Thanksgiving is one day when my family does not welcome change, they take comfort in knowing what is to be expected. The routine proceeding the big day with respect to planning, shopping and preparing the meal is a fundamental part of the holiday. This need for consistency at this time translates into having the same menu year after year.
The lineup has been refined yet largely unchanged for the past decade. We look forward to hosting Thanksgiving meal at our home when in California; the past two years on the east coast with family so as to spare La Levitt the nightmarish journey west during the most dreaded weekend for travel of the year. I mean, why should she suffer the indignities of holiday travel when her father and I are willing to.
Early each November I start by reviewing the notes from previous years Thanksgiving and start the shopping. Time to order the turkeys and gather all non-perishable items. We always serve two smaller sized turkeys as I prefer the flavor of a smaller bird; not to mention that the drumstick and thigh count doubles. Preparation of the birds strictly follows a method I learned from the Zuni Cafe cookbook in their preparation of chicken. When at home Mio Marito fires up the forno and roasts the two turkeys outdoors.
The obligatory pasta course, come on I’m Italian, a butternut squash filled ravioli is done early Thanksgiving morning with Mio Marito as capo along with a family friend, His Lordship riding shotgun. La Levitt is quite skilled as a pastaio (pasta maker) and looks forward to performing this ritual with her childhood friend, or when in the old country the cousins in New Jersey.
Pies are mandatory Thanksgiving fare, far too many pies. I like to prepare the pastry for the crusts about a week or so before the holiday and store in the freezer. The uncooked pie crusts are removed from the freezer on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and placed into the refrigerator. Wednesday morning the crusts are rolled out and positioned in their respective tins; the tops are rolled into flat discs and laid on a baking sheet – all back to the fridge until early evening. The pies are filled, popped into the oven, and set out to cool overnight (don’t be silly there is absolutely no dinner prepared that evening, Chinese take out of course). Apple, pecan, and pumpkin pies, each guest had their favorite. Trattoria pears, a few Fig Biscotti add to the bounty at the dessert table.
The festivities begin with Prosecco or TrentoDOC Spumante and some Italian-inspired nibbles in the living room. Generally this ritual goes on for some time, giving our family and extended family a chance to chat and connect. And let’s be perfectly honest, a little sparkling wine (Prosecco or TrentoDOC) tends to help take the holiday edge off (oh, you know what I mean don’t you!).
Let the meal begin! The pillows of pasta are dropped into a huge pot of boiling water, plated and adorned with butter, sage and Parmigiano.
The main event or secondi – the turkeys, dressing, vegetable dishes, salads, did I mention the mashed potatoes? A heavenly concoction of russet and Yukon golds lightly mashed with heaps of farm butter and cream. The mashed potatoes are the most requested dish at my table and generally eaten by La Levitt’s friends after a Black Friday shopping spree. Our cranberry relish, once again an old standby recipe from the Bromberg brothers of Blue Ribbon, New York City; no other cranberry dish hold a candle to this one.
The mere mention of a change or adjustment results in dramatic sighs of disappointment from my family and our loving guests. Although I often yearn to try new recipes to add to our table, we somehow take comfort in what we know and depend upon. Food makes memories and creates wonderful long lasting associations over the years. Whatever your tradition for Thanksgiving may be, share it with those you love and make some food memories of your own.
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Looking for more Thanksgiving ideas from La Bella Sorella?
- Wild Mushrooms in a Package
- Pumpkin Cake with Rosemary
- Creamless Mushroom Soup
- Tuscan Grape Harvest Cake
- Sweet & Sour Butternut Squash
- Farro with Roasted Butternut Squash
- Fig Biscotti