First Thanksgiving away from home and the budget does not allow you to go “over the river and through the woods” to grandma’s house. Instead of getting depressed and crying into your sushi dinner after a lonely movie, throw your own Thanksgiving dinner party and hardly dip into your personal finances. The menu planning is a breeze and by now it’s sort of a last minute casual invite so nobody will expect perfection.
Here’s what you’ll do:
Invite five other Thanksgiving “orphans” – roommates, co-workers, ex-roommates, unemployed friends (six is a nice size group for a starter Thanksgiving, more is a bit risky, and fewer will not have that real Thanksgiving feel.)
When the guests ask what they can bring, be ready. Assign drinks to guest #1, bread and pie to #2, salad to #3, one side dish to #4 (sweet potatoes, anyone?) and appetizers to #5. You’ll be in charge of the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Cranberry sauce. Do not use the canned stuff. Buy a bag of cranberries and follow the direction on the bag. Everyone will think you are the next Martha.
Turkey. Buy about a 10 pound bird, you’ll want some leftovers (too late for frozen, get a fresh one.) Skip the gourmet butcher and head to the local supermarket, their turkey will be just fine. Before you start, make sure you remove the plastic bag with some nasty looking parts from inside the bird (they are actually the liver and giblets and can be cooked with the turkey, but without the plastic.) Wash and dry the bird. Then rub it overall with some salt and pepper, even inside. If you want to gourmet it up, rub on some Bell’s Seasoning, available at any supermarket. Use a disposable roasting pan, but place it on a cookie sheet, otherwise it will be wobbly and you might spill some hot turkey drippings on yourself. Follow the cooking instructions on the wrapper. If you have a question, call 1-800-Butterball turkey hotline or your mom.
Stuffing. You must have stuffing – a Thanksgiving dinner without stuffing is like a day without sunshine. Skip the stove top stuff. Buy a bag of Pepperidge Farm or Arnold stuffing mix and couple of cans or low sodium chicken broth. Follow the instructions on the bag. If you want to jazz it up, sauté a chopped onion together with couple of ribs of celery, chopped, and throw into the stuffing. You can also add some sautéed mushrooms. Do not get fancy and stuff the bird, if this is the first time you are cooking turkey. Undercooked inside stuffing can be bad news. Cook the stuffing separately, in an oven-proof dish. (You can do this after you take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest covered with tinfoil.)
Gravy. Now we are in an advanced territory. Skip the vile grey goop you get in a can and make real gravy. Pour the drippings from the turkey pan into a pot, let drippings stand a bit and skim off the fat from the top. Add a little water into the turkey pan and scrape all the good bits from the bottom and add to the gravy pot, then bring to boil. Make a thin paste of about tablespoon of flour and a couple of spoons of water. Whisk this into the gravy and let simmer couple of minutes. Season with some mustard, a bit of ketchup, maybe some Worcestershire Sauce. Keep on tasting until it’s good. Or if you must, check online which gravy mix is edible and use it.
By now everyone is starving so sit down at the table, or on the floor, or anywhere there’s room. Ask everyone to say one thing they are grateful for this year. They’ll all say they are grateful they know you. And next year they all call and ask if they could bring a friend. Before you know you’ll be a famous for your fabulous Thanksgiving dinners.
And all of this will not cost you more than that movie and sushi dinner!