10 fantastic tips for a better Thanksgiving

November 16, 2009 3:41:30 PM PST
Sunset Magazine shares their creative ideas that will save you time and money.

Ten fantastic tips for making your Thanksgiving dinner look and taste great:

  1. Carve before roasting: Skip the tedious sawing at the table-and speed up the roasting-by having the butcher cut your turkey into parts beforehand. Then you can add the whitemeat to the oven after the dark, which means all of the meat will be juicy. Decorate the platter with graceful and very Western olive sprigs (order from your local florist).

  2. Use the garnish as decor too: Olive branches are beautiful, so why not? Put them in a large vase for a buffet table or in smaller ones for the dining table.

  3. Set out smart snacks: Put spicy-sweet nuts in leaf-shaped bowls, to serve with drinks.

  4. Try a new kind of cheese plate: Serve three or four cheeses on a large piece of slate, labeling each with chalk so everyone knows what they're eating. Add some truffle hone, fig cake and good crackers.

  5. Make memorable placecards: They're easy to create (just tie tags around the stems of rosy pears), and guests can take them home.

  6. Present squash soup right in the squash shell: It's seasonal, delicious, and you don't have to wash bowls.

  7. Give guests their own gravy: Tiny individual pitchers are so considerate- No more waiting for a big sloshing gravy boat to be passed.

  8. Give tasteful gifts: If you're going to someone else's house for Thanksgiving, bring along a favorite Western food for your host's pantry.

  9. Pair pretty dishes with pretty sides: Roasted beets and parsnips with herbs look great on these richly hued autumnal pieces. A few of them will liven up the entire table.

  10. Pour a dramatic after-dinner drink: also good over ice cream too.
Roasted squash soup with sage
Serves 8
Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium acorn squash (roundish)
  • 4 tbsp. mild extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp. chopped sage, plus several leaves for garnish
  • About 11/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 to 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Cut top third off each squash. Scoop out seeds from squash bottoms and tops; discard. Trim just enough off bottom of each squash so that it sits straight.

  2. Set squash bottoms and tops on 2 large baking sheets and drizzle with about 2 tbsp. oil, rubbing it all over insides and rims. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until the flesh is soft and golden brown, but before squash start collapsing. Put 2 tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium heat; add onion.

  3. Meanwhile, heat remaining paprika, sage, and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.

  4. Scoop cooked flesh from squash into pot, leaving enough flesh so that squash keep their shape. Pave over any holes in squash "bowls" with some cooked squash and keep them warm.

  5. To pot add 5 cups stock, remaining 1 tsp. salt, and the pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

  6. Purée soup in batches in a blender, adding more stock if soup is too thick (cover top with a towel to keep hot soup from spurting out). Reheat in pot. Stir in crème fraîche and more stock if necessary.

  7. Ladle soup into squash bowls and top with sage leaves.


After Dinner Drink: Kumquat digestif
Makes 2 1/2 cups
Time: About 20 minutes, plus infusing time

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups vodka
  • 10 kumquats, cut in half lengthwise, plus 5 to 6 whole
  • Several branches fresh thyme
Preparation:
    1. In a medium saucepan, heat sugar with 1/2 cup water, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

    2. Stir in vodka. Pour mixture into a decanter and add kumquats (halves first) and thyme. Chill at least 3 weeks.

    3. Serve ice-cold, in shot glasses.
Products featured in segment:

Decanter, $40 and Creamer $1.95 www.crateandbarrel.com or 800/967-6696.

La Tourangelle roasted hazelnut oil. Made with nuts harvested in the Northwest. Extremely flavorful and great in salad dressings. $13 for 500-ml. tin; latourangelle.com or 866/688-6457 for stores.

Earth & Vine Provisions red bell pepper and ancho chile jam, from Loomis, California. Fabulous on turkey sandwiches. $7.50 for 9-oz. jar; earthnvine.com or 888/723-8463.

Honey Pacifica sage honey, from Bouquet Canyon in Santa Clarita, California. Raw, unfiltered, delicate; made by bees grazing sage blooms. $7 for 11/2-lb. jar; honeypacifica.com or 562/938-9706.

For more information, visit www.sunset.com

About Katie Tamony:

Katie Tamony is VP and editor-in-chief of Sunset, the magazine of Western living. Based in Menlo Park, Calif. The magazine has a circulation of more than 1.2 million readers throughout the 13 Western states. Ms. Tamony joined the company in 1994 as a copy editor, and was named copy chief later that year.

In 1995, she helped launch the custom publishing division as editor. Ms. Tamony was named editorial director in 1997 and was promoted to vice president and director of custom publishing in 2000.

Prior to joining Sunset, Ms. Tamony was an associate editor and then managing editor with Northern California Home & Garden. A native of Sebastopol, Calif., Ms. Tamony earned a bachelor's degree in history from the University of California at Berkeley.


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