Let’s Talk Food: Thanksgiving is next week

As in the last two years, Thanksgiving has taken on a very different appearance from the past. It was one of my favorite holidays, with over 50 people gathered in our enclosed patio, enjoying the food and each other’s company. This year, Thanksgiving may be similar to the past two years, but with more of us getting vaccinated, many of us with our third booster shot, it seems that we can start to celebrate and we can be a bit relaxed.

Maybe we can relive the Thanksgivings of our past and get a chuckle or two as Eating Well magazine did in their recent issue.

ADVERTISING


My first Thanksgiving dinner was a disaster because I roasted a still very frozen turkey so the guide on cooking time did not apply. Now I know to buy fresh turkeys two days before Thanksgiving, deboning and brining them on Wednesday.

Here’s a similar situation that happened to a Eating Well reader:

“I once tried to cook a turkey that wasn’t completely thawed. It couldn’t get cooked all the way through (without completely burning the outside) and we had to throw the whole thing out.”

The fix: Thawing a turkey in the refrigerator takes at least 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of meat. But if you find your bird is still partially frozen on Thanksgiving morning, try this quick thaw method that only takes 30 minutes per pound. Submerge your wrapped turkey in a sink filled with cold water. Switch out the water every hour to ensure you maintain a safe temperature.

When I first made gravy, I felt very intimidated. And yes, my first attempt produced lumpy gravy that I had to strain it with a sieve to remove the lumps!

Here’s a “fail” regarding gravy:

“Our first Thanksgiving with both my family and my husband’s is known as “The Gravy War.” My mother insisted on using flour to thicken it and my mother-in-law insisted on cornstarch. It got ugly.

The fix: Flour and cornstarch work equally well to thicken gravy; the key to avoiding lumps no matter which way you go is to combine the ingredients slowly and whisk constantly. For cornstarch, make a slurry with a bit of cool broth to work out any lumps before you add it to the hot broth and pan drippings. For flour, make a roux by whisking the flour right into the pan drippings. Then slowly add your broth. Still find yourself with lumps? Pass your gravy through a fine-mesh sieve.

I like to use cornstarch as a thickener, as I think it makes a shiny, glossy gravy. Cornstarch is pure starch while flour has some protein in it so use half the amount of cornstarch.

I remember when I was young, my mother used to order a pot of oyster sauce gravy from Sun Sun Lau,(we dropped the pot earlier in the day). That gravy was made from cornstarch, as it was shiny and glossy.

If you have tried to bake rolls and burned them, Eating Well’s recipe for rolls is cooked in the slow cooker.

Slow-Cooker Honey Whole-Wheat Rolls

Makes 12 rolls

“This slow cooker yields super-tender, pillowy rolls. If you prefer them crustier, arrange the finished rolls on a baking sheet, brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if desired. Broil, watching carefully, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.”

1 cup whole milk, warmed

4 tablespoons honey, divided

1 envelope active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large egg

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine milk, 1 tablespoon honey and yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons honey, oil, egg, whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt to the yeast mixture. Mix on low speed with the dough hook or with a wooden spoon until a smooth, elastic ball forms and pulls away from the sides, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface; divide into 12 pieces, about 2-1/2 ounces each.

Roll each piece into a smooth ball.

Line a 6-quart or larger slow cooker with a large piece of parchment paper (it’s ok to pleat it slightly to get it over the bottom and partway up the sides); coat the paper with cooking spray. Add the rolls in a single layer. Cover and cook on High until the rolls are starting to brown around the edges and spring back lightly when touched, 2 to 2-2-1/2 hours. Transfer the rolls to a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving warm.

I have a wonderful memory of sitting in the kitchen with my mother-in-law, Hazel, while she prepared our Thanksgiving dinner. One Wednesday, she made the cornbread for the dressing, cut it up and then left it out in a sheet pan, on the counter to dry.

She had no recipe card, everything was in her head, and her many years of experience. Thanksgiving dinner was perfect!

Foodie Bites

Hawaii Community College’s Culinary Program is taking pre-orders for pick-up the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Order your turkey or striploin steak plate, 9-inch pumpkin pie or one dozen bread rolls. Please call before they sell out by called 808-934-2559 on Tuesday or Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. If leaving a message, give your full name, phone number, quantity of items ordering and pick up time.

ADVERTISING


White Guava Cafe is open for Thanksgiving lunch only, serving old fashioned family style for groups of four. I will be baking pumpkin and pecan pies for that day.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.