November, colder than normal, brought a major snowstorm last week, forcing me to leave home last Sunday so I could be at my apartment near my small college on the hill when Monday dawned. And this is how that Monday dawned. Thankfully, we haven't had more snow and we actually had a mild day here last Friday when my husband and I took the dogs to a nearby park and were able to enjoy temperatures in the 60s. This is Ohio after all.
This week, of course, it was all about getting ready for Thanksgiving. My family doesn't usually visit on this day so for the past few years I haven't cooked but this year I decided I would take out my recipes and menus and invite some friends and a few students who don't get to go home for the holiday. I remember spending several Thanksgivings with friends when I was in college so I like the idea of paying it forward to those who don't get to be with family. After all, the family we make is as important as the family we have.
I started cooking on Wednesday, making the stuffing and cranberries and an arroz con gandules for my vegetarian husband and tried a New York Times recipe for a make-ahead gravy, which turned out to be a great idea. The turkey was 14.64 pounds, just big enough for everyone (we ended up with 8 people here, not counting us!). I seasoned it in the Puerto Rican tradition, with garlic, and olive oil, vinegar and herbs (tried Herbs de Provence this time and it worked out well).
I follow the Martha Stewart recipe, which calls for a cheesecloth seeped in butter and white wine (light butter and an inexpensive Pinot Grigio in this case). After the third hour of cooking the cheesecloth comes off and the turkey looks fantastic.
My husband turned on our fireplace (which doesn't actually work but we rarely get to light the candles that decorate it) and the sconces and the living room looked welcoming and cozy. One student said he was so grateful we'd invited him because "it was great to be at a home on Thanksgiving." That said all I needed to hear.
My sister texted me her famous sweet potato casserole recipe, which I assembled in the morning and cooked over the last 30 minutes, and it was a great hit. We sent the students home with a bag of leftovers to tide them through the reopening of the dining hall this weekend.
I'm not sure why I love spending two days cooking for a few hours of good conversation and companionship but I do. Maybe I like following in my grandmother's and grand-aunt's traditions since they always put up a feast for Thanksgiving and opened their homes to their families. I'm so grateful that I get to indulge in that love with friends and students and my beloved husband and furry children.