I left Seattle at dawn last Friday to begin my turkey trot; Olive, travel crate and book (Mary Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You) in hand.
I whispered a little goodbye as I locked the Nest door and joined the Friday-before-Thanksgiving travelers at Sea-Tac. Let’s just say everything that could happen, did happen: thanks to Delta’s new policy about dog travel it was forty minutes before I even got into the security line (we were funneled into the ‘special services’ line where she had to be weighed — and I had to pay $125 for that privilege — but thank God just her, how would THAT feel before Thanksgiving!), heightened security (three bins, no shoes, three times through the x-ray machine, dog then without leash and they pulled us out for a ‘security check’ on my computer. I laughed.), and a pet relief area in Minneapolis that consisted of two paper pads. I took a deep breath and left the building, granted Olive a gigantic pee on some respectable gravel, and then went back into the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport security line two hundred people deep to repeat the process for my connecting flight. Good times.
Now I have rolled up my mental sleeves. Because of my dedication to fresh ingredients (including fresh roasted pumpkin for the pie) the turkey has more fun than me most years. I have always done the lion’s share of the cooking on the actual day, and arrive at the table a frazzled, ungrateful heap.
But over the years I have come to realize that a LOT of that prep can be staged ahead of time. That it really isn’t all that much fun or realistic to expect everyone to ‘all lend a hand’ on Thanksgiving morning, especially when three legal-aged children have been out all night for the traditional holiday meet + greet at the local bars. They really don’t want to get out of bed, much less peel piles of unrelenting teensy-tiny white boiling onions and slippery dirty potatoes for Grandad’s favorite dish when they need coffee and lots of it.
This year I am determined to enjoy the day, maybe take my apron off two hours before sitting at the table. To do this, I have to have a militant approach to the countdown.
So arrival night I prepared my state of mind and enjoyed a delightful Manhattan at a local restaurant. The travel experience may have had a little to do with this re-entry. Let the holiday begin.
Day #1, Sunday, with help in hand, I hit two supermarkets with a two-paged list. Empty wallet time.
Fun fact: I need five dozen eggs and five pounds of butter for this week. I did NOT say this was a diet holiday. Some of that is for scrambled eggs. Really.
Day#2, Monday, I made everything that would keep for the week: Cranberry Preserves with Ginger, Orange and Cognac, Lemon Curd, defrosted the pumpkin puree (roasted and froze in bags in October), baked a few tea breads for breakfasts. I would have done the pie crusts but I have been told two daughters are in charge of dessert. Delegating is another secret to success this year. Yahoo!
Oh yes. I bought my first crock pot and made my first pulled pork for Monday night football. Should have put more hot sauce in as the game was a snooze. A pic from Al’s Hot Butt BBQ House.
Day#3 dawns. Sea-Tac is a long-ago memory. I am focused: Tuesday will be about prep — cleaning brussels sprouts, peel and bag butternut squash, peel the teensy-tiny white onions, refresh liquor cabinet, then review the grocery list one last time (grocery shopping on the day before Thanksgiving simply cannot happen), get the bedding ready for overnight guests. I hear there is a Tapas dinner out with family friends. Yeah.
Cranberry Preserves with Orange, Fresh Ginger + Cognac
Place 4 cups fresh cranberries, 6 tablespoons sugar (I like tart, put in a few more if you like sweet), two tablespoons fine chopped + peeled fresh ginger, one seeded orange chopped well — including rind — and finally 2 cups water in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil.
When you hear the skins popping, turn heat down to a rolling simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from the stove and stir in 1/4 cup cognac or Grand Marnier (or more if you like the flavor to dominate!). Place into a clean container with airtight lid or canning jars. You can absolutely make this a week before Thanksgiving or the day-of. Just allow to cool and gel, then refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Makes two jam jars plus a little left over to put in a jelly dish and sample later with cream cheese and Triscuits…