of a game plan for your celebration of turkey or turkey substitutes. But in the event that you haven't made a master plan already, I figured I would offer a few of my favorite TDay traditions. Of course, I have done the holiday in a variety of ways from guest to co-host, and usually a co-cook for the meal, which is never enjoyed in my tiny apartment. In fact, when I cook, we're usually feasting at my parents' place, and whether I crash there the night before or show up in the morning, I do usually leave the turkey to my mom, cuz it's just easier that way. So my tips on turkey-mastery are rather limited. The one year that I was responsible for it, I took a page from Martha Stewart and stuffed the cavity with citrus fruits and some herbs and it did give us a very moist bird. But here are some other tips, that I find handy in any situation.
Where to spend the holiday?
So, as a native New Yorker, who still lives in New York, it's usually pretty simple--with the family, it is. But during tense family times, I've often wished that I were a transplant and could just do a Friendsgiving, rather than suffering through awkward silence and dried poultry. Fortunately, I can really only recall one or two of these events with my family. What I would say is this: weigh your options, and go wherever there will be the least amount of stress for you. People make a lot of jokes about their racist or creepy family members, and this is not a thing that I really have to deal with in my family, but we did have a stressful thanksgiving recently because we didn't just cook the meal ourselves. And for a holiday that's very centered on food, for a foodie, it's quite a disaster to have a mediocre meal at a restaurant that has absolutely no holiday vibe to it at all. So, if you're going to eat out, make sure that not only will the food be tasty and thanksgivingy, but that there's a sense of home and warmth--if there's a fireplace, book it! Here are a few that I suggest if you're in New York City: The Cornelia Street Cafe is a great old spot in the Village and has a great room--with a fireplace in the back. The Landmark Tavern is a great spot with a lot of history in Hell's Kitchen and we've enjoyed their Thanksgiving menu a couple of times in the past. Maialino is a newer spot, but has enough of a rustic Italian feel that I think it's a good spot, plus I'm sure the food is delicious! Finally, I can't vouch for the food here, but the menu looks good and it certainly does fit the bill of an Americana holiday...Ralph Lauren's new The Polo Bar will be offering a Thanksgiving menu, as long as you stick to the dress code! And if you're in the city as a tourist, and you'd like to check out some fun in Hell's Kitchen, you can book one of the last fall tours of the year!
What do I cook?
Okay, if you don't know what your menu is by now, you're really cutting it close! For me, the menu has been dictated by my farm share. With the addition of stuffing and dessert, which is being taken care of by my mother, in addition to the turkey. Now, if you don't want to cook a turkey, that's fine--there are plenty of great alternatives. Just be sure that your guests are made aware and are on board for a gobble-less feast. There are many things that we expect to see on the table come the last Thursday in November, but they don't have to be exactly the same every year for everyone. I personally have to have oral surgery on Wednesday, so I'll be dining on mashed potatoes and ice cream. But I plan on having some delicious leftovers. This is the menu for the Cooper clan this year: Kale, Brussels Sprouts, Apple, and Hazelnut Salad; Whole Roasted Turkey (obv); Gravy; Creamed Collard Greens; Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes; Tart Cranberry Apple Salsa; Traditional Stuffing; Pie; Butter Pecan Ice Cream. Some of my other favorite alternative dishes are savory bread puddings, green beans with hazelnuts, whipped butternut squash, sweet potato and turnip gratin. If you ask me, though, the best things to cook are whatever is in season where you are and things that you like.
What do I drink?
If you're not in charge of cooking, but you've been tasked with bringing wine--or you're just a guest who doesn't want to show up empty-handed, there are many articles out there with all sorts of pairing suggestions. From sparkling to cabernets to ports to wash down those desserts, there are hundreds of wonderful suggestions out there. But, here's my tip: buy a bottle or two of whatever YOUR favorite CHEAP wine is. No one will drink it, you'll get to enjoy your fave bottle, and everyone else will be sharing the pricey wine on the table, cuz that's just what people do! I personally grab a couple bottles of the current Beaujolais Nouveau, and thoroughly enjoy the light, fruity, and very drinkable wine that pairs with pretty much anything. It's cheap and no one else every drinks it! When I took a wine class years ago from the great Kevin Zraly, he said that the worst thing to do for the holidays is to bring out your fine wines, because then they'll just drink them, and not appreciate them. This is exactly how I avoid that! ;) Sneaky, I know.
We've eaten, I'm full, now what?
Well, if you'd like, you can take a walk. It may seem impossible, but a nice bit of fresh air and some exercise will help you digest the food, and you'll feel better--especially if that walk is to the liquor store or something. If you're sick of your family, that's an even better reason to go fo a walk--without them. Or you could phone a friend and see if they're looking to feed booze to people like you. Obviously, movies are also a great option, especially funny ones--laughing burns calories! My family used to always watch Best in Show on Thanksgiving--perhaps it'll make a comeback this year! Whatever you do, don't sleep! You've just eaten a ton of food, your body will think that you're going into hibernation mode if you sleep after, and that means FAT storage! So, stay awake and try to be a little active, play a game, if you'd like! Anything that will keep your brain alive for at least another 3 hours. After that, you can rest before you go shopping for Black Friday super sales...I don't know, I guess it's a thing that people do, but I pass.
Lastly, ENJOY! We've had a fair share of sad days lately, and they don't seem to be letting up anytime soon. So, no matter your politics, embrace the ones you love, laugh with them and eat and drink without the stress of gift-giving!