November 24, 2010
I never know what to bring to Thanksgiving Dinner. My family has it down pat and being in the food industry I strive to surprise my family with new culinary treats each year. I am going to be brutally honest and admit I usually buy these gourmet treats as opposed to making them. My NYC galley kitchen just does NOT inspire me! So this year I decided to do pies… I realized that every year we have tons of desserts and there are these HUGE pies and only one to two pieces of pie are consumed per pie. So I ordered mini pies from Hill Country Chicken. They are brilliant and come in 3”, 5” or 11” sizes. I ordered 6 pies in the 5” size so we could have a variety of flavors and they are really cute. I am off to pick up my mini treats and head home for the holidays! Flavors ordered are Maker’s Mark Bourbon Pecan Pie, Banana Cream, Coconut Cream, Whiskey Buttermilk, Apple Cheddar and the Texas Billionaire (chocolate, pecans, marshmallow and caramel). Happy Turkey and Pies! www.hillcountrychicken.com
Can The Waiters Come Dressed As Pilgrims
What I love most about what we do is that no two days are the same. Each ring of the phone opens up the door to a new and interesting world. I will never forget how I felt on that cold November day, when our phone rang and the most respected Gran Dame of NYC Entertaining was on the other end and she wanted me!?
I quickly slammed down the phone, announced loudly and proudly to my office staff that, let’s call her Mrs. Wonderful or MW, needed me and ran out of my office door.
When I arrived at MW’s home, I was greeted by her butler, housekeeper and assistant. They ushered me into her living room which looked like the most ornate museum I had ever seen. It had a 360-degree view of NYC and sparkled with an art collection that Peggy Guggenheim would envy. I was nervous but kept my cool. MW was pleasant but curt—she was busy and needed my utmost attention. She began listing the following rules that she insisted all “her” caterers are to abide by.
Marie, (I did not have the heart or the chutzpa to correct her),
1-I would like a Thanksgiving Display so grand and abundant, my guests will be talking about it for years. I want four turkeys: one for show, three for eating. You are to shellac the prop turkey so that it shines and glistens like this (she pointed to her coffee table and yes, it was very shiny).
2-I want trays, tiers and more trays of traditional side dishes. If you are thinking of making one type of stuffing, multiple that by three and dazzle me with three different types. The same goes for the vegetables, starches, breads and pies…I want food, food and more food.
3-If my husband is “over-served” too much wine by your waiters I will hold YOU personally responsible.
And lastly….on Thanksgiving Day the waiters “MUST come dressed as Pilgrims”. Pilgrims!?? I asked with a small chuckle, but she was not kidding. She described the costumes from the type of hats she wanted them to wear down to the authentic black clog shoes that she wanted me to source from a website she had researched. She gestured to her assistant’s assistant and a picture was handed to me. How can a woman run a company and still find time to research clogs for her Pilgrim Waiters??? I was impressed and disturbed at the same time.
When she was done, I put away my notepad, looked up at her and said, “MW, I promise this will be the best Thanksgiving meal you ever had”. She saw right through my fake confidence and responded, “It better be…Marie”.
When I left her apartment I was spinning with excitement and fear. Mostly I was terrified that I would not be able to convince any of our 100 waiters to work on Thanksgiving Day dressed like Pilgrims no less. When I discussed quantities with my Executive Chef, he told me I was crazy ordering the amount of food for her 16 guests. The quantities we had could easily feed 100. I spent days inspecting turkeys, tasting yams and ate so much cranberry sauce, that to this day I can’t even look at a cranberry without getting sick.
When Game Day finally arrived, we were ready to impress. The waiters reluctantly showed (I of course had to pay them more money), the turkeys were shellacked and the sides dishes of vegetables abundant. My heart was beating as MW entered the dining room to inspect the Thanksgiving Food Art that we had displayed. She carefully dissected the table down to each individual dinner roll and when she was done, looked me in the eye, feigned a half smile and said, “Mary, you will do very well here.” Here??? I panicked. Were they ever going to let me go home???
So, you think that with this nod of approval the rest of the evening was smooth sailing?? Well, you are very wrong. Let me fast forward you through the dinner.
First, Mr. Lewis needed no help from my waiters. He had amply “over-served” himself. The weather was terrible so 10 of the 16 guests cancelled leaving 6 pies, three turkeys and eight trays of vegetables untouched.
When I got home that night, my husband could see the horror in my face. He helped me unload the nine bags of leftovers MW instructed me to “get out of her house with”. Exhausted, I began to focus on our Thanksgiving celebration (that we planned for the following night with our friends and family) using MW’s leftovers.
While sitting in my tiny kitchen that night, I started to think about all that MW had and all that she had to do to prove to the world that she was on top of it. I looked around my small apartment and suddenly less became more for me. I became delighted with the idea that this Thanksgiving, we were going to do more with less and the idea of Mini Thanksgiving became clear.
What, you ask, is Mini Thanksgiving??
MARY’S MINI THANKSGIVING MENU
Roasted Turkey with Cranberry Chutney on Mini Pumpkin Biscuits
Wild Mushrooms in Mini Parmesan Nests
Mini Sausage and Sage Stuffing Caps
Trio of Warm Soups: Wild Mushroom, Spicy Tomato and Ginger Carrot served in shot glasses
Filet of Beef with Caramelized Onions and Arugula on Mini Buttermilk Biscuits
Mini Grilled Cheese with Brie and Cranberries
Mini pumpkin Pies with White Chocolate Whipped Cream, Mini Mince Pie Tarts & Cranberry Espresso Brownies
Spiced Cranberry Basil & Vodka Cocktail, Red & White Wine
Lesson learned, lees is more (especially around holiday time) and no one other than a real pilgrim should ever wear that terrible costume.