Happy Thanksgiving

I went to work and made parts of somebody’s Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. A lesson in giving up control. It’s the way it should be, really. No one should cook Thanksgiving dinner entirely on their own. Everything else was coming from elsewhere.

I was asked to make a few app’s, 2 veg and 3 desserts.

starters: caponata with candied celery in the mix, chickpea dip with poached garlic, freeform spinach pies with fontina, and liver pate. For sides: roasted brussel sprouts with garlic and balsamic, string beans with fried shallot, leeks poached in cream with buttery whole wheat croutons for the sides. Stuffing with fried sage. Dessert: Apple crumb pie. I blind baked the crust in a high sided cake pan, took the crust out of the pan, and finished the pie in the oven on a sheet pan. Pecan slab pie from the Times. Not sure about this one. It looked good from the outside, but I’m not sure there wasn’t a tablespoon too much flour. I think that may have been the only part of the recipe I stuck to, and I knew I was right and they were wrong when I measured it in there. You should always test something before the day of. I never follow that rule. Especially on the job. That’s why I can’t work for anyone but myself. It’s not that I don’t plan. I plan for days. Ideas wander through my brain that I study like cells in a Petri dish. Books are all over the table for research. I think about the weather and the mood. I think about who’s coming and what might make them happy. But who in their right mind sends a cook out to work who says, “not sure how I’m going to prepare it boss; I’ve really been thinking about this one idea that I have no idea about.” I can’t follow the known road. It would kill me.

I also made strawberry tarts, which I totally disagree with because this is no way, no how strawberry season. But I have to keep working to support my ballroom habit.

I do have the perfect pastry cream recipe. It’s perfect if you need it to be super stable and Italian, on account of Italian pastry cream having big shoulders. It doesn’t pretend it’s a cloud, when there’s a job to do, like stay put. You can lighten it up with a little bit of barely whipped cream to taste, but I like it, as is. 500 g of half cream, half milk. You can use all milk, but why? You’re eating pastry. 24 g cornstarch 125 grams of egg yolk 120 g sugar pinch of salt and a vanilla bean, scraped and added to the warming milk/cream while you scald it. Don’t forget to strain it before cooling.

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