10 ways to a better holiday
10 ways to a better holiday
Guests need a nibble the minute they come into your house. Some haven’t eaten since early morning in anticipation of the feast. Nothing is quite as satisfying as crisp, crunchy, cheesy baguettes. Halve a skinny French loaf, cut it into 4-inch lengths, and toast until the cut sides are crisp. Add thin slices of sharp cheddar and toast again until the cheese melts. Spoon fig preserves and a thin slice of fresh fig onto each one.
If you’ve decided this year that your entire table isn’t going to be a medley of purees, you can swap out mashed potatoes for potato skins. (Remember those? They’re crisp and delicious.) Bake russet potatoes, halve them, and remove all but ¼ inch of the flesh. (Save this flesh for tomorrow’s hash browns.) Cut each potato lengthwise into 3 strips. Brush the flesh sides with vegetable oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with crumbled crisp bacon and chopped scallions.
Delicata is one of the best-tasting squashes in the fall harvest and easy to handle. Halve and seed the squash, cut it into irregular triangular pieces, and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until tender.
Once you make your own croutons, you’ll never go back to the commercial kind. Begin with a 1-pound loaf of unsliced challah (to make 8 cups). Let it sit out for several hours, remove the crusts, and cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle with canola oil and a little salt. Toast in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, turning often, until crisp and golden.
Sometimes it’s fun to put all the vegetables into one dish, either roasted in large pieces, or diced, steamed, and fried into a colorful hash. The day after Thanksgiving, use hash leftovers as the base for poached eggs.
Your bird will roast quicker if it is not stuffed. Spread the bready mixture, filled with homemade croutons (see No. 4), portobello mushrooms, sausages, and pecans in a baking dish and you get crusty topping across the dish. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
Crisp roast potatoes, caramelized at the edges, are a fine accompaniment to all roast meats. Cut Yukon Gold, red, or russet potatoes (or a combination) into irregular spears and toss in a bowl with vegetable oil, salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary. Spread in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees, turning often, for 40 minutes or until golden.
Lemon meringue pie is ideal on the dessert buffet after the Thanksgiving feast. But all that work! Make it seriously quicker by spreading 3-inch buttery shortbread cookies with lemon curd, to within ¼ inch of the edges. Set them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Stiffly beat 2 egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar and a couple spoonfuls of sugar. Use a pastry bag fitted with a star tip or the back of a spoon to spread the meringue on the cookies so they look like tiny pies with peaks in the center. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the meringue browns.
If you’re hopeless at pie pastry, try this deconstructed apple “pie” made with thick slices of toasted challah. Cut the bread into triangles, butter it, and toast it in a 375-degree oven for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Saute wedges of baking apples such as Cortland in plenty of butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and spoon over the challah. Top with whipped cream.
While everyone is lollygagging in the living room, and you have another ounce of energy, use kitchen shears to cut up the turkey carcass. In a soup pot, combine the carcass, any vegetables from the turkey roasting pan or the dinner, juices that accumulated on the turkey platter, even a few generous spoonfuls of pureed sweet potato or squash or stuffing. Add plenty of water, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Lift out the bones, letting any meat fall into the soup. Sprinkle bowls with chopped parsley.