How Not to Lose Your Mind on Thanksgiving; Two Great Wine Dinners at Restaurant North; the Perfect Thanksgiving Hostess Gift: Marzipan Harvest Candies from Boiano Bakery

So, here it is, just November 15 and I’ve already had to talk two friends down from the ledge. Why? It turns out, they were losing their minds over having to cook Thanksgiving dinner. People! Get a hold of yourselves!



Thanksgiving, or, Step Away from that Ledge!

So, here it is, just November 15 and I’ve already had to talk two friends down from the ledge. Why? It turns out, they were losing their minds over having to cook Thanksgiving dinner. People! Get a hold of yourselves! This meal was cooked by your grannies, who were just little old ladies in floral crossover aprons and comfortable shoes. These grannies cooked without reliable ovens, microwaves, or even orange-flamed Kitchen Aid mixers, and, let’s just pause and think about their kitchens. Ten bucks, your granny had a tiny Formica counter, and there are you are, all bitching and moaning, as you belly up to an ocean of granite. Okay? And, let’s look at that Thanksgiving meal. It’s all about boiling or roasting stuff, then plopping it into serving dishes, and calling it a day. On Thanksgiving, no one is asking you to pan-sear 15 servings of foie gras, flicking it with its own fat until it’s perfectly rare, as you simultaneously whip up 15 sauces. In cooking, as far as challenges go, Thanksgiving Dinner is a snap.

So, sit down, take a few breaths and, sure, pour yourself that glass of wine.

The sad thing is that, right now, there are several manned Thanksgiving hotlines http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blhelp5.htm for feast-related emergencies. I just imagine apron-wearing spoon-holders, all over America, standing in the middle of bridges and reaching out via red phone—am I the only one who obsesses about the red bridge phone?

I’m just saying, don’t find yourself on November 22 in the middle of the Tappan Zee, grease-spattered and crying on the red bridge phone. Here are EDP’s tips for a sane and delicious Thanksgiving.

•           Don’t buy a massive turkey. Giant turkeys are likelier to be dried out before they’re fully cooked. Remember: there is a lot of other, way more delicious food at this meal. The bird is sort of like a mahogany-breasted figurehead that people ooh and aah over for a couple of minutes (then, a few days later, it’s the first thing to hit the trash).

•           Try to buy a fresh (rather than frozen) turkey because ice crystals damage the cell walls of meat. That pinkish, icy poultry slurry that drains from a defrosting turkey would probably be more attractive if left inside the bird. Just sayin’.

•           Brine your turkey overnight on the day before Thanksgiving. Now, you can get fancy here or you can go simple, but you need to do it. So just suck it up.

•           Salt and butter are your friends. Don’t listen to your stupid doctor.

•           When you buy your turkey (or better yet, a week or two before), snag two or three extra turkey wings and make a turkey stock. Use this for your gravy and to moisten your stuffing.

•           The power position in the Thanksgiving meal is stuffing and gravy. Go all out to make these things excellent. Remember: no one ever won glory with string beans amandine.

•           Don’t cook your stuffing inside the bird. By the time your stuffing is hot (and safe from that unwelcome holiday guest, salmonella), your turkey breast has the mouth-feel of sawdust.

•           Make your gravy ahead because smart people plan to be well buzzed by gravy-making time.

•           Tunes. Look, you’re cooking, so you get to choose the playlist. Think of cooking Thanksgiving dinner as an opportunity to listen to your favorite music, even Patsy Cline, really loud, and screw everyone else.

•           Roast everything, and I mean everything: Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, yams, turnips, parsnips—the whole deal. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper—and don’t stint with seasoning. Let them get good and caramelized in a 400°F to 450°F oven.

•           Brussels sprouts and bacon are a marriage made in heaven—it’s a good idea to allow them to hook up during this meal.

•           No one who can legally vote should ever be served marshmallows at a dinner table. End of story.

•           Cornbread is easier and faster to make than risen yeast bread, and, when it’s baked in a cast-iron skillet with the fat that you’ve rendered off the Brussels sprouts bacon, it’s pretty damn amazing.

•           Mashed potatoes are the Thanksgiving common denominator. Don’t stint on salt, cream, and butter. I’m telling you, that doctor of yours is a jerk.

•           Take pleasure in the process. Stop and enjoy the flatulent sound of the jellied cranberry sauce as it slides from the can.

•           For the actual, non-jellied cranberry sauce that people have the nerve to serve themselves, don’t use more than one bag of cranberries. Diners only take a teaspoon of the stuff, and you usually wind up scraping that off their plates, anyway.

•           For dessert, just remember that those tiered cake stands are just stripper poles for bakers. Come dessert time, your overstuffed audience is just looking for an excuse to barf, so keep the selection and servings of dessert both pretty and small.

Feel any better? I knew that you would. And if you find yourself freaking out on Turkey Day, just pour yourself a drink and drop me an email on the Eaterline jsextoneater@gmail.com. We’ll sit, we’ll drink, and we’ll work through this thing together.

 

HotDates: Two Great Wine Dinners at Restaurant North

Okay, now is that ugly time of year defined by Black Friday and “door-buster sales” when holiday shoppers run around with their eyes rolling around in their skulls, trampling each other, so desperate are they to buy themselves deeper in debt. Whatever. I recommend that, instead of losing your mind to holiday shopping, you hit one of these excellent wine dinners at Armonk’s Restaurant North, holder of a Slow Food Metro North Snail of Approval. I chatted with North’s Stephen Paul Mancini about the two dinners, and this is what he said: “If I had to sum up each dinner it would be like this: Foley—I did harvest with him in 2007 and I was in California as a young sommelier for a total of five hours and the conversation came up, “stupid things that I have done while tripping on acid”. The Foley dinner will be a little of a ‘Kegger.’ Palmer—I like to wear suits. Both will be epic as they are some of the most prestigious wineries in the world. Things like this don’t often happen in Westchester.”

Robert Foley at Restaurant North

December 4

$150 (tax and gratuity included)

Food & Wine magazine’s “Winemaker of the Year,” Robert Foley, will be at North–he is the maker of a vintage judged “virtually perfect: 99 points” by Robert Parker. Says Stephen Paul Mancini of Foley, “He is arguably the most important American-born winemaker of all time.” A tasting menu will be paired with Foley whites and reds, as well as the Redhood Winery white wines made by Robert Foley. Redhook lost its entire winery during Hurricane Sandy. Call Restaurant North for reservations, (914) 273-8686.

 

Chateau Palmer at Restaurant North

December 5

$199.00 per person (exclusive of tax and gratuity)

Chateau Palmer, the famed Bordeaux house (founded in 1748, and part of the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855) will be visiting North on December 5. From the restaurant’s Facebook post, “What a week!!!” Says Mancini, this is “arguably one of the most important wine houses in all of Bordeaux.” Look for back vintages to be poured and paired with courses. Make reservations through Daniel Posner of Grapes The Wine Company, (914) 397-WINE.

 

HotPlate: Marzipan Harvest Fruits and Veg from Mamaroneck’s Boiano Bakery

Here’s what I love about these cute, naïve sculptures made with almond-scented marzipan. In a sea of all-brown Thanksgiving desserts—we’re talking pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, and sweet potato pie, a veritable world of brown—these things jump out and grab you by the throat. They’re the perfect offering, if you’re lucky enough to dodge cooking. Pick them up today at Boiano Bakery, 258 Mamaroneck Avenue, Mamaroneck (914) 698-2070.

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