For some people, 2020 will be the first time they have prepared a Thanksgiving dinner rather than bringing a dish to share. It can’t be any worse than my first time making a turkey.
The hubs and I had been married a little over a year and had moved into our third residence. We had new jobs, little money, and no vacation time so traveling 10 hours to visit the “close” parents was not an option. My mom felt bad enough that she flew from Chicago to Newark, NJ to help us out. For three people, we had a 15 pound bird.
Helpful hint #1 – Unless you are feeding 5 or more, get a turkey breast or a 7-8 lb bird.
Naturally, the hubs and I had to recreate ALL the dishes both sides of our family made so we could both have the taste of home. This meant two types of mashed potatoes, two types of cranberries, and two types of stuffing. This also meant we ran out of cookware and places to set prepared food in our tiny kitchen.
Helpful hint #2 – For a small group, streamline the menu. Pick your favorite 5 or 6. In our household of 4, we have turkey, cranberry relish and each person picks one other dish. You can always make a different side dish for the inevitable left overs.
My mom alternated between shaking her head at the hubs and my folly and giving us helpful instruction gleaned. She gave me the task of making gravy from the pan drippings while she coached the hubs through some other task. Her instructions to me went something like “heat in the pan, add cornstarch, whisk until smooth and thickened.”
So I whisked, and I whisked, and I whisked. I got the gravy smooth but there was a problem. “Mom? It’s not thickening!”
“Add some more cornstarch.”
So I grabbed the box and poured in some more. I whisked, got the gravy smooth, but it still didn’t thicken. Mom and I repeated our dialogue to the same effect. I made four additions.
When she finished her project, she came over to check my work. She picked up the yellow box I’d been using. She put her hand on my exhausted whisking arm.
“Honey, no matter how much powdered sugar you add, that gravy isn’t going to thicken.”
Helpful hint #3 – Cornstarch and powdered sugar are not interchangeable.
It’s been over 20 years, but I am still not allowed to make gravy.
If you have a helpful hint for preparing a small scale Thanksgiving dinner, please feel free to share in the comments. It’s a strange year for many of us, but we can all learn something new and we can all use a good laugh.