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What did you learn about cooking or food from this Thanksgiving?

I supplied the desserts this year for dinner at my SILs. Late Wednesday night, I baked a pie, it didn't turn out, and I needed to make something pie-like to replace it. I didn't have a big enough supply of any one suitable fresh fruit to do a whole pie; it couldn't be a milk-based or custard pie, due to guests' dietary issues; and this group doesn't like pumpkin pie, although I have puree in the freezer. Sooooooo...I took a sheet of frozen puff pastry, a jar of apricot preserves, an apple, a can of mandarin oranges, a handful of chopped fresh cranberries, a splash of brandy, and baked sort of a rustic (very rustic, LOL) mixed fruit puff-pastry galette. It actually turned out well enough so that my BIL wouldn't let me bring the left-over piece home with hubby, so I guess that was an endorsement. :-)

The point is...I've never been one for keeping "emergency" ingredients or supplies on hand. I'm just not that organized. I got lucky this time. I had bought the puff pastry to make breakfast turnovers for hubby last weekend. I had the mandarin oranges only because I had gotten a good deal on a case to donate to our local food bank and had decided to keep one can because I like them for a snack.

So what I learned this year is that, yes, all of you who keep some "just in case" ingredients--just in case company drops in, just in case a dish fails, etc.--in inventory are right. From now on, I'm going to keep that in mind while shopping and make sure I always have a few versatile pantry and freezer ingredients here for such situations.

What did you learn?

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  1. Unfortunately I make the same mistake I have for the last 28 years I have been making Tgiving - I MAKE WAY TOO MUCH FOOD. I had 3 desserts planned this year - sweet potato pie, apple crumb pie, and a dulce di leche cake roll. None got touched. I have not much turkey left over but 1/2 pan of stuffing & gravy (that will go quickly), almost a whole 9X13 acorn squash/apple casserole (planning to freeze that), 2 bottles of wine, had to throw out a whole relish tray someone left out overnight.

    I am not that old, but I seem to have this Depression era mentality that more is better. When will I ever learn?

    Irony is that I am hosting a whole Shabbat dinner tonight from chicken soup with matzo balls, 7 lb. standing rib roast, asparagus and mashed potatoes. Planning to re-cycle cake roll from last night. I will have enough leftovers for an army!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Diane in Bexley

      That's really frustrating, Diane, but I vow--if you had decided before to make less, on purpose, you would have run out. ;-) Good thing the casserole will freeze.

      I can never judge what will happen at SILs house at Thanksgiving, when I plan the desserts. Last year, too much was left over. I cut it back a little this year, and it was nearly all eaten. How much to make for special occasions is one of those mysteries beyond my human comprehension.

      1. re: Diane in Bexley

        If it's any consolation Diane, I always make too much as well. The one time I scaled back, my guests ate everything in sight and were looking for more! Needless to say, I'm happy to have leftovers as long as everyone is happy and full. I've starting sending home the bulk of Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers with family, which my non-cook MIL greatly appreciates.

        1. re: ms. clicquot

          We wouldn't feel it was a successful Thanksgiving without enough leftovers to last through the long weekend. In fact, as much as we enjoy Thanksgiving dinner we think of it as the preliminary and I have no doubt at all if you asked anyone in my family if they'd give up the dinner or the leftovers which they'd choose.

      2. I learned that 'au-natural' turkeys aren't the nicest-tasting critters in the world. I usually just do a breast and it comes out wonderfully moist and juicy just by putting a cup of water in the roasting dish with it and leaving it alone - I cooked a 11lb turkey in exactly the same way as the breast, and it looked magnificent, but it was very dry by the time it was done! It's back to the breast alone next year... the amount of money you save on buying a whole bird isn't worth the extra hassle of cooking it.

        On the more positive side, I learned that custard/cream pies are much easier to make than I thought they would be. I've never made one before (I usually stick to pumpkin or apple) but DH wanted something different this year. So I was experimented with pie fillings on Wednesday night and I made a coconut cream/pineapple pie, and a cranberry custard pie and they're both delicious!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kajikit

          It took me a while (a few years back) to sign onto "just the breast", Kajikit, because my mother drilled into me the un-economy of buying poultry pieces (whether boneless or bone-in). I make turkey throughout the year, but my family really only likes turkey light meat. So, to buy the whole creature really wasn't a savings for me. If you like cooking the breast better and everyone enjoys the white meat...why not?

          Glad for you, re the pies. Your fillings sounds absolutely yummy, and I know of one other husband who would have enjoyed them! ;-) One of the perennial favorites around here is an apple-custard pie whose recipe I got...somewhere. I don't have too much experience with cream pies, but, yes, custard pies are pretty much hassle free, I've found; they're not bank-breakers, depending on the variation; and most of us usually have on hand the ingredients to make at least a simple one.

        2. I learned that being invited for 2pm is not necessarily the time you will eat (we finally ate at 5.30) and that other people do things differently!! I should have eaten something at home first. I also made 2 huge trifles and could have made just one because there must have been 15 desserts yesterday.

          1. Like Diane, I make way too much food and I never seem to learn that lesson. I either need to scale back on the hors d'oevres or scale back on the dinner. I had eighteen for dinner this year and I was prepared with containers for everyone to take home leftovers. I also make and keep a spreadsheet from year to year and I will make notes so I can prepare less next year. I'm going to freeze what won't be eaten in the next day or two.

            FYI - For eighteen people (includes 5 children with almost adult-sized appetites), a 23 pound turkey is a pretty good size. 5 pies and a cake are too many desserts. 7 pounds of mashed potatoes is more than enough but, yippee! latkes this weekend! Double recipes are not required for anything.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

              Ima, chuckling at your post. Even with mashed potatoes Thurs & Fri, we have no more. Will make latkes Sun to freeze for Chanukah. Love to use Yukon Gold, they turn out very well.

            2. I've got a lot of Thanksgivings under my belt so my learning curve was a lot steeper a decade or two ago. But this Thanksgiving I did learn that a spreadsheet can also be a culinary tool.

              I made a spreadsheet of my menu with the oven temps, oven cooking times and finished time targets . I was able to use it to sort by those fields in planning what could share an oven. I do 4 veggies, 3 desserts and half a dozen appetizers as well as the standard turkey/stuffing/gravy/mashed potato deal so not having to keep that stuff in my head, track it's progress or do any impromptu math was liberating.