Sunday, November 25, 2012

The One That Got Away




LUCY BURDETTE: It's been a busy week what with Thanksgiving preparations, house guests, and edits on my third Key West mystery, TOPPED CHEF. In fact it's been so busy that I completely forgot that it was my turn to book a guest and her recipe for today's post. Uh-oh...

As penance, I'm going to share my Thanksgiving disaster.

John and I were hosting a small but lively gathering--seven of us at the table, including Dorothy, his mom, who will turn 100 next summer. You can see why we wanted everything to look and taste delicious! (John and Dorothy pictured on the right, enjoying a lively game of Bananagrams.)

The menu included turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, biscuits, and two kinds of pie--pumpkin and chocolate cream. Thinking I would go all out to make the pies spectacular, I bought organic pumpkin and gourmet dark chocolate. (See the perfect pies above--these are from last year's dinner.) 

Done it before--easy-peasy, right? Just wait...

I made the chocolate first, starting with a graham cracker crust and then following the custard instructions from the JOY OF COOKING. The filling looked a little more grainy than usual, but tasted delicious.

Then on to the pumpkin...too late I realized I'd run out of canola oil for my father's easy crust recipe. I substituted--ahem-- olive oil. Then I ran short of maple syrup so finished the job with honey. And the organic pumpkin came out of the can pale and tasting of squash. So a greenish crust and a pale pie...I tried to make up for it with my special decorative crust hearts.

But I was worried...

In the end, the pumpkin pie was lovely.

But when I rolled the plastic wrap off the chocolate pie, the filling wobbled and sloshed like a chocolate milkshake.

So we served chocolate soup with lots of whipped cream on top... (See photo in case you think I'm exaggerating.)

Lesson learned: back to good old Baker's chocolate and Libby's pumpkin.

And lesson #2--What's important is not the perfect presentation on the table, it's the family and friends around it! 

And now your turn: Did you suffer any Thanksgiving dinner disasters? Oh come on, tell us:). I'm offering a copy of AN APPETITE FOR MURDER to one lucky commenter...

Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries. You can find her on Twitter @lucyburdette or on Facebook.

25 comments:

  1. I always have cooking disasters on Thanksgiving and hey even at Christmas too...oh well..it's the thought that counts right..I've had things look terrible, but taste so good before. Maybe this was the case with the pie soup?

    Kimberlee
    http://girllostinabook.blogspot.com

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    1. It did taste good Kimberlee, thanks:). The leftovers are in the freezer--my sister-in-law suggested making a special sundae by mixing it with vanilla ice cream.

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  2. I'm not sure if this is a disaster, but I served my mother-in-law a cup of coffee on Thanksgiving morning. Instead of pouring a little milk into it, I grabbed the orange juice jug. She drank about half of it before timidly asking if I'd tried a flavored brand! You have to love these Southern ladies who can't criticize.....

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    1. Hysterical Ramona! You wouldn't get quite that level of politeness up here with us Yankees...

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  3. No disasters this year cuz we went to brother/SIL's and there were no tragedies there only a forgotten side dish (which really wasn't needed!!). These are the things memories are made of!!!

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    1. You are so right! and you have the perfect system--go to someone else's house:)

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  5. Here's my disaster:
    We always have deviled eggs with holiday meals. Don't ask why, it's just tradition.

    This was back many years ago before my foolproof hard boiled egg method. I had been up since 3:00 am and was doing the last of the prep for the next day and put the eggs on. I set the timer for 15 minutes and sat down and put my feet up.

    I was awakened to the sound of the smoke alarm and ran into the kitchen and found that the water had all boiled away, the eggs had exploded and covered just about every surface in the kitchen (including the ceiling) and the remains in the pot were smoking.

    It took my hubby and I hours to clean it all up and the smell was only mostly covered the next day by a simmering pot of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.

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    1. Scary story! nothing worse than burnt egg smell...lesson here is don't get up so early, right? that's always the balancing act--how to make it a lovely holiday without driving yourself crazy (and for me, crazy = crabby)

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  6. None this year but my 1st turkey - 1963 - was a frozen Pepperidge Farm stuffed one. When I unfolded the directions - it was blank inside! So I butter-basted, aluminum foil tented it and stuck it in a 275 oven. My folks arrived in the afternoon and mom took a look. The butter was now frozen on the still frozen bird! She took over and we finally had dinner around 10pm after hours of playing bridge. I was reminded of this every Thanksgiving for YEARS!!

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    1. LOL Karen--see how much good material you gave your family for future conversations?!

