Thanksgiving has never been a normal holiday for me. The tradition of tradition never fully formed, rather my tradition is to do something new almost every year. Scotland thanksgiving in a dorm kitchen. Late night turkey dinners in the outskirts of Florence. Drives into the Adirondacks to pseudo-log cabins to an almost frozen lake. Army supplied turkey in a studio apartment high above the Seoul streets. Turkey with family and friends. It really never looks the same.
This year, yet again, my plans began to unravel as my schedule made me work a late night Thanksgiving eve and an early morning the day after. So, with around 24 hours to spare to myself, I had to decide, what would I do? Stay home in Brooklyn and essentially take up what would become the most typical American Thanksgiving ever – sleep in, eat, drink, nap, watch too much T.V., pass out, wake up to eat more pie, finally sleep until morning – or go home to do much of the same, just surrounded by family and animals?
When I woke up at 10:30am, I knew my decision had been made: lazy America here I come.
I, however, couldn’t be overly lazy. Who am I to wake up and never leave the house? My daily agenda has run, write, bike to work, work, and clean on it almost daily. So to erase all of that just down to “eat” would be a little drastic and insensitive. With a quick personal Turkey trot out of the way, and a wonderful meeting of friends from years past (see: I ate Thanksgiving with her in Italy) on the steps of the Brooklyn Museum, I set off to the grocery store.
Granted, the day before I luckily carried money with me on a run in the morning and ran into a pop-up pre-Thanksgiving farmers market right by Prospect Park. It was, dare I say, almost magical. I loaded up with twenty dollars of produce (see: a bag of root vegetables, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Apples (I was hungry for the now, too)). I also snagged an apple cider donut. The vendor asked “sugar or cake” “Sugar, please.” “That’s right, because sugar is so good for you after a run, right?” “Stop judging me, I want sugar.”
I still can’t believe I told him to stop judging me. He chuckled, I think.
At the grocery store, I must have lost consciousness or had a momentary bout of amnesia because I walked out with six bags of groceries and plans for six or seven dishes. On a normal Thanksgiving, that wouldn’t be too awfully crazy and hedonistic, but I was cooking for two, or three.
It was no later than two when I got home, unloaded groceries, put away the dried dishes, and started to chop my first onion. As opposed to my past dinner parties of flurry and fury and frantic last minute bouts of flash roasting – this was incredibly sustained, contained, and almost routine. With a Radiolab podcast teaching me about Patient Zeros (Typhoid Mary was a cook, didn’t you know?), I went through a pound of butter, five onions, a pound of Brussels Sprouts, a box of chicken stock, and made the house smell incredible for just three of us.
Come 5:30, I was ready. The oven kicked down from 350 to 200, and I anxiously awaited the doorbell.
Alas, by 6:45, it was two of us. My other companion had been held up by other turkeys and more mashed potatoes in bowls and on plates somewhere much north of me near to the infamous hipsterville. No matter, every Thanksgiving has a new tradition, and this one was simply to sit, take a deep breath of calm, sip on new wine, and strategically maneuver through too much food.
With Brussles Sprouts braised in Mustard, a White Bean Gratin, String Beans with Panko and Baby Portabellas, Roasted Spicy Fennel, Root Mash, Familial Stuffing, and two Spiced Pumpkin Maple Pies on the table, there was a lot to be thankful for and a lot of lying down after to do. Complaining or second guessing was no where to be found.
Here is my Thanksgiving menu. I hope you enjoyed yours, despite the cold or the traffic or the relatives that just wouldn’t stop pestering you about your new job or the one you can’t find anymore – there is too much to be Thankful for to ruin such a good day of food and relaxation.
Roasted Fennel (Salt, Red Pepper Flake, Olive Oil)
White Bean Gratin (White Beans, Onion, Kale, Garlic, Lemon, Salt, Pepper, Herbs de Provence, Cayenne, Panko, Olive Oil)
Stuffing (Bag-O-Crutons, Breakfast sausage, onions, butter, celery, carrots, Kale, Pepper, Chicken Stock, Red Wine)
Root Mash (Carrots, Rutabaga, Fingerlings, Russets, Parsnips, Milk, Butter, Salt, Pepper, Garlic)
Green Beans (Baby Portabellas, Green Onion, Oil, Salt, Pepper, Cayenne, Butter, Panko)
French Brussels (Brussels Sprouts, Onion, Garlic, Chicken Stock, Rice Wine Vinegar, Salt, Dijon)
Spiced Pumpkin Pie (Pumpkin, Milk, Maple Syrup, Nutmeg, Cloves, Cardamom, Salt, Ginger, Ginger Snaps, Butter, Salt)
Beaujolais Nouveau 2012
Malbec Mendoza 2011
White Bean Gratin (quick and easy way)
2 cans of white beans (Northern Beans)
1 Onion (chopped)
3 Cloves of Garlic (diced)
Six or so leaves of Tuscan Kale (flat leaves)
½ Lemon (the juice is what you’re looking for)
Rice Wine Vinegar
Two Dashes of Cayenne
Four Dashes of Herbs de Provence
Pre-heat the oven to 350.
On medium-high heat, sautee the chopped onion and diced garlic until the onions start to loose their color. Add the Kale, and let it them wilt. Mix together the beans, cayenne, and Herbs in a separate bowl with the Kale is weeping. When the Kale has lost almost a quarter of their size (water weight), add the bean mixture. Let sautee for a few minutes and add the acids (lemon juice and vinegar – don’t use other vinegars. If you don’t have rice wine, it’s all good). Salt this mixture. I like salt, so I make it rain. If you don’t, don’t add as much.
Transfer this all to a casserole dish or something safe to head into the oven. In that bowl you mixed the beans and Herbs together in, empty about ¾ cup of Panko Bread Crumbs and 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Throw these on top of the bean-kale fiasco, and bake if off for about 30-45 minutes (let that top get crusty and golden brown. Serve immediately.