Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Annual Thanksgiving Recipe Despair

It's that time again.

Time to consult with my mother-in-law who coordinates the festivities in her house in Texas and pull together the ingredients list so she can have everything on hand for me to cook when I get there.

And, every year, I start getting delusions of grandeur met with the reality of despair.

Today I clicked on this Denver Post article, scrolled down to the gravy (since I am in the market for a good one) and got exactly one line in before throwing up my hands:

10 pounds turkey necks

Oh, helllll no. Apart from the number of bird deaths required just to start a gravy . . . Just . .  no.

I guess if I had a gourmet kitchen and days of time to prep, stuff like this would inspire me to don my tallest chef hat (hint: the closest I've got is a beret) and have 500 pounds of unusual groceries costing a fortune (and nothing you will find in a 300 mile radius from my mother-in-law's town of Dumas) and go to town.

Even that homespun sounding, ever popular Pioneer Woman's gravy recipe is out of my league. I don't have a turkey to start with so I am definitely not going to go trolling for organ bits!

In reality,  what we have to work in is a little kitchen that doesn't support more than two people in it at a time, a small double oven (that burns the dickens out of marshmallows if you're not super careful), and a limited supply of cookware, in addition to those grocery restraints and only the morning to put all the side dishes together for noon.

I guess I could shop here in Denver, strap the husband to the luggage rack, and maybe have enough space for my kid, two dogs, and 10 pounds of turkey necks, etcetera inside the car, in storage coolers, as well as every dish in my cabinets for a six hour trek. That sounds like loads of fun!

I'll admit to being one of those annoying people who attempts to simplify recipes and avoid processed foods, but every year I am reminded that Thanksgiving really has it in for me.

If I find a recipe that has really fresh ingredients, the flavor profile is so far afield from what everyone wants, it's a waste. It usually also calls for way more time, money, and Brazilian rain forest treks than are feasible, too.

So I'm depending on someone else to do the shopping off of recipes I'm not totally sure about, who have vastly different shopping habits than me and I feel like a real douche writing "real, organic, salted butter please, and organic half and half (instead of that awful skim stuff you typically would already have and not have to buy). No, really, Mom & Pop -- stop drinking that nasty stuff!

See? It turns me into a food-nazi instead of being really, really thankful I simply have enough to eat (even if its highly carcinogenic -- SHUT UP!) every day of my life.

Last year I had tried to make a green bean casserole with fresh beans and Bechamel sauce and the poor things were so tough (even when I cooked them twice as long as the recipe) they sounded like celery when you chewed them. The cream sauce, however, was excellent.

This year, MIL sweetly messages me this way: " I will probably do mashed potatoes, green bean cass., cole slaw, fruit salad, and sweet potatoes" and then asks what I'd like her to get for my portion, so clearly those went over like a ton of bricks, right?

I waved the white flag on trying to improve the sweet potato casserole for everyone and just requested a single sweet potato (organic? hah!) to bake for myself. No reason to save everyone else from their favorite (cough,pesticide-laced and preservative stuffed, killer) dishes, right? Although, everyone said they really did like the basic ingredient sweet potato dish I made last year.

Luckily, my hubby's brother-in-law, Matt, is the turkey and dressing master and uses some really fresh ingredients there. It's just the endless awfulness of the side dishes that I can't seem to make work without cans of creamed soup and canned beans and chemicalized junk. I say this knowing full well that I am going to eat the heck out of Dad's spiced apples that are loaded with sugar and redhots. So sue me. Hypocrite am I.

I did manage to convert the family's required mac and cheese side dish from the blue box of death-Kraft into something resembling real food last year and have plotted to make it even creamier without resorting to Velveeta because I am going to actually make . .  . (insert dramatic cue) another Bechamel sauce. God help me. Between this and the homemade gravy (with drippings I hope to con off of Matt), at this rate my Thanksgiving morning will be me endlessly whisking flour and milk over the frying pan while waiting to see the new Snoopy balloon in the parade.

Sounds like a pretty okay time to me. :)

whisking constantly...


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