October 2010

How To Host Thanksgiving Dinner For Foodies

Author: Mary Frances Lowrey

At the last second I was asked to pen a story about Thanksgiving. I would like to think I was asked because I am a super hostess with culinary skills that make my guests pine for an invite to enjoy a dinner cooked by me. The truth is I am the daughter-in-law of the lady who has something to do with this publication; someone was sick and missed their deadline, and I was asked to help out. How do you say no to your mother-in-law? (Very gently!)

Yet, I have hosted my share of Thanksgiving feasts and no one became ill. To be quite honest, I have cooked Thanksgiving for family and friends for 11 out of 13 years of marriage. However, cooking Thanksgiving dinner is not the normal cooking for guests, because there is the added pressure of including traditions and memories and recipes of those who have come before you—even people you have never met, such as Great Grandma who always cooked the perfect pumpkin pie.

My initial undertaking of the holiday feast would make even the great hostesses of the South shudder, because I not only cooked for the precious only child of my mother-in-law, but I also cooked for Foodies! You know—people who buy ingredients that the rest of us have never even heard of and people who dine in restaurants where the food is rated and written about in newspapers and cuisine magazines. Well, those people would be my in-laws.

I should give a quick back story. I have 10 siblings, and I was at the end of the birth order. So what? That means I was never old enough to cook (or drive, but that is something else). I was only old enough to set the tables, yet still never old enough to sit at the grown-up table at Thanksgiving. Then, by some cruel joke, I married a great guy with great parents whom I would consider FOODIES. But an even crueler joke was played on me because these foodies also own some of the best restaurants in the Lowcountry, and my sweet husband refused to eat a holiday meal in a restaurant. He said he wanted holiday meals where his parents could relax and not be working. That is how I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner for very experienced diners. So, this is how you cook Thanksgiving for foodies:

BE YOUNG AND DUMB
My first holiday feast was basic at best. A newlywed, I was more excited about using my fine china and sterling silverware than I was about the food itself. The turkey was dry and the stuffing came from a bag. The potatoes were soupy and the green beans were accidentally left in the oven. But the table looked nice.

WELCOME GUESTS WITH ALCOHOL
When your guests arrive, welcome them with a drink. I learned this tip from reading the back of InStyle magazine where they feature a celebrity hosting an at-home event; they always greet their guests with alcohol. At first you might think this is true hospitality, but the truth is that we like our guests mellow and their taste buds deadened.

IF YOU CAN’T BAKE IT THEN FAKE IT
Did you know that Great Grandma never made her own pumpkin pie? Okay, maybe she did, but that should not stop you from presenting a fabulous purchased pie as your own. The trick is to transfer it to a serving dish of your own and add a few thumbprints to make it look like you handmade it. When you get a compliment about how good it is just say, “Thank you.”

BE THANKFUL ON THANKSGIVING
Nothing is more appealing than a good attitude. I may not have known how to cook, but I was always happy to surround myself with family and friends. As I have aged and matured and realized that cooking for others is fun, I have also learned that it is a privilege. Every year life changes, and some years our loved ones are gone. We celebrate their lives by gathering in a cramped kitchen, cooking side-by-side and giving thanks together over a well-dressed table. It really doesn’t matter if the food has fancy ingredients, because in the end, foodies really care about the company, and that is what makes it taste good!

I will sign off with my stale toast that I say every year, “May we all be blessed to have friends that we love like family and family that we love like friends.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

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GRATIN OF POTATOES
Courtesy Of Chef Keith Josefiak at Old Fort Pub

2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and rinsed
¾ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Pinch to 1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup snipped fresh chives
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

PREHEAT oven to 350 F.

SHRED, RINSE AND DRAIN the potatoes. Combine the potatoes, cream, salt, pepper, chives and nutmeg in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese into potato mixture and mix well.

RUB an 8 × 8 × 2 inch baking dish with the butter. Place ingredients in baking dish and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Cover with aluminum foil, dull side out, and bake on the lower rack for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

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CQ’S GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
By Chef Eric Sayers

*Makes 8 Servings

FOR THE GREEN BEANS:
1 pound fresh green beans, blanched and thinly cut on a bias
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, small diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
¼ cup butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 pint vegetable stock
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp coarse salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Heat butter on medium heat in large sauce pan. Add onions, garlic and shallots; cook 3 minutes without browning, add mushrooms and cook for 6 minutes. Add flour and mix; cook for 3 minutes. Add vegetable stock and whisk constantly until thickened; add cream and beans. Stir to coat, season with salt pepper, nutmeg and parmesan. Place in a greased casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes; remove from oven, top with onion topping (recipe to follow) and bake for another 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Enjoy.

FOR THE TOPPING:
1 Vidalia or sweet onion, thinly sliced into rings
3 large shallots, thinly sliced into rings
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings
½ cup flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup vegetable oil (for frying)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

HEAT oil to 300 degrees in heavy pot. Combine cornstarch and flour; toss all onions and shallots to coat and shake off excess. Working in batches, fry onions in oil until golden brown, drain on paper towel. Season with salt and pepper, toss with grated parmesan cheese, topping is ready for casserole.

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DID YOU KNOW:

More than 40 Milliion green bean casseroles are served on Thanksgiving.

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