thankful. and full.

I’m not afraid of cooking. Give me a recipe and I’ll try anything. The kitchen is my favorite room. But Thanksgiving, well, that’s not just cooking. That’s the meal – the meal that nearly everyone claims as their favorite. The one that they wait all year for, and if it stinks, you have to wait another year to erase the memory.

Yesterday we hosted our first Thanksgiving with my in-laws. So everyone can be together, they typically celebrate on a different day. This year, I offered to host and truthfully, couldn’t have been more excited to do so.

The sides, which have always been my favorite part, didn’t scare me – the 12 lb bird did. It’s the size and timing that made me nervous, and deciding the best way to prepare it. I settled on Michael Symon’s recipe via Food & Wine but ultimately decided it may have been too much, so instead tried a more traditional route with his turkey 101 recipe from his cookbook. As for the rest, I made: cauliflower cakes, manchego and olive oil mashed potatoes, butternut squash and roasted garlic cassoulet, pancetta and fennel stuffing with challah (from On The Rise), braised carrots with thyme, sage and shallots and the best gravy ever with homemade turkey stock via an old Gourmet recipe.

I was prepped with my recipe, dry-brined bird stuffed with aromatics and herbs, roasting pan and digital thermometer (love this tool). I was ready… but not for the timer to go off an hour before anticipated. Yep, the thermometer said 165 so out it came. But the juices in the cavity still looked pink. I panicked. My gut said it was done given that the thermometer was in the right place and that’s the sure test. But the juice! I had visions of my first holiday wrapping up in the ER. This was a turkey emergency. I called my friend Heidi, who was actually my guide throughout all the prep and such an amazing help. I even sent a text to Symon. Turns out the bird was indeed done. Apparently, it’s perfectly normal for fresh birds to be a little pink like that. In the end, the turkey was cooked beautifully and all else came out great, too.

Besides a house full of food, family and a winning Browns’ game, the best part of this holiday was the two full days of cooking before hand. My oldest daughter “helped” me get everything ready. We had our aprons on, Christmas music blasting in the background and took several “dance party” breaks. It was awesome. And that’s what I am thankful for this holiday, and always. My husband, our two beautiful girls and memories like this.

Mild panic attack aside, I think our first Thanksgiving was a success – and I’m looking forward to many more. Can’t think of anything better than a house full of those you love, drinking wine and breaking bread. Together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

3 Comments

  1. heatha262
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Awww….I can picture you girls with your aprons dancing around while cooking. What great memories you’re creating.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. peltz.allison
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    i’m inviting myself over next time. mashed potatoes AND stuffing – sounds heavenly.

  3. whcohen
    Posted November 23, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Try the December Food and Wine recipe for macaroons from NYC’s Danny Macaroons. Wow!