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  7. Mine was more of a brunch disaster. I'm a step mom so that means hubby and I are second string, not varsity in the holiday meal line up. We usually have family gatherings the day after the holiday. Being lazy but still wanting to impress, I chose to have make ahead casserole type dishes. A french toast casserole and a hash brown casserole that are favorites of my son in law. I love them because I can put them together the night before and just pop them into the oven an hour before everyone is due to arrive. What I didn't know was that the oven had planned to take the day off. It was entitled, actually. It was over 35 years old, after all! So, about 25 minutes into the cooking process, the oven burst into flames! I should have known the meltdown was coming because the day before, it had cooked my ham in half the time! Appliances don't last forever. But at least it wasn't MY fault! It was Domino's to the rescue and we actually had a pretty good time anyway.

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    1. Thanks for sharing the case of the exploding oven:).

      I love those night-before brunch dishes too! That's the thing with a stepfamily--you have to figure out a different set of traditions...

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    2. OMG! What a nightmare. I hope it didn't do any damage.

      ~ Krista

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  8. Lucy - This post is hilarious and so touching for Thanksgiving weekend. Our disasters keep us humble, that's for sure, and I've had way too many of them! Have a great day and...God bless Dorothy! She is a true example of (as my family says) "Cent'anni"!

    ~ Cleo

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    1. Thanks Cleo, you're so sweet:). You inspired me a while back with all your disasters--only you recovered so gracefully from yours!

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  9. Maybe it's chocolate pies, but I made a lovely one with a pre-baked crust. Checked it as it cooled. I can cook almost anything, but pudding like things have it in for me. They don't "pudd." The pie looked like it has succeeded, very little jiggle. So, I cut a piece, scooped it up, and moved it over onto a plate...only to find a rather empty pie crust on the plate and a track of chocolate-ness between the pie pan and the plate. We burst into laughter, spooned it up, and ate it anyway. It did taste good, but it did NOT qualify as a pie. This happened over 25 years ago and it still comes up in conversation.
    What made it truly memorable is my brother-in-law. He started laughing and set the rest of us off. Then as we would finally begin to calm down, he would go off again and we couldn't help but follow his infectious laughter.
    I can live with that "disaster".

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    1. So fun that you and your family are STILL laughing about it Libby!

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    2. Any suggestions for getting pudding to "pud"? I have the same problem with Welsh Rarebit. The egg is supposed to thicken it up to the proper consistency, but not for me! Cheese soup! (Which I then try to fix with corn starch)

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  10. Lucy, it's always important to share the disasters and then help us all realize that disasters are not really disasters when it comes to the kitchen. Just mishaps. Love the pictures of the folks. And yes, I had a "mishap" but minor. I can't figure out how to make good sweet potatoes with marshmallows. The base is always runny. Guess I'll omit the syrup suggested on the can's recipe next year. I don't like them and I can't have the marshmallows, so I'm not good at "taste testing" this one.

    Hugs to all.

    Daryl aka Avery

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    1. Can't help with this one, Daryl/Avery. I don't care for that dish and therefore have never made it:). Luckily it's not tradition in my hub's family either...

      Anybody else have a good recipe for sweet potatoes with marshmallows?

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    2. I grew up in the era when serving vegetables meant opening a can or, at best, defrosting a brick of Birds Eye. So when I returned from my first semester of college with an ever-so-sophisticated palate, I decided to introduce my family (the rubes!) to fresh broccoli at Thanksgiving. At dinner, my Aunt Viola, known to be suspicious and complaining, said she thought the broccoli was a little crunchy. "That's the way it's supposed to be, Aunt Vi." I assured her. "Eat it, Vi," my mother insisted. Later that night as I helped with the dishes, I noticed a streak of mud on Aunt Viola's plate. Nobody told me those fresh veggies needed to be washed!

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  11. I can't believe all these stories! The good thing is that it's the humorous disasters that make the best memories.

    ~ Krista

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  12. Love all these tales! Years ago, I had raised my own turkeys and they were huge! That first Thanksgiving on the farm, I chose the smaller of the two we'd butchered and frozen. He only weighed 52 pounds.

    Of course, I didn't have a roaster that large, but I improvised with a large jelly roll pan. The bird actually was within 1/8 inch of touching the sides of the oven! At eleven o'clock the night before, I put him into the oven and went to bed with the idea I'd get up about 5 and baste. The next morning, I came down the stairs to a layer of smoke drifting through the living room! Racing into the kitchen, I flicked on the oven light and discovered that the bird had, of course, released industrial quantities of fat and juice into a pan that only had 2" sides.

    Without thinking, I snatched open the oven door and the grease in the bottom of the oven caught fire. Quick thinker that I am, I grabbed the fire extinguisher and smothered the fire. And the turkey. What to do...

    Working frantically to finish before anyone else got up, I removed the bird, cleaned the oven, washed the bird off, and put him back in the oven. Everyone raved about that turkey. I never told anyone the story until years later. But to this day, as I slide the Thanksgiving bird into the oven, I remember that morning.

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