Thanksgiving 2016

I have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner ever since I moved to Chicago. In the beginning my roommates and I all chipped in with preparing the annual dinner (why did the oven always seem to break on Thanksgiving morning?) Once I moved out I started hosting for the other folks, like me, whose job or other commitments prevented them from taking any more time off than just the holiday. After a few years those commitments went away and I was able to take that time off and concentrate more time on planning the annual dinner. My guest list was now filled with friends and it wasn’t long before I started to think beyond the traditional dinner of turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes … and while I do love that tradition and that traditional food, I tend to think non-traditional even if I do serve turkey. Instead of a whole bird I might do something like Braised Turkey Thighs, a nice option especially when all of my guests prefer dark meat. I start by thinking of a theme, like “Modern Scandinavian” or “Pub Crawl”, and build my menu around that. I serve my dinners restaurant style, as opposed to buffet or family-style and take on almost all of the cooking. Friends are typically tasked with ordering the flowers or bringing the booze. I don’t typically reveal the theme, instead I hope that my friends feel the warmth and appreciation of the gathering and love the food for what it is: a reflection of my affection for cooking and for them.

Vintner & vintage of Champagne and wines yet to be determined

Welcome
Champagne toast
Duck breast rumaki, uncured wild Cherrywood bacon

Amuse bouche
Caesar salad, Parmesan tuile, garlic-butter crouton
Continue Champagne

Soup
Prawn bisque, spicy oyster crackers

Main & sides
Prime rib au jus, 3 sauces
Gratin of spinach
Thrice-baked potatoes
Fried onion ‘cake’ with spicy barbecue aioli
Duck fat popovers, butter

Dessert
Fallen chocolate cake, glazing sugar, pomegranate redux
Coffee: Peet’s Italian roast

“Cigar”
Trio of handmade Martha Washington candies
Cognac: Grand Marnier 100 year old cuvee

Method of the week: Wedge salad

The recipe is in the method: make the dressing, cut the lettuce, dress the lettuce. Easy peasy

Method
Puree 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup blue cheese crumbles, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 peeled shallot, zest from 1 lemon, juice from half the zested lemon, 3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce, a handful of parsley, a big pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade … conversely, mince the shallot and parsley and whisk together with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl

Cut 2 chilled Boston lettuce into quarters. Plate 2 wedges among 4 chilled salad plates and divide the dressing over each serving

Press 3 hard cooked eggs through a fine mesh strainer with the back of a dinner tablespoon (you just made an egg mimosa)

Garnish the wedges with egg mimosa and crispy bacon

 

Tom’s Tips: Super Bowl 50

Tom’s Tips are my favorite techniques and tips from the kitchen

Still at a loss as to what to serve at your Super Bowl party? Maybe you’ve grown weary of chili (the national dish for The Super Bowl) but don’t despair your party can still be the hit of the neighborhood (especially since everyone will be at your place!) I have a boatload of party-approved, easy-to prepare dishes and drinks that will make yours the party everyone will remember. You can make it doubly easy on yourself by sharing this list and assigning your friends, family and neighbors the task of preparing them. Now that’s a Super Bowl party worth cheering for!

Main courses
Chili – I’m not leaving this out just because you might be ready for something new. My Texas chili is true of form – meat and spices – and requires overnight refrigeration so you still have time

Pizza – You can achieve pizza dough AND pizza sauce in as much time as it takes to order for delivery and it could very well become your favorite

Calzones – Take pizza to the next level by turning your pizza dough into calzones

Di rigueur – if you serve nothing else, you need to at least have some pickles and some cheese … in the following formats, please. It doesn’t show much in the way of caring if you open some jars and unwrap a block of cheese and call it ‘snacks’

Relish tray

Cheeseboard

Hors d’oeuvres – A little fussier, but I’m into that – individual appetizers to serve on big platters

Potato skins

Deviled eggs

Kettle chips with bacon and blue cheese

Buffalo wings with homemade blue cheese dressing

Bacon wrapped dates

Fried cheese sticks with marinara

Shrimp scampi stuffed mushrooms

Dips – Don’t forget the dip!

Cold spinach dip with pineapple bread

Baba ganoush

Hot artichoke dip

Crab Rangoon dip

Creamy sausage dip

Two sandwiches

Famous Turkey Swiss with olive salad sandwich

Stromboli

Three Salads

Deli mac salad

Deli potato salad

Chopped salad

Drinks – beer is an easy go to, just don’t fall into a false-sense of needs by ordering a keg unless you’re hosting at a college fraternity or have over 100 people imbibing

Homemade ginger ale

Any juice Mimosa

3 way on the beach

Margarita

Dessert – Some guests just won’t forgive you if you don’t have something sweet, especially if their team doesn’t win

Best of class brownies

Chocolate covered pretzel rods

Chocolate chip cookies

Marshmallow cereal bars

Peanut butter balls

Go Team!