Ambitious Cooking

I’ve never cooked a full Thanksgiving meal before, and now that I’ve been the captain of such a ship, I realize that I never will. The project is simply too big for one person to undertake. In this case, The Wife helped out by making her carrot soufflé (not a true soufflé, because it doesn’t have eggs, but don’t tell her that) and a pumpkin pie; Pam and Andrew brought over Pam’s Yams and spiced apple cider.

That left for me, the green bean casserole (with hand-fried onions), the mashed potatoes, an apple-cranberry pie with walnut topping, the stuffing, the cranberry-orange sauce, and… something else. Oh, yes. The bird (and his gravy). I’m pretty proud of myself; the only things not made from scratch were the pie shell, the stuffing, and the gravy base. As to the gravy, the bird was only a breast, so I knew he wasn’t going to make enough drippings for meaningful gravy; I used such drippings as he gave to the gravy and made it super-tasty. What with the instant stuffing being so cheap, I didn’t feel bad about that, and the same with the pie shell.

The bird is the biggest challenge of a Thanksgiving dinner. My bird got to sit in lemon-garlic brine for two and a half days while he thawed out from the freezer; he got dressed with garlic and herbs and cooked under a couple strips of bacon for fat and moisture and as a result, he came out really moist and juicy.

None of the individual dishes are very difficult, including the bird. What’s complex and challenging is the extent of the prep work involved, and then timing everything to be ready at more or less the same time. The Wife and I got the sauce and the pies ready the night before, and everything else I sat down and mapped out on a spreadsheet schedule so I would know when everything needed to start and finish. The result was an on-time dinner, with everything hot and fresh and yummy. Pam, Andrew, the Wife, and I ate our fill of plentiful, delicious, all-American food, and when we were hungry again, we ate pie. And while Thanksgiving food is super-yummy, it is also kind of high-fat and you can’t make a constant habit out of eating like that. Andrew got so much turkey and wine in him he had to take a nap. When I saw that, I pronounced the dinner a great success.

I particularly enjoyed our toasts to what we were thankful for and to me that was one of the high points of the night. It’s nice to know that we are all grateful for the same things — most of all for the people we love, and for the opportunities and the bounty we can enjoy in our lives, and for our freedom and our friends. To my former law partner and all his colleagues serving overseas, we took time to remember you — and while we toasted you with wine and not water, you were in our thoughts.

Overall, it was great fun and I would gladly do it again. Just not tomorrow night; I need a rest. All-told, I probably spent nine to ten hours prepping, cooking and cleaning — especially cleaning. We had to run our itty-bitty dishwasher four times that day and it felt like I spent more time cleaning dirty dishes and putting clean ones away than I spent handling food and making it ready. My feet and back were pretty sore by the end of the day and I must have slept for ten hours last night. But it was great and a reminder of why the Thanksgiving feast is such a great American tradition.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. There are so many things to be thankful for, it warms our hearts when you recognize them.

  2. That’s right, 6 eggs. Count em’ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Six little baby chickens that will never be. But golly they sure taste good when mixed in with 2 pounds of carrots, 2 sticks of butter, a little sugar, and some spices.

  3. You both did an amazing job! We were both so blessed to spend Thanksgiving with two wonderful friends.

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