Woody: “Sergeant, establish a recon post downstairs. Code Red! You know what to do.”
Sarge: “Yes, sir!”
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(to the soldiers) “All right, men. You heard him. Code Red! Repeat, we are at Code Red! Recon plan Charlie. Execute! Let's move! Move, move, move, move!” ~ Toy Story (Woody orders Sarge to spy on Andy's birthday presents)
This afternoon, with the first snow of the season starting to fall, the nail salon was eerily quiet. Save for the two older women in their 70's sitting next to me in their pedicure chairs. And oh my goodness, how they made me smile
As they talked, I couldn't help but think of everyone out there, this weekend before Thanksgiving. Standing tall, scribbling lists, sorting through supplies, counting bottles of wine in the basement, and squashing our fears.
If it's a sin to covet honor, consider us the most offending souls alive.
In between choosing things like the perfect shade of red, and whether they felt like a glass of wine or water, I listened in as they compared notes on their plan of action for the week ahead.
Settle on the Thanksgiving menu
Not that we'll need it, but just in case. For fixing a disaster: Food and Wine
Pick up the turkey and put it in the fridge, either to keep or to thaw. If you're brining your bird, you can do that on Tuesday. No need to worry about that now
Shopping? Divide and conquer is the best plan of attack. No need to do it all at once.
Spend an afternoon power-shopping for things that will keep for several days in the pantry or fridge. Think onions, apples, cranberries, potatoes, some veggies, eggs, butter (lots!) and flours (all-purpose if you're a pie crust maker, and something finely milled for gravy that won't clump). Herbs and other perishables? On Tuesday or Wednesday's list
While you're in the butcher's aisle, ask about turkey wings. Pick up a few and make some stock over the weekend. You'll be really glad you did come Thursday
Oh, and the drinks. Plan a trip to Costco for things like sparkling water, wine, beer, whiskey, and bourbon
On to everything else on the entertaining checklist. How are you for plates and settings, glasses, platters, pitchers, candles, and chairs? And then there are considerations like the playlist, house cleaning, centerpieces, and plastic containers for left-overs.
As their pretty new toes dried, and they happily talked of grandchildren, I was reminded that this isn't all we'll tackle in the days to come. Friends and family will soon begin their trek from far and wide, setting up temporary residency in guest rooms and living room sofas.
It's not just the Thanksgiving meal that many of us will prepare for. Instead, we're ramping up for a multi-day food cooking marathon
If there's one thing, I look forward to every year during the holidays; it's stuffing. In all of my years, I've eaten many varieties, and have yet to run across one where I haven't gone back for seconds.
A lot of the families I've celebrated Thanksgiving with seem to stick pretty close to their ritual. I often wonder if that's why cooks are so thankful for stuffing, the one dish they can really play around with.
For most of us, the minimum ingredients are few: bread cubes, a hint of aromatics for flavor, and a stock of some sort to keep it moist. A recipe for a blank canvas if there ever was one.
Here, a savory stuffing that's rich, yet light. It's teeming with fresh herbs, winter squash, brussels sprouts, and good bread.
Most memorable is its texture: the bread soaks up the broth and then puffs up in the oven, creating a stuffing with a thick, crispy top and fluffy, almost pudding-like interior.
~ Adapted from Food52
Holiday Stuffing with Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Apples
- 1 lb butternut squash, cubed
- 1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
- 1 large apple, cut into a ½" dice
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 10 slices bread of choice: crusty sourdough, dry cornbread, whole grain, or, if you are gluten-free, any bread of your choice. (Before preparing the recipe, leave bread out for a day to become slightly dry, and then cut into cubes)
- 1 ½ cup vegetable broth + extra as needed
- 4 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped fine
- 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped fine
- 2 tsp fresh sage chopped fine
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup pecans (or walnuts)
- fine-grain sea salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400° degrees.
- Prepare a baking vessel (roughly the size of a 9x13" pan)
- Toss the squash, brussels sprouts, apples, and shallots in 2 tbsp oil and season well with sea salt and pepper.
- Roast until the vegetables are very tender, and remove from oven (~ 30-35 min)
- Reduce oven heat to 350° F
- Heat the other 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pot, over medium-high.
- Sauté the onion and celery, until translucent (~ 5-8 min).
- Add the bread cubes, and continue to sauté until the bread is golden brown.
- Add a strong pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Combine the roasted vegetables, toasted bread cubes, vegetable broth, cranberries, pecans, and seasonings.
- Stir the mix till the broth has almost entirely absorbed in the toasted bread.
- Transfer to a baking dish and bake at 350° F for about 20 minutes.
- Serve hot