It is Thanksgiving Day. Your menu planning is done, the turkey is in the oven. But before you even sit down for the main event meal, let me direct your attention toward leftovers. Just remember–this post will be waiting for you–tonight, when you find yourself scrounging in the refrigerator for that 10pm snack, tomorrow morning, or the day after that, or the day after that. I have your back, no matter what level of effort you can summon. Let me help you purpose those leftovers into dishes just as glorious as their first selves.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, the sun is shining. The Frenchman and I are at the beach this year, and my goal today is to do not much of anything at all. After I publish this post, my Thanksgiving duties are officially ended. I hope that you have enjoyed this series of three Thanksgiving-themed posts, that you found them rich in detail, and useful.
Until next week, happy cooking and eating today. Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours.
This year, I decided to cook Thanksgiving a whole month ahead of time. My goal was to write one, thorough and thoughtful blog post in order to help alleviate some of the stress of planning and executing this big meal, even for the most unseasoned Thanksgiving cook. However, as those of you who regularly read this blog will well know, I have a hard time, um, limiting the scope of my kitchen projects. So here we are. I wrote not one, but three, Thanksgiving blog posts, and none of them are dainty. Welcome to the first.
In My Menu + Game Plan, you will find all the recipes for what I cooked on the (fake) big day, plus extra links and photos. At the bottom of this page, find my full game plan, which you can use as a guide for your own planning process. I love the menu I created–I hope you will give some of it a go. Next week, tune in for “Curated + Delicious”, where I provide a ton of recipes I’ve been surreptitiously collecting for months. And on Thanksgiving Day, check back in for “Inventive Leftovers”. My hope is that these three posts will help make your holiday a little less stressful, but considerably more tasty.
Finally, if this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving (or even if it isn’t), don’t forget to delegate. This might mean asking guests to bring drinks or desserts, making a playlist, or even just setting the table. There is no reason to tackle every single aspect of the meal by yourself–trust me. So pour yourself a tall glass of wine, and let’s get started.
You arrive home late. Work was horrendous and so you are a coil primed to spring. The Frenchman is on the couch, waiting to say hello, but right away you would like to know why he has not prepared dinner. Nevermind that you did not technically ask him to make dinner (isn’t he just supposed to know?) and that he has likely had a long day himself (but you left before him and came home after him that day, so you win). He expresses his sympathy over your difficult day, and sits you right down to massage your weary shoulders. But the whole day, when you think about it in hindsight, has primed you for anger. All you needed was this tiny little spark to set you off, and so here you are, sitting at the kitchen table with anger building to a boil. Off you go. You say things. You are at least 39%, but up to 68% right. You hate to feel resentful about cooking for the Frenchman, because you actually love it very much, but in this moment you are just so mad about it all, about everything. Later, you insist upon eating your toaster oven-Amy’s-pizza dinner by yourself. You are not a perfect person, and sometimes it is necessary to act like a child.
I have recently become infatuated with Bánh Mì sandwiches. They are just so perfectly balanced. I love how the fat round richness of mayonnaise and spiced pork plays against the acidic flash of pickle-y vegetables and a flourish of herbs. The crunch of a toasty baguette tastes all the better when smeared with smooth pork pâté. This sandwich is pleasantly spicy and full of flavor. It has heft and character, but all those herbs and vegetables keep it bright. I think it’s pretty wonderful.
The recipe below is ideal for a small, casual dinner party. Everyone builds their own sandwich, so take those ingredients you like and leave the rest. For a vegetarian friend, I made a chickpea salad to replace the meat: chives, basil, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, salam oleck, scallions, mirin, sesame oil, rice vine vinegar, and soy sauce. Words that every host loves to hear: You can prepare the whole thing in advance–when my guests arrived, I simply slid the tray of meatballs into the oven and flipped the switch on the toaster oven.
When the weather turns, and I am required to pull on a sweater and scarf before biking to the market, then I know it is time for chicken again. I will roast one for Sunday lunch. The Frenchman and I, we both like dark meat, so the legs go first. After we’ve eaten our fill, I remove the breasts from the bone, along with any remaining scrappy bits, and wrap them up. During the week, the white meat is turned into sandwiches, soup, tacos, or this salad. The bones go into a plastic bag in the freezer, until I have enough for stock.
I want to share this with you, in as much detail as possible, because it is the best way I know how to roast a chicken. It’s a great “recipe” to keep in your back pocket–absolutely delicious, and endlessly adaptable. You don’t need any fancy equipment to make it, so it can be reproduced in nearly any kitchen. Dress it up for guests. If you live alone, roast a chicken at the top of the week anyway–you will have a week’s worth of dinners in front of you.
I’ve started to notice the mushroom man at the market again, with his practical windbreaker and earnest smile. He looks misty-forest ready, as if he arrived at the market by way of a foraging expedition. He must be pedaling something magic, I think, because his line is five shoppers deep at the market on Sundays. Or maybe it’s just that time of year.
The Frenchman has been away for two weeks now, and I am melancholy. But, there is just enough of a chill in the air to encourage me to turn on the oven. While I don’t feel inclined to make a production out of dinner for one, I do find that chopping vegetables, and then watching them transform at the oven door like a child at the aquarium, acts as a temporary nostrum. This recipe is a simple supper, a satisfying lunch. Plus, the Frenchman loves this combination of roasted mushrooms, onions, and potatoes. I cook it and pretend as though he is here.