No one has ever accused me of being handy in the kitchen. But still I decided that preparing Thanksgiving dinner for some of my college friends was a good idea.
The results were, well, mixed.
Since I rarely eat salad, the healthy one which had been prepared remained in the refrigerator until I suddenly remembered it mid way through desert. There were no takers by then. Same with the rolls, which sat, forgotten, in the oven until long after dinner was finished. By then the soft rolls were the consistency of hockey pucks.
One of my friends really likes cranberry sauce so I made it–organic, from scratch with fresh cranberries. Now, in this household when adding ingredients to any recipe, to prevent spills on the floor or counter, everything is measured out over the mixing bowl. (What could go wrong?) Since I’m hopelessly clumsy at this whole measuring thing, nothing ever comes out exactly as specified in a recipe. And, to exacerbate the cranberry sauce mis-measurement, the 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon was unlocatable so the 1/2 teaspoon one was substituted. Half, fourth, how much difference could it make?
Turns out, a lot. Doubling the amount of allspice, and adding in the ubiquitous overspill kind of overwhelmed the cranberry taste–and that of the other ingredients as well. Apparently my friend is not all that fond of allspice sauce, which is what it turned out to be. He ate one bite and skipped the rest of it. But it was a beautiful cranberry red and aesthetically pleasing.
Because one of my friends has diabetes, palm sugar was substituted for half the cane sugar in the pumpkin pie. Coconut flour tastes better than wheat flour so that substitution was also made. And, of course, organic pumpkin pie filling was a must. The manufacturer apparently subscribes to the axiom that organic food should taste like hay, though, so that was less than epic.
Unfortunately, the Wholly Wholesome pre-made organic frozen pie crust fell apart as soon as it was unrolled. There are two crusts in each package and two pies were planned but the first crust was not salvageable no matter how I tried to club it into submission. It wound up in the trash. Even by piecing the second one together and rolling the hell out of it with a rolling pin, the crust was awful. The trick to flaky golden pie crust, Mom used to say, is to handle it as little as possible. But by the time this crust was put into the pie pan it had been brutalized into the right shape but the consistency turned out a bit differently. It could easily have been made into shoe soles if there’d been a utensil that could cut it into the right shape. Yep, after I was through with it a pair of pie crust sandals would not have been an impossibility if only there’d been a bandsaw handy.
When it came out of the oven the pumpkin pie looked as if it had some sort of hideous skin disease. Apparently the substituted items do not have the same blending properties as the original recipe items. However, by cutting the slices very selectively it was possible to get a couple of pieces which looked deformed but not diseased.
The turkey was roasted in one of those oven bags. That was after opening the first package of oven bags only to find it contained the instructions and the ties but no bags. A half hour trip to the grocery store to get new ones ruined the carefully planned cooking logistics.
The instructions say to be careful that the bag doesn’t touch the oven sides or the oven’s heating element. So it was tied extra tight to prevent that. Unfortunately that made the plastic bag meld to the turkey because it melted tight against it. That made it impossible to separate bag and turkey so what was put on the table was a naked turkey. The fused, plastic encrusted skin was in the trash. The turkey, therefore, wasn’t golden brown, it was sort of grayish white. It had a faint aftertaste of burned plastic too. That probably wasn’t intended by the bag makers.
On the upside, it did go well aesthetically with the skin-diseased-looking pumpkin pie. Cravenly I pretended that the mottled look was what I’d been aiming for all along, although no plausible reason presented itself as an explanation for doing so.
Too bad I forgot the chocolate chip cookie dough made the day before. It was still in the refrigerator after everyone left. So there were chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven for breakfast the following morning.
For some reason my little hand held mixer wasn’t up to whipping the potatoes, which had been steamed to a fare-thee-well to make them whip up extra soft. They turned out chunky instead of whipped even though I beat those little buggers for 15 minutes. They didn’t even make it to the lumpy phase! Still, butter and gravy can fix almost any potato misstep. Almost.
There was still the fallback garlic butter as a hedge for the potatoes should the gravy fail. There was plenty of that since the rolls had been forgotten in the oven. Unfortunately, the garlic turned out to be eye wateringly stronger than anticipated. The butter couldn’t be tasted at all.
About the gravy. Well, the best that could be said was that it matched the gray in the turkey and the mottled pumpkin pie. Now, I know how to make gravy and do it all the time. So there’s no explanation for the consistency and color. And the consistency? In this case that gravy could have been used for mortar to hold a brick wall together.
The veggies and rice looked beautiful. But none of us eat rice and veggies so that was a pointless entry in the eat-a-thon that is supposed to be emblematic of Thanksgiving.
The one thing that came out okay was the made from scratch organic calamondin pie with real whipped cream. Well, except, because of the aforementioned structural deficiency of the first pie crust that went in the trash, I had to get a pre-made non-organic graham cracker pie crust. And that absorbed a lot of the fruit juice, ultimately making the baked pie filling the consistency of Gorilla Glue. But it was edible. More or less.
So dinner was a great success. There was no overeating and no one went home stuffed. Not even the turkey. (Let’s skip the dressing review and just leave it that it was something less than memorable or edible.)
At least my friends could see that a lot of effort went into the failed enterprise and, being easy going guys they probably cut me some slack on the edibility of the dinner. They also probably headed for Cracker Barrel on the way home