Psst! My apologies to Ane! I’m posting this a day late. My mother went into the hospital on Friday, so we’re a bit upside down at Devlin house! Enjoy the post!
I am fully aware The Holiday is not quite here, but this year will be the first time I’ve had the opportunity to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family in about five years. When I retired, my husband and I opted to travel the country, living fulltime in our RV, clearing our bucket list and volunteering in State parks. That five-year trip was an exceptional adventure. Now, as I get ready to move back into a “Brick and Stick” house and wait for the delivery of my personal belongings from storage, I’m recalling the incredible number of disasters—both imagined and real that happened over the fifty odd years when I was in charge of the kitchen, menu, turkey, etc.
So, what I’d like to do is share a few
ground rules guidelines that might help you get through the holiday with less stress and, hopefully, a little more peace on earth.
Again, and this bears repeating: What can go wrong usually will.
Typically, it takes about five days to thaw a 24 lb. turkey. I found out the hard way, that this feat can be accomplished in about two to three hours. It requires a large, clean cooler. Place the cooler in a bathtub. Fill it with lukewarm water, immerse the frozen turkey and spin until the water cools. Dump the cold water and begin the process again. Repeat until the turkey thaws.
You’re wondering how I know this. One year, when newly a nurse and far from my hometown, several of the single nurses decided to have a “friends” holiday. Since our employer provided each of us a turkey, as a group, we donated the excess birds to a local church for their holiday food drive. We also opted to split the Thanksgiving “on call” hours into eight-hour shifts. At eight AM on Thanksgiving Day, the nurse relieving me from call handed me a frozen turkey. That’s right. 24 lbs. to be cooked by 4 PM.
My friends and I survived with a few adjustments and had a terrific holiday. But I learned a few things that day which have served me well over the years. These are not really rules for holidays but think of them as guidelines. Please use what you can and ignore the rest.
When you have a galley kitchen in a tiny apartment, people don’t usually invade your space. Unless they really want to help you cook. Make a plan and stick to it. Check back with the people who agree to help with the cooking to make sure you stay on the same page.
This Frozen Turkey event exacerbated the control freak in me. I never approached a large gathering or a family holiday in the same frivolous way as I did on that single girlfriends Thanksgiving.
Rules Guidelines for Holiday Survival
- Don’t panic.
- Plan ahead.
- Clean out the fridge before the big day. This will assure the storage containers are clean and available.
- Make a list of things you can cook ahead that will not suffer in reheating. Desserts, rolls, snacks, are an excellent choice.
- Assign side dishes, dessert, etc. to relatives who want to help. This only works with reliable people who will stick to your plan.
- Remember your company will probably show up early, to assure them a good parking spot.
- Be prepared for people who want to help in the kitchen on the day. Leave chores you can trust them with and set up for them. I usually set the table but don’t add napkins, silver, serving spoons to the table. I assemble these things on a tray. Assign the chore, relieve the stress on the kitchen and appreciate the help.
- When you assign side dishes to relatives, be specific about what you can cook. You cannot cook your turkey when friends and relatives show up expecting you to manage the cooking or reheating for 120 side dishes at different temps while you are cooking turkey. Remember, 1 oven, 1 microwave, 1 toaster oven, is usually all that’s available. In a pinch, you can empty the dishwasher, turn on the drying cycle and load the reheated food into the top rack while you manage shifting other sides around for reheating. Rolls do okay but keep an eye out for food drying out. Short term use.
- Make sure you have extra foil and plastic wrap on hand as well as containers you don’t need to have returned. I buy a pack of easily forgotten containers at the Dollar Store, along with a multipack of shower caps. The shower caps are great for covering pies, cookies, and individual plates. I think you get twenty for $1.
- Remember, the oven is only so big. In an apartment you might not be able to fit a giant bird in there. Two birds are better than one. Double the dark meat. Two wishbones, need I say more? You can cook the smaller birds back to back. When you carve and serve the first, slip the other precooked turkey into the oven while your guests are enjoying the first bird.
- If you’re also having a houseful of company, make sure you plan for a good breakfast. I usually do an egg, sausage, and bread casserole assembled the night before, cooked first thing in the morning and served with fruit, coffee, and sweet breads. This breakfast is hearty enough to keep the family satisfied till dinner is ready midafternoon. It holds up well for stragglers, too.
And I’m including a real southern recipe for Corn Pudding just in case you can’t take one more year of looking at the green bean casserole.
Corn Pudding Recipe
¼ cup of all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
3 cups fresh or frozen corn, drained, and divided
3 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
¼ cup unsalted butter melted
1 ½ Tbs. scallions chopped, optional
Grease and flour an 8×8 baking dish or casserole dish of the same size. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together flour, sugar, salt, and pepper, set aside. Pulse one cup of corn in a food processor until smooth. Set aside. Whisk eggs in a large bowl, then stir in flour and milk until combined. Whisk in melted butter and corn puree, add scallions and the rest of the corn. Stir to combine well. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven until puffed and lightly browned. Takes about 40 minutes. Sprinkle the top with chopped scallions if desired. Enjoy. FYI, this dish is delicious served hot or just warm.
About the Author
Ane Ryan Walker is an author and adventurer who believes in Angels, Demons, Witches and Magic. She recently settled in Alabama, after traveling the country with her husband and living fulltime in her RV. Ane is a member of Romance Writers of America©, Greater Houston RWA, and Women’s Fiction Chapter of RWA.
Born and raised in the great northeast, she writes a fictional series Survivors of Salem, about the witches who survived the Salem Witch Trials. She is also currently working on books about fulltime RVing.
In addition to Return to Angels Cove, look for the second book in the Survivors of Salem, The Covenant.